Fast Forward 20 Years

Today my colleague Jeremey DuVall wrote a post called Highs & Lows of Leading a Team, if you’re not following him already you certainly should. The feelings he wrote about are certainly ones I’ve been feeling recently at work. Like many business / leadership books and articles I’ve read there are many comparisons I can make to parenting.

Parenting is certainly a series of ups and downs as well, except recently I’ve been stuck in the completely incompetent area. Some would say I had it coming as 20 years ago I was making my mother feel the same way that I am right now. At the age of 17 I left home and moved in with friends. For years I barely spoke to her. Spent my time blaming her for what I perceived as a rough childhood, thinking I was so much smarter than her. How arrogant.

Now fast forward 20 years I’m going through essentially the same thing with my oldest. As much as I tried to protect her from making the same mistakes and wrong choices I made it doesn’t seem to have worked. She’s at least doing better than I was at that age, she’s at least living with her mother instead of staying with friends and spending some nights sleeping in 24 hour Tim Hortons. The choices I made back then caused me to take two years more than it should have to complete high school and come very close to getting myself into some real trouble. It was the news of my daughter coming a long that finally caused me to straighten myself out. That makes this all the more painful.

She was able to help me through a dangerous period of my life and I wasn’t able to protect her from seeming to head down a similar road to the one that I was once on. She’s not there yet though and I’m hoping she can change course before it really effects her life in ways that are difficult to come back from. While I can learn to live with her not talking to me as long as she is happy and safe, I’m hopeful that she will have a change of heart, and sooner than I did at that age.

To my Mother, even though I’ve done it in the past I want to apologize again for the trouble that I gave you and the heart ache I must have caused. Having some experience being a parent now it’s obvious to me you make the best decisions you can. I’m far from perfect so my decisions won’t always be the right ones, but I know, like you, I’ve made them all with the best intensions.

To my Daughter, hopefully some day you will see this as well and we can have a good relationship again. I will always love you no matter what and can be patient.

 

Failure

Feeling an overwhelming sense of failure these days. I’m generally ok with failure and making mistakes. Failing is a leaning opportunity.

Most of the time though there are there is usually a mix in my life. Some areas where I feel I’m succeeding but others not so much. This is ok I can concentrate on the things going well and make effort to fix the areas I’m failing. 

Right now I’m having a hard time seeing the successes. Parenting, career, health, finances, all of these areas of my life which need serious work. 

Overall I know my life is privileged which makes me failing in these areas all the more painful. 

How to traumatize your child

Today I’m fairly certain I traumatized Caile. For the past few days she has not been feeling well. Picked up a bug which was going around.

Everyone else in the house has been busy and that left Caile and I at home alone. She relaxed and tried to get feeling better when I worked. She’s come along way and is feeling much better but we decided today would be the same.

A small glitch though. In the middle of the night I woke up with the same bug she had. So we hung out together being sick. 

While we were watching a movie I felt the urge and made my way out of the room. I was pretty weak and not feeling well as the next thing I knew I could hear Caile crying and asking me if I was alright. She was on the phone with Jen and very scared. Having made it to the bathroom I promptly passed out. It must have been a bit of time as Caile had run down two flights of stairs and then back up before I came to. 

She was pretty freaked out but after assuring both her and Jen I was ok she calmed down. I fee awful for putting her through that. I can only imagine finding your parent lying on the bathroom floor not answering you. Pretty sure my constant apologizing for the rest of the day might be annoying her though. 

Compensating For Lack Of Parenting?

My lovely daughter Caile is just one of those kids you don’t need to worry about. She’s our middle daughter as well. She just kind of goes about her business without needing a lot of interference or help from Jen and I.

Every day she comes home from school and just goes into the office and gets on Jen’s computer and starts doing her homework. We never need to ask, or remind her, she just does it. Because of this it has sometimes become a bit to easy for me to not stay up on what is happening in her life all the time. What sort of things she’s working on etc.

Jen helped her a bunch recently with a science fair project which has earned her a space in the regionals. We do talk as well, and I do feel we are close, but I worry about her falling into that middle child syndrome. The other day I sat her down and let her know how proud I was of her and thankful I was for her making things so easy on us as parents.

Most of her school work is done in Google Apps for Education and she knows how to work with all the apps really well. The other night I had a fun thought, maybe we can reward her by getting her a Chromebook of her own. Jen liked the idea and I found a good one on Bestbuy and ordered it. It arrived yesterday but it was a hectic day so I never unpacked it and gave it to her. When she was gone today I opened it up and put it on her bed. Included with it was a brilliant Pug post card that I received from a local artist Tara Andrews. She loves pugs so I was able to tell her I got her a pug and a computer.

Thoughts on Fatherhood

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about families, and in particular Fathers. Previously I wrote about my own Father, I never really had a role model around except for some old memories and stories about things I specifically would not do as a Father myself.

Having just finished Scott Berkun’s book The Ghost of My Father it has given me even more to think about. Scott is becoming quite an influential author in my life pretty quickly. I had first read his book The Year Without Pants while looking at applying at Automattic. It certainly confirmed many of the things I had read elsewhere and gave me great insight into the company. It helped assure me I was making the right move working at becoming an Automattician. His other books will now be ordered soon.

Reading his latest book, a memoir about his own family and relationship with his Father, it really hit home with me personally. It has me thinking even more about all my relationships with my children and the things I need to really work at to make sure I have the kind of connection with them that I truly want.

Having the career I do gives me the opportunity and flexibility with my work life to really be a part of my kids lives. For the most part I do believe I have a strong bond with my children, but I really do need to be more present and active in their lives. While I do take them t,o and love watching, their extra curricular activities, my wonderful wife is usually the one that does a lot of the day to day things.

It’s not enough to just be present in the home with them I need to make a greater effort to talk with them about things, about their lives. More one on one time where I can show them individually how much they mean to me and how much I value them. This happens sometimes, but it is usually just something that occurs, I need to make more effort to purposely plan these things.

The one relationship that I need to work on the most is that of me and my oldest Alexandria. It seems we’ve struggled for a long time, and while I could make millions of excuses why that might be, they don’t really matter. What matters is I need to work to fix it.

Alexandria is turning 16 this month. When I was only a year older than that I left home and not on great terms. I wasn’t happy with my family and thought living with friends while I still wasn’t done high school, or have a job was a better alternative than living there in my mind. This put a huge strain on my relationship with my family that has taken a long time to overcome. Even still there are wounds there as well. My relationship with my youngest sister is almost non existent as she was so young when I left. This is a pattern I desperately don’t want to repeat with Alexandria and I need to fix it before it’s too late.

We have different personalities and different interests. She struggles with school a great deal which has always been a barrier between us. She will never be the strongest in some subjects in school and I need to learn to accept that, yet be willing to be there and help her without letting the historical battles frame how I approach it.

While reading and writing might not be strengths for her she certainly has the potential to be a great artist. She is taking her first real art class now in school and some of the sketches she has been doing are very impressive. Helping her develop these skills even more while improving in the areas she struggles in is going to be a balancing act I need to help her achieve.

While I don’t think I’m a horrible Father, there are certainly many areas that I can use work. It won’t be easy, especially in the case with Alexandria, there is already a lot of repair that needs to be done. The other night I took the first tiny step, I sat down and had a real conversation with her. Pretty casual, but I let her know that I’m proud of her and the hard work she is already putting in this school year. A small start but I’m going to build from there.

Reading, Setting an Example

Reading is important to me. It’s something we’ve tried to instill in our children from early on. We’ve always read to our kids since they were very little. Before they could even fully comprehend what was happening. Jen still reads all the time to the young kids she cares for.

One thing I’m bad for though is not setting the example. For a long time my kids would never have seen me sitting down to read for myself. Lots of the reading I did was either in my office, on the computer, or when they were in bed. Reading more has been a goal of mine for some time now, but haven’t done a great job at working at it. In the past couple of years though I have read more books than I had in years, but that’s still not a big number.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Fatherhood and Parenting in general but I’ll write more about that soon. Yesterday morning though I had just a small simple experience that helped remind me the effect we can have as parents on our children. Caile and I were home along for a bit of time. We were all ready, chores done and she was playing on her iPod in the living room. After making myself a coffee I came and joined her on the couch with my book I’ve been reading.

We talked a little bit, but for the most part we were each involved with our own task, or so I thought. Not long after I sat down with my book Caile got up and put her iPod away. She went to the kitchen and then came back with her book she’s been reading and we sat and read together until it was time for us to go meet everyone else.

On our drive I took the opportunity to talk about reading in general, it’s importance / benefits, and about the book she was reading. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t seen me showing by example that reading was enjoyable and something worth me using my time to do.

Dance Class Parent Participation

Yesterday in the morning I didn’t end up getting out for a run as I had planned. Getting out of bed wasn’t my problem this time. I actually ended up with lots of sleep because I went to be early. 5:30 am didn’t seem so bad at all. Just as I was getting ready to head out the door though one of the kids came down upset because they had a bad dream. So instead I stopped and we cuddled on the couch for a while instead.

Later on in the afternoon was going to go out for a run, or maybe pull my bike out and see if I could go somewhere on it without it falling apart or it break down. When I went outside it was just feeling to warm and I wasn’t in the mood.

It actually turned out to be a good thing because I gained a new found respect for dancers. Not that I didn’t have one before, because I’ve always realized they can do things I can’t do. Since having my kids in dance though and going to their recitals you really see what some of these people are capable of first hand.

This week is parents participation so I went to Ella’s Jazz and Tap tech class. It is a brutal class and those 8-9 years old are so strong. The exercises they had us doing wore me out, I was sweating in no time. They even took it easy on us parents and allowed us just to watch some of what the dancers had learned so far. It impresses me that they can go for the full hour and fifteen minutes and still have energy afterwards.

While I was going I was very happy I hadn’t run and killed my legs in the morning so that I could at least not look like a total flop there. It made my work out in the evening pretty rough as well. It was a lot of fun though getting to be with her though and see all she can do. Having her teach me how to do things for a change was an awesome dynamic. She was so supportive and telling me how good I was even though it was very clear I wasn’t. What a sweet kid I have.

First Sleep Over

Over the weekend Noah went to his first ever sleep over at a friends house. It’s irrational but I always get a little worried when the kids go for a sleep over, especially the first time. I was pretty sure Noah would be fine, but there’s always that chance that they are going to get scared or home sick and want to be picked up.

Caile and Alexandria never had any problems sleeping over anywhere either, but when Ella went for her first, which as at my mother’s house, she couldn’t do it and we needed to go pick up a crying scared little girl 😦

Noah was more like the older two. He had no issues at all and had an awesome time playing with his friends. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that it was at our good friends home who we get together with quite often so he knows their parents as well as them. That also made it really good for me too because I had no worries at all that way.

It always makes me feel pretty proud and happy though when I get reports back that my child was very well behaved and polite. It’s so nice that they save their poor behaviour just for us 😉

Disturbing Wakeup Call

As any parent knows broken sleep is pretty par for the course. There are still many nights when some kid will come into our room having a nightmare, or they aren’t feeling well.

This past while has been fairly bad because of a round of colds going through the house. It seems there has been at least one of them who is up coughing or waking up because they can’t breath through the night.

Last night however the kids slept great. Our cat Zeus however had other plans. It is a disturbing way to be jolted awake at 3:00am by the sound of a cat vomiting on your bed.

Our cross eyed Siamese friend was kind enough to try to get to the edge of the bed at least so only some of it landed on it. The rest splattered across the floor thanks to the height of the bed.

To top it off my wife got mad at me for not kicking him down off the bed. I of course apologized for not being totally aware of what was happening microseconds after being being ripped from my sleep.

If there is a positive to this story though it would be that it’s likely a good sign that at 3:00am, while cleaning up cat puke, you and your spouse are able to laugh with each other at the situation.