State of the Game

State of the Game

Last night, the Baylor Bears topped defending champs Notre Dame to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship. It is the third title for the Lady Bears and coach Kim Mulkey, and firmly plants the program among the elite in women’s college basketball.

Three hundred and fifty miles up the road from Baylor in Lubbock, Texas, lies the campus of Texas Tech University. Their men’s basketball squad will be looking to make it an all-Texas affair as they face off tonight against Virginia in the men’s NCAA title game in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the first appearance in the national championship game for the Red Raiders (as it is also for Virginia), and Tech has a Husky effort to bring a title to the Lone Star State in the same year as their peers at Baylor.

The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament was inaugurated in 1982, with the Lady Techsters of Louisiana Tech defeating Cheyney University of Pennsylvania 76-62 to claim the first title. In the thirty-seven years that have followed, there have been two times women’s and men’s teams from the same state have won the title in the same year. What makes this statistical nugget more interesting, however, is both instances occurred at the same university.

In 2004, Jim Calhoun won his second national title at the University of Connecticut, leading the Huskies to an 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech. That same year, Geno Auriemma guided the women’s team to a nine-point victory over Pat Summitt‘s Tennessee crew in the championship game. It was Auriemma’s fifth title at UCONN, his fourth in three years, and his third in a row. However, it was only the start of the dominant run for UCONN women’s basketball. Ten years later, Auriemma would secure his ninth title (he currently has eleven) with a victory over Notre Dame. In 2014, the UCONN men also played in the championship game, defeating Kentucky to give Kevin Ollie his first title and the fourth championship for the men’s program at Connecticut.

From left to right, Geno Auriemma, Jim Calhoun, and Kevin Ollie.

If you’re wondering how close other teams have come to accomplishing the in-state victory celebration, both squads from Duke University lost the title games in 1999. In 2011, the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team of Notre Dame secured the championship, while the men of Butler University lost to Jim Calhoun and UCONN. Notre Dame and Butler are both in Indiana. Two years later, as Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals cut down the nets in victory, Jeff Walz‘s Louisville women’s squad fell short to Auriemma’s Lady Huskies in the championship game.

Tonight, UVA is a 1.5 point favorite over Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders are playing like a proverbial team of destiny, and the Cavaliers have needed blunders on the part of their previous two opponents – Purdue and Auburn – to eke out victories and advance to the championship game. For Tech coach Chris Beard, he’s planning to ensure Kim Mulkey is not alone in celebrating in the Lone Star state.

Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Photo via Yahoo Sports

My Little Man

As a single parent, most of the time I share with my kids involves both Natalie and Daniel. For me, it’s usually a matter of serving two masters. Throw in the fact that many times my girlfriend is with us and that number bumps up to three. Every now and then, however, circumstances and situations come up where I have one kid and my ex has the other. This provides a very unique dynamic and was the case this past weekend.

My ex was invited to a cookie party (whatever that is) and took Natalie along with her. This gave me the entire morning and early afternoon with my little dude Daniel. At first I thought we’d just hang at the park or go riding on scooters (the push pedal kind, not the gas powered kind). Then it occurred to me that we do that type of stuff all the time. This was father-son day. This was something bigger than just ordinary. This had to be special and cool.

So off we went to Dinosaur World. DW is a small, dinosaur-themed attraction just 10 miles east of Tampa. It’s priced just right relative to Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens, and it’s perfect for a couple of hours. The park is full of life size replicas of the ancient monsters that once roamed the earth, and has very informative videos and displays of fossils, etc. For what looks like something that began as a mom-and-pop roadside attraction, Dinosaur World has evolved (no pun intended) into a respectable alternative to the big theme parks of Central Florida.

So there we were checking out the size of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Daniel frustrated with my need to read every informative plaque at each display.

“Don’t read this one, Daddy.”

“But it’s about the Brachiosaurus. Can you say Brachiosaurus?

“Ummm…. nope.”

“C’mon. Just try.”

“Daaaaaa-deeeeeeeee”

“Did you know that it used to weigh about 35 tons!”

“Ummm…. nope.”

“Do you want to go back to the playground area?”

“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Let’s go! C’mon, Daddy. I’ll race you…..”

So maybe he’s not the little rocket scientist I aspire for him to be, but he IS left handed. Considering the Kansas City Royals just gave Gil Meche $11 million over 5 years, I have already started working on Daniel’s split-finger fastball.

Long story short, Saturday was a very special time for me. It was a chance for me to connect more deeply with my son and not have to try and balance my attention with my daughter. It was a chance for Daniel and me to make our own memories and to have our personal moments. I look back at the times in my childhood when it was just me and my dad and I smile because I remember feeling just a little more special and a little more important than when it was my brother and me.

I hope and pray that this is what Daniel will remember from these moments. I hope he will grow up knowing and understanding how much I love and adore him. Anyone who knows me knows I ride him hard at times, but the cliché is true. I am tough on both my kids because I love them so much, and I don’t ever want them to be complacent when it comes to what makes them special and amazing.

But then again it was nice to just let that all go for an afternoon, take Daniel to this special place, and let him beat me every time we raced from her to there.

Foundations in Love

This past weekend I was fortunate to have my kids all weekend.  I picked them up from school on Friday afternoon and dropped them off at their mother’s on late Sunday evening.  In the interim, I had a chance to share a spectacular 48+ hours with them.

We had a lazy Saturday around my place, playing games and being silly.  I took them to the park, pushed them on the swings, and shared slushies with them at Sonic. On Sunday we went to Mass in the morning and then headed to a friend’s house to hang out.  We frolicked in his pool, grilled burgers and hot dogs, did a little fishing, and took his jet ski out on the lake.  It was a great Florida weekend.

I know it may sound cheesy, but it really is a blessing to have kids and take part in new experiences and create new memories with them.  You get to rediscover things, things that you may have taken for granted before they came along.  You get to be the smartest person in the room – although my daughter is seriously challenging for that title!  You get recurring crash courses in dictatorship, diplomacy, peacekeeping and the use of retaliatory force.  You stand as a bridge between what once was and what is yet to come.

I got to thinking about all these lessons and how parenting, like so many other things in life, requires continuous education and growth.  Tactics and techniques that worked with my three year-old no longer work now that he’s five.  The logic that is so easily understood and accepted by my daughter simply bounces off my son.  It’s as if he has a force field of some sort that shelters him from life on this planet.  I envy him sometimes.

So I must constantly adjust my methods and tone with my kids.  I must constantly draw on what I learned from my parents and ask myself what they would have done in this situation.  Other than raise their voice – which is a given under all circumstances – how would they react if I had acted a particular way when I was younger?  It still amazes me how much I draw on the wisdom of my mom and the memory of my dad to get through certain challenges with my kids.

What’s ironic is that I have the absolute great fortune of having those memories and lessons on which I can lean because my father at one time was an alcoholic.  My dad was so involved with his work when I was younger, I barely saw him.  I have hazy memories of him getting home late from work – by late I mean after 9:00 PM – and being gone by the time I woke up in the morning.  He worked his tail off, and drank just as hard.  Sure, he was making good money, but he was never around.

Then he got sick.  The years of drinking and smoking caught up to him in a flash, and it was the best thing to happen to my brother and me.  What turned it around for my father was a visit to his doctor at which he was presented with two options.  He could continue drinking and die, or quit drinking and watch his children grow up.  Not only did he choose the latter, he stuck around to see his two sons get married and meet 4 of his 5 grandchildren.

So there we were, Natalie, Daniel and myself sitting in the middle of Brandt Lake on my buddy’s wave runner.  A typical, late-afternoon rain had recently passed over us and the air was cool and refreshing.  I killed the engine so we could just sit and admire the rainbow to our left and the rays of sun breaking through the grey clouds to our right.  It was majestic.  Then Natalie looked back at me and said, “Thank you for bringing us out here today, Daddy.”  I looked up at the sunshine reaching out to us from Heaven and thought, “Yeah, Dad.  Thank you.”

Role Player

I have written a lot about being the best dad I can be for my kids.  I try to do the best I can because I know how important it is for their sake and their well being.  I also do it because part of me feels I need to make up to them the childhood I took away when I left their mom.  I know it can be argued they are better off now because I am happier and my ex-wife is happier than had we stayed together, but there is still a sense of indentured obligation toward my children.

Hand in hand with those feelings is the desire to make it up to Alex, my ex-wife.  Even though I was an okay husband to her, I look back and see now all that I lacked in order to be a great husband.  They say hindsight is 20/20, and I think I see clearly now who I need to be for her going forward.

Alex called me today not long after I got home from the gym.  She was on her way home and had just received a call from the security company that monitors her house.  The fire alarm went off and the fire department was dispatched.  I could feel the anxiety in her voice, and she asked if I could drive over because it would still be several minutes before she would be home.

This is where the decision to move closer to my kids continues to pay off.  I was more than happy to jump in my truck and drive the 5 miles to her place just to make sure everything was okay.  By the time I got there, the fire fighters had already left, and thankfully there was nothing wrong with the house.  The note on the door said the false alarm was most likely caused by lightning hitting the nearby area.  I used my spare key (yes, I still keep one) to check inside and inspect the fire alarm itself.  All clear.

As Alex pulled into the driveway, I could see the look of relief on her face.  I think I even heard her sigh while she was still in the car.  The nightmare playing in her head was over and she could now relax. I was happy that I could help out in the small way that I did.  In my mind, it was the least I could do given what I did to her 2 years ago.

That got me to thinking about something I saw on TV recently.  It was a man explaining to the talk show host how the best gift he could ever give his kids is to love their mother.  I still love my ex-wife and care about her deeply.  She is a friend and a peer, and I am blessed that she has chosen the civil and cordial road with regards to our continuing relationship.  I was reminded that the best gift I could ever give my kids is to continue to love their mother as a friend and a person, and if I am ever going to be a great dad, it starts with being a great ex-husband.

Growing Pains

Does anyone know how to slow down time?  Perhaps delay the growing up process?  Anyone?  No?  Darn!   See, I’ve been internally obsessed lately with my kids growing up.  I know they are still both quite young, but everyday I see something new about them.  I notice how they turn a new, proverbial corner in the process of going from being little kids to adolescents.

These feelings are amplified whenever I am around friends who have an infant or toddler child.  Strollers, diaper bags, formula, nap schedules.  I definitely don’t miss those days, but I am saddened when I look back and think about how long ago those days seem.  My little babies definitely neither babies nor little any longer.

For example, this was the conversation in my truck as Natalie and I picked up Daniel at his YMCA day-camp.

“Where did you get the balloon, Bubba?”

“From one of my counselors.”

“You all have counselors?” Natalie asked.

“YEP”

“Who’s your favorite counselor, Daniel?”

“Ms. Sadie.”

“Hmmmmmm……is she your girlfriend?” I asked smiling.

“NO!!!!! …………….<pause>…………….Ms. Katie is my girlfriend.”

<laughing> “Oh! Really?”

“Yep!  She wears blue makeup on her eyes.”

“It’s called eye-shadow” Natalie was quick to point out.

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is!”

“No it’s not………”

You get the idea.

So I ask myself, “When did this happen?”  Did I miss something?  Where was I?  I mean, I know I was right here in the middle of it.  I think the longest I have been away from my kids since either one of them was born has been 8 days.  Of course, this was a result of a business trip, but me traveling for work is virtually non-existent.  I see them just about every day, and if by chance I do not I make sure I call them to wish them good night. I have always maintained how fortunate I am with regards to the situation with my kids, and I thank God every night for this.

Still I spend too many private moments worrying about tomorrow.  I kill myself thinking about every decision and whether or not I am making the right one.  After all, there is no do-over with parenting.  You either get it right or you don’t.  So I sit, pray, and ask for the strength to be able to focus on today and put faith in tomorrow.  It’s not easy and takes a concentrated effort on my part.  But when I am able to release the worries of the future in exchange for the joys of today, it is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.

And for a couple of hours, I get to not be a grown up with my kids.

Friday Night Lites

The good thing about writing or journalizing is that you can fast forward the dull  and boring moments in life.  So needless to say, this entry begins with me picking up my kids at school after work.  I was really excited because I knew I would have them all night.  Even though I was planning to be on the road early on Saturday morning, I knew the kids would stay up late at my place until their mother picked them up after her evening out.

So Natalie, Daniel and I began our Friday afternoon at Sam’s Club looking for something to fix for dinner.  We collectively agreed on Shrimp Scampi and pasta and headed home, but not before our usual perusal of stuff at the discount club.  That can be really fun with the kids except for when we come across something they feel thy HAVE to have.  Then the stern parent in me has to come out and tell them “No” which is always followed by “Because I say so” which in tern is followed by the scowling “Ask me again and see what happens….” comment.

But it’s usually a fun time with the kids.  I have them sit in the shopping cart and we zoom up and down the aisles at breakneck speed.  “Faster, daddy!  Faster!”  And for some reason the floors at Sam’s are so conducive to sprinting behind the shopping cart and performing a sliding stop thus preventing us from crashing into the elaborately displayed and precisely stacked bottles of Riesling.

We got home and I started on dinner.  Daniel, of course, took to turning on the PS2 and playing a video game.  Natalie, being the adult wannabe that she is, kept asking of ways she could help with dinner.  So after having her clear up the dinner table, she went to the other room to watch TV.  Lee got home and the apartment became a soup of controlled chaos, but in a good way.

“How was your day, honey?”  “Good, thanks.  Traffic wasn’t too bad coming home.  Dinner smells great.”  “Thank you. I was …..  Daniel, lower the volume!  Sorry.  What was I saying?”  “You were talking about di….”  “LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”  “Hey, Natalie, how are you?”  “I’m so happy you’re here.  Let me show you what I made at school for mother’s day.”  “Okay, but give me a second, sweetie.  Let me put my stuff down.”  “Baby girl, can you please turn off the TV in the other room and wash your hands? We’re about to have …… Daniel!!!!! LOWER the volume!”  “But daaaaaaaddeeeeeeee.  I caaaaan’t hear it“  “Dude!  I said……… In fact, turn it off and go wash your hands.  We’re gonna’ eat in a minute.”  “But daaaaaaaddeeeeeeee.  I’m not finished with this level.”  “I don’t care.  Turn it off.”  “Ummmm, Gil”  “Yes, baby?”  “Your pasta is boiling over.”  “Ahhhh shit!!!!” “Daddy, you said a bad word.”  “I know sweetie.  Sorry.  I ….. Didn’t I tell you to go wash you hands?”

Sure it sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  If this is what it’s like to be surrounded by love, I’ll take it every day of the week and twice on Sundays.  We sat down at the table, said grace while holding hands, and ate dinner.  We had conversations about school, work, weekend plans, etc, and the room was filled with laughter and joy.

I thought about something my friend Patti told me.  She said the most important thing a father can do is love the mother of his children.  Even though we’re no longer together, I like to think I display that love for Alex in what I do to help her out as best I can.  Like I’ve mentioned before, we do everything in the best interest of our kids, and I have received many compliments of what a great job we’ve done with Natalie and Daniel given the situation we’re in.

And even though Lee is not the mother of my kids, I love how she loves them as her own.  I like to think that I am setting the example for Natalie to see what true companionship and love is supposed to be.  I want her to grow up knowing and understanding how a woman deserves to be treated, and being strong enough to demand respect and consideration from any man with whom she enters a relationship.  Conversely, I want to set the example for Daniel and teach him that being a man does not necessarily mean being macho.  Rather, it means treating women with respect and love and seeing them as equal partners in
life.

These are the moment I hope and pray my kids remember when they reminisce on their childhood.  I hope they are able to look back with appreciation on these moments and realize that we provided a happy childhood for them.  I want them to become adults knowing what happiness means and expecting to achieve happiness in all they do.  I don’t ever want them to settle for anything but the best, and I truly believe that moments like Friday night are as good as it ever gets.

A Very Special Day

Today is my son’s birthday.  He is a healthy and vibrant four ….. I mean five ….. year-old.  It’s still hard to believe that this time five years ago, Alex and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second child.  Now, I am simply trying to rub out the pain in my knees and back from a day spent celebrating his birthday.

We held Danny’s birthday party a day early at a place called Pump it Up.  It’s an indoor gym of sorts, with varying inflatable play areas.  You know, the typical slides and bounce-houses and obstacle courses.  There were about 25 kids there, and they all appeared to have a great time.  Even the adults got into it.  Although I was first consumed with camera-man duty, Daniel later grabbed me by the hand and implored me to race him in the obstacle course and slide down the 30-foot slide with him.

It was wonderful and magical and everything a kids’ birthday party should be.  At the end of the party, Daniel was treated to his birthday cake and got to spend time on a giant, inflatable thrown in the party room at the facility.  He reaped up the plethora of gifts he received and we all called it a day.  After getting home and standing in the shower until all the hot water ran out, I barely had the energy to call the kids and wish them goodnight before I dozed off. As is usually the case, I woke late in the evening and turned on SportsCenter to catch up on the days’ events in the world of sports.  And as is usually the case with the Sunday evening SportsCenter, ESPN has a heartwarming piece to fill time on their show.  This week’s feature was about a Pop Warner challenger league in New York.

The challenger league allows kids with disabilities to play football. ALL kids, regardless of their specific disability, get to play.  The ESPN segment focused on the inclusion of all the children, and how parents and other family members contribute to produce these wonderful memories, both for the children who play as well as for themselves.  The stories were varied, from healthy children diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, to a child confined to a wheelchair because of his battle with a rare form of cancer.  As his mother described how her son new he will soon die, it was hard to see the TV through the tears in my eyes.

Just as it is hard for me now to see the words I am typing as I tell you this story.  When I think about this segment, and all the other stories I’ve heard about children living, and sometimes suffering, with disabilities, I can’t help but pause and thank God for the two beautiful and healthy children I have.  I can’t help but choke up at the thought of how incredibly blessed and fortunate I am to be able to watch and partake in a day full of physical activity with my son.  I can’t help but cry with the appreciation that I don’t have to deal with wheelchairs and surgeries, medical facilities and treatment plans.

Instead, I am blessed with the simple joy of picking my kids up from school and chasing them around my apartment as we play tag.  I am honored to have the ‘burden’ of taking them to the pool and catching them as they jump into my arms.  My biggest concern is the never ending hope that my children will always stay healthy and happy.

I think it is human nature to take things for granted.  We grow so accustomed to a situation or environment that we adapt to it and ignore those things we once saw as obstacles.   Being a parent is about having a relationship with your child, and as with all relationships, it’s easy to grow complacent and ‘bored’ at times.  I like to think I will never take my children for granted, and it’s special segments like the one aired on ESPN that make me appreciate my kids, and the very special joy it is to have them, even more.

If you have kids and they have the ability to walk on their own, get dressed on their own, play, smile and just be a kid; take a moment every day and thank God for that blessing.  If, for whatever reason, you are the parent of a child with special needs, then I pray that God continue to give you the strength and courage to endure. It takes a special parent to care for such a special child, and your strength and determination is admired by so many people.  It is, at least, by me.

A Handful of Memories

I was introduced to a song today. The song is “Daddy’s Hands” by Holly Dunn. Before I go into any detail about the song, I would like to provide you with a little bit of background.

My girlfriend, Lee, lost her father, Jimmy, in 2000 as a result of his battle with cancer. Of the songs played at his funeral, one was “Amazing Grace” and one was “Daddy’s Hands.” Lee and I participated in the Relay for Life event in New Tampa this past weekend. As part of the opening ceremonies for the Relay, a young woman sang “Amazing Grace.” This triggered a slew of memories and emotions in Lee, and she consequently told me about the song “Daddy’s Hands.”

“Daddy’s Hands” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are just amazing, and in reading them, I hope to have them serve as a benchmark for my life. I see how Lee looks back at the memory of her father with fondness and admiration. I think if Lee were given the opportunity to have written the song, the lyrics would be exactly the same. It’s almost as if this song was written specifically for Jimmy.

This makes me think about the relationship I am fostering with my daughter, and how I want her to someday look back on me in the same way Lee looks back on her dad. I want Natalie’s memories of me to be nothing but positive and memorable. I want her to think of me and smile because of all the happy moments we shared and all the wonderful memories we created together.

I also want the same of my son, Daniel. I know the bond between a father and daughter is different than that of a father and son. So much so that I worry at times that I am taking away from him because I worry so much about my relationship with Natalie. I don’t think I am, but I do know that right now, at their respective ages, I favor more to my little girl. And that’s OK. I am a firm believer in the concept that a woman defines herself based on her relationship with her father. For as much pressure and anxiety as that reality may bring, I accept it and strive to do right by both my kids in all that I do.

“Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’d come to understand, there was always love in Daddy’s hands”

I hope both my kids will one day hear this song and think, “Yeah. That’s exactly what dad was like.” If I can get them to do that, then I know I’ve done a good job in raising them. Knowing how Lee identifies this song with the memory of her father, I know that Jimmy did a superb job in raising his daughter. It’s strange that I can admire a man I never had the privilege of meeting, but nevertheless I do.

Something’s Missing

I miss my kids.  As a result of their uncle being in town from Venezuela, they have had a week full of plans and I have not seen them since Monday evening.  Even though I have had the opportunity to talk to them every night, it’s not quite the same.

The funny thing is that I was always of the opinion that I could handle extensive time away from my kids without it bothering me.  In 2004, I traveled to San Francisco for a week for a conference, and I don’t think I missed them then as much as I do right now.  Granted, my situation was very different at that time.  I was only four months removed from splitting up with my wife and leaving the house, I was searching for answers regarding the direction of my life, and I was distracted by conference and the beauty of San Francisco.

Today, I have much more stability in my life.  I have my new place and newfound personal direction.  And it is clearer to me everyday that my kids provide me with that sense of stability I crave.  My children are the reason I do what I do.  Sure, I may make subtle comments from time to time about ‘the cost’ of being a parent, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I need them in my day to day.  I need knowing I am going to pick them up after school and share some time with them.  I need to know that I have to keep the pantry stocked with Fruit by the Foot, Gushers, popcorn, and fruit snacks.  I love watching Daniel sit back and play Sonic on my PlayStation.  I cherish playing Tag with Natalie and watching her crack up in unabashed fashion.

I have contemplated career opportunities that require travel and time away from home.  I look at vacation plans and weekend getaways that keep me away from my kids.  I think about how little time I actually spend with my children, and how this time away from them makes me appreciate them even more.  And I have learned that being a parent is more than a responsibility.  In many ways it’s a privilege because of all the rewarding moments that come with raising kids and watching them grow up and succeed.  I see my kids as my vocation, and I know now, more than ever, that I am nothing without my children.

Disciplinarian

I think it’s human nature to every now and again try to ‘one-up’ someone or show off in front of others.  I am not exactly sure why we do this.  Maybe it’s a naturally occurring reaction to outside pressures, like some innate need to rise above the rest.  The egotistical equivalent of survival of the fittest.  And every so often I find myself doing that with my kids.

Unfortunately, it’s not in the manner in which you might be thinking.  I tend to be very humble when it comes to publicly spouting about the talents and achievements of my kids.  Don’t get me wrong.  In private and one-on-one, I tell them repeatedly how great they are and how proud they make me.  My kids have no bigger fan than me.

But when it comes to keeping them in line, I like to show them – and everyone else for that matter – who’s boss.  I have no qualms about raising my voice to them.  In their lifetime, they have come to learn the volume battle is one they will never win.  If push comes to shove, I also have no problems with a swift hand to their bottoms.  It’s immediate, it grabs their attention, and it instantaneously brings them down from their mischievous high.

Truth be told, I almost never have to resort to anything physical with Natalie.  Just the mere stating of her name, in Spanish and in that ‘fatherly’ tone, is enough to set her straight for a week.  The other one, however, is a completely different story.  For as sweet and loving and affectionate as Daniel can be, there are times I am convinced he was developed in a secret lab by DCS just to test my limits.  I can see the government scientists now.  “Let’s program him to cry uncontrollably in large, public settings once the ‘no sleep’ parameter has reached 7.15 hours.  Excellent!”

So as tolerant and patient as I try to be, there are times when my thresholds are exceeded.  “They’re just kids.  They’re just having fun.  They didn’t mean to spill that bright, red, hard to clean kool-aid on my new, beige, perfectly spot-free carpet.  It’s okay……..”  I think one of the unspoken truths is that the hardest part of parenting is in keeping one’s cool.  It’s taking the 10 seconds …… okay, 30 seconds ….. to absorb the situation and not fly off the handle.  It is really more challenging than most people would imagine, especially after a long day at work dealing with people who might as well be 5 years-old themselves.

“But you have such great kids” people tell me.  “Natalie and Daniel are precious.  They are little angels!”  Well, first of all, thank you.    And I agree my kids are precious and little angels.  They really are great kids.  But I like to think the reason they are such good kids is because I can be and have been so hard on them.  It’s because they understand boundaries, limits and the consequence that comes with overstepping them.  As much as I let them be kids, they both know what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

People used to give my parents grief for being so hard on my brother and me.  I can guarantee you that I would not be the person I am now if they had not.  And I am the first to admit that times have changed.  I can’t imagine being – and the law won’t allow me to be – the type of physical disciplinarian my dad was to me.  And that was nothing compared to what my mom and dad went through with their respective parents.

At the end of the day, however, I firmly believe my kids will look back at the limits I impose on them and thank me.  I know I thank my parents for being tough on me because I have a better appreciation for the gifts I have been given and the many things I have achieved.   So whenever someone tells me, “You have such well behaved children”, I smile and thank them.  And inside I tell myself, “damn straight!”  Guess it’s just my way of showing off.