With the continued hustle and bustle of Lee and me being in Georgia as we wait for our house to sell, it was wonderful to receive a call from my son. He was eager to tell me the results of his SAT had come in.
I haven’t taken the SAT since the Bush Sr. administration, but I do recall scoring a pedestrian 1050 on my exam. I am thrilled to see Danny do so well on his test, but following the initial celebratory comments of congratulation, I encouraged him to register to take the exam again in the Fall. My thinking is he scored 1290 without putting much, if any, effort into preparing for the test. If he applies himself and makes preparing for the SAT a focused effort, then scoring into the 1300’s is easily achievable. Getting into the 1400’s would put him into rare air, and many more doors would open for him in terms of college choices.
But the decision is his to make. Even if he doesn’t retake the test, he can be proud of the accomplishment. I don’t want him to settle for his first score (I took the test three times), but he has to want to retest. He has to want to make it a priority.
As the father of an almost seventeen-year-old, the role of parent is superseded by the role of consultant (and in this case, cheerleader). It’s tough to let my kids fly on their own, but it’s a realization with which I’ve been trying to be more and more comfortable in recent years. I like to think my ex, my wife, and I have done a good job in raising Natalie and Daniel, and it’s in moments of letting go we get to keep them close to us.
I am not one to celebrate birthdays. Although I greatly appreciate the thoughts and well wishes, making a big deal out of my birthday is not my speed.
That being said, I am overwhelmed by the love I’ve received today. I know a lot of people say non-positive things about Facebook (and many times rightfully so), but one of the magic things about that platform is the ability to quickly and easily connect. I am so fortunate to have the collection of family and friends I do, and I was just inundated today with birthday wishes. WOW! is all I can say.
I wrapped up the day by having dinner with my kids. The thought did cross my mind this would be the last birthday in a long time my kids and I will be able to celebrate in person (given Lee and I are moving to the Dominican Republic), but I did not want to dampen the mood, so I kept that thought to myself. Instead, we joked and laughed and just enjoyed the time together.
After dinner, we had dessert at a place called Icesmile that does ice cream rolls. In addition to the tasty treats, one of the schtick features of the restaurant is that people write or draw on post-its and place them all over the wall. It was fun finishing our dessert and then taking a stab at becoming a part of the creative culture of the store.
My kids participated in Wesley Chapel Athletic Association activities for years. I have so many wonderful memories from that period in time, and some not-so-great ones as well. Yet through it all, I know my kids are more well-rounded and better prepared to take on some of life’s challenges as a result of their participation in organized sports.
I will admit the experience did not come without its challenges.For over a decade, I’d make the trip up to Wesley Chapel District Park for either practices or games, sometimes four times per week, oftentimes fueled only by the desire to be a good dad.
Getting there after work or early on the weekends took a toll on my body and my energy levels, and it was not uncommon for me to take naps in the car during practices. I would admonish the powers that be for the fact there was no place nearby to get a good cup of coffee. More specifically, I’d curse the fact there was no Starbucks near Wesley Chapel District Park.
My daughter is now in college and my son is wrapping up his Junior year in high school. They’re both very removed from participating in WCAA activities, and I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been up that way. So file under delicious irony the email my wife sent me today. In it was a link to WesleyChapelCommunity.com. The headline of the story reads simply: New Starbucks to open soon in Wesley Chapel.
Really? Really, God? Now? Now is when there’s a Starbucks on the way to the district park? After all those years of dozing off at red lights …. now?
Just continued proof God has a great sense of humor.
So my son informed me he registered for an online gaming tournament, but he was very vague and non-specific with the details. I don’t think he was deliberately trying to hide anything. Rather, he still doesn’t see things from the perspective I do as a dad (what’s the tournament?, what’s the URL?, is there a fee?, what type of personal information, if any did you provide?, etc.)
So I turned to reddit to try and research it. I tend to shy away from reddit because sometimes you need a thick skin to navigate the comments, but the users were really helpful and supportive.
Then I got to these comments. The both filled and broke my heart at the same time.
I think I am a pretty cool dad, but I am by no means perfect. For as tough as I used to be with my kids, I know I’ve gotten a little soft these last couple of years. Still, I am very proud of the job my ex-wife, my current wife, and I have done in bringing up the two stellar, well behaved, and loving young adults that are my children.
Still, the road ahead is long, and they – as sixteen and fourteen year-olds – have the most challenging time in their lives yet to come. Sports radio personality Colin Cowherd once said it best about this age for kids. “You stop being a parent and you start being a consultant.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to that, but how I really see myself right now is as an enabler of dreams. I still have a lot of responsibility to make sure they’re getting good grades in school, behaving, staying out of trouble, etc., but I also need to continue asking what they want to do when they grow up, where do they see themselves in ten years, and what their dreams are. Then, I need to work my tail off to help steer them in that direction.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to being a good parent, except to say love them, learn from them, let them develop into who they want to be. Because life’s not a video game and there’s no reset button.
I am a Christ follower. I believe in His Word, and I strive – poorly at times – to be a reflection of God’s love and mercy. I am a father to a daughter, in love with the one woman who owns my heart, fiercely loyal to and protective of my little girl. I am a sports fan, often times consumed by the games grown men play, and the peripheral happenings that surround them.
I find these three aspects of my life coming together with regards to the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal. If you’re not familiar with the incident, I will not regurgitate the specifics. Rather, please feel free to link out to ESPN.com for the full story. I am also not here to join in the cacophony of outrage and opinions that has inundated not just the sports media, but mainstream news outlets as well.
Rather, I want to explore the space of what happens next. Not for Ray Rice or his wife Janay, the victim of Rice’s physical assault, but for us instead .
There is a rush to create distance from Ray Rice the man. First, the Baltimore Ravens, Rice’s former employer, terminated his contract. The NFL promptly followed suit and suspended him indefinitely, thus impacting his ability to be signed by another NFL team. Ravens fans sought to return the jersey of a man once considered a beloved member of their franchise, and commercial sponsors severed ties with the former running back. Ray Rice is left a modern day leper, shunned and discarded by society.
Still, in the immediate aftermath of the February incident, and now in the current and upsetting media storm, the victim of Ray Rice’s rage and stupidity, the only person whose opinion really matters, has chosen to display forgiveness. Janay proceeded to wed Ray in March, a mere six weeks following the violent incident. In a press conference in May, Janay stated she, “deeply regret(ed) the role that (she) played in the incident that night,” a comment that left many nervous and confused. Just today, Janay repeated her position of support saying, “I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.”
My position on domestic violence is quite steadfast. In discussing the issue with my daughter, I’ve been quite imperative; “He hits you, you leave him. It’s not up for discussion. It’s over.” I am not sure how I would react as a dad at the knowledge that a man struck my daughter. I pray I never have to find out … and that I have sufficient money in the bank to make bail.
I also understand that both positions are not mutually exclusive. You can forgive a person who has wronged you and still choose to no longer associate with that individual. Forgiveness does not mean having to accept or tolerate the status quo, and growth and forgiveness almost always go hand in hand.
Yet through it all, we can look at this scandal through a worldly prism of outrage and contempt, or we can look at it through the prism of instruction we find in the Bible. “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” – Luke 17.4
Through it all, it’s been Janay Rice who has acted Christ-like, proverbially turning the other cheek, and choosing love over spite or revenge. The outcast leper is hers to heal and His to redeem.
You’ve heard the old cliché: Time to close this chapter in your life.
Have you ever had a season in your lifetime that was more like closing a book …. and moving on to a new book ….. in a different library ….. on the other side of town? That was my 2004.
I’m a big fan of milestones. It’s amazing to me that in January, I will hit the mark of having lived in Tampa longer than I did in my hometown (17 year, 6 months). Last June, I celebrated my five year wedding anniversary with my wife. Just last month, I reached seventeen years of service with my employer. It really is amazing how time flies.
But now as we’ve reached the end of Summer 2014, I am hitting a new set of decade-long milestones in my life. The second-half of 2004 was brutal for me. In addition to dealing with the savaging hurricanes that pummeled Florida that summer, my life was – for lack of a better phrase – in a free fall.
My marriage had dissolved. I was living at my friend’s house, getting by on a steady diet of beer (as in cases) and no sleep. I was unsure of what each day would bring, and, in poetic parallel to Mother Nature’s wrath, everything seemed like a dizzying whirlwind.
As if that weren’t enough, it was 10 years ago yesterday – 3,654 days – that my father passed away.
His passing was expected. Having been diagnosed in the summer of 2002 with Mesothelioma, we knew the outlook for my dad’s life was not a long term one. He underwent chemo and battled his cancer, along the way prolonging his life just enough to sneak in some extra memories with his grand children. I remember shortly after his diagnosis he and I went out for beers, no longer sharing a father-son relationship, but rather one of friends. For one night, we were drinking buddies, and I remember laughing at the fact I out-drank my dad and had to proverbially carry him home.
Losing my dad was tough. In the time following his death, I’d still pick up the phone to call him during Miami Dolphins games. As my kids took up recreational soccer, I’d anguish inside at the fact he was no longer around to see them play. My mentor for all things DIY was gone. I didn’t just lose my dad. I lost my friend and my hero. Although the memory of my dad still influences me and what I write, it’s not the same as if he were still alive.
They say time heals all wounds. There is some truth to that. Wounds do heal, but some wounds never disappear. After ten years, I can still see in me the void that exists with the absence of my father. My life is amazingly better today than it was at this time ten years ago (a testament to God’s amazing grace and His ability to put us back together). But I still miss my dad, and I am saddened that he never got to know the me I am today. I know he was proud of me, but the me he knew in his final days was a lie. I showed him a facade to keep him from seeing the lying, cheating, and broken man I was at that time.
I hope that when it comes time for us to meet again in Heaven, he’ll meet me with a hug and with the words, “You did good, son.” The book of Matthew teaches us to store our treasures in Heaven. In trying to be the best dad to my kids that I possibly can be, I like to think I’m doing just that.
I saw a meme the other day that said something to the effect of, “great memories aren’t made playing video games.” I respectfully disagree.
As tough as it is for me sometimes to bond with my daughter, it’s quite easy with my son. All I need to do is run over to Game Stop and pick up a new video game. Then we’ll spend a Friday evening (and most of Saturday morning) tearing it up.
When Danny was younger, he’d rely on me more to help with the problem solving aspects of a game. If there was a level he couldn’t clear or a puzzle he couldn’t figure out, he’d hand the controller over to me. Now that’s he’s older (he’ll be thirteen in May), he doesn’t pass the controller over quite as much.
If you’re an avid console gamer, then you can appreciate the notion that learning the button commands for a game can be like learning a new language. Specifically with sports games where you may be required to press a series of buttons in a certain sequence or all at once. It really is quite fascinating for me to watch Danny play. It’s as if I am watching him develop muscle memory right before my eyes, and I’ve seen him do things in a game that leave me speechless.
To be clear, he routinely kicks my ass when we play head to head, and he’s only going to get better.
Yet through it all – through the levels of zombie apocalypse or World Cup soccer matches or covert, special operations missions in the jungle, or superhero adventures – it’s a special time we share. Danny remains super-informed on games and consoles and new developments, and he loves sharing that information with me.
The student has become the teacher, and I am fine with that because PS3 (and now PS4) time is ourtime. It’s the time we get to hang out and be father and son together. It’s the time we get to be goofy with each other. It’s the time when I am able to appreciate the young man into which he’s transforming, and I’ve found myself being able to apply some of our shared gaming experiences to real world troubles he’s faced. I hope when he’s out on his own as a grown up he’ll look back at those nights playing video games with dad as some of the greatest memories of his life.