Archive for June, 2011

steering a path

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The one who holds my heart and I were sharing dad stories this father’s day morning and as I was talking about my memories of dad running the motor and trolling from the back of the boat while my brother, sisters and I would cast along the reedline, she looked at me and said “he steered for you.”

It was one of those moments, like the moment she opened my eyes to mom’s creativity as a mother of six children. (see my blog “Creative Motherhood” from this past March) I was stunned, then watery-eyed thinking that yes, my brother, sisters and I were casting wildly about at the front of the boat while dad steered the boat along the invisible path above the dropoff.

Dad was steering, letting us learn how to anticipate the wind, how to lead our cast ahead of the boats path, how to sequence our casts so we would get our lines tangled (as often.) He was showing us the way around the lake, and the lake was showing us that more often than not, our time on the water was about fishing, not catching.

I can think now about those hours in the boat with dad, that fishing is a lot like parenting. Its not a lecture class, its a hands-on-make-mistakes-and-learn (or don’t) kind of education. As the one who holds my heart and I talked, I remembered the saturday mornings going with dad to the warehouse, stopping at Mary’s coffee shop for bacon and eggs and seeing that everyone knew dad’s name. Then sweeping the warehouse, washing trucks, loading trucks, and heading to lehrners delicatessen to buy lunch meat for the family and getting the reward for working…orange crush!

Parents teach us even when they don’t think they are teaching us. I can’t say that I had intentions to teach my daughters by taking pride in my work, whether it was in the pattern that resulted from mowing the lawn with the contours of the yard, or the look of a freshly armor-alled tire on the car. But I realize now that I learned those things from my parents. Its a good thing for much of the time, and seeing my daughters working hard with their heads and hearts gives me great pride and makes me hope I was a part of them learning that. I think too that those things that we do (or don’t do) as parents teaches our children too. I’m thinking about being able to ask for help when needed.

I know that by not asking for help from my daughters, I missed out on chances to let them learn, I’m sure that’s just one of the things I taught them without knowing I was teaching them something that’s not a good life-skill. Theres not much better than having people pitch in to help when you’re overwhelmed with something, and its a pretty good feeling to pitch in and help too.

Like a lot of dads, i don’t have a boat, and my children are far from my sight, so i can’t help point out good places to cast their lines, or help them land the big fish, but i’m hoping my path is something they can extract the good things from and leave the rest behind.

Keep your casters in mind as you troll along from the back of the boat, try to stay on the path. Remember, our children are always learning from us, not just the times we think we’re teaching.

Take care, steer a productive path

how big is your wingspread?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Its a funny title I know, but its been front and center on my mind lately. I had the opportunity to spend a few days with my daughters this spring. One daughter is on the east coast, though she claims they are actually in the midwest, and one daughter is on the west coast. Now the distance between them is about 2,400 miles, and stretching my arms as wide as I can, I can still barely reach six feet. So in all actuality, they are far out of my reach. But I could still reach them in a day if we needed to.

This week the distance grew to about 7,500 miles as my favorite youngest daughter began her internship with UNRWA in Beirut. I got to talk with her today (the miracle of skype!) and she sounds like she’s done well in finding a room with a good roommate, learned which white bus is the UN’s and which aren’t, is keeping alert, finding her way in her neighborhood and overall doing very well! My head has confidence that she knows what she’s doing and will do good for the UN when they put her to work. My heart of course is full of pride knowing that she can plan and then actually live her plan, even if it takes her to some of the shakier parts of the world, in order to help people.

The pride I feel for my daughters makes me have to dab at my eyes every now and again.

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is letting your children out from under the protection of your wings, and then realizing that they have grown their own wings. It is incredibly rewarding to see my favorite oldest daughter and my favorite youngest daughter both working hard in the world to do good. And even though I trust both of their capabilities and their judgement, every morning, and many evenings I think about them and hope their where they’re supposed to be, safe, curious, having fun, working hard, and keeping perspective. I think most parents have daily moments like that.

I was sitting on the Riverwalk with the one who holds my heart recently. We were watching a family of ducks on the river. Most of the ducklings were in tight formation on the momma duck but one kept drifting out towards the inevitable shower of chips from the people on shore. From time to time the momma duck would issue a sharp call and the duckling would scoot back in line. But I could look forward a few months and see the wings grow on that duckling, see the time when the momma duck pushes them out of the nest, and then its up to them.

Its hard to welcome your children as adults, but its a critical part of having them grow up in our eyes. When you recognize them as adults, its like recognizing that they have their own wings. From time to time they might ask questions about flying, and as a parent, we’re always happy to help, but having them know that they choose the course, the speed, and the destination is a success I think.

Fathers day is coming up soon. I was trying to remember when I thought Dad recognized me as an adult. I kind of think it was after I joined the business. There wasn’t any fanfare or ceremony, I think it just was.

If you’re fortunate enough to be with your parents this fathers day, enjoy it. Let them spread their wings and you tuck yours in and step into the nest for just a little bit so they can enjoy your presence, marvel in your children, and be warmed with pride in what you’ve done. And if you can’t be with them this fathers day, take a moment or two, find a big chair and curl up there, feel their memory in you, thank them for the protective nest they offered and their recognition that you can fly your own way. Maybe take an extra moment quietly, then get back on course.

Take care, keep us parents in your thoughts, keep your parents parents in your thoughts too, we never fly alone in the world.