Monday, December 28, 2009

Cross words with crosswords

I was delighted to have my father get to spend a bit of time with his new grandson over Christmas. On more than one occasion, my dad spent over an hour just holding my son and gazing at him lovingly. I daresay this is what my father has enjoyed most about parenting/grandparenting—just holding and loving.

At one point, somehow, we got on the topic of my father’s love of crossword puzzles. I was recounting to my wife how, when I was a kid, my dad used to walk in the door from work, immediately pick up the paper and spend the following 45 minutes doing the crossword puzzle. I then told of the time he came home and turned to the crossword page, only to find a giant hole where the puzzle should have been.  I had cut it out.

I kind of chuckled at my pre-teen cleverness for a second before realizing that my actions were more than an attempt at humor. As a boy who only saw his father part-time, I was pissed off that my father’s priority was to his crossword and not to his son, who had been awaiting his return since 8:30 in the morning.

To his credit, my dad recognized this as soon as I said it and apologized.

As a dad, I fully understand the need for “me” time. Every dad needs a little time to himself. In fact, I think it is essential to find some time in the day to do whatever recharges your battery—go to the gym, meditate, or hit a bucket of golf balls. My suggestion to you is this, however - don’t make your “me” time your main concern when you come in the door. It sends a message to both your spouse and your child that your quiet time is a bigger priority in your day than they are. Chances are your spouse has had just as exhausting a day as you have and it’s a sure bet your child will want to share their news of the day with you.

Greet your family like coming home to them is the best thing that has happened in your day. Chances are it is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monkey worship

Just before my second son was born, I was finishing up some “nesting” jobs, including installing a shelving unit in my son-to-be’s bedroom. As usual, my 3 year old was helping with his tools and tape measure. His every move seemed to mirror what I was doing. If I grabbed the tape, he grabbed the tape. If I reached for my drill, he picked up his.

At one point, I was in the back yard, cutting the clothing rod with a hack saw while he was working away at a Christmas paper roll with his little Black and Decker. It was starting to sprinkle, so as I finished my cut, I wiped the rod dry under my arm. Connor was studying me intently. Then, meticulously, he took his paper roll and wiped it under his arm.

It would be easy to fall into the “monkey-see, monkey-doo” sermon, here, but I wont. We all know that kids will imitate what they see—that’s how they learn. I think there is another valuable lesson here.

Your child worships you. (Unless he’s in puberty ;-)

We all question our parenting abilities from time to time. We all have days where we feel like if the authorities found out, we’d have our parenting license revoked for negligence or truancy. Whenever you are feeling a bit down on yourself, remember the fact that in the eyes of your child you are a god.

Now this doesn’t mean you get away with a lifetime of negligence and truancy and come away smelling like a rose. It also doesn’t mean that there can’t be great pressure in being a deity in the eyes of your child. What it does mean is that you are entitled to cut yourself some slack.

When I was in the early days of a fledgling acting career, I remember my greatest fear was that something unscripted would happen on stage. Someone would accidently knock over a glass or drop a book. We would then do this odd dance around the object pretending that nothing happened instead of just picking it up and moving on. Then one day a far more sage individual let me in on a little secret: when you forget a line or break a glass, don’t worry about it---the audience WANTS you to succeed.

Your child wants you to succeed, too. More than half the battle is already won the moment your child is born. She loves you just for being you. You don’t have to do anything or act a certain way. Allow yourself to revel in that comforting thought the next time you feel like kicking yourself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Welcome Nathan!

A funny thing happened to me as my son Connor walked toward our hospital room to meet his newly born little brother.

He was no longer my baby—he was my big boy.

I couldn’t believe how instantaneous the change was. I saw him wander down the hall way with his Omi and he just looked so big and capable and sure of himself.

I have no words of wisdom to attempt to impart at the birth of my second son, save to say that the lyrics of that old song might be trite, but they still hold a great deal of truth.

“Where are you going my little one, little one?
where are you going my baby, my own?

Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four.
Turn around and you’re a young boy
Going out of the door.”

They grow up so fast. Enjoy every precious moment.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Beatles were right

We’ve had a crazy week with dusty, costly, last second renovations. Our builder has gone over time and over budget and could seem to care less. Yesterday, the workers left the deck door off our bedroom open, and the room was coated with sawdust. Today, the junior man on the job miscalculated a few cuts, so I had to spend $50 to rent a truck big enough to carry three lonely 16 foot baseboards. Then, when the other carpenter drove a nail into a new piece of door casing, all the power in the kitchen instantly went out. We thought he had driven a nail through the electrical wire.

In the few hours before the electrician arrived, I was feeling overwhelmed. We were broke, in the dark and covered in sawdust. At any moment, my wife was surely going to go into intense labour and have our baby on the spot. I would have to deliver my second son into a world of toxic made-in-China-melamine-laden sawdust. He was going to look like a shake-and-bake pork chop seconds after coming into the world. If that wouldn’t give him cancer, surely the lethal fumes from the paint and the calking would give him brain damage.

Then I had to endure the recent pattern of struggles with my son over dinner (which began, not coincidentally, the day after Halloween), followed by the tooth brushing wrestling match.

Finally, I got him into bed and read him a story. As I was kissing him goodnight, he caressed my face, fixed his eyes on mine, and said, “I’ll never stop loving you, Daddy.”

My heart burst. “I’ll never stop loving you either, my son.”

“I can’t turn it off,” he said.

“That’s a good thing,” I said.

After thinking for a second, he added. “Love is important.”

“Yes, love is very important,” I answered.

“Glasses are important, too,” he said, fixing mine snuggly to my face.

As well as slaying me on multiple levels, this was an almost cliché reminder of what is truly important in life. Time with your children can put your true priorities in order often as you let it.

Tonight also reminded me of how easy it is for children to love. They come into this world wanting to love, and little else. Let your child remind you of a time in your life when loving came so easily.

It seems fitting that one of my son’s favourite songs at the moment is “All you need is love.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

You were right.

Think back to your childhood. When you were a boy, what did you think it meant to be a dad?

First of all, you probably thought dads were supposed to go to work; dads were providers. Dad set the rules and meted out the punishment if you broke them. It was dad’s job to make things and fix things. Dads were tough and strong and never cried. As you hit your late teens you probably became convinced it was also your dad’s job to be a clueless asshole who made your life miserable (that’s a knock on you, not your dad, by the way…hard to be facetious when you’re blogging sometimes.)

Now think back to your boyhood and ask yourself what you wanted from your dad. You wanted him to play catch, go fishing, build soap box derby cars and come to your little league games. You wanted him to hug you, tell you how special you were and maybe if you weren’t already made to feel embarrassed by such things, you wanted him to tell you he loved you.

The point here isn’t to knock your father at all. Dads who worked, fixed things, maintained discipline, provided for their families and tormented teen agers were doing essential and laudable duties. This is what society expected of a dad forty, thirty, even twenty years ago. By society’s definition, men who did the aforementioned were candidates for "Dad of the Year."

However, you probably noticed something. There is huge discrepancy between what you saw as your father’s duties, and what you wanted from your father. All you wanted from your father was time. Society expected something else. It only goes to show that society isn’t always right—sometimes, six year old boys are.

Being a great dad is about balance. Try to keep this in mind the next time you feel like you have to put your “dad” hat on. All you child really ever wants from you is time and unconditional love. Make sure, no matter how much or how little that time is--that it is undivided and open hearted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I’ve been doing still more hammering and sawing preparing for baby number two’s imminent arrival (which makes me sound far more adept at using tools than I really am.)

This morning I was putting up some more shelves in the guest room closet when my son came into the room wanting to play.

My first instinct was to do the, “Just a minute, I’ve got to finish something first” routine. I realized that I was going to be saying, “Hold on a minute” about fifty times before I could stop and play, so I just told him to go and get his tools.

Within minutes, we were both hammering and drilling away, fixing up the closet. I would ask him to measure something for me (he loves tape measures) or to mark some lines where I would need to cut the wood. He would shout out things like, “It's forty seven, dad” and I would thank him for his help.

As I’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t take many instances of a father saying, “Not right now, I have to get this done” before a child feels like they are second fiddle. Now this is not saying that you should drop everything every time your child wants you—learning patience is a valuable lesson—but if you can engage them while you are doing your important work, isn’t that so much the better?

Next time they want your attention and you are in the middle of important work you can’t put down, try to find a way to include your child. Drawing plans? Get them to draw some, too. Writing a report? Get them to sit with you and write a story—or just squiggle some lines depending on the age.

It won’t work every time, but when it does it will make your child feel valued and wanted. It will also strengthen your sense of togetherness.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Memories vs Milestones

While transforming the guest room in to the new baby room, (my wife and I are expecting at the end of the month) I came across something.

For a radio skills workshop I took a few years ago, we were asked to write about something—anything—in 250 words. What follows came from an experience I had when my son was around 14 months old.

“Who knew a little pat on the back could mean so much?

I never saw it coming as I scrambled after my one year old son through the posh restaurant.

Babies of that age gravitate to all that is verboten: light sockets, steak knives, the side of tartar sauce on the table of a complete stranger.

Following him is exhausting.

I look at my wife. She’s swirling a ruby glass of pinot noir. I envy her. She laughs with friends and savours ahi tuna. I lunge to keep my child from jabbing a fork in the waiter’s foot.

Finally, he is spent.

I plop him into his wooden highchair and settle next to him. My cold steak mocks me.

Inside, I wallow in self pity. Why am I missing out? Why does my wife get to indulge in all the fun?

Then it comes.

It feels like the brush of angel wings. I sense a tiny hand gently pat me on the shoulder blade. I turn to my son. He beams. He makes an ‘L’ with his thumb and forefinger and raises it to his temple.

To the uninitiated, it looks like my son is calling me a looser. I know he’s doing sign language. The sign for ‘daddy.’ The sign for me.

He grins a toothy smile.

‘Da da.’

My son nuzzles his head into my side.

'Da da,’ he sighs.

Who knew a little pat could mean so much?

Who knew such a little hand could cradle a grown man’s heart?”

You know, I’ve already forgotton my son’s first word, and I vaguely remember his first step.
The day he nuzzled his head into my side and sighed, “Da da” however, I’ll remember forever.

We anticipate that the big milestones in our children’s lives are the moments we’ll never forget. They are the memories we will cherish.

I disagree.

Life with a child is filled with so many glorious, unscripted, unforeseen moments. These are the ones that endlessly fill your cup. And these are the ones you can share with your child, simply by being with them and being fully present to them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What's my size?

I've gotten into a fun little morning routine with my son. As we are getting ready to head out the door, I pretend to be a shoe salesman. I don't know where it came from, but it has stuck. I welcome him to my little store, offer him a wide selection of first rate socks from which to choose, and then suggest just the right shoe (usually the ones with Iron Man and Spider Man.) This morning, in my haste I suppose, I forgot to slip into "shoe salesman" persona.

"Daddy," he asked, "can you be the shoe guy?"

My son, like most 3 year olds, has a vivid imagination, and likes to play various games of make believe.

I do too.

It's cheap, its fun, and it brings my attention fully and solely into the present moment.

If you want to be closer to your kids, go into their world, no matter what their age. Look for the invitations and the signs. Hell, don't even wait, just throw yourself right in.

This doesn't mean you have to spend 24/7 in the land of Thomas the train or Henrietta pussycat, but its a great way to connect with your child. This is especially true if your work schedule demands that you pull long hours at the office or have to be on the road a great deal.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Point of View

One of my favourite bastardized sayings is, "If you don't like someone, try walking a mile in his shoes. After, if you still don't like him, at least you'll be a mile away, and you'll have his shoes."

Have you ever tried to walk a mile (or at least a few blocks) in your child's shoes?

We were out trick or treating last night, and found ourselves in a scary alley. A group of neighbours had put together this wonderful display that ran the length of the alley. It started off as mildly spooky, and concluded with the Grim Reaper swiping at you with his scythe if you tried to pinch any of his chocolate.

At any rate, we had just entered the alley, and it was packed. I saw a few parents leaving with children who were less than amused by some of the scary stuff. At that moment, I squatted down to help my son put on one of those glow in the dark bracelets that one of the alley hosts had just handed to him. While I was down there, I just happened to look up.

It was overwhelming! There were all these large bodies in dark costumes and strange masks swirling and racing overhead. They had little regard to what was going on down at their feet. At that moment I was swept with a sudden realization of the perspective of a three and a half year old. It was quite remarkable, frankly, that his little head didn't explode (though that would have been a cool Halloween effect ;-)

As an aside, he made it to the very end of the alley, standing face-to-waist with the Grim Reaper. With all the courage he could summon, and with a scythe swooshing down, he managed to grab an Oh Henry from the bowl. I was so proud of him. Not for cheating death, but for soldiering his way down that alley when he really must have felt like he was being swallowed up by a swarm of strangers.

Don't forget to get down to your child's level from time to time. It will give you a sense, or at the least, remind you, of the challenging perspective they face every day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let me do it!

I’ve been having some epic battles with my son these past few days. I don’t know if it’s been in direct relation to our sleep training (see previous post…hell, see all the posts, they are really good!) but he has been as hard nosed as I’ve ever seen him.

My son has been defying me at every turn. This isn’t like him, nor is it like me to have to be much of an authoritarian largely due to his happy, compliant nature. The bulk of the standoffs have to do with me asking him to do things. He has also taken his independence to a new level. I can’t do anything for him at the moment—pour his milk, brush his teeth, wipe his bottom—without huge resistance. Now I am all for independence as well as learning, but at 3 1/2 , if he does any of the above on his own, he’ll be swimming in milk, riddled with cavities and stinking like poop. Not even the usual, “let’s do it together” for the afore mentioned tasks seems to placate anymore.

My cool and patience has been tested a lot in the last few days. But every time I come close to needing my own “time out” I’ve tried to focus on the positive; my little boy is growing up. Whether as an act of protest or learning, my son is gaining independence daily. I remind myself that this is a good thing; I want my son to be independent. Much better that than the opposite. It’s funny, however, that each little step towards his own independence, even at this age, is a further creep towards me letting go.

That is my tip for today. At times like these, when your child is railing against any attempt at help on your part, let it go. If it takes him five minutes to button his coat, so be it. If he spills a little milk trying to pour it, well, we all know what they say about spilled milk…

I’m not saying it isn’t frustrating to be told, “let me do it” at every turn. But it’s probably no less frustrating than being told when to get up, go to bed, what to eat, what to wear and when to pee. At times like these, take pride in your child and her desire to be independent.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First or Last?

My heart is breaking as I write this.

Ever since we went on a two week family vacation where my wife, son and I found ourselves crammed into one bedroom accommodations, we have grown accustomed to one of us snuggling down and falling asleep with our son. After stories, one of us will lie with our little boy until he falls asleep. Sometimes that takes 5 minutes, sometimes it takes an hour. We’ve been doing it for over a year.

As you can imagine, when one is trying to work, maintain a household and have some sort of relationship with one's spouse, giving up an hour a night to lie with a squirming child is not a luxury that most of us can afford.

The problem is, despite the regular frustrations and the time constraints, we love it. It is glorious to feel a little hand slip inside the sleeve of my t-shirt and squish my arm, or to hear a great big contented sigh followed by, “I love you so much, Daddy.”

We are about four weeks from the birth of our second son. We know with the impending birth will come the inevitable sleep deprivation, the exhaustion and the short fuse. We know that one of us lying down with our eldest son will be next to impossible. However, we want to get him used to sleeping on his own before his little brother arrives so he won't have something else to blame on his sure to be less-than-popular-already sibling.

Tonight is the first go. We set up a fountain with soothing gurgles and soft glowing lights. He thinks it’s beautiful. But when I just left his room seconds ago and told him to look at the beautiful lights while I go work on the computer in our bedroom, he said, “But daddy, I can’t feel you when you are in your bedroom.”

My wife is currently taking a moms writing course. The assignment the other night was to write about a “first”: a first step, a first word, anything to do with baby’s “first.” It got me to thinking; we are great at recognizing firsts, but not so great at recognizing lasts. How would you look at things differently if you knew you were holding your child’s hand for the last time? If you knew this was the last time he’d want to play catch with you, or kiss you goodbye in front of his friends?

Try to savour the simplest little pleasure you get from your child like it might be the last. It will force you to slow down, make you focus on the present, and deepen the love you have for your child.

Thursday, October 15, 2009's not just for breadwinners anymore!

I’ve just returned from the 14th Annual At Home Dads conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

If the misperceptions about being an at home dad can be boiled down to one over simplified generalization, it’s this: at home dads are men who’ve lost their job and who are now expected to look after the kids while mom goes back to work. In other words, men, due to economic circumstance, have been forced into parent duty.

Certainly, in the current economic climate, some men do find themselves in that position. Some will find a job and get back into the work force. Others will come to realize that getting out of the rat race was the best thing they could have done, and will fall in love with being a full time care giver.

The men I met at the conference are at home dads by choice. With their spouse, they’ve agreed that having one parent at home is the best decision for the whole family. In their cases, obviously, it’s the dad that stay at home.

Numerous studies about at home dads and involved fathers point to the obvious: their children will do better at school, have fewer social problems and be less likely to get involved with crime and drugs. The bottom line is involved dads make for healthier children. As far as I can tell, however, no one has ever attempted to measure what being an at home dad means to men.

Here is my humble observation on that last point: none of these men have lost their penis.

What these men have is an amazing sense of balance. Our workshops on quick and easy hair styling, or coping with ADHD were punctuated with drinking beer and football games. These men reveled in what it is to be a man, yet they are all loving, caring fathers who have grown immeasurably as a result of day to day contact with their children. Hardly a masters thesis there, but I’d still wager it is true.

At one point, a father named Charles was recounting how he would sometimes worry if he was doing a good job raising his daughter. He liked to roughhouse and wrestle with her and he questioned if he was somehow warping her with his male version of parenting skills. Then he told how one day, while at the park, another little girl fell down and tumbled down a hill. Charles’ daughter promptly went over to the fallen girl, helped her up and asked her if she was alright.

“At that moment,” Charles said, “I knew I was doing a good job.”

We all question our parenting skills. As men, we sometimes face the added pressure that we can’t do the nurturing as well as the women. My message to you is, “trust yourself.” Society likes to suggest that women are born with the parenting instincts and we are just the providers. Well, guess what? All those at home dads are providers; they just aren’t providing the money.

If you are struggling a little bit with parenting your child, trust that you can do more than just be the disciplinarian or the hero that  swoops in and whisks the family to Disneyland. Trust that you know how to nurture and “provide” for your child beyond being the breadwinner.

For one of the breakout sessions at the conference, we were asked to begin by giving one example of how we are a good dad. I’m going to steal from that wise man. If ever you are struggling, start all over again with that question: “What is one way that I am a really great dad?”

Give yourself some credit, and move forward from there.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Once upon a time...

I’ve just registered for the At Home Dads Convention in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ll be there talking to dads, doing some research, and putting together a radio documentary for the CBC.

I’m looking forward to gleaning some great parenting tips from all these at home dads.

Since we’re on the subject of tips, I have one of my own to offer. This is particularly for dads who are away a lot on business, or who pull a lot of late nights at the office and often miss bedtime.

If I’m going away for a few days, I’ve taken to the habit of recording bed time stories. After my son has brushed his teeth and put on his jams, he and my wife cuddle up and watch a video of me reading him one of his favourite stories.

If you have a busy life and often find yourself saying, “just a minute sweetheart” or “daddy just needs to finish this work first,” it isn’t long before your child will pick up on the fact that they are less than your first priority.

Think of your own life. Think of how you perk up when you get a post card from a traveling friend or an unexpected cup of your favourite coffee from a coworker.
We like to feel like we are being thought of. It is good for our well being and the health of a relationship when someone demonstrates thoughtfulness.

A child is no different. When you record an audio or video tape of yourself reading them a bed time story, what you are really saying is, “I love you.” You are telling your child that, even though you can’t be with them, you are thinking of them.

Don’t we all want to be remembered like that?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

He shoots, he scores!

Have you ever had this experience when you have company visiting you? You partly dread their arrival, not because you don’t like them, but because you feel that heavy obligation to show them around and make sure they have a good time. Then, part way through their trip, things begin to change. You notice what a great time they are having, and you start to see your own little corner of the world again through their eyes. Suddenly, you have a whole new appreciation for something you’ve seen a million times.

Being a dad is the same way. The obligations of being a dad are overwhelming. You feel bogged down by the same things you’ve seen and done a million times. But if you allow yourself to experience them through your child’s eyes, you can regain that sense of wonder.

I’ll give you an example.

I was at a minor hockey game just a while back. My son was just shy of 3 and it was the first time he’s ever seen a game. We were a little late arriving and the game was already underway when we took our seats.

My son sat on my lap, staring inquisitively at the players on the ice. His little brow was furrowed and I could tell he was trying to figure something out. This went on for a few minutes until he finally turned to me and said, “How did they get in there?”

He was referring to the players, of course, wondering how this group of gladiators got into what seemed to him like an impenetrable fortress of boards and Plexiglas.

His curiosity tickled me to no end. I spent the rest of the game explaining to him what to anyone else would be the most obvious of details—why the goalie was wearing pads, why the players have tape on their sticks. It was a joyous evening of discovery and rediscovery and I owed it all to my little boy.

The next time you are feeling frazzled by the endless array of whys, try and use it as a chance to see the world with the same awe and wonder you child does.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sins of the father

I have a theory when it comes to being a dad. Most fathers subscribe to one of two main types of parenting. One is the “it was good enough for me it is good enough for my kid” theory. The other is the “there is no way in hell I’m going to do to my kid what my dad did to me,” theory.

You can’t really say one is more “enlightened” than the other. You may have had a terrific father, in which case, you see no need to do anything differently. However, you father might also have subscribed to the “I’ll beat you within an inch of your life if you ever talk back to me again” school of parenting, in which case you are not making the world a better place or your child a better person by carrying so much anger forward to another generation.

Recognizing your dad’s faults and refusing to repeat them is a great way to break some negative cycle, but simply taking a contrarian approach to parenting isn’t necessarily any better either.

For example, with a father who was both emotionally and geographically distant, I was determined not to be that way with my son. I remember the first time I had to leave him and my wife for a few nights. He mustn’t have been more than a month or two old. As I was saying goodbye, I began to sob uncontrollably. I was blabbering to him about how much I loved him, how going away didn’t mean I wasn’t coming back, and most importantly, how my absence didn’t mean I didn’t love him.

Afterward, I reflected on my behaviour. I concluded that the tears and sobbing were the little boy who felt emotionally abandoned by his father. Although I know my father loves me to no end, he was always unemotional whenever we parted —- often when we wouldn’t be seeing each other for months at a time. Years later he told me he was breaking up inside, but he felt the best thing was to be strong. He, like most fathers, was doing the best he knew how at the time.

I was aware that his stoic behaviour had, despite his best intentions, caused me scars. The message I was left with as a child was that he was indifferent to our parting. With my own son, I was determined that I wouldn’t make the same mistake. Although my blubbering and bawling caught me off guard, I had no regrets. My son was going to grow up and see a father who was emotional. My son would see that tears were a sign of strength, not of weakness. And my son would know that his father loved him so desperately, that it tore him up inside to be away from him.

This parting behaviour on my part continued, unabashedly, for just over a year. The following summer, my wife’s cousin and her three kids were visiting from Germany. My wife was going to take the Germans and my son for a few days of sight seeing. Once again, as I strapped my boy into the car seat, I began to cry and blubber. My wife’s cousin pulled me aside and said, “what the hell are you doing, can’t you see how upset you are making him?” I looked to see my always happy one year old, straining against his car seat restraints, tears streaming down his face, arms outstretched and reaching for me. He was wailing. He wanted his daddy.

“My son will see my emotions” I said defiantly. “My father would leave me without so much as a hint of sadness. My little boy will know how much it pains me to be away from him.”

“You mean you want to create separation anxiety in you son?" she asked. "You want to teach him that each and every time he leaves you, he is hurting you? Is that what you want?”

She was right.

I had never thought of it that way. I was just so determined to do the opposite of what my own father had done, just because it had been so painful for me. If my dad’s way of doing it caused me pain, certainly, the opposite of what my dad did would be better. Not so. I realized that what I was really doing when I left my son was reliving all those painful partings with my father.

The point here is not that you need to go through therapy to fully understand your relationship with your own father (though I wouldn’t dissuade you from it, either), you just have to be aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Neither the “it was good enough for me” or the “no way in hell” schools of parenting would have served my son in this instance. If I had carried on, I would have created a dynamic where my child would grow up guilt ridden or resentful that his father was reduced to a weeping heap every time he left the house.

What I do now when I leave my son for a prolonged period of time, is I give him a huge hug and a kiss, I tell him that I love him and that I will miss him. Then I tell him it’s kind of nice to miss people because it reminds us of how much we love them. It’s also great when we get together again because we can share great stories of all the things that happened to both of us while we were apart.

What do you do differently from you father when it comes to parenting? What do you do that is the same? Why?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I had one of those days yesterday.

It was one of those dragging, burdensome days where everything seems heavy. It was a day of obligations and responsibilities. It was one of those days where the word “should” seemed to be attached to every thought and every action.

I’m in the process of starting a business geared towards helping men achieve better work-life balance. Much like this blog, the purpose is to help men fully embrace the gifts brought to them by their children in order to make their lives more happy and meaningful. Anyone who has ever started a business knows how much work it is and how many risks are involved. There are many internal battles. On one hand, there is the vision and promise of fulfilling and meaningful work and the potential for more freedom at home and time with my family. On the other hand, there is the risk and financial uncertainty that can put your family’s security in jeopardy. On some days, like yesterday, the latter got to me. I was feeling the weight of doing the “responsible” thing—settling down in some 9-5 job to put food on the table. The thought of that made my stomach churn and my head ache, but the call to “responsibility” would not relent.

Finally, after a day of brooding and struggling, I came home. I had left the house before my son had gotten up, and he was now asleep. I entered his room and sat on the foot of his bed. He looked so peaceful as he slept—so light and unburdened by the grown up world. I watched him breathe. I watched the way his little back raised and lowered with each breath. I saw his little nostrils gently flare in and out.

As I sat with him in his stillness I was overcome with love. Tears welled up and flowed freely down my cheeks. There was such wisdom in my little boy’s simple act of just breathing.

Breathing is at the core of so many of the world’s religions and philosophies. Focusing on the breath is designed to bring us into the present and be fully aware of the now. Inadvertently, my son was doing just that. Just by breathing—by being, he was inviting me into the truth and beauty of that single moment.

As a simple exercise try this with your child. The next time she is asleep, sit with her. Don’t think, just observe her breathing. If you are suddenly overcome by feelings of love or sadness or joy, just let them happen. Don’t judge it. Don’t question any of it. It is a gift from your child, a gift of bringing you fully into the present moment, a gift of opening your heart.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why do we even need to change?

I suppose it is a matter of perspective and priority. I feel like for all we’ve accomplished on this planet, we are still a mess. We still kill and wage wars. We continue to practice environmentally destructive behaviour against mother earth. We are still driven by the pursuit of more wealth and power, often at the expense of families and children on the other side of the world. We continue to elect and then turn a blind eye to leaders who wish to plunder and profit. We persist with using the wrong measuring sticks to judge happiness and success. Men continue to let bravado and testosterone drive the bus rather than compassion and reason. And as a whole we have long since lost sight that we are all connected to one another on this planet. When we kill, or bully or overpower, we are truly killing, bullying and overpowering our own children.

The short version of why we need to evolve as dads is because we need to evolve as men. We need to shed the illusions of power and wealth to help create harmony on this planet. Evolution takes time, however. At the rate we are going, time is a dwindling luxury, but hopefully our evolutionary steps as men and as dads will translate into huge strides for our children.

Fathers and men of this generation have made significant progress over dads of previous generations. But there is much more work to do. Until we strike a better balance as a planet —between the pursuit and the distribution of wealth, between the striving for and sharing of power and between testosterone and estrogen we will not evolve.

We have made mind boggling advances in science, technology, engineering, human kinetics and the ability to make something that has no chemical resemblance to butter make us say we can’t believe it isn’t. Don’t you think that parenting—particularly from a man’s perspective, needs to make this quantum leap, too?

Friday, August 21, 2009

A love like no other

I got married in 2004 and became a father in 2006.

I always joke with people that when you get married, you say all those right things to your wife. “I love you so much—I’d lay down my life for you.” You say you’d lay down your life, but you never really mean it. It sounds good, so you just say it and hope to God you never find the two of you held captive by a terrorist who says, “I only have one bullet. Who is it going to be?”

The instant your child is born, however, you are prepared to hurl yourself in front of an oncoming bus just to stave off a case of the sniffles.

I used to laugh uproariously at those “Baby on Board” signs, until the day when I pulled away from the hospital with my one day-old son in the back. I was gripping the wheel so tightly I had lost all circulation in my fingers. “I’ve got a newborn in the car” I shouted as the car crept out of the parking lot, “now BACK OFF!”

I always thought those “Baby On Board” signs were designed to get others around you to drive more carefully. Now I realize they are really code for, “I have a baby in the car, please forgive me for driving like a ninny.”

I never knew love until I had my son. The moment I laid my eyes on him, I began to cry. I’ve been doing a lot of crying since then, but it is all good. There is an old Yiddish saying, “when the heart is full, the eyes overflow.” That more or less describes how I feel when I look at my son.

Little did I know before I held my son, I would be capable of so much love. Little did I know that this little person came into the world with a key in one hand and my heart in the other.

Guess what? Your child came into the world carrying both of those things (but holding your heart, not mine.) But the question is, have you let them keep the keys, or did you snatch them back?

From my perspective, our children will be the best teachers we will ever have. They can teach us patience, nurturing and unconditional love. They can teach us about change and enlightenment and eventually the ability to let go. They can improve our marriage, our work performance, and our free time. They can shape the relationships we have with close friends and complete strangers. They can save our environment and bring about world peace. If I could convince you our children would also help you lose 10 pounds in 3 days, lower your golf score, and cut the time you could cook a roast chicken in half, I’d sell you one for just three easy payments of just $19.99. But the fact of the matter is, that what sounds too good to be true isn’t. Your children have come into this world prepared to offer you the most amazing gifts. The question is, did you see the gifts, or did life, old habits, and conditioning get in the way?