A few months ago I was really struggling with anger and patience. There had been a lot of changes in our family routine. I am a creature of habit and so too much change at once without some kind of normalcy is not good for me. The anger and lack of patience was mostly unleashed on my four year old. I was really hard on her and it culminated one day after mass where Claire was being particularly difficult. It was a Saturday night after 7pm and Claire was tired and hungry, which led to her bad behavior. I was so angry after mass that I grabbed Claire before leaving the cry room, slapped her bottom and shook her as I yelled. Claire immediately started crying and my wife almost unleashed her second-degree-Shotokan-Karate-black-belt-skills on me.
We went home, and I was angry—more with myself then anything else. My wife was pissed off and my daughter was upset that the man she looks to as a source of love and protection had just mistreated her. Needless to say it was a low point for me. My wife took Claire upstairs and put her to bed after calming her down. I sat on the couch with tears in my eyes.
My wife and I talked (no Karate involved). We decided that I needed to go and speak to a counselor. This had been something that I had been considering for a few months, but for a number of reasons I kept pushing it off. I got an appointment pretty quickly and saw my counselor for about 4 months straight (once a month).
It was great.
I know there is a lot of taboo regarding counselors and psychiatrists. As a Hispanic man I have always heard people shun mental health professionals in my culture. “People will think you are crazy”, is one of the many things I heard growing up. The reality is that if I hadn’t gone to a counselor I probably would have erupted again, and gone crazy.
Counseling was great for me. It was like going into the mechanic and getting regular maintenance done on the car. Some of the fluids needed to be topped off, a few alignments were made here and there, and I was back on the road. There was no discomfort or frustration. The counselor heard what I had to say and he made some recommendations. I applied the said recommendations and things got better. I still struggle here and there, but there is a huge difference between then and now.
There are lots of men—particularly fathers—that could benefit from seeing a counselor. There is nothing worse than going to the mechanic and hearing that if I would have brought the car in months ago for regular maintenance I could have avoided the catastrophic damage that I now have on my hands.
So maybe you think counselors are for the weak, yuppies, or stupid people. Regardless of the possible bias you may have, the potential benefits of seeing a counselor vastly outweigh those biases. Our families need strong men that can lead, love and serve them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So be a man and go in for some maintenance.
One of the most difficult things about being a father is managing time. I don’t know about you but it seems almost impossible to do certain things during the day. Exercise, reading, writing, etc. almost always take the back burner because there isn’t enough time to get to it.
I love reading books from all walks of life. One of my favorite genre of books is business. I love seeing what people are doing to better master best practices. There is a lot of great advice out there, that if focused on really helps.
One of the things that I have noticed in my reading is that the most successful people in all industries, and public/social sectors wake up early. Early can be a relative term, so to clarify I’m talking 4:30am early. (insert WTF face gesture here) I usually glance at that fact in my reading and ignore it, or say something witty to myself, or frankly consider the writer to be a crazy bastard. However, I can’t deny the fact that all of the most successful people I know and read about are waking up between 4am and 5am.
Now here is the kicker. The folks I read about are not waking up at 4am to go to work. They are waking up this early to begin their daily routines that help them thrive. Most of these people don’t get to work till 7am or 8am.
So what are they doing?
Well, for one thing these crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people are exercising. Their average amount of exercise is between 20-50 minutes of high intensity training in the morning. This is something that hands down I see in all of the books I read. I recently started waking up at 5am to exercise and it has been magical. Yes I said magical. I literally roll out of bed complaining every-single-time. As I get dressed to go to my basement and work out I am telling myself over and over, “I can do anything for 20 minutes.” 20 minutes is currently how long my HIT workout takes (high intensity training).
Once I enter into the exercise it is great. It doesn’t mean I want to do it, but I push through. By the time I am done I am pumped. I get a shower, get breakfast, pray and get the kids ready. All before 7am. GAME ON!!! #AdultingLikeAPro
I am exercising like this three times a week (only on weekdays). I am definitely noticing the difference. I still hate waking up, but I can do anything for 20 minutes. I love sleep, it literally is my favorite thing ever. Well I love to eat too. If I could eat and sleep I would be in heaven. Ooo, maybe heaven is where sleeping and eating happens at the same time—cant wait!
Anyways, I know it is rough to even consider waking up a little earlier, but I am finding that getting exercise in before work is absolutely amazing, and the best time of day to do it. Once the kids get up and the responsibilities of life take over all bets are off. If you wait to exercise after work, there is a good chance you wont do it because you are so drained from the previous 8-10 hours. So this fathers humble opinion is to join the thousands of crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people out there and exercise in the morning. Its making a difference in this busy dads life.
Just remember: you can do anything for 20 minutes!
A few months ago I came across this article via Facebook. A lot of what it said I had hear before, but the one line of advice that really struck me was this:
“Go for ‘good enough’ instead of ‘best decision ever made on earth’”.
I think that most of us want the best—the best for ourselves, children, spouses, etc. However the reality is that “the best” isn’t always attainable. Sometimes no matter how hard we work, prep and execute we are not able to obtain the best. Even if the “best” is not obtainable should that keep us from seeking the next best thing—good enough.
Our dynamic at home has changed in the last few weeks, which is difficult for us type A, routine-is-our-best-friend kind of people. One of those dynamics has me picking up the kids and then getting home to immediately cook dinner for the family. Inevitably, cooking takes time, which then takes time away from hanging out with my kids. However I have found that we have this 30-minute window between cooking dinner and my wife getting home that I have been using to go outside and play fishes and minnows with my girls. We run around, chase each other and then go on our playground and pretend we are the characters from the Magic Tree House book series.
Is this the most epic hangout time with my daughters? Probably not.
We could be doing lots of other things that are more fun and more memorable, but we don’t have time for it during the week. However this 30-minute window is good enough to bond with my girls, run around a bit and spend quality time together. Sure, I would love hours on end with them, but it’s not going to happen on a weeknight after working all day and getting dinner ready. The realization that good enough is actually good enough has been a much welcome relief for this dad who wants the best all the time.
So for all those dads out there that feel like there’s never enough time, space, room, resources, fishing, hunting, etc. in your life; know that even a little bit of it makes a big difference.
We are 4 weeks into being parents for the second time around and it is great. My wife is doing well, minus the whole sleeping thing. Cecilia is healthy and very alert. We were told that, “its easier the second time around” and it definitely is. We knew what to expect which was great. Even though it was easier there still have been some challenges along the way that have made me incredibly grateful for our village.
My wife and I have some friends who have a good chunk of their immediate family living within walking distance. We tease them that it is a “compound” and that they are taking over that part of town. Kidding aside, there is something beautiful about that level of connectedness with family that these friends share. This little village of theirs gets them through the good, the bad and the ugly. Although my wife and I don’t have immediate family within walking distance we are blessed with a local community of friends, church family and amazing neighbors that have become our village.
The last few weeks have been a reminder of how necessary it is to have a village. Not just to provide meals because we had a baby, but for the overall goodness and formation of our family. Our village consists of men and women whose holiness and general awesomeness is being absorbed by our family and particularly our oldest daughter. Claire hears mom and dad say, “be good, be holy” but she also sees others living that way. Our village provides concrete examples of serving others and Claire sees that, absorb it and jumps right in. The village gathers for fun, for prayer, for joy and for grief. We love and serve one another. We laugh and cry together. We teach and learn from each other.
If you don’t have a village join one or gather people together to form one. No family can ever become what it is suppose to be in isolation. We need one another.
My wife and I got back from the hospital a few days ago after the birth of our second daughter Cecilia. Both mom and baby are doing really well and resting at home. I have been reflecting on our whole experience with Cecilia from conception to now, and man it has been different than with our first. The experience has been so different that at first I questioned whether baby number two was getting second best from us.
When Claire was born it was all new. We were prepping for Claire right away: buying a crib, sheets, curtains, etc. I had a baby gate up 6 months before Claire was born. It was all new and I guess thats the difference. Another significant difference was that we had no other kids to take care of and so we were able to really dive into preparing to become parents.
The last nine months have flashed by in the blink of an eye. We planed for Cecilia to be born in May and we were really excited for a second kid. Life had settled down with my wife’s studies so it was a perfect time for our little family to grow. That being said, we still found ourselves busy, running around constantly, and not with as much “free time” as we expected. Claire at four years old dominates most of our time and as the weeks turned into months suddenly I found myself in a hospital labor room telling my wife to “push”. I blinked again and Cecilia was in her mothers arms.
Here is what I am learning/experiencing so far with number two:
I am sure there is sooo much more to come with having two kids, and with that a whole new list of what I am learning/experiencing. Right now we are so grateful for our little family.
A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”
Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?
Lots of questions now that she is four.
Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?
Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.
Lots of questions now that she is four.
This is one of my favorite posts. Something about this week and my interaction with my daughter reminded me of it. Hope you enjoy it, again.
A few days ago I was cleaning the house. The floor needed cleaning so I grabbed the broom and began to sweep. Claire has a toy broom and dust pan that her grandma bought her that she keeps by her toy kitchen. As soon as Claire saw me sweeping in the hall she ran over to her kitchen and grabbed her own broom. I saw her do this and thought to myself, “if only I could train her to cut the grass.”
Claire came over to the hall where I was and she began to sweep with me. At first it was cute, but then Claire began to get in the way. The pile of dirt, dog/cat hair I had collected was being knocked around. I guided Claire so that she could use her broom and collect the dirt. For the most part she understood and moved the dirt towards…
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My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.
It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.
I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:
So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”
A few weeks ago I rented a moving truck to pick up a couch that was given to us. I had my daughter with me so I strapped her car seat to the passenger seat of the rental truck (I made sure the airbag was turned off—safety first). I hooked Claire up to her car seat and as I did she ‘oohed and ahhed’ as she looked around. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but Claire continued to be super excited. I got in the truck, fastened my seatbelt, and off we went to pick up the couch.
As I pulled out of the parking lot Claire said, “Wow Papi! Look at the cars on the road!” I acknowledged that cars were on the road and kept driving. “Papi, look at that (pointing to the road)! Look how fast we’re moving!” I looked down at the speedometer and thought ‘were not going that fast.’ “Papi, look at those colorful chairs on the side of the road! Wow papi!” I turned and said to Claire, “Those are always there baby.” Claire looked at me with a puzzled look and continued to be amazed by everything she was seeing.
This is the same road we take every day to go home or to visit family.
As the hamster began to pick up momentum in my head I realized why Claire was so excited about everything she saw. Claire had never seen any of this. At most Claire got partial views of this road, and heard sounds of cars passing by, or noises. In my car, Claire’s car seat sits much lower and her view is limited. In the rental truck Claire sat high up and had full access to all before her. Claire had perspective.
As I watched my daughter look around in awe and wonder I couldn’t help and think what a great analogy this experience was. Many of us, myself included, can’t always get a full picture of what’s going on or where we are going in life. We might get partial views and glimpses from time to time. We want perspective; we want to sit high up for full access to the whole picture. Claire sits low in my car and has to trust that when I tell her, “We are going home” that this is exactly where we are going even if she can’t see the way. When I say, “I’m taking you somewhere special” Claire tries to push up a little higher in her car seat to get a glimpse, but always realizes that even though she can’t see the way her father will get her there.
It is really hard to not see the full picture. We want to see so badly. We push up a little higher hopping we can sneak a peak.
May we trust that our Father is taking us on the right path. May we trust that although it isn’t always clear, and the sounds might be frightening our Father will get us exactly where we need to go.