Two of our three kids have already started school. Those two are Gabe and Owen who will be in separate schools for the first time in 8 years. That breakup with them also means all three will be in different schools for the first time. Ever.
The kids being gone inevitably means that we will have less time with them. They will have less time with each other. School will take up a huge portion of the weekday. Sports and after school activities will fight to absorb its fair portion. Social activities, including even dating in the near future (gasp! ugh), will soon become the black hole of their time.
The reduction of time together may mean the reduction of influence or the increase of influence by others. As I reflected on this, I became proud of who each child is as a person, not just my child. I know this needs to be protected and explicitly called out. For me, it is not worth being subtle with something so critical. The world will enhance their values and character. The world will also test them and test who they are.
With that, I sent them the following before the school year kicked off:
AGO [Avery, Gabe, and Owen] – as the school year approaches, mom and I have less time with you. It means we may also have less influence… or that other people have more influence. We have raised you to know who you are and what you stand for. That can be tested by others who want to influence you.
This makes me think about Anne Frank and how she stood for her ideals.
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart…I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals.”
In the darkest of humanity, Anne (who is around your ages) still believed in her ideals. I hope we have given you the guidance such that you have built the strength to hold onto yours and our family’s.
Love you all!
It’s not lost on me that Anne Frank was around the same age as our children when she wrote these words. These are words from a peer who dealt with the worst and was able to hold up her ideals – many of which stemmed from her family, her upbringing, and the inner beauty of someone leaving childhood headed to being a young adult.
Perhaps that’s why I was reminded of Anne Frank when contemplating the upcoming school year and its changes…
When it was time for dinner, Courtney and I sit with our kids and want to know how each of their days was. Sometimes, a child would just utter “Fine”, “ok”, etc. and want to move on. Other times, a child would be so excited that others wouldn’t have a chance to share their day. This was completely non-conversational and awkward!
A few months ago, we started structuring the conversation and came down to five (kinda, six) questions.
These are the questions:
- How was your day?
- What was your favorite thing that happened today? What was your least favorite?
- Who did you have lunch with today?
- Who did you play with at recess today?
- What is one thing you learned today?
Everyone participates, including Courtney, me, and any guest. Each person must answer every question and then gets to pick who goes next. By having the current person randomly pick the next, it helps ensure everyone is paying attention and not mentally preparing for his/her turn if he/she already knew they were next.
A number of family and friends know this story already. It’s time to write it down for posterity’s sake and because I hope Avery will read it one day.
As many people know and talked about in a previous post, I have lost a bit of weight the past 2 years (from 199 lb to 148-150 lb on a 5’9″ medium frame), started running (A LOT!), and maintained a healthy lifestyle, which does include partaking in craft beer. The story is how I got here, why I love children’s honesty truth and view of the world, and how my children inspire me almost every day.
Two years ago, Courtney shared a story with Avery about the days before Courtney and I took our nuptials. She probably even shared the chaos regarding transportation cancellations at the last minute and my flustered commander style in the church during rehearsal dinner. The part that stuck in Avery’s mind was about Courtney spending the night before our wedding back in her old bed in her parents’ house and how grandpa picked up donuts for breakfast with the entire family.
This story warmed Avery’s heart. She loved hearing about this bond between her mom and her grandpa. Even at a young age, she recognized this as special and could see herself in the future as (I have learned) girls imagine their weddings.
As I was tucking Avery into bed that night, she asked me a simple question. “Can I come home and stay with you like mommy did with papaw?” I smiled enthusiastically and replied, “Of course you can. You are always welcome to stay with us and to come home. We are your family and will always be here for you!” Avery then smiled in the way that little girls do that leave a father’s heart no choice but to melt.
Her next statement is where the practical, logical, and goal driven attributes of her shine. She now had agreement on her future to realize her vision. She instantly saw a challenge to her plan – my health. Her next and final statement was “Are you sure you are going to make it? You have a lot of squishy.” as she poked my belly and smiled.
The next morning, I got up for my first run. I only made in a quarter mile. In my heart, I began a commitment to her and her brothers that I am still honoring.
One of the biggest lessons I learned the EO MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program was from one of the last instructors/teachers/presenters, Barrett Ersek. It was the core lesson of his presentation, but a gem he quickly talked about. Everyday I am trying to find something for which I am grateful.
I noted this lesson to a fellow Contegian who asked me today what it was. The answer is “home delivery newspapers”. Why?
Oddly, it came from a minor inconvenience. I dropped off the children at grandma’s this morning. For one reason or another, no one heard us ring the door bell or knock on the door for ten minutes. Yes, this went on for TEN MINUTES. My 5-yo son Gabe decided he had waited long enough. So, he grabbed the newspaper waiting on the porch and began to smack the door while yelling “Let me in! I can’t take this any more. We are burning up.”
So why am I grateful? Because that simple newspaper in the hands of my son made me laugh with full abandonment. It took me out of the thoughts of a stressful day ahead.