Saying I’m Sorry…

By | Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships, Rules, Toddlers | No Comments

n-SAD-GIRL-628x314I raised my voice to my four-year old daughter.

I even “stopped the car” to turn around and tell her that her behavior wasn’t going to win her any Miss Congeniality sashes any time soon. Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but I was stern with her and the look on her face showed me that the message got through.

I had lost my patience. I immediately regretted it.

While some of you may be thinking “no big deal” or “sometimes you’ve got to be the bad guy,” that’s just not me. You may think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, but strong words have a lasting effect. I still remember things that were said to me decades ago that affected who I was and grew into. One of the goals of purposeful parenting is to grow and learn from the past.

It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard as hell. Kids can test your limits.

But I made her a promise when she was about two hours old. I told her I would do everything I could to show her what it was to be a good man. So as impossible as it may become (See: teenager), I’m going to hold myself to my word.

That’s why when we got home we had another of our “hands and eyes” talks. It’s just something we do to make sure we are listening to each other when it’s really important. She held my hands, we made eye contact, and I told her I was sorry for raising my voice at her. I explained that even though her actions were wrong, it was just as wrong for me to get upset.

She consoled me and told me that it “was OK, you’re my Daddy” which made me sad to think of how many parents might actually think that is true. Big people don’t get a pass just because they made the little people. I told her that it wasn’t OK and that I would do my best to never do it again.

I believe you can get the desired result without taking shortcuts. To me, losing your patience and raising your voice to intimidate a smaller human is not only a shortcut, it’s detrimental to your future relationship with her.

I have no idea whether I’m in the minority/majority when it comes to this parenting technique. Some of my closest friends have no qualms over using “Dadtimidation.”  I have no frame of reference as Grace is my first and only child. I suppose it doesn’t work for everyone. It may not even end up working for me.

But if I want to have a meaningful conversation with her when she’s 14, I’ll start when she’s 4 and try to exemplify how we should communicate with each other.

Actions speak louder than words? I’d change that to “actions should replace your louder words.” In other words, back up what you say instead of raising your voice.

Don’t confuse calm with weakness. While I adore my daughter and cherish every second we share, she still has to follow the rules. There are toys to be picked up, messes to be cleaned, and teeth to be brushed. Those things get done. Disobeying has consequences and she understands discipline. I’m lucky. I’ve seen some other children and how they behave. In comparison, I won the kiddo lotto with Grace.

But I’m the grownup. If it gets to the point where I feel the need to raise my voice, I try and reevaluate what I am doing so it doesn’t get to that point. Most adults have the mental capacity to approach a problem from different angles to find a solution. Most kids don’t.

I’m far from an expert. I’m just parenting by my gut and trying every day to do what I feel is right. So you can take this advice or leave it. But be kind to one another…even when she’s naughty. It will take more time and effort on your part, but that’s fatherhood.

Oh, and if you mess up, say you’re sorry.


The Five Stages of Grief (Read: Bedtime)

By | Bedtime, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Relationships, Rules, Sleeping Habits | One Comment

707px-Crying-girl1I’m pretty sure I won the “kid lotto”. Bedtime at my house, while it may take longer than it should, is far from a battle. While she will put up a halfhearted fight, my girl knows she can only push it so far and I think she actually enjoys all of the routines we have before she hits the sack.

But for some Dads, sending their kids to bed resembles a mash up of “The Exorcist” and a Benny Hill episode.

While the Kubler-Ross model was written for the five stages of grief, Liz had know that she had nailed the nighttime ritual of any parent today.

I talked it out with a couple of other Dads and found it is really simple to associate each of the stages with a young daughter. But based on their responses, I’ve also found it applies the same for the Dads – just in a different way.

For example…

Stage One: Denial

Daughter – “It’s not late.” “It’s not dark out (see:pitch black)”
Dad – “Tonight’s routine is only going to take 20 minutes and I’m watching the playoffs.”

30 minutes later…

Stage Two: Anger

Daughter – “Nooooooooooooooo! I don’t CARE if the sun has gone to bed.” (mad face, limp body, #daggers)
Dad – “I’m an idiot. Why didn’t I upgrade to the DVR so I could record the game?”

Stage Three: Bargaining

Daughter – “What if I sit still on the couch and watch football with you” or “Just one more story” or (insert ANY thing you can think of to avoid skin touching sheets).
Dad – “Somebody put this kid on Shark Tank because I’m fairly certain she could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Then…“Let’s try the couch thing.”

Somebody didn’t hold up their end of the bargain or tried to change the terms mid-deal. The firm foot of fatherhood comes down…off to bed.

Stage Four: Depression

Daughter – “But …(whimper)… I’m (sniff)… not (sniff, sniff)… tired. (gulp) I need a tissue” (If you’re lucky, if not read: boogers on sleeves)”
Dad – “But… (whimper) is that halftime analysis (sniff)… I’m hearing in the background? (moan)”

Stage Five: Acceptance

– “I love you, Daddy..zzzzz..zzz”
Dad – “I love you too, boo.” Spend the next 10 minutes watching her sleep, kissing her, and remembering what the truly valuable things in life are.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, your “pace of life” has changed (which I’ve tried to explain for you here) but the short story is you have to plan it all out. Like way out… in advance. The days of snap decisions and impromptu desires being fulfilled are over. And even the best laid plans can get blown up. As we say around here “Life happens”.

Oh, and for Pete’s sake…get a DVR. How are you living without one?


P.S. If you’re battling every night, you should check out this book. It could help.

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Grace Makes A Splash!

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Independence, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Swimming, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments

child-kicking-pool-1406951 (1)The metaphors are numerous: “Jumping in with both feet,” “Diving right in,” “Taking the plunge” are just a few off the top of my head.  Normally I’d be using them to talk about first-time fatherhood but this time you can take them all literally.

Grace is a swimmer.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when she finally decided it was time to let go and rely on her own little arms and legs (and floatation vest) to move around the pool “like a big girl.”  For me, it was like watching her first steps when learning to walk.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it was to see her swallow some water and cough while learning to keep her legs under her and her head above water.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to hear her tell everyone she met for the rest of the day (starting with the Starbucks drive thru barista) that she swam all by herself.

And I can’t tell you how bittersweet it was to add yet another example to the list of things she’ll no longer need me for.  The emotional equivalent of a “death by a thousand paper cuts” is a never ending companion to parenting.

But I take great comfort in the fact that over the next few years, we are going to spend some killer times in the pool together.  Going to the pool every summer was a huge part of my childhood.  I even spent some time on the local swim team.  I cannot wait until I get the chance to launch her as high as she can fly, for her to splash down, and then swim back to me to ask me to “Do it again, Daddy!”

Now if I can just convince her that goggles are cool…



Just One More

By | Activities, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Parenting, Personality, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Time Out, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


Isn’t it completely bizarre? This dual-world I live in, that is. While I love my daughter more than anything and want her and I to be best friends,  I still have to be the hardass who lays down the law so she doesn’t grow up to be an awful human being. The simultaneous emotions contained within “tough love” can spur quite the conversation inside your head.

To be the best father I can be is going to be the ultimate test of patience – but I really like tough challenges.

I have this routine of communication – not impatient yelling or spanking – but focused communication that I use to explain why Grace is in a Time Out or why we don’t eat food off of the floor, or any other life lesson that it’s my job to do.

That routine is growing rapidly.

How many times have you told your kids to not touch something only to watch them reach out and touch it just one more time? Perfectly normal test of boundaries, right?

Do the words “What did I just say?” ring a bell? They’ve come out of my mouth (immediately followed by the thought that I sound just like my parents).

I’m far from any type of expert. I only have one daughter and I’ve met an incredible girlfriend who completely “gets it” when it comes to parenting so I’ve got an incredible support system. So maybe this is a luxury others can’t afford, but while I can…here’s what I do.

I stop the world.

I’ll pull the car over. I’ll put my grocery bags down. I’ll turn off the TV. In public, in private, the world stops.

Then, I’ll have a talk that explains to my daughter that when I ask her to stop doing something, it means to actually stop and not get “one more in”.

I’m hoping that the act of stopping everything I’m doing, focusing all of my attention on her, and talking with her will make a difference. I have no idea if this works, but it’s what my gut tells me to do.

The most important thing I’ll do on this planet is raise my daughter.

So, when the desire to ignore that little test of what she wants to get away with or the thought that I just don’t have the time to stop what I’m doing and have a talk with her occurs, I remind myself of that fact.

And if she’s anything like her old man when he was a kid, I’m in for a lot of life stoppage.


Bionic Hearing

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Personality, Play Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Summer Time, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


So Grace has super bionic hearing.

Ok, maybe not… but over Memorial Day weekend she was sitting in a craft room at the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury MI (which has pony rides, ice cream, and indoor waterpark – The holy trinity of toddler heaven) and blurted out “That’s Rapunzel’s song!”

Sure enough. Faintly playing in the background, behind the squeaks of the girl twisting balloons into animals and the sound of the other kids in the room, a song from the “Tangled” soundtrack was playing. Of course, I immediately swelled up with pride at my daughter’s powers of hearing and memory.

That was immediately followed by my own recollection. This same sweet child getting a yellow and blue butterfly painted on her hand who has the uncanny ability to suss out a Disney song in a busy room is the same child who cannot seem to hear her Daddy when it comes to the simplest of requests…especially around bedtime.

Laser-like hearing…selective hearing.

Just another boundary toddlers are compelled to test. Not the first and most certainly not the last.

But I’m currently studying every melody on that soundtrack. If she doesn’t want to go to bed, maybe I can convince her by asking her by changing the lyrics to the tune of “I’ve Got A Dream”. 😉


Thankfully, I Live in the Future (But There Are Still No Flying Cars)

By | Activities, Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships, Rewards, Rules, Technology, Tips, Toddlers | No Comments


This one is for the single Dads splitting time with their daughters (or the “Road Dad” whose job has him away from home all the time).

Rejoice! We live…in the future! (Insert dramatic echo with swelling music score here).

If you are like me, you’re probably never going to fully get used to not seeing your daughter every day. It took me a solid year to even start to wrap my head around it. While I simply hate being apart, I don’t let a day go by without talking with Grace when she’s with her mother. I want to know what she’s eating, where she’s playing, what she did… y’know…the usual “How was your day?” chat.

But with a 3-year old, some days a phone conversation can be a challenge. Thankfully, Grace has a gargantuan vocabulary. (I use gargantuan because she uses that word, too. Pretty cool, huh?) But Grace being distracted, or if my ex doesn’t want to be particularly helpful with the conversation, can make it difficult to communicate.

Enter Technology.

I don’t know how Dads 10 years ago did it (I’d like to think they wished they could), but whenever I get the chance I Skype, Google Hangout, or FaceTime with Grace. Thank you Steve Jobs.

The conversation doesn’t have to be so pressed and seeing her (and her seeing me), makes the time apart bearable. Google Hangout even has add-ons that let each of us wear silly hats or animal noses with sound effects and the like. There’s even one that lets you read bedtime books together. It’s good video fun.

I’m reminded of the pre-Internet, pre-cell phone (gasp!) days I grew up in  – and thank God that I wasn’t a single Dad back then.

The abundance of affordable technology at our fingertips has removed yet another hurdle (or excuse) for Dads to connect with their kids. If you haven’t tried them yet, they’re just as awesome as any Google television commercial you may have seen. Facetime to Facetime is the next best thing to…actual face to actual face.

Who knows where it will head in only a couple of years from now? By the time Grace is in Kindergarten we might be able to see holograms of each other? At least by then, she’ll be able to reach out and say hello by herself if she wants to. That kid is scary good with an iPad.

The only thing missing would be my flying car. (We were all promised the Jetson XL SUVs by now, weren’t we?) That would at least cut down on the massive mileage I’m piling up (900 miles a month) to drop her off and pick her up. Somebody tell Richard Branson to stop selling tickets to outer space and spend a few billion on that research. Every extra minute I can get with my girl would be worth any jet fuel I’d have to purchase.

Until then, each day is another day into a future where at least being in the presence of those you love can be as easy as a push of a button.