Communicating With Our Children

Publication1I heard something today that made me reflect on how I am communicating with my son.

“On average parents spend 2.5 – 6.5 minutes speaking to their kids everyday, and it is usually corrective or punitive (not intimate).  It’s not at a deep intimate level because parents shy away from intimacy with their kids.  ADHD has gone up.  Divorce rates have risen.  It’s this lack of intimacy that’s more responsible than toxins in the environment or ingredients in food.  Communication is the key”.

  • Dr. Peter Sacco

Wow this is crazy, how can we build empowering relationships and connection with our kids if we hardly speak to them in an intimate way?

In the last month my best memory was taking the time to lay on the grass with my son and stare at the clouds.  We talked about each other’s day, laughed and giggled.  I was surprised how this allowed me to decompress after a stressful day.  As I reflect on my childhood I don’t recall having times like this with my father, and I believe as a result it became awkward to have open conversations with my father.  It wasn’t until I matured later into my 30’s that I was able to have intimate conversations with my father.

talking

As a bedtime ritual, my wife and I spend 20 – 30 minutes of intimate conversations with our son.  Every night we read 2 – 3 books that he has chosen.  The way that we start intimate conversations is by asking two questions:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What are you grateful for?

These two questions initiate intimate conversations and can range from 2 to 20 minutes.

“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him”.

  • Dr. Henker

 

Resources

Peter Sacco interview

APA Communication Tips For Parents

Spend Time Listening

Communicating with Children: You Make the Difference

My favorite resource Alberta Family Wellness Initiative

Muddy Puddles

As I watch him bounce from puddle to puddle,  water splashes in every direction, I can hear giggles that represent pure joy.  His pants, shoes and socks are now soaking wet, but he does not care.  The big smile on his face supports the notion that he does not care.  I look around and  see several people who stop and watch him, he has no idea that people are watching him because he is so entrenched in the joy of the now.  The people who are watching him all have big smiles on their faces, later I watch those same people walk through the parking lot and step over the very same puddles that he chose to run and hop through.  I can’t help but wonder, at what point in time do we choose to step over those puddles and ignore the joy and carefree attitude.

running

It seems that as adults we are so hung-up on what is happening in our heads, what we need to do, or what other people will think,  that we miss the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature.  Having a child in my life has brought me back to the wondrous beauty of the outdoors and living in the now, or just being present in what is happening.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike”-  John Muir 1.

dandylion

In our family we use nature as a healing tool.  If my son is experiencing behavioral problems, we go outdoors and start exploring; hiking, puddle jumping, snowman building, walks, runs, and insect hunting.  If we feel negative thoughts starting,  nature brings us back to a joyous state.  In fact, we have identified two favorite places that we frequent for mental health.

It seems that in today’s society we tend to ignore the importance of nature.  In a 2010 study2, it was realized that being outdoors and in nature has vitalizing effects.  Participants experienced a sense of physical and mental energy, a sense of enthusiasm, and aliveness.  Watching the joy in my son’s eyes while he jumps in muddy puddles shows a positive correlation between being outdoors and his mental vitality.

big-puddle

Resources

The Muddy Puddles Project is a fundraising platform for the Ty Louis Campbell (TLC) Foundation.

An article on the Mental Health Benefits of the Outdoors.

Pit Stops for Kids is a great website for information on activities with kids.

 

References

  1. John Muir (1912). Retrieved from http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/favorite_quotations.aspx
  2. Ryan, R., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K. W., Mistretta, L., & Gagne, M. (2010).  Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature.  Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 159-168.  Retrieved from https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_RyanWeinstenEtAl_JEVP.pdf

 

Teams

I recently listened to a  podcast interview with Chris Sajnog (retired Navy Seal).  Chris discussed an acronym for teams.  A family should behave as a team and provide support to each other.  By following the teams acronym in everyday life, we can model the behaviors that will teach our children to be their best selves.  Whatever our behaviors, they should always be focused on creating an everlasting bond, making lasting memories, empowering relationships and becoming the influence in your children’s lives, not their peers.sea

T – Taking Responsibility.  Owning mistakes, by not owning our failures we only delay growth.  If we avoid the ownership of our failures there is a high probability that we will repeat those same mistakes.  Ownership of our mistakes will force us to ask the question of, how did I end up in this situation?  By asking this question it will help us to develop a future strategy for growth.  Am I willing to accept that my decisions and choices have put me in this situation, by using this perspective it will give you a higher level of understanding in all of your interactions.  You have a choice in the morning to decide what kind of day you are going to have, this is a form of taking responsibility for your own happiness.  The lesson to teach our children is to fail forward …. failure is acceptable as long it is used as a building block for growth.

E – Encourage Others.  When we help others to focus on their strengths and talents, we are contributing to the greater cause and building a better society.  If you take the time to reflect, you will realize that each of us has the skills and gifts that can contribute to each-others growth.

A – Ask for Help.  If you are willing to swallow your pride and ask for help, it shows that you have faith in others.  As a father, it is acceptable to say I do not know but I will find out.  This shows others that you are vulnerable, showing others that you are vulnerable can be the foundation for strong relationships.

M – Master Yourself.  Understanding your strengths, weaknesses and emotions can give you the ability to handle every situation.  It is important to take the time to understand and learn about yourself.

S – Sacrifice.  By sacrificing for your family, it will show true love.  Sacrificing can be as simple as getting out of bed thirty minutes early in order to make breakfast for your wife, especially if it will improve her day or preparing lunch for your son.  Sacrificing so that members of the family can achieve their goals can be compared to a sacrifice bunt in baseball.  At times everyone in the family will need to make a sacrifice for the others, this will create an even stronger bond.

 

Resources

Chris Sajnog

The Good Dad Project

Ego

ego

“To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment”.  Eckhart Tolle

As a father I need to have an awareness of my ego, in order to have genuine compassion I need to be aware of when my ego is driving my thought process.  I need to remember that little developing minds are observing  how I interact in this world.  I have a responsibility to help develop a person who has genuine compassion, I will lead by example.

The common goal of all moral precepts laid down by the great teachers of humanity is mindfulness.  Those teachers wanted to lead their followers away from the paths of negative deeds caused by ego.  Unfortunately the world’s history is poisoned with leaders who fed their ego rather than having an awareness of one’s ego.

“Ego is like a sparring partner that you are working with every day”.  Ryan Holiday

All things harmful to humanity stem from ego; hate, violence, judgment, discrimination, racism, war, wealth.  People are offended when their ego is attacked.  People think their ego is them, people defend themselves like their own flesh and blood is being attacked and cannot separate themselves from their ego.

I have found that when I park my ego it gives me the ability to connect with my surroundings and people in a mindful way.  It gives me the ability to respond to situations rather than react.  This is mindfulness.  It is important to understand that when I feel passionately about something or have a strong opinion that other people’s comments or suggestions are not an attack on me.  In order to grow as a human being it is important to learn from others.  Every person that I meet is my superior, I can learn from all of humanity.

We have a tendency to create intellectual games with our own scoring rules, our ego will force us to focus on that scoring and this is all that matters.  An example would be the need to climb the ladder to the Manager position, ego can cause a person to step on people or do whatever they can to reach that goal, this narrow-mindedness will affect the person’s ability to grow as a human being.

“Don’t let your ego get too close to your position, so that if your position gets shot down, your ego doesn’t go with it”.  Colin Powell

A negative response will only cause a negative circumstance to escalate…….

 

Resources:

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Aubrey Marcus podcast, Ego is the Enemy with Ryan Holiday

 

 

To My Bride

My wife and I recently attended a marriage ignite event at our church.  During this event the facilitators stressed that our partner is not responsible for our joy, they are only a contributor to our joy.  This is an important theme as we build our relationships with our partners.  Often in our relationships we find ourselves wondering why can’t my partner do this or that.  After a disagreement we often find ourselves thinking about what the other person has done wrong or what they need to change.

I recently lost my patience and exploded on my wife, the consequences of this event left me sitting in our home alone by myself.  In the past I would have found myself thinking how my wife contributed to this event because of her actions, but this time I found myself thinking what do I need to do in order to improve my relationship and regain focus.  Having mindfulness means understanding how our actions or thoughts are contributing to our situation.  I listened to a podcast with Larry Hagner where he explains that the quality of our life depends on the quality of questions we are asking ourselves.  We should not ask weak minded questions like what is wrong with her, rather we should be asking how can I improve this situation.

To My Bride

I appreciate the sacrifices that you have made to your body in order to give me the greatest gift of all.

I appreciate that you have put your career on hold in order to provide a loving and nurturing home for our son.

Thank you for being the most empathetic person that I know.Capture

I appreciate your ability to forgive and forget in order to move forwards.

Thank you for choosing to take this journey through life with me, I would not be half the man that I am without your influence.

Thank you for always putting our son first…..

I appreciate your love and acceptance for other cultures and people.

Thank you for continuing to put a smile on my face.

I Love You…

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Nepal

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain

While living in Qatar in April of 2010 I traveled to Nepal for a short seven day trip.  Unfortunately my wife could not join me, so our friend Taryn made the trek with me.  The purpose of this trip was not to prove my manhood by scaling Mount Everest, the highlight would be to visit the Parahawking Project in Pokhara and fly with Bob and Kevin ( 2 Egyptian Vultures).  I also wanted to prove that I could travel for seven days on less than $1500, this included my airfare, other transportation methods, food and shelter.

The Parahawking Project

In order to travel from Katmandu to Pokhara it only seemed fitting to book a flight with Buddha Air, if this flight went down somewhere in the Himalayas, then I guess it was meant to be.

buddha air

The next morning, we met Scott Mason at the Blue Sky Paragliding office in Pokhara.  Scott Mason has combined the art of falconry with paragliding, he has named this Parahawking.  Parahawking is paragliding with trained birds of prey. By combining ancient falconry methods with the modern techniques of paragliding, birds of prey are trained to fly and interact with paragliders and their tandem passengers and to guide them to thermals.

Scott was awarded by the International Association for Aviation Trainers and Educators with the Enrichment Behaviour Award in 2010 for his efforts with the Parahawking Project.  Scott provides passengers with education in bird of prey behavior and conservation.  Parahawking supports vulture conservation by donating 1000 rupees from every Parahawking tandem experience to selected vulture conservation projects in Nepal.

I must admit at this time in my life I was not the most fittest man.  Because of my love for butter chicken my waist line was bursting.  While Scott and I shook hands, I could see him sizing me up.  We had a conversation about my weight and the capacity of his paragliding equipment, it turns out that we would be overweight, all of the excitement and adrenaline that had been building up for more than a month left my body in one breathe because I thought that we were not going to fly.  Scott made the comment, it’s quite windy today lets go see what happens.  We jumped in a small two door car, I squeezed in the back and Scott jumped in the front seat with Bob, Bob is an Egyptian vulture who would be guiding us on our first flight.  We drove up a narrow single lane road that winded its way to the top of a nearby peak.  Once we arrived at the top of the mountain we could see the whole valley of Pokhara, the view made the whole trip worthwhile.  Scott handed Bob to a handler and set up the paragliding chute.  I specifically remember Scott telling me after he clipped me into his chute, we will be overweight so run as fast as you can and don’t stop until I tell you.  Scott waited for a gust of wind to fill his chute and started yelling run.  I ran like Forest Gump, after about ten feet Scott’s feet were off the ground but I was still on the ground and we were fastly approaching the edge of the cliff, I could hear was Scott saying keep running.  As I started running down the edge of the cliff we finally started to float through the air.  I think that my adrenaline was at an all time high.

Scott and Bob

Scott and Bob posing for a picture.

Once we were in flight, Scott blew a whistle and Bob appeared beside us.  One of the most amazing things about Parahawking is having a bird of prey land on your hand while in flight.  Scott and his team are doing amazing things in Nepal and this experience will remain as one of the most amazing things that I have experienced in my lifetime.

parahawking

In flight with Bob.

Scott and Kevin

Scott and Kevin.

Lumbini

After spending some time in Pokhara we decided to make the trip to Lumbini.  Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha.  I had been given the recommendation that in order to truly see Nepal, you need to take the bus trip from Pokhara to Lumbini.  We splurged and spent $12 to book two seats each so that we could sprawl out and sleep.  This bus was dubbed the tourist bus but we soon learned that we were the only tourists on this bus.  Some people would describe this as the milk run, at every little village we made multiple stops to pick people up.  I would stare out the window and see a whole family sending one person on the bus, as I watched them negotiate with the driver about the bus fare I couldn’t help but wonder how long the family had scrimped and saved in order to send their family member on the trek to a better place.  Somewhere along our trip Taryn had fallen ill, Taryn had received the gift of experiencing traveler stomach because of last night’s supper.  I was torn between experiencing the beautiful scenery and feeling sorry for Taryn and empathy for the families that I had been watching.

Google maps shows that this trip is five hours, on our bus it took eight hours.

bus trip

bus

Our bus, yes I am wearing a fanny pack.

Nepal was a place of many firsts for me.  We arrived at a small village about twenty minutes outside of Lumbini and the bus driver kicked everyone off the bus.  We soon learned that this was a major hub for buses travelling from and into India.  There were buses everywhere and we had no idea where to go.  I found someone who spoke English and asked him what we should do, he said you can walk or you can take that bus.  That bus was slowly rolling onto the main road.  We ran to the bus with the man, I noticed that people were stuffed into the bus like sardines and hanging off the bus everywhere.  The man banged on the back of the bus with his fist and the bus slowed to a slow crawl.  He said up and pointed to the top of the bus, he wanted us to climb up top to the luggage rack.  We rode to Lumbini on the top of a bus.  Another experience that I will not forget.

top o bus

Riding on top of the bus.

Once we arrived in Lumbini we walked down main street and found a place to sleep.  We decided that the Lumbini Village Lodge was a good place because the rooms had ceiling fans.  I remember that we were so hot and sweaty that the thought of a ceiling fan was wondrous.  Hotels with air conditioning do not exist in Lumbini.  One important thing that I forgot was that power outages happen frequently in Lumbini.  It turns out that our ceiling fans did not provide any relief.  I decided that a cold shower was in order, the water for showers in Nepal is stored in a tank on the roof so the water heats up to the ambient temperature, it turns out that my shower only increased my body temperature.  Taryn seeked refuge in her room because of the gift she received from last nights supper.  I decided to wander around Lumbini, I found a small village on the outskirts of town and wandered through the streets.  I found that people were extremely welcoming and gave away smiles for free.  There is nothing more heart-warming than being in a strange place and receiving a smile.  There were children everywhere, some would practice there English on me and others would shyly peek around corners.

Once I got back to the hotel I sat in the lobby and chatted with our hotelier, Juniper.  He was a kind educated man who was looking after his parents as people from Asia often do.  Juniper ran a tight operation with his two sons, I could clearly see that they had a list of chores and strong expectations.  During our conversation I mentioned that I would like to do something for the children of the nearby village, Juniper advised me that I should not give the children anything.  Juniper suggested that we go the nearby school and pass out school supplies.  I gave Juniper $100 and he volunteered to drive into India to pick up supplies for children, this was enough for sixty children to receive a pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener and a notebook.  Our plan was to drive to the school the next day to drop off the supplies.

Jupiter

Juniper and I in front of his hotel.  The dog in the picture makes a 30km trek once a week with a monk.  The monk goes to one of the nearby temples and the dog hangs out with Juniper.

The next day we drove to the school in Juniper’s van.  When we arrived at the school I noticed three groups of children, two groups had taken refuge from the heat under a nearby tree and the other group was sitting in a shanty makeshift shelter.  My understanding was that we would say hi and drop off the supplies.  To my surprise Juniper insisted that I pass the supplies to every child and shake their hand.  This process took over an hour but was worth every second.  Each and every child said thank you and gave me a large smile.

 

In some ways the things I experienced in Nepal were selfish and were only to make myself feel good about who I was.  As we live this life we need to remember that no matter where people are from, what religion they practice, their history or the color of their skin, that a smile can go straight to the heart.  There is nothing more rewarding than kindness…..

 

coke

During one of our rest stops on our trip I bought these children a coca cola.

Boudhanath Stupa in Katmandu.

Lumbini

Somewhere near Lumbini

Pashupatinath Temple  in Katmandu.

Tinkering

Having a toddler follow you around and wanting take part and help in all of your activities can be a challenge.  Every time I am fixing something; changing a light bulb or installing a new smoke detector my little guy wants to help.  A few months ago I assembled a toolbox for him; it has wooden and plastic tools in it like a screw driver, hammer and a pair of pliers.  His toolbox has only made him wanting to participate in the tasks even more, anytime I have a repair task he runs to his room saying “wait Daddy, I will get my tools”.  As a father I always try to maintain a high level of patience, if my little guy shows an interest in something I try my best to encourage his interests.

One afternoon it was just daddy and boy time, I thought that I would attempt to build a piece of Ikea furniture during this time as a surprise for my wife.  Building Ikea furniture can be a mindboggling and frustrating activity without having a toddler trying to help you.  I proceeded as usual by organizing the similar looking parts into piles and organizing all of the fasteners into individual piles.  My toddler insisted on reorganizing all of my piles and trying, what seemed to be a way to disrupt my plans.  As I began building the frame my frustration grew because of missing parts and tools, I noticed him pushing on two pieces trying to separate them.  My patience level had finally deteriorated until I behaved in a way that I am ashamed of.  As I reflect on that moment in time, I find myself embarrassed in the way that I responded to a curious mind that was only looking to be satisfied.  My reflection has brought me to a point where I wonder about the importance of tinkering.

What the heck is tinkering?  The Macmillan Dictionary defines tinkering; to make small changes to something in order to improve or repair it.  I can’t help but wonder if I let my boy tinker with stuff what skills will he develop.  I stumbled across the blog post Tinkering by More Good Days – Parenting Blog; in this blog post it states that people who were allowed to tinker as children often become engineers, scientists, chefs, woodworkers, architects, computer designers, graphic artists, fashion designers, and buildersI can’t help but agree with this theory, some of the best life skills that I learned were in my school shop class.

Now that I have had this revelation, how should I respond?  All of my household chores and repairs have a provision for my little guy to participate.  This could be as simple as him touching his screwdriver on the head of a screw, hammering a nail or passing me materials.  My tasks take a little longer but at the end there are two satisfied people, sometimes my wife is also satisfied depending on the quality of workmanship we accomplish.  The best part is that I am inspiring and feeding a creative mind and we get to bond.

I plan to take the tinkering process deeper when my little guy is older.  I recently discovered Tinkering School, a place where children are allowed to tinker and make things.  My little guy will be visiting Tinkering School when he is five years old.

 

Another way to inspire creativity and tinkering is to assemble a tinkering box.  This could as simple as the toolbox that I mentioned or having a box full of various things like fasteners, rope and wooden blocks.  A few weeks ago my little guy and I went to a hardware store; the purpose of this trip was to gather items that we could use for tinkering.  I went to the fastener section and choose various bolts and hooks that I thought would inspire curiosity.  Our next stop was the isle that stocked the rope and straps; I let him choose some rope, chain and straps.  Our final stop was in the lumber yard; my plan was to choose various sizes of wood that we could cut into different sizes of blocks.  The walk through the lumber yard proved to be an interesting time; we witnessed a forklift loading a truck, had a chat with the yard man and discussed the purpose of fence posts.  When we arrived home I dug out my skill saw; this exploded into a process of him helping me measure and mark the blocks and a discussion of safety.  I can’t help but wonder how exciting it must have been for him to hear the saw, watch the wood be cut and see the saw dust flying everywhere.  I realized that the process of gathering parts for our tinkering box was just as exciting of a learning process as playing with the actual tinkering box materials.  In a blog post by Lemon Lime Adventures, Dayna discusses how a box of materials can inspire imagination and creativity.

Our children are capable of creating and doing amazing things; we just need to let them be creative.  It is our job as fathers to inspire creativity and imaginations.

Capture

The blog post by Lemon Lime Adventures discussing a Tinkering Box can be found here

The blog post by More Good Days – Parenting Blog about Tinkering can be found here

More information about Tinkering School can be found here

A Gift

My wife and I are high school sweethearts.  We have been enjoying life together for almost nineteen years.  Over the years we have discussed the idea of having children.  We had agreed years ago that we would not take the plunge into parenthood.  With our decision to not have children, we ended up spending a lot of time with our nieces and nephews in order to fulfill the gap.  After spending seventeen years together we decided to make the decision permanent, during the summer of 2012 I went to see a surgeon known as the “Vasman” for a vasectomy.  As I sit in the operatory nervously sick to my stomach and thinking about the pain I was about to endure, I remember the Vasman telling me that he considers this procedure permanent, I acknowledged his statement and nodded.  Little did I know that the decision my wife and I had made would only tempt fate.

One evening while my wife and I were enjoying our membership at the Kempinski health club, she complained of feeling ill.  A few days later she informed me that she was late.  We grabbed a pregnancy test, surprisingly it came back as positive.  In denial and thinking that the test was expired and in some way faulty, I went to the drugstore and bought three more tests.  Every test came back as positive.  Still in denial, I went to the internet for help.  I came to the conclusion that the love of my life had a rare form of ovarian cancer that was causing the tests to be positive.  Off to the doctor, there it was, a pregnancy sack.  I had some lab work and found out that my vasectomy had managed to reverse itself and my sperm count was back to a normal standard.

We had a few grim days as we reflected on the news.  For a few days we were both in a fog, experiencing feelings of anger, sadness, confusion and happiness, it was a whirlwind of emotions.  I think that we struggled with the news because this was not the path that we had chosen for our future.  We finally realized that this was a gift; why were we having conflicting feelings, we are in a committed, loving and financially stable relationship with the ability to care for a little person.

Then came my interpersonal battles.  I asked myself several questions; would I be a good father, do I have the skills to deal with this new challenge, can I provide the emotional support for my wife and the new baby, what about circumcisions, what about religion, on and on the questions arised.  Unfortunately, my father and I do not have the type of relationship that we can talk about these things, it would just be awkward for both us.

In order to deal with these interpersonal challenges I searched for resources to help me.  I discovered a go to resource, The Good Dad Project.  The Good Dad Project is chalk full of resources; podcast, books, blog, workshops and articles.  Larry Hagner acknowledges the fact that many fathers internalize their struggles, he mentions that fathers become distracted and stressed, and as a result many fathers do not get to enjoy the journey of being a Dad.  I read Larry Hagner’s book, The Dad’s Edge.  Larry’s book provided me with an opportunity and focus to move further as a modern day father.  Today’s fathers are evolving away from being the tough, rugged and emotionless people that they were during previous generations.  The days of children 10477443_10152702307505763_6926281215793353938_narguing about whose father could win in a fight are over.  In some ways today’s fathers have more stress because we are expected to provide emotional support as well as provide for the family and be at every soccer practice.  I have chosen to take the path to leaving a legacy of leadership, love, connection, and positive lasting memories.  In order to accomplish this goal, I have chosen to become a not-so-macho-man; this means that I have chosen to lead by example and not be a beer swilling and cursing man, create an atmosphere that allows all family members in the household to share their feelings in a respectful environment, creating mindfulness, allowin1382899_10151879350411609_1712849074_ng myself to be vulnerable, show empathy for all living things and I have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle.

On June 6, 2013 we welcomed a healthy baby boy to our world, everyday afterwards has been an amazing experience rediscovering the world through my boy.  So far the most scary time of fatherhood was after all the medical people cleared out of the delivery room, we were waiting for the nurses to come back with the large guidebook that would take four nurses to carry, they never came.  We were left all alone with this new human being who relied on us for everything.

This blog will chronicle my experiences and journey as a modern day father.  I will share my thoughts, insights and advice throughout my journey.  This is the not-so-macho-man blog.

The Good Dad Project can be explored here