Friendship Rich (Gratitude, Community)

We were out Christmas shopping for her friends when a friend texted me asking if he could bring his daughter for a play date while they went to an appointment.

Me – “You have a play date at 2:30 today with Ashlynn.”

She was so excited that she couldn’t speak for a moment as happiness coursed through her

Her – “I have so many play dates this week! I’m rich!”

Advertisements

Because I Have You (Love, Gratitude, Stability)

We were driving home from a day of errands and a spontaneous visit to Nonna and Pappa for lunch and one of her favorite Netflix programs. I was lost in thought, probably caught between thinking about reality and what I want manifest.

Out-of-the-blue…

Her – “I probably have the best life ever.”

Me – “Awww, why do you say that?”

Her – “Because I have you.”

My eyes watered. Sappy Daddy moment. Well, how could I not be touched?

Me – “What made you think of that?”

Her – “Because you’re my special Daddy. I mean, I have myself that is special, and I have you.”

Me – “It’s great that you recognize that your life is great because of your own spirit and self first, and it’s also great that you feel your life is great because of people who love you and can count on.”

I think those words “can count on” meant a lot to her.

She hugged me and we drove on while I quietly marveled at her happiness and fulfillment.

It is true that we have a special relationship and closeness. I always say, though, that it is the spirit she came in with that is most responsible for her contentment. She was that way as a baby, too. Her heart beats to the song of happiness, and she goes with the flow. Not to say that she doesn’t have her sassy moments with me or others, as she definitely does, but they are few and far between. I also credit my parents, her teachers, friends and other family members. All of them have given her that sense of living on a trampoline of love and rock solid support.

What better than your child feeling happy and fulfilled? So far so good…

Miley Cyrus (Acceptance, Sexual Orientation, Honest talks)

Her – “Is Miley Cyrus bad? My friend at school said she is.”

Me – “I’d say she is controversial.”

Her – “What is controversial?”

Me – “Remember, we just discussed the meaning of that word yesterday. It’s when there are many strong, differing opinions on a subject and often that subject makes people uncomfortable. It shocks some people.”

Her – “What does she look like?”

Me – “Hmm… medium height. Very short hair, I think.”

Her – “My friend said she does bad things and that she escaped jail.”

Me – “No, I don’t think so. She may have spent a night or two in jail for something, but she didn’t escape jail.”

Her – “Do you like Miley Cyrus’ songs?”

Me – “Well, I don’t really know them. There’s that song ‘Party in the USA’ which I think is sorta cool. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is good, but I can’t listen to it a lot because it’s all about drama and her feeling hurt over the loss of a relationship, and I don’t want to listen to that repeatedly.”

Her – “Why is she hurt?”

Me – “Well, the song is expressing hurt over the way she was treated in a relationship by a boyfriend or maybe it’s a girlfriend, I’m not sure, I think she dates both…”

Her – “That’s weird.”

Her – “I wouldn’t date a girl. Would you date another man?”

Me – “Well, I like women…”

Her – “If it was the last person on Earth…”

Me – “I suppose it would come down to if I felt attraction.”

Her – “Yeah.”

Me – “I don’t have judgment about people who are homosexual (or bisexual) as I know people are born that way.”

She listened intently-

Me – “People are different. Most people in the world if they’re a boy, like girls or girls like boys. But then, a small percentage of boys like boys and some girls like other girls. Then there are those who like both boys and girls?”

Her – “What, what? That’s confusing (the third part).”

Me – “Well, there is heterosexual. That’s where people like the opposite sex, like a woman liking a man. That is most people. But some people are homosexual meaning they like the same sex. Men who like men are called Gay and women who like women are called Lesbian. Then there are some who are attracted to both sexes. That’s Bi-sexual, bi means two, like bicycle, two wheels. A lot of people have a lot of judgment about people who are attracted to people of the same sex. In some countries, people are stoned or even killed if they are found out to be homosexual.”

Her – “How about in this country?”

Me – “Well, it’s gotten better. There is still a lot of discrimination, meaning negative treatment, of people who are homosexual. Sometimes they are bullied or even disowned by parents. But it’s getting better. Movies, TV and brave people over the decades have helped. Acceptance is improving. Just last year, the Supreme Court of the United States approved homosexuals having the right to marry. There is the Executive branch, the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch…”

I realized quickly that I was starting to get off topic and we had neared our destination

Me – “You know, even just having a discussion like this between a parent and a child is progress. My Dad would have never had a discussion like this with me. It just wasn’t talked about in society back then.”

We pulled into the driveway of my parent’s house. It was time to transition to subjects of a more innocent nature like singing in the Winter Performance at her school.

Me – “I’m really glad you and I can have such open discussions. Aren’t you glad that we can be so open and honest?”

Her – “Yeah.”

Personally, I’ve never in my mind had a pre-formed opinion of what my daughter will be attracted to when she is grown up. It sounds like she’ll be interested in boys, but you never know.

Is she happy?
Is she living a life that is authentic to her?
Does she love her life and the people around her?
Does she care about honesty, compassion, and kindness?
Is she respectful to herself and others?
Is she an independent thinker?
Can she stand on her own feet?
Is she challenging herself to grow and live fully?
Is she a positive force in the world on some level?

The rest doesn’t matter to me.

But she’s eight now, fortunately. It’s just conversations in a car. Guess Miley can’t be all that bad. She opened up a discussion for a little girl on keeping the non-judgmental mind she was born with. It’s a parent’s job to protect that.

Hug My Fingers (Love, Humor, Affection)

We were walking into a store tonight, and she reached for my hand, as she almost always does. I was walking fast and did not immediately grasp it back

Her – “Daddy, hug my fingers.”

We both laughed.

Me – “Hug my fingers? I’ve never heard it put that way.”

She hadn’t consciously thought that up. It just came out. And, I guess that’s what holding hands means to her – a mini hug.

Just plain cute. I’ll remember that one forever…

“Daddy, hug my fingers.”

Hang in There (Creativity, School, Freedom, Wealth)

We were out shopping in the evening as I needed to deposit some checks and it as a good excuse to pick up some treats

Her – “I’m tired because I worked a lot at school today.”

Me – “You worked?”

Her – “Yeah, I did work all day for learning.”

Me – “Is that good? Aren’t kids supposed to play?”

Her – “Well, it wasn’t a fun.”

Me – “Don’t you get to do art which you love?”

Her – “First you have to do all the other things and it takes up the whole day.”

Me – “Hang in there. Your Dad is going to become very wealthy, and we’ll have options.”

A Tough Choice (Decisions, Self-esteem, Realizing Dreams)

A very tough choice

Yesterday, we had the Playoffs for our soccer league. I say ‘our’ because I coached her team. That wasn’t the plan, but the league head knew I was in the coaching field and said she could be a late entry on a new team if they found a coach. Okay.

Twelve games and 22 practices later, we finished up yesterday on an incredible high by surprising the entire league and reaching the Finals. Along the way, we defeated two teams we hadn’t beaten all season and lost 2-3 in the Finals to a team we lost to many weeks ago 0-11. No, that’s not a typo.

In short, we’ve improved!

It’s been a real challenge walking the path of coach and father, simultaneously. At the start of the season, I told her, “Listen, I’m the coach, and I need to be the coach at practices and games. There will be times when I need to make decisions as a coach and not a father, otherwise it won’t do right by the other kids and it will be perceived as favoritism by the parents. Do you understand?” She said she did.

The reason I wanted her to try soccer is because she I thought it would be fun for her. She is quite fast, picks up many athletic pursuits with relative ease (biking without training wheels in literally 20 minutes), and, since she was a tyke, she’s had this wicked strong left foot. Even as a toddler, my Mom and I would remark, “She should play soccer one day!”

But more than an athlete, she’s a happy, in-the-moment, sometimes introverted, art-oriented child. Being on a sports team was an entirely new experience, and they were all boys except one. Frankly, I expected that she was going to use her speed and left foot more during the season, but she had her ups and downs in figuring out what to do. She would get confused, not attack the ball when it was near. Other times, she’d make great plays and kick it up field. It was challenging to watch her not being more aggressive.”

Typical conversation-

Her – “Daddy, can I play forward or midfield?”

Me – “Honey, I’d love to play you on forward, but you have to play aggressively?”

Her – “I will. I promise! I’m just learning, Daddy.”

She always got me with that one, but it was still hard to understand why she wouldn’t attack a ball that was near her. She was by no means the only one. Most of the new kids are like this.

Okay, fast forward to the second game in the Playoffs, yesterday, which was our 11th contest of the season. We had come from behind from 1-2 down to tie a team we lost to in regular season twice. Penalty kicks time. A bunch of kids raised their hands who I knew just didn’t have a strong chance of scoring on a penalty kick.

I quickly picked four of our five shooters. With one more to choose, I hesitated as I saw my daughter’s hand raised and pleading to be chosen.

Inside my head-

“She has that left foot. She could do it. But she hasn’t been focused in the game, and she was kind of whiny. Sometimes, her aggressiveness lapses. Now is not the time for a chance on a lapse.”

I chose the other girl on the team whom I had chosen in the first game penalty kicks, even though she missed. She’s bold.

My daughter’s head and another boy’s head immediately collapsed into their laps. My heart sank, but I turned my attention to my shooters and focused their minds as they expressed their nerves…

“Remember what I told you. You don’t think about anything except the mental picture of what you want.” They all nodded.

The other girl missed again. It was fine. A couple minutes later, our entire Team was jumping up and down in jubilation as we won the shootout and progressed to the Finals.

It was bittersweet for me.

While I have to think as a coach first out there, it hurt me a lot to think that, in that moment, she felt like her Dad couldn’t count on her. I wished badly I could have gone back in time and given her the chance. If she had missed, we still would have won, it seems.

But you can’t go back in time and sometimes you have to make tough calls. That was one of them.

She is gone for the weekend, and I can’t wait until she returns so we can talk about that moment. I want to hear about how it impacted her and to let her know that, if she is motivated to do so, I will work with her every week until next season to help her become a player who would be an automatic choice and a probable scorer.

When the Finals were over, she posed with the trophy like she was the MVP. If she was feeling down, you’d never know it. She leaned in to me

Her – “Did I do good, Daddy?”

Me – “You were wonderful. As the game went on, you attacked the ball and had some excellent kicks.”

She smiled. Kids are resilient. But moments like that where I didn’t pick her can affect a child’s self-esteem and belief system. It hurts me to think I might have done that. Hopefully, we will turn it into an empowering learning experience. I will try my best.

Controlled or Free? (Freedom, Parenting Style, School)

Me – “Do you feel controlled by the way I parent or do you mostly feel that you have freedom by the way I parent?”

Her – “Freedom.”

Me – “Oh good. That’s how I want you to feel.”

Not sure what got me thinking about asking her that. Perhaps it was the other day, which she then brought up

Her – “Except when you told me I had to throw that piece of paper away that I wanted to draw.”

Me – “Yeah, well, we have four thousand school papers to go through, and you want to keep something you haven’t even looked at for weeks. Fine, I’ll dig it out for you. I was just frustrated with the pile.”

She smiled. Sometimes, I think she looks at me with an, “Oh, Daddy, life is so much easier than you make it” look.

I wanted to hear again from her an answer to my question; make sure she wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear.

Me – “So you feel controlled or you feel freedom?”

Her – “Freedom. I feel mostly free.”

Me – “Then why do you ask for permission all the time on little things? I mostly tell you to listen to your own wisdom and make up your own mind about things, anyway.”

She didn’t have an answer. I think it comes from school, but that’s another topic. But it was also early morning. Maybe not the best time for a deep discussion as she munched her watermelon.

That’s okay, I got the information I wanted.

Onward and upward…