Category: Serving Our Kids Well

I Will Miss You

I was at the park with our youngest son, recently.  We were taking about the farm that we plan to build together, one day.  It will be called, “The Buddy Farm.”  

Among other things, we’ll have cows, we’ll have pigs, we’ll have corn, and we’ll have pumpkins. He and I will be the owners. I’ll manage the work and the workers, and he’ll be the one to show people around when they come to the farm.  

His brothers and his sister, his mother, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins will all work a the farm. This is the plan.

We sat, leaned back on the side of a hill, looking up at the sky through a canopy of trees. It was a beautiful day. A string of moments, essentially standing still. 

As we lay there, soaking it in, he spoke of getting older. He told me he wanted to build “The Buddy Farm” because he wan’t going to get married or have a family.  

He told me that his plan was to live with me forever.  

He told me that he doesn’t want to have a family because he thinks kissing is gross. I suggested that five-year-olds tend to feel that way, and that eventually he might enjoy kissing. I told he might eventually change his mind, fall in love, and decide to have a family, after all.  

He assured me it was unlikely, but even so, even if he were to fall in love and have a family, he was still going to live with me forever. 

He went on to inform me that if he did have kids, his brothers and his sister would be their uncles and their aunt, and that I would be there grandfather. 

Then it happened. As if he realized it just then, as if he was verifying it for himself, he told me that when he becomes a grandfather I will probably have passed.  

While difficult to hear, I could see that it was most likely true.

He looked at me with inquisitive eyes, as if to clarify.  

I agreed with a smile and a nod.

I told him that would probably one the case, and I did my best to conceal the pang of pain that ran through every molecule of my essence, though I’m guessing it showed in some form, somewhere on my face.  

He looked at me for another moment before leaning back and turning his eyes to the sky. In a patience, contemplative tone, he declared, “I will miss you.”

I thought, I will miss you too, Buddy, and my heart did something so profound and powerful that I can’t exactly explain it. I was uplifted and deeply sorrowful at exactly the same time. 

I left myself for an instant. Thinking of my boy every having to miss me is among the most intense images I can produce.  

He shifted over to rest his head in the crook of my arm, and there we lay, together, for some time, not having to miss one another yet.

It got me thinking. There are people in my life who I am not near to at this moment. They haven’t passed, but I am simply not in proximity to them. I don’t miss them. Instead, I feel their presence.  

Maybe that’s because I know I could see them, talk to them, and touch them if I wanted to. Or maybe it’s because when our connectedness isn’t based on a physical, but an emotional plane. I’d like to believe that. I do believe that. 

I believe, whether we’re present, far from one another, or even passed, we can use our minds and our heart to connected with one another. 

As I think about “lost” loved ones on this Memorial Day weekend, I take comfort in the feelings of connectedness I have.

Something inside of me believes that the connectedness exists for them, too.

Whatever you believe, I would suggest that using our minds and our hearts to perpetuate bonds with those we love can be healing. 

At the very least, I believe it isn’t hurtful to try. Sometimes uplifting and sorrowful at exactly the same time, but not hurtful. 

In it together for the kids. 

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

The Importance of Embracing These Moments

A few weeks into this changed environment I looked back and realized my emotional bandwidth has been as broad as ever. Turns out a global pandemic sets the stage for emotional overload. Go Figure.  

Also, this era-defining moment has presented me with an opportunity to progress monitor my resilience and emotional wherewithal. Now, I’ve found a flow.  

I believe one reason I’ve been able to find this flow is the experience of accepting and intentionally navigating a wide spectrum of emotions.  

The first couple of weeks were mostly about prep work, setting things up, getting things ready, figuring out what structures work best for me to function in my roles as a principal, a husband, and a father.

Lorelei and I imagined, constructed, reimagined, refined and implemented a system and a consistent pace in our house. At this point, the kids have all but taken both over with a good deal of independence. Our days are flowing relatively smoothly. It adds a foundation of balance. 

I’ve spoken and written about the structured blueprint of our stay-at-home life on multiple occasions since the beginning. I’ll mention some particulars here as a side-note.

We have four kids, all elementary age. Our days begin with breakfast at 8:30 am, followed by a series of 45 minute sessions with10 minutes of transitional time for snacks, stretches and bathroom breaks in between each session. The sessions include “School Work,” “Fresh Air,” “Read and Relax,” and “Free time.”  

We maintain these structures with a foundation of flexibility.  We use the Zones of Regulation to see that we’re focused and ready to go for each session. If were not, we flex. We have a lot of conversations. We give the kids ownership and autonomy through which they’re demonstrating some wonderful independence.  

The few days I wrote about above came shortly after these structures were solidly in place, just after I was able to take my first breath, knowing we were on the right path with regard to some normalcy and balance for the kids. 

After the initial setting of the stage I was able to turn to my own feelings about the challenges we’re facing. In doing so, my broadened emotional bandwidth came into play. I was really sad for a few days. 

At first, I didn’t completely understand the sadness, where it came from, or why it was so intense. In hindsight it would seem obvious, but it wasn’t. I wanted to be “stronger than that,” and I had some trouble letting myself accept and appreciate that strength may not be in how you feel, but in how you respond to what you’re feeling. Upon letting go and falling into my emotions, I realized they needed my attention. 

Paulo Cohelo said, “You drown not by falling into a river but by staying submerged in it.”

What seems to have worked for me, and what I recommend, is that when we fall into a river of emotion, no matter the emotion, we recognize and accept that we’re there. 

I recommend that we look around ourselves, inside and out, for methods and means to rise to the surface and emerge. The difficult journey out might take an hour, it might take a day, and it might take a week. If it takes longer than that, I recommend asking for and embracing help from others.  

In my case, during this round of processing, it took just over 2 days. I emerged with enhanced strength and clarity of vision. I’ve since been in the flow I mentioned above.

I suspect I’ll fall into a river of emotion again during this challenging and unusual time, however it unfolds. I hope that when I do I can see clearly the value falling into the river has, along with the value of finding ways to emerge. That’s my plan, anyway.

We’ve got to give ourselves time, space, understanding and compassion. We’ve got to allow ourselves to experience the moments we’re living in, to enlist our minds and our hearts, to muster courage and strength, and to process through each moment and every feeling in ways that are healthy and balanced. 

Let’s not be too cautions about sharing our emotional truths. Let’s not turn our heads or our hearts away from those who share their emotional truths to us.  

In this relative isolation, we are truly not alone. We are together in our humanity.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Let Yourselves Off The Hook Parents and Educators

This weekend’s sunshine reminded me of something important.  It reminded me of the ebbs and the flows of being a parent and an educator.  It reminded me that there are triumphant days and that there are challenging days. 

On triumphant days, the kids we’re serving and parenting demonstrate high levels of independence.  They engage in work and play without excessive arguing, fussing or fighting.  They make themselves cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, they put their dirty dishes in the sink, they put toys away after using them, they flush the toilet and they wash their hand.

On challenging days, our kids argue, fuss and fight.  They don’t even need to be asked to do anything, they crawl out of their beds grumpy, and they grump around all day.  They snap at us, they roll their eyes, they stomp and sulk, and sometimes they growl.  On challenging days, everything feels like a battle, all day long.  

They tell us that they don’t like what we made them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  They ask us to make them something different, and then they don’t eat that either.  

On really challenging days they tell us that we’re the “meanest” and that they hate us. 

The thing is, the sun goes up and the sun goes down, and then the sun comes up again.  

This weekend, as I walked with sunshine radiating against my skin and blue skies above, I remembered that, like the sunshine, everything comes and goes. 

Kids are kids.  Each one is unique in many ways, but each one is a kid.  Like us, they have triumphs and they have challenges.  As parents and educators we need to simply be sure that our limbs are inside the rollercoaster car and that the safety bar is securely fastened.  We need to throw our hands up and cheer when we’re racing over hills and around the turns.  

We need to celebrate the triumphs and face the challenges with as much patience and compassion as we can, knowing that with every experience comes opportunities for learning, for them and for us.  

We need to alway remember the deep and abiding love we feel for our kids.  Even, and especially when it’s difficult, we need to muster deep and abiding love for ourselves, and maybe most importantly…we need to let our selves off the hook.

This stuff ain’t easy, but we got it!

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Gather Nuts Later

Nuts. 

I imagine it’s what squirrels think about most of the time. 

I stood at the door-wall this morning, looking out over the yard.  I saw a squirrel sitting on the fence. 

There I was, bath robe, pajamas, slippers, sipping a cup of coffee, staring down a squirrel on the fence. 

He was looking at me, too. 

He didn’t seem to be thinking about nuts. 

His face was puckered. His shoulders were slumped.  He seemed deep in thought.  He seemed reflective. He seemed almost contemplative. He seemed, not sad, but maybe disappointed. He seemed remorseful. 

I took another sip.  I wondered what was happening in this squirrel’s life.

Maybe he woke up worried about finding food, with a limited supply of patience and a world of worries.  

Maybe the love he feels for his family had him overwhelmed with concern about how he’s going to provide for them.

Maybe he was frustrated, overwhelmed, and unable to calm his worried mind.

Maybe his kids had been scurrying around that morning, shouting, stomping, playing rough, demanding his attention, and generally showing out in squirrelly ways.

Did he know I was watching him?

Was he actually watching me?

My eyes squinted. 

His tail swished.

My brow raised and then furrowed.

He sighed.

I wondered if maybe his mind was somewhere else.

He took a deep breath, sighed again, and slumped his shoulders even further. 

He looked away.  His gaze shifted to the base of a tree across the yard. I looked over to the tree, too.  A bunch of little squirrels were playing over there.  They were scurrying, they were tagging one another and then running away, there were linking their tails and laughing, they were rolling in the grass, and they were peeling bark off of trees to use for shields in an epic stick-sword battle. 

The little squirrels were having a great time. 

He was still sitting on the fence, still slumped over and looking forlorn.  

He looked at me.  I motioned to the little squirrels frolicking in the yard.  He shrugged his shoulders and pursed his lips. I motioned again and mouthed the words, “Go play with them.”

Even if he had been distracted and upset that morning, worrying about the challenges in his path, maybe feeling helpless and even scared, I thought it could be a good idea for him to play a while. He could gather nuts later.

Maybe some good old fashioned squirrel family fun was just what the doctor ordered.  Maybe it would connect them.  Maybe it would uplift them.  Maybe a couple of moments of play would restore his energy and provide some renewal for a loving family of squirrels during a challenging time. 

I smiled. He smiled. He leapt off the fence and joined the fray. I smiled again. Good stuff. I felt happy.

As I turned to face my day, ready to sit down at the computer for a marathon of messaging and meetings, ready to dig deep into answering, planning, collaborating, coaching, and developing, I heard a noise. It was a joyful noise. The noise was the sound of my kids playing.  

I thought about the stern moments we had already shared that morning. I thought about my frustration, my worry, and my fears. I thought about how all of it came through in the form of a short fuse and sharp communication. 

I thought about who I am at my best and what’s most important to me.

I marveled at the striking similarities between my experience that morning and that of the squirrel who was sitting on the fence. It was uncanny.

A thought occurred to me. I wondered if it might be a decent idea for me to play with my kids for while. I wondered if it might restore and energize me. I wondered if it might strengthen our bond.

I smiled. I set my coffee cup down. I walked past my computer, I climbed the stairs, and I played. I felt happy.

After all, I can always gather nuts later.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

And Daddy

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  I haven’t spent much time at home in the evenings lately.  That happens from time to time.  Sometimes during the school year periods of time exist that require educators to be extra-present at school and/or in places connected to the work we do at school.  

We thrive on that presence.  It propels our goals and helps us drive cultures of positive partnerships, learning and growth on behalf of the students we serve.  

At the same time that extra-presence occasionally keeps us at arms length from our families.  It sometimes keeps us fighting for balance.  I’ve become a decent scrapper in the fight for balance, far from perfect, but a decent scrapper.  I would encourage anyone engaged in that fight to stand firm in it.  As you know, balance is as important as any other thing when it comes to forward progress in all realms (if not more important).

On good nights, lately, I’ve been arriving just in time to find the kids either brushing their teeth or settling into bed.  Lorelei orchestrates the bedtime dance with what appears to be ease.  Actually, it’s not easy.  She’s become a more than decent scrapper in that fight.

The other night when I approached the threshold of our home I noticed two huge eyes, seemingly fused to the inside side of the distorted glass of the door.  It was as if a cartoon owl wearing bottle-thick reading glasses was waiting for me.  

It turned out that the eyes did not belong to a cartoon owl but rather to our four-year-old.  I knew it even before I entered the house because the eyes were settled in at about thigh level, and also, I could make out his signature excited smile, warped through the glass though it was, it was unmistakably his.  It rested a bit below the huge eyes and just underneath a smushed little nose.  His as well.

It was dark outside.  It was cold.  The glow from the windows and the door had me feeling as though I had walked out of a dark, cold wood toward a cozy cabin harboring a flickering fire.  

As I stepped up, close enough for the big-guy to see it was me, I heard what sounded like an uncontrollable, primal scream.  He belted it out in unabashed enthusiasm.  No words were needed.  It felt good to be on the receiving end of that enthusiasm.  I walked into a gigantic bear hug that almost knocked me over.  Gigantic and extended.

I shed my coat, scarf, and multiple “teacher-bags” with in excess of forty extra pounds strapped on my body in the form of a loving “welcome home.”  

Before I made the kitchen our nine-year-old was jumping up and down in front of me (and my attached sidekick), shout-talking, “Daddy…today I showed my “Genius Hour” project to the class!”

“…And Daddy, I found ‘Harry Potter’ in the library and read a few pages of the chapter we’re on, but not the whole thing…I think I know who’s trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone!”

“…And Daddy, do you remember that game I told you about?  We played it a recess and I won!”

“…And Daddy…”

“…And Daddy…”

“…And Daddy…”

On and on he went.  There weren’t breaks enough between the “and Daddy” expressions for me to respond.  Responses were not needed.  I soaked it in.  I was exhausted, but this was it.  This was why I did the rest of it.  This was the reward.  This was the prize.

There I stood, one kid still hanging around my waist and one literally jumping for joy as he outlined moment after moment of his day, giving me a snapshot vision of how it unfolded, sharing his story with me, and connecting. 

We must remind ourselves of how important it is to be accessible to the kids we serve, those we serve as parents and those we serve as educators.  We must remind ourselves because like balance and bedtime routines, as wonderful as it can be, we’ve got to fight for it.  That kind of accessibility comes along with multiple challenges.  It’s not always easy.  

At times we feel free.  At times we’re organized and relaxed.  Those are times when it’s easy and fun.  

At times we feel confined.  At times we’re scattered and tense. Those are times when it’s not easy, and when it can even be frustrating (as silly as that sounds).  

Sometimes we do it well.  Sometimes we sink into the energy and the words our kids so enthusiastically send our way.  Sometimes we listen with wide eyes and deep appreciation.  

Sometimes we don’t do it well.  Sometimes we struggle to shed the complex energy of each day and find our kids’ words muddling our thinking and frustrating our restoration.  Sometimes we struggle to listen, struggle to hear, and struggle to appreciate.  

It breaks my heart to think about.  

Wouldn’t it be great if we could be the parents and educators we would describe ourselves as in every moment?  Wouldn’t it we wonderful to be able to give our kids all they need in all the moments we spend with them?

Maybe we do.  Maybe we do it in ways we don’t fully understand, even during the times during which we’re questioning ourselves.  

Maybe along with accessibility our kids need to see us struggling, failing, and climbing our way back, even, and maybe especially when that climb is a rough one.

If that is the case, we might also consider showing them how we forgive ourselves.  If it’s not me might consider it anyway.

While I continue trying to catch, receive, and savor every “and Daddy” that comes my way I plan to also continue remembering that I’m human, and that sharing my whole self with the kids I serve, in ways they can understand and learn from, in genuine and caring ways, and in ways lined with hope and optimism, seems like the right thing for me to do.

As you think about how you serve the kids you serve what will you continue trying to do, in what ways, and why?

I’m finding that raising kids is very rarely easy but that it’s always miraculous.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.