Tagged: curiosity

Relaxation Time

This week I had the opportunity to spend some time as a guest teacher in music and art classes. I’m not a music teacher or an art teacher, but I do appreciate both disciplines, and both music and art play significant roles in my life. So I enlisted my experience with and knowledge of each, and I thought about how the creative arts bring joy and balance into my life as I prepared to teach.

When I was a child my parents enrolled me in piano lessons. I never became a virtuoso, but I gained enough understanding to be able to connect with the keys in a way that produces sound some might consider music. Occasionally I sit at the piano, produce that sound and find myself entering into and enjoying a state of mind research around well-being would identify as a “flow.” It’s a state of mind that can engender pathways to focus and calm.

In each music class I spent some time playing the piano as the kids rested. I asked them to aim at letting the music guide their thinking. I wasn’t sure how it would go. It went well. It especially went well with our youngest learners. Kindergarten and first grade students in each class allowed themselves to dive deep into the activity. The room became still and calm each time I facilitated this process. They seemed to have an aptitude for mindfulness. Moreover, they seemed to have an interest in it.

The day after my short tenure as a music teacher I received a note that described an extension of the meditation activity. A parent wrote to her child’s teacher and the teacher forwarded the note to me. She wrote that her first grader came home from school talking about having “relaxation time” in music class. She went on to share that they recreated the activity before bedtime with some music and guidance on relaxation. According to her report, the child said, “This feels nice, we should do this every night.”

I believe we all should do this every night, or during each day if it fits in better. The fact is, everyone can benefit from mindfulness as a part of a consisted self care focus. 

The world in an incredibly busy place. The stressors are real and the challenges are…well, really quite challenging. When we take the time to be present and calm, when we dedicate ourselves to a positive mindset, when we focus and deeply engage, we reflect, process and heal with increased efficiency and productivity. 

Individually and collectively, when take deep breaths and allow ourselves to live in each moment, we build capacity for a genuine focus on what truly matters…ourselves and one another. When we teach this critical life skill to our children, we enhance their futures and the future of our world. 

Slow down, breath deep, we got this. 

Thanks for reading…in it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Breathe. All We Have Is Now. Relax. UR OK.

Breathe. All we have is now. Relax. UR OK.

This is the message on one of the many sculptures along the path of “The Walk of Art” sculpture park (“Art Rapids”) in our lovely downtown Elk Rapids – about five minutes from the farm. If you’re a northern Michigan enthusiast and you haven’t been to the sculpture park, I recommend you put it on the itinerary for an upcoming trip. It’s wonderful. 

One of the features of the park are these intermittent offshoots of roadsigns, with messages of hope, love and inspiration. One is a stop sign that reads, “Start” instead of “Stop.”

Another is a “One Way” sign that’s not rectangular but heart-shaped, indicating that the only way is love.

Still another articulates the foundational message of this post. 

Breathe. All we have is now. Relax. UR OK.

I like the message, and given that I’ve always viewed life as a journey, I like that it’s being broadcast from a road sign in this case.

Another important feature of the park (at least during our visit a few weekends ago) was an overwhelming multitude of what I’ve come to learn are called Oak Leafrolllers. 

Oak Leafrollers are the tiny green worms that hang by threads of silk from oak trees. During this particular trip to the park it was as if we were transported into an Oak Leafroller obstacle coarse. They were everywhere.

The more we focused on the little tree climbing critters the more they seemed to multiply. We realized that they were on our clothes and in our hair. As we walked on we felt them on our arms and worried that they were getting into our ears and mouths. Phantom tickles and itches overtook us.

We began to duck and run. Then we rolled and crawled through the pathways of the woods like highly skilled military operatives. Finally, we ran faster then ever before, bobbing and weaving as we went. Occasionally one of us would grab another, sometimes dropping to the ground, frantically wiping and patting the other clean from these great green silk monsters before scrambling to our feet to flee some more. 

Some of us were laughing with such uncontrolled enthusiasm that tears were streaming down our faces (that was primarily me and Lorelei – some proud parenting moments), while others had streaming tears as a result of the deep, genuine and unabashed fear-based crying they had succumb to in the face of this newfound tiny-worm terror (the kids were getting pretty excited about the sheer volume of leafrollers – the woods were dense with them). It was pretty close to utter chaos by the time we reached the car.

What’s worse, the leafrollers had sent battalions of their kinsmen to cover our car while we were fighting for dear life to avoid them on the forest battlefield. 

We had to expertly navigate our way into the vehicle without letting them overtake us (of heaven forbid, get inside). The danger persisted. Some hung on for dear life as we drove away. We promised the kids that the wind would blow the rest off. It didn’t. We watched through the windows in terror as the strongest and most persistent among them clung on, taunting us the entire way to the farm. 

In the end we survived the vicious attack of completely harmless, tiny little bugs to whom we were not doubt the most menacing, hideous and gigantic creatures imaginable…but only by the skin of our teeth.

Later, I looked them up on the internet. Turns out, collectively, they’re described as a nuisance. Curious. Really they’re just trying to eat some oak leaves, build cocoons, and morph miraculously into moths. 

I wondered if maybe we were actually the collective nuance in this particular situation. You know, because we ran around screaming at them, swatting them with sticks, swiping them around, ripping them from their silk lifelines and violently disrupting their beautiful, natural course with unfettered  rage. Just a wonder I had. 

It made me think about perspective. As parents and educators we often find ourselves in situations that are frustrating, and even unsettling. The Great Berg Oak Leafroller Battle of 2021 reminded me that thoughtful, compassionate reflection can serve us, and those around us well. 

When we take the time and make the effort to relax into the moments of our lives, whether or not we understand them immediately, we seem more likely to be able to enlist our capacity for calm, and as a result, we seem more likely to navigate the ebbs and the flows with strength and empathy. 

Whether we’re being attached by tiny floating worms or facing the bumpy road of child raising, calm hearts and minds tend to win the day, for all involved.

So as we continue together, if you can…breathe. All we have is now, and if you are able…relax. UR OK.

Thank you for reaching…in it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

The Fourth Best Soccer Player In The Fifth Grade

The other day when I got home from work our 6-year-old came running while simultaneously asking me to, “Guess what happened at school!”

I hand’t a clue, but I was certainly curious.

The words burst out of his mouth, “I stole the ball from the fourth best soccer player in the fifth grade!”

He and his fifth grade brother gave each other a high five with huge grins on their faces. Lorelei reminded him it was a good thing that we didn’t “take it easy” on him during the family soccer game at the farm last weekend (even thought he asked us to). She suggested that playing full steam with his fifth grade brother may have helped him become the new fourth best player in the fifth grade…as a first grader. He smiled even bigger. 

This is a kid who insisted he did not want to play soccer. Conversely, Lorelei and I have insisted that all of our kids play recreational soccer. Whether or not they want to continue after the first couple of years is up to them. We believe the game is a great onramp into organized sports for all kids. At the recreational level it’s really about running around and having fun, and they get to have experiences with coaching and teamwork in loving, kind spaces.

This is our 6-year-old’s first season and he’s rocking it. After his reluctance to join up, he quickly found a place on the team and a place in his heart for the game. Now, he’s running with the pack, developing skills and having tons of fun each week. In the beginning, we could hardly get him to take the field for practice. 

It was the same with piano lessons (another non-non-negotiable for the Berg kids). His energy around that weekly torment continues to ebb and flow. Ironically, he’s doing great in both endeavors. “Great” meaning engaged and demonstrating growth and intermittent joy around that growth. He’s learning to understand himself as a learner on the piano and on the soccer field, and that’s the name of the game as we sed it. He’s regularly feeling a sense of accomplishment, which research shows is good for health and well-being. 

Throughout the year there are plenty of wonderful events and activities available to our kids. I would suggest that it’s important to give them gentle nudges from time to time, and to help guide them through the resilience it takes to stay with short and long term goals, and community/team commitments. 

Keep an eye out for programs and events for kids, have conversations to determine interest, approach those conversations with enthusiasm, push a bit when you see a spark, and be a guide through the challenges that kids face along pathways to progress as they learn the range of critical skills that will no doubt transfer to a multure of areas in school, work and life.

Community and school programs are safe and caring spaces for kids to make mistakes, experience and build through failures and successes, and problem solve around challenges and celebrate triumphs. Who knows, they may even find themselves becoming the fourth best soccer player in the fifth grade! 

Thanks for reading…in it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Shadowy Movement And Sound

Today I’m writing from the farm. The farm is about four hours north of Detroit. Lorelei and I took the kids up to see if we could get a glimpse of some colors starting to change and to lake some long, slow, deep breaths after another stretch filled with busy weekdays. The colors are starting to change but not quite popping, and the long slow breaths are as easy as every to take on the farm. 

During the past three or four trips to the farm we’ve been hearing what sounds like a relative large animal bounding about in the woods behind the farmhouse. We walk the trail system a couple times each day. The woods are dense, and until today, I haven’t been able to catch a proper glimpse of the creature that seems to be squatting on our property (or maybe we’re squatting on his). From the sounds and the shadowy movements I have been able to hear and see, I’m guessing it’s a big deer. My goal has been to get eyes squarely on the big guy…maybe even a recognizable picture or two. 

This morning I went out with our 10-year-old. We heard him…and then, for the first time, we saw him. He was far away and all but hidden by some thick brush, but we saw him. 

Upon hearing us coming he leapt in a zigzag motion, through the woods and away. He leapt amazingly high and turned with incredible precision. So much so, that when the kid reported back to his siblings he told them we saw gazelle. What good fortune for us. I don’t suppose there are many gazelle sightings in northern Michigan. A fun story, though.  

Regardless, after dozens of nature walks, over a period of multiple visits, with a singular goal in mind, we were able to move the needle forward on our goal. Our quest continues. This injection of energy is just what we needed to keep the momentum going, the mystery and excitement tangible, and the possibility alive. It wasn’t today and it may not be during our next visit to the farm, but we’re confident that eventually we will meet up with our bouncy, shadowy friend – hopefully from a distance, but meet up nonetheless. 

Through this experience I’m reminded of what it is to learn, for myself, for the many adult partners with whom I collaborate each day, and for the wonderful kids we serve. As we come to understand ourselves and one another, sparks of knowing swirl in our minds alongside the sparks of excitement that swirl in our hearts. 

I’m getting to know the woods at the farm. Through exploration and focused interest, I’ve come to realize that a friend seems to be living there. I’m excited to meet that friend and working to do so with intentionality. It’s the same feeling I get when I discover a pathway to learning, whether it’s my own pathway or a pathway the comes to light around the learning of another. As an educator and a parent, the hint of a pathway can propel me forward with the magical anticipation of possibility…as I believe it can for any growth minded person. 

Once we’re set in motion, visions and goals can unfold. When we know that something is possible, we can shift from imagination to eventuality. One of the challenges we face with eventuality it that it can be waiting around the corner or it can surface three years from now. Either way, with patience, persistence, knowledge and faith, we can traverse any learning pathway we set out upon. 

Sometimes we see shadowy movements along the way, sometimes we get glimpses of outcomes, and sometimes we find ourselves staring at crossroads marking the end of one journey and the beginning of another. In any case, it is our job to hold true to course, bobbing and weaving with the ebbs and flows, and putting one foot in front fo the other for ourselves and the children we serve. 

Each In Our Own Way (An Equity-Based Reflection On Helping Our Children Connect With, Appreciate And Love Those Who Look, Think, And Act In Vastly Different Ways From Them)

*The names I’m using in this reflection are not the actual names of any children involved. I’m using alternate names to protect privacy. 

Confusion, Worry And Fear

A few weeks into the new school year our youngest child, a six-year-old starting first grade, came home from school with a troubled mind. I could see that he was deep in thought. As we went about our typical after school routine he presented as worried and distracted. 

Before long he asked if he could speak with me alone. We went outside together, where he began to reluctantly unfold a story of two children at his school with special needs. As he told me about the kids, tears formed in his eyes.

First he told me about being scared. In his words, he said that Brandon was aggressive on the playground. He told me that he sees Brandon approaching kids and insisting on playing with them in ways that frightened him. 

He said that Brandon gets physical with kids; that he uses his hands and his body in ways that make him nervous and uncomfortable; that Brandon communicates in ways that are different from how the typically functioning kids he’s used to playing with communicate, and that he’s worried about having to confront the potential eventuality of Brandon approaching him on the playground. In his way, he asked for permission to not have to engage with Brandon as school.

Knowing our child, I could see the internal struggle that this ask, and this need presented for him. He’s an empathic, compassionate person. I could see him wishing he didn’t feel this way, feeling bad about himself, and feeling bad for Brandon. 

My Brain Won’t Let Me 

Next he told me about Marvin. He told me that Marvin is in his class. He said he could see that Marvin needs friends but doesn’t have any. He told me he’s not scared of Marvin because Marvin doesn’t behave in ways that frighten him, but in ways that demonstrate his struggles with communication and socialization. He told me that he thinks he could be the friend Marvin needs, but that whenever he thinks about becoming Marvin’s friend, his brain won’t let him. 

No two children are the same. That said, most children’s unique qualities don’t overtly differentiate them from the group. At least not in the eyes their peers. Most children, regardless of gender, learning style, energy level, interests, developmental readiness, capacity for age-appropriate communication, and lived experiences don’t stand out in ways that make them unapproachable. Brandon and Marvin are both visibly unique from most other kids. 

As parents, guardians and educators, we can tune in to subtle and explicit differences between children. Children, with their concrete, relatively inexperienced world views, tend to be less adept at identifying subtle differences, and they tend to be hyper aware of explicit ones. 

To no fault of their own, children tend to notice when other children behave in ways that appear “out of the ordinary,” and because they don’t have the knowledge or experience to process why a peer would look and sound so different, they can easily fall into worry and even fear around socializing with kids who they identify as acutely different.

Our child’s description of the struggle he’s experiencing around wanting, and attempting to support a friend with special needs (“my brain won’t let me”), tells us a lot about a critical and persistent social emotional challenge felt by all of children.

We know that, like our child, both Brandon and Marvin need to experience genuine friendships. We know that developing genuine friendships with people who present as different from us, whether vastly or subtly, is mutually beneficial. 

We also know that diminishing classroom, school and community cultures can quickly and easily (while often unknowingly and inadvertently) be built around kids who’s communication and behavior are outside of the norm. This is an incredibly important point for parents, guardians and educators to be aware of as we work hard to listen to and guide our children around challenges that surface at school. 

When children come home with negative reports and concerns about their peers, we can help them focus on an “each in our own way” lens by exploring context with them. We can remind them that each person views the world in a unique way, based on who they are and what they’ve experienced, and that our abilities and world-views tend to guide our thoughts, feelings and actions. 

We can teach them that we’re all learning all the time, and that generally, people want to do good things and be nice. When our friends aren’t being their best selves it can often be because they don’t know how, or because they’re hurting. Sometimes it’s challenging, but patience, understanding and kindness can help.

Positive classroom, school and community cultures can lift kids up and build bridges to health and achievement, while negative classroom, school and community cultures, pointedly focused on the expressions and actions of a particular child, can deteriorate that child’s self image, limit their potential, and engrain increased worry and fear in others. 

Fortunately, as parents, guardians and educators, we have the power to perpetuate change in this area, to build paradigms of understanding around diversity, to help our children uncover the inherent foundations of compassion that exist within each of them, to drive equity, and in doing so, to enhance their lives and the world in which we all live.

Not Answers…Opportunities

When we teach our children to embrace diversity, to move toward rather than away from that which is different and/or unknown to them, to be reflective in their processing of communication and interactions with others, to consider multiple perspectives, to seek understanding (even through worry and fear), and to pull from kindness where frustration persists, we give them opportunities to expand their horizons. 

When we guide children through problem solving in any area we provide them with safe, supportive spaces to grapple with specific challenges.  When we give children safe, supportive spaces to grapple with specific challenges we provide them with experiences that can support the development of their ability to grapple with other challenges. 

Children become better problem solvers when they have our permission to work on solving the problems that are in front of them. Along with that permission, they benefit from our support, our love and our guidance.

A Solid Foundation For A Lifelong Journey

Our child continues to tell me that he’s nervous around Brandon and that he still hasn’t approached Marvin or become his friend. He also continues to tell me that he thinks he can be the friend that Marvin needs. 

The other day he told me that he thinks the first step will be introducing himself. He said, “We’ve never even met…maybe if we met we would become friends.”  He’s outlined multiple pathways to officially meeting Marvin, from asking his teacher to introduce them to approaching him on the playground. He continues to grapple and I continue to support. 

I don’t have the answers. While I hope they do, they may never become friends. I nudge but I don’t push. I listen and I affirm the reality of swirling emotions. I don’t know how to ease the intensity of those emotions or impart a sense of comfort around this or any of the multitude of difficult childhood challenges. 

I do know that every child is living a life in which developing skills of compassion, along with the skills needed to communicate, collaborate, and otherwise engage with one another, is a potential pathway to increased joy and balance for them and for those who they meet along the way. 

I know that we serve children well when we drive cultures of acceptance in our classrooms, school and communities, and aid our children in understanding that they can and should love and embrace others, even those who behave in ways that confuse and worry them. 

When we help them see that the personalities, inherent capacities and lived experiences of those around them contribute to their thoughts, feelings and actions, we help them put behavior into context and better manage their  interactions and relationships.

As with all challenging journeys, the complex pathways of supporting our children’s positive progress and well-being are long and winding, they’re sometimes shrouded in mist, and they’re often confusing. I would suggest that an “each in our own way” lens is solid foundation for achieving healthy outcomes, for them and for us.

End of The Year Message to My School Community: “The Start”

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been thinking and talking about the end of the school year.  Some of us count the days, some of us try to slow the time so that we can “get everything done,” and some of us simply reflect. Each in our own way, we take it one step at a time. It’s a yearly journey that none of us can, or would want to avoid.

For me, it’s bittersweet. Bitter because in a couple of days I will no longer be starting each morning alongside hundred of students and dozens of colleagues whose company I so greatly enjoy. Not for a while, anyway. For a while, things will be different. Slow, steady, and peaceful, but different. Summer breaks come with a shortage of daily challenges. Relaxing, however, the daily challenges of school leadership are also daily opportunities for problem solving, which fuels me. It keep me on my toes, sharp, thinking fast, and it keeps me collaborating with a bunch of people I respect, appreciate and admire. 

There’s a sweetness to slowing down, and we all know that absence makes the heart grow fonder, which is why year after year we also feel the incredible excitement of the beginning of the school year as summer wanes. 

I don’t view this time as an ending, and I would suggest that others might benefit by considering that lens as well. We do have to cross the threshold, and that crossing brings real emotion. I recommend letting yourself feel whatever it is you feel, and as you do, prepare to make the most of what is also the start of something that can be wonderful. 

Try to step into summer break with as much enthusiasm as possible. Spend as much time as you can with family and friends. Get enough sleep. Read books about things that interest you. Work with your hands. Go for long walks. Sail and swim whenever you come across bodies of water. Be present in each moment.

Enjoy the start of summer break. Each of us has earned it. We’ve run a marathon like never before. It’s time to take really good care of ourselves and those we love.  

With my deepest gratitude on behalf of myself and the students we serve…here’s to a joyful and balanced summer break!

In it together for the kids!

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

My Wife Is A Wonderful Person


My wife is a wonderful person.

Currently, she’s leading a shoe drive. You can read about it here: https://www.candgnews.com/news/shoe-drive-raises-funds-for-community-action-supports-entrepreneurs-abroad-120531

I’ve never lead a shoe drive. She’s leading one…and it’s helping a lot of people, brining a lot of people together, and strengthening a community by way of their shared interests and core values. 

My wife is a wonderful person. 

Let’s take a step back, though. 

In the mornings, she makes sure that all ten of us have everything we need for a successful and fulfilling day. Herself, our four dogs, our four kids and me (and not in that order). Everyday, we each head to where we’re going, fully equipped to do the things we need to do…because of my wife. 

My wife is a wonderful person.

Often, our kids aren’t sure what they want for lunch. She works with them until they come to some sort of agreement. “Works with them” being a rather loose phrase for how the process goes. Our kids are kind and loving, however, they occasionally ignore my wife in the morning (and midday, and in the afternoon, and in the evening…we’re working on it). So, my wife has to exercise an incredible amount of patience in order to get things going, and she does. 

And get this, they always have balanced lunches…and not just balanced lunches, but balanced with things that each one of them will eat. One of them seems to like grapes along side turkey that’s rolled up with cheese, and some yogurt, and carrot sticks, and another one seems to like turkey on little Hawaiian buns, next to cucumbers (cut in half the long way), with a cheese stick and some watermelon, while yet another one seems to be partial to sun-butter and jelly (or something like that). I think our six-year-old’s preference is left over tikka masala. Who knows. My wife does. 

My wife a wonderful person. 

Getting us out of the house and fed is one thing. In and of itself, I can’t imagine how it’s done. I mean, I can roll turkey and cheese, make a sandwich, and even put tikka masala in a thermos, that’s not where my inability to imagine the ordeal is rooted. It’s that when I think about coordinating it all for myself, five other people and four dogs, and making each one happy, it seems an unlikely, if not an impossible task. When she does it (every day), it doesn’t even look like she’s struggling. Amazing. 

My wife is a wonderful person.

During the day, I sometimes call my wife. I need her to help me problem solve, I need to share my thinking with her, and sometimes I need to vent. How does that help her, you may ask? Actually, it doesn’t. She takes time out of her days to help me. She listens, she supports, she reminds me that I’m capable, and she celebrates my progress. 

I often call her on my way home, too. She get’s to listen to me talk while she’s managing endless after school activities like homework, snacks, playdates, and piano lessons. Lucky? Not exactly. Wonderful? Precisely.

For over a year, she’s been doing everything she always does, personally and professionally, while also making sure that our four kids (ages 6 to 11) have remained engaged in school and progressing, nourished, balanced, physically active, spiritually connected, and extremely comfortable by any standard, let along for a bunch of people in a pandemic, relegated to each other’s space all day…every day. 

My wife is a wonderful person.

My wife is the well regarded and highly respected Executive Director of our synagogue. Alone, what she does in that role is really unbelievable. She pours her heart and her soul into it, she always has our spiritual community in mind, and she’s constantly thinking about ideas and implement programs to enhance the lives of each individual who’s in any way connected…while also extending thoughtfulness, compassion, and grace to people in all spaces of the greater Detroit area, throughout Michigan, across the country and out into the world, with her professional influence, business acumen and leadership prowess. She does all of this in collaboration with the many wonderful partners she listens to, learns from and leads so fluidly. They all seem to really like her, too…and rightfully so. She’s likable and lovely.

My wife is a wonderful person.

From morning to night, my wife takes care of everything and everyone in her path. I don’t know when she takes care of herself, but strangely, she never seems to suffer from compassion fatigue. She wakes up and goes to sleep highly productive, efficient and nurturing. I’m essentially a bump on a log, and yet, she continues to let me hang around. 

My wife is a wonderful person.

When my wife reads this, she will push back. She will insist that we’re partners, that she’s not carrying the weight completely independently, that she’s imperfect and makes mistakes, that she’s got “a lot to learn” and “a long way to go,” and she may even make the absurd suggestion that I, too, have some function in perpetuating the blessed life we’re living. She will downplay her brilliance, her merit and her accomplishments – as wonderful people often do. 

I will ignore her, and that’s ok…she’s used to it.

My wife is wonderful person.

Lorelei, you have my love, respect and gratitude, now and forever. Happy Mother’s day 2021!

Just a Random Person in The World

Our 6-year-old was asking me about Dr. King, as he frequently does. He asked me if he could watch the “I have a dream” speech. He watched, and listened intently, and then he turned to me and asked, “Daddy?”

“Yes?” I relied.

He said, “Daddy, Dr. King is special.” 

I agreed. 

He went on, “Daddy…because I’m white, I have…what is it called?”

“Privilege,” I reminded him.

“…and that’s not fair,” he quickly added.

“No, it’s not,” I agreed.

He contemplated that for a moment. He’s a thoughtful kid. He pointed to the statue of Buddha we have under one of the trees in our yard and said, “…and he was special, right?”

“He was,” I agreed.

“Why,” he asked.

“Well,” I told him, “he was a prince who gave up all his money and power to spend time teaching people to love one another, to live with peace and compassion, and to give to those in need.”

With a bit of a head nod, and slightly under his breath, he uttered, “Wow.”

“…and the president with the big hat?” He continued.

“Abraham Lincoln?” I asked.

“Ya.”

“What about him?”

“Was he special?”

“He was,” I said.

He shook his head in what looked like frustration, to me. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I want to help people. I want to use my whiteness to help people,” He said. I believe he meant privilege.

“You can,” I told him.

“But I’m not special,” he informed me, “I’m just a random person in the world.”

What followed was a discussion about passion, drive, intention, faith and vision. I so deeply want to help him understand that he’s capable of whatever he puts his mind to, and that in fact, that’s part of what his privilege affords him. He will have opportunities to pursue his dreams that others won’t, and if he dreams of helping others gain privilege, he can focus his energy in that direction and achieve great things. 

I want him to understand that we are each special, and that we don’t need an audience of millions or the presidential seal to effect change. 

If his wish is to be an agent of kindness, compassion, and progress in this world, he can be just that…one person at time, by treating everyone he comes across in ways that lift and value them. 

He may never receive accolades for his work in this area, but I want him to know that if he does the work, if he does it with and open heart and an open mind, accolades won’t matter, because he will be changing the world for the better with every step he takes.

All of us, even the great ones, are just random people in the world…and all of us, even those whose voices don’t stretch across vast distances, when we think and act in special ways…we are all special. It takes every one of us, in every space, to bring light into darkness, and to fill our world with love.

I’m proud of the kid. At 6-years-old, he’s already thinking about and living his dream (whether he knows it or not), and wow is he special!

In it together for the kids.

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

What Keeps Me Up At Night

I was walking with our 11-year-old at the Zoo yesterday. He said, “Daddy?”

I said, “Yes?”

He said, “What if aliens use the same words as us, but they mean something completely different?”

I didn’t need to ask for clarification…he went on before I could,” I mean, like, what if the word ‘want’ means ‘pickle’ to aliens, or what if the work ‘play’ means ‘book?’

His voice began to shake a bit, his energy level lifted, and his shoulder and arms started oscillating up and down, and back and forth.

He continued, “…and, like when they say that no two snowflakes are the same, that’s impossible. There have been so many snowflakes. It just ins’t possible that none of them are the same.”

He took a sharp breath and kept going, “…and if aliens do use the same words as we do but the means something different, they wouldn’t be able to understand anything we’re talking about. They might think we’re saying something different than what we’re actually saying. It would be so confusing!”

He started to make that face you make when you feel like crying but you’re not quite there. The kind of face you make when you’d like to be there…when a good cry might be just what you need.

He went through a series of equally interesting and unique diatribes on a variety of seemingly unconnected subjects before taking a deep breath, looking up at me, and letting me know, “That’s what keeps me up at night.”

Then, he said something I didn’t expect.  It was just about the most obvious thing he could have said, and I’m not sure why I didn’t expect it, but I didn’t.  He said, “…and I’m really tired of COVID.”

Aha.

Duh.

Surprise, surprise…our 11-year-old is tired of living his first year of middle school without having seen the inside of an actual school.

He’s tired spending time with his the top third of his friends’ heads from six feet away.

He’s tired of living every waking moment trying to start the next phase of his physical, emotional, social, and spiritual life surrounded by his mom, his dad, and his three younger siblings.

He’s tired of wondering if he’ll get sick.

He’s tired of so much being so far out fo his control. 

Or, maybe he’s truly and deeply concerned about the possibility that us and aliens seem to have no hope of ever understanding one another. Yah, that’s probably it.

They may not be telling us exactly what’s on their minds in every moment.

They may not know.

It might not always, or even ever end with, “…and I’m really tired of COVID.” 

It may not matter.

It may only matter that we take whatever time we can to be there. 

We can’t relieve our children of the inevitable hurt they’re going to suffer repeatedly over the course of their lives, but we can be there to listen as they process. We can make clear that we care, that they are not alone, that even challenging is also a chance, and that sharing emotions represents a really healthy kind of strength.

Listen. Make time. Genuinely listen. Value, celebrate, respect, model, guide, and validate. 

Kids of this COVID generation may turn out to be the most resilient human beings in history. They may be the ones to actually be the change we want; the change we need.

Heck, they may learn how to communicate with aliens. 

We can help them with our hearts, our minds, and our ears.

Funny thing, when we do…it helps us, too.

In it together for the kids.

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

Ride While Crying: A Focus on Resilience Through Trauma

This is hard.

It’s hard in a strange way.  I don’t always realize how hard it is.

I sometimes find myself engaged in the following reflexive Q and A:

“How are you?”

“Doing good.”

“How are the kids?”

“Great.”

I understand that there are many families challenged in ways that our family can’t even imagine.

I know that we live with privilege , and that experiencing a global health crisis is different for me and my family than it is for many others. I understand that it doesn’t always feel hard for us because we have everything we need, and if we think need something we don’t have, we can either get it or live without it. Joyfully, even.

We’ve spent most of our moments enjoying time together over the past several months, feeing comfortable and secure, and being able to generate strength on the foundation of the “silver linings” lens we’re fortunate to see through and live within. I know that our privilege exists on the foundation of a void of privilege for others. I also know writing that sentiment won’t provide resources, security or health to the others in question, but somehow I felt pulled to write about that recognition of my privilege as a precursor to the following reflection, so I did.

One of my mentors puts our situation like this: same storm, different boats.

To whatever extent, and on whatever level, we are each living through trauma in this moment. We are each wondering when some normalcy will return to our world, for our children and for ourselves, and we are each hoping beyond hope that it will be sooner rather than later.

Our five year old learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels this summer.  One of his favorite British television shows refers to training wheels as “stabilizers” – so of course, we do too.

On the first day of riding without stabilizers he managed to slowly but surely plow head first into the giant cement base of a sign post. I watched in wonderment as his face ran in what seemed to be slow motion across the gritty cylinder. Unable to stop himself, he slid all the way to the ground, bracing himself with his head. It was fascinating and troubling simultaneously. Thankfully, thick skulls run in our family.

As he managed his way back up, untangling his legs from the bike frame along the way, hopping and shifting to gain balance, determined to reset, I noticed a gigantic alligator tear sliding down his reddened cheeks. 

I suspected he’d be ready to throw in the towel. I was wrong.

This kid, my strong-willed wife’s son, our adventurous explorer, the determined fourth child, looked up at me in earnest and asked, “Can I ride while crying?”

“You sure can, brother.”

And ride he did.

And guess what…he wasn’t crying for long.

Again, this is hard. Whoever you are, whatever boat you’re in…this is hard.

None of us have stabilizers for a pandemic.

Cry if you need to.  I have.  I’m sure I will some more.

But, ride while crying. 

We’re strong.  We’re courageous.  Individually and collectively we have the will to overcome, to survive, and to thrive.

We aim for joyful and balanced days, and a bright future for ourselves and our children…and our aim is true.

Have your good days and your bad days. 

Fall apart as frequently as you need to, but always put yourself back together – better than before.

Forgive yourself for stumbling.

Be ok with the mess of it all.

Build resilience.

Ride while crying.

In it together for the kids!

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