Tagged: potential

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.

My 2020 Fifth Grade Commencement Address in Speech and Song

This past week I offered a commencement address honoring the first group of students I met as kindergarteners when I became an elementary school principal.

Needless to say, this is very special moment in time for me. 

I remember the feeling of being “the new principal.”

I remember feeling like I had a lot to learn about the job, and that I had a lot to learn about the kids. 

Caring for children from the age of 4 or 5 through the age of 10 or 11 is a different thing than caring for children beginning when they’re more advanced along their educational journey. 

Along with the families and staff who are my partners, I feel like I’ve played a role in raising these kids, and the truth is, I’m extremely proud of them. 

To be clear, I’m proud of every student I’ve met along this journey. 

Still, for these kids, I’m the only principal that they’ve had.

So this year, as I considered a commencement address, I sat and looked at the cabinet in my office which is lined with the handprints these 10 and 11-year-olds gifted me when they were 4 and 5-year-olds. 

I thought of their hands then, what their hands have done since, and what their hands, hearts, and minds are capable of doing now. 

I truly believe in the power of possibility, and I truly believe that these uniquely challenging times will foster a type of resilience that will manifest in positive world change generated from the hands, hearts and minds of this group of kids. 

So, in this year’s address I spoke some words from my heart, and remembering that music can deliver a message in alternate ways, I decided to sing as well. 

I sang a song that I wrote for all of the children of this generation. All of those who are engaged in any transition, moving from grade level to grade level or to from school to school, and in particular, for the four children my wife and I spend our days with, watching them thrive in an environment that completely shifted under their feet. 

Kids are resilient, and they learn how to grapple by having things to grapple with.

This generation of kids, at every level, are going to be sophisticated, compassionate, productive, and positive grapplers. 

As I watch the world go by with slow change in the rearview mirror and all around me, I have every bit of confidence that this generation will be the one to see our hopes and dreams of widespread peace, love, unity, inclusion and belonging fulfilled.

This is my message as I bid our fifth grade graduates a safe, joyful, and balanced journey forward. 

This is my message to all children. 

This is my message to anyone who’s interested.

In it together for the kids!

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

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.

Finding the Good Ain’t Bad

Our experiences impact how we feel and how we function.  

Positive experiences tend to uplifted and energized us. Negative experiences can produce a range of responses that cause us to feel a range of emotions, from contemplative to drained of energy and upset.  

All of our experiences are important. None are without value.  

Even feeling pain, sadness and fear can help us learn and grow. Challenging emotions support the building of resilience. 

I’ve heard it said that kids learn to grapple when they have things to grapple with. I believe that’s true for all of us, kids and adults. We need to grapple in order to grow. We need to do so in thoughtful, safe and intentional ways. 

With focus and strength we can lift and shift the experiences of our days, and we can maximize the value of each. We can do it by compartmentalizing.  

When we make note of, and seek to understand our experiences, we can deign an energy flow that promotes positivity, productivity, and health. In this way, we can enhance our ability to process experiences, both positive and negative. 

Imagine each experience you have as a dash in a long, broken but cohesive line. A chain of events. Indelibly interwoven, but not connected physically. Imagine each experience as one piece of your day that eventually becomes a completed puzzle. 

Some experiences practically process themselves while some are more difficult to process.  

If we lift the more difficult dashes, or pieces, above the imaginary line of our daily experiences, and separate them from those that flow easily, we can put them aside for later reflection.

We can’t attend to everything in the moment it happens. There’s simply too much. If we want to remain present we can’t get wrapped up in every challenging emotion that comes our way. When we lift and shift, we can breath, regroup, focus, and go back to experiences with intentionality.

It’s not easy and it takes practice, however, when I’m able to achieve the lift and shift, I find it extremely worthwhile. 

For example, when someone treats me in an unkind way, and I’m able to lift that treatment out of my immediate timeline rather than attaching myself to negative emotions, I can stay present with the game of tag I’m playing, the book I’m reading, or the joyful experience of laying on a hammock with my daughter, counting leaves and imagining that clouds are dragons and bunnies.  

When I’m ready and have some time, I can re-engage with the challenging experience and it’s connected learning in a more productive way. When I do that, the lessons seem to take hold more deeply, with meaning rather than emotion as the foundation.  

Another piece of the experiential puzzle has to do with the narratives we write about our experiences. 

Narratives are important, and they come in multiple forms. There are the narratives we write instinctively, the ones that pop into our minds as experiences are unfolding, and then there are the ones we write reflectively, given some time and space. 

If someone treats me in an unkind way my instinct might be to consider that person unkind, when actually, they are more likely upset or frustrated. 

Most often, the initial narrative from a negative experience is not the one I want to stick with, in large part because it’s typically driven by emotion. 

When I lift and shift I still write the instinctive narrative, however, I give myself an opportunity to write multiple other narratives until I find the one that’s best for my learning and growth.

What else might be happening in any give scenario, other than the reactive, emotional possibilities that can enter our minds in moments of frustration?  

After writing multiple narratives, we can connect them to the most succinct understanding of reality that we know. We can’t read minds or understand all of the finite nuances of the world in which we live, but we can find the good in most things.

This strategy can help us decrease worry about things that are outside of our control.

Lifting and shifting, in conjunction with extended and thoughtful narrative writing, helps us assume positive intentions, which in my experience most people seem to have. 

Refining out ability to process in healthy and thoughtful ways increases well-being and perpetuates positive progress for everyone involved.

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.

Stop, Drop, And Roll With It

I came across a tweet today that articulated  so beautifully what we’re driving at with a focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and wellness in our schools, our homes, and our communities.  

The tweet featured some video footage of a dog show. One of the judges noticed a little girl on the sidelines, watching the action with enthusiasm. The little girl brought her stuffed animal to the show. She’s clearly a dog person and a dog show enthusiast. It turns out that this little girls is also autistic. 

The judge noticed the girls’ enthusiasm, he stopped what he was doing, he dropped the task at hand, and he rolled with an act of compassion, kindness, and fun. 

This judge went over to the girl and her stuffed animal. He examined the toy dog as he would have with a living, breathing dog, and he proceeded to guide the girl in how to show the dog. The little girl joyfully dragged her prize puppy in a loop, showing off the fine animal’s impressive pedigree and demonstrating an outstanding level of professionalism. Who knows, this could be her calling. Wouldn’t it be cool to see this kid grow up to be a trainer? Maybe a manufacturer of stuffed animals? A producer of dog shows? Some combination of all of those things?  Something that ties her passions to her unlimited potential. Anything is possible, after all. 

So much of this situation is wonderful. As I mine it for learning I love that the judge saw and seized a chance to share loving kindness and humanity. This fine fella saw a need. He understood that there are things more important than keeping a schedule. He noticed a child for whom he could make a deeply positive impact. 

He realized, seemingly without even having to think about it, that the connections we make with one another have to potential to enlighten, exhilarate, heal, and link us. If you get a chance to watch the video, look closely at the little girl’s reaction, listen closely to the crowd’s response, focus in on the judges body language. 

This moment produced so much joy for so many. The residual effects of this man’s energy, his core values, his decision to trust an instinct, and the action he took (with that trust at hand) will no doubt ripple out indefinitely. 

The moment reached me and reminded me how important it is to trust ourselves when we know it’s time to stop, drop, and roll with it. As we teach, learn, and care for our kids together, let’s always make sure that we get this part right.

In it together for the kids! 

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

[Point your iPhone camera at the QR code below to link to the tweet and the video]

 

Everyone Will Think I’m Just a Painter

We were headed out the door to an event at the synagogue.  Of course, our five year old was wearing his pirate outfit.  It’s a good one.  There’s the lengthy, leathery foundational top coat laden with the silky, frilly accouterments you might see on the uniform of a real fake pirate.  Also, there was a right-sized sword hanging from the loop in his velvety belt.  To his credit, the sword was the centerpiece of the outfit.  Unfortunately, we simply don’t wear swords to the synagogue.  It’s just not done. 

I reminded him.  He brushed past me without acknowledging the reminder.  I called his name.  He didn’t look back.  He marched to the car grasping the sword hilt with one hand, bound and determine to keep the outfit intact.  I smiled in the light of his determination.  He’s strong-willed like his mother (and possibly his father, too).  It could serve him well some day. Off we went.

When we arrived at our destination I told him that the sword wasn’t leaving the truck with us.  He took a deep breath, he executed a precise and overt slumping of the shoulders, and then he sighed.  After an especially moving dramatic pause, and with a distant, forlorn look in his eyes, he said, “Everyone will think I’m just a painter.” 

I smiled again, trying unsuccessfully to hide it from him.  He broke the fourth wall and reflexively smiled back before quickly regaining his footing. 

Despite his best efforts, the possibly misconceived sword-less pirate and would-be a painter, his giggling sister and I walked into the synagogue. 

The idea of “what everyone thinks” is complicate.  It’s difficult to decipher, it seems really important until we understand that it’s not, and it’s almost always relatively concrete until it falls apart under the weight of self-realization.  

That is to say, we don’t really know “what every thinks” or is going to think, “everyone’s” thinking is typically set on a foundation of our own thinking (and projecting), and what others think of us (real or imagined) doesn’t change who we are or set our course in nearly as profound a way as does our own thinking.  Sometimes we think it does, but it doesn’t.  

In other words, it really didn’t matter if  everyone thought the kid was “just a painter?”  He was a pirate. He knew it.  The trick was convincing him of that “father knows best” nonsense. 

At first I thought to espouse the high qualities of painters, thinking I could initiate a paradigm shift that might comfort and instill a sense of pride in him.  Painters are creative, they have sensitivities that connect them to the world in wonderful ways, they generate beautiful works that drive imagination and spur innovation from those inspired by their shared thinking, and so on.  

I stopped short of enacting that reflexive societal instinct.  I wasn’t going to ask the pirate to pretend he was painter.  I shouldn’t.  I couldn’t. 

Fight yourself to work at becoming a thing you think “everyone else” sees you as or want’s you to be.  Try it.  Actually, I’m guessing that at one time or another you have. I would contend the core of a person is simply too strong to refuse, at least while keeping the person intact.  Whenever I’ve attempted to veer from my truest path I’ve been turned back, as if by gravity itself. 

There are many kids of painters and also assortment of pirates, I would guess.  We can certainly learn and we can undoubtedly grow.  We shift and we change in many ways over time.  However, I would suggest that we are each something at the center.  A pirate, a painter, or possibly something else.  

Children should be allowed and encouraged to get messy figuring out what’s at the heart of the matter for them.  They should try things on and see how they fit.  We should help them understand that a full and balanced life comes along with some seemingly limiting expectations (like no swords in the synagogue), but that they must push forward from a foundation of self awareness, resilience, power and pride. They should know that we expect them to go for it…whatever it is.

In it together for the kids.

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

Imagine That: The Impact of Play on Agency

Robin Williams’ Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” was a masterpiece. I highly doubt I’m alone in holding that opinion. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading, find your closest television, search it up, and see it now. Don’t forget to come back.

Welcome back!

Amazing, right? Moving and inspirational around every turn. 

I especially love the “use your imagination,” feast scene.

Old Peter sitting at a table with the lost boys, starving while watching a swath of colorful and covered serving dishes being set, steam emanating from each. Believing that they were filled with culinary treasures he could smell the feast, only to be holistically defeated as lids were thrown off to reveal the nothingness inside.  

Peter’s face sunk as he stared at  the Lost Boys digging in without hesitation. In disbelief, he watched them believe. He was frustrated, confused, and desperate. 

We saw nothing, too. Mr. Spielberg gave us Peter’s lens. It was brilliant. He would expose us to the wondrous power of imagination in the same moment it clicked for Peter. 

At one point, Thud Butt (a lost boy) asked Peter if he was going to eat what was on his plate.  Peter looked down, shrugged his shoulders, and then passed the apparently empty plate across the table with is a sarcastic huff.  Thud Butt received the plate with glee.

Just then, Juilia Roberts’ Tinkerbell (“Tink”) said, “Eat.”

Peter asked, “What’s the deal…where’s the real food?”

Tink replied, “If you can’t imagine yourself being Peter Pan you won’t be Peter Pan, so eat up!”

And there it is. If you can’t imagine yourself being (insert your name here) you won’t be (your name again)! 

Then a hint of the moment appeared. The turning point became imminent.

Peter engaged in a Battle of words with Rufio (the leader of the Lost Boys in Peter’s absence). It got heated. Finally, when enough was enough, Peter flicked a dollop of technicolored food-goop across the table at Rufio’s face. The thing is, it landed. 

Everything stopped. Everyone was stunned and/or overjoyed. Someone said, “Your doing it Peter!”

Peter said, “Doing what?”

“Using your imagination.”

Then, from that point forward, without exception or hesitation, Peter Pan was Peter Pan.

Among other things, I’m “Daddy Tickle Monster.” Imagine that.

I don’t know how it started. Our kids love being tickled, they love playing, and they love pretending. They have wild and vivid imaginations. I’ve noticed that all kids tend to.

It typically begins as soon as I walk through the door after work. One of the “littles” (our younger two of the four) greets me at the door with puppy dog eyes, fighting a sly smile, and simply asks, “Daddy Tickle Monster?”

Sometimes I hold them off for enough time to set my backpack down, take off my coat, and say “hi” to Lorelei. Eventually we end up in what I can only describe as a combination of a rugby scrum and Wrestle-Mania three. Laughing, shouting, attacking and recoiling. The kids assign personas to themselves. They call them out.

“I’m Super Banana Jumper!”

“I’m Monkey Boy!”

Usually, as they enthusiastically announce their stage names they leap into the air, only to land on me with an elbow to the lower back, a knee in the neck, or an entire little body smack dab on my head. 

I do the best I can to protect myself. Sometimes as they land I’m curled up in a ball, and then as they try to get up I reach out with lightning fast speed for a quick tickle or an extended take-down. The old man always wins.

Yesterday, our five-year-old executed an incredibly impactful whomp during a particularly energized “Daddy Tickle Monster” moment. Imagine a frozen bag of sand landing on the side of your head from about three feet up. I let our a bit of a groan as I did my best to shake of the driving pain. 

His sister redirected him in a deeply frustrated tone, “Hey, don’t hurt Daddy!”

How wonderful. She truly cares. A daughter’s deep and enduring love for her father is a beautiful thing to witness. Awww. That’s my girl.  

Or maybe I thought too fast, because her next exclamation was, “If you hurt him he won’t be able to play anymore!” 

Still, I know she loves me. I can just tell. I sure love her.

Anyway, they agreed that they should’t break their toy, and they negotiated a plan to “take it down a notch.” Neither Super Banana Jumper or Monkey Boy consulted me as they discussed the situation. It was as though I wasn’t even in the room. No more inflicting driving pain, though. That was good.

Agency, I thought. This game gives them power. 

Imagination, pretending, and playing. This stuff helps kids learn how to visualize who they are and what they can be. It stretches their potential and opens wide the truly limitless possibilities they embody.

If you can’t imagine yourself being (insert your name here) you won’t be (your name again)!

Imagine that. Literally.

I imagine myself as “Daddy Tickly Monster” during much of my life right now. Who would’ve thunk it. In my mind (and my heart), it’s among the most important things I am. 

I also imagine myself as a leader and a learner, a partner in the service of thousands of kids, and a positive contributor the world I share with everyone I pass along the way, and even those I will never know about. I imagine myself this way through the triumphs and the challenges.

I consider it a part of my job, by way of teaching, modeling, and yes…playing, to give the kids I serve opportunities, tools and permission to imagine anything and everything they can. I expect them to do just that, and to top it off, I consistently imagine the incredible things to come!

In it together for the kids.

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

Taking The Long Cut

I don’t often have the opportunity to pick our kids up from school. Usually I’m at work when they’re dismissed. Yesterday I did have that opportunity. My wife and I were able to pick them up together. It was wonderful.

We were able to pick them up because, along with my sister, we attended a funeral that had us close to school at dismissal time. Strange how life sometimes connects tragic moments with moments of celebration, and even joy. 

Loss seems to be that way in and of itself. We lost a childhood friend this past week. Danny. He was a wonderful, kind, and loving person. 

The funeral service was a celebration, and the afternoon was filled with an outpouring of love. A tragic and joyful series of moments. Confusing, upsetting, peaceful, and comforting all at once. Difficult, while simultaneously inevitable, important and meaningful. 

As our friend was eulogized we were reminded that life is for living, and specifically, that we should each live our lives in precisely the way we want, no matter what anyone says about it. This is how Danny lived. This was the message his family reminded us of as they braced themselves for a life without his physical presence. 

His sister reminded us to dance like no one is watching, because “why not?” 

She remembered her brother with no inhibitions; free, joyful, limitless in love for himself and for those around him. I hadn’t connected with Danny for many years but my heart swelled as she spoke with such longing. If only she could dance with her brother, even just one more time. She was overwhelmed with sadness and beaming with pride. She asked us to think and to speak of him often so that he might live on in our hearts, in our minds, and in the lessons he’s left as gifts for us.

Danny’s brother reminded us that nothing is more important than family as he showered us with anecdotes about Danny always putting those he loved before anything else in this world, specifically and especially his two young sons. Listening to stories relating the deep connections and the indelible bonds Danny built, maintained, and cherished tore at my heart and had me desperate for time with my family, my friends, and most importantly with my wife and children.

We all have to walk out the door. We all have to say goodbye. I sat in that space and racked my brain, trying to piece together a plan for doing it less, and for being more present. Confusing, upsetting, peaceful, and comforting all at once.

As we say, “under better circumstances.” However, it was powerfully moving and incredibly meaningful to connect with the village of people who assembled to celebrate Danny’s miraculous life yesterday. I often miss them in these busy moments that seem to sail by, too quick to truly capture. Yesterday left me deeply reflective and overwhelmed with gratitude for the life I’m blessed to be living. Tragic and joyful.

When Lorelei and I arrived at school we walked together to each of the doors our kids would be pouring out of. One by one we greeted them with hugs and high fives. They were surprised and excited to see us there together, waiting to reconnect after a long day and a long week at school and at work. 

They were all smiles, beaming with joy and enthusiasm. Detailing the excitements of the day too quickly for us to really hear, let alone process. Bouncing around us, grabbing at us, showering us with any and every thought that popped into their heads or even fluttered whimsically through their minds. 

Being together in that moment was sublime. I genuinely forgot to worry about whatever it is I’m usually worried about. I felt all together removed while at the same time inseparably connected. These moments are hard to define. They’re painted with frosted and glistening brushes. They’re saturated with stardust. They’re magical. They’re gifts.  

Our Daughter insisted that her and I walk home while the boys drove with Lorelei. She held my hand and told me, “Come on, Daddy…we’re walking!” It was freezing outside. I wasn’t cold. I was overwhelmed. That moment could have gone on forever and I would have never grown tired of it. I would have never wanted for anything else.

At each turn she asked me, “Is this the short cut or the long cut?” She insisted that we find all the “long cuts” along the way. We did. 

We turned away from home again and again as we walked through the neighborhood hand in hand, jabbering on about everything and nothing at all, smiling, laughing, skipping, eating snow, and sharing the afternoon with one another. 

Time stood still. It really did. These were genuinely pure and perfect moments. They were moments that will be impossible to ever forget, no matter how the journey unfolds. 

She told me that sometimes she takes “short cuts” when she’s trying to get somewhere quickly, and then she told me that sometimes she takes “long cuts” when she’s trying to spend more time with her daddy. She told me that and she smiled. 

I’ve been laden with gifts. 

I don’t know how this happened to me. 

I’m filled with gratitude. 

I’m working hard to be present and realize my right path in as many moments as I can. I’m trying to be ever-aware of what really matters in this life.

In the face of my many stumbles, I’m delighted to be taking the long cut. 

Rest in peace, Danny. Thank you for your lessons and for your legacy.