Wednesday, August 17, 2011

60,000 Minutes...

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon.  The kind made for the most tranquil of naps.  The kind where the sun played stop and go - hinting that it would emerge from the gloomy clouds just until you reached the door, at which it seemed to comically speed back to its overcast state.  The boys stood looking through the patio door...waiting...wanting.  So did I.  I waited to be swept away into Dreamland while suggesting we play the quiet game on my favorite couch.  What I wanted was REM sleep!

It was magical!  I'd somehow entered a new and wonderful place.  There were balloons and talking dogs.  It all felt so real.  Just as magically, hot breath began to form on my left eye lid causing me to turn my head just enough to catch what was later said to have been as a whisper.

"I'm bored...my knee hurts."
"Which knee?" I said with my eyes still closed.
[Pause]
"My elbow hurts"

The chuckles in the background were not amusing.  Having been sitting around watching the movie UP, the kids had found a way to become bored and turned their attention to the old guy faced-down on the couch.  While I didn't find their afternoon antics Kevin Hart like, I did understand.  I understood that they needed a hobby to act as a sort of diversion.  Preferably one that took their attention away from me!
It was then that I sat up and had them turn off the TV.  Wiping my now damp eye lid gave way to more chuckles until I asked a simple question. "What is it that you want to be when you grow up?  You can be anything. Go!"  I could almost see the possibilities swimming through their minds.  Because I asked them this often, they must have prepared themselves because in unison they proudly replied..."We want to make shoes!"

Now that was a new one for me and I immediately felt compelled to avert their sweat shop dreams- and quickly!  "How about you design them, I said."  Simultaneously their mouths dropped open as one mentioned his perceived inability to draw.  It was then I repeated to them one of the most profound notions I'd ever heard.  The boy was just standing there with his head hanging low when I said, "Take my shoes off boy!" With him looking down, I'd noticed him standing on the back of both my only pair of good church shoes!

Then I said, "In order to be considered a professional at anything, it's been studied that you need to practice for 10,000 hours or 60,000 minutes."  I continued, "Whether its sports or simply drawing, a dedication to your craft will get you to where you want to be."  Having read this in a recent book, I relied on its statements and their scientific study to prove my point.  Now it was time for them to prove it to themselves.  I had them gather tons of paper and begin designing.

From the beginning it was clear that the boy was justified in hanging his head.  His first concept design looked like a sort of geriatric corrective ape boot!  Then something amazing happened.  The more time they put in, the better they got!  After what seemed to them like hours, they ran back to me and proudly displayed their designs.  I must say - I was impressed.  They'd come a long way from their early Air Primate designs to footwear I'd actually like to wear.

After explaining to them that they had come so far after only twenty minutes, I couldn't wait to see what they'd do after another 59,980 minutes!  By the time I awoke, their rooms were covered in concept ideas.  Taped on the walls, mirrors, and beds, they'd clearly become inspired by this notion.

In all...it was a perfect Sunday night.  The kind made for the most cramped of hands.  The kind where I admired their work as I tucked them into Dreamland.  There I stood...waiting...wanting...  So I did.  After reaching over to whisper good night, I breathed on their eye lids the hottest of breaths just before tucking them in.  Then, reaching the doors to their rooms, I turned to "whisper"..."My fingers hurt!" They were not amused.

To read more please be sure to purchase a copy of my soon to be published book chronicling my life as a single father.  Also, feel free to donate toward its costs if you so choose by clicking the donate button @http://chroniclesofasinglefather.blogspot.com. Thanks for taking this journey with me.
Miracles and Blessings
Tron

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Weight of your Words...

I had to be about five years old before I had ever noticed it. Before it dawned on me that our conversations weren't like most. That according to "snot-nosed" Craig, our dialogue seemed both weird and unusual. This epiphany came after hearing "Snot's" play-by-play full color commentation with "Pee-Pee" Johnson of our same circle. In my whirlwind of enlightenment, it was perhaps as baffling to them as opening a Capri-Sun pouch. To me though, our conversations had always been, on all accounts, as normal to me as watching Saturday morning cartoons in only my "tighty whities." It was all I had ever known. You see, our oddity was that our conversations always went the same way - ALWAYS! Almost as if it had been ordained by the Intergalactic Conversation Committee (ICC) on Earthly Salutations when they unanimously voted it in with the "brother" handshake and dap. It was something all to our own - almost as unflappable as my "tighties." It was my father telling me that he loved me...habitually!

No really. It's to the point where it keeps happening to this day. It's what we do and what I hope Snots and Pee-Pee picked up as adults. You see, even though my father didn't understand that bleached super hero undies were never cool, he did understand the power of his words. That his words carried a sort of weight - a weight given substance simply by our relationship. A weight so heavy that if yielded incorrectly, could be so heavy as to break our own jaw!

In understanding this power myself, I've come to several conclusions. The first is that we should always speak in Pee-Wee Herman voices because five years olds find it gut busting for some reason, and secondly, that I had to continue this tradition upholding the now generations long ICC declaration. I don't know but a child hearing their father tell them he loves them does something. It validates them and sets the stage for an understanding of what real love is. Don't deprive them of that. Tell them you love them and last but not least...help your kids open up that Capri-Sun pouch. It's basically a Rubix cube for preschoolers and they're thirsty. Speak life in full color!

To read more please be sure to purchase a copy of my soon to be published book chronicling my life as a single father. Also, feel free to donate toward its costs if you so choose by clicking the donate button @ http://chroniclesofasinglefather.blogspot.com. Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Miracles and Blessings

Tron

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Break - "Look Ma - No Class..."

Look Ma - No class! It's mid-summer and the pools are open, the grills have been broken in, and the air conditioning has no doubt began its seasonal overtime schedule! As a kid, I remember this time being a most joyous and magical time! Summer camps and freeze-pops along with chasing lightening bugs and late nights. While these pastimes are still around today, our children have the inclusion of many more cable TV options, the internet (well a faster one), and Nintendo's on steroids!

With all this though, I came across a recent study that seemed to spark up all this nostalgia once again. In it, I learned that this is the season where class (as in income status) was proven to be a huge factor in the educational advances of the students in each of these classes. What this study found was that during the year, no class of students exhibited a learning curve greater than the other. But, in the summer time, the advancements between the classes became quite apparent. Upon returning from these chlorine wading, lightning bug infested, and game overdosing binges, school children were given the same standardized tests as they took on the last day of school. What they found was that, on average, lower class students had lost ground and actually lowered their reading scores while the middle and higher class students experienced modest and highly marked advancements respectively. Advancements that put the lower class children at a habitual seasonal disadvantage - catapulting the upper classed students into talented and gifted distinctions that further set them apart from their peers. Advancements that later opened the doors for more opportunities seemingly unreachable to those same peers.

So...what was the difference maker? Was it the fact that just being categorized in a higher class made their kids smarter? Was it because they could afford the latest game consoles? Was it due to the varied types of chlorine the children swam in or perhaps the brand of freeze-pops they ate?

Nope.

The difference was reading - that's it. On average, the higher the class, the more prevalent was the emphasis made on reading at home during this time. So apparently, money isn't as nearly magical as reading! I say, "Don't let the summer break handicap our children." Let's pass this wealth onto them because opportunities and a joyous future await! Don't be fooled. Class is in and this time, more than any, determines which class they belong to in the future.


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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Success - Switched at Birth...

The boy didn't have a fever and there were no visible bruises on his head - I checked. He also didn't misunderstand the question because it was explained. Yet, when questioned on what my boy wanted to do when he grew up, he answered in full illustration that he wanted to "jump off a roof with a trash bag!" While I often tell this story and you may have heard it before, the image of this always jars me as it doesn't seem at all plausible at ending positively! Since that time though, I've learned that at that very moment, success to him meant the achievement of a thrill - a possibly fatal one - but a thrill none the less.

Whether we'd admit it or not, the measure of success in life differs from person to person. Some associate it with wealth, others education, some a social plateau, and even more - fame. What this means to me is that success can be measured on a multitude of scales but where does it come from? How is the very idea of it birthed? More importantly though, how do we assist with cultivating a proper idea of success in our children to mean other than the perpetually promoted money, cars and clothes?

Growing up in a culture promoting such ideals, I learned that our culture portrays success differently from other cultures and from what history reveals it to be. Different from what the characteristics of the fruits of success actually resemble. I've also come to the conclusion that culturally, the idea of success in our youth has been, on all accounts, switched at birth. One that sets us on a path that, once achieved, leaves us empty and used with often fatal results. One that as parents, we need to recognize and correct if we ourselves should actually deem ourselves a success.

As we grow, we can't help but notice that our perspective of success changes. This is because we're exposed to more, the doors of opportunity open and/or close before us and we learn that what we first thought would buy us joy declines to do so. With that point, I argue that the birth of true success is in the acknowledged importance of one's true cultural legacy. Understanding that in the end, it's your positive contribution toward uplifting a culture that leads to fulfillment and true success.

So what does this mean? It means that as parents, success for us is communicating to our children what their legacy consists of. In addition, we must realize that the qualities that determine success are not simply IQ scores, talent, and class, but most importantly opportunity and environment. Realize people that WE are their environment and with enough effort, we can provide them with more than ample opportunity to have them - once it's all said and done - deem your efforts a success. I say let us first educate ourselves about what true success is and then provide our children with a full illustration of its fruit. Success switched at birth??? Check for bruises and let's get our babies back!

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pride and Joy...

It was a random dreary morning at an even more random hour.  A time before the sun had yet been appointed to rise.  I sat there baffled as to why I wasn't dreaming my usual dream of making the Hulkster tap out from a perfectly executed "figure four leg lock."  She sat there gazing at me with these huge watering eyes, obviously not dreaming at all!  While I was baffled as to why this was, what I did know was that she was no doubt angry.  So much so that she let out a cry of so epic proportions that it seemed an incapable feat from a growing infant.  Given the hour, a few solutions immediately came to mind.  Pacifier? Check! Clean diaper? Check!  Milk warmed by the magic bottle warmer thingy always present bedside?   Check!  So, with my wealth of baby soothing knowledge totally exhausted, we walked.  Well...I walked as she kind of squirmed and laid awkwardly in my arms with every pace down the hallway.  Till this day, I remember it being somewhere around the 1,474th pace that the sun began to rise and she must have began dreaming of whatever babies dream of.  I imagined baby "leg drops" from the bottom rope!  As I laid her down on her side of the bed, snuggled in this wedge contraption, seemingly deemed the capital of this sort of baby Green Zone, her eyes opened and she wailed up again.

Today, she stood at the bottom of the stage, waiting to ascend its steps for the purpose of graduating the eighth grade.  Today, I stood with watering eyes as I snapped awkwardly angled pics of her exiting said stage.  For me, the reason why I felt this way was no mystery.  I was simply filled with pride and joy.  In fact, 13 years and countless paces of it!  Next, I watched as she accepted my flowers, but only after brushing back her hair and smiling a smile as radiant to me as those sunrises we once experienced together.

Apparently though, I wasn't alone.  As we snapped away with our cameras, I noticed a gazing boy and fellow graduate possibly attempting to grab her attention.  Instinct said to take my many nights of training and make him tap out with that surely perfected "figure four leg lock" maneuver!  Quickly though, I drifted back to different times.  I drifted to thoughts of those 1,474 paces, those random dreary mornings and even more random hours before the sun had yet been appointed to rise.  It shifted to my...pride and joy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make it rain...

As the kids and I headed home in the evening from their daily martial arts instruction, my youngest son made a formal suggestion that we spend our evening eating at the local Hibachi steak house. Note that this was without prompting or any insinuation. Also note that this...WASN'T going to happen! In fact, my answer was blurted out in my deepest Barry White voice - mid stutter of his pronunciation of hi-ba-chi! You see, when this frivolous request saw fit to exit his lips, it brought to my attention how disconnected he was from the cost of well...everything. So...to continue with my theme..."I had a lesson that I wanted to teach" and I was gonna no doubt..."practice what I preached!"

Of course we all know what happened next. All the "why's" and the "how comes," along with the "you never's," and pleadings followed. Luckily these all served as perfect introductions to my dissertation on how they would all begin learning the lessons of financial responsibility that day! Needless to say, I had a rather entertaining car ride home as I explained that "I WOULDN'T do for THEM anything THEY wanted me to!"

Later, as I stood over the stove concocting my famous marinated chicken and vegetables over spiced Ramon noodles, I broke out the Monopoly money kit and announced the opening of the Mason bank. Just imagine the jubilation that took root in the kitchen as I handed out ones and explained to each of them that this money serves as "real" bank notes that they could trade in for real cash! Each child's reaction was different. My 13 year old thought it a good idea if nothing more than to test my word. My 9 year old immediately began calculating how many weeks it would take him to buy that dirt bike he always wanted. And my 6 year old...well...offered to make it rain at the Hibachi table!

Over dinner that night, I gave them a "Money 101" of sorts on the history of it, why it exists, how it works, and what it should mean to them. Careful not to make money their motivation, I valued certain chores and put premiums on acts of good behavior and personal responsibility. After our conversation, my youngest became decidedly against any and all variations of "raining" and thought twice about trading in his Mason money for Skittles even!

To date, I must admit that they are much more appreciative than they were before and think twice about any activity they take part in. Now while I supply their needs and the occasional splurge, they understand just how many bed makings it takes to have the chef frivolously toss their shrimp onto the floor! Funny how I no longer have to answer all those "why's" and "how comes," along with the "you never's," and pleadings! You should see their faces when we do go out and I flash the bill that they don't have to pay. Then they know that "It's only love doin' its thing!"

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paper Memories...

So what does it mean when things are no longer the same?  When your visions of what's supposed to be are trapped, only to be resurrected with the periodic glimpse of a picture.  What do you do when you're 13 years old and your reality is left to deal with the separation of your “everything?”

As she handed it to me the smile on her face beamed.  "Dad," she exclaimed, "Here is a picture of me and my aunt in New York City!"  Coupled with this came stories of their visits to famous landmarks and shows in the Big Apple.  Her excitement couldn’t be contained and at first glance, her face said it all.  But at second glance however, I had been ignorantly mistaken.  Noticing the perforated edges of her paper memory, I felt the creases and cuts, the bends and its curves.  Oddly out of place, they presented a story of their own.  The story of what a 13 year old did when things were no longer the same.

Having eyed these inconspicuous oddities, it was clear that this picture was not like any other.  It was then that I gleaned a bit of insight into not only what her paper memory meant to her but…what she thought it meant to me.  Imagine the sinking in my heart when I noticed that she had saw fit to conveniently cut her Mom out of the picture. 

Now while this wasn't done out of any anger or spite, discontent or malice, her response to why she would do such a thing made its own lasting impression on me.  "I knew you wouldn't want her in it Dad," she said. 

In that one moment I felt every cut, bend and sharp edge of her reality.  I felt her hurt and her attempt at healing.  See, what she wanted to do was protect me.  Realizing the pain I felt but…just as I, ignorantly mistaken.  "Beautiful," I said.  "This is not something I want.  This is not something I find acceptable and most of all, this is something that I never want to see you do again."

In the end, I had to explain that while our memories no longer represent our reality, our new realities bring forth new and unexpected hope.  That this new hope can only be obtained when we accept our current circumstances for what they are.  That this same hope cannot be obtained when we falsely imagine that parts of our reality cease to exist.

As we sat, I imagined her trapped between two loves - both of whom she wished to protect…for this is what she did when things were no longer the same.  So what will we do?  I think it fitting that we would, together,  resurrect that picture and continue constructing a totally brand new  “everything!”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Attitude...

It never has been a group of boys quite like us! The twelve of us made our way to the hardwood laden court dribbling frantically in single file while sporting golden thigh high shorts, tight fitting blue jerseys and artery collapsing biker shorts. Our sport was basketball and we...we were mean! No really, not a euphemism here- we really were mean! With us, I have no recollection of smiles nor fun to be had, only faint sounds of Go-Go beats emitting from our Walkman head phones when gathering. Each clanging beat infecting our psyche, laced with the occasional expletive spoken too fast to be deciphered by our parents ears. When we played, I remember no high fives, or teammate encouragement, only our best fraternity mug faces displayed toward the bench of our opponents. We were simply, Menace II Society influenced...80's babies!

Fast forwarding my cassette tape to today, this group of boys before me stand draped in long flowing shorts and fresh loose fitting jerseys. Here, no one knows what biker shorts are or why one would consider wearing them at all -and these kids...these kids are good! No really, they blow out teams like birthday cake candles- and they throw parties weekly! With them, there are no mugs, only smiles and faint whispers of the mass prayer being said as everyone gathers before the game. No evil stares, only high fives and love. They have fun and they are simply...High School Musical influenced- "turn of the century babies!"

So this leads me to ponder the difference between us and them, the 80's babies and these "turn of the century babies," I mean. Aside from the obvious win/loss differential, the fit of the jerseys and the length of their shorts, there seems to be one fundamental and dynamic difference. But what is it?!?

Having had the opportunity to gain a little length in my tooth, I've seen how generations attempt to dissociate themselves from their parents time. If they wore tight pants, we wore them backwards and baggy, if they preferred suits, we fancied T-shirts. If they played Frankie and Beverly, we played" Ni@@a's with Attitude! Wait...that's it! It was starring me in the face like a bad episode of Scooby Doo! The difference is attitude!

With these group of kids, they seem to understand that attitude makes all the difference. That while winning is fun, the real prize consists of which color Capri-Sun they'll be handed after the game! For they stand firmly on the promise that cookies and/or fruit snacks cometh no matter the outcome.

Realizing this allowed me to better my understanding in how "Kris-Krossed" we actually were as a generation. That it might do us some good to imitate the "musical ones!" Wait...I'm not saying wear skinny jeans or anything because that's embarrassing but imitate them in realizing what the real prize is at the end of the day. That the Sun comeths another day shining its favor on us yet again. That our game isn't yet over nor our candles been snuffed out! That we have another chance to get it right!

So, I challenge all my 80's babies out there to take note of their own attitudes and ways of the past and play this game of life with the best attitude you can. There's a whole generation watching...and them seeing you all disgruntled in your thigh high shorts, tight fitting jerseys, and artery collapsing biker shorts is not a good look! It never has been!

To read more please be sure to purchase a copy of my soon to be published book chronicling my life as a single father. Also, feel free to donate toward its costs if you so choose by clicking the donate button @ http://chroniclesofasinglefather.blogspot.com. Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Miracles and Blessings

Tron