I am first and foremost a dad, but I "Go Do" in all aspects of my life. I am in the mood to share some stories about being a parent, with the hopes that they might resonate and be helpful to others. The stories will also contain lessons from my grandparents and parents, that I believe strike the right approach. I am not a professional, I just have performed as a parent everyday for the past 20+ years. I hope you enjoy my philosophy and our approach and agree that to be a great parent, you have to Be Present.
It was a memorial day weekend, and as we sat around enjoying each other’s company and the day, I reflected on the magnitude that many have sacrificed in order for us to enjoy the day and the freedom that comes with it. If you think about it, it’s a pretty remarkable phenomenon; total strangers putting the country, other people, and the concept of freedom before themselves. In the civilian world, this is not a common occurrence.
It’s one thing for your family and friends to sacrifice for you; they have a skin in the game. For a parent to give to her child before herself is something that is easy to comprehend. However, it is remarkable for a total stranger to fight on behalf of a firmly held conviction in a concept, perhaps for the benefit of his descendants, but other times just because he believed in doing so for the greater good. That’s just an amazing quality in a person – sacrificing everything for others.
In today’s workplace, it’s very rare for someone to stick their neck out for others. It’s also uncommon in our schools for kids to run to the aid of those being taunted, for fear of having to endure the same treatment. Why does it seem that our forefathers were so eager to risk it all for the good of the future, while today, most people are running for the exits and looking to cover their own asses? Admitting wrongdoing, taking the high road, and doing the right thing are foreign concepts, especially if it means facing consequences by taking the honorable route.
So what has led us astray? What has caused people to become total sell-outs and do anything to save their own skin? Why do folks take so much for granted with no thought as to why they have these rights and privileges?
I am not a sociologist, but it seems to me that the deterioration of the family unit has greatly affected this shift in decency. Parents are buying their kids things to compensate for the love they are not providing. They’re counting on the school systems to teach loyalty, honor, and integrity. Many parents both work to be able to make as much money as possible to provide their kids with the best of everything, but they are not providing what their children really need: themselves. I was at my daughter’s track meet the other day and noted that the lack of spectators, especially parents, was disgraceful. I’m not here to get on a soapbox and shake my finger at people and judge how they live their lives. I have enough to focus on in my own life and make sure I am doing the right things. But, I think many folks are all caught up in what is deemed to be the path to having a good life, and that many are missing the point and what is truly important.
I remember being told a great story, I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s dead on. A father came home late from work, missing dinner again, and his little boy inquired, “Dad, why do you miss dinner with us so often?” The father replied that he was working. The little boy proceeded to ask, “Why do you work so much?” And the father said, “Son, I work so hard so I can give you everything you want.” Then, the little boy looked up at his father and said, “All I want is you.”
I think that because household members are so overburdened with their individual work and schedules, they don’t often sit down and have dinner together as a family unit. That hour or so is probably the most valuable time parents can spend with their kids. It is a great opportunity to instill values and character into children. I have a feeling that the folks more apt to sacrifice for others most likely learned great lessons while having dinner with their family on a regular basis. I’m not suggesting that this is the only way kids become more in-tune and caring for others. It just seems that it is a part of society that has faded away. As a result, it has eroded how kids value others and the benefits they have at their disposal, including the freedoms they enjoy because of the sacrifices made by people they don’t even know. Maybe that could be a topic for discussion the next time the entire family is together at the dinner table. It’s definitely something that no one should take for granted.
If you’re a parent of adolescents, you know that getting the whole story is not as easy as just asking for it. Because of this fact, we invented “The Form”, a questionnaire the kids have to fill out if they are planning to attend any outside activities with their friends that are more detailed and intricate than just “shooting hoops with” or “studying with”. The kids think it is ridiculous, of course, but all the parents we mention it to seem to like the idea. So I thought we would share it with everyone, in case they want to implement it in their household. We hope it helps sort through the murkiness of the details you are receiving.
1) Name of Event or Happening:
2) Name of Host of Event or Happening:
3) Location of Event or Happening:
4) Parent(s) of Host:
5) Date of Event or Happening:
6) Timeframe of Event or Happening:
7) Type of Event or Happening (ie: “Sleepover” or “Pool Party”):
8 ) Do you need to bring anything to the Event or Happening (ie: “Gift”, “ Swimsuit”, “Cookies”):
9) Will you be eating at the Event or Happening? Yes/No (pick one) If “Yes” is it a meal or just snacks?
10) What will be your mode of transportation to and from the Event or Happening? If the answer is anything other than Mom or Dad fill out A. & B. below.
A. Who is driving you to the event? What is their cell #?
B. Who is driving you home? What is their cell #?
11) Are there others driving with you (other than the driver), if so please list their names.
12) If Mom or Dad are driving, do we have to pick up or drop off anyone? Yes/No (Pick one) If “Yes”, fill out A. & B. below.
A. Pick up:
Name(s) of person to be picked up:
Location of Pick-up (Address, Town, State & Home Phone)
Time of Pick-up:
Name(s) of Parent(s) & Cell #’s:
B. Drop off:
Name(s) of person to be dropped off:
Location of Drop off (Address, Town, State & Home Phone)
Name(s) of Parent(s) & Cell #’s:
12) Who will be in attendance at the event? Please list as many names as known. Also, please supply the cell phone of a responsible attendee other than the host or parents of the host.
13) Are there any additional details we should know about? If so please include them below.
My daughter and I were chatting on the deck, having a little breakfast, and I said something to her that triggered a thought about opportunity and seizing the moment. I told her I was going to post this thought on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. The post went like this: “Everyone has opportunities presented to them, the question is: are they paying attention when the window opens? Keep looking, never quit.” My daughter then asked me, “Why did you tweet that?” I explained that I felt that there are lots of folks who do not receive the daily encouragement or direction they need, and I like to help motivate people based on what I have learned over the years. If it connects with just one person and gives them that little extra to get up and go, then I feel like I have made a positive impact.
She said to me, “That’s pretty cool. Can I go on Twitter and inspire people?” I told her absolutely, but at age 13, I think she is still too young to be on social media. Patricia and I decided the kids would not be allowed to get a Facebook account until high school. We actually feel that’s a bit young too, but we will have rules for that when the time comes, just as in everything else concerning the kids. My daughter then inquired, “Ok, but I want to motivate people too; can you Tweet something for me?” I said, “Of course. What is it?” She replied, “In a world of Cheerios, be a Fruit Loop.”
I asked her, “Before I tweet it, what does it mean to you?” She answered, “Cheerios are plain and Fruit Loops are colorful. You know that I always say ‘Be yourself’, because most people are not. To me, Cheerios are what everyone thinks they have to be. Cheerios are safe. Fruit Loops are colorful and stand out. Isn’t that what you always tell us, not to be like others, to stand out and surprise people in a good way?”
I tweeted her thought and posted it on Facebook. I felt a great sense of pride from that quirky little bit of cereal wisdom from my 13-year-old daughter. Not because she gave me this clever little saying, in fact she may have heard it from another source. What made me feel great about what she said was that she showed me she understood a principal that I talk about all the time. She continued, “I’m not talking about actually being a Fruit Loop Dad, you get that, right? I’m talking about being who you really are and not being afraid to show others.” I lecture to students and I speak to corporations about having people “think of you first” and “separating yourself from the rest of the schmucks”, and here is my 13-year-old daughter schooling me on my own belief. It was an awesome moment.
The reality is you can’t expect to excel if you are doing everything exactly like everyone else. It is a highly competitive world out there, and you need to find your zone and what makes you exceptional. What is it that you can do for society, your company or organization that makes you valuable? Why should people think of you or your brand first?
I taught for years at BC. About 30,000 kids apply to Boston College every year for about 2800 spots. 10,000+ are probably “BC material” and would do well; the problem is how are the admissions folks able to sort through all the “sameness” in the applications? I have met with a bunch of high school seniors and their parents to give advice; the first thing I say to them is, “What have you done thus far to separate yourself from the pack. How do you add value?” No matter who you are or what you do, you have to position yourself in a way that shows others that you provide value beyond the other candidates. That is the only sure way to be accepted, hired or promoted. So take my daughter’s point to heart, especially if you feel like you’re not gaining any ground. Stop running with the pack of plain Cheerios and find that inner Fruit Loop to bring color to your story and separate yourself from your competition.
When I was a kid in the 70′s, it was such a different world for kids from how it is today. In the summer when I was seven, I left the house after breakfast and my mother had no idea where I was until I came home for lunch; the same was true between lunch and dinner. I got on my bike and headed out to play with my friends. It all went well, but to think of it now, there is no seven year-old kid who should have that kind of free rein. It was just a matter of fact back in the 70′s.
I was an alter boy at Mount Carmel Church in East Boston, and quite often I served morning mass. It was nothing for me to get up, get dressed, and walk to church alone at 6:30 in the morning. In the winter months, the streets were still dark at that time. No one reputable was on the streets; quite a scary thought, not for me at 7, but terrifying to me now at 47 and that I have kids of my own.
As much as it scares me as a parent to think about that state of no supervision, I know that same independence is what allowed me to gain experience and common sense that you could never learn in school. The freedom gave me the opportunity to make decisions that parents make for their kids every single day. I made choices and, at times, mistakes from which I was able to learn and grow. The laisser-faire attitude that parents had in the 70′s was way too lax. Yet, I watch many parents today make every decision for their kids; at age 7, it doesn’t concern me too much but by age 27, it scares me. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit, but I have witnessed twenty-something’s going to their parents to help make a basic decision. I have also have been told stories of college students having their parents lobby on their behalf for a higher grade. This, too, is scary to me.
As with all things in life, there needs to be balance. As parents, we should provide solid direction and guidance, but we also have to ease up on the reins and let our kids make mistakes and fail at times. It’s not easy, I struggle with it myself; what is that perfect mix of guidance and freedom? The answer is, there is no perfect mix. As parents you are bound to make mistakes as well. But aiming for balance is a key factor. You brought your kids into this world or adopted the responsibility; you have to set your priorities aside and focus on what is best for your kids at their current phase of life.
I believe most parents go wrong when decisions are made based on the parent’s own preferences rather than what makes sense for their kids at the time of the decision. The selfishness is the ruination. Not having the discipline to follow through with your kids in all areas, both good and bad, due to inconvenience, discomfort, or downright laziness is a huge problem. I see it all too often. A parent tells a kid to stop doing something five times, but never really puts the effort in to support what they are saying. Empty threats and promises erode the fibers of the parent/child relationship.
I will tell you that with as much freedom as I had in the 70′s, I only had to be told once not to do something. The same was true for my friends. So, it’s a little bit twisted in the sense that parents today are spending so much time with their kids, handling their schedule, making their decisions, and hovering over them, yet kids today do not seem to behave with the same sense of urgency as we did. I am generalizing of course, but I question if the familiarity with parents is causing a shift in the relationship to lean more toward friendship than authoritative.
Patricia and I are particularly struggling with the balance of freedom and supervision now that our kids are entering their teen years. We know we can’t view things as our parents did, but we do have to let go so the kids can be self-reliant and independent advocators. It’s definitely going to be easier for the kids than it will be for us as parents, but providing more independence now will allow the kids to grow and flourish, and be more confident in the future.
My favorite thing in the world to be is a parent. There is nothing else that comes close, no other job that I prefer. Job? Yes, I said job. Being a parent is not all about fun and games; it’s real work (for those of you who are not parents yet). The funny thing about being a parent is that there are a lot of bad ones out there. Now, I am not a professional parent, nor am I a professional parent trainer, but I have some confidence in my ability as a parent. Primary because the kids appear to be going in the right direction as young adults. I know Patricia and I have done a nice job over the years, not mistake free, but I feel I have been more successful in parenting than in anything else I have done in life.
This post is about the time when my son, Antonio, went on a five day trip with his classmates to further enhance his ability to become an independent learner. Here’s what recall to be important and hopefully helpful. Remember, all trips are learning experiences.
It’s the first time Antonio will be away from us for this long and not be with family. Although we know he will be fine and learn a lot, this is still pretty unsettling for Patricia and me. We have been through this once before with his big sister, so it’s not as traumatic as when she went with her 5th grade class, but still, I am not looking forward to the next four nights. His departure has me thinking about parenting and things I have noticed that we have done right, and other things we are not so good at. Mostly, the “not so good” stuff has to do with letting go. Now, he’s only 10, and she’s going on 13, so there is still some time for mom and dad to hold on tight, but we don’t want to smother them, either. It’s an unbelievable balancing act. Being a parent is all about providing great balance.
Here are a few things I have learned over the past 13 years of parenting that I would like to share. Please remember, I’m not a certified expert; this is solely my opinion, but I do think the results, thus far, speak for themselves. There are more, but here are my five unscientific rules of balance for being a parent (in no particular order):
1)You cannot be your child’s friend. I wish that it could be possible, and maybe it can once they are an adult, but while your child is growing up, your job is not to be a friend. Your job is to provide a balance of love and discipline to make sure they know they are important, yet not above the rules and regulations.
2) Once you make a statement, you have to stick to it – even when it kills you. In order for your kids to listen to you, they have to know you mean business. How is that possible if you are wishy-washy? They need to have the confidence and belief that when you say something, it is the law. Now, it might not actually be the law and you could possibly change your mind, but when you take away your child’s video games, TV, and all electronics for two weeks, you’ve got to stick to it. In retrospect, you may later feel taking them away for two weeks was a bit rash for the infraction, but you need to stay true to your word, otherwise they will walk all over you. We have all seen and heard it before, “Timmy, one more time and you will lose your privileges, I mean it this time, Timmy… Timmy…” Yeah, you think Timmy thinks his mother means business? No chance. So when you make statements, be sure to stick to them. Be very careful of your statements, and make sure you can implement the words that come out of your mouth; saying that you are taking things away for the rest of their life is not helping your cause.
3) Do what you say you are going to do. Very similar to #2, but let’s look at it less in the disciplinary form and more in the promises area. If you make a promise to your child and you break it, you are eroding the relationship you have with her or him. Don’t do it. At all costs, keep your promises. A good pal of mine, Matt Ryan, once told me, “Put your kids’ events in your calendar just as if they were a business meeting.” Build your schedule around those events, and you will attend more than you ever imagined you could. He was right, and it was great advice. Once they are in your schedule, make damn sure you can make the event before promising your kid. Every broken promise is another broken piece to the relationship. Be ultra careful and responsible when you are making promises.
4) Communicate with your kids. Explain the boundaries to your children, and stick to them. Put rules into place to keep them safe, happy, and respectful, and make sure there are consequences if they are broken. If you do, in fact, communicate with your children and talk and listen each and every day, you will find that they break the rules much less frequently. I know life is busy and that when you get home from work after being nagged at by your boss and customers, you just want to relax and not deal. Well, too bad. As a parent, you have to be on all the time, and your state of existence has to be put aside for theirs. I also recommend eating dinner together as many nights of the week as possible. I know every night can be tough, but make sure you sit at the dinner table with your family and discuss the day and what happened. Listen, tell stories, and advise; make sure your kids know you’re there and that you care. The more time you spend together as a family, the better.
5) Tell them you love them often. You cannot tell your children that you love them enough. When you see them, give them big hugs. Let them know they are the most important part of your life. Tell them they are wonderful and that you are proud of them. Instill confidence in them. You can’t just be a disciplinarian; you have to balance all of that out with love. Be real to your kids; let them know who you are and that you, too, have made mistakes. If you show them love and respect, they will give it to others. If you show them fun and laughter, they will do the same. Don’t let the drudgery of your own life interfere with loving your child and making them know that you love them.
I realize these are not unearthed parenting secrets, and by no means do they stop with these points. The reality is that you have to pay attention to your kids and always provide the right balance of love and discipline. There are no guarantees, but if you do so, the likelihood is that they will turn out to be well-rounded, happy kids who will become well-adjusted, happy adults. And as a parent, that is your job.
Many view the commencement of parenthood as being the moment in which you discover that you will become a parent. While that is a clear milestone and moment in time that captures that you will be a parent, it’s not mutually exclusive and the same as you being committed to parenthood. Being a parent and being committed to parenthood are two very different things. Just because you are a parent, doesn’t mean that 1) you are good at it, and 2) you have fully embraced the position. The unfortunate reality is that most are not prepared for parenthood and, even worse, many are bad at being a good parent.
I am no different than most. I do not believe my true commencement into parenthood was at the moment of finding out we were expecting or even at birth. Again, I am no different than most: I was a parent, yet not fully committed to parenthood. I like to believe that I was at least a good parent up until the time I became fully committed to parenthood. I know I did a lot of good things amidst the chaos of becoming a new parent and even was told often that I was a great dad. That may be an overstatement, but I always referred back to my buddy Steve’s assessment of my parenting skills, “You are a suspect human being, but you really are an amazing dad.” Quite frankly, I can live with that. However, even though I was doing good things as a parent, I didn’t fully embrace parenthood until I left my position at the New England Patriots.
My daughter was six and my son was almost four when I decided to leave the team. My wife and partner in parenting, Patricia, and I had discussions on the confines of the job and how being the Chief Marketing Officer of the Patriots and Gillette Stadium, while being the Chief Operation Officer of the New England Revolution was a lifestyle and not merely a job. A lifestyle that prevented me from seeing my kids play sports, and now that they were in school, getting home when they were already in bed. When they were younger and prior to attending school, it was much easier. Patricia was a stay-at-home mom and structured the kids schedule around me. She would manage naps to make sure the kids got up when I was getting home, so we could play for a while together and eat dinner as a family. Patricia was diligent and relentless in making sure the four of us spent this time together and no matter what time I came home from the stadium the kids were ready for me. I still remember that feeling of walking up from the garage and the kids running to the door screaming; “Daddy!” It was the best moment of my day.
With the kids getting older and bound for school in the mornings, scheduling their days around me was not only unpractical, it was unreasonable. The kids needed to sleep and be ready for school. Getting home at 8pm or later just wasn’t conducive to having dinner as a family. So, the discussions about the lifestyle and balancing my job with my family were often and, quite frankly, initiated by me. Patricia was truly amazing; she never put any pressure on me or my schedule. She never once complained or said I was spending too much time focused on my job and not enough time on the family. When I was home and on the phone, she was equally as understanding. She knew I served at the pleasure of the Kraft’s and that I embraced that to its fullest extent. I felt that I made a commitment to them and they compensated me fairly to generously and I owed them my focus.
I was the one bringing up the conversations. I came from a tight knit, Italian family where family always came first. A concept I not only lived, but also believed in. Even though my mother and father were divorced, my dad made it to every one of my games. I ate dinner with my family every night. Albeit it was in my grandparent’s house, with my grandfather being the only male role model at the table. Just the same, it was dinner every night as a family. As much as I put into the kids, the circumstances were preventing me from giving them my all, and as Patricia and I discussed, “Something’s got to give.” I, too, made a commitment to them by assisting in bringing them into the world, yet my focus was not as dedicated as it was to my career. Because that was the norm in most families I was not blamed, but that was not the norm I wanted for my family and I need to accept the blame, and I did.
It took almost two years, but I put together a plan to leave the team and start my own company. Not an easy feat when you are pushing seven figures and the likelihood of retaining that and working “normal hours” were slim. But I made the leap just the same, and started my own company with the help of an Angel Investor, Jack Blais. The commencement of my parenthood began with that leap and Jack made the move extremely easy. I could never repay Jack directly for him being that Angel, as his assistance was more valuable than money, but I hope my kids and the time he afforded me to invest in them will yield dividends that are bigger than the both of us. Jack, I can’t thank you enough.
Starting my own company, although busy and time consuming, afforded me the opportunity to balance my schedule to spend more time with my kids, Victoria, now eight and Antonio, almost six. A buddy of mine, and new colleague at the time, Matt Ryan, provided some life changing advice while I was planning to depart from the team. It’s probably among the best advice I have received for parenthood. Matt’s recommendation was to put every activity the kids had in my calendar, as if it was a meeting, and schedule other meetings around them and treat them like any other scheduled work event. He said, “You don’t miss work meetings that are in your calendar, so don’t miss your kids scheduled events either.” Not only was it great advice, it also changed my way of looking at things, as well as my approach. I can say with great confidence this advice (and the complete follow through on it) has made a significant impact in fulfilling our lives as a family and it was truly my first step in transitioning from being just a parent to fully embracing parenthood. It just made me think of things differently in all areas.
I would like to say that in the blink of an eye everything changed, and that the focus was purely on my kids, but like most things in life it was a process. There was no switch that I clicked, but it was a compass that put me in the right direction toward parenthood. I was definitely getting closer, but I still wasn’t there yet. I was now focused on building my new company, although having dinner with Patricia and the kids more often, still focused on my wins, my enjoyment, and my endeavors. Although I was more dedicated to my family, I was still missing the point. I now wasn’t missing games. I was spending more time with the kids, catching all their activities, but I still wasn’t fully present. I was not only working, but off on my own boondoggles and shenanigans. It was still all about me. Patricia and the kids were part of MYlife, on MYschedule and MYdirection, for the most part. I still wasn’t there and still needed to turn the corner to be fully committed to parenthood.
The turn was about to happen, and the crash of 2008 was the trigger. It’s funny, but probably not shocking, that it took failure in my career to get me to reset the pins and put my focus on parenthood. When you lose half of your wealth in a couple of days it makes you think and, most likely, reevaluate the direction you are going in. That, coupled with an anaphylactic shock episode that led to hospitalization, an induced coma and the doctors/nurses overdosing you into steroid psychosis, really makes you take stock in what is important. Needless to say, I did some deep soul searching in the fall of 2008.
This is the conclusion I came to, besides me needing to dedicate my focus solely to my kids: society has absolutely “screwed the pooch” when it comes to parenting and the sequence of the milestones of our lives. The way it is set up for most, is that you go to school, graduate, work your ass off, get married and have kids, while you work your ass off, the kids grow up (still working your ass off), they move on to their own life and you retire. WTF! That set up completely misses the point. When you are young, and your kids need you the most you have to work your ass off to make money to provide for your family, so you lack in money and time. Yet, when your kids move on you have plenty of money and time. It dawned on me that this is an inverted system. If society was structured properly, you would work your ass off until 40, you would dedicate the next 15 years or so to raising your kids, and once they went on their own, back to work you go. This may seem unrealistic, but wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just focus on your family when you had the time and energy?
The triggers woke me up. I basically said, “fuck it”, that’s what I’m going to strive to do. I am going to purely work around my kid’s schedule, make whatever money I can and supplement what I made with what we had saved, of course hoping that I could make enough in the process. From the moment I got out of the hospital right up until now my priority was parenthood. Victoria and Antonio never placed second with my focus. Patricia was already there. She had been there since day one. I was the one lagging behind. Her entire life was the kids; I was part-time until I made that realization. From that point on I was full-time Victoria and Antonio. Hustling to make money when they were occupied in school or sleeping and spending the time they needed me with them, even if that was just cheering them on. The key to of all this is being present in their lives always.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a very active father and I was committed to the kids happiness, growth, education, respect, character, discipline and success. I was very present in parenting. What clicked was that the kids were not just a module of my life, they were my life. My approach was to play a very active role in the strategy and execution of their upbringing, as if it was just another area of responsibility, and I was quite good at it like my other roles or jobs, as you would have it. What changed, what clicked in was that it wasn’t about raising kids; it was about fulfilling my commitment to them. I needed to think of them more than myself. I needed to focus on them more than any aspect of my life. That my role in parenthood and in the lives of Victoria and Antonio was the most important thing to focus on. Not me, not a career, not anything above them. It all clicked in when I fully embraced the true meaning of parenthood. That’s not to say I haven’t had fun and enjoyed times that they were not a part of, I have. All I am saying is that was all secondary to Victoria and Antonio. I realized this and embraced that I was to take a back seat to them. I truly needed to Be Present and more. I had to become a father who could Be Ever Present.
It’s been ten years since it all clicked in for me about parenthood. Ten years of dinners as a family almost every night. Ten years of practices, games, plays and events. Ten years of car rides and conversations. Ten years of realizing what is truly important in life. Ten years of paying attention. Ten years of being present. Ten of the best and most fulfilling years of my life.
I realize this may appear to be extreme and there probably is a hybrid to what Patricia and I did as parents and embracing parenthood. However, I feel that because we were able to pay so much attention to Victoria and Antonio we have gained a certain perspective, experience and knowledge and developed some of the best practices of embracing parenthood that allowed us to put our kids in the best position for happiness and success. It is way too soon to claim victory, but as Antonio joins Victoria in the college phase of their lives, I thought I would share our experiences in parenthood and what got us and the kids to where we are now. We have lots of stories, many lessons, laughs, tears, successes, miscues and some fuck ups. My intention is to share it all; the good, the bad and the happy and to let you take what we have learned and use it as you see fit in embracing parenthood. I hope you find our stories, philosophies and approach helpful to your method of parenting. I’m not going to write about how to be a parent, because that is unique to every family. I am just going to share my stories and experiences in the hopes that it helps you, in whichever method you choose to be the best parent you can be. I hope it also causes you to embrace the concept to Be Present.
I cherish being a dad and am blessed and fortunate that I made the commitment to parenthood. I hope you enjoy and find our journey helpful to yours.
When Patricia and I took our newborn daughter home from the hospital, we got to the house, put her on the kitchen table, looked at each other and asked, “What do we do now?” We were first-time parents and, sure, we had a notion of what needed to be done, but we had never done this before. We paused there for a minute or two and I said, “Let’s go out to dinner.” So we picked up the car seat carrier, baby in tow, and we were off.
It’s now more than twenty years later, and we never stopped. We are very comfortable being parents now, but there is always something new that comes up and challenges us to think about the proper course of action. But the key has been that from that first day we brought her home, we always moved forward and never became paralyzed by the unknown. I realize this is probably a pretty common occurrence with new parents, but it’s also not unlike any decisions that are faced every single day in your job and other areas of life.
Many times, especially in the business world, fear of failure paralyzes folks and prevents them from achieving or excelling in their position. Responsibility causes people to fall into a “prevent defense” type of strategy where they are more caught up in protecting what they have than trusting their ability to go out and make things better. In football, the prevent defense quite often prevents you from winning; it is no different in life. I am not suggesting that you go out and be reckless with your decision making, just that trusting your ability and making resolute decisions is the course of action you should always be considering.
I often hear how people are unhappy in their jobs, management doesn’t get it, and that they need a new gig. The problem is that when they get that new opportunity and after the new car smell wears off, they are spouting out the same complaints about their new job. So, is the problem with the job or the person’s attitude? If you are unhappy with the job you are in, you have to break out and do one of two things: make it better or move on to the next gig. But before you pack up your desk, you have an obligation to yourself to make an honest run at succeeding in your current role. I have heard folks say, “They don’t care about me or the job I do, so I will just coast till I find something better.” Anyone who makes this statement is fooling themselves.
You may be employed by another, but make no mistake, you always work for you. Your efforts and hard work may impact your company and others, but your efforts are always a reflection of you. The slacker in the cube next to you may claim he’s coasting because the job sucks, but he’s coasting because he’s either lazy or in fear of actually doing something and having to take responsibility for doing so. There is a reason people jump from job to job. There’s a reason why the resume is padded with one-year stints at this organization or that company. The reason is not the job; it’s the attitude of the employee.
That first night home with our daughter, Patricia and I chose to live as we always had and not to get paralyzed. We went to our favorite restaurant, Angelo’s, and our daughter slept in her car seat carrier though the entire meal. When she was six months old, we took her to Bermuda and ate at fine restaurants. You could see the horror on folks’ faces as they entered the restaurant to see a baby sitting next to them. After the meal, they would all come over to say how wonderful she was and that she was such a good baby. We continued to dine out with our kids all the time and never let the concept of having kids stop us from enjoying how we live our life. Many other parents claim we are lucky and that they could never take their kids to restaurants at a young age. There are always exceptions, but I question if they allowed the failure to occur.
Success is in your hands and yours alone. You control your ability to achieve; it’s how you handle it. There are no easy ways out or shortcuts. It’s hard work and taking decisive action. Whether it is at your job or in your life, don’t let others or the situation control you. Take the bull by the horns and Go Do.