My Growing Kids

I had a moment of clarity where life hit me in the gut. No, it wasn’t anything like a life-threatening illness or heartbreaking loss (i.e., an Ex doing you wrong…grrrrr…but I digress); it was a simple act. The act seemed so innocent in its nature – almost like a flower deciding the time was right to bloom; or a butterfly determined to leave its cocoon. No, none of these things. But, yet, what happened to me was powerful beyond words and an eye-opener to boot. I was floored when the situation presented itself as well as at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe this shit was happening to me – but folks had warned me so. And here I was, face to face with the biggest decision in my life – minus the vasectomy I decided against. The decision you ask? Well, to let me kids walk alone to the corner food store. By themselves.

Albeit – there were about 30 other kids going with them…at least that’s what I told myself. And the corner store is approximately two city blocks away, in a neighborhood in which the President himself entrust the local law enforcement to serve and protect (minus the whole “Rodney King experience” we seem to be dealing with in this current year). It was, in fact, a safe passage for my kids to take – they knew the route and simply had to follow the directions provided by me.

But I was tentative and afraid.

I wasn’t afraid that they might be snatched up from deranged lunatic or that they might encounter Bozo the Clown asking them to feel the candy deep inside his insidious pocket, but that my kids were growing up. I felt sad as a tear slowly drifted down my cheek with this realization. Of course I didn’t let them see me cry because I never do but I felt it nonetheless.

I had explained to them in the past about being careful out there in this crazy world and to know that society will not be kind to them because of their race and gender and age; but I had a sense that they were smart enough not to be taken.

I felt confident in their awareness of their environment and that they were able to discern right from wrong. For this I was comfortable in my decision to let them experience this new found independence for themselves. I remember my own satisfying experience of going to the store and dropping “Abraham Lincolns” for a bag of goodies. However, it was eating me up because they were no longer my little angels. They were growing up.

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Those of us with kids clearly understand they do not stay the same size as the playful Raggedy Ann or Andy dolls we hoped they would. We get that they will experience their own taste in clothing, music, food, and other worldly desires. They’ll zoom through life collecting these various experiences and create the being they were intended to be. And we get to sit back and let the magic happen, regardless of where we are in our experience of “letting go.”

My kids were safe. They didn’t run into a creep or a thug or even a homeless guy running game, but just simply an innocent walk to the corner store in which they spent a total of $5.56 on items I’d rather not disclose. (FYI – I was unaware cotton candy can now be bought in a cellophane bag.)

So here I was, accepting life’s facts as she threw me what was inevitable for me – my youngsters growing up. It wasn’t an easy acceptance of the truth but I had very little choice in the matter. Instead, I let go and let God (a favorite of us Christian folk) watch over them and protect them through the valley of the shadows of death and so forth.

And they returned. Unharmed. Excited. And empowered.

All because they were able to buy an Orange soda and a bag Twizzlers on their own – forging their own path for their lives and realizing the power of independence.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Son Don’t Let these Streets Get You (A letter to my boy)

The seduction of tight-ass bitches twerking under bright lights as you make it rain hundreds can make any lil homie have a desire for the streets. Dope cars, dope chains, dope clothes, and swag like no other. The Hip Hop music is on fleek! Fast life as you cruise down the street bumping the hottest beats.

Yeah, it’s enticing, but it ain’t worth it son.

My love for you won’t allow me to let you stray into an environment that will make you a statistic. I won’t be responsible for your slide into a life full of risk with only quick rewards. I know you may not understand at this time but please trust me when I tell you. My father said the same thing to me as I’m saying to you “Don’t hang with street-walkers cause nothing good comes from that.”

I realize my conservative life style may not appear as sexy or fly or whether I have swag but I still know best. I only know best because I’ve seen many things in all my years on this earth. Therefore, I want to impart this wisdom onto you so you do not have to experience all of the pitfalls life will throw at you. Make a choice to avoid them. Life can and should be beautiful – all of the parts coming together like a well-played symphony.

The allure of the almighty dollar will not allow me to see you fall to the streets. I’d rather be a poor son-of-a-bitch with a lifetime of non-material riches than to die young or live an empty existence. Or to have my life interrupted by a prison system that is unfavorable to people like us.

I pray that you hear my voice as I make this public plea to you at an age where you may not quite understand all of the pressures you will face down the road. We live in a different era these days and it may not be the kindest to you.

I get it… I’m not ignorant of what is out there and how you might believe you are doing what you have to do as you might struggle with the balance act of being a stand-up guy but not looking like a punk. I hear the music and agree that we have very good music these days that has evolved over time. But do know we are living in an over-sexed period and it may have longer term detriments than advantages. Resisting these temptations is what will mold the man I want you to become.

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One day it will all make sense – what I am spouting off to you. I need to lay the ground work today so that you will have a future tomorrow. It is my role and obligation as your father to enlighten you. We should always be learning from one generation to the other. My lesson for today is to show you how much I love you by exposing you to the harsh truths of life.

I look forward to our time together in the years to come. I look forward to sitting with you and having a beer with you and listening to you as you spout off knowledge from your own experiences. And God willing, we’ll make it to that day together.

Go well and with love good peeps…

Feeling Comfortably Numb

Minute by minute, then the minutes turn to hours and hours to days. And before you know it, eventually the days turn to weeks to months and finally years. The crushing feelings of hopelessness, rage, and loneliness become less and less. We have all heard the term “time heals all wounds” and it is true to a point. It isn’t that the wound is completely healed it is more like you learn to live with it. Living with the wound, not the pain is akin to having an appendage that has no use. Thus, it is numb, devoid of power or substance, and not something that can be removed. I have become comfortably numb living apart from my kids.

Many people, correction, women might not understand this analogy. The argument I’ve heard is that the woman carried the child in her womb for nine months creating some unseen bond. As a man we are not privy to this unseen bond because we do not give birth. Yet, we do have a spiritual connection to our offspring. And when our children are taken away through divorce the pain is real. Thus we have to find a way to overcome this painful existence. One of the ways is to remove the emotion from our inventory and create a hollow shell of where that emotion used to exist. Slowly we turn off the spigot that feeds the emotion leaving us with a numbing sensation.

I’ve heard other men say you learn to live with it and I have experienced it. It becomes a way of life. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less it only means your access to your kids has been limited and therefore the wound remains. However, the body begins to cut off any feeling you have in this perceived appendage and eventually, like the effects of nova Caine the feelings just go away.

Maybe men are designed to be this way by the Creator. Throughout history fatherless homes have been around due to wars and other duties previously dominated by men. It is probably in our DNA – this one strand that allows us to disconnect the emotion for the greater good of the family. This new era in which we live is exposing this DNA flaw for the entire world to see. No one talked about this much in the past, how a man might miss his kids daily. Men could only express this emotion during tough times on the battlefield or during his dying days. Only then does the child really begin to understand the impact his daddy has on his or her life. This revelation is harder and harder to manage in today’s society because of divorce and dysfunction.

Therefore, I make it a concerted effort to focus on my offspring the moments we are together. I make sure they know the love I possess for them and my desire to see them flourish. I continue to build a bond best I know how because I know I will become numb as they walk out the door when our time comes to a close. And because of this I am becoming comfortably numb.

Confronting the Bully

A strange thing occurred this morning as I walked my offspring to school. We ran smack face-to-face into a kid who has been bullying my boy.

I only recently found out about this bully who is older than my 9 year old and much bigger. As with any bullying story the described bully tactics made me angry and even fearful for my child’s well being. My very reason for the school drop off this day was to ensure the school was acting appropriately. Little did I expect to encounter the young thug and his cronies.

My son didn’t point out the bully to me, we just walked past him. However, I could tell by looking at my son that this was the bothersome kid. My son kept staring straight ahead as we beelined for the door. My daughter was with us and her involuntary signals gave the perpetrator’s identity away as well. And I was beginning to fume.

My kids ran off to the lunch room as I made my way for the office. I expressed my frustration and displeasure about the previous incident and demanded it be handled correctly, otherwise I would handle it myself.

I only felt somewhat satisfied as I left the office back out into the frigid Chicago Fall air. Thoughts were running through my mind on how me and my family came into this situation. I was not bullied as a child and I didn’t understand why kids did it. Heck, I even came to the defense of the bullied souls back in the day. However, the only thing that mattered to me now was my son’s safety, and no disrespecting bastard of a kid was going to cause issue with my boy.

Then it happened. It almost felt like time paused for a moment as the Universe (or maybe God) cleared the path for me to confront the bully as I left out of the school. He and his partners were still outside talking. He was looking directly at me as I slowly approached him. I knew it was him.

Without hesitation I pardoned myself into their conversation and I began talking. I asked him if he bullied my son and he sad yes.

I said to him, “listen my man, we all need to be sticking with each other ya know? My son needs friends and doesn’t deserve to be harrassed. He’s a good boy and needs someone to be a leader not a bully. Can you be a leader to my son and others instead of picking on them? Can you be that person they look up to instead of fearing? Man, I’m counting on you to be better and do better, my man. Can you do this for me?”

The little boy was intensely focused on me as I spoke to him. His eyes were a beautiful soft brown and his complexion was smooth. I could tell he really wasn’t bad at all, just misguided and probably mis-parented. I felt for this little sixth grader.

He looked at me and shyly stated “yes I can.”

I said, “Thank you. I know you can.”

All the while I kept a fairly stern demeanor not wanting to show all of my cards. I wanted him to know I meant business yet I was willing to work with him. I asked each of the boys their names and said I was counting on them to be better and to befriend my son.

I’m not sure where my talk will take them but I hope it resonates in their souls and they understand the role they were playing as bullies is not as becoming as the role of a leader.

Go well and with love good peeps. For real.

PS – Let’s stop bullying. Support your local efforts to putting an end to this nonsense.

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Happiness is From Within

Yes it is – at least the starting point is from within.

We all hear this phrase. We all know this phrase. Presumably we all believe this statement. But the real challenge is creating that fire to ignite happiness so that it fills your soul and begins to burn brightly from within. Once it is burning it emanates on your outside for the entire world to see.

Then you don’t fret about hearing the phrase – happiness is from within – because you have obtained it.

There is no greater feeling than to be on top of the world. You will be looking down on your fellow human beings as you float among the clouds or stars. You look at them from your floating station wishing they could float with you. You breathe the clean air, you feel the warm sun, with a fresh gentle breeze whisking against your face as you glide through the pillows that were once clouds.

I remember this feeling from various moments in my life.

There was the day when I became a father. I had a son. I was on top of the world. Prayerfully I thought my legacy would live on and take this world by storm. This was a moment in time forever frozen in memory.

Then the day I became a father for the second time – but now I had a princess – a cute, wonderful, joyous baby girl. We would give her a name that accentuated who she was before we ever met her. Her name would have meaning just as my son’s; her name stands for “beautiful work of art.”

Or I would conjure up memories of my childhood when I ran the neighborhood with my childhood best friend. We would have innocent fun but careful not to bring out the wrath of our parents.

And there were my high school days with my BFF. He and I would talk for hours about life, all of life’s mysteries, and where we fit into the big picture while we lay on our backs looking up at the silvery stars.

These are those moments when I distinctly remember floating in air. I had achieved happiness. I wanted to bottle these moments and the emotions that came with them so I might retain them for future needs. Hide them in a safe haven awaiting their use for myself or others in need.

Therefore, my effort to regain my inner smile must then start from memories. If I can remember these times while facing storms I begin to have a sense of overcoming anything.

  • I can picture the faces of my children’s smiles as they run toward me when it is my turn to pick them up.
  • I almost feel my children’s little arms around me as they hug me tight before bedtime.
  • Periodically I will grab my phone and dial a friend – sometimes randomly – just to hear their voice on the other end.
  • Other moments I open up a book or read a blog [like this one] about a great story, one that connects with me at the right moment.

And then I share my thoughts with others hoping that I touch another soul searching for their own bit of happiness. And in the world in which I live we are all searching for it. And searching for it is not bad at all as long as you know the recipe on how to ignite the fire.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Celebrating Life’s Wonderful Moments

Today I celebrate my son’s birthday! I feel so honored to have him as my son and I am happy that God put my kids in my life. Through all of the turmoil I have experienced it is moments like these where I sit back and just give thanks. Whether you know who or what you are giving thanks to, just give it, it won’t hurt.

Then just celebrate those things around us that give us joy. Life can be beautiful.

Cheerios in My Pockets

As I came into work this morning I grabbed a bag I hadn’t used in some time. When I got into the office and pulled the small bag from my computer bag much to my surprise I found something…

A few remnants of cheerios.

These small morsels have been there for a while. I’m certain they were there when my babies were…literally…babies. It made me smile and I realized how I missed them at that precious age. I’m sure many women can relate. I wonder if men relate to this as well – I know I feel sentimental when I am reminded of my kids during the early years. The time passes by so fast. Enjoy it for sure.

To our kiddos! Love them to pieces.

Daddy Dan