Parenting and the Art of Balance


Do you have balance in your life?

I’ve been struggling with attaining it for years, and along the way I discovered something interesting — it doesn’t really exist, at least not  in the way I grew up understanding it …

Creating a Strong Foundational Balance

Finding balance between work, family and self can seem near impossible. As parents, it can often feel like we’re on a unicycle, constantly trying not to fall off while juggling work, kids, marriage, goals, etc.

But there’s a different type of balance that can be achieved. It’s called our Foundational Balance, and as the name implies it’s the foundation that we stand on while we’re juggling all aspects of our lives.

Our Foundational Balance is the very thing we need to be exceptional as opposed to acceptable. Exceptional parents, spouses, friends and professionals. And yet many of the parents I speak with feel they are just getting through each day, just getting by — instead of moving in a positive direction.

What is Your Foundational Balance?

Although it’s not  the same for everybody, your foundational balance consists basic things you need to excel in life. Here’s mine:

– Sleep
– Exercise
– Meditation/Spirituality/Religion
– Intimacy with my wife

As far as intimacy goes, I’m talking about more than sex (although I strongly advise you have it often). I define intimacy as quality time together — time to talk, date night, planning the future and helping solve each other’s problems.

Your Foundational Balance might include different things. Just remember, it’s not comprised of the things you must do each day. It is made up of the things that you need in order to function optimally.

You are Like a Car …

Think about the pistons in your car. They pump up and down — with great assistance from the motor oil you put in them. Now if I take the oil out of a car, will the pistons run? Yes. Will they pump? Yes. Will they eventually break down? Yes.

The pistons can accomplish their goal of pumping and getting you somewhere, at least least for a limited amount of time. But they are not going to be working efficiently.

They are not going to be anywhere near optimal.

You are the same. Without having a solid foundational balance — having your oil changed, your tires rotated, having enough gas and receiving timely tune-ups — you are going to run like a clunker!

And remember, you are not alone …

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Are You an iDad?

Every week, I take my boys to their after-school activities — swimming and karate. While I’m there enjoying my kids,  I’ve noticed that a lot of parents are plugged into their mobile devices.

They’re not watching their kids — at all.

Instead, they’re checking e-mail, reading a book or using an app on their iPhone. Sure, from time to time I’ll use my iPhone for a minute during a lesson, but never for more than that.

What it comes down to is where each parent is choosing to be engaged.

Would it be easy to stay plugged in to my iPhone? Sure. I’ve already seen Max swim across the pool dozens, quite possibly hundreds, of times. And I’ve watched Joss do his karate moves so often that I have them memorized myself. But I’ve also checked my e-mail hundreds of times.

Here’s the thing: My e-mail will be there later.

But there are precious moments that will only happen this one time as my kids partake in their respective classes. I don’t always know when they’ll happen, but if I miss them they’re gone. Forever.

So my decision is simple. I’m there to watch my kids.

I work so much (2 jobs, 6 days a week right now), and these half-hour classes are a chance to see my boys growing, learning and having fun. And if I’m paying attention, I can give them honest feedback and encouragement when they’re done.

There’s also another component tethered to this. When my kids look over at me, they see that I’m paying attention to what they’re doing, which makes them feel important (which they are). If they saw dad’s head buried in his iPhone, how would that make them feel? Insignificant and unimportant, that’s how. A definite contributor to poor self esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

It’s a great feeling to see my boys’ eyes light up when they see me watching them, really watching them, as I give them a big thumbs up.

Plugging in is tempting. These devices are addictive, they’re easy to get sucked into. And they can rob us of precious, one of a kind moments.

Just the other day, Max did two different types of backstrokes. Each time, I was awestruck as to how well he did them. My jaw literally dropped. I would have missed it if I were plugged in.

What it comes down to is this … Are you an involved dad or a chauffeur?

Being involved does not mean driving our kids to and from their after-school activities and being plugged in in-between. It means being present throughout. Which can sometimes be hard when we’re exhausted, and don’t have much time for ourselves. 

Am I an iDad?

As much as I love my phone — nope. Although I’ll admit that I can sometimes become distracted, I remain firmly plugged into my kids lives.

And remember, you are not alone …

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A Fresh Look at Goals: for Parents, Kids & the Family (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about methods that help us define and develop goals.

Once you’ve clarified what they are, the next step is breaking each goal into down into manageable steps, so we can set out with a plan on how to accomplish them. This plan may need frequent adjusting. This is not only OK, but a healthy part of the process.

As we move along and things clarify, we sometimes find that part of a plan simply does not work. This is NOT to be considered failure, it is a mini-success because with the adjustment in our plan we align ourselves more closely with the end goal.

Ultimately, if we take steps on a daily basis (no matter how small) we can attain our goals. It’s important to remember that we may not reach our goals on the intended date. Some things are out of our control. And if you’re a parent, lack of time and energy are real obstacles that may hinder rapid accomplishment. Fear not, it’s still possible, as long as you become crystal clear about what you want and how you’re going to get it.

The good news is that if we do this ourselves, we wind up teaching our kids how to do it, too. It’s a winning situation for everybody.

Here’s snapshot of what my mentor, Zig Ziglar, says about the goals process. His fantastic book, See You At The Top, goes into great detail about this subject (see a full list of recommendations at the end of this article).

1)     Identify EXACTLY what I desire
2)     Spell out exactly why I’d like to reach these goals
3)     List the obstacles I need to overcome in order to get there
4)     Identify the people, groups and organizations I need to work with to get there
5)     Identify what I need to know (learn) in order to reach these goals
6)     Develop a plan of action
7)     Set a date on it. When do I expect to get there?

One additional thought. If this all seems overwhelming, that’s normal. You can’t possibly answer all of these questions all at once. If you’re just starting the process, you may not be able to answer any. But if you allow yourself to believe that you can do this, you will. If you believe that you can’t, you won’t. In other words, your perception will create your reality.

SPEAKING OF KIDS
It’s never too soon to help our kids learn to set their own goals. By this I do not mean us setting goals for them, that’s different (and also necessary).

For instance, my son Max is in kindergarten. I shouldn’t expect him to be able to answer the following: “So, what are your plans to get to college?”

But I can help him set some goals for the coming school year. Any extra-curricular activities he might want to partake in (ie: swimming or track and field…) I also like to discuss future goals with both him – from career to family plans. I do this with my 3-year old, too. It helps my boys develop their frontal lobe, which is so important in decision making and problem solving.

There are too many young adults that have not idea how to set a goal, or what to do with their lives.

OUR GOALS
I’d like to take a deeper look at the kindergarten to college analogy. ANYBODY who tried to look at this scenario as a point A to point B endeavor would be completely overwhelmed. Here’s a way it can be broken down:

Kindergarten (where I’m at) to College (the goal)
the step-by-step approach to accomplishing my goal:

– Section it off by grammar school, middle school, high school and college.
– Now break it down by grade (year): kindergarten, grade 1, etc.
– By semester
– By month
– By week
– By day
– By class

You get the idea. Each step leads us to the ultimate goal, but it’s much easier to build upon if you start from the “by class” goal. Now it’s manageable – a small enough bite that you can actually chew on it, instead of choke on it.

FAMILY GOALS
Family goals could be anything from spending more time together, taking a family vacation, helping each other get in shape, fixing up the house, etc…

Sometimes an individual’s goal becomes a family goal. For instance, my son Max wants to be a NASCAR driver.

This is his goal. But since he’s only 5, it’s my job (and my wife’s job) to help him attain it – making it a family goal.

My first step is bringing him to a kart race to gauge his interest level. Once he sees exactly what kids’ kart racing entails (this actually exists for kids his age), what does he think?

My responsibility is to help both boys set goals that are realistic and attainable (but not necessarily easy). I can’t expect Max to drive a full-sized car right now, but there are karts he can drive, or he can play a driving game on the Playstation, etc…

If we make goal setting a way of life for ourselves and our kids, we can all expect more fulfilling and less frustrating lives.

Is it easy? NO.

Have I accomplished everything? Hardly.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

It’s a long road, but the sooner we get on the better off we’ll be.

And remember, you are not alone…

For further reading & listening:

Zig Ziglar
– See You at The Top (Highly reccomended book)
– Goals (audio CD’s)

Jack Canfield
The Success Principles
(also available on audio CD)

Brian Tracy

The $5,000 Tooth! (and the deconstruction of America)

I’m starting to feel like The Bionic Man. Not because of any special powers or enhancements like telescopic vision (heck, I’d settle for 20/20), or the ability to run faster than a cheetah.

No, I’m talking about a tooth. A solitary tooth, which I failed to properly take care of when I had a cavity years ago.

Ka-ching! Root canal, $2,000.

Present day. Root canal’s still good. But I’m told the tooth is cracked, oh well…

Ka-ching! $3,000 for an implant.

An implant? Couldn’t they think of a more friendly name? I feel like I’m in an X-Files episode. For that price you’d think they’d at least include something high tech  like a blue tooth implant.

Point being (other than complaining), in today’s economic climate with most of us up to our eyeballs in debt, how are we supposed to get ahead? Or simply break even when the cost of living is so high? There’s only so much fat you can cut, and there’s only so many hours in a day that can be divvied up between work and family.

And yet this country spends BILLIONS of dollars “fighting” a war for the “spread of democracy.” How about the spread of economic independence for Americans? If George Bush thought more about the people of this fine country, instead of the profitability of oil, maybe I wouldn’t gag (no pun intended) at the thought of such expensive dental work. 

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a “turn the other cheek” world. And we don’t live in a world where disputes are always resolved through talking and cooperation. So yes, we have to defend ourselves. But I’ve heard that the USA gave Osama Bin Laden somewhere in the amount of 3 billion dollars prior to September 11th. How much good would that have done for America? But to gain leverage and power in the Middle East, this money was given to a man who masterminded a terrible day. Nice work with that investment there.

And if no “weapons of mass destruction” were really found in Iraq, then why attack? Oh yeah, power & profit. Then we get to pay over $3 for a gallon of gas. It appears that “spreading democracy,” as George Bush puts it, is pretty hard on everyone but the rich here in America. And the deconstruction of economic foundations is global. That’s how influential our country is. In a very real way, we’ve become the heart of the world.

I’m left with a troubling question: Who has the guts, the brains and the determination to make this a better world for our kids? Who has an honest soul and a heart that cares more about helping Americans than making a buck?

I feel like there’s a cavity eating through America and there’s no dentist to be found not at any cost.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

And remember, you are not alone…

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The Way I Am: A Song of Acceptance & Love

This beautiful song cuts through life’s daily clutter and to-do lists, and clarifies what’s really important.

It reminds me how much I love my wife and kids, and how much I miss them when we’re apart. It’s also a great example of how acceptance of each other is the key to unconditional love. Being loved for who we are, while being supported and given room to grow, is truly a great gift…

The Way I Am, by Ingrid Michaelson

And remember, you are not alone…

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Baby Einstein: The Target of Stupid Claims about Kids & Educational TV

I recently read two posts (see links below) on one of my favorite daddy blogs: Working Dad: An Unauthorized Guide to Parenting. The topic? Educational DVD’s for children, including Baby Einstein.

There’s a coalition called “Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,” that believes these educational videos are not educational at all, and may actually be harmful to small children. Although the coalition mentions only a couple of children’s DVD producers, the implications are clear that no children’s educational TV is safe from this scrutiny. Which is fine, as long as common sense and intelligence lead the way.

In this case, I believe the statements made by the coalition are ridiculous, untrue, and just plain stupid.

I have seen both of my boys benefit from a LIMITED AMOUNT of television/DVD viewing. Especially programs like Thomas the Tank Engine, and other “educational” programs including Baby Einstein.

It has helped with speech, as well as learning colors and numbers. DVD’s have helped them build cognitive process by improving their ability to follow a story (sequence and succession of events). I personally find it fun, satisfying and comforting to watch these DVD’s with them. Sure, kids who learn only from DVD’s and TV do not experience the same learning advantages as kids who learn with their parents as well. I don’t need to get a grant and hold a study to make this statement — it’s common sense!

What it comes down to is this: Good parents take responsibility for their kids, and themselves. Bad parenting is bad parenting, no matter how much TV a child watches — educational or otherwise. It’s all about how good of a parent you are, how and how much you interact with your kids. If you use an educational DVD as a learning tool, great! But parents who use it as a babysitter or in leiu of personal interaction, are bad parents. How can anyone in his or her right mind think a DVD like this could be harmful?

Excuse my sarcasm, but I’d like to meet the 6-month old that was interviewed about the Baby Einstein series. I’m sure his quote of: “I find they have no educational value, at least not for me,” sounded a lot more like “gaa, poo poo, baba, dada.” Point being, adults don’t really know what’s going on in the minds of little ones when they watch TV.

I also find part of Baby Einstein’s response to all this offensive and insulting. “Since day one, Baby Einstein products have been about moms and babies spending meaningful moments together…” Yet ANOTHER major children’s company has left out dads. Maybe I’m being picky, but you know what? I AM A DAD. I TAKE CARE OF MY KIDS, JUST LIKE MY WIFE. I’m not off doing “manly” things, and it’s about time these major corporations respected that.

Maybe the people who make these comments should shift gears and examine the social implications of major companies who constantly exclude dads! Could that be something that affects our kids negatively? Not to mention dads? Something to think about for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood…

How about a campaign for common sense!

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Feel free to post them.

And remember, you are not alone…

Links to Working Dad’s original postings:
Baby Einstein – Part 1
Baby Einstein – Part 2

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What is a Wife?

I thank the Universe every day for blessing me with my wife. She far surpasses anything I ever imagined a wife could be.

If it weren’t for my wife, my life would be completely different, and quite frankly I think it would kind of suck. I would not be who I am today — plain and simple.

It’s because of my wife that I have learned to let go of my anger and heal from Crohn’s disease. Because of her, I am a professional writer. And it’s because of her that I have tried every endeavor that I was passionate about. Whether I succeeded or fell at the speed of light into failure, she supported me, believed in me and never complained or tried to stop me. Now that’s one darn good wife. And she’s cute too!

Without her strength and support, my chances of accomplishing these things would have diminished greatly.

As grateful as I am, I find it difficult these days (as a busy and exhausted dad) to take a moment — a real moment — to be together and regenerate. We don’t have any support since we moved away from home (for a job opportunity). It’s just us out here in the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin.

I’d like to make today National Bond with Your Spouse Day. Forget Valentine’s Day, let’s make today a day where the sweet smelling gift we give is not roses (or cake — yum!), but the gift of ourselves. Let’s take some time today to be grateful for our spouse and spend some quality time together.

Honey, thank you for being my wife. Thank you for all your love, support and patience with me.

I love you.

: ^ )

And remember, you are not alone…

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