… from the bungalow


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With Love from Dad: An open letter to my three kids

This post is dedicated to all the dads/parents who desperately love their kids, but have a hard time seeing through the visual din of life with depression.

Dear kids,

I have not been the kind of dad  that I want to be. In fact, I am not the man I thought I’d be in many ways. I walk through life viewing the world around me like a movie. I come home from work feeling like a zombie, only to spend a few hours in a house that doesn’t feel like my own. I am disengaged; from work, from you, from life in general.

I wish I could say that I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have, but I’m not sure I’m even doing that. I could spend five minutes each morning in silent meditation. I could talk to a doctor about medication options. I could exercise once in a while, even if it’s just running up and down the stairs for two minutes. I could go to bed half an hour earlier. There are plenty of things I could do; things of which I am fully aware that could have a positive affect on me and, subsequently, on you. By that same token, there are plenty of reasons I could cite for my apparent inability to do and be more, but they would be excuses.

The fact of the matter is: I have let you down, and I am sorry. Continue reading

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Answers: Step-Parenting and “The Illusion”

A couple of weeks ago a reader in a situation similar to my own asked for my thoughts about step-parenting. Here is his question, followed by my response with only slight changes to protect identities. I have since received his permission to use this as the first post in a new series, which I think I’ll call, simply, “Answers.”

so how did you kind of “get over yourself” to start reaching out to your step-son when you kinda-sorta didn’t really want to? I feel like that’s what I need to do and I’m having trouble, partly because I feel like he doesn’t want it and won’t appreciate it. Sort of a, “you don’t deserve to be my friend” feeling on my part. Trust me, I know how immature that sounds/is. Any insights or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Kevin,

Here’s where I let out a big sigh. *Sigh.* The step-parenting stuff is difficult. I haven’t gotten even close to where I’d like to be as a step-parent! But I’m reminded often that a healthy step-parent/step-child relationship can take many years (average of 7?). And certainly your situation is different than mine for a few reasons. Jay is older than my step-son. From what you’ve told me, it sounds like he’s been in less-than-stable family environments, even if it was not pushed on him directly. He isn’t coming into a family with older siblings to look to for queues. Etc.

Those are the parts of the “illusion” that differ from my situation with L. But there are aspects of the illusion that are the same. (I have a tendency to get “meta” with my thinking, so I’ll try to keep it simple for brevity’s sake. You know, the whole, “We’re physiologically and genetically predisposed to protect our own offspring in a way that translates to unconditional love,” and so on.)

The illusion is that he belongs to someone else.

Stepdad and L by a pondNot only does he NOT belong to someone else, but he is no less “you” than your own, biological children are “you.” We’re all fragments of the whole. We take on the drama in our lives so we can learn from them and benefit the greater consciousness. I have little moments here and there of seeing L as the individual that is L (this is difficult to put into words), and in those moments I feel compassion for him as a struggling being. I try to act on those moments as often as they come up because it is so difficult to “get over yourself” in those moments when you’re not feeling it.

Feeling the way you feel is no longer immature once you reach the point of realization and acknowledgment. I also think that reaching for something is less effective than allowing that something to come to you. Don’t force the issue. For me, the progression tends to go like this: I discipline as a parent, get frustrated with L, Karin and myself when it’s counter-productive, become aloof, “allow what is” for all of 5 minutes, then fall back on the over-bearing dad bit all over again. But I think the “allow what is” portion of the cycle gets a bit longer each time, if only by a few seconds, and I see the fruits of that here and there when he accidentally calls me “Dad” or hugs me before I leave for work. Yes, he’s younger and looks to my biological son for queues, but the underlying theme is the same. I guess what I’m suggesting is to let go without becoming detached. It’s less about getting “over” something, and more of a slide to the side. See Jay for who he is, not the mask that he wears.

Jay’s personality and motives serve a purpose, as does your presence in his life (and his in yours). Allow that purpose to unfold.

Dang, I need to take my own advice.

I hope this is helpful. It was for me!
~Chris

So much for brevity…

I’d love to get your thoughts on this! Let me know what you think in a comment below. Thanks for reading and sharing!


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A Few Good Men: On family tradition (Blogger Idol Week 9)

This is the post that got me through to the Final 3! Thanks so much to everyone who has voted along the way. I actually didn’t think I’d get this far, but I’m in it to win it now!

Thinking about family traditions and values is tougher than it should be. My life has been in constant transition for more than two years now. I’d like to think it will settle down soon, but until then, my blended family hasn’t established any notable traditions. Does that make us a bunch of self-serving heathens? No. We’re just busy surviving the changes.

Growing up, my family had Christmas and other holiday traditions surrounding meals and the exchanging of gifts, but as we’ve all grown up and have families of our own, this has become difficult to maintain. And although Karin and I are not specifically Christian, we celebrate Christmas with gifts and generosity of heart. We celebrate the newness of the earth ushered in with each vernal equinox. We read and sing to our boys every night, and share three things we’re grateful for at the end of the day. These are the seedlings of our family’s traditions.

We also share many core values: honesty, equality, non-judgment, kindness, Love. And we try to impart these to our kids. Together, Continue reading


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New Ways to Follow FtB!

Twitter logo-squareWell, I did it. I created a Twitter account specifically for this blog. I figured that if I used my personal account (and if people started following me), I might occasionally want to say something inappropriately personal.

And on that note, I’m happy to announce that following the blog just got easier! With a bit of help from Dan over at Single Dad Laughing, I’ve added a nifty little row of buttons (just to the upper left, there, see?) that will let you join the discussion in five different ways: Facebook, Twitter, Email, your favorite feed reader, and Blogger. And if you use WordPress like I do, you can always click “Subscribe” at the top of the page.

That’s about all I’ve had time to do today. While I do enjoy the security of a full-time, salaried job, I do not have the luxury of prioritizing this blog as much as I’d like. But we’ll get there!

Chris

So what’s your media preference?


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Children Are Special: Let’s kick each other

It’s rarely quiet when you have three young boys in the house. You never really learn to like it, but you start to get used to it. It’s kind of like the nerve-grating din of a construction crew, only more obnoxious. So when it does get quiet, you assume that either something’s wrong or something’s about to go down.

Dino sacrifice

Don't make me feed you to the dinosaur.

This morning we heard a brief silence followed by increasingly animal-like guttural sounds coming from the living room. Karin asked them what they were doing. Another brief silence followed by more giggling and animal sounds. So I went in to see what was going on before the inevitable breakdown. (Here’s what the typical progression looks like: have stupid idea, act on stupid idea, get more and more wild because it’s fun, take it too far and hurt someone, hurt back in retaliation, cry and tattle, defend yourself with statement that begins with “well, he…”) Continue reading