Archive for the 'Dad’s Corner' Category

No screens

young girl in front of computer screen

Cropped image., Flickr. CC license.

I’ve been traveling for work the past few months, from Florida to Tennessee, learning as much as I can about the business I’ve been in for nearly two decades. Sounds odd to see that in print, but I’m proud that I am always learning something.

Sure, I can learn all I want to know about my area of expertise from books, blogs and websites to just name a few, but meeting and working with people from around the nation is more of an education than the whole Internet has to offer.

You learn the strengthens and weaknesses of co-workers, and they learn yours. You become a team, a family for three or four days until the job is done. Then you shake hands, give everyone a “bro hug” and head home to your real family.

You share some stories with your loved ones, and try to explain there is a whole, big world you want to share with them. You describe that Florida has some of the best service in the world and Nashville has the best music and BBQ you’ve ever heard (yes, the BBQ there is so good it sings).

So many of us spend countless hours in front of screens – both big and small – and we allow our kids to do the same. We need to stop. Don’t get me wrong, entertainment and the Internet are great, but so are the experiences of turning the screens off and living in the real world.

Learn from neighbors; go share a recipe in person. Find out what its like to ride a bike down the middle of the street with your kids and see who can go the furthest without peddling. Think you’re the best chalk artist in the neighborhood? Prove it with an art block party and show your inner Diego Rivera on the sidewalk.

Trust me, I need to take my own advice because as a family we spend way too much time watching everyone else’s lives on screens that we need to start living our own. The summer of 2018 will be the summer of memories.

Turning off in 3… 2…

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Bag man

Ever circle something on the calendar in anticipation of doing whatever you wrote down? Vacation, wedding, class reunion? It seems so far away at first, but the day kind of sneaks up on you. It happened to me recently when I was carrying out my daughter’s bags for her week-long, sleep-away camp with school. Don’t ask me how Fifth Grade Camp can sneak up on you; I mean the name of the camp is something measurable – fifth grade comes after fourth grade and all that.

Nevertheless, there I was, literally holding the bags wondering where time had gone! It seemed just like yesterday that I was holding a car seat being taught how it works in the valet area of Beaumont. Now I have a week’s worth of clothes – I’m guessing two weeks by the weight of it – a sleeping bag and pillow in my hands. I hand everything over to the guy in the designated truck; he slaps the appropriate piece of duct tape on it and off it goes, with hundreds of other kids’ bags, to an adventure that I’ll be lucky to hear stories about.

For more than a year, our oldest did a lot of hand-wringing over camp. She knew she was going, but the thought of leaving home for a week was more than she could handle some days. Other days, she was counting down the days excitedly knowing she’d get a break from her little sister (and maybe her parents).

We went shopping, stocked up on what was on the list. At every turn, we sold her on how fun it was going to be. The neighbors, who went to the same camp when they were in fifth grade, told her how much fun she’d have and that once she put her head on the pillow that she’d be out cold. You see, our daughter has always had a little bit of an issue falling asleep, so it was good to hear that she wouldn’t have trouble falling asleep.

The anticipation grew. As camp got closer so did the anxiety. But through talking, texting her friends that might be in her cabin, and knowing she would be away from school, she really started to like the idea of being away from home. So did her sister who took full advantage of being the only child for a week.

The big day came; she bounded from the school and onto the bus. Just like that, no big deal. We flooded her with hidden notes in her bags and she wasn’t wanting for mail at mail call; in fact, she received the most mail in her cabin. She met a new friend from another elementary school who will be going to the same middle school next year, so she’s looking forward to seeing her next school year.

Camp was filled with firsts: first time holding a bald python, a bearded dragon and touching a turtle. Honestly, all things I thought she would never do. They played games that taught teamwork, even if she didn’t know it. She learned a lot that week, but I think her biggest lesson was also our biggest lesson – she’s growing up and isn’t our little girl anymore. Well, she is but in a much more mature package.

My dad always said time flies, and I finally understand what he means. I’ve looked for the pause-on-life button, but there isn’t one. Trust me our youngest would have found it so she could be the “only” child a bit longer.

I guess what I’m trying to say is enjoy the ride.

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

The biggest challenges single dads face and how to overcome them

Silhouette of man holding baby

Most single parents didn’t set out to raise their children alone, but according to Pew Research, the single-parent household is the most prevalent today. In 2013, 17 percent of these custodial single parents were men. That means we need to start looking at the special circumstances of single fathers in addition to those that all single parents face.

Higher expectations

It isn’t just a myth that men usually clock more work hours than women; according to Harvard Business Review, it’s a statistical fact. Studies show that 29 percent of working men living with their children work more than 50 hours per week, while only 9 percent of women do the same. Unfortunately, these expectations usually don’t go away when a man becomes a single father.

As a single father, you probably feel the guilt that comes along with not spending enough time with your children. That’s completely normal. But it may help you to know that most studies show that quality time beats out quantity time in almost all situations. Make the most of the time you do have together and try to let yourself off the hook for things you can’t control.

Men don’t ask for help

According to Psych Central, there are several reasons men won’t ask for help, but the fact is that as a single parent, getting help from others is vital. Not only do single parents need help with afternoon care and rides to school, but a good support system could mean the difference between burnout and healthy self-care.

Single parents need to be cognizant of mental health and how it can affect their children. The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety and sadness all play a big role in the state of our mental health. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing. Your need to feel in control should take a backseat to your need for a healthy and happy home and family.

Setting boundaries

Discipline is one of the main struggles of single fathers according to the National Center for Fathering. While dealing with guilt from several factors—such as having too little time to spend with the kids and possibly from a relationship that ended—single dads can find it hard to set the necessary boundaries children need to flourish.

Boundaries, however, are vital in a parent/child relationship. Children who have set rules to follow grow up to become more productive citizens. Fathers can establish these parameters by clearly outlining what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at home and at school. While this will be different for all households, fathers must remember that consistency is the key to any disciplinary methodology. Broken rules should always have consequences.

Financial burdens

If you have recently lost a spouse through death or divorce, you may have lost, along with them, a second income. This means your budget tightens while the need for your children to spend time with you increases. This is a battle that usually doesn’t get any easier, but it can become more manageable. A lot of single parents find it helpful to speak to a financial planner to discuss their options since second jobs are not usually an option.

No one will ever tell you that single parenting is easy. It could be the most difficult challenge you will ever face, but also counted among the most rewarding. Just remember to take care of yourself, try to let go of the guilt and make the time you have with your children memorable.

Daniel Sherwin is a single dad raising two children. On his personal blog, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Two-step bus stop

girl painting ceramics

My life changed on a late day in November 2007 and again on an early day in May 2011 when my daughters were born. I went from a carefree, newly married guy to an overprotective father when each of them cried in the delivery room. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this as a bad thing but more as an important piece to a nearly deadly incident involving my youngest daughter.

There was talk around the house that we were going to make our triumphant return the local daddy/daughter dance put on by our local parks and rec department. Sadly, for us, the tickets sold out in a heartbeat so we needed to make alternate plans.

Do the three of us go out to dinner? Movie and a trip to the ice cream shop?

After careful consideration, we decided to do separate daddy/daughter dates, which  led to much more discussion on what to do. After much thought, and back-and-fourth, my youngest picked going to paint pottery and hit one of her favorite restaurants, Noodles and Company.

Date night came; we dressed nicely but not too nice just in case we got paint on ourselves. We hopped in the truck and headed to the next town over. I missed the turn for the parking structure, but we found some street parking. We needed to walk about five blocks though, but no big deal because we were having fun chatting.

We came to the corner of a four-lane road and a side street. I explained the difference the between the red icon that was lit up and the white “walk” icon that eventually showed itself. We took a couple of steps off the curb and I had to pull my daughter away from an oncoming bus. We were within inches of this being a totally different blog article.

The sleepy-eyed driver “didn’t see” us nor the other woman coming the other direction; she had to use some fancy footwork to avoid becoming part of one of those bike racks every bus seems to have nowadays.

What really happened? The driver wasn’t paying attention and jumped the light because, as only I can guess, he had something more important to do or place to be. He didn’t make it on his scheduled route for a few minutes because the protective dad came out of me and I had a few choice words for him.

I said a few things I wish I hadn’t, not because he didn’t deserve them—which he did tenfold—but because my screaming scared my daughter more that the actual near miss did. That put a damper on part of the evening, but we had a talk about why I reacted the way I did and she seemed to understand and even asked for a hug.

Any parent, aunt or uncle, or grandma and grandpa changes with the first cry of their child, niece or nephew, or grandchild. It’s up to us to control that protective behavior so that we don’t do more damage than what we’re trying to protect them from.

After the hug, we painted some pottery and chatted about stuff we’d never talk about with her sister around; it was quite the bonding moment. And if you were wondering, she got her favorite dinner from her favorite restaurant.

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Did I say too much? A year in review.

man thinking

I’ve really enjoyed writing these Parenting Program blog articles for the last couple of years. The kind words I received when I wrote about loss were all very much appreciated. The note or two I get every time a blog posts proves that at least one or two people are reading. That’s why I wanted to do a year-in-review look back at what I’ve shared with you.

In one simple phrase – way too much! I kid (sort of); these blogs have been a blessing because I’ve used them as therapy. I’ve lost some close friends so I wrote about and how you should teach your kids to live every day to the fullest. But that doesn’t mean schedule every minute of every day. There is something to be said to have some free time to daydream or form a formidable all-girl, leaf-raking crew to make a few dollars on Election Day.

I shared how both of my daughters have grown and now surprise me with their wit, caring and sassiness. I mentioned in the last blog that my oldest daughter gained both brothers and sisters via her Beaumont family, but I didn’t tell you our youngest has a Beaumont family that only grows stronger by each addition.  I’m guessing that we’re not adding more to that family, but sometimes you get just the right amount.

There have been a number of times I wrote about my dad, a single father not by choice but necessity, who showed me what is to go above and beyond for your children, not because he had to but because he knew it was right.

In my nearly decade of parenting, I’ve learned that it’s OK to take time for yourself, because you can’t make your family a meal if the kitchen is empty. OK, I’ll admit it’s not my best analogy, but you get my point. As the great “Parks and Rec” once taught us – Treat Yo’Self – maybe not as much as you did before that little blue line changed your whole world forever, but you need to focus on you from time to time.

I used “I” quite a bit in this blog, mostly on purpose; sometimes the focus has to shift from your three-letter moniker – “Mom” or “Dad” – to “me” and “I.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to fly to Vegas and let the 529 college savings plan ride on black. Far from it. But if there is an extra gift during Hanukkah, or Santa brings you that new jacket you wanted, who’s going to blame you?

Enjoy your holiday season, however you celebrate. Be sure to take a moment and give yourself kudos for making it this far because this parenting thing isn’t easy, but great things aren’t always easy.

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Who says you can’t pick your family?

bunch of kids skating on a pond

My daughter and most of her Beaumont siblings

As a parent you tell your kids never to lie. It’s one of the cardinal rules in our house that has the biggest consequences—we’re talking loss of electronics! I know, the worst punishment ever … according to my oldest, anyway. But to be truthful, we’ve been lying to her. Let me explain.

We’ve told our girls you never get to pick your family, you get what you get and don’t throw a fit. That part of it is true, but here comes the fib. The day she was born we signed up for a Beaumont Parenting Program group and on that day she wasn’t an only child anymore. She gained two brothers who excel on the ice, another who has more musical skill than any of her blood relatives. A fellow bookworm and a sister who, just like her, can dance until the streetlights come on. And lest we forget, her family is now international with a sister in England and her German transplant who moved to Germany when work called her dad back home.

6 kids with birthday cake

Celebrating “7”

They are her Beaumont Family, a hodgepodge of brothers and a sister who all may have different parents, but share common experiences that siblings only do. Birthday parties, Halloween costume competitions and even a few camping trips that show these kids pick up right where they left off from the last time they saw each other.

Heck, even the Beaumont moms go on an annual “girls weekend” that is filled with laughter, good times and relaxation … or so I’ve been told. Being a Beaumont dad, I never get an invitation! That doesn’t mean we don’t have our excitement though.

During the most recent girls weekend, one of the dads was playing basketball with his son, and what can only be described as one of the highest jumps in recorded backyard history, hit his head on the backboard suffering a serious cut.

Like any good dad, he sucked it up and went on with his weekend. But after a quick consult via a few texted photos, the injured dad decided to get medical attention. Too deep for urgent care to handle, and not knowing how long he’d be in the ER, he reached out to another dad in the group to look after his son as he went to get patched up.

Without hesitation, the other dad looked after the son and folded him into the daily family plan. That’s what’s good about having the built-in support system that the Beaumont parenting group offers—when you need someone to lend a helping hand they’re there for you.

We’re coming up on a decade of being a Beaumont Family and even though we don’t have bi-weekly meetings like we did when we started, we still get together nearly once a month to hang out, share a meal and reinforce our family bond. Next to our marriage license, the most important paper we ever signed was the one for the Beaumont Parenting Program.

And if you’re wondering, our high-flying dad had to receive seven staples to close his backyard basketball battle wound.

– Jim Pesta is a past Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Do “North”

view on Mackinac Island

I’ve lived in Michigan for over four decades; my wife was an Air Force brat growing up around the world, but her roots were always in the mitten state. Together we ate in New Buffalo, swam in Lake Superior, and tailgated at our alma mater numerous times. So it’s amazing that neither of us ever hopped on the ferry to Mackinac Island. That changed in a recent family road trip “Up North.”

First off, let’s talk “Up North.” Where does it start for you? Past Midland? West Branch? Gaylord or crossing the mighty Mac? For our family, we consider “Up North” anything past the 45th parallel is north. We even make sure that everyone lifts their feet so no one trips over the imaginary latitude line that crosses over the highway.

We’re lucky enough to have family all over “Up North” which is great because it helps keep costs down, but more importantly gives us a little more time to reconnect with those we don’t get to see enough. And truthfully, it gives our girls the time to meet family for the first time and create a bond that can be built on for years to come.

One evening, my wife and I went to her class reunion (the reason for the trip) and had to leave our girls with family they don’t know very well and the plan was to go to a BBQ at another family member’s house they never met.

Our girls are OK at meeting new folks, but they have separation anxiety when we leave them for a longer period of time. But guess what? When we returned, our girls were running around like they’ve been there for years. They met cousins they never knew they had and a neighbor girl who showed them the ropes on the trampoline. The next day there was talk about coming to visit for a week next summer — without us!

Our trip ended on the mainland in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful part of the state; the mix of tacky shops and history is perfect. Nowhere else can you buy a Mackinaw Strong camo hoodie and learn about how soldiers lived watching out for redcoats. It sets the stage for a whole different world on the island.

The four of us didn’t know what to expect when we got on the ferry to Mackinac Island. We knew we were all going to experience something new as a family. We sat on the second deck of the boat to see the sights. We saw the bridge, buoys up close and personal, and the island itself.

I won’t give you every twist and turn of our Island adventure, but I can say it lives up to the hype. You are transported to a simpler time (if that simpler time had 24 different types of fudge). Our girls learned a lot about the history that is around every turn and they seemed to soak it in.

The point of all of this is that we all experienced something for the first time that we’ll remember for a lifetime. Our state is built for lifelong memories, you just have to go find them and make them.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.


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