The Space Between Us – Part 2

1970 – Philadelphia, PA

My father was talking to me in the living room as we watched what was happening with the Apollo 13 mission. They were going to land on the moon too. But on the way there they had some technical failures. They were losing oxygen. I asked my dad what was happening, thinking the astronauts and NASA were indestructible and infallible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13

“If they don’t get this fixed son, they won’t make it back.”

Hearing those words drove home the reality of life and how fragile we all are.

What a terrifying moment for Jim Lovell and his crew. Happily, we’ve all seen Ron Howard’s film with Tom Hanks and it has a very happy ending.

 

January 1986 – Wildwood, NJ

I was working at Circle Liquor in Somer’s Point NJ. It’s one of the most profitable liquor stores on the east coast. It’s so big, you can drive your boat up to the place. I was pushing a shopping cart full of Canadian whiskey in the warehouse. I was about to go out into the store and stock the shelves. Another one of the guys came through the doors with his cart.

“Hey man, the space shuttle blew up.”

“What?”

By the mid ’80s, the shuttle missions had become so commonplace no one really paid any attention to them anymore. America was accustomed to going into space. They thought it was getting boring so they let a school teacher go along for the ride.

“Yea, the Challenger blew up.”

“The one with the school teacher, Christa McAuliffe?”

“No survivors.”

I thought about it the rest of the day. I got home that night before my father. But when he did arrive, he went straight upstairs. I walked down the hall to his room and went to see him. I stood at the doorway and he was taking off his suit jacket. He saw me there and stopped. We just looked into each other’s eyes for a moment before we both started crying.

“Tough day.”

“Yea.”

“It’s terrible.”

“Why do they keep showing it over and over on TV?”

“Because they want viewers, son.”

We hugged, and didn’t speak of it again after that. A terrible tragedy that didn’t need to happen. It was a heartbreaking day for the space program and most of all this country.

“The last man to be here was never heard from again.
He won’t be back this way till 2010.
Now I’m riding on a fountain of fire.
With my back to the earth, I go higher and higher.
Why me? Why me?”  – Planet P

 

1990

I was working at the Union Trust Bank as a Branch Manager. I had finally become a banker like my father. He was very proud of me. I cut my hair, put on a suit, and joined the ranks of humanity.

One morning my dad gave me an article he had enjoyed in the New York Times magazine. (Which was included in every Sunday edition back then.)

It was an article about a group of scientists that were working on a project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It was called SETI.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

We were both really into the idea of life on other planets and had discussed the prospects at length. We weren’t a religious family, and the notion that Earth was a solitary entity to support life in the universe was poppycock to us.

With billions of stars out there, life would have to exist somewhere else. It’s just good science. I loved the article so much, he let me keep the magazine.

Are we alone? The search for life in the universe | SETI Institute

By the time I read that article I was already well ensconced in every book I could find about alien life in the universe. The Roswell incident, Crash at Corona, Out There, and Communion. Any book I could find, I would read. I had even become a card-carrying member of MUFON. (The Mutual UFO Network) I just knew something was out there and was captivated by the scientists at the JPL making an effort to contact them.

I wrote to one of the scientists (Edward T. Olsen) on that project. I composed a heartfelt letter that described what I had experienced with my father growing up in regard to space. I remember closing my letter with this statement; “I would be happy to mop the floors at your facility just to be near something that you’re trying to accomplish.”

To my shock and awe, he actually got back to me. I was blown away. He had said he was so impressed by my letter, that he read it to the team at his weekly meeting. He wrote to me an extensive four-page letter that was wonderful. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to read it to my dad.

I remember sitting in his kitchen. Just the two of us as I read the whole letter aloud to him. He was ecstatic.

But the one thing  I remember from that night was this; When I finished reading the letter, he had one question for me.

“Do you have a copy of your letter? I want to hear what you said to him.”

I get a four-page letter from a dude from NASA, and my dad is more interested in what my words were to that man to get him to write back to me.

Huge father and son moment.

I’ll dig out the magazine and the letter and publish them on the blog at some point.

Here’s an interesting point. I wrote to that scientist one other time after that. I didn’t tell anyone, but I had some ideas about how an actual flying saucer could navigate it was through space. My father always told me that nobody would come here because they were too far away. But he was thinking about what he learned in books. He only learned about linear flight from point A to point B on a traditional, solid rocket booster.

But I thought that if you could generate enough of a gravitational force, you could literally pull point B to point A in a short amount of time. It was a bunch of theories from a 24-year-old young man about exotic propulsion systems for interstellar travel.

I didn’t hear back from the scientist. Years later, I was scheduled to attend a business junket to California when I worked at a finance company. I called the scientist and actually got him on the phone. I remember sitting in my hotel room and talking to him. He remembered me and my first letter. I told him I wanted to take him up on his offer of visiting the JPL and taking the tour he had offered me in his letter.

But, he said that wouldn’t be a good idea. I asked him what he thought of my second letter, and he said he never got it.

Hmmm…

 

1994

I was working for a finance company, and I read in the paper about a book signing that was happening at a store that wasn’t too far from my office. I really wanted to slip out and attend it.

The year before, Howard Stern‘s book, Private Parts had published. He was syndicated in the Philadelphia market on rock radio WMMR each morning, and wildly popular.

When his book came out, I remember seeing people lined up around the block to buy it. Howard was, and probably still is, that popular! It was the fastest-selling book in the publisher’s history and sold a whopping 1.1 million copies by 1995. Pretty impressive numbers for a guy that talks about farts and sex all morning on the radio.

So, I didn’t know what to expect when I was going to this particular book signing. Were all book signings a manic line of fans lined up around the block to meet their hero? I only have a limited window to do this and get back to the office.

I get to the Barnes and Noble, or Borders bookstore in the next county. I see a sign on the window for what’s happening that day, and head in. I spoke to one of the employees and told her why I was there.

“Where do I get in line?”

“Line?”

“Yea, for the signing.”

“Just go right back there. He’s sitting right back there at that table.”

I walk back to where she told me to go. It felt like slow motion. Through the long aisle of books. I felt small. It was like being a kid again walking through the bookstore with my dad in Bradd Alan’s in Cheltenham, 25 years ago.

I come upon the man at the table. He’s an older gentleman with a kind face, and a sharpie in his hand. Stacks of his book Lost Moon are piled in front of him and in a box on the floor. There’s no line of people to meet this national hero. No line going out the door and around the block.

“It’s an honor to meet you, sir. I’m Charles.”

“Hello Charles, I’m Jim.”

The commander of Apollo 13 is sitting right in front of me in a bookstore on a rainy day in the suburbs of Pennsylvania.

He signs the book, “To Horace,    Jim Lovell.”

My father said it was his favorite Christmas present that year.

What it really comes down to is this. My father wanted to be present in all of his kid’s lives because it mattered. It made a difference. He wanted to be there for us all because of his own father’s absence. He didn’t want to follow in the mistakes of the past. He and my mother helped my sisters and I evolve into the people we are today.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

Thanks for interstellar trip, dad! We stayed on Earth but we went around the sun 54 times together!

Here’s a cool commemorative stamp my dad got me that went to space!

 

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The Space Between Us – Part 1

Philadelphia, late 1960’s.

Ever since I was a little boy, I loved the space program and all things having to do with the universe. I always liked science and nature.

On Sundays my dad would take my sister Janice and I to a book store where he picked up his copy of the New York Times. We lived in a neighborhood called Lawndale and the store was over in Cheltenham. It was a 15 or 20 minute ride from the house.

I remember one time we went there and there were a half dozen flatbed trailers in the parking lot. On each trailer were these giant dinosaur models. But, get this… you could put coins in  a machine on the thing and it would make you a miniature model of the dinosaur you were standing at the foot of. It was incredible. Of course my dad got us one of each.

(They were made out of wax and plastic. It was almost surreal to me at the time. If I can find any info on this, I’ll write about it in a future post.)

Creepy Classics

1960s Tyrannosaurus Rex Wax Mold-A-Rama Injection Mold Dinosaur Small Variation | Tyrannosaurus rex, Tyrannosaurus, Dinosaur

1960s Tyrannosaurus Rex Wax Mold-A-Rama Injection Mold Dinosaur Small Variation

I will have to say this here being a student of science. Notice how back then people thought T-Rex walked upright like a guy in a Godzilla suit dragging his tail behind him? When it’s painfully obvious if you look at the bone structure of the T-Rex he’s built more like a bird. The genuine article leaned forward and his tail stuck out for balance.

More like this rendering:

Growing Up Tyrannosaurus Rex: Researchers Learn More About Teen-Age T.Rex

Since this story is about science I felt it needed to be said!

My dad read the NY Times every Sunday for as long as I can remember. We had the Evening Bulletin delivered to our house every day by the local paperboy, but he would buy the Times for himself every weekend. It was a behemoth of a publication. Easily 100 pages. This is when print was king and the Times was probably the greatest paper in the country. (Maybe the world!)

I once asked my father why he read that paper and he told me that he felt that the Times told the unbiased truth when it came to the news. It was a high brow intelligently written paper that brought you news from around the world. He felt that it gave him everything he needed to know each week.

He’d be chatting with the staff and browsing for books, and Janice and I would wander around the store looking at all kinds of different books. I loved walking up and down the aisles looking at all sorts of different books!

My dad would sometimes say no to getting us a toy. But he never said no to getting us a book.

I loved looking at all of books and comics. Normally, my sister and I would come home with something on those trips.

We always had lots of books growing up. My father was an avid reader and always had a book going. He was a self educated man. He read about everything. He would pick a subject and read all he could about it. I always thought that my dad was a really smart guy, but he would always dismiss it by saying that he was just older. But I knew he got smart from reading so many books. He wanted to better understand the world and its historical events to better navigate his own life. He used to say that the three greatest things in his life were my mom, us kids, and his books.

He passed in 2016, but I wonder what his reaction would have been to discover his son had become a published author?

He used to say that books and knowledge gave him the tools he needed to better navigate the world and the people and events in it. That habit trickled down into us kids, and we all learned so much from him. Don’t get me wrong, my mom liked to read too, but she was more into Agatha Christie and works of fiction. My dad liked non-fiction. Mostly history, biographies, and science. He did love science fiction and read all the great works by Clark, Asimov, and Heinlein. He enjoyed authors who took a more scientific approach to their writing rather than the fantasy stuff of say… Ray Bradbury. He always liked stories about stuff that could maybe happen in the future. That’s why he always liked Batman better than Superman. Superman was an alien from another planet with incredible powers. Batman was just a regular guy. Batman was cool, because Batman could be a real guy! You could never be Superman, but if you had the money and skills, you could maybe be Batman!

I remember he got me a huge poster and I hung it on the wall of my bedroom. It was of our solar system and I would always look at it think about our galaxy. Here’s a guy who took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. We loved space and all things science fiction. I used to stand on my bed at night and just stare at that poster. I always thought it would be amazing to travel to the stars. But I was afraid of heights, so that was off the table.

We had stacks of books about science and nature. I remember my sister and I would get these little paperback digest sized books about animals. I especially loved those books. Each one had a different subject. Fish, Reptiles, Amphibians, Insects, and Spiders and their kin. I asked dad what the word kin meant, and he told me that they were all in the same family. Just like us. Reading all of these kinds of books as a kid were not only fun and informative, but they made you smarter, and you didn’t even realize it was happening. I don’t remember many of my friends in the neighborhood having many books like that growing up.

I loved space, aliens, space travel and science fiction movies growing up. My father was a huge fan of the Apollo program as it began to take shape in the 60’s. We followed it together and would watch the launches on our black and white TV.  I remember I was in first grade for Apollo 8.

But, bigger and better things were coming.

A promise President Kennedy made to the American people just eight years before. His words ring true today now more than ever.

I’ll never forget the night of July 16th, 1969. I was in bed, and my father came and woke me up and brought me downstairs. I remember sitting on the floor in my pajamas next to his chair, and watching as the Apollo lunar module touched down on surface of the moon. The moment I saw Neil Armstrong step carefully down the ladder as the first man on the moon.

A glorious moment in human history.

I always felt bad for Alan Shephard who stayed behind in the ship orbiting the moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. But they needed Alan pick them up and take them back to Earth.

But in that moment as the astronauts looked back upon that blue marble surrounded by blackness, they maybe thought…All life as we have ever known it is right there. All of the people, animals, fish, birds, insects, plants… everything was on that blue marble.

Except for them. They were out there.

As usual, I was struggling in school. It’s not that I wasn’t bright, I just didn’t like school and it’s inhabitants. My dad tried to challenge my mind at home, so he bought a bunch of books. Space, History, Science, Biology, Anatomy, and Animals.  They were this amazing series of books on nearly every subject. But it was all written in terms a kid could understand.

Here’s an example.

The How and Why Wonder Books!

How and Why Wonder Books

How and Why Wonder Books

He would assign me chapters to read at night when my regular homework was finished. I also read them in my free time and on the weekends.

Initially it felt like a punishment. To me it was a punishment. More schoolwork?

But what I later realized is, that learning was fun. The world is a fascinating place if you have the right materials and most of all, the right teacher. I would read the assigned chapters, and then my dad would give me a list of questions I had to answer on a yellow legal pad. (Yes, I was tested to see if I retained the information.) I didn’t like this forced learning, but after a while I began to feel a certain pride in learning all of these things. If for nothing else than to become a smarter person.  A boy who knew more about the world around him.

He figured if I wasn’t going to pay attention in school, then by god, he was going to fill my head with as much good information as he could jam in there. He knew I had the head for it. But I didn’t realize it at the time. But after a while it got easier, and the books became more interesting to me. I was under 10 years old, and I knew all of the stages of gestation, even though I hadn’t a clue what sex was yet.

Reading those books and being tested was simply the beginning of all of the things my father taught me. Those books and all of the other books he gave me on a regular basis made me an avid reader where I later excelled in school. I’m happy to report that I’ve never said no to my daughter in regard to a book, and she’s a brilliant reader. So my sisters and I have tried to replicate all of the good things our parents taught us, and discarded the bad. Why hold onto it? They were mistakes. Focus on the triumphs, and go forward.

Sometimes on a Saturday, my mom would take the girls into town. When you lived in the suburbs back then, you referred to center city as ‘going into town’. They would be gone half the day shopping at the big department stores. Gimbels, Lit Bros, and Strawbridges.

Saturday morning meant one thing to me as a kid.

Saturday Morning Cartoons.

When I was a little guy, (Like four or five) I was so into Saturday morning cartoons, that I knew what show was coming on at what time, and what to watch next on what channel.

I couldn’t even tell time yet. However, back then there were only a few channels. VHF: 3, 6, 10 & 12. UHF: 17, 29, & 48. That was it.

One of the cool things about a Saturday with dad instead of mom was lunch. I remember he would be sitting at his place at the dinner table in the kitchen. The sun through the windows would illuminate his paper.  If I was hungry, he would make me a dish called, ‘Junk’.

Junk consisted of Planter’s cocktail peanuts, (When they were perfectly salty and greasy) a handful of crispy pretzels, and three or four slices of American cheese (New Yorker) tossed in a little green cereal bowl. That was placed on a folding snack table in front of my TV chair, and I was good to go. Wash it down with some Hawaiian Punch and you’re all set.

You’d think that wasn’t enough for a growing boy, but I was a fussy eater, and I loved that combination. I didn’t realize that I was basically eating bar snacks for lunch. It was awesome, and I loved it. We all did!

I was finished lunch one Saturday and dad and I are discussing some of the things I was learning from the books he gave me to read. I was struggling with some of the laws of gravity, inertia, and centrifugal force.

My dad came up with the idea that he should do what he always did; lead by example. Anything worth doing was worth overdoing. So he came up with a plan.

He went into the basement, and when he returned he produced a bucket of water.

Now, I’m a little kid. There’ve been times I’ve done things, or brought things into the house that I shouldn’t have. Boys always pull stuff like that. But here we were in the living room and he’s got a big bucket of water. Every cell in my mind tells me that mom doesn’t want anything like that in the living room. Kids spill stuff all the time. A glass of juice is one thing, but a bucket of water would be a solid call for corporal punishment.

But dad’s explaining to me the laws of gravity, rotation and centrifugal force. If dad’s here we’re good. Mom’s not home so it doesn’t matter. He’s got all the power in regard to what you should, or shouldn’t do in my mom’s nice living room.

My dad proceeds to swing the big bucket of water back and forth. I’m watching with startled eyes as he begins to swing it higher and higher. Then, without warning he swings it all the way over his head like a pinwheel. I’m talking Pete Townsend windmill moves. Frankly I’m amazed that none of the water is coming out of the bucket as he swings it in a circular motion over his head. It doesn’t make sense…

Until it does.

I see it. Now, I get it.

Centrifugal force, a fictitious force, peculiar to a particle moving on a circular path, that has the same magnitude and dimensions as the force that keeps the particle on its circular path (the centripetal force) but points in the opposite direction.

Rad, man!

Later, mom and the girls came home from shopping in town, and no one was the wiser.

 

More tomorrow!

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Men With These 20 Personality Traits Make The Best Dads

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

Does your man have what it takes?

When I was a kid, most parents understood “good parenting” to mean raising kids however they’d been raised by their own mothers and fathers.

The genre of parenting advice began when Dr. Benjamin Spock first emerged as a child-rearing expert, but really, moms and dad pretty much just expected their kids to behave, entertain themselves, and learn how to be responsible adults based on experience and some stern discipline.

And, as noted by Time Magazine, the first edition of his classic work, Baby and Child Care, “was published in 1946, when ‘parenting,’ at least for infants, meant almost exclusively ‘mothering.’”

It’s a different world now, one that relies upon both parents working as a team to make effective choices for their family in order to foster healthy personality traits in their children and keep their kids emotionally and physically “safe.”

Modern complexities of the digital age, which include an older average age of parents, shifting parental roles, starker generational differences, and widely spread outright parental anxiety complicate matters, but at the same time, on the plus side, bonds between parents and children have never been stronger.

And no matter how many parenting books you have on your shelf — and there are likely to be many — effective parenting often comes down to certain personality types and personality characteristics.

Just as many women have (or had) a checklist indicating the combination of traits that would make man husband material, a similar list can be created outlining which kinds of men are most likely to make the best dads to your children.

Of course, a lot of parenting for everyone is trial and error, and none of us will ever be perfect at it, but when someone possesses a solid foundation of certain skills and innate tendencies, they have a higher likelihood of achieving better outcomes, which in this case, means raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids who are poised to lead successful lives, however they define success for themselves.

Dads play the role of moral compass, protector, provider, teacher, coach, and playmate.

For their sons, they model what it’s like to be a man, a partner, and a father.

For their daughters, they build their girls’ self-esteem and teach them which qualities to look for in a healthy, dependable life partner.

It’s true that nobody’s perfect, but if you pick the right man, and one who has the right personality traits, you’ll be further ahead. Choose less wisely, and you’ll have a much more difficult time co-parenting through an already tricky experience.

Here’s a list of personality traits and characteristics of men who make the best dads out there raising kids these days.

1. Dependability

Kids need to know they can count on their dad. If they can’t, they lose faith in all men after that. Simple things, like being on time and keeping their word, mean so much.

2. Honesty

Honesty seems like a no-brainer, but take a closer look.

Does the man in your life come clean when he makes a mistake and tell the truth even when it might make his life a little more difficult?

3. Humility

Kids need to learn that it’s an imperfect world out there, and that as much as they may admire their father, he is only human. Infallibility and humility are both important traits to show kids so they can learn self-compassion and healthy leadership.

4. Attentiveness

A father who can give his child his undivided attention teaches his children one of the most critical life skills. Actively listening to others is a way of saying, “I care. You’re important to me. What you say matters.”

5. Patience

Let’s face it; temper tantrums are an expected, if unpleasant, experience all parents face. Add in teenage hormones, and you’re into a whole different ballgame! If the prospective father of your children cannot patiently deal with frustration, he’s not going to be effective as a dad, period.

6. Playfulness

Every kid wants to have fun! Piggyback rides, tickle torture, catch, and game nights make life enjoyable. In order to teach kids balance, you don’t want to end up with someone who’s too serious all the time, and who has a lot of trouble when it comes to letting go and laughing a little.

7. Curiosity

Curiosity is the desire to learn something new. In fact, curiosity is at least an equal, if not potentially even greater, predictor of success than intelligence itself. Effective parents hold off on judgment, seeking to understand and continuously learn themselves. This is a basis of trust, and you’ll find that the more curious you are about your child and the world, the more open your child will be with you.

8. Compassion

Compassion goes beyond empathy. If your mate is able to not only sympathize with your child’s predicaments (and at times they might have daily predicaments), put himself in his or her shoes, and then be willing to act on it, you’ve got one gem of a guy! Your kids will learn kindness, how to build positive relationships, become good citizens, and ultimately be happier.

9. Adaptability

Rigid parenting doesn’t work as well today as it once did. It’s important for parents to know when to stand firm and when to give the rope some slack, or even drop it altogether. Someone with an adaptable personality type can give and take with their child in an effective way that teaches them structure and allows them to feel loved and whole.

10. Optimistic

There’s enough pessimism in the world right now. Kids need hope. They need someone in their life who can show them what is possible and give them the courage to go for their dreams.

11. Pragmatic

Besides being optimistic, effective dads should be pragmatic. There needs to be an equal dose of realism about what it takes to succeed in life. On a micro level, too, good dads need to be able to handle the everyday things that happen and make clear judgments, like when to deal with illness at home versus when to drive to the emergency room.

12. Creative

Creative doesn’t have to mean artistic, although, if the potential father is handy with a paintbrush and a box of crayons, it’s going to make junior’s playtime extra fun and save Dad’s sanity. What’s important here is the degree of creativity Dad brings to problem-solving. Solutions aren’t going to be black and white in today’s parenting dilemmas. Any man who possesses creativity is going to be miles ahead of other parents.

13. Assertive

Creating a safe and predictable world is essential in parenting, and structure is one means of doing that. Flip-flopping and loose rules are the enemy and assertiveness can save the day! Here, assertiveness means being self-assured and firm, without being aggressive or unpleasant.

14. Conscientious

Your man’s conscientiousness will lead him to be a thoughtful and stable contributor to your family, and he will model conscientiousness to his children. This means they, too, will be more likely to be careful, thoughtful, goal-setting, and rule-abiding contributors to society. They’ll be more likely to experience higher job satisfaction, and health and happiness, as well.

15. Genuine

A parent who is the same on the outside as he is on the inside demonstrates congruence. His child sees the world as secure. Also, his child sees that it’s important, even essential, to be who you are and to love that person, and in this way, a genuine father helps build up his child’s self-esteem.

16. Perseverance

It takes true grit to get what you want in life. You want a man who will passionately go after his goals, works hard for what he wants, and who will do what it takes to succeed. Your kids will admire his commitment, endurance, and resilience.

17. Helpful

As kids are learning and growing, they need a helping hand. They need someone who’s self-sacrificing and generous with their time and energy, or else they’ll be left with one defeated child. A good parent provides just the right amount of help — enough to be instructional, but not enough that they become over-responsible and fail to build self-efficacy in their kids.

18. Level-headed

Is your mate calm in the face of a crisis? Flying off the handle or otherwise reacting emotionally will keep your kid’s emotional brain offline longer, too. Kids need emotional stability, and they need a calm environment in which to solve problems.

19. Affectionate

“Love is all you need,” is such a popular saying for plenty of good reason. Well, it’s not everything you need, but it does count for a lot. Fathers who are more easily able to access their emotions and share them are more likely to have emotionally connected kids, too. Bonus points if your man can tap into your child’s love language and give them what they need to feel loved and secure.

20. Self-awareness

Finally, bringing up great kids means being self-aware as a parent. It means embracing your strengths, accepting your growing edges, and knowing when to get help. Parenting does take a village, and sometimes you must call in backup!

Of course, being self-aware himself, he’ll be able to teach his kids self-awareness, too. They’ll be in a better position to identify their own likes and dislikes, strengths and passions, and these will guide them all their lives. Without this trait, your partner — and your kids — may flounder, and will likely miss out on the greatest skill of all: loving one’s self.

If your man possesses a lot of these qualities, hold onto him tight!

He’ll not only be an exemplary father, but he’ll be a fantastic life partner and co-collaborator on your journey through parenting.

There’s me and my little one!

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The Four Simple Rules for Dads Getting Divorced

A single dad life coach gives his most common and useful advice for men heading into divorce involving kids. Hope all you guys had a good Fathers Day.

As the man in the divorce, you have an opportunity to lead the process with grace and empathy. You cannot control how your ex behaves, the only thing you can control is your own response to the challenges ahead.

I’m going to make this as simple as possible. It’s the conversation I have every week as I speak to dads about ready to enter in the process (voluntarily or otherwise) of divorce. Most of them are scared out of their wits. They were unprepared for the “filing.” And now they are scared and lacking an adequate support system to carry them through the coming storm.

It’s going to be hard, but you are going to make it. And here are the three top mantras for you to remember.

  1. You have to take care of yourself first. Your health and clear direction is necessary for you to lead your kids through the emotional trouble ahead for all of you
  2. Keep the fight of the divorce between the adults only. Deal with your soon-to-be-ex as civilly as you can, but never debate or degrade each other in front of the kids. Never speak poorly of your co-parent
  3. Let go of your ex completely. She no longer deserves your attention and energy
  4. Don’t go it alone, talk to others, build community, and please don’t isolate

Take Care of Yourself First

Do you know how they instruct you before takeoff on an airplane? “In the case of emergency, oxygen masks will come out of the ceiling. Put your mask on first. Then work on your kid’s masks.” Here’s why that matters. If you lose consciousness (or in the case of divorce, lose your mind) everyone will suffer. As the man in the divorce, you are going to be hit with a lot of unfair rulings and family law precedents. You may want to lawyer up and fight, or you may decide to make peace with the divorce and simply act in the best interest of yourself and your kids.

Also, as the man in the divorce, you have an opportunity to lead the process with grace and empathy. You cannot control how your ex behaves, the only thing you can control is your own response to the challenges ahead. If you can keep your kids in mind any time you are responding to some new request or modification in the divorce agreement, you can relax and make the right decision. Not being reactionary, not buying into potential drama, and simply stating what you need, and what your kids need. That’s the best past forward. Don’t buy into the drama. Don’t try to be detached and emotionless, but keep your kids at the heart of your response. Always think of the kids.

Your Health (Mentally, Physically, and Spiritually) Is Your Highest Priority

What can you do today to start taking better care of yourself? Are you sleeping okay? Are you drinking a bit too much? How is your diet and exercise? Are you getting together with others? Are you praying? What things about your life can you be grateful for today, even as things feel like chaos around you?

Here are the parts of your life you can control easily:

  1. Watch what you eat and drink
  2. Get enough sleep, make it a priority
  3. Get some exercise, anything is better than nothing, start small
  4. Talk to someone about what’s going on

Keep the Fight Contained Between the Adults

You are going to have disagreements with your ex. The idea of co-parenting sounds nice, but in practice, it takes a lot more than good intentions. There are going to be negotiations about holidays and birthdays, negotiations about school and who should stay home when one of your kids is sick. You are going to need the goodwill of your ex-spouse, and often their cooperation and coordination around home life and school life. Complaining about your ex in front of the kids is a lose-lose situation. Just don’t do it.

Work on getting your support team together. Who can you call when you really want to call and bitch at your ex-partner? Do you have a counselor or a friend who is willing to keep your struggles confidential? In all that is going on, your isolation will only make things harder. Make sure you get out of your house and get involved in some activities with others. Al-anon is a great program for emotional healing. Meetup groups can provide activities and new hobbies for your alone time. But most of all, keep the fighting between you and your ex. And when possible, let them win. If there’s no loss for you, just let them get their way. Just to reduce the conflict. If it’s not that important to you, let it go.

The Big Release of Your Ex

One of my last lessons in my divorce journey was to let all expectations about my ex-wife go. She is never going to be a cooperative co-parent with me. She may never get over being mad a me, even when the divorce was her idea. She’s not going to say “thank you” when I do something over and above the call of duty or outside of the divorce decree. She’s not going to celebrate your victories with you. She may be able to celebrate the victories of your kids with you, but more than likely, she’s going to keep most of those to herself. You’ve got to let go of all expectations. The “relationship” with her is over. There is no closure. There is nothing to get from your ex-wife.

As I began to understand my ex-wife’s inability to be cordial, I began to communicate with her only around the logistics of getting the kids where they needed to be. It’s as if they are a convenience store clerk, you go into the store to get milk, you don’t need to know about the clerk’s life troubles. In the same way, you don’t need to know everything that’s going on with your ex. As you can let go of their approval and permissive involvement in your life, you can begin to let go of them emotionally too.

It’s taken me nine years to get clear of my optimistic expectations of my co-parenting ex-wife. I still think about calling her from time to time about something regarding our kids. But I don’t. And I’m not going to call her. She gave me my kids, initially. She can’t give me anything else. As you detach from them, the hope is that your resentment and anger at them will also dissipate. That’s the hope. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be okay with the time I lost with my kids as a result of the divorce my wife initiated.

I’m still releasing, daily. You can begin releasing your ex right now, too.

Return to the basics.

Your health.

The energy and health of your kids.

Moving on to what’s next in your life.

Don’t Go It Alone

Men don’t do all that well at supporting one another when things get hard or emotional. But you can find other men, and even women, who are willing to support you just as you are. In my experience, Al-anon meetings are the best self-help programs in the world. They are in your town, and there are probably 3 or 4 meetings you could attend over the next week or so. Find a place you can go and talk about what’s going on.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy my new book, Angel with a Broken Wing on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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Why A Strong Father-Daughter Relationship Is So Important For Girls’ Self Esteem

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

Dads and father figures have an important role in their daughters’ lives.

A father-daughter relationship is precious. When a girl’s self-esteem plummets, her Dad has the power to lift it up.

“Dad” can refer to fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other male loved ones — maybe an ex-spouse, former brother-in-law, or even a cousin.

Dads are men who mentor, love, and support a daughter.

Dads or step-dads can still be present, even if they live apart from their daughters, staying connected through emails, phone calls, visual platforms, texts, and whatever other methods of communication and connection are available — even old fashioned letter-writing.

Dad, You are one of the most important allies for your daughter.

You uniquely influence your daughter’s self-confidence.

You are the first male in your daughter’s life. You set a standard.

Your words, your behavior, your time — they all matter. Your relationship with her is unlike any other in her or your life.

There is a tendency to minimize fathers’ roles in daughters’ lives.

Yet, every part of a father-daughter relationship contains precious opportunities for daughters to learn about themselves, the world, and potential life partners.

It’s a scary time to raise a daughter.

Body image concerns start young, especially for girls.

A girl’s relationship with her body is intertwined with her self-esteem and affects every other aspect of her life.

Body dissatisfaction is the most powerful risk factor for developing an eating disorder. The strongest environmental contribution to an eating disorder is the societal idealized view of thinness.

No one can single-handedly prevent eating disorders. But you, Dad, can be a buffer against two — of many — key risk factors: body image and cultural messages.

Dads provide powerful protection from eating disorders. 

Whether you know it or not, your relationship with your daughter is either a protective factor or risk factor for a bunch of things, including an eating disorder.

According to The National Eating Disorders Association, girls younger than 10 are treated for anorexia. More than 40 percent of girls in first, second, and third grade wish they were thinner.

Reported cases of anorexia and bulimia are rising and affect girls of every race, ethnicity, socioeconomic group, and religion.

You have plenty of leverage to counter messages from culture, especially the message that how she looks is more important than who she is.

She is more than her body.

Her value is not based on her weight or how pretty she is deemed. She doesn’t have to diet or look like the Kardashians to be lovable.

You know that social media is an important way she connects with her friends. You also know that as little as 30 minutes a day of social media use can worsen her body image.

Teach your daughter to think critically, with social media especially.

Ask her what she thinks about what she’s viewing.

How does it make her feel? What does she think are the company’s motives? What is it trying to sell?

How are images altered on the apps she uses? How real are they?

These questions fall under the category of “media literacy.”

You’re in a unique position to help her to identify and recognize her value, aside from her looks.

Skin color, height, eye color, weight, and shoe size are all parts of appearance. Her features are an integration of her heritage, the family tree.

And there’s so much more to her, including what’s not visible to the eye

Be aware of your comments.

Don’t talk about weight, especially women’s or your own. Don’t categorize food as good and bad. Avoid being the food police.

Be present. Take an interest in her life. Help her value her mind. Teach her how to have a voice, how to speak up and self-advocate, and how to listen.

Engage her in conversation.

Ask her opinion on topics ranging from Disney themes to politics — whatever is age-appropriate.

What you ask may help her be better acquainted with herself.

What are five things she feels grateful for today? What’s something funny that happened today?

Share your favorite music with her.

Let her play any song she likes and dance with you. Tell her stories of when you were her age. Go outside in nature together.

Perhaps the child part of you will emerge as the two of you play on the jungle gym and shoot hoops.

Believe in her. Help her find her passions.

Support her interests, even if they are different from yours. Listen. Refrain from jumping in and solving her dilemmas.

Ask if she wants to problem-solve together and give her the skills to eventually solve problems more independently. Be a role model.

Fathers, in actions more than words, can show daughters that the most important thing about a girl is who she is. Her mind, strength, and courage. Her essence.

Let’s also be realistic.

Appearance does matter. Female bodies are objectified, valued for how closely they meet standards of beauty, especially in this culture.

So, when she asks you, “Do you think I’m pretty (or thin or beautiful), Daddy?,” what do you say?

Rather than dismissing her question or responding with a cliche (i.e., “You’re beautiful as you are”), consider giving feedback that reflects who she is as an entire person — her smile, her voice, her mind, and her strong legs.

The determined way she hikes mountains and her ability to see the beauty at the summit. The arm muscles that throw the frisbee back and forth.

Help her appreciate her body for what it provides her — an opportunity to run, skip, hop, climb, jump, and dance. The capacity to watch the sunrise, feel the warm breeze on her skin, hear the birds chirp.

What you’re doing is helping her to recognize that her body is not an ornament to be objectified by herself or others. Her body is hers, in all its capacity, to provide contact with the world.

It’s never too early or late to leverage your power and potential for your daughter’s well-being.

Engage your daughter in life and support her for who she is and not simply for what she looks like.

Imagine a world where she is more interested in splashing in the water, riding the waves, and enjoying the ocean than about how she looks in a bathing suit.

That she is more focused on the joy of playing and being silly than taking endless selfies to later filter and post for as many likes as possible.

Your role as her dad helps to create that world.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly