Iris – Quarantine Girl

Iris is one of my daughter’s friends. She’s 26 years old. I think she may be one of her best friends, because when she comes over they have such a fun time. They stay up to all hours laughing, drinking, smoking, talking and listening to music. It’s a grand old time here at the squirrel house as they call it.

The term squirrel house came out of something my daughter used to say when she was little. I was working in New York at the time but kept an apartment in Haddonfield, NJ for awhile. This was back in 2004, so Lorelei would have been around 8 years old. I had two sofas, and the smaller one was hers over by the window. When she would lie on it and look out the window all she could see was trees, so she said it felt like we were living in a tree house. It was a cozy apartment and she said we were like little squirrels living in their house in the trees.

So now in 2020 when it rains and we’re safely tucked away in our apartment in Rittenhouse, we call it the Squirrel House. It’s a sweet memory for us both. Her friend Iris is incredibly perceptive and has a great memory. She’s has a great ability when it comes to recall. She’ll hear something once and be able to talk about it. She heard about the squirrel house reference and now refers to me as Papa Squirrel. Probably one of the kinder titles I’ve earned over the years. She sometimes calls me Faja, and I’m assuming that’s father in another language.

I’ve known her for several years, but in the last year or so she and Lorelei have become close. During quarantine I’ve had zero social life except for a few zoom calls here and there. It’s nice to have people over. It’s great to hear my daughter laughing and enjoying time with her good friend. I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with them a little bit over the last few months, and have really gotten to know Iris.

Iris is adopted, and never had a father, or a real father figure in her life. I think this has led to a few bad decisions when it came to vocation and romantic partner choices. But she’s a resilient soul and my daughter really likes her. Lorelei’s a good judge of character and wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t like her.

Iris has expressed that I’m the closest thing she’s ever had to a dad. I found that hard to believe because I don’t see her that often. But I suppose in the time she’s been here it’s felt like that to her. Maybe she sees how Lorelei and I interact as father and daughter. Lor’s mother was pretty strict, inflexible and set in her ways. I remember that because I was married to that woman for 8 years. It was rough. It was even harder on Lorelei living with her for 18 years. But when she turned 18 she left New Jersey and moved in with me. It was her choice to get out from under the oppressive thumb of her mother. Lorelei finished out her senior year in high school, commuting from Philly each morning by herself. Lor has lived with me for over 5 years now and we couldn’t be happier. I’ve always treated her like an adult, and she respects me and the house. She’s a good kid, and I’m really proud of her.

Iris has expressed on a few occasions that she wished she could rent me as a dad to hang out with. I liked the idea, because she’s a nice kid and I could be a father figure to her. Just somebody to talk to when she’s struggling with something that she can’t share with her adoptive mother or any of her friends. Never having a father takes an enormous toll on all children. Especially young women. Guys can sort of make it without their dads. We just need that older dude to kick us in the ass sometimes and teach us some skills, manners and keep us in line. But girls suffer because their father is the first man they ever meet. They’ll meet several, but their father is the very first. If you’re a good father your daughter will go out in the world knowing what a good man acts like. A father instills in them the tools and nurturing a young woman needs to meet some the challenges of the world. Good information, time, and love are all paramount to her development.

Here’s piece I wrote for Father’s Day.

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

One night when Lorelei was out training for a part time gig, I woke up from my nap. (Yea, I take naps now during the pandemic. Writing books is exhausting! lol) I came out to the living room and Iris was still there. She had stayed over the night before but normally she’d be gone. But she told me where Lorelei was and that she was staying over that night as well. Like I said, I’m happy to have people over and if Lorelei’s happy, I’m happy. Iris is always welcome in our home. (We’ve even given her keys)

I fixed myself a drink and sat with her. We chatted and it was really the first time we had ever hung out together. Just the two of us. Normally I stay in my room when she’s over because I don’t want to be the hovering dad encroaching on my daughter’s time with her friend. But this time we just chatted about a lot of things.

It came up that she wished there was some way we could hang out sometimes. I was all for it, but we both had concerns about the dynamic of the relationship. How would Lorelei feel about it all? It all seemed like a slippery slope built on other people’s expectations and social norms. I think that was the biggest part of it. Iris is in Philly often not just to hang with Lor, but she has other friends in town. So she’s around quite often. I thought it would be nice for both of us. I could take her out to eat or to a museum or whatever. We could talk and I could provide some semblance of what it might be like for her to have an older male figure in her life that cared about her. She’s never really had that. But we didn’t know if Lorelei would share. And most of all we didn’t want it to be awkward or weird. I’m sure it wouldn’t be because I’m not awkward or weird and it would just be wrong for it to be anything else. I wanted to spend time with her, and she with me. She had expressed it before and said she had often thought about it.

So we agreed that at some point we’d breach the subject with Lorelei, but weren’t sure how or when we would do that. So I decided to run the notion by a few of my male friends.

I spoke with my best friend Duncan about it. His response was: “Dude, she’s in her twenties, smokes weed, has tattoos, has had questionable jobs, and no father figure. How are you just not going to fall into that?”

Okay. Bad Idea. Duncan is a divorced bachelor. He has no game. Never been a dad, and has shitty role models as parents. He’s a driven businessman and totally the wrong person to ask. I should stick to conversations about rock music, comic books, and Star Wars with him. So that was a waste of time.

I spoke with my friend Johnny R. If you’ve been reading this blog you know him already. If not, simply go to the search bar on this site and type, ‘Johnny R’. he’s the king of vice in this city. A great. smart guy who’s been in a stable relationship with the same woman for over 10 years, and has had only two different jobs in that entire time. Sounds tame, right? Johnny R. loves tobacco, alcohol, gambling, adderall, cocaine, strippers and hookers. Like I said…king of vice. But a great guy! None of that affects his relationship with me. But I ran the idea of spending some father/daughter time with Iris.

“Dude. Do you think you’re entertaining these ideas because you’ve been in quarantine for five months and the pool of female companionship has shrunken down to a puddle in your life? Do you really want to do this, or are you just desperate to hang out with a woman who isn’t someone you’re related to? I know you’re accustomed to being surrounded by women all the time. You have a very active social life. You write a dating and relationship blog full of your exploits. Do you think because you’ve been locked down, you’re just happy to hang out with Iris? Come on… she’s 26 years old. But most of all, she’s your daughter’s friend. It’s wrong. Think of your daughter. What will she think?”

Johnny makes some good points here, but like my friend Duncan, they come from similar places. Both not married. Never had any children. Having kids changes a man. It makes you a better, morale man in this world. If you haven’t ever been a parent you just don’t know what it’s like. So I did appreciate his opinions and he made some great points, but I think I’m barking up the wrong tree talking to these guys.

I have three sisters. I grew up living with women. Most of my male friends don’t understand how I can be friends with so many women in this city. Most men think any connection with someone of the opposite sex is a means to an end. Them trying to bed her. That’s never been the case with me. There is the romantic candidates and those endeavors play out accordingly, but most of the women in my life are simply friends. They like the idea that they can hang out with an older gentleman that isn’t trying to get into their pants.

One of my female friends once said to a mixed group of people, “Charles is the type of man we all wished the men in our lives spoke about us when we weren’t around.”

I think that sums it up. Most of my readers here on phicklephilly are women. If I were a wolf they’d know it, and steer clear of my blog. I can’t let other people’s ideas and perceptions cloud this subject. They aren’t me and are nothing like me. It’s always good to get a second opinion, but I think in the end, people are going to do what they’re going to do.

I even ran it by James at the Drive In last week. He knows about Iris. I told him about what was happening and he told me to do nothing. I love James, but he’s neither a husband nor a father. Normally he’s asking me for advice but I thought I’d run it by him. I respect his words, and decided to listen to him. I’m not going to pursue it.

But then opportunity knocked.

 

To Be Continued on Thursday…

 

 

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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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Why Everyone Should Celebrate Fathers & Men Who Mentor Like Dads, On Father’s Day

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

Thank you to all the men who care for children who aren’t biologically their own.

Not every child grows up with a father in their life. That’s the sad reality of today’s society.

Although some may say having dad not around is better when the example is unhealthy, children are curious by nature. Growing without experiences that they see their friends having raises questions. Some children DO grow up with a dad or step dad in their life. So when a kid doesn’t they wonder what it feels like to have a man in their life?

And this is where the role of a father figure comes in: a man who is old enough to be a child’s dad, but isn’t. A man who is acting just like himself, but also points in the direction of personal responsibility and what it means to be a good human being. From a (fatherly) perspective.

What makes someone a father? Of course, the simple answer is biology. But father figures can be a fill-in dad for kids who don’t have one.

They can provide an image of what father’s do: protect, exhibit a different version of strength, problem-solving and fun.

A father figure could be the principal at school who recognizes that a child needs a bit of encouragement and they are there to listen in between classes or say a kind word just before they go home.

A father figure or mentor can be a football coach or a baseball coach who stays a little longer to practice throwing a ball or giving a bit of advice when a game didn’t go the way as planned and a player needs to improve their team attitude.

A father is someone that brings life to a child, but mentors, father figures, stepdads, and all types of men in different leadership roles can play a small or large role in the upbringing of a child these days.

They can be the person who motivates a kid when there is no father at home.

The child doesn’t even need to know that man in person. In fact, television has given us a few male role models that have shown the other side of fatherhood.

We don’t often talk or think about that, even on holidays where dads are celebrated on Father’s Day, but it’s there.

A few father figures on television that have helped shaped the idea of what it means to take on the role of dad, when a father couldn’t be around include:

  • “Bachelor Father”, Bentley Gregg raised his niece, Kelly after she lost her parents in an auto accident.
  • “Boy Meets World”, Mr. Feeny was a mentor to Cory. He wasn’t just a neighbor but he was the principal at his school.
  • “Breaking Bad”, Hank Schrader was there for Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) his sister.

I loved watching the movie, “Daddy’s Home” where a stepfather and the biological dad have to learn to set aside their differences in order to be there for kids they mutually love. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!

Even in the movie “The Lion King”, when Simba lost his dad, it was Rafiki took on the fatherly role as a mentor and helped him to heal his heart, and find his courage to take on Scar and become the real King of the jungle!

Kids are smart. They understand the difference between a biological father, a legal parent, like a stepdad, and a man who just feels good to be around and the only way to describe it is with the word, ‘dad’.

There’s enough love in the world for all these types of roles men can play in the life of a child. And, if it takes a village to raise a one, then it can take many men (and women) to teach a boy what it means to be a man.

As a single mom of three boys, I’ve seen a few men mentor them in one way or another. None of them ever tried to take on the role of a real father, but I found a similarity in the way they described these men in their lives. They often used the term ‘my other dad’.

For example, I have a brother-in-law, John, who is as goofy as a guy can get. He is the one who they love to hang out with, listen to him jam on his guitar or play video games.

Although he’ll never be their biological dad, he does a lot of dad-things, and in a way, that makes him more than an uncle in their hearts. One of my sons has jokingly referred to him as the ‘other dad’ because he’s not only played with him but he’s helped him understand what it means to be an adult.

My youngest son had a man in his life, who is the dad of one of his childhood friends. Even though they weren’t related, he made a positive impact in his life.

He helped to teach him how to see things from a male perspective and helped him get over his fears. Those memories will last a lifetime.

There are a lot of kids who grew up with men in their lives who they considered to be a type of father figure who was there helping them learn what it means to be a good human being. A male role model doesn’t have to be a stepdad, or a biological dad, either.

It honestly doesn’t matter how you are related when it comes to playing a role in the life of a child.

Of course, no one should ever take the place of a real dad in the heart of a child, but mentors can certainly fill in the gaps when a parent can’t (or won’t) be around by being a friend.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads, mentors and male role models, including the nonbiological ones.

 

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My Family – Lorelei – Fathers Day

My parents never wanted to be the type of parents whose children always felt obligated to do something for them just because the world recognizes a certain day that we have to honor our parents with obligatory cards and gifts.

I remember my father and mother never celebrated their birthdays. They may have before they had the kids, and they may have celebrated their birthdays and such between each other but never with us kids.

Here’s the reason why. My parents never wanted to be the type of parents whose children always felt obligated to do something for them just because the world recognizes a certain day that we have to honor our parents with obligatory cards and gifts.

I feel the same way. Birthday presents and parties are for kids. Our parents always observed our birthdays and holidays on a large-scale basis. Our Christmases were glorious.

My daughter knows I don’t care about Father’s Day. She’s a great person who has grown up strong and confident and good. Everyday is Father’s Day being Lorelei’s Pop. I’m proud to call her my daughter.

I get up on Sunday morning and she’s already gone off to work the brunch shift at the vegan restaurant where she works. I go into the bathroom, and there on the window sill is an envelope. On it is written the word, “Dad.”

She didn’t have to do it, and she knows it, but she wanted to, It was a lovely card, with all the right things printed on it. But what really meant the most to me, is the words she wrote to me inside the card. I am tearing up as I write this.

Respect and love are earned. You can’t force or guilt someone into caring for you. You can only earn that through your words and your deeds.

When raising Lorelei I saw myself as an Archer. I am firm… but flexible. I hold the bow with a firm hand, but I am flexible as I draw back the string. Lorelei is my arrow. If I am steady, firm, and flexible I can cast my arrow into tomorrow on a straight and true course.

She will fly into tomorrow, and that is a place I can never visit.

Lorelei will be just fine.

I’m sort of quoting something I learned while reading “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran.

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Learn it.

Live it.

Become it.

I love you, Lorelei.

Thank you for being in my life.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.
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