Friday, June 26, 2015

Ten More Favorite Father Quotes

"One night a father overheard his son pray: Dear God, Make me the kind of man my Daddy is." Later that night, the Father prayed, Dear God, Make me the kind of man my son wants to be." - Unknown

"Good fathers, the do three things: they provide, they nurture, and they guide." - Roland Warren

"Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope." - Bill Cosby

"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." - Sigmund Freud.

"A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he was meant to be." - Frank A. Clark

"When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry." - William Shakespeare

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him." - Sam Clemens

"My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better." - Marlo Thomas

"Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch." - Jon Stewart

"Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it." - Mike Myers

Friday, June 19, 2015

Intangibles: The Favorite Son Saga

Not surprisingly, The Favorite Son (TFS) loves baseball. (Ahem, The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.) Like his Ol' Man, TFS is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, hacking scandal notwithstanding. His favorite player is Cardinals' centerfielder John Jay. I've coached or managed his Warwick Little League baseball teams, now, for the past six years beginning when TFS was a five year old tee-baller. Ironically, this year, his team was the Cardinals.

The TFS probably had his best season, which just ended last week. He's a contact hitter who whose on-base percentage was about .800. For non-baseball fans, that's pretty good even for Little League. He's a great base runner who stole a shocking number of bases and scored a bundle of runs. At one point, he reached base and scored in 11 consecutive at-bats and, in a playoff game, he scored three runs in a 6 - 5 extra innings win. An above average fielder, he can play just about any position. More importantly, he's a smart player. For an 11 year old, he has a developed sense of how the game is played. Baseball people refer to that ability as, "Intangibles."

Last week, TFS was invited to try-out for Warwick Little League's U-11 travel team along with about 27 other players. The roster would consist of 14 players. The try-out was very well run by some very good baseball coach/dads, one of whom is a former professional player, and another who's probably the best little league coach I know. TFS was poised, showed off his speed, flashed a little leather, and, being the contact hitter he is, made contact at the plate. Frankly, I was very impressed with the baseball talent in Warwick, New York.

TFS was very excited about playing on the team. Every day for the next few days, he asked, "Did they announce the team yet, Dad?" Then, early last Sunday afternoon, one of the other Cardinals coaches, Dan Callaghan, called me and said, "They posted the roster today. (TFS) didn't make it."

I had to drive The Second Beautiful Daughter to work at Bellvale Farms Creamery, where I thought I could break the news to TFS over some homemade ice cream and a great view of the Warwick Valley. We weren't in the car for two minutes, though, when he asked, "Dad, did they announce the team yet?"

I've learned that the best way to give bad news is directly. I responded, "Yeah, Coach Dan called me just before we left. You didn't make the team. I'm sorry, Buddy."

You know, raising children without a partner is no mean feat. I regularly second guess my parenting decisions and my approach to the wide variety of situations. It's no fun not having a partner to talk and share in the responsibility of raising kids. Occasionally, however, I realize that I'd gotten a one thing or another right.

After he heard the news, I could see in the rear view mirror the disappointment on his face. Tears welled  in his eyes. He asked, "Do you know who made the team?"

I named a few names, all very good players.

"Did Johnny/Billy/Timmy/Tommy make it?"

"I don't know," I answered.

"Do you think I can play on another team, Dad?

"Yeah, maybe. Let's try to find one," I said.

Then, after a long and thoughtful pause, TFS asked, "Dad, after ice cream, can we practice?"

"Yes," I replied.

On a warm New York Sunday afternoon in June, I drove to the Veterans Memorial Park. For 90 minutes, TFS hit live-arm balls in one of the tunnels, fielded grounders, and shagged flies with his dad.


Friday, June 12, 2015

The Favorite Son Makes Scrambled Eggs

So, one recent Saturday morning after I returned from the gym, The Favorite Son (TFS) greeted me with, "Dad, I'm hungry. Would you make me scrambled eggs?"

Of course, I said, "No, but I'll help you make them."

So we got out the ingredients for the family scrambled egg recipe which included, of course, an egg, hot sauce, ranch dressing, olive oil, and shredded cheddar cheese. I thought it would be a good idea for TFS to do the work himself and that's when things got fun . . . and funny.

TFS cracked the egg and about 97% of it landed on the counter. We got another egg, but this time only 3% made it to the counter. Fortunately, the paper towels were handy. After the egg, he tried the dressing. Similar to the egg, at least as much dressing as egg also made it to the counter. More paper towels. On to the hot sauce, which all landed in the mixing cup. However, when TFS tried to put the bottle back on the counter, it dropped on the floor. Paper towels again. When it was time for the olive oil, TFS asked, "Dad, would you pour it."

Once it was all together, TFS poured the egg mixture into the pan, successfully tossed in a hand full of cheese, and scrambled it.

TFS's eggs turned out pretty good. He enjoyed making them, and I enjoyed him making them too. Clearly, he enjoyed them, too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Artificial Tranquil Island & Finding the Fair Maiden

After about a year after becoming a single father and a few months after my severance package expired from my previous employer, I started to think about how the future might look for me and my children. I’d written and published a successful children’s book and was working on a second. As much as I enjoyed writing, it became apparent that at some point I’d need to do more.

So, at about the same time, I had the basement in the center-hall colonial home converted into a fully functional, one-bedroom apartment. Then, I began to network among my friends for names for a full-time, live-in nanny. It wasn’t long before I’d returned to Corporate, managing a privately-owned school bus fleet of 300 buses and more than 400 employees in a suburb of New York City.

The nanny I hired was a woman in her late-50’s who’d lost her husband to cancer a few years earlier. She’d been referred to me by the radiologist who’d worked both with her husband and my wife. I’d really believed that I found a great match and provided her with a nice salary and a new apartment. I wanted to keep her, and my only stipulation, in addition to taking great care of my children, was that she couldn’t entertain men in my home. She didn’t work weekends, during which time she could do anything she wanted. While she lived in my home, for my and my children’s security, no guests. She’d agreed, but within a few months, she had a man in the house. Shortly thereafter, she and I parted ways.

My next nanny was a woman who was about my age and who, unfortunately, had more than a professional interest in me. Her feelings were unreciprocated, but that didn’t stop her from making an awkward and unnerving advance. At the time, I was also in a relationship with a young lady who my unrequitedly amorous childcare provider made every effort to sabotage. She was, in large part, successful.

So, the distractions related to the nanny-fails showed me that I could not be both a successful professional manager and a successful parent. Rather than continue to beat my head against the wall, I stopped working after about a year and returned home to be a full-time stay-at-home dad.

* * *

For a single father, creating an environment in which his children can flourish and in which he can also dedicate enough effort to his work to be successful is a balance. In a true partnership wherein a loving and committed companion offers a division of labor that creates a “Tranquil Island,” or a supporting and loving home where he can return to convalesce before returning to the battle. I hadn’t
been able to recreate that place after becoming a single father.

Considering The First Beautiful Daughter will start college this Fall, I decided a couple of years ago to make another attempt to return to the outside-the-home workforce. I once again began to network among colleagues and other professional contacts. A few months later, I harvested some of the fruits of my labor and accepted a position with a leading transportation provider. Once again, I had to find support for my two high school-aged Beautiful Daughters and fifth grade Favorite Son. This time, I had some experience with nannies and, yes, my children had grown a few years.

Through networking, I sourced a number of childcare candidates who I interviewed. Time was short before I’d have to start working. I hadn’t really found my family’s perfect match until I ran into one of our family’s former martial arts instructors, Francesca, who my children liked and respected and who had just moved back to the area after spending a couple of years in Florida. It really was a nice match.

Francesca is more like a “father’s helper” than a nanny. She’s at the house in the morning to make breakfast for the kids and get them off to school. In the afternoons, she coordinates homework, transportation to activities, and dinner. She has not only known my children as a martial arts instructor for more than ten years, she is also certified in New York as a math teacher. More than that, she’s the mother of two adorable little girls who provide energy and entertainment to her visits.

Perhaps as important as anything else, Francesca is a young mother. Of course, young is a relative term; she’s just a few years younger than my children’s mother was the last time they saw her. Each in a unique way has connected with Francesca, who has provided the right kind of listening, advice, and other emotional and practical support.

For me? Well, I have appeared to have created an environment where my children can be personally successful, while I have the much of that tranquility. I’m able to don my armor, typically casual slacks, an oxford, loafers, and a safety vest, mount my steed, a 2014 diesel VW, and fight the dragons, including opportunities to improve safety, driver recruitment and retention, and find the grail (or the fair maiden), like a healthy P/L. While it’s not the tranquil island I’d planned, I know the castle is in safe hands.

I think that's enough metaphor for now. Now, go do battle.