Friday, January 29, 2016

The Favorite Son Saga: A Win-Win

The Favorite Son: Always Clowning Around
If The Favorite Son (TFS) worked a tenth as hard actually doing his homework as he does trying to avoid his homework, he'd be valedictorian.

It had been a parenting mantra of mine, "No screen time during the week," which means no television, no gaming, etc. Monday through Thursday during the school year. It was even a "Single Father's Golden Rule" in The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball and a previous post, "The Favorite Son Saga: The X-Box Contract." (We've since swapped the X-Box for a PlayStation, so I'd assume the contract is void.)

To positively reinforce good study habits, however, I relented a little. When TFS makes good decisions in school, brings home all of his homework, and, in fact, does all of his homework, I've recently begun to allow TFS to have an hour, sometimes more, of screen time.

While I was traveling with my job recently, TFS called me on my phone:

TFS: Dad, can I play on the PS4?

Me: I heard that you didn't have your homework tonight.

TFS: Yeah, but Francesca (our awesome sitter) had to go shopping. She went to the school and got my homework. It was a win-win.

Me: (Laughing) A win-win? Where did you learn that.

TFS: From you, Dad. Can I play on the PS4?

Me: No, but you get extra credit for the win-win.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Whatever It Is

Zac Brown might know what "It" is.
Zac Brown Band’s great song, Whatever It Is, nothwithstanding, there is something I’ve learned about the most successful romantic relationships. It’s something I began to suspect during the first meeting with my wife when she and I were both 14 years old. I knew from the first words she and I spoke to one another and I know it might sound funny, but I was certain the girl would be my wife. I absolutely knew at that time that I had a connection, beyond compatibility and even beyond what some people call chemistry. It’s something that many years ago I began to refer to as, “It.”
To have a successful long-term relationship, I think most people would agree that two people have to be compatible in a number of important ways. I think, for men, the first level of compatibility is visual. For a lot of evolutionary reasons, a man is simply attracted to a woman who he thinks is pretty. Depending on social and cultural standards at a given time, the traits of physical attractiveness have changed. To some degree, relative attractiveness is also matter of personal preference. Of course, there’s much more than physical attractiveness that makes a relationship successful such as harmonious attributes relating to intellect, spiritualism, creativity, emotions, and a lot more.

For example, a couple doesn’t necessarily have to be intellectual peers, but it doesn’t hurt for two people have to be pretty close when it comes to intellectual horsepower. In one area or another, partners can be either Equals or Complements. Equals operate on the same level and flit and flutter around an idea and the other like barn swallows over still farm pond. Intellectual Equals, for example, talk and debate and philosophize and hypothesize and just “chew the fat” as naturally as they breathe. On the other hand, Complements
Equals. Complements. Compatibility. Chemistry. It is more.
highlight a relative strength that one partner possesses that serves to make the relationship stronger. A good example of Complements is a couple in which one partner is calm and measured in his or her approach to life and the other who is more impetuous. The more composed partner serves as a guidepost during difficult times that relationships inevitably face. The more impulsive may be more creative, however, and provide unique ways to approach complex relationship problems.

Notably, it may not always be the same partner who is the guide. One partner may be the spiritual and creative leader, while the other may be the physical and emotional leader. Also, I think that more successful couples are a combination of Equal and Complement where one partner is the guide in some areas, the other is the guide in others.

Whether Equals, Complements or some combination, two people who are compatible in the important areas of life can, and often do, in my observation have a successful, loving, committed, life-long relationship. Compatible couples may also feel something that many people call “chemistry.” Frankly, they probably have chemistry, if chemistry is defined as finishing the other’s sentences and communicating sometimes with an expression or perhaps with nothing at all. Chemistry lets two people just to know.

It, however, is something more. It includes compatibility. It includes chemistry. It is also something exponentially greater. Although I’ve experienced It, the best way I describe It is, “It is the extremely rare, divine soul that two people share.” Yeah, that clears it up. Maybe, describing what I’ve seen that It does/can do may be a better way to explain It:

  1.  It is something that one person senses for another person very shortly after meeting her (or, for women, him).
  2. It makes everything, from food to physical intimacy to doing the dishes, exponentially more enjoyable.
  3. It does not fade.
  4. It doesn’t prevent disagreements or arguments, but It lets the couple know after the spat, regardless of subject, length, or degree of passion, everything will always be okay in the end.
  5.  Whether the couple is aware, two people who share It also have a purpose.
  6. The relationship of a couple who has It only ends when one partner dies.

In his novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. describes a duprass[i], which is a connection between two people that very closely emulates what I refer to as It. According to Vonnegut, a duprass includes two people:

. . . linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident. The two members of a duprass live lives that revolve around each other, and are therefore often married. "A true duprass can't be invaded, not even by children born of such a union.[ii]"

So, how common is It? Well, admittedly, my observations are subjective and anecdotal, but I don’t think It is very common. Considering the divorce rate is “3.6 per thousand[iii]” and the marriage rate
is “6.8 per 1,000,[iv]” the divorce rate is more than 50% of the marriage rate. That means more than half of people absolutely don’t have It. Among those who remain in committed relationships, it’s really hard to say how many are compatible and believe they have chemistry and how many have It.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Consider the number of potential romantic partners a single man sees in his lifetime. The answer is probably several hundred or thousands each year. Among those a man speaks only to a few and gets to know even fewer. Considering the “average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 (!) in 1960,[v]” how many chances would a guy have to meet a woman with whom he shares It?

Assuming a guy comes into contact with an average of five potential partners a day every day from the time he is 14 years old. That may be a stretch, but if that’s the case, then he’d meet 1,825 a year. Assuming he marries at age 29, then he’d have seen 27,375 ladies who had the potential to eventually become his partner. In reality, with how many of those would he have any sort of attraction? Maybe, one in 100? One in 50? Even the number is one in ten, then the universe of real potential mates is really only about 180 a year or 2,700 during a young man’s single years. But wait. How many of those will the average guy have time, opportunity, circumstance, or has the confidence to initiate a meeting and conversation? Considering many of those potential Mrs. Right’s will be standing in the grocery check-out or walking out of a store with a gaggle or her gal pals, or sitting behind the steering wheel of her car at a stop light, how likely it is a guy’ll be able to say, “Hello,” without any context and not come across as a serial killer? Even if those opportunities are one in ten, which I don’t think those opportunities are even that likely, now there are just maybe 270 real, possible “I do’s.”

Zac Brown Band: Whatever It Is

So, among those 270, with how many will have whatever It is? I don’t know. I know some couples who also have It, but it’s not that many. So, now that we’re single fathers, how many times will we have the chance to find It?

[i] Cat’s Cradle. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Holt Rinehart and Winston. 1963.
[ii] “Bokononism.” Wikipedia. Accessed 12/17/15.
[iii]  “Marriage and Divorce.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Accessed 12/17/15.
[iv] [iv]  “Marriage and Divorce.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Accessed 12/17/15.

[v] “Getting Married Later Is Great for College-Educated Women.” Eleanor Barkhorn. The Atlantic. March 15, 2013.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Acknowledgements for SEASONS OF HOPE: Thank You!

For my single father brothers out there, the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar is a project that I created with a dear friend to build a greater awareness of breast cancer risk factors, foster prevention, and inspire hope to the women and families who are fresh to or from the battle. The project is very important to me; my wife and the mother of my three beautiful children succumbed to the disease.

If you want a great, functional 2016 wall calendar including breathtaking images and heartrending biographies of 12 women who have faced breast cancer diagnosis, please click the link, below, and order a few for you, your friends, and heck, everyone you know. Thanks.

* * * 

To the twelve inspirational Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar ladies, thank you. Through the images and the words we’ve used to describe your dauntlessness, we hope we’ve at least come close to representing the faith and optimism you exhibited during your respective journeys. The objectives for the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar are not only to improve breast cancer awareness and prevention, but also to provide a source of hope for those women who are fresh to or fresh from the breast cancer battle. Your involvement has ensured success. In your honor, a meaningful portion of the proceeds from the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar will be used to help the families, specifically the children, of women who battle or have battled breast cancer.

Setting up for Lori Marrie's "Black Dirt"  shoot; Kathie on top of the world!
Several other people have also been influential in the creation of the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar, including owner of Style Counsel Clothing of Warwick, New York, Tim Mullally, whose Pink Friday event was in part the inspiration for the Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar. Linda Myers and everyone at Goshen Historic Track; Jody Riedel for the use of her Standardbred Pacer, Dream Luck; Blake Hargrave for the use of her classic Ford Mustang, providing the backdrop and props for Christina Rowan’s “Mustang” shoot; Sunrise House in Lafayette, New Jersey, for Kelly Della Rosa’s “Blur” shoot; our friends at Sheuermann Farms in Warwick, New York, for the setting of Lori Marrie’s “Black Dirt” shoot, and Brian Dering, for helping to recreate Bird Island on the Jersey Shore for his wife’s “Kindred Spirits” shoot, thank you! In addition, thanks to Gary Kessler, who donated his editing skills to help guarantee that our message is as clear as it can be. Of course, we genuinely appreciate the support from the families and friends of our Seasons of Hope 2016 Calendar ladies.
Finally, to our own families, including Jordan, Katie, William, Lorraine, Wade, Emma, and Jack, we love you! Thanks for your patience and understanding while we worked to create what we hope will be an enduring and important contribution to creating breast cancer awareness, prevention, and hope.
-Kathie and Matt

Friday, January 8, 2016

A "How-To" Manual for Single Dads

During the run-up to the holidays, Matthew S. Field's 5-Star reviewed The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball had a nice little spike in sales. 

Hall of Fame Book Reviewer, Grady Harp, writes that Matthew S. Field "developed a sense of what is important in raising a family and - more poignant to this book - how to make the experience of a single parent an enriching variation of the traditional family existence."

Help me help you. If you didn't already have copy, do yourself a favor. Start the New Year right: happy, healthy, and the "best you you can be," so you can be everything your children need.

Good luck, my brothers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

That Time My Sixth Grade Daughter Was Sexually Harassed

A daughter needs a loving, available, predictable father . . . who can be counted on . . .  She needs his best paternal intentions . . . She needs his maturity and limit setting and sexual oppositeness, so that she can function with confidence in the wider world of adult love and work.
– Victoria Secunda

Inappropriate behavior tolerated here . . .
Shortly after the start of school a few years ago, one of my beautiful daughters who was in middle school at the time asked to talk to me one afternoon. I sensed, clearly, that something had bothered her.

As students boarded the bus and filed down the aisle to take a seat that afternoon, my daughter explained, Johnny (not the boy's name) who stood behind my daughter, grabbed her hips, and “pretended to hump me,” were her exact words.

I’m not sure I realized the gravity of my response held, or maybe I did. Regardless, I could have said to her, “Well, Honey, boys will be boys,” but I didn't.

I knew the boy and his family to be responsible and socially conscious people. I’m certain that the boy who, like my daughter, had just started middle school, very likely didn’t know the magnitude of his behavior and wanted other boys on the bus to like him by making them laugh. I could have said, “Well, Johnny just made a bad decision. Cut him a break.” Either of those responses would have implied that I condoned the actions and established an expectation of acceptable behavior for my daughter in her relationships with men as she grew older.

“That’s sexual harassment and that’s not acceptable,” I said after she finished.

I’m not sure whether or not I explained a little more from the soapbox I carry with me about sexual harassment and the reasons the behavior not acceptable, but I probably did.

I know I did one more thing, though. Rather than don my armor and Excalibur, mount my white horse, and gallop to the middle school, I advised my beautiful daughter, “Report the incident to the principal tomorrow and let me know what happens.”

. . . will become inappropriate behavior tolerated here.
Of course, had the principal not handled the incident appropriately, I would have very happily defended the honor of my young lady, but he did. After an investigation, some disciplinary action was taken relative to the boy who apologized to my daughter for his behavior. The boy’s father also apologized to me. Class act.

At least as important, my daughter has more clear expectations for the behavior of the men in her life, now and in the future, and she also knows that she is empowered to take responsibility and action on her own behalf.

While I very much want all of my children to grow up to be independent, strong, respectful, well-adjusted, and happy adults, I hope my daughter knows one more thing for sure: her dad has her back.