Category: Coming of Age

That Second First Best Friend

Coming of Age Friendship Teachable Moments

That Second First Best Friend

Many years ago, I watched my son experience, for the first time, the evolution of that first best friend. It was something beautiful to watch and it brought me back to when I was a kid experiencing the same feelings. We never forget how awesome that first friend was. We never forget how invincible we felt when we were together. The laughs, the tears, the hard times, the fun times. They are often the best memories of our childhood.

But life complicates, as usual. We quickly realize that growing up is hard – and real friendships are hard to find. What gets us through those tough times are those friends we choose to share our lives and our families with. They prop us up, stand behind us, and never, ever judge.

I’ve had my own struggles lately. And no matter what happens, I know I’ve got some amazing friends in my corner.  And honestly, I’ll take that over anything else in the world right now.

We have to learn how to be a good friend. It’s hard. And it starts as kids in the playground. My heart melts when I see my son and begin his own journey. While his first best friend had a place in the process of learning to be a good friend and person, it’s the second first best friend several years later that is molding them into the type of friend they will be for the rest of their lives.

Chatting about life.

But we never forget that first best friend. I remember clearly when I dropped my son off at preschool one morning, he uncharacteristically was upset that I was leaving him. It was his second year and never once previously did he show any signs of separation anxiety.

So I asked him, “what’s wrong?”

He reluctantly conceded, “I miss Jordan.” His first best friend who was no longer in his class.

I couldn’t help but feel for him. We’ve all been there.

Do you remember your first best friend?

The one that you played tag with at the playground and ate at the same table in the lunchroom. The one that made you feel cool for the first time when they showed you how to turn your baseball hat backwards.

The one that made you feel comfortable in that new school with those new kids and new teachers when you thought your insides were going to explode you were so nervous.

The one that you got sent to the principal’s office with for the first time even though, of course, it wasn’t your fault. Hypothetically speaking.

The one that liked the same girl but of course you never talked about it.

The one that you rode bikes with throughout the neighborhood for the first time without your parents watching. You had finally broken free of the confines of the driveway.

Explorers, you were.

They were the one that went a little too far into the woods with you and although you both were afraid that you wouldn’t find your way back out as it got darker and darker, you didn’t say a word about it to each other. But you both knew.

You got in your first fight together although you have no idea what you were fighting about. It hurt but you made believe it didn’t.

He showed you that magazine that he found. You know, the one with the pictures. Of girls. It was awesome but you didn’t even understand why yet.

When you got older, you snuck out of the house together at night for the first time to meet up with your friends that had a later curfew and subsequently locked yourselves out of the house.

Then you both experienced ‘being grounded’.

He saw you cry over a girl for the first time and then the next month did the same thing over the same girl. You understood.

You graduated from high school together and swore you’d stay in touch and see each other often, but you didn’t.

You visited each other in college a few times and it was as if time had never passed while you were together but your visits became less and less frequent. You were both busy studying and hanging out with your ‘other’ friends.

You both eventually got married. He was in your wedding. You were in his. Memorable speeches were made and you laughed and told stories of times gone by.

You bought a house. Had kids. He did the same.

You keep in touch but not as much as you had hoped. You meet up now and then and as always, time stops for those few short hours until you meet again.

Life gets complicated and busy and we all accept that. We cherish the time we DO have together.

But as life further complicates and responsibilities demand our time and attention, when I think back to all the great times we’ve shared together, I can’t help but realize that some of the best moments of my life were back on that playground with you.

Tag, you’re it.

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Dads Parenting Sons

Winter Stars

10298900_10152461131596349_2506598118229131661_nWhen I got home last night, the kids were already in bed. It was about 8:30pm and Val told me that she thought Connor was still awake so I headed upstairs to check and hopefully be able to say good night.

I walked into his darkened room quietly so as to not wake him if he were in fact asleep.

“Hi Daddy.”

“Hi Buddy. Why are you still awake?”

“Sometimes when you aren’t home I have a hard time falling asleep.”

“Well I’m here now so it’s time to hit the sack my little friend.”

He protested mildly with “But it’s so hot in here.”

It was pretty warm outside so his room was a sweatbox. He’s the type of kid who’s always hot even if it’s 62 degrees in his room.

“Why don’t we open the windows for a few minutes and look at the stars?” I offered.

He jumped out of bed and knelt on the floor next to me. We opened the window and rested our crossed arms on the windowsill with our heads poking out into the night sky.

It was very quiet.

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“Look at all those stars Daddy. How many are there?

“A lot. But see that one there? The really bright one? Notice how it doesn’t twinkle? That’s because it’s a planet!! “

“Wow! Really? So I just saw a planet?”

“Yup, you did.”

There was a long pause as we both stared up at the stars from the window of his second story bedroom window. He eventually rested his head against my shoulder.

“Look at that star Daddy!! It’s blinking blue!”

“That’s an airplane Connor.”

He laughed heartily.

“I wish I had a flashlight right now so I could shine it up to the sky. A flashlight that had wings and could fly up to the stars! That would be so cool.”

“That would be cool. When I was a kid, I always had a flashlight next to my bed just like you do, although it didn’t have wings. But when you wake up in the morning you’ll be 6 years old! Maybe you’ll get a new flashlight as a present.

“Grandpa Bob is getting me a wheel barrow.”

“Oh, ok.”

We sat in silence for several minutes staring at the winter sky and Connor’s head resting against my shoulder now with his arm entwined with mine.

“I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too buddy. Happy almost birthday.”

Giggle

“Tickle Fight!!” he exclaimed.

“Tomorrow buddy. Tomorrow when you’re 6.”

“Is tomorrow a Dude Day?” He asked excitedly.

“No, tomorrow is a school day but it’s also your birthday!!”

“Ok, good night Daddy.”

“Good night Connor. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Teachable Moments Tragic Events

True heroes even in the eyes of a 5 year old

bostonfire.jpgYesterday, I watched from my office window in Cambridge the horror that was taking place just across the river with that sinking feeling that what I was witnessing was going to end horribly. I heard the voices on the scanner, saw the MAYDAY tweets, and watched the flames and smoke violently swirl around that building as the emergency vehicles ascended and ladders extended as they tried so desperately to get it under control.

It was hard to watch knowing what was probably happening inside that building.

When I got home, I turned on the news. My three young kids were sitting there and knew something was wrong. We all sat there for a few moments transfixed on that fire and the words of the strangers describing to us what was happening. Fire, explosion, MAYDAY, firefighters trapped, no radio response, smoke, Engine 33.

“What happened Daddy?” my daughter asked me.

“There was a fire and some firemen got hurt” I told her.

Her face turned concerned; her eyes opened wide.

“Are there people in there?”

“Not any more” I assured her.

My 5 year old son looked at me and said, “Why did the firemen go in there?”

“To make sure all the people got out safely.”

“Is that how the firemen got hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Did they die?” he asked with a slight hesitation.

“Yes, they did.”

And with that, my son locked eyes with me and said confidently, “He was a really very brave man.”

Yes they were Connor. Yes they were…

Don’t take anything for granted. Hug your kids. You just never know what the next 10 minutes may bring.

Thank you firefighters Michael R. Kennedy and Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh for your bravery and heroism. Our hearts and gratitude are with you forever.

Coming of Age music

10 1/2 bands your kids need to know

It would be hard to find someone that doesn’t love music or say that it has not influenced their life in some way. We all are certainly no different. And as parents, it was inevitable that the musical influences with which we grew up would be shared with our children as well.

For many of us, music has had an enormous impact and influence on our lives. There were the songs that got us through that first break-up and the loss we felt the first time someone close to us died. There were the songs that made us dance and sing in our bedrooms with the door closed (think Kodachrome) and those that had guitar solos that made our chests and arms tingle with an explosion of simultaneous awe and joy. There were songs that made us cry, cringe, and laugh.

It is a true constant in my life and one that I feel strongly that I need to share with my children.

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We all have our own “greatest bands of all time” lists with which we grew up. We love those bands both for their lyrical genius and for the raw musicality and emotion they conjure. In short, these are the bands that inspired us and changed how we thought about the world. We were given the gift of music and it is that powerful influence I hope to share with my children.

If I were to name 10 bands I wanted my kids to know about, they would include the following:

1. Nirvana
2. Eric Clapton
3. The Cure
4. U2
5. Simon & Garfunkel
6. Van Morrison
7. Patti Smith / Lenny Kravitz (tie)
8. Led Zeppelin
9. John Coltrane
10. Bruce Springsteen

I’m not talking the Laurie Berkner type (although my kids love Laurie just the same!) but rather the music that we grew up on and taught us about life, love, hardship, fortitude, family, politics, and what it’s like to feel alive.

Of course this list may change depending on the generation you grew up in, but whoever you would include in a top 10, I would encourage you to share that music with your children. I guess us parents just need to keep an open mind as far as their top 10 lists no matter how hard that might seem!

What bands shaped you and your generation? Which ones were so influential on your life that you feel obligated to share with your children as well? And see if you can keep it to only the top 10 (or 10 1/2)!!

Trust me, that was hard.

Bill Shakespeare once wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

So let’s do that. Play on, and pass it on.

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Dads Daughters Parenting Top Posts

Open letter to my daughters

A&Z,

I have sat down for the past several months trying to write this letter to you both but have not been able to find the words. I wrote Open Letter to My Son with relative ease so I have been perplexed as to why I have had such a hard time writing to you.

Until today.

You both are the miracles that almost never came true; your births embody the best and worst moment of my life. I was forever changed that day, in both good ways and bad, but I’m realizing now that my consternation in writing to you is that I’m afraid of coming up short because you deserve nothing but the best.

By the time you read this, you’ll be old enough and experienced enough to know that I’m not perfect. What I hope you glean from all of this is the understanding that while the doctors and nurses may have saved your lives, you two are the shooting stars that saved my life.

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But that is a story for another day.

As you two grow older, wiser, and ever more beautiful, I have come to the realization that you were put in my life to show me another way and to teach me what’s important in life. Sons and daughters are different in so many ways. I, for the most part, understand your brother. I guess it’s a guy thing. You on the other hand, often perplex me and teach me ways to look at even the mundane in another light.

You surprise me everyday.

I find it hard to think about you growing up and one day, moving on to live your own lives in college or elsewhere and beyond. I want so much to protect you, hold you, and keep you close. But of course I know the day will come when that room upstairs will empty out and you’ll be off to find yourself – to explore, learn, love, and experience.

Before you leave, I offer you the following suggestions for living a purposeful, fulfilling, and adventurous life as well as some things that I want you to know about me:

1. First and foremost, you will always be daddy’s little girl. I will always see you as that shooting star, cradled in my arms. Just accept it.
2. I maintain an irrational but tangible fear of not being able to always keep you safe. And because that’s my job, it keeps me up at night even now when you’re only 7. So when you get older, remember that dear old dad is worried about you so call him and let him know you’re ok.
3. My only wish for you is for you to be happy. If you have that, everything else falls into place.
4. We make our own destinies; don’t wait for it to happen because it won’t and you’ll look back wondering where you went wrong. Take risks, explore, learn, and call your father when you get home.
5. You are beautiful inside and out. Don’t let the media, people, or yourself make you feel differently.
6. When you were 6, I started to take you both out on dinner dates alone. I’ve never felt such pride and happiness during those dinners. I hope that when you’re 36, we’re still making time for each other.
7. Never let anyone treat you as anything less than the smart, beautiful, and funny girls you are. Love and be loved but don’t accept anything less.
8. Zoe – I always loved playing soccer with you on the front lawn and the day you innocently explained to me what the middle finger meant. Good stuff.
9. Ava – I melted the day you said to me, “Daddy – I wrote this story about a puppy just like you write stories on your computer.”
10. Remember to always speak up, speak your mind, but be respectful of other opinions. Be heard.
11. You matter. When you’re feeling down or defeated, call me. I’ll always be there for you even if it’s just for a cup of coffee and a shoulder to lean on.
12. Never settle.
13. Trust, but verify. In love and life.
14. Like I told your brother, I’m sorry for the days that I yelled at you for something I’m sure wasn’t important. I can honestly say, I tried my best to be a good parent but sometimes I fell short and that’s not your fault.
15. I’m probably never going to like your boyfriends. You should just accept that because I’m having a hard time just talking about it now.
16. If you get in trouble, I will be the first one at your side to help you, make sure you’re safe, and then ground you for a month.
17. Of course, get a puppy.
18. At some point in your life, live alone. Bask in the time spent with ‘you.’ But know that you can always come home for any reason. Keep the key.
19. Read. And continue to write your stories.
20. When you look back at your baby pictures, just remember that I did my best with those hair thingys. And if you are not home by curfew with that new boyfriend, I’ll show him the pictures!
21. Learn to ski, snowboard, or go hiking. Being on top of a mountain on a sunny crisp day will be some of the most magical moments of your life.
22. Always come home for the holidays.
23. You can always curl up with Dad on the couch no matter how old you are.

When you were born, they told us that you might very well not make it through the night. But you did. Embrace the gift you have been given and live YOUR life. Choose to be happy and always remember that we love you, unconditionally.

PS: Don’t forget: Dinner at 8 with Dad on Thursday night. See you then.