Category: Life

93 Days Dads Daughters Family Life NICU Prematurity

10 Years Ago, Yesterday

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was the worst day of my life.

It was also Ava & Zoe’s 10th birthday which, granted, implores a more thorough explanation before the Facebook mamas schedule an event after “coffee Tuesdays” to have me lynched.

What exactly happened 10 years ago is something that I will endure forever, but that being said, even 10 years later, I continue to live with the consequences of that day.

I had a hard time yesterday; I tried to write about it, I tried to post online about it, and I tried to dig deep and find my patience for the special day.

I fell short of my self-imposed demand of pseudo-perfection.

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Life is hard. Parenting is harder. And when you mix in the challenges that some kids live with each day (of all kinds and extents), it not only affects them, but it can, and often does paralyze the entire family.

At least temporarily.  We find comfort in that “tomorrow is always another day” when we can try again.

The innate problem with that resolve, reluctantly, is that we don’t have an infinite bucket of tomorrows. We can’t just repeatedly chalk it up as a bad day. We have to find strategies and alternatives to help our kids be successful in the things that move all of us – the passions that make us who we are and give us purpose in life. Otherwise, what’s the point?

In particular, Zoe had a rough day yesterday. Her extreme frustration with the mundane and ordinary is hard to comprehend. As a “normally” adjusted adult, it baffles me and in return, my own frustration elevates and nothing constructive comes from our collective meltdown. That doesn’t mean either of our feelings are any less valid, but it does present a problem and requires a gargantuan level of patience for which I do not typically have reserves.

Some believe it’s often best to remove emotion from these situations and approach it more objectively. That often works in business and other aspects of my life but, on a personal level, it goes against the very fabric of my existence. I wear my heart on my shoulder; I make no excuses for it and am grateful for being able to access that part of my soul as I know it’s so very hard for many people.

Emotion, for me, is the *food of life*. It makes us human and to take that away defeats the purpose of connecting to one another, to our world, and most importantly, to ourselves on a higher, more intimate level.

I guess the point is that we cannot mask our emotions or feelings, however absurd others may think they are. Rather, we should own them, understand where they come from, and find ways to embrace and channel that passion into something purposeful and meaningful instead of letting them escalate, unbridled until they become the cog in our lives that keeps us from becoming, *awesome*.

We all need to find ways to to celebrate who we are  even if we don’t know who that is just yet.

For the past 10 years, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve been trying to play the fit the square peg in a round hole game. I’m learning, albeit excruciatingly slowly, that I need to play a different game altogether.

The game I learned as a kid is not the same game they play. Together, we need to learn, and accept, a lot of things about each other:

  • that the rules are different
  • that there are no rules
  • that they don’t always know the “why”
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to me
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to them
  • that they want to be happy but sometimes don’t know how
  • that I am the center of their world and that is a gift, not a right
  • that they are never going to be who I thought they should be, or think, or feel
  • that they are their own imperfect versions of themselves
  • that they don’t have to do things my way
  • that they have choices
  • that they are smart, funny, beautiful
  • that ***what they have to say is important***
  • that I have time for them
  • that I will protect them
  • that I am *trying* to help
  • that I need to be more patient
  • that my primary job is to be their Dad and not their friend
  • that I’m not trying to make their lives more difficult but rather make it easier
  • that I don’t understand sometimes
  • that we don’t have to always agree
  • that you don’t always have to understand your feelings
  • that it’s ok to be frustrated
  • that it’s ok to be sad and not really know why
  • that it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes
  • that it’s ok to ask for help
  • that you don’t have to be good at everything
  • that you don’t need to learn how to ride a bike
  • that you are entitled to your own space – physically and emotionally
  • that what you feel is valid, good, and important
  • that Daddy makes mistakes too
  • that you can do anything you want in life
  • and that I’m imperfect and that’s ok too.

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was one of *the best days of my life. In an instant, you gave my life more purpose and meaning than I could have ever imagined. And each and every day since, you have pushed me to think and learn *differently*, love more, and become a better Dad and a better person.

Embrace who you are, own your emotions, and never, ever forget, that you are, and always will be the center of my world.

Happy Birthday.

A Moment In Time Family Holidays Life Tragic Events

A Modern-Day Love Story

Recently, I sadly lost my grandmother.  Of course losing someone you love is difficult and tragic but the strongest emotions I felt were not of sadness and loss but rather of appreciation and gratitude.  In fact, it was rather a time to to celebrate her life and the family she created with my grandfather.  She was an amazing woman and, well, her story is a modern-day love story to be shouted from the rooftops near and far as we all could learn a thing or two.

I was asked to write and share a eulogy at her funeral.  The priest later asked for a copy so that he could share it with newly engaged couples as to him, it represented the epitome of how to love and the importance of being a ‘family.’

So for what it’s worth, I wanted to share it with you as well and hope that it reminds you, in some tangible way, to always remember that family is everything – including that crazy aunt of yours.

Whenever we lose someone who has had such a significant impact on our lives, we of course, grieve and mourn that irreplaceable loss.  But when I think of Nana, I can’t help but realize just how amazing this story is – the story of her life.

She was born in Nova Scotia but grew up in Everett.  Eventually she settled here in Melrose where she has lived since 1951.  She met my grandfather shortly after high school and they have been together ever since – for more than 71 years.

I don’t know what it takes to make a relationship like that work so incredibly well and for so many years, but I do know that the love they shared was real, it was tangible, it was infectious, and it was the epitome of the modern day love story.

Nana loved to swim at the Y, bowl, and spend time with her two best friends – her sisters Clara and Anita.  I never had the chance to bowl with her but I heard she was a force with which to be reckoned.  In particular, she loved to go on long walks exploring the nooks and crannies of Boston with her sister Clara.

She loved her friends and her family but most of all, she cherished her one true love, my grandfather.

They raised 11 amazing children: Pam, Paul, Charlie, Peter, Tommy, Pat, Chris, Maryellen, Peggy, Jimmy, and Johnny.  Some of them left us far too soon, boldly reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of living for today.

I often think about what that must have been like growing up with that many siblings and who got the shower first, or who shared a room with whom.  I myself have 3 young children at home and can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have lived in a house with 11 of the short people.  But somehow, I’ve been told, Nana was able to keep the peace – relatively speaking I’m sure.

I have vivid memories of the house up on the hill with the 862 steps from the street.  At least, as a kid, it seemed like that many.  And I always seemed to be the one that had to run down to the car to get something!  But I didn’t care.  It was in that house on the hill on East Wyoming where all the holidays took place and where many of our precious collective memories were born.

All the kids were there.  All the cousins were there.  Beevo was there.  Grampa was there.  And Nana was there concocting those delectable aromas from the kitchen – the gravy, the meatballs, the desserts.  I can almost smell them now.

When the kids were older and moved out on their own, Nana & Grampa moved to a smaller house on Orris Street.  And then some of the kids moved back in but that’s a story for another time.  They made it their new home, their new castle, and again, the de-facto meeting place for all holidays and family events.

Nana and Grampa would often sit together, always together, perched up on the back porch, a king with his queen, and proudly watch the relentless stream of kids below running through the yard, rolling in the grass, splashing in the pool, and occasionally stepping on a flower much to the chagrin of my grandfather.  But Nana always just smiled and basked in the joy of what she held so close to her heart: her family.

She would greet us with that smile and wrap her arm around our chests with that quiet but assertive demeanor that made you feel safe and always feel welcome.

And she offered us food because that’s what grandmothers do.

Nana dedicated her life to her family.  All of us.  Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, anniversary, and Thanksgiving we gathered because family was everything to her.  She understood that, and taught us the same.  It’s now up to us to keep that spirit alive.

This is her love story and she has shown us how to live exceptionally:

To have fallen in love with the love of your life and have lived that dream together for over 71 years.

To have 11 amazing children who stood by your side and never forgot the importance of being a family.

To have been blessed with 21 grandchildren and to have loved them the exceptional way you did.

To leave behind a legacy of 17 great-grandchildren who will no doubt treasure the stories and lessons of your life as they begin their own.

And most importantly, to amass the most impressive collection of those short Hilltop martini glasses this side of Melrose.

We are the lucky ones; the ones with which you shared your friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love.  And we are forever grateful for having you in our lives.

Of course, we will miss you.

But today, we celebrate all that is you.

Well done, Nana.

Well done.

A Moment In Time Life Parenting Teachable Moments

Kids Can Change the World

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Change. Some of us embrace it while others fear it. Change comes easily for some but for others, it’s a slow and painful process. Generally speaking, kids do better with change. More importantly, kids want to and believe they can change the world.

I recently asked a group of kids the following:

1. If you could DO anything in the world right now, what would it be?
2. If you could CHANGE anything in the world, what would that be?

Their responses were insightful and heartfelt (and often funny!):

Haley age 7:
1. Have a sleepover
2. I would take seizures away from all the kids who have them (Awwww)

Emily age 12 (Haley’s big sister):
1. Get rid of all sickness (see a theme here)
2. Change mean people so that there is only kindness

Ava (Zoe’s twin) age 7:
1. Go out to dinner
2. I don’t know.

Zoe (Ava’s twin) age 7:
1. Go out to dinner
2. I don’t know.

Connor age 5:
1. Go to the beach and swim in the ocean with Nannie
2. I would make it my birthday

Meredith age 12:
1. Eat because I’m starving!
2. World hunger and the Taliban

Thomas age 8:
1. Get rich and spend all the money
2. I honestly don’t know

David age 10:
1. Gaining magical powers and buy 10 pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts hash browns
2. No bad people

Sean age 10:
1. Go skiing
2. No one would be homeless anymore

Kyrie age 9:
1. Go to an imaginary world that I make up in my mind
2. I would change global warming because it’s making all the glaciers fall down and soon it will endanger the animals that live on them or near them. I would also change the way people treat animals so they don’t get abused anymore… those commercials make me sad!

Kaylee age 6:
1. Gymnastics
2. No more bad guys

Alex age 4:
1. I would have a race with all of my friends
2. I would change all of the cars in the world so that they were all the color blue! And be able to make force fields and turn myself into metal.

Shannon age 14:
1. Go on a trip without a destination in mind – just see where I land
2. Change people who use stereotypes and who have a closed mind and aren’t open to anything different.

Erin age 10:
1. Stop child abuse and animal abuse
2. Eliminate war

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Jake age 10:
1. I would become a billionaire and give it all to charity
2. I would take away all the bad drugs so that people don’t get addicted and ruin their lives

Brendan age 13:
1. Go to bed
2. For me to be the best in the world at everything

Devin age 8:
1. Go to Disneyland
2. Change bad people

Patrick age 5:
1. Go somewhere I could be surrounded by a million dogs
2. Change everyone in the world so they could have fun together… With dogs!

Riley age 5:
1. Go to Disney World
2. Make bedtime later

Rory age 3 (Riley’s little brother):
1. Go to Disney World
2. Make bedtime later

Elisabeth age 9:
1. I would cast a magic spell for peace, but I know it’s impossible. (Then asked which is impossible? She said “both”)
2. I would change people who commit crimes

Thorsten age 8:
1. Play chess
2. Make it so nobody would die

Sabina age 6:
1. Coloring
2. Make all the wounded animals into unwounded animals

Dominic age 9:
1. Go out and play a game
2. Be the best person I can be

Mia age 8:
1. Adopt all the homeless cats
2. Make smoking against the law

Matty age 12:
1. Go teach dance classes
2. Eliminate disabilities for those that suffer them

Parker age 12:
1. Go to an LSU baseball game
2. Be a professional baseball player

Ella age 9:
1. Be at an arcade
2. That people could fly

Avery age 7:
1. Ride a horse
2. Make fairies be everywhere you are

Catherine age 9:
1. Ride a horse.
2. Make our family last week’s big Powerball winner instead of the folks in CA

Patrick age 16:
1. Film a blockbuster, Oscar nominated movie
2. Bring back a friend who died over the weekend

Kylie age 7:
1. Go to Arizona and enjoy the sun and visit our cousins
2. Make my sister not have Celiac disease so she can eat everything again

Graeme age 13:
1. Play baseball in the MLB
2. World peace

Griffin age 16:
1. Cure cancer
2. To be Spanish

We all have dreams and we all want to change things for the better. But making tangible and widespread change has historically been a daunting task and extremely difficult to accomplish – particularly on a national or global scale. We’ve always had the will, the desire, and the passion for positive change but we’ve never had the tools, the influence, the platform, or the financial backing.

Until now.

Today, we have a number of innovative and powerful tools in our arsenal to help and guide our children in truly changing the world. Two of the most powerful being the Internet itself which has completely revolutionized the global impact of modern reform campaigns and the global reach of social media. Together, they represent opportunity and the what-ifs that were almost unfathomable even just a decade ago.

The questions I asked those kids were purposefully challenging and open-ended because it made them think about what they actually wanted for themselves and what they didn’t want anymore (what did they want to change). At least that was my goal anyway. The more those lines are blurred, the more likely they are to believe in themselves and their own influence to make a positive and purposeful impact on our world. More than any other time in our history, the ability and potential for the next generation to alter the global landscape in terms of poverty and wealth, politics, human rights, climate change, human and animal rights, health, education, arts, science, technology and basic human compassion is unparalleled.

These kids have the passion for change even though many of them are only just beginning to understand that they can have an impact even at such a young age. We have built the tools and the platform for them to realize that change. Organizations and people likeChange Heroes and Taylor Conroy are not only inspiring our children (and us!) to dream big and make an impact but, even more importantly, they have also built the tools to be successful and to make their work and their passion for change impactful. They are actually building schools in Africa! How cool is that?

For our children, their time is now. And it’s our time to continue to support and reinforce the fact that they really can, and will, make a world of difference.

Dream. Inspire. Build. Change the world.

Let’s do this.

Kip can be reached at kipdurney@gmail.com or on Twitter @kipdurney.

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93 Days A Moment In Time Life NICU Parenting pregnancy Prematurity Tragic Events

Kids Change Everything

Last week, while riding his bike (with helmet on thankfully), my four-year-old son was hit by a car. When I got the phone call at work, my heart sank. My wife said, “CJ was hit by a car. I think he broke his leg. Meet us at the hospital.”

I rushed out of my meeting, grabbed my car keys and told my boss I was leaving. It was 3:47 – just about rush hour and the hospital was about 25 miles away.

It was one of the longest car rides of my life.

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When your child is hurt, it brings out emotions that you never knew you were capable of feeling because having kids changes everything. You see the world and everything in it, differently.

Years ago, I was told that there would come a time in my life when the ordinary would become extraordinary – a time when a sunrise would no longer be just a sunrise and the concept of loving would all of a sudden seem so simple and unconditionally easy.

I was told that there would come a time in life when materialistic things would no longer seem so important or desired. There would come a time when what used to be so important would now seem trivial.

So I’ve been told.

We were told all kinds of things as we grew up but most of us never listened. We thought we knew better and like most things in life, we needed to experience it ourselves before we truly understood what they meant.

I experienced the same horror during my ride to the hospital last week as I did the day my twin daughters were born – 3 months premature. When I got that call, I was much farther than 25 miles away . In fact, I was in another country and the long car ride was replaced by a long plane ride. In both cases, I was reminded, not so subtly, of what was important in my life.

With the girls, our pregnancy was extremely difficult and stressful and unfortunately included a truly horrific sequence of events during and after their births. They spent several months in the Brigham & Women’s NICU clinging to life but as the hours, days, weeks, and months passed without being able to kiss them goodnight in their cribs or for a long time just waiting to hold them for the first time, we knew we had been truly blessed by the single most awe-inspiring force of our lives – our kids.

Nobody told me it would be so hard, so painful, and so humbling at times having kids because we want so very much to protect them, make them happy, and be the best parents we can be. Sometimes we fall short and we feel guilty for not being perfect.

But they did tell me that it would be the most beautiful feeling I’ve ever felt.

At the time, I didn’t believe them. Or maybe I just didn’t understand. Yet.

When I walked into the hospital emergency room last week and saw my son in pain with a broken leg, and he whimpered, “Daddy”, the same emotion took over that I experienced the night I sat in a rocker in a dimly lit room at the BWH NICU with my two little girls, each cradled in my arms, with their tiny smiles and wide eyes staring up at me in awe of the world they were born into.

In both circumstances, I knew they all felt a sense of comfort that I was there for them and that I would protect them. They didn’t need to be afraid anymore. That I would do anything for them.

It was at that point, I knew my life had changed forever.

I have been told that it doesn’t get easier being a parent. And this time, for once in my life, I believe them.

93 Days Dads Family Life Parenting Tubalub

The Credentialed Dad

When my wife and I first got pregnant, we were never so excited about anything in our lives. From that initial holy bejeeezus moment when we first found out, parenthood has been nothing short of a thunderous freight train racing down the tracks of life just barely clinging to a semi-controlled rail of chaos. Getting off the train wasn’t an option, so we just held on as tightly as we could. But soon thereafter, we began to realize that we were embarking on just possibly the most challenging, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and precious journey of our lives.

Everyone’s introduction to parenthood is unique and I am certainly no different. When I first wrote about my story, 93 Days, it was because I needed an outlet for the overwhelming feelings I was experiencing. But the impetus for Tubalub, was because I very quickly, even before the birth of my twin girls, began to realize that I was being treated differently by just about everyone.

I was secondary as an expectant father.

I was often ignored, passed-over, and even ridiculed at times for attempting to contribute as a parent. But the most striking observation was that none of this was done maliciously. People just didn’t realize they were doing it. At first my wife and I would merely laugh, but as it became more and more prevalent, it became increasingly bothersome and less something that I could easily ignore.

Most fathers want to be a part of their kids’ lives; we want to help them thrive and mold them into happy, smart, kind, tolerant and curious people. We want to make sure they are healthy and to teach them about good nutrition and exercise.

We want to help them make good choices for themselves.

We don’t want the server at the restaurant to ask “Mom, refills for the kiddos?” Or the doctor’s office to ask for Mom when they call with the test results. Or for a perfect stranger to observe you attempting to grocery shop with three kids in tow and say “I don’t know how your wife does it.” Or for XYZ brand to stereotype fathers as lazy, stupid, and uninterested in our kids’ lives.

I am a father. But more importantly, I am a Dad – and there is a difference.

I change diapers, do 3 a.m. feedings, help with homework, change sheets, do laundry, discipline my kids even though it’s easier to let it go, always look for ‘teachable moments’, enthusiastically play tea party and soccer, take them fishing, hug them when they are scared or nervous, put a Band-Aid on that scraped knee, tell my kids I love them, sing them songs, do dance parties, build pillow forts, and chase them around the house pretending to be ‘on a bear hunt’. And sometimes they just sit with me under my arm on the couch and watch a Sox game in silence.

I am not perfect, but I am present.

I am accountable.

I am also a consumer.

I have a voice, an opinion, and an insatiable love for my family. As do you.

So go and be a fully credentialed Dad. Because you’re qualified and you deserve that respect.

And because someone thinks you’re pretty cool too.

Thumbnail image for wcooldad.jpgVal Durney

Have you been passed over or ignored as a Dad? Does the stereotype of “lazy fathers” bug you? Tell us about it in the comments.