Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dad/Son Learn Together - Pt. 3

(Continued from April 10 and 17, 2010) ..... However, as the downbeat for the first piece came closer to being a reality, my dad was still not in the auditorium. I knew that he was somewhere in the school, as he had driven me to the event. But, I could not find him in the audience.

We played the first piece and no dad. We played the second piece and no dad. We played the third piece, my solo, and still no dad. The fourth and fifth pieces came and went and still no dad.

You have never seen a 14-year-old so crushed as I was at that moment. I did not care at all about the performance that had been given; I didn’t care about the solo that I had flawlessly executed; I didn’t even care that my mom was front and center for the whole performance (although I was certainly grateful!) …… I could only think about the fact that my dad had disappeared and had missed the entire concert, a feeling that I had never experienced, but later in life learned that kids feel this way every single day.

As soon as I was able to do so, I went to my mom and asked for the whereabouts of my dad. She looked disappointed, but said that she did not know. How could this be? They came to the concert together; they headed to the auditorium together; and yet she did not know where he was???

She told me to check outside near the baseball field, the same field on which he had managed my games and the same field on which the season would soon be starting.

While other bands were playing, I went outside to the baseball field and, much to my surprise, there was my dad talking to another dad. Again, how could this be? How could my dad have missed my whole concert just to talk to another dad by the baseball field???

I went up to my dad and the other dad. My dad asked, “So, is the concert over?” I told him that, yes, it had ended. I then asked him why he missed it. He told me that he and the other dad were discussing the upcoming baseball season. Being raised to be a polite young man, I excused myself and went back in to the school to hear the other bands.

Again, the feeling of helplessness and non-support from a parent was devastating, especially with the answer that he had given to me ..... he was talking to anther dad about baseball instead of watching my concert? It was an awful feeling, one that I hoped that I would never have to again experience.

Later that night, I asked my mom as to how my dad could have done that? She said that she did not know. But she suggested that I should tell my dad about my feelings and to tell him that I was sad that he missed the concert. (In later life, I learned that my parents had already discussed the issue, with my mom expressing her disdain and shock and my dad expressing that he did not believe that I was upset).

So, I approached my dad and again asked him why he missed my concert. He responded by saying that he had already told me that he had been discussing baseball with the other dad. I said something about wishing that he could have at least seen my solo. He then said, and I remember the exact words today, “Look, is it really important that I sit in the audience for your concerts? Because, if it is, I’ll never miss another one.”

I told him that, yes, it was important for me to have him in the audience. He reaffirmed that he would never miss another one. And, he stuck to his word – in a BIG WAY!

(NOTE: In total honesty, I truly believe that my dad did not understand the level of devastation that I would feel if he missed the concert, a misunderstanding that I later found many parents have. Trust me, from the writing of a former 14-year-old, and from the mouths of a host of adolescents, the feeling of devastation when your parents do not attend an event is quite powerful!!)

(Please come back next Saturday for the 4th and final part)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dad/Son Learn Together - Pt. 2

(Continued from April 10, 2010) ..... So, how did I learn that your kids NEED to have you at their events? Well, believe it or not, I learned from a first-hand experience with my own dad, who once blew me off at one of my important events ..... but then made sure that he never repeated the act. Here are the details:

I had spent all of my childhood involved in a variety of activities, mostly baseball, bowling, basketball, and music. In addition, there were the usual scouting activities, school plays, meetings, etc., that kids always have in their lives.

My parents ALWAYS attended ALL of my events. While some kids had their parents dump them off and return to pick them up, my parents always drove me to the event, stayed for the whole event, and patiently waited for me to drive me home. Yes, I was lucky to be loved and supported by both of my parents.

Of course, there were some events that were missed, mostly by my dad, as he could not get off of work in time for 3:30 p.m. basketball games and, on the rare occasions that he had to be out of town, he would have to miss other events, too. One baseball season, he had to miss every single game, except for one, as he was stationed about 400 miles away for about 10 weeks, although he was able to come home for one weekend and, yes, he was able to see my game!

That was a tough season for me and, as I later learned, it was tough for him, too. But, my mom made sure that she was at every single event. Yes, again, I was lucky to be loved and supported by my parents!

I should also point out that my parents were often the ringleaders of many of my events. While I engaged in music, basketball, and bowling on my own with other instructors, my dad always managed my baseball teams and my mom was a scout leader! (More about benefits of leading your child’s activities in a future blog).

HOWEVER, the moment of the GREAT LEARNING ACT, occurred when I was 14-years-old, a moment that helped to form an important part of my parenting views that still hold true today – over 35 years later! This one act also helped me to form my views that I have passed along to others about the need to attend the events of their children.

My middle school band was planning to hold its annual spring concert on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. I had a small solo and I was excited to be able to perform it for my parents. Of course, when playing percussion, wherein there is only one player per instrument, one could argue that everything was a solo for me, as I was the only player on an instrument at a given moment!

Well, the big day came and, as usual, my parents and I went to the car and drove to the concert. We walked in together, with my parents heading for the auditorium as I headed to the band room for the pre-concert warm-up. As always, I was exited to be able to perform for my parents, as I knew that they supported me and this was a manner in which I could give back. Ah yes, while I truly believed that life could not get any better, I had no idea that it was about to get substantially worse.

I proudly walked on stage with the band, got ready for the first piece of music to be performed, looked up at the audience to find my parents, and there was my mom, front and center in her usual place! I looked next to her for my dad and ..... he was not there. Oh well, I figured that he had probably run to the restroom or something.

(Please come back next Saturday for Part 3)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dad/Son Learn Together - Pt.1

There are certain moments in your life when ideas, acts, words, etc., are cemented in your brain forever. When you look back on life, there are memorable moments that occurred which served to change your way of thinking about, and responding to, life.

On those occasions, I can remember exactly where I was, the approximate temperature of the moment, the people who were there, and, well, just about everything that helped to imprint the moment in my brain.

I have long been an advocate of ALWAYS attending ALL of your child’s events, whether it’s sports, dance, parent-teacher conferences, Boy Scouts, etc. Sometimes your kids will beg you to be there and other times they will beg you to stay away.

However, irrespective of the spoken words of your children, trust me, THEY WANT YOU TO BE THERE!! The parents who attend the events of their children are the families that most likely have the most well adjusted children, as the kids gain confidence and trust that is needed to succeed in life. Your attendance helps to provide the secure feeling that they need to have to know that they are loved.

Too often, I have seen kids show up at events on their own with no parents before, during, or after the events. The most notable issue in my life was when I managed one of my son’s baseball teams. Practice after practice and game after game, one of the boys rode his bike to the event and, as parents and kids were walking to cars after practices and games, there he was riding his bike home ..... all by himself. How sad!

It was one of saddest displays that I had ever seen. This young man had absolutely zero visible support from his parents. They did not even care enough to show up even once. Despite the efforts of many, this young man eventually grew up to turn to drugs and alcohol, flunked out of community college, and is currently wandering the country, ON HIS OWN, searching for love and answers to life. Perhaps, if his parents had shown an interest in their child by attending his events, he might have grown up to understand that he is loved and supported.

With only a few exceptions, the kids who are loved and supported by their parents are the kids who grow up to be successful in life. The kids who are blown off by their parents are the kids who are most likely to turn to other sources of support, including drugs, alcohol, nefarious friends, gangs, etc.

(Please come back next Saturday for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hey, That's Mine! - Part 2

(Continued from March 27, 2010) ...... With all of the confidence of an experienced Assistant Principal who had made inroads with this family, I called Bill’s dad to give him the bad news. A few words into my explanation of Bill’s upcoming suspension from school, Bill’s father went nuts on the phone, yelling and using a host of profane words that would have made most people blush.

I let Bill’s dad carry on for a few minutes before he calmed down. I again began to explain the situation when he interrupted me by saying, “I knew that some of my marijuana was missing. He stole my stuff”.

Well, that’s just great. We’re trying to keep Bill on the high road and his dad was apparently keeping marijuana in the house – stored in a locale that was obviously known to Bill.

While that was one of the saddest telephone calls that I have had to endure in my career, it is worth noting that Bill and his dad entered counseling, at the urging of our professional staff and, after a few years, they began to have some father-son fun together!

So, while the story eventually had a reasonably happy ending, I could never stop thinking about what would have happened with Bill’s life if a) his dad had sought counseling years before, or b) if our professional staff had not intervened. It took Bill and his dad a few years, but they got the father-son job done!

Remember, the best form of parenting is the loving approach that begins in the womb and consistently carries through entire lives. But, if life deals a significant blow, there is always time to get it together at a future point. It’s never too late!

So, how about you? Have you, or has somebody in your lifetime, thrown away good years, only to rescue all at a later age? It happens all of the time. Never give up because it is never too late!

As I am fond of saying, nobody ever said that parenting was easy! Hang in there, love your kids, and spend time with them – before they get your attention by stealing your goods!

Paul W. Reeves