Things I Want My Son To Know #26 ~ Hard & Soft Aren’t Always About Touch

There are times to be tough and times to be sensitive. There are times for rough and times for gentle. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in tough; in the idea that you can’t express feelings or pain. There are times in life when pain is appropriate – a breakup, a death, any kind of loss. Expressing it makes it easier, being tough just festers inside. There are times to be tough when it feels wrong. People will try to con you, try to manipulate you, try to get you to do things you know are wrong. No matter how much you like them, care about them or want to be liked, be tough. But always be gentle with those less able than yourself, your pets, the disabled, the bullied. Don’t be so tough that you think everyone is trying to con you or manipulate you. Try to be tough enough to stand up for what you know is right and sensitive enough to see when the wrong is happening. Don’t be too tough on yourself, but be tough in pursuing your dreams. Be a strong man with a sensitivity for other’s feelings. Hard and soft aren’t always about touch.

Things I Want My Son To Know #25 ~ Live With Humility

You are entitled to nothing.  If you remember this, despite the face that it may seem radical in today’s world, it will be much easier to appreciate what you have.  As a parent I certainly want my child to have everything he wants, needs or wishes for.  As a human I know that it is likely that life will most likely not go just that way.

To live with humility is to live with gratitude.  To live with humility is to do service without expectation of reward.  To live with humility is to experience the joy of what you can do for others without worrying about what they can do for you.  To live with humility is to listen more than you talk.  To live with humility is to put the needs of others before your own; to delay gratification. Pleasures delayed are often that much more pleasurable.

To live with humility is to be underestimated.  This sounds bad, like something to be avoided but, in reality, it is something to be treasured.  When you are arrogant and full of yourself, you rarely end up living up to the expectations of others. The good news is that when you live with humility you often exceed the expectations of others, often surprising them to your advantage.

Remember that you are just a small part of a bigger plan, a bigger world, bigger events. There is freedom in humility; if you are not in charge, not the center of everything, your are free to just be in your life and relinquish control of everything you truly can’t control. You will be surprised to find that, after all, a life of humility will bring you rewards and recognition in ways that you cannot imagine, in ways that are different than what you may have expected or hoped for. To live with humility is to be available in your own life and the lives of others wtihout your ego blocking your eyes, your ears and your heart.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #5 ~ Be A Man

That is a loaded concept in our culture. In the time of our fathers it meant things like always walking on the street side of a date so her dress doesn’t get splashed, and going down in a fight when someone slighted you, your wife, your girl, your family in any way. In many ethnic groups it meant revenge and in America generally it meant that men didn’t whine about feelings or express emotion in any significant way.

The world has changed a lot in some ways and not so much in others. You should still walk on the street side of a date and do old fashioned things like opening doors and at least offering to pay on a date. The other stuff is not so simple to figure out.

Fighting is not the first best way to defend yourself. If you or someone you love is wounded by words, then it takes a big man to ignore those words, reject those words and walk away from the speaker. If the wounds are caused by “hate words”, towards you or anyone, it takes a courageous man to speak up against those words, to refuse to allow hate speech to go unanswered. If someone violates what you believe in, it takes conviction to stand up for your principles. This last will be tested many times over in your lifetime. How you live your principles is one definition of what it takes to be a real man.

If you are attacked physically, use your mind first and then, if you must, fight back. If you can walk away from a fight, do it. But always defend those weaker and more helpless than you are. You have always stood up for friends or others you thought were being mistreated, never stop doing this; it makes a difference in the world, in people’s lives.

We have already talked about loving with all your heart. Be a generous lover (see your Grandmother’s advice!). Marry someone you would die protecting, that’s how you know its real; you will understand this when you have children because they are the only people you would choose over your partner if you had to make the choice. Protect those children fiercely and without reservation no matter what the personal cost; they will always remember that you did.

Make up your own mind about everything. Read, research, discuss whatever it is you want to know about and then make a decision. There are almost no irrevocable decisions in this life and you will make ones that turn out to be wrong. It takes a real man to admit a mistake, learn from it and move on. Nobody escapes mistakes but many people make the same ones over and over. Don’t just take the advice of your friends who probably have not done the research; or of anyone else unless you respect the depth of their knowledge. Have your own opinions and be gracious about listening to those of others, you might learn something.

Don’t be afraid to feel and don’t be afraid to show it. There is a time for emotions and feelings and a time not. Keep your feelings to yourself at work, most jobs value your intellect and your opinions about the job, not so much your feelings. In your personal relationships, let those feelings out, they matter and will make you a much more attractive man.

Real men love with open hearts and show it; real men use their brains and not their fists whenever possible; real men fight for what they believe in; real men are all different, not cut from some cultural mold that told them what to be. Real men are fully their own selves ~ so be a man.

Practical Advice For My Son #8 ~ Let The Pan Heat Slowly

There is something about cooking that people don’t tell you… it takes patience. When you want an egg, you want an egg. The temptation, and generally the action, is to put a pan on the stove and just heat the heck out of it. Especially on an electric stove, you just want to put it on high, or at least medium high, and go for it.

Unfortunately, when you take this approach to cooking a couple of things happen. First, you get rubbery weird eggs that are overcooked on the outside and too runny in the middle. Second, you get a pan requiring industrial cleaning because there is stuff burnt on to it.

Life is a lot like this process. When you go at things full blast, with no thought, you get some difficult results. First, you may have an incomplete or inappropriate solution and have to re-do whatever it is. Second, you may have relationships you have “burned” on the outside without resolving the mush on the inside. Third, you may say things that you either can’t take back or didn’t want heard.

So, when cooking an egg, or almost anything at all, it is best to set the pan on medium or medium low. Then wait until it is evenly as hot as you want it. Then put your food in and wait for it to cook evenly and thoroughly. When you are done not only will you have food that looks good and tastes good, you will have a pan that you can clean and put away without much trouble. Life is like that… let the pan heat slowly.

Things I Want My Son To Know #24 ~ One Foot In Front Of The Other

You have certainly learned the hard way, this year, that procrastination is a killer. The bad news is that you have paid quite a price for it. The good news is that you have had a chance to learn this lesson way sooner than most people do. Whether you actually learn from your missteps was the subject of another blog!

When you have procrastinated, dug yourself a hole, things can seem pretty bleak. At times it may not seem worth climbing out of the hole, even though you know it is. Just getting out of bed can seem a chore; that’s what depression feels like. When you feel like that, fight it. Get out of bed anyway, suit up, show up.

In life there are really only a very few choices when it comes to the times you make mistakes. You can dwell in the past, wallow in self pity and be generally non-productive thereby compounding the problem. Or you can feel bad, take stock, take your lumps, learn something and go forward; figure out how to do better. There is an alternative some see a choice; I don’t. I don’t believe any mistake is worth taking your own life, speaking as someone who has made some doozies.

Life doesn’t stand still. The life you were given is precious and all too short; you are too young to really understand that yet. Life goes forward even when you wish it wouldn’t. And so all there is to do is to wallow, or to go forward with it a wiser person. At those times when you have made a misstep, you get up, you find the path and you put one foot in front of the other; you get through the day. There will be a better one coming.

Things Grandma Joan Wants You To Know #2 ~ Don’t Stop Creating

Darling Jacob, I expect your ma has already pointed out to you that there are many ways in which to be creative (see the “express yourself” post) and that you have learned that for yourself. But do you know that being creative is possibly the closest way in your life that you will come to the divine?

You already know the satisfactions that occur when you finish a drawing; I am sure you are at least a little pleased now and again by something you have written. Making it new. Whether it’s a card or a baby, momentous or merely satisfying, useful or decorative. You have a grandpa, Alfred, who used to create delightful, funny monologues using words. Who knows what sorts of tools you may use, who knows what sorts of satisfactions you may find in your life ahead, but I am sure that if you continue to make things, your life will be blessed. What I wish for you is that you feel this and that you don’t stop. That you don’t settle into an ordinary, everyday, pedestrian existence, the same existence of most of the people in the world.

You’re already shown your talent and your pleasure in your talent. Please keep it up, no matter what else you do and use it if you can in your life’s work or as your life’s work.

Your grandmother has spent her life making things, art, sculpture, books, her house (especially her house). She lives this advice and she has lived a most interesting life; so don’t stop creating.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #4~ Show It All The Time

You may have noticed that I am not good about days our culture calls “special”. I really believe that many of them were created by Hallmark and the flower companies to get people to spend more money on things they could get cheaper every other day of the year. The restaurants are packed, the card racks are empty, the florists are sold out. These “special” days, like Mother’s day and Valentine’s day; not Grandparents day, etc., are a marketer’s dream.

But I have learned, over time, that because our culture makes a big deal of them, they matter to people. It is, therefore, important to honor those days. Perhaps you don’t need to do it with the fervor of many Americans, which can be a little over the top, but I promise you your girlfriend will care if you don’t recognize Valentine’s day!

You should ask yourself, though, why the restaurants aren’t full of mother’s and sons or daughters all the time? Why aren’t men buying flowers to memorialize other special days, more personal to those they love. I bought your mother flowers on the 3d of every month for the first year of our relationship, because that day meant something to us; much more than Valentine’s day. Why aren’t we sending our mother’s flowers whenever we think of it? Or making the call to a grandmother just to talk? Or bringing our father’s breakfast in bed? These are the things relationships are built on; showing love for no special reason other than the love itself.

When my father was alive I learned to tell him I loved him every time I spoke to him, and to hug him every time I saw him. He never understood my need to hug him and he never hugged back. He never really understood my telling him I loved him, but at least he knew. And when he was dying he waited for me to sit with him, because he knew I loved him. When he was gone I had no regrets because I had showed my love, not held it captive for Father’s day.

It is important to make the effort to honor the “special” days that society has created for us. It is much more important to show people you love them on a regular basis. When you think of someone, pick up the phone, you never know when they will be gone. This is hard when we are all so busy, but a five minute phone call can mean the world to someone. A single rose on a Wednesday night can brighten up a whole week. So remember, love is not something you trot out and show off for special occasions; show it all the time.