Archive for August, 2012

Taking advantage of trust

Posted: August 31, 2012 in Family, Kids, Parenting

We recently went through a motion to get the school district changed for my wife’s kids since the move.  Everything went as well as could be expected, better actually since we had anticipated a half day of court and it ended up being settled out more quickly than that.  The kids are now clear on where they are starting school and one would think all was well.  Of course Bert is involved, so that would be wrong.

I spoke last time about the lies and trust impact and I want to talk more in depth about that today.  Bert appears to be a father who cares for his kids.  He has them 50% of the time, he refuses to give up time, he attends all their events, and he provides them with gadgets and material possessions galore.  From the outside looking in with only those facts he’d sound great, right?  As one of his children this along with the fact he is their dad, would give them a reason to trust him and assume he would not lead them astray, and that is where someone insidious and controlling like Bert takes advantage of a relationship.

Well before I was even involved with my wife, Bert would be filling the kids heads with falsehoods about how they were able to decide which school they went to and that all they needed to do was tell a judge and all would be as they desired.  My kids have changed schools five times in seven years, three because of moving, but two because of zoning changes.  I understand the trauma this causes a child.  If I had told my kids that they could just tell someone they wanted to stay at the school they were familiar with and thereby avoid change, what do you think they would have said?   They trust me and therefore expect me to give them correct information especially about something this important to them.  Bert’s kids have every right to have this same expectation.  But when you have an idiot like Bert involved, what should be a wonderful relationship turns into a course in manipulation that creates nothing but stress for a child.

So the kids move through into the present circumstance believing this and we had to inform them that this was in fact not true.  Since Bert wanted to contest this districting and thought he had an angle the kids spent their summer not adjusting to the reality that they would be changing schools, but instead holding on to false hope that things would not change.  They exhibited typical resistance to change behaviors like putting down the new district.  As it became evident that things were not going Bert’s way he settled because he was stuck, not because he wanted to.  Then we proceed to being past the case. 

So this last week Bert’s kids come back and the oldest is still all piss and vinegar about moving schools.  Again, I get it.  I understand.  My kids did this five times in the last seven years.  Each time they went kicking and screaming, though it did decrease substantially after the first time when they realized there were not comets striking the earth and craters opening beneath them leading them to a life of misery and darkness.  Yet, she seemed overly down about this according to my wife, and when she talked with Bert she found out why.  You see Bert had now used his position of trust to instill pain on his child.  Parents who do this are doing nothing short of abusing their kids, in my opinion, but sadly there is little that can be done to prevent it.  What he was doing was telling his child she had control and it was her fault she was changing schools.

When she met with the guardian she had talked about very adult things like budgets and the fiscal solvency of each school district.  She clearly understood the facts.  But now that she is in the shadow of the school year starting and she sees the school day begins later, which she does not like, Bert has convinced her that if she had told the guardian she did not like the later school day then she would be going to her old school instead.  So a teenager is sitting there wallowing in the fact that because she did not utter one sentence her fate is changed and that it would have actually mattered.  He has also used his trust to explain that if she wanted to, my wife could just say she could go to her old school, in a district we don’t live in and the world would make it so.  It’s just so easy in Bert’s world you see because the only reason things are not as they should be is because someone else screwed up.  Have a nice day Bert, and pass the buck on your way out the door.

I deal with misinformation all the time as part of my job.  This was what we applied here.  We stopped short of calling Bert’s comments out directly, though we may still do that.  I see nothing wrong with fighting misinformation with facts.  The only reason I did not choose to do that right now in this case is that I think it is too much of a hurdle for our daughter to bear.  What I fight then is not only the wrong facts he has provided but her trust in Bert.  That’s a battle I can’t win yet.  She would immediately shut down and not even listen to what we had to say.  Instead we simply talked about it indirectly explaining how courts decide based on fact not emotion.  I explained that’s why a murder can’t go into court and make the judge cry because they had a bad childhood and get away with the crime.  The judge just looks at if he committed the murder.  In the case of selecting schools, if she is unhappy, sad or something else about the new school is not considered.  It is where we live, plain and simple.  That may not be fair, especially from an emotional teenager’s point of view, but that is how it works.  Therefore if anyone tells her she could have said something about how she felt that would have changed the outcome they are just wrong.  I think she understood because she did then focus on other things and I did my best to help her see that she can make this change and the sun will still rise the next day.  To her credit she is not as dramatic about it as I make this sound, but she is complaining a lot about petty things like not liking the color of the lockers, for example.  My daughter who has been through the trenches on this a few times actually said some good things, but in her bull-in-a-china-shop way she was more forceful than I would have liked, so I think the impact was less profound.

So Bert will continue to use his trust to undermine things and on our end I need to build trust as well.  Over time they will see that what I say happens, and what he says is usually not verifiable.  As they mature the kids will begin to discern that pattern.  The draw of Bert being their biological father will never change, but the influence I can have along with my wife sitting next to me to steer them through the misinformation will increase.  It really is a shame that Bert is such a fool, but no one can change that.  One conversation at a time we will keep moving forward and helping them learn the ropes of life as they really are instead of how Bert spins them to be.

The Bobbsey Twins

Posted: August 29, 2012 in Divorce, Family

So last post I named our exes.  I asked people to try to pinpoint the source of the names I chose, and promised to reveal the answer shortly.  The title of this post is your answer.

While the actions and such of the fictional characters are not the source, these are just the first set of twins that comes to mind.  I ended up finally using these names for our exes because almost every conversation I have with anyone about of exes involves indicating that they could be twins from their actions.  I am always saying Bert is just like Nan or vice versa, so that’s why I decided to name them after the most famous twins I know other than the Doublemint twins, whose names I don’t know…. And who both were girls, so that wouldn’t work anyway. 

I explained last time that Nan and Bert are both terrible with money.  Part of this stems from another trait they both share, that of being extremely self-centered.  Things that are not for their benefit in some way tend to get short shrift.  There are variations on how this plays out.  One example is regarding the kids.  In Bert’s case, a huge portion of his self-centered drive is that he wants everyone else to perceive him as a great individual so being perceived as “father-of-the-year” is a big part of the focus on him.  He therefore will do things that seems to benefit the kids, but really serve his desire to appear powerful and together, such as getting his kids iPhones or getting a girlfriend to pay for a trip to Hawaii.  Nan is not so creative, mainly because she does not obtain money by manipulating others, so she can’t afford to do things like that.  She will stay in her room and read while the kids are with her, or convince the kids through dropped hints about how an outing they want to go on will be too hot, or too boring, or too something else. 

The next trait they share is being liars.  Both fabricate stories with the best of them.  Medical issues are a stock in trade, Bert with a leg injury and Nan with cancer.  It is amazing to see Bert walk up our sloped driveway with no difficulty (or limp) at all yet have problems walking across a waiting room floor.  Nan went through chemo treatments for months but never lost weight, hair or anything else.  What she did lose were times she had promised to see the kids and then called to say she had emergency chemo treatments.  The sad thing is the kids know she does this.  I know it from statements where they tell me “mom lies” or “we never trust anything mom says”.  She may be convinced she has them fooled, but I just sadly see the results on the other end and make sure that I try to not make commitments I can’t follow through on and such.  The thing with this is that the parent on the side that tries to pick up the pieces ends up being judged through the same lens.  I have heard time and again when what most people would consider normal, such as weather cancelling an event, or work running late, that “you’re just like mom”.  I used to show them the article about the fair really was closed that day because a storm destroyed the midway the day before, but it still did not resolve the issue and just made them feel strange.  The problem is this type of deceit makes them feel they can’t trust anyone.  It does scar them in ways we can only do so much about.  For those who never had to deal with this, think about what it would do to your ability to trust to know that a person you love more than anyone else in the world regularly lies to you and shows no remorse.  How would you develop the ability to discern truth and not doubt?  Both Bert and Nan lie with a cold, calculated ease that removes all emotion.  It is sinister in its intensity many times. 

Another similarity is lack of taking responsibility as a parent.  We buy the school supplies and pay the medical bills.  Bert will do the flashy things to further his self-centeredness like amusement park tickets our outings to a fancy hotel.  It is the typical pattern of buying their love but like a typical manipulator he sprinkles in enough genuine interest that the kids see they are cared about.  With Bert this is one I struggle with.  It is impossible to discern if he genuinely cares or if he does it to put on a show.  He certainly readily dismisses his children as lazy or dumb when it suits him, but still does take them places, but I still feel it is to show off that he can and less because he enjoys the joy in their hearts when he takes them.  I do not know Bert well enough to know if he understands how to experience joy in his heart that is not caused by manipulation.  On Nan’s side, she has contributed less $110 over the last year and a half to the kids medical or school expenses.  Again, her lack of controlled partners to fund her endeavors results in no extravagant trips or fancy gifts, but if she had the ability I could see her following in Bert’s footsteps to buy the kids.

Probably the biggest issue they share is being a good parent.  They both play at it, but fall far short of the bar.  Bert disciplines in bizarre ways with lectures and forced video watching and weird comparisons that are rational in his bizarre world.  Nan does not discipline at all, which creates confusion and resentment amongst the kids who feel that no one is in control at her house.  Nan easily ignores the kids while Bert often over does his attention.  Bert thinks being a good parent is arguing with every authority figure in the kid’s lives like teachers and doctors to attempt to show that he is involved.  Nan comes up with every excuse in the book such as sickness, tiredness, distance and others to rarely be at events.  Bert feels having no job which allows him to be ever present at events is doing anything.  In the year I’ve known his kids I have never once had any comment come from them like “My dad is great cause he comes to my concert/play/athletic event”.  If the kids notice it, I’ve not seen it.  The reason is because when he is there his actions to appear to be involved make them so uncomfortable they wish he wasn’t there.  Again, on the other side, I can see what the action Bert thinks are bonding him to his kids are really doing.  When your daughter tells her friends that you are brain damaged to explain your behavior that’s not a good thing.  Good job Bert, you go right on being father of the year. 

At this point I think you get the picture.  I feel sorry for Bert and Nan.  They are wasting away key moments and years in their children’s lives when they could be building relationships with them to instead posture and focus on themselves.  They think they are doing this unnoticed or at least only noticed by use exes and maybe a few other pesky adults who amount to nothing in their lives.  I will be curious to see what happens over the long decades as we go forward.  There is certainly a draw to the worldy lifestyle both Bert and Nan choose to engage in.  I do believe this will entice the kids at various times.  If my parents handed me a fancy gadget to keep me entertained for hours (iPhone) when I was thirteen or ten I would think it was cool and they were awesome too.  As an adult however, I understand it was when I needed emotional support and guidance when my parents helped me most.  Money does not create those bonds.  True caring and taking the long hard time to understand what really is going on does.  Passing the buck and blaming others does not help.  Calling your kids names does not help.  I do feel Bert and Nan will be surprised at how things turn out.  I also understand so may I.  All our hard work may go down the tubes as the kids get sucked into the temptations presented on the other side.  I pray to God he helps us steer them towards the light.  We’ll see.

For the love of money is the root of all evil – 1 Timothy 6:10 KJV

A similarity with both our exes is that they both have the ability of a toad when it comes to managing money.  For the sake of storytelling, and now that more and more of the posts in the blog seem to be focusing on issues with the exes and how we deal with them, I’ve decided to finally grace them with names, so we shall call our protagonists Nan and Bert (bonus points to those who can pinpoint the source, though I will tell you in the next post).

This inability to have two dimes to rub together for too long results in a challenge for us as parents.  We teach the kids money management, and in this process that means they have money, and in many cases they want to use that money over at Nan or Bert’s.  There are some differences in the two approaches, so I will cover them individually.

In Nan’s case, she was given a lot of money in our divorce, and she has proceeded to either whittle through it in less than a year.   She now finds herself on public assistance in her current state and proceeds to fill the kid’s ears with how at my house we all live like rich people and we suck.  I regularly hear when the kids return from visits about how they did not do much of anything, ate poor food and listened to how life sucks.  This creates a situation where the kids want to take their money over to Nan’s finance something to do.

In Bert’s case, he is just the typical poor steward of money.  However, his mode of dealing with this is to seduce women who he then convinces to pay for his life.  This can result in wild swings of having no money to having a lot of money, though he then blows through it with abandon and usually ends up back with having no money.  Bert also lives off the dole of the state since he has no job.  Since Bert like to put on a show, the kids are usually entertained at his house so the same dynamic is not created as with Nan.

The common result here that is presented to us is that my wife and I have agreed that it is not our job to finance the entertainment at Nan and Bert’s.  This means that we have placed a rule in force that says the kids are not allowed to take any allowance money or gifts from family over to Nan and Bert’s.  My kids have had this rule for a while, but still complain about it because they are bored and Nan does not have anything for them to do so they want to buy things themselves to have at her place.  I refuse to allow this on principle that just as it is my job at my house to handle the finances so it is at Nan’s.  For Bert’s kids, they do not have that same urge, they just have the desire to use their money, and it has resulted in just as much complaining when the rule was set down. 

In Nan’s case she has tried to do things like take the kids to restaurants and then have them pay with their money.  She has tried to take them to places like amusement parks and have them buy food and souvenirs with their money.  This last point was something we did when we were married, minus the food part to the level Nan takes it.  We would purchase meals and some snacks ad also usually agree to a dollar amount we would spend on souvenirs per child, but if they wanted more stuff, then they were free to use their money.  Nan’s argument to me was that this is still what she does.  The difference she fails to grasp is that we are no longer married, and so that’s great that she’s keeping this part of our money management training for our kids intact, but she needs to fund the kids on her time with her own money.  It’s not my fault she does not have any.  She of course disagrees.

The reasons are similar for Bert’s house in consistency.  While Bert handles his money differently and we have seen no evidence of him asking kids to pay for meals out of their money, we also understand that having the kids take $100 over will result in the probably using it, and the expectations we have are still the same as for Nan; it is Bert’s job to fund the kids activities in total while they are with him just as it is our responsibility when they are with us.  In short, we are not going to subsidize either household. In both cases no child support flows in either direction.  In Nan’s case the state calculation sets her as owing my child support but it is deviated to zero due to finances.  In Bert’s case he did owe child support, though like a typical deadbeat dad he never paid, and last summer to avoid him constantly going to court to fight the child support she was never getting anyway, my wife agreed to remove the child support obligation by stating that since the kids were at each household equally there is not child support to be exchanged.

The challenge here is that while the rule makes sense when explained, due to the nature of divorces and what we are allowed to say to our kids, we can’t explain it to them.  Couple that with the fact that even if we did, kids will still think it’s stupid and therefore we are stupid, the result would be the same as it is, they think the rule and our choice is stupid.  So be it. In Nan’s case she is more than happy to reinforce the kid’s feelings that the rule and I am stupid, so when this flares up from time to time it is always fun. 

In talking with other divorced parents this seems to them very logical and would or is very similar to how they handle it.  The kids still see a mom and a dad and cannot make that connection that while that still exists, the monetary relationship does not.  They go back and forth freely between the two houses, so why shouldn’t the money?  I can see the clear logic to a child. 

God expects us to be good stewards of our money and that is what we are doing with this rule.  I believe at some point as the kids grow they will each understand that as they transition into adulthood and gain a different perspective when the money source changes from us to employers.  In the mean time we will continue to say no when the request occurs.  A different variation of this with our two oldest is that they want their money in cash and it was explained to both of them that they need to leave it here when they visit Nan or Bert.  This creates and environment ripe for lying and my daughter has said the two of them have already had such conversations.  I’m less concerned about the accuracy of that claim, than the fact that we would be naïve to assume that whether they influence each other or if they just desire to do it from within, the temptation would not be there to lie in some way to circumvent this rule.  I have explained that even if they fool us, God will know if they lie and hope that will make them think twice about what type of person they want to be.  Certainly I will keep an eye out for situations and made it clear if they are caught lying they will not only lose the ability to get cash they will be punished in other ways to be determined later.

I pray for wisdom on this issue and know this will be an ongoing challenge for us.

Kelly Clarkson took this common saying and turned it into a poppy, bouncy tune that was designed to work as an anthem for down trodden people everywhere.  It has the power to inspire and excite.  I can almost imagine Bob Cratchitt walking out into the dreary streets of London after another oppressive day at Scrooge & Marley and after a few steps tossing off his hat and bursting into a roaring chorus as he dances down the street avoiding the contents of empty chamber pots.

Things may not be as tough as 19th century London.  After all we now understand more about disease, have a better handle on the food supply, labor laws make for a situation where we do not have to work by candlelight and smoke nor load nuggets of coal into our boss’s pot belly stove, not to mention the fact that we understand we can now dump our chamber pots into underground pipes rather than the street.  Maybe that’s why Lionel Richie recorded “Dancing In The Streets”. 

Some days, though, it seems like it might just be easier to fight off a rat for a crust of bread than it is to manage people in an office or, oh the horror, guide a teenager into adulthood. 

I often wonder, does being a manager make me a better parent, or does being a parent make me a better manager?  Both jobs do have the potential to kill you more often than we’d like, but without a doubt these trials have made me stronger.  I still feel the answer to the question is really, both, though heavily leaning to one side as I shall explain later.  It comes down to learning how to control human reactions and emotions and channel people to an outcome that is desirous.

I can certainly point back to the fact that once I became a parent and my children got past the age where they were just little folks who I could carry around and place where I wanted almost like end tables, I had to learn to work with them to get what I wanted.  Once they became self-propelled , I would often find they went places I did not want them too.   For a while, there was nothing I could do other than provide barriers, like baby gates, cabinet locks and other things to avoid having bad things happen.  It really wasn’t until I we could talk to each other that I noticed the change.  Especially once they learned the most powerful world in the universe for a toddler, “No!” 

Over the years then what I would find is that what worked for one child did not always work for another.  I began to use this skill more and more in the workplace, and it began to confirm what I had thought all along, that adults act like toddlers all too often at the workplace.  The benefits that began to accrue from this process, however, were that I was basically engaged during every waking hour in situations that helped me be more successful in all my other situations.  I regularly take negotiation tactics I use with a vendor in the office and they work just as well with my teenager when I try to get her to understand something.  Conversely, I take empathy and nurturing skills that I first honed with my children and apply them to co-workers and find their response is better and I get better results. 

The similarities seem to draw from the fact that at the root you are doing the same thing in either circumstance.  Whether they are my children or my co-workers, I am trying to influence their motivations, their heart, to understand and do what I think is needed at any given time.  In both circumstances, I may have positional power, that of a parent, boss, or more senior company level, to coerce or force a result, but the results are better and longer lasting if I change their heart and get them to understand.  This results in longer conversations with my team to make certain they understand the bigger picture, in effect using a parental nurturing skill to educate them the same way I use that skill to better prepare my children to understand and live in the world outside the controlled petri dish of our home.

I really can strongly correlate the transition into a parent of school age children, meaning within the last 9 years, with being much more successful in the workplace.  I have looked at the possibility that maybe the experience as a manager had just developed at the same time too, but the timing was too spot on to be coincidence.  I strongly believe and see reinforced every day, how the change at work resulted in large part from a change at home; that transition of my relationship with my children moving from an authoritarian style to a collaborative style.  Using that at work then only provides me more tools to be a better parent at home, because I am living “practice makes perfect” each and every day.  So the leaning is more that being a parent makes me a better manager, but the ability to manage does have an impact on my skills as a parent, so it should not be discounted entirely.  I just see the relationship as more of work also being a practice field for skills I use in parenting.

This may not seem intuitive on the surface, but it is all too easy in a work environment to not handle things with tact, caring and empathy.  The structure at work is too reliant on hierarchy.  In short it is not based on love of fellow man, but power over fellow man.  Sure there is the expectation to the rule, but as a whole if you ask people if they love their co-workers they would say “no, that would be sexual harassment”.  Taking the nurturing spirit from the home into the workplace however and understanding how to use that to improve my staff’s abilities, get them to buy into challenging new project, feel more confidence in themselves and build their self-esteem, and make them enjoy the environment because it is not based on negatives has reaped enormous benefits.  I have been able to be very successful at a relatively young age because of this blending of two worlds. I’m not sure that we could openly prefer strong parents as employees, we certainly could not from a discrimination standpoint, but in my experience there is a direct correlation to their skill at that with their likelihood of having similar success in a workplace where we deal with a bunch of whinny, uncooperative and strong willed egos all the time.

Closer to the heart

Posted: August 20, 2012 in Parenting

I wanted to delve a little deeper into the topic of modeling that I talked about yesterday.  As parents we need to teach our children how to function in the world.  One method of how to do this is modeling, or giving them examples of how to behave in a given situation.  As part of my discussion yesterday I talked about plays and audibles.  Plays are the models put into place after they have been taught.  Audibles are used in the process of teaching the plays to begin with, which does not fit the analogy I explained yesterday.  In football an audible is changing from one play to another, but in this vein it is a deviation from the plan in an effort to get to a resolution in a better way.

In teaching our kids, I fall into a very specific school of thought.   No matter what we do with them, if they do not take our lessons to heart and embrace them it is unlikely that they will ever act as we would expect when not directly under our gaze or influence.  I think far too many parents feel that their kids are “well behaved” because they “listen” in their presence or after getting yelled at and corrected.  While it is certainly important to be stern at the right times, the heavy handed approach, which is how I was raised, does not get the result I think most of us would like.

I take myself, and my friends, as prime examples.  My parents drilled certain things into me with punishment and yelling and most times when I was out on my own as a teen working or even playing with my friends at a younger age, I would ignore that teaching.  The missing link, if it were, is that I was doing it because I was being forced to do it, not because I understood why or wanted to do it.  It was the age old issue of what did I do when no one was watching, and in many cases it was not what my parents would have wanted.  I might get my mouth washed out with soap, or spanked or otherwise severely punished for swearing around my parents, but it did not stop be from cursing with the best of them when with my friends. 

While I do agree it is much more difficult, trying to engage my children in conversations about what I believe is the right way to do anything seems to result in more of the lesson sticking.  I may not see the fruits of the labor until later, at times much later, but I find the chances they will follow along are much higher using this approach.  Especially as the kids are now older and some are in their teens, using the method of convincing them to do something because I make them lasts about as long as it takes them to get out of my sight.  I do not see how as they get older and we have less and less influence compared to their peers that this method will bear fruit.  My parents tried it and as the recipient of that method I can tell you how long it took me to learn the lessons they wanted.  In some cases it was decades later because I had to have the world teach me, and the world was not as nice a teacher as I think my parents would have been in they had tried to help me understand.

In our blended family situation where they will also be influenced by both our exes who are very different than the tone and guidance we are trying to instill in our household, the impact is even greater.  I did not have another adult I looked up to telling me something opposite of what my parents did, but our kids all do.  I do not see how anything other than getting them to thing and understand for themselves is going to make an impact.  Dictator parenting in our house will simply result in them waiting for the starting pistol to go to the other house where there are no rules they dislike and no one making them do something.  This will still happen in my method, but I have already seen cases where over time they start to see the logic in what we want them to do because we do not only tell them what to do but take the extra time to explain why.  With the younger ones, it is still a lot less explaining versus telling, but that transition needs to occur as they age.  As I observe how they respond I will regularly make changes to my approach, and do the best I can.

This week teams in the NFL began their first pre-season games.  The sport of American Football is moving into full swing and for many families that means that they will be absent a parent or two at least one day a week as the obsession with the sport takes over as the weather turns from the warmth of summer into the bowels of winter.  The other thing that happens is that it provides me a great source of inspiration for a blog post.

As a parent one of the things I strive to do is to be consistent and to help my kids understand the rules.  When 9:30 rolls around and it is time to go to bed, the more they all know how to do, the easier it is and the smoother things run.  In football, you have what is called a playbook that contains all the plays.  The team members learn what to do in a 4-3 short I formation, or what it means when you run a Inside Man Blitz.  The players must learn their part in the play and then practice over and over until it becomes routine.  When the coach radios in the play to the quarterback (the leader of the team) and the play is relayed to the team, they all need to know where to go and what to do.  Similarly in a family, especially one approaching the size of a football or baseball team, it is helpful to have plays (Bed Time, Dinner Time, Go To Church, Bath Night) and to make sure everyone knows how to run them.

My job as the husband and father in my household is to be the leader, the quarterback.  While this is all very interesting and probably pretty easy to grasp, I want those of you who are true fans of the game of football to think back to the greatest teams you can remember.  What set them apart, and what made the difference?  Sure they needed a great quarterback, but that quarterback needed to know more than how to execute the plays.  The real great of the game used another tactic: the audible. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept and audible is when the team is set up and ready to execute the play but the quarterback notices something is not quite right and that their plan might not work.  Quickly making an executive decision he calls an audible:  he changes the play on the fly.  The hope is that the new play will result in a success where the old play, in the opinion of the quarterback, would have resulted in a failure.  The key to this process working is that the quarterback needs to be an expert at reading the field and situation and adjusting very quickly and then change his mind.  Also, an audible is used when needed, not as a matter of course.

As a parent, I have learned that my audibles are the most important thing I do when keeping my household running well, usually when instituting discipline.  In this vein our methods of running the offense differ between my wife and me.  She would prefer to always run the play; I am much more comfortable calling an audible, and right now this makes her nervous.  Just as the new players coming onto the team need to gain trust in their quarterback’s ability to call good audibles, my wife is needing to build that trust that I’m really like Brett Farve on 3rd and long when I call the audible in our house:  just give me the ball, stand back, and be amazed at the result.

Let’s take a recent episode.  Our two oldest daughters were having a row (yes, I enjoy pulling out British words once in a while.  Makes me seem more worldly and educated, and maybe it is the proximity of the Olympics and that I can’t wait for the new Bond movie in November).    This tiff went on over the course of three days with a small reprieve on day two when a truce was called over the excitement and not to be avoided magnet for teenage girls everywhere, the sleepover birthday party.  The bread in the sandwich around this second-day-filling was a couple arguments that resulted in one girl choosing to sleep in the basement on each night.  During the ensuing hubbub that somehow gets created over the stewing estrogen bubbling inside teenage girls, words were said, things were done, nation states were at risk and feelings were hurt.  In other words it was a typical teenage cat fight.  I shall focus on two things my daughter did; post a comment a FaceBook (ah the ability of this medium to take the most trivial of issues and turn them into worldwide spectacle and all the associated emotions that causes in women) and put away some stuff of hers that she wanted to no longer share.

We needed to handle the little disagreement and we did so with discussion, but in the Parent Playbook in this case the play reads something like this.  “When two children are acting immaturely, the parents need to correct the behavior quickly to avoid escalation”.  My wife wanted to execute the play to the letter and have me explain to my daughter that she needed to delete the comment and that I should take the things she put away as she was being selfish.  I called an audible.  My wife was uncomfortable.  She thought it would not work.  She needed to learn I was a great quarterback and knew when to make the call.  Instead of taking the play as written I changed it to involve a discussion about two items.  I talked about the FaceBook post and how it could hurt someone’s feelings.  She insisted the post was not about that fight but about a different fight with a different sister. Again, the playbook would call for a flag being thrown “10 yards for likely lying”, but I decided to audible again, realizing this was not the time to get into an argument that I could not win on any fact.  I told her that it was still not a positive comment and it would reflect poorly on her.  I explained how she had likes and comments about two other comments each surrounding this one, but that this comment had 0 likes and 0 comments because people had no idea what to do with it.  With regards to the items she stashed, I explained how the TV they had in their room was technically something being shared by her stepsister, so to note the unfairness in that, and how it could easily turn into a very unpleasant environment if they all played that game to its likely conclusion.  She made a good point about the TV not being able to be used up, compared to the items she had stashed. 

The issue with Parenting Football, versus actual American Football, is that you can’t always see the result of the play instantly.  Did I thrown an 86-yard touchdown pass or did I just throw an interception?  With the sport of football, if an audible is called you can quickly discern if it was the right call or if the original play would have been better. 

After a few days, with no further prompting, the FaceBook post was deleted and at least some of the stashed items have resurfaced.  Touchdown, and the fans go wild!

It will take time for the team (family) to see that I know when to call an audible.  Even when I do there will be nervousness.  At times, it will be the wrong call, but overall if I’m a great quarterback most of the call s will be good ones.  Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Farve and Joe Montana understood that the best way to win, and win big is to know when to deviate from the playbook.  In the world of parenting I believe this separates the great families from the good ones.  Everyone can lean back on their laurels and say that they ran the plays and their kids turned out with issues.  I prefer to take a chance and call an audible when needed (and sometimes it is needed a lot with certain kids or situations) and not simply run the play.  I think the results will be much more spectacular and we will even win a Super Bowl or two.