A Gentle Reminder

2020-02-29 12.19.17

A month ago, I was sitting at the dinner table and started chuckling to myself.

My son asked what was so funny and I replied, “I just realized how hooped you people are without me.”

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My kids have two main negotiating tactics: repetition and whining.

Our oldest (11), has a wider range of tactics and I encourage her to deploy them against me. It’s good practice for the real world. Unfortunately, she also has a habit of subjecting her siblings to random dominance displays.

So the song of disorder has three notes:

  1. Repetition
  2. Whining
  3. Dominance

The reason I was laughing at dinner was I finally figured out my kids had a really, really, really crappy negotiating position.

Further, this crappy position is going to stay bad for at least five more years.

Five years is beyond forever.

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That evening, I had been working on family taxes, while trying to schedule house cleaning, grocery shopping and some time for myself.

Combining everything, I decided it was time to gently remind my kids that the entire structure of their lives falls apart if they decide to take me on.

My opener had three notes:

  1. Endorphins – no electronics while driving
  2. Status – no visiting our ski club restaurant
  3. Fear – reduction in number of days skiing

I gave them the following message, individually:

  1. Your teachers and coaches tell me you are outstanding. I need you to bring your outside behavior into our house.
  2. If you want the best life in Colorado then I’m going to need you to make one change.

The change being “no blocking” for our oldest and “no yelling inside” for the other two.

One change to get your iPad back in the car.

One change to get my house more live-able for the next decade.

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We skipped our family ski day the last two weeks, drove home and the kids helped me clean the house top-to-bottom.

Cleaning was “totally separate from the noise in the house issue…”

My son is a bit of a “bro-cleaner.”

Bro-anything is when you do such a crappy job that you hope to get fired and don’t have to do it again.

Ladies beware, you’ve likely been “bro’d” before => childcare, meal prep, shopping and cleaning. Bro-zone!

Anyhow, we discovered we each have a niche we enjoy doing (spray bottles, vacuuming with music, floors, toilets).

Effectively saves me $75 per hour while training my kids to live on their own.

A bonus you might not have considered… in the currency of personal freedom, cleaning generates the single largest return on investment within my marriage.

Your ability to deploy this strategy is inversely related to the square footage you own. Another hidden cost of assets we think will make us happy.

What’s the job you can not do?

Basic Week Parenting

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When I was training seriously, I’d start most seasons with 13-weeks where I would “stay put and roll the week.” Having a simple, basic week is a powerful tool for getting stuff done and avoids the cost of variation.

The cost of variation is the energy required to consider alternatives, to choose and to negotiate for “space” for ourselves.

When you are at the limit of your ability, patience or capacity to recover => eliminating unnecessary variation (and associated conflicts) can be a big help. I’ve brought a similar approach to my family.

I’ll use my son’s schedule as an example, here’s what he’s doing November to April:

  • Monday – school/soccer
  • Tuesday – school/water polo
  • Wednesday – choir/school/jiujitsu
  • Thursday – school/swim lesson
  • Friday – school/go to mountains
  • Saturday – ski group/movie night
  • Sunday – family ski/back home

Every-single-morning, he’s going to read for 20 minutes before doing anything. He is usually reading by 6:31am.

Despite everyone “knowing” the schedule, we write it out and place it on the kitchen counter. This lets everyone have a look and get comfortable with the plan.

There is variety between the days, but little variation between the weeks. For example, I don’t need to worry about what we are going to do on a rainy February weekend.

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The bulk of my “life” fits into the time before my kids wake up, when they are at school and my “days off.” In the winter, many weeks, my wife handles the kids from end of school Thursday to Friday evening.

Bedtimes, my own included, are set so we can wake up and keep the week rolling. When we start to get run down bedtimes move earlier and earlier.

I give myself zero flexibility with my own wake-up time => “no excuses wake-up” eliminates energy spent on choice.

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Some principles we use.

Sleep, school work and healthy eating is our highest priority. Create the habits and energy to outperform.

Kids don’t know what they want. Our minds are hardwired to complain about every single change and variation => just look inside! Absent a repeating schedule, you are certain to have endless negotiations. Exhausting, when you don’t have energy to spare.

My kids want: love, to demonstrate competence and acceptance => the schedule needs to provide everyone with a chance to meet their basic human needs.

Clear ownership of responsibilities. Who is doing what? The kids are hardwired to compete for your time. Lay out the mommy/daddy times, make it equitable. With our preschoolers, showing them their “mommy days” was very important to reduce conflict and let mom see she was doing enough.

Keep it rolling at grade level. I do not care about the relative performance of my kids. I am most interested in identifying holes. If you have a future Rhodes scholar in the house then it will become apparent in its own time. However, if you miss the fact that your little one doesn’t know how to read then it will severely damage self-confidence, their attitude toward education and their capacity to teach themselves.

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My constraints are extremely useful as they keep me from over-doing-it. I have a track record of burying myself with fatigue.

My goal is to do what needs to be done, strengthen my marriage and have peace of mind => to know I am executing to the best of my ability, most days. I know what I want.

Because I witness my internal dialogue, I am constantly reminded of my shortcomings!

Meeting a reasonable basic week gives me an anchor and avoids the temptation to increase my expectations of myself.

Simplicity and repetition.

 

Time and Attention

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Early in my fatherhood journey, I created an effective cover story => the need to generate cash for the family.

My cover story was a socially acceptable justification for being away from my family.

As additional kids arrived, and I watched my wife deal with the day-to-day, it became obvious that my avoidance strategy would not take my life where I wanted it to go.

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I have a quirk => I “see” and “feel” the risk of future regret.

Due to my quirk, I will usually choose the path of least regret, regardless of short-term pain.

My thinking went like this… having been through one divorce, is my avoidance strategy moving my marriage towards where I would like it to go?

And this… you know, my friends tell me that parents have very little impact on their kids, even if that’s true… Do I want to spend the last twenty years of my life wondering if the kids would have had a better outcome with me around?

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Once I re-framed, the choice was obvious.

Time to do a better job at home.

However, at that point, mourning for my past life set in.

It lasted for five years!

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A key parenting principle:

if you show interest in something I enjoy then I will reward you with time and attention

In offering myself to my family, I seek to offer my best self:

  1. We do it their way – their speed – their level of competence.
  2. I don’t teach, coach or instruct. We simply spend time together.
  3. We do the activity one-on-one.

My primary goal is to establish the link between:

  • fun – Dad – camping
  • fun – Dad – skiing
  • fun – Dad – biking
  • fun – Dad – hiking

No agenda with regard to pace, duration and difficulty. No agenda!

Keep the trip short. The pictures in this blog are from an 18-hour mid-week camping trip. As another example, our youngest has precious memories of skiing with me => initially, the skiing took less time than the driving!

Train before the training. The world gets a better version of me if I’ve done a workout first.

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So if you’re feeling bummed, or avoiding life altogether, then get out of the house and start making the association between fun and what you like to do.

As I tell Axel in the backcountry…

It’s self-rescue or sit down and die.

By the way, if you look deeper then you will see the association of “fun” is really between you and your kid.

…or you and your spouse.

Three Marriage Habits

2019-08-24 11.04.17Consider the purpose of your marriage.

Why did you get married?

Why stay married?

2019-08-14 08.14.55-1I am in my marriage for Lifelong Companionship

It is an overriding theme to everything.

Consider…

Do my actions move me towards my desired outcome?

2019-08-13 18.30.02Three habits I seek to create.

#1 => Tell the truth, slowly – foremost to yourself, also to each other.

If your life can’t handle the truth then change the way you’re living.

Being open with each other can be awkward but it’s better than the alternatives.

I always overreact in the short term, so I need to speak my truth slowly. A 24-hour time delay is usually sufficient to avoid an unforced error.

Daddy_blanket_and_Ax#2 => Do more than your share – I’ll illustrate with a story. For the last year I’ve been getting up early, working out before the kids are awake and keeping the hammer down for a couple hours once the house gets rolling. I was kinda looking for an “attaboy” or a “you’re incredible” from my wife. Instead I got…

You’re not lazy.

Reflecting on my “lack of laziness” indicated:

A – our spouses do more than we realize

B – because of “A”, your spouse might think you are lazy

Visible housework is one of the best things we can do to correct misinformed opinions.

2019-08-12 07.41.26#3 => Never rip your spouse – in public, in private, in your mind. A habit of bickering will not serve you well.

Negativity drives good people from our lives. Bring yourself back to the goal… lifelong companionship.

Talk like everyone is in the room.

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You are going to think that you need to get your own way.

Our minds spin all kinds of stories about how our lives will be “better” if we get our way.

Pay attention, most disagreements are a habit of taking the other side.

Lifelong companionship is far more valuable than short term victories.

Yield.

 

 

 

Building Resiliency

2019-08-11 07.56.00

I like to balance the Navy Seals in my feed with the Flag Officer in my life. Here’s what Admiral Jonser has to say:

Gordo, always remember that our words have far more power, and reach, than we can possibly imagine.

When my son was little he developed a habit of total breakdown. He could not handle the slightest disruption and we were at a loss about how to help the guy.

If anyone needed to “harden up” it was him. However, I couldn’t bring the hammer down (on the nicest guy I’d ever met).

We talked about this challenge with each other, with his pediatrician and with his teachers.

What we ended up doing was cultivating a different kind of normal for him.

My normal:

  • Read, exercise and learn every day
  • Be kind, especially to those without recourse

I focused on the above, invited him along, and gave up trying to fix him.

2019-08-13 08.08.03-1How do you help a sensitive kid learn to deal with strong emotions?

Lower The Stakes – paradoxically, expectations may be making life more difficult, particularly when you focus on external performance relative to peers and siblings.

Personal Mastery – Where can you give your kid (or yourself) a big win? Our kids try a lot of different things – climbing, swimming, hiking, skiing, martial arts, water polo, reading, math, art.

From the time he could stand up, my son had a passion for walking uphill. So I went with that, even when it meant I had to carry him back to the car! Turns out he also has a knack for skiing. So he’s 8 and he’s figured out that he can hike and ski like a man. That’s a big win in a boy’s world. Personal mastery helps, a lot.

Respect Sensitivities – at the start of the summer, I put his sister on BLAST. He was standing beside her. She shrugged me off, I merely “got her attention.” Unfortunately, my son was caught in the blast and ended up on the ground shaking from overload. I didn’t need Admiral J’s advice to see my approach had been completely ineffective.

Positive (Self) Regard – my desired outcome for my kids is simple. Basically, I’d like them to be polite, healthy and repeat mistakes less often. This leaves my mind free to acknowledge they are already better versions of myself. I share my shortcomings with them – current and when I was their age.


We stuck with the above, as best we could, and he figured out how to cope. My main role remains loving him and not making things worse!

Change happens slowly. This was a multi-year project and I didn’t notice he was a different guy until last weekend. He took a huge digger descending the highest mountain in Colorado, brushed it off and kept on rolling.

I said to myself, “this is something new,” and started to rewind the recent past. I realized my filter was out of date. Homie had been crushing life all summer and I didn’t notice.

Perhaps there was nothing to fix.

 

 

Baby Essentials

10411151_10152583824527622_2265981354170992571_nA friend just had a new addition. Here’s a summary of what I learned.

Become a Jedi-Master of the baby swaddle – this book will teach you how – there’s nothing more important than being able to settle your baby.

Put a full-size mattress in every room where the baby sleeps – we spent two years hunched up on a circular chair and could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle by spending $100 on a twin mattress.

More than vacations, clothes, a bigger house, visits to family… what your marriage needs (for the next three to ten years) is sleep and time. Time for yourself, for friends and for each other.

Say “no” to just about everything. Now you understand why your friends disappeared when they had kids!

You will get a chance to add stuff back later. For now, just get more sleep and some light exercise.

You are likely to hold a grudge against any child, or adult, to whom you overextend yourself. It is a paradox that you serve your family best by holding some of yourself back.

Forgive each other when you inevitably fall short. It’s a stressful time.

Better Relationships

2019-06-12 15.56.43June’s a happy month for me.

June 2000, June 2004, June 2005, June 2011 => milestones of a better life.

Before I arrived at better, I had a lot of experience with making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

“Relationships” was a particularly weak area.

When I got married (for the second time), I had no experience of being in a good marriage.

However, I had a willingness to look carefully at my role in creating a divorce.

Invert.

Do less of what moves you away from your goals

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As a coach, I would advise my athletes to:

  1. cut your intake of alcohol, sugar & cheese in half
  2. pay attention to what causes you to binge
  3. pay attention to what causes you to miss training

What were we doing?

  1. Learning how to take things out
  2. Learning how to get out of our own way
  3. Training the ability to look at our shortcomings and, gradually, address them

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What are the things that screw up relationships in my demographic?

Avoid being away for long periods of time. With no kids this meant business trips under 14 days duration. With three kids (6, 8, 10) this means I’m rarely alone.

Why’s the above important?

Let’s see…

Athletic couple, physically attractive, raising their heart rates independently, frequently apart.

Don’t come home tired. My wife put this on me a decade ago and it made an immediate difference. I’d go further…

Be seen to help out. When you’re smoked, don’t park yourself in the middle of the house and do nothing! I’ve made a habit of puttering around doing housework. It serves me well.

Away a lot, coming home tired, not assisting… if I wanted to create the perfect storm for my spouse to burn the relationship down (and feel relieved doing it) then that is a good place to start.

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Anyhow, we got to “better” and then we had kids!

Six years ago, our crew was 0, 2 and 4 years old.

Back then, my wife’s goal was pretty simple… Get. Through. The. Day.

Working through that period is when we noticed 1-2-3 (above) resulted in better.

Better, not easier!

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But the kids grew up and it does get easier.

And I looked around and discovered that I know what a great marriage looks like.

Nothing like what I would have expected!