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45 Things I Want My Sons to Learn

Talk about your love life with your dad, but keep me in the loop.

Pay attention in class, but spend lunchtime with your friends.

Write love-notes, slow dance at prom, and steal kisses from your date, but only if you mean them.

Sex doesn’t have to be special to you, but realize that to others it may be and never take advantage of that.

Wear your seatbelt but play your music loud.

Sneak out of the house, but always call me if you need help.

You’ll hear that girls aren’t tough, however, one day I’ll share stories of my past and you’ll know that’s not the case.

Go on dates and stay out late, open doors and always offer to pay.

Allow yourself to fall in love, embrace the exhilarating feeling of it all.

If you want proof of true love, watch your dad and me.

You don’t need to stand behind a political party, but you do need to stand up for what you believe in.

Hiding who you are is a waste of your time, you only live once darlings, embrace yourselves.

Know that you’ll make mistakes and wrong choices, but remember that nothing is unfixable and dad and I will help you no matter what.

Rarely will you take my advice, but I’ll give it to you anyways.

Whatever you struggle with, we’ll be by your side. The four of us, we’re a team, and I’ll never let you forget that.

Your brother is your best friend, even when he’s annoying the crap out of you.

Mental health is as important as physical health, so tell me when your mind hurts like you would your body.

Daddy and I won’t judge you for drinking or using drugs. Yes, we’ll be scared for you, but you don’t need to hide from us if you have a problem. We’ll understand more than you could ever know.

Talk to us about school and introduce us to your friends.

Remember that sex is a powerful thing, respect anyone who chooses to share their most vulnerable parts of themselves with you.

Introduce yourself to the new kid at school and sit with the boy who’s sitting alone.

Violence is never the answer, but always stand up for yourselves.

Be selfless, listen more and talk about yourself less.

Bring flowers when meeting your partner’s parents.

If you find yourself hating others because of your own beliefs—you’re doing it all wrong.

Listen to Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.

Play vinyls and explore underground music.

Go to rap shows and symphonies.

Say you’re sorry when you need to, because one day you might not have the chance.

Love deeply, even after your heartbreaks—which, by the way, will hurt worse than you could imagine, but I promise time will heal.

Call me, I miss you all the time.

You may not be able to save the world, but if you chase what makes you happy, you’ll make a difference.

If your crush catches you staring, just smile, don’t look away.

Compliment me when I dress up and laugh at your dads jokes.

Respect nature—it’s more powerful than we could ever comprehend—so don’t be foolish in the ocean, or the mountains.

Treat animals with kindness, don’t kill bugs just because, and pick up trash rather than step over it.

Remain teachable my loves, when we stop learning we stop growing, when we think we know it all, we suddenly become ignorant.

Know that fairytales and pornos don’t reflect real life, but real love is exciting.

Have conversations until sunrise and build platonic relationships with girls and boys.

Read Harry Potter and Great Expectations, watch cult classics like Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas.

Make true connections, when we connect with others we find ourselves.

Work hard—it’s okay to quit but do it the right way and for the right reasons.

Keep your word and tell the truth even when it hurts.

If nothing else my sweet boys, take this with you—the world is filled with so much hate, choose kindness, every chance you get, choose to be kind.

Remember that you are loved, always.

7 Tips for Surviving your Child’s Math Homework

“Can you help me with my math?”

Cue the sweats, the expanding pit in the stomach, the preemptive anxiety attack, and the knowledge that one or both of you will be crying soon.

Here are some helpful tips to get your kids through homework time and still like each other afterwards.

Find a quiet place to work

Total silence and no distractions is not always possible, so I’m not even going to suggest it. All you really need is enough light and a flat surface to write on. Try to eliminate visual distractions, but if your kid is into music while they study, have at it.

Don’t overwhelm

After about 20 minutes of working, TAKE A BREAK. Try to encourage something physical. Jumping jacks, wiggle the sillies out, whatever gets the blood pumping and the brain reset. Just a few minutes to switch from the brain to the body and back makes a world of difference. A physical reset is also important when the frustration level (you or the child!) begins to rise. Take a break and dance it out. If you have a child on medication to treat focus issues, make sure you aren’t at the end of the medication’s effectiveness period. It’s an uphill battle that you will not win.

Math isn’t what you remember

Yes, Common Core Math is different and a little odd. It’s a new way of thinking and maybe a more complicated process than how we learned mathematics, which is a good thing. I’m not going to go to deeply into my defense of Common Core except to say, I promise it will pay off eventually. That said, it’s completely okay to admit to your child that you don’t quite understand the method and that it is different than how you learned. YouTube tutorials are your friend. From multiplication and division to algebra and calculus, there are thousands of walkthroughs available. Watch the video together, ask your child questions about how they learn in class, and have them explain the process to you. Listen to the child, and DO NOT GRUMBLE ABOUT THE METHOD. If you’re being stubborn about learning something new, you’re setting the tone and deciding it’s frustrating before pencil is even put to paper. Common core is here, so let’s figure it out together!

Use note cards

Mathematics has many rules. Create a collection of notecards with those basic rules, acronyms, and frequently made mistakes to refer to. Keep the note cards on hand for any homework and especially for studying.

Study for three days prior

I have a three-day rule when it comes to studying for math tests. Three days before is for going over the elements of the chapter that are most challenging. Two days before the test is a good time to take a practice test. (If the book doesn’t have a practice test, Google one. There’s tons of practice stuff available online for free.) The night before is overview time. The morning of the test is OFF LIMITS for cram time. Last minute cramming can raise the test anxiety and even confuse the child even more.

Strategize

Encourage the child to skim their test before they begin. If a problem jumps out as easy, DO IT FIRST, even if it’s problem number 11. Beginning a math test with a problem that feels easy is a great boost of confidence, while attempting a difficult problem first can increase frustration levels, making silly mistakes easier to make and setting a negative tone for the entire test.

Outsource if you need to

Tutoring agencies are great resources, but they can get pretty expensive. Also, most of what you’re paying goes to the agency, not the tutor doing the work. I always suggest contacting your local high school National Honor Society’s organizers. Teens need community service hours, and tutoring younger kids absolutely fills that requirement. Local colleges and universities are also great resources to find good tutors. I’ve had several clients find me via local swap pages as well. I’ve done math problems via FaceTime with students and even traded picture messages of algebra problems. Calling in reinforcements for homework help does not mean you are stupid. Quite the opposite. You’re smart enough to know when to tap out and let someone else take over.

Our kids don’t need us to have all of the answers. It’s okay to admit that you’ve hit the wall and need help. It’s okay to figure it out together. Math is not just about the numbers, but also about learning problem-solving skills.

Sober Fathers Grieve Too

As you can imagine, I was devastated and wondered what the hell had happened. Maybe it had been because after two years of abstinence, I had relapsed. I had stupidly picked up cocaine, and had spiraled into a full-blown relapse. My wife and I were using every day. She had not given up drinking or using at all, and I still haven’t had a drink since August 25, 2008.

Apparently, my wife decided to tell Social Services that she was in an abusive relationship with me. They helped her to leave our house and placed her in a refuge. There was certainly abuse in the relationship, but I wasn’t the aggressor. I have no history or no criminal record for any type of aggression, but my wife was arrested three times last year for threatening and abusive behavior to another girl.

I was too embarrassed to report the abuse I suffered.

I didn’t see my kids for five weeks; then I got access and for three weeks, and then she stopped it again. Because of all of this, last week I made a very serious attempt on my life. I woke up after being unconscious for 15 hours and was hospitalized. Luckily there is no organ damage or any other. The doctors told me that being an addict saved my life as I should have been dead with the amount of tablets in my system for so long!!

Thanks to God, I have not used or had a drink since my wife and kids left. As of today, I’m 105 days clean and sober! I have found out in the last three weeks that my wife is using again, and I pray for her daily. I do not feel any anger or resentment towards her for what she has done. I know something had to change for the sake of our three little boys, but I feel I am guilty until I prove myself innocent. I worry that my children are suffering because Social Services just believed the first story they heard. I call the office every week to ask if I can see my children, and feel great anxiety because I’m scared that I’ll hear the usual “No.”

I’m a father who desperately wants to help with his children and a man who loves his wife more than I can put into words.

I feel she needs treatment.

I could look after the boys while she goes, but I think she is scared that she will lose the boys forever. Maybe too much has gone on for my wife and I to have a future together, but I will not give up trying to put my family back together. She is the love of my life, and my children are the fruits of that great love.

I feel truly blessed to be in recovery, and would like to remind everyone who reads this that there are two sides to every story. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. I wish no harm to my wife I pray she finds recovery because this disease kills.

Stewart is a 45-year-old male from the UK.  He is a recovering addict and alcoholic, fighting for access to his children. They are currently living with their mum, who he feels is an active addict/alcoholic. He blogs about his journey at Let Me See My Kids.

photo credit: Steve Koukoulas via photopin cc

This post was originally published in June 2014.

Reconciling with My Possible Future

I loved Dickens’s A Christmas Carol when I was growing up. Not the book, oh no. I tried to read that, but couldn’t get into it. The film with Albert Finney and the children’s book were firm childhood favorites. I loved the power of the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing Scrooge what life would be if he didn’t change his ways. The vision inspired him to do exactly that, giving him the chance to change his life for the better. That was powerful!

I had seen my possible future at about thirty when my grandmother died of liver problems. At the time, I was almost resigned to the fact that this would be my fate. I thought I was unlikely to live as long as she did anyway. But the knowledge that alcohol killed my grandmother didn’t change my behavior.

Twelve years later, and the story of my life was somewhat different. At about six months sober, I took my son camping. I don’t remember the dates exactly, but I know it must have been after I stopped drinking.

We were camping in the campsite behind a pub, and I went to bed sober.

I woke early to practice yoga, enjoying the distant sound of the sea at my favorite beach, just half a mile away. After my practice, I sat outside the tent taking in the stillness, the views, and the gorgeous sea air.

I noticed a figure walking towards me through the campsite. We were the only people in the campsite, so this was odd. As the figure got closer, I noticed it was an old woman, stumbling slightly as she walked. She came to me and asked me if I had a cigarette I could share with her. I very proudly told her that I didn’t smoke anymore. She’d spent the night sleeping on a bench and didn’t know where she was going to go next. It was obvious that she was drunk, even at that early time in the morning. I was very concerned about her.

She turned down my offer of a cup of coffee and some food, telling me she was going to go in search of a cigarette. Given the early hour, I didn’t rate her chances, but there was nothing else I could do to help.

As she stumbled away again, I watched her. Within a few minutes, she was out of sight. It felt quite surreal to have had that conversation at that time of day, in the quiet coastal area I was in.

As she disappeared, I almost questioned if she had been real.

I know she was of course. But it felt very much like she had appeared as a message to me. I could see very clearly that this was my likely future, should I revert back to my old ways. Not immediately of course, but I saw myself so vividly in this sad, drunk, lost woman. In a very Dickensian way, she was the Ghost of My Possible Future.

We are often told by spiritual guides that everyone who comes into our life is a lesson for us to learn. I firmly believe even the most transient of meetings can teach us a valuable lesson. This woman had a big impact on me for some time to come. She was a bleak reminder of where my life would head if I didn’t maintain my sobriety and yoga practice. I had forgotten about her until yesterday. As I often do, I visited the beach again. For the first time in a long time, noticed tents in the pub campsite. I sent a silent prayer of gratitude to her. She had a bigger impact on my first year of sobriety than I appreciated at the time. I do hope she managed to find some peace in life.

Gratitude, lessons learned and appreciation of events often take place after the event. We tend to see with greater clarity in hindsight. If I met her a year earlier, I may have seen myself reflected back in a way that I would have found too uncomfortable. I might not have appreciated her so much. I am so glad that I was in a place in my life that I was able to look at this woman with compassion, and then gratitude.

 

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My Sister is an Alcoholic

In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as addiction.

In a perfect world, it would be impossible to have an alcoholic sister.

But, there is no perfect world.

My sister is an alcoholic.

It seems, for as long as I’ve known her, Lindsay has been a drunk. She’s been a selfish, compulsive liar, an arrogant asshole, a negligent mother, a bad daughter, an annoying sister, an excuse maker, an unmotivated zero-shit-giver.

I don’t know why she started drinking; probably the same reason we all did. We were teenagers looking to have a good time—to experiment—to party. It gave us the euphoric feeling of freedom without inhibitions.

I believe it was different for Lindsay. I think drinking helped her stop feeling guilty for the things she had done. It erased difficult memories, for a time, and gave her confidence. On the occasion I picked up the phone when she called me drunk, she would think herself clever enough to fake a sober voice. Her denial pissed me off; her blame on others—her compulsive lies. I just wanted to reach through the phone and choke her. I would think, Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with her? How did she turn into a loser drunk, while I have my shit together? She’s weak. She needs to get control. Since I can’t control her, screw her. I’m done listening to her shit.

It’s not like Lindsay had an easy childhood, none of us did, but it seems she got dealt a harder hand in our family’s deck of cards.

She was always in shit for something; always getting slapped for something, but that’s the only time she really got attention. While I was doing all the right things to get noticed and praised by our mom and dad, she was doing all the wrong things. It made for a tough life for a kid just trying to be a kid. Our mom drank a lot, and Lindsay fell into those same shoes. The same shoes she probably swore she never would. She didn’t have a close relationship with our mom. It was obvious she badly wanted one, but our mom was too selfish and drunk to take care of herself, let alone Lindsay’s emotional needs. We just did what we needed to in order to survive life as the children of an alcoholic. And, in the process, Lindsay became one herself.

She lost control, she lost us, and she lost her kids. And then she lost herself.

When you lose something, there’s always a good chance you can find it again; if you look hard enough. To my surprise, that’s exactly what my sister did.

One day, out of the blue, Lindsay got sober. She found herself, and in turn, she found us, her husband, her kids, her worth, and her self respect. It was like talking to someone I’d never met. When my sister became a drunk, we lost her; and now we have her back. She’s sober, and like a totally different person with completely different views. It’s so odd; better of course, but still odd.

She’s now a present wife, mother, sister, and has a clear view of her life.

I suppose she has also found the memories too. Being a selfish asshole drunk, who only cares about herself, comes with regret that she will have to live with. She will have to forgive herself. Because we forgive her. We’re proud of her. She could have closed herself up in that dark cloud that engulfed her, but she chose to climb through it. Even when she couldn’t see what was on the other side—when she couldn’t breathe—when she couldn’t have had any way of knowing what was outside of it—she worked her way through it.

And here she is; safely on the other side.

Although that cloud hovers in her distance, she can see it. It’s not far from her, but she’s not surrounded in it today. And today, being free, is all that matters.

Good for you Lindsay. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something. You’re an inspiration to many, and deserve to be proud of yourself.

Now don’t go celebrating with a frothy pint of Kokanee. Only Kool-Aid for you. 😉

This post was submitted by Anonymous.

photo credit: Tommy Keene via photopin cc

 

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