Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you've had a wonderful day with those you love. Today was a special day in so many ways. Our family got together and as usual, we had a great time with. This won't be a regular, thought-provoking post. There's plenty of time for that. I just wanted to chime in briefly to say Merry Christmas to each of you. I also realize that many of you don't celebrate Christmas so let me say Happy Holidays. Either way, I hope you've had a great season. And I hope you've had the chance to spend some quality time with your families.

You'll hear more in the coming days about how I spent this Christmas Day but for now I'll just say it was quite memorable. I write so much about creating lasting memories and today was one of those days. I feel specially blessed to have the family that I do. I'm quite aware that not everyone has a similar privilege so I'm just thankful and grateful to be surrounded by those that mean the most to me at the most wonderful time of the year.

How was your day? Did you go visiting? Or did family come over to spend the day? Did your Christmas dreams come true? If you're a regular reader of the blog you'll know that I encourage men to be involved with their kids, especially when the kids don't live with them on a daily basis. Today was a big opportunity to demonstrate that. If you're one of these dads, what did you do that made your kids' day? What presents did you buy? What time did you spend with them? Did you make that special phone call to let them know you're thinking of them? All of these a simply seeds being sown in your kids' lives to let them know that you value them greatly.

Today was a day to put your love into action. I hope you went beyond the call of duty and got an A for effort. It's not about how much money you spend - it's the fact that you consider your kids important enough to demonstrate your love for them in tangible ways. Love is a noun and also a verb. Verb suggests action so I hope you put your love into action today.

The holiday season is a special time of the year. Our kids will remember the events of this day for years to come. I hope that you helped them to have a pleasant, memorable time. There is so much that lies ahead in their lives. So I hope you're helping to create special, long-lasting memories for them.

I wish for you and yours all the best for the remainder of the season.

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, December 24, 2010

Creating Precious Christmas Memories

Tomorrow’s Christmas Day and as I write this, I’m sure many are relaxing, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to make their annual world tour all in one night. While others of us are hitting the malls in one last attempt to get those perfect gifts for our friends and loved ones before the malls close early.  
This is just an awesome and special time for families. Even those who don’t celebrate Christmas get into the season by getting together with friends and family and having a great time. It’s a time when we forget about our troubles and just look at everything that’s good in the world. It is indeed a precious time.
It’s funny how there are those here in South Florida who insist that they can’t get into the Christmas season because of the weather. They’re used to having a white Christmas with snow all around so having temperatures in the 70s and 80s makes it feel like summer to them instead of the season to be jolly. Then there are those like me who grew up in the tropics and Christmas time is shorts and t-shirt time. 

That was my life – Christmas on Christmas Island! I even remember when Santa came to a nearby town and I was thinking, “Wow, Santa could be anywhere in the world today but he chose to come to our small little island.” Ahh, the days of childhood!
I never really got into Christmas quite as much when we moved to Houston, Texas. I lived there for 14 years and though the presents and egg nog were great, the wintery weather – though not as cold and snowy as up north – was too much for me. Christmas is about dressing in shorts and t-shirts and possibly going fishing. That’s the life I knew.
What about you? What thoughts do you have on growing up at Christmas time? I’m sure many of my Florida friends are yearning to be up north where they’re from because you simply don’t have Christmas in the sun. This isn’t Christmas at all. But what traditions did you grow up with? Each family’s experience is different I’m sure. But for the most part, we have pleasant thoughts about family gatherings during this time.
How special it is when we can forget about the world and its problems and the economic downturn and just look at everything that’s right with the world. The love, the laughter, the meals – everything just seems to come together.
A large part of my vision for the Upbeat Dad is to encourage those who’ve been divorced. During the holidays, while everyone is having a jolly time, there are those among us who are hurting. I wrote two posts around Thanksgiving a month ago that tell of my personal experience when I was one of those hurting during the holidays while going through a divorce. It’s not easy at all. Here are those posts – Thanksgiving 2010 vs Thanksgiving 2001: What a Difference!  and Broken-Hearted And Alone During The Holidays? Cheer Up, There's Hope. 
When I think on those days, I smile because though I was experiencing some turbulence in my life, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, everything just seemed right. Our family got together and we laughed and joked and had a good time, forgetting about the challenges of the moment.
During this wonderful time, perhaps you might be facing some challenges. But as my mom always says, “Where there is life, there is hope.” Relax and take it easy these next few days and just think of everything that is good with the world.
Our kids are so special and precious. Whatever may be going on in your world, for this season, do your best to help them enjoy every moment. When they grow older, they’ll look back at their childhood and what they will remember most will be the festive occasions when friends and family got together and everything seemed right.

As dads and moms, we have a great responsibility. Our kids’ happiness is really in our hands. It’s not so much about the toys that we might get them wrapped under their Christmas tree – it’s about the love we share and demonstrate to them. That will impact them for a lifetime.
I know many kids have an empty feeling this Christmas season because their dad is nowhere to be found. And he didn’t even bother to call or send a present. That can scar a child for decades. Many kids grow up with an emptiness because though their mom was a supermom and a great provider, the void in them that can only be filled by a father’s love still remains. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like without either of my parents. I don’t even want to entertain the thought of having grown up that way because both my dad and mom helped to shape and mold me in ways that have had a lasting impact.
Many kids do not know what that life is like. I can understand that some fathers have passed away. I can also understand that many dads are bad influences on their kids and the kids are probably better off anyway. But for many kids, their lives would be better if only their dad would care to be involved in their lives. If you’re guilty of being an absentee dad, why don’t you make that phone call today. Or make a special trip to see your kids. And stop at the mall and get something to brighten their day. It’s not about getting something expensive – it’s the thought that counts. Our kids need us more than we may know.
I hope that this Christmas will be special for you and yours. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. You’ve worked hard this year. Now sit back and relax and enjoy some quality time with those you love. And if you haven’t been there for your kids, why don’t you make it right by starting today?
I wish you a Merry Christmas and everything that’s good for the remainder of the season. And I hope yours and your kids’ Christmas dreams come true.
The Upbeat Dad

In my childhood in Jamaica, my favorite Christmas album was one by the Lennon Sisters. There’s a song on that album that I just loved called Christmas Island. It sounded somewhat Hawaiian. Some of the lyrics were:
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to spend the holiday away across the sea?
How'd ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?
How'd ya like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?

How'd ya like to stay up late, like the islanders do?
Wait for Santa to sail in with your presents in a canoe.
If you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island
You will never stray for everyday
Your Christmas dreams come true.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Live a Purpose Driven Life

As you may know, yesterday I celebrated my birthday. It was a great birthday – quite honestly, the best one I’ve ever had. I’m not just saying that for the sake of saying it, it’s really the best one. There are a number of reasons why I say that but the most significant one is this: I have never been surer about my purpose than I am right now. That’s a powerful statement to make but that’s my honest and true assessment.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Birthday Reflections, every year as my birthday ends, I actually bid it farewell until the next year. I typically go outside and take a ½ hour walk starting at about 11:45 PM. During that walk, I reflect on how far I’ve come since my last birthday. And then I think further on what I’d like to accomplish over the next year. I pray and ask for guidance along this journey. It’s really a powerful self-check – a personal inventory, if you will. And then I try to refocus on the task at hand as I try to maximize my effectiveness in life.
Last night’s reflection walk was powerful. I thought of my newly expanded family (our son was born this past August). I also thought of my new family – The Upbeat Dad and its readers. These are people all over the world, many of whom I may never meet. Yet I consider our readers as family because, in a sense, we’re on the same team – we care about our children and want the best for them. And our readers recognize the importance that a loving, caring dad has in a child’s life. As dads, moms and kids read our blog, this is the consistent message that we try to convey.
After coming back from my walk, I had a little down time before going to sleep. But it’s as if I had turned on a faucet while reflecting and couldn’t turn it off. I was able to see, in a very real sense, the things that I’ve envisioned over the past several years coming to pass. I’m just taking notes on these things and getting in place because this coming year, I expect to see some monumental accomplishments. I have never been at this point before in my entire life and that’s what so thrilling to me!
In athletics, teams start each season trying to get better. And some of them have a realistic chance of winning a championship. They envision greatness and work relentlessly towards achieving that level of success. When they are successful and are right on the brink of reaching their collective goal – a championship – it’s a thrilling moment, one that they greatly anticipate. Right now, I feel as if for all of my life, I have had certain goals and ideals that I’ve aimed for. And over time, that which I aim for has become more clearly defined. And now, I’m really on the brink of attaining a significant feat.
This feat that I speak of has little to do with me. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, we’d acknowledge that what is most fulfilling to us, is knowing that through our efforts and commitment, others’ lives are enhanced.  Our lives have greater meaning and purpose when we’re in service for our fellow men. A doctor may become wealthy and drive a fancy car but he or she does so by helping others to become healthy. That’s the reward – not the material things that are gained in the process.
When a singer gets on stage and shares the gift of song with thousands of screaming fans, it’s not the revenue earned from concert tickets or royalties from CD sales that satisfy them – but rather, it’s knowing that they’re inspiring and satisfying these adoring fans. We all have that inner need to be of service to our fellow men and until we fulfill that need, any success we may appear to have is somewhat empty.
For me, having been raised in a wonderful, loving two parent household, I know that my life is so much better for it. So when I went through a divorce and got an eye opener going through the whole family law process, I realized just how negatively families are affected when happy homes become broken homes. I made a vow then to make a difference in the lives of families, to whatever extent possible. Because when I saw my 3 year old daughter go through the pain of seeing her parents divorced, I wanted to ensure that as few families as possible would find themselves in that plight. That marriage ended but I wanted to keep as many families together as possible.
I also know that many fathers simply do not care to fulfill their obligations to their children. I really don’t understand that mindset but I know it’s a reality. Just 2 weeks ago I met a divorced mother who told me that she knows things are tough economically so she doesn’t even mind the fact that her former husband can’t send money to help support the kids. She just wants him to call them and keep in touch. Far too many men see the ending of their relationship with a woman as the ending of their relationship with their kids. How sad and unfortunate.
On the other hand, I know many women who recognize that the family law system generally favors them so they seek to exploit that same system, thinking that they’re just hurting the fathers of their children. They do hurt the fathers, no doubt, but in the process they hurt their own kids even more. The kids become nothing more than pawns in a game of power struggle. When different parties think that they win because they get what they wanted through the legal process, quite often, the children are more damaged than they would’ve ever imagined.
Children are wonderful and so innocent that it pains me to see their plight when families fall apart. So I made a vow to not simply sit back and be a critic. I want to do something about it. This is really my life’s mission – a calling, if you will. To be at this point now, on the brink of seeing what I’ve envisioned for most of the past decade coming to pass, is thrilling – not because of me, but for the sake of our children – all our children all over the world.
Let me ask some simple questions of you: What is your life’s purpose? What is your calling? What injustice do you see in the world that you know how to make right? What service do you think you can offer to your fellow men that would not only help them greatly, but would make your life more meaningful and complete? Did you know that there are tasks that only you can accomplish? Yes, you. And until you do those tasks, any success you may have, would be somewhat hollow and meaningless. I heard someone say several years ago, “It’s like a voice is inside of you saying, `you’ve done everything but you haven’t done me!’” We all have that voice.
Our lives have greater impact when we have a purpose driven life – one in which we’re not just going to work to collect a pay check so that we can accumulate more things. Fulfillment is something that you simply cannot buy. I encourage you to seek to live a life of purpose, one that helps others. This isn’t necessarily a call to social work and charitable endeavors, as noble as those callings may be. It’s a call to serve with our time and talents. If it’s as a banker, then do so, helping people by meeting their banking needs. If it’s as a teacher, do so, imparting into your students the knowledge and wisdom that you’ve gained. If it’s as an entertainer, do so, knowing that people have choices in entertainment so you give them nothing less than your very best every time you have the opportunity to entertain.
You understand where I’m going with this? I sure hope you do because when you look at the lives of great men and women throughout history, this one trait is common in their life story – they have lived and in the process, they served mankind with their gifts. And when they pass on, they leave a legacy that impacts the world for generations to come.
As we live purpose driven lives, we also are shining examples for our children. They too will learn to live lives of purpose. Our 12 year old daughter already has the mindset that she is obligated to share her gifts with others. And I will teach these same principles to our 4 month old son as he grows.
Do teach these principles to your children. Encourage them to learn as much as possible in school. Find out from them what they desire to be when they grow up. But please, I ask of you, don’t focus so much on how much money they will make – ask them, who will benefit from the service that they offer. If your child wants to become a police officer, focus more on the fact that they will protect the public, rather than thinking of the excellent salary and retirement package that the police department offers. Likewise, if they want to go into politics, focus more on the fact that they can help to enact laws that will help our society in a meaningful way. This is what we call a purpose driven life.
I’ll close with the last two stanzas from my poem A Lasting Legacy, found in my book, Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation:
Whenever I come to the end of my days
And I go to my final resting place
When the sun goes down and I finish this race
May I leave this world a better place.

This is my vow to humanity
A vow that will last all eternity
For my children and all who will come after me
May I leave a lasting legacy.

Have a great day.
The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Birthday Reflections…

I woke up about 4 AM today almost kicking myself. You see, today is my birthday and I have an annual tradition – I greet my birthday as it arrives at midnight. But I fell asleep on the couch at 11:45 PM and didn't wake up till 4 AM. Each year, I also bid my birthday farewell as it leaves at 11:59 PM saying, "Goodbye birthday, see you next year. I'll be one year older and I hope one year wiser."

As I write this post, I think of the past year and all that's transpired since I last bid my birthday farewell. There have been some wonderful moments. And also some challenging, not so wonderful moments, but here I am, one year older and I believe, one year wiser.

The most significant thing that’s happened in my life in the past year is that one year ago today, my wife and I found out that we were expecting a baby. And on August 5th, we welcomed our son into the world. What a joy and a wonder he is to us! Our young family is now a family of 4 - my wife, our 12 year old daughter, our now 4 ½ month old son and me. I’m really blessed to have this wonderful family.

Then the next most significant thing that’s happened since my last special day is what I consider to be another birth - The Upbeat Dad. I cannot adequately describe to you the burden I've carried for the past several years to share this message. As I described in my post The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad, I went through quite a painful experience in the early 2000s when my first marriage was dissolved. As I went through the disappointment of that experience, a gentleman who I met during the process encouraged me to use the experience to make me a better dad instead of a bitter man.

In the immediate aftermath of that storm of my life, I first got the vision to start an organization that helps others to recognize the importance of having positive, active fathers in kids' lives. Just yesterday I was speaking with one of my mentors from my childhood in Jamaica and I told him of how things are going with The Upbeat Dad and he reminded me of when he visited me in 2001 just as the divorce proceedings had started. I recalled him telling me at that time that I should just let the process carry itself out. But when it ended I would be stronger and a more effective servant to my fellow men.

Over the past several years, you could say I’ve been in preparation mode. But the timing was never right to "give birth" to the vision. So much transpired throughout that time. I went from being a single dad living alone to a single dad raising a daughter; then a husband with a child from a former marriage; and now a husband with 2 children. The varied emotions that I've gone through over the past few years have given me a greater understanding of what so many around the world go through on a daily basis. Yet I've learned how to adjust to each of these circumstances to maximize my effectiveness as a father. 

On Monday, October 4, 2010, I introduced The Upbeat Dad to the world. And what a ride it's been thus far! Since that time I can only say that it's had a meteoric rise. Just yesterday, we hit the 4,000 view milestone – quite an accomplishment, considering we just launched a couple of months ago. Our readers are dads, moms and kids from all over the world. We have readers on a daily basis from every continent except Antarctica! That’s more than I could ask for at this point. I’m very pleased.

Fatherhood is a universal issue - one that transcends cultural, ethnic, political and religious barriers. It's something that we can all relate to. And the crisis in our homes is something that's experienced the world over - kids are negatively impacted when fathers are absent. Our mission is to intercede for these kids, therefore our message is for their moms and dads.

As I reflect on how far we've come in our brief history, I'm pretty satisfied with our progress. But can I say something that might surprise you? We have not even scratched the surface yet. There is so much more to this vision. This blog is a great tool to communicate to a worldwide audience what I've seen coming for years. And now that the message is taking root, in a very short while we will begin implementing another phase of the vision. It's all for the purpose of empowering families – dads, moms and kids.

Thank you so much for tuning in on a daily basis. I try to write a post each day because as I see it, there's always something positive to share with families. Some of you have already shared with me the difference our posts are making in yours and your kids' lives. That's why I write – it's not for me but rather it's for the millions and perhaps billions of people who can be encouraged by our message. We're all about touching lives, one person at a time.

I encourage you to remain engaged because my determination is to see with my eyes what I've seen in my head for these past several years. It’s a burden that I’ve carried – a good burden, in fact; one that, if not released, would make my life somewhat less meaningful. The message I love to share has little to do with me and more to do with the many families that can benefit, especially the children. We hear of fathers’ rights and I’m all for that. But I see fatherhood as an honor and a privilege and I seek to encourage other fathers to be loving, involved “upbeat dads” to their kids; and for mothers to embrace the role that fathers ought to play in the lives of their children. Each of us has a part to play as we seek to effect change. And through our organization, we are here to serve as an agent of this change that will impact our families in a positive way.

If you do not already do so, please join us on Facebook and on Twitter. We send multiple messages each day. And by using these social media sources, you can correspond with us directly. Believe me, I enjoy the interaction that we have on a daily basis. It makes our collective experience that much more meaningful.

Thanks to those of you who have already sent me birthday greetings. It's a true blessing to me so I thank you wholeheartedly. And later tonight when I bid my birthday farewell for another year, I’ll be sure to think of each of you and the profound impact you have on my own life.

I'll close this post with the last few stanzas from my poem How Can I Serve Humanity? The entire poem is found in my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation.

How Can I Serve Humanity?

…How can I serve humanity?
What shall be my legacy?
What greatness could possibly be hiding in me
that'll ring on through the hallways of eternity?

Though my name may not be written in lights
and I may not be on stage with all the spotlights,
in my own humble way I'll serve life with delight
As I give all I have by day and by night.

The fame and the fortune don't matter to me
Just the service I offer to humanity;
like great men and great women throughout history,
may my work live for ages long after me.

I trust that you would ask yourself the same question - How can I serve humanity?  And then reflect on the message embodied in this poem. I’m already thinking of how much more I can serve my fellow men before I welcome my next birthday in another 365 days. As parents, husbands and wives, friends and family and citizens of this planet that we share, let's serve humanity by giving of ourselves to make a difference in the lives of others.

I hope that you are enriched by this message of service. And I hope that you have a wonderful day.

Rodrick and family
The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Year-End Inventory

In just a few days, it’ll be New Year's Day. And then we get back to our normal lives.

I’m a trained Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and one of the things I did early in my career, was inventory observations on December 31st. “Inventory observations? What’s that?“  you may ask. Well, companies issue their financial statements typically within 90 days of the end of the year. When you look at a balance sheet, it shows “As of December 31, 20xx”. Likewise, an income statement would show, “For the Year Ended December 31, 20xx”.

As a CPA, I worked with one of the 4 largest accounting firms in the world so I’d travel to distant locations on December 30th or 31st to independently observe the companies count their inventory. That way, when our company audited the financial statements, we would have reasonable assurance that the figure shown as inventory would be reliable, based on the count that we observed them make.
I have done some very interesting observations including: Blockbuster videos; precious jewels in a jewelry store; sugar in a 50 ton container in Montana; and oil in a 30 ton container in the freezing rain in Alabama. All quite interesting engagements.

Now here we are – another year older and going into a new year. Periodically, it’s good to pause and take personal inventory. Not about the stuff we accumulate – those things can be here today and gone tomorrow. I’m talking about our households. What’s the state of our households? What’s our relationship like with our spouses? And what about our children?
Each year, beginning on January 1, millions of people all over the world make a commitment that we call “New Year’s Resolutions.” We resolve to do some things differently – make changes in our lives so that we can get out of life what we truly want. Quite often those resolutions are broken within the first week or so of the new year. When it comes to our families, I hope that we not only make resolutions but that we take them seriously.
Perhaps you’re a divorced father who’s lost your connection with your kids because of a lack of effort. Perhaps you’re married but things have so deteriorated that the relationship that once stood firmly on a solid rock is now on sinking sand and headed to an inevitable divorce. Or you could be a mom who knows that you’ve kept your kids away from their father because of a personal issue with him. And you’re starting to see signs that the kids really do need their dad in their lives.

There is just so much that goes into building the lives that we desire. And part of the process is taking inventory. The interesting thing when I did inventory observations is that the client performed the inventory count but our company had to independently observe and give an assessment based on our observations. So the question for you is, “If someone were to independently observe your family relationships, would they come to the same conclusion as you?” Makes you think, doesn’t it?
I just know that when I look in my life, I try to be a loving husband and father. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that I fall short of the mark of perfection. No one is perfect after all, but I know that there is more I can do. And if we were all 100% honest with ourselves, we would see areas in which we can improve.
Life was never meant to be easy. We live and we grow wiser through our experiences. You see, it’s the challenges that life puts in our way that make us stronger. Just like with a weight lifter – he or she doesn’t build muscles by lifting weights that are easy; but rather it’s the heavy weights that give enough resistance to build the muscles that they seek to build.
In order to have the perfect family relationships that we seek, taking inventory will help us to identify the “muscles” that need to be strengthened. And when we focus on building these muscles, we benefit. Furthermore, our spouses and other significant others and our kids benefit greatly. Just some food for thought!
As you think of your year-end inventory, begin to think of what you’ll do starting January 1 to build the “muscles” that need to be strengthened. Remember, December 31st is coming so you need an honest assessment of your inventory.  You and your family will be the better for it.

Have an excellent and productive day.
The Upbeat Dad

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unaccompanied Minors!

Unaccompanied minors? What’s that? Some of you may just be wondering what that term means. Then others of you, from the title of this post alone, clicked on the link to read further because this past weekend you were at the airport sending your kids off to their other parent for the holidays. Am I right? I’m pretty sure I am.
The term ‘unaccompanied minors’ is used to describe when minor children (defined for airline purposes as kids 14 years old and under) fly without an adult. This means that the airline is responsible for their care and well-being as they travel from one adult to another. When marriages and other relationships end and the two parties live in separate cities, the two adults are generally the parents.
This weekend, I was one in the latter group above – as I took my 12 year old daughter to the airport to fly unaccompanied to see her mom for the two week Christmas break. It’s a routine we’ve perfected since we’ve had years and years of practice.
This whole area was so new to me when my former wife moved to New York but I quickly became a pro at it. Today, it’s pretty much a normal regular routine during the holidays or other breaks from school. It’s a stress-free transition to send our daughter or to pick her up when she travels alone. She’s quite well adjusted to the process.
But I remember at the outset, it was the most traumatic post-divorce experience for her and consequently for me. It started when she was 5 years old. I tried to travel with her each time because who really wants to put their little child on a flight with a bunch of strangers? But after a while, it became a bit costly and somewhat impractical to fly with her all the time.
The initial stage of this type of travel was awful, believe me; some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. I was a single dad, sending my little angel on an airplane all alone. I knew she would be ok but it can be really tough. I remember just becoming tense and on edge as we prepared for her to go because I knew the drama that would play out at the airport.
Here’s how it typically worked: We packed her small carry-on suitcase. I was sure to pack her portable DVD player along with her favorite movies so that she could watch them on the flight. We would travel to the airport and then came the stress. Just the thought that she was going to be flying alone made her cry. She loves both of her parents and in her ideal world, she would walk directly from dad to mom or from mom to dad. But going to the airport and have to leave one of us and be on an aircraft for 3 hours alone with strangers was a bit much for her.
As we got close to the airport and she looked and saw the airplanes, the crying would start. Then I had to fight back my own tears and tell her everything will be fine. At the airport we would check in and pay the unaccompanied minor fee (if we hadn’t already done so). Even though I wasn’t traveling, I’d have to get a gate pass to go with her to the gate.
We’d sit there and I would try to steer the conversation away from her leaving. Just talk about normal fun things that we do – like going to Disney World or Chucky Cheese’s. Talk about fun stuff she does when she’s with her mom. Basically anything to take her mind from the experience that was about to take place. Then came the inevitable – when an airline employee would get her from me and escort her to the aircraft. That was painful. She would cry aloud uncontrollably, saying, “Daddy, Daddy! I want my Daddy.” Let me repeat, she loves both her parents and enjoys every moment of being with each of us. When leaving her mom, I’m sure a similar scene took place. It's just that the process of going through this long distance, 3 hour trip between Miami and New York "unaccompanied" was traumatic for her.
On one occasion, with her crying and holding on to me and not wanting to go to the airline representative, the representative even said to me, “Sir, she doesn’t have to fly you know. You don’t have to put her on the flight.”
That incident was extreme but literally, every time she traveled unaccompanied, there were tears and discomfort on her part. And as a result, it made it so tough on me. I never wanted her to see me shed a tear in these situations because that would probably send her the wrong message. But after she went on the aircraft, I secretly wiped away my own tears.
You may wonder why I go through this detailed description of our experience. Well, I guarantee you that this past weekend and even today, there are thousands of people all over the world who are dealing with this very same scenario. Their kids are out of school for the holidays and are going to see the other parent. And necessary though it is to travel this way, it can also be a very stressful time for all involved, especially the kids.
I share this part of my story with you to say that the sadness and crying doesn’t last. When our kids arrive at their destination, they’re back to their normal selves. And sometimes, even as they get on the plane, they’re back to normal. One thing that’s worked quite well for us is getting our daughter a cell phone. When she boards the plane, we talk or send each other text messages while I wait for the plane to leave.
Just like any new routine, it may take some time but the kids do adjust. My daughter’s practically a professional unaccompanied traveling minor now. She knows the routine – one parent drops her off and the other parent is always waiting at the destination to meet her.
And how did I get her to stop crying? I promised her that each time she didn’t cry or get sad, I’d do something special for her – like take her to her favorite restaurant or get a new DVD that she really wants. Periodically she still did cry but I told her that’s quite ok to cry so she shouldn’t feel badly about that. It’s been a couple years since we’ve had any such issues though, thankfully.
As moms and dads, we’re not alone. There are others like us who go through these experiences. One of the good things about this way of my daughter traveling is that I get to meet other parents like me when we’re at the airport. Just this weekend I met a mom whose son traveled on my daughter’s flight. Her son is 10 and he’s been flying unaccompanied for 5 years now. We had a friendly, spirited conversation about our experiences. And I got to tell her a bit about The Upbeat Dad and my vision. She was quite interested in it and promised she would check out the blog and also recommend to her son’s father that he check it out as well.
Just like any situation in life that may appear less than ideal, the whole unaccompanied minor experience works out quite well. It’s not always practical for us to travel with our children or for us to find another adult who’s traveling so that they can travel together. The airlines are quite accommodating and even though in recent times their fees for this service have increased, they do a great job overall in ensuring that our kids travel in comfort and safety.
If your kids have are traveling unaccompanied to see you this holiday season, have a great time with them. If they’re traveling away from you, enjoy yourself in their absence till they return. Just always let them know you’re thinking of them. And tell them, as I always tell my daughter when she travels, “Whether or not you are physically with me, you’re always in my heart and that’s all that matters.” Try saying something like this and watch how it brightens their day!

The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Instrument are You in the Symphony of Life?

Today's post is an encouragement for us to do a bit of introspection, or self-reflection. Each of us is born with innate skills and talents. These are gifts that we didn't have to earn - we got them by simply being conceived and born.

As dads and moms, I believe that our lives have greater meaning when we recognize our talents and try to develop them so that we can be our best. Living lives filled with purpose makes us better, more effective people. And here's the kicker - it equips us with the tools to teach our kids how to get the most out of life. 

You see, we weren't just born to grow up and make money. You were born to accomplish specific tasks that you were uniquely created to accomplish. A proverb that I love says, "A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men." So as you develop your skills, those skills open doors for you so that your greatness can be evident to the world.

A good parent helps his/her kids to discover their own talents. I tell my daughter all the time that as she goes to school, she's not just there to go through the motions. She's now 12 years old but as far back as when she was 2 years old, I've been telling her that she's going to do great things for her generation. I tell her she was born to be a trendsetter and a leader, not a follower.

I think you should do the same for your kids. Speak words of life to them - words to encourage them to discover their purpose and to develop their innate talents. Of course words alone don't do it but they set the tone.

I encourage you to challenge your kids to see themselves as a valued instrument in a symphony. When you listen to a symphony, there are a combination of instruments that come together to make beautiful music. Each instrument has its own unique sound and plays a significant part. And when you put them all together, they make beautiful music.

Life is a symphony. And we are all instruments - dads, moms, kids, everybody. The question is, what instrument are you? And what sound do you make? You do have a significant role to play, you know. And so do your kids.

The following poem, found in my book, Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation, illustrates this concept quite well:

Symphony of Life

Up early another morning
to see the sunrise. The dew rests gently
on the grass after another night. The whisper
of the morning breeze blows sweetly through
the trees. The sparrow flies to greet the day,
like he always does, and
I stroll down by the ocean just to hear
the sound of the waves sailing to the shore.
This makes life worth living.
All creation joins in this daily symphony;
every instrument plays its part.
I must find my role in this;
today is a good day to start.

My vow is to so develop my skills and talents that I will function as a finely tuned instrument and serve others with my gifts. And furthermore, I vow to help others, particularly my own child, to develop their gifts. When we see ourselves as important instruments in this symphony, I believe that our perspectives change. 

So won't you embrace this philosophy. And encourage your kids to do the same. When we develop this mindset, our entire world benefits from our collective efforts. Imagine that, it starts in our homes with our families. And then it impacts the world. Powerful concept, huh!

You're a valued instrument in this symphony we call life. And so are your children. Tune up those instruments! And let's enjoy the sweet melody!

The Upbeat Dad