Thankful For My Nephew

26 Nov

164403_489341263086_7458514_nA few years ago, my nephew Jake sat down for dinner with the adults on Thanksgiving Day and listened as we all went around the table telling each other what we were thankful for that year.  The ole Jakester was about 5 years old at the time and my journey into fatherhood wouldn’t begin till the following year.  No one had ever called me “Dad” back then, in fact all of our names were from the lone grandchild of the family, Jake.  My parents were “Papa Doo” and “G.G.,” my wife was “Kee Kee,” and I was “Uncle Boo Boo.”  Still am.  I’ve been “Boo” or “Boo Boo” in my immediate family for as long as I can remember and once Jake graced our lives with his presence everyone called me “Uncle Boo Boo.”  I loved it…I remember the first time Jake looked at me with those bright eyes and said, “Boo Boo.”  It was awesome.  I got to be an uncle for half a decade before learning to become a dad.  Jake and I taught each other a lot.  That day 5 years ago at Thanksgiving I think I said something to the effect of being thankful for family, for Kate, for us all being together…and it was special…it was a time to be thankful for family.  We all raised our glasses and were about to cheers when Jake pointed out that he hadn’t told us what he was thankful for.  I smiled hoping he’d say he was thankful for his mom, and he did…but then he threw us a curveball.  He turned to the table and said, “But most of all…I’m thankful for gravity, because without gravity we’d all float off into outer space!!!”  It was the finest toast I have ever heard.  “To gravity!”  We all cheered and clinked our glasses together.  It has become my favorite pre-dinner toast, making cameos throughout the year and always on Thanksgiving.

Gravity Cheers

To Gravity!

Jake will be turning 10 next month and has grown from a lovable little kid into a marvelous young boy.  He astounds me every time I see him!  I cannot believe how fast he is growing and it makes me hug my 1-year old Dodge and 3-year old Max a little longer and harder…soaking up this stage of their lives.  When I first found out I was going to be a dad I read a statistic that when women picture themselves as mothers they see themselves providing for a tiny baby, while when men picture themselves as dads they see themselves participating in activities like swimming, teaching, and sports.  Basically, men see themselves as dads when their kids are older – not when they’re babies.  I rejected this notion proclaiming that I would be the best dad on earth!  Turns out I’m the best dad I can be which sometimes is only “meh”…and that’s okay.  I’m not perfect, but I’m full of love.  Jake let me learn how to have Dad-esk moments before being a dad.  I learned how to change diapers, I learned how to care for a baby, I learned how to listen, I learned how to be patient…or at least pretend to be patient.  Jake taught me how to love someone who frustrates you and how to frustrate someone you love.  He taught me that kids don’t think like adults but adults should learn to think more like kids…because thank goodness for gravity!  Jake was like my adult pre-school for becoming a dad…which is why he’s my son Dodge’s godparent.

I got to learn so much from Jake over the years.

Yesterday Jake came home from school with a project from class most likely aimed at further developing his written skills both mechanically and visualizing his verbal thoughts.  He wrote me a letter for Thanksgiving.  Me.  Uncle Boo Boo.  Stupid fat old me.  The guy who asks himself daily, “What can I do to be a better dad?”  I ask myself this because I fear I’m not a good dad.  I ask this because I get frustrated, because I make mistakes, and because I realize I am responsible for two tiny lives…and that’s scary.  Maybe that’s what makes a good dad?  Maybe that’s more important than always trying to look perfect to the kids.  I like to think so.  I like to think that by being myself and letting my kids see me for who I am they understand that perfection is nothing more than a word, and we are all human.  I tell them I love them every day, and they tell me they love me too.  I can feel their love and I know they can feel mine.  I love my family, immediate and extended, and Jake’s letter from school leveled me.  Reduced me to rubble.  Brought me to tears.  Reminded me who I am.  It is one of the sweetest things anyone has ever written me and there is nothing more special than feeling the love of a child, especially when it comes seemingly from the blue.  Jake wrote:

Dear Uncle Boo Boo,

I love you.  Thank you for teaching me how to swim.  Before that I only knew the doggy paddle.  Now that I know how to swim you teach me how to do cool tricks.  Like that group of rocks you use to go fast under water.  Thanks to you I can touch the bottom of the Lake George Club.  That’s 12 feet!  I can also jump off Calfspen.  That’s like 50 feet.  Thank you.  Sincerely,

Jake

Yup…he got me.  I can’t tell you how proud I was of him when he touched the bottom of the lake at the Lake George Club.  I taught him how to clear the air out of his lungs while diving so buoyancy wouldn’t work against him.  I sat on the bottom of the lake and watched him swim down to me, touch the bottom, then push off like a rocket to the surface!  It was amazing.  It was the gift of accomplishment after a summer swimming together.  Jakester and Boo Boo.  I also remember the first time his tiny fingers wrapped around my index finger as I fed him a bottle.  I remember the first time he crawled.  I remember the first time he walked.  I remember the first time he did most things…like hold my sons in his arms when he met them for the first time.

Jake reminds me why I do what I do.  Jake was frustrating when he was my boys’ age and I frustrated him too.  He is a glance into the future and the rewards that come from making a child know they are loved.  Every letter should start out like Jake’s, “I love you.”  What fantastic 3 words, written out in pencil on a turkey.  I love you too Jake.  Thank you for teaching me how to be Max and Dodge’s dad.  This Thanksgiving I am also thankful for the things that teach us about life, remind us who we are, allow us to be ourselves, and bring us together:

Here’s to Family and Gravity!

May your Thanksgiving Holiday be filled with both!

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Parents Pave The Way

10 Nov

I still get giddy every time my name gets mentioned in the paper, I secretly record the news when I get interviewed, and my two favorite articles about the digitally nomadic period of my life from different newspapers hang proudly in my office.  It’s still humbling to see your name in print, your face on-screen, and your work appreciated publicly.  I grew up with big shoes to fill and always imagined my name in lights.  While my dad was a successful entrepreneur and CEO of major US corporations, my mother was a successful writer/director for the stage and if you grew up in Chicago or Wichita in the 70’s and 80’s…you probably experienced her work.  From these two opposing worlds comes me: A creative entertainer with a flair for the dramatic driven by the love of business prosperity.  In 1999 I was working as a children’s television director and comedy variety show producer.  By 2004 I was working primarily as an assistant director in film on a number of horror films and helped produce a short that was adapted to an Oscar nominated feature.  By 2008 I was the go-to guy in New York and San Francisco for producing online viral videos in association with international TV branding.  In 2009 I pulled anchor and became a digital nomad, still using video as a medium, but focusing on social media as the viral aspect of the branding work I was executing.  Then, in 2010, I moved to Wichita, KS to become the Director of Marketing for  the franchise division of an international retail brand and joined the family business as the managing partner of our local restaurant.  My name has gone from being in lights to being in print…but I still make films on the side.  I am the mixing bowl of ingredients that are my parents’ talents and example.  I love the arts and I love business…odd that we feel inclined to separate them.  However, one of the things I wanted to do with my move to Wichita was become more active in my community.  This is why I serve on three boards, consult for my creative production company, and am a co-founder of a non-profit arts organization.  That drive to volunteer comes from my parents.

Today…I simply want to brag about my mom, Toni.  As I selfishly cut out newspaper articles about myself, shake hands at events, speak with community leaders about the future of Wichita, and forge my own name in a town…it is important to remember that my parents paved the way first.  I do what I can sometimes to escape their name because I want to know I am achieving my own success on my own name.  I am usually trying to escape my dad’s name, because we work in the same office and I don’t want people thinking I have a job because our last name matches…I want people to know I earned this job by being the right man for it and by putting in more time and effort than anyone else.  Its hard.  It’s a careful balance of separating yourself from some personal aspects of work while embracing others.  The same goes for the time I volunteer to my community.  This Sunday the Wichita Eagle published a great blurb about my mom titled “Good Deeds: Love of the art drives Wichita volunteer.”  I have big shoes to fill, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to contribute to Wichita and other communities as much as my amazing mother has.

I love you Mom.  You inspire me, please keep inspiring us all with your dedication to this city and its arts community…and yes, you can correct my spelling and grammar on this post in the comment section publicly.

Good Deeds: Love of the arts drives Wichita volunteer | Wichita Eagle

When Toni Gates retired, she didn’t want to stop having fun.

“I had a full-blown career and spent over 20 years with my own theater troupe, and we performed for the forgotten audience of 2- to 8-year-olds,” Gates said. “I loved every second of it.

“I love the arts. I loved providing a participatory experience for imagination and education.”

Gates, 69, is the events coordinator for the Murdock Society, which is affiliated with the Wichita Art Museum. She provides opportunities for patrons of the museum to attend events and social activities relating to art.

“Our membership is renewed on an annual basis and in order for them to feel like it is worthwhile to renew a membership, we try to provide interesting happenings,” Gates said. “My job is to create those special events.”

One of the last events was a tour of private collections of art called “Small Spaces and Big Art.”

“We visited three different homes,” Gates said. “None of the owners had big houses, but they did have passion for art. We got to see how people utilized art in special ways.

“It was inspirational for our patrons to get creative and not feel like you have to have a ton of floor footage to hang art.”

So why do this?

“This is a great community and welcoming,” Gates said. “I wanted to do something for the community.”

Volunteer Toni Gates helps coordinate events for the Murdock Society at the Wichita Art Museum. (Nov. 7, 2014)Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

Volunteer Toni Gates helps coordinate events for the Murdock Society at the Wichita Art Museum. (Nov. 7, 2014)Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle

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Voting Is Not A Spectator Sport

4 Nov

Vote-Counts1Many years ago when my wife was my girlfriend back in New York City, a young Republican from Kansas (about my age now) mocked Kate for wearing a t-shirt that read, “Democracy is not a spectator sport!”  This young Republican went off on Kate telling her that she was too young to understand the complexities of modern politics and chastised her for being a Democrat.  Kate rightfully put this woman in her place and explained that the shirt meant whatever your party affiliation, it is our duty as citizens to educate ourselves and make the effort to go out and vote.  Meaning, know what you’re talking about and if you feel strongly about it then you should vote for it, volunteer for it, donate to it, or do whatever you can to be involved with it.  Sitting on the sideline is unacceptable.

Yesterday I spoke to many people I am close to in Kansas and was SHOCKED to find out that many of them had not registered, had no clue who to vote for, or had no plans to vote today.  Kate and I just voted.  So today, November 4th – 2014, on the day of the Midterm Elections I will quote my wife’s shirt from 2003 and remind all of you that DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT.  You’ve got till 7 PM to vote.  Let’s go.

…and by the way, do the right thing and vote “YES” on the 1¢ sales tax increase.  Need more information?  Click HERE or go to voteyeswichita.com today.

Voting in Kansas

3 Nov

2000px-Kansas_in_United_States.svgOn Saturday we had 7 different knocks on the door from political volunteers polling, informing, and urging me to vote.  Eventually, my wife placed a sheet of paper on the door instructing people not to knock or ring the bell…she detailed the people we were planning to vote for so parties could get their polls in order.  The knocking stopped, though we were visited by a Boy Scout selling popcorn.  We declined.  I have more Halloween popcorn than I know what to do with right now.  While the Scout walked back to his mother, I waved…then read the note on the door announcing our family’s political values and realized November 4th would be the first time my wife and I would not have matching voting ballots.  We differed ever so slightly.  I removed the note from the door.

For most of my life I never understood how my mother and father got along when their political views seemed to differ so much.  Now I get it.  I was young and saw everything left or right, then a whole bunch of life happened and my views moved closer to the center.  I now am closer to the center than I’ve ever been and suddenly politics takes on a whole new meaning.

Vote-Counts1Today I filled out a sample ballot in preparation for tomorrow’s November 4th midterm election in Kansas.  I conducted some final research on Judges I didn’t have enough information on that are on the ballot to be retained in office for the court of appeals.  There are some big-ticket items on the ballot that are no-brainers for me, some running for office who I am going to vote out of party for, and some people I feel are best for the job though I disagree with certain stances they have taken.  Basically, this is the most important vote I have experienced as a resident of Wichita, KS and I’m not going into it without fully researching the items outside my scope of knowledge or awareness.  This is a very important election with immediate ramifications that will affect me, my children, my family, my friends, my businesses, my state, and my country…all of which I love.  I feel this is the most important election I have been a part of ever, even more so than past Presidential elections I felt so strongly about as a young adult in New York.  I feel like Kansas is teetering back and forth on a sharp political blade and our future within and beyond our borders is at stake.

kansas flag mapKate and I are 100% on the same wave length politically but our ballots will be 7% different tomorrow.  In a vote with less than 30 items, that’s not very much but its the first time for us.  Of these votes, our 3% difference is a major difference and already is an apple of discord with some of my friends.  There are a few items I’m just flat-out not politically educated on enough because they have been overshadowed by the race for Senator and Governor, so I am choosing to abstain.  I am doing my best to make the most informed decisions that I feel will benefit my city, state, and country best.  This narrowness between our votes is democracy at its finest and will be reflected large-scale in tomorrow’s election, where Kate and I are aligned on the big-ticket items.

We’re taught never to talk about one’s age, politics, religious beliefs or personal matters in large social settings.  Clearly I have violated most of those rules with this site where I have managed to anger both sides of parenting debates, I discuss my personal matters ad nauseam, my age is clear (hi…I’m 35), and here we go with politics.  The 7% difference between Kate and my ballot is no big deal.  The 2-4 points separating the race for Senator and Governor are because that is the blade upon which we’ll cut the path for the future of Kansas.  I am in support of Independent, Greg Orman for Senate and Democrat, Paul Davis for Governor.

OrmanRobertsGreg Orman is an entrepreneur like me, like my dad, and like most people I know.  He has been unaffiliated with any political party since 2010.  He worked for the consulting firm “McKinsey & Company” and founded “Environmental Light Concepts” in 1992, which designs and installs energy-efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial companies.  He’s a progressive businessman living in Kansas.  If Orman is elected he’ll be the first non-republican Senator from the state of Kansas since George McGill in 1939.  1939!  That’s when World War II started!  Orman has been quoted saying he will “seek to caucus with the party that was in the majority as that would be in the best interest for the state of Kansas.”  Meaning, the balance of the U.S. Senate could end up in this guy’s hands…and here’s the kicker, he’s left/center…and winning.  He’s not far left.  He’s not far right.  He’s left center.  He’s been a Republican and a Democrat.  Now, he’s an Independent willing to reach across the aisle from whichever side he ends up on.

Orman gets my vote.

BrownbackDavisGovernor Brownback has practically bankrupted this state through excessive tax cuts, proven himself a liar, tried to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission by executive order, made massive cuts to education, messed up health care, and is so far right that almost every Republican I know thinks he’s an idiot…because he’s an idiot.  A lampshade could run this state better.  Luckily, Paul Davis is much better than a lampshade and has what I feel may be his strongest asset vying for the Lieutenant Governor seat, Jill Docking.  Kansas has flipped back and forth between Democrats and Republicans for Governor…but the last time it had a Democratic Governor and non-Republican Senator?  You guessed it…1939.  Davis a lawyer from Lawrence, KS and is the son of a school teacher who has been the head of the House of Democrats in the Kansas House of Representatives since 2008.  Before then, Davis worked as Assistant Director of Government Affairs for former Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius, worked as the Legislative and Ethics Counsel to the Kansas Bar Association, and served as President of the Health Care Access Clinic Board of Directors and Vice President of the Arc of Douglas County Board of Directors.  Yes…much better than a lampshade.

Davis gets my vote.

YesWichita-BlueThe last big-ticket item I’ll bring up pisses me off.  It’s the one-percent Sales Tax increase for Wichita.  This has no bearing on anyone reading this outside of Wichita but if you get the opportunity to vote on this city matter, you should vote “YES.”  I’ve never seen such negative ad campaigns like those opposing the increase and am shocked to see the “NO’s” are polling 20+ points ahead of the “YES’s.”  This makes me sad as a Wichitan because apparently everyone forgot 2013 when we almost ran out of water and Cheney Reservoir dipped below emergency levels.  How did everyone forget?  Easy, an act of nature…or God…whichever you want to call it.  A freak storm rolled in and it rained…no, poured…for over a week!  In the end the reservoir was full, the Arkansas River was high, and the ditch was nearly overflowing.  Waiting, praying, and hoping are not solutions.  A vote for “NO” is a vote for lethargy.  While this vote is about a new water source (which Wichita desperately needs) along with infrastructure, a struggling downtown, and failing public transit system…it will get voted “NO” because the “The Coalition for a Better Wichita” spent $436,565 through a so-called grassroots campaign backed by corporations versus the $58,200 “Yes Wichita” was able to raise through an actual grassroots campaign that I was proud to donate to.  A vote for “YES” is a vote for your own city.  A vote for “NO” is a vote for corporations.  You stand to spend an additional $100-$300 per year based on your income over a 5 year period…at which time the tax goes away unless voted to continue.  One penny.  You know that “Give a Penny – Take a Penny” tray at the grocery store?  That’s how much we’re voting over, and if you vote “YES” your water bills won’t soar, the less fortunate might be able to go to work on a bus, and we might be able to create job opportunities in a state ravaged by Brownback’s tax cuts.  Vote “NO” to have higher water bills for everyone, no long-term water plan for your children, pot-holes, and no public transit system.

That gets my vote…vote “YES.”

Those are the three big-ticket items tomorrow (in my opinion), though there are some great races such as the U.S. Representative 4th District, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer.  You also get to vote on legalizing raffles.  Churches have been breaking Kansas gambling laws for years!  Now you can legalize it with this stupid vote on the same ballot as the most important Senatorial race of your life, wherever you stand on the matter.  No matter what happens tomorrow in Kansas, just do your state a favor and be an informed voter.  This isn’t the race track and we’re picking California Chrome because purple is your favorite color.  This is the future of Kansas.  Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever…just vote with knowledge and research.  Watching TV ad campaigns doesn’t count as research…remember The Coalition for a Better Wichita has spent almost 10 times as much as Yes Wichita…that alone should tell you something.  If you are not sure at the booth who someone is…don’t fill in the oval.  Your other votes still count.  Don’t blindly vote for a party…some of the “other side’s” people are better suited for the job.  With the exception of the Sales Tax increase (apparently), every vote is going to count tomorrow…so make them count.  Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day and I’m excited to be a part of it…as an individual, a father, a businessman, a co-founder of an arts organization, a board member of a health clinic, a board member of a city organization, a Wichitan, a Kansan, an American, and most importantly as a human being.

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Running Away From Home

29 Oct

rockwell_runawayWhen I was very young I stuffed a backpack full of comic books, sandwiches, and trinkets as I set off to discover a new world…a world without my parents.  I ran away from home.  I hopped the fence in the back yard and paused on the other side, the perfect place to start my new life living alone AND be able to witness my parents’ dismay as they searched frantically for me.  Front row seats!  I made base camp and hunkered down for the long winter ahead of me, but I was prepared so long as I rationed my Skittles and PB&J Sandwiches.  Day became dusk, dusk became night, and I became restless.  Why was no one looking for me?  I’d left a long note explaining why I’d left home and how displeased I was with the cruel punishment of having to brush my teeth twice a day, the bathing regimen, and the rules around doing homework.  Still…no one came.  I had announced that I was going to run away and had clearly not shown up for dinner!  Still…no one came.  Then it hit me!  They must be searching for me in the front yard!  I packed up base camp, climbed the fence again, and snuck up to the house.  Much to my surprise, my mother and father were sitting calmly in front of the TV watching the news.  Where was the APB?  Why were there not helicopters with search lights?  How come people weren’t trudging through the fields looking for me with hounds?!!!  I ran away dammit!!!

alvin-and-the-chipmunks-the-chipmunk-adventure-dvd-cover-40I decided to make camp in the tree fort in our backyard, it was quite dark and it would be nice to sleep somewhere familiar before heading east for New York City in the morning.  The city was only 1,380 miles from Wichita, KS but it seemed quite achievable on the Rand McNally road atlas I had swiped from the library.  Damn…out of Skittles…I’ve really got to be careful with my rations, there’s a long road ahead of me.  If Alvin and the Chipmunks could go around the world in “The Chipmunk Adventure” movie I could make it to New York.  And if I can make there…well, you know the song.  I took a large bite out of my last PB&J sandwich as I debated where I could find a hot air balloon in the morning.  Supplies were running low.  I needed to occupy my mind to prepare it for the journey.  I skimmed a few Mad Magazines I’d brought for the trip along with a few Spidermans.  I’d read these before.  If only I had new comics!  I wonder if you can trade PB&J sandwiches for comic books?  Surely the good man at the comic store will barter for a sandwich made with Jiff Crunchy Peanut Butter.  I finished the last PB&J sandwich.  Damn.  Now its just me…and Apple Bear.  Apple Bear had been with me since the beginning, a gift on my 1st birthday.  He was an orange bear wearing a blue bib with an apple on it.  He squeaked when you hugged him which was comforting when I was lonely.

<SQUEAK!>

Shhhhhh!  Apple Bear!  You’ll give away our position!

I looked towards the house.  There was no movement.  Surely they heard Apple Bear and would come running to the back door to see if I’d returned only to have their hearts broken when I stayed hidden.  It would crush them!  They’d never know what to do…  The backyard lights went out.  My parents were done watching the news and my dad had turned off the lights!

<SQUEAK!> <SQUEAK!> <SQUEAK!>

Fine.  So they’re not looking for me.  I’m still running away.  I’m just going to stay here till they get worried and THEN I’ll run away.  Seconds turned into hours, hours to days, and days into years as time passed in and out of a decade and back over a millennium.  About 10 minutes had passed.  <SQUEAK.>  Apple Bear was hungry and scared…I was fine.  <SQUEAK.>  Okay, okay, okay…you talked me into it.  Apple Bear wanted to go back inside and how could I say no to those button eyes?  I gathered my camp into the backpack, climbed down to the ground, and tip-toed across the yard to the back door.  It was unlocked.  I came in and found there was no dinner waiting for me at the kitchen table.  There was no fanfare as I walked in the house.  All was quiet and normal.  I dumped the backpack in the hall and walked into my parent’s room to find them in bed reading.  “I’m back!”  I announced.  “Okay,” said my dad.  “I’m just staying for the night,” I assured them.  “Sounds good,” my mother answered.  They didn’t really look up from their books.  I left their room.

That night Apple Bear and I tried to sleep but couldn’t.  Why had my parents not cared that I ran away?  I could be half way to Kansas City by now!  The thought made me shudder…alone in the dark somewhere in the Flint Hills.  I was happy to be back in my bed, my back hurt from trying to sleep in a tree, and the wind was howling outside.  My mind raced and at last, sleep took me.

20141015_100827About 30 years later my son Max, a mere 3 years old, tried to run away twice in a week.  Granted, these were smaller escapades but they were very intentional moves.  In my recent entry, Max ran away at an event and hid because he wanted to play alone.  Following that incident that rattled me to the core as a parent (thinking I’d lost my son in a crowd) Max and I had a long conversation about running away and what it meant.  To my surprise, he ran away days later when my wife picked him up from school.  He took off running from the front door of the school, sprinted down the sidewalk, and Kate had to track him down by car and then get out to football tackle him.  He was perceiving this all as a game.  When I came home from work that night I found him sitting at the table eating alone as Kate told me the story in the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe he’d done this!  He could have been hit by a car!  We had just talked about this.  I was beside myself, so I decided to do something bold and make a statement that he wouldn’t soon forget.  “Do you trust me?”  I asked Kate.  She looked concerned.

I walked out front and placed a lock on the gate to our fully enclosed backyard without Max seeing me.  When he finished his dinner I said, “Max…come with me.”  I escorted him to the back door, walked him outside, and sat down on the back stoop with him to discuss running away.  We discussed how he had run away because he wanted to be alone.  So, I gave him what he asked for and said, “Okay Max, you are free to run away and be alone.”  Then I walked back inside and closed the door behind me.  Max wasn’t sure what to do at first and kind of played, then started fake crying.   Day became dusk, dusk became night, and Max became restless.  Why was no one looking for him?  It had been 15 minutes.  He sat down and waited on the back porch.  When that didn’t work he started kicking my grill.  I came out and started packing up the yard as if winter was coming, “Oh…hey Max, what are you still doing here?  I thought you’d be half way to Kansas City by now.”  Before he could ask to come inside I looked up at the stars and said, “No moon tonight…going to be a dark and cold night…winter’s coming.”  Then I went back inside, closed the door behind me, and turned off the porch light.  The tears began.  Kate, Dodge and I sat on the couch and watched TV while Max looked in through the window, like my parents did to me all those years ago.  Kate and I counted the minutes on the clock wanting nothing but to go outside and scoop him up into a hug, but we pretended to not hear him.

It tore my heart out!

Max was outside for less than 25 minutes, of which he probably played for about 15.  When he plays outside this time of night he might be out for over an hour.  It was a warm night and he was appropriately dressed.  All was fine, except the situation had been turned on him.  I went outside when the fake cries stopped and I couldn’t pretend to not hear him any longer.  We sat on the stoop and once more discussed running away.  I asked him if he wanted to come back in, to which he said he did.  I then asked if he was going to run away again because if so, I didn’t want to waste my time reading books and cuddling.  He said he would not run away and ran into my arms for a hug instead.  I held him and said, “Max, you may come inside but first, you have to create the rule about what your punishment will be if you run away.”  Kids are told so many rules when you they’re young.  Put your shoes on, stay in line, go to bed…so many rules that are being blindly handed down to them by adults.  Max is at the age where he’s wondering who put the adults in charge and why?  Max thought for a bit then said,  “Running away is against the rules.”  I nodded and said, “That’s a good rule.”  Max continued, “…and If I run away again I’ll have to live outside in the dark.”  I hugged him again and said, “Yes, if you run away that would mean you were running away from Mommy, Daddy, Dodge and this house.”  I prodded further, “That’s the consequence of your own actions, what happens if you break the rule and run away from Mommy or me like you did today and we have to chase you?”  Max thought some more and said, “The rule is that I go to bed without books or cuddles.”  I agreed to Max’s rule and we shook on it and affirmed what it meant.  We went upstairs, Max brushed his teeth, he used the potty, and he climbed into bed without books.  Max hugged Muffin, his stuffed bunny rabbit.  “Did you miss Muffin?”  I asked.  “Yes,” said Max.  “Is it good to be back home?”  I asked.  “It’s good to be back home,” Max replied.  “Are you going to run away again?”  I asked.  “No,” said Max, “…and if I do I go to bed without books or cuddles.”  I nodded and asked, “…and who made the rule?”  “I did,” said Max.  “Its my rule,” he said as he rolled over and pulled the covers up to his neck.  He was asleep before I left the room.  Max…the king of all wild things.

where-wild-things-are-rumpus

The topic of running away has not been an issue since and this weekend Max started playing in the front yard by himself, respecting the boundaries set forth about not riding his bike into the street.  There are rules about what happens with Max if he breaks the rules, but Max is now setting the rules and self enforcing them.  Max is also aware of the positive example he needs to set for his little brother, Dodge, whom he helps obey the rules to keep him from danger.  Sometimes the best punishment is to give no punishment, rather the perception of consequence.  Max was never grounded to the back yard, he was never told the few minutes outside were a punishment, and he was free to do what he wanted.  His experience outside was the realization that when he got what he asked for it wasn’t what he really wanted.  He realized the consequences of his actions.  He created his own punishment, and then…his own rule.  He’s very happy to have created a new rule and the reprimand that comes with it when (if) the rule is broken.  Kids are kids and rules will be broken…but running into the street was not something I was going to mess around with.  Max is much younger than I was when I packed up and ran away to the backyard with Skittles and PB&J’s, but I get why my parents didn’t budge all those years ago.  I’m not saying we should be tossing our kids in the backyard and jumping to extreme consequences…but when it comes to running away and risking that precious three-year old life I love and value so much I’ll do anything to keep him safe.  I’m also a big fan of making hugs, affection, and positive reinforcement a crucial part of every parenting decision I make.  You never know…one day you’ll wake up and your kid will be a big stinky teenager who is too cool for hugs.  When they run away or do something beyond stupid at that age, take them down to the city jail and ask the on duty officer if they’d be willing to lock them up for a few hours…or send them to boarding school.  It worked for me, albeit a performing arts school.  ;)

Max and Dodge

Max keeping Dodge from running into the parking lot.

 

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