A tad bit overstimulated

Waa-cry-baby2It wasn’t too long ago. I was sitting in the food court of our local mall, waiting to pick up one of my children from some activity I can’t recall, when a young woman rolled a baby stroller up to the table next to the one at which I was sitting. Inside the stroller was a baby boy (if one can tell by the color and style of clothing these days), perhaps a year old, at most.

It turns out this was the lad we all heard screaming his head off throughout the mall for at least the thirty minutes prior. He was silent now. All cried out. Who knows why he carried on so?

His mother had positioned the stroller so that he was facing me. I looked over at the boy and, for a moment, our eyes met. Now, I have big eyes, so maybe that’s the fascination but, for some reason, small children like to stare at me if we have made some sort of eye contact. This child was no different. He just stared at me and I stared back. I wondered what had been troubling him. I wondered if he had been overstimulated by all the goings on at the mall that afternoon.

“Is it just too much for you, little fellow?” I thought to myself. “I know how you feel. Sometimes everything just goes way too fast for me, too. I mean, it seems like everybody wants a piece of you and you try so hard to give them what they want, only to find out that you’re coming up short anyway, no matter how hard you try. Your kids are growing up too fast and you’re never going to get this time back. Your wife is amazing but you never feel like you actually deserve her, let alone have the ability to take care of her the way you should. You’re not the athlete you once were and, just because you play in an ‘organized league’ doesn’t mean you can play like you did when you were 18 and not feel it for days. What’s more, you don’t need to be reminded that you’re no longer just ‘flirting’, you’re being a bit creepy. You know what I’m saying?”

We sat there, just looking at each other. I wondered what he was thinking. Maybe his mom knew.

“A bit overstimulated, was he?” I asked his mother.

“Just hungry. After I fed him, he just calmed right down.”

I looked over at Junior and he smiled that puffy-cheeked smile.

“I guess he’s a lad who knows what he wants,” I said, not actually intending it to be out loud.

I winced, knowing that was probably one of those “creepy” moments. Just then, the baby burped. I turned and saw him smiling again. I could have sworn he winked as well.

I love what I get to do!

lovewhatyoudoCliché…

“If you do something you truly love, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

I complain about clichés, sometimes; mostly because I think we use them to generalize things that can’t really be generalized.  (I’m the guiltiest of all!)

Maybe I could try to be a little more specific…

“If you do something that puts to use your own, special and unique talents in a way that connects with other humans on the planet and contributes something positive to the world, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Yeah, mine’s a bit more long-winded.  (I can get like that– making things more complicated than they have to be.)  But, I think it makes a difference here.  Doing something you love is awesome, who doesn’t like to do things they love, but what difference does it make?

Seeking out a living where your true talents are on display and people’s lives have the potential to be changed for the better because they encountered you is what we really need to be teaching our children.

No child left behind?  Ok, great. So, why are we leaving so many behind?

Math and Science are extremely important, but how much are we leaving out when that becomes all that matters?  What kind of adults are we making out of our children?  Do they have a purpose?  Are they doing what they were born to do?

It’s not an easy thing to find that career “sweet spot” where you’re full on doing what you love all the time, and I know plenty of people who say, “We can’t always get what we want out of our lives.”

To them I say, “What is it, actually, that you want?”

I know what I want to do for a living: to connect with people in truly meaningful, and potentially life-altering ways when using my God-given talents to the best of my ability.

That’s what I want.  It doesn’t always show up the same way, nor is it an easy pursuit, but on the occasion when all cylinders are firing and the magic is happening, it feels just right.

It feels like this…

 

A Labor Day labor…who’s remotely ready?

mikaelaandme3It was late summer, 1994.  I had just closed an amazing run of “Grand Hotel” and was about to open as John Adams in a beautiful production of “1776” directed by my good friend, Erick Devine.

Malisa and I had been married for two years and things were moving ahead brilliantly, just like we had planned.  She was finishing up her undergraduate studies and I had one more year of graduate school.  Then it was off to New York City!  We weren’t even remotely ready for what happened next.

When Malisa showed me the test strip with the matching red plus signs, I just stood there.  So did she.  This was not in the plan right now.  In a few years, sure, but not now.  We weren’t ready.

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Cut to late summer, 2013…

I’m sitting on the beach in Delaware, looking down to the water and watching my now 18 year old daughter splash in the waves.  I want to get up, run down and hug her.  I want to pick her up and swing her around like I used to do when she was four.  She’s still small enough for me to do it, but I won’t; too embarrassing! (“You’re so weird!!”)

I’m trying not to pay any attention to the date.  If I do, I’ll realize that we’ll be dropping her off at camp (ok, college.  There, I said it!) in less than two weeks.  Of course I’d seen this day coming, but I wasn’t even remotely ready for what happened next.

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Cut to two days ago…

The university she’s attending is only an hour away; one hour, door to door.  It’s nothing to blubber about.  She’s ready.  She’s going to do amazing things in college and in her life.  I’m incredibly proud of the woman she’s become, and I have no reservations about her readiness to leave the nest.  It’s nothing to do with that.

Nobody tells you when you’re learning to change your firstborn’s diaper that one day, when the time comes to let her go, you’ll miss a dear friend.

At every stage of her life, there would be someone older than me who would see us together and would stop me and say, “This is THE greatest age!  It was my favorite age with our daughter!”  People would say that virtually every year.  I took that in and really tried to appreciate every stage of life as she was going through it.  Admittedly, not every stage was a favorite of mine, but that’s life, it’s always going to have its ups and downs

So it was, with all of those stages behind us, and a brand new stage right in front of us, that I gave her one last hug before getting into the car and watching her wave goodbye in the rear-view mirror.

There was nothing else to do but leave.  I’m just in the way, now.  I realized that it was what I was destined to do all those years ago.  My job was to get her to the stage she’s in right now and, truth be told, it’s my favorite.  But, I used to say that virtually every year.

I seem to remember someone once saying something along the lines of, “Just when your children get to the age where they’re actually interesting, it’s time for them to leave home.”

Well, my daughter has been more than interesting at every stage of her growing up with us, and she’s given me more treasures to store up in my heart than a man should be allowed.

I was ready when it was time for her to take her first steps and say her first word (which was “Daddy”, btw!).  I was ready when it was time for her to go off to kindergarten.  I was ready for middle school and high school.

I’m just not sure there was anything I could have done to be remotely ready for what happened next.

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMIN’

HSfootballI dropped my son off at the high school for practice this morning.  He’ll be a freshman in a week and this is his first year playing organized football.  Today was a particularly special day because it was the first day the freshman team practiced in helmets and pads.

Today they started hitting.

He was excited and ready.  I was excited and nervous and scared and worried and overprotective and weepy and prayerful and decidedly not ready.

The entire fifteen-minute drive on the way there I was silent.  I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to say something profound—give him some kind of father to son speech about what it means to take a hit and get back up no matter what, like Rocky gives to his son in “Rocky Balboa.”  I wanted to tell him to stand tall, no matter what, and never back down.  That’s the kind of thing a father says to his son, right?

I remained silent.

I wanted to tell him that if any of the boys hurt him that he was to give me his name, and I would go over to his house and speak to his parents.  Nobody hurts my boy and gets away with it!

I remained silent.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I realized how metaphor and reality were colliding and dancing around my brain, and I could hardly bear the irony.  My boy is growing up.  He’s about to get hit, figuratively and literally, and I just don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how I can protect him.

I didn’t want him to play, but I decided not to stop him.  He brought it up last fall and has been looking forward to joining the team for an entire year.  It’s not that I don’t love the game; I do.  It’s just that I don’t want my boy to get hurt.  Nobody can blame me for that, right?

In our modern-day world of parenting, I feel like sometimes we think we’re the ones who have taken the hits, and will continue to take the hits, so that our kids won’t have to.  But, they want to take their own hits; they need to.   I know this intellectually, but emotionally, I only want him to wrestle on the bed, with pillows all around him, like when he was four.

I pulled up to the curb to let him out.  He said, “I’ll call you when we’re done.”

I patted him on the shoulder and then he exited the car with his bag, jersey and pads like it was no big deal.  I wanted to say, “Good luck!” but I didn’t want to jinx anything.  I watched him join the other boys as they got out of their parent’s cars and walk toward the field.  I felt proud and sick at the same time.  Then I drove home.

I remained silent.