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Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Dad's Point of View: Am I A Selfish Parent?

It’s high time I wrote a column that stirs some reaction, creates some controversy, and isn’t so sweet and nice. No gratitude for surviving what should have been a deadly car crash, no treatises on the values of volunteering, or even about the importance of spending more quantity time with your kids. After all, this is a man’s point-of-view, not some touchy-feely new age guru. Look at the magazine rack at your local bookstore. The women’s section is literally full, while the men’s section mostly consists of magazines about cars, motorcycles, or supermen who climb ridiculously high mountains without oxygen. We won’t even talk about daytime television where Oprah and Ellen dominate. I don’t count Dr. Phil, for obvious reasons.

So, what is it that is so different and might rankle some of my by now loyal readers and fans (I can dream, can’t I)? It’s simply the notion that sometimes parents must think of themselves and be selfish. This applies, in my opinion and observance, most especially to stressed single moms whose ex’s participate little or not at all, much as my situation was till I was blessed to meet ShortRib (my nickname for my wife) and re-marry. Frankly, either due to the fact I am a man or maybe an inherent selfish slug, I never suffered from this problem. I managed to find time for myself and the needs of the boys.

The light bulb on this issue lit up on a recent ski trip with ShortRib, Jughead (my younger son) and I. GuitarHero (my older son) continues his teenage rebellious ways and chooses to find a friend to stay with versus suffer going skiing for the weekend.

JugHead, who has been in this altitude many times before, got a pretty bad nosebleed on Saturday morning, just before we were heading out to ski. Both ShortRib and I took turns helping him, but the amount of bleeding was definitely excessive as was his panicky reaction. I called the local hospital and they gave us instructions on how to stem the flow of blood and when and if we’d need to bring him to the ER. We held his nose tightly, from the top to the bottom, for over 30 minutes and, finally, the bleeding and hysteria stopped. Sadly, JugHead is a bit of a drama-king whenever any pain (or a shot) is involved. ShortRib, being the nurturing woman, gives in to that while I’m trying to teach him to tough it out.

But, thankfully, it did stop and his upbeat, normal mood, instantly returned. The day was gorgeous, but it was clear he and we didn’t want to chance his skiing, in case it happened again. I suggested that ShortRib and I alternate going to the slopes so we didn’t each miss out on skiing, our mutual passion, and JugHead would not be alone. She was adamant that she wouldn’t go, but that I could. I begged her to reconsider, but she wouldn’t. So, I went and checked in every little while. After only 45 minutes on the mountain, she calls and, almost in a panic herself, tells me to hurry back as it began again and he was freaking out. She said JugHead wanted to go home immediately.

I rushed back (which was not easy) only to find he was calmer and the bleeding had stopped again. This time, however, I gave him a relatively stern talk on being a man, learning to deal with some pain, as there will be some pain in life. I gave him examples of my own and his grandpa, who endured hellish pain for various reasons, stoically, throughout his life. JugHead calmed down. I explained that running away would only teach him how not to deal with life’s crises.

Again, I suggested to ShortRib that she go skiing and we alternate. Again, she refused. I went back and had a great couple more hours, again checking in regularly. All was fine, and JugHead was busy playing on the computer, reading, eating, and watching various DVDs. The next day we all went skiing. Upon our return home, I took him to the specialist who examined his nose and saw a healing blood vessel that apparently broke, either due to the altitude or JugHead blowing his nose too hard, but the upshot was there was no problem.

We give in to our children’s whims and complaints too easily. Sometimes, we as parents need to take care of our needs. I needed the break of a ski weekend; so did ShortRib. She chose to be over-the-board careful and I chose to be, what some might say, selfish (remember, she’s a new mom, with our marriage, and had no previous experience parenting while I’d lived, mostly alone, through many similar traumas and was more relaxed about it).

Parents need their time away from their kids; whether it be a regular date night (which so often is planned and cancelled for superficial reasons among couples I know) or separate vacations together. Yes, separate vacations (from the kids), too. Of course it’s more difficult for the single parent, but most single parents have either family or friends that can take care of the kids when they go out for an occasional evening or go away for a needed restful or active weekend. Okay, you can now send me those I’m out-of-my-mind letters. I’m ready.

Please visit www.brucesallan.com to contact Bruce and to enjoy the various features his new Web site offers, including a unique Ask Bruce For Advice section, an archive of his columns, contact info, links to his published work, photo galleries, and reader comments, plus much more. Bruce Sallan was an award-winning television executive and producer for 25 years. Google him if you really want to know more (e.g. his credits). When his boys were quite young, Bruce left show biz to become a full-time Dad. Shortly thereafter his marriage ended and his wife abandoned their children, leaving the State. Bruce found himself a full-time single Dad, in his late forties, as well as a returning single man to the changed world of cyber-dating. It became a classic “sandwich” situation when he also began to care for his ailing parents. He began writing various blogs on the dating sites he used as well as articles for local publications. The goal of his column, A Dad’s Point-of-View, is to primarily focus on parenting and occasionally other issues from the male perspective. Presently, his column is available in over 50 newspapers and Web sites in the U.S. and internationally. Bruce lives in Agoura, California with his second (and last) wife and two boys, who are 15 and 12.

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