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Friday, June 5, 2009

A Dad's Point of View: Patience Is My Middle Name

First, a disclaimer. It seems the reactions to my families’ nicknames has been mixed from readers. I respect my readers and I also got the same feedback from a new friend, via this column, in Australia. Isn’t the Internet amazing? So, hereafter, I will dispense with the nicknames. My wife is Loren, my older son is Will, and my younger one is David. And, I love them dearly.

I’m sure you catch just a little sarcasm in the title of today’s column. Patience has and is my biggest personal struggle. With me, with others, with the world at large. You’d think that having kids would moderate that poor characteristic. And, I suppose, to some degree it has. But, in general, this is my Achilles heel.

As a child, I can remember looking forward to special events like going to Disneyland for my birthday. Disneyland, in those days, was actually fun and much less crowded. Then, we had individual tickets for the rides, “A – E” tickets, with “E” being for the big ones like the Matterhorn; hence the by now forgotten “like an E-ticket ride” expression. I couldn’t sleep the night before and once we finally got there, I’d be the first kid to run in and get in line for whichever ride that we were heading towards first.

When I was a kid, many things that we take for granted now, required patience. All of television was only available when it was broadcast and if you missed it, you were out of luck until and if it was shown again. No DVR, VCR, or any sort of video recording device. Listening to music required a radio or going to the music store and buying a record. No instant downloads. And long-distance phone calls were saved only for emergencies. We wrote to long distance friends and relatives and waited for answers, in many cases, for days and weeks. Imagine that?

So, now with the world moving almost literally at the speed of light, and after raising two boys from infancy, you’d think that I’d mellow a little. Nah, I still want it now! Whatever “it” is.

But, as a parent, I wonder how our children are learning patience? David, my younger son, bought some manga magazines on EBay the other day, and was informed that they’d be sent by U.S. postal mail and to expect them to arrive within 3-9 business days. When they hadn’t arrived on the third day, he began pouting. By the ninth day he was practically apoplectic. They did arrive. On the eleventh day.

He also is a big movie fan and needs, I use that word facetiously, to see the big, important movies, without fail, the first day or weekend that they open. Do you remember when movies actually played for months on end? I remember buying tickets, at the box office, to “The Sound of Music” as a Mother’s Day present, weeks in advance, for my mother. How quaint.

I asked Will (my teenager) where he thought I was impatient with him and he said that I was impatient about anything and everything I ask him to do (e.g. chores), to which I have to own that as completely true, because I’ve grown to expect him not to do them in a timely manner. So, like the boy who cried wolf, I’m extra-sensitized to when he does or doesn’t do a chore and I’m looking for him to fail. That, naturally, doesn’t help matters. He’s got a teen brain; it won’t mature until he’s 35 or so.

David said that I’m always rushing everyone when we go skiing: to get up there early, to get going, to move faster in the line, etc. Again, I have to own that as I sometimes still feel like that kid rushing to get in line at the Matterhorn at Disneyland, when I’m skiing. I learned, with David that going at his pace actually allows me to have some influence on him, while pushing him to keep up with me only creates distance.

The same sorts of things happen between Loren (my wife) and me. Wow, the more I write this, the more I sound like a creep. Maybe I’d better distort the truth a little and tell you all how wonderfully calm and zen-like I really am. Nah, no one who knows me would believe that. I suppose the simplest example with my wife is when we walk. I walk faster by nature and by having a 10-inch advantage on her, I need to consciously slow down or she practically has to jog to keep up. At restaurants, I’m the first one done and the first one asking, “Okay, ready to go?”

So on this subject, I guess I’m the culprit in my family, for the most part, and like so many of the stubborn things we do, it does me no good nor does it promote harmony among us. I guess I should utilize more competently my often-said mantra about getting older, that the only good thing about getting older is the possibility of getting better. And, by getting better, I mean getting better in our relationships, knowing how to moderate our behavior and comments, and just maybe having a little patience.

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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