This is for Isabel
Today you turn 16, and honestly it’s hard for me to believe. Like so many things in our life we never know how much we needed something until we have it and then we wonder how we got along without it. I have to tell you every day of your 16 years has been that way for me, it’s been so amazing watching you become the person you are. I am literally filled with pride in knowing maybe I have played a role in that.
I remember many years ago taking you to the park with your bike and the first time you took off on your own, I knew you could do it and I knew that if I encouraged you enough you would, I also knew that for you to go I had to let go of the bike myself to let you succeed. That is what I’m feeling today. The letting go is the hardest part.
Today I want you to know that I will always be your biggest fan and you will always be my girl, no matter how many birthdays pass. I also want you to know that life is limitless and the only that stops us is us. I always try to teach you no regrets and while there may be a few days in life I would like to have back I wouldn’t change anything from what it is today.
You are an amazing young lady who has insight and wisdom of a much older soul but yet the playfulness of a bright eyed child, don’t ever let that go. Remember that line from Mary Poppins that I always say…”Anything can happen if you let it”. Never let anyone tell you differently and believe me they will try.
I know as days pass the letting go will continue and you will blossom more and more. I want you to know more than anything else that there will be times when you take off and there will be times you fall off the bike don’t stop getting back on the seat and know that I will always be a step behind to encourage you yet again to keep moving forward. Happy Birthday, all my love… Dad
Never heard of YOLO? Chances are your teens have and just in case you’re wondering its teen speak for “you only live once”. I know on the surface it seems fairly benign and possibly even empowering but it also can give kids carte blanche to make some really bad choices. In true Poppio fashion I can’t just preach to my kids that maybe this is not the best motto to incorporate as doing that usually just pulls them more to it, instead I had to come up with an alternative that keeps the same positive attributes but also filters out some of those bad choices that can be made in a YOLO moment. Instead of YOLO I talk about YLIN or “your life is now”. I want my kids to have that sense that they have to take chances sometimes and try things that may be well out of their comfort zone but I also want them to know this moment is all they have and it is right now. The best part about adopting this attitude, I have found, is I can follow it to set the example. I can walk my talk so to speak and instead of telling I can show them. As a dad I often find myself in the risk assessment business as I strive to provide in all ways for my family, while this is a noble act it also hinders me with my teenagers because it contradicts what I really want them to learn and know. Life is about choices and decisions I either make or don’t make but those are the moments that can define me so I need to be in the present moment as well thinking of the future impact and by constantly reminding myself that my life is now I also help them understand that this is their time as well and while you may (or may not) only live once you definitely will never be in this moment again so cherish it and think and act in a way that leads in the direction you want to move in.
Its been a month or so since I started this so maybe its time to explain the methods of poppiopushover. I know judging by just that moniker one might get the wrong impression about what I am trying to say. I am not about giving in and always saying yes instead I am more about finding ways to say “no” less. I realized a long time ago when it came to my kids I was not going to be the tough disciplinarian, it just isn’t me. My way has always been about breaking tension with humor so when I do get mad it is usually more laughable than anything else. I
Hmm, What if we did this instead of that…
read once that you should always focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses, so that is what I have done. I am good at explaining things to people and helping them find their own solutions, good enough to make a nice living out o fit for the last twenty years so I thought why not apply that to my parenting as well. I want my kids to know that they are limitless, that the only thing that can stop them is themselves. Unfortunately I see them bombarded daily by people saying no to just about all of their wants and desires and honestly I just couldn’t join that parade. So when the kids want something , big or small, we talk about in a way that teaches them there are prices and consequences for everything, I see it as emotional haggling. If you do this or get that then this is outcome, are you willing to live with that? That might sound a little intense when your kid wants a toy or something but it usually works itself out very quickly. Just like that day at the airport when Henry wanted the boat, and thus earned me my nickname, I could have just said “no, go sit back down” but instead I worked with him for a minute and look at what it has brought us. I do not claim to be an expert on any of this stuff but I do know that just a little effort to move away from no has brought me so much joy in my life as a parent. In case you’re wondering they do not always get what they want but when it happens it is usually their choice and decision which will help them in the future when the stakes become higher. That is the movement, literally, find ways to get away from “no” and move towards “What do you think”?
Have you ever had that feeling of standing still while everything around you moves quickly? That is pretty much what this time of year does to me, with all of the end of school year activities and getting the kids ready for new summer adventures, I sometimes feel like I am observing instead of participating. That thought put me on a trajectory today of why am I so complacent to stand still. For me it comes down to playing and replaying my own HIStory again and again. It is quite less scary to sit back and observe than it is to actually participate and I have gotten good at it throughout the years. The problem is I am too good at it now, I can give you reason after reason of why my ideas wont work, I certainly don’t need to wait for you to tell me that, so lets just play safe and pretend that my traditional job and career is enough to ask for and not embarrass myself by getting in the game…NO!!! That my readers is settling and I have an honorary doctorate in that, my wife , my kids and more importantly myself, deserve more. It’s funny how much courage it takes to act on an idea and how easily we will dismiss it at the first sign of a perceived obstacle. Whats even more amazing is in all this self-doubt and dream paralysis there is a lesson to teach my kids. Dreams belong to each of us and no one else, therefore no one can destroy it without first our permission. I am profoundly telling the world that I will not settle, I am telling my kids that same thing too for them. The fact that any of us lacks anything we feel we need to reach our dreams is what keeps us from trying in the first place. The real truth is that you don’t have to be a rock star to be a musician, you don’t need to have a book deal to be a writer, ultimately we are (or become) who we say we are over and over every day every time those feelings of settling and standing still push forward. I may not be as good as I want to be today but I will not let that stop me from being even better tomorrow. In the words of the poet Dylan Thomas ” Do not go gentle into that good night, rage , rage against the dying of the light” Damn right.
I dare you, usually the three words that predicated some of my worst life decisions, but in times much like this one those three words have also been the catalyst for moving my indecisive butt forward. That is where Poppiopushover was born; in that simple dare that I gave myself to move forward and get busy doing instead of dreaming. Awhile back my kids and I (I will get to them later) were at an airport waiting for a flight when my youngest son asked me to walk to the gift shop with him, being the industrious child he is he thought that if he showed me what he wanted and gave me his best persuasive sales pitch that he would probably win out…And of course he did, so when we got back to the other two kids my teenage daughter aptly coined my new name Poppiopushover (actually the full moniker is Poppio potty mouth pushover, but again I ‘ll talk about that later). The dare came later from their mom when she suggested I should blog under that pseudonym and now almost a year later here I am. Don’t worry I’m not going to write about being an easy mark or letting kids have their way with you but rather quite the opposite. I am very proud of my nickname because let’s face it there are far worse ones to have but really what makes me the most proud is the relationship I have with my kids that fosters that kind of communication and trust. That is really the essence of my work here, my kids are far past poopy diapers and saying the darnedest things, as teens and tweens they must face down drugs, sex and bullying to name a few and unfortunately they have to do this outside of the protective gaze of us, their parents. So through the lens of poppiopushover I am examining what it means to be a dad of teenagers and how to support them on this journey. That’s my dare, to be the father that doesn’t judge, preach or manipulate but rather leads and loves openly and honestly always preserving dignity and respect for all of us. Go ahead join the movement, I dare you!