55-ima

(as appearing on The Huffington Post site: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57dca07ae4b0d5920b5b2bb4?timestamp=1474078095514)

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you!”

“Thanks Mom.”

“I can’t believe my boy is 55 years old.”

“Neither can I. I still think I’m 25. How are things? Still raining in Florida?”

“Stopped raining yesterday. Played canasta last night. I couldn’t be stopped. Won $7.00.”

“Great. Glad you’re enjoying the club.”

“You know what, Brian? I just realized that you can move into my community. You’ve reached the minimum age. Imagine if you bought a place here. Wouldn’t that be great?”

My birthday joy came to a screeching halt. To paraphrase Groucho, who’d want to join a club where your mom would have you as a member?

It’s not like I hadn’t seen it coming. The sudden checking of boxes on forms where I moved from the 40-54 category to 55 to Social Security age group. The number of cholesterol-lowering statins available to me. The graying of hair from head to toe, and everything in between

With the single tick of the clock, I had become my parents… in their golden, card-playing years. The road to impending retirement lay before me like a Vegas buffet. Everything I could want if I played my canasta cards right.

No longer cool or hip… more likely ready for hip replacement. I had become the walking, talking, slightly limping symbol of the man I once was. How did I get here and why did my mother want me to be there with her?

Would I have to use the golf cart from now on? Cruise the Caribbean? Pop antacids like candy? Refer to my children as “those crazy kids?” It was hard enough realizing that my millennial days were a millennium away… but when did my groove up and go?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mom, but realizing the age distance between us was narrowing while the distance between my kids and I was widening hit me like a ton of retirement community bricks. When did I become the tail end of the generation gap?

But who was I kidding? My next-door neighbor is almost 18 years older than I am. He is actually only five years younger than my mother. And guess what… I much prefer to hang out with him than listen to the 18-year olds at my gym. To be honest, with their power drinks, tattoos and three-percent body fat, they are like creatures Sigourney Weaver faced in Alien, which was a movie released when I was 18.

In my house, my wife and I don’t debate Katy vs. Taylor but rather the issue about my refusal to join AARP. (Never before 60, I have sworn.) I don’t have her look at my body to marvel at my six-pack but rather to investigate a strange-looking mole or a possible bald spot. Forget self-tanning or manscaping… I prefer that indispensible nose hair clipper in my nightstand.

And my body knows my age more than I do. When I run too much, it’s a trip to the doctor. When I play tennis too aggressively, it’s a trip to the doctor. When I decide to sand and stain the deck, it’s a trip to the doctor. And most of the doctors are so young. Forget Marcus Welby… I’m stripping down for Doogie Howser.

And it’s not like I don’t try to think and act young.

Four years ago, I surprised my eldest daughter and took her to Lollapalooza, a three-day concert in Chicago. VIP tickets with an open bar (not for her), shuttle service and cushy lounge seating. I was in middle-aged heaven with thousands young enough to be my children. But I was alone… a lot. My daughter dove enthusiastically into the youth-pulsating throngs, a sea of Gen X, Y and Z bouncing and bopping in perfect harmony.

I stayed put, feasting on free food and booze. Why mix it up with the hordes when there were mixers and mixed nuts? I looked out of my progressive eyeglasses and saw all the things that could go wrong… my daughter jumped in and experienced all that was right.

In that very moment, I had crossed the chasm from youthful exuberance to existential worry. Even as I took in everything, the 50+ me exhaled fear about her safety and whether she could find me when the masses dispersed.

It was obvious… I had moved well beyond my drug-filled NYC club days and was heading fast and furious to a not-too-distant future of clubs, jacks, hearts and diamonds. A bridge game to eternity, and what lay beyond.

Though we may not admit it, 55 and older shifts us into the fast lane toward 65 and retirement. Yes, Springsteen, Jagger and McCartney are still packing them in but I’m sure their suitcases pack plenty of medicines for the aches and pains tied to aging. I know very few of my fellow 55+ friends who haven’t given up In-N-Out Burger for insoles and letting their pants out.

So maybe it’s time to stop trying to stop time and look forward to the welcoming embrace of those already enjoying retirement living. It may be just around the corner… and around the corner from my mom. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy dinner at 4:30?

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(As appearing on The Huffington Post site:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bias-in-the-burbs_us_57d6bfa7e4b0eb9a57b7b00d)

As I gingerly lowered myself to the gym mat, over 50 but needing to do at least 50 sit-ups, I heard a conversation taking place near the free weights. Two men in excellent shape having a not-so-great conversation about the Dallas shootings and Black Lives Matter.

What I could gather between their grunts and my contorted exertions sounded vaguely like George Wallace 1968 meets Donald Trump 2016. Don’t blame the carbs… blame the blacks.

I stopped in the middle of my 39th crunch… was I hearing things or just trying to stop the exercise madness? And why was I surprised?

Among the rhododendrons and roses, at charity events and at sidewalk sales, the uncultured commentary from the cultural elite can sound strangely familiar to cable news punditry. Them against us. The haves and the have-nots. Dividing lines in the subdivisions of home, sweet home.

Was there racism among the rhubarb?

Quasi-bigoted comments can fly through the suburban air like a summer swarm of ladybugs. Everyone has an opinion on color, race, income inequality and religion to express, running the gamut from feverish liberal apologies to clueless conservative condemnations. And sometimes amidst the fragrant flora and fauna of fieldstone living, that song from Avenue Q “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” lilts a little too close to home.

When my children were small, and the Jewish high holidays fell on school days rather than on a weekend, a mom standing next to me at school pick-up had no problem complaining about “them having one more holiday that we have to keep our kids home for.” Forget the fact that my family has been “off” for Christmas our entire lives… Yom Kippur and “the Jews” were upsetting her morning plans.

I have witnessed the subtle, questionable furrowing of Main Street brows when some people walking seem to clash with the town’s high-end store windows. Just enough discomfort to disarm them and hobble their cobblestone gait. But just call it out and they will deny, deny, deny. Didn’t they just drop off last year’s holiday gifts at Goodwill? Wasn’t that enough?

I used to have two friends from town who quoted repeatedly from NPR and ranted against bigotry and racism from cocktail to cocktail. But two more drinks and faint drips of “those people” poured from their lips like cheap Chablis. And if their Hispanic cleaning lady called in sick, there would be hell to pay.

When moral values align with property values, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and every other kind of phobia has space to sprout like weeds in a well-tended garden. Primrose paths may unclutter the overscheduled mind but they can also restrict us from seeing the bigger world – and larger issues – faced by other earthly garden inhabitants.

Suburban white kids blast Kanye and Drake from their newly acquired Jeeps, tossing the n-word around like a football. No relevance, no foul, no reason to take pause or become concerned.

Do these hip-hop chants erase the lines between black and white or rather do they affirm that no ethnic slur is off limits? When does that singular word suddenly transcend Spotify and transform itself into invective?

When I was nine, my second cousin came over to my house. His dad was black and his mom Jewish. As we walked to the local deli for sandwiches, I was enthralled. He was tall and handsome with a towering afro, funny and the coolest guy I had ever met.

But even at nine, I could see some of my 1970’s middle-class neighbors twinge uncomfortably as we walked by. Even the local deli guy seemed to rush us through our order. I was still a child but I immediately recognized instinctual bias baked into the rolls and roast beef.

Has anything changed? In a 2008 editorial in The New York Times, Lawrence Levy said in an Opinion piece “It’s not that most suburbanites are racist, but rather that they tolerate more manifestations of racial bias than their urban and rural counterparts.” And maybe that’s my point. We may be willing to let the slings and arrows of racial profiling fall where they may as long as they don’t pierce the clapboard foundations of our lives.

We march for marriage equality but step gingerly when gay families arrive on the first day of nursery school. We rail against the building of border walls but spend our time constructing fences and alarming our homes. We cry out for the victims of Mother Emanuel Church but stay firmly rooted in the pews of our own houses of worship.

Everyone’s a little bit racist… is that a reasonable explanation for biased asides, innocuous innuendo and sideways glances? Do we get a free pass if we afflict no perceived cost on others? Do our significant property lines and charitable excess shield us from honest reproach?

And in pointing my fingers at some of my suburban neighbors, am I ignoring the white elephant in my living room? Aren’t I guilty of espousing tolerance and understanding behind a screen door of exclusivity?

All my life most of my friends have been white, and I grew up in urban communities in New York and Los Angeles. Almost all of my friends in my suburban town are white. Not black, Chinese, Hispanic or any other ethnic group. I may abhor racism but I seem to masterfully straddle the thin white line between talking the talk and actually walking the walk.

I believed by moving to a more liberal town, I could hold on to my liberal beliefs. And maybe I have. But are there enough Facebook declarations, clothing drives and charitable color runs to counteract the black-and-white, them vs. us differences in our minds?

We may paint our houses in perfectly matched hues and wallpaper over the cracks in our moral foundations. We may think money and securities will secure a better future for us, our children and our country.

But I leave you with this. One’s quest for a House and Gardens life cannot spackle over a house divided. Because only when our walls come down and we open our minds to confront our own biases will we truly be at home.

 

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“Here’s the way I will structure this interview. I will speak and ask you questions for 40 minutes. At the end of the 40 minutes, you will have 15 minutes to ask me questions. We then will end 5 minutes early so I can prepare for my next call. Do you agree? Okay, let’s begin.”

And so my first interview for another role within my company began. After 19 years of working steadily for this company, I had to secure another position based on recent consolidations and resource shifts within our organization. In other words, I was interviewing for my corporate life.

This potential new executive I would be reporting to had obviously taken one of those seminars on how to structure an interview. To ask those questions “inquiring minds” want to know. And as a good corporate citizen, he was adhering to a basic rule on the corporate pathway to success… put the other person on the hot seat before you get burned yourself.

Having been around the corporate block more often than I care to admit, up the corporate ladder and even once down for the count… the questions were nothing I hadn’t handled before. Strengths, weaknesses, value statements… this should be a quick 40 minutes. Let the games begin.

And then it started.

“I am going to give you two words. You must indicate which word best describes your management or performance style. You must choose one of the words. I will not accept any answers in the middle. Let us begin.”

“Strategic or Creative? Doer or Enabler? Bondage or Domination?”

Okay, I wasn’t really asked the third question… but I did feel somewhat constrained, and not in a good way. My home office suddenly felt like a white box in a laboratory where electrodes were monitoring my internal tics to see how I reacted. And the reaction wasn’t good.

The interviewer started another round of questions, more obtuse and psychologically ridiculous than the previous set. I now had to define basic technology terms (I am a seasoned high-tech marketing professional) in ten words or less.

Was this a corporate vocabulary test devised by a second-tier marketing manager with too much time on his hands? Someone drunk on the corporate Kool-Aid who wanted to be the cool new kid in company town?

The sands of my company time running out flashed before my eyes.

“What is Cloud?” (cirrus, cumulus and stratus not acceptable)
“Web?” (What kind of tangled one was he trying to weave?)
“Middleware?” (this interview was wearing thin quickly)

After nearly 30 years as a successful marketer, I was being asked to play Wheel of Fortune for my corporate life. Someone with less experience in a better place – and at the wrong time for me – was now in the position to make me jump through hoops and make every shot at me count.

It was like being asked the proverbial $64,000 plus benefits, paid holidays and 401(K) match game question.

And I realized, like hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of men and women (of a certain age over 50), I did not have the answers for the very first time. I was a middle-aged, middle-class middle manager mired in the midst of it all.

Let’s be honest. I wanted to roar against the absurdity of my precarious situation but wasn’t against lying to keep the paychecks coming. I was sick of being meek like a sacrificial lamb to the corporate slaughter but knew that was impossible when you need to put lamb chops on the table. I wanted to scream and shout and let it all out but desperately wanted to be in and not out the door.

Sick and tired of being tired of people like this, but not well off enough to take two giant steps forward and provide some two-word combinations of my own… suck and wind, f*** and off.

With one child just out of college and one more still to go, I would have to play red light, green light, one, two, ten years more. To pay for my daughter’s basketball games, I would have to stay in the corporate game.

Why had I left myself so exposed financially that the thought of being displaced and replaced rocked the very foundations of suburban life? How many men longing to play Saturday links were instead scouring LinkedIn morning, noon and night? Keeping it all under the covers updating cover letters and figuring out ways to cover the bills just in case, just in case…

The very hint of corporate jettisoning felt like primal abandonment and I desperately wanted to scream at my corporate inquisitor… “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” But I knew I was willing to take it for that whole 40 minutes if it meant trying to avoid a month of severance and unpaid vacation pay.

Oprah says live your best life. Suze Orman offers practical financial advice for a rainy day. And I hear it. Platitudes and pundits offering you the tools and tips to weather any storm. But I wonder… have they been asked to define themselves while the corporate clock marks one’s time?

If they have, then I’m listening… in ten words or less. Time starts now.

Lost Wallet

As I made my way out of my town’s budget-go-bust pet store (where kibble costs an arm and a paw), I saw a wallet near my front tire.

Nice wallet, I thought as the angel and devil that perpetually sit on my shoulders began to waken from slumber. Could it be the windfall I longed for after losing last night’s Powerball? Could it possess all the treasures of the world… or at least a Black American Express? Could I finally afford this overpriced, gluten-free, antibiotic-free, anything-but-free dog food?

As I came to my senses (and the angel knocked the devil out once again), I began to look for the owner. Opening the wallet, and quickly moving past the cash, I found a debit card, driver’s license and Saks Fifth Avenue card.

Putting aside thoughts of Ferragamo loafers and a Gucci belt, I began to Google the person’s name and address in hopes of identifying the mysterious woman (of excellent taste) behind the lost wallet.

Bingo… two phones number. Argh… two disconnected numbers. Hmm… this would be harder than I imagined.

I put my search skills to the test. 20 minutes later led to a new address in a neighboring town. But no phone number.

So I entered the address into my GPS and took off in pursuit of the rightful owner. Forget my business conference call. Ignore the sushi lunch special on the way… I was bound for parts unknown (but known to my GPS). I was on a mission made possible by Google.

Pulling into the driveway, I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Dogs began to bark furiously. A good sign… she was a dog lover just like me. I waited. And I waited.

Finally, the sound of feet followed by two false eyelashed peepers peering through the upper glass of the front door. I held up the wallet in triumph. The door flew open in joyous acceptance

“I found your wallet!”

“Thank you. I must have dropped it by the pet store.”

“I’m glad to return it. It took me a while to locate you. I couldn’t find your phone number as you must have moved.”

“Do you want my phone number?”

The question caught me by surprise. I was here… why did I need the number?

“Well, I’m happy I could return it to you.”

“And my rouge?”

“What?”

“Where’s my rouge? Didn’t you find my rouge?”

I stepped backward, my cheeks ruddy as if I was slapped in my face. What was this lady’s make up?

Shaking my head “no” in disbelief and disgust, I quickly walked back to my car trying to understand her thinking. I had found her bank card, license, credit cards and cash. Why the focus on face powder and a brush?

My mind exploded with questions. Where was the cul-de-sac courtesy of days gone by? The gratitude and offer of fresh-squeezed lemonade… a handshake, a hug, a heartfelt hosanna? Why the focus on transient things when kindness came knocking?

Her focus on colored talc colored my judgment of this woman and my suburban world. Did we live in a town and times marred by material minutiae? I had no intent or interest to take the money and run but I did want to run as fast as I could from her quizzical, inward gaze.

It feels like every day is a test of one’s patience and collegiality with a suburban community at a civility war with itself. Blocking of strip mall exits to respond to texts… Suburbans plowing through four-way stops on freshly plowed roads… cacophonous cellphone chattering at checkout lines. As if no one else existed. As if no one should care.

I’ve witnessed parents furtively pushing their toddlers ahead on country fair rides. Trader Joe’s tantrums by suburban moms over discontinued frozen dinners. Dads in debate over little league batting line-ups. Bad behavior in the land of birds and honeybees.

Why so rude? And not just about missing “rouge” but everything and anything? Had we lost our ability to look beyond the carefully coiffured images we had constructed for public viewing? I was taught to give my shirt to a stranger in need, not tie myself up in a straitjacket of me, myself and I.

But before I stop believing in the kindness of strangers, I will take moment and look down. Who knows what’s waiting for you the next time you discover something lost. Maybe a cold drink, a slice of warm homemade pie and a friendly face among the green, green grasses of my suburban home.

Now wouldn’t that be refreshing?

(As appearing on The Today Show Parenting site)
http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/i-am-my-fathers-son

My father was not your Ozzie and Harriet type of dad. Never coached a little league game. Never taught me to ride a bicycle. Didn’t take me on college tours or help with algebra homework. Didn’t wear cardigans, smoke a pipe or drink martinis. No camping, no house repairs, no trips abroad or broad observations on life.

But even though he was no troop leader or corporate bigwig, he gave me the world even when he sometimes had nothing to give. Showering me with unconditional love and never leaving me emotionally out in the cold. Never asking, demanding or requiring a single apology or explanation even when he deserved them time and again. Always rising to the occasion and demonstrating pride in my achievements.

He taught me to be kind to everyone and generous to all. Never to tip less than 20%. To always keep your car trunk clean and your fuel tank full. To never become self-involved or self-loathing. To always find humor in everything especially the Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks. Never to fret over what might have been but to focus on what possibly still may be.

Even as he battles cancer at 81 years old, he still starts our daily conversations off by asking me how I feel, and what he can do for me. My concerns are his concerns, and my happiness is his happiness. 3,000 miles apart and through his voice, I can feel the gentle way he used to run his strong hands over my fresh summer crew-cut.

And it’s for these reasons and a thousand more than I wanted to be a dad. To embrace everything he was to me and deliver all that – and more – to my children morning, noon and night. To be prepared for the seismic and microscopic changes fatherhood would, and continue to bring.

You see… even though he wasn’t the traditional dad with a leather tool belt and a bag full of answers, he equipped me with all those human tools essential for being a good dad. To listen to, and learn from, your children even when you’re feeling down, or out of ideas. To let them go left and right, and be right by their side always. To tell the truth even when the truth hurts, and then to take away the hurt before it scars.

And, most importantly, to take delight in seeing your son evolve as the type of dad beyond your own comprehension.

You see, unlike him, I have coached. I have led the college tour circuit from state to state. I am a whiz at homework help and can even pull off the occasional cardigan. I riotously cheer from the stands and from the sidelines. I can paint a room, wield a hammer and even help sell Girl Scout cookies. And I can jump rope and hopscotch with the best of them.

You see, that seismic change from “me” to “them” (and really “us”) was there from my start. My father had instilled that sense of something bigger than myself within me. He had no father in his life… I had a dad bigger than life. And that prepared me for that ground-shaking shift to fatherhood.

Life changes in profound ways when you have kids. Parenthood makes everything feel bigger and smaller, louder and softer, happier and scarier all the time. It’s a topsy and turvy existence as if you fell through a rabbit hole and ended up in place where you’re always chasing time. Chasing time so you can slow it to a crawl and make every second and minute count.

But from the time I was small, I knew fatherhood was my calling. And that’s because of my dad. I saw it in his eyes every time he looked at me. That sense of purpose and the unbridled wonder of it all.

And if I’ve given to my daughters even a small amount of what my father has given to me, one day, I know they’ll understand what every parent sees each and every time they look into their child’s eyes. The stars, the moon and the infinite possibilities of a trillion lifetimes.

(as appearing on The Washington Post Parenting site :
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/03/21/107-days-until-my-she-graduates-from-college-heres-why-that-numbers-significant/

As I write this, there are 107 days until my daughter graduates from college. So will nearly two million other young adults. But, for me, this number of days holds so much significance. Because it is the same number of days that my daughter spent in the neonatal intensive care unit before she came home. What once seemed impossible is not only possible, it’s real.

One hundred and seven days. Over 9 million seconds, 154,000 minutes. Staggering numbers for a child born at 24 and a half weeks, 715 grams. It seems it’s been a numbers game since the day she was born. The question I have asked since that first of those 107 days: will the numbers add up to a life well lived?

The odds were against her. The issues, from possible brain bleeds to cerebral palsy, blindness, learning disabilities. The percentages of micro-preemies that don’t survive. The number of children needing lifetime medical care and support. Numbers after numbers stacked against us, against her.

There was constant discussion of the numbers. Watching monitors, examining charts, the daily onslaught of medical statistics. The ongoing shifting levels in oxygen, lipids, fluid intakes, a virtual statistical algorithm that never seemed to add up in our favor, her favor. How do you calculate the future?

In 107 days, she will graduate from college.

More than 21 years ago, would I have ever thought to entertain that notion, say those words? I put my faith in miracles and modern medicine, believing we could beat the odds. Beat them into submission. Every minute an eternity, every second one more hurdle. Decisions at every corner of the NICU. How much to fight and when to give in. To never give in.

Scores of doctors and nurses, rehabilitation therapists and physician assistants moving in and out of her life day in, day out. Committed and concerned, they could buoy your beliefs and deflate your dreams in a single morning. A catastrophic brain bleed mistakenly diagnosed. Heart medicine to close a valve not what the doctor ordered so surgery at five weeks. A rollercoaster ride with seemingly no end.

And then there is that moment when she doesn’t wake up for days after surgery. When you pin a doctor against a wall at 2 a.m. pouring out your anger, frustration, fears and hopes in a single invective that rails against the possible dying of the light. Exhausted physically, emotionally, financially with seemingly nothing more to give. And it all seems bleak and barren and broken. When dreams seem to dissolve and dissipate.

But suddenly, when the seconds, minutes and days seem like a blur, she opens her eyes. And you see the resolve, the tenacity and the will in someone not yet weighing two pounds. Who is a featherweight champ fighting a heavyweight fight. Who is ready. Who is ready for something bigger than we ever could have imagined.

And the seconds, minutes and hours move faster and faster as this tiny person leads you toward home. As she tips the seesaw in her direction. As she opens her tired eyes and transforms those tiny incremental numbers into something solid, something tangible. As the numbers add up and one man, one woman and one child become a family of three.

And then 107 days later, one day before her actual due date, frightened and excited husband and wife will cautiously take that one step from that NICU toward the elevator, down to the lobby and out the hospital doors. With a child bundled in blankets of joy and love as she makes the journey home with her parents at the wheel.

In 107 days, she will graduate from college, and we will watch our 21-year old daughter walk across the stage, clutching her diploma and beginning the next stage of this remarkable life. Over 9 million seconds and 154,000 minutes from now. With no limitations, only the expectations she has for herself.

Four years of liberal arts learning about the world and herself will have led to the first of many milestone moments. The strength incubated in those 107 days in that NICU isolette has prepared her for new chapters, new worlds.

But this time, as we watch those 107 days fade into the past, and we prepare for that final ride from campus to home, she will be in the driver’s seat. The open road within her sight and the infinite expanse of the universe awaiting the next 107 days, months and hopefully years of her life.

(as published in Your Teen for parents Magazine, March/April 2016

When Parenting Styles Conflict

“Dad, can you drive me to Lisa’s house? Have to be there in ten.”

“Sure. Let me get my keys.”

As I open the garage door, thundering, urgent feet resound above my head.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m taking Kate to Lisa’s house. She has to be there in five.”

“I said she couldn’t go unless she picked up her clothes from the bathroom floor. She’s playing you again. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

And so it begins again. Two parents divided by one child. Opposing sides within the privacy of our four walls. No winners in a no-win game.

Teenagers have you coming and going time and again. Urban guerillas in skinny jeans and high tops, they unconsciously (consciously) work the schisms, large and small, between parents to gain advantage. And while parents often remain fortified in joint resolve, one’s ability to continuously negotiate and mitigate the damage can fracture a marriage.

I get it. As of child of parents who were never on the same page or reading from the same book, my siblings and I quickly understood that dad’s “yes” meant mom’s “no,” and vice versa We were off to race our bikes (or the movies) as they argued about the whos, whys and hows.

And it got worse. Once divorced, we did the math… division multiplied the ways we could win, and win big. Two homes… two sets of rules. You’re always on spring break when the marriage lies broken apart. Because what’s left when you can’t agree on what’s right for your kids?

When our children are babies, daily baths and dreaming of a rosy future keep cooing parents perfectly in sync. But as time moves on, and children enter their hormonal teens, diapering and daily naps evaporate into frantic discussions about when they can drive the car and whom they may date.

My wife and I… we see the big picture. We check and double check on our agreed-to checklist of what is right, and what is wrong. We check with each other before finalizing any big decisions. Face to face… in texts… on the phone… day in, day out. And most of time, we have peaceful nights on our peaceful lane.

But all it takes is an umpteenth request to drop off, pick up and clean up a sleepover mess from our it’s-all-about-me 14-year old and… what makes our house a home suddenly leaves hairline cracks in our foundation.

Suddenly, it’s…

Didn’t I know my daughter just went to the mall yesterday?
Why did I get hoodwinked into driving four of her friends all over?
Why do I need to always be so likeable?
Who raised me… wolves?

The last question sets off heated discussions about parenting style and substance well into the night. Suddenly, we are like two clan members fighting over ancestral moral territory that neither of us really cares to defend. While our teenage daughter softly slumbers, dreaming of Shawn Mendes and Ray-Bans, we are left existentially exhausted in a king-sized bed torn asunder.

It’s so funny. We seem so in tune. Treat our child badly and we’re steadfast allies taking no prisoners. Medical emergency? We are a well-trained triage team moving in perfect unison. Boyfriend troubles? Mom heals a broken heart while dad runs to Baskin-Robbins to soothe the wound.

But in seizing the role of good cop, have I forced my wife into the unwanted role of suburban shrew? We are both nurturing, honest and funny; homebodies who love being with our teenage daughters for dinner or open discussions.

But our high-school and college-age daughters see the fundamental differences in our personalities and parenting styles. My “don’t worry, be happy” attitude. My wife’s common-sense, firmer approach. My extroverted exuberance. Her introverted resiliency. Her strengths. My strengths. Our strengths, and our weaknesses.

So maybe next time I’ll text my wife before I drive my daughter… better to be safely aligned than have to say you’re sorry.

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