What’s it like when your daughters get married?

Kathryn is getting married this weekend. She is my youngest daughter and the second to get married. Family and friends are gathering, some for the first time in a long time. Preparations are in order and we are trying to enter the let go of the stress period. It seems the question I have been asked the most is how am I feeling as my daughter gets married? Given the number of times it has been asked, I thought I would try to answer it here.

Bailey and Kathryn have been on their own, living away from us ever since the day they left for college. They have grown into beautiful, successful, independent, and I might add, brilliant women. So why is it that it is such an emotional rollercoaster ride when eventually they get married?

As a father, you become the go to person in their life. When they have that question about how things work, dad’s the one they ask. When things don’t work, dad’s the one they ask why. They may take their broken heart to mom, but it’s dad that’s asked to fix it. In short, dad is the real man in their life. This might be the place for me to chastise the fathers that are absent dads. How could you fail to fill that important role in your child’s life? What was more important?

When your daughter gets married, you are about to be replaced. There is suddenly a new man in their life and rightfully so. They have chosen the man they will spend their life with. The man they have fallen in love with. The man they might one day start a family with. As much as you respect the man they have chosen and trust him to take care of your little girl, it is hard to step down from the position you held for all those years. But as the understanding, caring dad you are, you accept your new position with grace. In short you get over it.

And then there is the flip side of this ride. Your position may be diminished, but you have, provided they chose wisely, gained a son. A son you can now spend time with learning new ways to do things, getting your computer to work better, and a needed resource for those tasks you were never really great at like grilling anything better or properly preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. Never underestimate the knowledge and skill of the younger generation or the youthful energy they bring to a project you needed a strong back to get finished.

Still, the most important, pleasing result of watching your daughters get married, is the incredible sense of pride you experience as they slide their arm through yours and walk down the aisle with you at their side for at least one more time. You have succeeded. They are fully grown, independent, and ready to start this new phase in their life. They have survived middle school, high school, first dates and last dates, college life, and cruel professors, often with your advice in their ear telling them you can do this. You realize at that moment that you aren’t being replaced, just added to the partnership as that second opinion. After all, they told him that he would be expected to ask dad first for their hand in marriage. As you walk them down the aisle, you come to know the incredible depth of the love you hold for them and that in your heart they will always remain your precious little girl. 

First Jobs…..How do we get them?

For my birthday this past year, my daughters purchased a membership for me in Story Worth. I currently write an article a week for the collection. Each week, I get a new question to write about and at the end of the year, Story Worth will bind and publish my responses in a book to be shared with my grandchildren. This week’s question was “How did I get my first job?” What follows is my response. I felt that I wanted it added to this collection as well.

The question here is whether we talk about my first job or my first career job. My first jobs were all part time in nature starting with my very first job as a busboy for an exclusive country club. I followed that up as the weekend car wash manager and from there, graduated to a combine operator for a canning company harvesting peas. My first life skill job was that of a rough carpenter on a house building crew. Over the next eleven plus years I would work for several different contractors building homes and apartments. This job provided me with skills that I applied throughout my life. All of these first jobs were landed through the connections my father had. Though he got me in the door, it was my willingness to do more and to learn everything I could that kept me employed and often promoted. I learned through my father to make connections, to always be networking, but also to go above and beyond the job expectations. Hard work does pay off but so too does ingenuity and initiative.

My first career job was in teaching and came immediately after graduation. Due to circumstances, I graduated in December and looking for a job in teaching meant my opportunities were limited. If I were to teach, I would have to accept a midterm assignment or offer myself up as a substitute teacher. The latter was not very attractive and the former meant I had to replace someone. I threw my application out statewide and even some out of state schools as well. My only opportunity, there was a glut in teachers due to the Vietnam War, came out of a tiny town in far northern Wisconsin.

A teacher was being let go for discipline reasons and I was granted an interview along with three other math educators. When I arrived for the interview, we were all in one room. Sitting across from me were three highly gifted math students. I knew they were sharp because they had been my competition through my degree program at the university. We had all just graduated from UW Oshkosh that December of 1973. How could I even compete for this position? Listening to them talk about how they were going to present themselves, I realized they were going to sell themselves based on skill and knowledge. I had to take a different tack. I decided I would root my answers in discipline and relationship. If I could maintain discipline in the classroom, I could develop a relationship with my students. I would inspire them with my passionate belief that learning was easier in a safe and relational environment.

                                          Loyal High School Logo

Twenty-five years of teaching later, spread across two different districts, I retired on my terms. In between I would make numerous presentations to multiple school districts, win a District Teacher of the Year award in my third year of teaching, and receive two nominations for State Teacher of the Year awards. I would develop educational games, create project based curriculum and write concept based curriculum for the district math department, K-12. My proudest achievement was that my students always knew why they did the math. On one occasion I was asked how I answer the question “why do we have to learn this?” My response was “I don’t know. I’ve never been asked.” As the saying goes now-a-days, mic drops!

I hope the take away from this piece is that who you know is important as long as there exists a relationship of trust. Networking is an important part of that relationship and will help open doors, but ingenuity and initiative will keep the doors open. Never stop growing, learn everything the job and the world have to offer. And one last piece of advice, and this too came from my dad.  Whenever I wanted to change jobs, he would look at me and ask why I wanted to do that and then he would follow it up with “whatever you decide, be the best at it.”  Wise words from a wise man.

Thank you Cat Stevens for Reminding me!

I just returned from meeting my daughter and son-in-law at the airport. They were returning from a quick five day kid free vacation and we were returning their prodigy. Where had the kids been you ask? Why with us for their own five day staycation with Mimi and Opa.

It became obvious early on that we would be camp directors. Events were planned, clearly not enough of them. Activities were put in the schedule, not always their idea of fun. And sleeping arrangements were made, not to be followed. For the next five days, I swam in our pool more than I had in the last five years. I watched My Little Pony, two entire seasons! My co-director and I took turns reading every Berenstain Bears book, just praying it would put them to sleep, it didn’t. And we learned that strawberry milk and ice cream actually can be breakfast foods, like we were going to do battle over proper dietary intake, though we did broach the subject once only to surrender our entire force at the first sign of trouble. I leave it to their parents to reestablish any semblance of control, in my opinion, an appropriate lesson for sending us all those pictures of them hiking by beautiful mountain lakes while we manned the castle walls.

During my grandpa sitting adventure, I ignored the forty plus emails in my inbox. I shirked my volunteer duties completely. I pushed every request for my attention aside with “I am tied up for the next five days” as my all too literal excuse. I skipped meetings, rearranged appointments, and in general shut out the outside world. In other words, sheer stress free bliss.

For the past five days, I played, laughed, wrestled, made up games, and learned more than I ever thought I could about Minecraft and building robots. For long hours each day, I was a kid again. At one point, to negotiate one child who wanted to fish while the other wanted to swim, we wound up fishing in our swimming pool. No I didn’t stock the pool, just removed the hook, tied on a washer, and two of us would play the role of fish, mermaid in Adela’s case, while the third member of our fishing excursion would cast the line and reel us in. I can hear you laughing and I know what you are thinking and I am here to tell you, yeah it looked that silly, but the sheer pleasure of the game and the laughter of my two grandchildren was worth it even if my wife someday posts the video on Facebook.

If I had a wish, I would want everyone to at least once in a while have the chance to play with a grandchild. To experience the complete release that not having a work schedule, not worrying about what anyone thinks of them, not sweating the little things, actually feels like. To have the chance to just be a kid, if even for a little while.

I leave you with this thought, The Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon! Don’t miss the message imbedded in the song.