midlifedude

Man at midlife making second half matter

Archive for the tag “father-son”

What Brown Can Do for Me

What can Brown do for me?

Brown can hire my son and give him real-world, corporate, big-business experience in his chosen  field in college; offer him a sturdy rung on the base of the career ladder; teach him about the discipline, responsibility, accountability, integrity, honesty, Daniel_UPSteamwork and communications that comprise effective work environments; play a role in his maturation; and help him build a financial nest egg before launch into the adult world, all while he is still a teenager. That’s what Brown can do for me – and my 19-year-old son Daniel.

After years of watching United Parcel Service’s (UPS) television ads asking, “What can Brown do for you?” and seeing the brown vans with the brown-clad delivery personnel rolling through my neighborhood, I never expected that the world’s largest package delivery company and provider of supply chain management solutions would be hiring my son as a college freshman to assist with its information technology and data management operations.

For some time as a high school senior, Daniel seemed indifferent about work. But he made a 180-degree turn in his attitude, initiative and motivation, without undue parental pressure or requirements.

He started during his senior year in high school as a restaurant worker, preparing food and grilling in the kitchen and helping customers behind the service counter. To my surprise, he chose to maintain his job after enrolling as a freshman at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), even though his employer was 30 minutes away from campus. He kept that job for nearly his entire freshman year.

In his freshman spring semester, Daniel, a computer science major, attended a job fair on campus, connecting with UPS, which hired him as an intern. Among the benefits of an internship at UPS are that the position is paid, and it lasts more than a semester, or even a year. UPS’s internship can last throughout a college career, as the company uses its internship program as a recruitment tool for grooming future full-time employees.

Of course, since Daniel is a computer science major taking a full load of computer systems, math, informatics and science courses, and I am a liberal arts major who has worked in journalism, public relations and the social sciences, I have a hard time understanding what he is doing day-to-day.

But this is what I got from his description: Daniel works in the world of Big Data, which Wikipedia describes as “data sets that are so large and complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate,” and includes challenges such as capturing data, data storage, data analysis, search, sharing, and other functions. As someone who is perplexed by Small Data, I am quite impressed.

As Daniel describes it, he is an application developer who deals in the areas of customer engagement and quality control. He tracks and monitors UPS data centers and deals with code that helps keep track of data. He helps ensure that UPS’s delivery technology is working for its customers. He is a trouble-shooter.

As a father, I am proud and gratified to see my son holding down a professional job, working as a colleague with adults, becoming more independent, developing a work ethic, learning the value of earning a living and of saving for the future, investing in himself, juggling work and school, and evaluating through experience what he would like to do with his career before he is tossed into “the real world.”

Many young adults wind up directionless in their 20s, and squander precious time trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to identify interests and passions, and how those can translate to making a living, or in working in dead-end jobs in which they have little interest or future. I know a few fathers whose sons have dealt with these challenges, and both the fathers and sons have had difficult times as a result, both as individuals and in their relationships.

So what can Brown do for me? Quite simply, it is helping my son get a good start on his adult life, which brings me peace of mind. And that’s invaluable for a parent.

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Going, Going, Gone!

A week ago I lugged my son Daniel’s mini-refrigerator and cartful of computer equipment to a cramped dorm room at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) and officially became an empty nester. My daughter Rebecca left home for good later the same weekend to move into her new apartment at the University of Maryland.DanAdam2_PotomacHall

Since I’ve been gone all summer scraping together income to fuel my midlife career transition odyssey – except for one-day-per-month visits back home – teaching tennis at the Sea Colony Tennis resort in Bethany Beach, DE, the kids’ flight hasn’t fully registered with me yet. But when I return home for good on Labor Day night, I’ll be faced with the fact that my role as a parent has changed.

My kids have become so much more independent in the last year. Rebecca spent a semester in France and traveled throughout Europe. Daniel became more social, broadened his circle of friends, with whom he traveled to Ocean City, MD for Senior Week and California over the summer, connected with a steady girlfriend, got his first job at which he is advancing and earned college scholarship funds.

They’re becoming young adults, and our relationships will change. I am curious what those relationships will be like.

Since they are attending colleges nearby, they’ll be around on occasion, but now their college residences are their primary addresses. I am going to miss having one or both kids around the house on a regular basis.

I’m thinking the transition may be easier for me than for parents in an intact family. My kids lived with me only half the time for about half of their childhoods, since they were 9 and 7, because of my divorce. I always felt sad when I brought the kids back to their mom’s on Sunday evenings after a week with me, knowing I was going back to an emptier house and that I would likely only see them one time over the next week for dinner. The necessity to adjust to the back and forth, every other week arrangement I hope will help me adapt to this new transitional scenario.

Still, there’s nothing like your kids branching out on their own and establishing their independent lives to let you know you are advancing to new and later stages of life. I taught many kids tennis this summer and met their parents. I couldn’t help thinking those parents were me a decade ago, enjoying family vacations at the beach and doing fun kid things like walking the boardwalk at night and sliding the water park during the day. When I told tennis parent clients that I had kids also, though older at 20 and 18 and in college, I had a hard time believing it myself.

Rebecca has talked about becoming a teacher recently and of possibly following her boyfriend, a chemical engineering major, to some yet to be determined destination after college. Daniel will be pursuing studies in the computer science field at a university known for its strength in that area. They both have promising futures. I’m proud of how they have developed and the people they are. I hope I have had a positive influence on them and will remember some of dad’s “pearls of wisdom” that they probably didn’t want to hear when I offered. I implored both kids to take Spanish; they each took French. I think Daniel already may be happy that I highly recommended dorm life to him when he was considering other college living arrangements.

I look forward to developing and nurturing close and warm adult relationships with both kids. I hope it happens. It will be a two-way street from here on out. Both kids will have to desire that too and give our relationship love and care to help it grow as we all mature.

The kids are gone and one long and crucial part of my parenting journey is over. It’s been a challenge, a great learning experience, an honor and a joy, but also tinged with some tumult, sorrow and readjustment resulting from the family breakup and my second marriage. I am eager to see what the next phase will bring and know I will need to work at staying connected.

The kids are gone. In the coming weeks, I’ll learn how prepared I am to accept it.

Fatherly Words of Wisdom to a Son

PIC_0228With Father’s Day in three days and my son’s 17th birthday two days after that, I figured it was as good a time as any to dole out some fatherly wisdom. I gave my son a heads up that I was thinking of writing about my sage and hard-earned advice, and even offered him a few pearls as a preview to try to get his buy-in. I thought I’d blow him away with profundity, or at least cleverness, but it didn’t have that effect – more like, “Yeah, whatever.” At least he didn’t yawn, or if he did, only mentally. (I should add here, for the record, that my son is a great kid and I’m proud of him.)

Whether he wants it or not – and most teenagers don’t and I can’t blame them and I’m sure I also was that way at 17 — I’m going to give it to him. Because that’s my job, that’s what parents do. Here, eat your spinach, it’s good for you, and you’re going to like it, because I said so, and I know and you don’t!

In fairness, he’s heard some of this before. And admittedly, not all my insights are deeply profound. And some of these may be more, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But I believe when he is an adult, he will hearken back, and realize some of these nuggets actually were on target…and that’s why it will be required reading! Eat your spinach! (I actually have semi-required my kids to read certain newspaper articles about young people who have it tougher than them.)

The Top 25 Fatherly Words of Wisdom, with some overlap and in no particular order, except the first one, which is meant to be shocking so he’ll pay attention to the rest:

  1. Nobody gives a crap about you. Yes, this is harsh, overly dramatic, and for those who are even modestly lucky in life, not even true. But we all find out soon enough that the world can be cruel, so we might as well be ready for that.
  2. Cultivate your resilience – you’ll most likely need it
  3. Be the best friend you can be to your friends and the best relative to your family members
  4. Cherish your significant other/always have their back
  5. Focus on making your life fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable, not on accumulating (live as Spartan as you can)
  6. Develop self-confidence/believe in yourself (and fake it until you make it)
  7. Be proactive/avoid passivity
  8. Lead
  9. Be courageous/have courage of your convictions
  10. Find a passion and pursue it
  11. Don’t procrastinate
  12. Drink socially, not to get drunk
  13. Eat healthily and exercise
  14. Practice self-reliance
  15. Strive for authenticity
  16. Be bold/take smart risks
  17. Find your own meaning of spirituality
  18. Be generous
  19. Be compassionate and seek to understand others
  20. Beware of your anger/deal with it when you know you have it
  21. Accept responsibility
  22. Invest your money early and often
  23. Invest in yourself and don’t shy away from self-promotion (Look out for Number One).  No one will do it for you.
  24. Give back to a cause that is close to your heart. You will benefit spiritually and emotionally as much as those to whom you have given.
  25. Embrace the mind-body connection and nurture both – you will need each in good shape for a long time.

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