J.W. Holland

If you evolve you never stop learning.

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My Son’s Simple Answer to This Question Broke My Heart

sadkid

As someone who has fought my own depression and anxiety, I never realized how it affected those around me. I also never knew how noticeable it was to those in my life. It wasn’t until I began to get treatment myself that I found out how visible it was in others. What scares the hell out of me is when I recognize signs of it in my kids. No matter how slight they may appear to others, each one is a serious event to me.

The differences make them individuals, and it also has made me develop new parenting skills as each of them crosses into a new stage.

All of my sons are unique, as most children are. Very seldom are any two kids identical in demeanor. The differences make them individuals, and it also has made me develop new parenting skills as each of them crosses into a new stage. Saying that it has not been a challenge filled with frustrations and mistakes would be untrue. They frustrate me, anger me, and drive me crazy. The reward for all that is getting to see these boys grow into men who I have helped prepare for all the world has to offer.

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My middle son is perhaps the most free-spirited of the three. He is almost always happy, and usually content with whatever he has. He takes care of his belongings, unlike his brothers, and is thankful to us for everything we give him. Watching him play by himself is a joy. His imagination is unbelievable, and when he is in those “other worlds” he draws you in with him. There is no object he can’t turn into a toy and no piece of clothing that can become a superhero costume. He is his own person, and that is awesome to me.

He does occasionally have his moments when he is almost entirely shut down. Usually, these times are related to being tired or hungry and are typical of exhaustion or lack of blood sugar. The times when those aren’t the obvious causes are when I become the most concerned.

A few nights ago he just wasn’t himself, and the more time that passed, the more apparent it was becoming. I initially was frustrated with him and his ‘moping.’ The more I watched him, though, I realized it didn’t appear to be an ordinary eight-year-old pouting session. My wife and I both asked him several times what was wrong, all we got was a shrug of the shoulders and a sad face.

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Finally, I looked him right in the eye and asked what was wrong, one more time. I had to know as his father it was my job to know, and he was going to tell me. If it was something stupid, he was going to be in trouble. No matter what it was, I was going to get it out of him. His answer was simply “I don’t know” and he preceded to break down crying.

The words crushed me.

I immediately felt a sense of guilt and shame. Guilt because I feel like it’s something I may have passed on to him, and shame because I didn’t recognize it immediately. That my own son was showing signs of what could be depression and I didn’t initially give him the support he needed, made me feel horrible.

I immediately thought back to all the times in my childhood when something was wrong, and I didn’t know what it was.

I didn’t know what else to do at the time, so I just grabbed him, picked him up and held him tight. He sobbed, and I sank. No matter what triggered this event, it was my job to help him through it. Up until this second, I hadn’t done that. I immediately thought back to all the times in my childhood when something was wrong, and I didn’t know what it was. All those times that I was told to “get my ass off my shoulders.” and quit sulking. All the moments I needed someone just to hug me and tell me it was ok came back, and I was devastated yet again.

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I foul things up with my kids fairly often; this time was different. Here was a scene that I knew all too well, and in fact, I should have been an expert in dealing with this. I completely dropped the ball, and I failed my son. I recovered, but I still have to believe that I had already done the damage. I can’t get that out of my mind.

Moving forward is all I can do at this moment. It is what I have to do for not only my son but myself. I have spent too much time in my life dwelling on things that I should have handled differently. This is my child, and he needs action not regret. He needs support; he needs love, and he needs understanding. If this was just a singular event or a signal of a deeper issue, is something we don’t know yet. In either case, it is my job as a father to address it appropriately.

I want all of my boys to look back on their childhood and be able to say that they had a dad that understood and supported them. A father that was fair and also consistent. An upbringing that was about growing them into adults not just punishing their mistakes. I want them to be able to one day say “my dad understood and cared.”

In short, I want them to have what I never did.

 

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4 Things A Man Battling Depression Can’t Say

Over the course of my life especially before I started to get treatment I have had times that depression and anxiety would almost completely shut me down. I was still able to appear alive and well but inside there wasn’t anything but what could only be described as terror. The kind of fear that only allows you to see doom and everything in life ending badly. It’s not a great feeling at all, but the effect it had on those around me was just as difficult for me to take.

My wild mood swings put strains even on the best relationships. It was usually written off as moodiness or just a generally bad mood, but it was so much more. Those of you who have struggled with this terrible affliction will understand. The problem, however, is that for those aren’t cursed with this disease sometimes have a difficult time accepting that it is out of the control of the person affected. What seems minor to you gets blown way out of proportion to us, and reactions seem so overblown and out of line.

In my worst moments, I was a horrible human being, that couldn’t be reasoned with or comforted. I would throw out all the common decency that I had and unleash hell on whoever happened to be there. If you made the slightest mistake or said the wrong thing at the wrong time you saw a different side of me, one that I am not proud of.

Those times were difficult for everyone, especially me. In my mind even while they were happening I was screaming at myself internally to stop, just stop! But I couldn’t, I didn’t know how, and sometimes I wondered if I really even wanted to.

There were a lot of things that I said in those moment, most of them I regret but the problem was all the things I couldn’t say. The things that simply wouldn’t or couldn’t come out of my mouth. My brain wouldn’t allow it, my feelings held them in place my depression locked them in a place that I couldn’t access. For a lot of us, men especially it is difficult to fully express our emotions, feelings and thoughts. When you mix in depression and anxiety those things become a near impossibility.

In those moments, there were things I simply couldn’t say no matter how hard I tried. Many men have the same struggle and it’s important to recognize when that is the case.

We can’t say what’s wrong– When someone is in a bad mood, or seems to be upset about something many people want to try to fix it, especially wives. The only way they say they can help is if we tell them what’s wrong. The problem is we don’t know, we haven’t the foggiest idea what the hell is wrong. We know deep down that whatever the trigger was probably wasn’t the real issue. We really want to be able to say what’s wrong, we want to calm down and get over it but we just can’t.

We can’t say we’re sorry– In the heat of the moment in the middle of an episode of depression or anxiety we probably say hurtful things. We may have even made you cry, and we are sorry we just can’t express it. At least, for me, it was a defense mechanism to somehow prove to myself that I was right about whatever illogical thought was running through my head. The apology usually comes later, and even then it’s difficult and usually comes in some other form. The problem is that it’s usually too late and the damage has been done.

We can’t say we need space– I never could anyway, even when I knew I was in a bad place mentally I could never express that I needed some alone time. This is actually when the most hurtful thing I could say came out. It wasn’t that I meant any of it, it was that I needed to be left alone, I needed space and I needed time to gather myself I just couldn’t say it. I know that sounds ridiculous and somewhat childish but it’s true the more I was pressed the most vicious I could become until I had pushed someone away.

We can’t say we need help– This is all too true for many men with mental health problems. We still live in a society that looks differently at those who admit that there may be a problem. Our culture is changing but it is changing too slowly. We are taught at an early age not to show weakness and this only exacerbates the difficulty searching for treatment. When we finally do admit to ourselves that something isn’t right, we are still unable to express that to anyone else. It took me a very long time, too long, to be able to admit to anyone and seek treatment. The time I wasted cost me some really great experiences and opportunities. The regret will always be there.

I am certainly no mental health expert, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know how this awful disease has disrupted my life and the life of my family. It’s not something I am proud of and the hurt I have caused may never be fully forgiven. All I can do moving forward is to take care of myself and work to get better every day.

 

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Originally posted on The Good Men Project

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/4-things-man-battling-depression-cant-say-kcon/

 

 

 

Five Ways to Tell You’re Not a Complete Screw Up as a Dad

Five Ways to Tell You’re Not a Complete Screw Up as a Dad

Most nights I come home from work and the house quickly erupts into chaos, if it isn’t in that shape before I get home. Three sons all under the age of 13 tend to bring that type of atmosphere. A full-time job and a wife that is heavily involved in the kids school and sporting activities means we are all busy and at times overwhelmed. Then add the fact that we are currently hosting an exchange student from Italy and you understand we are a busy family. Finding quality time for each other at times is hard, finding personal time for ourselves is a near impossibility.

Few nights go by that someone doesn’t cry, or go to bed upset. A lot of nights it’s me! So through all the chaos and hurt feelings, and occasional screaming fits, again usually me, I sometimes look at myself and my family and think I am a complete failure as a dad. It’s at these moments I really have to take a step back and look for things I am doing correctly.

So in those times, I have observed some things about my sons that give me hope that I am not completely and totally wrecking their lives. Hopefully others will be able to find these things in their own households. These are the five things that help me believe I am not a total screw up as a dad.

My kids tell the corniest jokes— They tell the dumbest most ridiculous jokes in the world, but they find them hilarious and so do I. There’s nothing better than an eight-year-old trying to tell a joke while laughing at himself because he knows the punchline. Sometimes it’s just a word that makes him laugh, usually it is something like booger or poop.

They have a firm grasp on sarcasm—This one tends to be more subtle but when you realize they are becoming students of the art of sarcastic expression, you can rest assured you’ve done at least something right. In a sick sort of way, I get a great deal of pride and pleasure when one of my kids cuts me to the bone with a sarcastic remark.

Negotiation skills are finely honed— You know that your job as a parent is progressing toward success when you realize that through the course of a conversation with your son, he somehow persuaded you to change your mind. This can be achieved in different ways usually depending on age. The two-year-old, just screams at us until we relent. The eight-year-old usually employs the sad face and the faux act of surrender by slowly walking away, slumped down with the occasional glance over the shoulder to see if we’re watching. The twelve-year-old, has developed a hybrid approach that include a combination of the skills learned at the younger stages, however now he uses his own brand of preteen logic to convince or simply confuse us into an agreement.

They love their mom— I as a dad find myself much more liberal in my approach than the generation that raised me. I tend to let things slide that would have found me sentenced to the Gulag. Those are usually things that in the grand scheme of life won’t matter tomorrow. One thing I wouldn’t tolerate is disrespect and especially disrespect to my wife. I am fortunate though that I have three sons that do their very best most days to show their love for her. I know that my kids love me, and I know that my relationship is different with them than with their mother. It does however warm my heart to see one of them curled up next to her on the couch or simply wanting to be near her while she is in the room.

They love each other—Sure they fight, fuss and scream at each other. They go out of the way to annoy each other to the breaking point. They live to torment one another, and each of them would rather die than allow one of their brothers a millisecond of peace. However the moments when they don’t know you’re watching, and you see the love, be it a kind comment, the sharing of candy or even the occasional I love you, I know that something has gone right, that day at least.

I know I have made a lot of mistakes with my kids, I’ve said things I shouldn’t have, I have ignored them when they needed me and I’ve been a general ass to them at times. Overreaction sometimes is my middle name, and complete freak outs have been heaped upon them. Many of us have made those mistakes, and while we can beat ourselves up about the missed opportunities or the mistakes, we should never forget to recognize the things we have done right.

With each passing year, it becomes painfully clear how little time I have to influence their lives. I know that soon they will be on their own and dad’s advice won’t be something they are required to follow. I can be encouraged now however when I see the positives and be that much more diligent in dealing with the negatives. I have to remind myself occasionally that I am not a dog trainer or a computer programmer, I am a parent. I can’t train them into obedience, and I can’t program them to be perfect. Many of life’s lessons will have to be experienced, what I can do is prepare them to be ready for those moments.

So when they are grown and hopefully making good decisions and living a positive life happy in who they are. I will be solidified in the knowledge that I did something right.

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Originally seen on The Good Men Project

http://goodmenproject.com/families/five-ways-ive-noticed-im-not-a-complete-screw-up-as-a-dad-kcon/

 

 

Good Men Articles over the last few weeks.

I haven’t updated this page in a week or so, but I have had a few more articles posted by The Good Men Project, here are the links. 
http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/three-times-when-anger-wasnt-anger-kcon/

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-no-dad-should-vote-for-donald-trump-kcon/

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-real-mans-candidate-kcon/

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/five-reasons-men-dont-chase-their-dreams/

http://goodmenproject.com/families/four-dads-every-kid-needs-kcon/

Please take a look and let me know what you think. 

I am excited that I was asked to do a special article on the State of the Union speech from this week that will go live on the site on Friday January 15th!

The Challenging Child

Being the father of three boys, one becomes an expert in a lot of areas. Like where are the most likely places to find unexpected puddles of pee? How many times does the cat scream before it scratches someone? What does and doesn’t require stitches? Are Christmas ornaments digestible? After your second son reaches the age of four or five, you’ve pretty much got it covered.

Or so you thought.

With the first child, everything is new. You learn, you make mistakes, you overcompensate, you freak out over everything. You read every book, article and listen to all the bad advice that anyone and everyone is willing to give. You do ok, until they reach the teen years but thats another story.

The second child comes and you know what to expect in most areas. You probably have favorite brands of diapers and formula. You know what equipment is needed to make a trip to grandma’s, and you know how many stops it will take alone the way. The second child is what I like to call the set up.

You see with the first two children you and your wife have decided that you are somewhat experts on parenting. Everything that could be thrown at you has been, you know the secrets, you understand child psychology, and you have your game in order. You are such experts that you begin having conversations about how many kids you really want. Four, five, more? Heck lets become foster parents or adopt even more! There is nothing stopping the train of parenting that you are ready to unleash on the world.

Then it happens.

The third child emerges, the child you’ve heard about. The one that completely turns every thing you thought you knew about parenthood completely on its ear. This is the child that you’ve seen in the airport and stores that you assumed was just a product of crappy parenting. The one that you told yourself was out of control because it hadn’t been properly train. Who’s parents you looked sideways at and in that patronizing way said something like “looks like you’ve got a handful”. Yeah that kid, now its yours, or should I say now its mine.

We waited five years in between children, for various reason we just spaced them out that way. When we decided to have our third, it didn’t take long to become pregnant. The pregnancy went fairly well without any major complications, which was great because we did have some with our second child. So with a 10 year old and a 5 year old we were ready for the newborn.

Our third son was born in September of 2013, we had been in Arizona about six months so we had already had some life changing events. However nothing prepared us for what was coming. He was born, a beautiful blonde haired blue eyed bundle of joy. He rapidly turned into a blue eyed blonde haired ball of fury and flying spaghetti sauce!

In his first two years of life, he has given me at least two mild heart attacks a week. We didn’t have a human child we had a spider monkey with a bad attitude. There is no child safety device complicated enough, no counter high enough, no door lock strong enough to keep this kid in check. He climbs, he breaks, he destroys, he torments, he is… that kid.

His high pitched screams, tantrums, and anger issues have driven us into a life of seclusion, we no longer leave the house. Family events are now the older kids and one parent events, we dare not subject our other kids, ourselves, or society as a whole to the wrath of a two year old who no longer wants to participate.

We fear for babysitters, and we live in a constant fear of him doing serious harm to himself because of his curiosity and ability to overcome all security measures. We live our lives with a common mantra, keep him alive! He’s made some daring escapes, one including a trip down the street to play in the neighbors yard. Many tumbles and falls and injuries, all because he is the most determined, stubborn and intelligent kid I’ve been around in a long time.

He is simply a two foot ball of frustration, he’s committed to doing everything himself. There isn’t a task that he wants anyone to do for him, there isn’t anything he doesn’t believe he should do on his own. So as time has progressed, I have become ok with that. I can see he is simply developing into his own person, be it in a very different way than his brothers. I see what he is able to accomplish, and I try not to look at is as simple rebellion or bad behavior any longer, I try to see it for what it really is. A child wanting to grow, and learn and be self sufficient. As we progress through each new stage and the different challenges it brings, I see development, I see growth, and I see someone who cant be stopped.

While there are definitely places we as parents need to help round the edges, we must learn to accept that our children are going to be their own individual. We should want clones, and we cant expect perfection. So be happy with who they are becoming, and enjoy the ride. You’re not screwing it up.

As a dad I can tell you, we will make mistakes. We may miss opportunities, we will have things to regret. That’s ok, because no matter if its a challenging child or a child that occasionally challenges, our job is the same. Be there.

And keep em alive!

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