My oldest son recently moved out of state to start his college career, and I have found myself in a very reflective mood the past few weeks. Not only have I been thinking about how I have done as a father, preparing my son to leave the nest, but I’ve also been thinking about how I have developed personally over the last decade (plus a few years!).
It’s been 12 years since I learned I wasn’t married anymore. So much has happened in the past dozen years that it would be impossible to concisely summarize the range of emotions I have experienced.
Whether you grieve the loss of a loved one or grieve the loss of a relationship, over time you mourn in your unique way, and ever so slowly move forward. A divorce (especially when there are kids involved) has its peaks and valleys. Just when you crest one big hill, you can get another gut punch that pushes you back down.
For me, those punches don’t come in physical form, but rather mental body blows that, simply put, have caused me to slip a little down the hill I so badly want to climb.
Men who go through divorce are stereotypically challenged in many ways. I will be accountable for many of the stereotypes…such as often holding my feelings inside, not talking as openly with others about how I was feeling and most importantly, not asking for help when I could have benefited from having someone to talk to.
Over the past decade of personal development, I have learned more about myself …and in addition, I have learned about others. And now seems like the right time to share a short list of the top 12 lessons I have learned over the past dozen years.
- Regardless of how steep or how many hills there are to climb, it’s amazing what happens when you keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward. (regardless of how many gut punches you take, it’s how you get back up and handle yourself that matters)
- With all the inconsistencies there can be with two distinctly different parenting styles, I have learned to be consistent in my approach and to stick my guns.
- With the lack of uniformity there is with the shifting of two boys (now one) back and forth from two different environments, I learned how important it is to be present for my boys.
- With the lack of harmony there can be with raising (and maintaining) my boys with their culturally Jewish roots, I have learned to be consistent in leading by example.
- With an erratic nature of some of the keys of early-stage parenting, I have learned to showcase appropriate basics like table manners, proper hygiene, open and honest communication, and overall respect for others.
- I have learned how important it is to listen to my boys. To let them talk openly, without judgement in mind….without interrupting them (or minimizing it at least!) Building trust, one conversation at a time. The concept of; “connect first, then correct”, has worked very well for my two boys.
- I have learned that when parenting styles clash or are different, the kids often bear the brunt. They get mixed messages which can cause confusion. I learned to double down on being as clear and consistent as possible during every single conversation I have with my boys. This has helped to alleviate confusion.
- I have learned there are instances when biting your lip is better than saying something in haste. Once it’s out of your mouth, it’s tough to retract it!
- I have learned how important it is to find outlets that keep your brain and body as healthy as possible….I have always enjoyed the gym but it became even more of a focus the past 12 years
- I have learned that as uncomfortable as it is/was to unite for the sake of my kids, that it’s the right thing to do.
- I have learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable!
- I have learned how important it is to communicate clearly in a variety of settings. High stress, conflict, different personalities and more. I have also learned that there is no “one size” fits all communication style. When I truly dial in and listen first, I can learn how best to communicate in each and every unique conversation I have with my boys.
Have I mastered any of these lessons? In short, no, I have not. I’m a work in progress and continue to refine my personal development, one conversation at a time. If you’d like to watch my recent TEDx Talk, you can watch it here: