Saturday, October 25, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Ongoing war of the sexes: Dad just can’t win

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 8/15/2014

Being a dad can be tough. Call it a stereotype, but it seems that dads’ well-meaning plans end in debacles a lot more than moms’ do. And often mothers are right there to tell them, “I told you so.” That’s what happened to Dary Matera, as he wrote in his story “Big Yellow,” published in our book of quirky family anecdotes.

Dary’s wife had been concerned about the school bus: They were hot, driven by strangers and unsafe, she felt. Dary argued that they were an important part of childhood development and convinced his wife to let their son Cody give the bus a try.

Being a dad can be tough. Call it a stereotype, but it seems that dads’ well-meaning plans end in debacles a lot more than moms’ do. And often mothers are right there to tell them, “I told you so.” That’s what happened to Dary Matera, as he wrote in his story “Big Yellow,” published in our book of quirky family anecdotes.

Dary’s wife had been concerned about the school bus: They were hot, driven by strangers and unsafe, she felt. Dary argued that they were an important part of childhood development and convinced his wife to let their son Cody give the bus a try.

On the first morning of kindergarten, to reassure his wife, Dary pulled aside one of Cody’s classmates, Nikki, at the bus stop. He told the two kids they’d be bus buddies and they agreed to look after each other. That afternoon, when the bus returned, there was no sign of Cody. Dary’s wife appeared to be on the verge of losing her cool. Dary saw Nikki, but when he asked about his son’s whereabouts, all he got was “I dunno.” His wife was already running back to the house to call the school. It turned out that Cody was still there, waiting for his mother to pick him up.

That night, Dary pleaded to let Cody try the bus one more day, and his wife agreed despite her concerns. The next morning the phone rang. Cody hadn’t arrived at school. “My wife was now making yesterday’s hysteria seem like a trial run,” Dary wrote. After shooting Dary a few “scorching glances,” she was off to search for Cody. Soon they learned their son had fallen asleep and been discovered at the bus depot. Amazingly, the next day brought another school bus debacle: The bus broke down, stranding the kids in 110-degree heat until a replacement arrived. Dary finally had to surrender.

Cody eventually grew to be a 6-foot-tall teenager with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but, as Dary wrote, his mother continues driving him to and from school every day. Sometimes a dad just can’t win.

•••

Saralee Perel’s story “Just Show Up,” published in our book on positive thinking, reminded me of a trick a friend uses to help herself exercise. It’s too easy to come up with excuses to avoid difficult tasks, and easier still when the task is an hour-long workout. So, my friend made herself a deal: Any time she’s considering skipping a trip to the gym, she tells herself that if she shows up, all she has to do is exercise for five minutes and then she can leave. The worst-case scenario is that she gets in five minutes of activity and, usually, once she’s there, she does considerably more anyway.

Saralee has used a similar approach for exercise and many other endeavors ever since a chance encounter that she believes changed her life. Saralee, who suffers from some physical disabilities, was walking on a trail near her home on Cape Cod when an older man encountered her resting on her cane. He asked if it was hard for her to get around on the trail. Saralee explained that it was usually harder to get herself out the door than to actually make her way along the trail. After they chatted for a moment, the man said three words that Saralee now repeats to herself every day: “Just show up.”

She put her new mantra to use shortly after the chance meeting in the woods. A local athletic league for children with disabilities contacted her to ask if she would be their opening day speaker for the upcoming season. Saralee had a serious fear of public speaking, but didn’t want to say no. So, instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong, she told herself to “just show up.” That’s what she did — and everything turned out great. Sure, she botched a few lines and even drew a blank on what to say a couple of times, but in the end she was surrounded by supportive people whom she was able to inspire with stories of her own perseverance. And, as always, she was able to accomplish almost all of that simply by showing up.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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