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“I’m alright jack keep your hands off my stack”
— Pink Floyd

This blog takes the “good enough” parent idea one step further and questions whether we are teaching our children what they need to know to be a part of, and create, tomorrows world. My son has just completed his school education (my daughter has a couple of years left) and I’m uneasy that the focus of schools in general has become increasingly narrow and focused on producing technically educated “workers” at the expense of a more generalist, social education.

This in turn raises a very important question – what is, or should be, the focus of school education? Should it be, as it seems to have become, focused on teaching our children the skills they need to be part of the workforce? Or should it broader and focused on society as a whole which would include areas such as, for example, politics, parenting, relationships, financial acumen, philosophy, world affairs and, indeed, the very nature of society.

Incidentally, even though I have been known to take the odd swipe at the teaching profession for the number of holidays built into the year, I do not think teachers are in any way part of the problem. The incumbent government(s) set policies which lays down tracks and they determine which way the train goes. We are here because our elected leaders put us here.

I will state up front that I do not think that the current situation is benign. The neoliberalistic world does not want, does not value, and prefers we do not create critical thinkers who understand society and its shortcomings. The current world order simply wants more, what French philosopher Foucault termed, “docile bodies”. People whose main focus is on how to do well in society (i.e. amass stockpiles of money) and not question the very nature of society. How, in New Zealand in what is termed a “rock star economy” can we have 250,000 children living in poverty? And why is there denial/acceptance and not outrage?

In Darwinian terms, a “good enough” school produces children able to survive and thrive in today’s environment only. After all nature does not know what’s coming and so the dinosaurs didn’t breed their young to survive in a world with a vastly altered climate. For a human example just cast your mind back to the World Wars and the generations brought up to happily sacrifice themselves for “King and Country”.

Darwinian survival is about adaption to incremental change over time and our education system is trying to keep up in terms of what the modern workplace needs but is that enough? Do we really want to make sure the next generation is able to keep the wheels of industry turning or do we want them to think, and dream, about a better world, a better planet?

 
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“Someone needs to buy a radio station, then play nothing but audio books, with a different genre of book played at set times. That way we can always have something new to read, no matter where we are.”
— Shana Chartier

This blog is a slight aside and instead focuses on my latest achievement, narrating my own audiobook - click here if you are interested in buying a copy! I always intended to turn The Single Dad's Guide to the Galaxy into an audiobook but time often overtakes intention!

   

Given that I'm self-publishing, using a professional narrator wasn't an option and this, I thought, may be a show-stopper. It was the cool team at AudioBooksNZ that made it possible. In particular the patient and dedicated Theo who answered my queries speedily no matter the day or time.

AudioBooksNZ, sensing a gap in the market, have created a self-record kit. I volunteered to be the first to trial the kit and over Christmas we created an audiobook.

I have to be honest, we learnt some lessons along the way which I have documented and made available on AudioBooksNZ's website - check them out here. In turn they have tweaked their approach and we both hope it will be easier for the next users. It is certainly a fun and cost effective option.

I loved the process and I discovered that reading your book out loud is possibly the best way to uncover the last of the errors that lurk in the pages. I was mildly devastated to find errors but I have corrected them and all eBook and print on demand editions have been updated.

Now I have the full suite of book offerings (print, eBook and audio) I feel ready to launch the book on the international stage. I will plot and plan over the next couple of weeks and then, who knows......

 
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“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
— George Carlin

The phrase "the good enough mother" was coined by the British paediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott in his book Playing and Reality. It is described well on the website Psychology Today and it is how mothers need to alter their parenting from a complete focus on their baby (perfect) to one that allows the baby to start to develop cognitively (good enough). This allows the baby to start to understand a world that is separate from their mother.

   

I’m not going to dive into the theory here, as it is not my area of expertise, but the concept can be used for most, if not all, parents. And it goes a little deeper than you may first think.

By being a good enough parent, and not striving for perfection, allows us, at the very least, to take a breath and relax. We can’t be perfect anyway, although it seems we strive to achieve it on a daily basis, so we just need to be good enough. Don’t sweat the small stuff and have fun.

At a deeper level though, striving to be the perfect parent has, it seems, negative consequences for our children. They don’t get to experience all the things they need to in order to be fully equipped to survive and thrive in the world. They become “spoilt” and reliant on parental support, unable to “make it” on their own. You certainly don’t see this in nature. Parents of all species make sure their offspring “have the opportunity” to survive and thrive. If they didn’t, they are producing dinner for the offspring of parents that did. Nature is completely ruthless in that way.

I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard of examples of parents basically baling their children out of trouble and helping set them up for future failure. Remember the parents who took their son's school to the high court so they could row at a regatta? The children breached airport security and were rightly disciplined by their school only to have their parents take the school to the high court to overturn the decision. The lesson for those children, if you have money or influence you can avoid consequences.

I have recently witnessed two episodes of this phenomenon, one of parents and one of the children it produces. In the parent’s case, a teenager goes overseas on a two-week holiday of a lifetime with friends. The teen becomes homesick and so the parents decide to fly their boyfriend over disrupting the whole balance of the trip. Clearly more dollars than sense.

The child example, now an adult in age, has been given everything because his parents are wealthy and simply does not understand how the world works and how he fits into it. He (or at least his parents) have literally bought him a career and he remains completely unaware of his all too obvious short-comings. The business will sadly fail and no lessons will be learnt.

So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that doing everything for your children, or money, will give them the best start in lives. It won’t. You need to be a good enough parent to make sure your children are ready to take on their own challenges where they will win some and lose some. That's life. If you try and be a perfect parent they won't become someone’s dinner, but they will never reach their potential.

 
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“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and answer to, all of life’s problems.”
— Matt Groening

I think we, that’s New Zealand (or most western world countries for that matter) as a whole, are doing a pretty poor job when it comes to alcohol. I was able to reflect on this on an unexpected, and unwanted, trip to ED.

I spent a chapter of my first book looking at alcohol from the perspective of drinking as a parent but now my children are well into their teenage years, I’m being confronted with alcohol from their perspective. It is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a sobering experience. We, as a society, see alcohol as appropriate to celebrate, commiserate, chill out, party and in just about every adult social setting and so it isn’t surprising that teenagers are keen to crash the party.

One of the main reasons we are doing poorly is that we are in denial about the fact that alcohol is a drug with the same addictive properties of drugs. We don’t like to talk about this but the main ingredient is ethanol and it is addictive. I’m in huge admiration of Lotta Dann who very publicly via her blog and book (Mrs D is going without), allowed people to walk and stagger in her shoes. I’m sure she has helped many people because her stories sounded like any of us.

For all intents and purposes, alcohol should be in the same boat as tobacco though we treat it as though it’s an everyday grocery item, like soda water or meat. Alcohol and tobacco used to go very much hand in hand as anyone who visited a pub before smoking was banned will testify. In my younger days, as an aspiring cricketer, we were regularly sponsored by Lion Red and Benson & Hedges. There were ample supplies of the sponsors products thrown around the dressing room gratis and the sponsors got exactly what they wanted, young sporting role models smoking and drinking. 

The anti-smoking lobby has been incredibly, admirably successful and tobacco has been banished from sight and wrapped in hideous pictures and slogans. Alcohol, on the other hand, has its own aisle in every supermarket and still appears on TV. We all know of the dangers of smoking but alcohol’s impact on society makes equally tragic reading (check it out here) in the areas of health, driving, crime and violence.

This blog isn’t the start of a personal crusade against alcohol but part of me wonders why it isn’t. The logic I hold on to, which I’m sure is similar for many, is that alcohol in moderation is fine. And it is. But equally, smoking, gambling, oxycontin, junk food and recreational drugs are all fine in moderation and that leads us to the hard question - can you have a drug or vice that is, for the vast majority of people, social and not detrimental for society. The alcohol statistics appear to paint a different picture of the one we have in our collective societal wisdom.

The other key question to address is cui bono – who benefits?

When the anti-smoking lobby started their campaign they were pitched into almost armed confrontation with “Big Tobacco”. “Big Pharma” are currently defending their right to not only addict and kill people with powerful pain medication, but to export this to other countries. Peter Garrett came out on the losing end when he tried to stop the gambling industry fleecing Australians via poker machines.

Who wins? The suppliers of products because they don’t have to deal with the downstream costs.

These industries, and I think we need to include the alcohol industry, make healthy profits from people addicted to, and or abusing, their products. What would be the impact on the alcohol industry or the TAB if everyone only drank and gambled socially and in moderation? They would shrivel overnight and so no matter which way you look at it, they have a vested interest in people over indulging or becoming addicted.

It is into this environment that, as a parent, I watch my children grow and take their place. Our society provides clear messages about what is socially acceptable and what isn’t. Smoking, not so much these days but drinking, that gets the big tick. It shouldn’t have taken a trip to ED (all’s well now by the way and I have enough material for two chapters in my next book) to get me thinking about this, but sometimes you do need a kick up the backside to open your eyes!

 
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“Happenstance - a circumstance especially that is due to chance. They came together by mere happenstance.”
— Merriam-Webster.com

www.someecards.com

Biology is as close as our education system gets to teaching us about parenting. Maths, science, geography, English, history physical education, chemistry etc help us make sense of the world and what we want to “be” as an individual. Biology focuses on human reproduction rather than parenting though this, in part, helps us avoid being a parent until we choose.

Our education system, and its underpinning philosophy, has been captured by a scientific world-view and this perspective privileges quantifiable facts over intangible aspects of our world. We teach children the process of creating a child (understood scientifically) and omit to educate about parenting (a mystery to the science community and many scientists) which is the more important aspect of the operation. This logic unfortunately repeats across many disciplines. We teach doctors to treat medical conditions not patients, accountants to balance the books but not understand the impact on people (staff, clients and society in general) and lawyers to apply the law, not seek justice. If they do pick up more humanistic skills, it is from their own experiences and their ability to learn.

So, the elephant in the room is where do most people learn their parenting skills? The answer is likely to be from their own experiences of being raised, their own parents, school teachers and other care givers. Some parents also arm themselves by reading books and chat with friends to gain knowledge. In other words, happenstance! I hope I’m not alone in thinking that is a crazy way for society to treat what is “that most difficult of all undertakings: being a parent” (North & South, Sep17).

The saying - it takes a village to raise a child – we now view as a historical notion yet in it I can see logic and sense. All children will be raised in roughly the same way as there is a collective view of what is, and what isn’t, good and appropriate parenting. In this way parents too are educated about what is expected of them. Parenting is clearly high on the village’s agenda. In our society parenting has fallen completely off the radar and we have adopted an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach providing parenting services primarily when things go badly wrong. It seems a sad, but logical, link that the lack of parenting education is accompanied by the need for the Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

Our society is dominated by the individualistic (neoliberal and economic) view and the idea that a village operates as a whole belongs to a collectivist view that has fallen out of favour. You can see this in New Zealand’s debate regarding child poverty. The individualists (neoliberals) point at parents and believe this problem is theirs alone to solve. The collectivists look at our society and say how have we created a world where this has happened. Obviously, there are also a range of views in the middle but, interestingly, neither extreme view does anything to advance a solution for a hungry child today.

This is because another problem we face comes from our love of science and, in turn, its love of reductionism - the practice of analysing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of its simple constituents. Thus child poverty is viewed as a separate problem from unemployment or education yet, if we just stand back, they are all so obviously intertwined it is dim-witted to try and solve the problems individually. But society is divided into discreet ministries that allow us to treat a child’s medical issue (Ministry of Health) and send them home to sleep in a car (Ministry of Housing).

What I think would help is to introduce basic parenting education in schools that will arm our youth with knowledge of their future role and responsibilities. Most parenting classes are logically aimed at parents but the classes miss the majority of parents who would benefit from them. Imagine if we only offered driving lessons once our children are behind the wheel and most didn’t attend. We would likely need a Ministry for Vulnerable Pedestrians, Cyclists and other Road Users (the MoPCRU).

I like the way Congressman Bob Filner (24 May 2005) put it in a speech to the US House of Representatives.

Is it not strange that one of the most important and difficult skills, raising children, goes untaught? Learning parenting skills is vital because the early experiences of children's lives impact their potential for learning and for mental health. We need to create better parents because neglected or abused children are especially prone to perpetuate this cycle when they become adults without resources for healthy parenting. School-based Parenting Education programs can help to prevent future child abuse and work to build healthy children by developing an understanding of child development in future parents and by providing parenting skills such as empathy, listening, problem solving and critical thinking.

My plan, admittedly long-term, is to write the book that school children throughout New Zealand will read as part of their schooling. My current book is focused on improving parenting and how dad’s in particular see their role as parent. That’s ultimately why I wrote then book in the first place although self-publishing is a tough way to get to people! Interestingly it adds the voice of a single dad into the discussion. If we don’t educate our teenagers about parenting then the concept of single parenting or being a single dad’s must seem other worldly. Yet the statistics tell us many soon find themselves in this position.

 
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With the release of The Single Dad’s Guide to the Galaxy, I’ve been propelled at least a little into the spotlight, and I’ve found myself answering in-depth questions about all manner of parenting subjects. This was unexpected, and the questions - which are often insightful - have forced me to reflect quite deeply in order to sound vaguely intelligent.

A broad theme that naturally emerges in these interviews is around the difficulties of being a single dad. What I didn’t realise at the time I became separated was that I was faced with a question – how involved did I want to be in my children’s lives? I could become an absent dad, a weekend dad or I could carry on being (or even improve on) the dad I was. It is only with the benefit of reflection that I realised that actually all dads are confronted with this question.

A key point that emerged while reflecting and writing the book was that I learned to be a better dad, parent, father and person because I was a single dad. I simply had to be engaged with my children in the most minute detail otherwise life for us would have quickly turned pear-shaped. When the children were with me, there wasn’t anyone else and if things had to be done, it was up to me to do them.

If we consider the traditional nuclear family dad for a minute, regardless of whether the family is intact or blended, they are in an interesting position. For many dads there isn’t the pressing need to become intimately involved in their children’s lives, so it becomes a matter of choice. And with the pressure to earn money, and then earn even more money, dads in particular (but also mums) can easily become fixated on their careers, leaving the bulk of the parenting to their significant other. From what I’ve seen, this remains the dominant model of family life.

Parents in this position are in a bind, as the rhetoric around “family friendly” and “work-life balance” is misleading at best and more likely a work of fiction. There will be organisations where it isn’t, probably smaller and managed by enlightened souls, but in the majority of our organisations the truth is that it’s work OR life. One of the major reasons I was able to spend the amount of time I have with my children, and get to know them as well as I have, is because I was self-employed. The down side is that, from a career perspective, I’m in exactly the same place I was a decade ago when I became a single dad.

I’m a great believer in the concept that once you know something you can’t easily unknow it. Every parent who reads this (or who reads my book) may ask themselves the question – how engaged am I in my children’s life? What am I really trying to achieve as a parent?

I’ve found it interesting that in the majority of interviews or discussions I’ve had about parenting, the other person starts reflecting on the relationship they had with their dad. At this point in the conversation what we have always known is confirmed: our dads have been a huge influence in our upbringing whether through their presence or absence. And I’ll bet that   of us wish we knew our dads far better than we do or did.

Ultimately, I don’t believe it’s your marital status that determines whether you’re fully engaged in your children’s lives. In many regards, this is a red herring. It is to some extent a choice - and choices have consequences and, in this case, likely sacrifices. Is your big house on the hill and socially dubious car really worth it? Maybe a smaller house and more economic car would be perfect if they echoed with your adult children’s conversation and grandchildren’s laughter.

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“An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.”
— Jan Carlzon  

For those who like a more visual approach, try this vlog . . .

 

I was surprised to learn that Father’s Day has quite a history and, according to Wiki, dates back to at least the Middle Ages. As with most of these traditions it can trace its inception via religion and was historically observed on 19 March, as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini ("Nourisher of the Lord") in Catholicism.

Fathers' Day seems to have been first observed in New Zealand at St Matthew's Church, Auckland on 14 July 1929. It is now celebrated on the first Sunday of September and, again like most of the religious traditions, has become more focused on commerce than one that has real significance.

I thought though, what better day for all the Single, Solo and Separated dads to have a think about how things are going and I put together a short list eight point list that can be answered simply yes or no.

  1. I don’t fight with my Ex in front of the children.
    Yes! Well 99% of the time, we are human!
  2. I am the positive male role model for my children I should be.
    Yes! Calm, rational, fair, wise, self-sacrificing, patient, reliable, trustworthy and honest.
  3. My house is a haven for my children.
    Yes. I should make them do more around the house but, as teenagers, they have plenty on!
  4. I put my children’s needs ahead of my own.
    Always – Work and career wise I’d be better off somewhere else but I can wait.
  5. I know what’s currently important in my children’s world.
    Most of the time but I need to make sure I spend time with them as teenagers can be quiet.
  6. I have a work/family balance that lets me see my children as much as I want.
    Yes but this is a hard one. Work likes to talk family friendly but they often don’t mean it!
  7. I do not spend time stalking my Ex, physically or on-line, and I do not try and control her life.
    Yes – any other HONEST answer should set off alarm bells.
  8. I’m okay!
    Mostly I’m okay. There are things to work on. There are always things to work on!

If you can honestly answer “yes” to all those statements then you’re heading in the right direction. Some cover quite large areas, such as “I’m okay”, and so it’s likely that you may have the odd “no”. If you do, then you have taken the first step towards change - acknowledgement. As the quote from Jan Carlzon at the start indicates – once you know something it is almost impossible to "unknow" it and it’s time to take responsibility and do something about it.

After reviewing the list I wondered what a list for other dad’s (that’s those in nuclear and blended families) would look like. I wasn’t that surprised that, with a couple of minor changes, the list is exactly the same. The danger for these dad’s is to think that they don’t need to do anything as we're a family so we must be okay. You maybe okay but you still need to be able to answer yes to the statements!

  1. I don’t fight with my Partner in front of the children.
  2. I am the positive male role model for my children I should be.
  3. Our house is a haven for my children.
  4. I put my children’s needs ahead of my own.
  5. I know what’s currently important in my children’s world.
  6. I have a work/family balance that lets me see my children as much as I want.
  7. I do not spend time stalking my Partner, physically or on-line, and I do not try and control her life.
  8. I’m okay!

Oh, by the way, The Single Dad’s guide to the Galaxy is a great Father’s Day gift. Just saying!

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There is a mountain of material on the internet about self-publishing. Some of it’s useful, most of it isn’t. Many simply want to add you to their email list or sell you their guaranteed method to a “six figure income” via webinars (which are actually advertorials). It sounds too good to be true because it is. The real problem with this mountain of information is that you’re only able to judge good advice after you have self-published which is a catch twenty-two.

I’m in the process of self-publishing my book – The Single Dad’s Guide to the Galaxy – and it’s hard work. Thankfully I’ve learnt a valuable lesson, and not the hard way for once. And, like most lessons, it applies in a range of contexts.

Respect other people’s skills and what they bring to the table.

What this lesson really highlights is something that should be common sense but, given the evidence I see, is far from it – false economy. False economy is when you think you are saving money but it either costs far more in the long run or you never achieve what you set out to achieve meaning you waste your money. Public sector organisations are awash with this logic and that’s because they are run by accountants, but that’s for a different soap box!

There were five key aspects to publishing my book that, if I tried a DIY approach, I wouldn’t have made it. You can’t beat the fact that you usually get what you pay for.

First, I hired a literary consultant – Geoff Walker – and seriously, without his advice and wisdom I would not have the book I have. I’m doubtful I’d even have a book. It was light touch in that we would often go six months between contacts but he kept me from tangenting off to tell other stories. Obviously we worked a little more intensively towards the end but the result was a book, ready for polishing!

I next engaged a design firm for the cover – Smartwork Creative. I had a design I’d been using but the final design (which is splashed all over my website) was fantastic. Initially I wasn’t sure about the glasses and moustache (and said so) but they advised (as did Geoff) to give it a little time. In the end that was the perfect touch that captured the tone of the book. People pick up books when the cover catches their attention and so it is an important part of the book.

Next in the chain were proof-readers. Absolutely obvious and vital. You simply read what you think is there and not what’s actually there. My book has been out for about three weeks and not one person has noticed a typo. Perfect!

The first three aspects allow you to get to the start line. You now have a quality book that nobody knows about!

If you are looking for sales then you’ll need a publicist. I suggest that you book an hour consult and you will then understand what they can and can’t do for you. Not all books and markets are the same. I used LighthousePR and the difference they made was staggering. If you check out the reviews page of my website you’ll see print (the DomPost & The Manawatu Standard), Radio (The John Cowan show which had the Prime minister on two weeks later) and TV (The AM show and TV3 café). Without a publicist, I would have had little chance of getting that level of publicity (and there is more to come).

Finally, if you are able to attract the interest of a distributor then that will give you a decent chance at getting into New Zealand book stores. Yes, you will lose a percentage of your income but let’s be honest 40% of a bigger number is usually better than 80% of not much! I used Paul Greenberg’s company Greene Phoenix.

And, after all that, there is still hard work to do. The battle you are up against when you are against large publishing houses was demonstrated to me after Jordan Watson (the “How to Dad” guy) launched his second book. Instantly his book is in every book store in New Zealand in vast quantities. Fifteen plus books in a pile with one perched on top at the front of the store, what I assume is coveted real estate in the book trade. If you do the maths to try and compete it’s financially scary. Let’s say 5,000 books at approximately $6 each. That’s quite an outlay!

I like a good fight, it’s the entrepreneur in me, and so I’m thinking hard about how to influence both the demand and supply side. Father’s Day is approaching and it seems to me to be an ideal time to strike! If I take my own logic I should hire a social media expert and maybe a marketing guru but, alas, the war chest is pretty thin and I will have to be creative. This is summed up in the following quote from one of New Zealand’s finest.

“We don’t have the money so we are going to have to think!”
— Ernest Rutherford
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“We forget the little things, so it’s no wonder some of us screw up the big things”
— Neil Cavuto

It is easy to forget that our world is made up of millions and millions of small events. Sure, it’s punctuated with the odd 9/11 type huge event but, in the main, you will speak and interact with people hundreds of times each day and the majority of these exchanges are the minutia of life. Your children interact with you and get to see you interact with others all day every day. It is these interactions that build up the image they have of you over time and not what you get them for their birthday.

www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/72134473/illegal-windscreen-washers-earning-big-bucks-in-christchurch

I recommend that all parents, but especially dad’s, watch an excellent Australian film called Men’s Group. In it there is a challenging scene where one of the Dad’s, Alex, is waiting at a set of traffic lights with his son sitting next to him. As is quite common, a guy trying to make up couple of bucks starts washing his windscreen, despite Alex telling him to “f&*# off mate” repeatedly. The window washing continues and so Alex gets out of the car, muttering obscenities, and has a physical confrontation with the guy pushing him away, swearing at him and throwing his mop after him.

Alex explains to his son, who is clearly unhappy and embarrassed, “You’ve got to watch out for those f&*#ing dickheads alright. That’s a f&*#ing example . . .” The scene cuts and we Alex’s son uncomfortably listening to these pearls of wisdom. It’s a powerful scene.

Recently I was sitting at the lights in the passenger seat of my partners car (Dani) and I saw a guy doing the same thing. I always call them over because my windscreen is usually dirty and I think anyone trying to make a buck ducking and weaving between traffic deserves a break. I know this is frowned upon by some people who think it simply encourages them and the money will be spend on drugs or alcohol. I try not to lump everyone into one category and he/she may just need to buy his/her children some food. Who am I to judge sums up my take on this.

The key point is, whether you think they should be allowed to or not, if they are there then you may need to engage with them to say yes or no, to give some money or not. Alex, I think, gives us a perfect example of how not to deal with the situation.

The guy nipped over and quickly started washing while I looked for some coins. I had none on me, Dani had none either and the compartment for parking money was bareen.

What to do?

We could give an apologetic shrug and try and convince him he had no change or I could give him the ten dollar note I did have on me. What I did was never in question. I handed him the ten dollar note as I said yes and it would have felt wrong to stiff him. As Dani handed over the note, his face absolutely lit up and as we drove away he stood in the middle of the road and gave us a big wave.

And guess what? That short exchange, that brief connection with someone who is less fortunate than ourselves, left Dani and I feeling great too.

I didn’t have my children with me but the point is, if you always act in a positive way, your children will learn thousands of small positive lessons throughout their life.

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“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
— George Carlin

One of a parents milestones is upon me, teaching my first born to drive. He has just passed his theory and is now able, under the watchful gaze of a responsible adult (i.e. me), to be let loose on the road.

I think my Ex was quite keen to teach him but we have had a change in family circumstances which has meant Rog will be living far more with me and, sadly, Liv will be living far more with Rose. There hasn’t been any major eruptions. It basically involves a change of school, town and logistics which I won’t go into now.

The upshot is that I will be teaching Rog to drive and we'll be starting in the next couple of weeks. This gives me a little time to work out what is the best way to approach this task. I checked in with Google to see what the world suggests and found the following list at the top of the search which I found simple and it felt about right.

  • Make sure your teen has a learner's permit.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Locate a quiet parking lot.
  • Narrate your driving.
  • Check that the parking lot is empty.
  • Start with straight lines.
  • Do some simple loops.
  • Keep the first lesson short.

It seems that the sentiment under pinning this advice is be careful and make sure you’re calm yourself. This makes sense as fear can be quite catching. In my searching I also came across this useful guide for my son to survive the lessons with me!

I was instantly reminded of my own worst driving experience which happened when my Dad was teaching me to drive.

I was driving the family car, a VW “bug”, and I wasn’t going very fast around a normally deserted piece of road one Sunday morning. The details are sketchy, it was 35 years ago, but I remember another car came up from behind and I got distracted and the next thing I know I was off the road side swiping a fence. I’m sure there must have been some yelling and swearing but, in truth, I can’t remember any and so I’ll give my dad the benefit of the doubt and say he was cool as a cucumber.

That was the last driving lesson I got from my dad and a few months later I started with a driving school.

That has been my worst “accident” and hopefully that will remain the case. The second worst was when I collided into my Dad in his new car in our driveway! Thankfully this time there was little damage to either car and I can’t remember any yelling that time either!

I hope that history doesn’t repeat itself and I can help Rog navigate his way to his licence without the need of panel repairs. And I will also look forward to running into him for the rest of my life, figuratively!

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