Monday, November 7, 2011

Get a Black Belt in Fatherhood from Bruce Lee

I couldn't sleep the other night, so I went out in the living room to watch a little late night tv. As I was flipping the channels, I stumbled upon a 2:00am showing of The Green Hornet. Not the flaming piece of poo that was the recent Seth Rogan version (come on man, am I really supposed to believe the stoner from Knocked Up is an action hero). I am talking about the good old school tv show with Bruce Lee as Kato.

As a kid, I was fascinated with Bruce Lee. He always seemed to look like he was at peace, but could snap and kick your head off if he wanted to. He was the very definition of swagger. Seeing him on tv that night reminded me of a book I read about him when I was a kid. The book was filled with his quotes that I keep in mind when encountering problems or contemplating situations. I started to think about how these phrases could be applied to my new found role of fatherhood. So here are 5 steps to getting your very own black belt in fatherhood courtesy of Bruce Lee:
  • White Belt: “As you think, so shall you become"
    Being a father is difficult, stressful and could potentially be one of the hardest things you will ever do. It is easy to fall into a pattern of thoughts of depression and anger. Stop. As you are finding out, the only thing you can control is how you choose to respond to stuff. If you pollute your mind with angry thoughts, guess are only going to be more angry. If you constantly think about how difficult your life is, congrats my friend, life just got more difficult. I am not saying that you need to be a walking hug machine, but I will say that a key to not driving yourself crazy is realizing that you need to focus on the good things and enjoy the ride.

  • Yellow Belt: “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
    Here is a simple formula that I am sure you all know by now: KIDS + STUFF = CHAOS. Our house is filled with more dolls, specialty child seating, art supplies, toy cars, action figures, sippy cups, little coats, little shoes little shirts, little shoes, little socks and more. I sometimes come home at night and the house looks like we have been robbed. Mix this scene with the stress from the day and daddy's reoccurring eye twitch can kick into high gear. So what is a dad to do? Get rid of it all. There are several things that we have implemented to limit the clutter and remove the unessential. My wife and I recently made a pact. No more stuff. If something comes in, then something goes out. We also have invested in lots of bins that we are trying to train the kids to put their things into when they are done playing. (They don't do it, but it at least makes our nightly clean up easier). And finally, we have instituted a no useless items rule. This means that if we go on a trip, we try to get the kids to pick a souvenir that has a daily use outside of making me ask questions like "Did we really need two sombreros?".

  • Orange Belt: “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
    Nike had it right, just do it. Your children have now taken about 98% of your free time. You can no longer afford the luxury of "thinking" about things. If you want to do something, you need to do it. Want to repaint the garage? Do it. Want to take a class at night? Do it. Want to start training to become the world's toughest ma?. Get yourself to your local MMA training facility. All of these things can easily be on the good old to do list for the rest of your life if you don't just get off your duff and do it. You will find a thousand reason why you can't, but the truth is, you can always make things work. It also sets a good role model for your kids to see that if they want to do things, it is as easy and just doing it. Plain and simple.

  • Blue Belt: “A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence. ”
    I call this one the "don't create a clone" rule. You and your wife have created this amazing little being that is a blank slate. Don't make a photocopy. Allow them to grow and find out who they are. Are you a country music loving cowboy? Well don't forget to expose them to the Beatles. Do you hate theatre? Guess who is heading to the next local theatre production with little Timmy. If your kids should decide that they are destined for a different path than you are comfortable with, then you have to give them the opportunity to walk it...and you better be about two steps behind to protect them from anything they might encounter along the way.

  • Green Belt: “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
    You have no clue what you are doing. None of us do.We are all just making it up as we go along. I can remember the first couple of months after Dumptruck was born. I was tired, angry and on the edge of losing it on a dime...o.k. I will admit it, I was losing it all the time. The pinnacle moment of my "loseingitdom" was a night that the little guy cried for about three hours straight from 1:00 till 4:00 am. I remember taking his pacifier and throwing it across the room and asking "What the (insert curse word of your choosing) do you want from me?". As I did this, I could see myself from above like I was having an out of body experience. Here I was yelling at a baby that had no clue what was going on and I was looking like an a-hole while I was doing it. Needless to say, I was ashamed of myself. I had to admit that my anger and how I was handling the situation was a mistake. This actually allowed me to be more mindful of future situations and properly address them.

  • Brown Belt: “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves."
    Pssst...I want to share a secret with you. You are not really in charge. Your child has grabbed hold of the control in your relationship and he or she is wielding it like a Samurai warrior wields a sword. The more that you try to rigidly exert your "fatherly" duty, the more they are going to going to stubbornly fight back . The more you make definitive statements ("Do this or else), the more they are going make your life hell. The trick is to melt and let the tantrums wash over you. Let them take the lead and when they least expect it the answers will reveal themselves.

  • Black Belt: “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering."
    Your children are a walking reflection of the life you lead. In the end, the only thing that your kids will care about is the dad they have, not the stuff they have. Focus your energies on making sure they know that they are the greatest accomplishment that you have ever had. That they have changed you into a more appreciative, caring and understanding human being. Be the type of dad that they will gladly tell their friends about when they are older. Do things with them that will make the other kids jealous. Be great. Be amazing! Be a father.
So do you think you are ready to earn your black belt? If so, share with us your stories.

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