Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tony Dungy always a class act!

You may or may not be a huge fan of Tony Dungy, but you've got to respect a guy that practices what he preaches. Even if you don't buy his Mister Nice Guy persona or subscribe to his religious creed, you have to give it to him on this one -- the guy believes in forgiveness and second chances. And Dungy doesn't just believe these things because they are basic tenets of Christianity, he lives them out.

In a world of hypocrisy and self-centeredness, a man of integrity, conviction and compassion definitely stands out. That's why I've always admired Coach Dungy on and off the field. The guy is a class act.

Since stepping down as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he's stayed busy promoting his books, his Christian ideals, supporting numerous charities (Mentors for Life, All-Pro Dads, Big Brother/Big Sister...just to name a few), being a more devoted father (to six children, no less) and just serving the general good of society. In his latest move, he's come out in full support of ex-con, ex-QB Michael Vick, of whom you may or may not also be a fan. You can consider me in the latter category on this one. But not only has Dungy paid lip service, no, once again he's backed it up with his actions. He has become a mentor and friend to the beleaguered athlete and killler of dogs (sorry, had to!). Even if you don't support Michael Vick, you have to recognize Dungy's actions for what they are.

He's just a good guy through and through. He's the kind of father figure you'd want on your side. The kindly "uncle" you'd call to bail you out of jail, to give a word of advice, or to help you when you're down and out. And the thing is, he'd gladly do it.

I said it before and I'll say it again, Tony Dungy is one class act!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parenthood's a pleasure, but parenting's tough

If life were easy, I’d have fewer wrinkles, less gray and constant cravings for comfort food would wane. As it is, I’m overweight and graying with new worry lines appearing daily…and my kids haven’t even hit tweener status, yet!

Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever tackled. It comes with no standard operating procedure manual and yet numerous, new challenges arise everyday. It is a constant high-wire balancing act. I find myself having to be firm, but flexible; reflexive, yet relaxed; the teacher, yet teachable; an able provider, yet always present. I have to draw secure boundaries while trying to encourage independence. And give tough answers softened by tenderness.

Because I was raised by baby-boomer parents whose childhood boundaries were more restrictive, I look for ways to expand boundaries a safe distance for my children. But it is hard to escape the patterns you learn growing up, and it is merely human to react in anger when those boundaries are pushed and tested. To discipline in love and have maximum effect; to find ways to redirect their energy and alter behavior is the most difficult part of the whole job.

I find that I am least effective when I am on a schedule. If I put myself first and the things I want to accomplish in a given moment, then I am less flexible, relaxed and understanding. My patience flies right out the window with the first misstep of my children in those moments. And with one angry word, a glare, a grumble under my breath, I feel as if I’ve undone a multitude of good. Instead of fostering confidence and promoting peace, I sometimes find myself shattering both with a single act and it happens before I even realize I'm doing it. It is worst with my youngest. I guess I’m spoiled now that my children are getting old enough to do things for themselves and assert more of their independence. When my 5-year-old falters, I often lose patience with her quicker than I did even one year ago and it bothers me.

At the heart of the issue, I find that I’m rather selfish. I have very high expectations for my children and a rather short fuse. That is another part of the great balancing act—juggling my desires and theirs, judging which wants I will afford them each day. In the hurriedness of life, I often become a miserly old curmudgeon and bypass perfect opportunities to show them how highly I value them. I want to become more liberal with my praise and learn to bite my tongue when curses want to tumble out instead.

Last night as I was trying to put my thoughts to bed and get some rest, I said a quiet prayer. I asked God for more patience and to help me bring more balance to this position. I know that I have a great job. And while it is the toughest challenge I have and will ever face, I can surely say it is the most pleasurable and rewarding.