November 25, 2009

{10 Ways to Give the Gift of Time This Season}

This year nearly 52 million households will be buying toys. But with this rough economy, do we have to spend money to buy that special gift for our children? Or can we do something instead which is sincere and from our heart, that will touch their little hearts even more?
My brother once took my daughter on a special outing to the Art Institute of Chicago and taught her to look at pointillism with squinted eyes. It was a moment of a lifetime for my daughter that has and will stay with her, forever.
In a similar act of genuine love, my daughter once made me a birthday presentation on her computer with all my favorite family members and my favorite movie stars set to my favorite song. It was the most precious gift I could have ever received.
With these priceless gifts in mind, here are eleven things you can do (FREE) this holiday:

 1. Free day at local attraction with a twist
Find out when your local museum or local attraction has a free day. Now make it a personal trip by going online and researching your favorite exhibit. When your family visits the museum, educate each other and make it a private museum tour.  

The Extra Yard:  Dress up in the theme of the exhibit.
2. Make a family movie
There are many sites that let you upload photos of friends and family members to an animated, holiday themed online greeting card. This will be a step above typical online greeting cards with a great personal touch. Check-out to create yours.
The Extra Yard:  Once you become an expert, show your neighbors how you did it.

3. Take the movies indoors
Instead of spending $10 a ticket to take the family to the movies, plus the cost of popcorn, soda, and candy, watch your favorite holiday movie at home and start a family tradition. If your movie selection at home is deficient, consider borrowing a DVD from the library.

The Extra Yard:  Be creative. If you are watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, dress up as “Whoville” citizens and eat “roast beast” for dinner.

4. Board game championship
Announce your family’s annual Scrabble or Charades (or other board game) bowl game for the holidays.  Make the championship real by printing rules, game brackets, certificates for winners, and play “home” and “away” games where each family member can host a game in their own room. Just think, a “home” game gives children a reason to clean the room.

The Extra Yard:  The winner gets to plan next year’s event.

5. Bake Holiday Cookies and take to neighbors
Find your favorite holiday cookie recipe and tweak it a little to make it your family’s own secret recipe. Bake cookies together, where every person has a role, e.g. the measurer, the mixer, the baker, the quality-controller, and the packer. Then take cookies to your neighbors and see them smile.  

The Extra Yard:  At the end of the evening, write down the secret recipe and hide it in a special place in the house.

6. Dress up dinner at home
Eating out can be special, but do we have to go out to have a special meal?  Why not dress up for a special night at home? Print the menu, light some candles, and make dinner special with everyone sitting around the table.

The Extra Yard:  Tip the chef by telling them the thing you love most about them.

7. Take old clothes to the local thrift store
Spend an evening helping every family member find one of two things to take to the neighborhood thrift store. Giving together as a family makes the holiday special.

The Extra Yard:  Take your family’s secret cookie recipe and hot chocolate in a flask and sip as you drive to the thrift store. Take the long way home and enjoy the lights.

8. Plan a day with grandparents or at a local elderly home
Holidays become special when you create a memory for someone else. Why not plan a day with your grandparents? Drive them around and enjoy the evening listening to old time family stories.  And if your grandparents are not in town, visit the local elderly homes and spread cheers by singing carols.

The Extra Yard:  Take pictures of your evening together and frame it for their holiday gift.
9. Plan a Family treasure hunt
There’s nothing quite like a good treasure hunt inside the house. Have each family member hide something special and write down a clue for the rest of the family.  As the evening unfolds, you will see the competitiveness overflow.

The Extra Yard:  When the game is over, ask each other about your clues and laugh when you hear the reasons behind them.

 10. Take a day off and give the gift of time to your child
Finally, the best gift you can give is that of time. Take a day off, turn off your cell-phone, and spend the entire day with your child.  No plans, just total enjoyment.

The Extra Yard:  Take lots of pictures and view them before you go to bed. You’ll have a smile on your face guaranteed.

November 24, 2009

{Black Friday: The Gift of Time}

November 18, 2009

{Desperate times call for desperate actions!}

This week, there was post on the Burgers & Masala Fries blog about the book. The blogger, Sanjiv Sinha, compared my approach of quitting the corporate world to be a dad first with that of a consultant who blocks time for her child. The blogger commented that “I do believe, that it is tough to do what Arjun did, but I believe it is definitely possible to do what the consultant did. It doesn’t hurt to set expectations in our workplace for some personal time”

As I read the blog, I 100% agree that balance in personal and professional life is the key. But at times when the pendulum swings to the other side (towards professional life, funding professional growth with time taken from family members), it becomes essential to interrupt with a loud wake up call. That is the reason that when my daughter Raka confronted me on the day after 9/11, it was important, no, essential for me to interrupt my corporate life with a dramatic “quit”. Otherwise, I would have made hundreds of promises to myself about spending more time with my daughter and I would have found great reasons to defer living the promise until a later time frame. In short, I do not trust the Arjun of 2001 to follow through on his promises. Scary thought, tough to admit, but true.

Over time, I have realized that balance is the key; why choose one when you can have both? My clients will vouch that when I work, I work very hard. Being a dad is never an excuse to not perform above par. But it is an internal balance I seek, as I try to make sure that I do not allow the corporate professional to take over the dad first.

Do not worry Raka, I am really enjoying being your dad first. You know it does not always come easily to me, but your patience and belief always steers me in the right direction.

{Spend More Time With Me, Dad}

November 10, 2009

{Children Caring for Eldery Parents Can Be a Ray of Hope for Grandkids}

Recently I was honored to be the guest blogger at the Dallas News Mom's Blog.

 After the blog was posted, there were comments on the blog that touched me and reinforced the vision of this journey, touching one person at a time.  Here is one example of comments from the blog:

Leslie wrote: “You raise a very important consideration for those parents who have chosen not to participate in their children's lives. At some point, they too will only have twice a year phone calls from their children and eventually, no contact at all. As a counselor in a municipal police department, I was called out to assist elderly citizens who called police because they were scared, ill or having difficulty. It was often difficult for us to find a next of kin to contact. The police officer and I would find old phone numbers and addresses, nothing current. I couldn't understand why some of these people were neglected. It could be that there was no next of kin to contact, but in some cases I found that some of the elderly citizens weren’t very nice to their children and other family members. They were left alone because no one wanted to be around them.” 

As I read Leslie’s comments, it reminded me of a story my Maiji (grandma) used to tell me.

In the story, there was a grandma who was getting very old, and the parents, instead of having grandma stay in their home, sent her to a distant elderly home to live. As the grandma left, the parents gave the grandma a shawl to take with her.
The little boy (her grandson), watched all this from the corner. Finally he dashed to the grandma and hugged her as he asked, "Grandma, can I have your shawl, please?" Grandma gave it to the grandson, and the grandson ran with the shawl and cut it into two equal pieces.
The parents, astounded by the rude and strange behavior of the child, asked him why he did that. The child smiled and said, "Mom and Dad, do not worry, now I have shawls for each one of you when I send you out of the house."      
So think for a second, if instead of sending Grandma away with a shawl, parents embraced a more involved role in the life of Grandma, the child too would have seen a ray of hope in relationships.  The child would have realized that as he grows older, he should be present in the lives of his parents.
As I write this, I keep thinking that many a time parents give up as they think it is too late.  Fortunately for us parents, it is never too late as our children never give up on us.  Agreed, as they get older, our children may worry about getting rejected if they try to reach out to their parents, but deep inside they always dream about mom and dad reaching out for them with open arms.
Thank you Leslie and others from Dallas News for your comments.

November 3, 2009

{Daughter Waits for Her Father to Come Home to Tuck Her In}

{Following the Red Car, Looking in the Rear View Mirror, and Seeing Myself in My Daughter}

It started on Sunday, November 1, 2009. Raka took her driving test... and passed. That evening she got all the papers ready for us to go to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles the next day to get her first driver’s license. I had kept my Monday afternoon open so I could take her, but late Sunday, Raka had an idea that she thought was brilliant. The DMV opens at 7:00am. If we got there by 6:55am, we would be  first in line and she could get her driver’s license before school started at 7:45am. I simply raised my eyebrows and we decided to stay with our after school plan.

At 3:15 PM on Monday, November 2, 2009, I picked Raka up from school and we headed to the DMV. In less than half an hour, Raka had her driver’s license in hand. After we came home, we added Raka to the insurance. She could officially and legally drive.

But, what happens next? I was not sure if Raka should start driving immediately , so I called Raka’s mom.  Based on her mom's confidence and Raka’s enthusiasm, I overcame my own hesitations and agreed that Raka could drive to and from school and also to her music and math tutor’s place.

But the dad in me still was not 100% ready. I kept thinking about September 14th, 1993, when I realized for the first time that the back seat would never be empty again. When did my little girl leave the back seat for the passenger seat, then for the driver's seat in her own red car? Why does life move so fast? Shouldn't sixteen years should at least feel like sixteen years?

As all these thoughts were going in my mind, I came up with a plan: we do a trial run. In the trial run, Raka will drive on her own to each of her approved destinations as I follow. That way she has a clear “road map” on how to negotiate traffic. Raka loved the idea. In fact, she would have loved any idea that got her closer to driving. So we started.

There were some initial hiccups as she drove to the first destination, it was, after all, her first time driving a car alone. When she got to the first destination, she pulled over and I walked to her car and we talked. The excitement in her young face was now enveloped with seriousness. She was worried to hear her feedback. I told her that I was proud of her, but the mistakes she made, and got away with, were serious. She nodded her head.

The journey to the second destination through the evening traffic was long. Raka was in her groove. There were some traffic situations which Raka patiently negotiated. I followed in admiration. Finally Raka pulled into the driveway of her mom’s home and we talked again. She did great. We talked about cautious left turns and avoiding unnecessary lane changes.

As I drove home, I was happy that I got to see Raka drive alone for the first time, but just like any dad I was worried. Why does she have to be so impatient? Why does she have to do things “now”? As I asked all these questions, I looked at the rear view mirror. The back seat was empty. The passenger seat to my right was empty. I adjusted the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of myself in the process, and realized the answers to my questions. I have no patience DNA myself.

Isn’t it uncanny, how our children follow what we do and not what we tell them to do? I guess that means it's my turn to be patient.