The surely epic bucket list item I won’t get the chance to check off today has finally lost enough pain for me to talk about it. Tonight I would have stood on hallowed concert ground in Morrison, CO with all four of our sons and Michael’s wife, Janice Rice Venable, one of my dearest childhood friends, Craig Hospital Occupational Therapist Perry Ann Williams, and her husband retired landscape architect, Keith Gartin; Principal Architect and Senior Partner Sam Andras, of 2WR Architects, his spouse, educator Victoria Andras, and a host of their friends, band mates, lighting and sound professionals and advisors.
Today we all would have watched our son, Adam Venable/Obeah, perform with Daily Bread as they open for Pretty Lights on the Red Rocks stage. If you know about Red Rocks, you can likely conjure my deep loss for having to miss it tonight. If you don’t know Red Rocks, think Carnegie Hall and and I’ll conjure my deep loss for having to miss this tonight. I’ve had to unwind a 12-day walkabout while in the midst of enduring 2 surgeries, a CT scan, an MRI, some sweet Jesus pain and chronic nausea and vomiting. Thanks to my medical team, everything on that list has been fixed or alleviated. But without time on my side and the sensibility of putting the importance of my health first, tonight, my best hope is to be able to live stream the show, if they can figure how to send it.
Adam, I hope you leave a raw, bloody piece of your soul on that important stage tonight. That it comes from a place so deep that it shocks people to know you kept things like that in there. You have worked hard for this and you deserve your hard work and dedication to make an audience swoon. I will be joined with your spirit in the Colorado breeze. I could not possibly be prouder of you, son, and your brothers and that sold out show will watch the virtual walls come down in the foothills tonight. Now go out there and kill!
Our great parenting magazine, Valley Parent, is a monthly digest for parents and grandparents of children from the ages of birth to the “tweener” years. In our most recent issue, a mistake happened (not our fault) that kept a very important advertising message from inclusion in the issue.
As a magazine publisher, it validates our existence when we know that including a client’s advertising makes a difference to them. And, in this case, it makes a big difference. The Growing Room Child Development Center and Christian Academy intended to use our July Valley Parent issue to launch their 2010-2011 school year theme, entitled “Our Schools Rock.”
The good people at Growing Room have realized like many others that children learn better and are happier with their learning when they’re surrounded by the arts — dance, visual arts, music and theater.
The “Our Schools Rock” theme will surround your children with the best of the arts as they develop relationships with their teachers and learn self-help skills and language skills. Parents will even be able to get into the game with “Rocking at Home” homework.
Every classroom from toddlers through K-4 will present a Growing Room Rocking Musical during the last two weeks of April 2011. Growing Room believes that their advertising message is even more important now that new people are moving to our area relating to the Maneuver Center of Excellence boom that is coming to our region as a result of Base Realignment and Closure legislation. The company offers military discounts at all their locations. Growing Room launched its business in 1989 and in 2004, the company was named the United States Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year.
Even though this error occurred outside our control at Valley Parent, we have joined hands with Growing Room and their excellent local advertising agency, Image By Design, to make something good happen from this. That something good is for our readership to get the full advantage of Growing Room’s advertising message in our vibrant marketplace. Click here to see the ad that was to have been placed in our July issue.
We think their commitment to Valley Parent is pretty special and we think that we can also be a perfect marketing partner for your business.
Reprinted from the February 2010 issue of Valley Parent magazine:
If someone had told me how difficult being a “stepfather” would be, I might have considered turning tail and running for the horizon. Please note that I put the word stepfather in quotes because it is a word we don’t use in our home. And, believe me, the bruises a man receives in the normal course of his duty as the custodial father to some other guy’s natural offspring are not insignificant.
Now that I’m 15 years into my role as father to not only my boys, Michael and Adam, but also to Jill’s boys, Christopher and Nicholas, I’ll say without equivocation that I would not trade ANYTHING for the blessings I’ve received while serving in that role.
I’m speaking very bluntly here — if you know me, you know I usually do — when I say that when I first married Jill, Christopher and Nicholas were so young, so different from my other sons and so difficult for me to relate to. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that Christopher, in particular, was a challenge for me.
He hated me. I didn’t really like him. And I certainly didn’t love him. What new father can possibly love a child whom he doesn’t know? This is where the difficulty begins, especially if you’re a man who has no trouble loving.
I’m that guy. I cry at movies. I have certain songs that will, at the sound of the first chord, send tears to the corners of my eyes. And, you know, I’m not ashamed to say that out loud. I have a HUGE capacity to love in all kinds of ways.
So, the fact that I had these two new sons around the house and that early on there wasn’t any kind of paternal spark became a painful thing for me. I’ve written before about how when I would get blocks of time with my sons Michael and Adam, I felt compelled to force-feed them my tenets of life. Table manners, religious training, how to treat people, how not to treat people, how to use money, you know, all the things a father should pass on to his sons.
In my role as father to Christopher and Nicholas, I was right there, just a few feet away much of the time, yet I felt funny giving them that same advice. Back in the early days of our marriage, I wasn’t their father. I felt like I was a guest in someone else’s home. My role as custodial father just didn’t feel right. It was so frustrating! My natural sons were with their mom most of the time and I felt like I had all this “fathering” to give, but didn’t yet feel comfortable being a father to Jill’s boys.
There was the whole parenting style issue. How do I assert my style? When do I become the father they need me to be without tipping over the apple cart? And, more importantly, how do I learn to love these two boys? For me, the answer was in trying to meet them where they were.
Our coming together as a family has been a sweet, wonderful thing to behold. I love all four of these fine young men and having the gift of two more sons has made me a better man. I am so thankful for all the good they have brought to my life. In some small way I’d like to repay them by becoming exactly what they need me to be as they transition into adulthood. They deserve that. So do I.
Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Valley Parent magazine:
I want to begin where I left off last month, so if you’ve mounted this horse in the middle of the proverbial stream, you can catch up by clicking here. I ran out of space in last month’s issue to really drill down into this style issue.
When do I assert my parenting style? When can I effectively discipline these kids who belong to someone else? How do I learn how to love these boys? When will I stop feeling like a stranger in someone else’s home?
If you are a stepfather and you give a damn, I feel quite sure you have asked yourself all these same questions. If you are a stepfather and you haven’t wondered these things, you probably are not engaged enough in your marriage or in your role as a father figure. Often times, the natural father was put out of the marriage because of one reason or another that rendered him poor father material. In our case, the behavior of Jill’s sons’ alcoholic father created a hostile environment that precipitated the end of the marriage.
I came on to the scene when Jill’s boys were 6 and 10 years old, and their father was still pretty upset that I was there. He referred to me as Jill’s “excess baggage,” and as a result of his illness, things were often kept stirred up in our home. It was my job as father-in-residence to provide strength and stability to these wounded boys. For quite some time I just didn’t know what to do.
I made my mind up to go straight at the problem. Since the boys seemed to catch on pretty quickly that there was an adversarial relationship between their father and me, I made a move to head them off at the pass. I went to see their father, Paul Riddle, and we discussed a man-to-man plan to father these boys in a more intelligent manner.
Sadly, Paul died of complications from his illness near his 61st birthday this past August. He died as my friend. He was someone who loved and cared for his sons the best he could with the illness he fought. My role, while he was alive, was to be there when he couldn’t be. My role, now that he’s gone, is to try to be the man these boys need me to be to help them find their way in this very difficult life.
Looking back at my life and at whatever time I might have left here on this earth, the accomplishment of which I’m the most proud is being a father to Nicholas and Christopher Riddle. You might think this strange, since they are not of my flesh and bone. A man’s natural children are bound by the laws of God and nature to love him. It is altogether something different to be loved by sons who are big enough men to extend their love to someone who didn’t provide the DNA to make them.
My sons, Nicholas and Christopher, are just that kind of men, and the love they’ve given me is right at the top of a very short list of things I most treasure. When they tell me that they love me, I know just how much ground had to be covered to get us all to a place where those words could be said. That is ground I would gladly crawl over every day for the rest of my life, even if I had to do it with bare knees over ground covered with broken glass. That is how much their love and respect means to me.
If you’re in the tough, but enviable position of being a “stepfather,” and if you play your cards just right, you have something wonderful in your future. That future is mostly in your hands, fathers. It is time for you to step up.