Meet Charlie: Tools for climbing out of bad situations

This thought began due to a chance encounter with Charlie. I had not seen him for a while and I woke up to find him in bed with me. Should I explain yet?

Cai has been sick a lot this winter and we are currently living through the second bout of pneumonia. This has meant a lot of time in the house, sitting and not doing a lot; a recipe for disaster for an adult who missed being diagnosed with ADHD because it was not an available condition when he was growing up. We are also working hard to keep Cai entertained so my acquaintance with Charlie seemed like a good opportunity for a Facebook inclusion for his benefit.

Meet Charlie: every dad of young boys needs one – a farting, wise cracking, constantly laughing alter-ego.

Where is Charlie Dad? Can Charlie come to play? If only escaping grouchiness was so easy in other areas of life.


So where am I going with this?

Well Charlie has been the saving grace of my relationship with Cai on a few occasions. We are both mules and like things our own way and of course I pull the adult card and claim rank. When things have been tough between us it is nice to have a get out of jail free card. Charlie is that card, he does things that dad cannot or will not do. He is also very funny, when dad is just dad.

Kimberly bought Charlie so that Cai had a friend and proxy parent when I had to head to the UK alone one Christmas. What started as a Wil replacement became something quite different. Charlie; the green alligator, becomes the person I want to be. You can imagine some of the situations. There are times when I come home frustrated after work; Charlie is my excuse to find a light heart, laughter and the focus and presence of a child. At other times Cai & I are in a Mexican standoff, both of us believing we are right and that the other needs to flex, Charlie is my way to stand down, bring laughter back into the situation and between the two us we are able to find a compromise. Basically, any time where there is a difference of opinion and an impasse Charlie is able to breathe fresh and vibrant air onto the situation. Through laughter the charge of a situation is removed, different solutions are offered up and good choices made.

Charlie laughs, it is his personality, his essence and when Charlie laughs Cai laughs. Charlie also farts a lot and Cai laughs even louder. When Cai laughs mom & dad end up laughing too. Charlie also presents a situation from the perspective of an amused observer, he is often pretty insightful and certainly speeds up dad’s processing of a situation. The thing is that Charlie is one of the few panaceas I have come across. He really is snake oil. As I think back I cannot remember a situation that he has failed to smooth over. The only thing is that I have to remember to locate and bring him out. This is why I was so happy to wake up with him the other morning.

Innuendo aside, how often do you open your eyes to see someone who makes you smile warmly. More to the point, how do I create other Charlies to help me with the rest of my life?

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Of Sons and Fathers

It has been a long time since I last wrote here and a lot has happened, the most significant being the death of my father. Now I feel the need to state up front that I did not really know him that well. He was born into an Edwardian English paradigm, one where fathers distanced themselves from their progeny. Fathers worked and children were seen and not heard; think George Banks in early scenes of Mary Poppins. The last few months have consequently involved lots of soul searching and the potential for a great deal of sadness and regret; I am though feeling far more positive as this chapter in my life ends. Through talking with people about him and revisiting memories that have long been hidden beneath more current thought, I have come to a better understanding of why we did not get to know each other. More importantly, for the first time in decades I have found a way to forgive him and this forgiveness spawns learning that I am very glad to engage.

When I think of my teens and twenties, I recognize that I was driven. This drive led to some of my most memorable moments; so much so it provided a lot of the stories from which I still teach. The drive came from a desire to fill a void. I was looking for my tribe. I was searching for adventure, excitement and a feeling of knowing what I was truly capable of. It drew me into the company of a bunch of lost boys, a number of surrogate parents and some of the most incredible people I have had the privilege to call friends. It also took me to many exquisitely beautiful places, allowed me to truly test my metal and gave me the opportunity to bear witness to some of the most incredible scenes of bravery and human spirit. The life of climbing and mountains has been a corner stone in my existence and will be a part of me I will always hold dear.

Why am I telling you this? Well my thoughts have been straying of late. I found my niche because of something that was lacking in my life and ultimately I cannot help but ask the question, “do I need to deprive my child to allow him to find himself?” Just yesterday Cai asked me, “why do you always tell me that you love me?” He is ‘taxingly’ insightful for a six year old. Ultimately, I know my father loved me, as I told Cai though, he just never informed me of this fact and did not know how to show it. What I have come to realize is that talent and accomplishment are not a reflection of a healthy or unhealthy home life. This gives me hope because I know that as I watch Cai’s talents and personality develop he will find himself with or without me.

(At this point I encourage you to look at some video of the sons of two friends of mine both of whom have doting fathers. is a myspace of an amazing talent in folk music and is a showreel of incredible Parkour.)

The take home point for me is it is ok to show that I value Cai, it is alright to tell him I love him and take interest in what he does, it is important for me that he knows he belongs and feels I care. The hard part will be in watching and hearing the crazy and dangerous stuff that allows him to learn who he truly is.

If the foundation of any relationship is showing people that you care, how do you do it?

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