MY SON DOES LSD (and I encourage him)

lsdMy high school cross-country coach also dabbled in screen-printing. He made one of my all-time favorite tee shirts that read:

*Long Slow Distance

Being that I was both a dedicated runner and a nascent hippy, this shirt was made for me. I wore it often and proudly until it mysteriously disappeared sometime during my junior year in high school. (I always suspected my stepmother who both did my laundry and disliked my psychedelic proclivities.)

In truth, I did more of the LSD that Coach Turner required than the type that was first popularized my Dr. Albert Hoffman and Owsley Stanley. During formal team practice, and on evenings and weekends, before, during, and sometimes after cross-country season, I was out on the roads for long, slow 6, 8, and 10+ mile runs. I even dedicated a week during my summer breaks to attend Mid-Ohio Cross-Country Training Camp, a chance for my coach to charge me and other high school runners for taking us on long runs through rural xc 1974-1

My running helped to shape my identity during high school: endurance athlete, letterman, leader, jock; all the while balanced by: partier, prankster, and to some extent scholar. The athletic aspect was cut short my senior year when the partier part caught up with me and I came down with infectious mononucleosis that ended my run, so to speak.

Perhaps the unrealized potential of my senior season of cross-country contributed to my excitement when my son went out for his team as a high school freshman last year. At the first suggestion of his interest, I reached out to the coach, who by some mystical connection is also named Turner. I asked about how my son could prepare for the season and when practice would be held. My interest was in part to help encourage my son to start training; I knew full well that all of my personal experience would not be enough to get him out on the roads and into shape, and I hoped the influence of a coach would hold some sway.

As practices began, I was helpful and diligent about getting my son to and from the workouts. Of course, I offered a few suggestions from my running experience, but as a teen he chose not to actively regard most of them. In spite of minimal training, he fared pretty well at the first few meets. I was impressed by my son’s ability to endure a modicum of discomfort and to stick with the sport, even as he was also keeping up with his schoolwork and getting involved with a theater production.

Yes, I have to admit, I was pleased and even proud to say that my son was following in my Nike-clad footsteps by running high school cross-country. Anytime anyone asked about the transition to public school, I was quick to say that in class and out he was thriving.IMG_3451 - Version 2

So imagine my confusion and reaction on the first Saturday that he had to choose between an optional cross-country team workout and a theater call to build sets for the fall production. You’ve guessed that he went to the theater; you can also guess that it took all I could muster not to challenge that decision. Based on my own experience as a team member, and the commitment I’d made to running, it made little sense, and I could not justify my son’s decision. But it was his, and I let it be.

Theater soon became his passion. My son balanced and complemented his academic success by serving several roles, on stage and off, and ended up being elected to both the Thespian Society and National Honor Society.

I am proud and pleased by this balance and commitment, and all the more so because my son’s out for the cross-country team again this, his sophomore year. His priorities are the same, however, and so this afternoon he’ll skip practice with the team to audition for the fall production. He explained this choice while behind the wheel of our car, as he drove me to school today.

As we parked near school and he grabbed his book-bag as I moved over to the drivers seat, I wished my son well with his audition. And anticipating my concern he replied, “Thanks…and I’ll do some LSD after that.”

Like father, like son, it’s a long strange trip.

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Flemish_School_Portrait_of_a_Young_Boy_1625In preschool, elementary, and middle school there were the occasional theme days: pajama day, crazy hair day, and of course Halloween; my son often balked at these, not inclined to go along with the crowd. Last school year, his first at a large public high school, he participated in “Spirit Day,” dressing up as prescribed by a group of seniors to demonstrate school spirit. (Although it seemed more like hazing to me.)

To be fair, my son has paid attention to fashion for a while. As a first-grader, he saw an older boy with long hair and said “I want that…” And from first through eighth grade he grew his hair out to a very long length. Known as ‘the boy with long hair,’ and often mistaken for a girl, he added to the persona by dedicating a year of his life to wearing only tie-dye. Notoriety followed these fashion choices, and many kids in the school followed suit, growing their hair and mimicking his style. My son played it cool, never seeming to be too headstrong, he remains down-to-earth. His tie-dye shirt collection even drew a nice bid when auctioned off at the school fundraiser.

The hair came off just before high school, and his fashion changed from hippy to hipster, with ironic t-shirts, five-panel hats, and loud Van’s skater shoes. Still a leader in the fashion arena, his jeans got skinny and shirts bright and flowery. All of this remains consistent with the gender fluid identity of my son and his friends. “Queer” is de rigueur and it makes sense to dress the part.

So as the new school year approached, our son began gearing up. His store of choice is Buffalo Exchange where flowered shirts, short shorts, and ironic tees abound at reduced prices. We buy all but the most garish garb for him, feeling compelled to clothe our son as we strive to accept and support who he is. A couple of purchases he made from his own funds were dresses. We assumed these were intended as costumes for his avant-garde theater group.

But last evening, after describing his first day of school sophomore year, he casually announced that on day two he’d be wearing a dress to school. His mom and I didn’t miss a beat, merely curious why he waited for the second day. “Doing it on the first day would’ve been such a cliché!” was our son’s response.

And so this morning after a shower, and applying the subtle eye make-up that’s been a daily routine since he appeared in his first stage production last spring, our boy donned a dress and packed up his book bag before classes.

The blue cotton sundress he chose would be fitting of any teenage girl. Heck it might actually be something his mom would wear. And he looked pretty darn good in it. I like how it ties behind the neck, and I wondered how he got it on without asking for help. The unfilled bulge at the breast is a bit distracting at first, but overall he looks like a fit young man making a bold fashion choice.

These are the types of choices he’s making, and as a parent I am strongly compelled to leave well enough alone and let my son navigate his own course. That this path leads through the halls of a big urban school is something he must’ve calculated. That he’ll be in the company of familiar friends, and under the eye of new teachers and administrators, may have figured into his calculations.

And when I check my own feelings, I need only recall myself as a high schooler, seeking attention and acceptance. My persona was as a merry prankster (in the Ken Kesey tradition), a yippie letting my freak flag fly with bright clothing and bold public actions. Later, my academic career centered on gender identity development and it seems only fitting that my son is exploring similar territory, and taking it to new places.

“Nice dress” was how I greeted my son this morning. “Thanks” was his reply. “I’ll see you after cross country practice, at the back-to-school picnic,” I continued. “Cool” he said.

And cool he is, with the whole idea of a not-yet-sixteen-year-old boy going to school in a dress. I’m cool with it too.

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The Wheel: Fatherhood Turns Full-Circle, again.

IMG_0401The wheel is turning, and you can’t slow down, You can’t let go, and you can’t hold on, You can’t go back, and you can’t stand still, If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will… 

~ Robert Hunter, The Wheel

It was a glimmer and a dream that began a tradition lasting ten summers: We are going to spend a month traveling in Europe. As our son’s kindergarten year came to a close, we realized that for the first time he would have the summer off of school. The opportunity was there to either sign him up for lots of camps and let others spend the summer with him, or to free up time in our work schedules and spend it together as a family. We opted for the latter, and every year since we’ve taken a long family trip. doug & jordy & big ben

That first trip set the path and made memories that we still recall and celebrate. Hostels in London and Oxford, a labyrinth and mini-golf in Bath, friends and the Tivoli in Copenhagen, and Norway in a nutshell. And each subsequent summer we planned and enjoyed yet another long getaway. After Europe it was a month-long road trip around Colorado, exploring our home state while not once driving on an interstate. We spent three and a half weeks on four Hawaiian Islands, drove up most of the East and West Coasts, explored Alaska, immersed in Israel/Palestine with a side trip to Petra in Jordan. Indeed, my identity as a father, and ours as a family, have been shaped and closely associated with these different, lengthy trips.IMG_1930_2

As this year’s tenth anniversary trip approached, our son (now approaching age 16) let it be known that after this summer he did not envision traveling for long stretches with us. Rather, he prefers the prospect of staying in town, hanging with friends, having a job. Even as I recognize that this is totally age-appropriate, when we left last month for our three-plus weeks in Iceland, Toronto, and Montreal, I was saddled with frequent, bittersweet thoughts of how this may well be the last time, at least for some time, that we spend this type of time together as a family. We certainly enjoyed our many adventures this summer; they were urban and natural and musical and cultural, and they will make for many memories, especially if this trip was indeed our last.IMG_5664

And as the trip drew to a close, I was reflecting on coming home this time, to the scorching dog days of summer that await us every year, and it occurs to me that there’s a symmetry to our first trip and this perhaps final time we return home from a glorious if indulgent getaway, and reintegrate back into “normal” everyday life.

You see it was in the summer between kindergarten and first grade, after arriving home from that maiden family voyage, that I could no longer avoid teaching my son to ride a bicycle. He was one of those kids who developed cognitively ahead of physically. You know the ones I mean: On the playground he stuck to the safer environs of the lower jungle-gym, rather than exploring (and sometimes tumbling from) the upper rungs. This was never a big issue, but it did delay his graduating from training wheels until a bit later than some of his peers. With parental guidance, and the help of a YouTube video, our son did learn to ride a bicycle, and this accomplishment was something of an epilogue to the other adventures of earlier that summer, sort of “Hey Dad, remember when we rode the London Eye, and then you taught me to ride my bike!” IMG_5115

And now, a decade hence, it’s time to teach him to drive. We definitely made some memories earlier in the summer; in fact, this tenth annual trip was the first in which our son had significant input on the planning. It was his request to visit Canada, solely because his favorite band is from Toronto. And when this indie music outfit announced they would emerge from hiatus to play one night only at a festival they were hosting, we altered our travel plans to ensure our son could attend. While that music festival may well have been the zenith of the journey for our son, he was a pleasant travel companion throughout the ensuing exploration, and we as parents were careful to give him plenty of space for the duration.

Back home now, the daily monsoonal cloudbursts have given way to infernal afternoons of 90 degrees and more. I recall these same temperatures a decade ago as I ran along side my six year-old in empty asphalt parking lots, encouraging him to keep pedaling, celebrating as his balance improved and he rolled a bit farther at each pass. Now I sit beside my son in a car, our places reversed from what they’ve always been. He’s in the driver’s seat now, and I am a passenger, and I’m doing my best to take it slow, as I encourage him to do the same behind the wheel.

It’s been a good run, these ten years of long summer trips. And I know that each was special in its time, and formative in the fond memories and deep relationships that persist. With the sweet sadness that comes in rites of passage, I celebrate my son’s next milestone, aiding and assisting as I can, and recalling the words of a sage friend and father of two boys who reminds me that my son “… is a great kid with great parents. His journey is his and you are a character within. You can create your own identity but at this point his is up to him.”99_reasons_to_travel

Fatherhood has come full circle yet again for me. The wheels are turning, and try as I might, I can’t slow them down.

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Your copy of my new book for new dads here.

A great combo pack here.


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See my comments on all of these topics in the third episode of my Web TV appearance on My Life As A Dad. Host Robert “Daddy” Nickell asks me some good and tough questions, and I answer honestly. See it here, and be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single show. Much gratitude and early Father’s Day greetings to Robert, his family, and the whole crew @MLAAD.

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The Grateful Dad on Web TV

I am delighted to be a guest on the thriving web TV show My Life as a Dad. Check out all three episodes:

And subscribe to the channel here.

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NEW BOOK for NEW DADS: Order today & get a free e-book!

Unsaved Preview DocumentOrder your copy of The Grateful Dad’s Guide to the First Year of Fatherhood @ The Grateful Dad Shop and get the e-book FREE. (Scroll down to see the book.) Please share this with any new parents, grandparents, family members of new families, and those thinking of taking the big step. Thanks for your support!

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My New Book is Available!

My new book is hot off the press and I’m off to the 15th Annual Families and Fathers Conference in Las Vegas to talk about gratitude and fatherhood. Order your copy of The Grateful Dad’s Guide to the First Year of and get the e-book FREE. (Please share this with any new parents, grandparents, family members of new families, and those thinking of taking the big step.) Thanks for your support!

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Monday: The Grateful Dad Radio Hour Final Show

Monday: The Grateful Dad Radio Hour Final Show

The time has come to say “farewell,” to put this show to bed, and to move in other directions. Please join me one last time to look back and ahead in gratitude and anticipation. I’ll take time to thank a bunch of folks and recall the high points of these past two-plus years, and I’ll let you know a bit about what I am planning to do in the future. Tune in at 1:00 MST on Monday, February 10, for one last edition of The Grateful Dad Radio Hour, on And thanks again for all of your interest and support for me, my mission, & guests.
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New Video of My Keynote Speech: The Rewards of Gratitude

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