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Reminiscing On My Holidays As a Millennial Parent

  In so many ways I’m the prototypical Millennial. Obsessively chasing my passion? Check. Freelancer? Check. Renting instead of buying? Check. Parent? Woah! I know I can fill that box with a check-mark, but that’s one many Millennials would leave blank. Postponed parenting is certainly becoming one of the trademarks of this generation, but it’s a trademark I’ve neglected, whether intentionally or not is up for debate.

Either way here I am, a former teenage parent of a now teenage daughter. And as the holidays approach I can’t help but to look back on all the previous holidays, the good and the not so good, the struggles and confusion, and the lessons my daughter has taught me along the way.

M.I.A Holidays

M.I.A was the reality of the first few years of my daughter’s life. After dropping out of high school and toughing things out for the first year of her life, I got myself together and accepted a full athletic scholarship to a university in New York state. Being from Toronto, that meant committing to only seeing my daughter over the summer for the next four years.

The holidays were even tougher. Our only communication was me listening to her mumble dada on the phone from my dorm room or from on the road in a hotel room. I remember worrying that when I did finally graduate, my daughter would have no idea who I was. That I would be a stranger only familiar by my voice. These were the lonely holidays, but I kept it in the back of my mind that higher education was the right thing for me to do, and it would pay off. It had to.

Postgraduate Lessons

No masters classes for me. But I headed back to Toronto knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and started working on the manuscript for my first book, taking any and every odd job I could in the meantime. As you could imagine, odd jobs don’t bring home much bacon. That meant the holidays were still a struggle.

And although I was home now, able to see my daughter for the holidays, it pains me to admit that I consciously remember thinking I would rather be hundred of miles away. You see at this point in my parenting journey, I equated my worth as a father to my net worth. And since I was barely scraping by, living in a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend at the time, dreaming of being Khaled Hosseini but living like the typical starving artist, I felt embarrassed in my ability as a provider, and that embarrassment lead me away from even wanting to spend time with my daughter over the holidays.

Her gifts were small during these times. A Miley Cyrus cd (Hannah Montana days), an easel for her to do her art. One year I remember asking what she wanted and braced myself for the answer. Then when she said all she wanted was a collection of colouring books, I knew she understood. And when she ripped open that wrapping paper and acted like I bought her whatever Apple gadget was hot at the time, then I understood.

Too many thoughts were racing through my head during these holidays. Does anyone really know what it feels like to be not just any parent, but a Millennial parent? How can anyone know what it means to buy your ten year old daughter a cell phone one Christmas, and still have her be the last of her friends to get one. How can they know the pressure this generation puts on you to be a mega success at 25, and feel like a failure if you still aren’t by 30?

All of these thoughts weighed on me daily, but eventually they would become fuel. Eventually I would learn that I'm not or wasn't the only parent going through shit. That although some of the pressures were specific to my generation, the actual root feelings weren't specific to just me.

I had to stay motivated, stay focused on my vision and take the actions necessary to see that vision through to the end.

"Just keep going, Kern."

I repeated that regularly throughout each day. Reminded myself that I wasn't going to be perfect, but if I put in the work, drowned out the other noise, and stayed completely committed to being the best writer possible, then I would eventually be successful.

Holiday Spirit

I know people think that when you have kids there’s this automatic kind of love that comes with it. And of course that’s true to some extent. But what I’ve noticed is that you actually fall in love with your children. As years go by and you watch them grow, you realize that all they really care about is the time you spend together. They actually don’t remember the gifts as much as they remember you being there to watch them open it, or the endless hours spent on the couch watching Home Alone. That time, that familiarity, that getting to know each other; that breeds the kind of love that can't be broken.

The holidays are different now. I’m happy to say I’m forging an amazing career as an author and freelance writer with the flexibility to spend as much time with my daughter as I want. I’ve also fictionalized our relationship from start to end in my debut novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” which I tell a story around the struggle of finding and maintaining ambition as a Millennial parent.

Her gifts are a bit different now, too. OK, a lot different. But to tell you the truth, she still really doesn’t care. All she wants is for me to be there. And whether I buy her colouring books or the new Huaraches, she smiles the same smile and the bond we’ve forged remains unbreakable through another holiday season.

#PassionAndPaper

More from me www.kerncarter.com

Get your copy of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here.

 

 

 

Hostage

I was dishonest, I admit it. I lied about something that I shouldn't have and completely disrupted my relationship to the point where I have to accept that it will probably never be the same. It was straight chaos for weeks and what I think really exacerbated the dispute was that my girlfriend never thought I could ever do anything wrong. She thought I was perfect and would make a point to tell me that almost everyday.

But that's just it, I'm not perfect. I never was. I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. I sometimes say the wrong things at the worst times. Sometimes I forget to do things or I'm late for a date. And guess what, sometimes I even lie.

flower-370101_640I'm not proud of what I've done and I don't want this post in any way to justify me lying. My only goal is to say that we all have many sides to us. Both males and females can be equally caring and unemotional, headstrong and docile, angry and forgiving. We just need the maturity to decide when to best act on those emotions. No one person should be held hostage to being that one person all the time. We are multidimensional, emotional beings and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I still have a lot of growing to do myself. I'm slowly coming into the person I want to be but truthfully I'm not sure I'll ever get there. I may always be a work in progress, trying to balance each side of my personality while trying to consider those around me who matter most. Hopefully they're patient enough to stick with all of the "me's" long enough for me to figure things out. Guess I'll have to wait and see....

Chit Chat Turned Powerful

morning-393623_640How often can you say you've truly been moved by the words of another person. I mean truly moved to action, to change, to commit, to be a better person. I recently had one of those moments with a friend of mine through a relatively brief conversation. After some small talk in which I joked about being jealous of her living in warm weather Vancouver while we Torontonians wait in fear for another brutal Winter fighting through ice storms, we got into a deeper discussion about something that I struggle with mightily, and that's acceptance.

Acceptance really is a big deal for me because I really don't know how to get there. Something about the concept seems conciliatory, like I'm settling for something when I know there's so much more for me to do.

"But Kern, I'm not telling you to give up on any of your aspirations, all I'm saying is accept who you are now and appreciate all that you have accomplished thus far. And not just in your writing career, but look at the person you've become, look at the daughter you've helped raise, look at the life you've carved for yourself despite being a teenage parent and a high school dropout. Once you accept all of those victories, you'll elevate your mind to a different level of understanding that will guide you to the future success that you crave so badly."

Finding My Way

Acceptance...the word suddenly didn't parallel mediocrity or failure, or settling for less than what I hope to achieve. Suddenly acceptance became liberating and freed me from the uncompromising burden of not being happy until I reach some intended point of "success" that would supposedly allow my happiness to kick in. That is no longer the case. Instead, I would accept and celebrate all of my victories and be happy throughout the entire journey.boy-185195_640

I am fortunate in that I am able to wake up every day and do what I love to do. I am able to use my voice through my way with words to share thoughts, stories, points of views and life lessons with people who are connected through similar perspectives. I am not an angry person nor am I ungrateful. But it took that conversation for me to accept that it's OK to be happy without feeling guilty; OK to feel proud of my achievements so far even though I'm nowhere near where I aim to be. That conversation brought a feeling of calm over me I haven't felt since writing the first page of my novel so many years ago.

But I am thankful for those few moments. Sometimes that's all it takes to change your life. And I'm not saying that I am a completely different person today since having that conversation, but I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes I will welcome it not with the fear that days are passing too fast for me to grab hold, instead I will accept that it is another chance for me to do fulfill my calling and inspire others with my words. What more can I really ask for....

Defining Success

I spent half of my twenties being formally educated and sacrificed the other half so I can put myself in a position to be successful. I didn't take any vacations, didn't party excessively, and spent my money efficiently. And to be completely honest, it wasn't that difficult. I saw the bigger picture and knew who I was and who I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and my career and I lived every day with that knowledge.

Now I am finally in that position. I'm another step closer to having an impact on the world, which has always been my intention. Every day I said no to going to a club, every dollar I put into my career instead of a vacation package, every bullshit job I took so I could make ends meet while I worked on this book; now all of it is paying off. I always say this is just the beginning, but so much has been done already.

"Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" is out now and the real journey to success begins.

Daughters

To all my fathers: YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Do not measure the worth of your influence by a monthly payment. You are so much more and should be so much more. I dare you to be PRESENT in the lives of your daughters. Be present to guide her, speak to her, take her to school, read to her, listen to her. Your PRESENCE means so much. YOU are the FIRST LOVE of her life and it will be up to you to make sure that love is healthy and beautiful, so you set the stage for every other man that enters her life after you.

Do not be afraid to be her friend, or to scold her for being rude. Compliment her for doing her hair by herself for the first time and push her to turn that "B" into an "A." Encourage her to be bold, opinionated, demanding, confident. And as many times as you will be forced to tell her "NO" show her a different way that is acceptable.

Be the parent she needs, the companion she wants, and the leader that is essential to her nurturing.  

One Caring Adult

I'm three hours into a strategic meeting with the executive team from BOSS Magazine before we thankfully break for a meal.  It's Sunday, two days before the new year and the last day of the regular season in the NFL.  Everyone is scattered throughout the meeting room, some in the seated area, others eating on the round table where we've been discussing different ways to push the magazine forward.

I'm standing in the kitchen with my food on the island speaking to one of the trustees that have invested in BOSS.  He also happens to be one of the directors of Doorsteps which he informs me is an organization based in Black Creek that runs multiple outreach programs for both youth and adults that extend far beyond their local community.

As we touch on different topics during the short break, I ask him a question I've asked several community leaders and activists over the past year: "What's the difference?" What is the difference between us and them?  He asks me to elaborate and I continue.  I ask how is it that two people can come from exactly the same priority neighbourhood, share a generally similar experience of poverty, exposure to drugs and violence, marginalization, yet one of those individuals will overcome and escape the mental trap to live a positive and productive life, and the other will succumb to the trap and become a victim and perpetrator of violence, abuse and sell drugs, and become a drain on society.

"One caring adult," he says.  I wait for him to get into some elaborate digression about causality and social infrastructure, or the lack of government support, but he says none of that.  "One caring adult," he repeats.  "The difference between someone escaping and someone getting caught is often one caring adult."

By then our lunch break was over and everyone was back at the round table.  One caring adult.  I repeated the phrase over and over in my head.  One caring adult.  At first I was somewhat relieved.  "That's all it takes," I thought.  "So then there is hope."  But then I thought about how many people I know and grew up with that are trapped.  Then I thought about all the drugs and violence and apathy within the priority communities, and the families of the people in these communities and I wondered, One caring adult.  Do none of these people that are trapped have at least one caring adult in their lives? Not one person to say "I am here for you."  Not one person to say "you're body is precious," or "love yourself first because you are worth it."  This can't be true.  This can't be right.

Throughout the next few hours of the meeting, my mind reflected back to this possibility. I wasn't sure which way to interpret this hypothesis, if I should be optimistic or skeptical.  I decided to be hopeful, to believe that we need to give these trapped minds a chance.  I can be that one caring adult, any of us can.  Anyone living through the struggle needs to seek out this one caring adult and we need to make ourselves available.  One caring adult.  That's all it takes.  Powerful in its simplicity, practical in its application.  Let's create hope for all of those that are trapped and be their escape.  One caring adult.  An enlightening vision indeed.
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Read my novel "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com.

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