Four years ago, while my now wife and I were dating, we discussed adopting another child. We both had already parented and had kids from our previous marriages aged 32, 22 and 15. Yet, there was a mutual drive between us to adopt a young child and help parent him or her into adulthood (I was hoping for a girl as I had never had the joy of raising one). So, after getting married, we went through the home study process and waited to see if our little angel would float down from heaven. (I use to tell people that I would drive by the park every morning hoping to see if a child had come down with the rain or snow.)
After several trials and tribulations with the adoption process (http://adventuredad.org/534/reflections/king-for-a-day/), we had just about resided ourselves to early retirement, travel and golf. Then, last August, while recovering from shoulder surgery, we received a call from the agency about a 7 year old girl. Just weeks later, we were meeting with her grandfather and talking about his desire for her to have a family who could nurture and raise her. Having lost his wife years earlier, he tried his hardest to parent her but realized it wasn’t going to work out.
After months of visits to Northern Colorado, little Lily moved in with us this past December. Things were rough at first as she was coming to grips with yet another loss and transition in her young life. Yet, we hung in there with lots of love, many fun adventures, security with her new parents, and loving siblings and a faithful dog. Most excitingly for me was watching Alex welcome her into his life as he came down from college on weekends and breaks. Many a fun adventure was had with Lily and her new brother.
This past July, we are excited to report that Lily became a permanent member of our family. I will never forget looking back at her when the judge asked me if we would adopt her. She smiled at us both and then gave us a big thumbs-up!
Lily continues to flower during this new school year. Surrounded by family and friends, she is thriving. We are looking forward to many a great adventure together and it’s been a whole new experience for me learning how to be the father of a girl. Believe me, if you have ever seen my golf game, you’d understand why this was the perfect choice for finding meaning and joy in this next phase of our lives!
The Social Brain Is Here!!
Craig Knippenberg has successfully combined his years of experience from working with children, teens and adolescents with an extensive knowledge of the brain to create a series of promotional videos for his upcoming book, Will You Be My Friend? Understanding Your Child’s Social Brain Through Childhood. This set of five vignettes details the contents of his future book, as well as works to explain his mission in educating parents and teachers on their children’s brains.
Will You Be My Friend? Understanding Your Child’s Social Brain Videos:
For additional information: Will You Be My Friend flyer.
In his narrative to ten-year-old Connor, caring father and adventurer Tommy Maloney opens his heart to reflect on the trials of his life as a single father, and as a son with divorced parents. His piece was published in Every Little Thing! Birth and Beyond 360, a magazine dedicated to celebrating life. Tommy is also the author of the book “25 Tips for Divorced Dads: How to create special memories and grow your bonds with your children.” As a prominent member of Colorado society, Tommy has grown his reputation as a father and mentor on the subject of family divorces.
In the summer of 2008, Alex and I left Denver for a long planned adventure to California and the Northwest. Our planned route was to take us West on I-70 across Utah and then cut our way northwest to Yosemite national Park. This first part of our adventure was to camp and backpack in the wilderness areas of this great land. From there we were scheduled to drive to Sacramento for a lecture I was giving before heading up the coast of Northern California and Oregon. After arriving at the destination point of Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition, we planned on heading back east along the Columbia River and their famous passageway. It was an opportunity to explore new mountain areas, see the spectacular northwest coast and complete our three year tracing of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Starting out on our first day, we had made our way across the continental divide and were starting our journey across the solitude and vast beauty of the Southern Utah desert. We were just west of Green River, Utah, and nearly out of cell phone range, when I received a tragic phone call. Pulling over at the Ghost Rock senic view area, which overlooks spectacular canyons and gorges, a friend shared that two young children from my son’s school and my place of employment as the school counselor were killed early that morning in a bizarre accident on the Oregon coast.
Quietly, Alex listened as I talked and then shared the news with him. I immediately felt the need to go back home and help with the needed trauma counseling. At the same time, I was torn with my desire to be with my son and to move ahead on this great adventure. Every father faces times in his work life where he is torn between the needs of his family and the needs of his career. Having known and loved Sam and Grace, this decision which I had to make to go on a greater significance and emotional weight.
Fortunately for me, the weight of this decision and the burden which I felt making it was lifted by my young teenage son. He simply said: “If we are going to go back, we better turn back now”. In that moment, I saw a maturity and decisiveness in him which filled me with great pride. He knew that the right thing had to be done.
Sadly, I will always remember this day and my two young friends. Yet I will also remember the growth and my son’s budding manhood. While we have yet to make it to Yosemite, we were able to rocket out to California and make that trip up the Oregon coast line. Most meaningful, we had a chance to thank the firefighters and paramedics who tried to save our friends and were able to lay down some flowers and prayers for their journey to Heaven. It was an interrupted adventure which threw us into the depths of loss and the most humble appreciation for life.
We miss you, Sam and Grace.
it was no doubt totaled. Something, I had never heard of or would have thought of.
truck. We got a good settlement and will now have to find a new vehicle for adventures to come. Does anyone have a Jeep for sale?
For years, we’ve said hi to and watched our neighbor Bill and his son Jackson, age
9, play out in the yard. Having been a single dad for some nine years, I felt kinship with Bill as he struggled to raise his son and stay involved in his son’s life. I very much respected that about him when so many men seem to walk away from their kids.
At nine years younger than my son, I used to talk with Bill about places to take his young son and how much we both loved being dads.
Several weeks ago, Bill and Jackson jumped into their construction van and headed to
their favorite camp spot on the Colorado River. Tragically, their bodies were discovered this past week victims of what police are saying was a murder-suicide.
None of us can imagine why Bill would take this path for him and his son. He was a dedicated dad who was constantly doing things with his son. We know his
son was struggling with school. We also know he wanted a new dog for Christmas and that, like every year before, they put up their Christmas lights in the Aspen trees. Perhaps Bill felt that his son, or himself, were facing some overwhelming pain and obstacles and that this option made sense to him in some distorted way.
I can also recall some of my own past pain of going through a divorce and being so
worried about what the future would hold for my young son and I. Would we be ok? I told him we would on a hut trip when he was nine but did so with great uncertainty and fear. I also recall periods of stress while trying to maintain a house, manage the finances of a business, deal with my own post trauma from the Columbine High School tragedy, deal with my dad’s death and continue to maintain a good relationship with my son. It was always our adventures I would look to however, when I reached my max and it was the adventures which kept us close.
Now, seeing the reporters and police out front, I’m left with deep sorrow for Bill
and his curly headed boy. All we will have are memories of the two of them on their many adventures. Building their own house together (Bill was gifted with this hands), playing ball, seeing Jackson on top of the step van as a preschooler (he loved to climb), watching Jackson scream around the corner on his Big Wheels and then in his electric car, borrowing tools for our home construction adventures, the two of them showing up late at night for our home fireworks displays, dropping off holiday treats for which they were always so thankful, and waving to them just a couple of weeks ago as they drove by in the
big white van just as they had done hundreds of times before. Bill waving and Jackson sitting tall in the front seat with his curly hair, riding off with his dad.
Rest in Peace
On our recent trip to the Northwest, Alex and I met Al and his son Jeremy while backpacking on the Pacific coast. It’s a great conversation between a dad and his adult son who discovered adventures together when Al’s sons were in their teens. I especially loved Al’s discussion about being flexible around his sons’ interests and Jeremy talking about all that he’s learned from his dad. Enjoy.
While coming over with his so for BB guns, our friend John talks about his Father’s letters. It’s amazing to have such a treasure.
I’D WANT SOMEONE TO COME IN AFTER MY KIDS…THAT’S WHY I DO IT.
New York Fire Department Museum
On this 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, it’s poignant to reflect upon how honoring our firefighters, police officers and military service personnel goes hand in hand with value based fathering and enjoying adventures together. Over the years, I’ve tried to instill respect and appreciation for our heroes in my son’s heart and soul.
My first memory of doing so occurred when Alex was about 5. Like most young boys, Alex was obsessed with firefighters. Many a toy truck and fire fighting uniforms and equipment were part of play time. His 5th birthday party in fact, included a trip to the local firehouse where we got to see the men in action taking off for a call. It was thrilling for the boys and myself to see them spring into action.
Later that year, a young fireman lost his life while on a rescue. The streets of Denver were lined with people as a long procession of fire fighting vehicles moved down the street close to our house. Dressed in all his equipment, I’ll never forget him standing at attention and saluting as they passed by.
Over the years, we honored a fallen police officer and on one occasion, had the privilege of meeting and then paying for the meals of two young graduates from the Air Force Academy who were getting ready to be deployed. We also had many opportunities to talk about the important role that these men and women play in our lives.
Following 9/11, I helped him and a friend bake and decorate a cake with blueberries and strawberries in the pattern of an American flag. It was hard to hold back the tears as we took the cake and a thank you card over to that same firehouse and present it to our heroes.
On a professional level, I’ve had the unpleasant task of having to explain a variety of traumas to young, school children. I’ll never forget 10 years ago this day, when a young first grade girl said: “Why would anyone want to kill firemen and policemen Mr. Knippenberg? They are heroes”. How profoundly meaningful and touching was this comment from a sensitive 10 year old.
May this day of remembrance, give you the opportunity to reflect upon duty and honor with your children. These are the fathers and mothers who would put their lives on the line for your children.
Alex and I had planned on being at the summit of Longs Peak for sunrise this morning in honor of 9/11. Unfortunately, a stomach bug forced us off the mountain at 3 am. While driving back to Denver, I was treated to the comforting image of my sleeping son next to me. May we all be thankful for those who allow our children to sleep in peace.
“It was the best day of my entire life!”
While I am blessed each day by the gratification I receive from what I do for a living, this phrase from one of my ten-year-old group kids was truly special to me. It was communicated to me by his mother whom he told in the car following our 31st annual Crawdad fishing adventure. This was an adventure where we shattered our old group record of 38. Now, twelve kids and one mom caught 109 crawdads in about 30 minutes.
Starting out, the majority of our kids had never crawdad fished before and the site of the chicken liver on a string just about made them want to quit before even starting. Within a minute, however, those skeptical faces turned to smile of pure joy as they started pulling them out and throwing them into the bucket. Most of them couldn’t believe they were even catching one let alone 5 or 10.
Within minutes, one kid was stripped down to his shorts while another took a header into the creek. Standing next to each other, it looked like a picture that Norman Rockwell might have drawn. This was kids having fun in the outdoors in its most pure form. Having my teen son there to help the kids and fill the bucket with our catch made it even more special for me as I recalled the many times he ran around with his shirt and shoes off and now observed him acting as a mature young man.
Halfway through the adventure, I couldn’t believe how magical the whole time was. No one was complaining, no one was arguing over who got to stand where, and no one was upset about the 100-degree heat. All of us were simply lost in the moment. I couldn’t resist the urge to yell out: “Now isn’t this better than those stupid video games!”