A nihilist with a gentle heart

“I am a nihilist,” Austin declared during one of our conversations around the fire. In the three days together in this remote, idyllic cottage, our conversations had run the gamut from serious to silly, personal to global. This statement did not surprise me. I’d heard it before. One of Austin’s closest friends, a professor of […]

Three days in the woods

Three days with my son, Austin, in a cottage in the woods of Southern Maine. I wasn’t sure he would join me. I wasn’t sure we were ready for that kind of time together. The previous few years had been full of drama, from moments that seemed to tear us apart for good, followed by […]

My mother was not my best friend

As a university psychologist, I heard many students describe their mothers as their “best friend.” My mother was not my best friend. In my book, mothers, fathers, and spouses constitute a whole different category. They are not best friends. I told my secrets, my stories, my dreams to my best friends. I withheld lots of […]

Father as Bricklayer

I decided long ago, when my daughter was in high school and my son was in middle school, that there is no “right way” to parent.  I am writing this on the heels of Father’s Day.  I got phone calls from each of my two “kids” who are a thousand miles away and dealing with […]

Stuck in the intersection

“Dad!” I could tell something was wrong. “What’s up, Son?” “I’m stuck in the intersection of Green and Lincoln and I can’t get my car to move!” Green and Lincoln is a busy intersections in the town where he lives.  If he was stuck there, he was in a heap of trouble.  “I’ve been stuck […]

The parent’s dilemma

While sitting in my favorite study place a few years ago, a campus coffee shop, I overheard one side of a phone conversation between a student and a parent.  I wasn’t trying to listen in, but the student’s volume and intensity made it unavoidable.  The young man had apparently overdrawn his bank account and a […]

Father as a sparring partner

I’m writing this on Father’s Day.  I just spent a week with my two young adult children, ages 29 and 22, who live in Illinois. I am now visiting my 85 year-old father. I am experiencing multigenerational paternal whiplash. I think my father was able to semi-retire from fatherhood within a few months of his […]

Good-enough Parenting

I believe that in striving to be a “good enough” parent, sometimes the best we can do is make sure our intentions are visible in our actions. What I hope for my children is that they possess an inquisitive mind, a tender heart, a strong moral intuition, a sense of personal responsibility, and the capacity to endure disappointment. If that’s what I want for them, I need to make sure they see those qualities in me, consistently, daily, over the course of years through all the normal, routine activities of family living and growing up.