Win a Winner!
Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
Tony Malinda, M.A., M.F.T. has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for nearly 20 years. He is a counselor at the Westview school in West Los Angeles, has a private practice specializing in adolescents and parenting, and has two kids.
by Tony Malinda, MA, MFT
It seems like a lifetime ago when I was a young single therapist living in a small apartment only three blocks from the beach. Life was easy, but my job was anything but. I was working with a youth project running groups for kids going through divorce.
Listening to their stories of feeling responsible for their parent’s problems, feeling like rubber bands about to be snapped in two and somehow blaming themselves for the divorce was a gut wrenching experience. It was a privilege to work with those kids who eagerly shared their experience and were so bravely willing to trust us with their pain.
This was a unique service that was provided to the residents of this beach community at a very low fee. Once a week for 10 weeks we fed the families dinner and split the kids into three age groups; we even split up the parents who could not stand being in the same room together. This operation required eight therapists and a childcare worker for the really little ones – a community service of days gone by, unfortunately.
As we were eating dinner one evening before group, I was talking with one of our seasoned therapists who had five children of his own in various graduate school programs. Five kids in graduate school? How in the world did he pull that off? Being a newly licensed and very inquisitive therapist I just had to ask, and his response was: “Chairs!”
What could chairs possibly have to do with successful parenting? I continued pressing and he didn’t seem to mind. He proceeded to explain that he and his wife had collected various styles of folding chairs and bleacher cushions that they lugged around town and beyond to various athletic events, plays, and musical performances that their children were a part of.
He proudly described a 15-year period when he and his wife attended at least one event most nights of the week and most weekend days. Often times there would be more than one event happening at the same time, so they had to split up and represent alone.
Chairs! It sounded so simple but was it?
The effort and commitment it took to be so present for their children was astounding. What they did was hard work that required sacrifice and perseverance. The unspoken lessons their children learned from those actions were invaluable. At that moment, I promised myself I would take that advice and put it to good use when the time came.
Well, the time came and now I am a parent of two – a 12-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy – and I am still not quite able to understand how anybody could raise five kids successfully. Oiii! I do however, understand how important it is to be there for my kids. I can tell how much value they place on our presence at school meetings, games and performances.
I will never forget how I felt when I knew one of my parents was watching me play. Whether I was playing football as a 17-year-old high school student or playing in a two-on-two beach volleyball tournament as a 28-year-old adult, their sheer presence would give me a boost of confidence and elevate my game. Priceless.
Sure, we are all very busy and can come up with multiple reasons why we can’t be there, but we all still need to find a way to be there so our kids will feel just how important they are to us. No amount of money or gadgets can replace being there.
In the long run, kids aren’t going to care why their parents didn’t show up. Just as my young clients in the divorce groups concluded that they were at fault and somehow caused the divorce, neglected kids will conclude that there is something wrong with them if their parents can’t find the time to show up.
So I would like to commend the many of you who can and do. You do the work day in and day out, week in and week out and it is hard work. Good for you and good for your kids.
Now, a lifetime later, my wife and I can be seen at our local park lugging around our awesome folding chairs sporting cup holders, footrests, and adjustable umbrellas for those really hot southern California fall soccer days. Although we are on our feet cheering most of the time, we are there for our kids and our chairs are there for us.
Power to the parents!
Opinion: Co-Sleeping Is Better For Kids|
Michael Klein, an L.A. dad with a 2-year-old daughter, makes the case for co-sleeping.
Far From Home|
We work hard to raise our children right -- so that we can eventually let them go. But when is the right time to begin releasing our offspring into the world? For one dad, a summer trip to Fiji for his 15-year-old provided the answer.
How I Found Myself a Long Way From Home|
Teens deal with so many pressures and complications. One local girl found that a great way to simplify and gain perspective was to travel more than 5,000 miles from home.
An Expectant Dad’s Great Escape|
Think you could make it out of Babies R Us in under 45 minutes?