All posts by jmacofearth

About jmacofearth

Social Media Consultant for Fluent Social and Search Marketing, John is a devoted single-dad who writes about the journey from divorced father to triumphant father.

Whole Parent Tip: Getting Your Teen to Bed on Time

[This is a guest post from Tuck Sleep. This is not an endorsement or a paid placement, but  merely beneficial parenting content.]

Parents of teens know it can be tough to get them to sleep on time at night. In fact, although teens need at least eight hours of sleep per night, two out of three U.S. high school students sleep less than eight hours on school nights.

A lack of sleep can have serious consequences. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to perform poorly in school, engage in unhealthy risk behaviors, not get enough physical activity, suffer from depressive symptoms, and be overweight.

Factors Contributing to Poor Sleep in Teens

The blame for not getting to sleep on time doesn’t rest solely on teens’ behavior, however. Busy schedules and active social lives can put pressure on sleep time. School schedules, in particular, can make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep, as five out of six U.S. middle and high schools start the day before 8:30 a.m.

Another major factor influencing poor sleep in teens is a circadian rhythm shift in puberty. Before puberty, teens may feel sleepy around 8 to 9 p.m., with plenty of time to sleep before school starts. After puberty begins, teens start to feel sleepy around 10 to 11 p.m. This sleep phase delay makes it difficult to get to bed on time so they’ll have enough sleep before school starts.

Behavior may exacerbate this sleep shift change. Some teens may stay up late texting with friends, working on homework, or engaging in hobbies, which can cut into sleep time.

Many teens are worn out at the end of the school week. Often, they sleep in late on the weekends to catch up on missed sleep. However, this only makes it more difficult to fall asleep at the right time during the week.

teen parenting, sleep

How Parents Can Support Healthy Sleep

  • Support a healthy sleep schedule. Encourage your teen to consider which activities are essential or not during the school week. Too many events can put pressure on homework time and sleep, so it may be necessary to cut back. Make rest a priority and schedule activities around sleep, not the other way around.

  • Encourage good sleep hygiene. Help your teen establish a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Staying consistent each night can make it easier to settle down and get to sleep, as their bodies know what to expect.

  • Discourage sleep pitfalls. Some activities can make it more difficult to sleep. Late night screen time, heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can all interfere with good sleep. Encourage your teen to stop screen time at least an hour before bed and avoid consuming foods that can interfere with sleep in the evening.

  • Create a healthy sleep environment. Make sure your teen has a healthy place to sleep. A memory foam mattress or mattress topper can help ease teens to sleep. Their bedroom should be cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable. Use blackout curtains, white noise, and a fan if needed.

Sarah Johnson
Community Relations
Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

Dating Boundaries After Divorce

BFFN: best friends for now; boyfriend for now.

So when you begin “dating” a new person how quickly do you become attached? How soon do you both actively use the word “boyfriend” or “girlfriend?” As you begin to lean into a new relationship the boundaries between you can become very abstract and blurry. This lack of boundaries or inability to articulate what we need or want is the cause of many early dating failures. I recall a woman, years ago, who had given me her phone number after a stellar first date, saying, “We should just hang out sometime. Call me.”

I was so thrilled that I emailed her a few times. I connected to her phone # and sent her a few texts. I thought I was being enthusiastic. She thought I was going way to fast. “You need to slow your roll,” is how she put it. We never made it to a second date. I don’t know what boundary I crossed, or what previous dating experience had caused her to be so dramatic in her pushback.

As I am entering into some new “dating” relationships I want to get very clear about what my needs are.

  1. I don’t need a rescue.
  2. I don’t need financial support.
  3. I don’t need someone to validate me.
  4. I don’t need a support system. (see Liz Phair: Support System)
  5. I don’t need to move quickly towards defining the relationship.
  6. I’m not heading for a hookup. (When I decide to have sex, it will be because I am choosing you above all others, and I will immediately become monogamous and drop all dating profiles and apps.)
  7. My intentions are set for a long-term relationship, not a dating partner.
  8. You must be on your own path of strength and beauty.
  9. You don’t need me to support you emotionally, financially, or spiritually. (These are parts of a relationship that might evolve, but at the outset, we need to be two individual countries engaged in becoming allies and trading partners.)
  10. Your sexual energy enlivens and engages my chemistry in a way that we both enjoy.

I’m not looking for a lot. I’m looking for exactly EVERYTHING. There is no “almost” in my next relationship. And I am willing to stand in and be a good celibate man until I find her.

How you define your boundaries early in the relationship is how you will relate to each other for the duration. If you cross boundaries and violate minor issues of trust, you will break the fragile bond that is forming between the two of you, even before the first fibers of love have begun to form and enmesh.

As Brené Brown puts it in her talk on BRAVING, you develop trust and love through hundreds of tiny engagements and opportunities. You either show up or you turn away. I am showing up. My next mate must show up too. First for her own life. Is she standing in her own power, her own dream? And then as an equal, as she considers joining together and combining forces.

I want to be a better man by being with a woman who calls me to attention and accountability. Today, I am alone and doing fine. I am doing some of the hard work of healing past wounds (mine have to do with childhood trauma) and celebrating a positive self-image. As I learn about loving myself, I am readying a place in my heart to love another.

I’m not quite there yet. But I’m excited by the opportunities ahead to become someone’s BFFN. The “for now” part is critical. I can’t plan the future of my next relationship. I can only show up, be honest, and remain open. The other person has 50% of the balance in how things turn out. In the past I have tried to be bigger than my 50%, I have compensated for qualities that were lacking in the other person, I’ve sacrificed some of my must-haves. I’ve learned that being unbalanced in any way (sexually, financially, physically, spiritually) can cause problems in the future.

Let’s keep returning to the now of our relationship. Sure, let’s become girlfriend and boyfriend and then let’s see where it goes from there.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

related posts:


The Unattached Male

I am a wild animal. I understand this about my brain. There are parts of it (the reptilian brain) that are still connected to instincts like “survival of the fittest” and “sex for procreation” and “sex at every opportunity.” There are parts of all of us (yes, I believe women are just as energized by sexual energy and attraction as men are) that are more like animals on the hunt for a mate than a rational human being going about their modern-day lives. We’re hooked on sex. And when our sex-is-on-fire we pay attention to what is right in front of us.

I know myself “in relationship” as a man who is satisfied and settled. I am no longer driven by the energetic part of the sex-brain that is hunting for attractive and available women. When I have a relationship to call my own, my entire body is more relaxed, more connected, and more grounded. I can see and appreciate a sexy young woman, and as a connected male, I can let it go with a “God has made another beautiful woman,” thought. I do not need to lure, to approach, or engage.

I noticed this afternoon I was fascinated by a young woman a few tables over at lunch. She was chatting with a friend and never noticed my attentions. But I noticed I was seeing things about her that might be construed as… Well, as not all that healthy.

I am not a misogynist, but I do have a hard time not making women’s bodies “objects” of affection. That’s called the objectification of women. (Not a good thing.) So I notice. Appreciate. And let go.

This is when I’m in a good place, relationship-wise, as in connected, satisfied, and satiated. Today was not one of those days. I’m alone again. I’ve been dating and meeting women, but I’m unattached, unsatiated. I’m still in my reptillian brain and desiring women in the world around me with a possesive and primal energy. I wanted this young woman, smiling, talking, and taking no notice of the dad-bod near her.

What was it about her energy, her sexuality, her youth, that fascinated me so much? And this is not strictly about youth or fitness, though those things can add or subtract from the momentum. I was attracted and pulled toward this young woman, because I do not have a primary relationship in my life. Sure, I’m exploring a few options via online dating, but I’m no longer attached to a woman.

This untethered state is something that makes me feel less than optimal as I walk the earth. I feel a bit more energetic, but in a sexual and driven way. She was a tasty mate, and that’s what I was looking for, even if the idea of “mating” for procreation is no longer part of my physical possibilities.

Today, I don’t have a greener pasture I’m looking for, I’m looking for any available, rational, Brené Brown reading, fit, and funny woman. I’m looking.  And in this seeking state, I’m more of a predator, more an old lion on a hunt.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

The “Third Glass” series:

related posts:

Going Global with the 100%-Positive Single Parent Message

Today marks a new dawn for The Whole Parent.

Today, the online agent who found me a few weeks ago begins the process of putting The Whole Parent into the reach of millions more people than we’ve touched so far. Today, The Whole Parent has over 1 million reads of our posts. We’re pretty happy with that stat. But it’s not enough.

anne leedom - the whole parent

Anne Leedom’s Online PR is about to take the journey with us to creating a more positive divorce and single parenting experience for you and your kids. We need to let go of the divorce and anger. We need to become “whole” parents again. And with Anne beside me, I’m confident we will continue to touch lives.

Today is the beginning of something big. Welcome aboard Anne. We’re ready to do great things with you.

Thank you again for coming along on my journey.

John McElhenneyThe Whole Parent

Imagine a Man

Let’s talk about your (woman’s) side of the equation. I’m so focused on what I want, what about you? What does your ideal man look like? Please discuss.

Here my ten success factors for a relationship with a man.

  1. Mental fitness
  2. Physical fitness
  3. Spiritual fitness
  4. Emotionally available
  5. Financially stable
  6. Happiness scale
  7. Sexually attractive (chemistry)
  8. The way he walks in the world
  9. The way he approaches you/women/life
  10. Timing is everything

How does your vision for a man stack up? Could you put your list together for an ideal man? Have you done it? Have you done a vision board for the man you are dreaming of? Are you ready to meet him? If the man of your dreams shows up tomorrow are you really ready for him? What would it take to be swept off your feet? And it that really what you want? There are some dangerous aspects of getting too romantically, or too sexually, connected before the “relationship” part of the relationship has a chance to develop.

Sex is great. Chemistry is vital. But the rest of the relationship is more important. What happens if the sex is amazing on the 5th date? You still know very little about how this man lives his life. And you certainly don’t know how you would fit into his routine. Because you have not had a chance to figure out a routine together. You’ve just gotten hooked up on the love drug. And love/sex is a very powerful drug.

In the marriage to the mother of my children, I got physically connected, attracted, to her long before I was clear on what she was like. And this proved to be a problem later when I began to understand a bit more about her spiritual and mental makeup. I’m not going to say anything negative about her at this point, other than to say we had great chemistry and less relationship compatibility. How will you know about your new relationship if you don’t give the “relationship” time to develop. Once the sex-drive is connected, your ability to logically navigate the adventure of building a life together is compromised. Yes, it’s a great compromise. But it’s also a trap.

Sex too soon can lead to bad relationships based on sex and physical attraction. Make sure when you are thinking of having sex with someone (this is my relationship DNA – The 6-Step Relationship Strategy) that you are preparing the idea that you want to have a long-term relationship (LTR) with this person. If you are hooking up, you are reading the wrong blog. (grin)

Have fun out there. Get yourself a map of the man you want to find. Imagine the man, imagine a man, imagine your man, and then do the work to get yourself in the best shape (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) of your life, so that when he shows up he will notice you. That’s all it takes. If the magic is going to happen, it’s going to happen. Having sex too soon can derail the emotional and spiritual bonding that also needs to take place.

I’m not saying don’t have sex. I’m not saying wait 5 dates or 5 months before having sex with someone. I am saying, when you’re about to have sex with someone, ask the question, “Does this person have the potential to be the one?” If the answer is less than a resounding YES, you might be more interested in a hookup than a relationship. That’s okay, but notice your own feelings about the idea. And if you want to hookup, do it. But if you’re looking for a relationship to last the rest of your life, give your heart a chance to catch up with you and your man before you bring him into your bedroom.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

* If you are interested in meeting Daniel, or getting a coach in your life, please let me know.

More from The Whole Parent:

+++ imagine a man, by the who +++

Imagine a girl
You long for and have
And the body of chalky perfection and truth

Imagine a past
Where you wish you had lived
Full of heroes and villains and fools

And you will see the end
You will see the end
And you will see the end
You will see the end
Oh yeah

Universe Says: FULL STOP

Let’s start with February, shall we? It’s been the most intense and transformative month of my young 55-year-old life. I felt at times like my skin was being burnt away by the velocity of the change underway. The pace of change, conflict, resolution, conflict, opportunity, and so on, was exhausting. I stopped drinking coffee because I didn’t need any stimulants. I adjusted my psyche meds to reduce activation. And I started to manage my sleep hours in a much more directed way. All to say, the month continued to burn away my old baggage and scorch my newly exposed skin. Ouch.

What I had to keep focusing on, in order to stay sane and stay on the planet, was to pause everything and focus on a few meditative breathes. Just stop. And breathe. It worked. But it wasn’t enough. The pain of transformation and re-entry into my new life continued.

March has come with a bit more gentleness but I am still being served up for a healing in every area of my life. Most recently that massive shift has happened in my relationship to money and work. I’ve always worked for a living. And in the last 8 years, since my divorce, my ex-wife (I mean, my kids) has gotten 50% of everything I’ve earned. It makes it a bit hard to maintain living quarters. It has been a challenging 8 years. And last week, something massive changed. More on that later.

The job thing has been quite interesting for me to explore emotionally. Rationally I was of the mind, I need a big full-time job to provide the child support and healthcare my family still requires, and deserves. I was applying for a lot of jobs. Some of them above my experience and most of them below my senior-level marketing role. But the universe and recruiters see through these missteps. I never got callbacks on the “manager” or “specialist” roles, it was clear from my resume that I was a director level or perhaps ready for a VP position. So the job market in this hot tech town, Austin, Texas, was rough. I was not getting any hits. Until February. And then the job offers began raining down on me, and the jobs I was applying to all started asking me to take the first interview step.

Then two weeks ago I met Daniel.

This man changed my perspective on life and my future goals. But that’s what Daniel does. He’s an executive life coach. Helping c-level (not me) executives move from their primary careers to “what’s next.” And he’s very good at what he does. 25+ years in, and he’s also an expert in the industry. Daniel and I shared 147 connections on LinkedIn. All of my “mentors” and “goto thinkers” were also 1st level connections with Daniel.

And Daniel told me his story. And we agreed to work together, we agreed that I could help Daniel’s company do a better job of marketing itself online. A relationship was formed. But something deeper was also formed, from our first meeting. We understood each other, trusted each other, in a rare and powerful way. I knew from the first meeting, that Daniel and I were going to powerfully change each other’s lives, in a great way.

Two days after our inital meeting I asked Daniel to “coach” me on a 10-minute call. I had a lot up in the air, and I wanted to get this executive coach in on a tiny piece of my story to see if my thinking was way off, or if I was heading in the right direction. So I told Daniel of my two options, as I saw them.

Option 1: Full-time gig with a tech firm, making good money and providing full-benefits and retirement support.

Option 2: Continuing with my freelance gig (Fluent Social) and wing the benefits with my 2018 Obamacare coverage.

Daniel immediately spoke up. “You’re missing the bigger picture.” He saw something I didn’t. Again, that’s what he does. That’s his mission in life to use his Christ-centered leadership to guide people to their happiness and higher purpose.

You see, I had handed Daniel a copy of my new book (Single Dad Seeks) when we first met and explained that I was in the process of working with a new agent who was going to make me and The Whole Parent into a national forum for single parenting. She’s an online content placement agent. She’s going to get my content, my story, published all over the place. And in return for that, I will get more exposure, sell a few more books, and over the long run become more of a spokesperson for single parents in the national media. (Ask me later about when the Today Show came to my house and interviewed me about this blog and my writing and my single parenting experience.)

“You don’t need to take any full-time job,” Daniel continued. “You are being served up by the universe, and this agent came into your life for a reason. And, in fact, so did I.”

There is was. Daniel was confronting my work/money fear that goes something like this, “What if I don’t take that full-time job and my book fails? What if the freelance work dries up again? What if I get depressed? How will I survive without a good job and good health insurance.”

That was last week. This week the conversation continues. And the challenges to my old fear-based beliefs have been showing up in spades. On Thursday, I had my 2nd consulting meeting with Daniel, and we had a great session. I’m excited and energized by the work with him and his team. And I left the meeting feeling more confident and happy with my “freelance” choice than ever before. I still had a few job interviews moving forward for the week, but I was considering what it would feel like to tell them “no” and not do the interview at all. I was working on my fear. I wasn’t there yet, but Daniel was helping me challenge my fear-based belief.

On Thursday, this week I had another session with Daniel, where I am helping him market his business online. At the end of this session, he and I prayed together over some of my requests to the universe, including finding a relationship. (see book, listed above) I was humbled by Daniel’s ability to give so freely of his love and his devotion to Jesus.

As I left Daniel’s office that afternoon, I was looking at my email and deleting all-new “recruiter/job offer” emails until ONE caught my eye from a recruiter named Jill. I got in my car and noticed that Jill had also left me a voicemail. Rather than delete Jill’s email, I clicked on her phone number, saying to myself, “Okay, Jill (Universe) let’s see what you’ve got right now. I’m ready to be delivered.”

I left a voicemail for Jill. I deleted her voicemail without listening to it. Let’s cut to the chase, Lord, I said to myself. About 10 minutes later an excited Jill calls and begins to unpack this exciting opportunity in Austin, Texas with a small company that thinks I might just be what they need to jumpstart their growth and take care of their lead requests that the team has been too busy to respond to. (A Great problem for a company to have until it’s starting to piss off the leads and it becomes the brand of the company that they can’t handle any more business.)

Well, digital marketing is how I’ve made my living over the last 25 years, so this job sounded perfect. Jill and I talked for an hour and a half. She sent me a few documents to sign a non-disclosure agreement clearing the way for me to have an unfiltered conversation with the business owner on Monday, the Monday that is now two days away. Next Monday.

Wow, it was a whirlwind of a WIN-WIN and I went to bed excited. I wondered how Daniel would take my change of heart, but it was twice what Daniel was offering as some future date, and this was a bird in the hand. I didn’t sleep very well, I was conflicted and anxious. I’m sure the business owner, Jill, and Daniel all slept without worrying about me.

Yesterday, Friday morning, I woke up with a spiritual hangover. I felt sick. I knew that the dream job Jill was offering was no more than a fancier, better paid, 60-hour soul-killer job. Well, not all 60-hour jobs have to be soul killers, but, as I mentioned, I have just written a book, and… well… the 60-70 weeks were behind me.

I sent an email to Daniel asking for a 10-minute conversation (PERSONAL) in a mildly crisis driven panic.  And then I paused and prayed. I asked my higher power to show me the right path. I asked for God to give me his direction. And I meditated on that. Pause. Breathe. Listen.

Daniel’s voice came through my meditation loud and clear, “You can talk to Jill if you want to. You can entertain a big corporate job and putting a Tesla in your garage, but …”

I knew what he was going to say when I spoke with him later in the day.

“The universe is speaking to you.” No, Daniel would say, “The Lord is speaking to you, and showing up for you at this moment in your life. It is your job to listen and get out of his way as he transforms your life.”

I called Jill.

By the time Daniel and I spoke that afternoon, I just needed to relate my decision to him. “I heard your voice in my head, Daniel.”

“No John,” he said. “You heard the Lord answering your question.”


Pause. Breathe. Listen.

Full Stop. 

Always Love,

John McElhenney

* If you are interested in meeting Daniel, or getting a coach in your life, please let me know.

More from The Whole Parent:

Coaching for Single Parents – Lifecoaching Practice Announced

The amazing people at started courting me in October of 2017. I was having a tough holiday and I did not respond until the editor in chief connected with me on LinkedIn. She wanted to do an interview and profile of The Whole Parent.

A lot has changed since this article came out. Too much to fill in here, but over time you will learn how February 2018 was one of the most transformative months of my 50+ years on the planet. The transitions are still in motion, my life is still approaching hyperspeed of some sort, and many of my major life goals are revealing themselves to have answers that I did not expect and was not actively looking for. Yet, here we are.

Click to see the profile

Today the world changes for The Whole Parent, aka John McElhenney. As my life has been moving in recent years, my passion for helping and guiding single parents through the hardships of divorce, depression, recovery, addiction, and ultimately renewed belief in a future relationship, I am announcing today that my services as a single parenting coach/wingman/confidant/cheerleader are now official and I’ve got slots open.

What this means to you as a reader of The Whole Parent.

  1. My rate to you is 50% what it will be in April when the public announcement is made.
  2. After your first session with me (skype/facetime/in-person Austin, Texas) you will get a free copy of my new book, What a Single Dad Seeks, as well as lifetime and unlimited access to the upcoming community that is being built behind the Single Dad Seeks Community Website.
  3. Your first 30-minute session is free. Let’s just talk about your goals, what you’re looking for in a coach. What kind of help you need. If I’m not the best fit for you, I have a network of coaches I consult with.
  4. I’ll have the honor of talking to you about your life, your dreams. And you can ask me about my story, what I’ve written, what my experience as a single parent in the online dating world has been.
  5. I’ll email you my ebook, What Single Dads Want You To Know About Online Dating.

That’s the entire offer. First call, 30-minutes, is free. Let’s just connect. I’ll send you an electronic copy of the book and ebook just for connecting with me online. There’s no payment, no commitment. That’s as honest as I can get about what I do and how I can help you get back to your authentic strength and happiness.

I do Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime sessions for on a sliding scale… That’s it. Easy. Tell me what you want to pay in the opening email and describe your situation. I can help.




Speaking engagements and interview inquiries can be emailed to or for quicker response, you can call and leave a message at 512-524-6684.

For review copies of John’s newest book, Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce, send mailing info to

This is why I do it. I’m a dad to this wonderful 15 yo girl. She makes my life worth living every day. My 17 yo son, not pictured, is also a top priority in my parenting, earning, and dating life.

Online Dating Optimized – The Next Chapter of Dating After Divorce

Since October 27th, 2017, things have been quiet here. That is not because nothing has been happening, quite the opposite, in fact. In a seemingly random and brutal series of events my life began a transformative reorientation. I was praying as hard as I could. I was working an entry-level job (that I loved by the way) at a local specialty grocery store, and… horror of all horrors was/am living with my 85 yo mom. No pity party here, however, this dark night of the soul has caused me to delve even deeper into my childhood trauma and ask even harder questions of myself and my therapists.

Then came February 1st, 2018. Everything changed. On that day I discontinued using seemingly benign sleeping med and woke up from some kind of 3-month emotional coma. While this drug was somewhat euphoric at night, it led to the absolute lack of any joy throughout the following day. I was honestly living from sleeping pill to sleeping pill and working a thankless job in a tragi-comedy fable about the son who failed to launch, launched and failed to launch again. and a mom who kept taking him back in. Something out of Homer’s Oddessy wouldn’t be more epically difficult.

All that to say, my experience with online dating apps Match and OkCupid were getting a little lackluster so I threw caution to the wind and kerosene on the “boost” options of both Tinder and Bumble and … well, metaphorical hell broke loose. I’m here to say, on the last day of February, that the fires have not died down, they have merely scorched away all the remnants of the me I used to be before my breakdown/breakup following a three-year relationship and engagement.

Welcome to Online Dating Optimization 2.0 – the series.

I’m ready to tell the tales of the last 4 months. I’m ready to catch you up with today and what’s happening with my friendly ongoing chats with 2 – 3 women and why I deleted all of my dating profiles yesterday. It’s an exciting and somewhat manic story. I hope you learn something right along with me, as I unfold what it means to be a conscious dater in 2018.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

get even more of the dating story:

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

I don’t like being alone. I like sleeping next to someone, loving someone each morning, finding new things to love each day. I crave this connection a little too much and I know that’s a bad thing. I think I’m too susceptible right now to my own addiction. I think I might be addicted to women. In a slightly unhealthy way, that has led me to trouble in the past. So let’s slow things down a bit and look at how “the waiting” can be the best part.

At the moment I am in a perfect relationship. I wake up , go to sleep, nap, walk, play tennis, write… all that, I do all those things without considering another soul. I am in love with myself. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m learning to like my own company again. For awhile there, after my last breakup I was not sure I would survive to see another relationship. Today, I know I will, I’m just not sure how or when. It’s that unknowing that I’m also beginning to understand. I can’t say I enjoy it yet, but I get it. I’m not ready.

While there are not a whole lot of things going tremendously right in my life right now, I am comfortable in my rebuilding. As I went on a “hello date” yesterday I was happy with the me I presented. While there was zero chemistry and thus zero follow-up, it was an opportunity to tell my story again. To hear how it sounds to talk about my divorce and my kids, and what I’m doing with my life. Of course, I leave out some of that life stuff, but I was honest in all that I chose to share.

What I learned yesterday, at some point during our 45 minute conversation, is I am confident and comfortable with who and where I am. I talked about the i-ching for a minute in reference to both of our current situations. (See, when you’re going on a first date it’s likely the other person is alone and waiting for what’s next as well.) That she had never heard of the i-ching was surprising, but hey… Here’s a paraphrase of what I said.

Back when I was into the tao and zen, I used to throw the i-ching for guidance. It’s really just a reflecting pool that you can bounce your current situation off of, a philosophy. What was interesting was out of the 64 hexagrams of the i-ching, three times I threw the exact same one.


Actively Waiting.

And what I learned was the great general does not rest during the down times of war. He is actively rebuilding, strategizing, readying his plans. In our case, we are in a down time, but rather than be lazy or discouraged, we must take advantage of this time and explore, learn, study, plan, everything we can think of, so that when the waiting is over we are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

Am I ready for a new relationship right now? Nope. How do I know? I’m too into it. I’m too ambitious. I’m too eager. There is very little peace in my approach right now. I’m learning and slowing that down over the past few weeks, but I still feel the lingering energy that would swoop in at the first opportunity for a relationship and create an unrealistic fantasy about the woman just so I could have a relationship.

In the waiting I’m working on a few things.

  • Continuing my exercise and good eating habits. (Helps me stay fit.)
  • Reading and writing. (Helps me plan and imagine the future.)
  • Exploring online dating. (Gives me glimpses of possibility. None that I have connected with, but it’s sort of like training school.)
  • Working a shift-job while I continue to seek my next big job. (Keeps me engaged. Gives my kids some child support.)
  • Honoring and visiting with my mom. (She’s 85 and has plenty of worldly-wise and unwise experience to share with me.)
  • Requesting opportunities to be with my kids and build our relationship. (Teenagers are usually too busy for mom or dad, I get it.)
  • Listening and respecting the pace of life. (Mindfulness is an ongoing practice.)

I am confident that each of the activities gives me more strength and passion for what’s next. That could be a new job. A new relationship. Or it could be more of the actively waiting. As long as I am not wasting this time, I am building a better me. I believe that.

When I think about myself at this moment I would say, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image: meditation, creative commons usage

All of the White Horses Have Already Been Taken

Today is my son’s 17th birthday.

I am not my son’s hero.

My son needs a hero.

Several days ago my son experienced an existential crisis of some magnitude. Things could’ve gone much worse. I was not there.

When my daughter called it was to let me know him mom was going in the ambulance to the hospital and would I come take her and my son’s girlfriend there. I was now in the loop. We all waited in the hospital together. My son’s girlfriend, my ex-wife, her husband, and my daughter. There was nothing any of us could do but be present, and pray. We shared as much information as we had. We worried about my son’s surgery and mental state. And we waited four hours before we could visit him.

My ex-wife and I stood by his bed. He was scared. He was disoriented and rambling. He reached out and grabbed her hand. “I’m sorry,” he said. He repeated this mantra several times over the next 20 minutes as we stood vigil over our confused and recovering son. For that minute we were a unit of love, of healing, of caring, and hopeful prayers about the future. And then I went home around 10pm. His mom would stay with him through the night as he continued to come back to lucidity.

I didn’t get to see my son again until several days later when I was bringing him dinner, his favorite dinner, provided by my mom. He’d already eaten but he sat with me and his girlfriend while I ate some of the fried fish. He seemed okay. He felt slightly humbled. But his old cynical self seemed to have re emerged intact.

I will not be the hero in this story. I am playing a bit part. My ex-wife stayed with my son on-and-off for the 72 hours he was in the hospital. I had to work. I was not invited. In fact, for part of that time his visitation was shut down and only she could be there. She kept us, his family, informed via a few hopeful texts. She was always hopeful and positive. And she stayed by his side. There is no substitute for the mother-son bond. I am so grateful for their close relationship.

He and I, while not estranged, don’t have a lot to talk about these days. We share a love of music and occasionally turn each other on to new bands. We’re both into technology, so he will occasionally tell me about some programming project he is working on in a language I don’t know. But it’s great to hear him excited about something. In general, however, he seems kind of pissed off. Not at me. Pissed off at life. Like he got a rotten deal. Oh, and we go to action movies together from time to time. It’s hard to forge a relationship with a 17-year-old boy who has his own car and a girlfriend. There’s nothing that can rival that freedom, and I’ve found my place as a supporter in his life play. That’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Still, I was most connected during those hours in the hospital and the twenty minutes his mom and I spend at his bedside in the ICU.

My future role is to be supportive, available, and as loving as possible. Even when he’s not returning my texts. Even when he’s having trouble. Even when he’s in crisis.

As we move forward as a fractured family, the lion’s share of his time will be spent at school and in his mother’s house. I will have a bit part to play. I will continue reaching out as often as I can think of something to say, as often as I can find an activity we might do together, as often as I can offer to take him to lunch, or breakfast, or dinner. He does like to eat steak and eggs.

While I have not been able to be by his side as much as I would’ve liked in his 17 years of life, I have been consistently available and actively present. I have made sure he knows, and I continue to make sure he knows, that he is loved unconditionally. Of course, I struggle with my own demons. I hope that I am not the cold and distant father that I had. I hope that I have done a better job of staying close even under trying circumstances.

Divorced and playing the single dad is not an easy role. Often decisions are made without my input. And most of their time as a family, the real work of being a family, doesn’t include me. I understand and accept my place. And I work to maintain my own positive attitude so I can continue to be a supremely supportive, if absent, dad.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image: gifted hero, creative commons usage