February 14, 2008

It was a blast!

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 2:15 pm

Every year I try to take my son and daughter on a trip somewhere fun. We live in three different cities and work in three different industries, so it’s a time to catch up. Last year, I took individual trips, but this year I booked a weekend with me and Sally and Thomas (Jan was in Savannah with 20 classmates celebrating their, ahem, recent noteworthybirthdays).

My history of trips with my kids is slightly legendary. We used to have one major mishap each trip, a mishap that we go over with fond memories on successive trips – including this one. There was the time we flew out West for two weeks of camping (and some motels) from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone … the first night we arrived at Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah, unloaded all the tent and camping equipment – only to learn I left the tent poles back in Atlanta. We scrounged around a dump and found some scrap metal for the first night or two, later buying poles at a camping store.

There was the time we drove a rental car to the top of Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam) outside San Francisco and drove all the way to the top, only to realize we were very low on gas … we coasted in neutral all the way back down the hill to a gas station.

Shuttle

Or the time we were in France and I misunderstood the instructions of the rental car guy who didn’t speak English and I later filled the tank with the wrong kind of gas … forcing us to sputter to a stop at the side of the highway at night, but just a few feet from a tow truck who was just finishing service on another car. He towed us back to his house and drained our tank and refilled the fuel lines with the proper fuel. We drove off happily late in the night back to the chateau in Vendome.

So this time, I gave the kids a choice … big city, small town, out West, New York, Miami? Or maybe a cruise. They voted cruise. I checked the dates and found the one line that worked for our calendar was a Disney cruise heading to Nassau and Disney’s private island. I read the online comments and even adult kids had great times on Disney cruises. So, why risk my record? I decided to leave it all to Disney. So Sally flew from Charlotte, I flew from Atlanta and Thomas flew from Raleigh. We all landed in Orlando at the same time, grabbed a rental car and drove to Port Canaveral, where we hopped on board with unusual ease.

We were greeted on deck with an adult beverage and the countdown for the Shuttle blastoff – just a mile away. We had a great view from the deck of the Wonder. It brought back memories from 1992, when we went to Disney World and realized there was a Shuttle blast on Monday. We stayed an extra day to see that. And this was another beautiful bonus to yet another great trip.

Disney did a great job … food was great, the cabins were very nice, shows were well done and we all especially loved Castaway Cay, their private island. Sally and Thomas got enough sun to show some burn when they headed back to the office on Monday. This time, it was a perfect trip and we all left with fond memories to talk about in future years.

Photo: Sally and Thomas on the deck on the Disney Wonder with the Shuttle blasting off between them on February 7, 2008.

November 5, 2007

Thomas and Friends

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood,Spirituality — schroder @ 7:00 pm

This morning my son Thomas called in a panic, a rarity. He handles life so well and is such a dear soul that when he’s calls to report “good news and bad news,” something’s really wrong. Today, his dog, Huntly, and furry roommate Magnolia, slipped out the deck gate of their house in Raleigh, NC, and went for a long, unsupervised run through the city streets while Thomas was at work. Thomas found out from his roommate, who called to say the dogs were missing.

Thomas found Huntly, an Australian Shepherd, on the Internet while he was working a summer internship in Bangkok, Thailand. He emailed me Huntly’s photo and announced he wanted to buy him upon his return to the States, right before he completed his senior year at UNC-Chapel Hill. Despite the advice of his parents to the contrary, Thomas followed through on his purchase and kept Huntly at school and later took him to Raleigh for his new job after graduation. We counseled Thomas that he may be just feeling a little homesick after a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and a summer internship halfway around the world, but Thomas was not to be denied. He knew what he wanted, a sweet, affectionate, high-energy dog that he could train to chase and catch the frisbee.

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Thomas has always been a loyal friend. Even though as a child, he lived in Charlotte and Atlanta, he has tried to keep ties with friends in each city and those he developed during his journeys around the world. Of course, Thomas’ closest friend is his girlfriend, Amanda Brown, whom he met at a high school basketball game in April 2001 when they were both sophomores. They’ve been inseparable ever since, surviving the surefire test of going to colleges halfway across North Carolina from each other. She graduates next month from Appalachian State with two degrees and she may join Thomas in Raleigh, depending on job offers. They have an amazingly stable and close relationship, drawn even tighter from their semester together in Edinburgh (Amanda went to another college across town that semester).

But his closest buddy these days is Huntly. Thomas works only a mile from his house in Raleigh, so he’s able to go home at lunch and play with him. But today, the playful dogs bounced their way out of the gate, which may have been left unlocked by a weekend visitor. Thomas tried to keep his mind on his job as a stock market investor, but he was having trouble. About 45 minutes after first getting word of their escape, Thomas’ cell phone rang. A neighborhood veterinarian from Crossroads Veterinary in Raleigh happened to be driving down a busy street, when she saw Magnolia and Huntly run out in the traffic. Magnolia slipped away, but Huntly was hit by a passing car in front of the vet, who stopped, grabbed Huntly and took him to her hospital for treatment.

Luckily, Huntly only suffered bruising and some sore ribs, as the X-rays showed no broken bones or serious internal damage. I tried to explain to Thomas how the angel on his shoulder was watching after him again, with the vet being right on the scene, but Thomas of course was very shook up by the trauma and most concerned about Huntly’s health.

Huntly will be home healing soon. They secured the gate at Thomas’ house so the mishap won’t be repeated. Thomas is back at work and we’re all thankful it wasn’t worse than it was.

I tried to remind Thomas of the blessing this day really brought … that God allowed Huntly to only be nicked by one car and He sent an alert neighborhood vet in the next.

Oh yeah, and the good news Thomas was calling about … he was promoted, along with four or five others in his freshman class of 24 at a new Raleigh office, a division of a New York investment firm. The firm enlarged Thomas’ ability to trade or option larger blocks of stock during the day.

So, today, Thomas’ job awarded him larger parameters. Huntly and Magnolia tried to enlarge theirs. I’m hoping everyone in Raleigh – as well as the good Lord – keep their eyes on those dogs, just to ensure they don’t try it again anytime soon.

Photos: Thomas Schroder with Huntly, left, and Magnolia in October 2007; with Amanda at St. Simons Island a few years ago.

November 2, 2007

Sally’s 25

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 10:27 pm

My bride Jan and I drove to Charlotte this afternoon to have dinner with my daughter Sally on her 25th birthday. Fortuitously, we reserved a room at the Doubletree Inn at SouthPark, which turned out to be a few steps across the street from Bricktops, a restaurant Sally later selected for dinner with us and her mom and stepdad Jim.

Things are going well for Sally now. She’s working as a business account executive in a Charlotte IT and telecom consulting firm. She has friends, a few too many cats and a supportive family. She also has a new car, an Acura 3.2, of which she is quite proud.

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I brought the traditional family cake from Atlanta, a double caramel bar cake from Rhodes Bakery on Cheshire Bridge Road. My family’s been eating these cakes since I can remember. Old photos of my brothers and me blowing out candles atop Rhodes cakes fill our family scrapbooks. Here’s a shot of Sally with hers, apologies for the flash not working!

Callender has been a great mother to Sally and, now, after a few years of struggle, the two are close friends, having lunch most every week. Jim has been a terrific stepdad to my son Thomas and Sally. We had a couple of issues in the early years, but I have nothing but thanks and appreciation for the job he and Callender have done shepherding my kids. Until Sally and Thomas began driving at age 16, Callender and I would meet every other weekend, halfway between Charlotte and Atlanta, in Greenville, SC and exchange kids and luggage. All that driving has kept my relationship close with both my children. Now Jan and I and Callender and Jim get along like old friends at dinner – and I’m particularly thankful for that.

Photos: Sally Schroder at dinner with the Rhodes caramel cake, and with her new Acura, showing off those leather seats she looked so long to find.

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January 1, 2002

Model Behavior

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 3:00 pm

In grade school, our teachers made us write Valentine cards to every student in our class. I found this exercise frustrating and never quite understood the value until I opened my stack of cards. As contrived as it seemed, it provided one moment each year for everyone in my little world to think a nice thought about each other.

Holidays can be a double-edged sword – for many, they are a time to be with family, friends and loved ones; for others, the picture-postcard images that bombard them only serve to heighten their loneliness.

There are so many ways to counter this – and they take no more effort than we expended in grade school. My friend Ann Morris’ church has a group that gathers each February and sends a Valentine to every member who is over age 50. Much like the Martin Luther King holiday is evolving to promote community service, it could be time for Valentine’s Day to evolve as well.

Last summer, I took a larger role in my daughter’s life. We moved into an apartment together in Charlotte while she attended her senior year in high school and I commuted a few days a week back to Atlanta. We had some adjustment problems – after all, it had been eight years since we lived in the same house for more than a week or two. In the end, it was a wonderful experience.

Some of my friends thought, given the circumstances, I was going too far in my fatherly duties – that she had to learn that certain behavior results in certain consequences. I was torn. I didn’t want to stand between her and a life lesson. But I also knew that on my deathbed I wouldn’t look back and wish I had spent more time in the office last year. Was I making this sacrifice to make me feel better or was it truly the right thing to do?

I was burdened by two theories I once read about fathers. One says the way a father treats his children is instrumental in their adult perception of who and what God is like. The other says that a father should take his daughter out “on dates” – open the door to the car for her, hold her chair at dinner and have nice conversation across a table – to model how she should be treated later by a real date.

My daughter is now 18. I occasionally watch her pursue guys that her mother and I don’t feel are, let’s say, appropriate. Despite our desire to control the situation, we know she is getting old enough to make her own choices. I keep hoping that somewhere, in the back of her head, she remembers our evenings together and is only going through a phase.

Our time together as roommates has ended. But I know my role as her father hasn’t. When Valentines Day comes, I will send her a card and perhaps a gift. And if we aren’t able to have dinner together that night, I will try to remember that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be what the commercials are telling me. It is not just a day for people who are in love, but yet another reminder of how to act for those who love.

September 1, 2001

Boys on the Beach

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Fatherhood,Media — schroder @ 12:00 pm

At least twice a year, I led a large crew of teenagers to Myrtle Beach or St. Simons Island for a week’s vacation. I’ve often taken my two kids and their two buddies. Other times I’ve taken four 14-year-old girls or three 15-year-old boys. In April, I rented a large van equipped with a TV/VCR/CD, picked up five16-year-old boys and drove them around the coast a week.

When my children were younger, our vacations were a very important bonding time for us. When they moved with their mom to Charlotte seven years ago, this time became even more sacred. I knew while I could not be involved in their daily lives as much as I would’ve preferred, I had to make the most of the time we were given. When I had the opportunity, I made a point to clear my work and personal schedule and spend my energies focused on Sally and Thomas. I would usually plan elaborate vacations to keep them interested. But as they became teenagers and friend-focused, I reluctantly accepted that our family vacations must include their buddies.

At first this past month’s trip seemed to be going similarly. Sally was finishing a particularly tumultuous year: moving to Atlanta, then back to Charlotte to finish her senior year, back to Atlanta in March and then back to Charlotte to take a final summer school course. Her graduation ceremony was scheduled for the day before our vacation. We had all hoped friends could go to the beach with us, but it didn’t seem to be working out. At the last minute, Sally decided to stay home and celebrate with friends.

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Thomas surprised me with his decision. “I’ve seen my friends a lot this summer and I have a lot of summer reading to finish,” he said. “I think I will just go with you.” We rented movies, went to movies, cooked dinner, went out to dinner and just hung out all week. Each day, we wandered to the beach with our chairs, books, frisbee, football, cooler, CD player and his choice of music.

Somewhere near the fourth day, I had to laugh at how much my life had changed and yet, how much it had not. Thomas is 16. When I was 16, I was at the beach with my buddies, listening to much of the same music Thomas had selected, throwing a frisbee amidst the waves, sand and sun. Bob Dylan’s strange 35-year-old lyric kept ringing in my head and suddenly it made more sense to me: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

As the tide washed around our chairs, we had great talks about girlfriends, high school, college and family. He asked a lot of questions about the future of my business and I discussed how sometimes it is hard for an entrepreneur to work in a corporate environment. He admitted he hoped he could work for these newspapers one day.

When our week was coming to a close, I noticed sadness was beginning to emerge. I felt as if I had met a new best friend and he was going to leave soon.

“Thomas, I know it wasn’t planned this way, but I’ve really had a wonderful time just hanging out with you this week,” I said.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Yea, I might like to bring my girlfriend next time if her parents will let her. But in the future, I think we should also plan some trips with just you and me. Sometimes when I bring buddies, I don’t get to spend enough time with you.”

I know parents can spend a lifetime working for their families and never feel as if they are appreciated. While I await a similar moment with my daughter, I knew I had just received such a gift from my son. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Photo: Thomas and me as we are preparing for a trip to the beach

October 1, 2000

Our Date with Miss Universe

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood,Media — schroder @ 2:00 pm

A few weeks ago, my editor forwarded an e-mail from a New York public relations firm asking if we’d interview Miss Universe 1999 when she was in town for a “hair show.” Trying not to act too eager, I counted to two before running to Jan’s office to volunteer.. She looked at me rather skeptically, as an editor should, wondering if I was the best reporter to cover this important breaking story.

“What experience do you have in matters of beauty, hair color and makeup that might make you qualified for this assignment?” she asked..

“Um,” I stammered. “I used to have to blow-dry my long hair in high school, I once put makeup over a pimple and I look at the covers of beauty magazines when I’m in the grocery checkout lines.”

She wasn’t impressed.

“I’m also your boss,” I suggested with a smile.

As the day approached and as I read more about Mpule Kwelagobe, I grew a little nervous. She had been crowned Miss Botswana a few months out of high school and a few months later crowned Miss Universe, and had since traveled to more than a dozen countries; I realized I wasn’t even exactly sure where in Africa Botswana was. I slinked back into Jan’s office.

“I’m having trouble coming up with questions to ask Miss Universe. What if she doesn’t speak much English? I don’t even know what language they speak in Botswana,” I said.

She scribbled a few questions on a pad and dismissed me, saying, “You’d better not disappoint me, Schroder!”

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My son, Thomas, was going to be in town that day, so I asked him if he would like to accompany me and ask a few questions. “Maybe you should leave this to me, Pop,” he said. “After all, I am only four years younger than her. You are old enough to be her …”

“Her photographer,” I said. “That’s it. You ask her questions and I’ll take photographs.”

As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. Mpule spoke fluent English with a charming British accent. Botswana is the second-richest country in Africa and a former British colony, and she had excelled in the British-style schools. Mpule was a live wire and loved to talk.

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She talked about how she had postponed attending the University of South Africa on an engineering scholarship to be the first representative from her country ever to enter the Miss Universe pageant. She told us about the infighting at the pageants, the host newspaper in Trinidad that said she would never win, about how she was the first winner to ever walk away with a commercial contract such as hers with Clairol. She is most passionate about the scourge of AIDS, which affects 1 out of 5 young people on her continent, and how she hopes to fight it.

When she left Botswana for the pageant in May 1999, 10 people saw her off at the airport. When she returned, 250,000 people – nearly her entire country – were at the stadium to cheer her. “More people than turned out to see Bill Clinton or Pope John Paul or Nelson Mandela,” she said with pride. Recently, the political parties in her country have been asking her to run for office, but she has put them off.

“I want to return to college in a couple of years and then, perhaps when I turn 25 or 30, I will run for president of my country. You will have to come and visit my country then,” she said.

Thomas looked at me, no doubt hoping I would book travel reservations on the spot.

“You’ve got my vote,” I told her. Thomas and I walked away with photos, autographs and a heightened respect for Botswana. As if she hasn’t won enough awards, Mpule has earned a permanent spot on Thomas’s personal Web site.

Photos: Left, Chris with Miss Universe, Mpule Kwelagobe, and Thomas with her, right. I think she’s happier with Thomas … what do you think?

August 1, 2000

Getting a roommate

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 3:00 pm

I spent July 4th enjoying my last day of independence. The next day, I rented a van, drove to Charlotte and picked up my first roommate in eight years.

For many years, I used to come home to a spouse, two children, a dog, two cats, two hamsters, eight fish and a turtle. Then, one day, I started coming home to … silence. At first this took a little adjustment. I enjoy my quiet time more than most people, but for the first few years, I made sure I had a good number of events on my calendar. Back then, if I saw a totally empty weekend ahead on my calendar, I began telemarketing to fill up the slots. But in the past few years, if I saw an empty weekend looming, I guarded it jealously, relishing the solitude.

All that energy I stored up is in full demand by my new arrangement with my 17-year-old daughter, Sally. We’re spending lots of time together, talking about some issues in her life and working out her plans for the next year or two.

When you live alone, you fall into habits and rhythms without realizing it. Add someone else to your space and you begin to look at things differently.

For instance, I now have to remember to wear clothes when I walk around my house, which is way up on a hill and beyond the eyes of neighbors – lucky for them! If I wake up early, I can’t blast loud music to get my heart jump-started. I find myself keeping the kitchen cleaner since I won’t be the only one walking in there. I neatly stack the newspapers in the recycling pile, rather than leaving them on the floor. Dirty clothes go quickly into the hamper rather than pausing – for weeks sometimes – on a bedroom chair.

I have a fine old stove, but there was a time last year I considered having a plumber install a cut-off valve for the natural gas line leading to it. Since my at-home eating tastes had gravitated toward cereal, salads, fruit and yogurt, I went almost a year without turning on the stove. I felt guilty running those pilot lights all day and night. Now I cook frequently, even surprising myself with my domestic capability by producing three differently colored items from various food groups arranged smartly on two plates. Arranging settings for two at my kitchen or dining room tables was a surprisingly fun experience. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

I’ve been leaving my car at home for my daughter’s use and recently took a cue from a salesperson who lives down the street. I hopped on board a bus near my house and stepped off at the front door of our downtown office building. During the short ride, I read the newspaper and looked at stores and houses I’ve never noticed before.

We’ve had some memorable moments. One night she was going to bed as I was just getting up. She had been chatting on the computer with all her friends. She has helped me prepare for two birthday parties, helping cook one shrimp-and-grits entrée and running to the store to get a last-minute birthday card. We’ve been shopping together for my house and I have appreciated her sense of design. She’s been accompanying me lately to dinners and concerts and trips to the movie store.

The funny thing is, I’ve already gotten attached to having my daughter back in my house. I know I will really miss her when she moves on.

March 1, 2000

Building a New Structure

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 3:00 pm

When my kids were 9 and 7, life was kind of crazy. Our family was adjusting to a divorce, each parent was settling into a new household and my daughter and son were making friends at a new school. That’s a good amount of change for one calendar year.
Yet, eight years later, I am amazed to report my children seem remarkably well-adjusted. They haven’t finished the rocky voyage through the teenage years, but solid ground is beginning to appear on the horizon.
Last fall, I rented a van in Charlotte, where they have lived for five years, picked them up and four of my daughter’s friends and headed back to Georgia. We toured the mountains, several outlets, the Mall of Georgia, Lenox, Phipps and other points of interest to teenagers. For a few hours, my son and I had time to toss a football and talk about life. I asked him why he and his sister seemed to have done so well despite all the turmoil. “Well,” he said, “most kids my age have been through the same thing.”
I’m not a proponent of divorce. Far from it. I think it should be the very last resort. I write about it because time provides perspective and one thing that is most elusive when you are in the middle of a break-up is perspective.
The top two pieces of advice I give to parents starting down this road are: 1) show and tell the kids you love them at every opportunity and 2) don’t let them hear you criticize your ex-spouse. Simple as they sound, this can be difficult for parents nursing their own wounds.
I also suggest providing a strong sense of structure amidst all the chaos. I love spontaneity, and somehow stumbled into this strategy by default. I had just joined the Second Ponce de Leon Family Life Center. So every Wednesday night from 6-9 p.m. we would eat at the same restaurant, be served by the same waiter, go swimming and play basketball and then dash by for a quick visit with my parents. On Friday nights, we would go roller skating and on Saturday mornings we took a ceramics class. On Sunday mornings, we visited church or Sunday school. This rhythm carried us through that tough first year.
When they moved to Charlotte, their mother and I stuck to a rigid every-other weekend visitation policy. Even though it involved lots of driving, we all adjusted.
Now the “kids” are 17 and 15. They have other interests: Friends, school activities, games and more recently, jobs. Weekends are not so open anymore. In years past, I would have mourned their absence, but now we all have a sense of peace that we are very much engaged, even if the opportunity has shrunk to e-mails and phone calls.
A few days ago, my son Thomas called and asked when we could get together again. I told him it depended on when they could get free from work. “Well this weekend I have two spend-the-night parties and work on Saturday. But how about you and I do something the next weekend and then you can take Sally on that college visit you were talking about the next weekend.”
A perfect plan, for many reasons. If we do have less time together, this will ensure it is fully focused on one at a time.
I’m always amazed that I can go years without seeing best buddies from high school or college, but within seconds of being together, we are laughing as if our paths never diverged.
It’s much the same now as the children get older. Our bonds were forged with steady time together and though we now find the moments more fleeting, they are always strong. I’m convinced it is because we instilled a rhythm in the early years, even if at the time, life seemed totally out of control.

November 3, 1999

Letting Go is Hard to Do

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 6:29 pm

When the phone rings at 6:15 in the morning, you know trouble’s brewing.

It was my daughter Sally, locked in yet another battle with her mother. I’ve been privy to many of their fights in the past few years. Though they are two states away, the marvel of modern technology transports me right into their midst. I don’t need a Web cam to see what’s going on. Just the audio is enough for me to set the scene.

There have been times when they were each on their separate phone lines, sitting in their separate bedrooms – adjacent to each other, yet with their doors slammed shut and each on the phone with me. I would toggle back and forth between the two calls, hearing this, explaining that, but usually just listening and searching for a peaceful portal between the passion.

I could tell instantly that this particular skirmish was the pivotal one. Though the issues were familiar, the fighting was at a fevered pitch and neither was leaving the other an escape from this day’s chosen field of battle.

I knew that if I allowed myself to be carried away by the smaller events that triggered the current conflict, I would lose sight of the larger struggle that underlies this and every other great war in the history of man: the attempt of one to control the other.

My daughter’s call was about whether she had the right to stay home sick from school (again). A larger context was whether she had the right to switch high schools (again). But the primary issue was that Sally was nearly 17 and Callender, her mother, wanted to protect her from making a series of decisions that, from a parent’s perspective, would lead to certain failure.

Any peacemaker worth his salt instinctively follows the same steps during recognizable crisis points such as this: negotiate an immediate truce, draw a demilitarized zone, send each general back to his or her respective headquarters for a short cooling-off period and then quickly begin a round of shuttle diplomacy.
Timing is everything. A short time after the early phone call, Callender called me. She was at her wit’s end. And for the first time in I don’t know how long, she signaled that she was open to advice – from me of all people.

I painted a picture of our daughter during her first month in college, only two years from now. “Will she still be living with you and your husband?” I asked. “Hell, no,” Callender answered. “Then do you want her calling you every night from the dorm and fighting about every decision she is about to make?” “No,” she said.

“Then as sad and scary as this seems, your job right now is not to protect her, but to allow her to make decisions that might lead to failure, but they will be Sally’s failures and from those she will learn lessons that will aid her in future decisions she must make, when you and I are not around.”

It was easy for me to say this. I have had to learn to let go, earlier than I wanted to. Now Callender was facing the same frightening moment. The next day she told Sally she was giving her the right – and responsibility – of deciding where to go to school. The consequences would be hers to experience.

The very next day a federal judge ruled in a landmark 20-year-old busing case that Charlotte could no longer bus kids around to achieve racial diversity. The consequence of this was that it froze Sally in her school while all is sorted out. Tell me there isn’t a God up there.

But the fact that Callender gave Sally responsibility to make the decision changed everything. Mother and daughter report peace has returned to the land. And my phone hasn’t rung in weeks.

April 1, 1999

Dearly Beloved

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 12:00 pm

This month I would be celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary, except for the minor fact that my marriage ended seven years ago. There was a period when I would have predicted this milestone would represent a painful speedbump in the road of life. Instead, I’ll probably pass the day much like any other.

When I first started dating again I was sure that I had a large scarlet “D” branded on my forehead. Over time, I realized I was part of a growing majority of marital refugees.

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In grade school, I could count on one hand the number of kids whose parents were divorced. Times have changed. Recently, a young employee in my company recalled how in his group of high school friends, he was one of only two whose parents were still together.

It is all too easy for our moral guardians to argue that society is breaking down because the traditional family units are disintegrating. But that argument loses its charge when you realize many of the leaders of the conservative movement have a family breakup in their pasts. I think we are in the midst of a time of redefinition of what “family” means. Much like we are becoming a global economic society, we are becoming a global blended family and the results don’t have to be devastating.

I suppose the people you worry about the most in this blending trend are the kids. They are the passengers on their parents’ unpredictable journey of change. Frankly, I think we are not giving the next generation enough credit. In many cases, they have adapted to this societal shift better than the adults. I’ve found that if the parents remain stable and focus on giving their children love, the children are nurtured in ways the older generations may not understand.

My ex-wife Callender remarried and moved to Charlotte nearly five years ago and even though I don’t see my children as much as if they lived in my house, when I do have them here, I focus totally on them. A friend says I spend more time with my children than do many of the fathers in intact families. God knows, I’d love to believe that.

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Time has allowed Callender and me to be friends again while our relationship consists of discussing what’s best for our children. I wish her the best with her husband Jim because he is a good man and if their marriage is stable, our children will be much stronger.

Even though it is sometimes awkward for me to stand in their kitchen and talk casually while our kids get ready to go off for a weekend with me, I remind myself that those images of us together are important for our children to record in their memory banks.

A couple of months ago, I drove to Charlotte to watch my son’s basketball game. He was playing against his step-brother Mark’s team. I sat in the bleachers with Callender, my daughter Sally, her step-sister Leigh and Jim’s ex-wife, Jane. Jim hurried in from the airport during the second quarter and took a seat between Jane and Callender. I thought for a moment how I was sort of an outsider to this new model of a blended family.

But then I looked across the gym floor at my son Thomas. He was on the bench sitting with his buddies, watching his step-brother going up for a shot. He then looked over toward us and studied the six of us sitting together in the bleachers. A gentle smile came across his face.

Then it hit me. This is my son’s family. And we were all together for the first time.

Photos: Thomas Schroder playing basketball in high school

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