Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Protecting Our Children from Failure, or Ensuring Failure?

August 1, 2011

We live in a different time than we did when I grew up.  Nobody had cell phones, satellite TV, or five hundred dollar bicycles.  We didn’t use germicidal handwash, wear bike helmets, and we knew how to start a lawn mower at age ten.  If a kid had trouble paying attention in the inadequate government school he attended, he got pounded by his parents until he either paid attention or moved out.  I hadn’t heard the term “self esteem” until I was out of school as it applied to damaging a child’s psyche.  I played outside when it was warm enough, did homework, and got dirty.  I went fishing with my dad, got all smelly at the lake, and even smellier when I got home because I helped clean the fish. 

I have been around a little.  I was in the Navy, worked as a mechanic in a steel mill, and at a contact lens factory.  I’ve sold insurance and worked as an engineer in a power distribution manufacturer.   I now work part time in a bowling center as a mechanic, after I quit my most recent job because I didn’t like the way it was going there for the company.  Now, this may sound like failure to you, but I don’t think so.  I’ve managed to raise three bright boys who are doing what they love doing.  They didn’t get cell phones until they needed them.  When they made mistakes, they paid for them in sweat or with a spanking (didn’t have to spank them much.  Go figure).  They understand that their lives are in their hands, and that the choices they make from now until forever affect how they live their lives. 

And they never had bumpers at the bowling alley.

As I mentioned, I work at a bowling center.  I see a lot of parents and kids in the center bowling, eating pizza and having fun.  I like this.  It’s important for people to spend time with family and enjoy each other’s company. 

Then there are the bumpers. 

If you haven’t been bowling in the last twenty-something years, bowling centers have installed bumpers to prevent the ball from going into the gutter.  Little kids can now bowl with little regard for where the ball goes once it leaves their hand.  Drunks can, too.  But I digress.  Now, you may think that this bumper thing is a good idea.  And it is.  For kids between the ages of two and five.  Beyond that, a kid is coordinated enough to walk in a line and roll a bowling ball.  Hell, the thing only weighs six pounds.  Drunks like those, too.  Again, I digress. 

I see parents with their seven year old and the bumpers up, using one of the ramps that are supposed to be used by people who cannot walk when they bowl.  You’d think with all these safeguards to prevent an uncoordinated kid from throwing a gutter ball, they would score big and never throw a gutter ball.  You’d be wrong.  The bumpers only go as far as sixty feet, with the pin deck beyond that distance, so the ball can fall into the gutter very near the pins.  And it does. 

Why go through all this explanation?  Because it is a microcosm for how we are screwing up our kids.  If you go bowling once a year, fine.  Use the damn bumpers.  If not, let the kid learn how to bowl.  I guarantee you a five year old can do it.  My kids did when they were five.  And they learned how to bowl.  Now, they are all pretty solid bowlers.  But they might never have learned how to properly hold and roll the ball if they had the safety net of the bumpers all the time when they were little.  Now, parents are so intent on “protecting” their kids from failure that they are hurting their kids.

Failure is good for a kid.  It teaches perseverence.  It teaches attention to details of a specific task.  And it teaches kids that if they want to win the trophy or get the blue ribbon, they have to try harder next time.  This builds character and self esteem.  Self esteem is, by definition, how a person feels about themselves and cannot be given to them by anyone else.  Self esteem is earned by doing a difficult task well.  No other way.  Kids now have a false sense of self esteem.  If they fail at something, no big deal.  They still get a trophy for participating.  “You showed up Johnny.  You weren’t very good at basketball, but you showed up.  Good job.”  Kids begin to expect this treatment.  When they get into the real world and have to perform a job to the satisfaction of their boss and cannot, there isn’t a prize for them.  Effort does not matter nearly as much as results.  And there are a lot of competitors in the real world.  If you can’t out perform them, you won’t get a raise or promotion.  That’s just how it is. 

Parents are largely responsible for this trend.  I like that there is basketball, football, baseball, tennis, water polo, chess, karate, soccer, and competitive BB stacking for kids. But these activities are supposed to teach kids how to perform physical tasks, condition their bodies, and teach sportsmanship.  They are also supposed to teach them how to take direction and how to be patient and persevere.  Playing time should be earned.  But many leagues now have rules about minutes or quarters a kid is allowed to play, making sure everyone gets into the game.  Fine.  If the coaches agree to play their B teams against each other, that’s all good and fine.  But there isn’t anything sadder than a B team football team getting stomped by an A team football team because the coaches have manipulated the rules.  It doesn’t teach either team anything.  But that doesn’t seem to be the point.

My youngest son is small.  He’s always been small.  He won’t always be small.  We are late bloomers.  Just genetics.  He played football for a youth team starting at age eight.  He was slower than the other kids, but he gave everything he had on the field.  He was smart and was where he was supposed to be on the field when he got in the game, he just didn’t have the tools to get a kid to the ground who outweighed him by fifty pounds.  Not every time, anyway.  He got them down sometimes.  The point is that he knew he wouldn’t ever be a star, but he played anyway.  I asked him why he played once.  “Because I love it, Dad,” was his response.  And he kept playing until after the eighth grade.  He gave it up when he realized he would be on the field with kids that weighed three hundred pounds.  He didn’t want to die, since he is a buck ten soaking wet.  But those days did teach him something.

If a parent kisses the coach’s butt, you can get playing time.  If a coach is a parent, his kid can be quarterback, even if he can’t run or throw, or isn’t smart enough to execute the offense.  He still suited up and practiced hard, got better, but, alas, never got much of a chance to play.  And I’m okay with that.  He earned everything he got on his own.  He tried hard, and didn’t give up.  I refused to suck up to get him playing time.  I figured it wouldn’t help him.  I was right.

Look, if your kid is capable of being a first round draft pick in the NFL, it will show on the field.  You aren’t helping a kid who can’t do it by putting him in a position to fail.  You are ensuring that his own opinion of himself will never measure up.  You are ensuring failure. 

Let your kid experience lifes joys and sadness, successes and failures.  He’ll be better able to deal with disappointment. 

Oh, and ADHD is an invented sickness to give kids an excuse to do whatever they want whenever they want.  If a kid’s wiring is that messed up, is phychiatrist time.  Kids will focus if they are interested, and they will be interested if they think that a belt is waiting for them at home if they don’t. 

Just sayin’.


Family Day in Canada

February 15, 2010

The Canadians have an interesting holiday.  They call it family day.  It’s a time for the working class to spend time with their families.  Grocery stores close, banks close, almost everything closes.  Restaurants and movie theaters stay open, but most retail outlets and the manufacturing facility I’m working in are closed.  I assume that most manufacturing facilities close down. 

What’s interesting is that the mail still runs. 

What could we Americans learn from this?  We have plenty of holidays where we celebrate our veterans, our war dead, our independence, and other holidays that are connected to God and religion.  We are supposed to spend this time with our families.  A lot of families do gather at these times and fellowship with each other.  But we are always celebrating something else.  Giving thanks to God for our bounty, or our health, or just surviving the past year.  The birth of our Saviour.  The working people of the country.  All of these things are important to who we are as a country.  But why don’t we celebrate the most important people in our lives, our families?  I can understand why we wouldn’t do that now, but we haven’t done this in the past to my knowledge.  The people who gave us life, raised us, we grew up with, took care of us, laughed with us, cried with us, saw us through mourning the loss of our friends and family, comforted us with our broken hearts, these people should mean the most to us.  Not drinking beer on a long weekend. 

The American family unit has become something different than it used to be.  Two parent homes are going by the wayside.  A family with a mother and a father, man and woman, are slowly dying away.  Single mothers and gay parents are becoming in vogue.  The traditional family has lost out to political correctness.  We can’t risk offending someone because their family isn’t like ours.  When political correctness becomes the most important thing, we have lost our identity, maybe even our soul, as a country.  Our family values should be more important to us.  We should be able to celebrate each other, and our family unit, no matter what form it comes in.  There are successes and failures in families every day.  We ought to be able to celbrate the successes, and help our neighbors with the failures.  That’s what our contry was founded on, at its most basic level.  In the old days, farms separated by miles knew the families on the adjacent farms.  The gathered at church, and celebrated holidays together.  They helped each other.  We should do that, too.  In today’s society where neighbors don’t know each other and neighorhood goups pit neighbors against each other, we have lost our caring for each other.  When you can complain to your community organization’s president that your neighbor’s grass is too tall or he painted his house a color you don’t like instead of knocking on his door and talking with him, you and your neighbor no longer have a link to the community. 

Maybe we can learn something from these wacky Canadians.  I don’t know if they have covenants or neighborhood associations, but at least they take the time to celebrate the family.  It may be going to a movie together, or getting together to share a meal and stories of the past year.  But, for one day, they forget about pursuing a living and acknowledge the family. 

What do you think, eh?

Men Are Idiots…And I Can Prove It

November 25, 2009

We’ve all heard women utter the phrase “Men are pigs.”  And I cannot disagree with this assessment.  Men will burp, fart and scratch anything, anytime, anywhere.  We are often thoughtless and juvenile, and totally uncaring to our partner’s needs.  We can be the heavy when it comes to disciplining the children, or the soft touch when a kid wants new cleats. 

What men are most often, however, is idiots. 

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that your woman wants you to “just listen” sometimes.  Men are problem solvers and don’t do this very well, yet we fall into the same trap every time.  Instead of simply being sympathetic and holding our woman’s hand, we tell her “You need to tell that jackass to back off.”  Instead of listening, we offer our own primitive advice, which usually culminates in killing the adversary with a club.  IDIOT.

When it comes to child rearing, men are typically more like a sledgehammer than an instrument screwdriver.  We tend to react quickly and forcefully, and the damage we do is not easily undone.  If a kid comes home an hour late, we are ready to hang them by their thumbs in the yard behind a sign that says “TARDY.”  Not only does this disrupt a kid’s ability to open a soda can, it makes them curl up into the fetal position every time the first bell rings and they aren’t in class.  This rapid, neanderthalic response can be harmful to the relationship between a child and parent.  It’s not really apparent until the child is old and big enough to kick your ass that you start to regret how you raised your kids.  IDIOT.

When it comes to sex, men tend to be a little in a hurry.  Maybe it’s the days or weeks of waiting that causes this.  Maybe it’s the instinct to impregnate the female.  I think, though, that it may simply be the desire to catch the end of the football game that is most directly responsible.  Men don’t always pay close attention to their partner’s needs like we should.  Often we are in such a hurry to “get the job done” that we forget that our woman is a person with feelings and needs that need to be met.  Otherwise, the next wait may be weeks or months.  It’s funny that a boyfriend is a tender, caring lover, while a husband is a freight train late for arrival in Pittsburgh.  IDIOT.

When we are young, men are brash and full of unearned confidence.  Except when it comes to chicks.  We are as clumsy as a one legged plumber trying to learn the tango.  So, we compensate for this by becoming total beatches.  We are so afraid our woman will figure out what losers we are that we pretend to be something we are not, mainly gentlemen.  Guys, you ever fart in the car when you were dating?  How about after you were married?  It kind of becomes a sport to see how fast your wife’s eyes can water.  So, the woman doesn’t get the bill of goods she was sold.  Neither do we, but that’s different.  So, when you are dating, you let the woman know where you are, what you are doing, whom you are with, and when you’ll be home.  If you forget to call, she says nothing because you are so busy falling all over yourself apologizing that she can’ t get a word in edgewise.  And you wonder why, after ten years of marriage, she gets torqued when you show up an hour late smelling like beer and perfume.  IDIOT.

Then, there’s work.  You go to school or get into a trade school or something to learn how to do a job that doesn’t interest or inspire you.  Your passions go largely unfed until they wither away and die.  You go to work every day, surrounded by morons who care about nothing but getting the next promotion, but who have no real skills or intelligence.  You perform your job as well as you can, and sometimes you get ahead, but most of the time you feel like you are just giving it.  “Man,” you think to yourself, “I could be doing graphic art designs for Sony Records.  Instead, I’m plowing through a pile of specifications obvioulsy written by a six year old to figure out how to make this crap work.”  IDIOT.

Yeah, I guess guys are idiots.  If women could figure out a way to create sperm from thin air, we wouldn’t be necessary at all.

Parental Worry is Never Over

November 3, 2009

Anyone who has kids knows that it is a parent’s role to become obsolete.  I’ve heard it said that you can judge how good a job you did as a parent by how quickly you become obsolete.  The only problem with that logic is the kids think you are obsolete before you actually are.

I have sons.  I have done my best to give them control over their thoughts as they grew up, to let them decide things for themselves.  Obviously, when a kid is six these decisions are limited to what shorts he wants to wear.  As they get older, they get to choose haircuts, meals, and classes to take in school.  But there always comes a point where they get to choose where they live and how they live.  This is the point of parental obsolescence.  Or it should be. 

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t dealt well with my children’s coming of age.  They are gone from the house more and more, and I’m not always sure where they are or whom they are with.  They don’t seek my advice on much anymore unless they think I’ll agree with them.  They can’t stand to have me question their budding judgement, and show their disapproval by disappearing into their room for hours.   And every one of these episodes causes me to die inside a little more.  I have given these boys all I have for as long as I remember.  Now, it seems, I have instantly become a total idiot, unaware of the feelings a teenage boy has about girls, or his uncertainty about his chosen profession. 

 I get it, guys.  I understand.  I’m still uncertain about what I’m doing.  I know how it feels to need your parents but not want them any more.  I know what it is to want to be on  your own.  I feel you. 

But this doesn’t mean that I’m going to say “Go ahead and do what you want.  I’m with you.”  Especially if I see them making a mistake or not thinking a problem or plan through.  That’s all I want.  Think it through.  Come up with a plan.  Then execute the plan.   That way, you don’t have to come back home and live with me and the wife.  But if you are blindly entering life, you are going to gen some bumps and bruises. 

Maybe that’s the right way to go.  Let them get the bumps.  That way, they can also figure out how to treat inflammation. 

I love my kids and don’t want to see them hurt.  But part of parental obsolescence is learing how to let them figure things out for themselves, and sometimes life has a way to teaching you lessons that tend to sting a little. 

It’s that time for one of my kids. 

I’ll be there to offer advice if he asks for it, support if he needs it, and an ear to listen when he wants to talk.  But I ain’t no yes man.  Part of being a man is getting an opinion you don’t want to hear and learning from it anyway. 

It’s tough not to worry.  I guess that never goes away.  Since there is no qualification process or manual to read on how to raise kids, most of us have to make spot decisions and hope for the best.  I hope and pray that I have not failed them.  I know I wasn’t always right, but I always did my best where they were concerned.  Now I have to turn them out to make their way in the world, one at a time. 

I hope that my son will realize one day that the old man isn’t as stupid as he thinks.  And I hope it’s not too late when he does. 

Parenting is the only job you get without training or experience and never can retire from.  But you can be fired as a direct contributor and become a consultant.  

Almost there.

Had a Nice Trip

October 4, 2009

I recently made a trip to visit my parents.  I was scared that I might say or do something that would cause hate and discontent, but I did not.  Except for that thing about hammering my brother.  Oh, and there was some police activity.  But, other than that, I had a nice visit. 

I listened to my brother’s “expertise” on most subjects; no wait.  It was all subjects.  I’ve never met a person who knows more than he does.  Not bad for a guy who lives in my old room.   I listened for two days, and finally decided that I’d had enough.  I verbally stomed a mud hole in his ass.  That got me the quiet I needed to survive the rest of the visit. 

I asked my dad to take a look at my bowling swing to see if he saw anything mechanical that could be screwing me up.  He saw nothing.  He heard nothing.  It’s a good thing I was driving back to the house because I had to wake him up when it was time to leave.  Hey, he’s an old guy.  He had just bowled three games.  That always does me in, too.  

My mom was talkative and we had several good talks, or maybe it was one long talk that never ended nor began.  I enjoy talking with her, though I mostly listen. 

Now for the police involvement.  My youngest brother wanted me to go shooting with him.  I took my 9mm with me for protection (I was staying in Memphis, after all), and we wanted to go squeeze off a few rounds.  I figured we’d go to a firing range.  Nope.  He has a place he goes to target shoot.  He’s been there dozens of times.  It’s not exactly in the sticks, but not exactly a firing range either.  We ended up off a dirt road just off of Fite road, near the racetrack.  We set up our target and commenced firing.  Three clips in for me, and two in for him with his deer rifle, and here come two sherrif’s deputies.  I’m standing there with a handgun, he’s got a deer rifle, and these two guys walk up to us without yelling for us to drop the weapons.  The politely asked if we owned the land, which, of course, we did not, and told us to move along.  I felt like a homeless guy in front of BB’s place on Beale.  They didn’t even ask to see our ID’s.  We quickly complied, loaded up our stuff and split. 

Imagine what might have happened if I’d stayed a day to two longer.  We may have been able to pick up some hookers and have a coke party at the Peabody. 

It was a nice visit.

Going on a Trip

September 23, 2009

We all have that uncle nobody talks about, and nobody will claim as a member of the family. 

I am that uncle. 

I’m planning on going to visit my folks next week.  I am blessed to still have my mom and dad here to visit.  I enjoy going back to the house I grew up in from the time I was thirteen years old and spending time with my folks, drinking my mom’s coffee, and, of course, chowing down on the same kinds of foods I grew up (and grew out) eating. 

There is an element of apprehension to visiting my folks, however.  Both of my brothers live in my parent’s 1400 square foot house with both of my parents.  My youngest brother’s family (pregnant girlfriend and two children) also lives there along with a veritable menagerie of dogs and cats.  Needless to say, the house is a little on the chaotic side most of the time.  And my mom complains about it, but I think, deep inside, she loves it.  It reminds her of when I was growing up with my two brothers and my sister.  I know now how quiet an empty house can be, since I have three teenage boys living in the house, but who are rarely here at the same time and awake. 

I grew up with a father who worked hard, but has a few little problems dealing with people, especially his family.  (He’s the uncle nobody talks about, too.)  He’s not a bad guy, but he was raised in a time when you had kids to clean house for you.  Looking around my living room now, my kids aren’t being raised that way.  I’m lucky if they will pick up their own socks off the living room floor, much less my socks that I deposit on the floor when I sit down to watch the Braves play.  I can’t relate to my dad when my mom is around.  I have watched exchanges between them all my life, but now that I have a wife, I have no friggin’ idea how they stayed married for forty two years.  My dad pretends to be deaf when my mom is talking, but can hear fine when he’s hanging with his buddy down the street.  My mom pounds my dad mercilessly, mumbling under her breath about some percieved sleight, thinking the old man can’t hear. 

Yeah, this visit will be great. 

I hope that I can hold my tongue when my brother’s cross-eyed and ignorant girlfreind opens her pie hole.  I have considered offering to pay for her to have her tubes tied and for my brother to get a vasectomy.  Since they live with my parents, you know they can’t afford birth control devices.  I mean, what’s a pack of condoms cost?  No, really.  How much?  I haven’t had to buy any since I got myself neutered after my wife and I had all the kids we could afford. 

I have planned to stay from Saturday to Wednesday.  It’s just long enough to get in a good visit, but not long enough to lose my sanity from watching the dynamic of my family.  It’s been said before, but that group puts the fun in dysfunctional. 

I hope I can hold my opinions long enough to make to Wednesday.  Don’t want to be cut out of the will. 

Then, there is my older younger brother.  (I’m the oldest of the kids)  I know he’s intelligent.  But my mom has gone out of her way to make excuses for him his entire life.  He has been married three times, has two kids, one he never sees, and another who has no clue what a man is.  My mom tells me my nephew is a violin player.  That figures.  He doesn’t want to play sports.  In other words, he doesn’t like to exert himself.  Allergic to sweat, I guess.  Every kid should play some kind of sport, be able to understand what it is to work hard to get better at the little things that make an athlete better.  It’s a great metaphor for life.  My nephew’s idea of exertion is fingering a Stradivarius. 

My sister is probably the most together of the four of us.  She should be.   There is nothing she doesn’t know everthing about.  My mom dotes on my niece, a barrel shaped, loudmouthed eleven year old who could play linebacker on the pee-wee football team, if she could take directions. She also is a musician.  She plays clarinet in the orchestra at her school.  I still haven’t figured out how she can talk and play the clarinet at the same time.  Maybe a career in ventriloquism would be a good choice.  If Jeff Dunham can get rich with Jose the Jalepeno, maybe my niece could get famous with Glenda the Overweight Cat Lady. 

In case you haven’t figured it out, my sister won’t be there.  And neither will her husband.   I have my opinions of this guy.  He and my sister have been married a number of years, mainly because my sister can stand to have someone who is nuts around her.  I mean, she grew up with me.  No, this guy is a career manager.  That means he doesn’t actually know how to do anything, but he can tell others what to do.  I have worked with people like this my whole adult life.  Hell, I still work with people like this. 

Then, finally, there is my youngest brother.  And his girlfriend.  I like haning around with my bro.  He’s closer in age to my son than he is to me, so he’s young.  He’s a cool guy.  But he has a penchant for stretching the truth on occasion.  He has a high school diploma and now has to bust his butt for peanuts because he has no further education.  (He’s made a few poor choices in his life)  But he’s a nice guy. 

His girlfriend, well, if murder was legal…

Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  If you are having a discussion and she disagrees with the facts you have presented, her voice volume rises in short steps until only the dogs can hear what she is saying.  She can’t keep a job, even with the free child care my parents are providing.  My dad is seventy, and my mom is sixty-six.  They raised their kids.  Now they have to raise their grandkids.  And this… person… thinks I am so stupid that I can’t see the way she acts when I’m around.  Does she think she’s fooling me into thinking she can win a mother of the year award?  Sorry, chick.  Nobody, I mean nobody, is that brain dead.  Maybe if you’d get your ass out of bed early and take care of your kids, then go to job and make some sacrifices for your family, I’d nominate you.  But, there is no chance of that.

Yeah, my folks are great. 

I love my family.  I like visiting them, in short bursts.  And, because I ain’t staying too long, I think I can keep it together long enough to get along. 

Now, as you read this, you may think I don’t recognize my own short comings.  I do.  But I’ve got it where it counts.  I work.  My wife works.  We take care of our boys.  We talk to them.  Turns out they are a little short in the critical thinking department.  It’s early yet.  They’ll learn.  Or they’ll know how to work a cash register REALLY well.  I’m not anal about taking care of my house.  Keeping the grass cut is a huge ordeal.  My porch needs to be rebuilt, and I ain’t no carpenter.  I also won’t hire Mexicans to fix it.  So, when I get around to it, we’ll have the crookedest porch on the street.  But that’s okay.  We don’t have a neighborhood association, so, no harm, no foul. 

Maybe it’s not fair for me to pick on kids.  They way they behave is a reflection on how they are raised.  But, since nobody but my sister has a computer, and I haven’t told her about my blog, I should be safe.  Either that or Christmas dinner will be a hoot.  I should probably take my guns with me.  I am visiting a dangerous city, so I’ll definitely be packing. 

But, we only get one family, and we are stuck with them.  We learn what the words “unconditional love” mean from our families.  We also learn what the words “drunk,” “illegitimate child,” and “lazy ass bum” mean.  But we have to accept them for who they are.

We just don’t have to be around them. 

Unless we choose to.  And, even though it’s like being around a bunch of rookie wide receivers, I choose to.  I miss them.  Sometimes.