Pants on Fire


pants on fire


This morning went how most go. Around 7:30 I started cleaning up from breakfast and making my daughter’s lunch, sending her upstairs to get dressed and brush her teeth. Unfortunately it also went how the last several have gone. Upon returning downstairs in an outfit completely different than the one agreed upon the night before I again asked her about that teeth cleansing and she once again answered in the affirmative. After I performed a newly necessary breath check, she headed back upstairs to actually brush her teeth.

This morning was slightly different, however. After three straight days of this charade, today I got angry.


About six months ago I was sitting at a traffic light and took a minute to look at a notification on my phone while waiting. A town police officer pulled up next to me, rolled down his window and yelled at me for it. I had already put the phone back down, held up my hands in what I thought was a gesture meant to convey that I was done, and carried on my way when the light turned green. Apparently he interpreted these hand signals differently, pulling me over and subjecting me to what might have been one of the most severe beratements I’ve ever suffered through, at one point causing me to have concerns about a possible imminent stroke.

He wasn’t mad because I was looking at my phone. He was furious because he thought that I had lied to him.

What is it about being lied to that causes such a visceral reaction? I’m going to assume that this particular officer had something else going on in his life that morning and that I was the unfortunate recipient of anger that was really directed elsewhere, but the truth is that there really isn’t much that is as painful or disappointing as the knowledge that you have been intentionally told untruths.


It’s silly really. We all do it,  probably more than we even realize. Sometimes it’s even for noble reasons, the sparing of somebody’s feelings and such. Other times it’s to avoid confrontation or consequences. Sometimes it just seems easier. How many times have you told somebody the truth about something and then actually wished you hadn’t? How many times have you found out the truth about something and then wished you hadn’t?

I have no idea why my daughter hasn’t been brushing her teeth. It only takes a minute, she likes the flavor of toothpaste we have and her Avengers electric brush enables her to reach areas of the bathroom that she wouldn’t be able to spray toothpaste all over otherwise. I’m guessing that she just gets excited about whatever ensemble she’s put together to wear and can’t wait to come down and show me, forgetting the other half of her assignment.

I do know that I was pretty mad, angrier than I should have been to be honest.  I didn’t threaten to wash her mouth out with soap, something that I once did when her older sister was caught lying too many times for my patience, but I was close.

After school we talked about why daddy lost his shit this morning. About how it makes a person feel when they can’t believe what they are being told, about how fragile trust can be and how much harder it is to re-gain than to lose. I gave her the Mark Twain quote about how “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything” and then spent twenty minutes explaining who Mark Twain was and why she should listen to what he had to say.

I also told her that her nose would grow, her pants would catch fire, and that I’d be keeping a closer eye on her for the next few days. The most nefarious thing about lying is how easy it is, how quickly it can become habit.




This Walk Out Felt Different


Maybe it’s just me, but this one felt a little different, didn’t it? High School students walking out of class in protest is nothing new, there were even a few way back when I was attending, something about the cafeteria workers if I remember correctly. A bunch of kids stand around in the parking lot for a little while, maybe the local newspaper shows up and takes a few pictures, and then everybody goes back inside feeling proud of themselves while the adults shake their heads and decide whether or not any punishment is applicable.

These felt different, tens of thousands of students, numbers not seen since the anti-war movement of the ’60s. They began at 10 AM in each time zone, moving like a wave across the country and then around the world. As far away as Great Britain, Switzerland, Iceland, Israel and Tanzania. They lasted for 17 minutes, one for each of Parkland, Florida victims. A coming together of our youth in grief and solidarity, as much tribute as it was protest.

It felt like we should be paying attention, like we owed them that. The students that walked out of Columbine High School this week, adding an extra thirteen minutes for the lives lost there, weren’t even alive yet when that massacre happened. Stop and let that sit in for a minute.

One place where the students didn’t return to their classrooms was Washington, DC. There they kept right on going, seventeen minutes of silence and then hundreds marched right up to the capital steps where they were met by about a dozen congressional leaders, overwhelmingly Democrat.


these walkouts felt different
photo credit – Katherine Schinella, in town for an AP GOV field trip and making her voice heard


These aren’t a bunch of kids, taking a break from eating tide pods and taking selfies with snapchat filters. These are impassioned, articulate young adults like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Jaclyn Corin. They have grown up in the era of social media and aren’t afraid of the camara, amassing massive social influence since they have stepped forward.

The message of the movement is simple; “Never Again.” They are calling for a ban on  AR-15 sales, requiring universal background checks before gun sales and passage of a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to seize the weapons of those that display warning signs of violent behavior.

Not everyone is as impressed with these kids as I am, of course.  A state representative from Maine actually said about Emma Gonzalez  that “there is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me.” Florida representative Elizabeth Porter made sure to remind everybody that “adults make the laws” and asked if they should “allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?” When my friend Ashley posted the above picture to her alumnae page, at Smith of all places, she was called a bad mother for encouraging and being proud of her brilliant daughter.

The always classy NRA tweeted out this picture on the day of the walkouts, surprising absolutely no one.


this walkout felt different
stay classy NRA


Not everyone may agree with everything that these students are saying but Washington would be wise to listen, to take notice. Not all of them will be able to vote in the mid-term elections this year but it feels like something is building. This walk out, this movement, feels different. I have a feeling that they will be a force in 2020 and 2022.

The next generation is speaking up. They are loud, they are intelligent, and they are committed. They also seem a little pissed, and frankly, I don’t blame them.


Choosing Her Friends


One of the more challenging aspects of adulthood is being able to get along with people that for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to stand. Co-workers, in-laws, friends of teenage children or significant others, some people just make it really hard to like them. Learning how to pretend to is an important part of being a functional member of society and resisting the urge to go live in a tree house somewhere.

My daughter likes everybody. Any trip out of the house is an opportunity to make a new friend, anybody that she has ever randomly come across treated the way that I feel about guys I’ve known for thirty five years.

It’s cute, if sometimes embarrassing and I’ve tried to encourage this outgoing nature. I want her to be nice, want her to continue to be the first one to welcome a new kid in class or offer the seat next to her on the bus. I want her to be the kind of person that the world could use a hell of a lot more of.


waving goodbye to a entire bus full of “friends”


I also want her to be able to recognize that there are some people that she doesn’t need to be friends with, that not everybody is deserving of her time and effort. That is a lesson that I’m having a harder time teaching, one that I’m not totally sure that I should be. Is it OK to dislike a six year old, one that I’ve never actually even met? Asking for a friend…

There is a girl that Alaina talks about quite a bit, a “best friend” although she uses that term often and loosely. It’s difficult to judge based on second hand tales from a first grader, but she sounds bossy, rude, and manipulative. They often make things for each other, little craft bracelets and such, and almost every time this little girl is critical, proclaiming hers to be better and sometimes immediately throwing away whatever was given to her. She coerces my daughter into behaviors that she wouldn’t otherwise have, using emotional blackmail and threatening to rescind her friendship whenever she doesn’t get her way. She sounds a lot like too many grown ups that I know.

One of the very first posts that I published here was about the guys that I grew up with, about the importance that they still have to me and about how they had helped mold me into the person that I’ve become. I wrote about the teenager and how aware I was of the influence that others now held in her life and about some of the little girls that Alaina was meeting in pre-school.

Some of those girls she is still friends with, with parents that we now consider friends. Every effort will be made to continue those friendships, to do what I can to surround her with positive influences and good people.

I’m increasingly reminded that there will come a time when this will be out of my hands, her friends no longer mine to dictate.

I have no idea what this little girl is really like, what her circumstances may be or if it’s fair to hope that they aren’t in the same class next year. It’s certainly just as possible that my kid is the bad influence, that somewhere in town tonight there is another set of parents listening to their child blame mine for a note sent home or an e-mail from their teacher.

I know that I’m trying my best to raise the kind of kid that most parents would want their children to be friends with and also know that at some point who she’s hanging around with will determine that just as much as anything that I’m doing.

I also want to raise the kind of kid who is able to recognize those that she doesn’t need to be friends with. One who realizes that you don’t need to like everybody and even more importantly realizes that you don’t need everybody to like you.

Sometimes you just need to be able to fake it.


choosing her friends
one of the “good ones”




Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


Time to Fly


I haven’t written much about the oldest in a while. She’s eighteen now, spending most of her time elsewhere. Her story is increasingly her own, not mine to tell.

Today a chapter closed in that story, a new one begun not just for her but for the rest of us as well. Today I drove her to the airport and put her on a plane, a plane headed to the other side of the county where family will be waiting to receive her. She’ll have a new place to lie her head, a new job and new friends to find and make. She’ll finish the last steps towards acquiring her driver’s license and will look to continue her education. A fresh start in a new place, hopefully freed of some of the baggage that she just never seemed to be able to shake off here. She’s nervous but excited, sad but hopeful.

It was a reflective ride home, the twelve years since she entered my life rewound. The good times and bad, the mistakes and lessons learned, the transition from “girlfriend’s kid” to “daughter.” The paradox of how quickly that time seemed to go by but also how long ago my life before them now seems.



It was a time to wonder if I had done enough, if we had adequately prepared her for the challenges that she will inevitably face but also a time for pride, to admire the courage that she showed walking towards that terminal and her new life. Nervous but excited, sad but hopeful, feelings that I shared with her as I watched from afar, not ready to leave until she had passed through TSA and turned that last corner towards Concourse A.

It was a reminder to cherish this time with her little sister, the same age now as when I first met Kayla. A reminder that this time, this influence that I now hold, this opportunity to shape who she one day becomes, is finite, not to be wasted.


Upon returning home I had two messages waiting for me, one each on my home phone and my cell, as well as an e-mail, all from my own mother. She wanted to be sure that everything had gone OK, that Kayla had been delivered safely and without complication. She wanted to make sure everybody was feeling alright and that I was getting enough sleep. She wanted to make sure that I was aware of the upcoming snowstorm and was prepared for a potential power outage.

This was my last reminder of the day, that parenting doesn’t end just because addresses change and conversations turn from every day to twice a week.  That this is a life long job. That the particular responsibilities may change, the challenges and rewards ever different, but the worry remains.

Today I put the oldest on a plane, the little bird leaving the nest in the most metaphorically way possible. I have no doubt that she will fly, my main concern being that she remembers to brush her teeth.

Should I text her and remind her to brush her teeth?


ready to fly




The Women of Black Panther


I was going to have her sit this one out, either go with my friends or solo while she was in school. We’d gone to Spider Man, the latest Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, but these were all somewhat cartoonish, live action comic books without much deeper meaning beyond super heroes beating up bad guys. I was afraid that six years old was too young for Black Panther, that the story of Prince T’Challa returning to his African nation of Wakanda and assuming the throne after the death of his father wouldn’t have enough action to keep her attention. That the movie’s deeper questions about how much responsibility the richer nations of the world have towards helping others would go over her head.

She didn’t let me. I’m not sure if it’s the ninja-like appearance of his costume or the fact that he has Vibranium claws, but her Black Panther action figure has always been her favorite of all the Avengers. As the release date approached and the television commercials became more frequent I knew there was no way I could leave her home.



We both loved it. I’m not going to comment on the cultural importance of the movie, about the hole in representation that it helps to close, instead inviting you to read this article by Christopher Persley at The Brown Gothamite, someone much more qualified to discuss the issue than I am. ( And a damn fine writer. )

I’m going to talk about the women, the women that my daughter left the theater talking about.  Black women to be sure, darker skinned than is usually seen on television and film, something as equally important as Ryan Coogler’s direction, the African setting or the phenomenal box office success. Black women who are strong, fierce, independent, and just as importantly, respected. These women are just as important figures to Wakandan society and the film as a whole as the men are.

There is Angela Bassett, always badass, as the newly widowed Queen Ramonda, and Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead as Okoye, T’Challa’s bodyguard and head of the Wakandan Special Forces. Even more inspiring is Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, a secret agent type that begins the film having spurned the Prince to instead free enslaved women in neighboring Nigeria and Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s  sixteen year old little sister and a genius inventor said to be among the smartest people in the world.

Chadwick Boseman is awesome as the title character and the always fantastic Michael B Jordan plays the best and most fully developed “bad guy” Marvel has put on screen yet. I put bad guy in quotations because he’s not a one dimensional super villain bent on world domination but a sympathetic character that could have easily carried his own movie.

Black Panther is a black movie, directed by a black man with a predominately black cast and everything that those looking for a hero that looks like them could have hoped for.

It’s also just an awesome movie, the same way Wonder Woman was important but also excellent.  It doesn’t matter what your race, whether you have sons or daughters, or if you just like really, really good action movies, go see this one. It’s easily one of my favorite Marvel movies so far and I love the fact that once again my daughter was able to see strong women on screen, not as damsels in distress to be saved by the hero, but kicking ass and taking names.


The Women Of Black Panther





Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms