Confession of A Sharp Dressed Man

 

There are some occasions that most sensible people know that they are supposed to get dressed up for. Weddings, baptisms, an office Christmas party held someplace fancy. There are other times when it just kind of seems like the right thing to do. There really is no reason for me to wear a button down shirt at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner held in my own home with people that I see all the time, yet I still do.  It’s probably from watching too many Frank Sinatra movies, but I still think that at a minimum a collared golf shirt should be worn to a casino. The same is true for any restaurant that isn’t part of a national chain.

Other times our reasons make a little less sense. At 1:00 PM last Tuesday I was sitting on the couch playing a new game that I had picked up for the Playstation. My jeans had a small rip in one knee, but were clean. My shirt was light blue, with an image of Darth Vader superimposed over the Death Star. An hour later the jeans had been replaced with an intact pair and the T shirt hidden under a new sweater, understated but stylish, obviously bought for me by my wife.

The reason for my afternoon attire change? Kindergarten parent teacher conferences. I’m not a single parent out on the prowl or offering any Ms Gump style favors to try and further my child’s education, so what was the point? Why make an effort to impress an exhausted teacher just trying to find something different to say to each of the parade of parents cycling through her classroom every fifteen minutes?

I’m afraid that the answer might be that I’m a bit of an asshole. In a school system where not every child is, I want her teacher to know that my daughter comes from a stable home environment and that there are no obstacles to her achieving anything that she desires, no limits to her potential. I wanted my appearance to project that.

Its a terribly arrogant attitude, gravely insulting to teachers everywhere, and quite frankly not something that any reasonable person should ever admit to. Yet here we are.

Class sizes are increasing, resources scarce. I’m in no way implying or expecting that my daughter deserves more time or attention than any other child and know that my outfit will in no way influence either of these things.

I also know that as a parent this will not be the last time that I do something, consciously or not, that is absolutely ridiculous if there is even the slightest perceived benefit to my child from it.  My town’s cumulative four year drop out rate of 16.5% was recently revealed to be the fourth highest in the entire state. Other than work with her on developing a positive attitude towards school and an appreciation of learning, there is very little that I can do at this point to ensure that she continues to succeed.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t be paying attention to how I look the next time around though.

 

 

 

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Brat For A Day

 

I think that most of us would be comfortable admitting that there are times, hopefully rare, that we just don’t really like our significant other very much. It’s usually short lived, often times not even really about them, and then we go back to having all the fuzzy feelings that attracted us to them in the first place.

What I learned this weekend, what people would be more hesitant to admit, is that there are also going to be days when it’s possible to not really like your kid very much also. Not angry at them, not frustrated or disappointed, I’m talking about days when you start googling European boarding schools and wondering if the stork has a return policy.

I’m horribly biased, but my daughter is generally nothing but a pleasure to be around. She’s polite, sweet, and handles disappointment well. She’s been angry and over tired before, but I honestly can’t remember a time in the last five years when she has thrown what would be classified as a proper tantrum.

Sunday she was a monster.

She was a rude, fresh-mouthed, argumentative little brat who insisted on having the last word in any conversation, usually at the top of her lungs. She refused to eat anything except nachos, threw her tablet, tormented the dog, and I’m pretty sure she only came downstairs occasionally so that she could then run back upstairs crying and slamming her door. The only time she was quiet for more than a few minutes, she was turning baby Elsa into a zombie.

 

monster kid

 

I think what upset me the most was how unappreciative she came across. Her biggest complaint was that she didn’t want to spend the entire day at home. She wanted to go someplace fun because she “never gets to do anything.” She didn’t want to play with her toys because they are all “lame.” Acting like a brat is one thing, acting like a spoiled brat is something else entirely. At various points throughout the day I threatened to give all of her toys away to underprivileged children, send all of our food to starving kids in Africa, and just to make sure that I hit all of the old parent cliches, give her something real to cry about.

To be fair, I was a bit cranky myself. I woke up with a terrible headache, exacerbated by the ass kicking my Miami Dolphins were taking in a game that they really needed to win. It wasn’t intended to be funny, but we did get a good laugh when she came down with a fully packed duffel bag and demanded to be taken to grandma’s house.

Monday morning everybody was back to their typical sunshiny selves.  Whatever her problem was seems to have resolved.

The reality is that some days as a parent are going to be easier than others, and that’s OK. Some days you might not even like your kid very much, and that’s probably OK too.

 

Brat for a day

 

 

A Visit From The Christmas Spirit

 

We’re now a few days into December, and the spirit of Christmas has officially invaded our household. To be more precise, it has completely taken over the five year old, but the riptide in this river of jolliness is hard to resist.

It started with the radio. My deft avoidance of Christmas music stymied the same way it seems to be every year, by AC/DC’s Mistress for Christmas. Too late I realized that holiday music was playing and from that point on, nothing else would do. When I was scolded for changing the channel on a lottery commercial set to the music of The Twelve Days of Christmas, it was clear that resistance was futile.

With a full day already planned for Sunday, ( drink beer, watch football ) I gave in to familial pressure and spent all day Saturday spreading cheer. We sharpened our axes, bundled up into warm clothes, and headed off into the wilderness to find our perfect Christmas tree.

 

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We checked our fuses, played a game of extension cord scavenger hunt, and doubled my electric bill for the next month.

 

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We cleaned mouse turds from boxes of old decorations, drank hot chocolate, and gave the dog something new to try and destroy.

 

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Watching my family laugh and decorate the tree, smile and admire the lights, and generally just appreciate each other’s company, this grinch found his heart temporarily growing a few sizes. Next year Kayla will be eighteen, her future uncertain. Alaina is already starting to have some questions about Santa that are getting harder to answer and this level of enthusiasm from her will be hard to sustain.

All thoughts for another day. Right now it’s time to go watch Elf before the moment passes.

 

 

Ballers Are Parents Too

 

I don’t do this very often, but every few years or so a day comes along when for one reason or another, I’m just not in the mood to go to work. No matter what I’m actually doing, I’ve found that “belly issues” always makes the best excuse for not coming in. It evokes instant sympathy, nobody wants to be anywhere near you, and there usually are no further questions.

It’s probably the excuse new Boston Celtic Al Horford should have used when missing Monday night’s game against the Miami Heat for “personal reasons.” This is Horford’s first year as a Celtic, signing a four year, $113 million deal this off season and greatly raising expectations for the team. Having already missed nine of the first sixteen games with a concussion, many in town felt that with a contract like that he needed to be out on the court, even after hearing what his “personal reasons” were.

 

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His reason turned out to be the birth of his second child, a daughter named Alia. The main source of contention being that since she had been born Sunday night in Atlanta, he really had no excuse to not be on the court Monday in Miami, a short flight away.

Personally, I think he should have skipped Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons as well. Under the collective bargaining agreement of the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league, players who become pregnant have no time limit set for when they are expected to return and are paid 50% of their salary for as long as they are absent. Most resume practice after eight weeks and return to playing a month after that. Some of this discrepancy in expectation can be attributed to the physical demands and recovery from childbirth, but how much is also the notion that it is more important for a newborn to have this early bonding time with its mother than with its father? Sheryl Swoopes, the very first player signed to the league in 1997, missed the first six weeks of the inaugural season after giving birth to her son and was lauded for how well she played upon return. Al Horford was criticized for taking off a single game out of 82.

 

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According to a 2012 report by the Department of Labor, nine out of ten US fathers take time off from work after the birth of their child or in order to adopt a child.  Only 13% of these were paid paternal leave and 70% were forced to take ten days or less off. Right now California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that provide paid family leave to both fathers and mothers equally and only 14% of US employers provide it voluntarily, almost all in white collar, high income professions.

Becoming a parent is never more real than in the first days and weeks after the baby arrives. Having both parents home during this time provides so many obvious benefits for the entire family, both short and long term, that it’s nonsensical to demand fathers immediately return to the workforce. This is no longer our only role and it’s time for that to be recognized. 79 of the 167 countries in the world provide paid paternity leave. We need to start appreciating the new realities of fatherhood here as well.

 

 

 

 

Fight Club, Aisle 4

 

I understand why other people do, but I have never, or plan to ever, go shopping on Black Friday.  I can’t comprehend how early people begin standing in lines to try and ensure that they fully take advantage of the best deals. With no morning school run pending and typically a bit of a hangover, I’m not sure that anything less than a free car giveaway or my bed actually catching on fire could persuade me to move.

I hate the timing of it. As trite as it sounds, there really is something wrong with the idea that the biggest shopping day of the year should immediately follow a feast of Thanksgiving. It’s absurd.

I also have no desire to play witness to the further decay of civilized society. If you want to be depressed, a simple internet search will bring up hundreds of videos showing people around the country trampling and fighting each other over televisions, toys, and even multi packs of toilet paper. It’s the periphery of these videos that I find the most revolting however. I might not be willing to beat another human being to save a few dollars on butt wipe, but I can understand the primal instinct behind it and appreciate the desire to keep a clean ass. What I can’t understand is the circle of people surrounding the combatants and doing nothing but filming on their phones.

It’s not a phenomenon that occurs only with half priced flat screens or the last box of Hatchimals. It happens in night clubs, restaurants, and most alarmingly, high school bathrooms, on a daily basis. Random acts of violence easily captured and instantaneously uploaded, viewed by a staggering number of people. A “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” may not mean the same thing as it did in the days of Rome, but anonymously viewing from behind a screen absolves no one of the same culpability as those who chose filming over action. We’ve traded loincloths for sweatpants, but have we really come very far in 2000 years?

 

Black Friday

 

It would be hypocritical not to mention that I regularly watch both boxing and mixed martial arts matches, controlled contests between trained professionals with somebody on hand to intervene if necessary. Outside of the ring, nobody ever seems to be trying to break up these fights anymore, only jostle for better viewing angles.

One video that has crossed my feed multiple times over the past couple of days is of a fight in the stands at this weekend’s Miami Dolphins home game against the San Francisco 49ers.  I refuse to link to it, but at no time do I see anybody attempt to alert security or stop the brawl. The only people not filming on their phones are jumping in to throw punches of their own. As a parent, the scared children in the crowd sadden me. As a fan of the Dolphins that sees most of their games in other team’s stadiums, the apathy of the spectators frightens me.  As a human being, I’m disgusted by the entire display.

 

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I’m certainly not advocating for people to begin attempting to break up every altercation that they may come across. The worst beating I’ve ever taken was a result of trying to do just that.  Just don’t stand there.  Don’t do nothing.

In the 1998 series finale of Seinfeld, the four main characters witness an overweight man being carjacked. Instead of doing anything to aid the man, they make jokes about his size while Kramer records the incident on his fancy new camcorder. They end the series in jail, incarcerated for a year for breaking The Good Samaritan Law, a fictional statute that would require bystanders to perform some helpful action if they are witness to a crime.

One of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld jokingly billed itself as “a show about nothing.” In this case, I think they may actually have been on to something.

 

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My Random Musings
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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms