I Stand, But I Support Those That Take A Knee

 

I was going to keep quiet, I swear I was. I spent all day scrolling past Facebook posts from those vowing to boycott the NFL, ranting about the disrespect that these players are showing the Greatest Country In The World and all those that have fought and died for it.

I was going to, but I can’t. Maybe it’s the bourbon talking, but I can’t.

I stand for the National Anthem. My daughter stands for the National Anthem, even if it’s in our living room. She stands and I do too, because if I’m going to stand at the ball park, at the stadium, I should be standing at home also. Everything that the song stands for, that the flag stand for, it’s just as important here as it is anywhere else.

It’s what that flag, what that song stands for, that seems to have people divided. For some it’s irrevocably connected to the military, to the brave men and women who fight to protect it. To them, kneeling is a slap in the face to those soldiers. I don’t see it that way, but I get it, I understand why you’re upset.

 

What I don’t understand is the inability to recognize that not everybody makes that same correlation. The National Anthem doesn’t make me think of our military. I know it’s a military song, written after an American victory during the Battle of Baltimore during the war of 1812, but I’d like to think it’s a little bit more than that. Regardless of it’s origins, of it’s lyrics, to me the Star Spangled Banner, the flag itself, mean freedom, freedoms that we have here that others don’t.

One of those freedoms is to display displeasure with our country, with our leaders, with public policy without threat of repercussion. To be able to say “I don’t agree with this” and in theory for our elected officials to listen to those words and take them into consideration.

It doesn’t always work that way, those elected instead following whatever their political party decides instead of what their constituents want, but that is what is supposed to happen. That is what is supposed to happen and that is the foundation of democracy. The most real threat to our democracy, to the ideals that our country is supposed to be about is exactly that, the thing that we as Americans should be the most upset about, is that the people we elect to represent us don’t do that, don’t listen to what we are saying, don’t care what we have to say.

Colin Kaepernick had something to say. Whether or not you agree with what he had to say or how he choose to say it, he had something to say and other professional athletes followed his lead. They decided that there were things happening that they didn’t think should be happening in our country and decided to say so.

This is what that song they sat through is to me. Their right to do so. In a lot of other places they wouldn’t be allowed to do that, and that is what makes us better, makes us America.

Today a lot of NFL players kneeled when The National Anthem was played. Some of them would have kneeled anyway, a peaceful protest of what they see as injustice in our country. Many more of them kneeled because they were told that they shouldn’t, our President tweeting that these “sons of bitches” should be fired, later doubling down and saying that they should be suspended, that the NFL needs to do something to stop this.

I disagree but feel strongly that it is his right to voice this opinion. Just as I feel strongly that he doesn’t get to tell them that they can’t.

I feel that way because that is what this country is supposed to be. A place where we are allowed to disagree. If the NFL wants to negotiate a rule where players are required to stand and the Player’s Union agrees to this rule, than yes, they need to stand. Personal liberty sometimes is negated by the rules of your employment.

That presently isn’t the case.

I have friends, people that I consider brothers to me, in the military. I would not take disrespect to them lightly. Every professional football game that I have attended has included a tribute to our veterans, returned heroes honored and applauded. Nobody claps louder than I do. I’ve lost friends who were defending our country overseas. I don’t think of them when I hear The Star Spangled Banner, I think of them when I hear Taps. I think of them and I cry. I cry and I thank them for the sacrifice they made so that we can continue to be a country where we are allowed to make our opinions known.

This world is a dark place, bad things happening all over.  Nobody can be outraged by it all, we choose the issues that matter to us and we try and do what we can to change that. I’m a white, middle classed male in Connecticut, my issues are going to be different from those of the athletes that I will continue to watch every Sunday and I realize that.

I realize that but in the America that I stand up and recognize every time that anthem plays I don’t get to tell anybody else what is important to them. I don’t get to pretend to understand their point of view, to tell them what they should be doing to try and change the things they want to change.

I stand up for that song because it means that they are allowed to kneel and to me that is what makes our country great. If you want to boycott the NFL, to not watch the games because these players are exorcising their rights to peaceful protest, that’s your right too. I won’t judge you.

I won’t judge you because that is what that song means to me.

 

Big Girl Soccer

 

Astute readers of my last post chronicling a day of arguments with my daughter may have noticed a gap, nothing documented between 3:25 and 6:00 PM. If that was you I’ll commend your attention to detail but caution you not to assume that meant a break, a few hours passed without having somebody contradict every word that I uttered. She remained just as contrary, the difference during this time was that I actually agreed with her.

For the past three years Alaina has been involved in something called “mini-kickers,” and introduction to soccer that she enjoyed immensely. She learned some basic dribbling skills, was taught not to pick the ball up with her hands, and provided us with some really adorable pictures.

 

big girl soccer
cuteness overload

 

What she didn’t do is learn a whole lot about the actual game of soccer. This is completely understandable, throwing a single ball into a group of children that age an invitation to nothing but tears for all involved, but has made for a slightly shaky start to her promotion to “big girl soccer.”

Big Girl Soccer, the U8 league, has rules. It has positions, two nights a week of practice, games against other towns on Saturday afternoons and a no-nonsense coach that actually understands the game. HasCon caused us to start a week late, dance lessons conflict with Friday practice and rain has led to cancellations on Wednesday nights. It’s made catching up challenging.

This past Wednesday was one of those rainy cancellations. When told of this Alaina naturally disagreed, stating that she needed the practice and that it really wasn’t raining very hard.

So we went, spending a wet hour alone at the field. We spent some time on drills, more time on positional responsibilities and learning the actual rules of the game, basics that in retrospect I should have been more proactive about teaching.

 

big girl soccer
wet, but working hard

 

It’s still a work in progress. Today was another game, her second, and it was a frustrating hour for our side, a lopsided loss. Alaina played hard and showed a better grasp of what was expected of her but still confided afterward that doesn’t know what she is supposed to be doing most of the time.

It was a surprising admission, a humbleness that she doesn’t often display and a sign of maturity that I didn’t expect.

She had fun and was outside getting exercise, the two main goals of youth sports, but I also like the other lessons that she learns. Lessons about teamwork and the importance of working hard in order to improve. Her competitiveness can be a bit much sometimes but I love this kid’s tenacity, her willingness to practice in the rain, her effort. She may not always be running in the correct direction, but she’s running hard.

 

 

 

If I Said Day, She’d Say Night

 

My six year old is one of the most self-confident, strong-willed people that I have ever met. Phrased slightly differently, but just as accurately, she is one of the most stubborn, argumentative people that I have ever met. Which description I use can vary from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. The line between pride and exasperation sometimes a thin one.

Other days, days such as today, I’m convinced that she is consciously disagreeing with everything that I say in an effort to drive me completely insane.

 

7:00 AM – Refused to believe that it was actually time to get up, citing as evidence a plastic coo coo clock rescued from her grandmother’s basement that has been stuck at 10:00 since the early 1990’s.

7:15 AM – Demanded cereal with milk for breakfast instead of the waffle and strawberries that were on her plate. When informed that we were out of milk she insisted that coffee creamer was a perfectly adequate substitute.

7:30 AM – Decided that she liked this outfit for school much better than the more reasonable one that we had agreed to before bed the night prior.

 

7:45 AM –  Didn’t think that it was cold enough to warrant wearing a sweatshirt. As I had just come inside after giving the dog a quick potty break, there was obviously no way for me to be sure what the current weather conditions were.

7:48 AM – She told me black socks don’t match with blue sneakers and refused to wear them.

8:00 AM – Spent the entire ride to school arguing about the lyrics to Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”, a song she was singing very loudly in the backseat. In retrospect I should have let this one go. I’m not convinced I have them right either, but I’m pretty sure “say it ain’t so” is the only line that she had correct.

 

3:15 PM- Still didn’t think it was cold enough for a sweatshirt despite a steady rain falling.

3:25 PM – Tried to convince me that we were going to run out of gas and have to walk home if we didn’t stop at the station, preferable the one where the attendant always gives her a lollipop.

6:00 PM – Didn’t want chicken breast, wanted “chicken on the bone.” Couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go buy some.

6:30 PM – Needed to rearrange the silverware drawer because I “had it all wrong.”

7:00 PM – Declared herself perfectly capable of running her own bath and washing her own hair. Deeply insulted that I didn’t trust her enough to let her try, threatened to not speak to me for the rest of the evening.

7:10 PM – Asked for a snack. Didn’t like her choices.

7:30 PM – Didn’t understand why she couldn’t have The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as her bedtime story. She likes dragons, likes tattoos, is big enough to not need picture books anymore. At this point I’m just assuming that she is messing with me.

8:00 PM – Its not fair that she has to sleep in her own bed. Our bed is much more comfortable and she wakes up much earlier in it. Not helping your cause any with that one, kid.

 

8:15 PM – “You’re not thirsty, and no, you can’t have a sip of daddy’s drink.”

 

 

 

The Real Inclusiveness of the Girl Scouts

 

Although I have lots of great memories from my time as a young Boy Scout, the organization isn’t quite held in the same high position of public esteem that is used to be. Once known as a place for young men to learn knot tying and manners, it’s policies prohibiting atheists and legal battles to retain it’s right to ban homosexuals from it’s ranks have left a tarnish on the Rockwellian picture of young scouts extending their arms to elderly women at crosswalks and performing daily “good deeds.” The ban was lifted in 2015 and earlier this year the BSA announced that transgender boys would be allowed participation but for many the idea that they fought so hard to resist inclusiveness has caused a withdrawal of support for Scouting.

 

summer camp, 1985

 

The Girl Scouts have never had such a policy, openly supporting LGBT rights and stating that “our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.” Like much in modern, fractured America, for every liberal demanding the the Boy Scouts no longer be able to camp on federal or municipal land there is a conservative calling for a cookie boycott.

 

Inclusiveness in scouting
proud Daisy Scout

 

As happy as I am to involve my daughter with an organization that actively promotes fairness and equality, I’ll confess that it’s another example of their inclusiveness that has impressed me the most – their willingness to include me. From roller skating outings to hikes in the woods, every time that I tagged along I was welcomed warmly.

Should I have been surprised? Probably not. Dads everywhere are more involved in their children’s lives, in their daughters’ lives, than every before. In many cases it is only through the efforts of fathers that these young girls would be able to participate.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but sadly I was. As far as society has come in recognizing that dads are a just as important  component of parenthood as mothers, there are still instances such as the one in Lakeland, Florida where a man trying to help a lost little girl find her parents was subsequently beaten and vilified for his efforts. A man at the playground is still looked at suspiciously, his motives questioned, a potential predator or kidnapper until proven otherwise.

As this post is scheduled to go live Alaina’s troop will be settling into their sleeping bags, preparing for their first camping overnight. Unfortunately, she will not be there, my wife and I both at work. As much as we trust the leaders and chaperones that would be tucking her in, Alaina has recently developed a new penchant for sleepwalking, nocturnal wanderings that it seemed unfair to burden others with in the middle of the woods.

She was disappointed, angry even, but placated by assurances that there would be plenty more of these trips and that one of us would be sure to plan our schedule accordingly.

It’s a promise that I’m happy the Girl Scouts will allow me to keep. According to their rules, men are welcome to stay overnight as long as they have a separate tent and bathroom area.

How this will differ from the trees and fallen logs that we used as bathrooms when I was a Scout is yet to be determined, but good for the Girl Scouts for recognizing how much more enjoyable a walk in the woods can be when everybody is allowed to go.

 

the inclusiveness of girl scouts

 

Keeping Her World Small

 

Keeping Her World Small

 

One of the attractions that we made sure to visit this spring on our trip to Disney World was the It’s A Small World ride. It’s not as exciting as Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean but even after all the times I’ve visited there is something I find quaint about it’s theme of international unity, even as I hate having the song stuck in my head for the several weeks after.

The ride is dated, first opening at the Florida park in 1971, but the truth remains that the world IS small, and getting smaller all the time. Technology and a nonstop news cycle now allow immediate communication and awareness of events virtually anywhere, at anytime. This silly little website has seen visitors from 138 different countries and independent pieces of territory out of a possible 247. Admittedly many of those visits have probably led to disappointment for some googling my retrospectively poor moniker Thirsty Daddy, and others have been hacking attempts from Eastern Europe, but I’d still like to thank my Kazakhastani and Tanzanian readers for their support.

To my daughter the world is very small. It consists of the places she’s been, the people she knows. A plane ride to Florida takes the same amount of time as a car ride to New Hampshire so to her they are the same distance away. She doesn’t understand why she rarely sees her cousins from Arizona when she gets to visit with the ones down the highway all the time. We’ve come home from minor league baseball games to find my wife watching the Red Sox and she refuses to believe that the ballpark on television isn’t the same one that we just left. She thinks I’m teasing her.

Her world is small and I’m going to let it stay that way for a while. Sept 11 just passed and to her it was just another day. She doesn’t know that daddy has been worried about friends of his in Texas and Florida these past few weeks. She doesn’t know that some of her classmates may have a harder time in their lives just because of the color of their skin or who they choose to love. She doesn’t know that there are children her age across the world that are going to bed hungry, others that are carrying assault rifles and preparing for battle. She doesn’t know the potential devastation that could happen just because two men in power need to prove that they have the biggest genitalia.

I’ve been told that this is the wrong approach, sometimes by those whose opinions on these matters I hold in pretty high regard.

I’ve been told that by hiding her from the world I am leaving her ill prepared for the realities of it, that raising those that will bring about social change needs to begin young, that this attitude is the epitome of middle class white privilege.

They may be right.

They may right but for now my daughter is happy and I want her to stay that way.

I think that there is a balance that can be found. She’s not “being raised color blind”, a catchphrase used by ultra-liberal white people to pat themselves on the back and derided by those that see the ignorance in the philosophy, she is being raised to understand that everybody is different, in many different ways, and that it is those differences that make us unique. She can be taught the importance of body autonomy without knowing what the word rape means, can understand the importance of recycling and conservation without worrying about rising sea levels, can understand “stranger danger” without being afraid to ask for help if she needs it.

These are things keep me up at night, she sleeps soundly. She still believes that people are inherently good, in the kindness of strangers, that the bad guys always lose in the end. I know better. I know better and the argument that she is old enough to understand how things really are is also my argument for not wanting her to.

Her world is small. It’s safe. I acknowledge that we are very fortunate to have it be so, but I can’t feel guilty for that. I won’t.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe I’m wrong but my daughter is happy and carefree and kind and brave. She’s the first one to help up a classmate that’s fallen, to offer a hug to one that’s upset, to stick up for somebody being picked on.

She’s six.

For now that’s enough.

 

 

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms