Punishing her for our Mistakes?

 

The teenager doesn’t read everything that I post on here, but she reads enough to get the general idea and to realize that she is the subject of some of my writing.  She’s OK with it for now, and I try to consider her privacy while musing on the challenges of raising a teenage girl.  I think that because I can be found on the internet she might think that I am famous. I don’t dissuade her.

I recently posted my 10 Tips for Teens, a tongue-in-cheek guide for parents and teenagers to help them get along better.  After getting picked up by The Good Men Project and seeing it’s reach move beyond what it would have here, I asked her if she had seen it.

The “look” was answer enough.  Anybody that has been around teenage girls has seen it.  Equal parts contempt and bewilderment, it’s similar to the look you give when checking a newborn’s diaper for the first time.  Disgust and confusion at the same time. Apparently she not only had read it, but wasn’t as amused as I found myself writing it.

The problem didn’t turn out to be the content itself, but rather the perceived insinuation that we, as parents, never did anything wrong or foolish and that we unfairly hold our children to standards that we failed to reach ourselves at that age.  The universal feeling among teenagers throughout time that they should be allowed to make their own mistakes and thereafter learn from them as we did. Her complaint wasn’t with the post itself, which she ultimately conceded was funny, but led to an interesting conversation about her feelings that her mother and I were being unfair and hypocritical when it came to some of the rules and expectations we have for her.

She’s both right and wrong.  Her mother and I were both up to much more mischief at her age than she is and that is always going to be in the back of our minds.  Some of it was relatively harmless, if extremely stupid in hindsight.  My friends and I would sneak out and climb onto the roof of the elementary school, purposefully setting off the alarms so that we could jump down and run into the woods when  the town police showed up.  Brilliant.

Other times there were actual consequences. I was riding in the back of a pick up truck one night when I noticed we were being trailed by a police car.  Being underage, it seemed prudent to dispose of the case of beer I had with me.  Over the side of the truck.  In front of the police car.  Brilliant.

More times than I would like to admit, arrest or severe bodily injury to myself or others was avoided by nothing more than dumb luck. Very few times was it due to the extreme cleverness I would have attributed it to at the time.

These are the times that its our job to try and limit. The nights that leave scars, both physical and emotional.  She’s going to make mistakes, we know that.  Hopefully she will learn from them and come out of her teenage years with some  good memories and  funny stories.  With as few scars as possible.

 

 

 

 

Stand By Me

There have been thirty seven movies made that were adapted from Stephen King books and stories. Some of them, like Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile were fantastic. Others were terrible. One of my favorites remains 1986’s Stand by Me.

Like the characters in the film, I was twelve years old when the movie came out. I remember that I thought it was pretty good, but the barfing scene seemed to fit much better in the novella than it did in the movie. Now I consider it a timeless classic that I will always stop on, at least for a few minutes, if I happen to come across it on television. There are many famous quotes from the movie, but the one that still resonates the most is the very last line. “I never had any friends later in life like I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

One of my very first blog posts was about the guys I grew up. One of my more recent was about one of my buddies going out of his way to visit with us on a weekend away in New Jersey. Its a recurrent theme because it’s important. My wife’s best friend is also somebody that she has known for the majority of her life.  I want my daughters to have people like that in their live’s.

There’s another quote from the end of Stand by Me that I always remember.  “It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant. ”

I’m creeping up on forty-one years of age and the list of people that I’ve called “friend” over the years is a long one. Facebook helps some, but the number of people I see and communicate frequently with is small. Some have changed jobs, moved away, gotten married and started families.  People change. More importantly, priorities change.

This past week I spent four days in South Carolina with a group of guys I don’t see very often. Some I’ve known since I was five years old, some less. We came from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, and half the eastern seaboard. We played golf, drank beer, smoked cigars and told stories. Most of the stories were even true.

Wives that had previously heard some of these tales were understandably nervous, but we were there to recycle old stories, not create new ones. The most danger any of us faced was hitting our golf balls too close to the alligators that seemed more common than I remembered.

 

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We spent more time talking about football and cholesterol than we did about pez or what kind of animal Goofy might be. Manziel versus Winston at quarterback has replaced Mighty Mouse versus Superman as a topic of debate.  We were grey haired, pot bellied, and prone to nodding off during the late edition of Sportscenter, but if there is anybody that could have gotten me to dodge that train and “go see a dead body”, chances are they were on that trip.

 

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Participation Trophies

 

In the small town that I grew up in, little league baseball was pretty much the only option for athletics until around age twelve.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly a baseball prodigy. I spent my first two or three years deep in right field, hoping the ball wouldn’t be hit my way. I’m not sure if there is a written record of the most strike outs in league history, but if there is, there is a better than even chance that my name is on it.

It never stopped me from getting back out there. I enjoyed the game, the camaraderie, and the challenge of improving. Every year I received a trophy for participation, and I displayed them proudly. I wasn’t playing well, but dammit I was out there playing.

By age ten or so I starting smacking doubles pretty consistently and found that I had a knack for pitching. If not a knack, exactly, than a quick release, a sidearm delivery and a penchant for wildness that combined to confuse and intimidate hitters. I even made an all-star team, though I missed the game due to a bad case of poison ivy. In those days I found a way to nerd up even the most un-nerdy of activities.

 

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Somewhere around twelve years old the trophies stop coming just for showing up. There are try outs, travel teams for the more talented players, and increased levels of competition. This is when I called it a career.

To the teenager’s credit, she continues to play soccer, now in a relaxed atmosphere co-ed spring league. She’s no longer the star that she was when she was younger, but it’s good exercise and she enjoys playing. There are no trophies, nor is she looking for one.

Her little sister seems to be following in her footsteps. This weekend she started her third session of soccer lessons and loves every minute of it. She works hard, listens to her coaches, and practices at home. It’s been really fun to watch. At the end she’ll receive a little plastic medal and will be thrilled. It will sit on her dresser as a testament not only to her participation, but to her effort. She’ll have not played anything remotely competitive yet, but she’ll have another “trophy.” And I’m OK with that.

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison made headlines last month for returning his two son’s participation trophies, saying that “everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.”

I’ve also been known to rant against the entitlement culture that children of today are growing up in. There is an entire generation unprepared for the real world because they never had to earn or work hard for anything. The desire to encourage self esteem has also managed to stifle the competitive spirit needed to get ahead in life. When I first heard this story I thought it might be the first time in James Harrison’s thirteen year career that I agreed with something that came out of his loud mouth.

But then I saw that the boys in question were six and eight years old and I went back to thinking he was just a tool.

There does come a time when we need to stop coddling our children. They do need to understand and accept that there are going to be times when their best isn’t going to be good enough. Other times when it’s only with hard work and sacrifice that they are going to be rewarded.

There are also going to be times when effort and participation should be enough. Times when getting active and learning a game should be the primary goal. I’ll do my best to prepare my daughter for the competitive world in her future, but for now I’m content to let her have fun. I didn’t turn out to be the next Roger Clemons. She may not be the next Carli Lloyd.

She also might be. I’m not planning on spoiling that dream anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

Yes, I Laughed First

Not all parenting and developmental milestones are easily identified as such. Sometimes an event just occurs and it isn’t until later that there is a realization that something has now changed. That another checkpoint has been passed.

This morning my four year old daughter was sitting in a ridiculous small chair that is usually reserved for her stuffed animals. She was reaching for something that was obviously out of her reach when the chair tilted, her arms windmilled, and she ended up head over heels.

And I laughed.

I know how that sounds. I was immediately horrified myself. She was too stunned to say anything, but if the expression on Alaina’s face was verbalized it would have said “is this a-hole really laughing at me right now?’ Which made me laugh even harder. As I write this I’m picturing her face and I’m laughing some more.

The chair was approximately six inches off the ground and it was immediately obvious that no harm was done.  After the initial shock wore off she was laughing just as hard as I was. This wasn’t the first time that she has fallen without me immediately running over to make sure she was undamaged, but it may have been the first time either one of us noticed and gave it any thought.

 

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I’ve never been a hovering parent. I’ve seen tons of injured children working in an Emergency Room for twenty years and most are accompanied by distraught parents proclaiming that they were “standing right next to them”, incredulous that their mere presence wasn’t enough to keep their children from harm. I use more of a stealth method at the park or in the backyard. She thinks that she is ranging freely but in reality daddy is close by, hiding in the shadows and watching closely. Ninja parenting.

I don’t think she’s very fooled. There have been times when she has climbed higher than she was comfortable or otherwise been stuck and a call for daddy gets me to the scene quickly. The ninja will always be nearby to answer the distress call or pick my baby up when she falls.

Assuming there are no boo boos, there just may be the occasional time when I laugh first.

 

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Swarovski Event Campaign

 

It Could Have Been Her

I was planning on sitting this one out. After last month’s post about the poverty in Zimbabwe and my subsequent dad dancing, it seemed too soon to issue another call to action from yet another charity effort.

But then I saw the picture.  The devastating photo of three year old Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler found with his brother Galip, washed up on a Turkish beach after their overcrowded boat capsized while fleeing the violence and destruction tearing apart their country. I saw the photo, did some reading, and quickly realized that I couldn’t not add my voice to those speaking out about  Save The Children and the work they are doing to try and help, distributing food, blankets, and clothing to those in need.

It takes a much smarter man than I to fully decipher the geo-political situation in the Middle East. I’ll admit that most of my understanding comes from Jon Stewart, Fareed Zacharia, and Rolling Stone Magazine.

The unrest in Syria began as part of the “Arab Spring” protests that swept the Middle East in 2011. Ruling parties were overthrown in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Libya. Some countries have seen increased democratization and widespread gains in personal and civil liberties.  Others had uprisings quickly put down by violent government crackdown.

Syria, like it’s neighbor Iraq, is an example of what is now being described as the “Arab Winter”. Full scale civil war and disintegration of society as ethnic and religious factions fight for control, oblivious or uncaring about the implications to those caught in the cross fire.

What has followed is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions. The U.N. estimates that over 220,000 people have died. Seven million have been displaced, with half of those being children. People are fleeing en mass for Europe, straining those countries capabilities to feed and care for them.  It’s estimated that 2,000 refugees a day try to make the trip from the Turkish coast to one of the eastern Greek Islands, hoping for safety for themselves and their families. The Turkish Coast Guard says that it has rescued more than 42,00 from the Aegean Sea this year. 2800 have died or disappeared attempting to make the crossing.

Of the 366,000 estimated to have made the journey to Europe, many continue to be held in refugee camps while they await word on where or when they will be allowed to relocate.  Authorities are overwhelmed and unable to continue handling the influx. These people need clothing, food, shelter, and medicine. Demand is outpacing supply.

This is where you can help. It’s sad that it took a picture to bring this crisis to light, but the hope is that more pictures will continue to spread the awareness. The idea is to plaster social media with images like the one below to remind everyone how fortunate we are to live where we do and to help those that now desperately need it. Because it could have been anyone’s child washed up on that beach.

Click on this link to visit the Save the Children website.

 

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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms