From Mom to Kayla

 

As I mentioned here, the teenager is now officially sixteen years old. Reprinted  with her permission is a poem my wife wrote for her on her special day.

 

k and d

 

 

Today is your day and

I just want you to know,

I’m so proud of you and

have enjoyed watching you grow.

From the day you were born,

from the very start,

You’ve held such a special

part of my heart.

Through the ups and downs,

the smiles and the tears,

I’ve enjoyed all the memories

we’ve shared through the years.

I’m so proud of the beautiful

young lady you’ve become

and all of the amazing things

you have done.

You’ve come so far and I’m

anxious to see,

how much more amazing

you will end up to be.

And throughout your journey

I will always be by your side,

I will have your back,

the entire ride.

I love you more than words

can say

and I truly hope that you

enjoy your day!

 

 

6/26/1994

 

I enjoy writing about my children and the challenges of parenthood, but more than that I enjoy writing. Every once in a while I’m going to have an itch that I’ll use this platform to scratch. This is one of those posts.

 

 

By the time I’d reached twenty years of age I’d been to more funerals than a teenager from a sleepy cow town in Connecticut would expect. Leukemia, car accidents and several suicides had made me well aware of my own mortality. None more so than the murder.

The summer of 1994 was a time before cell phones, before even pagers  were commonplace. If your girlfriend was looking for you she had to drive around town, checking the usual hangouts and dragging you away from your friends. If you were smart and wanted to keep that girlfriend you told your buddies goodbye and you left with her.

That night in June of 1994 I was smart but the guys I had been with weren’t. They drove around some, got in an argument with a few younger kids, and chased them across town, eventually following  two other boys back to their home.

There were two carloads of older teens, but the younger ones were home safe. No real harm had come of the encounter. The game was over and the two cars turned around, headed back into town and whatever they could find to occupy them next. They didn’t make it. Instead one of the boys, fifteen years old, came back out of the house with his father’s shotgun and fired twice into the back window of a 1987 tan Plymouth. The next night my friend was dead.

 

This was also a time before the Internet. Before Twitter and Facebook and 24/7 news cycles. CNN had raised its profile with coverage of the Gulf War a few years prior, but it was still a news channel. You watched it to find out what was going on in the world, not to hear the opinions of pundits telling you what they thought about what was going on in the world.  Random acts of violence didn’t go viral.

Instead all we had was a bunch of shell shocked teenagers sitting around a beach with a fire and a case of beer, wondering what had gone wrong. What made this kid do that?

 

We didn’t have the answers then, and I don’t have them now.

At some point, however, we are going to need to find some.

 

Last week two Virginia journalists were shot dead on live television, a new twist in a seemingly endless stream of senseless violence in America. Gun control advocates immediately took to the airwaves with renewed calls for increased legislation to keep weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals. Missing from any argument that I heard were details about how they planned to identify these people beforehand or who would be in charge of making this determination. Employees lose their jobs everyday. Very few of them return armed and seeking vengeance.

The other side seems to take the opposite view. Backed by the NRA and funded by gun manufacturers, they call for more guns to be available publicly in the interest of self protection. Any voice that disagrees is infringing on their constitutional rights. A fellow blogger that wrote a piece somewhat critical of the pro-gun lobby had to take down his website and change his private home phone number after an enormous influx of threats against himself and his family.  Apparently the first amendment doesn’t count if you are defending the second.

What I don’t see enough of is reasonable debate. People willing to see the other side of this or any other issue and actually TALK about what’s going on and what can be done about it. We need more voices like this one from a pro-NRA blogger at daddyengine.net,  or this one from a St Louis police officer at donofalltrades.com  who’s sick and tired of the cavalier attitude he sees towards the violence every day.

A few weeks ago on the drive to New Jersey we passed the exit for Newtown, Connecticut. It made me physically ill. They now sell kevlar backpacks for children to take to school. I don’t know the answers, but we need to find some.

Maybe the answer is to take a bunch of politicians and civic leaders and set them on a beach for a night. Give them a fire, a case of beer, then take away the camaras and special interest groups looking over their shoulders. We didn’t figure anything out that night twenty years ago, but at least we had a reasonable discussion.

 

 

 

J

10 Tips for Teens

 

I can’t remember a specific instance, but I’m sure that at some point during my teenage years I spoke poorly of my parents. Times when I was angry, frustrated, or just plain cranky. Times when I said things that I didn’t mean and certainly wouldn’t have ever said to their faces.

I was never the note-passing kind, so these moments of unfiltered stupidity would have taken place either over the phone or in person. I would have made damn sure that there was no chance of being overheard.

Today’s teens communicate differently. They text, they tweet, they message each other across various platforms. They leave a trail. One that should be easily deleted, but a temporary trail nonetheless.  A discussion about this recently got me thinking about some of the brilliant things teenagers do and their complete surprise when consequences follow.

We all want to get along with our teens, but sometimes they make it tough. In the interest of facilitating peaceful co-existence I’ve come up with a list of things for teenagers to keep in mind next time they are feeling brilliant. Some are things I wish that I had thought of twenty + years ago, some are lessons that I wish our teen would learn. Since this is intended as a public service and not public shaming I won’t divulge which are which.

1. If you are going to text something bad about somebody that is known to routinely check your text messages, delete them after sending. (probably saw that one coming)

2.  If we say we need to check something in your room, don’t run up    there as fast as you can. It tells us you are hiding something.

3.  If you are not allowed to attend a concert, party, or other social  function,  don’t pick that night to ask to sleep over a friend’s house.  Particularly a friend that is known to have less than ideal parental supervision.

4.  You didn’t lose track of time. You’ve checked a device that has the  time on it fourteen times since you started reading this list.

5.  If you plan on swearing up and down that you didn’t eat/drink the   last of something, don’t leave the wrapper/packaging sitting on         top of the garbage can. Especially not the garbage can in your  room.

6.  If you are going to spend eight hours cleaning your room, but ask      to have your phone with you to listen to music, don’t post twenty       seven things on Facebook. Also, make your room look slightly  different.

7. Don’t plan on wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt all day and then think you are going to crank up the air conditioning in your room. It’s August. Dress appropriately. The inverse shall be true this winter.

8. If you say you are with somebody, but aren’t, make sure they are aware that they are your alibi. Especially if there is a good chance we may run into them.

9. If your grades are good, your room is clean, and your manners are proper, your level of freedom will increase exponentially.

10. A conservative estimate would put you at 30% as clever as you think you are. The fact is, we know a lot more about what you are doing than you think. Most of it we will let go. Some we won’t.  Don’t presume to know which is which because we aren’t always sure.

 

Feel free to share this with any teenagers that may benefit. I think that these modifications should resolve a great deal of strife, but if you have any others, please add them in the comments section. We are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

She’s Making Her List

As long as the weather permits, afternoon pick up at Alaina’s preschool is done outside. There is a fenced in play area where all the school’s classes congregate to end the day. Each teacher has a sign out sheet for the children that they are responsible for. Alaina gets the chance to see some of her friends from last year’s class and run off a little energy before we get home.

It’s also peak time for potential bad behavior. She’s often hot, tired, and pissed off about having to leave. My plan is usually to hunt down her teacher first, sign her out, and then proceed with the extraction attempt.

The new year has just begun, but already modifications to this routine are necessary.  Before leaving the grounds, Alaina now insists that we first navigate back through the chaos to wherever her new teacher can be found. We aren’t allowed to go until I  receive report on whether or not she was a good girl that day. So that I can call and tell Santa.

 

stock-footage-santa-claus-talks-on-cell-phone

 

I believe the genesis of this new preoccupation to be a visit to Mystic Village a few weeks ago. One of the stores there is Sophia’s Mystical Christmas, a year round place for ornaments and decorations. It’s not normally a store I would frequent, especially in August, but when a passing couple were overheard making plans to meet back there, all Alaina needed to hear was “Christmas.” She was delighted by all the lights and shiny objects but the store was missing one crucial thing that she was looking for. The big guy himself.

It wasn’t hard for her to accept the idea that Santa Claus was probably busy getting ready for Christmas, but I was unprepared for how readily she decided that she also needed to start getting ready.

I’m not a big fan of extending holidays. I get most of my shopping done pretty early, but our tree goes up the week before.  I try and confine carols to the day of if at all possible. I like to finish my Thanksgiving leftovers before putting up our lights.

That shopping should be easy this year. Every other commercial is another opportunity for her to ask me to “write that down, so Santa knows I want it.”  The list is getting long. I don’t remember either of us ever telling her that she would receive rocks if she misbehaved, but she picked up that idea somewhere and is very concerned. She does not want rocks for Christmas. Every morning this week she has asked if we could go to the mall. She thinks she’s being coy, but I’m pretty sure I know who she’s looking for.

For now I’ll continue to continue enjoying this good behavior, but eventually we are going to need to have a talk. So far she hasn’t remembered all the decorations downstairs, but it’s only a matter of time.

 

 

J

 

 

 

 

You Don’t Leave Your Wing Man

There were a lot of lessons to be learned in the 1980’s. You don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe, you don’t put baby in the corner, and you don’t mess with the bull, young man, or you might get the horns. And you never, never leave your wing man.

The traditional military definition of a wing man is a pilot flying at the right wing or slightly behind another aircraft, watching his rear and blind spots. Single men on the prowl co-opted the term to describe a friend lending support in approaching a female. The wing man’s job is to talk up the primary hunter and to provide distraction for any other women in the group.

In both of these definitions the wing man is slightly subservient, more of a sidekick or role player. I’ve never thought of it that way. To me your wing man is an equal partner, both watching your back but also trusting you with theirs. Pushing you to try harder and achieve more, but also a voice of caution and restraint. More Jake and Elwood then Cameron and Ferris.

This past week one of my original wing men was on a fishing trip in  Canada with one of his daughters and drove a fair distance out of his way on the return trip to Fort Bragg to spend an afternoon and evening with my family on our vacation in New Jersey. We haven’t seen each other more than a half dozen times in the past decade, but this is still a guy that I know would drop anything, at any time, if I needed him to. I’d do the same for him.

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His daughter seemed well suited to the role also. There are several large rides on the pier that Kayla enjoyed experiencing, but probably couldn’t have been persuaded to go on by either her mom or I. The Skyscraper is a wind mill type thing that spins 170 feet into the air at speeds up to 80 mph. The Skycoaster raised the kids 109 feet up and then dropped them, ultimately leading to a swing out over the ocean at 70 mph.  I’ve been on similar rides before and can tell you that most people don’t go without a buddy.

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The best wing men are the ones you don’t have too look far to find. It’s how I always viewed my parents and it’s how I hope my wife and children will always view me. I’ll promise to never feed them after midnight, to never call them Shirley, and most important, to always have their six.

 

me and dev

 

 

 

 

 
 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms