11/12/2012 1:36 pm
45 things I’d like to reflect on as I begin my 46th revolution around the sun:
- 1. Have you all seen this YouTube video about just how insignificant we really are? I wouldn’t have even put a dent in the Milky Way traveling at light speed, yet.
- 2. I liked FaceBook during this election year because it brought something new to the table besides food, exercise, First World Problems, animal loving, armchair coaching. That said, as much as I appreciated learning a ton on both sides, I did not appreciate the personal attacks that occasionally arose. It’s perfectly okay to de-friend those people.
- 3. I think the toughest thing I’ve had to accept as a father is that: (a) my kids are not me and (b) they aren’t necessarily going to learn from my mistakes and resulting wisdom.
- 4. I’m finding most spectator sports too boring with too long of seasons, especially baseball. As a result, I prefer high school prep sports.
- 5. I’m learning how to reduce my FB and keep certain connections where they belong: Twitter, FB group-only, email, texting. You should, too.
- 6. Owning two kittens (I rescued them) is much easier and enjoyable than owning a dog…until 5:30 a.m. when they run their motors by your head, stick their butts in your face and demand the same breakfast your dog is demanding at that same ungodly hour. Then I hate them equally.
- 7. Desk-jockey injuries may be more painful than exercising injuries.
- 8. Ibuprofen is the duct tape of the human body.
- 9. It’s much easier coming up with a new idea than it is finding the right set of people to help make that idea a reality. If your gut tells you someone’s embellishing their contributions, they probably are and you’ll discover it quickly.
- 10. Despite knowing that t.v. is a huge time-waster and sucker of creativity, I cannot bring myself to cancel my service. I know this is one of the main roots of our society’s failure to advance.
Between Walking Dead and Call of Duty, I’m pretty much screwed.
- 11. Having love is better than having convenience.
- 12. People will pass on before their time. It sucks and it’s never easy. And someone else is next. So be sure to embrace the friendships you have.
- 13. Judging people drives a wedge between you and them. Giving them grace is a lot more peaceful and gives you a better disposition. That said, a good anger outburst at the idiot driver is cathartic and makes for a better drive in the long run.
- 14. Proper rest makes you more productive both physically and mentally.
- 15 – 45. Nobody wants to read 45 of anything…
08/13/2012 11:34 am
As I’m sure you all do, I have a couple of friends who like to post every political cartoon/meme/etc either about Obama or Romney or the red herring of the week (see, Chik-Fil-A). While I appreciate getting both sides with their usual extreme-side take on an issue, I have found myself thinking, “there are too many issues for me to analyze on top of working, working out, hanging with my kids, playing Draw Something, and reading commentary on why the Batman trilogy is the best trilogy of all time (true story).”
But, seriously, I’m starting to worry about who the candidates are, what their records are, which positive records matter to me and which negative records don’t (e.g., “I don’t care that someone has played 100 rounds of golf in three years because I believe he can converse with his staff or specially-appointed committee on the things he said he’d work on; but, I do care if he doesn’t work on these things). I find myself “vetting” things like my kids.
Earlier this summer, I discussed high school options with my son. I spent 20 minutes going through every pro and con as to each, telling him my position based on specific performance targets, his successes to date, perceived teacher attitude differences, school size, sports programs, distance, costs, number of true friends, religion versus no religion classes, location, the obligatory “my sacrifice” speech, etc. When I finally told him to give me his thoughts, he said, “I choose X.” When I asked why he said, “because of Y,” which was probably the 12th most important thing on the list. “Anything else?” “Not right now, no.” Okay. I’m sure some of these other things came into play, but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t because of the negative things and was more because of positive things.
When I was heading into 9th grade I wanted to play football. But then I considered the five jerks who enjoyed bullying everyone, added in two-a-day practices in the smoggy, hot summers of Rowland Heights and decided I would rather do nothing all summer. Never mind the fact that my skill set was probably perfect for football. I didn’t play for two negative reasons. What a loss. I missed out on team camaraderie and a successful program. Four of these five guys are now friendly acquaintances (the 5th was in jail last I heard). I still played soccer and we had a championship team my senior year, but if I had one regret, it would be that I didn’t play football.
If only I had spider powers, like Peter Parker.
I don’t want my son to have these regrets. I mean I realize that we learn from many of our choices and I’m prepared to lead him through that hindsight as life goes forward. But if he can make a decision based on all factors and come out feeling sure about that decision, I’d feel better. I go through the same thing with my daughter, though she seems to weigh a few more things and I help her rank the importance of those items.
So here I am now wondering who gets my vote. Oh, I have my initial gut choice, but I feel like my daughter who’s big on One Direction right now because I think every other girl is (maybe I’m in denial that she’s basing her choice on how “cute” a guy is). Do I base it on which FB friend advocates post better cartoons? Which side has less spelling errors (because the perfect way to ruin a good political meme is to have a glaring spelling error. I mean, I know you’re in a hurry to get something out, but come on!). Do I go with the side who has the guy voted “Biggest Brown-Noser” in high school or the guy who passes laws without letting Congress bog him down? Should I go based on who seems less hypocritical based on their past records and criticisms of his opponent? Or do I go with the opponent of the guy who’s own party representative criticizes his party’s candidate? (seriously, one of my friends is against seeing one of the candidates in office. That’s pretty huge because he stands pretty far on his party’s side.)
While I joke about the above and liken it to my kids’ decision-making, I can’t help but think that this is how most people vote, if they vote at all. As a dad, I want my kids to make good choices. So, the best way for me to set the example is to make life-altering choices based on good reasons. But they have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing unless I discuss it with them. And then I still have to portray sound reasoning. If I say, “I’m picking him because I like his suits better,” I sound like the reality t.v. generation. I imagine I’m going to tell them, I’ve picked X because I think the most important next four years will be our economy and employment rate, not things like healthcare and immigration laws, except where those issues may impact our economy and employment rate. Then I’ll go into some yawner about how those things tie together, as my daughter checks her Instragram and my son starts looking for a song he wants to hear.
Sorry dad, but if his wife can’t accessorize, what kind of leader can he really be?
The one thing I do like is that my son seems to throw out an opinion or two and I can help him rank the significance (and accuracy) of that opinion that I’m sure he heard from some teacher or other adult.
I’m still waiting for it to take, though. So, in the meantime, I’ll accept, “I want to take the hardest math class there is because…I don’t know why.”
06/04/2012 1:11 am
Admittedly, my blog took a seriously unintentional hiatus. I’d like to call it more of a sabbatical as I transitioned my firm away from an unhealthy partnership and was forced to spend most of my energy on my kids this school year. So I apologize to my 12 faithful readers. Frankly, I had a trying year as a parent trying to get the best out one of my kids and I wasn’t willing to write about it in the frame of mind I was in.
But, lately, I’ve had the urge to write about things that happen. Unfortunately, by the time I sit down on a Sunday night, I’ve already forgotten what thing I wanted to brag about. However, with the school year ending and me pulling another “hero dad” move, I figured I needed to memorialize some things.
I think the best way to summarize this school year is in the words of one of my good friends who likes to take shots any chance he can (it’s okay, I return the favor all the time…that’s one of the reasons we’re such good friends). In trying to coordinate 9 guys for a new monthly poker night, he said, “since King is a single mom and has limited time, . . . let’s throw out the best week of the month.” I laughed to myself because, while it was an obvious jab, it really hit the mark. I admittedly take on a lot of things that are typically reserved for the “mom.” Emotional support, taxi, sports support, etc. I don’t mean to sound like a male chauvinist and to my defense, at least one lacrosse mom followed suit in the gender-role assumptions.
I was called out for failing to bring the required “voluntary” goods to sell at the lacrosse snack bar this past Spring. When I responded to the mom in charge that I never received the schedule, she said, “I think I just sent it to the moms, so you may not have received it.” Fair enough. However, I pay for everything related to my son’s school and the lacrosse team. And while I don’t need kudos, I certainly don’t need to be cut out of the information train. “I pay for everything, so I need to be included on all such emails in the future,” was along the lines of what I said. What I wanted to say was, “I do 95% of the driving, 100% of the school oversight, and 100% of all school and sport-related costs, so don’t treat me like the dads who fold their arms and stand at the fence while you ladies all gossip missing your son’s awesome assist, goal, block, etc.” (I videotaped most of the games and have audio evidence.) In short, give me the credit for being the mom-dad that I am.
And with that, I will somehow segue to my School Year in Review list because this seems like the best way to encapsulate the year I had. It probably won’t review most of the year, but I don’t really care because you’ll read it anyway and forget the point of this list. And with that, here we go:
- 1. The quickest way to reduce jr. high drama is…to simply ignore the crazies who create it. I learned that my 7th grade daughter was viewed as a leader not only for her good citizenship, but also for her diplomacy. And no glory-seeking, OC Housewife wanna-be mom could do anything to take that away or ruin a perfectly capable cheer program, despite her micro-managing.
- 2. There is no amount of screaming and lecturing that will make a horse drink that water you brought him to. But, if you take away his iPhone, you get results.
Pretty much sums it up.
- 3. When you say, “this is the last time I’m going to scream and lecture you,” just laugh at yourself because it’s not even close to the last time.
- 4. Staying with that theme, school performance misery loves company and there’s no shortage of company when it comes to freshman boys.
- 5. I will never run out of opportunities to be my daughter’s hero.
- 6. If you tell your daughter she can delete 1,000 photos from her iPhone without checking to make sure she properly saved to her iPhoto catalog, it only costs $50.00 to download the recovery program. (See No. 5, above.)
- 7. My kids will never rob me of the opportunity to say, “I told you so.” Ever. The art of being a dad is knowing exactly when and how to say it…usually well after any tears. In any event, it’s nice when a better more glamorous door opens after a normal one closes.
- 8. My son can take a hit. And he plays through pain because of his pride. Every dad hopes this is the case with his son. Every dad also hopes that his son doesn’t stick his finger down his throat to puke so he can skip wind sprints at practice (Not my son.)
- 9. Boys have no loyalty to each other, no matter how much your son may have stood up for the other the prior year and stuck by him.
- 10. Your kids will most likely figure out who their true friends are without a word from you. And when they finally verbalize it, it is sweet to say, “I agree with you.”
- 11. 15-year old boys punch hard. They block punches hard, too. It is not child abuse to trade punches with your son. It’s masochism.
- 12. A loud night with twelve 13-year old girls screaming for Taylor Lautner to take off his shirt is all worth it when one of them says, “You make the best pancakes (chocolate chip), Mr. Sir (my new nickname amongst a gaggle of girls)” the next morning. Singing an old 80s dance mix in a car full of girls is the fastest way to becoming the “cool dad.”
If I had to hear it, you get the visual too. He'll always be Shark Boy to me.
- 13. A “golden sombrero” is what it’s called when your son scores 4 goals in one game. ”Bragging” is what you call it when you tell everyone in a blog and FB post (with video).
- 14. There is no event involving my daughter that doesn’t require shopping for a new dress and shoes. Thankfully, I have a friend who always seems to have the perfect accessories.
- 15. And, lastly, you can wash 3 pairs of the same color khakis, fold them and stack them together, and your son will still just wear the same pair all week, denying that he did without thinking that the paint from whatever class that stained his pants is a dead giveaway.
Happy End-of-Year Stuff,
02/14/2012 12:00 am
After 12 easy years, it’s time to get my gun out. The enemy? Teenage punks –errrr– boys.
Like many parents, I have the luxury of raising kids of both genders. While they each come with their own challenges, I will say that I’m much more apprehensive as a dad when it comes to my daughter. With my son, it seems to be more about reliving some of my own experiences and hoping he doesn’t make the same mistakes or rises above some of the challenges I had more easily. But with my daughter, it’s more about keeping her safe from an ugly world and giving her as much guidance about her biggest enemy…boys.
But luckily, jr. high school isn’t all about boys. It’s also all about status and friendships too. And my favorite time is when all of these things collide. I was hoping I’d get one more year of sweet innocence, but no such luck. Now, my daughter happens to be very diplomatic. This was a likely by-product of being a child of divorce and not wanting to rock any boats (She is also the queen of prefacing a request for something she wants with an introduction that assures a probable “yes” from me). So, with this skill, I tend to trust that she can handle certain situations on her own. Still, jr. high can be a jungle and so I’ve spent a lot of time with both of my kids talking about personalities, setting standards, and knowing that most things are temporary.
A little throwback to a time where there was less drama...only because there was no Facebook or cell phones.
Despite all this, I want to micromanage. It’s in my nature. Any life event is a “teaching moment” and my kids can attest to lectures or anecdotes that probably go on for too long (anything over 10 seconds). But I’m very proactive here. I like to start conversations about things that are going on and things I hear about from either their mom or their sibling. I try to impart as much wisdom as I can knowing that most of it will not sink in. And then I sit and hope that they get through their teenage years without too much drama.
So far, she’s had little girl drama to deal with and, after a couple of instances, she’s understanding a lot about taking the high road and also choosing to invest her time with people who are uplifting versus mean girls. In fact, as her brother attempted to tell me about another drama girl incident his sister had to deal with, she protested. I supported her protest and told her, “I trust you to be able to handle this the best way…I’m here if you want to talk about it, but I know you will make good decisions because you always do.” Yes, I wanted to know what the drama was. And yes I wanted to micromanage it. But, I knew this type of problem was not going to be the last and she needs to feel confident in trusting her own instincts, which are quite good. It’s been a month and I still don’t know the story.
But then it happened.
A boy. A boy who is “funny.” A product of a divorced set of parents who failed to teach him certain things about respect, honesty and etiquette. A boy who chose one girl over another but continued to text flirty and dirty things to the unchosen girl much to the shock and dismay of his mother who chose to parent him by living four hours away while insisting he “would never say such things.” Okay. The texts from his phone weren’t from him. You say a friend of his must have texted them? You say you’ll get to the bottom of this and then call me back? (she never called back)
Some may think this age is too soon for boyfriends, but since being “in a relationship” consists of hanging out at school, not holding hands (or worse) and the occasional group of friends movie, I felt it was worth the life experience. What I didn’t expect was the type of experience that’s usually reserved for adults.
No, the texting isn’t the reason I’m an angry dad. But the break-up and emotional manipulation at the end is. I get that a 13 year old boy doesn’t have the sack (figuratively and literally) to have a face-to-face conversation and instead resorts to texting a break-up. I get that he had to play the ignore game for an entire group date. But what I don’t get is the pathological lie. Really? Cancer? It’s not enough that you understandably want to move on, but you have to lie about having cancer? Idiot. Yes, 13-year-old idiot punk.
My daughter, who would have handled the “break-up” fine was upset all weekend because she thought her “friend” had cancer. A quick call to the distant mother by my ex to offer sincere sympathy was met with the truth. No cancer. Just a lying punk. His punishment? I’m sure her “sweet little boy” got a soft singsongy “that was wrong” two-second lecture.
How did my daughter handle it? She confronted him the next day (she’s good at confronting people) and said, “you owe me an apology” to which he replied, “for what?” Her response? “You know.” And she turned and walked away. The punk couldn’t even apologize.
Yeah. I don't need her growing up to become one of these girls.
I guess I owe him thanks. She learned a very real lesson about people and character. We talked about standards to set for people and not settling. I reminded her that she could give him grace for being an idiot but that she didn’t have to put herself in a position to be lied to by him again. Like I said, she’s pretty good at figuring this stuff out. She’s even better at taking the high road. And my job is to make sure she’s encouraged to trust in herself even though I’d like to take some type of revenge for her.
But then again, that’s what older brothers are for.
12/13/2011 12:00 am
So, I attended what I expect to be the first of many all day reality show auditions this past Sunday. What could I say to my 12-year old when she completed an online application for America’s Got Talent on her own and only texted me to ask if she could use my info as the authorization-giving parent?
To be honest, I dreaded the all day line thing waiting around with a bunch of Star Wars cantina denizens seeking 15 minutes of fame. But as the day approached, I took the opportunity to prepare my daughter in the best way I know how…outfit planning and purchase and song selection. Actually, one of my favorite things to do with my daughter is to take her clothes shopping where we talk about styles, what she “needs” and what does or doesn’t look good.
So, two weeks ago, we arrived at our standard Wet Seal at the Irvine Spectrum where most of the sales girls know us the only daddy-daughter duo to engage in this type of activity to the extent that we do. After a very short search, we found 4 tops that might do the trick, so I did what any dad would do . . . I made her go through the mental exercise of weighing the prices, the 2-for-1 deal and then deciding which two to keep . . . then bought all 4 of them anyway (the prices and deals were so good, it was no issue . . . I just wanted to see if she would exercise self-control and she did).
Then came the search for the perfect belt with “pop.” This was an arduous task with many internet searches and store walk-bys to no avail. With one day to go, I decided to ask my friend who not only had the perfect belt, but also the perfect bangles, ring, necklace and glitter dust applicator. The night before, my daughter settled on the best top to go with her black jeans and boots and tried everything on. We were good to go and it was time to hit the sack since we had to be up at 5 a.m. with the line starting at 6 a.m. (even though the doors opened at 8 a.m., I wanted the best chance to avoid an all-day affair).
We ended up being about 60th in line and I will go ahead and kill the suspense that we were out of there by 10:30 a.m. This wasn’t as crazy as American Idol looks on t.v., but it was clear that the people who arrived later were in for a much longer day.
Anyway, there was plenty of time to meet people around us and my daughter quickly made friends with two other girls and they compared notes: “what are you singing?” “do you have a second song?” “did you see that weird guy on the show last season?” Meanwhile we parents talked about the sacrifices we make and I learned that my 5 hours of sleep stood up to other parents who came in from further away. It eventually turned into a singles group where these parents were sharing details of their exes and I thought to myself, “would it be rude if I just put my Beats headphones on at this point?” I didn’t and shared a few of my own tales. Then, of all things random, No. 63 (Aubrey was No. 62) was the daughter of an old colleague of mine from the Psych hospital days. It had been 20 years since we hung out in the Occupational Therapy room with a bunch of teens, and while we managed to be FB friends, it had still been 20 years. So we caught up (yes, we talked about our exes).
Now the tricky part here is that everyone loves their child, supports them with this kind of sacrifice and wants to believe they have what it takes. Fortunately, the handful of “friends” we made all had some degree of talent. Not so fortunately, many others around us did not.
And we had the whole rainbow of people:
- -the 6’2″ transgender black guy dressed in a Katy Perry blue wig and Katy Perry-esque heels, and a dress of course. He became friends with the 3 girls for a brief stint in the hall and they were rooting for him/her to do well;
- -the nerdy white kid in a black T and red pants who decided that emulating Michael Jackson while he sang was t.v. worthy;
- -the introverted teen who sang half his song in spanish, which was unique enough -I thought- to get him a call back until he switched to English and he clearly lacked skills;
- -the “something’s just not right about her” mom with the 7 year-old who sang the fastest version of Wicked’s “Popular” that I’ve ever heard. Her mom was actually the spectacle. There’s always one and, well, she was in our sub-group of 10 while we waited for the previous group to finish with the lone producer. She tried to get everyone to do their song for her (so she could gauge the competition), but she did it in a faux-encouraging way. And she had a comment for everything, even when the producer’s instructions were crystal clear. Her daughter will be great in musicals some day, but nothing she did warranted the stream of tears from mom or the phone call after to, presumably, dad saying “she nailed it,” when she clearly did not.
- -the 60-something year old man with minimal patience but a heart for performing. He wasn’t in our group but the 48 year old Harley-riding-looking dude with the big lungs was and as he belted out his song following 3 tiny 12-year old tweens, I couldn’t help but laugh at the contrast . . . or the way he was almost a good singer but for being completely a half-step off key the entire Ray Charles song I’d never heard of before (and without any gravelly voice).
Anyway, there was a nice mix of talent and spectacles. Just like you’d see in the audition portion of American Idol but reduced by what seemed to be about two-thirds. And now that I’d been through it, it occurred to me that I could have signed up alongside my daughter and we could have sung one after the other, or possibly as a duo (think Billy Ray and Miley . . . yes, I’d wear a mullet!).
But here’s the funny thing I took from this whole experience. If you could see the hope and desire and energy of these people, even the people who stunk, you couldn’t help but root for each and every one of them. I mean, my daughter is talented and I viewed this as a dry run for American Idol in 3 years. She is not perfect, but she is very good and she has the gift. So did 3 other girls in our small group of 10. Many of the others didn’t. And it’s only by the sheer unconditional love of their parents that they are there, wasting their precious time for an experience that many were ill-prepared for (trust me on this as I checked out outfits, make-up, and camera presence like a good competitive father would do). And while the beauty of their tone was only in the ears of their unconditionally loving parent, God bless them for being out there.
We ended the day with a nice pancake, eggs, bacon and buttermilk spice muffin breakfast courtesy of Mimi’s Cafe off 17th and the 55. And I loved the opportunity to have one on one time planned by my daughter with the Mimi’s de-briefing session. It’s a day we will always remember.
And I really hope the mime-costumed dancer duo gets a call back . . .because that was true reality tv talent. And I’m not being sarcastic.
Happy unconditional loving,
12/05/2011 11:38 pm
All it took after Thanksgiving was a little Pandora.com and I was put in the Christmas spirit. That and a text reminding me that I bought a Christmas tree to support the JSerra baseball team and that it was being delivered on Saturday. That and a “bored” daughter who didn’t know the meaning of the word “relax” until the house and tree were decorated and the snow village unpacked and put in place after a quick trip to Michael’s and Target for some supplies and new lights.
That and an accidental flip past the Ion channel to watch the opening of one of the best cop duo movies of all time where Sgt. Riggs counts out $100 to buy “a hundred” worth of white powder at a Christmas tree lot (“shut up, man, I’m trying to count”). And then it hit me. “My son should be watching this with me.” And then it hit me again. “Wait, there are a ton of Christmas movies he should be watching with me.” He’s always asking why older movies are better than newer ones (he asks the same thing about rock music, bless his soul). [Side Note: yes, I have a daughter and, yes, I talk about my son more. But in this case, I don't feel like listing all the cute movies my kids should watch because they already watch them. No, I'm talking about classic guy films.].
And with that, I give you, the Top Something Movies Every Dad Should Make Sure His Son Watches, in no particular order:
- No. 1 – Lethal Weapon. It barely has anything to do with Christmas except the opening and then end where Christmas trees are present, but that crazy Riggs and his uncanny aim is the perfect lead-in to other Christmas movies.
- No. 2 – Die Hard. Same thing. There’s a Christmas party that puts people in the building where John McClain picks off common thieves one by one all whilst dropping witty repartee that only Bruce Willis can deliver. “See son, there’s always time for a good joke…especially before you blow somebody away.” Ending the movie with Jingle Bell Rock is the perfect way to capture the Xmas spirit. Die Hard 2 is a perfect sequel and also makes the list.
With a poster caption like that, how can you not get excited?!
- No. 3 – A Christmas Story. It plays all weekend soon on either TNT or TBS. Admittedly, I didn’t watch this movie until about 15 years after it originally came out (My record for first watch after original release might be Close Encounters at 20+ years). It’s the perfect movie to repeatedly butt in and say, “see, son, this is what childhood used to be like. You kids are spoiled.” Classic humor in all forms. Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra.
- No. 4 – Christmas Vacation. Two words: Cousin Eddie.
It's worth it just to hear Clarence's squeaky voice as he teaches George Bailey the value of life.
- No. 5 – It’s A Wonderful Life. Perfect lesson about looking at all the good things in life and appreciating even how the bad things accentuate the good. And he won’t even know it’s the Campbell’s soup pitchman. Caveat: You pretty much have to wait until he hits high school. Disguised Remake: Family Man starring “that guy who’s in everything.” (No not Gene Hackman in the 90s…but Nicolas Cage). But you can’t beat an angel trying to earn his wings. (It’s okay to start off at the part where everything falls apart since the first half moves a little slow for the youngin’s. It’s definitely going to have more meaning once he has his own family).
- No. 6 – Trading Places. Definitely PG-13 by today’s standards, but this is the perfect movie to round out the list. A great switcheroo film with two of the 80s’ best comedians and the always happy-revenge-ending. Boys love this kind of stuff. “Looking good, Billy Ray!” “Feeling good, Louis!”
See? I didn't make this up.
There you have it. 3 action flicks. 3 comedies. And one drama that you can slip in while trimming the tree. Which reminds me…you should always have that traditional film on tree-trimming or wrapping night. My personal tradition is staying up til 2 a.m. wrapping all my gifts and stuffing the stockings…all set to Vision Quest (“Only the Young,” baby). Occasionally I slip in Diggstown or Hoosiers, too. That has nothing to do with this topic, but since when has that ever mattered? Enjoy this season.
11/21/2011 11:45 pm
When it comes to raising my kids, I sometimes act like a teenager. I think I know it all and that there is one way to do things…my way. I like to think I’ve gained a lot of wisdom over the years and that what worked for me should work for them. I’m mostly talking about school and a little about the attitude my kids need to have to excel at whatever they want to do. But I found myself stuck on a train with tunnel vision and, because my way wasn’t working, the result was a deterioration of my relationship with my son. As much as he has the same aptitude as me, he is not me. I spent the bulk of last spring and then the first two months of this fall lecturing, yelling, screaming, bartering, guilt-tripping, threatening, pleading, carroting, etc. with mixed results. Most of the time, my son just learned to give me good eye contact and respond when a question -rhetorical or otherwise- was posed. But he was like that dog in the learned-helplessness experiment. That would be the one where the dog initially receives shocks in response to nothing. He eventually stops reacting and just lays there taking the shocks. He can’t do anything about the shocks, so why bother reacting? Just lay there and let it happen. The result? No motivation.
Interestingly, my ex and I were on the same page with approaching him the same way. But, the last thing I wanted to do was alienate my son. Yes, he broke my trust with fibs about homework and in-class assignments. Yes, his actions are disrespectful to my sacrifices for him. And, yes, I let him know. But, then I noticed that we were living in a house (he’s with me 90% of the time now) with a dark cloud not only hanging over it, but permeating every room. This isn’t the kind of household I wanted. This isn’t the kind of leader I wanted to be or be remembered as. I spent many days and nights agonizing over this. I spent a lot of time with a very good friend who listened and validated me. I’m a brooder. And I know that it’s a choice to be a brooder. But it was taking up my time, energy and mental focus. It was affecting my business.
So I made a decision to the remove the dark cloud. It still matters to me that he does his best and it still bothers me when he doesn’t. And I still remind him daily how to study and how to attitudinally approach his school work and how to problem solve. But I do it in a way that allows him to feel respected while remembering that this is all for the betterment of his future. In fact, the day I decided this, I sat down with him and said, “I’ve given you the skills to succeed, but now it’s up to you. I’m going to let you have all the distractions without restricting you from them and it’s going to be up to you to get your work done and score well on your tests. You’re a young man now and you have to take care of yourself.” (or something like that). Call some of it reverse psychology, but I swear to you that the change in tone from me caught him off guard and it dawned on him in some way that I was right…it is up to him.
Well, I’d love to tell you that everything is perfect, but it’s not. It’s much better, but there’s an occasional slip, like when he doesn’t quite understand an assignment, but doesn’t think to ask the teacher for more guidance. That’s where I have to remind him to use his resources, like a parent should. What’s funny is that I keep running into other parents who have the same problem. I know it’s all going to work out eventually. I have plenty of friends my age who can attest to that.
So what does this have to do with thankfulness? Everything. Because every time I was done yelling, lecturing, screaming, etc., and the learned helplessness experiment was over, he would hug me and tell me he loves me. Every. Single. Time. And the night I went to bed intentionally without telling him I loved him was one of the darkest nights I’ve ever had. And it was wrong. And thankfully, that chapter is over.
It’s not lost on me how much I have taken for granted. Facebook posts and Twitter tweets and regular news have made that abundantly clear. For starters, my son is physically and mentally healthy while other children are not. My son and I also get a lot of time together where work or other circumstances make that impossible for others. And he will soon be his own man with his own responsibilities and less time for me.
So, as I read the news about a man who violated the trust of so many young men and a university that covered it up, I’m moved to think about the things for which I am thankful as they pertain to me and my children. And as you read the following list, I hope that you stop to think about what you can be thankful for, despite whatever imperfections exist in your own world.
Today, I am thankful:
- -that I have two sweet kids who tell me they love me every chance they get;
- -that I have special friends whom I can count on to listen and help me keep perspective and who serve as great sounding boards;
- -for love;
- -for other people’s children with whom I get to watch grow up and for whom I get to cheer and encourage, one in particular who makes me laugh almost daily with texts;
- -for all the inspirational posts my running and triathlon friends put on Facebook to inspire me to succeed;
- -for the connections I get to keep with people from different eras of my life, even if it’s only a once-a-year birthday wish on FB;
- -for the wonderful diversions that football and fantasy football are;
- -for fresh beginnings and the lifting of the other dark cloud over my old office;
- -for the rights of Americans to occupy spaces to make a statement over something they are passionate (or lazy) about;
- -and finally, for so many wonders and experiences in this world that reveal glimpses of God to me (one was just shown to me via a unique theoretical perspective by my son’s Biology teacher).
10/15/2011 11:03 pm
One of my favorite new memes (pronounced “mimi”) is what’s known as “first world problems” (aka “my rough life”). You know memes best as the LOL Cats pics with captions that get passed around or remember when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift and then all those spoofs came out about Kanye interrupting historical figures to tell them something was “the best of all time?”
- This is my favorite Kanye meme…’of all time!’
Now we have #firstworldproblems. These are hilarious because you can check your Facebook or Twitter pretty much at any time of the day and read about someone’s FWP gripe. The picture at the start of this post is a great example. All the good FWPs have a picture of someone crying or in some despondent state with a caption that reads something like, “I wanted the iPhone 4s, but I couldn’t stand in line all day or I would have missed my nail appointment.” Or, “my parents bought me a brand new car, but it doesn’t have an iPod jack.”
Or this one…
I’m sure somebody intended these to be a commentary on how egocentric our culture is. And who are we to dispute it when we only have to look at reality shows to see how detached people are from what really matters. That said, these are also just a fun way to poke at ourselves considering everything that’s going on in the world and serve as a humorous reminder that we sometimes lose perspective of what really matters in life.
So I thought it would be fun to list some of my favorite FWPs I see (or paraphrases of them). So here goes with a picture to accompany them for effect…
- “FaceBook is free, but they changed their format again…” ~Half the FB population last month
- “Uuugh! Out of gas, my phone is dying, & I left my morning shake on the counter. ” ~Brooke Burke (model/host) Oct. 11th Tweet
- “My favorite episode got pre-empted by the World Series. I don’t like the teams that are playing.”
- “I don’t have to work for a living. I have to drive my kids to practice and then go to the store right after.”
- “The office internet is down…I have to check FaceBook on my iPhone.”
- “I went to get my usual latte and coffee cake at Starbucks this morning. They were all out of coffee cake.”
- “I held the door for someone. They didn’t say, ‘thank you.’”
- Seriously. People actually post this kind of stuff all day. I don’t mind because it allows me to post sarcasm bringing me a little levity after a long day at my desk.
Okay, I have to close with one of my favorite FWP memes:
Now tell me one of your favorites, or one that you use.
10/10/2011 5:45 pm
By the time I get to post this, you may have already been flooded with talk about Steve Jobs and his impact on our society. I’d like to take a different angle on this…from a parent’s perspective.
I could simply post one of his quotes (he has several very good ones) and end there. But everyone knows I’m not a man of few words. Here is the quote:
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
I can only wonder what our society would be like if everyone took on this attitude. There are times and instances where I have taken on this attitude. When I used to sing. When I write. But, for the most part, somewhere above “good enough” and “great” is where I’d like to believe my work falls. Somewhere around “above average” is where my running and cycling fall. Somewhere between “awesome” and “cruise control” is where my parenting falls. And my contribution to this world falls somewhere between “giver” and “taker.”
If you know me, you may agree or disagree with some of these descriptions. My staff and colleagues see me in an entirely different way than my actual friends. My kids see me differently. But, I know where I measure. I know what really matters. And, admittedly, I am not a yardstick of quality in all the areas I believe I should be.
And what’s funny is that, as I sat down to write this,
As big an impact as Jobs had on our technological society, Randy Pausch has probably influenced more people exponentially by his example and teaching.
I was going to focus on how I want my kids to take the example and words of Steve Jobs, and also Randy Pausch, to strive for excellence so that they can be successful in their careers. Because that’s the biggest thing that matters to me on a day-in and day-out basis. But as I write, I know that what my kids do for a living is not the be-all and end-all.
I have friends who put their kids’ religious faith at the top of the heap. Some who put achievement in sports, music, fine arts, etc. at the top. Some put being the queen of the social hill (I like to call them OC Housewives in training). And many of us put some combination of all of these on our lists.
But things like egocentricity or laziness or life distractions seem to derail many of us. And if you read Jobs’ quote above, it’s easy to see that perhaps true excellence is simply not expected. Or, we preach about excellence, but permit less-than-excellent performance because, well, that’s life. My kids know that I expect straight A’s in school. But then they also know I’ve given them a cushion so that they don’t get corporal punishment for falling short. Is it my fault that they don’t get straight A’s? Maybe. But I do preach about doing their best. The funny thing is that when I am told, “I did my best” on a test, I can ask two questions to confirm that their best was not always what they gave.
Anyway, I spent dinner discussing with my son what it means to be a “yardstick of excellence.” How you do things well for the sake of doing them well. While Steve Jobs’ quote seems to suggest you should be something that everyone else compares them to, I won’t go that far because it hints of narcissism. But I do think that the second part of the quote rings true. In our society, mediocrity seems to be the measuring stick. Most people actually don’t like environments where excellence is required. Why? Because it increases anxiety… and none of us likes to feel anxious. We just like to feel comfortable. And so the message has turned into a softer one. A friend even posted about how our children seem to get an award for showing up to school these days so that everyone can feel special. I think everyone can feel special. But I think they need to earn it.
So take a few minutes to reflect on where you may not be pursuing excellence. Where you may have allowed complacency to set in. And then decide if it matters enough to you to change your habits. I’ve started with the t.v. because it is an opiate for the masses. It kills my creativity. It kills my productivity. It keeps me awake later than I need to be. And as I reflect on the amount of time I wasted on re-runs, I swore my kids would not have the same regret. Do I want them to be the next Steve Jobs? No. But I do want them to succeed at their goals.
10/02/2011 2:31 pm
Last week, 19-year old Sam Eshagoff was arrested for taking the SAT…six times…for six high school students (also arrested)…charging $1500 to $2500 each. Genius? Well, I hope so since he was taking the SAT for them. You can read the details here: SAT cheating scandal du anne’e. <- Yes, there’s one every year.
It’s a great tale of kids who have been under-achieving but responded to parent pressure, I’m sure, by trying to secure their future with a high test score. They may not get into Yale, but at least they could avoid the local junior college (not that there’s anything wrong with these, economically), which might be a social faux pas in their family circles.
So what’s the big deal?
In sports, there’s a familiar saying that goes, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Truer words have not been spoken. *Gasp!* What?! How can you say that, Bill?! Sorry, but you can’t talk me off this one. Everyone cheats. Everyone. And when it’s not out-and-out cheating, it’s pushing the integrity envelope, end-running around the rules, and always with justification.
Yep, that about sums it up.
Exhibit A: Barry Bonds (roids), Lance Armstrong (allegedly, four separate claims), Pete Carroll (plausible deniability), Lane Kiffin (I like to pick on Trojans), every sports agent and every college sports star, Bill Belichik (video-gate), Marion Jones (had to throw a woman in there).
And you know what happened to these cheaters? Nothing. Slaps on the wrist. Except for Marion (before you go into a misogyny rant, all Olympic cheaters receive harsh penalties).
Exhibit B: Countrywide Mortgage, B of A, and other lenders who looked the other way. Every mortgage broker, every ‘stated income’ borrower. Wall Street. Their consequence? A bailout.
Exhibit C: Every politician (yes, lying, concealing, empty promising = cheating). And most don’t even get voted out.
Exhibit D: Commissioners in Little League and AYSO. Yeah, they stack their team and instruct kids to intentionally tank for lower ratings on tryout day.
Exhibit E: You, every time you drive over the speed limit, justify a “business lunch,” or let your tax accountant throw your business write-offs in the “acceptable range” based on their “experience working for the IRS.”
Exhibit F: Every awards show/event, except maybe Kids’ and Peoples’ Choice Awards, where politics determine the winners.
What’s the lesson our kids learn every day in our society? It’s not about integrity and hard work. It’s about results, not getting caught, keeping up with the Joneses by any means. And the justification? Let’s look at the justification for the 6 accused and Sam. Based on the location, I’m betting these kids are all bright and simply underachieved. So, they will likely succeed when it matters, right? I mean, how much of your high school education do you actually use? And we all know that college is a boondoggle save for a few major-related courses and an internship that contribute to your first job. In fact, the real criminals are the colleges and universities who have exploited us with requirements of 120 credits most of which serve students only when watching Jeopardy!. All for the almighty dollar.
Well, college may help with THIS question...
And wait, you mean my future promise is based on my ability to perform on math problems that I will never encounter in real life and vocabulary words I will never text, post or tweet (or otherwise use in a business context, unless I’m drafting SAT questions)?
Look, I understand the opposing view. [Read using stodgy voice]: “These tests predict the discipline and aptitude of students to help determine whether or not students can continue to have the same discipline and memory skills necessary to pass 4 years of useless classes.” Great. And then these kids go to their jobs and employ real skills and either survive or get eaten up. My firm once had a Berkeley graduate perform file clerk and gopher tasks. A Berkeley grad! That meant good grades, good high school, and a high SAT. By all means she should have been predicted to do well. She lasted one month (three weeks longer than I wanted). My 12-year old daughter has more common sense and aptitude to perform the office jobs required of this pot head (she was). She didn’t even have book smarts. She just knew how to manipulate and/or use people to get what she wanted.
I see plenty of Orange County parents doing whatever they can to influence the powers that be over our children so they can get an edge. What happened to merit…and letting a kid schmooze on their own? “Problem, son? Let me talk with the teacher or coach to see what I can do.” “You don’t want to wait for X? Let me see if I can tip somebody and get it for you.” And Cliffs Notes are the very epitome of cheating. You don’t read the book when you can use Google, Wikipedia and Cliffs Notes to tell you everything you need to know. We’ve been doing that for decades. Is that cheating? Well it isn’t following the rules.
But we have double-standards here. Some things are acceptable. Others are not. Weren’t these kids just doing what they see and hear on the news, TMZ, ESPN and with their own parents and peers? Don’t those with the money have the ability to bend the rules or outright break them? And isn’t this more of a “white collar crime” thereby justifying a slap on the wrist instead of hard time (Yes, you can completely manipulate the market costing consumers millions and get a fine with little to no jail time for the one scapegoat, but steal from a house and it’s slammer time)?
Yeah, I’d use the “product of my environment” defense if I were Sam and the 6. But it looks like the 6 are already in good shape. Their prospective colleges won’t be notified. These kids just have to retake the SAT. That’s justice for ya.
"Hi, Mom? I guess I got busted for using my entrepeneurial skills like a politician or banker. Can you bail me out?"
Now, excuse me while I check my son’s grades and prepare yet another speech to him about assimilating to the institution of education in America so that his grades and test scores can get him into a good school…