Tag Archives: Will

Time is a Flat Skipping Rock

skippingrocks
photo credit: via photopin (license)

“You need to get better at managing your time.”

We have the same exact fight with Will every single night. An hour before bedtime we ask him to think about his plan for the rest of the evening. For instance, he can watch TV or play Minecraft for an hour, but at 8 pm he’ll have to go right to bed. Or he can choose to watch TV/play for half an hour and then we can rest for a bit together upstairs and chat before bed, which he loves to do.

He’s always so sure and steadfast when he makes the initial decision. But then, as bedtime nears, he gets buyer’s remorse and wishes he had chosen the opposite. Then come the tears, the yelling, the tantrums — it’s exhausting. But we stick to our guns and talk about the importance of time management. Time after time.

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I took Will to a local swimming hole with friends over the weekend. The weather is unseasonably gorgeous here for early May, so the kids fished for a bit and then stripped down and went for a dip. They were pirates, adventurers, and archaeologists digging in the water’s edge for time’s forgotten fossils.

Well, the clan of Spidey underwear clad explorers  didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur. However, they found the next best thing: flat rocks.

The sun-splashed afternoon quickly became a rock skipping competition of epic proportions — each kid side-arming stones in an attempt to skim it off the surface of the water and create as many jumps as possible. Who could skip rocks the farthest? Who could get the most skips? Which one of those trumps the other?

Then Will hucked a nice one at a great angle and attained maximum skippage. A nice big, arcing first bounce followed by four or five additional skips before the limits of the universe intervened and halted all progress. He turned and looked at me with a beaming grin and eyes sparkling with self-satisfaction in the noon-day sun.

He suddenly seemed so grown up, almost like a different person. And I wondered where all the time had —

Oh holy hell.

Time management is a crock of shit. It only took one look at the skipping rocks kissing the water’s surface combined with my suddenly seven-year-old son to realize time can’t be managed. Not really, anyway. Nothing as inexorable as time can truly be managed. Or contained. Or even slowed down. A few guys tried it once in the 1980s, but their DeLorean antics produced some unpredictable results.

We are shot out of a cannon into life’s pond and the clock immediately starts ticking. We skip along the surface and our respective ripples trace our journey. They are the major milestones of our lives — first date, graduation, buying a house, marriage, kids — because those things are the most visible. They are the moments stamped most markedly in time for all to see.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the most important.

Time can’t be stopped or slowed down. But it can and should be savored often, and survived when necessary.

And although the splashdowns are the obvious focal points, most of life is the in-between. The bulk of our journey consists of the flight — rocketing through the air not knowing exactly where or when we’re going to land — and hoping we bounce up and keep going for just a little while longer. Just skipping ahead one more time until physics kick in and we inevitably sink to the bottom.

We’re all in flight and set in motion, and you can manage your time or enjoy it. For me, it’s time for the latter.

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My Son, The Boy Scouts, and Why I Won’t Support Discrimination

photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony - Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts - Yongsan Garrison - Korea - 090509 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony – Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts – Yongsan Garrison – Korea – 090509 via photopin (license)

The boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, cautiously walked toward us as we exited the store. He tugged at his Cub Scout neckerchief and cleared his throat before speaking. He was polite but nervous, as he quietly explained how he was raising money and asked us if we’d like to donate.

Unlike many people, I don’t mind being approached by folks outside of stores asking for donations. That’s especially true when young men and women take it upon themselves to bravely approach strangers and ask for financial support, because that’s not an easy thing to do. I almost gave him a dollar based on that alone.

I thanked him for his time and congratulated him on his efforts, told him he’s doing a fine job, and wished him luck. Then I politely declined to donate and walked away.

When we were out of earshot, Will gave me a confused look and wanted to know why I wouldn’t give the boy any money. So I told him even though that boy and his friends are surely very good and devoted Scouts led by progressive parents and leaders doing positive work in the community, the people in charge of Scouting at the national level have a rule that prohibits gay people and atheists from being leaders. And, until very recently, wouldn’t let in gay or atheist members. Which means Will’s gay extended family wouldn’t be allowed to lead a troop because they’d be considered harmful to the development of kids. Hell, it means I couldn’t even lead a group because I don’t believe in God.

His reaction? “What?!? That’s not fair. Why can’t they just be nice?” Yes. Why indeed.

I posted the encounter on my Facebook page and thought nothing of it other than it was a good lesson for Will. However, others had a very different view of what happened. Here are a few comments I received:

“So lets take it out on the scouts that work very hard.”

“Maybe instead of refusing to support them and teaching your child that its ok to judge people. Maybe you should try volunteering and help to change policy.”

“Discriminating against all scouts is just as bad as discriminating against all gays or all blacks or all trekkies (had to throw that is to lighten up the subject). If you show discrimination at all to any group in front of your children, you are teaching them that discrimination is ok. It’s hypocritical. We teach are kids to show love and respect to everyone, even our enemies and those that have different opinions.”

“Im a fan of yours man, I usually like everything you post, but this. Sounds to my like a lesson in division and discrimination.”

First of all, politely declining to donate is not discrimination. Not by a long shot. And it’s certainly not in the same hemisphere as racism and homophobia.

Discrimination? Setting a bad example? Negative judgments? All things the Scouts engage in at the national level by banning gays and non-believers. But instead of focusing on the organization actually discriminating against people, they focused on me. Suddenly I was the bad guy discriminating against the Scouts. All because I refuse to financially support an organization that willfully engages in judgmental discrimination.

That is the fuzziest of fuzzy logic.

I fully realize there are local groups of Scouts who think the ban on gay and atheist leaders is ridiculous. I get it and I appreciate it. I love that they’re working to bring about change from the inside, and I applaud their efforts. With their hard work, this backward and self-defeating policy will change and the Boy Scouts of America will take a page from the more inclusive and forward-thinking Girl Scouts, who long ago began to accept every one of its members.

However, until that day comes, I will not donate. And I will not allow my son to join.

To do so, in my eyes, is to condone a bigoted, hateful, and damaging policy that goes against everything I believe in and all the moral values I’m trying to instill in my boys. It’s the main reason I quit Scouts when I was a Webelo. And while Scouting has undeniably good qualities at the local level, those packs and troops are still part of a larger body that thinks gay people and non-believers aren’t fit to be good examples to children.

That’s especially damaging when you consider gay kids can now be Scouts, but once they turn 18 and want to continue their association with the organization as leaders, they cannot. Gay Scouts? Acceptable. Gay adult Scout leader? Potentially harmful and unfit for duty. What a difference a day makes.

Imagine being a boy in Scouts who begins to realize he’s gay. I’m sure it’s hard enough to come out as it is, but now imagine you’re a dedicated Scout who wants to one day lead a troop and continue giving to the organization you love so much. Knowing you can’t be a gay Scout leader once you turn 18, maybe you continue to keep your true self hidden. Suddenly you’re living a lie and failing to be true to yourself, all because the organization to which you’ve selflessly dedicated yourself won’t accept you. Why? Because you’re attracted to people of the same sex. As if that affects your ability to tie a knot or be a good person.

Think of the terrible message that sends, and now question whether or not you want to promote an organization that sends people into a shame spiral and doesn’t value who they are. Not me. No way.

No organization is perfect. But I need to at least be able to begin with a solid foundation that includes basic equality. Absent that very simple and necessary requirement, I can’t lend my support. And I’m certainly not going to voluntarily expose the most precious people in my life to it.

I’m also not going to stand here and be accused of discrimination when I’ve done nothing of the sort. Not wanting to fund homophobia and taking a stand for equal rights is not something for which I’ll ever be ashamed. Nor will I listen to people tell me I’m setting a bad example for my son. Once informed of the policy, Will told me he would never want to be part of something so unfair and unnecessarily cruel. That kind of compassion and willingness to take a stand for what’s right at such a young age is worth more than any merit badge he could ever earn.

Here’s hoping the Boy Scouts do what’s right at the national level and change this ridiculous policy. Once that’s done, I’m more than willing to lend my support. Just ask the Girl Scouts who have gotten rich selling me cookies.

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Of Purkle Cats & Fleeting Childhood Moments

purklecat

“I see PURKLE CAT looking at me, dada!”

I must’ve read Eric Carle’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? about 10,000 times when Will was little. We both knew it by heart, and Will loved to name all the animals even before I turned the page. But of all the blue horses, yellow ducks, and black sheep in the book, nothing could top the purkle cat for Will.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, it’s a purple cat. But for some reason, Will couldn’t pronounce purple for the longest time, so he said “purkle” instead.

At first it was cute. Hell, who doesn’t love the weird toddler language all our kids seem to speak? As kids learn the first few keys to language, there’s something to be said for being able to understand them and serve as a translator for relatives who have absolutely no idea what their babble means. Whether it’s “pasketti” (spaghetti) or any of these cute kid mispronunciations, it’s a part of the journey to which nearly all of us can relate.

But Will was my first and I was more interested in the destination back then.

After the first few “purkle” cats, I was done with the cuteness. I wanted Will’s words to be said clearly and correctly, and I must’ve said “No buddy, PUR-PULL. Can you say PUR-PULL??” enough times to bring both of us to tears. And there were tears. The purkle cat became a battle in the war of bedtime story aggression — a bone of contention instead of a point of shared interest.

Eventually he got it right, and I remember celebrating. I actually ran out to tell MJ he finally said purple while declaring parental victory and silently awarding myself Literary Father of the Year. But I was confused (and more than a little pissed) at her reaction, which was one of dismay.

“Awwwww, that’s too bad,” she said. “I kind of liked purkle.”

I found Brown Bear again while looking for some books for Sam. I smiled a bit as I thumbed through it, and then I came to the purple cat. But instead of reliving (what I thought at the time was) a victorious moment of reading comprehension, I cringed. I realized I missed purkle cat, and recalled him with fond memories instead of frustration. So I took it to Will to rekindle a little nostalgia.

“Hey pal, do you remember this book?” I said with a smile. “Specifically, do you remember this guy?”

Will looked quizzically at the page with his former feline friend, and gave me a disinterested shrug.

“Oh c’mon. I read this to you every night for 18 months. And you used to get so excited when I flipped to this page and you’d shout ‘PURKLE CAT!’ over and over.”

And then he looked at me and dropped the hammer.

“Purkle?” Will said with a disdainful look. “Why would I say purkle? That’s wrong. It’s a purple cat. Purkle sounds silly.”

He’s right, purkle was silly. But it was also kind of wonderful. I’ve said before I don’t lament my kids growing up, and that’s still true. However, I do regret the times I’ve pushed that progress unnecessarily, and failed to enjoy what’s right in front of my face. I regret prematurely sending the purkle cat into the litterbox of forgotten childhood whimsy.

Sam’s words come slower and later than his older brother’s. I’d be lying if I said that hasn’t been a source of concern and consternation. But you know what? The words will come. Some will come easily and accurately, and others will result in hilarious mispronunciation.

When the latter happens, I’ll greet Sam’s purkle cats with the wisdom of hindsight and the appreciation only experience brings. After all, he has his whole life to be right and only moments, it seems, to be young.

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The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

“Hey mom and dad, can I start walking the dog on the dirt road to do an extra chore and get a little more allowance?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question from my son, who is turning 7 in a couple of weeks. We live in a small suburban town where both my wife and I grew up. We are friendly with most of the neighbors, with one glaring exception. In order to walk the dog, he’d have to cross one quiet side street in front of our house and then walk on a dirt road with only one house on it. He’d be out of sight for a bit but still within shouting distance. In my mind it was a win-win because he’d learn the value of hard work and taking initiative, and he’d be getting some exercise to boot.

Which is why it’s ridiculously unfortunate we had to tell him no.

Why? Because as my wife pointed out, “I’m fine with it, but we can’t do it because someone will see him alone and call the cops. We’ll end up battling Child Protective Services just for letting him walk the dog by himself.”

I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was being silly, but I couldn’t. Because unfortunately, this is where we’re at when it comes to overprotective parenting in 2015.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the single working mom who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked because she couldn’t afford childcare. Or Tammy Cooper, the Texas mom arrested after a neighbor told police she was neglecting her kids simply because they were outside on scooters. If you need something more recent, there’s the Maryland couple charged with “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) after doing nothing more than allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk home one mile from the park unsupervised.

Yet letting kids fire Uzis which results in a tragic death? Totally allowed and the parents are free from legal blame. Have fun trying to figure out that “logic.” But I digress.

As a child of the 80s/early 90s who grew up with the freedom to ride bikes around town unsupervised until the streetlights came flickering to life, I’m mystified as to where we went wrong and deviated so far off course. But then I read the online comments from said overprotective parents, and the answer is suddenly very apparent.

It’s all about fear and misinformation.

Without fail, when discussing this with other parents who disagree, I’ll see someone write “Well times have changed and the world isn’t as safe as it was back then.” Ironically, they’re not all wrong. Times have changed and the level of safety is not the same as it was in the supposed good old days. Want to know why? Because the world is a safer place in 2015.

Yes, that’s right. Statistically speaking, the data shows we are living in a much safer world than 20+ years ago.

Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in the US declined by 48%, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Homicides fell by 51% and forcible rape was down by more than one-third. Furthermore, crimes against children specifically have declined since 2003. According to the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, physical assault against children ages 2-17 was down 33%, while instances of attempted and completed rape declined by 43% between 2003-2011.

And if you want to focus on kidnappings, the Polly Klaas Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the recovery of missing children – found there are only 100 stereotypical “stranger abductions” each year, in which a child is plucked off the street by an unknown person. There is a higher chance of kids being abducted by family members or acquaintances, according to the foundation’s website.

In fact, if you’re really worried about the safety of kids, you shouldn’t let them ride in a car. Or swim in a pool. Because more children die in car accidents and drownings than are kidnapped by strangers.

I used to simply shake my head at the overprotective parents of the world and go on raising my kids the way my wife and I think is best. But this incident has made me realize that’s not always possible.

We’ve moved beyond good Samaritans rescuing babies left in hot cars and scooping up toddlers who have found their way out of houses and are playing near traffic. Those kinds of things are not the problem, and are in fact expected as members of the human race. Too many kids are suffering real, terrible abuse and that must never be allowed to continue. However, the irrational fear of the way other people parent and the willingness to alert the authorities simply for disagreeing with a parenting style other than their own, is also a genuine concern.

The Maryland parents know their kids best and know they’re capable of walking to the park alone, just as I know my son can handle walking the dog by himself. But the bottom line is that no longer matters, because the way other people parent is now directly impacting my ability to raise my children how I see fit. Because if parents 300 miles from me can be charged simply for letting their kids walk to and from the park, it is not a stretch to think the same thing could happen if my son walks the dog alone.

Unfortunately, our lives could be turned instantly upside down with one phone call from someone who simply disagrees with how we parent. That’s not right, and that scares me. It should scare all of us.

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A Letter to My Unborn Baby

ultrasound

Dear 3rd Child,

I wasn’t always sure I wanted you.

Oh, sorry about that. Where are my manners? Hi, I’m your dad. Nice to meet you. I’m the owner of that loud voice you’re probably already sick of. If you can even hear. Honestly, I’m not even sure you have ears yet because I hate those baby development calendars that tell me how big you are by comparing you to different fruits and vegetables. You know, this week you’re a peapod and next week you’ll be the size of an avocado. Maybe it’s because some of the vegetables they use are really strange, and because I don’t eat enough of them I don’t know what they look like and then all perspective is lost. I start to feel like if I can’t use vegetables to figure out your size then maybe you don’t exist. Maybe none of us really exist. And suddenly I’m in a full blown existential crisis all because I’m unfamiliar with rutabagas.

Sorry, sometimes I get off topic a bit. As I was saying, I wasn’t really sure I wanted you. I know that’s a horrible first impression I’m making, but it’s the truth.

You see, you’re our third child. The only problem is, I never planned on having more than two. It’s nothing personal, just that I’m a big believer in man-to-man defense. Or, in other words, one parent for each kid. It’s simple in theory, and it comforts me not to be outnumbered. But your arrival means your mom and I have to switch to zone. We’re going to be out-manned, forced to play a prevent defense. Insert additional football metaphors here.

It’s not like your mom tricked me or was deceitful. When we talked about how many kids we wanted she always said “two or three at the most.” I think I just ignored the latter part and assumed we were on the same page. And then we had trouble getting and staying pregnant, so in my mind, three was almost definitely not in the cards.

Last April your mom told me she was pregnant. Unfortunately (or from your purely selfish perspective since you wouldn’t exist, fortunately), it didn’t work out. But from that experience, I learned a few things. Mainly 1) how nervous I am about having a third child, and 2) how much that doesn’t matter because another child would be a wondrous, awesome thing.

We lost that baby before I could really wrap my mind around the whole thing. But here you are in the second trimester, and the reality is staring me full in the face. But, as usual, when one of my kids seems to be the problem, one of my  kids solves the problem and shows me how stupid I am.

Case in point…

I’m freaking out because we have no place to put you. We rent a cozy 3-bedroom duplex and currently, all bedrooms are occupied. To make matters worse, none of them are very big. So the question becomes where do we put you? And the answer is we have to put your two brothers in the same bedroom — the thought of which causes me great consternation.

When Sam was born Will lost his play room because it turned into Sam’s nursery. Now another sibling is on the way and Will is going to lose half his room to a 2-year-old tyrant. As an older brother who shared a room with a younger sibling for nearly a decade, I can commiserate. That experience can be suffocating and the age difference (5 years between them) makes it even tougher. I was dreading having to tell Will and the meltdown that would surely ensue.

But guess what? Will wasn’t angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I told him he’d have to share a room with Sam his eyes lit up and his smile grew wide and bold.

“You mean I get to share a room with my brother??? YESSSSSS!!!!” he said, much to my surprised delight. “I bet Sam will even climb up into my bed and cuddle at night. I can’t wait.”

And suddenly I felt very silly. It reminded me of two years ago when I worried I couldn’t possibly love another human being as much as I loved Will. But I soon found out our hearts automatically expand when a new baby arrives, and in that vein we’ll find a way to make it work regarding everyone fitting under the same roof.

As for Will’s reaction, shame on me for not seeing that coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well his tune will change after a few weeks or a month of his brother all up in his face all of the time. That’s inevitable. But let this be a lesson to you, baby boy or girl, of the kind of family into which you’re entering.

Your oldest brother Will has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than any 10 adults put together. He is patient, a great teacher, and so full of love he’s in danger of bursting. He’ll be your guide and best friend. Meanwhile your older brother Sam is a tornado. He attacks life with zeal and fears nothing, yet he hugs every other kid on the playground and has smiles for everyone. You’ll be closest in age to him (26 months apart) which means you’re going to battle him your entire life. Yet all the while you’ll want nothing more than to be just like him. He will push you in ways that are frustrating and obnoxious, but ultimately he’ll make you a better person and he’ll force you to work harder and keep improving.

And your mother? Well, she’s a saint. And a gorgeous saint at that. But as beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even more spectacular on the inside. I don’t have to tell you that though. You literally know what I mean.

You’re not entering a rich family so I can’t promise you a carefree life detached from financial struggles. You won’t have the finest things, occasionally you’ll have to go without, and some days we’ll barely scrape by. But there is one thing I can promise you with complete certainty. You’re being born into a family filled with love. Passionate, unyielding, copious amounts of love and loyalty that we’re never afraid to express. From your parents to your siblings to your grandparents and beyond, love will comfort you and cushion you far better than a life of riches and luxury ever could. So welcome, my little one. You’re the last piece of the puzzle and the world is waiting. Stay safe and grow strong and healthy.

One last thing you should know — it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. As long as you’re a Patriots fan.

Love,
Dad

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