Posted in advice

The Kids We Want

It has been a while since I have posted to this blog, but I have been busy, and coming up with good topics can be challenging.  This post is going to touch on parenting, mostly because I am a father of 5 children, both boys and girls, and step children as well as my own.  So, either I have been fairly fortunate or somethings were done right.  Because with the exception of one of my step kids, the other 4 are turning out to be ok.  Even the one step kid is bad, but we don’t really get along.

One thing I always tell other parents, is you get the kids you want.  Now that may sound ridiculous, but I am trying to say that your actions truly dictate your wants.  If you worry your child will be mad at you, and you don’t correct the behavior of the child in a way that they understand, then they will never behave the way you may say you want.  Don’t the blame the child for this, your actions in this case, tell the child that the behavior you may say is poor is actually ok.  Particularly with small children, they aren’t going to understand a well-made case of logic and reason, but isolation or a small gentle pop on the hand or backside will discourage reaching for things that may be dangerous.

Giving attention to a temper tantrum, will only tell a child that the tantrum is an acceptable way to get attention.  With my kids, a tantrum got them put in their crib or their room, and I would not talk to them until they were calm.  When they started school, if they did not behave, I would take all of their stuff away, and give them homework of my own.  When their teachers told me how good they were, I would reward with gifts or a special event, like dinner at a place of their choice.  Their mom, was always nice to them, and I was generally viewed as the mean parent.  But when I went out with my kids they behaved, when she went out with them, they were rowdy, and she would not want to go anywhere with them if I didn’t go along.  I have gone on several trips with the kids when it is just me and the kids, and no one else to help me. 

While I may be the mean parent, I feel like I have good relationship with my kids, we talk about things I never spoke with my parents about.  I never sugar coat reality with my kids, and I think it has made life easier for them in middle school and high school.  And to be honest, when I talk to other parents, it seems like they forgot what it was like when we were kids.  I had friends that got pregnant in middle school and high school, drugs were everywhere, but peer pressure was never like they showed on TV.  Most of the time it was an offer, not a social threat against your coolness.  I had friends who died in middle school and high school because of drugs and being stupid when they got behind the wheel of a car.  People who have died, since we graduated high school, or are in jail. 

Because of that, I have pulled out my yearbook and show my kids the pictures of the people who are no longer with us.  I take them up and down the different roads in my town and show them the memorials for the kids that died when I was in high school.  I make sure they know that they are not immortal, and that their decisions have consequences, and that reality doesn’t care what reasons or excuses they may have for what they did.

I wish I would not have had to be the one to destroy the illusions of the world for them, but I think if I didn’t show them the reality behind the curtain, I may have to deal with a nightmarish reality I can’t imagine.  Life is difficult as it is, but I don’t want to be the parent erecting and visiting a memorial for any of my children.  For any parent reading this that has lost a child, just know, that while I do not know how hard things are for you, you and your family are in my prayers.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Thrill and Agony of Competition

Brought my daughter to her volleyball tournament, it started off pretty good. They were scoring points and having fun, but they made a mistake and couldn’t get back on track. They lost the first set and then lost that match. And they lost the next match, and had a break, and soon the last match.
Sports, like in real life, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we did and not what we are going to do. And we focus on people’s past mistakes and not the giving any opportunity to see if things can change. When we spend so much time in the past, we over think and second guess, and end up making worse mistakes than if we would have just seen the new opportunity clearly and not through the lens of past mistakes.
The other thing that happens, is we forget why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. When it comes to sports, they are supposed to be fun. When we lose sight of that, it becomes a stressful job. I see the kids upset when they lose, but unfortunately when you pay a game someone has to lose, otherwise it becomes boring.
We just need to remember, to have fun in life, and if your going to get upset at the thing that is supposed to make you happy, find something else to do.

Posted in perspective

Terrible Teenage Years

Kids are great, particularly at about 2 or 3 years old.  At this age they are still cute, they can use the bathroom themselves, and they still idolize you.  Something happens around 12, that they either become oblivious idiots, if you have boys, or snarky attitude riddled jackasses, if you have girls.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but boy do they try my patience daily.

The boys can’t seem to remember anything, they would forget their head if it weren’t screwed on.  I do not remember being that oblivious, but I am sure my parents have some stories to tell.  The boys can’t seem to get their homework turned in, and no matter how close they are to failing, they still procrastinate and fail to manage their time properly.  They would rather stare at the ceiling than open a stupid book, you can take everything away, and they will go up to their room and just stare at the ceiling.  Trying to motivate the boys is almost impossible, you name it I have tried it.

The girls on the other hand just can’t seem to ever be happy.  Even when they are smiling there is a “but” coming your way.  Everything must be debated, ask a girl to do something, be prepared to have a long discussion about why they shouldn’t do it.  Even when you give them what they want, it still isn’t good enough.  Girls seem to always be looking over the fence and wanting the neighbors house, because that grass is just so freaking green, you just don’t understand how green it is.

To be fair, I anticipated all of this, so I set the bar really low for my kids.  I don’t give them what a lot of my peers do.  My kids must get jobs and do chores, to be able to earn their privileges.  They pay for their own cell service, because the 80s and 90s were a thing, and we all survived.  I want to promote communication, and not seeking forgiveness instead of permission.  They want to drive, they better have a job to pay for the gas, insurance, and maintenance.  They want to play sports after school, and they aren’t 16, then they need to maintain my house.  I support them in whatever they do, I believe they must learn to be responsible, and they everything they want has a cost. 

At the end of the day, I just don’t want my 40-year-old kids living with me.  Some people might be ok with that, and that may be fine for them.  But one day I won’t be here, so I want them to be able to take care of themselves.

Posted in perspective

The Minivan Contraption

In my mind this blog is not just a one-way street, where I post what I am thinking from day to day, but also a place where I may solicit advice or perspective from you, my readers.  I can dig my heels in on my thoughts and opinions, but I want to open my mind to be changed about things that I failed to see from the other side.  This will be the first, of many, of this type of post, and I think I will be calling this one “The Minivan Contraption.”

Back in 2006, our Ford Expedition had its transmission completely crap out, and it just made sense at this point to buy a new car.  And here is where I really stepped in it, I thought a minivan would be the perfect vehicle for our family.  A little bit of context, we had 4 children at the time with a fifth on the way, along with a mortgage, credit card debt, among all of the other responsibilities that come with a large family.

I never realized how much people hate minivans, apparently minivans are the chariot of the devil, or something.  I think there must have been roving bands of soccer moms just terrorizing neighborhoods with snacks and drinks.  Because somehow soccer moms and minivans go hand in hand, and no one wants to be associated with soccer moms.  Were these moms hosting soccer games in everyone’s front yards?

But I digress, I made the suggestion of a minivan, and my thinking was as follows:

  • Wife is pregnant, with kids aged 11, 9, 4, and 1 and minivans are low to the ground, so getting them in and out will be easy.
  • Minivan fully loaded costs as much a base model Nissan Armada or Toyota Sequoia (my wife’s preferred vehicles).
  • The gas mileage is about 10 to 15 miles more per gallon.
  • While the third row is up the trunk space is amazing (you can get 2 weeks’ worth of luggage for 7 people in there).
  • And the most important, the 11 and 9-year-old will be sitting in the third row and minivans in 2007 were way more comfortable than any SUV where you get the total exhilaration of having your knees in your chin while the car goes over every bump imaginable.

Now I did ask for a different perspective on this and the only answer I ever got is, “I don’t want to be a soccer mom.  Needless to say, we ended up with the minivan, and my wife drove it until I wrecked my Honda Civic in 2010 and I have had the Odyssey ever since.  This car is damn near bulletproof, and I love it, when I am done with it is going only to the crusher.  I went to the extent of re-painting it, re-upholstering it, and upgrading the sound system.  Honestly, for a sound system, this Odyssey is excellent for balancing the sound evenly around the car, and you can centralize the sub-woofer in the middle of the middle row.

But help me out, in the comments below, please let me know why there is so much hate for minivans, they just seem like a really practical car.

Posted in Uncategorized

Kids Sports Conundrum

Kids love to play games, from the moment they discover a ball to the time they make friends, they find a way to play and compete. Competition is a good thing, and a wonderful thing that makes everyone strive to be better, whether at a game or just life in general. Keeping competition healthy is the key, because too much of a good thing can be bad.

My daughter plays competitive volleyball, and I don’t mind it because she wants to do it, even though it is a massive amount of time. Between leaving work early for practice, having to wake up on the weekend like we’re going to work, along with having to spend a whole weekend away from home in a hotel, there is a lot of commitment to volleyball.  I am not expecting or really wanting my daughter to be volleyball star, so when we go to practice and the tournaments I am just there to have fun and support my daughter.

I think it is good for her, because while she doesn’t like losing, she still has a smile on her face, a laugh in her heart, and has learned that hard work and team work have when the tournament is over. But I see other kids and parents who are sad, crying, or angry after a loss, and I wonder why do something if it is going to ruin your day or more. We always talk about good sportsmanship, but isn’t part of it enjoying the opportunity to play whether you win or lose?

Even though my daughter loves playing the game, she has injured her shoulder, and because the practices are long, we stay up late to finish homework.  She is still a good student, but once you make the commitment for the year, it is difficult to walk away in the middle if grades or their body start to suffer. Since I brought up college in my last post, I think it is important to acknowledge a lot of kids are playing these sports to get into college, and preferably get a scholarship, instead of just for fun.

I have to admit that I think it is difficult (not impossible) to get a degree that will lead to a good paying job (which is reason for college in the first place, right?) if all of your time is spent training for a sport, and that most college players aren’t going into professional sports for their career. So, between injuries, the amount of time that needs to be dedicated, possible education sacrifices, and the money that needs to be spent to play, is it worth it if you’re not just doing it for fun or a hobby (after all it isn’t supposed to be job)? If we remember that hobbies can be a commitment of time and money (whether they are trains sets, model planes, card collecting, video games, sports, etc.) then maybe we can enjoy sports, like the other hobbies, a little bit more.