Tag Archives: Parents

It Shouldn’t Be That Difficult

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
Robert Fulghum

It doesn’t surprise me that this quote would come from someone who wrote a book called, All I Really Need To Know I learned In Kindergarten. Because children really learn, very early in life, the foundation of what should be most important to the rest of their lives.

Like all parents, I’m sure we made our share of mistakes. Parenting is a learn as you go experience so you do the best you can in situations you never imagined. Some moments require patience and understanding while some are simply common sense. Or should be.

For me, the Fulghum quote falls into the common sense category. It’s just so obvious that it’s painful to watch when it happens, and it happens much too often.

Most parents are big on discipline. They make sure their children say please and thank you. They try and teach them to be independent and they want them to respect their authority. They may punish them for disobeying their directives or not doing well in school. The list goes on.

But Fulghum takes parenting to another level of responsibility that parents sometimes ignore. The impact their own words and actions have on their children.

Are you teaching them what should be most important in their lives or satisfying your own desires because you’re unwilling or too lazy to do what’s right?

Is your language in front of your children what it should be? Children hear everything, even when you think they’re not listening.

Do you show the proper respect to others and ask that they do the same, explaining instead of ignoring or dismissing? Respect comes in many forms. Your lack of discipline should not become theirs. Continued excuses are unacceptable.

Are your prejudices on display in full view of your children? They notice and will react accordingly.

Do you attempt to influence their thoughts and actions instead of allowing them to try and make up their own minds?

Do you allow life to lead them or attempt to lead them through life without consideration for their own thoughts and interests.

Children hear what you say from the back seat of the car, from their rooms, during meals, while you think they’re preoccupied, while you’re on the phone or at the park speaking to your friends. They hear you at games, after games, during school functions and in every situation where your body language speaks louder than your words.

The absorb everything.

They recognize at a very early age what you think is most important and will follow accordingly. In many ways they will pattern their lives based on the influences your show them and the importance you place on certain things, and once it’s ingrained in their DNA, it’s hard to change. Next month or next year is too late.

Then one day they become a little older and you may not like what you see or hear. Discipline becomes a little harder until it’s not possible and then they’re on their own. A reflection of your words and actions.

Common sense stuff, right?

One would think so.

 

 

When The Beast Wins, Children Lose

A ten-year old student in an ELA class at one of my schools was asked to provide an argument for something he felt strongly about. He chose a sports related topic. This is what he wrote, unedited.

Parents, teachers, coaches and kids! I call on you to change the policy that kids have to try out for sports. It’s wrong to not let kids join sports because it hurts their self-esteem, because it builds a nasty sense of competition and because all kids deserve to play if they want. 

Some pooh-pooh the idea that a kids self-esteem gets hurt but how do you think it makes us feel? I’ll tell you how it feels, it feels TERRIBLE. It feels lie everyone is staring at us , feeling sorry for us. It makes us wonder if we’ll ever be good enough. The truth is our school, coaches or parents don’t think we’re good enough to participate. They’re supposed to make you feel stronger or better, not destroy your self-esteem and confidence.

Not allowing other kids to join sports also makes kids competitive with each other. In one survey, 18 out of 20 kids said they would rather make the team than stay friends with each other. In an interview with a student who made the team, this article said, “I really don’t hang out with any of my friends now who didn’t make the team. They don’t have the shirt we have. I don’t know, I just don’t see them any more. You might think competition brings out the best in kids and maybe it does when they’re older but in elementary school it makes kids mean and lonely.”

The most important reason not to make cuts is that all kids deserve to play. For goodness sakes!!!! We’re nine and ten years old. Isn’t this the time we should be learning skills, getting stronger and having fun? A lot of people say it’s just sports, that’s how it is. But we’re not pro ball players. All of us deserve a chance to get better.

Change this policy, please. Give us the fast legs and strong bodies we deserve. Let us all be the athlete we want to be. 

Interesting discussion topic.

I have three daughters who played multiple sports through high school and I coached basketball and softball for quite a few years.

But it was a very different time in terms of youth sports. It was not all-consuming and I could probably write a short book on the strong feelings I have about children and the parents and coaches who affect their lives.

The immersion and consumption of time in sports today at a very early age has to be witnessed in order to be understood. I think the biggest fear for me is how it affects families and the time they spend together.

Or don’t.

It’s time that will never be returned to them and it passes so very quickly.

I understand that making cuts as it relates to some teams are the nature of sports and I think some kids learn from these disappointments, but some things this student said are pretty sad; specifically about the interaction between kids who make teams and those who don’t, and what competition brings out in children.
At younger ages, it should never be about the score. Who wins is irrelevant. How good you are at 8-9-10, is irrelevant. We’ve all seen stars at ten who burn out or fall behind others as they get older; stars at ten years old who never play a high school game. Coaches and parents lose sight of the fact that young children who choose to play sports should, as this child mentions, focus on basic skills and development, not winning and losing. Can both be accomplished? Of course. But all too often one takes control of the other. It’s the nature of the beast.

Most importantly, children at that age should be having fun. Sadly, and all too often, that simple goal is not part of a parent or coaches mindset.

Children should be allowed to be children and families should be allowed to enjoy those few precious years together.

Sports is a great outlet and competition is healthy as long as both are done intelligently and balanced properly.

I was going to conclude by saying that I hope this young man figures it out and finds sports to be a positive experience, but it’s really not his decision, is it?

So I hope the adults in his life figure it out and provide this child with a positive experience. Lord knows our children can use all the positive experiences they can get.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not always provided by those who have the opportunity to do so.

Words

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day.”
-Unknown

Several years ago I ran into a young man at a wedding that I used to work with, but hadn’t seen in a few years. I asked how and what he was doing and he explained, among other things, that he had moved out to the opposite coast and was now living in Oregon.
I was surprised for a number of reasons and when I asked him why the move, he told me it was because of something I said to him once, several years earlier, and he decided to take my advice.

At first I thought he had mistaken me for someone else because, A) no one really listens to me, and B) even if they did, they wouldn’t listen to me.

Curious, I asked what kind of advice I could have possibly given that would cause him to move three thousand miles away. He said I once told him that if he woke up one morning, put his feet on the ground and was not happy with where he was, he should have the courage to do whatever was necessary to make a change in his life.
He told that story to his wife about a year after they got married and soon after, they left their jobs and started a new life on a different coast.

Words.

They have such power over us. More than we care to admit to sometimes.

They can change a life, save a life or destroy a life. They are free, priceless and sometimes carry burdens that last a lifetime.

They leave scars.

They soften and harden hearts.

For all that we know about words and the kind of impact they have on each of us, we sometimes remain careless with them.

Especially with children.

Words can affect adults in many of the same ways they do children. They can make us feel incredibly special or drop us to our knees. The difference, I think, is that adults can sometimes rationalize or explain away the negative comments. They can bounce back by understanding the source or respond by standing up to those words. Children, especially younger children, don’t have those same abilities. Too often they believe what they hear and may internalize those feelings for years. Sometimes it begins to shape their lives.

Being a parent can be challenging at times. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t try to do the right thing when it comes to their children. Or at least believes they are.

You know, volume is a funny thing. There have been times when I’ve heard a band play a song live and the music is so loud, I couldn’t hear the words. Children are no different. Sometimes, when the volume is too high, they just hear the noise, which can be as damaging as the words they can’t hear.

Sometimes we think we’re disciplining our children when we’re only inflicting our control over them. There’s a big difference between the two, just as there is between encouragement and constant critiques. Parents sometimes attempt to live their own lives through their children, instead of allowing them to grow, make mistakes and find their own way through life.

All these actions involve words.

With children, words have a greater impact and last much longer. The control or influence we think we have as parents, only lasts a few years. Rebellion, much longer.
They will remember. And when they’re old enough, they will understand and make their own decisions and choices.

Then the impact of words may be reversed. Strange how that works.

You know, the funny thing is, I didn’t remember having that conversation with that young man I spoke with. Even after he told me about it and I tried to go back in my memory and remember when I may have said it, I couldn’t.

But he did. And that’s the point.

That’s the blessing and the curse about words.

You may not remember what was said today, especially when it comes to children.

But they will.

And one day, you may have to eat what you planted.

No F#@$ing Way!!!!

So my oldest daughter sent me this article recently which claims that those who have a tendency to use salty language were also the most honest people. My guess is she sent this because it was, a) interesting and, b) she is searching for redemption.

Now I don’t throw around that particularly distasteful four letter word loosely, though it has slipped out under my breath when I slammed a hammer down on my finger while poorly attempting some household project I should have left to professionals. Quite honestly, I don’t like the word and think it’s used gratuitously in too many areas of life. Its a word that usually makes me cringe.
That being said, I do curse on occasion. I think most people do. Not F-bomb cursing, of course, but the usual stuff that generates emotion or gets your point across.

This study, done by scientists at the University of Cambridge surveyed 276 people about their most commonly used swear words and how often the say or write them. Then they measured the participants honesty  with questions about blaming others, cheating at games and taking advantage of people.
The study claims that while some may view swearing/cursing as negative social behavior, those same people are not filtering their language, so they are probably not fabricating stories which may result in untruths.
Essentially, if you’re willing to drop a few F-bombs, you’re probably not worried about making yourself look good in front of others.

A larger study of 74, 000 people on Facebook came up with the same results. Researchers found that people who try to keep it clean also try to look cooler online, which involved fudging the truth. That same practice of dishonesty would eventually carry over to their personal/professional lives.

While I initially dismissed my daughter’s attempt at halo polishing, the more I thought about this, the more validity it had for me. I initially told her that a person can be honest and still not curse. Then I started thinking about the people I knew, both past and present, and began compartmentalizing them. Friends, business associates, family, clergy, etc.
I even remembered a saintly aunt I had growing up, and I know she cursed, even if it was in Italian.

I began to realize, as I went through my list, that I don’t really trust the people I never heard curse. Now I understand why. If this study is correct and those who don’t curse are not honest, it stands to reason that I wouldn’t trust, or even like, them.

So there you have it. If you ever want to be taken seriously by people or have them take you into their confidence, you’d better sprinkle a little salt on your vocab. If not, you’ll find your friends becoming fewer, your professional life becoming stagnant and your family largely choosing to ignore you. Because the truth is, people who throw in a few little colorful words now and then are more fun, tell interesting stories, are better children to their parents and better parents to their children. Hell, I exchanged off-color jokes with my parents from the time I was a kid. I can still see my mother laughing as I told her another one.

Of course the seriously rigid, can always hang out with other tight ass non-cursers.

Imagine how much f@#%&ing fun that dysfunctional group will that be?

images

 

Just Another Day

On the first day of 2017, 210 people were killed or injured by gun violence in America, including a one year old, teens and a mother and daughter.

Today, there was Ft. Lauderdale.

Tomorrow, it could be my hometown.

Or yours.

Like most forms of illness, there is an indiscriminate nature to gun violence. No one is immune. Not you. Not me.

As I was watching the news today, with the sound off, my nineteen month old granddaughter played next to me. She was innocently laughing at everything she touched. And as I watched her play, I wondered what kind of world my grandchildren are going to know. I wondered what kind of fear they will understand and how they will live their lives. And I wondered if they will ever truly be free.

We should all be wondering the same thing, because this senselessness doesn’t seem to be going away. That’s the reality we all try to turn away from.

Those who died today were probably someone’s child and/or parents.

Someone else’s.

Whose will they be tomorrow?

A New Kind Of Romance

There is a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Jimmy Buffet, Fruitcakes

This is one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett lines and I was reminded of it today during school. I have been working in the school library the last few weeks and almost everyday, these two ten-year old girls come in to read or look for books they can read together. They’re inseparable.
They’re both chatty and like to engage in conversation, which is okay with me as long as they whisper. No easy task for ten-year old girls.

So today they were talking with me about the books they’re reading and after a few minutes the conversation went like this..

Ten year old: My mom is strict with the books that I read, she only reads Christian books and wants me to do the same.

Me: Well, I’m sure there are a lot of good books in here that she wouldn’t have a problem with you reading.

Ten year old: I know but she only really likes Christian books and romance stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Me: (after what seemed like a five-minute pause which allowed me to digest what I just heard) So she reads Christian books and romance novels like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Ten year old: (as she’s thumbing through her book) Yeah, that’s all she really seems interested in reading.

Me: Well, whatever makes her happy.

Ten year old: (nodding) Yeah, that’s what I say.

I guess I can elaborate a bit here and discuss the obvious but I think the obvious pretty much speaks for itself. So for all you folks out there who read the romance novel, Fifty Shades, those Christian books are just a little further down on the shelf, when you’re done. Then you can put on Jimmy Buffett and Fruitcakes. Somehow it will all come together.

 

On Growing Up

Whenever I’ve traded childhood stories with anyone or discussed what it was like growing up, I always tell them the same thing; if anyone had a better childhood than I did, I’ve never met them.

I always said it but never gave much thought as to why I felt that way. I suppose, as a child, you live life a certain way and take so much for granted that you never consider that others may not be as fortunate.
As I grew up  got older, the reasons didn’t seem important enough to spend time thinking about it. I was busy with work and helping to raise three daughters; living in the present. I never understood until years later what made growing up so special for me.

It was family.

But it was more than just family. It was having immediate and extended family around me all the time. I never realized how blessed I was as a child. Aside from having terrific parents who worked hard, respected and loved each other and set the right examples, my brother and I were surrounded by our grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins every day.
We lived in an Italian/Jewish neighborhood which was only a few blocks by a few blocks. My parents owned a small grocery/meat store and we lived behind the store in a small two bedroom apartment. It was the classic neighborhood corner store, where every one congregated. We didn’t have much monetarily but I never noticed or thought about it.
My aunt and uncle lived around the corner, my cousins up the block, another aunt who was like a grandmother to me and was always around, lived a few miles away. Both of my grandmothers had died but my mother’s father, who had originally owned the store, was there everyday. He came each morning and left before or after dinner. My friends and I would play cards with him, pitch pennies, play handball, listen to his stories and tell jokes.
My dad’s family lived in Brooklyn. They came to visit every other Sunday. Aunts, uncles and my other grandfather. That grandfather would take me to the park to hit baseballs, play basketball and stop at the candy store on the way back for an ice cream soda. Every other sunday.

Life was different then. Families didn’t move away as much as they do now. They remained a part of the neighborhood. They stayed close. They made memories. The kind you can only make when you can walk down the street to your aunt’s home and know there will always be something in the oven or candy dish for you. Where you can walk into their yard and help pick the figs or pears off the tree and leave with a bag of fruit and veggies. Where your grandfathers became two of your best friends.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced those moments, all that they’ve missed. The weekly sunday dinners, the loud card games, the laughter, the knowledge that you can never wander too far without someone you love looking out for you. Someone right there in your backyard.

As you get older, you begin to lose those pieces of your life and childhood. Stories that only a select few people knew are not told as often. One day they will fade completely. Places you went for sunday dinners now have other families sitting in that same kitchen. Sometimes when I pass by, I want to knock on the door, just to peek in and imagine everyone again, as they once were.
Change is always part of life’s eternal equation. That’s just the way it is. But what made my childhood so special remains with me today. No amount of change can change that.

Because you can’t take away family.