Tag Archives: college

Zippy The Changing Man

I’ve seen him laughing, crying and howling. I’ve even seen him dead.

Fortunately, he was only playing dead as part of a film project while away at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Today is the day we celebrate every single aspect of the young man known to one and probably that’s all (known to me, of course) as Zippy the Travelin’ Boy.

Yep. It’s another birthday. This time, my middle not-so-little dude is leaving the teens behind and venturing into his 20s. It’s a bit of a shock to see the literal little handful, who had the most amazing head of thick, black hair when he was born, now grown into a young man who towers over his dad.

Zippy the Monkey BoyZippy the Travelin’ Boy has always been the most mutable of our sons. He’s gone through fashion statements (I’ll never forget the violent 180˚ turn he made from surfer punk to cowboy), loves, hates, political perspectives and just about everything else in his life as if he were in a fire sale at a department store and he needed to try on the clothing before it disappeared.

He’s been a bit of a chameleon, is what I’m trying to say. Oddly, considering he took so long to actually speak both understandably and out loud as a child, he’s probably the most verbally accomplished of the three dudes.

By which I mean that he’s always been the type to try out different accents and verbal tics and patterns, sort of like me. I started out early as well. As a young kid, I lived in England and got teased for being an American. So I developed a deep Southern accent, which came in handy when we moved back to Texas. However, as I grew older and started playing football, my teachers assumed I was an idiot because of the accent and the football so they expected nothing from me.

I didn’t like that. So I decided to drop the Southern accent and did, beginning to speak in a bland, newscaster-ish accent. To me, it was easy, but I learned that other people have a hard time doing that. I thought I was unique.

Until Zippy the Travelin’ Boy came into his own. He began copying the various accents I used when I read aloud to the boys and then doing better at them. He started mimicking the unusual voices he heard on television and in the movies, doing a stunningly accurate Bane voice that always cracks me up.

His latest chameleon turn came when he hit college. Since he was 2 and able to mispronounce it relatively consistently, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy (then known as Zippy the Monkey Boy both for his climbing skill and love of animals) wanted to become a marine biologist. Until he hit campus and discovered he would actually have to work and learn to earn that degree.

At which point, he discovered acting and fell in love. Since he wanted to make a living once he graduated, he decided to major in psychology while minoring in both Spanish and theater performance. It’s been fascinating to watch his ambition and skill flower in this new environment.

Whenever we talk about it, his mother and I are smiling like fools.

Which hasn’t always been the case. As he was growing up, I would only have given Zippy the Travelin’ Boy break-even odds that I would let him live to adulthood. He was the most stubborn kid I’d ever met and almost never used those powers for good.

Fortunately for us all, I was able to restrain those homicidal urges and even filled in the suspiciously shallow grave I dug on the sly in the back yard. He’s still stubborn and more than a little of a know-it-all, but he’s learning to actually listen to people with different opinions and has actually been known to listen to the advice from others without disdain.

All of which makes for a great opponent when I want to have an argument or refine my own opinion by seeing how it holds up in combat. His quick wit and merciless attack posture are the ultimate test of survivability.

As much as I enjoyed snuggling with the little dude when he was, in fact, little, I’m finding that I’m enjoying even more being around the young man he’s becoming.

Happy birthday, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. We love you!

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Where’s Madame Leota When We Need Her?

The future is one of many undiscovered countries.

It’s one of those places we always wish we could see before we get there, but know we can only ever guess. The best guesses are based on taking what happened in the past and then projecting those activities forward in a logical manner. And, even then, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The worst guesses about the future involve pulling something out of your somewhere the sun don’t shine area.

I bring this up because we, as parents, are tormented by the future. We understand that whatever decision we make today, right now, is going to have possibly significant repercussions in the future.

That is, if we force our young dude to take piano lessons, will that make him hate music for the rest of his life? If we make our young dudette take an art class, will that cause her to doubt her own creativity for the rest of her life?

Admittedly, those are some rather lightweight consequences, but I’m trying to keep it light here and not get into depth about cutting off, say, an adult son who is content to do nothing, go nowhere and regards college and work as things that happen to other people.

Spooky crystal ball is spooky, but not very forthcoming regarding the future and our effects on it.Just, you know, for instance.

Young dudes and dudettes act without thought for the consequences all the time. It’s one of the more obvious definitions of being a teenager: the thought that you’re both invincible and invulnerable.

A lot of times non-parents can simply do something because they want to do it and have no thought of the future. They can do this because, to them, the future is somewhere out there. It’s not a real thing. The future is, to them, something that might happen, but . . . eh, no biggie.

To healthy, financially stable young adults, the future isn’t really real.

As parents, we know the future is as real as the diaper we just changed or the screaming fit we just endured because we took away the television and forced a young dude to go outside and play.

We see the future every night when he or she goes to bed, think about the future and worry if it’s okay while asleep, and smile at it when it wakes up in the morning all grouchy and grumpy but still the cutest thing in the world.

Parents know that the future is not stable, that it can change. This is evidenced by the way our little dudes and dudettes continually grow and become almost completely different people over the years.

The future is as real as the look on your little dude’s face.

So we parents know the future is real, but here’s the thing, the reason why I’d love to have Madame Leota (the floating head in the Haunted Mansion’s crystal ball in Walt Disney World) on retainer: We’re terrified that we’re going to screw the pooch regarding our kids’ future.

Mostly because we — all of us parents — have absolutely no idea what we’re doing.

continued tomorrow

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Will You Still Need Me, When You’re Thirty-Four?*

Letting go is easy.

Not grabbing them when they’re falling. . . that’s much, much harder.

Rearing children means that you’re responsible for not only their safety and well being at the very moment (and every moment), but that you’re supposed to be laying the groundwork for them to take control over their own lives and make good decisions on their own.Burning magnesium is really, really, really, really bright.

The first part of that last sentence is enough to drive just about anyone to the edge of sanity. The second part is what will take you, pick you up and hurl you like a caber so far over the line that even on a dark night you wouldn’t even be able to see it if it were etched in neon and burning magnesium.

Children are the living embodiment of the thought that everything has consequences. What you do with and to them now will have lasting ramifications in their later lives.

As parents, we want to make sure our little dudes and dudettes learn not only from their own experiences, but our experiences. That way, they won’t have to suffer like we did. That is the platonic ideal of parenting, but you know no teenager ever actually listens. Why would they? I mean, they already know everything already.**This is an example of a very stupid punishment. Firstly, twerking? That's what you're worried about? I'd think peer pressure would be enough to curtail that after a few tries. Secondly, if you think public shaming will teach her any lesson beyond "Don't get caught," you're crazy.

Which is why punishing kids ever more extravagantly as they grow older isn’t going to work all that well for you later on.

The most important lesson you can pass along to your little dudes is the instinct to, when they don’t actually know what to do or where to go, actually ask questions. Ask for help. And more, turn back to their parents for the first shot at offering said help.

Even now, I’ll use my dad as a sounding board before making certain decisions. I know he’s got my best interests at heart and has experienced a lot of what I’m already going through and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. And I say this long after the parent-worshiping phase has worn off.

It took a while, I will admit. I didn’t look to my parents as sources of help until some time after college. Before that, I was bound and determined to do it my way because I was the smartest man (I am a MAN!) in the room.

Fortunately, my parents didn’t start screaming at me when I made a bad decision or did something stupid as I was growing up. They offered advice, let me know what was expected and, for the most part, were calm but firm when I crossed the line.

The teenage years didn’t irreparably damage our relationship. Thankfully.

As the young dudes grow older and the consequences of their dumb decision-making become more significant, the urge to tighten our grip and tell them exactly what to do can become overwhelming. If you want to have any influence in your little dudette’s life as she grows older, you must let her make her own decisions.

That doesn’t mean you don’t set rules or allow her to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. However, once you’ve made clear your expectations and the consequences of not meeting said expectations, you have to simply drop into an advisory role and pick your battles with extreme care.

I’ve always felt that, as long as it’s not disturbing class, my young dudes could wear whatever they wanted, have whatever hair cut they wanted. If I thought they looked horrible . . . Well, my being horrified by their looks probably was a plus.Didn't we already do that? When they were 18? I'm almost positive they were supposed to move out at one point.

Provide options, help them understand probable scenarios from various actions, but don’t’ try to force your decisions on them.

It’s never easy watching as your darlings make a mistake, but it’s one of the necessary steps they have to take if they ever want to grow up and be independent.

After all, we all want to use that extra bedroom as a place for us, not as the room for your adult child who’s moved back in.

Footnotes & Errata

* Still apologizing to the Beatles, still not regretting using the allusion even one little bit.
** For the sarcasm-impaired among you, that was sarcasm. Teenagers don’t really know everything. They just think they do. This has been a friendly reminder from Mr. Obvious.

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