Tag Archives: father

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

I knew there was going to be trouble the first time I had to wag my finger in admonition and look up at Sarcasmo.

Physically, it’s been apparent for a long while that I was going to be the shortest male in the family. Sarcasmo, our oldest, is around 6′ 4″ now and should be finally stopped growing at 21. Zippy the Monkey Boy is 6′ 2″ or so and Hyper Lad is 5′ 9″, but he’s only 14 so has a lot of growing left to do.

When I realized they were going to be all taller and probably bigger than me, I quickly realized that I would have to come up with a catch phrase that would establish my authoritarian position as the leader of our little clan. It would have to be persuasive and showcase the innate superiority of the position of listening to their father and doing what he says to the idea that they can go haring off on their own and do whatever comes into their swiss-cheesed brains.**

Here’s what I came up with: “You might end up being bigger and stronger than me, but I will always be sneakier and meaner.”

And it’s worked. So far. Of course, it’s meant in jest and I made sure my young dudes know it, but the meaning behind the joke is somewhat more serious.

It’s not that we parents tell our children what to do because we’re control freaks***, but rather because we have life experience and understand how there might be a better or safer way to do something. The problem with kids ageing is that I can’t expect to have them do what I tell them to do just because I said they should do it. That works when they’re younger for a variety of reasons.

Little dudes start off doing as they’re told because Mom and Dad are infallible, but that goes away pretty quickly. They’ll also do as they’re told because, to be blunt, they’re scared of what will happen if they don’t. Not that every kid is worried that their parent will hit them, but parents are, after all, in charge of who gets the TV or the computer, the person who will take them to the park. Parents hold a lot of keys to a lot of different treasure chests.

As the little dudettes get older, though, these subtle threats begin to lose their force. The words “You can’t make me” or “You’re not the boss of me” begin to make the first of their years-long lifespans as a major part of her vocabulary.

And, once she gets past a certain age, she’s right. We can’t. Legally, if a young man 18 or over wants to do something, there’s precious little a parent can do to stop him.

Which, again, is bad news because, as much as the young dudes wish it weren’t so, parents really do understand more about life and really do know better.

Parents are a marvelous resource for young sons and daughters. Unfortunately, there are too many instances in which those resources go untapped and unrecognized.

So. We’ve got that all set up. Come back tomorrow and we’ll discuss what you can do to make sure your son or daughter not only asks for, but listens to your suggestions.

Footnotes & Errata

* With my apologies to the Beatles, but the song lyric just fit too well to ignore.
** Not really Swiss cheese. I just use that as a visual shorthand for the fact that (and this is science, dudes and dudettes) the male brain doesn’t fully mature until at least 25 or so. If you’re lucky.
*** Which you will certainly believe. As long as you don’t listen to any of my children. Or my sister’s. Or my neighbors’. Or that dude over there. You get my point.

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Exposing Yourself. . .

It’s a simple rule: Never post anything online that you wouldn’t want to explain to your mother. Or father. Or any other similarly judgmental familial relation.

And, yes, it’s being ignored right, left, up, down, sideways by just about everyone younger than 30.

This came to mind when the friendly confines of Casa de Dude were invaded by the raucous laughter of the Siren, a friend from college of my wife’s, known to me as She Who Must Be Strutting. The Siren was driving her youngest little dude, Robert Bob, up to boarding school.

The two ladies were out for a drink with friends, one of those sorts of gatherings where mammary glands are required, but gonadal possession in the first degree is prohibited, so I was left at home with Hyper Lad and Robert Bob, both of whom are of an age. Not a problem for me. It was the first Saturday night of college football season. They had video games. We all had pizza. Good time for the dudes.

Anyway. We were talking over piping hot slices and I happened to ask Robert Bob what sort of messaging app he used on his phone. He immediately told me it was SnapChat. For those of you not in the know, SnapChat is an app that allows you to send a photo to someone else on the service. The catch is that the picture you send will self destruct 10 seconds after first viewing.

Which, to most of us older folks, sounds like a recipe for the users to start sharing — oh, I don’t know — naked pictures of themselves, secure in the knowledge that the photo will never, ever, no possible way get out into the wider internet and be seen by anyone else but the intended recipient and then only for 10 seconds. Were you readers able to detect the sarcasm there?

So I asked Robert Bob why he felt safe sending those pictures (not that he was sending naked selfies. He wasn’t. Just asking a younger person in general.). After all, anyone receiving one of those pictures could easily take a screenshot of the picture as it was displayed on the phone.

Well, says Robert Bob, with the smug manner of someone who has considered that question coming from an adult and already has an answer that will completely deflate said old person and send them packing with tails between legs, “The app always lets you know if someone takes a screenshot.”

I waited. He kept looking smug.

“And?” I asked.

“And what else?”

“What do you mean what else?” he said.

And I went on to ask, in some detail, how knowing that someone had taken a screenshot and now had a long-lasting image of whatever picture you’d just sent to him or her will help you control whether or not that image now goes online, to be widely disseminated throughout the world-wide web.

To which he replied, “Uuuuhhhhhhhhh. . . ”

Yeah. That.

Understand, Robert Bob is an intelligent, well-reared, thoughtful, considerate young dude, but that question never even crossed his mind. I shudder to think of those young dudes and dudettes not quite at Robert Bob’s level and what happens to them.

Let me make one more thing very clear: This is not a call to arms for parents to start taking away phones or slamming down the metaphorical boot on the informational neck of their little dudes and dudettes. There will always be a new app, a new way to connect with others that you won’t know about and so can’t stop.

The only constant will be your child. If your child has sense enough to be careful and present only a carefully constructed version of themselves online, then you’re good. I consider this to be something like the sex conversation. It’s not something you have one time and then it’s done.

The sex conversation is an ongoing dialogue between you and your child. So should the public oversharing conversation be. Start early and continue the conversation at every opportunity.

Otherwise, unfortunately, there could be consequences.

About which we’ll talk tomorrow.

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The Now You Versus The Future You

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

For Walt Whitman, astonishingly erudite poet of years gone by, it was a sign of intelligence, of passion, of an attempted understanding of the world’s infinite variations.

For most other people? Eh, not so much.

How many times have you had to defend yourself when you suddenly have a different opinion than one you previously held? In a politician, that’s called flip-flopping and it’s considered a bad thing. Not sure I understand that. I mean, if you continue researching a problem, come up with new information, why is it a good thing to hold to an outdated opinion, rather than reassessing what you do based on new information?

And that’s what I wanted to talk about today. How it’s likely that you as a parent are going to run afoul of you decreed as a parent years, months or even days before. And how, really, that’s all right, even though you’re going to have to fight the little dudes and dudettes about it.

There’s two concepts I want to include in this: Present bias and generalization.

Present bias is something we covered over the last couple of days when we talked about procrastination with David McRaney, from You Are Not So Smart. It’s the inability to understand that your desires will change over time. That what you want today is not necessarily what you will want next month.

The now you may see the costs and rewards at stake when it comes time to choose studying for the test instead of going to the club, eating the salad instead of the cupcake, writing the article instead of playing the video game.

The trick is to accept the now you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future you – a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties.

In this case, McRaney was talking about how the people who acknowledge that they will procrastinate and find ways to work around it are better prepared to counter that tendency to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done the day after tomorrow.

In dealing with the little dudes, it comes into how we set the rules. For instance, you might decide that it’s all right for the little dudette to stay up later for a week because there’s a great educational series on Discovery that you want to share with her, as a sort of father-daughter bonding experience. So you guarantee that she’ll be able to do it all week.

However, two days into it, you come down with a cold and decide you both need to hit the hay early, taping the show to watch later. When you promised up late every night, you didn’t conceive that the future you might want to change things.

So even though going to bed early is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, considering the circumstances, your little dudette is not going to be happy about it. Here’s the thing: You can’t beat yourself up about it. She, or any little dudes involved, will be more than happy to give you grief, you don’t need to heap any more on your own shoulders.

It’s important to know that, while you must do everything you can to keep your promises, to make sure that future you does what now you says he will, sometimes life makes other decisions when we’re not looking.

We can’t predict the future, but that doesn’t stop us from assuming that we will always be the same as time goes on. And when you add that to the idea of generalization. . .

Well, that’s a story for tomorrow.

 

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