Tag Archives: parenting

Madame Leota’s Crystal Ball Says. . .

We are all time travelers: moving into the future second by second.

Which does us absolutely no good at all as far as planning for the future goes because we can’t see the future until it’s the present and then it’s too late to change it into anything but the past.

Ugh. Time travel makes my head hurt.

Anyway, I was reminded about this issue recently when I was discussing with She Who Must Be Sleeping Because It’s Dark After All a course of action regarding our oldest dude.

The actual specifics of the discussion aren’t all that important (well, they’re important to us and certainly important to him. However, for the sake of this bit here, it’s more the results rather than the cause.), but I found myself thinking of Robert Frost.

One of my favorite poets, Robert Frost wrote about “The Road NotRobert Frost, one of America's best poets, extolled the virtue of taking the road less travelled. Taken.” In exactingly precise words of immeasurable beauty, Frost talked about how we often face choices in our lives and we can think of them as forks in the road.

We take one fork, make one choice, and that forever shapes all that is to come. Take the other fork, make the other choice, and that also forever shapes all that is to come.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So we sat discussing our course of action and because the substance of the discussion, the nature of the choice, was so important to Sarcasmo’s future, I’ve never wished more fervently to be able to see the future.

“Are we making the right choice? Will this work out in the long run? Will this be good for him or hurt him?”

This is something we parents have to think about every single day in almost every single decision. It’s not often such a stark choice, but it is there.

Do I make him eat those zucchini slices or not? If no, am I teaching him that he will get his way when he whines? If yes, will I be teaching him that bigger people can make smaller people do things?

The more I think about it, the more debilitating it becomes until I can enter into a state of analysis paralysis. For those of you not up on your rhyming aphorisms, analysis paralysis means you start thinking about something so much that you never make an actual decision. Which is, in effect, a decision. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

There’s an old saying in project management: There comes a time in the life of every project when you simply have to shoot the engineers and run with it.

Now, that’s not actually encouraging people to kill engineers. The issue is that engineers are never finished. They always see one more thing that can be improved upon. One more thing that needs just a little adjustment.

I like to think it’s something similar in parenting. We don’t know what we’re doing.

We don’t know how our actions today will affect the life of our child tomorrow.

All we can do is make what we think is the right decision and then work for the best outcome. Which is, in and of itself, a significantly frightening thought.

So, now that I’ve spent two days scaring the pants off you, I’ve only got one thing to say. . .

You’re not wearing any pants! Neener Neener Neener!

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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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Of Course That’s A Camera In Your Pocket. . . And You’re Glad To See Me

We’re raising the most overexposed generation in history.

Starting around five years or so ago, just about the time that cellphone cameras became good enough to produce things that resembled people rather more than they resembled colored blobs, parenting has begun to undergo a seismic shift.

Back in the good-old-days, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I had to walk to school uphill — both ways — in the snow barefoot, while dodging alligators every single day, taking a picture of your little dude was a bit more of a production.

You had to get out the camera from the back of the closet, make sure there was film in the camera and it hadn’t gone bad. Then you had to make sure there was enough or it might run out in the middle of the photography session.

Once that was taken care of, it was off to find the perfect outdoor light because flashes back then were — at best — more inscrutable than instructive. Once the pictures were taken, you had to then wait until you’d finished the roll of film.

You’d take the exposed film to a camera shop, wait several weeks to have the pictures developed (without any touch ups or changes) and then eventually bring them home. If you were lucky, you got maybe one viewing of the photos. Maybe someone put together a scrapbook, but, once the pictures were in there, they weren’t coming out. Ever.

Cellphones, digital cameras and, most especially, the iPhone changed all of that. Suddenly, we had access to a camera all the time. Not only that, but we could take pictures anywhere or any time. Once it was taken, we could mess around with it, give ourselves mustaches, maybe change hair color or background or make it into a black-and-white picture. We could see it as many times as we wanted, send it to as many people as we wanted, do whatever we wanted as long as we wanted.

It was to photography what the free-love movement was to sex.

When I first started out as a parent, folks told me that we would take a bunch of photos of our first, much fewer of our next and, should we have a third, count ourselves lucky if we found one or two of that child.

Instead, we’ve got a lot of pictures of our first little dude. Of course. Not so many of our second son’s early years. Then, round about the time our youngest came along in 1999, things started to change. The number of photographs blossomed with the acquisition of our first digital camera.

Once we began to have good cameras on our phones, the number of photos slammed into an exponential growth curve.

Instead of it being a special occasion, now I take pictures all the time. Heck, when Hyper Lad and I checked into our hotel room when we went spring skiing, I took about ten photos of only the hotel room. Just to set the stage. In case I needed them for something.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even do much in the way of posing my subjects as I figure I’ll just start snapping away and eventually get the one I want without having to pose. Which is the good thing about digital iPhontography.

And the bad thing about digital iPhontography in that I have so many, it’s sometimes daunting to sit down and go through them all to find ones I want to save and see again.

Which is why all three of my young dudes flinch and start running away whenever I bring out the phone. They’re certain I’m going to start documenting them. Again.

And, for the most part, they’re usually right.

But the expense in time is well worth it. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent flipping through old digital photos, looking at my sons.

This might be the most overexposed, overphotographed generation in history, but I can’t make myself be worried. I love the idea that we’re going to be able to watch them grow up over and over again whenever we want to.

So, bring on Mr. DeMille because they’re ready for their close ups.

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