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My Dad Was the Best. Hope Yours Was Too!

Father’s Day is fast approaching, an annual celebration of the paternal and the sad anniversary of my own father passing. While memories of him cross my mind several times a day, at this time of year I find myself digging in my mind for some forgotten memory, thinking perhaps I have some tucked away like a forgotten sweater in a cedar chest, an old favorite that simply has not seen the light of day for many years.

I have used my father as the topic of previous blogs (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century & https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/my-roots-lead-back-to-november-fifth) and his humor and life lessens dot the landscape of other musings in my posts as well. While my mind is percolating on him as a subject, I will share some more.

My dad (just like my best friend’s father, another amazing man) was an electrician by trade, as was my grandfather. Though he worked on many job sites through the years, some of the more memorable ones included the construction of the Thunderbird Hotel, The IDS Tower, The Registry Hotel and the story I’m about to embark on  from his work on the MSP Airport.

My dad started work early each morning, usually packing a lunch and carrying a thermos of coffee. As a union man he also had “coffee breaks” during the day and while working on the airport runways a silver truck would stop out to his work site that offered hot coffee, sandwiches and pastries for sale. I imagine his first break took place about 8 am. An affable man, my father built a rapport with the truck driver during his daily rounds. When dad became aware that his work at the airport was winding down and his company was preparing to assign him to a new job he hatched a plan.

When the silver truck headed out to my dad’s location, on what was scheduled to be his last day, there sat my dad at a card table (with two chairs) covered with a white table cloth, an electric frying pan had been used to prepare bacon and eggs, he pushed the button down on the toaster and invited the driver to join him for breakfast, right there on the airport runway. Juice was poured and there the two sat and enjoyed a final conversation, the table complete with a milk-glass vase with two red plastic roses (that had come free with a bottle of dish soap). It was a funny and kind gesture of his appreciation. “Memorable”, that is a word that aptly describes my father. I imagine the driver never forgot that special breakfast or the man who prepared it for him.

My dad loved animals and they loved him. Unfortunately, his allergies could make his being around them a less than pleasant experience for him. While growing up we had rabbits, I had a parakeet, we had tropical fish, my brother acquired the rat from his elementary classroom “Milk vs. Soda” nutrition lessen.  We also had the cutest dalmatian puppy who in reality was the worst dog I have ever known. At some point in the late ’70s (sometime after a divorce) my aunt was moving with her youngest from her house to an apartment, a pet-free destination. For many years the family had had a beautiful long haired calico cat that they all loved, named Mama. Despite his allergies (and the fact he was not that fond of cats) my dad was very fond of his high-school classmate and the mother of his nieces and nephews. That is how Mama came to live out her final years with my parents. Meanwhile my uncle moved on, got a new wife, got a new puppy and eventually got another divorce. The Whippet/Collie mix was not going to work with either of their new housing arrangements, so Tara came to live with my folks (and Mama) where she slept on the floor next to my father’s side of the bed. My father loved that dog but when my uncle retired, my dad insisted that Tara move with him to the cabin. My dad was accommodating, compassionate and fair. In both instances it was not that he “wanted” a new responsibility at his house but that he didn’t want to see someone he cared about suffer any more than they already were due to their present circumstances. He gracefully made these situations appear to be nothing and just used his ever-present handkerchief with greater frequency. I bet you’d already forgotten about his allergies, that’s exactly how he wanted it.

My dad wasn’t into gender stereotypes, he grocery shopped, did the laundry, gave his kids baths, read bedtime stories and even took on the role of “room mother” one year when I was in junior high. In many cases, if something needed to be done, he would just do it. He could work a full day, come home and make dinner and still remain engaged in what you were learning in school. When he went to bed we assumed he snored so loudly simply because he was tired, not because Sleep Apnea was just another medical malady stealing time from him. In other cases, if something needed to be done, it simply waited. Taxes were something he loathed doing and I think at some point he delayed filing for five years. Red Owl Grocery sacks filled with receipts and medical bills all waiting to be collated and submitted. He wasn’t avoiding paying taxes, he was delinquent in filing for money owed to him by the IRS. In retrospect I think he knew his time was precious and he would rather spend it occupied with people than with paper.

My dad was strict but you knew what was expected. I vividly remember arriving home five minutes late one summer evening and after listening to what my excuse was he simply said “I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be early.” So I credit him with the fact that I am slightly early or prompt at nearly every appointment I have, as a general courtesy.

Growing up, my brothers and I didn’t get an allowance but Dad gave us our lunch money weekly and we were allowed to pack our own lunches and use the allotted money however we chose. That taught responsibility, decision making and flexibility. He also allowed me to pack a lunch for my brother and have him pay me a portion of his own lunch money.

My father had more interests than could be explored in a lifetime, he loved concepts, new ideas and possibilities. He was fascinated with black holes and could wrap his mind around things I never could. While his mind was sharp he was not impressed with phonies and would make time to chat with a loner or buy a guy a beer. I remember that he joked loudly to my mother as they were leaving one of her class reunions (perhaps her 20th) “Hurry Dorothy, we have to get the rental car back.” to mock some of the blowhards who had spent the evening trying to one-up each other.  He both literally and figuratively just didn’t have time for that.

Though this blog comes to an end and he is no longer among us, his story is far from over. I like to think that I have fostered in my own children some of his curiosity, his ability to learn something from everyone, his sense of fairness coupled with compassion and an ample dose of his humor. His greatest teachings were never in the form of lectures, they were in his actions, small gestures, mundane tasks that were eventually completed, behind the scenes maneuvers that brightened someones day, lightened someones load or simply made somebody laugh. His legacy lives on in that laughter.

 

 

 

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Potty Parity

Potty

Sometimes it feels that in our race to be all embracing of everything that we somehow slide backwards or simply create issues to argue over.  These topics always strike me as avoidance tactics, distractions to keep us from serious problems like our growing heroin epidemic, unemployment, texting while driving and suicide. You know, issues that impact quality of life in our communities, stuff that kills people. So rather than address these real topics, people divide themselves with pretend problems and fictional scenarios. Currently the hot divisive topic is if people can/should/are legally required to use the bathroom corresponding with their birth genitalia. Talk about privilege, we void our bowels and bladders into drinking quality water which is whisked away through a complex maze of pipes. Water that 75% of the world population would feel lucky to have access to and we want to concern ourselves with who is on the other side of the partition while we do it?

If it is not possible to require identification to vote, how can we require it to access public restrooms? Children don’t even have ID’s. As the “controversy” over bathroom access has been in the news as of late I find myself perplexed by several things. I wonder if people are naive enough to think that while living in a major metropolitan area that they have never washed their hands beside a person who was not born with the same physical attributes that they were. I have heard the claims that these concerns are for my benefit as a woman and to tug at the heart strings of those not aligned with the outrage, we are instructed that it is for the good of “the children”. We will be raped, molested and video taped if people are allowed to go in the bathroom where they feel most comfortable. Really? Even if that were true, we have many laws in place already to deal with deviant behavior. I’m not buying the memes of hairy men in women’s bikini’s who apparently are just waiting for the opportunity to hang out in public restrooms to harass and terrify the defenseless. Why are men in particular getting the bad rap that they will suddenly be tempted to wear makeup and women’s clothing to gain access? While there have always been voyeurs, there certainly is no greater number based upon access to the women’s room.  Ironically it appears they might just end up with cell phone pics of other dudes, which they could have had back in their original bathroom. I understand that there actually are evil people in the world but a child is no more vulnerable in the presence of the opposite sex than they are with the same sex. In reality they are more likely to be victimized by people in their lives who are described as “trusted individuals” not strangers in the public bathroom. For those super concerned, might I suggest no doors on the home bathroom.

It makes sense to me to consider that new construction provide for sinks in common areas, stalls for all and perhaps a partial wall separating urinals at the far end of public facilities (making it unnecessary for those not needing those accommodations to be near them). It’s more efficient. Think of the lines at sporting events and theater intermissions in our current construct. Would it not be fairer to have whoever is next in line be permitted to “go” next? For me it makes more sense instead of stalls being vacant in one restroom and a line down the hallway out of the other one. It would be more like porta-potty access at the Fair or other outdoor festivals.

Over the past few weeks I have told several people that I have never been carded by the Potty Patrol when either entering or exiting a washroom. Not when in a dress or while wearing jeans and a baseball cap, it just has never occurred. I am also confident that nobody is going to be hired to enforce any sort of policy regarding who goes (literally and figuratively) where. Why make laws and rules that will not be enforced, when people can figure out where to go (and honestly, have been for years) on their own?

Trust me when I say that no man should be interested in hanging out in the Lady’s Room. If I were going to tackle a public restroom issue I have about five ideas I’d go with prior to suggesting a pants check and subsequent questionnaire regarding if the equipment present in the Fruit of the Looms is original issue or not. I’d start with the nasty habit of the “squat and spray” crowd who fail to wipe off the toilet seat they have just fire hosed. I’d follow up with mandatory flushing and mandate that trash goes in the trash. I often find myself wondering what the homes are like of the people who used the facilities before me. Do people pee on their toilet seats at home and leave mystery wads of TP on the back of the toilet?

Bathroom usage is an imperfect art. Plumbing is a luxury that we have that prevents the spread of many diseases, it keeps us from digging trenches, typically allows us to remain inside and in the US generally they are a free accommodation provided to us in public places. I’ve just highlighted numerous reasons we should be thankful and yet people want to quibble over this. It’s another topic where people not dealing with this challenge want to dictate the behavior expectations to a population they are not a part of. My honest opinion of the stranger in the next stall is simply that I’m not concerned about your gender status.

If you really need a cause to get behind or a topic for the water cooler, perhaps folks would be willing to take on cell phone use in the bathroom. Don’t answer your phone while in the restroom and don’t initiate a call while in a stall. It’s just awkward while trying to use the restroom to hear “Hi, how are you?” from the stranger beside you. One thing I hope we can all agree on, no matter which room you choose, the visit should end with washing your hands!

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As Foolish Today as Any

Anyone who has read much of what I have written will know that I am fond of holidays, I like the cycle of the year and have an appreciation for traditions! April Fools Day is no exception, I have great memories of pranks from through the years. If you really know me then you know that teasing, joking and humor in general are part of my DNA handed down from my father. Dry wit and sarcasm are among my gifts and I have no discretion over when and where to use them. My brothers will vouch for the fact that while at the Cremation Society preparing for my mother’s funeral I really startled the funeral director. After preparing the obituary he mentioned the timing for the actual cremation. His reaction was priceless when I pushed back from the table and exclaimed “We’re having her cremated?!!!” in mock horror. Only my brother’s laughter calmed the poor gentleman. I like making my brothers laugh and it oddly struck me as the perfect time to lighten things up.

April Fools Day is different, there are often amateurs at work. Sometimes people don’t get it right. To me an April Fool’s joke should strike a balance, achieve a gotcha moment that is funny without being mean-spirited. You don’t fake an injury or death or start an unkind rumor. I’m not saying these things don’t happen, I am simply saying that those are not my favored ways to celebrate the day.

I like the tradition of the guy I went to high school with that married a classmate of mine, every year he puts a rubber band around the kitchen sink sprayer and douses his wife as she turns on the faucet the first of April annually. It’s humorous, harmless and as I noted, it’s tradition.

One of the many things I don’t like about being unemployed is not going to work on April Fools Day. I like the energy of the day in general. While I can appreciate some of the shenanigans from here at my computer, it simply is not the same as witnessing reactions in person. The first effort I saw today was the University of Minnesota posting that Goldy Gopher the mascot was retiring to spend more time with family. While a few feigned outrage, there were more of us that played along by extending the joke. I commented that he had undergone a DNA test and was actually a chipmunk (which I have always felt he has more closely resembled) and that the family angle was BS because everyone knows he’s got a thing going with Sally (the “sexy squirrel” mascot of Sally’s Saloon in Stadium Village). Then there was the email for a phone app that would allow you to taste foods by simply licking the screen of my phone. Good effort and again I would rather be seeing people in action reacting to this one.

I do feel badly for people who want to announce they are pregnant, genuinely suffer the loss of a loved one or have a legitimate life event that occurs on April first. A childhood friend won an event earlier today and some people questioned if he was joking or not. I got the automated call that a prescription was ready today but I’m not going to go pick it up, just in case the pharmacists are trying to trick me.

I’ve attached a picture of a letter that arrived in the mail today. Seems that due to a problem with some business I have used my card at I need to cancel my card and activate a new one to prevent fraud. Only a fool would fall for that on April Fools Day. Glad to see a major banking institution like TCF has a sense of humor. Am I right?

TCF

*For those worried about my bank account please refer to paragraph one for sarcasm disclaimer. April Fools!

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Just Our Luck or Consistency and Our Amusing Life Together

Four months before our first Valentines Day.

During our brief courtship – the week we scheduled our wedding

 

While my husband and I are well suited to each other, we are the living proof that opposites attract. We met, instantly hated each other and four days later he was sure I was “the one”. It took me a week. He was someone with a steady girlfriend through high school and various relationships beyond and I was the girl who never brought a suitor home until I had a wedding planned. We married seven months after we met. After all, I had caught the bouquet at the wedding I was a bridesmaid in, our first encounter being in the back of a Catholic church before the rehearsal.

We lived in neighboring states at the time we met. As an Army Reservist he had an obligation one weekend a month. As a Hall Director at a university I had one weekend a month that obligated me to be on campus and accessible by phone. This was pre-cell, no call waiting, an era where only doctors, hookers and drug dealers had pagers. We tried to coordinate our weekends so our schedules matched. When they did not match, I would head down to his place on drill weekends and hang out during the Saturday night card parties, empty the ash trays and clear the beer bottles. The rest of our courtship consisted of him meeting me at prearranged destinations; attending Homecoming at my alma mater and meeting for a weekend in the college town I had previously worked in. By the time Thanksgiving arrived we were engaged, had the wedding booked and were just waiting on the ring being made.

We are not terribly traditional in the romantic sense. It has become more of an amusement to us over the years that we simply got married because we sucked at dating. His first visit to see me was the weekend after we had met. It was the Homecoming weekend on my campus and I told him I would likely be busy but he insisted. He brought me roses and we walked a few blocks to a bar to have a drink. While we waited to order, an intoxicated young man approached, took a look at my date and stated “So, you think you’re tough! Eh?”. He had warned me that his stature and general physique somehow brought out the desire for strangers to want to pick a fight with him. We just looked at the guy and sort of chuckled and waited for our beers. The first weekend I went to visit him he decided we should go to a movie. We ended up at the wrong theater for the movie we had chosen (no recollection of what that might have been) but had time to get to the correct one, only to find out they only accepted cash. We, of course, had only checks and cards. We may have actually been married before we ever saw a movie in a theater together.

While our “hate at first sight” followed by nuptials within months may seem terribly romantic, I can assure you that our engagement was not. While on one of our phone conversations (less than a month after we had met) he simply inquired “when should we do this thing?” and I reached for my planner that was filled with the work obligations of a person that lives on-site and is in their first year at a new job. We kicked around the possibility of doing it over Christmas break but didn’t want to screw up holiday plans or budgets for others. We picked a window of time in April that would work.

We went from meeting to wedding planning. For financial reasons after our marriage, he remained on in his town for six weeks and then I went to live with him for the summer where he continued to work and then we both returned in the fall to the campus where I had been living and working. Practical, that is how I would describe much of the logistics of our relationship.

Once we were  married we did little in the way of dating either, our greatest expense and date-like outings during those early years was when we attended friends weddings. For our five-year anniversary we decided that it might be fun to go to Las Vegas and renew our vows. We had friends (one of my bridesmaids) who were celebrating their one year anniversary who decided to join us for the long weekend. The ceremony was a brief affair at the Little Chapel of the West (where Elvis married Anne Margaret at the end of Viva Las Vegas) and as we strolled back to our hotel, a pedestrian was struck by a car and off like a shot my husband went to assist until police and EMT’s arrived. Memorable but not particularly romantic.

When those same friends were celebrating their ten-year anniversary, the four of us decided to take a week-long Caribbean cruise. We scheduled well in advance, arranged for care of our children and in the days before our departure it became evident that we were going to war. We hesitated about going but did anyway. While the trip was enjoyable there was not that carefree sense that one might expect.

We have had successful trips with our children; many Wisconsin Dells water park adventures, a car trip to Mount Rushmore, Door County Wisconsin, a fabulous trip with another family to Disney World, an all-inclusive resort in Mexico with my childhood best friend and her family and another cruise. None of them terribly romantic trips but memorable family adventures.

With kids in college and me being underemployed for a couple of years, we have stayed close to home. This year for my husband’s birthday we (our two adult children and I) decided it would be nice to send him to Lynchburg Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels and where he is recognized as a Tennessee Squire. A quick trip for the two of us, with a Thursday departure and Sunday return. We will arrive in Nashville, take a scheduled bus tour, meet up with a longtime friend for the evening and depart in our rental vehicle for Lynchburg in the morning. On Friday we will spend the day at the distillery and spend the night at the Mulberry Guest House Cottage. We will return to Nashville on Saturday, return our rental car and depart on Sunday morning. It’s short and fun and fit the budget. What could possibly go wrong?

Try to imagine my reaction this morning when I see that the state of Tennessee has declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard because their road conditions have deteriorated badly as the result of an ice storm. It is times like this I am relieved that we have no unrealistic standard of romance, no Pinterest story board of our romantic getaway being ruined. Instead we have over a quarter century of funny anecdotes, hilarious one-liners and tales of the unpredictable happening whenever we make the effort to try to “date”.

We would like to apologize to the people of Tennessee, as we are pretty confident this never would have happened had we not planned a visit. I guess that makes us a power couple!

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Guilt, Finger Pointing and Feigned Outrage – The Stuff of Non-Issues

Ralphie

I’ll just admit it up front, I like the movie A Christmas Story. My adult siblings and their families like it too, as do my two college-aged children, even my husband likes it. When my kids were little, I made their father pull the car over at an isolated intersection between our home and a neighboring community. I hopped out, ran to the center of the crossroads and retrieved an unscathed Red Ryder BB gun. Despite it being a lower model devoid of “a thing that tells time” it was an amazing find, practically heaven-sent. A number of years ago when A Christmas Story – The Musical hit the stage, my brothers, their wives and I were there. Our own tree features a leg lamp in a shipping crate ornament. Ralphie Parker and his vivid imagination have become part of our own family traditions. It wasn’t until this morning when I read a tweet that explained that it was a racist white people movie full of “white privilege” that I took pause. One person’s Twitter rant certainly isn’t enough to sway my thinking, it was the overly apologetic people who removed images of Ralphie from their Facebook profiles and commented with posts indicating their well-tuned propensity to feel guilty and beat themselves up for their lack of sensitivity had even missed the very clear and overt racism. The message was that Ralphie could have that dream because he is white and won’t get shot by police or others for having a BB gun. It left me shaking my head in sadness that people are so easily manipulated and so anxious to impose guilt upon themselves and point fingers at others for not grasping that they are the problem in the world. Really? I’m waiting for her next essay on how Anne Frank was shallow for covering her walls with pictures of movie stars when she could have been doing something more worthwhile.

“Liberal essayist Parker Molloy” has garnered nearly as much attention as a recent photograph of a greased ass, displaying her bare butt. Parker Molloy posting about Ralphie Parker, perhaps her parents loved the movie that came out before she was born and she hates Ralphie because she was named after him. It seems like a stretch to look at a thirty year old fictional movie that intends to depict childhood some seventy years ago and apply issues in terms of today to generate more unproductive guilt. Can we not simply be allowed to enjoy a movie without conjuring up the need to move Ralphie to foster care after the abusive soap in the mouth scene or being urged to find compassion for the bully Scut Farcus and wonder why we didn’t see more of his home life to try to determine what the root of his bullying was caused by?

Clearly Ralphie’s mind wandered, he fantasized, got distracted, daydreamed and likely would be medicated today but I really don’t think that the belching furnace, old car with bad tires and clear concern over monetary issues (hide the broken glasses) show much demonstration of “privilege” at all.  The content of this film is not that which should provoke guilt among the masses. If I’m not going to let North Korea dictate what movies I watch, I am certainly not going to permit Parker Molloy to define me based on my desire to watch a family classic.

I acknowledge her tweet exists but refuse to link it to my rebuttal for fear of encouraging more people to embrace the madness. My hope for 2015 is that people lighten up. That all people can relax more and not look for trouble where none exists. Perhaps everyone can use a little more humor and not feel challenged and offended by people simply because they don’t look-alike, speak differently or choose different occupations. I wish that people would stop thinking that pointing their fingers at others (or at themselves) is somehow beneficial. There are a lot of real issues and situations, things in the world that are upsetting, wrong and truly require attention. Enough of those sorts of things that we don’t need to create issues where they actually do not exist. Sadly I think people address these non-issues because they are too afraid to tackle the real problems that exist. This movie reflected the optimism of youth during tough times and was produced while we were still in the midst of the Cold War. Deep mistrust of others in countries far away. It later seemed somewhat naive. Perhaps the era we are currently experiencing in our own country will seem that way someday. Now that I’ve got that off of my chest I’m contacting a city council in Indiana, those sonsabitches Bumpuses have too many dogs and I thought that one looked like it might have a little pit bull in it. Stay vigilant and Happy Holidays!

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Thirty Shades of Blog – A GRAND FINALE (the musical) – Day 30 in a Month of Writing

Topless

“In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife…” (Read more: RENT – Seasons Of Love Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

In the summer of 1997 I had what might be the best weekend of professional live theater that I may ever experience. I took my four-year-old daughter to see The Lion King, which debuted in Minneapolis before opening on Broadway. She and I were both mesmerized. Regardless of the number of times I see it, it still makes the hairs on my arms stand up. The following day my sister in-law surprised me and took me to see the show Rent with tickets from my husband. The shows were so different from each other but both were such excellent productions. The Lion King will always rank among my favorites, perhaps because it was Betsy’s first real Disney video and she still has the Simba and Nala that her brand new baby brother had given her at the hospital the day he was born. My son Eddie is likely the only young man whose love of shopping makes it convincing that he came into the world having already been to a mall.

The song Seasons of Love talks about the ways a person measures time. For me, the month of September has been measured in; blog postings, titles, edits, spelling errors and graphic selections. Thirty days of trying to think of a new topic to not only engage me in the act of writing but to hopefully engage others in the act of reading. Making the commitment to write daily came about via a simple posting and I believe most of the other authors who committed to the challenge intended to use it as a way to make progress on a single novel, to use it as a way to discipline their art. I simply am not the sort to be refined enough for that. If you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it seems logical not to judge a blog by the picture attached or the hastily chosen title. Though I have to admit to experimenting with both to try to draw readers. I had considered giving this posting the title “The Contents of My Underwear Drawer a Month of Revealing Personal Things” but could not think of an appropriate picture to go with it. I opted instead for the gratuitous topless photo of me, hoping it might go viral.

Though the exercise took a month, the effort really took me a lifetime. I’ve lived over half a century, it should not be a challenge for me to write for thirty days, yet at times it was. Each day there was the act of choosing what I wanted to commit to exploring. As of this writing, the most read of my works came on the second day of the month when I wrote about my oldest brother on his birthday. I didn’t want to get stuck in a rut, at one point I felt a bit like Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote, it just seems that I know a lot of dead people. I am pleased to have had people from four countries read one or more of my posts. I have had 227 unique visitors to my blog, resulting in 385 actual views of my material or slightly more than 350 views if you deduct my friend Kristi, who I believe has been the most loyal (and encouraging) of my followers.

I appreciate the kind words left about my writing by friends, family and strangers. I have shared family history, views on various topics, political opinions, parenting observations and anecdotes about where I grew up, about my friends and recounting events of my childhood. I’ve offered a glimpse at how my mind works and my unusual capacity to store details of trivial events. It has been an unusual experience to share so much personal information in such a brief time. Much like my annual long-winded Christmas letter I did it less to entertain and more to capture the essence of a period of time and preserve it for my children and others who may take interest in my musings at a time where I am perhaps no longer able to share it.

I believe it is a habit for me now and though it may not be a daily obligation, I think I will continue to write more consistently and welcome ideas for topics. For those of you with a gift or a passion, I encourage you to do something for thirty consecutive days; draw, paint, take photographs, get out an instrument you have been neglecting and play it, dance, walk or initiate a call to a friend you have not spoken to. Imagine what a month you could have rekindling relationships with thirty people. Maybe send thirty letters or simply a greeting card daily for a month. Whatever challenge you give yourself, I can assure you that rather than feeling burdensome there is something rather invigorating and rewarding in establishing a goal and achieving it. How do you want to measure your October?

*Please “share” this or any of my blogs by selecting the “share” on your Facebook page, including it on a Linkedin post or “re-tweeting” (with or without an introduction) – I would love to reach 250 visitors for the month of September. Thanks to those of you who have shared past posts.

 

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Day 29 in a month of writing: “Kids Will Be Kids” Unless Parents Don’t Let Them

Sophomore Year SCSU

Sophomore Year SCSU

Before I had two college coeds of my own I spent over twenty years supervising college students and prior to that I was a college student myself. I have watched in live-time dramatic changes that were discussed in a recent Huffington Post article that a former colleague had posted (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Mickey-goodman/are-we-raising-a-generati_b_1249706.html) that resonated with what many of my own observations have been. While I agree with the writer, I have developed an even more controversial theory.

I think that how people go through life is substantially predetermined by their makeup. This is how you end up with stories of identical twins separated at birth having similar life outcomes, interests and frequently career choices. Sure opportunities and experiences are factors but I wish to further explain why there seems to be a pretty dramatic change in both parents and their children that are now young adults and the experiences of their own parents as children. It is truly a matter of numbers and for someone who is predisposed to not really liking math (an attribute passed to me from my own mother and present in my own daughter) I will keep it simple. When parents had six to eight children (and often one car) it simply was not possible to attend every activity they participated in and it was not an expectation. The workload at home was different as well. With families that size it was often obvious who was the “smart one” or the “athletic one” or some other “one”. Parents took their cues from there as to where to invest funds or who to encourage when making decisions; the “strong one” might be left the family farm and the “smart one” might be sent off to college. The “athletic one” might have an opportunity at college because of their skill and the “pretty one” might marry well and be taken care of. There was often “one” destined to remain close and take care of the parents should they become infirm. An observation I made many years ago regarding friends from larger families was that nearly every one of them had a “black sheep” who was either in  trouble with the law or less successful than their siblings; perhaps had a more difficult time making a living or retaining relationships. A “black sheep” or even a “town drunk” who succumbed to a reliance on a chemical and was taken care of by family but was not expected to amount to much or ultimately  ran off with the carnival as it passed through town. No blame, no finger pointing, that was just accepted as their lot in life.

My theory is that if you take several random samplings of 100 adults, you will find a fairly consistent number who exhibit these same traits and some others. The difference is that today families tend to have perhaps 1-3 children and as a result they only want those who are successful in academics or maybe athletics. They have to put all their money on one horse so to speak. Their kid(s) is going to go to college or will run the business or do whatever it is the parent has determined. The parent is not so bogged down with cooking and laundry they can’t attend activities. You actually see parents staying through practices or rehearsals which nobody had the time for a generation ago. Odds are there are  two cars along with a greater likelihood that perhaps both parents work. So economically  there is more money to spend on fewer children; camps, coaching, tutoring are all accessible. There is less preventing a parent from talking to a teacher, coach or even a boss at a job. The real point of my theory is that perhaps their child is not part of the percentage who will succeed at college but is maybe the manual laborer or even, despite Sylvan learning center and an ACT tutor they are from the sliver of the pie that is a wanderer; the black sheep or the town drunk. The percentage of kids and the traits they will have remain constant, it just is that they are spread over approximately four times as many sets of parents.

The workload is smaller with few in a household, it is easier for the parents to cook, clean, do yard work and laundry. The kids are encouraged to participate in lots of activities. “Play dates” and big birthday parties are the norm, something that no parent with eight children was able to or wanted to do. Kids don’t have as many chores or responsibilities and thus remain reliant on their parents longer. Increased divorce rates have resulted in parents who want their children to “like them”, who are not always with them and as a result need to make their time together special. This is where the phrase “Disney Dad”came from.

When the term “helicopter parent” was coined I looked at many articles describing the phenomenon and was struck by a brief story that I have repeated many times. A college installed laundry machines which students could watch via computer to tell when a load was done. A college-aged daughter called her mother in another state to have her watch her laundry and then text her at the library when her load was done. This story was an epiphany to me that the student housing complex adjacent to a Big Ten campus that I worked for was not the only place where students were not growing independent as the result of being at college. Parents were not letting go and were inserting themselves in their child’s lives into adulthood. One day my coworker had taken a call from an irate mother from out of state. Her daughter was in one of our buildings (located a block from our office) and was stressed because our change machine in the lobby was out of quarters and her daughter had wet clothing in a washer and no coins to operate the dryer. I was glad to just overhear the call because my response would not have been as customer service oriented. It might have gone something like this:

“It is a shame that by age 18 your daughter thought the best solution to not having quarters in Minnesota would be to call you in South Dakota. It is unfortunate that she did not think through having enough change to complete the task prior to starting the washing machine. I am sorry that she does not have a relationship with her roommate or neighbors that would allow her to ask them if they have any change. It is too bad that her skill set did not include problem solving to the extent that there is a store a half block from her location and at least three banks within a half mile of her apartment that are all equipped to exchange her money for her but those options did not occur to her. There is also a person sitting at a reception desk feet away from where the change machine is located who could notify our maintenance man who fills the machine when he is made aware of that need. She could have walked over to our office or made this phone call herself regarding the parking pass.” Slight pause while I listen to the mother. “I assumed that you were calling to obtain a parking pass for when you get here with her quarters.”

So there are many factors that have contributed to adults seeming less sufficient than they have been in the past. Some of them are in fact real and brought on by parents who are overly involved in their children’s lives. Don’t be their alarm clock at college by giving a daily wake-up call. Give them chores, allow them to make mistakes, that is how they learn. Another factor is that now young adults are being manipulated into being places outside of where they would have naturally landed a generation or two ago because of the concept that children are to fulfill their parents wishes and not simply their own. The best thing a parent can do is to give their children (of any age) the space to find what they enjoy, what they are good at, what they want to do and who they want to be. Don’t live vicariously through your children, they can’t fulfill your dreams for you and if permitted to be, their dreams for themselves are likely different than yours.

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