Sunday, June 26, 2016

Aim Low

This post may come out all wrong but it’s something I’ve been turning over in my head for a few days. Months I guess. It goes like this:
For my son, I want to aim low.

That’s right. Low.

There’s so much pressure these days. College talk. Scholarships. Savings plans. Big hopes and dreams for the snowflake.  And that's fine, saving is good, right? Moms and Dads are dreaming big these days. Going to be an awful lot of doctors and lawyers, a surge of professional athletes. 

Obviously a lot of it is said in jest. I hope. You know, kid makes a shot and Dad’s ready for the draft.  But a lot of stuff, it’s there and it's real. It's lurking in the minds and in the hearts of well-meaning parents. And it can be a pressure cooker.

Okay, you say, what are you suggesting? 

Well, I want my kid to succeed…in happiness. 

Hey! Stop rolling your eyes. What I mean is that I want him to do what makes him happy. Sure I want him to dream and fight and try and strive. And right now, at my house, for my kid, happiness consists of taking stuff apart. Popping the hood of my car so that he can study the engine. He likes engines, loves them, and working parts are his thing right now. And if he wants to be an engineer, great, and if he wants to be a mechanic, great too.

Fine by me. He loves to learn about lawn mowers and car engines, even flipping over his toys to see what makes them roll, click, or turn. So yeah, I think for him being a mechanic would be a pretty decent way to make a living.

But when I say it, people think I’m joking.

I’m not.

Trade school sounds like a great plan. College diplomas are becoming increasingly more expensive and well, by the time he’s ready I’m not so sure I want him taking out loans he’ll have to pay for the rest of his life.

And everything is about money. It seems people just go to college to get a job. Okay, I'll say here that yes I’m naive and weird and in the distinct minority because I happen to think that kids should go to college to learn things.

Just to learn things.

I read all the time. Almost anything, because I love it. I’ve read college text books for fun, seriously, and didn’t pay a dime to do it. That said, I know people don’t go to college to learn things. That would be stupid. They go so that they can get a good job.

We need money. But we need time too. We need a healthy balance of time/money/love/ to be happy. To be peaceful. And what’s the point in going into massive debt to go to school to get a good job to get lots of money to pay the debt so that you can work your way into happiness? I think I’m confused.

What if my kid is comfortable? What if he’s a comfortable mechanic who lives a normal, non Earth-shattering life ? What if he does what he loves? 

Also--the kicker here--he could come over and the old man's car when it broke down. Win.

No seriously, this is not about me. What's wrong with comfort? With finding your own groove. Took me half a life to do it and I'm still working to get that groove right. So what do I know? Sure, we can nurture them and provide a stable environment for them to succeed, and if that’s college, great. If not, will figure it out. But in the end, the choice is his to determine.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Acting Up and Lashing Out

Our son’s been acting up some lately. Nothing horrendous, just picked up on on some bad habits. Habits we’d like to break.

We’ve discussed it with him, and he nods along. He knows, and even tells me, "Daddy, we don’t say bad."

But saying and doing are very different things. And I'm not trying to paint myself as some parenting expert when I say that I’m not even sure where he’s seen some of these nasty new habits.

Like spitting. Or hitting with a fist. I mean, I don’t go around the house, shaking my fist at him and Mom, Honeymooners style. You can blame a lot of bad habits he's picked up from dear old dad, but I can honestly say that punching is not one of them.

And face it, I know that we can’t shield him from everything. I've tried. And failed. All the violence in the world, it' s impossible to keep him from seeing it.  I just wasn’t so prepared for how quickly he’s picked up on it.

Like the other day, when he put a WWF combo on me. First, he scrunched up his nose, then  came some vicious teeth gnashing. Next thing I knew I'd received a right hook, spin move, donkey kick trifecta.

He's also got a backwards head butt in the arsenal.

Seriously. Now what do I do?  Spank him to show him that hitting is wrong? Sounds repetitive to me. Instead we talk. I explain that we don’t hit, we use words. The kid knows lots and lots of words, more than me I think, so it isn’t like he’s ill-suited to talk his way out of a problem. Then we hug it out.

And back to that WWF thing. Again, not my doing, I haven’t watched wrestling since I was ten and Mean Gene Okerlund was interviewing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan.

So where? 

Our television is limited to three or four options:

Curious George-Only the nicest, sweetest monkey you’ve ever seen in your life. Nope, not here.
Cars - Considering that they don’t have fists or feet kind of limits their options,

Bob the Builder - Despite having all the tools at his disposal, is just too nice a guy to go around clubbing people.

Shrek – May be on to something here. As fun as that big burly green fella is, he does do his share of punching and kicking. But seriously, Shrek?

Where else?


Has to be school. School, Shrek, and everywhere else.  Like I said, I can’t keep him in a bubble. My wife won't let me. 

But I think the talks are working. Over the weekend I took him to the park. Another boy was there, up on the tower where there were two little telescopes. Simon climbed up and the boy said he was playing there, made a whole big fuss out of the deal. Simon simply watched him for a moment, then went about his business.

So maybe he’s just saving all the lashing out for Mom and me. Which is fine, we can take it, we can coach him on better ways to handle not getting a cookie after dinner.

He’s testing, exploring the limits. And being an all-out beast in the process. I watch him during calmer moments, wondering what sets him off. He’s taking it all in, so it’s only natural he’s going to let it all out sometimes.