January 28th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There’s this photo of me sitting on a throne. I was a year old. The throne was gaudy, golden with those opulent curves. It must have made an impression on my one year old self, because I struck a distinctly royal pose: A bit slouched with my head cocked to the side, my expression pouty, bored and condescending. I was king.
A child born in a time of peace and relative prosperity to a decent set of parents lives like a king, a queen. Royalty. As well they should. Her royal highness will eat when she wants, sleep or not sleep as she fancies. Her most excellent greatness will relieve herself where and whenever she chooses. You’ll clean up her mess and wait on her hand and foot. Dressed, bathed, burped. And if anything displeases her, you’ll hear about it. She reigns. Those first few months, the world revolves around her. You’re going to smile, and like it.
But we all know your kid can’t stay on that throne. A time comes when they must be ushered off: Learn to play with others, mind their parents. They have to learn that they’re not above the law, that their wants do not orchestrate the universe. When that time comes, when they look straight at you and cross that proverbial line to say, “What are you going to do about it Pops?” It is the father’s job to lovingly remove the kid from the throne. And a spanking expresses like nothing else, “You’re not the king. You’re not the queen.”
Really, what I’m talking about is an elementary introduction to the most valuable of all virtues, humility. It’s a father’s job to pass this great gift along to a child. And so I reasoned, if an occasional swat on the bottom is going to lead to my child’s first steps away from his/her throne, I’m prepared to administer it.
January 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Holy Read-Option Batman!
Did you see what Colin Kaepernick did to the Green Bay Packers? I know you did. Let me do the math: 181 rushing yards (NFL Record for rushing yards by a QB) = 18 fantasy pts; 2 rushing TDs = 12 pts; 263 passing yards = 10 fantasy pts; 2 passing TDs = 8 fantasy pts. -2 for an interception for a grand total of 46 fantasy pts. I went back and looked at what Kaepernick averaged since getting the starting job. A very respectable 17.8. Hmmm. Very interesting. Now guess what Russell Wilson did in his last 6? Would you have guessed 23.2? Better than Rodgers, better than Brees, touch better than Tom Fabulous. In the Divisional Championship loss to Atlanta, Wilson racked up 33 fantasy pts. Holy Read-Option Batman!
I was all set. Learned my lesson. Against better judgement reached for Vick, and was severely chastened. I was ready to change my tune about QBs. “Go the safe route. Grab one of the elite guys, and sleep better.” And then the read-option. The pistol. And I gotta tell you, I feel like that Defensive End standing there in space between the QB and the dive guy. Stuck. Frozen. “Who’s got it? Who’s got it?” Sigh I can’t do it. Believe me. I was set, ready to confess, to give an unequivocal endorsement to the elite, pro style QB. And the read-option comes along. I saw what I saw; I can’t deny it. Who can? Not going to blame anyone for taking Brady in the first round, but right now, I don’t think I’ll be doing it.
January 15th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Broken Dream …
I was at a wedding of a friend. One of the most idealistic guys I know. A guy so committed to his dreams, so uncompromising that most people don’t know what to make of him. He’s one of those guys who has a standard for … let’s say friendship for instance, that makes you backpedal calls you a friend. Not because you fear him to be co-dependent, but because you know your idea of friendship is certainly far more casual. So, no, I don’t quite get him either. Admire him, yes. Know what makes him tick, not so much.
Into his early forties, he hadn’t settled on a woman. None could quite get up there and “Ring that bell.” Toll that true sound. And then this woman comes along … well, she appears on a dating website with two boys in tow. Turns out she’s a mother of two handsome boys, gifts of a first go around for her that didn’t go as she’d hoped. She’s lovely. Kind-hearted. Joyful. Ding, Ding, Ding. My friend is smitten. Seeing stars. An elaborate proposal – like I said, this guy only goes one speed – and then a beautiful wedding. I’ve been at a few weddings, never seen a guy go so blissfully.
If years ago, you asked my friend about a dream wife, about marriage, he would not have told you the story that unfolded. I suspect “How” he meets her, “When” he meets her would deviate quite a bit from what really happened. And she’d be different too. The woman of his dreams is not the woman he married. But sure enough, he’s out there right now, living his dream. Gives new meaning to a broken dream, doesn’t it?
January 11th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
With most things, context is big. Naked, alone, before stepping into your shower? Perfectly, acceptable. In fact, anything else would be odd. Naked whilst running onto center court at Wimbledon during Federer v Nadal, third set tie break? Unacceptable. You’re likely to get tackled, thrown in a wagon, and locked up. Context. Spanking is no different. And in the case of spanking your child, the relevant context is that of your relationship with your child.
Disciplining your child by spanking must be done within the context of a loving relationship. There has to be no doubt that you love your son, your daughter. And that unshakeable belief must be that of your child, not you. It matters very little what you believe. They have to be convinced.
Now, I get that loving relationship is not a easily quantifiable term. No clear metric for it. Right. Unfortunately, with something as complex and as varied as familial relationships, we’re limited to words like “good” and “loving”. I think most of us have an intuitive sense, but here are a couple words to consider as you assess your loving relationship:
Presence. If asked, would your child describe you as a present Dad. Are you around? Does he/she see you? When you are physically there, do they see your face? Do they get your attention?
Affirming. Would your child describe you as a father who sees the good in them? Who they can tell likes them? Even taking delight in them? Do you tell them they are good, smart, beautiful?
I wrote in my last post that with spanking our kids, we were very, very careful. I believe that care begins with context. You must assess whether or not your child finds him/herself in a loving relationship. In their eyes, are you among other things a present, affirming father? Do they feel safe around you? Are they loved? If there are doubts about a loving context, I wouldn’t do it.
January 7th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I don’t remember how I ended up sitting there crying, outside that room. I was about four or five years old. I know because it was in the first home of my memory, that place I now see in “black and white”, fuzzy fragments. Sitting outside the room, drawn shut by sliding paper doors, I was approached by our Nanny. After consoling me, she ushered me to the door and slid it open. The room was dark. From his lying position on the floor, my Dad lifted to look out at us. Our Nanny explained to him how she found me sitting outside, crying. “He is sad because he thinks you’re still upset,” she explained. “I told him that you are not angry anymore, but he won’t believe me.” After mediating, she left me there staring into the room darkened by the lengthening shadows of the afternoon. He called me in, motioned for me to lay next to him, and then drew the covers over me. And I fell asleep in the warmth of his closeness.
Even as I write it, I wonder if it really happened. “It must have been a dream,” I tell myself. Spun in the heart of a child that beats for things as they ought to be. But I feel that warmth … the uncomfortably unfamiliar comfort of his closeness. Can’t feel pain in dreams. Can you feel warmth?
January 4th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We spanked our kids. All three. That’s getting harder and harder to say. Recently, my wife and I sat in a workshop related to parenting in which the presenter did not use the word spank. Not discipline, not corporal punishment. “If you want to hit your kids,” she said, ” that’s up to you. It’s not illegal.” In a not so subtle way, she drove home the point: Spanking your child is tantamount to hitting your child, to abuse. No it isn’t.
I’m not on some crusade to re-establish spanking in the “tool box” of American parenting. Not going to say that spanking is essential to good parenting. If you don’t want to spank your kid, fine. Good. If you think it’s wrong, that’s your prerogative. If you struggle with self-control, then maybe you really ought to search for an alternative method of discipline. To spank our children was a decision we made, and not one we made lightly. This like all other decisions involving our kids we made trying our best to seek their good.
First, let’s get this out of the way. Is spanking abuse? Dictionary.com defines abuse: 1. To use wrongly or improperly; to misuse. 2. To treat in a harmful, injurious, offensive way. A definition I’m comfortable with at the moment: Physical, emotional, and/or psychological harm/injury done to a child by the unbridled actions of a parent. I believe the parameters of child abuse extend far beyond what is considered criminal; I hope we’re concerned with things beyond that which is prosecutable. So, where then is the line? I would argue that the line is somewhere between instructing and venting, where there is a shift from the child’s need for discipline to the parents’ need to vent. Once the father’s shift turns to his satisfaction there will certainly be excess. Spanking will turn to hitting, kicking, and more. Not only will the child be in danger of bodily harm, he or she will experience what their father’s unbridled anger says about their worth. Spanking and abuse are two different things.
Do I think parents run the risk of abuse by spanking their child? Yes, I do. But if we’re serious about abuse, let’s call things evenly. Let’s not pick and choose, and so shroud ourselves in some selective illusion. Of course spanking your child can cross over to abuse. Do I think parents run the risk of abuse when talking to their children? Yes. As you live in relationship to one another, do you run the risk of abusing your child through the choices you make? Yes. It’s no secret that divorce has a negative affect on children, yet I hear no outcry against divorce as a form of child abuse. The point being when you became a parent, you got yourself into risky business. There are plenty of kids planted in front of a 56″ TVs with a Mountain Dew in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, hours at a time with little or no supervision, who I’d argue are getting their fair share of abuse – abuse of the numbing variety.
As we forge ahead with this risky business of fatherhood, the answer is not to avoid all risk. Too late for that. My take is, especially when handling things like discipline which carries with it a higher level of risk, you have to be very, very careful. And so when it came to spanking, we took pains with procedural integrity.