The link is to a little basketball trick shot video my son made last afternoon in our driveway, with his Nexxus tablet. It’s cool and with some pretty incredible shots!
24 A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them.
– Proverbs 13:24 (The Message version)
Or the version that most are more familiar with
24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
– Proverbs 13:24 (New International version)
Miriam and I come from similar yet very different family backgrounds, similar faith, different perspectives.
I am the oldest of three boys, raised in a traditional Illinois small town environment with a stay at home mother and father who worked a nine to five job. Both parents disciplined me with spanking as an option from an early age, my dad’s belt often the method used. Neither parent shied from discipline, largely out of necessity as I and my brother were active boys. We learned early to respect that my parents stood together, were fair, but were not afraid to be tough.
Dad reminded me recently
You were raised with the rule (as was I) – “if you get a spanking at school, you get another one when you get home” – REMEMBER?? I know because I did get another spanking at home in the first grade.
Oh yeah, I remember. I remember hiding in my bedroom closet one time when I was very young, maybe six or so. Mom was fed up with my picking on Mark, my younger brother, and spanked me with a thin wood paddle. I laughed. She swatted me harder, enough that the paddle broke. I laughed some more. And I picked on my brother some more, so the punishment was upgraded to a spanking by dad’s thick black leather belt, to be administered when dad got home from work. I was terrified of that belt, enough that the back of my hands often were sore from trying to block the blows, blows that did not count if belt did not meet butt cheek. Looking back on it now, the punishment of that belt was 99% terror, 1% pain, although a spanking from dad always hurt more than one from mom.
I did learn to respect the discipline my parents gave to me, the fairness and the definite love, at an early age. Even when I reached my teen years and tried to resist that discipline. The discipline I received was not always physical, but always purposeful, given to me more often than not with plenty of forethought. Oh, my parents each made mistakes, but I also learned from the mistakes they made, including what it means to forgive them and see them for the human beings that they are.
Miriam is the youngest daughter of seven, born in Lisbon to Baptist missionaries. Her father was consumed with his job (still is even now), travelled a great deal. He told me recently that he left a lot of the parental duties up to his wife and Mir’s sisters. Mir’s mother was 46 years old when Mir was born. She can tell me of only one time she was disciplined, that being a slap across the face when she mouthed off to her father. From what I gather, Mir’s mother did not discipline her. She was more of a friend. Discipline was more of a negotiation than anything else. In a household full of girls and no boys, that was likely good enough. I can see that in the approach Mir has had with our children.
Her approach has been adequate for our sixteen year old daughter. But not so much for our now thirteen year old son. There has never been hard discipline in our household, largely due to the style my wife has asked me to agree to. I have. And we now have a teenager who does not respond to any kind of punishment well and does not respect any kind of attempt at discipline. It has never been required of him.
It doesn’t help that Mir and I have rarely been on the same page, something our son has been able to take advantage of. He did until last night.
Mir is a bit fed up with the teenage attitude. I have decided to take a softer line. When Mir and Nate butted heads last night, she came to me, frustrated, with a stiff upper lip tight with frustration.
“What should we do, Steve?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Tell me what you think.”
So I did. The issue was homework, a failing grade in math that our son refuses to do anything about. Mir tried to get him to complete several math assignments but got nothing but attitude. My suggestion was to take away his main source of distraction, his video game system, until the assignments were complete, and do it together. Further resistance and a lack of improvement on the grade would mean I would contact his basketball coach to “suspend” Nate for one game.. something he would not be able to control.
Mir and I approached Nate together. He refused to cooperate, so I took away the game system. My wife had to tackle our 5’9″ 180 pound boy and hold him down while I took it away. When he followed me downstairs, then attacked me while I sat on the couch, trying to punch my surgically repaired foot, she tackled him again while I held him still in a choke hold. For ten minutes until our son agreed he would not try to harm me or any of my things.
And he couldn’t stand it that Mir and I were united. Oh, he targeted me but it was both of us this time that his anger was directed at. But it is going to take a while for the boy to learn to accept our discipline. Instead of studying last night, he spent three hours begging me to return his video game system and looking for it. So I made another proposal to him.
Accept the discipline, a rather easy punishment by any standard, and do your homework. If you don’t, I will call your basketball coach and advise him that you will not be at any games until your math grade improves.
And that is now what my son is afraid will happen. It may. We are giving him until Wednesday, when we will check his school work online for improvement. He knows what will happen. He knows that his mother is with me on this one, as I am with her.
I guess that is what it takes, no matter what parenting style each of us has brought into our marriage. We are learning. It took a while. Stay together. Never allow division with your partner.
Here is another quote from my dad, who I can now share a lot of things with (with some caution), what he said when I told him about last night – “You know, FAILURE should mean NO SPORTS, too. I can remember having to get sign-offs from ALL my teachers weekly to be able to play basketball, etc. I know you did, too.”
Why does my dad seem so right now? He may be a little on the harsh side, but he’s right.
I wonder what I will be telling my kids years from now when they are wondering how to discipline their kids.. or deal with the differences they have with their spouse!
Ugh. Me dad. Me dad with beard stubble. Me dad wondering if that stink is me. Ugh.
I’m the master of my house. The head cheese. Da king. In every room except for one.
I have a sixteen year old daughter. Oh, she doesn’t pay the mortgage, but she sure thinks she owns the bathroom.
Our house has one full bath upstairs and a powder room (i.e. toilet and sink in a room the size of a phone booth) downstairs. Somehow my daughter manages to occupy both simultaneously. For at least an hour.
She has the room wired. I swear she does. I tiptoe down the hall in the morning, doing my best to make it into the bathroom undetected. If I can JUST GET INTO THE SHOWER, then I’m safe. But I never make it. My hand is inches aware from the shower faucet handle and…
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“DAD, GET OUT. I NEED THE SHOWER NOW!!!!!!”
My defense is the only thing I can think of. I jump in the shower and yell “Give me two minutes!”. I skip shaving. I skip any true bathing. I get damp, hope the soap gets to the right places, and get out as fast as possible. If I don’t rush, then both women in my house gang up on me. Oftentimes, the thirteen year old boy joins in outside the door just for the fun of it.
Really the only time I can claim ownership of either bath is when the throne has been occupied and the aroma is overwhelming. I often wonder if dads possess powerful poop smells as a means of at least getting some control over the facilities. I do my best. The green fog creeping under the bathroom door fends off an attacking daughter for at least five minutes.
When summer comes, I am going to resort to using the garden house in the backyard. The neighbors are going to love me.
I felt like taking off his glasses and rearranging his smug nostrils. The whole time he talked with Miriam and I tonight, I found myself thinking “You actually get paid for this?” and “Really? It took you seven sessions with my son to figure out that out?”. Give me your glasses. POW!
Yeah, he has problems with me. He’s a freaking thirteen year old boy. He is going to test his limits. I am going to yell at him now and then. The kid does need to hear that I like what he does and that I like him. Duh. Touch him now and then. Sure. Duh. Duh. Duh. SLUG!!!!
Oh, he doesn’t really tell you much and acts like he doesn’t want to be talking to you? That is because his mother is making him go to therapy. It makes him feel like he is crazy. He told ME that. He hates school. Yeah. A lot of boys do. He told me that too. I should do things with my son? Sports isn’t enough? Hand me your glasses again, please. KABLOOEY!!!
Seven sessions with my son, two with my wife, and you still don’t want to sit down with me to get some ideas from me. You lazy so and so. In seven sessions you haven’t even scratched the surface with this kid.
His mother lets him stay up too late. What kid can function in school when he stays up past midnight every night?
The boy can’t fart in school without his mother knowing about it. If a teacher fails to smell it, she sends the teacher an email about it. And how many times a day is she online checking his grades, then asking his teachers about it? Daily. No exaggeration.
She hounds him. She feeds him crap. She hovers over him. If he goes to a friend’s house to play, she calls him every freaking fifteen minute, then goes over to check on him if he doesn’t answer his phone.
Oh, but mister counselor with a degree, the boy’s real problem is his father.
Leave your glasses on for this one. Good night.
I have to come back and revisit this blog, a rant I had to let loose last night before attempting sleep. It worked. I slept very well.
There is a dilemma in those words up there, a struggle to accept and understand the instruction that counselor tried to give to me last night. If I don’t at least try to understand, then I may be doing myself a disservice. I asked questions during the course of the session, requested clarification.
“What do you mean when you say to address his disrespect with respect? Can you be more specific? Can you tell me why you are saying that?”
I wanted to ask what my son has told him that makes the counselor want to address only me. Yes, my son is angry with me. I know that and I often wonder how much that anger fits in with a normal thirteen year old boy to his father. How much of that ties to how much disrespect his mother has allowed him to direct at me, that she even has encouraged? I didn’t ask questions like that. I wanted to listen and fight off the defensiveness that I wanted to put up to protect myself.
The counselor did not like being questioned. He wanted to speak in generalities, wanted to do all of the talking. This was the first time he met me, yet he did not really want to know anything from me. When I offered input, he simply paused and went on from where he left off, as if what I said was an interruption that deserved no attention. I found that strange for a counselor to do that. He has talked to my son seven times, my wife at least two times that I know of, me no times.
He made a lot of assumptions about me. I have been portrayed, apparently, as distant and not involved with my family. Really? That is the farthest thing from the truth, so preposterous that it truly is insulting. And the counselor wanted to simply give advice, wanted to go with that assumption without finding out how true that is. There are so many dynamics to my family and to my relationship with my son that the counselor simply ignored. That he wanted to give advice without talking with me first and do it in front of my wife tells me all I need to know — he’s trying to please my wife, validate her, instead of really tackling the issues.
This does not help my view of counselors. I am skeptical to begin with, especially when it involves my son. Nate is really a normal boy for the most part and I get the feeling that going to counseling, because it makes him feel like he is crazy, has been more of a detriment than a positive. The counseling really has been more for his mother, who seems to me unable to understand males as a whole, so she feels like counseling is going to help her little male fit into her own little comfortable box.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am right. Life is full of that personal debate.
I have always held in high regards the people I know who are willing to push their limits, take themselves to one level and continue on. Over the years of cycling I have known a lot of riders who seem to have a genetic ability to focus in a way that sets them apart, with a superhuman constitution or at least a switch in their brain that says ‘no’ to the signals their body is sending them, a Lance Armstrong focus without the doping. I admire the fearless way they approach the challenges any ride presents. No obstacle stops them whether it is a steep climb, a scary descent, a jump on a trail, or simply fried legs.
No fear. Total commitment.
Scott is one of those fearless types. I have been riding road with him for several years, enough to see him ride brakeless descents that I almost always white knuckle so much that I melt brake pads. When we ride an event that requires a lot of climbing, I usually pass Scott on the climbs and flat sections, but Scott zooms by me on the screaming downhill sections. I marvel not only at his skill as Scott zooms deftly by but at the lack of fear he has. When I ask him about it, he says that his experience as a flat track motorcycle racer cured him of any fear he had of riding two wheels at speed. Flat track racing meant laying a heavy machine practically flat into a curve, with the rider’s knee skimming or nearly skimming the ground, at speeds exceeding 150 mph. His attitude when describing it was so matter of fact that I had no doubt that he barely thought about the danger of it all when descending a curvy road at speeds close to fifty mph. I am so afraid for my life that I nearly wet myself if my fingers leave the brakes. Scott craves the rush.
John and Jeff each like riding at the front of the pack, so much that they train for the endurance it takes to be there. Each of them has a tolerance to pain that I find difficult to understand. On a long group ride, I find myself wincing when one or both of them takes the front. I know I am about to have my “legs torn off”. The pace is going to raise to excrutiating, gut wrenching torture, such that requires one to reach down deep to keep from being dropped. One let down and I am watching the back of the pack move quickly away. I recognize the commitment, the total disregard for pain, the discipline required to be that type of rider. To ride like that, you have to be willing to push yourself to a place you have never been, then build on that experience until you know the pain can be overcome. You know longer fear the pain, you welcome it.
When I look at those three friends, I see three people who know what it means to be all in. Committed.
They are familiar with their fears enough that fear has found a place in their success.
Overcoming fear involves taking a leap into what might cause pain. The experience teaches. Each victory builds until what once seemed impossible is behind, new challenges taking their place. I discovered that when my interest in mountain biking was renewed last Fall and I found myself following my friends Jim and Jon over obstacles that years ago would have stopped me. Fear on a mountain bike is a real enemy, one that can injure and make the obstacles more difficult. If you don’t go all in on a steep descent, you likely are going to get hurt.
All I have said up to this point seems to point to a blog about commitment, about living without fear, taking the leap of faith. You want to know what I really think?
A line of crap.
Vaginae. (not really, but I just learned that term and wanted to use it in a blog)
I am hear to preach the benefits of living a lukewarm life. “All in” middle class. There is a lot to be said about knowing where you are and being happy about it, even accepting it.
* Look at that bit of belly and smile at the tasty burritos, beer, and chocolate that made it happen.
* Ride a dirt path through the woods and take the easy way around the tough stuff, happy in the peaceful exercise you are getting.
* Take the front on a group ride, ride full out as long as you can in the hopes that the guys behind you have had a chance to hurt, then drop back the rest of the ride, happy that the guys who have been busting their butt at four A.M. each day to be top dogs are now getting their due.
* Pick up Scott from the ditch at the bottom of the descent after his over confidence caused him to overshoot the curve.
I’m not saying that one should never put out the effort to be the best one can be. Not at all. Go for it if that is what you want to be about.
Never ever look down your nose at me if that is not what I am about. I am not going to buy your performance enhancing product (thank you, Lance Armstrong, for adding the exclamation point to that one), not going to buy a fancy bicycle or accessories, not going to attend your boot camps, not going to work 60 hours every week and come in every Saturday. My family is more important to me than that. I have had my share of success, enough to bore my grandkids for hours when I have grandkids. Success to me does not require bragging rights. I’m not a park district give-them-a-trophy-for-blowing-their-nose type, but I am a guy who likes to have a life. The type of commitment that involves
requires a focus that I am going to leave to the professionals who have just that one thing.
That is not bad.
Unless you tell someone that unless they go ALL IN, then they are lacking true faith.
That is what the church I go to is doing right now. The leaders of this church have launched a campaign they call “All In”. It’s a campaign to raise twelve million dollars so that they can accomplish the task of bringing people back to God. I call it
Because that is what it is. It is flat out propaganda designed to entice people to step out of their financial comfort zone, a fine idea of sorts if it is properly motivated, but telling people to test their faith by making insane pledges they should not be making is not the way to do it. Why do I say that?
Because really this is a staff of ministers wanting to feel successful, to puff out their chests and be recognized for doing something big. I know the guy behind this and I do not like it. He recognizes and kisses up to the powerful, ignores the guys who can’t give him what he needs, which is their money.
How do I know that? I needed help a year or so ago, needed to talk to our church pastor about the struggles I was having in my marriage. Just an hour with someone to sort out my thoughts. The pastor would not talk to me. After several days of my asking to meet with him, he said really I would have to pay to go to a counselor instead. He said he would pray for me, pushed me away, never checked on me again. A few weeks later, he boasted in a sermon about how he is there for people who need him, especially when God tells him someone is in need. Guess God told him I’m a paycheck to paycheck guy.
Honestly, I am all in. Just not that kind of all in.
I was. When the church started some 25 years ago, it grew from the sweat and tears of people like me who worked hard, gave up the majority of their free time, so that church could become the success it is today. It’s a church of many thousands, spread over 15 different locations now, started from one tiny group of all in, committed Christians. I was one of them.
Guess that’s not enough.
I wrote a letter to that pastor today, asked him to think about one question as this campaign for millions of dollars progresses, as he asks people to step out in faith to give money they have no idea where it is going to come from — does God say no to someone who wants to be blessed to give? I say he does. I say that is what God has done with me and my family. And I am perfectly OK with that.
Nick is one of the most beautiful animals I have ever had the pleasure of owning, with a gorgeous white/gray/black/tan coat and bicolored brown/blue eyes that carry the peaceful grace of unconditional love, a sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) through and through. His world revolves around his family and tennis balls, the true focus of his existence. A cuddle and a fetch really is all Nick requires.
Oh, and maybe the remnants of my dinner plate, which Nick patiently waits for me to place in front of him and give permission for him to clean up.
Man’s best friend really does describe my dog. Nick is.
He’s also my most foul friend. Green fumes rise from his mouth. There are times when the stench is overwhelming, a putrid filth that curls my nose hairs and almost causes me to faint. It’s bad. I don’t like to push my best friend away, but there are times when I just have to. Nick’s breed is susceptible to bad teeth and gums due to several factors, all that have to do with their long snout and not being a breed that chews, thus cleaning their teeth naturally. A professional cleaning is costly, around $200 for the vet to do it because the dog has to be put out for the procedure. We can afford that about once a year (maybe). Nick was not cared for well by his previous owners, including his teeth, so he also is not accustomed to anyone brushing his teeth. If I try to brush his teeth, Nick and I go from being best friends to worst enemies.
One of the local pet supply retailers had a seminar yesterday afternoon to teach customers how to properly clean their dog’s teeth, one of those ploys to sell oral hygiene products. I decided it was worth the risk. Included in the seminar was a coupon for a teeth brushing at the store. Bonus. You can try to sell me something, but even better if there is a chance I will be able to look Nick in the face again.
Only Nick and I showed up. Not only that, but the store’s employees were not even aware of the seminar even though it was posted at the entrance. I took Nick back to the grooming salon, asked about it, and a blushing woman behind the counter apologized, offering to show me the method she uses in the salon and for free. Bonus again. Free goes a long way in my book.
Nick was not sure he wanted to be on board with the whole thing, but being the polite dog that he is, he relented as the groomer swept him up in her arms and plopped him on the grooming table. I’m not sure why Nick let her pick him up like that. Most people suck up to him, tell him how handsome he is, maybe try to give him a treat (which he usually rejects), and talk to him like a little baby. She didn’t do any of that, instead just sliding her left forearm under his chin and the other under his fluffy butt. I watched as he stood up on the table, the little dog leash clicked in place on his collar, with a “hey Dad, I am not so sure about this” look in his eyes. Then he began to shiver.
I felt the tears start to well up in my eyes, which felt strange since I don’t think even watching my kids get their first shots inspired that much emotion out of me.
“You want to come around and help me with this? This really is a two person job.”
So I held Nick around the head and under the chin while the groomer showed me how to pull back his lip, spread the foam and gel on his teeth, and gently brush his teeth and gums. The groomer deftly shot another type of foam over his tongue and teeth. The job was done, quick as could be. She showed me another product, an additive to Nick’s water dish, told me where to get it, and my still shaking animal cowered next to me after being let loose from the grooming table restraint.
“That wasn’t so bad was it little buddy?” The woman saved her sucking up to him for after the job was done. Nick licked her in the face, let her hug him around the neck, turned around and pushed his fluffy butt into her to beg a butt rub. She won him over. I turned my butt to her for the same treatment, with no success. Too bad. She was a cute blue eyed freckled brunette.
I did give in to buying some of that water additive. Nick’s breath does seem minty fresh now.
Ah, yes, love is in the air. Smell it?
Oh, sorry. My bad.
At work, it is fun to see the gifts being delivered to many of the women in the office and factory. One woman who works in our assembly department walked by me today carrying roses and a balloon. She doesn’t speak English well, but she always has a troublemaker grin, even more so when I asked her “OK, which boyfriend sent you the balloons and which sent you the roses?”. I almost wondered if it was true!
The woman to desks down not only received a dozen red roses and chocolate, but her husband brought them with him along with their eight month old daughter at lunch. Another received a stuffed frog with roses. Even I got a big Hershey’s chocolate kiss from two friends.
I can’t participate in the retail contribution for this holiday. Thanks to some major “oops”, we overdrafted our checking account this week. Luckily, I have that Hershey’s kiss…. (shhhhh, don’t tell). I wrote a little note to Mir and will give it to her tonight. I am hoping it’s the thought that counts.
Think that will fly?
Probably not. Maybe it will. She knows the situation. That goes with the marriage territory, right? At this point in the game, if I try too hard, she is going to think I have a girlfriend.
I don’t have the energy or will for that.
One of the biggest joys I am having is watching the excitement that surrounds my sixteen year old daughter right now. Yes, I have been married for twenty years and I have seen first hand the effort my wife has gone through to make Valentines special. We were engaged during Valentines weekend, so at one time we both really got into the gifts and celebration. My wife is not all that into it now, though, not like my daughter.
A single girl, especially a teenage single girl, approaches this holiday a whole lot differently than she will after twenty years of marriage. I’m pretty sure she has been plotting for this day since well before Christmas. In January, Alyssa showed me ideas she was exploring on Pinterest and other websites, asked me for advice on what she should say on the huge card she was making. That card is indeed enormous, as large as a record album sleeve (records are really big CDs, for those who do not know), and several pages long. It is detailed, with scratch off hearts, little envelopes attached with pictures from different significant outings they have had, a poem, little notes of sentiment. She bought him a tshirt and giftcard with the little money she makes teaching flute lessons. Her clothing choice has been in a state of flux, agonized over for the past few weeks. Matt is taking Alyssa out tonight. I am hoping it will be a night of magic for her.
The guy had best pass this test. I’m pulling for him. I know how tough this one is going to be. He screws up, doesn’t react quite right, he is in big trouble. Been there. There is one thing helping him, though. Alyssa’s previous boyfriend was a total blockhead when it came to anything remotely requiring sensitivity. The bar is not quite as high as it could be. And to give her current boyfriend credit, he seems to handle the romantic requirements very well. I think he will pass. I like the kid. I’m pulling for him.
Me? All I want is my box of Junior Mints. Mir knows that is the way to my heart.