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The Ramblings of a Grumpy Grandpa September 1, 2011

Posted by Bill in Family Values, humor, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized.
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This country is in serious trouble because there is a problem that, as far as I can tell, is NOT being addressed.   Of course, given our current situation in Washington D. C.  (the septic tank overfloweth) it’s a problem that is going to have to be solved by you and me – the people both common (you) and uncommon (me). 

And the problem is:

Mail Carriers.

Fed Ex, UPS, and USPS – all of them.  Each and every one. 

 Today I was babysitting my grandson while my daughter went to work.  Brent  (my grandson, although I do occasionally allow my wife to claim partial ownership) woke up too early and as a result was in a very grouchy, fussy, unhappy mood.  And he likes to share. 

Finally though I had him down for his first nap (he is 9 months old in case you’re wondering).  Just 5 minutes after getting him down my daughter comes home from her work.  Fortunately he slept through her coming home. 

My daughter had a client to see in three hours and since she was tired from a lack of sleep (she’s a partying type of gal and although she claims it’s the result of developing lesson planes and Brent’s midnight feedings and such she don’t fool me none).

Well since Brent was asleep in his crib in his room and my daughter was asleep in her bed in her bedroom and since I was also a bit tuckered out from the constant studying needed to maintain my A average in college I decided to lay down on the couch and get a bit of a nap myself. 

For 23 minutes that plan worked like a charm.  And then the doorbell rang.

Actually, it didn’t just ring.  It gonged.  My daughter and her husband have  the loudest doorbell I have ever been woke up by.  I will say though that it did get results.

I jumped off the couch before my eyes were even open.  My daughter comes charging out of the bedroom.  And their dog, Amelia, started barking up a storm, even louder than their doorbell and a whole lot more insistent. 

All three of us rush the door to keep whoever had rung the doorbell from ringing the dag-nabbed thing again.  And despite being atheists we were all praying that the noise had not woken Brent up.  Well, two of us were.  I think Amelia didn’t care – she was just having a good old doggy time having an excuse to bark. 

Anyway, my daughter reached the door second (Amelia was first).  She pushes Amelia aside and flings open the door to accost, browbeat, kick, hit, spit on, slap, yell at and in general make whoever was on the other side of the door miserable and forever regretful for daring to ring  her doorbell.  Opening the door she (and myself) discovered that the craven coward had fled and that no one was there. 

However there was a package.

Now, it don’t really matter which carrier delivered it cause they all do the same thing.  Put it on the porch, ring the doorbell, and then high tail it out of there. 

Let me just ask this one itty bitty question – WHY????!!!!!

I mean, if you’re not going to wait for the person to get to the door and hand it off to them then WHY ring the bell?  Do you ring the bell when you put mail in our mailbox?   Heck No!

Just leave the blasted package on the porch.  We’ll see it at some point when going in and out and without all the grief and suffering caused by ringing the doorbell and running.  I can’t begin to count the times when I have run out the bathroom pulling up my pants and trying to get the belt buckled and zipper done before I reach the door(that’s hard to do without falling down).   Only to find a package instead of a person.   Then I have to go back to the bathroom and start up where I left off.  At my age that can be kinda hard to do sometimes. 

I swear that the head of each of these three outfits must have been one of those annoying kids who think it funny to go up to a house, ring the doorbell, and then run away.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that they have all gotten together and set a date when every house in the United States of America – or heck, the world for all I know – receive a package on the same day so that all of their mail carriers can drop it off on the porches of hundreds of millions of homes, ring the doorbell, and run away.  They must be rolling around laughing inside their penthouse office suites, thinking about this doggummed, obnoxious, juvenile prank being done on a world wide scale – their fantasies writ large. 

Anyway, my daughter brought the package in.  As she did there came from the back of the house the sound we both dreaded most – Brent’s wailing.  Actually I dreaded it more than my daughter cause since I was the babysitter I was the one who got to stay up with him while she went to finish off her nap. 

Crabby and grouchy Brent from the morning was gone now.  Now I was dealing with the Very Grouchy, Upset, I Don’t Like Anything Not Even Grandpa Brent. 

Not fun.

So – since our politicians for sure aren’t going to deal with this issue I’m taking matters into my own hands.  I’m creating a sign to put over the doorbell which reads:

DO NOT RING THIS

DOORBELL

Quietly put the package on the porch, back up softly and quietly and then just plain go AWAY!

Just in case that don’t work I’m learning how to shoot a gun.  Once I get that down I’ll get me one.  And a silencer.

Dagburned mail carriers.

Postscript – Just now noticed that although I named my grandson and the dog I didn’t name my daughter.  Well, actually I did name my daughter and now that I think about it my daughter and her husband named Brent and Amelia.  What I meant though is that in this blog I provided the names of the dog and grandson but not my daughter.  But that’s OK, cause as long as you get the big stuff right the little, unimportant details can slide right on by.   Right Fritha?

The Choices We Make: Mother’s Day and College May 6, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Memories, Parenting, Personal.
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Today someone on Facebook posted about how she was ticked off about Mother’s Day and wanted childless college grads to get a day. The conversation on her comment progressed and several people criticized mothers for not being responsible and getting college degrees and merely popping out kids.

Ummmm…I’m a mother AND I have a Masters degree. I got my college education out of the way before I became a mother. For the record, the person complaining has a bachelors.

I was bothered by this for several reasons. For one it seems like some stupid extension of the working mom vs stay-at-home mom debate. This time it’s women who have kids vs women who don’t. Really folks? Really?

I have always been very outspoken in my belief that a woman can have a very fulfilling life without having a husband and without having children. I know plenty of women who have chosen this path and who are very satisfied with their lives. I would never criticize them for not having children.

So why should I get criticized for having one?

The other side of this is that it pits people with college degrees against those who don’t have them. When I was a recent college grad and was just starting out in the career world, I was very proud of my degree and disillusioned by how little it meant in the real world when you didn’t have the work experience to go with it. In my first interview out of college I was asked if I ever had to meet a deadline at work. Considering my past work had been retail experience and I didn’t have actual work experience with deadlines, I found as close of a situation to it as I could. I said that when I was in college I often had project deadlines and that if I didn’t meet them I wouldn’t pass. One of the women interviewing me was very satisfied with my response. The other snarkily said, “But no REAL work experience.”

I was a bit taken aback by the tone of her voice. And so was the other woman interviewing me. It was my first experience with the college degree vs non degree divide. Frankly, a lot of people without college degrees are very defense about it. And after working with some people who do have degrees and who lord it over those who don’t, I can see why.

The thing is, it isn’t helpful.

I worked hard in college. It was not easy. I have a learning disability and had to work hard for every grade I made. Getting a degree is an accomplishment of mine that should be recognized and lauded.

Just as the person who has worked hard at a job should be lauded. Just because s/he wasn’t working hard getting a degree doesn’t mean s/he wasn’t working hard doing something else.

I chose to wait to have children until I had all of the education I felt I needed under my belt. Other women would rather have children younger and get their education later. And others find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy and make the choice to keep the baby.

I’m not going to criticize any woman over the timing she chooses to have kids, not even the ones with unexpected pregnancies. I was fortunate enough to have the knowledge and resources to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I also went through my twenties during the backlash against the idea that parenting would be the most fulfilling and wonderful experience in a persons’ life, so I went into motherhood knowing it would be hard, back breaking work. I have adjusted to life as a mother rather smoothly and I thank my lucky stars that I could do it when I was ready.

I cannot imagine being thrown into this unprepared. And a lot of women are.

I see so many people criticize them for getting pregnant when they’re not ready. Yet I don’t see people recognizing them for doing their best to take care of their children. Nope, they’re not perfect. But then I’m not the perfect parent either. Like most people, these women are doing the best with the choices they made.

Some people choose to go to college. Others don’t. Some people choose to have kids. Others don’t. Most people work hard and try to do the right thing. With the exception of able bodied people who never move out of their parents’ house and get a job and those who abuse their kids, most people do the best they have with their lot in life.

I know a lot of people would criticize me for saying we should recognize and appreciate people for doing the right thing. We have this belief in our society that we should just do the right thing because it is right and therefore no accolades should be given. As a behavioral counselor, let me say something is very wrong with this view. People do need support and praise for doing the right thing, because doing it is so hard. And people like to feel appreciated. That’s nothing to be criticized for. It’s a basic human need.

I worked my butt off as a college student. And I got a day to celebrate my achievement. It was called Graduation Day. The thing about college is that once it is over, it’s over. I don’t see the need every year to have a day to celebrate the fact that I got a degree.

I’m working my butt off raising my son. I’m not going to say that it is harder than being a student, nor that it is easier. They simply don’t compare. Needless to say, I’m not just sitting on my ass everyday while young women everywhere else study hard to earn their degrees. I have pretty much broken my back raising this kid (well, almost. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and strained my lower back by carrying him and rocking him so much). I was a college student once, and now I’m not. I’m a mother now and I will never stop being his mother.

My college graduation day was a fairly big affair with a ceremony and a party. A once in a lifetime celebration that marked the closing of a chapter in my life. Mother’s Day will be much more simple. Some gestures of appreciation for something that will be ongoing in my life. I don’t see the harm in having it every year.

And to those who would criticize my choices, may be you should get comfortable with the ones you made in life and not focus so much on mine.

Birthday Bash! February 22, 2011

Posted by frrobins in birthday parties, Memories, Parenting, Personal.
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I’m wondering when I’ll get to the point that I wish my son were younger rather than older. Right now I can’t wait till we get to the birthday parties. Above all I am planning for a fun time. There’s a park by my house that you can host a party at for free. There are four playgrounds, one of which is a water one and a covered pavilion for picnics. Though his birthday is in November and it will be too cold for the waterpark, November in Texas means it will probably still be warm enough for the slides and swings and picnic. I’d make a cake! Or may be my mom will make it because I’m not that great of a cook. For his first birthday, it would be family mostly. May be a few friends.

I guess I don’t dream big enough. I just learned that parents are spending thousands, like $50,000, for their precious darling’s first birthday! Or $30,000 for their little princess’ 6th one! Man, am I a cheapskate!

The thing I have to wonder when I see an article like this is how many people out there are actually holding extravagant birthday parties for their kids? Are there any solid numbers? Surely in a recession plenty of parents are scaling back. How many are holding extravagant parties vs how many are holding simple ones? What’s the average amount of money spent on a child’s birthday, and then what’s the mode (refresher in statistics, extreme numbers on either side of the scale can distort the average. That’s why it’s good to ask for the mode, which is the number that appears the most often, which in some cases gives you a better picture of what is really happening)?

I’m sure that throughout time there have always been parents who have thrown extravagant and expensive birthday parties. Is the number truly increasing? It’s hard to say. But it sure makes the news!

I’m not exactly the most social person around, so may be it’s not surprise that I’ve not been to an over-the-top party. And I’m glad, even if those parties did look like fun.

Because, amazingly, the birthday parties I had growing up were fun. And most of them involved swimming in our backyard pool with friends and eating a cake my mom baked or bought from Kroger, depending on how much time she had. Sans presents, the cost of the party probably didn’t go over $50, though I never bothered to ask. I certainly never felt neglected.

And I never felt like I had something to prove. My birthday parties were similar to those of my friends. We’d hang out and eat cake and the birthday girl would open presents. There was no pressure to outperform each other, no need to make sure that the party next year was even grandeur. While I can’t speak for my friends, I could look forward each year to having fun on my special day, and my biggest worry (and this one only when I became a teenager) was that I would look fat in my bathing suit.

I keep thinking back to my wedding. I did not have an extravagant wedding and did not want one. It did not top $10,000. Yet it was the most elaborate thing I had ever thrown. And it was stressful as hell! Seriously, I recommend eloping. While some people probably thrive off the planning, stress, and small talk with people that you barely know, I don’t. And I have to wonder how many kids thrive off it as well.

At any rate, I told my son that he better not expect anything more elaborate than a birthday party at Chucky Cheese when he gets older…and we’re not even going to rent it out for our own private use. Somehow, I think he’ll be just fine.

Thoughts on Tiger Mom February 20, 2011

Posted by frrobins in Books, Parenting, Schools.
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As promised in my previous post, I am now writing my thoughts about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Like many people, I was horrified when I read an excerpt from her book titled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. Later I read another article maintaining that Chua’s book was not a how to manual but a memoir and that the article strung things together to make the book seem worse than it really was. I thought of recent events such as the unfair persecution of Shirley Sherrod when her words were deliberately taken out of context and decided to read the book for myself.

Honestly, the first article gave a pretty good overview of what you will find in the rest of the book. Yes, it was a memoir and Chua’s methods did blow up in her face, yet her conclusion seemed to be more that her draconian methods worked well for her older daughter, Sophia, but not for her younger daughter, Lulu. Then it changed to that her methods worked for Lulu, but in a round about way.

Throughout the book Chua employs abusive, torturous methods to ensure that her daughters succeed. When she sits down with three-year-old Lulu to teach her to play the piano, and Lulu acts like a typical three-year-old and bangs away at the keys, Chua throws her outside in New England in the dead of winter in the snow. The girls had to practice their instruments every day for many hours a day. Chua reported that if they were sick, they still had to practice. One girls had dental surgery and she still had to practice. Chua would be over their shoulder the whole time screaming abuse (Sophia’s lists of what Chua said when she was practicing was disheartening to read). Even on vacations, they still had to practice. For her birthday when four-year-old Lulu and seven-year-old Sophia give her homemade cards, Chua rejects the cards saying the girls put little thought into them and she expected better.

She justifies this by saying that when the girls’ grandmother died they composed beautiful speeches for her funeral because she made them give her good birthday cards. Never mind the fact that the girls were grieving and said they didn’t want to write and give a speech. And never mind the fact that Chua made 12 year-old Sophia throw out her first draft, saying it was no good, and insisted on a better one.

The litany of abuses is long. And while the book is a memoir as opposed to a how-to manual, you never get the sense that Chua regrets her methods. When Lulu completely rebels (gee, who saw that coming?) by throwing glasses in a restaurant in Moscow Chua finally backs down and lets Lulu quit the violin. Lulu decides she doesn’t want to completely quit (ie, playing thirty minutes a day instead of 5 hours) and that she wants to play tennis as well. When Lulu’s tennis instructor comments that he’s never seen anyone improve as fast as Lulu and that she knows how to drill, Chua seems to take this as proof that her methods worked in a round about way, that she taught Lulu how to work hard and that she just needed to let her have some control.

Like myself, a lot of Western readers were also uncomfortable with the contempt she had for Western parenting techniques. Though she plays lip service to the idea that anyone can be a Chinese mother and Western parent, it’s obvious that she doesn’t really feel that way. Now, I think some of it is reactive. She most likely grew up hearing people criticize her parents for how she was raised, and then as an adult met with criticism about how she raised her daughters. As a result, she criticizes the “lax” Western ways that lead to kids playing Wii all day. She really doesn’t do herself a lot of favors, though.

Especially because as she stereotypes Western parenting methods as weak and permissive, she stereotypes “Chinese” ones as strict and abusive.

I remember when I first started watching a lot of Japanese anime. I was surprised by how many focused on a character who didn’t do well in school. Used to be when I thought of Japan I thought of a place where everyone must make straight As. Turns out, like in the west, there are students who make straight A, students who make Bs, and those who fail school. There are some who drop out of school all together. Like students in the west they run the gamut, even though as a whole they test better than us. I imagine the same is true for China.

And from the studies I’ve read the higher test scores do not result from abusive parenting, but from other factors, some of which Chua does employ but doesn’t seem to pay much mind to. In the West, people’s abilities tend to be seen as fixed. When a kid does well on a test, we tell him/her that s/he is so smart. In the East, parents tend to remark that s/he worked hard studying for a test. The difference is subtle but leads to startling results when the child has a hard time with a subject.

In the West, when a child has difficultly with a subject s/he tends to assume it’s because s/he isn’t smart or that s/he is no good at the subject and gives up. In the East, s/he assumes that s/he isn’t working hard enough and puts more effort into it.

The other thing they do in the East is use preschool as a time to learn about how to be a student. In the West we tend to see preschool as a time for kids to get ahead by learning their ABCs and how to do math. The thing is, sitting and listening, developing skills, taking notes, doing homework, etc are not things that children instinctively know how to do. Like ABCs and 1, 2, 3s, they have to be taught…preferably before you get to the ABCs. Hence children in the East are given lessons on how to be a good student while in the West we throw our children into the water without teaching them how to swim.

Chua employed both of the above methods with her daughters. Which is great. And along the way she threw in a good deal of torture and abuse. Which isn’t.

And you see plenty of it with Western families. I remember riding in a car with a friend while her mother berated her for not getting As. My friend was humiliated, especially to have it happen in front of an audience. I’ve seen my fair share of Western parents employ authoritarian techniques on their children. And throughout the book I was reminded of the concept of the stage mother, a western concept.

Like plenty of Western parents, Chua believed erroneously that she could force her daughters to do anything she wanted them to do. At least Chua came to realize that she couldn’t. Most authoritarian parents never do. It’s unfortunate that she only came to this realization after spending seventeen years of Sophia’s life and thirteen years of Lulu’s utilizing harsh, draconian techniques.