I’m apparently “That” parent

Though you probably wouldn’t know it based on a casual conversation with me, I’m very passionate about a few things in lifeSeminoles Football—my family and kids ranking at the top of a very small list.

I don’t have many people I’d call a “best friend” though I have a good number of very interesting people with whom I rub shoulders with infrequently. We can connect as often as it happens and be completely cool with the fact that neither of us have made an effort to go have a beer together, or whatever.

Outside of work, probably the one thing I do the next most of, is spend time either coaching, or watching my kids play sports. It’s a year round thing in our house—football, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, dance—you name it. So in any given year, my kids spend a substantial portion of their free time with anywhere from 5-10 different coaches, and a cadre of assistant coaches, all “carefully” selected by our local city recreational staff.

Overall, our Rec staff do a good job. I’ve coached a number of years, across a number of sports and by and large most of the coaches are just dads who want to be involved. Yes, there’s “Daddy Ball” where a few dads get together and form a “team” to dominate the league, and there’s other politics, but generally speaking, we all have good intentions.

But when you work with that many different people, problems are bound to arise. I’ve had to step in and replace a coach with a drinking problem. I’ve felt obliged to step in and speak with a coach who seemed more a drill sergeant than a teacher—and I’m still feeling the backlashes of that one. There’s also been some very expensive programs where the “volunteer” coaches just want to show up and chit chat rather than actually work with the kids.

And so it was that in one of my recent conversations with our local sports staff, I was told that I’m the most vocal parent he’s ever had—and that made me pause.

It’s true, I’ve filed my share of informal complaints, both as a concerned parent AND as a coach and maybe sometimes I should have given a particular coach a few more days before sending a “WTH?” note to Rec staff, but I also feel like it’s sort of my job, as a parent, to be vocal.

Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play sports and in our case, our kids are actually really good athletes. We’re not a family that’s just happy that uncoordinated Johnny made a team. No, we’re a family who’s trying to make sure our kids are working with coaches who have the patience and experience necessary to help them progress.

So yeah, when I see a coach working his way up through the league based solely on the fact that he’s volunteering just so his average kid can get a spot in one of the league’s top tier teams, even though that coach is a tyrant on the field who bullies parents to the point where they’re afraid of saying anything lest their child get treated poorly (and stuck in the outfield), I’m going to say something.

And yes, I’ll accept whatever blows back on me because of it, but I detest bullies—kids and adults alike—and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family.

My team may not win every championship, but nobody ever cried on my field (OK, that’s not entirely true, but it wasn’t my fault…she was just really tired and didn’t want to be at practice) and to my knowledge, no one ever left my field not wanting to play the sport any longer.

If we win some games, the kids have fun and they learn a little something along the way, that’s a “W” in my book.

Gen X – The Guilt Generation?

ImageIt seems that every generation gets a label these days. Kids in the early 20s now are called “Gen Y’ers” and they are the social media age. Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that we Gen X’ers supposedly have, though I’m really not sure where that “entitlement” label came from. Gen Y’ers are also supposed to be more driven, crave positive feedback and generally don’t feel the need to slave 50 hours a week at a meaningless job (bully for them!). Interestingly, they also seem less familial-inclined, which is a stark departure from my generation.

But even though my world revolves around my family, I struggle with the line between parent and play-buddy. On the one hand, I look back on my own childhood–one where I was generally an only child and if there was playing to be done, it was usually done alone. My parents just weren’t involved.  On the other hand, I don’t want the same for my own children, so I DO try to do things with them frequently and when you add in Career-Mom’s near-constant need to get out of the house and do something, it seems like we’re always on the go.

I struggle with this balance. For example today…we played outside with the kids for about an hour, then we took them down to the science museum. When we got home, they wanted me to ride bikes with them. Really? After everything we JUST did…?

So back to my quandry…I want to be with my kids and I don’t want them to look back on THEIR childhood–like I do mine–and feel like all their dad ever did was work around the house, but at the same time, I HAD my childhood already. Can I just enjoy my adulthood a bit? And can’t that mean that I don’t have to play with my kids and when I don’t, can I do it without guilt?

I’ll let you know how that works out. So far, I’m riddled with guilt.

Raised On Demand

There is a part of me that is both horrified, and gratified, by the knowledge that television is a big part of my kids’ lives. I honestly don’t know what my kids would do at the end of a long day without it…or what I would do without it. Image

There are days, that one or more of my children will come home from school or daycare, and pretty much watch TV from the moment we come in, through dinner, and until we put them to bed. Now granted, often that’s really only like, two hours, but still…right?

And as much as it makes me want to gag admitting this, there are many a day when I’m more than happy to relegate my parental obligations to our 46” family friend. He’s a good friend.

But I don’t know…Lord, I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid and I’m pretty OK. I get as much exercise as my schedule will allow. I don’t eschew my job, family or other responsibilities in favor of watching “my show.” So I don’t know…I guess as long as your kids aren’t lard-arses and when you do pull them away from the tube to interact with other people, they aren’t complete Asbergers, then it’s OK?

Thank the Lord for spoiled kids

I never got to wear parachute pants. Never got to feel its plasticky goodness against my skin.
I didn’t have friendship pins to give other kids to wear on their shoelaces, although I DID have a pair of those wide, neon shoelaces once that were popular in the early 80s.
Neighborhood kids didn’t play at my house because I didn’t have Star Wars action figures or any of the cool toys for that matter.

I had weeble-wobbles and a ball. That was pretty much it.

I knew that I didn’t have much, but I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have much money, or simply because my parents didn’t know how to spoil a child. Both my parents were raised in multi-sibling families and neither had much money and I suppose their parents’ spending habits transferred to them. And as it turns out, my parents’ spending habits transferred to me as well.

And that’s why I say, “Thank the Lord for spoiled kids” a-la CareerMom.

Though she might disagree, compared to me, CareerMom’s childhood could be likened to that of Richie Rich. They weren’t Ga-Jillionaires, but they had all that kid-crap that I never had. They may not have been on the cutting-edge of trends, but they at least had a stake in the game. Me…I was never even an also-ran.

Though we’re very similar in our approaches to raising children, there are areas where CareerMom and I differ, and in many cases, that’s a good thing. Take this idea of spoiling kids–if it were up to me, the kids would have what they “Need” and maybe something special every now and then. If it were up to CareerMom (and an unlimited bank account), they’d have that and so much more.

Take the latest trend, “Silly Bandz.” Have you seen them? Like everything else, they’re nothing. They’re little pieces of nothing that every other adult in the world is smacking their foreheads over and saying, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?” Basically, they’re rubber bands, colored and shaped like different things–animals, dinosaurs, space stuff, etc. And you’re not cool if you don’t have one, or 300 of them.

Obviously, these things never even showed up on my radar. I never would have known about them had CareerMom not shown them to me after having bought a pack for MLI, who has now used most of his birthday/chore money to buy several packs, which he trades with his friends at school.  CareerMom, on the other hand, uses them as rewards (some would call them “bribes”) for good behavior. Either way, it adds up to the fact that my kids are “cool” thanks to my wife.

Would I buy as many as she does? No.
Would she buy more if I didn’t look at her askance whenever she buys more? Yes.
But, we balance each other out and in truth, I’m glad that she spoils the kids a little. If nothing else, it means that in 20-30 years, neither of them will be blogging about how deprived they were!