Monday, June 18, 2018

Even the "World's Greatest Boss" makes mistakes

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  It was a good one.  My girls got me a Star Wars Bobble Head, a desktop air-hockey game and a placard that says “World's Greatest Boss” despite my being the boss of nothing and no one.  I started my day with a nice run and went and got some bagels.  I won a free coffee at the bagel shop for answering their trivia question.  It was shaping up to be a great day.  I had an early dinner with some family and finished the day with a Ferris wheel project with Avery and Macy.   I spent my day feeling loved and appreciated.  Not that that is unusual, but it was magnified and wonderful.  

But I’m never one just to appreciate a happy moment.  Of course, it has to be analyzed to death. 

First of all, I am now at an age that a really nice sprinkler is a boffo gift.  Chris from 1996 would be embarrassed for me.  Chris of today thought it was great.  Thanks darlin’.

But the bigger picture came from a couple of sources.  I thought about the fathers that I knew and what made them special.  The first was talking to my father-in-law.  I called him to with him a happy Father’s Day and we talked for a few minutes.  We are cut from different cloth, but I admire him and enjoy the time we get to spend together.  He’s fun and a great grandpa to my kids but that isn’t what I admire the most.  I truly admire his willingness to take a risk.  It is something that I am never comfortable with and to watch the seemingly effortless abandon he takes risks with is inspired.  That is not to say it’s done willy-nilly.  He was a fire chief for decades, but he also appreciates that you only live once and the value of doing what makes you happy.  He is a guy that at one point was better at sinking that swimming but decided he wanted to try scuba diving, so he began taking swimming lessons at fifty-ish years old.  I’ve seen him work in Belize, transport RVs and now oversees a private fishing ranch.  None of this would have been possible for him if he was content sitting on his laurels.  His influence is obvious in my wife who occasionally needs a talking down from major career and life changes.  

Without Poppy’s influence I wouldn’t be a competent fisherman, I wouldn’t have been a wildland firefighter, I wouldn’t have helped rebuild a turn of the century cabin, been scuba diving and the list goes on and on.  

Later in the day I got a text from my brother.  He said, in a rare moment of sincerity, that we have both done a good job as dads.  We are also cut from different cloth but I admire him and miss him as he lives halfway across the country.  In my younger days there probably wasn’t anyone I learned more from than Steve.  I followed him around in person and mimicked his habits when he wasn’t around.  I played baseball less out of a passion for it and more out of a desire to impress him.  He is funny and compassionate, and I enjoy whenever we get to see each other.  What I admire most, however, is his follow through.  See, the golden boy is a doctor and a lawyer, making it impossible for myself or my sister to register on the “favorite child” radar for the better part of the last twenty years.  Thanks for that, Steve.  But that follow-through is evident in all areas of Steve’s life, but no where more transparently than his kids.  He is a great dad who has a pair of kids who look up to him completely.  

Like most little brothers I spent most of my life trying to compete with my older brother but when it comes to parenting, I simply took notes.  Side note, I am a much better golfer than Steve and he would be lying through his teeth if he said otherwise.

This morning all of this got me thinking about my own father.  In my youth, we didn’t always see eye to eye.  You see, more than my father-in-law or my brother, my father and I were truly cut from different cloth.  It wasn’t until we were both older that we got on the same proverbial page but in my teens and twenties we had some problems.  Most of it stemmed from expectations and I suppose, being from different upbringings in different times.  My dad grew up in a time where a person was valued by their work and ability to provide for their family.  I grew up, for the most part, around my mother, who preached creativity and doing what makes you happy.  I took that ball and ran with it, all the way to an English degree, which is every bit as useful as a degree in a language you already speak can be.   We butted heads about it for a long time.  There were other things as well, but I guess this is probably the overriding issue.  

As we both got older, I think I better understood where he was coming from.  He had struggled and didn’t want the same for me.  One of my favorite conversations I ever had with him was after he had gotten sick. We were sitting enjoying a beer that I’m sure his doctor would have disapproved of.  It was a conversation about our shortcomings.  He said to me that he wished he had been the type of father that I was.  He liked that my brother and I were as involved with our kids lives as we were.  He said that he envied our generation and how expectations had shifted for dads.  I told him that I would have been better served being a little more like him.  The aforementioned English degree is tits-on-a-bull useful and I wish that I had heeded his advice earlier.  

I suppose if I had to say what I admired most about him was his willingness to change.  He was much better at it than I am.  Sure, I butted heads with him, but he went on to parent a step-brother and a step-sister of mine and became much more invested.  He became more invested with my siblings and me as well.  I think back about the times that weren’t as great and think of all the time we lost being stubborn.  I learned a lot from him, but I should have learned a lot more.  I miss him and days like yesterday drive that point home.  

The point here ladies?  Give your old man a break.  He’s doing the best he can.  There isn’t a road map to being a great parent and more often than not I am flying by the seat of my pants.  Know this, I am never making decisions for you just to make life difficult.  If we don’t see eye to eye, I’m not going to back down just to make you happy.  It’s more important that I make you better.  I like being your dad, I like being your friend and the best times are when I can be both. That being said, sometimes I just have to be dad.  So, Macy, no, you can’t see the movie ‘It’ and Darby, screen time must be cut to 12 hours a day.  Seems like I’m the bad guy, right?  Maybe, but maybe you’ll get it later. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

“The school is in lockdown…this is not a drill”

I don't usually post these things so close to each other but something significant happened on the last day of school.  Avery got out early as she graduated to middle school but Macy and Darby still had a few more hours after her.  I went to pick them up after dropping Avery off at a graduation party. 


A funny thing happened on the last day of school at Traut Core Knowledge.  Not “Ha-Ha” funny, more like strange, pant soiling funny. 
I’ll explain.

It was the end of the day on the last day of the school year.  I was waiting outside my daughter’s first grade classroom when I heard an announcement over the loud speaker of the school next door.  The announcement was…

“The school is in lockdown…this is not a drill”

The school in question is a few hundred yards from my kid’s school.  The announcement was very clear, and it was followed shortly by a large police presence.  All of this took place in the course of 30 seconds or so.  

I try to be as honest as possible when I am writing these things, so I will say this, I was at a mental crossroads between alerting the schools administrators or grabbing my kids and getting the hell out of there.  

I’m somewhat proud to say that I went with the greater good.  I went inside to tell the principal.  She hadn’t heard anything yet and called the superintendent.  In that incredibly short period of time, our school parking lot had been inundated with police vehicles and everyone was moved inside.  

My kids’ school was in lockdown.

I went into my youngest’s classroom and the door was locked behind me.  The curtains were closed and the window that looked into the hallway was covered.  The first thing I noticed is that a bunch of the first graders knew exactly what this meant and that many of them didn’t.  

My daughter was among the oblivious one’s and she was distracted by a puppy that was trapped in the room as a part of the lockdown. The ones that weren’t sidetracked by the puppy or the movie that the teacher started tried to peek through the windows.  The first-grade teacher put me in charge of blocking the windows and the door from little eyes.  

My daughter was oblivious and come to find out, I was expendable.  We make a hell of a pair.  

I sat there, for twenty minutes or so, not knowing what was going on at the other school, not particularly afraid of what was going on here, wishing I could check on my other kid who was right down the hall, and feeling the weight of my kids going through a school lockdown.  

I’m not going to pretend I was scared for me or my kids, but I hated that they were going through it.  I hate that it is part of the vernacular and the routine.  I was happy that Traut responded as quickly and as professionally as they did but I hate that we have come to this.  

I suppose every generation has this sort of fear.  For mine it was the Soviet Union being able to reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead in twelve minutes.  I remember us discussing what we would do with that twelve minutes.  I believe, being ten years old, it revolved around playing video games till the bitter end.  To be honest, it wasn’t real back then.  It was more ethereal, like winning the lottery but much crappier.  The school being in lockdown felt more real than hiding under a desk to protect you from a bomb that was never coming.  

The lesson here girls?  Not such an easy one.  While the lockdown was precautionary, it was real.  Most of the time in these posts, I try to sum everything up with an answer, but here, I don’t have one.  I feel like a lot of parents are like me, we are walking into a new wilderness with no idea what to expect.  The far fringe is telling us that the answer is taking everyone’s second amendment away or turning our teachers into scholarly Rambos.  Both angles are equally stupid, sorry for the soapbox moment but here goes.  The fact is, there are sick people out there, there are bullied kids looking to settle scores, there are outsiders looking to make a mark and, like it or not, there are too many guns available to them.  

I think its part of a new American phenomenon, the fringe is so entrenched in their own perspective they are unable to think logically, sympathetically or even consider what the other side is going through. 

I think it’s about fear.  One side has fears and therefore needs to arm themselves against whatever it is that scares them, the other side has fears that say they will be a lot safer if no one is armed.  The very idea of the other side winning means further entrenching one’s own fears.  I see this in my own home.  I am extraordinarily uncomfortable around guns.  I have had them pointed at me three times in my life, twice in anger by strangers and once by a friend who mistakenly claimed it wasn’t loaded.  He was trying and failing to prove a point about gun safety. It turns out, I don't care if it's friend or foe that points a gun at me, I don't like it. My wife comes from a family and a culture that embraces guns, has fed themselves with guns and sees them as a necessity.  I don’t have the need to see her position as wrong to further solidify mine and she understands that in the event of a burglary, if she wants someone filled with fast moving projectiles instead of being chased out with a nine-iron, she will be the one pulling the trigger.  

So, long story less long, girls, I don’t have an answer, but it’s because it’s the wrong question.  The question isn’t ‘why do we have lockdowns?’ its more about how come none of us can see anyone else’s point of view anymore.  I guess I’ll start.  

Hello, gun positive person.  I understand that you are afraid that people like me might be out to take your guns.  We aren’t, for the most part, but the loudest of us sure make you feel like we are.  Some of us may even want to modify what you can own.  I think we should give them a voice and discuss it.   Maybe they have some good points, maybe they don’t.  In return, please understand that while guns make you feel safer, they can scare the scat out of some of us.  I get it, guns don’t kill people, people do.  I feel like we try to be too polite.  We aren’t afraid of just the guns, we are afraid of the gun owners AND their guns.  So, when it gets proposed to put guns in schools, it scares us more.  You see, our kids are in there.  A teacher with a gun makes you feel better and makes us feel worse.  You hear “gun free zone” and you get nervous and we breathe a sigh of relief.  

That’s’ the problem with siding with the extremes, there isn’t any middle ground.  My oldest daughter starts a school next year that has an armed police officer in it.  Perfect.  Not an armed teacher or lunch lady or janitor or guard.  A bona fide active police officer.  Seems logical. To the right, it’s arming the school and to the left it’s someone who has gone through a quantifiable amount of training before carrying a gun around children.  Seems like a reasonable solution, like one both sides could rally around.  I can’t wait to hear from both sides how dumb I am.