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Archive for March, 2011

So, I normally don’t do parenting blogs so close together, but the situation warrants it.  Oh, and for those that are keeping track, I still owe you a near-death-experience blog.  Don’t worry, I will get to it, and once you read it, you will wonder why you cared.

On a daily basis, I ask my son how is day went.  If you have kids, and more specifically, if you have sons, you know what the answer is 99 times out of 100.  He always responds, “Fine.”  Even when I attempt to follow-up with more specific questions, the gist of his responses are generally somewhere within the “Fine” category.  So, a couple of days ago, after trying my usual follow-up questions, such as, “Did anything exciting happen today?” or “What was your favorite part of class?” or, my favorite, “Who did you play with/talk to at recess?”, but after getting the same old recycled answers, I tried something different.  I asked him, “Did anything bad happen today?”

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, that is an odd question to ask an 11 year-old boy.”  Especially when there is no reason to think that anything bad would happen to a kid in 5th grade.  But, you don’t know my son.  My son is the king of “Everything is all right.”  I think this is a great trait to have in most situations, except for when things are not all right.  I blame myself for this, as I am not one to complain.  I hate complaining as a matter of fact, and hate it more when other people complain.  The problem with this is that everyone, even me, needs opportunities to share the negative aspects of their life with someone.  As a matter of fact, if you have no one to share these parts of your life with, you will have major emotional problems.  In other words, you can’t bottle shit up.  It’s just not healthy.  Now, I know what you are saying, what about my issues with emotional people?  The truth is, it’s not emotions I have a problem with, it is the reactions/choices people make in response to their emotions that I question.   It is OK to be angry, it is not OK to take a crowbar to someone’s car window because they cut you off a mile back.  It should be OK, but it is not. 

Well, what about my son?  It turns out, the question, “Did anything bad happen today?” elicits a rather thought out, lengthy response.  The first time I asked him this question was two days after he wore his fedora to school.  Apparently some boys asked to wear it, and they had to be compelled by teachers to give it back.  My son’s version of this was quite positive.  He contended that they were going to give it back, and it was not a big deal.  But, it doesn’t take much to read between the lines.  Afterwards, I asked him, if he liked wearing the hat.  He said, “Yes.”

“Then don’t worry about what other people think or do.  And you need to know that it is OK to protect yourself.  Besides, you look great in that hat.”  I said.

We continued to talk about how he did not have to let others wear his hat if he didn’t want to, and it was OK for him to demand for his stuff back when the situation warranted.  It was a good conversation.

I also asked this question of him today, hence the inspiration for this blog.  It turns out that while playing volleyball in gym, there was a kid that was yelling at other kids for not hitting the ball correctly.  He apparently was yelling, “Watch the ball!” 

Brett did not like this.  I asked Brett if the kid yelled at him, and he said “Not so much.” 

“What did you do?” I asked. 

“I told him to be quiet.  He didn’t need to say so much.” Brett said.  

I said, “Good for you.”

The last couple of days have got me thinking about questions, and the role of the speaker and the listener.  I remember reading a book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell as he discuss how Korean culture was the likely culprit for a series of airplane crashes.  You see, Gladwell made the argument that in the Korean culture, subordinates are not to challenge or speak up assertively to their superiors.  So, as he argued, when Korean co-pilots had information vital to the security of the plane, they were not willing to correct or assertively argue for a decision that may contradict their superiors, even if it meant preventing a plane crash.  Many pilots now under go training on proper communication between officers, placing the safety of the plane first over cultural norms. 

I thought of this because I believe this is the relationship my son and I have developed.  I am his clear superior, and he actively seeks not to give me negative information.  He believes this so much, that even though I might ask about his day, he will censor out the bad stuff, unless I specifically ask for that information.  It makes me think that if the knowledge of culture can serve to avoid plane crashes, maybe the knowledge of family culture can be just as effective in avoiding future family “crashes”.  I don’t know if the current form of question will always work, but I think I have at least a glimmer of hope in better understanding our relationship.  I will make it very clear to him, that not only is keeping the bad stuff hidden unhealthy for him, but it is unhealthy for us.  One thing is very clear, it is not that my son is uncommunicative, it is just that I haven’t asked the right question.

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I would be remiss if I did not say Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  Go get your drink on, but be safe.  Keep in mind that if you end up looking like this:

Isaac is excited to find out he is part Irish

 and are NOT 3 years old, you might have a problem.  I’m just sayin …

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So, my son bought a fedora.  I don’t know where he got it from, or why he bought it, but when I picked him up from his mom’s house yesterday, he had it on.  Don’t get me wrong, he looks great, but is a fedora something that a 5th grader should wear?  Or more specifically, should he wear it to school?  I can honestly say that I want my children to grow up independent and secure in who they are and  I don’t want them to worry about what other people think or say.  They should be themselves and not let anyone dictate who or what they should be … in theory.

You see, in my mind, when he arrived to school wearing a fedora, kids were going to point at him and laugh.  They were going to tell him that he looked stupid wearing that hat, and then spend the next 20 minutes making him cry.  The scene finishes with him eating alone in the cafeteria working really hard to hold back tears.  Or there was the other version, the version where kids take his hat, rip it up and beat him up for being a pretentious little fedora-wearing panzy boy.  He arrives home with a bloody lip and runs to his room crying.  What I have just described to you is the real thoughts that ran through my head this morning as I contemplated keeping the fedora at home.  Instead, I simply asked him “You sure you want to wear that hat to school?”  He responded simply, “Yup.”  And that was that.  I said nothing else.  he got ready for school, which included his gym shoes, backpack, violin and fedora.  Him playing the violin, in my mind, did not help.  As he leaves the house, about to close the door, I say one thing, “You look great in that hat.”  He said, “Thanks” and walked to school.

He is wearing that hat. You go boy!

I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew one thing, my son was going to leave the house knowing that I thought he looked great in that fedora.  And he did look great in that fedora.  My goal for my kids remain the same.  I want them to be independent and not worry about what other people think.  But I added another goal to my parenting list today; I want my kids to know what I think.  I think my kids are awesome, and he looks good in a fedora.
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I wondered this morning, “what crazy thing would I do if I was filthy rich?”  When I say rich, I mean light your cigar with a burning $100 dollar bill rich.  Here is what I would do: I would purchase a barber style chair, I would make a special room with a HD television on the wall, and wall speakers connected to my voice activated i-pod that is connected to the internet and automatically downloads any song that I request.  Blu-ray with surround sound of course.  I would hire the most attractive woman I could find.  She would be paid $50,000 a year to wear high heel shoes and a nice low-cut black dress, and at least once a week, using tweezers, pull the white hairs from my beard one by one.  Happy ending would be optional.  I’m just sayin …

He is very good at the violin, and the fedora completes the ensemble.

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So, I was defriended, unfriended, removed as a friend from someone’s facebook.  Yes, I know I was going to talk about my near-death experience, but by the time I publish that story it will be anti-climactic, so it is probably for the best.  Besides, this just happened, and I need to write about it.  OK, where was I?  Oh yeah, someone removed me from their friends list.  What’s up with that?

Now, I am not a huge fan of facebook?  I still haven’t seen the movie, although I plan to, but I just don’t go on it very often.  When I do go on my facebook page, it is usually because I got an email that someone said something to me, tagged me, or I had a stupid thought that I wanted to share on the facebook airways.  Granted, even when I have a stupid thought, of which I have many, I still only hand select a few stupid thoughts worthy enough for me to take the time out to log on and litter your brain with my randomness.  This is the main reason I started a blog.  It gives you, the reader, the option of whether or not you want to log on and read what I have to say.  Most of the stuff I see on facebook, I couldn’t care less about.

But, I find facebook useful in one way, and one way only.  There are people in my life and past life that every now and then I would love to see how they are doing.  The few close friends that I have, hopefully are not relying on facebook to know how my life is going.  If that is the case, then I find that sad, partially because I don’t share enough on facebook for you to know anything about me, of course you could always read my blog =).  I hate emoticons, but I use them, and every time I do, I die a little inside, =(.  Actually, there is one other reason; if I ever won a contest to throw a party for me and 100 of my friends, I now have a mechanism to make that happen.  Have you ever heard one of those contests?  I have never entered a contest where the winner gets to throw a party for 10 or more people.  I am just not that popular.  Oh well.

OK, here is what happened.  A person in my past life popped in my head.  I had befriended them long time ago and thought I would look them up to see how they were doing.  THEY WERE NOT ON MY LIST!  What!  I know I didn’t take them off.  They must have done it.  You know what it felt like.  It was like you have decided to break up with your boy/girlfriend, but before you get a chance to break up, they break up with you.  Suddenly  you are talking about how much you love them and can’t live without them, although had they not broken up with you, you would have broken up with them.  That is how I feel right now.  How can I be removed from a friends list?  I’M BRETT WOODS!  Are you kidding me?  But it is so stupid.  I almost never go on facebook, and this unconscionable action probably took place months ago, maybe even more than a year.  That is how much I have no idea about the activity of people on my friends list.  Maybe there are people on my list that are sad that I don’t interact more.  Possible.  Am I going to change?  No.  And yet here I am, Mr. Sad Face.  What are you going to do? 

This may sound like a stupid irrational reaction to you, and it is, but everyone has their thing.  What is yours?  I hate rejection.  I just do.  You might be saying to yourself, but who doesn’t.  I really, really hate it.  Mainly because I expect everything to go my way, but that is another issue.  I will get over this, eventually, but for now, I must live with the fact that everyone does not want to be my friend.  Sad clown =(

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I am at the library right now and there is a woman who is working behind the desk who I think is pretty.  But here is the thing, her beauty is highly depended on her age.  Of course beauty is relative, as I point out in a previous blog, aptly named, Beauty is Relative.  Check out that blog as I discuss additive and subtractive points for different scenarios.  In this case, the librarian gets one point, just by being a librarian.  Hot librarians are rare, and therefore get an automatic point addition by being good-looking.  However, this librarian is unique in that she is 50 years old if she is a day.  So, here is my beauty ranking for her:

If she is 35 years or younger, she is a 3 (no added library point for being below 5)

40 – She is a 4.

45 – She is a 5, plus a point for being a librarian, and gets a final point total of 6.

50 – She is a 6 + 1, for a grand total of 7.

55-60, she is an 8 (7+1).  60-70, brings her up to a 9(8+1).

If she is 70 years old or older, she is a stone cold fox, and receives the coveted 10 ranking with the librarian adjustment.  I’m just sayin …

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So, today someone said something to me that indicated that they could predict my behavior in a particular situation.  Yes, I am being vague on exactly what happened.  But the bottom line is, after thinking about their comment, it struck me how people think they can say certain things because they believe they know you.  Does anyone really know anyone else?  After this person’s comment, I wanted to say to them “You don’t know me.”  Interestingly, I often want to say this to people even when they predict correctly.  However correct, predictions still do not indicate that you know a person.

The desire to predict someone’s behavior reminds me of our strong desire to label people.  I know I do it, but I also know that I hate it when it is done to me.  We also want to prove to be people that we have labeled them correctly.  How many times have you said to someone, “Oh you wouldn’t do that.  I know you.”  Or maybe you have said, “Well, that’s how you are.”  Really?  You mean to tell me that you can predict my behavior in any and all situations?  I don’t think so.  But we do this all the time.

To some, I am a liberal, but I promise you, to others, I am quite conservative.  Labels are never more prevalent than in politics.  I think I may have blogged on this subject before, but am too lazy to look it up.  The reality is, being a democrat doesn’t define who I am.  So, who am I?  In many ways, even I don’t know, but here is some information that I will give you, so that at least on these subjects you can say that you know me:

  1. There is probably nothing I think about more than whether or not I am being a good dad.  I know I am not perfect, but I take my parenting job very seriously and if my daughter ends up on a pole, I will have failed.
  2. I think most people are stupid.  I wish I could sugar coat this fact, but I can not.  It is what it is.  However, I try very hard not to make people feel stupid, despite my feelings.
  3. I have an inner circle of people in my life.  If you are in this inner circle, there is nothing I would not do to help you.  It is impossible to lose membership to this inner circle.  You may have decided to treat me different, but I have not.
  4. Lastly, I require the television to turn my brain off.  I am constantly thinking.  I can’t turn my brain off.  It actually makes blogging a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, it gives me an opportunity to share thoughts, on the other hand, I usually have about 1000 thoughts per day and can often not decide which to blog on.  For example, this blog was not supposed to be the blog, but has bumped my blog on my recent near death experience (To Be Continued).

Is the above list exhaustive?  Of course not, but the reality is that most people do not know me and it is presumptuous to think that you do.  I barely know me.  So, please, please, please do not make predictions about my behavior.  You may be right, but it does not mean that you know me, it just means that you have a label of me in your mind that can’t possibly characterize the whole that is me.

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I got upset at my son, Brett Jr today, because once again he forgot to give us a document from school that needed to be signed.  This document was due Friday, and we just got it today.  This is an old issue, and he knows it.  So, I gave him a talk, signed the paper and moved on.  One minute later, he told me and Leah that he was not allowed to watch TV on Monday and Tuesday.  I told him that I know that he doesn’t forget on purpose and he did not need to be punished.  He said, no, he did need to be punished for forgetting the papers from school.  So, we said OK, no TV on Monday and Tuesday.  My son just punished himself.  That’s crazy.  He is awesome.  Of course, now we have to come up with something to do that does not involve TV.  Well, that sucks!  I’m just sayin …

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