Category Archives: Parenting

Dealing With the Loss Of a Child In Today’s World

Ask any parent, at least any non-psychopathic parent, what their worst nightmare is and you can rest assured that it’s losing one of their children. It’s literally impossible to fathom what that feels like or to comprehend how someone deals with it. Recently, the oldest son of a local sports icon was killed in a car accident. That’s tragic in and of itself, but it truly hits close to home for me and my wife because that family just moved into a house a quarter mile from ours and we pass it every day. When we’re together one of us will always say something to the effect of “I feel so bad for them. I truly don’t know that I could deal with what they’re dealing with.”

The father of the boy who was killed truly is a local sports hero by the name of Rusty Larue. He played multiple sports for Wake Forest, went on to play pro basketball and has been coaching here locally for the last couple of years. Just this year he was hired to coach the boys basketball team at the high school my kids attended and the alma mater for current NBA great Chris Paul. In other words he’s exactly the kind of guy I would follow on Twitter and so I did. That’s why I saw this when he Tweeted it this afternoon:

Larue_RT

You’ll notice that it’s a retweet of a Tweet of his son’s from last year. When I saw this it truly had an impact – a mix of once again feeling sadness for the Larue family and a sense of amazement that they have this trove of memories for their son. Yes, most Twitter and other social media accounts are full of silly, fluffy, spontaneous and utterly mundane comments, pictures, links, etc., but they also contain little pieces of personality from the account owner so when someone is no longer with us we have these reminders about them that are quite different from the letters, pictures and other missives that people left in the past.

After thinking about it some more I began to wonder how the experience of seeing these reminders feels to the parents. Does it provide some solace, or is it a painful reminder of their loss? Maybe both? This is something I never want to find out about first hand as a parent.

Of course we will all lose loved ones in our lives, so while it may be a somewhat different experience than losing a child, we will have these types of reminders from the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

The Larue’s are well known for their faith, strong family and very supported faith community which I’m sure has been tremendously helpful. My sincere hope is that over time these pieces of their son’s online world, which to this generation is a critical component of their lives, can be  stitched together with the unique memories that the parents carry with them, can provide them with a some amount of solace and sustenance.

I have the same hope for all of us who lose a loved one.

<Note> I should be clear that we do not personally know the Larues. They literally just moved into their house a few months ago and we’ve not had the opportunity to meet them, but of course we would love to if and when the time comes. This was written merely as one father, with children the same age, trying to grasp what it must be like to deal with the loss of a child in today’s world.

Uber Teens

Uber is a service that allows you to use an app on your smartphone to book a ride with a car service. Right now the service is available in several large cities around the country so it's not currently relevant here in small-city North Carolina, but the reason it hit my radar is a blog post a mom wrote about why she signed her teenage daughter up for the service. An excerpt:

When I met the Push Girls last year I noted that four of the five women I met were in wheelchairs because of car accidents. The accidents were all excessive speed or alcohol fueled. If a smart phone app can get my child home without risking dangerous driving conditions I’d be a fool to not use it.

Parents of teens: I’m going to ask you to do something we should all do at least once a day. I want you to be still and quiet and try to remember being 14 or even 17. Now put yourself at your friend’s house and their parents have just left. All of a sudden 5 other kids appear and they’re thinking about drinking a beer and smoking some pot. What does the 14 year old you do?

The only answer I have is that I know the 14 year old you doesn’t call Mommy for a ride home.

Now imagine the same scenario. The 14 year old you pulls out a smart phone (it’s probably already out) and texts for a town car. 14 year old you can hop into the back seat of a limo and get home. My credit card information is already stored in the app, no money changes hands and your private driver gets you home.

Boom. Done. Decision made.

That logic is pretty sound to me. In our household we have a similar rule in that any of our kids can call us for a ride and not risk getting in trouble. Sure we'll have a talk about it the next day and we'll push to make sure they avoid getting themselves in similar situations in the future, but I'd rather get a 12:30 a.m. phone call asking for a ride than risk having them hop in a car with an inexperienced driver who may or may not be inebriated. Still, how many kids actually believe their parents won't come down on them like a ton of bricks if they call for a ride in the middle of the night? Not many, which is why I like the idea of a kid having a tool at their disposal that can help them do the right thing.

There's another part of the blog post that was really horrifying to me as a father and it's about teen girls dealing with other dads who play grab-ass:

Then Laurie and I started talking about why every kid should have Uber on their phone and when we got to the part about being a teenager and on occasion not wanting to get into a car with a Dad who plays grab-ass the new Dad looked at us with horror in his eyes. Even though 100% of the adult women at the party sort of nodded and knew what that felt like I was all, “Oh but times have changed. I’m sure it will never be an issue.”

For the record it's my opinion that while having a service like Uber to get my daughter out of harm's way at that moment would be a good thing, it would also be of utmost importance that she inform me of the offending father's actions and allow me to use another tool at my service: a large can of whoop-ass.

The Perils of Helicopter Parenting

A teacher has written a nice little piece about what she sees as the danger of overprotective parents. Here are the money paragraphs:

These are the parents who worry me the most — parents who won't let their child learn. You see, teachers don't just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.

I'm not suggesting that parents place blind trust in their children's teachers; I would never do such a thing myself. But children make mistakes, and when they do, it's vital that parents remember that the educational benefits of consequences are a gift, not a dereliction of duty. Year after year, my "best" students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.

If you spend enough time at schools, youth sports events, scout meetings, etc. you'll see plenty examples of what this teacher is talking about. What will really blow your mind is what parents of some high school students will do to make sure their kids' transcripts are pristine for the all-important college application process. They'll manufacture "community service" projects, write their childrens' application essays, do their kids' school projects or let them drop a class if it's too challenging or threatens to lower the GPA by a smidge. In their minds the purpose of education isn't to help their children truly learn and grow, it's to get them into a prestigious school so that they can get a prestigious job. And what happens when those same kids get to college and struggle? They call home and guess who comes running to try and bail them out?

Obviously there are times you should help your kids, but providing help is often more about the parents than the kids.  It's actually harder to watch your kids struggle than it is to intervene and do it for them – it's literally painful – so when we step in and bail them out we're actually being very selfish. We're assuaging our own pain to our children's long-term detriment. If we really care about them we will let them fall and learn how to pick themselves up. It ain't easy, but no one ever said that good parenting was easy and that's why they pay us parents the big bucks anyway. Right?