Tag 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.

What Interests Moms vs Dads

So I was invited by a friend to sign up for the Flipboard magazine “Interesting Stuff” which I appreciate because it does look interesting. As part of the sign up process you’re asked to pick areas of interest so I was scrolling through the page, clicking away on topics that interested me, when I got to the category of “Kids.” Under that category four topics were listed – Pregnancy, Fatherhood, Motherhood, Parenting Teens – and when I clicked on Fatherhood this is what appeared:

Flipboard_Fatherhood

So clicking on Fatherhood added four suggested categories that included Child Support, Child Custody, Family Law and Child Psychology. As a bonus the Child Support category is accompanied by what looks like a mugshot of a man and the Child Custody category is augmented by the picture of a dead cat with blood running from what looks like its head, although the head is thankfully covered by a black box. So apparently people interested in fatherhood as a topic are assumed to be seriously effed up.

Here’s what was served up when I clicked on Motherhood:

Flipboard_Motherhood

The suggested topics are Birth Control Pill, Surrogate Mother, Stillbirth and Pregnancy Test. Doesn’t appear as bad as the Fatherhood topics, but taken in total the whole parenting thing seems kind of depressing doesn’t it?

Ain’t They Cute?

Let's be blunt: those of us who have survived certain stages in life find it hard not to be condescending to those who have yet to do so. Part of it is simply a function of age, but a much larger part of it is experience. A perfect case in point is children, or more specifically, having children and getting them to the point of launching them into the world.

When our kids were very young I used to HATE the condescending "You just wait" comments from parents of older children. Now that I'm on the other side I totally get where they were coming from although I try not to be condescending in the same way to my friends/coworkers/family members with younger children. I'm not always successful, but I do try.

What prompted this is a piece in Vogue written by a man who was considering the implications of the development of a male version of The Pill. Here's an excerpt:

Later at dinner, she brought it up again. The initial flush of panic had cleared. The idea wasn’t threatening, just amusing. She suggested that putting the male in charge of contraception would just embolden him to have sex with random women, and riskier sex at that; unlike a condom, the pill would do nothing to prevent disease. Could be, I said, but I was lost in thought. Not about that. I was thinking about the strange spot we’re in. We’ve been married a little over a year. She’s 28, and I’m 31. I run a small soccer magazine and she’s a grade-school teacher. We’re paying off her loans from grad school. In other words, this phase of our life together will end when we have a baby—it’s what we’re working up to, the fact that underlies every move we make, what jobs we take, what city we live in, what house we rent. I mean, she recently ordered prenatal vitamins because her sister-in-law said it’s healthy to start a regimen at least a year in advance. That was a surprising trip to the mailbox!

The goal, eventually, is to have a baby, and yet having a baby before we’re ready seems like it would totally derail the plans we’ve laid to achieve the goal. That’s pretty weird. Other thoughts crept in. Hey! Yo, dude! Have you packed for your trip on Thursday? What day is today, anyway?

“Excuse me, darling,” I said. “What day is it?”

She gave me a look. You’ve seen one just like it. Her eyebrows posed the question before she did: “And you want to be in charge of the birth control?”

When I finished the article my reaction was bemusement. Why? Because I wanted to find this guy's number call him up and tell him, "You'll never be 'ready' for kids. It's an impossibility in the same way that you'll never be 'ready' for a tornado. You can prepare – drawing your little life maps and to-do lists – but when the reality of Hurricane Kid reaches your shores you'll be laid bare like every other parent before you."

Yes he and his wife should do everything they can to try and put off the inevitable until they think they're ready, but my advice is for them to not sweat too much about it because no matter how hard they try they'll never be truly ready. 

Oh, and that part about who's best to take control of contraception? Sometimes it doesn't matter because you could defy the odds like yours truly and his significant other and conceive children on two different occassions while she's on the pill. 99% efficacy is great unless you're not in it; believe me that's not the 1% you want to be in.

As a middle-aged dad entering the territory of overtime (kids in college, destined to move back for a while) I merely want to say, "You're so cute with your little worries? You ain't seen nothing yet."

Damnit, it's just impossible not to be a condescening ass in these situations.

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?

Dad is from Mars, Mom is from Venus

This morning was an anxious one for our family, but I won't get into the details since it involves one of the kids and I'm not into airing the kids' personal stuff (unless of course they tick me off).  Anyhow the morning began with visit to a doctor and while everything isn't perfect the diagnosis ended up being a relief.  What made the rest of the day interesting was the difference between mine and my wife's perceptions of the doctor's words.

Basically what Iheard was that the doctor had run a battery of tests, found a small anomaly that was nothing to worry about and that he also suspected a related issue he was going to refer us to another doctor to check out, but that issue wasn't very serious either.  On the other hand my wife heard that there's an anomaly and our child is headed for a lifetime of appointments with specialists.  

It would probably be easier to explain how we might come to such different perspectives if I did go into details, but that's a no-go so what I will say is that this is a very common occurence in our house.  We joke all the time about what an optimist I am and what a pessimist she is, and we also joke about how she is so detail oriented and how I can forget three items from a four item shopping list.  If we spend ten minutes in a room she can tell you how many pictures are on the wall, the color of the furniture, the color of the carpet, etc. and I could tell you it had four walls and a ceiling.  On the other hand I can tell you which TV show is based on an Elmore Leonard short story (Justified – a show I highly recommend), give you a quick rundown of the day's news and perhaps even tell you what was trending on Twitter, but Celeste couldn't give a tinker's damn about any of that.  

The plain and simple truth is we've been married for over 19 years but I'll be damned if I can figure out how we get anything done.  Actually that's not true; I know that our strengths and weaknesses are complementary and that means we're quite effective at getting stuff done, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it also means that we've had our moments of non-Zen.  I can drive her to distraction with my distraction, and her determination to do things systematically can make my eyes cross. 

What this means for the kids is that they have to deal with a two headed monster made out of Kevlar.  When I'm left to my own devices with them (happens a couple of times a year), things tend to break down around the house.  In laymans terms life becomes a crapfest.  Children subsist on Pop-Tarts, dogs eat cat food and no one sleeps for more than four hours.  On the other hand if I'm out of town the household runs fine, but the kids end up telling tales of the house being invaded by a mad (mad as in pissed off) woman who can't understand why they won't do what they're supposed to do.  Put the two of us together though and we're one well adjusted parent.

Back to this morning. After the fun trip to the doctor was over we both updated our Facebook statuses (yeah, I know). Mine basically said, "The kid's all right and now we just have to see another doctor and we'll be good to go."  After reading that my wife wrote, "I wish I could be as positive as my husband. My glass is empty – not even half full."  I read that and called her so we could compare notes and make sure I hadn't "misremembered" what the doctor said.  I hadn't, and neither had she, but our interpretations were polar opposite and that's just how we roll.  What that means for our son is that he'll have one parent keeping an eagle eye on him to make sure nothing goes squirrely and the other telling him to relax and eat a Pop-Tart. I think that's a good thing.

Time Lapse Child Rearing

The video below is pretty cool; it's a time-lapse video of photos taken of a girl every day (almost) from her birth to her 10th year.  My first thought upon seeing this is that in a couple of years the parents are going to wish they could time-lapse the teenage years for real.  Just sayin', the two bid 'D's (dating and driving) will drive you to the brink.