When it came to the journey of parenthood, I took a guilt trip

Guilty Parent - NapI have a confession to make. While technically speaking, I was raised in a Presbyterian household, I am sure that my parents secretly must have been practicing Catholics. Because for my entire adult life, no matter how hard I tried, I never felt my efforts were good enough. I’ve always felt guilty. Especially when it comes to parenting.

When our two girls were toddlers, I mainly swung between three emotional states: totally overwhelmed, utterly exhausted and constantly feeling guilty. That guilt was usually caused by my feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted.  When I became so sleep-deprived that I simply had to take a nap, I felt guilty for napping. I mean, a good dad would surely tough it out and watch a Sponge Bob video with the kids – for the 475th time. What kind of dad was I! For shame.

I felt guilty about my job in a dot-com start-up where for years I routinely worked 75-hour weeks. For some periods, I was essentially an absentee parent until the weekend arrived. And on those rare occasions when I was able to leave work before 6pm, I felt guilty because all the other managers (who were all 15 years younger, single and child-free) would still be there well past 8pm.

I felt guilty that my wife unfairly bore the burden of most of the household chores, not to mention the 4am feedings and diaper-changes. And by the time I finally got around to pulling my share of changing our girls’ diapers, I felt guilty that it took me so long to pitch in. I suspect that on some level our girls probably resented the delay in my efforts, too, especially because they were seven and six years old by that time.

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  • Published On Jul. 29, 2014 by TEJ
  • A Survival Guide for coping with air travel

    Airline travel - delaysWhen Orville Wright first took flight over the beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, he couldn’t have imagined that a century later, millions of people the world over would be getting into shouting matches with ticket agents, security screeners and baggage handlers over the nearly universal frustration caused by his invention. Thanks for the 12-inch gash in the side of my Louis Vuitton suitcase, Orville.

    Singapore, New Delhi, and Buenos Aires are just a few of the famous world cities I will probably never get to visit because I refuse to put up with the headaches required to fly there. Also because, like most Americans, I’m not sure exactly where those cities are on a map. (I think New Delhi might be in Belgium.)

    But sometimes air travel is unavoidable. If you simply must book a flight, here are a few helpful tips to reduce your stress level. These just might help you resist your urge to strangle the Delta Airlines ticket agent in Concourse C.

    Booking your flight – Choosing the right airline 

    The first rule of air travel is simple: Don’t fly if you can possibly avoid it. But if you absolutely must fly, for example, to attend a family reunion, I recommend Qantas, the official airline of Australia. The last time Qantas had a fatality was in 1951. Of course, if your family reunion is in say, Chicago, you may need to make a couple connections through Sydney, Tokyo and New York. But you will arrive there safely, albeit two days later than the rest of your family, who opted for the nonstop on United.

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    • Once I flew cross country when the airline was having a sale (they've stopped doing that...) and tickets were something …
      Shirley Freitas
  • Published On Jul. 08, 2014 by TEJ
  • Study says a dark day in America – Blacks are getting happier

    happiness - black man - white manBLACKSBURG, VA – A newly released longitudinal study reveals potentially upsetting news for millions of white Americans. The shocking conclusions: Black Americans are getting happier – much happier.

    The study by the University of Pennsylvania, tracking the “happiness gap” between black and white Americans since the 1970s, reports that the gap has dramatically narrowed in recent years to the slimmest margin since the study’s beginnings. Fortunately for white Americans, they are, on average, still happier than their black counterparts – but not by much.

    Even more alarming is the study’s finding that while blacks’ happiness has progressively improved over the past four decades, whites’ happiness has steadily declined. A spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Non-Colored People (NAANCP) argues that there can only be one conclusion to draw from this study: that over the past forty years, blacks have been deliberately and systematically stealing happiness away from whites, without even asking permission or giving so much as a thank you kindly, leaving millions of white Americans outraged and nervous about their futures.

    happiness - obamaThe study’s researchers claim there are other plausible theories for why blacks are getting happier: higher income levels, increased educational opportunities, a significant decline in lynchings, and dramatic strides in career advancement, all of which have fueled greater optimism about their future. In fact, in most states, blacks rarely have to fear getting arrested simply for sitting next to a white person at a Denny’s (with the notable exception of Mississippi and parts of Arkansas). “Why are black people in such a hurry to have more happiness?” asked NAANCP spokesman, Ferry White. “They stopped being slaves a long time ago. What more do they want, anyway?”

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    • Mighty edgy Tim. Nice . . .
      Peter Cohen
  • Published On Jun. 26, 2014 by TEJ
  • Welcome to cricket. It’s a lot like baseball, only even more boring.

    Cricket - batsmanGreat news, everybody. ESPN just announced it’s now broadcasting coverage of cricket. No, I’m not talking about televising small insects chewing through leaves – although granted, for many people, that might represent a more appealing TV-viewing option. I’m talking about the sport of cricket. If you’re someone who finds bowling on TV too exciting, or if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to enter into a self-induced coma, cricket could be just your ticket.

    I’m not exactly sure why ESPN decided to start covering cricket. Perhaps ESPN’s International-Sports-Nobody-Gives-a-Rat’s-Ass-About Channel wasn’t able to get the programming rights for Equestrian Dressage. Or perhaps it came down to making a difficult choice between televising cricket versus broadcasting five hours of dead air.

    Cricket is a sport that has been around for centuries. According to legend, it was first played during the early Pleistocene Era, in a match pitting the Leicester Clubbers against the always feisty Sussex Wooly Mammoths. The point is, it’s a very old game. Cricket is a lot like baseball – just slower-paced and without gloves or bases or David Ortiz Bobble Head Night or any coherent explanation for what is going on out there. Like baseball, it has a pitcher (which they call a bowler) and a batter (called a batsman). And like baseball, the main objective for most fans watching the game is to get as drunk as possible in order to keep their mind off the fact that the game in front of them is mind-numbingly dull.

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    • I love watching the real crickets. Have you ever watched them mate? I think the female ends us eating …
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Jun. 18, 2014 by TEJ
  • IMPORTANT HEALTH SAFETY WARNING: THESE FOODS WILL KILL YOU!

    bad food - food pyramidIt seems every week there is a new study about yet another popular food staple that has been linked to cancer or heart disease. It’s all very confusing. First experts tell you that grape juice is a heart-healthy beverage. Then other experts claim that it’s bad for you (containing as much sugar as soft drinks).

    As one of the nation’s leading nutrition experts, I have compiled a comprehensive list of unhealthy foods. Avoid these foods and you should be able to lead a long and healthy life – assuming, of course, you don’t live in Afghanistan, Somalia or Detroit, in which case all bets are off.

    FOODS TO AVOID

    Cake, cookies, candy and ice cream. When I first discovered that these foods were considered unhealthy, it came as quite a blow. For years I had considered these to be the four basic food groups. But apparently no longer. They are all high in sugar, carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fat. Avoid these at all costs – unless you prefer to be happy.

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    • Let's not forget that fruitcake can be used as a lethal weapon
      Dave driscoll
  • Published On Jun. 11, 2014 by TEJ
  • I am not a happy camper

    Camping - tentRecently I started worrying that my wife no longer loves me. No, I didn’t catch her with another man. And no, we didn’t have another nasty argument about the proper way to load a dishwasher. It was much more troubling. My wife actually said the three words I have long dreaded: “Let’s go camping.”

    Why would any woman who claims to love her husband force him to endure a weekend in the wilderness with no access to ESPN Sports Center? My wife thought it would be fun if the two of us had a romantic getaway. I was envisioning a cozy B & B overlooking the ocean. Or maybe a posh resort / spa where we could get a couple’s massage, whatever that is.

    But unbeknownst to me, my wife’s concept of a romantic getaway included physical and emotional torture – camping. When she first brought up the idea, naturally I thought she was kidding. When I realized she was serious, I apologized profusely for whatever I might have said or done to upset her. I even promised to do the dishes for a month. Turns out she wasn’t upset at all. She just really wanted to go camping.

    So she booked us a campsite for a long weekend at some God-forsaken state campground deep in the wilderness beyond any cell phone range. The nearest carryout pizza was 50 miles away. I believe there is a term for being forced to sleep outdoors in the cold and wet, with no bathroom, no hot running water, and no bed to sleep on. It’s called being homeless. And when is the last time you heard a homeless person say to his buddy, “Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s go camping!” You never will, because they know that compared to their lifestyle, camping would be a step down.

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    • Hilarious!
      Johanna
  • Published On Jun. 04, 2014 by TEJ
  • When it comes to our kids, winning isn’t everything. Whining is…..

    Winning - Whining girlFor too long, parents have been pushing their kids way too hard by doing outrageous things like telling them they need to get good grades if they want to get into college or harping on them relentlessly to practice piano for 30 minutes a week if they want to improve their skills. . Those parents are monsters!

    When I was a kid playing on various sports teams, year after year, the ruthless message drilled into me was that if you want to win, you have to try hard. And maybe even practice. I internalized this misguided achievement message at an early age. Little did I realize the long-term crippling effect caused by the constant parental pressure to “do your best” as a child. Years later, the damage is evident, as I now have a good-paying job and live in a lovely home in a safe neighborhood that has excellent schools with teachers and coaches who push my kids to do their best. When will this vicious cycle of achievement end?

    I have been as guilty as any parent, always sending the overbearing message to my daughters that if they want to get into a competitive college they might consider putting down their cell phone for two minutes and perhaps studying for tomorrow’s final exam.  In hindsight, I now realize that all this harsh talk about doing their best and applying themselves was actually undermining my kids’ fragile sense of entitlement.

    Finally, a sports league in Canada has gotten its priorities about kids and “winning” figured out. Recently, the Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league of Ottawa, Canada came up with a new rule designed to protect children from the emotional scars of losing in sports. Their new rule? If a team wins a game by more than five goals, that team loses by default. The rule was designed to prevent blowout victories and to encourage good sportsmanship. Hats off to you, Gloucester Dragons Soccer League. Well done.

    Winning - kids playing soccerThe results so far have been impressive. Now, whenever a team goes up by five goals, their players usually stop playing, walk off the field, and head over to the playground to climb on the monkey bars in order to avoid accidentally scoring the losing goal. Now that’s true sportsmanship.

    I applaud the kid-friendly policy of this Canadian youth soccer league. Oh, sure, some people may criticize this new policy as yet further conclusive proof that the USA can beat the crap out of Canada anytime it wants. But I will ardently defend this enlightened new approach. Our kids’ psyches are extremely fragile from the first 18 months of life until the time when they no longer need our emotional and financial support – typically around age 37.

    We need to shelter our children from anything that might damage their self-esteem, such as losing 27 to 0 in a youth soccer match, as happened to nine-year-old Sarah Miller’s team last weekend. Sarah is the goalie. Think of what such a devastating thumping might do to her self-confidence. The last thing little Sarah needs is to internalize that she is a terrible goalie. (Although, as an aside, I have to say, Sarah really sucks at goaltending. She has no business being allowed out of the stands. But please don’t tell her parents you heard it from me.)

    As the Ottawa youth soccer league has taught us by its inspiring example, when it comes to our highly impressionable young children, life should not be about winning and losing, or showing up for practice, or getting cut from the baseball team just because little Jimmy can’t seem to figure out that the pitcher’s mound is not first base. Instead, our jobs as parents should be to protect our precocious angels from the real world that is waiting to beat them into submission.

    That’s why I’ve adopted a totally new parenting approach that focuses on preserving my kids’ belief in their greatness, regardless of evidence to the contrary. In the past, if a teacher gave my child a D on an important math test, I’d probably have a serious chat with my child and ask why she chose to stay up till 1am playing Candy Crush on her cell phone instead of studying for the test.

    But now I realize that such an interrogation might harm my child’s belief about her incredible brilliance. Now, if that same teacher were to give my daughter a D, I’d immediately berate the teacher for unfairly downgrading my child’s score simply because she gave incorrect answers. After all, when it comes to what’s right or wrong on a math text, who’s to say what the real answer is to 12 minus 5? It’s all so subjective. And I would be sure to praise my little princess on her outstanding choice of using a #2 pencil and remind her that she’s still an A+ student in my book.

    Winning - Angry boylChildhood flies by so quickly. You will have plenty of time later on to awaken your kids to the reality that life does not always even up the score to make sure everyone’s a winner. Let someone else teach them that the world does not owe them a six-figure income and a penthouse condo by age 25. Now is the time to remind your young superstar how special they are – even if they just tripped and did a face plant during a soccer game, and did so while only riding the bench.

    So, this summer, if by some act of blatant favoritism your perfect son or daughter does not get picked to play on your neighborhood’s Select soccer team, remember that your child is still incredibly gifted. It’s not your child’s fault that she skipped all the practices and couldn’t be bothered to show up for tryouts. That just means she has more time to work on that perfect tan this summer. She’s going to be a suntan superstar, I just know it.

    That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

    Tim Jones - Profile at Safeco - TinyPS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

    © Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2014


    • And we wonder why some children end up living BACK at home when things don't work out at age 28? …
      Charmel Bowden
  • Published On May. 28, 2014 by TEJ
  • Memo to our kids: The family has decided to downsize

    [Author’s note: The following is a memo I plan to send our daughters in three years, when both of them will have graduated from college, informing them that they are now officially responsible for their own lives – and phone bills.]

    Family downsizing - you are firedMEMO TO: Junior members of Jones Family Enterprises

    FROM: Senior Executive Team

    Congratulations to the junior members of Jones Family Enterprises [henceforth JFE] on your recent completion of your undergraduate studies. The Senior Executive Team is confident that your long-term economic forecast is bright. We wish we could say the same for your near-term economic outlook. This memo is to inform you of an important decision the executive committee has made regarding your status on the JFE org chart.

    After a series of challenging years in which JFE has experienced steadily declining economic growth and spiraling costs, primarily in the area of our educational assistance program, the senior management has decided to implement some immediate cost-cutting measures in order to preserve the organization’s long-term cash reserves. This decision has forced us to make difficult personnel decisions to improve efficiencies and eliminate waste.

    Effective immediately, JFE is announcing a 50% reduction in force. As a consequence, we are forced to terminate your roles as fully-funded dependents of this organization and re-classify your status as “non-essential employees.”  We considered all other viable options before coming to this decision, including a recommendation by our firm’s Co-CEO, Ms. Jones, to eliminate my position on the executive steering committee. But that recommendation failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote required for passage by the two-person executive steering committee.

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    • A pre-warning to both the affected persons from their Grandmother. I agree with Mr Ralph Volk's comments. Said pension …
      Eleanor Rushworth (Yer MiL)
  • Published On May. 22, 2014 by TEJ
  • America’s worsening attention span probl – Hey, Pam just texted me : )

    attention span - frowny faceRecently I have noticed a disturbing trend. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. In fact, if you’re like 85% of Americans under the age of 35, you lost interest after the sentence Recently I have noticed a disturbing trend. It’s an epidemic.

    For the 15% of you still reading, let me explain. Thanks to texting, people now spell the words U and B4 because they don’t have the patience anymore to take the extra two seconds required to spell out you and before. God forbid the word might contain more than two syllables, such as a word like, well, syllables. People simply can’t be bothered – too many keystrokes. And when was the last time you wrote a personal handwritten letter? Let me guess. President Clinton was still dating Monica, right?

    Thanks to Facebook, we have all become conditioned to posting micro comments on people’s “walls” which according to the Facebook Code of  Condensed Communication Conduct (FCCCC) must not exceed 24 characters. Say your family dog passed away after 18 years, and you decided to share your grief about your loss. Here is the response you would likely receive from one of your closest  friends:

    1)     In 1974: Hey, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear Golden Retriever Buster. I know that he was a family member to you. I hope you can be heartened in your time of grief knowing that he lived a good life. I hope you don’t mind but I baked you my homemade apple pie. I am always here for you. (This note would of course have been handwritten.)

    2)     In 1994: Hey, so sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. What was his name? Anyway, imagine you’re pretty bummed. Would love to talk more, but gotta go – Monica’s soccer match. Can’t be late. (Sent by email.)

    3)     In 2014: Hey,  attention span - frowny face - small(Sent by iPhone.)

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    • Q. How many kids w/ ADHD does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A. Let's go bike …
      Peter Cohen
  • Published On May. 14, 2014 by TEJ
  • My wild “Hangover” weekend in Vegas

    Las Vegas - lineupI’m not much of a drinker. And I don’t really gamble. So naturally, I decided to go to Las Vegas for the weekend. What a bizarre place Vegas is. I must have had one hell of a weekend, because I barely remember a thing. It’s all still a blur. It was just like something out of the movie The Hangover – except without all the strippers, car chases, Bengal tigers in my hotel room, or getting the crap knocked out of me by Mike Tyson. But otherwise, the parallels with the movie were eerie.

    I decided to stay at the Hooters Casino Hotel – mainly for the pool. At first everything was fine – until I ventured out onto the strip and did something no sane tourist in Las Vegas would ever do: I made eye contact with the street hawkers. As a result of my reckless mistake, I was offered 27 invitations to strip clubs, a chance to ride a white tiger at the Mirage, and $100,000 of term insurance with an option to convert to whole life at age 65. I finally broke down and grabbed one deal that was just too enticing to resist: 60% off on linens at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

    I don’t remember much of what happened after that. But the next morning, I woke up to find a scantily clad woman in my bed – with a wedding ring on her finger. Oh, shit. Who was she? A cocktail waitress? A stripper? What had I done! I frantically put on my glasses. Oh… right. My wife came with me on this trip.

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    • Love the photos Tim and Michele. Too bad you don't remember your trip. I bet Michele had fun even though …
      Janice Strong
  • Published On May. 01, 2014 by TEJ