Growing up, I routinely was on the receiving end of my dad’s lectures about how cushy my life was compared to his when he was a youth. “You have no idea how easy you have it, son. When I was your age, I had no television or radio … or heat … or friends. I did 16 hours of chores each week to earn the privilege of sharing a single bed with my younger brothers. And if I got less than straight A’s, for my punishment, I had to paint the barn – with a tooth brush.” At least, that’s how I remember it.
To be fair, my father, who grew up during the depression, had it much harder than I ever did. And my daughters, well, they lived in the lap of luxury, surrounded by computers and smart phones as they kept up with the Kardashians.
It got me wondering. How might my daughters harangue their own slightly spoiled offspring some 20 years from now? How would they contrive that their young lives in the early 2000s were oppressive? Perhaps that talk might go something like this….
Europa. I know you’re only twelve years old, but I am sick and tired of your incessant whining. You have no idea how easy your life is compared to what I had to endure growing up. When I was your age, I didn’t even have a hoverboard, let alone a levitating hover car.
My parents wouldn’t give me a smart phone till I turned 13. They were so strict. And to text anybody, I had to type on a keypad. That’s right. I literally had to enter a separate keystroke for every character. Telepathic texting was mere science fiction then. But these deprivations just made me stronger. I learned how to wait a full minute for a response to my Facebook posts. Don’t tell me you don’t know what Facebook was. You did a report on it in 5th grade history class.
Continue reading ““You Kids Have It So Easy!” (Parental Lecture, Year 2038 Edition)” »
My father was an extraordinary man. He was an attorney who won 99% of his cases. He played piano like a virtuoso even though he couldn’t read a note of music. He was extremely well-read. That is, I assume he was since we had a room the size of an apartment devoted to his book collection.
He also was a perfectionist with a serious case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I remember the time he admonished me for placing the tape dispenser in the drawer on its side rather than upright. I believe that was the moment my father realized that my education was sorely lacking. I was 15 at the time. For, in the years that followed, my father took it upon himself to teach me the “proper” way to handle many different challenges that life presented.
Let me explain with an example. Say you’re alone in the house and you hear a scary noise that sounds like it might be coming from inside the house. You’re in total darkness. Should you:
- Grab a crowbar for protection against a possible home invader.
- Yell loudly to scare away any wild animals that may have strayed into your house. Or…
- Use the back of your hand to switch on the light.
The correct answer, according to my father, was, of course, C. One should always flip on a light switch with the back of one’s hand. The reason is obvious – to a crazy person: To avoid leaving messy, oily finger prints on the light switch plate. Evidently, that should be your primary concern when you suspect burglars may be breaking into your house in the middle of the night.
My dad died in 1979. In the 24 years that I shared this planet with him, he taught me scores of similar life lessons. Most of these were things I thought I had mastered by the third grade. Apparently, I was wrong. I might be performing a mundane task, such as brushing my teeth, when I’d notice in the mirror that objects were closer than they appeared. Specifically, my father, who would be standing in the doorway, quietly studying my technique, shaking his head in dismay. He would then deliver a lengthy dissertation on the correct procedure for a routine that I was evidently still mangling after all these years.
If it weren’t for my dad, I never would have realized the cutlery hazards that awaited me at the dinner table. Do you know the proper way to put a spoon in your mouth? Is it:
- Open your mouth BEFORE inserting the spoon. Then close said mouth and suck in the food.
- Fill the spoon only halfway; gently insert the spoon into your mouth, avoiding a slurping sound. Or…
- A gentleman NEVER puts a spoon into his mouth. He brings it to his lips and gently tips the soup onto his palate without the spoon ever crossing the threshold of his lips. Where ARE your manners!?!
According to my father the correct answer is C. But technically there was no correct answer – because whatever I did, it would have been wrong. Because, my dear father was (how can I put it gently?) flippin’ crazy.
I have so many fond memories of those bonding moments with my dad. I even (surreptitiously) kept a list of every life skill he dadsplained to me: How to use a bottle opener; How to make toast; How to bite my tongue when he routinely insulted my intelligence. I gave my private list a snarky title: “Things My Father Taught Me.”
I feel morally obligated to pass this wisdom onto you, my readers, so that you too may prepare your children for the harsh world that awaits them.
Thank you, dad, for teaching me:
How to water a plant
How to toss something into a trash can
How to lift a suitcase
How to unpack a suitcase efficiently (I didn’t know that was a thing)
How to adjust the angle of a table lamp for optimal reading lighting
How to dry dishes
How to walk properly
How to chew food properly
How to hang a shirt on a hanger (don’t forget to button the collar button and the third button down)
How to open a shower curtain
How to fold a towel and put it on a towel rack (make sure the width at the top is the same as the bottom)
How to hold a sharp knife (this would have come in handy, had I opted to pursue a career as a mugger)
How to close a door behind me
How to buy low and sell high (I really should have paid closer attention to that lesson)
How to pour soda into a glass
How to hide the body and not leave prints (Okay, I made that one up. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention)
How to hold the steering wheel (always at 11 and 1, never 10 & 2. My Driver’s Ed instructor was apparently a charlatan)
How to sit at a table (your back should NEVER touch the back of the chair)
How to say hello properly when answering the phone
How to dial a rotary phone (Always use your middle finger. To this day, I still use my middle finger for all sorts of situations.)
And yes, the proper position of a scotch tape dispenser when placed back in a drawer: upright.
One day, my father discovered my incriminating list hidden in my bottom dresser drawer, underneath my pajamas. Surprisingly, he did not take it as a tribute. Go figure. On that very memorable occasion, he taught me another valuable life lesson: Never hide in your pajama drawer something you don’t want your crazed father to find.
As misguided as his lessons were, I know my dad meant well. I think about that list every now and then. Occasionally, it makes me cringe slightly – usually at the moment I catch myself telling my 21-year-old daughter the proper way to hold the steering wheel.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
©Tim Jones Betsy Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017 (Betsy Jones is my sister and my editor. In fairness, she actually re-wrote most of this piece).
If you’re a parent like me – or even if you’re a parent who’s not like me – at some point you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why on earth did I ever have kids?” In my case, I blame my wife.
For years, I found that same question popping into my head – roughly every four minutes – as I would endure one battle after another with my rebellious younger daughter for household supremacy. I fondly recall that satisfying period when I was in charge and my word was law. But then she turned two.
Parenting is exhausting, with long stretches during which you wonder if your children will ever show you a glimmer of respect or affection – and by “long stretches” I mean from age two to whatever age they currently are. If you’re feeling anxious that perhaps your child doesn’t love you, despite all the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made, it’s understandable. But there is hope she’ll get through her awkward, narcissistic phase, and the day will come when she shows you her devotion. Admittedly, when I say “there is hope”, I mean in the way that there’s hope my Seattle Mariners may someday make it to the World Series, or how astronomers hope someday they may find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
The signs are obvious if you just know where to look. Here’s how I know my daughter loves me:
Continue reading “Signs My Daughter Loves Me” »
In hindsight, I probably was not quite as strict a disciplinarian with my girls when they were growing up as I should have been. Certainly nothing like how my dad disciplined me. I realize now that I let my kids get off too easy. Case in point:
Me to my daughter Emily when she was ten: Hey, kiddo. Your room looks like a tornado just came through. Would you mind cleaning it up now, before you go out and play? I’d really appreciate it.
EMILY: That’s so unfair. Madison’s parents never make her clean up her room so why should I have to?
ME: Every family makes its own rules, and unfortunately for you, you’re a member of THIS family. Now, just make your bed, put away your clothes and pick up the leftover pizza, and then you can go have fun with your friends. Thanks. I love you.
EMILY: I HATE YOU! You are so mean! You can’t make me!
ME: I’m trying to be patient here. Don’t make me ask you again. Clean up your room now – or else!
EMILY: Or else what? You’ll give me another timeout?
ME: Um, actually, yes. Plus, I’ll take away your cell phone until you’ve cleaned your room.
EMILY: No, you won’t. Because you need me to remove that virus from your computer that you got from downloading that stupid Elf Bowl game.
ME: Shoot. Okay, help me with my computer when you have time, and I’ll let you clean your room later. But that room better be spotless before you leave for school tomorrow morning, you hear me?
EMILY: Sure. Whatever.
ME: Hey, listen, Em. You’ve no idea how easy I am being here. Just be grateful you didn’t have MY dad for a father…. Continue reading “At Least I’m Not My Dad” »
While the recent Rio Olympic Games are still fresh in your mind, it’s a perfect time to start getting your own child ready for the 2028 Olympics. The final venue has not yet been decided. I hear it’s down to Buenos Aires, Budapest and Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee. (I hear you. Why on earth is Budapest on that list? Ridiculous.)
First the bad news: If your kid is over the age of twelve, I hate to break it to you, but you waited too long. With only 12 years left until the 2028 games, there’s not nearly enough time to get your teenager up to speed.
If you love your young child, don’t waste another day. First choose a sport. But before you get ahead of yourself and say “gymnastics”, slow down, mom. Unless you plan to starve your child so she tops out at 87 pounds and 4’ 10”, I should caution you – gymnastics gold is pretty elusive. Besides, I checked. There’s this three-year-old from China who looks unbeatable for 2028.
Take a couple minutes (but not more than ten) to think about which sports make the most sense for your child to compete in. Then throw them all out the window, because the only events that will ever bring your future Olympian serious Benjamins from sponsorships are track, swimming, and gymnastics (which the Chinese girl has already got locked up). When was the last time you saw a badminton Olympian on a box of Wheaties? Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a box of Wheaties?
Once you’ve chosen your child’s Olympic specialty, it’s time to launch a rigorous training program. You’ll need a coach – someone who’s an expert in helping kids reach their full potential and crushing their spirit into dust if they make the tiniest mistake off the starting blocks. Choose your child’s coach carefully because he or she will replace you in your child’s life from this point forward. If at all possible, find a coach who bears at least a passing resemblance to you, to help remind her of the parent she once loved. Don’t worry. You’ll still be able to spend time with her every fourth Saturday and on Christmas morning until noon (after which she has to get back to her workout regimen).
Continue reading “It’s Not Too Late to Prepare Your Child for the 2028 Olympics” »