A little on the quirky side.

Unicorn Alexis

Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

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The Inexplicable.

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Statue of a child reading to a dog. / Photo by KidZond.

 

So now what? It happened again, as it has happened before. A person with a grudge, or madness, or maybe just disconnected with humanity, took innocent lives.

Pundits abound, and yes, even me. Yet don’t expect answers from me. I don’t have any, only questions, many questions.

The first question I have is Gun Control. Logically, and let’s be real here, logically we should have stricter gun control. National Registry, more in-depth background checks, maybe even restricting who can have guns. You can’t possess alcohol in the United States until you are 21. Smoke until you are 18. Defend your Nation until you are 18. Why should children touch weapons until then? Logical question.

But we know the answer. Whether you are “Pro-Gun” or “Anti-Gun” the ability to control some 300 Million firearms is daunting, if not impossible. From lawsuits to skirting the law by schematics, to definitions as to what exactly is a dangerous firearm. Gun Control, as noble and lofty as is sounds, is impractical for prevention of gun violence.

The 2nd Amendment needs to be repealed argument comes up. Considering that we only have 27 Amendments in our “241 years” as a nation, should tell you something about how hard that would be. Yes some Amendments have been repealed, but the 2nd Amendment? That is not going to happen.

Of course Mental Illness has entered the discussion. With many using Mental Illness as a foil to this scourge just like others, who use an inanimate object as the foil. Obviously the teen in Texas had to be mad, because sane people do not just kill people. So goes the argument. Yet many suffer from mental illness and live out productive, well-adjusted lives, never once posing a threat to others, much less themselves.

And whether those who perpetrate these crimes are mentally ill or not, labeling a whole group, or suggesting this group alone is responsible, is damning to our society. Especially to sufferers who want nothing more than to be accepted. Try telling your boss you take medicine for depression and not have them start to ‘watch you’. Bantering about mental illness as the sole cause is absurd.

Then there are those who say it is societies fault. That if we just had fathers in those children’s home, or if we didn’t have video games full of violence, they would grow up just fine. However many people grow up in broken homes. Homes filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. Yet they do not go out and murder people.

You could say this is all due to a lack of Faith. That God has been stricken from the classroom and demeaned to the point of being called a fairytale, and this is the root cause. However it was religious zealots who took down the Twin Towers in New York City. Jim Jones, David Koresh, and dozens of examples exist to say that Religion doesn’t prevent mass killings. Of course Stalin wasn’t a very religious guy and he murdered millions. Individual shooters in recent events have not professed great faith or lack there of.

 

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Daniele Crespi – Cain Killing Abel/Wiki Commons.

 

One possibility to this issue can be found in an old archetype story from the Bible. The story of Cain and Able. The ‘First Murder’.

In the story Cain’s offerings to God are rejected. His brother Able’s are accepted. This implied jealousy finally drives Cain to murder his brother Able.

So the story goes.

However the story has other meanings that are missed. At one point, God warns Cain that Evil is ‘knocking at the door’ (paraphrasing the passage). God tells Cain to be wary of his feelings and attitude. Cain, ignores this and slays his brother.

And while there are many other metaphors that can be taken from this story, this warning from God stands out to me.

See, when it comes down to it, it is the individuals decision that casts the die. They are the ones that plan out their heinous acts. They are the only one who readies themselves. Who, if so inclined, has to confront what evil they plan to do. And if they have self-doubt, or find their humanity, and sanity to turn away from their deed, change their own mind and stop themselves.

No matter what we do as a society, what laws we pass, amendments we repeal, court ordered mental evaluations, those who wish to do harm to others, they, and only they, can stop themselves.

This doesn’t negate our responsibility as members of society. We should be vigilant to stop those who wander the path of Cain. We should exam all avenues that can prevent these terrible crimes, to protect the innocent, and make us safer.

No one political or ideological solution will solve this. Blaming others to make sense of these tragic events does not one damn bit of good. Finding solutions to stop future tragedies is not based on Gun Control, 2nd Amendment Rights, School Security, Mental Health, or Legal solutions. It is based on all of these combined, working in concert, to solve a greater issue. Stopping the inexplicable, less we find ourselves wandering in the land of Nod forever.

 

[Opinions expressed in this Blog are the Authors and the Authors alone.]
https://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cain_and_Abel

 

Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

Alexis Self Portrait2

Alexis. Self Portrait.

 

 

A little fact about myself. I only have 9 toenails. I lost one due to a childhood accident. Now when I tell the story of how I lost it, I’ve never been asked the question will it grow back. Little children do sometimes, but never from adults.

This is typical. Most adults don’t go around saying to a one-legged person, “So when do you expect your leg to grow back?” or “It will get better, just keep working harder, relying on that prosthetic leg is not helping you”. I could never imagine saying that to someone, could you? No, you wouldn’t.

Yet I get this a lot with my daughter who is a HFA, High Functioning Autistic. There seems to be this perception that if we just teach her this, or that, her autism will go away. As if it is just a cold, and given time, it will go away.

It won’t.

People seem to get lost that because she looks like a typical 10-year-old girl, which she is…just one with HFA…they expect her to interact and behave like any ‘A neurotypical’ 10-year-old girl. Which she doesn’t.

Alexis has quirks. Little things that people don’t notice at first, and when they do? Well they become Alice in Alexis’ Wonderland. Just like the story Alice in Wonderland, where a little girl goes into a world, that doesn’t make a bit of sense to her, most people try to correct Alexis, believing it is all just bad behaviour. Not understanding that the behaviour they expect? Is just as alien to Alexis as Alice was to the Mad Hatter. Remember, the Hatter thought Alice was Mad.

I find people perplex by her quirks. Even after I explain her quirks to them, explain that she is HFA, they still just don’t accept it, and suggest she ‘grow her leg back’ so to speak. I am given parenting advice, tips, links to articles. All sorts of stories of how they were raised, and what their parents did to correct their bad behaviour. Because that is how they see her, behaving badly. A product of bad parenting. An extremely ironic stance if you know the history of autism.

Alexis doesn’t say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. She finds those social niceties absurd. Often I run across the Adult who withholds giving her a toy, piece of candy, or some other object till she says ‘Please’. Which to her is traumatic, and frustrating beyond the comprehension of the adult, who is perplexed by her reaction. See, Alexis isn’t a child who needs to ‘learn their manners’, this is akin to me giving you a $1,000,000 check after I won the lottery and telling you I wrote Void on it. Your first response would be “Why would you do that?” and all I can say is Exactly! Welcome to Wonderland Alice, you have just stepped inside my daughters world.

This is the Mad Hatter’s Hat I have to wear sometimes. Stepping into Alexis’ world so I can tell all the Alice’s  of the world, why she acts the way she does. I have to play interventionist just so people can understand her, and not get frustrated by her reactions. Which they do often, but mostly, I have to intervene so she doesn’t get frustrated and slip into a traumatic state that will take hours, if not a whole day, for her to calm down.

Alexis does has quirks. She likes wearing certain clothing, namely, pajamas. She even wears them to school. Now you may find this cute, or inappropriate, or weird. Yet trying telling your daughter who is standing in her bedroom, wearing only her underwear, refusing to dress, because you forgot to put her jammies in the dryer last night. And do your best to keep calm as she melts down, crying, with only 10 minutes to get to school before the first bell rings. You see, it’s a tactile thing for her, certain fabrics bother her as fingernails on a chalkboard bother most of us.

Alexis isn’t a picky eater. Provided that the food she eats, say pork chops, tastes the same each time she has it. If I get a different cut, or use a different spice, she notices, and will refuse to eat it.

Then there are the constant routines, things that have to be a specific way or else it sets her off. Her pillow has to be just so, her blanket too. Stuffed animals arranged in a specific order. People coming over unexpectedly, or not coming over. Us staying a friends longer than what we told her originally, or someone staying at our place longer than she expected. Or say a substitute teacher at school, even simpler things like not having the cup for her drink. Those disruptions which seem so mundane to us, that I can say to my 7-year-old son, “It’s fine, Nick”, and it is fine for him, become an obstacle for Alexis, that she struggles to overcome.

To the Alice’s of the world, she seems nothing more than a spoiled brat who isn’t getting her way. Because they only pop into our Wonderland for a short time, they don’t live there like we do. Many want to correct her, or berate her. And by doing so, upset her. They don’t know she doesn’t understand why they are ‘mad’ at her. Nor why doing something their way is ‘proper’ and her way is ‘rude’.

There is more of course, the personal hygiene, physiological issues that come along with autism. Well, at least my daughter. Even being HFA, there are issues. Because Autism is truly a Wicked Little Tailor that makes a suit for each person it affects. You learn to deal with those issues, while working hard to avoid public embarrassment for your child.

Alexis is very high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. By guiding her, help her deal with all the Alice’s of the world, she can find an inner translator for her Wonderland. A Hatter’s Hat, so to speak, that she can give out, to all those who just don’t quite get her quirks. Till that day comes, I don the Hatter’s Hat, get out my translation book, and tell the Alice’s of the world that No, she will not act the way you think she will. And No, this is not bad behavior, or being a brat. And NO, this will not ‘go away’.

 

 

 

 

 

A little Fake News is good for the soul.

If of course, you believe in that stuff.

 

GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked

Grandma certainly does have big eyes, and dog breath. / Gustave Dore – Wikicommons

 

I saw a post on Facebook fishing for followers. Can’t say I blame them, if you are in the blogging/media world you want followers. So you drop a snazzy headline, jazz up the article/video and wait for the fish to bite.

Of course, I bit. The headline was “How to spot Fake News”, with an emphasis on fake articles from the 2016 United States Presidential election. The Russian influence.

This article actually disappointed me. Not because it was about politics, and how the Russians used Facebook post to Fake News, but because that was all they talked about. As if the political aspects of Fake News are the most important aspects.

Yeah, well, of course it is important. You can argue the case that political Fake News is damning and hurts a nation. But what about all the other fake news? You know, the stuff people rarely even bat an eye at that it might be fake?

There is a name for that type of fake news, dozens of books, movies, t.v. shows, all that very popular stuff.

Folklore.

Or urban myths, tall tales, or jocular tales to entertain, and sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

Some stories are meant to anger you, work on your emotions, and get you mad enough to do action.

Like this one below, meant to have you boycott Pizza Hut. A quick google search and you’ll find the story is a hoax meant to illicit anger and resentment. Nothing in the post is true, not even the owner of the post.

 

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This tale is meant to incite anger. / KidZond.

 

Years ago you would hear these stories by word of mouth, then came along email, and finally, social media.

The surprise of these stories is not their absurdity, nor how well they take a truth and twist it, but how eagerly people are ready to believe it. Many of us do, I have bought into some. It happens folks.

See this one below? Seems like a wonderful idea. And guess what? It actually works! But…yes, there is always a ‘but’ with these, this is not the 10-14 hour version. This is light it, and probably burn up really quick version. As the fire will go up the feeder logs before they can roll into the pit. In other words, you’re creating a bonfire in the form of a ‘V’.

Screenshot_20180129-123909.png

 

Now a real version of a self feeding fire pit does exist, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to build. Knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get it to work.

This? Is not it.

It is however, a self feeding fire pit. So while the picture doesn’t lie, it neglects to tell you the outcome. You are supposed to be able to ‘set it, and forget it’. Instead you will probably need the garden hose to put it out before you ever get a chance to truly enjoy it.

If of course, you believe in that stuff…

 

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Of course the worst Fake News out there are the medical claims. This fruit will cause (or cure!) cancer, diabetes, scurvy, kuru and possibly, if you are lucky, improve your sex life.

90% of us just make a sour face and scroll on. Then there are those posts, like the one above, that put you at risk if you follow their advice. Snazzy graphics and sketchy statistics lure you in.

Consider the current situation in the United States. There is a flu outbreak, it is all over the news. Two strains are being talked about, some 37 deaths reported so far. People are concerned and rightly so. The Flu is a dangerous thing.

Most of those who have not already gotten a shot, would be thinking, about now is a good time to get one. Then, while scrolling down on their Facebook feed, they run across something like the screen capture above.

That’s when it falls upon the individual to figure out what is what. Is this serious? Are those facts true? Wow, what in the heck have we been doing to ourselves all these years! Why would anyone EVER get a Flu shot?!

50 Million.  

That is the number of people who died from the Spanish Flu. That happened a 100 years ago, the outbreak started in 1918.

Some 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population at that time, became infected with the Spanish Flu. It was devastating.

Consider this. The CDC estimates some 291,000 to 646,000 die of seasonal Flu outbreaks world-wide in modern times, some 100 years after the Spanish Flu outbreak. Also consider that the vaccine for the flu is readily available in most developed nations.

Kind of shoots the hell out of the idea that vaccination is a bad thing doesn’t it? Yeah, sure, we’re talking a 100 years time, a particular nasty outbreak in 1918, no guarantee that another nasty outbreak will not occur in the future. Yet…

Do you really think not getting a vaccine is the best route? That vaccines do not matter? What about Polio? Small Pox? Measles?

This type of fake news preys upon those with a predisposed bias. Those who are wary of shots, doctors, medicines and well, the government.

Now, before you write off this Fake News, take a look at the bottom of the above photo. This is my screen capture. At the time I did this 1.1 million had viewed it. 32,000 had shared it. How many believed it?

Little Red Riding Hood was tricked by the Wolf, she was saved by the handy axe-wielding Woodsman. Snopes will help, but having a skeptical mind and good research skills will help you in this social media age.

Folklores of old usually had a ‘Moral of the Story’ part. As in, don’t walk in the woods alone. Never talk to strangers, be mindful of your surroundings. These were stories that taught children that the world is full of deceit. Best to be mindful.

I told my eldest two folktales throughout their childhood. I tell my youngest two these tales also. I feel these tales have lessons we have seemed to have forgotten in this day and age. As we plod along on social media, absorbing story after story, and our children are right behind us. Now is a good time to harken back to those old tales, to read them, and to listen to the moral of the story.

Good lessons in this day and age of Fake News.

 

Further reading and sources used in this blog.

[All opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone. Unless the Reptilian Overlords have taken over my mind.]
https://www.snopes.com/search/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a19409/this-self-feeding-campfire-will-burn-all-night/
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic

 

The Lefthanded side of White Privilage.

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A Heart pierced by an Arrow. / Illustration by an Evil Left-hander. [KidZond]

I think it was the post that set me off. Yes, I had heard the term ‘White Privilege’ for quite some time. It had been bantered about on the News, Talk Radio, Social Media and from a few friends mouths. I read this story where two men who check different boxes on official forms have a discussion and the guy who checks ‘White/ Non-Hispanic’ makes his point and… golly gee, all is well. White Privilege is vanquished.

I have to admit I bought into that. I check the same box, ‘White/Non-Hispanic’ and well yeah, I don’t feel privileged. It was rather simple for me to believe this. I am not privileged.

See, like many people who check the same box as I do on official forms, I live a pretty basic life. I work hard, pay bills, struggle with bills, have the same issues as any average American. How was my being white giving me privilege? I certainly didn’t feel privileged.

It angered me because those I heard from, read about, posted stories and comment on the subject of white privilege, kept talking about how I was racist because of the color of my skin.

And that was the element to the narrative the irritated me. That White Privilege equaled racism.

It was when I read a post from a friend who invoked those very sentiments that I wanted to know more about White Privilege. Why had so many equate it with racism? How was the color of ones skin a determination factor on who they were as an individual?

For those who check another box, other than I do…sound familiar?

Then I made a startling discovery. White Privilege, as many use the term, is a misnomer. It doesn’t refer to racism, it refers to Left-handedness.

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Right-handed Scissors./Photo by KidZond.

Are you Right-handed or Left-handed? Most likely you are right-handed, most of humanity is. But not all. I was born left-handed, but switched over to use my right hand. Fairly common back in the 60’s. My eldest daughter is left-handed, and one day she found something that upset her. A little jocular note my wife (Who is also left-handed) had on our fridge. It simply stated this:

“Left-handed people are more likely to die in accidents than right-handed people.”

She asked me if that was true. I told her I doubted that, and for the record, it is not true. But, I did say there was some kernel of truth to the matter. She of course, asked how? And I explained.

They world is built for Right-handed people. Everything you use, pick up, open, close, write on, is built for those who use their right hand. I told her she would always have that obstacle to deal with. She will need to either deal with easy to get right-handed scissors, or buy a pair of left-handed scissors at some out-of-the-way store. Little things for sure, but annoying things.

My daughter, a left-hander, lived in a right-hand world. And there was nothing she could do about it.

Consider the common phrases you hear everyday. Right hand man, raise your right hand, right hand of God. Then there are more simple things. Ever open a door by grabbing the knob on the left? No? When you shake someones hand which hand do you use? And that is exactly what White Privilege is.

Now was this done by design? Yes.

It was done because those who created the system, well, they were all ‘Right-Handers’. Despite the common narrative to keep others down, no, not really. They were simply never factored into the equation. Those ‘Left-Handers’ just didn’t matter enough to even bother about. So all those ‘right-handers’ who check that box, well, the world is built for them.

It may seem minor to some. It may seem that we have reached equality. We think so, we believe this to be true. Yet try living in a left-hand world when you use your right-hand. Wouldn’t be so easy would it? Little reminders everyday that you are different. That the world is not made for you, but revolves around those ‘right-handers’.

I do not have a solution. I’ll leave that to smarter minds. Yet I hope this little comparison takes the debate away from strictly racial ideologies. White Privilege is not about racism. It’s about being left-handed in a right-handed world…and having to use those damn scissors for a living, without the option to buy a pair that fit your hand.

 

*Puppy dog tails not included.

Nick in Rainbows

Rainbows, even artificial ones, are always fun. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I just want to set the record straight. I have three daughters. I get daughters, I get girls. I have 26 years experience with daughters.

Each is an individual, each are special and wonderful in their own way. I could not imagine my life without my daughters.

Understand I can shop for girls clothing like there is a blue light special from heaven. I can pick a girls toy out for their birthday and bring a tear to their eye. I can give that hug to take away the mean thing the girl on the playground said. Or agree with them that ‘boys are just stupid’.

Being a father of Daughters is a very important job. Huge, I mean Titanic in proportions to any job you will ever do.

Why? easy. You are the first man they will fall in love with. You are the person, that male figure, they will put the bar to that all men henceforth will have to achieve. And good luck to those guys if you do your job correctly.

Girls I get. Daughters, with all their complexities, I get.

 

Snips and Snails… 

 

Then the boy came along. Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. He’s the coolest dude I know. He’s smart, active, kind, generous, loving and a host of other nice things. I am very thankful to have him in my life.

But, and yes this is ironic, I knew nothing about boys. Yes of course I was one…very long ago. So when my son Nicholas came along, I had a steep learning curve.

The first thing I learned was that he was very different from my daughters. Years back, when my oldest was a baby, I got the bright idea of ‘tossing her in the air’. No, I did not bounce her off the ceiling, just so we are straight here. Just a little hop, didn’t even clear my finger tips. She bawled like a baby. Probably because she was one. Which of course, made me feel horrible and I promised to never do that again to a child.

So yeah, tossing babies was out. Should have known that anyways. But hey, first kid. Of course I didn’t do that to my next child, Kayla. Yet when Alexis came along I had forgotten what an idiotic thing that was. Um, she bawled too. Another reminder to myself, don’t toss babies.

Then, by accident, as I adjusted my grip while holding him up in the air (I think I was taking him out of his car seat) and I tossed Nick. He giggled. Another little toss, giggle, a little higher, full on laugh. He loved it. Can you guess which of my four children jumps on their bed the most? Yeah, the boy.

Then there was the time Alexis was super excited and well, she peed on the floor. I was changing Nick’s diaper. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even if your 3-year-old is peeing on the floor, never leave your son exposed and look away for a bloody second. He peed on me. So, clean up on aisle living room, little girl, little boy, and myself.

He likes to jump, loves to run. He learns something and goes with it. Like climbing, flipping, getting into things. Those child locks on cupboard doors? Three daughters never got into them, tried but never could. Nick busted them off opening the cupboard door because “The door was stuck”.

It is the physical aspect of having a boy no one tells you about. I’m not just talking about rough play, but the things like when you wife tells you to teach your son how to ‘aim’, because a wet toilet seat at 3 a.m. is annoying. A pissed mother is even more annoying.

Of course in this day and age, a lot comes with raising a boy. Like the plethora of Facebook posts that remind me not to raise a rapist. I guess I should find these offensive, but no, not really. The main reason is not only am I not teach him to be a rapist. I am also teaching him not to steal, not to bully, not to be mean to animals.

In fact what I am teaching my son is respect. Be respectful of other people’s things. Be respectful of other people’s feelings. Be respectful to those less fortunate than you. And of course, be respectful of other people’s personal space and bodies.

(of course in full disclosure, he still jumps on me like I am a toy. But that is just a father-son thingy.)

Nicks PWD Award

Nick holding his First Place Award for his Pack’s Pinewood Derby Race. / Photo by KidZond.

 

…And all things nice.

 

In the end, raising boys is very similar to raising girls. Yes, they are very different. From the get go, boys and girls are opposites. Probably why they find each other so attractive years down the line. But raising them? There are a lot of commonalities. They are children, and all children have a general behavior. All children need direction and guidance.

Your son goes off of how you are as a father. Like your daughter, whom you are the first man she loves, you are the first man your son respects. How you handle situations will define how he will, as he grows up. If you get angry at every little thing. Well that sponge of a brain of his will think that is the way to handle situations. If you leer or make snide comments about women? How do you think he is going to feel toward women? If you think nothing of stealing, don’t be surprised if you son turns out to be a thief. Your actions, set the tone.

The picture above of my son winning his pinewood derby race is a great lesson. I didn’t think he would win. Neither did he. Yet prior to the race I talked to him about winning and losing. In both, be gracious. Make sure you congratulate the winners, and tell those who lost, “great race”.

I’m happy to say he was very gracious. He was sad a Den mate did not win, and wouldn’t move on to the next race. He never gloated, never boasted, was respectful and kind. Like a good son, and definitely like a good Cub Scout.

I’ve only had Nick in my life for 7 years. But I am getting a glimpse of the man he may become. I have to hedge my bet and say “So far, so good”. Yet to say with absolute certainty he will be a good man is tempting fate. He, like every person that has grown up, will face trials and temptations. Bad influences abound. Friends with ‘cool ideas’, or something he saw in a video on YouTube and thinks he should emulate.

And this is where I come in. As a father, you not only protect your children from others, you have to work on protecting children from themselves. Give them the tools to make the right decisions, let them work the problem, help them find the solution that doesn’t compromise their morals or ethics. Teach them to be a good person. Teach them to Be Respectful, and that includes being respectful of themselves.

 

 

[The views expressed in this blog are solely of the author. Opinions expressed in this blog do not represent the BSA organization, nor is the author directly affiliated with the BSA organization.]

 

The Family Secret of The Cat Lady.

Or how I learned to live with my Mother’s obsession with Cats.

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One fifth of my Mother’s Clowder (group of cats) / Photo by KidZond

 

Everyone has one in their family. Oh, you may not know it, or you may just ignore it, but they are there. Cat lovers. No…obsessed cat lovers. Meaning, if the house is on fire? They will let you know after they get the cats out first. Well, unless of course, they need your help first to round them up. Which they probably will, so, you’re safe.

It’s not like cat lovers are bad people, they are actually very loving and caring people. This is typical of any animal lover. Those who care for the welfare of animals, creatures who are by nature or design, mostly defenseless, will likely be kind to other ‘non-animals’. You know, people.

This was my Mother. She had always said you can tell about a person by they way they treated animals. Especially cats. She had, in her youth, left a boyfriend because he did not like cats. My Father loved cats. Well no, he was actually a Dog person, but he got along with cats. Not like he had a choice in the matter.

My earliest memories have to do with animals. I had always been around cats. I know more about cats than any other animal on earth. Mom wanted me to become a veterinarian.

(I had to say no to that, I wanted to make a living, not be her personal veterinarian and live in my parent’s basement till I was in my 40’s)

You realize that you know cats so well, that when I was in high school, during lunch, I could mimic a cat vomiting so well that my friends turned green. I won the “Who Could Gross Out The Table” contest by the way.

My mothers obsession with cats really took off after I graduated high school. I lived at home till I was 23 years of age. Worked odd shifts at starter jobs, came home at odd hours. I can’t tell you how many times I came home, tired from a long day, only to see my mother in her nightgown and robe peering out into the darkness with a flashlight calling for a cat.

Our cat’s had a curfew. I had to help find the cat.

When I graduated high school back in 1982, we had four cats. When I moved out on my own, my mother had six cats. The Clowder or Glaring as a group of cats are called, only grew. By the time my first child came along in 1991, my mother had some 22 cats.

Now my mother wasn’t “nuts” or “crazy”. She didn’t talk to herself…oh wait, she did. But she didn’t exhibit any symptoms that would require a psychologist. She didn’t like psychologist anyways, thought they were just nuts.

She did however, maintain a home, paid her bills, cooked and cleaned, even took on a part-time job after retirement. For the most part, she was a normal as anyone. But cats were a different matter. She had to save them, and by them? I mean every cat that crossed her path.

I remember this cute little short-haired black cat that she fed. See, mom was worried about cats outside, so she left bowls of food outside for the cats. This black cat was nice, very pretty, and well, in need.

“Mom, are you sure that cat is a stray? She looks pretty well fed to me.” I said to her one day when I was over.

“Well did you see how she eats? She’s starved!” My mother would say in a sympathetic voice.

The next time I saw the cat she had a collar on. She belonged to a neighbor. Mom couldn’t figure out why she came over to her house if the cat had its own home. I mentioned that maybe it was because of food she left outside. Mom didn’t think that was it. I suggested bringing in the food at night, she thought that was a bad idea.

Then the gray cat appeared, it was ugly, hairless tail, big bug eyes, really hungry because it just camped out on the back porch and ate all the food. On the second night of this pathetic gray cat’s camp out, my father told her it was an opossum. Mom brought the food in after that.

Stray cats were my mothers passion. Those poor cats that people abandon and left them to fend for themselves. She worried and fussed over them, taking them in, getting them to the vet, making sure they fit in with the clowder. My father and I worried too. I asked my father if I should put out a sign outside his house. “Please stop dropping off your cats at our house”. My father said it would just give out the exact location of the crazy cat lady’s house. He had a point.

Loki in the GrassR1

Loki relaxing in the grass. / Photo by KidZond

 

One thing about growing up with cats, it made it hard to bring friends over. Not quite to the point of social outcast, but close. The fear? My friends would say something bad about cats. Then I would have to hear about it. If a person didn’t like cats, or animals in general, those were not the sort of people I should be associating with now, should I? Of course there was the whole thing of not wanting people to know either. When you are asked if you mother has cats, yes, 22 at last count, is going to require answers.

“Is your mother crazy?” 

“Maybe, define ‘crazy'”

“Well that’s a lot of cats! How much do they cost to feed?” 

“About a Micronations yearly budget.”

“How does it smell in her house?”

“I can’t smell, my mother had my nostrils plugged when I was 10.”

Yes it did smell, yes it did cost money to feed the Horde or Clowder (Glaring? That word is just creepy). Yes it was annoying and sometimes embarrassing. Yes, I did think my mom was nuts…back then in my youth.

But you know what? It didn’t matter. Not just because she was my mother. Not just because I knew her life, orphaned at 4 years of age, and then bounced around from family member to family member till she married my father. No, it didn’t matter because of what my mother’s cat fixation taught me.

Everyone needs love.

Everyone needs a home and a place to sit and relax without fear.

Everyone needs a good meal.

Everyone needs to be petted. 

I learned that showing kindness is its own reward. To have compassion for those in need, even a stray cat, will empower you to help your two-legged friends down the line.

It may have been a simple lesson to learn, yet it was a powerful lesson.

Ironically, I’m more of a dog person. We do have two cats at my house, also a dog, and two smaller two-legged animals that talk back. Yet I have never forgotten the lessons my crazy cat mother had taught me. Compassion.

Dott relaxed

Our cat Dott, relaxed, because nothing is more relaxed than a cat. / Photo by KidZond

It may have been an embarrassment in my youth. It may have been a consternation to my father and the whole family, yet my mothers love for animals, specifically cats, did show her character. She was a caring, loving mother. A good woman. Salt of the earth. As long as you treated cats nicely. If not, well, may God have mercy on your poor soul. Because she wouldn’t.

And not one of us in my family would save you either.