kids, lesson, life, memories, nostalgia, observation, reminiscing, summer, youth

How Do You Make Summer Less Magical?

Two words: “GET OLD.”

I cannot stress the importance of this enough: if you have children who are in school, teach them the value of summer. Teach them to go out and absorb the wonders that surround them every time that season of freedom rolls around.

Why? Because that magic doesn’t last.

I was talking to my 13-year-old son a few weeks back. It was a weekday. I asked him how his day was. He said, “Boring. There was nothing to do. I just sat around all day watching videos on YouTube.”

I said, “That might feel boring now, but you ought to enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted because someday you might WANT to do nothing but watch YouTube, and you won’t be able to, even if it is summertime. Want to know why?” I paused for dramatic effect. Then I said, “Because you will be old like Dad, and you will have a job, and summer won’t mean the same anymore.”

Yes, it’s sad but true: summer has no more magic once you finish high school/college/grad school. Once you have bills to pay and a job to attend, that season means nothing. The only exception would be if you are a teacher, but even they can be busy with “adulting” instead of getting some sun on their faces.

I hate feeling so jaded, but I can’t help it. The only positive thing I see about summer is that I don’t have to go outside earlier than usual and clean mounds of snow off my car. For a moment, I was tempted to say that I don’t have to warm my car UP, but summertime means you have to cool it DOWN, so there is no difference between the seasons (other than the way the temperature gauge moves, of course).

Although we are one-third of the way through September, we are still clinging to summer-type temperatures here in upstate New York. Yesterday I got home early, and I was alone because my girlfriend had an appointment. After taking some time to catch up on emails, I had nothing to do. I found myself standing in my living room, looking out the window at the empty street, my arms folded, my mind slipping into a haze of nostalgia. For a moment, I thought, “Man, I wish I still had a bicycle because I’d take it out for a ride right now.”

Then it dawned on me: no I wouldn’t. If I did, I’d probably enjoy the ride for a block or two before adult thoughts crept in. I’d start looking at my phone to see what time it was. Then I’d start to wonder when I should get back home. I’d start to feel anxiety over any chores I hadn’t done or any writing that I was neglecting by going on this bike ride. Not only did I have to get back home so I could get all that done AND get to bed at a decent time, but I also had to be sure I didn’t go so far that I still felt worn out from my trek the next day. Shoot! What was I thinking, taking my bike out on a weeknight???

You see what I’m trying to tell you, ladies and gentlemen? Please do this, for me and for the love of all that is sacred, teach your kids EVERY DAY to appreciate those “boring” summer days because when they get older, “boring” days will be all they wish for!

break-up, kids, life, parenting, relationships

Kids CAN Be the Reason for a Break-Up

Did that title catch your eye? God, I hope so, because that is what it was designed to do. It was meant to inspire people to click on and read this blog. However, I realize it could have a different effect. I’m sure there are some people who don’t have much in the way of curiosity. Those folks will read that blog title, think I must be the world’s most rotten bastard, and move on with their day. That’s fine.

To the rest of you, welcome to today’s blog!

Anyone who has been through a break-up (whether it was just someone you were dating, or a divorce) has heard the pearl of wisdom that, if there are children involved, you should never tell them THEY were the reason for the split. But let’s be honest: sometimes they can be.

There are two ways this can happen: directly and indirectly. Let me cover “indirectly” first, since that will be a shorter explanation. When it comes to “directly,” I have some examples (all from the same kid), and they are bound to knock you for a loop.

INDIRECTLY

So what do I mean when I say kids can “indirectly” cause a break-up? It’s quite simple really: these are the break-ups caused by two adults disagreeing on how to raise the children, and both of them being too stubborn to budge or compromise.

When you have two adults who have strong differences of opinion on big issues, then it’s easy to see how the kids can’t be held accountable here. You could replace “kids” with ANYTHING, and it would lead to a split. Just think about it: imagine if two people have a difference of opinion on religion, or abortion, or whether Kirk or Picard made the better captain on Star Trek. Swap out “kids” for anything else, and it’s easy to see how you can’t blame them.

But what about this other category?

DIRECTLY

How can kids be directly responsible for a break-up? It depends on one thing: how much of a nightmare the child is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of person who can tolerate kids only when they are well-behaved, but I bail if they whine. I do know guys like that, sadly. If you ask them why they dumped their girlfriend, they might say something like, “Aw, dude, we went to the grocery store, and that kid of hers started throwing a fit because he couldn’t get a Kit Kat at the checkout line.” These are the types of people who have apparently forgotten that THEY were a kid once, and they acted the same way.

I don’t run for the hills for the things that I expect. In fact, I don’t take off even if the child has some behavioral issues. (See my previous blog for an example of that.) However, there are certain things that I can’t handle, even though some have said that I have the patience of Job.

I have one prime example of what I mean here. As always, in seeking to protect the innocent, I will address this child by just her first initial, which was A. At first her behavior was nothing new to me, but as time went on, it felt like living with a bully.

For example, I recall getting up on a Saturday morning to use the bathroom. There was a knock at the door. I said, “I’ll be out in a minute.” The response was an angry, irritated bellow from A: “HURRY UP! I’M ABOUT TO PEE MY PANTS!”

Trying to reason with her, I said, “I understand, A, but I’m in mid-stream here.”

As you can guess, this wasn’t good enough. I had to get out of the bathroom NOW NOW NOW. Somehow, I was supposed to know she would wake up and have to pee. This was the basis of A’s problem: everyone and everything in this world existed to meet her needs. No one else mattered.

A didn’t need any reason to wreak havoc on our lives. She did it just because she felt like it, so you can probably imagine that, when my kids came over and did something that stuck in her craw (which of course could be anything…or even nothing), that this sent her acting up into the stratosphere.

Let me begin this next example by explaining that, when we went shopping, we would buy snacks that certain kids liked. In other words, certain foods in the house became “my” food that no one else was supposed to touch. From what I know of parenting, this is standard operating procedure.

Well, get a load of this. It was a Sunday afternoon, getting close to lunch time. A had been difficult all day, but I was dealing with it the best I could. I asked my boys what they wanted for lunch, and they both said sandwiches.

And do you know what our dear friend little Miss A chimed in with?

“You can’t use the bread. That’s mine.”

Un-fucking-real. In fact, it is so unreal that you probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s true. Despite all the years I’ve been engaged in writing, I could NOT make that one up. (In case you’re wondering: my boys DID wind up eating sandwiches.)

However, I think my favorite example of her unreasonable behavior was the night we decided we were going to order out for dinner instead of cooking. A was indecisive about what she wanted to get. By the time she decided, the restaurant had closed, and I shit you not: she stood in the kitchen YELLING at her mother to go down there and tell them to open back up.

Welcome to the wild, wonderful world of A. What I mean is, YOU are welcome to it if you want it. As for me, I bailed almost two years ago.

CONCLUSION/FURTHER REFLECTION

Now that I have written all this out, I think my opinion on the matter is different now.

It isn’t fair of me to say A caused the break-up because she couldn’t help her behaviors. She had mental health issues, but she was a kid. Your average kid isn’t going to know what they can do to get these issues addressed. That falls on the parents. (Or in this case, the PARENT, because her dad was not around.)

A’s mom did start to do some things to cope with her daughter’s behavior, but she dragged her feet about it. By the time the process began, it was too little, too late for me. My ability to tolerate such behavior any further had been worn away, so I had to leave. Again, that’s not on A; that’s on me. It wasn’t her fault that I lacked the ability to hope there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, but for me that passage just went on for far too long. The light at the end was so small that it wasn’t even a tiny dot of illumination cutting through that darkness. However, I wasn’t as concerned about the harm being around such behavior was doing me; I was more concerned about what it was doing to my kids. I mean, imagine going over to see your dad for the weekend, and being stuck in a house where it’s like being around the schoolyard bully for three days. Not the most fun.

In conclusion, I’ve had a change of heart. Even in extreme cases like A, it can’t TRULY be said that the child is directly responsible for the break-up. If action had been taken to address her behaviors sooner, then things wouldn’t have been so bad. Like I said earlier, she was just a kid; it’s not like she had idea where to go for help.

Anyway, folks, there you have it: my argument for why kids CAN cause a break-up, followed by my rebuttal…of myself. I hope you enjoyed it and that you haven’t grown to hate me too much after reading this!

break-up, everyone, kids, lesson, life, memories, mental health, relationships, reminiscing

Sometimes the Worst Part of a Break-Up is Missing the Kids

I don’t know what got me heading down this particular memory this morning, but it moved me enough to share it. Now you get to reap the benefits.

Several years ago, I dated a young woman (who shall remain nameless). She had three kids, although the focus of this blog is on one of them. He had a very unique name, so I am going to rename him Pete. He was the middle child. Having had no siblings, I was unaware of this, but middle children are supposed to be the most difficult. This was true of Pete, but not for the reasons usually attributed to them: he just happened to be the one child of hers who exhibited severe mental health issues.

“What kind?” you might wonder. Well, I’m not sure of his official diagnosis. I do know that he could have an explosive, violent tempter. She told me that, when he acted out in elementary school, he would throw desks and chairs around the room. There were also some things that I witnessed first-hand. For example, I remember Pete sitting in the living room, playing a video game, and I walked past him to head upstairs. I didn’t say a word to him and yet, completely unprovoked, he looked at me and said, “What are you doing here? You should be dead already.” This wasn’t him taking a stab at dark humor either; he was SERIOUS.

I imagine most guys who heard that would have two reactions: either they would (1) get aggressive toward Pete, or (2) they would say to his mother, “Um, I gotta go.” As for me, I had a third reaction: I brushed it off. It wasn’t personal.

Anyway, you’re probably thinking back to the title of this blog and wondering, “How could you miss a kid like that?” Well, I’m going to get into that now.

One time, my ex and her kids came over to my place. A friend of mine was also visiting. He saw a piece of martial art equipment that I have, which is called a “wooden dummy.” (If you don’t know what that is or looks like, just Google “Wing Chun wooden dummy.”) He asked how it was used, so I showed him. It wasn’t until much later when Pete’s mom told me, “You know, all while you were doing that, Pete watched you the entire time. He was transfixed.” While I wasn’t sure I wanted a young man like Pete to know how to hurt people more efficiently, it did make me proud that his attention hadn’t waived. It made me feel like I had somehow connected with him.

A few days after that, I was at Pete’s house again. He was playing a Batman video game, and there was one tricky part that was getting him very agitated. The more times he tried and failed, the angrier he got. It looked like he was going to act out, so I went up to him, placed my hand gently on his shoulder, and I said, “Hey, Pete, I’ve played this game before, and I beat this part. Would you mind if I got you past it?”

I was braced for him to throw the controller at me, but he didn’t; he held it out for me to take. Then I sat down next to him and got him past the difficult part. Once I did, I handed the controller back to him and said, “There you go, bud.” And that was it.

The next day, I called Pete’s mom when I got home from work. I hadn’t planned on going over because I had some writing to get done, but I wanted to at least hear her voice. While we were talking, I heard Pete ask her something in the background; he was too far away, so I couldn’t decipher what he said.

His mom said, “I don’t know. I’ll ask him.” Then, turning her attention back to me, she said, “Pete wants to know if you’re coming over tonight.”

For a moment, I was too stunned to talk. Eventually I regained the ability to talk, and I said, “I wasn’t planning on it, but I can.” Then, after a moment, I said, “Has he ever asked if a friend or boyfriend was coming over?”

She said, “No.” One word, one syllable, but I could tell she was just as stunned.

Pete’s mom and I were together for a few months after that. She was the one who broke up with me. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t really matter…not in the grand scheme of things, nor does it contribute to the point of this post, which I am going to reveal here and now. It is the answer to the question, “Why the hell would you miss a kid who got violent and asked why you weren’t dead yet?”

The answer is, “Because I reached him.” And I wanted to reach him more. I could have, but it just wasn’t meant to be. At least I gave SOMETHING to his life.

Many people would have the sam reaction to Pete, which is to want to run away screaming. Not me. You see, in my mind, Pete’s behavioral issues weren’t that big of a deal. Why? Because when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, they were just problems to be solved. What most people don’t realize is that some problems are more difficult than others. For example, calculus is more difficult than algebra. That doesn’t mean people should stop trying to solve calculus problems, does it?

Treating the kid like a monster or a freak doesn’t help anything or anyone. Most importantly, it doesn’t help PETE any.

Sometimes I wonder how he is doing. I have no way to contact his mom and ask because when she broke up with me, my ego couldn’t handle it, so I said some pretty mean-spirited things. I did run into her at an event and apologized about them. She said, “Don’t worry about it. We’re good.” That was wonderful to hear, but I know we aren’t so good that she will unblock me on Facebook. LOL Well, what can you do but live and learn? If you want to remain friends after a break-up, don’t say nasty things. It might be too late for Pete’s mom, but I can avoid that mistake going forward.

As for Pete, I hope he’s doing okay.