Posts from the ‘Unsolicited advice’ Category

Borrowed from the :)

What we should have learned in our senior year of high school

Laissez-faire or Beatings? The two Extremes of Fast-Food Parenting….

My wife and I were travelling by plane a while ago.  Just after the pilot extinguished the seat belt sign, the aisle and area near the front door became a children’s daycare.  Children of all sizes and shapes started running and crawling and jumping in the aisle, blocking passengers from getting to the restrooms. Now, some of you will say I was only distressed because the kids were preventing the attendants from dispensing the miniature bottles, but really…they created a totally unpleasant atmosphere for anyone in the cabin over 30. (Anyone under 30 was too busy with their iPads, iPods and other i-Ignore-U devices.)  Most of the passengers were really annoyed – sharing that beseeching look of “Please. Someone stop this!”  But no one did anything – especially not the parents. What was the parents’ reaction?  Incomprehensibly, it was support, encouragement and the annoying cluck, cluck of “Aren’t they precious?”  Shockingly and sadly, I have run into the same phenomenon at restaurants, cinemas, grocery stores, shopping malls – almost every place where children are allowed.  What the heck is going on?

But honestly, while I may be perturbed by the children’s behaviour, I really was dismayed and angry at the parents.  What were they thinking? How could they possibly believe it was okay  to have little Johnny spread-eagled across the airplane aisle, screeching at the top of his lungs for his soother? There were not enough 50ml bottles of airplane liquor (1.7 ounces for my Imperial-based friends) to deal with this!

I ask myself, why does this happen – especially when I am in a confined space with no escape route?  I read an article in the UK Telegraph (Children out of Control: Britain’s new brat pack by Kate Mulvey) and thought – Bang on, Kate!  She contends that the issue is not the kids; kids act within the boundaries, or lack thereof, set by the parents. She blames the Me Generation’s mommies and daddies. Parents focused on self; parents who allow children to set the boundaries to compensate for their inattention and poor parenting skills; as if treating their children as peers equals good parenting.

Sometimes I wonder who is calling the shots – the three-year old or the 30-year-old. When I was a kid there was absolutely no doubt who called the shots in our house!  And, though it was a long time ago that my kids were that age, I can’t ever recall letting them run around like savage children  – annoying other passengers or patrons with the antithesis of “seen but not heard”.  No, my kids were socialised to the world and understood there were places that were playgrounds, and places that were not.

My kids fit into the dominant culture and adapted – not vice versa.

Lately, the issue of children’s behaviour has become a hot topic in   the UK. The “iffy” Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) mixed with last summer’s riots (particularly as the majority of the violators were hoodie-wearing minors) produce an intense bonfire of emotions centred on effective parenting.

The argument underway now whirls around Britain’s law that limits corporal punishment, and how it prevents parents from controlling their children.

From Wikipedia (and yes, I know it is not authoritative – but the dictionary definitions make me swallow my tongue),

Corporal punishment involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with an implement

(You can imagine how bad the dictionary definitions were!)

And the UK is not the only country thinking about corporal punishment for minors…tranquil New Zealand – the Home of the Hobbits and peaceful shepherds – held a referendum on the corporal punishment question – whether to slap or not to slap?

Seriously, what century is this?  What are we – in a Dickens’ novel?  Do we bring back the workhouses for unruly children? What happens when we bring the children home from the maternity ward – the Government issues all parents a leather strap and a rubber paddle?

I mean, is it ever alright to hit a child? Ever? Some will say that every rule has an exception, but this one is pretty absolute to me – forget corporal punishment.  I believe that effective tough love cuts out the need to train children like scared Pavlov’s dogs.  To me, corporal punishment is a cop-out. It lets a parent or guardian deploy the Bomb before they have even tried to use diplomacy.  With the “let them do whatever they want” technique at one end, corporal punishment is at the other end of the “I-want-parenting-to-be- easy” spectrum.

It’s ironic, that when my wife and I went to the SPCA to adopt our cats a couple of years ago, we had to fill out a lengthy, intrusive questionnaire that asked about our lifestyle, our care plan and our commitment to the cats. It was reviewed by the SPCA powers that be, and after a few days of anxiety, we were deemed trustworthy enough to care for cats.  And I know from friends that it is a much more intimate, intrusive and harrowing process for those who wish to adopt a child.

But, to have a child naturally demands no scrutiny.  All that is needed is the coupling of a complementary set of reproductive organs – no forethought, no plan, no education, no commitment. You need more than that to get a driver’s licence.  That isn’t right.   Many potential parents may not have what it takes to raise children with the care, affection and occasional tough love that is required. They need to prove they do. Why don’t “wannabe” parents need a child-raising licence? Wouldn’t a simple pre-conception education/certification process save a lot of grief for society, aid agencies, the prospective parents and the soon-to-be conceived child?  Aren’t the needs of the child just as important as the rights of the parents? Is it really too intrusive?

I admit that I was not a perfect parent – there was the occasional overindulgence, the extremely late bed time, one too many Happy Meals, the occasional missed bath and woefully, the Tooth Fairy fiasco.  But my kids always had my time and my love – including tough love. When they were little, they always knew when they had overstepped the bounds.   They knew it through a cross word or the”time-out”, always followed by an age-appropriate explanation when the time was right.  And now, they are well adjusted young adults, who I hope learned from my example. They learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t – with no need for smacks, backhands, switches or belts.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was never too hard.

So in the future, when you are suffering the hysterical cacophony or exasperating disruption of the wayward child, perhaps you should curb your desire to discipline the child.  Maybe, just maybe, it is the parents who would behave better after some corporal punishment…



A Babel Fish Primer for Venusians and Martians…or WTF just happened?

I was creeping a friend’s Facebook page today when I happened on to her link to “Shit Guys Don’t Say”.  The clip was funny and made me laugh – particularly because it is so true.  So, in a predictable and perhaps juvenile way, I had to search for a reply to even the score in The Battle of the Sexes.  I found it with “Shit Girls Don’t Say” – again equally funny.  The satire underlined a simple fact – men and women say the same things differently.

So, as idle hands are the Devil’s workshop and it is Saturday  and I rent instead of owning – I thought I would take a daring foray into the Yin and the Yang.  Now before I start, the disclaimer: I am not a licenced practitioner of anything and I am in no way a qualified expert. My insights are based on a few articles that I have read in Hustler and Cosmopolitan, as well as lessons identified as I have tried to analyse what just happened in the wake of the occasional “silent treatment” (much rarer as I get older!)

So here goes…

Women are from Venus, and yeah, Men are from Mars.   The Book is a light, but thought-provoking read – recommended for those who are inclined to claw a little closer to the summit of the hierarchical needs pyramid.  I admit, yes, I have read it and found it interesting – not quite life-changing, but periodically habit-changing. The Book provided a few insights that helped me understand how I and other XYs act, and it also showed me that I had only seen the tip of the female communication iceberg.  You know it; that beautifully dangerous thing that has torn the hull of many a male psyche, leaving poor sods isolated and afloat in the cold waters of confusion.

For my part, I believe it is really a simple comparison: men do not like to share thoughts until they have a solution…women like to talk about things until they feel better.  I am sure, however, that experts will tell you that miscommunications are never that that simple.  Undoubtedly, a psychology major, sexual therapist or relationship counsellor will tell you that it is more complicated – that the root cause is probably a subliminal power struggle, or something stoked by negative feelings of appreciation and respect. Who knows?

In the end, I think it is just much simpler to accept that the sexes think and talk differently, and try to bridge the gap. Half of us have penises and the other half have vaginas; we usually manage to get those to live together in harmony.  So, the verbal part can’t be that hard then, can it?

Now,  I and many of my male friends, have probably sat at the kitchen table asking, “What did I say?”, after being stunned by an emotional tsunami.  Why is that?  Well, The Book offers that it may be due to a woman’s “emotional waves” (and, by the way, that is superimposed on any monthly waves).  The “literature” says that these periods are when women realise they need “emotional cleansing and resolution” (wtf?…okay, I think that means that the emotional oil and filter need to be changed).  Reportedly during these wonderful moments, negativity and pessimism rule.  A woman’s problems – perceived, existing and previously resolved – all exit the woman’s orbit and enter the man-o-sphere.  And there they will stay until the wave passes. And when it passes,  lo and behold, life is good again – smiles, chats and general lovey-doveyness. No real rhyme or reason, perhaps some triggers; but, inevitable just the same. Accept it.

But to add to the confusion, these silent and sad waves are countered by what a man thinks is the other extreme… the “talk” zone. Evidently, Venusians use dramatic language and artistic licence – not necessarily to convey a message – but to express their feelings (hence Everyman’s silent subconscious plea, “please, get to the point before my eyes stray to your cleavage or I get distracted by my toenails.”) For a woman, talking likely makes everything better: her man is listening, he is attentive and he does care.  Seemingly for her, sharing a problem is good enough; she does not need a solution.

Unfortunately, men do not think that way. To a man, every action has an equal and opposite reaction: as caveman once said, “Ughh uggah uggh!” (Translation:  “Bring me problem, I give answer!”)

Now to the guy reading this blog, do not think that men are any less of an enigma. True, we hate flowery language.  Yes, we are bluntly to the point (unless running scared).  Apparently, we talk in a literal fashion, mostly to relay information – you know, the “You look hot in that flannel nightgown. I’m horny”, kind of thing.  99% of our thoughts are preoccupied with meat, sports, sex/porn, or whatever has crossed our line of sight in the last 30 seconds.  Despite that, and the fact that we mostly have relatively shallow thoughts (for example, why do the words “booby” or “fart” make us giggle?), we can “appear” to be deep in meaningful thought.  That is because when we are stressed, feel threatened or do not have an answer, we retreat into a “hull down” position into our Caves. (Caves are varied and can be a place or an activity, i.e. the Den, the Gym, a video game, the Internet, a bike ride).  Why do we retreat? The Book says it is because we feel shame – our armour is rusted, our cape is at the cleaners – because we are puzzled or confused; we are not self-sufficient and we are no longer The Protector. Simply put, we feel useless. And we will stay in that cave – sulky, broody and silent – until we find or solution, or something shiny comes along and distracts us (again, usually porn.) Wait, common thread – porn – is that the answer? No?…Okay.

So, you ask me – what does it all mean? Wow.  To be honest, I don’t have a friggin’ clue – I didn’t write the damn Book.  But if you indulge me, I offer four suggestions for Yin andYang conversations (keeping in mind that I have made, and will continue to make mistakes).  These would be:

  • Don’t offer a solution unless it is asked for – not even when you are positive one is needed.
  • A man needs space – and isolation – when he has an issue. When he’s ready, he will talk about it, or he will let it go.
  • A woman needs her guy to listen to her and to physically show that he cares.  No “multi-tasking” listening, put down the remote control, newspaper or game controller and listen to what she has to say (and, remember Suggestion number one – listen only)
  • Don’t be cheap with the hugs.  There are never enough hugs. A good hug says more than any words can say and is a great way to enter the Cave or to show jus thow much you do care.

And that’s all I have to say on that…the game is just starting.  Later…


Listen Up, 17 year old Me…

When I was 17, I was cocky.  In retrospect, more cocky than I had a right to be. To be honest, I was only reasonably sporty, adequately – but not overly – academic, and I don’t remember being openly mocked by the ladies (after all, I did slow dance the entire way through Stairway to Heaven with a brave attempt at stealing second ). I was Lead Jester in My Own Little World.  I thought I knew it all.  Looking back, how wrong was I?  As I matured, there were many painful experiences that taught me all I know today, which in the Grand Scheme of Things, is sweet f*ck-all.  At the risk of being guilty of using an old cliché, I wish I could go back and relive my youth with what I know now.  I know – impossible.  Second best, I would write a letter to myself (reminding myself that e-mail and IMs did not exist in 1981) and offer a few nuggets of hard-won wisdom. What exactly would they be? Read on my fellow dreamer…

Enjoy your hair.  Now unless you are Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, your hair will inevitably disappear.  It will not quite leave you – sadly, it will only migrate.  As if the conditions are too hard on your head, your hair will climb down the mountain to the lower southern slopes and

The Noize, noize, noize…..

outcroppings.  I would tell Young Me to relish his orderly eyebrows, hairless ears and attractive back.  And, to enjoy his trimmer-free years…eventually his partner will tell him to  put things up his nose as a matter of personal grooming.

French fries are not a vegetable.  This one hurts. At 17 you can eat what you want – full fat, deep-fried, batter-dipped and powder-sugared.  But I would warn Young Simple Fellow about exponential growth…that 1 kg becomes 2, then quickly 4 – and soon, to unimaginable horror, the scale will read a staggering 16 kgs over prime fighting weight. Next come the questions, “what is this jiggling motion in  my pectoral area, and why can’t I see my Mini-Me anymore?”  Nip it in the bud 17 year-old Me, cut any chance of the “moobs” and “gock” – use the gym regularly and lay off the Bubba’s Poutine, and (gulp) the pints.  (Key words, “lay-off” not “eliminate”…)

Everyone is insecure.  We all have self-doubt. Some of us just ignore it better; just, ask the guy wearing the gangsta-pants. Get over it.

Smoking is not cool. Took me many years and a few tries to learn this one; surprising for something so simple really. I would tell Me to just go take a peek at the smoking area at the nearest hospital.  The post-surgical junkie smoking outside, with an IV drip stand and open-backed gown, says it all.

Your parents do know Shit. Again, it took me a while to figure this one out – the Folks actually had a couple of good bits of advice.  The old chestnut is, “When I was 16, my parents knew nothing; when I was 23, I was surprised how much my parents had learned in 7 years.”  Pretty ageless, as your parents will tell you.  I would encourage Young Me to look at the Folks as a source of information instead of a source of irritation.   And while he’s at it, I’d ask him to be nice to old people, even if they smell like soup.

Challenge yourself regularly.   I’d tell Young Me that he will be surprised at just how resilient he is.  And that there is fun to be had doing things that he has never tried before.  To Take advantage of his invincibility, because when he gets older, the fear can set in. Just don’t write checks that your body can’t cash. Save that for when you are on the rugby pitch in your mid 40s…

Read something about lots instead of a lot about something.  There is so much to know about so many topics. True, it may be lucrative, or eventually help humanity, to know a lot about one thing. Ask Bill Gates. But just think back to your last conversations with an “expert”.  Bet it was numbing and boring, and that all you heard was “blah blah blah” as you searched for an escape route.  Being well read helps you become well spoken.  I would tell Him to learn how to small talk.  – it makes people comfortable and comfortable people are much more fun than uncomfortable people.

Nothing comes easy.  I’d tell Young Me that nothing comes easy – and anything worth having is worth working for.  Practice, effort and patience and the occasional sacrifice are the keys to achieving your goals. Trust me, nobody wins the lottery on their first go.

Everyone teaches you something.  By observing those around you, you will see that everyone is a role model; the key is to identify the positive ones from the negative ones. Sadly it is not as simple as the difference between Batman and Catwoman (sorry, more than a few teenage moments thinking about that one….)

Be a good listener.  Listening is a skill.  Steven Covey wrote, “Strive to understand before being understood.” Lots of people sound like idiots because they did not exercise the sound equivalent of “Reading the F*cking Question”.  On that note…

Forget the porn, this is what you’ll Google when you’re 40+…

Listen to your doctor.  When the doc says you should skip the last few games of the season, or you’ll develop arthritis in your 40s, do not say, “Tape it up doc, that is f*cking decades away.”  When you’re 45+, it hurts – a lot. Unless you’re playing for the Stanley Cup, let the dream go…and do all the physio.

Who cares what others think – do what you think is right. Young Me, this is a tough one – may be the toughest – but if mastered it can set you up for life. Doing the right thing is hard.  It means standing up to bullies and supporting the bullied; it means making informed choices when it comes to drink and drugs and sex.   While Charlton Heston carried down the so-called Absolutes Wrongs, I have found other than the acts that land you in jail, the morally right and wrongs can get woolly.  Often there is no identifiable right and wrong – only what is right or wrong for you.  If confused, refer back to the “talking to the Folks” thing – they have had more time to develop their moral compasses. Failing that, just ask yourself what Wally Beaver would do…

That’s a big list  – most likely fruitless at that. 17 year-old Me wouldn’t listen to middle-aged Me anyway.  But to end the advice, I would offer just one more nugget…

Jaegermeister does not taste any better on its return journey.

Seemed like a good idea at the time….

I am sure that there are many more out there that will come to me during one of my many afternoon naps. I will keep them to myself and save you the boredom.  But, if you have any you want to share, I would love to hear them…probably more than  17 year-old Me would! Later…