Thoughts, rants and commentary of a simple man

A boy insulting another boy is not the end of the world

Posted on June 4th, 2014 in For the ladies,For the men,On Fatherhood,On Manhood,On Parenting,Personal Messages | No Comments »

tl;dr Boys are way different than girls and aren’t little meanies because they call another boy a name

Raising a son is hard. And I have to say that raising a son as a single mom or a mom with no help from dad is probably the hardest thing that can be done as a parent today because there are so many societal “norms” that are being applied to young boys that sometimes letting a boy’s natural character out means that he’s in some way a problem child. I am not complaining about raising a son in any way, shape or form. Instead I am saying that raising a son can be challenging, particularly when the natural character of a boy is at odds with what a parent, or society in general, deems appropriate.

The reason I say this is because of an incident I learned about today involving my son. He has had his share of scraps and run-ins this school year, and has been spoken to quite a bit for behavior and behavior related issues. To me, this is to be expected for an eight year old boy. Hell, when I was his age I was doing much of the same stuff he’s doing today. Pretty much every boy in my school was. I think that’s because, in general, boys have a way about them that is unique to boys. We are loud, aggressive, forward, vocal, sometimes condescending, sometimes domineering, sometimes mean and sometimes rude. I am not saying these are all good qualities. I’m just saying, put a group of boys (or men) in a room and in a short amount of time you will see all of these qualities manifest in some capacity among the males in the room.

As boys, we know this. We live this. We expect this from other boys. And because of that, we, as boys, challenge the norms that we are faced with (that is another quality of boys). When we see a boy that might be bigger, stronger, smarter, faster… our inclination is to establish dominance over that boy. We do that in various ways, from hurling insults to competing in sports to physically dominating another boy. And sometimes, as a stronger, smarter, faster boy, we are challenged by another boy trying to establish dominance of his own. Again, this is not only understood among boys, it’s expected. And how we as boys handle these situations begins to identify us among our sphere of influence. This process begins at a very young age and continues for most, if not all, of a man’s life. To understand this concept, observe a group of guys enjoying drinks and talking. How long does it take before one of the guys insults one of his friends, calls him a name or challenges his manhood? How long does it take for a man to establish his own amazingness by telling stories of his work, or how he handled a situation with a coworker, or how he handled something with his kids? It is the way we are with each other.

The incident that my son was involved in went like this… he was playing a game of Mercy with another boy. When the other kid lost, the kid began to whine about it to which my son replied “Stop being a little girl”. Now to those that don’t understand boys, this might come across as rude, condescending or even bullying. To those of us who grew up on the playground, we know this is a way of establishing presence and dominance among our peers. While I am not excusing the conduct of my son, I think it needs to be stated that among boys, games of strength and bravado always come at a cost in that there will inherently be a winner and a loser. In both the winning and the losing, there is a way to conduct yourself that is honorable among other boys. There are also ways to conduct yourself that are less than honorable among boys. So when a boy behaves in a way that is “dishonorable” among the group, it is natural for another boy to call him on that. This happens quite often in regular daily activities of a lot of men (and women, too, but probably not in as pronounced a way as with the guys). Again, I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am merely saying that this is to be expected, particularly among boys.

In the case of my son and his behavior, it is easy to look at him and say he was being mean or bullying the other boy. Personally, I think that’s a load of crap. Bullying, to me, would be something like my son seeing another boy, that he isn’t close with, wearing a pink shirt or sporting long hair and, out of nowhere, approaching him with a “What are you, a girl?”. To me, that is not only bullying but completely unacceptable behavior. It is unwarranted, unmerited and totally inappropriate. But in the case of two boys playing a game of strength and one boy losing then whining about it, to be derided for it in some way, to me, is not bullying. It is playground politics. It’s the same playground politics that say if we’re playing dodgeball and I know you can’t catch, you’re the target I’m throwing at. It’s the same playground politics that say if we’re playing tag and you’re the slow kid, you’re getting tagged first. And it is also the same politics that say if you’ve handled being the slow kid, getting tagged and not being able to get out of it while still being cool about it, you’re probably gonna end up being tight with a couple of dudes that will make sure you are never tagged.

Now moms, this is for you: boys and girls are different in many, many ways. How we feel things is different. How we respond is different. But trying to make your boy understand things from a girl’s perspective – or even YOUR perspective – will more than likely not work most of the time. While your boy may nod at you and say “yes momma, I understand”, the chances of it sticking with him are pretty slim. This is because you can never really take the character out of the boy. You can punish it, discipline it… even make him feel bad for it. But ultimately his character will continue to shine through – good or bad – and he will do what he will naturally do. If you are a single mom raising a son, or if your son’s dad isn’t as involved as he should be, please know that your best bet as his parent is to lead, coach and teach your son how to manage his boyness. Don’t condemn him for being what he naturally is. Don’t try to stifle his character or shut it down, but instead find creative ways to let that character of his flourish. No, that isn’t easy, but it is much less frustrating and much less likely to cause resentment from him later on life.

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Pair programming with a child

Posted on July 8th, 2012 in Geek Stuff,Javascript,On Children,On Fatherhood,Personal Messages,PHP,Programming | No Comments »

While driving home today my daughter Alaynah asked me a little bit about what I do. After explaining to her that I am a software engineer and that I write programs, and telling her that my programs run on the internet, she asked me how Google makes that little box “that you type in to look stuff up”. I told her when we got home I’d show her since it was pretty easy to do.

When we got home we got to work. And a coupe of minutes later we had a very simple web “program” that took some text in a text box and wrote it out to the screen a certain number of times, each time making the text bigger. Not a lot of action going on there, but still something she could see that involved a text box and some programming logic. And as uneventful as this little application might have been, what it led to was amazing to say the least.

As we started to look at the words “Awesome Alaynah” explode onto my monitor in ever growing size, Alaynah began to look at the lines and count them to make sure there were as many lines of repeating text as she had selected. So we decided that it would be easier if there were numbers next to each line so we could see just how many lines were on the screen. Then, after she saw that, she asked me “is there a way to make it so if you click on a line, that all of the lines after it just disappear, including the line that you clicked on?”. I told her that I was sure there was, but that we needed a different kind of programming for that (since our original program was all PHP and click events, while potentially served by the server, are better handled on the client). So I went and got us jQuery, included it and wrote the code that made the lines disappear from the line you clicked on.

As she sat in amazement watching the lines disappear when clicked you could see that there was something troubling her. It was almost as if, when the lines were disappearing, that they were gone forever and ever. So I wrote a little bit of code that would bring the lines back if you wanted them back. She loved that. Except for the text to bring the lines back was “Bring them all back”, which works in all cases except if you disappeared the last line, because there aren’t any “all” lines, only “the” line. So she told me that we needed to change it so that if you removed the last line that to bring it back, the program should say “Bring it back” instead. So we fixed that, and after only a few minutes of conceptualizing, programming, testing, using and refactoring, Alaynah and I had put together a little program that we were both pretty proud of. You can view the source of this little program here.

Now aside from the obvious goodness that is my eight year old daughter (who happens to be turning nine tomorrow) taking an interest in the work I do, I have to say that having time to spend with my daughter – just her and me time – was a blessing. I don’t get a whole lot of one on one time with any of my kids. And even though this was only a few minutes, it was a cool few minutes that let me show my daughter what I do, let her do it with me and let us both enjoy some quality time together. I’m certain I would have loved it just as much if we had been talking about dolls, mud, cartoons or our favorite foods, but the fact is, we were talking about programming, my work, her ideas and our time together. There is a lesson in this for any parent. If your child shows any kind of interest in what you do, take the time to show him/her what it is you do. Don’t explain it with words and leave it at that. If you can take the time to allow your kids to connect with you while learning you, take that time. No excuses, no fussing, just do it.

She and I had an awesome time with this, even if it was only a few minutes. It was a great time and I am glad I didn’t pass it up because I was tired, wasn’t interested or was just unavailable.

View the source of our little program
Our original code was a little more rough around the edges than this one. After we got it working the way we wanted it I went through and cleaned things up a bit, added some comments, pulled out duplicated javascript code segments, etc. So the final product is a cleaned up rendition of our original stuff, which we hacked together very quickly in an effort to make it just work.

<?php
// Iterations max limit
$max = 30;
 
// Iterations min limit
$min = 5;
 
// User supplied iterations count
$limit = null;
 
// Handle posted values
if (!empty($_POST['limit'])) {
	$limit = intval($_POST['limit']);
	if ($limit > $max) {
		$limit = $max;
	}
 
	if ($limit < $min) {
		$limit = $min;
	}
}
 
$words = empty($_POST['words']) ? null : $_POST['words'];
?>
<html>
<head>
	<title>Alaynah's program</title>
	<style type="text/css">
		#putitback {
			color: #008;
			cursor: pointer;
			text-decoration: underline;
			margin-top: 20px;
		}
 
		.index {
			display: inline-block; 
			width: 50px;
		}
	</style>
	<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.7.1/jquery.min.js"></script>
	<script type="text/javascript">
		$(function() {
			// Set the row prefix
			var rowprefix = 'row-';
 
			// The id of the clicked row to make hide from
			var rowid;
 
			// Row toggler, makes rows appear and disappear
			function toggleRows() {
				for (var i = rowid; i <= <?php echo $limit; ?>; i++) {
					$("#" + rowprefix + i).toggle();
				}
			}
 
			$('.row').click(function() {
				// Get the row id that was just clicked
				rowid = $(this).attr('id').replace(rowprefix, '');
 
				// Handle visibility toggling
				toggleRows();
 
				// Set our message for restoring rows
				var message = 'Put them all back.'
				if (rowid == <?php echo $limit; ?>) {
					// Alaynah was smart enough to see that if you only plucked
					// the last row the message should be singular
					message = 'Put it back';
				}
 
				$('#putitback').text(message);
			});
 
			// Handle restoring "removed" rows
			$('#putitback').click(function() {
				// Handle visibility toggling
				toggleRows();
 
				// Clear out the restore link since everything is back to normal
				$(this).text('');
			});
		});
	</script>
</head>
 
<body>
<h1>Alaynah&apos;s program</h1>
<form action="" method="post">
	<p>What do you want to write? <input type="text" name="words" value="<?php echo $words ?>" /></p>
	<p>How many times do you want to see it? 
		<select name="limit">
			<?php for ($i = $min; $i <= $max; $i++): ?>
			<option value="<?php echo $i ?>"<?php if ($i == $limit) echo ' selected="selected"'; ?>><?php echo $i; ?></option>
			<?php endfor; ?>
		</select>
	</p>
	<p><input type="submit" value="Hit it!" /></p>
</form>
<?php if ($limit && $words): ?>
<hr />
<?php /* Loop $limit times and make the displayed text grow each iteration */ ?>
<?php for ($i = 0; $i < $limit; $i++): $c = $i + 1; ?>
	<div class="row" id="row-<?php echo $c ?>" style="font-size: <?php echo (14 + $i); ?>px;">
		<span class="index"><?php echo $c; ?></span>
		<span><?php echo $words; ?></span>
	</div>
<?php endfor; ?>
<div id="putitback"></div>
<?php endif; ?>
</body>
</html>
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The Charge of the Light Brigade

Posted on October 7th, 2011 in On Family,On Fatherhood,On Manhood,On Marriage,Personal Messages | No Comments »

When the movie “The Blind Side” came out my wife and I went to see it. While I loved the story line of the movie, and the character portrayals in it, there was a subplot to it that really stood out to me.

In the movie, Michael Oher, the character on whom the story is based, was tasked with reading and dissecting an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem called “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, a poem written about a band of soldiers in the 1850’s that literally rode into the face of death at the command of their superior even though he had made a mistake. They knew they were going to die, they knew it was going to be painful, they knew it was a lost cause. Yet they rode, because that is what soldiers do. Their role as soldiers gave them no latitude to question the motives or commands of their superior. They had pledged to follow him and his orders, and do that they did.

There is a story about life in this. There is also a story about parenting, marriage, education, work and every other aspect of your life that can sometimes catch you up in stress, anger, frustration or doubt. At the end of the day, whatever your role is – be it husband, father, president, stock clerk or son – you have a responsibility to fill that role with every ounce of your being. That is what those soldiers did. And that is what I choose to do daily.

I am currently embroiled in one of the greatest challenges in my personal life that I have ever experienced. To that end, I am resolved to do what’s right wholeheartedly throughout the entire ordeal. I absolutely need to. My wife needs me to. My kids need me to. My friends need me to. I need me to. Challenges, battles, sorrow and loss come. It happens. The true test of a man’s character, as I see it, is not his ability to handle those times but the manner in which he handles himself during those times. When faced with certain loss, certain death, certain pain, will you press on anyway?

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Borrowed from http://www.nationalcenter.org/ChargeoftheLightBrigade.html

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If, by Rudyard Kipling

Posted on October 6th, 2011 in On Family,On Fatherhood,On Manhood | 2 Comments »

Some things come at you hard and fast, and hit you in the face like a rush of ice cold water on a hot summer day. Others wrap their arms around you and tell you it’s going to be ok while coaxing you into a peaceful calm. Still others reach into the very core of who you are and add value – strength, courage, determination, resolve – to an otherwise broken and fragile being. This poem, by Rudyard Kipling, is one of those that just encourages and strengthens me.

If
Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

If you are interested in learning more about this poem or would like to socialize and connect with folks who have delved deep into this piece, check out All Things If, a blog dedicated to this poem.

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The best way to start a day ever

Posted on May 27th, 2009 in Kid Sayings,On Children,On Fatherhood,Personal Messages | No Comments »

This morning, when my son woke up and after he told mom good morning, he sought me out. He had something to give me. And as he stepped down the hallway with purpose and authority I heard him call out to me.

“Daddy, I have a pwesent fow you.”

“What is it son?”

“It’s a hug and a kiss. I love you daddy.”

And with that he jumped into my arms and hugged me as big as his big boy arms could hug a dad of my size.

I’m certain he doesn’t know how much he touched my heart this morning, or how good of a day he gave me today. But hopefully I can share this with him so that he can look forward to those moments with his kids. I am a truly blessed father.

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An outing of sorts

Posted on April 11th, 2009 in For the men,On Children,On Family,On Fatherhood,On Marriage | 1 Comment »

Today my wife needed a break badly. She has been without one for a while and asked me a couple of days ago whether last night would be alright for her to go out and have some “her” time. Last night did not exactly happen for her, but today did, so I gave her that time and decided I would spend some time taking the kids for a walk to get slushies because the kids really love doing that, generally it doesn’t cost too much and it usually wears the kids out and makes for an excellent quiet time when we get home.

Quick tip for the husbands: Your wife needs a break. Whether she tells you or not is irrelevant. Give her a break frequently. She needs it and she will be very appreciative of your thoughtfulness toward her. And even if she isn’t, you should do it anyway.

Quick tip for the fathers: Your kids need to get out the house. They need to blow off steam and they totally need to do that with their dads. This is not to say that they cannot get that with their moms. In fact kids need mom time too. But dad time is crucial, so if you have kids make time for them doing something you all can enjoy together.

So we set off on a walk, the six of us, to the 7-11 just down the street from us. The weather was nice, a little chilly but sunny, so the walk was pleasant right off the pop. We hit up 7-11 and grabbed slushies for all of us – well I prefer coffee so I did that instead – and a couple of bags of chips to snack on. Then we headed out to the front of the store to kick it and snack.

But that is something we always do, so I decided we would change things up a bit so instead of sitting out in front of the store we walked a little bit further to Mission Boulevard where we found a bench and sat on it, snacking and slurping and watching the cars pass us by. This is what it might have looked at from the cars’ perspective:

the-kids

After our snack time and car watching was over was decided to cross the street and check out Mission San Jose. It wasn’t until we got there that we realized it was going to cost more money that I brought with us so we just sort of hung around the outside and checked out as much as we could without spending any money doing it.

After a short while we decided to start the walk home with a planned stop at the Olive Hyde Art Gallery. This ended up being a much shorter trip than I wanted it to be seeing as the gallery was displaying quilts and artwork that ran as high as $10,000. If not for the fact that four of my kids suddenly had to go to the bathroom at the gallery we would have only been there for a couple of minutes. In fact we were there for almost a half hour.

After that we took a slow stroll home and ended our two hour walk by coming home and resting. So when Sandi got home from her alone time she was able to come home to a quiet, resting house. Now how could this day have gotten any better?

Think BBQ. I know I am.

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In memory – Sandra Cantu

Posted on April 7th, 2009 in On Children,On Family,On Fatherhood,Personal Messages,Rants | 2 Comments »

A little over a week ago a news story broke in which an eight year old girl had gone missing in Tracy, California. Sandra Cantu, the eight year old girl, was last seen leaving a friends house and walking back to her home in a trailer park in Tracy. She was not seen after that.

Within four hours the missing persons report was filed and the police began investigating. The media began to report it and the community rallied around her and became hopeful that she would be found. It was a touching story and one that served to bring awareness to all families that no matter where you live you need to teach your children how to defend themselves, who to trust and what to do in situations that could result in their harm, abduction or worst of all, their death.

Well yesterday the worst of all possible scenarios was broadcast all over the central valley and bay area. Sandra Cantu, the eight year old girl who had gone missing just 10 days ago, was found dead in a suitcase in an irrigation pond on a farm just two miles away from Sandra Cantu’s home.

As the father of five kids, four of whom are daughters and one of whom is eight, I was rattled by the news. Entirely too many children die each year for the stupidest of reasons. It sickens me and angers me when I hear that any kid has been violated in any way. Even worse is hearing about kids whose lives have been snuffed out because of someone with a penchant for causing harm to a child. I still get confused by acts like these, cowardly, selfish acts for which there is no logical explanation.

As a parent I feel it is my responsibility to make sure my kids are safe as much as possible. Doing that sometimes requires shock and awe tactics. Like relating to my kids that at any time, anyone that seeks to do them harm could very well present themselves in a way that appeals to my kids. My wife and I train up our children as best we can. And sometimes the best course of action is to let them in to stories like that of Sandra Cantu.

If you have kids I hope you take the time tonight to tell them just how much you love them. Make it a point to discuss this case with them and the importance of not trusting anyone they don’t know. And make sure you take some time to pray for the family of Sandra Cantu. I cannot even imagine what they must be going through right now

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Happy 13th birthday Sarah

Posted on April 2nd, 2009 in For the men,On Children,On Fatherhood,On Manhood,Personal Messages | 3 Comments »

Today my oldest child, my daughter Sarah, turns 13 years old. And I am so not sure what to do with that.

I can remember vividly the moment she was born. How she looked when she came into this world, how small she was and soft she was. I remember her trip home from the hospital and how we spent every minute of the first 15 months of her life parenting right out of the books.

I remember when she started walking, talking, learning, growing. I remember when she learned to ride a bike, when she got her ears pierced for the first time, the first time she spent the night at a friends house, the first time we left her home alone for a few minutes to jaunt to the store.

Most recently I can remember her developing into a young woman, changing physiologically, getting super tall, looking older. 13 years passed me by in about three paragraphs.

Where does that time go? When you have as many kids as I do time does move pretty quick. Anyone that tells you a minute is a minute never had a house full of kids. But 13 years? I mean, they just started last week it seems. And no sooner did I take her out of diapers than I am preparing her for high school, her first work for money and the prospect of driving lessons in a few years.

I am a blessed man to have the children I have. Each of them is independent and individual, and each has their own unique quarks, personalities and characteristics that personifies who they are. Sarah is an outstanding musician. She can play just about any stringed instrument and can readily learn the tune for a song on the piano in a matter of seconds.

She is a drama queen. Not like your usual kicking and screaming, throwing a tantrum type drama queen (not that she hasn’t done that before) but the kind that loves the stage, theater and acting. She has an amazing sense of humor, sometimes bordering on gross or dry, but always funny and always well past her age level.

She has a keen eye for fashion and designs dresses whenever she has the time to doodle in her journal. She also loves to work on her comic strip “The Robinsons” from time to time, showing a sense of humor and wisdom well beyond her years.

And the characteristic that I love about her the most, one that the entire family is blessed with daily, is her ability to belch like a longshoreman. There is not a person on this planet that can rip ’em like Sarah can. I love you for that baby. 😉

Seriously though, I have had a hard time coming to grips with my daughter’s coming of age. She is an amazing kid and is turning into an amazing 13 year old young woman today. I am so happy for her, so proud of her, so glad to be her father and so ecstatic that I get to experience her 13th birthday with her and our family. Few men get to live the life I live when it comes to children and family.

So as I sign off of this little emotional rant, I would like to offer this suggestion to you parents, and specifically you fathers… love your children mightily. Men, if you have daughters, treat them like the lady you would expect her future husband to treat her like. Tell her she’s beautiful, smart, funny and awesome. Tell her you are a better man because she is your daughter. Let her know what she means to you as a man and as a father.

Every little girl needs to know her parents, specifically daddy, loves her. Make sure your son(s) and daughter(s) know it today.

Happy birthday my Sarah. I love you baby.

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