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

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.

Why you should not vote for Leo J. Martin for California Education Superintendent

My wife Sandi just ran across a blog post written by a homeschooling parent who made contact with Leo J. Martin, a candidate for Superintendent of Instruction for the State of California in this year’s upcoming California elections.

In the blog post Mr. Martin is quoted as saying in reply to his position on homeschooling:

Home schooling’s appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling. But under California law, a parent has the right to home school provided the parent is qualified to offer instruction. Personally, I believe nearly all kids would benefit more from being in traditional schools. Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons. Since we have provisions for students to attend a school outside of their local community when there are legitimate reasons to do so, home schooling as an alternative to “unsafe” campuses is hardly a legitimate alternative. For the most part – overwhelmingly – the public schools of California are not only safe but are providing a high quality education. Yucca Valley should be no exception. If it is, as Superintendent I would like to hear the
complaints.

There has also been a tremendous amount of fraud connected with home schooling. Corporate organizations have sprung up to drain precious taxpayer dollars from the state budget to “supervise” home schooling. That has been to the detriment of those children, who by necessity, must be home schooled.

My advice? Send the kids to a traditional public school.

Needless to say there are many points in his response that I take issue with as a homeschooling parent, such as:

  • Home schooling’s appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling.
    According to who? Appropriateness of homeschooling, location of education or educational curriculum should really only be defined by the parent of the child being educated or the adult who is seeking education. Just like many adults find that educating themselves at home is appropriate, so do many parents find educating their children at home appropriate. To say that homeschooling is “appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling” is completely ignorant and alienates a huge segment of the population of the state. Elected officials should know better than to call their constituents stupid. Candidates need to know this. Any person who would reveal such extraordinary ignorance in dealing with parents and their decisions on educating their children has no business being in a leadership position over the educational structure and development of an entire state.
  • Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons.
    I actually had to read this sentence a few times to see for my own eyes that Mr. Martin did indeed say these words. Apparently he is completely out of touch with the reality that our kids face in public schools today, like issues of crime, drugs, rampant promiscuity, inability for staff and administrators to effectively discipline children, lack of values placed on education within the public school system and an increasing student to teacher ratio throughout the state at all levels of education. None of these have anything to do with religion, views on race, views on ethnicity or morality. These are all issues that our kids face in California public schools today, issues that all parents should be aware of and concerned with. These are just some of the reason parents choose to homeschool, and none of them are religious in nature nor indicative of outdated views on race or ethnicity.
  • Since we have provisions for students to attend a school outside of their local community when there are legitimate reasons to do so, home schooling as an alternative to “unsafe” campuses is hardly a legitimate alternative.
    Who gets to decide what is a legitimate reason for a student to attend a school outside their local community? Someone who believes homeschooling instead of sending your student to an unsafe campus is hardly a legitimate alternative? If this is the attitude of the highest ranking educational leader in our state, I’d rather not educate my kids in this state. With this statement he is in effect saying that just because your local campus is unsafe doesn’t mean that he agrees with your decision to homeschool. Thanks Mr. Superintendent sir. Is there a way you could be less concerned about my child or my desire for him/her to be safe at school?
  • My advice? Send the kids to a traditional public school.
    And my advice to you? Stay out of office. Your incredible disregard for parents and their children would be comical if not so incredibly alarming. Parents in our state need an advocate against our government. What we don’t need is an advocate for the government against our parents and children.

Mr. Martin’s response to an another email inviting him to look closer at homeschooling and to see for himself why so many parents choose this route for their children’s education was met with an equally alarming and ignorant response:

I did not expect any home schooler to be satisfied with my response. Nor will I change it to appeal to the thousands of home schoolers who are voters. If this election were in the 1950s I would have received a question from someone representing tens of thousands of parents who opposed the racial integration of our public schools. They would have been looking for a candidate who agreed with them. My response would have turned them off and they would have urged me to read all the arguments in favor of segregation. I know those arguments, as I know the arguments for home schooling. Now, I’m not equating home schoolers with segregationists, but the situation is the same. As I would not edit my response to the segregationists to win their votes, I will not shape my response to home schoolers to seek their votes
either.

I explained before that there are legitimate reasons for home schooling. If you meet those conditions, I fully support home schooling. But that is not why most home schoolers engage in it. And while they have a legal right to do so, I do not support home schooling in those situations.

Best Regards,
Leonard J. Martin

I am not going to go into my take on this response of his. All I will ask is that if you are a homeschooling parent in California, please spread the word that this man is bad for our state’s educational system. All homeschooling parents and children will suffer if this man is elected. Let’s do our part as a free state to see to it that he never makes it into office.

Incentive driven motivation

Yesterday, while doing some yard work I went into the back yard to handle some massive overgrowth in our lawn. Completely disgusted with our yard, and utterly frustrated with the growth of the grass that my push mower just could not cut, I decided that the yard would just have to wait a little while so I could focus on the front of my house.

My 12 year old daughter, Rebekah, had other plans. Always the entrepreneur, she actually offered to cut the grass for a mere $10. To which I promptly replied “thanks, but no thanks”. I was of the opinion that the grass was maybe a $3 job since I had already cut some of it and the lawn is not that spread out.

So Rebekah sweetened the deal a little bit, offering to not only cut the grass but straighten up the patio. After much back and forth over price and what the work would cover for that price, we agreed on the following:

  • Cut the grass
  • Clean up all dog poop
  • Clean up all trash
  • Straighten up all patio furniture and toys
  • Clean up the tan bark areas
  • Sweep the patio and sidewalks
  • Do it all within three hours (from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM)

And the cost? $15, as agreed upon by the two of us, which to Rebekah was a bargain and to me was a steal.

So while I was out in the front yard working up a sweat she was out in the backyard earning her money. And you know what? For her, I discovered, money is an excellent incentive.

She managed to accomplish everything on the list of things to do (with the exception of cutting the grass completely, but this was no fault of hers). And she did it in two hours, not three. I was so impressed by her work ethic, her focus and her quality of work that I actually paid her $20 for doing such a fine job.

Looking back on this, I know there is a lesson in this. I could have asked the kids, all of the kids – you know, the ones that made that mess? – to clean the yard they helped dishevel. And I would have saved myself $20 in the process. But Rebekah, who has no problem working for her earnings approached me with a proposition of services rendered in exchange for payment. And ultimately it was that payment that drive her to accomplish such an impressive amount of quality in her work.

So if I take anything away from this, outside a clean yard of course, it will be that with the proper incentive, almost anyone can accomplish almost anything.

Excuse my reasoning

A point of view is a dastardly thing. It can be useful in some situations, but in a case where your point of view allows you to turn an excuse into a reason it can be devastating.

Excuses, in and of themselves, are nasty little buggers. They are purposed reasonings that one establishes to allow latitude and leniency to pervade their own inability to satisfy a need or a condition in which another person, organization or establishment is dependent upon the satisfaction of that need. In essence, they are a rationalized way out of a responsibility that should not be shirked.

Worse, excuses that are believed to be reasons are all the more dangerous because they are no longer just a way out of responsibility, they are now the driving force behind it. And along with that they become a convenient means to allow oneself to really never do the responsible thing.

The reason I bring this up is because it is so easy to do. Excuses, or in most cases, reasons, are so easy to come up with and even easier for others to believe. Children seem to know this inherently. So do spouses (yes, men and women). In fact, I tend to think it is human nature to be able to drum up an excuse, er, reason, at the drop of a hat in most cases.

I am just as guilty of this as the next guy. Which is why I chose to write about it. I find myself doing this more and more and, the truth is, it needs to stop. A wife, children, a boss… they all need reliability out of a man. And reliability is impossible if there is a way out of responsibility through excuses.

So the next time you feel yourself in a place to excuse your way out of something, think twice and see if you can reason with yourself to the point of not allowing the excuse. People are counting on you.

The sweet taste of progress

Three months ago , at the request of my doctor, I took a blood test to measure my overall health and the results of that test were alarming to say the least. Since then I have been working very hard to curb my sugar and sodium intake and, after I received the results of the blood test I took today, I have to tell you I am pretty excited this time around.

The main item I was concerned with was my blood sugar, which last time around was a staggering 142. This time it was down to 105 which is an enormous gain in my opinion. Yes, it is still over 100, but not by much, and it is significantly lower than it was just a few months ago. So I am confident that three months from now my blood sugar will be well under control.

The lab test items that I thought were significant improvements on this lab over the last lab where:

Prior lab results vs. today’s results
Test Standard Last time This time
Glucose, Fasting 60 – 99 mg/dL 142 105
Triglycerides <199 mg/dL 151 73
Cholesterol <239 mg/dL 188 154
HDL >40 mg/dL 42 43
LDL <129 mg/dL 116 96

All in all, in the core category areas of concern, I have made significant improvement. No, I am not at all close to being “done” improving – I still have a family to stick around for 😉 – but I am very happy with what has transpired over the last three months.

I am also excited about the physical transformation I am undergoing. I have lost just over 30 pounds in this time, have dropped six inches in my waist and about six inches in my chest. I am feeling better about me, about my health and about how much longevity I may be adding to my life. Not to mention that I have an indescribable desire to exercise.

I am looking at different exercise plans that I can do at home right now because I would love to take advantage of this momentum I have developed. I know that coupling exercise with my current sugar-free, low sodium, lower calorie diet will have extraordinary results to say the least. But really excites me is that I can attack my health issues from two different angles: diet and exercise.

I think doing it this way will position me for a longer life, which means more time with my wife and kids overall. And lower life insurance premiums. Which means more savings. Which means I might just be able to afford that motorcycle I have been wanting so very badly.

And seriously, have you ever seen a really fat guy jamming down the highway on a sport bike? Me neither.

For the men: If you are fat (be honest with yourself on this), start working to lose some weight right now. Don’t wait. You owe it to your wife, your kids and yourself. And I can say with 100% certainty that your wife will undoubtedly love being able to be closer to you. 😉

Responsibility and a dog

The Bernese Mountain Puppy
The Bernese Mountain Puppy

For a long while now the kids have been really leaning on me to get a dog. For the same amount of time I have loudly voiced my opposition to this idea. It is my opinion that before we bring another life into our family our entire family needs to learn how to be responsible enough to handle the things that we already have.

That means making sure to put stuff away when we are done using them, doing homework on time, going to sleep and waking up on time, treating others with respect and being obedient. And this is something that has, for the time they have wanted a dog, been a severe stumbling block for them. So getting a dog has remained pretty well out of reach for our family.

Until now. It seems that my wife has gotten the puppy bug pretty bad over the last month or so and has been pushing on the kids to get a grip on their responsibilities. And over the last month the notion of us getting a puppy has moved from being just a notion to being a full on possibility because mom is behind it now.

And me being the husband that I am, the awesome husband that I am, and wanting to give my wife everything she wants under the sun, have also taken a position in this quest to get a dog. So I am cranking up my efforts to bring awareness to the family what it is exactly that it will take for us to get a dog. Because I also want my kids to have what they want while at the same time giving them what they need. I think as a husband it is important to see the things that your wife wants and try to find a way to make it happen. And I think as a father that finding that place between giving your kids something to enjoy AND something to be responsible for is crucial to helping your kids develop.

So now it seems that we are working our tails off as a family to make sure we handle our responsibilities to prove that we can actually take on the added responsibility of a dog. I hope this pans out, for all our sakes. I know my family can do it. Maybe now with Sandi behind this we might see what my family can actually do when we really want something.

Since when have the courts become parents?

Someone recently sent me a link to a court case in which a judge ordered homeschooled children into public school based on his decision that the children needed more ‘focus’. This, despite the fact the kids in question had tested above their grade levels.

A North Carolina judge has ordered three children to attend public schools this fall because the homeschooling their mother has provided over the last four years needs to be “challenged.”

The children, however, have tested above their grade levels – by as much as two years.

The decision is raising eyebrows among homeschooling families, and one friend of the mother has launched a website to publicize the issue.

The ruling was made by Judge Ned Mangum of Wake County, who was handling a divorce proceeding for Thomas and Venessa Mills.

I couldn’t believe this was a real and true story. This kind of injustice doesn’t happen in America. Does it? I know judges have an appointed authority to interpret the law and enforce it accordingly, but if you read some of Judge Mangum’s own quotes you can’t help but be left with the same questions I am sure all people who read them have.

How can any judge see this case in the manner in which Judge Mangum is seeing it? How can he favor so heavily in favor of a father that has admittedly committed adultery, repeatedly, and has even gone so far as to admit that he took time away form his kids to pursue relations with his mistress? How can this judge feel as negatively as he does toward Mrs. Mills?

I am astonished by this to be honest. If you are a home schooling parent I would encourage you, if you are not already a member, to become a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association. It is an invaluable resource for home schooling families and something that every home school parent should be a part of.

And if you haven’t yet, stop on by The Homeschool Injustice blog set up by Mills family friend Robyn Williams and offer a word of encouragement to Venessa or support for the case that she is so valiantly fighting right now.

Spending some work time bonding

Today I had the awesome pleasure of spending a few hours working. I know, that doesn’t sound right. The truth is I wasn’t happy so much about the work but that company that I had with me. My oldest daughter, Sarah, who is in Junior High but seems to have the homework load of a college Senior, was with me.

We had planned this out for a while because she has struggled somewhat in getting her homework done on time. When I asked her why she was having a hard time she told me that she was having trouble staying focused on the work she was supposed to be doing. Like father, like daughter, I guess.

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I spent a few hours at a local coffee shop drinking coffee and coding. And I was able to accomplish great things that day. It was quiet, for the most part, peaceful and there were no interruptions. So I figured that if it was good for me that day then it would be good for both Sarah and I today.

We got up early, packed our backpacks and headed out the door for a nice brisk walk up the street to Mission Coffee. We got there, set up shop at the big table and got cracking. It was nice to be there with her, too. Even though we didn’t talk much while we were there we did get a good bit of talking time in while walking there and walking home. So altogether we had about 40 minutes of daddy/daughter time this morning on our way to work. And work we did.

After only three hours or so we were ready to call it a day. Well, we were ready to come home. I still had a boat load of work to do but that was besides the point.

The nice thing was that in just a few hours this morning she was able to get a ton of homework done and I was able to get through quite a bit of stuff that needed my attention. I wasn’t able to get it all done and I still needed to work for several hours after coming home and making a call to a client. But overall it was a nice experience for both Sarah and I. And it is one that I think I will be trying to do again until at least the end of this school year.

Government knows best

There was a time in our country when parents were afforded the position of “knowing what is best” for their children. In fact it wasn’t that long ago that parents were not only expected to tend to their kids but were encouraged to do so. But it seems as though the government has become increasingly interested in the governing of not just the political landscape. Apparently the government wants into your family now.

I had heard about this issue originally from a Home School Legal Defense Association newsletter and I later read about Senator Barbara Boxer seeking to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. After reading the content and the message behind it I am left with an overwhelming disgust for our government. Not that I liked the government before, but this makes me want to become a politician just so I can speak out against this crap.

How can any politician believe, at all, that the government knows better than a parent when it comes to raising and handling their own kids? I know there are edge cases of neglect, abuse, bad parenting and utter parental stupidity that could easily be recounted that might provide a small sense of justification for this. But I would say that in the bulk of families that could be affected by a decision like this most have parents that are in some way or another involved in the welfare of their children. The government does not need to pass an intrusive legal decision that would in effect put the governments decisions regarding children above the decisions of the parents of those children.

Does this not seem odd to you? I take comfort in knowing that as a parent I am responsible for my children. I take comfort in knowing that since I live in a free country, a country that does no derive its identity nor its principles from the government which covers it, that I can parent my children however I see fit. Like home schooling my kids. Like disciplining them as I see fit. Like providing for them, sheltering them and teaching them the way that I, as their parent, think is the best way.

I hope Senator Boxer takes one on the chin with this attempt. Seriously, the government is meddling in affairs that it just should not be in. Parenting is one of those areas and that really needs to be left up to the experts: us parents.

That’s one small step for a Sarah

And one gigantic, enormous, monstrous step for dad.

My oldest daughter, Sarah, was invited to spend the night with a friend of hers for her friend’s birthday party on Saturday night. Part of the festivities were going to involve shopping and a girls day out with her friend. I was cool with that. But I was shocked and awed when her friend’s mom came to pick Sarah up and told us that she was going to be dropping Sarah and her friend off at the mall. By themselves.

This is the first time ever that I was faced with the prospect of one of my children alone in the great big world all by herself. Well, not really by herself, but more, I guess, without me. Of course her friend did have a cell phone (and no I am not getting Sarah a cell phone yet) and both Sandi’s and my phone were on. And they were only going to be there for three hours. And her friend had done this before, so all in all, it was a pretty safe experience. But it was more than a little nerve racking.

The nice part about the experience was that Sarah’s friend’s mom went over a good set of pretty basic rules that reiterated the rules that Sandi and I have laid for out kids as it relates to talking to strangers, scams brought on by adults and how to conduct yourself in places like stores when it comes to money, what you say, how you say it and what you do with things that you have already purchased. So it was encouraging to know that my kid was receiving the same message from another parental source.

It was also encourage when, at about 3:00 on Saturday, my daughter called me to tell me she was going to be leaving the mall because her friend’s mom had come to pick them. She also told me she was ok, that she had a great time and the her friend was keeping her alive “for the most part”.

So I would say it was not a bad day for a few first time experiences. I am proud of the way my daughter handled it. And I am proud of the way my wife handled it. I am also proud of the way I handled it, and though I think I am still going to be a little slow to go along with something like this any time soon, I can say that I am confident that if either of my two oldest daughters were put into a position in which they were alone in a large open square, they would be more than able to handle the situation and be totally safe doing so.