We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

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Just Call a Cab (Mom)

Imagine one day you wake up to discover you are an Uber driver. It’s not what you want to do, and definitely not your career path. It takes away from your other responsibilities. And you don’t get paid.

But you have to do it anyway. There’s no way around it.

You put 200 miles on your car per day, 7 days a week. Sometimes more, never less. That 200 miles is spread out between the hours of 8 AM and 10 PM. 

You never have the time to go in and see what is going on that you are driving people to…because you have to go drive someone else somewhere else. Or someone forgot something. Or someone has to go to the bathroom. Or someone is hungry. Or you were so strapped with everyone’s schedules that you have to run home to brush your teeth still, or shower.

Of course no one outside of your situation understands that. In fact, you routinely find out that people say terrible things about how unsupportive you are for not always going in to see what’s going on.

You have a 2 year old who has to ride with you. He is miserable after 1 hour. He wants to play, instead he has to just keep riding and playing with what he can from his seat. If you do happen to go in and take him in with you, he bothers everyone with his noise and his playing and his toddler-ness, so you just don’t. You stay in the car, or he stays home (if someone is there to watch him and you had better believe you’ll be asked where he is with a disapproving look). Sometimes you take him to a nearby park, or other place he’d enjoy; but usually you have to be somewhere else to drive someone elsewhere and there isn’t time. Or you have to run home to take care of other stuff there that needs to be taken care of, like getting dinner in the oven or cleaning the toilets, because you already only get 4 hours of sleep a night. If that.

Also, remember, you are still missing out on what is going on where you dropped the other people/person off.

Your toddler has to usually eat at least one meal in the car. And did I mention he gets carsick? Also, he’s still breastfeeding, so that has to be done in between car trips, smashed in the backseat in some dingy parking lot too.

Your spouse drives 100 miles a day, roundtrip, in their commute to work at their dream job. Andd while others recognize you are busy, they regularly tell you that you are lying when you say you are driving 200 miles a day, even if you offer to show them your odometer. “Poor him he has it so hard… you?  …well you’re making it up stop telling stories HAHAHA” has actually come out of people’s mouths to your face.

People tell you all the time that they would love to help – JUST CALL! That ends up in one of three scenarios: 1. occasional help, which is awesome; though, more often it’s 2. the few times you ask, they are not able to 3. you get help, a little bit…just a smidge…but you feel SO GUILTY and have SO MUCH SELF-DOUBT about it all, that you feel bad asking again.

And you just know that if you were to write something like this, the single mothers of the world would be waiting on bated breath to pounce in the comments section with “…at least you have a…”

You should be able to handle all of this, right? If only you were managing the schedules better. Or had a tougher mentality about it all. Maybe you are going in a circuitous, illogical way.

The house, the housework, the grocery shopping, the schoolwork, the bath times, the bedtimes, meals, snacks, scheduling doctor’s appointments, holidays, the bill paying – you should be able to do it all plus take everyone to everything they need to and want to be at, on time every time, with a smile on your face.

Your budget for gas is $200 a month. You are using $120 a week (that’s $480 a month for those that cannot math). 

You don’t get paid for any of your time driving (duh). And you have to figure out that extra gas budget on your own with absolutely no help from anyone. Including the people getting rides from you.

OH ALSO: this free driving labor that has turned you into a terrible mother and a resentful person is giving you lower back problems to such a degree that you think you may need to see an orthopedic. (PS, just for fun let’s add in that you had back surgery for scoliosis when you were 13 years old, have Herrington rods on your spine, and definitely do not need back problems because they WILL result in surgeries.)

But wait…you can’t make it to any of your own appointments because someone else has to be somewhere else, and their thing is much more important. Always.

This is my life right now.

Every, single detail of it.

I completely understand that a large part of parenting kids over 10 is driving them from thing to thing.

However, a lot of people have a partner that helps them. I don’t.

And I know that will make a lot of single mothers angry, because I am married. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a partner, though. He’s just my husband. He works all the time, overnight, in his dream job. When he isn’t working, he’s sleeping. On weekends, he sleeps or works too. Last Saturday, he slept until 7 pm. If he can, he sleeps between 10 and 13 hours a night. He is working on Easter. He worked during our 11 year old’s birthday party last year. After I had major abdominal surgery (a c-section), he went to work two days afterwards, the day I came home from the hospital. With three kids to wrangle myself, stomach staples and all. He is, for the sake of discussion, not involved at all. When I hear other parents talking about how they “tag team” their multiple kids – split up events and such – I seethe in bitterness and resentment. It kills me to hear it.

A big big BIG factor in this is that I ALSO have a 76 year old man that I have to drive from place to place. That would be my dad, who lives with us. At the present time, he is unable to drive, leaving me the lone Uber driver. I had no idea how much work it was being retired and old.

A lot of people have SOMETHING – some sort of a break from it all. I don’t.

I think to myself regularly about how stressed out and tired and overworked and sick of being in the car I am, and I think that one day I will look back on this and wonder how I made it through it all. Originally I thought talking about it to people was the answer. I was wrong.

When I try to define what is going on for others, I inevitably offend people. I’m not a single mom. A solo mom? That pissed off a few people, so I stopped with that too. Absolutely no one wants to hear that my husband is absent in daily life.

This leaves me a bit of a Debbie Downer. Debbie Downer the Uber Driver.

I hate driving. When my kids are older and my dad doesn’t need rides places anymore, I’m going to move somewhere urban and never drive another car again.


Momma’s Boy

This image was posted on Facebook by one of my friends.  It was a repost, so I cannot fault her too much for it – but as soon as I read it, I knew I would have to blog about it.  Clearly, this was written by some fifty or sixty year old woman, likely going through the emotions behind an impending empty nest.  Possibly her grown man of a son has not left the nest, though; maybe he just returned home after a bad breakup.  I imagine the son of this mother to be in his thirties.  Possibly employed, very probably still breastfeeding every night before padding off to bed in his jam-jams.

So what is my problem with this, you faithful blog followers might ask?  A lot.  When I read the line at the bottom and considered some of my own experiences in life, I realized that this is a terribly biased and wholly judgmental thing to assert – and it uses the veil of not judging as a way to do so.  Let’s examine its assertions:

His Mom says:  He loves his mom

His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He’s a momma’s boy   

As with all things, I believe there is a fine line between going overboard with anything and being reasonable.  A card and call on Mother’s Day and birthdays?  Probably a good idea.  Dropping everything and flying across the country, using money you don’t have to do so, to take your mom out for Mother’s Day brunch when you just lost your job?  Probably a momma’s boy.  Making a phone call to see how mom is doing once a week?  A nice gesture.  Calling every day and never moving more than fifty miles away from mommy so that you can continue to come suckle on her teet whenever she rings the teet bell?  Over the top.

A few years back, I was dating a guy that invited me to go out to brunch with him and his mother on Mother’s Day.  His brother was going as well and we were all going to have a nice time.  After a phone call with mommy, though, there was a sudden change of heart and I was left at home to go find myself some Quizno’s while mommy had her special time with her boys.  I wouldn’t have minded being left behind on Mother’s Day if only I hadn’t actually already been invited.  A few days before then, I had gone along with them when they bought her a gift card to buy new sheets for her bed – a $100 gift card I might add (that, combined with the expensive brunch, is more money than I have spent in all 29 Mother’s Days since I was born).  A few days after I was left behind while they went out to brunch, I was at lunch with her and a group of their family and friends (a “lady’s lunch”) and she spent the entire time complaining that my boyfriend and his brother had not done enough for her for Mother’s Day that year.  I almost vomited up my entire lady’s lunch at the sound of her ungratefulness, as well as the realization that I was dating what could unambiguously be coined:  a momma’s boy.

His Mom says:  He is nice to his friends

His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He’s a doormat

Some time ago I had a male friend that I saw get walked all over time and again by his friends.  His mom always said “oh … isn’t Matthew so nice to his friends,” and yet I sat back and watched him get screwed (literally) countless times.  One time a friend asked to borrow money – this being a friend that had showed himself to lie, not pay back debts, and who used cocaine.  Matthew didn’t want to loan him any money because he knew it would be used for drugs, but his mom convinced him otherwise with a simple “oh … Matthew, you were always so nice to your friends before you started hanging out with girls” (whatever that meant..).  So he loaned the friend some money and two days later the guy was arrested for possession of cocaine.  Matthew never saw his money again.  As in the case above, there is a fine line between being nice to your friends and being a push over.  Generally it’s when adult children have no boundaries with their parents that they also have a similar lack of boundaries with friends, as well as work.  All people – men and women – should set a line and never cross it – with anyone; although, mothers often no longer teach this boundary setting because then their kids will set boundaries on them as well.

 His Mom says:  He’s in between jobs

His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He’s a bum

Do I even need to justify this one with a response?  As with a lot of helicopter parents that do not teach their kids any kind of responsibility, as well as with the situations of men sitting in their parents’ basements playing video games rather than getting a job, the “he’s in between jobs” is simply excusing the fact that your son is unemployed (many times by no fault of his own, many other times by much fault..)  Just because a person calls something other than what it is, or is equivocal enough to leave room for excuses, does not change the reality of the situation.

 His Mom says:  He likes to have fun

His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He’s a drunk

There is a kid that lives next door to my father, that graduated from high school in May.  Every day he roams out of the house around noon in his robe, where he sits on the front porch drinking beer until his parents get home from work (did I mention he is only eighteen?).  He does not go to school.  He is not looking for a job.  Three or four nights a week he disappears around eight in the evening and comes home the next morning, often still drunk or high from the previous night’s events.  His mom says “he likes to have fun” and that he is just taking a year off to explore his options – on their dime.  Need I say more?

 His Mom says:  He has a healthy appetite

His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He’s a pig

At the end of that little inspirational picture that my friend posted on her Facebook page this morning (pictured above), it says that “…truth is likely somewhere in between.”  This is the one example of those “perspectives,” though, that I would actually agree is likely a matter of the truth (of more cases than not) being somewhere in the middle.  If someone eats excessively and has undiagnosed or untreated health problems, or spends more time sitting on the couch shoving hotdogs down his face than actually moving around, then chances are he’s closer to being a pig.  But if he is physically fit, has no untreated health problems, and just eats big meals, then he maybe does just have a healthy appetite.

One thing to remember, though, is that unhealthy eating habits always catch up with you eventually.  Excusing porking down six whopper-sized burgers as a “healthy appetite” because your son doesn’t gain weight quickly (right now) is never okay.

His Mom says:  He’s a good son 

  His Ex-Girlfriend says:  He was a terrible boyfriend 

The bottom line is that if the guy really does treat you borderline-assholish to cow-tow to mommy, if he isn’t just nice but lets himself get pushed around, if he spends all his time on the couch rather than looking for a job and paying his own bills, and is drunk most days before three o’clock in the afternoon – saying “he was a terrible boyfriend” is probably much more accurate than saying he is a good son.  Ultimately, what love does more than “accepts and doesn’t judge” is allow bias to completely blind a person from seeing what is really going on right in front of their eyes.  One of a mother’s principle responsibilities to her son is not to excuse his bad behaviors, or enable him to be irresponsible; it is to teach him to be able to go out in the world as an adult and make it on his own.  To form lasting relationships.  To have the street smarts to not get screwed over.  To have the economic smarts to make wise decisions and to do everything he can to stay gainfully employed.  To have the emotional understanding and morality to do what is not only fiscally responsible, but morally right.  It is to teach someone to be an upstanding citizen in the world, who can survive without still having to thrive on mom’s milk.  Before teaching people that a negative or less-than-nice perspective of someone’s son is a bad thing, consider how well-adjusted in life and relationships he is outside of his mother’s arms.

Money Matters

This morning I got this crazy idea in my head:  to ask my Facebook friends and B(itch)Log fans if they as parents would assume their children’s financial business is theirs for the asking.  Interestingly enough, the majority of my friends/fans said “no, absolutely not.”  Only two people said “yes,” with caveats, though.  And one of those with the caveats said that it would really only be a matter of showing a good example until the kid was old enough.  Finally, when I just asked if anyone still spoke about money with their families (regardless of who brought it up), a few more said they did; however, everyone stated unambiguously it was about things like good deals at the store, nice investment choices, and never about paychecks, weekly budgets, etc.

The response seemed quite common sense to me, although to many it may not be.  The idea of having a conversation about my personal finances with some of my family seems absolutely ludicrous.  Not only am I almost thirty years old, but in many cases it is just not anyone’s business.  But the thought of asking my kids where money is coming from or how things are getting paid when they are my age seems even more absurd.  What a wholly pompous and presumptuous thing to assume; and (in truth) if your kids are so irresponsible that you have to ask them about how they get/spend their money, than it is really more of a statement on your failures in parenting along the way.

The “no”s on the topic of assuming a right to one’s kid’s finances really took the morning’s conversation, though – the best of which included all sorts of wonderful insight.  One woman that I know from a local writers group explained the situation with her own grown son:  “While the kid was a college lower classman I gave lots of advice about how the money was to be spent. After I saw him being responsible with it, I backed off. Now, I think offering advice is way off limits however, I’d be willing to discuss it if he wanted and might suggest something for him to consider.”   Another great comment (and from a friend who is an accountant) stated that with her son she plans on instilling in him the understanding of money and responsibility as soon as he understands the concepts of dollars and cents.  To further, though, she stated:  “But I am totally an anti-enabler parent, so my child will know that he is responsible for his own finances.”  

I think here is where the conversation needs to go:  there is a divide between the families that enable and those that do not.  There is a divide between the families that believe everything – including finances – are a matter of everyone’s business and those that believe the discussion is off the table after a certain age.  Let’s examine the possible outcomes, though:

You over-involve yourself in your child’s financial affairs beyond college and young adulthood, well into regular adulthood.

The possibilities are endless:  it could end contrary to all psychological and sociological evidence and still all be okay; or it could end in complete disaster, which is what the statistics predict.  In the worst case scenario, your child grows up to be entirely codependent on other people’s advise or approval in matters of money, and is unable to ever gain the confidence to make their own decisions.  One day you and your spouse are no longer around and your child is completely unable to function because of an inability to make decisions.  Another possible outcome is that your child grows up to have serious problems with understanding personal responsibility for the financial blunders that come up.  One more simple possibility (on the other end of the results spectrum) is that eventually your child will grow to resent you for always asking and implying that it is your business where money comes from and goes to.  I know a few people right now that are extremely resentful of the fact that their parents ask them where certain monies come from, or that offer unsolicited advise on a regular basis.  And, in fact, one of the people commenting in the discussion this morning said that:  “I know my father still thinks that its his business due to the fact that he is my father and wants me to be as safe and comfortable as I was as a kid living at home. There are always many arguments between us about this.”  As with all enmeshed family systems, the over involvement of helicopter parents usually ends either in destruction of the child as a grown individual, or destruction of the family.

You raise your child by showing a positive example, as well as by teaching them individuality and – at a certain point – knowing when to draw the line and wait for them to come to you if advise is warranted.

Perhaps I am just biased because I have done such extensive research in school on the negative affects of families that are over-involved in each other’s lives and family systems theory.  But then it wouldn’t really be a “bias” so much as it would be an educated understanding of psychological and sociological findings.  In any event, one of the most important things we as parents can do is to teach our children to be responsible, upstanding adults.  Over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives, though, is a recipe for not doing that.  It’s like when the baby bird just cannot learn to fly and the mother finally just pushes it off the tree branch – if kids do not experience financial assessment and responsibility for themselves, they will never learn the tools necessary to be able to live a functional life sans parent.

Ultimately, I think this is the fear the parents of young adults today are having a difficult time coming to terms with:  that life does go on without them for their kids.  For years, we are the sole reason those little miracles survive in a cold, heartless world; for them to move on and be able to function without us is overwhelming.  What a better way to secure our place and importance in the world than by making sure those little miracles never canfunction without us – emotionally as well as financially.  One of the most resounding comments from the morning stated that:  “Ultimately I think its all about parents being strong enough to look at their children as adults and not kids.”  In a time when more young adults run home to mommy and daddy whenever finances get a little scary; or when mommy and daddy taken upon themselves to assume financial dominion over their adult-aged children:  truer words were never spoken.  Whatever the reason may be, parents of these enmeshed families refuse to allow their children to ever be more than children.

Consider where you are on the spectrum of finances and your kids.  Are you creating autonomous individuals that will go out in the world and prosper -whether you are there to help or not?  Or are you creating codependent kids that have no idea what the value or responsibility of a dollar is?  It’s hard to be a parent in a today’s world.  Consider, though, that it’s even harder to be a kid.

Helicopter Down

Earlier this week, I talked about the CNN opinion article Why Men Are In Trouble, and also the broader issue of responsibility in our time.  I think the general consensus is that men and women alike have lost all sense of what it means to be responsible for their actions.  I see this being the result of a few possible things:

  1. There are no more consequences.  It seems that as time has gone on, less focus has been put on the consequences of our actions than the actual actions, themselves.  You can see this everywhere, even in the most intricate family or work situations.  Take for example the amount that people get away with petty crimes in this country.  When you speed, it is only considered wrong if you actually get caught; and when you do, (at least in California) you have a 60% chance of getting away with just a warning, as well as a 40% chance that in the event you do get a ticket, the officer will never turn it in.  There are a lot of places in society today where there are no consequences for poor actions.
  2. Even when there are consequences, there is always someone waiting there to bail you out.  I used to work with a girl that came in to work every day wearing some new, cute article of clothing.  She was a single mother, refused to ask her child’s father for child support (as a matter of pride), and worked at Longs Drugstore for a whopping $13 an hour.  One day I asked her exactly how she was able to afford such cute, new clothes all the time and she responded “well, I charge it and usually my boyfriend pays the bill .. and I figure that if all else fails, I’ll just declare bankruptcy.”  When all else fails, there seems to always be someone there to bail us out:  be it the government, bankruptcy filing, or family.
  3. Helicopter Parents.  Ultimately, I think what this all boils down to is the Helicopter Parent.  You know at least one of them:  that mom or dad that is so over-involved in the actions of his or her kids that there is an entire team of psychiatrists out there just salivating in anticipation of the situation turning ugly.  How the Helicopter Parent is to blame is simply that by always coming to the rescue, or by always handling the problems or being the one to trouble-shoot any of life’s troubles, the kids of the situation never learn how to deal with problems on their own.  Further, most children of Helicopter Parents rarely understand the notion of consequences and (most importantly) have a skewed understanding of what it means to take responsibility.  Helicopter Parents are most seriously causing a problem with the education of their children, for when things go awry the children always expect mom or dad to come fix the problem.  This, over years, transcends into a much greater problem, though, for in college children of Helicopter Parents are now being found to either suffer or still need “mommy and daddy” to come to the rescue; and there are even young adults with Helicopter Parents that have a number of difficulties functioning in society as a result of having been babied all their lives.

It is strange to me how much Helicopter Parents have become the “norm.”  As a parent, one of your principle responsibilities is to raise your child to become a functional and well-rounded individual; and included in that must be a sense of being able to handle things on their own.  Helicopter Parenting is rife with so many disastrous possibilities:  from social awkwardness to co-dependency issues, even to emotional or physical abuse on the part of the child simply because they don’t know how to deal with situations on their own.  So as all of you faithful blog followers are out there populating the already-overpopulated world with your love seed, just remember not to let your propellers get too close.

Stop Being Such a P*s*y

I’m not a fan of the p-word, but I feel it is in order at this point.  Stop being such a p*s*y!

Who am I referring to, you might ask?  Men.  Not all men, just some.  Let me elaborate:

I recently read an opinion piece by a CNN contributor, called Why Men Are in Trouble.  The crux of the article was that, beyond just reaching equality, women have surpassed men in education, career, and salary in the United States, today.  What is disturbing about this trend is not that women are doing more than men (which is troubling on a number of other levels beyond the extent of this particular blog); but really that it is correlative to some other things going on in American culture.  Most noted, as the author of the article points out, is the fact that as the numbers of unemployment and lack of education for men go down, the numbers for video game use among 18 – 34 year olds surpass those of young boys.  Further, role modeling in the mainstream media, particularly in movies, no longer espouse the typical qualities of a mature, responsible, adult male.

Now, I have no problem with adult men playing video games, but there are conditions which must apply.  If you have no job and no car and are over the age of 18, well then there is a big problem if you are spending all of your time in your parent’s basement playing video games.  If you are in college but prioritize your World of Warcraft marathons over going to class, there is a big problem with you as well.  What has happened with American culture that 20% of the male population is unemployed and sitting around their parent’s homes playing video games all the time, not taking the responsibilities that an adult male should be taking?

I think the other relevant point in the antiheroic qualities of men in movies, and male role models in general, is a strong one.  Men in movies now are portrayed not as heroes, leaders, or responsible and upstanding members of society.  They’re pot smoking babies that don’t want to grow up.  They show up on the screen as whiney children that refuse to take responsibility for their actions.  It’s no wonder there are so many single mothers out there, and children abandoned by their fathers, when the classic role models in our film and media do the same, exact thing.  It was like when Manny Ramirez was first busted by the Dodgers a few years ago for doing performance-enhancing drugs.  Everyone said “well, everyone in sports does it.”  As a role model for young men growing and looking to people like Ramirez to model themselves after, is that an acceptable response?  The same can be said for every movie or television show where the male characters act like adult babies in the face of situations where they should be acting otherwise.  But just because everyone does it now, does not make it okay.

I cannot count on both hands how many men I have run across in my own life that act like complete babies when it comes to a myriad of things.  Some of them, I wonder if they are even really men.  I started to notice this a few years after mother’s day when I saw a family member (who shall remain nameless because I know his mom and brother read this blog…) post on his Facebook page “just got back from a nice brunch with my mommy.”  I almost vomited when I saw this because, while in normal circumstances it might be sweet or a nice, mother’s day gesture, I knew that it was indicative of the fact that on most days of the year he (like a lot of men) still cowered under his mother’s skirt.  And how many of us don’t know at least one man who acts irresponsible when it comes to his family, or (more often) his job?  Who spits in the face of his family or the people around him, and refuses to take responsibility for the decisions he makes?  Who will walk out on a job whether he has a way to pay his own bills or not?  Or, how about more simply put:  how many of us can say we don’t know a guy that’s skating out on his child support, or on properly caring for his wife?  I can name a lot of those, which is a sad state of affairs if you ask me, faithful blog followers.

But I think this goes much deeper than just video games and bad role modeling.  Somehow our generation – our entire culture even – has gotten the idea that we don’t have to actually take responsibility for anything.  This is a great problem, which will only become greater, if something doesn’t change.  My solution is about twenty-fold, from education to government to parenting, etc.  But for the sake of being brief (for now), I’ll stick to just saying to all those men out there (and you know who you are):  stop being such a p*s*y!

I’m a loser, baby

If you’re like me, any thought of the 90s is immediately accompanied by a music flashback to Beck’s Loser.  I have many-a-fond memories of kicking back in high school and loving Beck more than life, itself.  Like many other teens during the dawn of teen angst, that song was my battle cry; and very likely, I was just as much a loser as the next kid.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that even hearing or reading about losers harkens me back to that song of my youth.  This morning, reading Darren Hardy’s How to Be a Loser blog post was no different.  The publisher of SUCCESS magazine, Hardy blogged with intention to look at what makes a loser from a satirical standpoint … a guide, so to speak, to becoming one of those many people walking around with the big L dangling from their forehead.

The thing about Hardy’s blog is that, while it raises some excellent points, it also is a bit too general to hit the mark on each point.  In one instance, Hardy says you can make yourself a loser by never setting goals and only taking things day by day.  Sure, this may be true in some instances, but it is so general and does not necessarily apply to everyone.  There is such a thing as getting too out of control with your goals; and for some going through major life issues (marriage, divorce, new baby, death in the family) day-by-day is the only way to survive.  Ultimately, I think the blog would have been more effective if Hardy had gone with a straight-forward approach; his backhanded way of talking about loserdome just doesn’t jive with the advise he is trying to give.

Beyond that, though, I think the idea of how to be a loser is still a good one.  This week has been all about balance:  the healthy way to live life to its fullest.  With that and Hardy’s blog post in mind, I decided to create my own list of ways to be a loser.

I’m a loser, baby #1:  

Lose sight of happiness in the name of undefinable goals

We all know someone that has done this.  Rather than let themselves live in the present, they are so far in the future and/or the past that they can’t even tell you what they are feeling right now, let alone whether or not they are happy.  And in many cases, they come to the end of the rope only to realize that everything they gave up was not worth it.  Goals and plans are important, but there is something to be said for being both emotionally and physically present in the now.  And hey:  you never know what could happen – you could leave for work tomorrow and get hit by a truck.  Laying on the concrete, dying, will you regret not having savored life now at least once in a while?

I’m a loser, baby #2:  

Always eliminate people and things from your life that deviate from the way you are

It is astonishing sometimes to hear people say that they broke up with someone because they saw things differently, or that they decided to give up certain things in their life because it got in the way with what was most important to them:  them.  Yesterday we talked about things the world doesn’t stop for... I’ve got news for you, faithful blog followers, you are included in that list of things.  Life is about both a give and a take; and the truth to the matter is there is not one person or thing on this planet that will see entirely eye-to-eye with you.  Some (myself included) might even go as far as to say that people who are much different than you are good in the sense that they offer a more well-rounded view of your otherwise closed circuit life.

I’m a loser, baby #3:  

Never take risks.  Ever.

I recently read Eric Sevareid’s “Canoeing with the Cree,” which is a true memoir about a 2250 mile canoeing trip up the Missouri River into Canada.  The trip took place in the 1930s and had never been done before, let alone by two 18 year olds, fresh out of high school.  The main focus of discussion at my book club (which the book was read for) was focused on this idea of risks:  that we do not take risks anymore, be it physical or emotional risks, like they did less than a century ago.  Life is about continual leaps of faith, and to think of anything as a safe venture is just foolish.

I’m a loser, baby #4:  

Don’t keep things in perspective

Ever talk to someone that blows everything so far out of proportion, and gets so caught up in the “what if”s and “I assume”s of the situation that it makes you want to stick a piece of dynamite in your ear and make your own head explode before they get a chance to do it with their incessant blathering?  This can go a lot of ways.  One is in the case of the overachieving idealist.  Sure, it’s great to have ideals and forward-thinking ways of living; but it’s another thing to not look at the situation realistically and pragmatically.  Another is in the case of someone that acts as though a minor event is the absolute end of the world.  It’s not, bitch.  Get some perspective.

I’m a loser, baby #5:  

Constantly blame other people for your problems

There are certainly a lot of things out of your control; just as a lot of times people around you influence you to do things you may have otherwise not done.  But enough with the blame-game, loser.  Nothing is more annoying than someone that cannot take responsibility for any of his or her actions; especially when they go as far as to suggest a change in the way things happened, or put words in people’s mouths or assign intentions in people’s minds.  Chances are, unless you are 15 years old or a complete douche, you were at least 80% responsible for the situation you are blaming others for.

Am I a loser, baby?  Some people might say I am.  I certainly try and avoid the five scenarios above, and in fact, I generally try and live by (at least most of) Hardy’s list too.  But then it takes one to know one, doesn’t it?