>> Tuesday, April 19, 2016
>> Wednesday, April 6, 2016
You're probably not going to agree with this theory. You may argue against it, or dismiss me as a moron. So be it. I have a theory about why American seems to have gone collectively mad. I call it my "Field Day Theory."
When I was in Elementary School, one of the events we looked forward to the most was the annual Field Day. Field Day was a combination of "serious" events (the one mile run, throwing a football with accuracy through a swinging tire, etc.) and some were "fun" events (the three-legged race, the sack race, the crab-walk race.) We all practiced for the events in the hopes of winning one of the coveted Field Day ribbons - Blue for 1st place, Red for 2nd place, and Yellow for 3rd place. It was a FUN day full of FUN activities. Most people didn't win ribbons at all. In fact, I think one of the highlights of my 4th grade year was my 2nd place ribbon for the Crab Walk race. But we were outside for most of the day, playing and competing on various levels.
Fast forward to today's school environment. Almost every school I know of still has "Field Day." The Field Day of today is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. I've now experienced it at 3 different schools. For the most part, the "serious" events no longer exist. All of the events are "fun" events - hula hoop contests; paper-airplane throwing contests; tug-of-war contests. I want to clarify that there is NOTHING WRONG with any of those activities or with today's version of Field Day, but it's different than it used to be.
What is the major difference? NO RIBBONS. Field Day is no longer truly "competitive". No ribbons are given at all. Occasionally, medals are given out, but they are participation medals and EVERYONE GETS ONE.
Stay with me here - I have a point...
Field Day to me is a huge, visible example of how our society has changed in the past 30-40 years. School activities now are designed specifically to not offend anyone, to not make anyone feel inadequate, and to protect each child's delicate self-esteem. "You're ALL winners!" "Everyone gets a medal!" "Just being there makes you a winner, even if you sit and play in the dirt the whole time!"
This mindset has permeated into other areas outside school. Recitals. Club and Rec league sports. Clubs. Everyone always is a winner. Everyone always gets into the club. Kids are always kind and accepting (or they get punished.)
On the surface, this seems OK. It seems like a great idea until you examine how it impacts how a child thinks and reacts long-term.
Let's take Johnny. Johnny is a 3rd grader with a younger sister in Kindergarten. Johnny's parents are comfortable financially, and want Johnny and his sister to have a better life than they did growing up. The parents are busy, though - they both work, and are involved with organizations in the community. The firmly believe that their children are perfect, and any misbehavior is typical "kid" behavior. Johnny plays Pee-Wee soccer and sings in the school chorus. He gets medals for everything he does - trophies even. He's not the best player, and one time another kid insulted him. Before he could even respond, the other kid got snatched away and punished (probably with a "time out" or something similar.) In school Johnny gets bored sometimes, especially since they have to sit still and quiet for 45 - 90 minutes for testing and assessments. One day Johnny can't sit still and he gets disruptive in class. The teacher send him to the office so that she can continue the assessments she's in the middle of, and in anger Johnny uses a bad word that he learned watching You Tube videos on his iPad. The Principal calls Johnny's parents. When Johnny's mom gets to the school, she gets VERY UPSET. But she's not upset with Johnny...she's mad at the teacher. CLEARLY this teacher doesn't know what she's doing. CLEARLY she has it out for Johnny and she should be better able to manager her students. How DARE she accuse her precious Johnny of misbehaving, and she's SURE he didn't learn that word at home. It HAD to be at school...and "what kind of school are you running here anyway? I'm in book club with the Superintendent's wife and I'm going to let her know just how things are at this school." Johnny gets sent back to class with zero repercussions or consequences, empowered by the realization that he's not going to get in trouble if he acts up. The Principal calls the teacher in after school and chews her out, blaming her for bringing heat onto him and telling her to keep a better handle on her class. (Which is a whole different blog...)
Over the years this pattern continues. Johnny gets medals for almost everything. Johnny never gets in trouble, even if he should. He's always accepted and always a winner. He can be in every club and play any sport. Being called names or made fun of or being excluded from a group is now considered "bullying", and it happens next to never. There's now a "graduation" from every grade, and Johnny even gets medals and certificates for being in school all three years, or for perfect attendance.
Things start to change a little in high school for Johnny. Not everyone plays every sport. Johnny has played soccer for years and was always told he was great, but when he tries out for the High School team he's not good enough and doesn't make it. He's devastated. When he acts up in class, the school police officer talks to him and his mom can't talk or threaten him out of trouble. There are several groups of kids that's he's not friends with, and sometimes they are mean to him. They say mean things to make him feel bad, which makes him angry. Mom and Dad feel bad for him, so they buy him an expensive car and lots of other "things" to compensate. They chalk his less-than-stellar grades up to social issues and assume it will clear up as he gets older.
In college, Johnny's world REALLY gets rocked. He wants to join a Fraternity, but guess what? He doesn't get in. He's not a great athlete or a great student, and he's struggling. It's frustrating and shocking and upsetting that this world isn't really what he always thought it was. People play pranks on him, and sometimes say mean things. He gets sadder and angrier.
The fact is that Johnny was so insulated his whole life that he simply doesn't know what to do. No one ever told him he wasn't good enough. He was always accepted into clubs and groups. No one ever was mean to him. He got medals just for showing up to things - he sometimes didn't even have to work at all. He got things - cars, electronics, etc. - all the time, and didn't really have to do anything to EARN them. He was never expected to do great things, because he was rewarded by just being average.
Johnny doesn't know who to blame for all this anger, so he turns it outward: to his parents, to his teachers, to the kids in that fraternity. Being relatively young and emotional, the lack of acceptance and lack of constant praise and reward gets bigger and bigger in his mind. His anger gets worse.
Now - I'm not saying this situation would necessarily lead to a shooting. In fact, most of the mass shootings around the world has nothing to do with this scenario. Not directly anyway. Imagine if Johnny finds a religious/political organization online. They LIKE him. They WANT him. They tell him he is important and can make a difference in the world. Can you see how appealing that would be to someone in his shoes?
Or if it didn't go that far, how easy it would be for Johnny to break into his dad's gun cabinet (his Dad hunts) or even to go down to Wal Mart and buy a gun? Then shoot himself, or shoot his parents or shoot a bunch of teachers.
To quote the movie The Incredibles: "When everyone is special, then no one will be." Kids that grow up without any competition, without any consequences, and without having to learn how to deal with mean people from an early age grow up lost. There are tons of articles on how today's college graduates are finding it hard to get jobs because they are so used to people GIVING them things. They honestly have never been told that they have to work for it, or try harder, or that they might fail. And that some girl may make fun of your tie or your shoes.
In life, not everyone wins. You don't get into every club. You don't win medals just for showing up. Everyone doesn't have to like you, and people sometimes are not nice. If you screw up, there are consequences for that. Kids who grow up in our society today don't know any of that. They don't understand it, and they don't realize it's reality. It's no wonder they freak out.
Lord knows I am by no means a perfect parent, but I am trying my best to teach my kids how to work for things, how to earn them. We set our expectations high - for their grades and for their behavior. There are consequences when they misbehave or are disrespectful. They don't get the newest and most popular electronics. My son is begging for an iPhone. He has a small flip phone for emergencies, but "all his friends have iPhones." We told him he needs to get through 6th grade. If he makes good grades all year and shows us that he is mature and responsible, we'll discuss getting him an iPhone. DISCUSS.
When our daughter has problems with her Spanish class, we tell her that SHE needs to go to the teacher and discuss what's going on. It's HER RESPONSIBILITY to work things out and get the help she needs - we will only intervene if the teacher refuses to help her. We don't bail her out...her grade is on her shoulders, and only by behaving like a respectful, responsible young adult is she going to get it fixed.
If someone says mean things and calls names on the bus, we give them tools and strategies to handle the situation. We don't yell at the bus driver, or go up to the office. We only intervene if we must, because if we're constantly jumping in and "fixing" things for them, how will they ever learn to do it on their own?
It all starts with Field Day. Make people work for those ribbons. Only give them out to certain people. Give the kids incentive to work harder to win one next year. Don't raise "children" - raise PEOPLE. People that will grow up to be adults.
>> Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Years ago when I first went away to college, I went to what was then known as Troy State University. Located in Troy, Alabama, about 30 minutes East of Montgomery, Troy State was in a fairly rural area - lots of farms and open land nearby. I didn't have a good experience at Troy for a variety of reasons and circumstances that I won't go into here. The bottom line was that on most Thursday or Friday evenings I would make the 2 1/2 hour drive back home to Pensacola for the weekend. Being in semi-rural Alabama, Troy and the surrounding counties had a specific smell. Not unpleasant, but very earthy - dirt, grass, water, manure, and pine sap. Again - not unpleasant per-se, just not what I was used to growing up in coastal Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola always smells slightly salty, with a hint of the mustiness of wetlands, rivers, and swamps. Sea, salt, and sand predominate, though, and you don't even realize it exists until it's not there. On my drives home, I would take Highway 231 South to Crestview, and then head West on I-10. At the Milton exit I would roll down my windows and wait. In a mere few miles I'd approach the bridge over Escambia Bay. Just before the road bends and the bridge becomes visible it hits you - that salty seawater marsh smell. I always loved that moment when HOME hit me in the face via my nostrils and my rolled-down Pontiac windows. Flash forward 25 years. I find myself on the balcony of a cruise ships after a 7-night trip. We're only a bit away from the west coast of Florida, and my home now: Tampa. I stand out here in the dark, a glass of Cabernet in hand, and I catch myself leaning out, trying to smell Home. Tampa smells a lot like Pensacola actually, which is maybe part of why we ended up there. So I'm not sure exactly what I'm searching for since I'm literally surrounded by salt and sea. 7 days is a long time to be away from Home, which may be why I sit here with binoculars at my side trying to see or smell "Home." The realization that I was trying to catch a whiff of Home sent me back 25 years to a Navy Blue Pontiac on I-10 over the Escambia Bay Bridge. Home may be where the heart is, but sometimes your nose can be what clues you in to Home in the first place.
>> Monday, July 29, 2013
I don't know if other people struggle with this. It's likely that they do. The single-most defining factor in my life right now is GUILT. I didn't kill anyone, or rob a bank. I wasn't mean to anyone. I didn't lie, or screw anyone over. It's not that kind of guilt. My guilt is bigger and heavier than that. Denser. It's guilt for choosing to purchase a business that I am struggling at. Guilt for over-estimating my own talents, skills, and abilities. Guilt for costing my family so much money. Guilt for not being able to contribute to the family financially AT ALL. Then there's the second layer of that same guilt. Guilt for not spending time with my kids. Guilt for being so stressed and tired ALL OF THE TIME. Guilt for not being present - as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a volunteer. I bought this business for a lot of reasons. After being a full-time mom for 8 years, I wanted something for me. I wanted to establish an identity for myself. I wanted to make some money for my family. It made a lot of sense at the time - I LOVE to travel, and I'm good at it when lots of other people come along with us on our trips. I'm detail oriented and conscientious and unfailingly honest. I either overestimated myself, or underestimated those around me. It's difficult not to look around me and try to figure out why so many people that I considered friends and family aren't supporting me. That's a major oversight. I assumed people I already knew would be my base, my kick-start. I assumed that people I knew would give me a chance. Needless to say, that didn't really materialize to the extent I thought it would. I am forced to build it on my own, from the ground up. Except that building is hard. Painfully, excruciatingly difficult. It sucks away your time and your money and your energy. It sucks away your self confidence and self worth. It leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted. So when you hit that point, what can you do? Walk away? Walk away TO WHAT? Guilt overshadows everything I do every single second of the day. GUILT. FAILURE. STUPID. VAIN. SELFISH. I have dug myself into a hole that affects more than just me. I should be ashamed for not considering the fallout for the people around me...the people that mean the most to me. Guilt.
>> Thursday, July 5, 2012
To begin this post, I will answer that question.
NO. No, we cannot.
The internet lately has been full of articles about the 2012 woman - she works, she parents, she plays, she volunteers. She seems to have it "all." But does she really, and can she? Is it even possible?
Well - yes. And no. She can have a little bit of it "all." But she can't have all of it "all". This is why:
I am a mom. For most of the last eight years, that has been my main job. The Mom job description involves a lot of things - cleaning, laundry, holiday preparation, birthday parties - you name it. Today's Mom is expected to be mega-involved in her child's school. So in addition to the normal Mom duties, she volunteers at school too. Homeroom mom, School Advisory Council, PTA. She helps out with auction baskets and Fun Fridays and banquets.
Now, eventually Mom wants to expand her horizons a bit. So she begins to volunteer outside of the school. Girl Scouts. The Junior League. She chairs committees, and attends trainings and generally tries to help others while gaining some experience.
Experience. Because eventually, as the kids get older, people start to ask "When are you going back to work?" Which is funny, really, because the Mom job is already plenty of work. Full-time work.
But the kids are in school, and people are expecting you to move away from your bon-bon eating, leisurely pedicure-getting lifestyle, and get a "real job."
Mom starts out part-time - as a school aide, and a substitute teacher. But the pay is awful, and it's not really worth taking the time away from the other Mom duties.
So Mom starts working more or less full-time, doing something exciting and interesting. But the rest of the Mom stuff starts to suffer. Less time with the kids. Less time volunteering. Things start to stack up. The dishes and laundry and school projects don't go anywhere - there's just less time to get it all done. So Mom spends her "free time" doing all the Mom stuff she did before. After dinner, late into the evening.
By the time Mom gets to bed, she's wiped out. There's little time for husband. There's little time for friends. Things start to slip.
Mom forgets to make that doctor's appointment she needs to make. Oh crap - was that birthday last week? How long has it been since the oil was changed? The little stuff stacks and stacks and stacks, until the whole things weighs on her shoulders.
The point here is - that the more you do, the thinner you're spread. Things suffer, if not in one area of your life, in another. Choices have to be made, and sacrifices too.
So you can have the family, and the job, and the friends, and the home. But the family gets tired of you being tired all the time. The job sometimes suffers, because you can't give it your undivided attention. You might go months without seeing your friends, and years without a weekend away with your spouse. The house is a mess pretty much all the time, and the to-do list just keeps growing.
It really sucks that we CAN'T really have it all. But is sucks even more that society expects us to anyway.
>> Sunday, June 17, 2012
Since my life wasn't crazy enough...Bart and I embarked on a journey to find the perfect franchise to buy. I had (have) been looking for a job that didn't interfere with the family too much for about a year. Everything I found either a) had crappy hours; b) was 30+ miles away; c) paid only a smidge above minimum wage; or d) all of the above. In the meantime, Bart was interested in buying a "bidness" that we could own, and maybe get some tax benefits from. After a brief look into a toy store franchise (VERY brief), I stumbled into the travel concept. I already love to travel, and I usually talk people into going with me. So why not do it for a living? Bart and I researched and reviewed and researched and attended webinars and conference calls and more webinars, and eventually decided to take the BIG LEAP into a Travel franchise. As of May 4th, 2012, we are the co-owners of Cruise Planners - American Express, with me at the Primary operator. Now this is exciting and terrifying for a lot of reasons. The main one is we had to put some money into it, with no real hopes of seeing any return for at least 6-12 months. The other is...well - that's mostly it. One big chunk-o-cash rolled out on the craps table, hoping I can make it work. I'm pretty sure I can do it. I have a long road in front of me, and I've already taken one brief dip with the sharks, but I came out of it at least knowing who and where the sharks are. There are 2 things I have learned already: 1) Travel Agents actually CAN get things cheaper. Really. And 2)The amount of travel stuff out there is flat out crazy overwhelming. So we're giving it a go. Wish us luck. Oh - and as a quick update - we decided to spend our daughter to Private School this Fall. If you need me, leave a message - I'll be giving Bart oxygen.