Black Friday

Black Friday. Yeah, it’s coming. Some of you are like Santa and are making lists, checking it twice, seeing what stores are open when. The hours are becoming pretty crazy. Stores use to open an hour early, then a few hours early, then at midnight. Now some stores are open at 8pm on Thanksgiving and are staying open all night long! How insane is that?

The first thing you need to know is that I worked retail for an electronics store for four years. I was a commissioned sales person. I worked every “Black Friday” for four years. The holiday hours were pretty insane. Back to back to back 12hour shifts. Extended hours every night for over a month. I remember going to bed at 5pm on Thanksgiving so I could get up at 1am to open the store. Needless to say it was pretty draining.

I’ve seen a ton of post about people slamming big business for being open on Thanksgiving and then being open throughout the night. Calling the companies greedy and insensitive. Questioning these companies about how humane is it to have people away from their families on a holiday. Crying about how people are missing out on family traditions because of these huge over bearing companies that just care about the bottom line.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t see many people saying they are refusing to shop. I don’t hear people calling for boycotts of these sales. I don’t see posts rallying friends and family to stay at home and not buy that 50inch tv for a stupid price. Infact, I hear just the opposite. I hear people checking out ads. Making plans for post-Thanksgiving dinner shopping trips. Mapping out stores and planning shopping strategies. Recruiting family members to shop for them!

You are right about one thing, these companies do care about the bottom line. That’s all they care about. The bottom line is if they didn’t think that shoppers would line up at 8pm on Thanksgiving night to get the best deals, then they wouldn’t open their doors. Simple economics is supply and demand. If the demand wasn’t there to open the doors at 2am, then the stores wouldn’t do it.

We like to call these companies greedy and inhumane. Blaming them for ripping people away from their families. Causing riots at stores. It’s these companies that cause people to shoot each other over video game systems. It’s the companies that cause people to pepper spray someone else over a toaster oven. Yep. It’s all their fault. Couldn’t be the shoppers. Couldn’t be the fact that the shoppers are just as greedy, just as inhumane. It isn’t possible that the companies are simply reacting to the public. No, that’s out of the question.

What if we all decided to not go shopping? What if we decided to wait? To boycott shopping? The thing is, it wouldn’t happen, ever. The real issue isn’t the big companies. It’s the people shopping at the big companies.

Dear Toby, (11/21/13)

Dear Toby, (11/21/13)

Tonight you have driven me insane. The messes that you have made, the chaos that you naturally create, and then add to the fact that you honestly believe that you mom is coming to get you tonight. It’s a double edge sword. Do I let you believe that she is coming and then when she doesn’t come you realize and melt down or do I keep correcting you and each time I do you melt down because you believe so strongly that she is coming??

I guess the only thing I can do is tell you the truth. A truth that you’ll grow up with. A truth that right now is impossible for you to understand. The truth is we both love you but we can’t both be around at the same time. That chances are when you are with her, you’ll want to be with me. That when you are with me, you want to be with her. That it will be hard and it will probably get harder before it gets easier.

The good news as much as you believe right now that momma is coming to get you tonight, I believe in you more. That I believe in you ability to overcome this. That not only do I believe in you but I also believe in the love that your mother and I both have for you. That my son is the truth.

Love,
Friend Dad

Weirdo

Just like every night, tonight was no different. I put Toby to bed, let him watch a video on my Kindle Fire, then came in and laid down with him. Toby has tossed in a new wrinkle into our nightly routine. He wants to play “story”.

The birth of playing “story” goes back a few months when I told Toby I would tell him a story. I used his action figures to tell various stories about dragons and zombies. At some point over time, the main character became my two fingers. I used them as legs and “walked” around on them. So now, playing “story” has turned into playing “finger story”.

Again, tonight was no different, we played “finger story”. As we were playing, my fingers interacted with a few action figures. Toby authored the voices of the action figures. During this story a generic Spider-Man type figure called my two finger character a weirdo! My two finger character told generic Spider-Man that it wasn’t nice to call someone a weirdo because it could make them sad. Generic Spider-man called me a weirdo again! At this point I made my two finger character cry. I broke the 4th wall and told Toby he was sad because Generic Spider-Man called him a weirdo.

Toby looked at me for a brief second. I could tell he was processing the scene. Generic Spider-Man came over and said sorry to my two finger character. My character said it was okay and that he shouldn’t call people weirdos anymore because it makes people sad. Generic Spider-Man said okay. They high-fived and went on to play with the headless farmer and the zoo keeper named Balyssa. They jumped and flew around with Superman and finally went to bed.

Interestingly enough I found out that my two finger character was named Toby. I’m not naive enough to think that this single interaction is going to change Toby so much that he never calls anyone a weirdo again. I think the real lesson is that there are moments when you are playing with you kids that you can teach them a lesson. Too often I think as parents we just see play time as play time not opportunities to teach and learn. I learned tonight that my son knows the word weirdo and that he has either been called a weirdo or has called someone a weirdo. I also learned that my son can look at a scene and see that someone is sad and knows to apologize. The thing is, if you don’t ever play with your kids then you’ll never have these chances.

Norms crisis

At my work we have things that are called “norms”. A norm can best be defined as a behavior that is normal. For an example: the speed limit may say 65mph. However, the norm or the behavior that is normal, is that everyone speeds. Now much like everything in this world, there are good “norms” and bad “norms”. A norm for a neighborhood is could be that you get to high school, drop out and join a gang. Or maybe a norm for a family is that you graduate high school and go to college, even further you go to a particular college. Chances are you have norms in your family. A norm might be we have small group on Thursdays. That’s normal. A norm might be that dad always sits at one seat and mom sits in another. In short, whether we acknowledge them or not, norms are everywhere.

What happens when someone opposes a norm? Well, that’s a norms crisis as we call it at work. Someone has rocked the boat. Your son doesn’t give a crap that he would be a third generation alum at Michigan and decides to go to Ohio State. Or maybe your daughter’s boyfriend comes over for dinner and sits in your seat, he’s just rocked the boat. As grown ups we adjust to norms. We see what the crowd is doing and adjust our behaviors. Maybe you find yourself laughing at things you wouldn’t normally laugh at. Or displaying behaviors that are normal for the group and not normal for you. You are at work and notice that it’s normal to come back 15-20 minutes late for lunch. Eventually you find yourself falling into that norm.

A norms crisis that has recently been splashed all over the news and sports world is the Richie Incognito story. If you don’t know, Richie Incognito played for the Miami Dolphins and is being accused of bullying a teammate, Jonathan Martin, to the point in which Martin quit the team. What has become apparent to me and is slowly dripping out as this story unravels, is that it was a norm in the Dolphins locker room to bully teammates, to allow terrible behaviors. It was a behavior that was accepted and that it was something accepted by the majority of the team. See here is the key to norms, they have to be accepted by the group. A behavior doesn’t become normal for a group unless the group accepts it. If people stood up and said “hey guys we can’t be coming back from lunch late, it’s hurting our business” Then that would put people in a norms crisis, the group would then decide to either change their behavior or simply go back to their old ways. Either way, it would be a group decision. I honestly believe that the Dolphins locker room accepted Incognito’s behavior. They allows the norm to happen. That chances are Incognito wasn’t the only one, he was just the one that got caught.

Norms change because either the leader(s) of the group makes a change, the law steps in and makes a change or someone puts the group in a norms crisis and effects change throughout the group. Jonathan Martin got tired of the norm. The norm of being bullied, made fun of and forced to do things he didn’t want to do. He saw that the leaders of the team like Incognito, coaches and other teammates were not going to stop the norm.

Martin decided to put the team into crisis and attempt to effect change himself. He quit the team. He walked away and did what is not normal. What only a handful of people have ever done and quit on one the most lucrative careers before his career really began. The thing about norms is that they are everywhere, the other thing about norms is that you don’t always have to follow them.

He’s Broken

It was a typical Saturday. I woke up and Toby was already awake and rolling. He can running into my bedroom after just being dropped off by Nanna. The rest of the day went pretty normal. I got up, made him breakfast, me breakfast, and put on his shows.

Later in the afternoon Toby convinced me to play some sort of rocket game. Essentially, we hid under a blanket, I would shake him and the blanket and act like we were blasting off. He loved it. Then we would get out and “hunt” monsters. A random part of the game is Toby finding “pets” and bringing them back to the rocket ship to save. These are usually smaller stuffed animals that he finds and brings back. Today, he handed me about five stuffed animals that we “saved” and two plastic horses that we had to “save”. The thing that struck me today was that he handed me a horse that had a broken leg. Well, broken meaning that it was missing a leg. He grabbed the horse, giving it to me and said “we have to save this one, he’s broken.” I had to smile.

One of the lessons that I want to instill in Toby is that just because something is broken it doesn’t mean that it has lost it’s value. In a practical sense, who had enough money to keep replacing all the toys this kid breaks? If every time a toy is broken and I simply replace it with a new one, what’s the lesson?

Lesson: If something is broken you get a new one.

I see a generation of kids growing up that if things aren’t perfect then it’s deemed worthless. That they have to have the latest iPhone or bust. Or if it doesn’t look a certain way then it gets tossed out. I work with kids that intentionally destroy items just so they can complain and get something newer.

In a greater sense, what does this say about how we treat people? How we approach life? If a relationship is broken, well throw it away and get a new one. If your job is “broken”, quit and get a new one. If a person is “broken” by alcoholism, mental illness or sickness, are they worthless? If they don’t fit, do we simply throw them out? I suppose the ultimate lesson I want to teach Toby is that just because something or someone is “broken” it doesn’t mean they don’t have value. That you shouldn’t just discard people, that in fact they are worth saving.

I just found out that a kid that graduated from the place I work at is working at a pizza place and is getting ready to attend college and major in chemistry. This kid was broken. I know many people who would have tossed this kid aside. Discarded him. Would have said he belonged in a cell to waste away. That he was broken and worthless. This kid had experienced and done horrendous things. Yet he wasn’t thrown away. He was “fixed”. The thing is, if we discard all the broken people like we tend to do with all the broken “toys”, the world would be empty.