Thumbs up

I am that parent.  You know the one.  The one that is just a little too loud as they cheer on their kid.  The one that goes a little over board.  The one that you are pretty sure will end up arguing with the refs by the end of the game.  I am that parent.

Toby recently started playing soccer.  As an avid sports fan I am beyond excited to see what the little man can do.  I want him to be the next Messi, Pele, you know the one name players, Toby. That’s what I want.  I want him to take off down the field on a fast break and kick a game winning goal.  To have everyone cheer as streaks down into the box and drops a perfect header past the goalie.  That’s what I want.  I want him to be one of the best.

First game of the season,  I was disappointed.  Toby quit on his team.  He refused to go back into the game.  He was nervous and scared.  No matter how much anyone tried to coax him back into the game, he simply did not want to go.  There was a huge factor in him not wanting to go back in.  Me.  I was temporary coach.  The coach for the first week couldn’t make it.  So I volunteered.  It was a disaster for Toby.  What I wanted was to coach Toby on the field and see him be one of the best.  The thing is, that’s not what Toby wanted.  I think it was too much.  Too much pressure on him to do well with me right on the field.  The first time he has ever played an organized sport.  A game that is more than just being silly.  Dad as coach, was not what he wanted.

I knew that Toby quitting was probably because of me, but I didn’t want quitting to become a habit.  The rest of the week I would take time to remind Toby not to quit on his team.  To not give up.  To not be scared or nervous.  To be brave. He made it through the next practice.  He didn’t quit.  He listened to the coach.  Even though he was on the ground more than he was running, he kept getting up and playing.  This week’s game was more of the same.  Running, laughing, falling and getting back up.  The coach would tell him were to go and he listened.  I cheered from the sidelines.  Loudly.

Throughout the game Toby would give me random thumbs up.  I would flash him one back.  It’s like a secret signal developed between us.  His little signal that he hadn’t given up.  That he was ok.

Toby broke away from the pack.  He was virtually all alone and headed toward the goal.  He slowed down to make sure he controlled the ball.  He kept getting closer and closer to the goal.  I was yelling my head off.  Suddenly, a flash of gold came streaking down and stole the ball from him.  This little girl sprinting past and taking the ball.  I was devastated.  Man he missed a huge chance.  I wanted him to score a goal so bad.  A little few minutes later Toby turned around and looked over at me from midfield.  He smiled really big and flashed me a thumbs up.  I gave him a thumbs up.  As Toby and I walked back to the car, Toby looked up to me and said “Dad did you see me almost score a goal?”

“Yeah little man I saw” I replied.

“It was awesome!” Toby said.

“It was little man, I proud of you” I replied.

Tear soaked cheeks

This blog is really a follow up to a Facebook post. I posted a picture of my son crying. It had been a fairly terrible night. I had decided against my better judgement to take Toby to a trick or treat downtown. Now normally this isn’t an issue but it was raining off and on. Now because Toby is my child, he is a fairly concrete thinker. In his mind he imagines trick or treating by going to people’s houses and not stores. Well the trick or treat for my town was Saturday and the “merchant” trick or treat was Tuesday. Toby was less than enthused when he tried to walk down another street to people’s houses and do trick or treat and I wouldn’t let him. The water began to flow. Not just the rain but the tears! Combine the pouring down rain and a crying 4yr old equals an unhappy dad. So despite Toby’s wails, I scooped him up and walked in the pouring rain back to my car. The tears didn’t stop there. Since I had taken Toby away from trick or treating and he missed the parade the tears fell heavier than the rain drops outside.

I left the garage door open and came inside. Told Toby that when he calmed down and stop crying he could come inside. The bawling continued. I hopped on Facebook. Oh the wonderful pictures I saw of other families downtown trick or treating. The smiling faces and the happy parents. The happy posts of other friends with new babies that can barely walk. The care free post of nothingness. The whole time Toby is wailing in the background adding a completely inappropriate soundtrack to the photos and posts that I was viewing. I liken it to watching a kids cartoon with the soundtrack to of the Walking Dead blaring. Let’s just say I had enough.

I went out and posted a picture of the tear soaked cheeks of my son. I did it out of frustration but I did it to provide a reminder that being a parent is hard. That when you go on Facebook and see all the perfect families with all the perfect smiling children that it’s all a LIE! Ok, not a complete lie but in all reality is that people don’t post when their kids are bad, crying, throwing tantrums, hitting each other, slamming doors, or breaking your favorite electronic device. No, generally we post the happy pictures that make us smile and think “man, that’s a happy family”.

In the end I think we can become disillusioned by looking on Facebook and seeing all the happy smiling faces. I’m just as guilty as anyone. So in a moment of honesty and truth I posted a picture of what we all as parents experience but don’t share with one another.

I can’t imagine

Tonight I let Toby stay up late. No school, no work, why not? He watched his shows on the kindle. I watched mine on the tv. He would randomly come up and jump on my lap and kiss my face all over and then run away. I would leave the room and he would find an excuse to follow. When I put him to bed he was whinny and wanted someone “big” to lay down with him, so I laid in his bed for a few minutes. Later I went in and put an extra blanket on him because he feels the need to sleep with a fan blowing on him. Throughout tonight the same thought pulsated through my head: I couldn’t imagine whipping him with a switch and leaving cuts and bruises on his legs.

Tonight it came out that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is being accused of child abuse. He admitted taking a switch from a tree and hitting his 4 yr old son with it repeatedly. Full disclosure, I’ve smacked Toby’s butt on a few occasions and popped him in the mouth when he has yelled and talked back. However, I could not imagine beating him with a belt or a switch. I couldn’t imagine hitting hard enough to leave cuts, welts and bruises. It’s just simply something I wouldn’t do.

One of the phrases I always tell my kids at work is “just because something always was doesn’t mean it has to continue.” I use segregation as an example. About how blacks, “colored” couldn’t drink from the same water fountains as white. Things have changed and progressed. The response from my friends have varied about the Adrian Peterson incident. Some have said “well if that’s the case my parents should be in jail” or “he (Adrian Peterson) should be shot” and “that’s what happened to me as a kid, I don’t see a big deal.” To those who accept the fact that this isn’t a big deal because it happened to them, I say that just because you went through it doesn’t make it right. Just because that’s how things were, doesn’t mean it has to be continue.

I fully admit that this world would be a better place if parents were stricter with their kids. That kids seem to get away with everything. That with things like smart phones and all the evils that come with it, that kids are exposed to more now than ever before. I understand that as kids we remembered those “whoopings” our parents gave us. At the same time, I look at Toby and can’t imagine at the age of 4, him doing anything that would want me to beat him until he bled, was bruised and battered. For those that simply accept what happened as a part of growing up, I ask what can a 4 yr old really do to deserve bruises on his butt, legs, back, hands, and scrotum? I can’t imagine.

Squeezing in…

One of the line I say to my kids at work is that “many times as an adult things are not right or wrong but each choice has a set of consequences and many of the decisions you make are based on which set of consequences can you live with.” As many times I as I say this there are many more times that there are times in which you simply have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Too often I think we look for a rock and hard place to squeeze between so we don’t have to make the right choice and we can avoid making the choice altogether.

As people my belief is that honestly, we are inherently lazy. We simply do the least amount of work for the most gain. However if we can avoid doing any work and seemingly lose out a minimal amount, we’ll do that too. We look to avoid situations in which we’ll be put on the spot or have to potentially step up and do the right thing. I see time and time again where the right thing to do is blaring a horn, waving a sign and wearing face paint and yet the a person will find excuses so that they don’t have to do it.

One way I see people do this is intentionally try and find a rock and a hard place to squeeze into. Take a week and observe friends, family, coworkers and bosses and see if you think this is true. What this will look like is the person making excuses on both sides. Building up barriers as to why they shouldn’t do this or that. Becoming paralyzed when called upon to step up. When confronted with it not stepping up they’ll argue both sides and seemly boxing themselves in and will then look at you and ask this “what was I suppose to do?” Oh and the hands are always raised as to signify they are helpless to do anything about it.

I know I am cynical. I know that I don’t trust 99.99% of all humanity and that it takes moving mountains to get me to react emotionally to anything. However, look around and tell me you don’t see this. That you haven’t experienced this. That you haven’t been frustrated with this. Chances are, if you haven’t then you’re the one doing it.

Russian Roulette

I was watching a movie the other night and honestly couldn’t tell you who was in it or what the title of the movie was. There was however a classic scene that played out, it’s a scene that has been in countless movies. It’s the Russian Roulette scene. In typical fashion one person wants information, believes the other person has the information and decides that sticking a single bullet into a revolver, spinning the chambers, pointing it at the individual and then pulling the trigger until the person gives them the information or they die. It’s a classic scene. It’s a scene that plays out in gangster movies, cop movies, dramas, comedies and western. It plays out in real life too, it’s called dating. In my short stint into dating I have learned two things. One, there are no rules in dating and two, it’s like a big game of Russian Roulette.

The fact is that there are no rules. Single people save your money and don’t buy these books that say things like “10 simples rules for dating” or “today’s dating guide”. Honestly, there are no rules. Each date, person, relationship is different. The first date with a person could be completely different from the second date. By the time you get to the 5th date, you aren’t even dating the same person you were on the 1st date! Each person is different too. Everyone has their own issues and baggage. Own wants and needs. You might think you are compatible because a website tells you you are, but when you meet face to face the person is nothing like what their profile says. The classic is meeting someone who has a profile picture of them all sleek and fit, then you meet them and they are over weight and smell weird. Oh, that pic was a few years ago when you were really into working out? What you just wanted to show me your potential? Give me something to look forward too? The fact is that there are no rules because you don’t know what you’ll get.

Which brings me to the point that dating is a big game of Russian Roulette. It’s like taking a huge gun chamber with say 100 chambers. You fill 10 of those chambers with legit crazy people. You fill 70 of those chambers with duds that are harmless but a waste of time. Then you fill 10 of the chambers with $100. Nice if you get that chamber but not life changing. The other 9 you fill with weirdos that flake out on you or never show up. Then in one chamber is the one person that could change your life. You take that chamber and have Drew Carey spin the wheel a dozen times. Now it’s game on. You risk getting shot with a crazy person, or a dud, time waster, no show or weirdos. You play because maybe, just maybe the next time you pull the trigger it will be the one! You don’t want to not pull the trigger because you might miss out on the one but you don’t want to pull the trigger because you the chances of one of the others is highly probably. You simply don’t know what you are going to get. You really don’t know. You can be cautious and try and be careful, but let’s face it, people lie and manipulate.

This whole dating thing has been interesting. I’ve met some really awesome people and some not so awesome people. I’ve been surprised and let down. I’ve laughed and been pissed. Sometimes it has been a great time and other times i swore the earth rotated backwards so that time stood still. In the end you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the thrill and the excitement and it’s hugely frustrating. The thing is we all keep playing because the next one could be the one.

Racism “I’m not dead yet” (in a Monty Python voice)

One of my favorite movies is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you haven’t seen it then to be honest you’ll probably not get many of the references in the rest of this post. Regardless, keep reading. Ha. The thing about the movie is that I heard quotes from it long before I had actually seen the movie. Quotes like “Summon the Holy Hand Grenade” and “we are the knights that say Ni!” Classics lines from the movie. Since I hadn’t seen the movie I didn’t get the quotes and I didn’t think, at the time, they were funny. I had to experience the movie for myself. Finally I sat down and watched it. My eyes were opened! It was like I was watching a comedy for the first time, my world was forever altered by a bunch of Brits acting foolishly. You if you don’t get it, you just have to experience it.

Something that some people simply don’t get is racism. I think you can watch all the old 60’s news footage of marching, watch movies like American History X, walk through the the Martin Luther King Jr Museum a thousand times, but until you have actually faced it, experienced it, and have been personally a victim of it, I don’t think you can get it. One can describe the feelings and the situations but it’s far different than catching that look in someone’s eye as you pass by and knowing full well the only reason it’s there is because of the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes. You can watch movies and documentaries on it but it’s different when the name calling is directed toward you, your brother, and to your face. It’s just different.

Recently, Donald Sterling (owner of the NBA franchise LA Clippers) was caught spewing racist remarks in an audio recording. The news coverage is so wide spread that even President Obama commented on the issue and he was in another country at the time.

In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail there is a scene where a man is in charge of collecting the dead bodies around the city. Another man approaches him with an old man slung on his shoulder. The man tells the collector that he has a dead one for him. The old man quips “I’m not dead yet!”

In the audio you can hear Donald Sterling talking about him getting phone calls because his girlfriend took a picture with Magic Johnson. In the context of the conversation one can imagine that the phone calls that Donald Sterling had received were focused on why his girlfriend was taking pictures of herself with a black guy and posting them on Instagram. This tells me that Donald is surrounded by friends and probably family that share his same views. That their zealous racism extends to monitoring his girlfriend’s Instagram and then reporting back to Donald what’s going on. To me this just proves that racism extends far beyond Donald Sterling and most likely to other CEO’s, owners and powerful people continuing racism’s proclamation of “I’m not dead yet!”

I had a conversation with someone who asked if my parents were strict as far as who I dated. My response was “I’m 32 years old… So no”. I followed my statement by asking if their parents were. They said yeah their parents were pretty strict. Of course I could see how this was unfolding but I still pushed by asking “oh in what way?”. The response continued racism’s echo of “I’m not dead yet”. They responded in saying that they weren’t allowed to date “Blacks and Mexicans”. Needless to say I was surprised and not surprised. Their excuse was “that’s how they were raised.” My philosophy on excuses, pardon the language, are that they are like assholes; everyone has one and they all stink.

Much like the knight who simply won’t die and despite electing a black president, twice, racism is not dead. Word like “colored” is still accepted in many circles. Donald Sterling said that “minorities … Are the enemy.” He even called his girlfriend an enemy. Racism isn’t dead because we allow excuses like “well that’s how they were raised”. Even though we have cut off the arms of racism through the civil rights movement, it is still hopping around attempting to “Bite your legs off”.

Question game…

I like to play the question game when I meet new people or I am making friends with someone new. The rules are pretty simple:
1. Take turns asking questions
2. You can’t ask the same question back to the other person
3. You can always choose to decline to answer a question
Like I said the rules are pretty simple.

One question that is always asked is if I am from North Korea or South Korea. Honestly, I struggle with this question. The struggle isn’t coming up with an answer but answering the question altogether. This question creates more questions in my mind. Why? How is this important? What difference does it make? What if I am from North Korea? Will you stop talking to me? Why is everyone curious?

The more “upsetting” part is when I give my answer and the response I sometimes get:
Me “South Korea”
Them “oh good” and then they let out a sigh of relief.
What? How did this turn into a good or bad thing? As if I would have answered “North Korea” then your response would have been “oh bad”. What many of the people fail to recognize is that the majority of Koreans want a unified Korea. That they would prefer to just say “I’m Korean” and leave it at that.

Another aspect that gets lost on most people that respond by saying “oh good” is that I am at this point I’m an American and not a North Korean or South Korean. That I’ve been living in the United States for 29years now. That I don’t speak Korean, don’t eat Korean food and haven’t been to Korea since I was adopted. I guess I don’t really get why being from the north or the south really matters, or how being from the south is “good” and the “north” is bad. In the end it’s not good or bad because it doesn’t matter, not to me… and honestly it shouldn’t to you.

Thanks Rashard,

One of the things that I love to do is read. Give me a good suspense novel and I may disappear for a few hours. Getting a Kindle has really helped me with this. As much as I love to read I love the Steelers even more. Anyone who knows me in the slightest knows that I am a die hard black and gold fan, probably to an annoying degree.

As a fan, and all fans do this, we love to sit around and give our arm chair analysis. We watch the games and pick out weaknesses in our favorite team. We look at players and point out who is doing well, who sucks, who doesn’t have what it takes. We nitpick at stats to see who can give us an advantage. With the advent of fantasy football, we take this arm chair analysis to whole new level. Taking players and boiling them down to simple numbers. As the sports phrase goes “Stats don’t lie”.

Recently, I read an article on Huffington Post about a former Steelers player. For me this was a perfect marriage, reading and the Steelers. The article, found here Rashard Mendenhall ,
in summary is about Rashard Mendenhall and his retirement. It was incredible to read and really get to see a player as a person. I remember being critical of Mendenhall in past seasons when he was a Steeler. Commenting on how terrible he was doing and how the Steelers needed to get rid of him. After reading the article I gained a deeper appreciation not just for the player but the man, the man behind the face mask.

It’s easy to throw stones when the target is behind a face mask, or when a co-worker isn’t there, or a friend that lives far away. Too often we criticize people, boil them down to good and bad, agree or disagree. I see this with the President, politicians, family members, co-workers and “friends”. We forget that there is a human there, that they have feelings.

As someone who blogs I can truly appreciate the amount of vulnerability that it took for Mendenhall to write out why he retired. He didn’t have to. He could have faded away and not said a word. I think he wanted to show us that he’s human, that under the pads and behind the face mask there was a man with a beating heart and a soul. We don’t see them as someone with a family, with life choices to make or with their own set of problems. We put on blinders and think we’re the only ones with issues or in a difficult situation. Too often we forget, too often we boil people down to stats and categories. From the President, to Rashard Mendenhall, to the neighbor and even your own kid, we’re all humans. We all have lives, joys, trials, tears and smiles. Thanks for the reminder Rashard Mendenhall.

Storms and songs

I’ve been finding myself singing a lot of gospel songs and worship songs when I’m alone. Drive homes, the time before Toby gets dropped off, the early morning before I get Toby up. One of the things that I always seem to do is sing worship songs when I feel uneasy about a situation, I feel like something is about to go wrong, or I am in crisis. I don’t know for 100% that each time I have sung that it has helped to keep something bad from happening but I also don’t know that it hasn’t helped either.

Generally, I have a feeling that despite what has already happened in my life, there is a storm coming. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t even know if it’s real, it’s just a feeling. Like a small knot in your stomach. That feeling when you walk into a room and you know something is wrong. Maybe that’s why I have been singing a lot. I told a friend the other day that I basically sound like Eddie Vedder with a cold, when I sing. The Bible says to make a joyful noise, and a noise I do make. If this storm does come, I honestly don’t know how I’ll weather if. If it was just me, then I would let the storm pound away and then pick up the pieces the best I could after. Toby, is however a game changer.

I feel ill prepared and worried like a sailor lost at sea. Kinda like the only choice I have is to just let the storm toss me around and then cap-size my boat. I can’t think of anything that I can really do. When these feelings come about, that’s usually when I sing. Most times it’s just a song, a verse or a line. Recently, with the amount that I have sung, this storm feels huge. It seems as though my only protection is to keep on singing. Keep on making noise. Like I said, I don’t know that helps, but I also don’t know that if doesn’t.

Despicable Dad

So I try and not post back to back but sometimes my mind gets going and I can’t help it. My anxiety gets up and I start thinking about things. Words I’ve said and if I messed things up or should I have changed this or that, in the end I end up finding myself on here clicking out a post to get something out of my head. The thing that I can get out of my head right now on this post is the fact that I am starting to hate Despicable Me. Right about now some of you are freaking out saying “Nate what in heck is wrong with you!?? That movie is awesome!”

Please calm down. My hatred toward Despicable Me has nothing to do with the movie itself. It has everything to do with a billboard I keep seeing. It’s a huge billboard with Gru and the three little girls hanging off of him and then two minions off to the side. In the middle of the billboard it says “Take Time to be a dad today”.

I honestly don’t know what pisses me off more, the fact that someone out there feels so self righteous that they think they are in a position to tell fathers out there to be dads or that fathers have failed so much that someone has to tell us to be dads. I have never seen a sign that says “take time to be a mom today”. If a billboard went up saying that you can bet your ass there would MOPS groups signing petitions to have it pulled down. As a single dad I personally feel like it’s a slap in the face. It’s like a big ass sticky yellow note that says “bread, milk, be a dad”. To me all this billboard does is further perpetuates the stereotypes of fathers being emotionally unavailable to their children. Furthermore, what constitutes being a dad? How’s working 50hours a week to pay all the bills, to make sure their kids get fed, and things they need? Is that being a dad? Or what about the guys that can’t be dads because the courts have consistently sided with the mom’s since the beginning of time? Why do we assume that the state of fatherhood is in such disarray that we feel the need to post a big note telling every man to be a dad regardless if they are being one or not?

On the other hand how did we get to the point in which us as fathers need a big ass sticky note to tell us to be dads? Seriously, where did things go wrong? Why is this even an option? The only answer is that we have is that we let it become an option. Us as fathers need to stop being the stoic, hard ass, I’m not going to say “I love you” after you turn 6 years old, and you get a hand shake instead of a hug kind of dad. We don’t need a big sticky note that says go to work, pay your bills, eat food. Why then have we let it come to the point that someone feels the need to leave a huge sticky note telling us to be a dad? It needs to stop. It’s really sad and pathetic when you really think about.

It’s difficult because the time that I see that stupid billboard is usually after I drop off Toby to see his mom. It’s shortly right after I stop being a dad for awhile. It makes me question myself. Am I doing enough? Could I do more? What the hell does being a dad entail? Why am I taking time? Aren’t I dad all of the time? Maybe it’s just me. I think it has to stop. The assumptions that we need to tell dads to be dads, because that’s assuming there are more dads that aren’t then dads that are. The failures of dads to be unemotional and unavailable, so that this stupid billboard is even an option, an idea. It has to stop. I know the point of the billboard is to inspire, to motivate. When you really think about it’s actually quite sad.