Instigators Never Get Caught

My sister would deny this, but when she and I were kids, she was one hell of an instigator. She knew how to push my buttons. Just like in most good sports fights, the referee (Mom or Dad) usually caught the second one in…which was me. My sister rarely faced the long arm of parental law.

Me? I usually got the business end of my Dad’s leather belt or my Italian mother’s wooden spoon.

My youngest daughter, thankfully, is the only one of my three that seems to get dragged into the teen girl drama that I absolutely abhor. I was spoiled by my older two in that regard.

But the younger one’s promised me a number of times that she is keeping herself under control, despite constant sniping and verbal grenades tossed at her and her friends, with malicious intent, by another girl in her class. Until a week ago. My daughter confessed to me, without my asking, that she had a verbal retort because she no longer could take the abuse without defending herself and her friends.

Fair enough, I responded, just don’t get caught by the powers-that-be. Even though you’ve resisted and have kept yourself under control, with our family’s history (well, just mine) you will be the one to get dragged down to the principal’s ofice instead of the shrew who’s been tormenting you.

The instigator never gets caught.

But here’s the dilemma. My daughter has a bit of a temper, at times (from where she gets that I have no idea) so I’m proud of her that she’s realized that she can’t get coerced into retaliating every time this other girl attempts to frazzle her. And I’m proud that she recognizes the fact that she’s inherited, from someone in the family, a gene that might cause her to smack this girl upside the head, and she’s made a conscious effort not to do so.

But there’s a little-known song by my country favorite, Trace Adkins, that says (paraphrasing) that it’s good to practice sel-restraint, but “you have to whoop a man’s ass sometimes.”

While I wouldn’t encourage my daughter to resort to physical retaliation (it wouldn’t be a fair fight), how much does a kid have to take before she strikes back?

The perpetrator in all of this already has been called down to the counselor’s office to discuss her behavior; an appointment to which she did not show up. Of course, my daughter and friends reported for their discussions with the counselor as requested. It’s pretty apparent that the administration won’t do anything further until something bad happens. I’m not sure if they’re inept, hapless or clueless.

We hear all this talk about bullying. Bully, smully. Back in the day, someone would take this little instigator, put her up against a locker and either rough her up a bit or scare the crap out of her. Maybe even stuff her INTO the locker and leave her there until the custodian found her around dinner time. Most likely, she’d get the message and she’d either straighten up or she’d just leave and go somewhere else and bother kids at another school.

Unfortunately, you can’t do that nowadays. A teenager could do jail time for such actions. So I’m not sure what advice I can give my daughter, other than to avoid any contact (even though they have classes together) and to ignore the other girl’s complete stupidity and immaturity.

I’m not sure how long my daughter’s patience will last, but that appears to be our only course of action at the moment.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

 

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How Do You Measure Wealth?

Ten years ago this coming October, I was passenger to a plane trip from hell. My outgoing flight was delayed from Harrisburg International Airport, not once, but twice. Because of the delays, once I got to my stopover destination, Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, the last connecting flight to my final destination in Austin, TX. had just left the runway. I was dropped off at the airport by my wife and daughters at 7:00 a.m. The final connection for the day from Atlanta to Austin left at 11:00 p.m. Delta provided to all of us inconvenienced passengers a hotel voucher and a shuttle ride to the hotels that were participating. My luck continued to get better. By the time I got to the front of the line of people checking into the Flea Bag Motel and Car Care Center (now near midnight) the person before me had taken the last ‘non-smoking’ room. With my asthma and allergies, I wasn’t looking forward to putting down my head on a pillow that smelled like an ashtray.

As luck would have it, Delta was able to get me on the first connecting flight to Austin the next morning…at 7:00 a.m. which meant the shuttle was going to come pick me up at 4:00 a.m. Guess how much sleep I got that night? Things could only get better, right?

After getting back to the airport wearing the same clothes I had left in, and by the time my connection landed and I retrieved my luggage, I was already two hours late for a meeting that had started at 8:00. When I got to the car rental stop in the terminal, guess what? Because I didn’t show up on the day that my car reservation indicated, they gave away the SUV I’d reserved. Even though I called them from Atlanta the day before to explain my situation. Even though I had paid in full when I booked the trip. So by the time they could find me a vehicle to replace the one they’d given away to someone who hadn’t reserved it, I showed up three hours late to my meeting.

There were only seats for a dozen people in this conference because that was the way the organization arranged things. Small group dynamics and all that. When I opened the door to the meeting room, of course there were 11 people seated and one empty chair…at the end of a full row of people. The first guy in the row had a rather large glass of Merlot in front of him, and since I’d not taken time to go to the hotel to drop off my stuff, I had most of it either on my back or in my hands. As I shimmied between the chairs, the bag on my shoulder met the guy’s wine glass and there went the contents all over the desk in front of him, on his paperwork and some onto his clothes. An inspiring start to my conference. Couldn’t even find a place to crawl under and hide.

As we broke for lunch, I made my way over to the gentleman on whom I’d dumped red wine that doesn’t come out of your clothes. I apologized profusely, and he was gracious and not visibly angered. He was from Kelowna, British Columbia, and I’ve found with almost all of the Canadians that I’ve met since, that they do have a different outlook on things than do we.

He said to me, “Do you have a car?” I said, “Absolutely, I have a car, Why?” He said he doesn’t drive when he’s in the states, and asked me if I could give him a ride back to his hotel after the day was over, and he would call my debt even. I thought that was the best deal I’d get that week, so I jumped on it.

On the way back to his hotel, he asked me if I drank beer. I replied that I hadn’t yet had one that day and was in need based on the tremendous trip I’d had. We stopped into a package store, and he went in and bought two six packs of beer. When I pulled into the parking lot where his hotel was, it was directly next to the hotel in which I was staying. The two buildings were separated only by a parking lot.

We proceeded to sit in the car and drink beer until well past midnight. Hey, after spilling his wine all over him, I couldn’t let him drink alone. We talked about our families. He had two daughters to my three, and he adored his wife as much as I do mine. We were in different industries, but had a lot of other things in common. We’ve been best friends ever since, even though we might only get to see each other once a year, and we live five time zones apart. If I were to take ill and go to the hospital tonight, if my wife called him, he would be in my hospital room tomorrow, and if something bad were to happen to me, he’d make sure that my family was squared away before he flew back to Kelowna.

He once told me, “Good friends come into our lives to multiply the happiness and to divide the sorrow.”

My oldest baby recently turned 21 and we had some friends and family over for a small celebration. Our friends are as good as they come, and they’ve watched our oldest grow up since we moved here when she was three. As usually happens when we have people over to the house, everyone stayed in the kitchen and dining room after the meal was over, just talking and laughing and sharing stories.

One of my daughter’s college room mates commented, “We don’t have friends like this. If we had a party like this, there wouldn’t be anyone here except a few close family members.”

At first I thought her comment odd, then I was sad. I just assumed that everyone had a circle of close friends that they share their lives with. Then I had another thought (I know, 2 thoughts in five minutes). What an incredible treasure are good friends. We’ve all heard quotes by famous people about the value of friendship, and most of them are true. My wife and I are blessed and grateful to have good friends.

I hope that when I’m on the other side of the grass, that I’m measured not by the monetary things I might leave to my daughters, but by the number of friends who see me off and drink a shot of bourbon over my gravesite.

I need to explain to my daughters the value of good friends.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

 

 

 

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Losing Our Minds

Well, not all of us. But certainly some of us.

In Massachusetts, a couple of weeks ago, a father was removed from an ice hockey rink in the middle of a girl’s ice hockey game. He was ejected from the rink because he had the incredible sanity to direct the beam from a laser pointer into the eyes of the goalie of his daughter’s opposition, as well as into the eyes of some of the other players.

In Springfield, Mass., on March 9, while the two teams of 10-, 11-, and 12-year olds were shaking hands at the conclusion of a Catholic Youth Organization basketball tournament, a coach from the losing side attacked the coach of the winning team, punching him and eventually biting off part of his ear.

Finally, in Michigan City, Indiana, on March 7, a parent of a girl’s basketball player at St. Stanislaus, beat an assistant basketball coach into unconsciousness because the coach made his daughter, and another girl on the team, run laps after practice because the two girls had argued during practice.

What the heck is going on here? What messages are we sending our daughters (and sons)?

I don’t have any details other than the news reports on these three incidents. But even if there are extenuating circumstances, the behavioral outcomes in each instance are reprehensible and unacceptable.

I’ve been blessed to still be coaching girl’s youth sports for the past 15 years. Believe me, there have been opposing coaches who I would’ve loved to punch in the face after a game. I’ve watched crazy parents get ejected from gymnasiums that I’ve been coaching in. I’ve been verbally abused by fans, and I’ve had players who’ve had nasty things shouted at them from moronic spectators. I’ve been confronted by opposing coaches in the middle of games (well, only once, and it didn’t happen again).

I’ve seen it all, and I still don’t comprehend why adults behave like the children that they’re supposed to be supporting. I’ve seen many instances where the kids playing the game are more mature than are the parents watching them.

Many of my friends think that I steered my daughters toward athletics because I’m a former college football player who was cursed by not having one son amongst his offspring. But really, I guided my girls toward sports for three reasons: I didn’t want them to become cheerleaders, I wanted to keep them out of the shopping malls and I wanted them to learn some of the life lessons that I took away from my athletics career.

You can ask the hundreds of girls who’ve played for me over the past 15 years, I rarely, if ever, talk about “winning,” instead I focus on my three golden rules (which haven’t changed in 15 years for any team or any sport): 1. Have fun 2. Give me 100% of your effort the entire time we’re on the practice court or field or playing a game, and 3. Play like a team and be a good teammate. It’s not rocket science, but it works.

I don’t have the academic degrees and commensurate letters after my last name to attempt to figure out why the aforementioned adults behaved in the manner that they did. I can’t imagine any circumstance in the three incidents that justify the outcomes.

I do know that whatever positive experiences the kids playing on those teams might’ve taken away from their particular game was suddenly ruined forever by the behavior of the adults who chose to act the age of the participants in the games.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Does Size Matter?

Even though I’ve been fortunate that my wife has stayed married to me for nearly 23 years (she’s got more patience than Job), I’ve never been able to master the whole clothes- buying thing – -for her. I mean, she can dress me from head to foot, and there was a period of about 15 years where my entire professional wardrobe was assembled by her and by her mom. It helps that my mother-in-law was a college professor for more than 20 years teaching fashion design. Her eye for fashion rubbed off on my wife. But it never came close to me. My dilemma is that I can never guess the correct size for any clothing that would be considered ‘nice.’ I can pick out a pair of pajamas or sweat pants with the best of them, but anything else, forget about it. How can a woman have three different sizes of jeans hanging in her closet? So if I cheat and look at stuff in her closet in order to try to get a sense of the correct sizes of things, I walk away more confused than before I peaked.

I mean, if you look in my closet, every single pair of pants that I own is a 38×32. Every one. All of my dress shirts are the same neck and arm length; suit jackets the same, 46 Long. Of course, that might all change now that I’ve lost 26 pounds in the past 5 weeks, but that’s beside the point. How can any woman expect her husband or her significant other to select the appropriate items from the clothing store when there is no standard issue size? Not to mention the fact that I have an aversion to shopping at all, let alone in women’s clothing stores. Plus, every woman in the place is giving you the evil eye like you’re a perv.

So I was pretty interested in a recent news article that appeared in PLUS Model Magazine, and the theme of the article centered around what sizes determine if a model is plus-size or not. According to the article, a size 6 is now considered plus sized in the fashion realm. I think it said from size 6 and up, but most women who operate in the Plus sized fashion world consider size 14 and up to be plus sized. The article also mentioned that most runway models meet the medical definition of a woman with anorexia. Apparently, 20 years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman, but today, the average fashion model is 23% slimmer than is the average woman.

The argument in the article went in a direction that doesn’t interest me. But what does interest me is what our daughters think about all of this, and if it has any impact on how they view the world. Faithful readers know that I’m a strong advocate for our daughters having a strong dose of self-esteem and self-confidence that is generated from reality and not from false words and false actions. Eating disorders and disordered eating all receive heavy contributions from a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. That’s why I always sign off my posts the way that I do. Our daughters need to frequently be reminded that we value them for who they are, not for what they look like. We value what’s in their heart, their mind and their soul a lot more than what their hair or makeup looks like. We need also to remind them that if other people don’t value them for what I just said, then those people really aren’t friends.

That’s why I was drawn to some quotes from PLUS model Laura Wells in the same issue that had the clothing debate. I want to share some of them for the benefit of our daughters:
“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart”
“Personality is the beauty of an individual”
“What you do and the way you think make you beautiful”

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.
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P.S.S.
I’m already looking ahead to late spring and summer calendar pages…if you know of a father’s group, fatherhood club, or a parenting group that hires speakers for their events, please let me know so I can contact. My presentation is based on some humor, sarcasm and my experiences of being a father in the trenches for the past 21 years. Unlike most speakers, I also offer a number of ‘takeaways’ so that when folks leave my talk, they not only feel good about being a father (or a parent) but also they have some practical applications that they can put into practice when they get home. Thanks.

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The Sex Talk

It’s hard to argue with a Ph.D., but you know that I can’t resist. These people put their pants on the same way that I do (most of them, anyway). They just have more letters after their names.

Anthony Wolf, Ph.D. is a really smart guy, and he’s written a bunch of parenting books. But I object to the premise of a recent article he wrote about teenagers and sex. I think Dr. Wolf and I could have a colorful conversation about the topic, but I disagree with some of his thoughts.

His first premise is that all teenagers are having sex. I don’t know if Dr. Wolf and former President Clinton hold to the same definition of sex as do most people, but I find that claim difficult to swallow. Do I think that teenagers have sex? Yes. I know that’s true. In fact, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 410,000 babies were born to teenage girls in 2009, the CDC using the age bracket of 13-19 for its study. But I don’t think every teenage girl is having sex. I’m not sure they all want to at this stage of their lives. Boys, on the other hand, most likely think about it all of the time. Regardless of their age. Course, if you held my feet to the fire, I would claim amnesia on that question.

Now, I do agree with Dr. Wolf on his other premise, and that is that we do need to talk to our daughters about sex. Traditionally, fathers have taken up this conversation with their sons, while mothers have been in charge of broaching the subject with their daughters. I don’t think we should change those guidelines. I mean, it’s just icky for a father to even think about his daughter having a physical relationship with a male human being. Until she’s about 30-years-old. By that time, I’ll be wondering where I left my hearing aid the night before and I’ll be calculation how many Depends I’ll need to get through the day. So 30-years-old is a good target.

But what if you’re a single dad, how do you dive into this delicate topic with your daughter? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that. I think it’s always helpful to use some statistics. You can start with the teen pregnancy number I mentioned above. An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy can completely alter our daughter’s future: will she graduate from high school? College? What does her future hold if she doesn’t obtain either of those degrees? The likelihood is that she’ll be dependent upon her family or she’ll survive in the margins.

Some other statistical stuff dads (and mothers) can use to discuss sex with your daughters…33% of teenage girls with boyfriends are sexually abused, 1 in 16 are raped and 25% are subjected to physical violence like being slapped, punched or beaten. Research shows that boys develop, mentally, at a slower rate than do our daughters, so even if you’re daughter is dating a 16-year old, he might have the mental capacity of a zucchini.

The other things that dads can talk about with their daughters, if they are brave enough, is to rely on personal experiences and share that with your daughter. Remember when you were her age. Maybe you were a good guy, but maybe you knew other guys who weren’t. You can tell your daughter that guys often say things they don’t mean in order to coerce her to have sex. Having a physical relationship with a boy doesn’t make the relationship any more important, nor any better than it was. Sex can’t save a failing relationship.

Substance abuse also has a negative impact on relationships. The majority of date rapes that occur on college campuses happen because the young lady was incapacitated due to consuming too much alcohol or other illegal substances. They were not able to defend themselves, nor to make their “No” forceful enough. Perhaps one of the better things to tell your daughter is to never put herself into a bad situation where something that she doesn’t want to happen, could.

The best advice that I’ve heard, I included in my 2006 audio book, “Dear Daughter, I Forgot Some Things,” and it comes from my good friend, Shel Jacobsen, who has two daughters of his own.

“If you put out, every guy in town will have you. If you stand up and demand respect, you will get it. It’s your choice. Once you have earned respect, do not accept anything less. I realize that it’s a double standard and that it’s okay for boys to be studs, but girls are called sluts for similar behavior. It’s not a perception that I agree with, but that’s the way society sees it. The gift of yourself to another human being is one of the most precious gifts you will ever have the pleasure of giving. Be careful to whom you choose to give it, as once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It is your gift to give. Remember, if a guy says, ‘if you love me you will…you can reply, ‘if you love ME you won’t.’”

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Bad Behavior, Part II

So I’m driving my daughter and friends home from a basketball game the other day, and the three girls in the back seat all were discussing the songs on their iPods and, since one girl didn’t bring hers, the other two were sharing headphones. It almost looked like she was laying on an operating table with wires coming out of both ears.

My daughters get mad if I make reference to them or their friends in my posts, even though I never refer to individuals by name. But if my daughter is reading this, most of the people will not know of whom I speak, and it really doesn’t matter because the point is not about them.

One of the girls started talking about some of the songs she has loaded on her iPod. She said she had a lot of songs by Chris Brown on her player. I politely commented that she should delete all of Chris Brown’s songs. She asked me why, and my response was that she shouldn’t be supporting a man who beats women.

Her response was that she forgives Chris Brown and she went on to proclaim that he’s a changed man. I’m not sure how she made that deduction, but I doubt it’s based on any facts. Only on a teenage girl’s optimism that one of her favorite music performers is not the person that faced felony charges because he beat so badly on his former girlfriend.

So how have we gotten to the point where a teenage girl thinks that it’s okay for a man to beat on a woman? Some would say that everyone deserves a second chance. But I argue that there are some offenses that are not forgivable. Beating a woman or child is one of them. In my book. But there are two issues here, and I’ll not be shocked if some don’t agree with me. That’s fine. No worries on my part.

The first issue is that I never want my daughters, my wife, my sisters-in-law, my nieces nor any other woman I know to believe that it’s okay for a man to physically assault a woman. For decades now, we’ve seen many examples of women who show complete amnesia after being assaulted and go back to the man who administered the assault. It starts at a young age. I see it with teenage girls all the time. A boyfriend might cheat on her with another girl, and, after a brief time apart, the girl takes back the boneheaded teenage moron as if there’s no other guy in the universe who can make her feel the way he does. That’s bullshit.

The other issue is the fact that, as a society, we seem to be accepting bad behavior, or maybe the right word is excusing bad behavior at a rate higher than I’ve ever seen. Professional athletes and coaches, actors and actresses, musicians and singers, corporate CEOs and presidents all have made, what should be, unforgivable transgressions over the past several decades. Rarely does the punishment or the public outcry fit the crime.

Bill Clinton commands a six-figure sum to deliver a 60-minute keynote speech, and he’s made millions off of a couple of books that he’s written. Professional athletes, wide receiver Plaxico Burress comes to mind, often go to rehab or go to jail, but emerge from those scenarios and pretty easily resurrect their professional careers. Entertainers same. Corporate CEOs seem to get stung a little bit harder than most, but many times they’ll come out of jail, write a ‘tell-all’, make millions and get back in the game.

What are we telling our daughters about both of these issues? If we don’t tell our daughters the truth, and if we don’t explain to them that it’s never acceptable for a man to beat a woman, regardless of his talent; that it’s not okay for the president of the United States to commit adultery; that it’s not okay for an NFL wide receiver to get drunk and kill someone in a car accident, then how are they going to be able to filter society’s propensity to dismiss these offenses?

I follow a guy named Tim Davis on Facebook, and Tim posted a great saying last week: “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it; Right is right even if no one is doing it.”

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Where’s John Wayne When You Need Him?

Any of my faithful readers know that, late last year, I added “Dance Moms” to my list of Women We Don’t Want Our Daughters to be like. While I’m certainly not a fan of any of the mothers on the show, in my opinion, the worst adult on the show is the dance coach, Abby Lee Miller. She is the owner/operator of a dance studio in Pittsburgh who charges $16,000 for her services.

In a recent interview to announce the second season of the show on the Lifetime channel, Miller had some rather ridiculous things to say. One of her gems is, “Most Parents Suck.” A second statement, which she makes to the girls she coaches quite often, is “Your mother is the one whose shoulder you’re supposed to cry on. I’m the one that’s supposed to make you cry.” How would you like a person with that attitude coaching your daughter?

No thanks. Miller is a tyrant, a bully and an egomaniac. She teaches ‘old school,’ which is highlighted by yelling, embarrassing, and playing head games with her students. We’re talking about girls as young as seven-years-old. Her justification for her methods is that Shirley Temple starred in close to a hundred movies by the time she was seven. She further supports her methods by saying that if a seven-year-old can memorize a two-and-a-half minute dance routine, then she’s old enough to hear about what’s wrong with it.

Should individuals and teams be criticized for performances that don’t measure up to expectations? Sure. Whether it’s in school or in the school play, on the athletic field or in the board room, people need to know when they are performing well and when they need to make improvements. The problem with Miller is that she applies the same brush to all of her students. One thing I’ve learned is that each child is different, and each child accepts criticism in a different manner. Miller has no clue how to connect with her students, individually. She yells and screams at all of them and she bullies and intimidates all of them. I don’t think that behavior is acceptable, in any situation, but certainly not dealing with first-graders.

But as I was going through the fourth session of editing and re-writing my latest book project, one chapter reminded me, sadly, that we’ve become far too tolerant of bad behavior. In fact, it’s worse than that. We actually (collectively as a society) celebrate bad behavior. I’m not advocating censorship or anything like that, but if you were to monitor for a week, maybe even a day, all of the bad behavior that our daughters are exposed to, you’d be shocked.

When I chastised my daughter the other night for her interest in Chris Brown’s performance at the Grammy Awards, she sort of shrugged her shoulders. Who cares if he was convicted of beating his girlfriend? Convicted drug felons host Sesame Street. Actors, actresses, politicians, athletes and business people who’ve been convicted of crimes, some who have gone to jail, usually resurface after a little “time away” to either resume their careers. Some transition into even better gigs than they had before their wrongdoings.

Reality television contributes to this phenomenon, but it isn’t the only cause. I would argue that the only reason people watch cars make left turns for four hours is because they are waiting for the crash. I think there’s always been an element of society that relishes those instances when bad things happen to people. There are people who celebrate the misfortunes of others. I think, though, that the current state of society favors appalling behavior at a much greater percentage than previous generations.

When you’re raising daughters, it’s difficult enough to get your girls to aspire to do great things, academically, professionally and personally. It feels like it’s getting more and more difficult to instill that motivation and pride because the external factors are getting stronger and stronger. And most of it’s not positive.

I guess I just wish that John Wayne could ride in and get rid of all the “bad guys” and everything would be happy ever after.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Help Me Understand

One of the most embarrassing moments of my young adult life occurred during my freshman year in college. I was pledging a fraternity, and, without exaggeration, we were the modern day Animal House that’s depicted in the cult classic movie.

“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, as was required of all pledges, if you were eating a meal in the dining hall, and any brothers of the fraternity also were eating in the dining hall, pledges were required to sit with the brothers. And do whatever they asked you to do. You had no choice nor any say in the matter. Since I was the president of my pledge class, I always got double the punishment or shenanigans that the rest of my pledges received.

During this particular dinner, there was a large number of brothers seated at a long table, and there were a few pledges accompanying them. Most of the time you’d have to do stupid stuff, like get a brother another drink, or take his tray up to the window where all the trays were cleaned. Unfortunately, I was not so fortunate.

An overweight female student was seated at a table within shouting distance. This is a rude statement, but I have to make my point. To say that she was overweight is being polite. Anyway, after snickering and hushed comments, the president of the fraternity called me over to where he was seated. The older members of the fraternity had a dining hall tray, and they’d placed on it every desert they could fit onto the tray. They instructed me to take the tray over to the overweight girl, place it on her table next to her and say, “Here, I think you need this more than I do.”

Perhaps the cruelest thing I’ve ever done to another human being. Needless to say the table of fraternity brothers made the dining hall sound like Comedy Central with the volume of laughter. I felt like crawling under the table and hiding. But when you’re 19 years old and your options are to 1. do what the brothers instructed you to do, or 2. get your ass beat with a wooden paddle about 200 times by two brothers who both stood over 6’4″, I decided to do the stupid thing. I regret it to this day, although I’m pretty certain that I did apologize to the young lady at the risk of more paddling. Didn’t matter, the deed had been done.

It’s decades later, but some things haven’t changed. Kids still do cruel, stupid and unnecessary things to their classmates. My youngest daughter recently told me that she had to go to see the school counselor. I was not aware of any trouble, so I was curious to say the least. She said that there was a girl in her class who was saying and texting some pretty mean and nasty statements and rumors about other girls in her class. When I asked her why she was required to see the counselor, she said that her name came up in the course of nastiness from the alleged perpetrator. The perpetrator was also making fun of a new girl in the class who just transferred to the school five months ago from another town. All statements made by the perp were mean-spirited with no truth or facts behind them. She simply was being mean.

My youngest daughter’s challenge, which I actually find to be an endearing quality, is that if you’re her friend, she will stand by you through thick and thin. She sometimes gets herself in trouble for this attribute. She’d also knock you out if you attack one of her friends, so I’ve got to work with her on her “sticking up for her friends without getting in trouble,” skills.

As much as our society has made grand attempts to create acceptance, tolerance, all that hold-hands-sing-kumbaya stuff, we really aren’t much better off than when I went to school. The thing that makes matters worse is technology. You can text message nasty things about one person to a group of others. You can create a YouTube video about someone that’s completely fabricated, but once you hit the send button, it doesn’t matter.

I remember how badly I felt during the fraternity pledging incident. I’ve not forgotten it in 28 years. I’m not sure what satisfaction young girls get from fabricating mean-spirited rumors about other girls. There’s nothing funny or amusing about it. It serves no good purpose. Maybe someday I’ll understand.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Fired Up on Friday!

I’ll admit it. My new year hasn’t gotten off to a great start with regards to the regularity with which I’ve been sharing my thoughts and information. I’m aiming to improve upon that and get back to my three-times-a-week schedule that I was on in 2011. I made it to Friday and really was going to postpone posting anything until next week. But leave it to my local newspaper, The Daily Wretched, to fire me up on a Friday afternoon.

Actually, it wasn’t the locals fault because they were just running with a story that was printed in a companion newspaper.

To say that the people in higher education lean way to the left, politically, is like saying there’s snow on the ground in Alaska in January. No one can disprove this statement because I worked in higher education for nearly 20 years. I once walked out of my house to go to work in the morning to find a professor chained to a tree in the parking lot of the campus on which I worked (yes, I could literally walk to work). He didn’t want the tree cut down in the effort to expand said parking lot. But I digress.

As I was munching on my Big Boy salad for lunch today, I got to the back page of the first section of the newspaper to find that higher education now thinks it’s okay to use my tax dollars to put a vending machine on campus to dispense the Plan B, “morning after” contraceptive pill.

I’m not sure where to start because it’s hard to channel my thoughts when I’m fired up. They are just bouncing around my brain so fast, like kernels in a microwave pop corn bag that’s on the ‘high’ setting. Of course, my wife and daughters would say the things rattling around under my dome are particles of dead brain matter that functioned many moons ago only to find no way to escape the empty shell between my ears.

I guess I’ll start with why I got fired up in the first place. Who’s a public university to determine whether or not they have the right to make available to my daughter, my friend’s daughters, anyone’s daughters a contraceptive pill? Who gave the universities this authority? The university attempts to justify it’s lack of adult behavior with some lame excuses. They said they put in the vending machine because the students asked for it. If your daughter asked you for a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser for breakfast, would you give it to her? The university claims it’s not promoting the pill “on a large scale.” Just having it available is enough promotion. Ever heard of word-of-mouth advertising? How about social media? When I send my daughters to college, I hope (notice I didn’t say, I trust) the adults that run the institution act like adults and make adult decisions. The administrators at these universities have failed, badly.

Second thing is physical safety. The university in the article linked above claims that it does not monitor who utilizes the pill, nor how many times an individual uses the pill. Young women are not required to seek consultation with the university’s medical personnel before using the pill. The university requires no documentation from the young women’s family doctor that determines if the pill is safe or not for the girl to use. So girls are free to utilize the pill out of this vending machine whenever they deem it necessary, and, if something happens to a young woman because of over use of the pill, the university claims no responsibility.

Finally, and I touched on this at the outset. Public universities in particular are funded primarily through taxpayer dollars. This is hardly a responsible utilization of my tax dollars. It’s bad enough the the cost of a college degree is so astronomical because there is no one holding accountable colleges and universities for their ridiculous costs. But to use my tax dollars to install a vending machine for a contraceptive pill probably is one of the more egregious misuses of funding that I can imagine.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.

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Sandusky’s Lessons for our Daughters

I’ve been avoiding writing this because…well, I’m not sure. I don’t want to join the media circus that’s piled onto a situation that’s difficult to accept, as a father, a husband and as a man who’s coached girl’s youth sports for 15 years. It’s equally difficult to be able to filter out the good and the bad. Everyone wants to place blame, and many want retribution, punishment, revenge. I’m not here to do that.

But a close friend strongly suggested that I should say something about how Jerry Sandusky’s situation at Penn State can be used as a teaching moment for fathers and daughters (and mothers). Even after my friend’s suggestion, I hesitated, until I recently read a column by Sports Illustrated writer Phil Taylor. Taylor, like me, has coached youth sports for a number of years, but he wrote that the Sandusky situation has changed things for him. He frequently gave boys from his team a ride home from practice, and he explained how the boys talked to him about all the stuff a 14-year old boy would. Taylor says he no longer gives boys rides home. Not since Sandusky. His explanation is understandable. He says there’s nothing from stopping one of these boys, a year, five years or a decade from now claiming that something horrible happened in Taylor’s car on the way home from practice. I think I will have to follow that practice. Makes sense.

Taylor also said that he’s more vigilant of not touching his players, anymore, with anything but a high five. No smacks on the butt, no arm around the shoulders. Nothing that could be construed by anyone else to be anything more than it is. It’s sad to feel this way because there’s probably a tremendously larger percentage of youth sports coaches who are in it for the right reasons who no longer will make the extra effort to establish a relationship with his/her players for fear of being labeled a pedophile. There’s millions of kids who need coaches who care about more than winning and losing. Coaches who care about developing young people with character, determination, unselfishness and self-confidence. But I digress.

The lessons for our daughters is that we have to explain to them, in no uncertain terms, that no one is allowed to touch them in inappropriate ways. If someone were to attempt to do that, well, I don’t need to go over all of that. Yell, scream, call for help. But most importantly, don’t hide it. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to tell your parents or guardian. That only enables the perpetrator to continue the despicable actions. And it prevents the people who care about them from helping them.

I’ve never put my hand on my wife in an unkind way, and I’ve tried to explain to my girls that no man is allowed to do that to them. Ever. No matter how old I am, if a man were to put his hands on my daughter, you might as well call the police because they will have to lock me up. People might try to distinguish between spousal abuse or domestic abuse. I’m not professionally trained to tell you what leaves a bigger scar. Neither is acceptable.

I also question parents who blindly place their children in harm’s way. My youngest daughter has a friend who’s slept over our house numerous times over the past few years. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her father. To this day, I’ve never met the man. How does he know that I am a trustworthy person and that I will take care of his daughter and treat her with respect and dignity? My daughters will get agitated when my wife and I will not let them sleep over someone’s house whose parents we don’t know or at least have not met, and cannot get other friends to give a thumbs up or down.

I think the bottom line is this: Our children are the greatest gifts we ever will be given. It’s our job to love them, cherish them, nurture them and do everything in our power to help them become happy, well-adjusted, productive people. Unfortunately, Jerry Sandusky reminds me that we also have to protect them from harm and evil.

P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you lover her.

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