Tag Archive | kids

Darwin’s Law for a Younger Generation

For the uninitiated, Darwin’s Law is simple.  Basically, it revolves around survival of the fittest, or in this case, the smartest.  Those who don’t succeed in smart choices are doomed to fade away.  Or, you know, grow up and vote.

I would love to say I was immune to these challenges.  I’d like to say it, but that would be a lie.   Take the cinnamon challenge from a few years back.  You remember this one?  Kids would chug large mouthfuls of straight cinnamon while their supposed friends recorded the whole thing rather than offer to help.  Hilarity ensued as the victim choked and burned in agony, their pain forever recorded on YouTube or Facebook.  Good times were had by all.

I was maybe six when I did this myself.  To be clear, it wasn’t on purpose.  It was an accident.  You see, I loved cinnamon toast. Being the typical six-year-old, I figured there were only two ingredients: toast and cinnamon.  But who needs toast anyway?  The toast in cinnamon toast is sort of an unessential element if you ask me – kinda like the water in whiskey and water. Let me at that yummy box of cinnamon and let’s get right to the good stuff!

So there I was at the precocious age of 6…my poor mother. I climbed up the tall shelf that held all of the forbidden goodies, grabbed that box and upended it over my mouth.  Yummy…no…wait…yikes!  There was an immediate reaction.  I couldn’t breathe, the powder coated my throat and puffed into my sinuses. My mother had to practically drown me to get it washed out because water simply does not do much to clear the cinnamon invasion (if you notice, when you pour water on it, cinnamon separates and stays dry). My Mom said it was one of the scariest moments when I was a kid. So even though it sounds like it’s nothing, swallowing straight cinnamon is really very dangerous and stupid. Kids are doing this as a game.  It’s insane.

As a side note, I still love cinnamon toast, but I now know Mom had a few additional ingredients other than just cinnamon and toast in her delicious treat. I do learn. In case you were wondering.

It was actually my mother’s fault that I took part in what might have been the first trial ever of the cinnamon challenge.   You see kids, in the days that cinnamon actually came in boxes or tins, there was also a thing we used to call a wall phone.  Imagine, a phone tethered to the wall by a long cord.  These cords came in various lengths, allowing parents much more freedom to sneak up and catch their kids doing stupid things.  For the longest time, we had a short cord. However, after having lived with me for a while, my Mom secretly traded out the short cord for a long phone cord so that she could spy on my antics while talking to Aunt Margaret, Uncle Joe, or that gossipy lady down the street.  Moms have a weird sixth sense about when their kids are getting into mischief, or, in this case, blatant stupidity.  She also knew that a phone call was just enough time for her wayward child to partake in various shenanigans such as breaking a lamp, sneaking a cookie, or in this case, chugging a box of cinnamon.  I believe that I would have escaped unscathed had she not popped up around the corner, phone clenched in her hand, and caught me with the box.  She scared me so much that I choked on the cinnamon.  Hey, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Then there were the challenges involving innocent school supplies.  Ah, yes, the sissy test.  For reasons still unclear to psychologists everywhere, the kids in this one take a pencil top eraser and rub a spot on the top of their hand until the skin is raw. Because this is not nearly painful or satisfying enough, the kids continue to rub the spot until it becomes a painful sore.  I guess the idea was to be able to prove you can take the pain or perhaps to erase elementary school tattoos.  Of course had I known I’d be going through the excruciating agony pleasures of childbirth twice later in life, I would’ve scoffed at whoever created this challenge with a self-satisfied smirk and a wise nod.  “Ahhh, little grasshopper.  You’ve got nothing!”  At any rate, I still have the scar. I never said I was a brilliant child. In my defense, this was elementary school and not high school. Does that help?  No? Oh well.

Other challenges I remember included how high one could swing while STANDING on the swing; emergency room doctors and dentists were fond of this one. As we got older, we tempted fate by knocking down Old Lady Lloyd’s mailbox.  Sounds innocent, but you would be amazed at how fast a ninety year old woman can run down a sidewalk brandishing a cane.

There is a trend now in these challenges that seems to be more serious, with a risk of permanent injury and even in some cases life threatening.  When did challenges go from sticking your tongue to a metal pole in the winter to more ominous and dangerous risks?   Can we blame social media hysteria?  Attention seeking compulsions and a desire to be a part of something no matter how stupid? Unbelievable peer pressure?  A feeling of invincibility from watching too much violent TV?   I mean, there has to be something.

Activities like the “condom” challenge where you inhale a condom and pull it through your mouth just makes absolutely zero sense to me.  Then, there is “Sack Tapping” which, to me is just crazy.  Boys trying to dash their mothers’ dreams of grandchildren all in the name of “manning up.”  Do they not realize they can do permanent damage or do they not care? These parents more than any others deserve to have grandchildren if for no other reason than to say “HA! You now have kids that act exactly like you did!”

Duct taping a friend to a pole or some other object seems to be a thing. I know, right? I thought it was a fake challenge myself, but apparently it happens. The goal of course is to duct tape the so-called friend as tightly as possible and then the friend tries their best to break free. With friends like these, who needs enemies?  I understand one girl partaking in the challenge broke her teeth and several bones in her face because she fell over onto concrete and couldn’t catch herself. Because of course, her hands were duct taped to her sides. I’m sure she wasn’t alone. I’m sure others have endured similar challenge-related injuries. This challenge, among all the others, can sometimes include a glorious one night’s vacation stay in a hospital.

Believe it or not, setting your friends or yourself on fire is a game. A game. Yes. you read that right. A. Game. The rules here are simple.  You douse yourself in flammable liquid and set yourself on fire while friends operate the video equipment (aka cell phone), the results of which are then posted on social media. Marshmallows are optional, and the fun abounds as the winners get to discover the joys of second and third degree burns.

My immediate reaction to all of this of course is to say, WTF?  My second reaction is to question the parenting involved in these young people’s lives. As a parent myself, I know kids can get into trouble. I’ve had my fair share of worries, concerns, and downright “what the hell were you thinking” moments. I’m happy to report though that neither of my kids have set themselves on fire. Perhaps judging the parents is unfair…but if not the home-life, then what?  What drives kids to do these ridiculously stupid things? And more importantly, how do we get them to stop?

The one thing all of these stupid challenges share is attention seeking behavior from the participants and the “hey are these really your friends??” individuals egging them on.  If we could convince our kids and teens to unsubscribe and unfollow these people, their fame may be over and the challenges would stop.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your kids.  Explain that Wally McFlame may seem funny today, but that he is placing his life in very real danger.  I would not be averse to showing a few real pictures of burn victims to drive the point home.  Our kids are tech savvy beyond belief, and smarter than we give them credit for.  But they are also naïve in so many ways. We need to step in and keep our kids firmly planted in reality.

My kids have tested my sanity (still intact, thank you very much), stressed me (nothing a little wine won’t fix!), and have generally made life interesting through their ongoing antics, that is for sure.  But thankfully, my kids have thus far survived without having participated in any of the challenges that are apparently intended to weed them out of society.  I personally will keep the cinnamon far out of reach, and carefully monitor all school supplies to ensure they are being used properly.  I don’t want to admit to my kids that I may, or may not, have done a few silly things myself.

Phone Home

I was visiting my mom recently and relaxing, when my eye fell upon her hallway phone. it’s a land-line; an old-fashioned, on-the-wall phone, with an incredibly long cord so my mom, back in the day before the advent of cordless phones, could make her way from the hallway into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and never have to hang up.

mom-phone-1

behold! the hallway phone!

I remember when she GOT this phone. At one point too many years ago to admit to, it was the ultimate in telephone technology – a push button dialer in the most modern cream color which replaced a black, rotary dial phone that had hung in that very same location but with a much, much shorter cord. Not only did the push dial make life a breeze, but the longer cord sure made catching wayward children who, at the sound of the phone ringing, were off like a flash to engage in some nefarious deed or other figuring Mom would be occupied for a few minutes.

at one time, the latest and greatest in communications technology

Would this modern generation even recognize a rotary phone, I wonder? I suppose they would have at least seen them in movies – if not the homes of their grandparents. And speaking of movies – just how many movies have been rendered obsolete by today’s technology?  I mean, there could never be a movie made in the present day called “Dial” M for Murder, since phones don’t have dials anymore! “Press” M for Murder just doesn’t carry the same weight or suspense if you ask me.  But I digress.

Just that one look at my mom’s phone and I found myself awash in nostalgia. Of course when we wax nostalgic we usually think about the good things of our childhood…being able to watch 5 straight hours of cartoons on a Saturday morning at a time when there were only 3, maybe 5, channels to watch, for example. Hell, I remember when cable t.v. first made the scene opening a veritable vista of programming possibilities.  Yeah. I’m that old.

Dressing in my pajamas and going in the car to see a drive-in movie (okay, don’t roll your eyes, I was little at the time)…or just being able to lay down in the back seat to take a nap while we made the long drive “home” to West Virginia – no seatbelt needed!

I can remember when I could turn off my car, then decide that I wanted to roll down the window – and then do it! Imagine that!? Today of course windows are electronically controlled and you have to start the car again if you want to crack a window…and parents nowadays can “lock” the windows so kids in the backseat can’t even open them. Couldn’t do that back in my day. No tossing your brother’s stuff out the back window while on long trips or sticking your head out the window one last time even after dad has warned “I’ll turn this car around!”  Sheesh. Kids have no fun these days.

But nostalgia is a two-way street, of course.

I remember waiting in line for gas during the 1970s when there was that gas embargo. Of course, this was much harder on my parents than it ever was on me. I just went along for the early morning ride – I didn’t have the stress of worrying about having enough gas to get to work for the week.

Going to the library to do some research – and needing to look through the card catalog for hours and then reading book upon book upon book till finding just the right passage to quote for that handwritten ten-page essay. Oh, yeah. Good times.

I remember having to actually get up to change the channels on a TV, instead of using the remote control…even if I wasn’t the one watching it.

I go to my mother’s house quite frequently and of course the hallway phone is there each and every time – being cemented to the wall in all of its permanent glory as it is. It’s hard to miss. I’m not sure why this particular visit affected me so.  But it seems like once one memory is triggered, a flurry of others start to fall through one’s mind like confetti. Not an entirely unpleasant experience I’m happy to say.

Perchance to Dream

Many years ago, too many to count or even admit to, I used to listen to a radio show called America’s Top 40, hosted by Casey Kasem. His sign off phrase was, “Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.” This is good advice. Dream big, but stay somewhat practical.

Sadly, as children and even well into adulthood, we are often discouraged to dream at all. Sometimes we are discouraged by people who don’t support or believe in our dreams, and sometimes we’re knocked down just by pure circumstance. Perhaps, however, the reason we’re afraid to dream is because we are afraid to fail, or maybe, just maybe, we’re afraid to succeed. Whatever causes the death of our dreams, I just know it doesn’t have to be that way.

Balance is of course a healthy part of life. It’s good to be smart about life, to be grounded, and of course I always say to have a “Plan B.” And “C.” And even a “D.” Believe me, I’m not telling you to throw your life away in pursuit of foolishness. I’m not telling you to quit your job, sell your stuff, and backpack around Tibet. Unless of course, that’s something you really want to do. Then I’m all for it. Send me a postcard!

The young dream big, don’t they?  I mean, they can dream like we adults can’t even dream of dreaming. So who are we to snuff that out? Don’t we know that one of the cruelest things a person can endure is when someone they love can’t support their dreams? In a sense we’re saying we don’t believe in them. We don’t mean to. We’re just trying to protect them from the hurt we may have endured ourselves.

Plus, we think we know it all. We’re adults, right? We’re supposed to know it all. What we have to realize is that it’s better to let go and pursue our dreams rather than to always live with the ache of what could have been. I for one don’t want to be responsible for that in my life or the lives of my children.

What about us older folks? Those of middle-age and beyond. Do we think we’re too old good to dream? Our dreams are what move us to accomplish greatness and gift the universe with our brilliance… or maybe they just allow us to get through each day as we struggle with overwhelming mediocrity.  I will digress here for a moment to point out that Grandma Moses, pretty much a household name now, didn’t start painting until she was 78.  She painted right up until her death at 101. 101!  Her favorite quote, which indeed seems to tell her own personal tale, was “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” Words to live by indeed.

Bram Stoker didn’t create Dracula until he was 50 (Stoker, not Dracula). I mean, seriously, where would the vampire genre be without him?

Donald Ray Pollock received quite a bit of attention for his debut novel, The Devil All the Time, but did you know that he dropped out of high school to work at a meatpacking plant for many years before moving on to a paper mill where he worked for 32 years as a laborer and truck driver?  The same year he turned 55, he took the leap and published a book of short stories – just a year before graduating Ohio University by the way.  Three years later, in 2011, along came The Devil All the Time which won him the Guggenheim Fellowship.  Talk about following a dream.

To digress even further (thanks for your patience!), Laura Ingalls Wilder… well, there’s another one. Even though she was a columnist at the age of 44 and doing fairly well, her Little House books made her a household name, and she didn’t publish those until she was the ripe age of 64.

After the death of her second husband, Mary Delany began creating amazingly intricate paper cut-outs of flowers to help her deal with her grief. She was 68. She created more than 1,700 pieces of this unique form of art and continued with her artwork until she was 88. Her pieces were so delicate and so incredibly beautiful that they now reside in the British Museum’s collection.

My point is, dreams shouldn’t be snuffed out… not in children, and certainly not just because a person has mastered the aging process. If anything, aging gives our dreams greater meaning. Life may throw us curve-balls or set us on a different path than we ever expected to be on, but dreams…dreams can set us free and put a new life in motion.

Every Day Parenting

Actually from the time when they were still quite young, my go-to phrase would be “Do you need an ambulance?  Do we need to go to the hospital?”  And if the answer was (or is) no, well then, we’d just get on with the rest of our day. Oh you may think I have a lackadaisical approach to parenting, but I don’t really. I love my children more than life itself and would do anything for them. It’s just…well…I know my children you see.  While my kids are seven years apart in age, they are still, in many ways, very much like my brother and me growing up, thanks in large part to my mother’s well-timed curse.  And I’m determined to get out of this parenting gig alive – preferably with my sanity intact (what’s left of it anyway).

 

parenting style

Extra Income

Too bad it’s all in i.o.u.’s. Although they should come in handy if and when my kids become best-selling authors, popular video game creators, respected historians, or win the lotto. Believe me, I’ll be cashing those suckers in then! By the time they have their own families, I’ll be a gazillionaire, with accompanying royalties expected well into my golden years.

 

I saw this online (uncredited) and found out it was a blog right here on WordPress...check it out by clicking the pic!

I saw this online (uncredited) and found out it was a blog right here on WordPress…check it out by clicking the pic!

Kid in a Candy Store

Went to a very cool candy store the other day with my daughter…in addition to the upscale staples like Godiva and Lindor, this place had all sorts of “retro” candy. While it sent me into a vortex of memories and constant outbursts of “I remember those!” I was also left explaining to Sarah that yes, kids did in fact eat those sugary, often wax covered, messes that passed for candy in our day.  And with a smile to boot.  Oh, and if we didn’t have a smile for whatever reason, we always had wax lips to give others the impression we were smiling. Or vampires. Or old men. Or had some serious lip plumper surgery. Changing our identity through candy products was easy-peasy back in the day.

I was surprised to see candy cigarettes.  I thought those would’ve gone out the window when the powers that be stopped showing people smoking in movies and ads.  But nope.  They were there too.  Sarah actually remembers playing with and eating those.  Not sure what that says about me as a parent.

This fit of nostalgia was well-timed. I needed a little boost in my day and besides being surrounded by candy, which in itself is always uplifting, the trip down memory lane succeeded in making me smile.  When he was younger and through the teenage years, my brother played Little League baseball.  He was a pretty talented pitcher (don’t let him know I said that) and my Dad often coached. Not to be left behind in a boring house, my mother always attended the games which meant my attendance at these weekly games was forced as well.  A family affair.

Most of my time was spent with a friend who also had a brother on the team and if we weren’t at her house swimming in a green, stagnant pool or roaming the surrounding area for free puppies to bring home, we were at the concession stand.  I loved the concession stand. Hot dogs, cardboard pizza, snowballs. And candy.  Gigantic pixie sticks which I have no doubt had my mother shaking her head upon my return to our seats as she imagined the meltdown sure to come once the sugar rush wore off.  Wax lips?  Of course.  Wax soda bottles filled with some unknown liquid that tasted nothing like soda and I wouldn’t touch with a broom stick nowadays? Yep. Those too.

My favorite, which also happens to be Sarah’s favorite, were candy necklaces.  Although my friends and I had bracelets too.  I didn’t see those at the store Sarah and I recently visited. Ahhh, the memories. I tell you, there’s nothing like wearing bits of candy against your 10-year old naked neck or wrapped tightly around a filthy wrist in 90-degree weather as you run chaotically around a park that’s made up of busy, red-earth filled baseball fields and where even the parking lot was made of loose clay, thus having clouds of red dust and dirt continually blooming up into your face, on your hands from being an “active kid,” and every other exposed body part (and from the looks of my socks after a game, even some body parts that weren’t exposed) that mixed nicely with the inevitable sweat to create a thin (or not so thin) sheen of grime along your skin, then eating said candy.  Oh yeah.  Good times.

those were the gum chewing days

those were the gum chewing days

 

not even sure what the hell that liquid inside even is

not even sure what the hell that liquid inside even is

 

excuse me while I change my identity by gnawing on bits of colored wax

excuse me while I change my identity by gnawing on bits of colored wax

 

dots of ...sugar flavored sugar, always a good idea

dots of …sugar flavored sugar, always a good idea for small children

 

teaching bad habits early...that was apparently the idea

teaching bad habits early…that was apparently the idea

 

oh yes, always a yummy treat

oh yes, always a yummy treat