Babies in sombreros, the hot new career for binging, and a new application of the death penalty, all rattling around in my brain this week...and now in yours. Read on.
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I am confused by many things, but I’m too busy watching television to answer my own questions. Desperately seeking clarity this week about...
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I might be off by a few years, but I think my generation has seen more substantial change than any generation that preceded it. People who lived through the Industrial Revolution might quibble with that assertion, but they’re all dead now, so hah hah on them.
Certainly, my grandchildren will be amazed at the stories I can tell them about the ancient and shrouded past when I…
Of course, I’ll also have to tell my grandkids about all the ways the world has let me down since I was a lad. I still don’t travel by jetpack, my phone calls aren’t holograms, and I am still waiting for a response to my job application at U.N.C.L.E. (I keep calling about it, but they won’t let me open Channel D.)
I’d add the Coronavirus to the list, but that’s an experience that my grandkids will share. How will that change them, change me, change our relationships? The ink isn’t dry yet, so we’ll have to wait on that one.
In the meantime, I think I’ll focus on the strange-but-true stories from the past. The present isn’t nearly as much fun.
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One of my friends posted a note on Facebook about his dad’s birthday and said how much he misses his father. We didn’t talk about it, but I know how he feels, especially today.
My dad was a good listener and a good teacher, and I never met anyone who didn’t like him. That says a lot. When he died, he had been retired and ill for a long time, so there were no customers or vendors or anxious heirs to fill the funeral home. Still, the room was overflowing, simply because people liked him.
I’ve always thought about him as the kind of father I wanted to be and want to be, still. I could talk to him about anything and he would listen, without laughing or judging or making sure I knew immediately what he thought of the situation. He taught without lectures. He didn’t view his success as dependent on someone else’s failure, or vice versa. He worked ten hours a day, plus lots of weekends, but he always seemed to have time for me, because I knew he was paying attention when we shared time together.
There are lots of books about how to be a good parent; maybe you’ve read one or twenty. For most of us, whether we read the expert guides or not, our roadmap for parenting is complete by the time we’re in high school. Whatever our parents did up until then will lead us on our own journeys. Later, in our twenties or thirties, without even thinking about it, we mimic them.
There’s comfort and caution to be had here. The good examples of our own parents are etched into our synapses, but so are the bad ones. Abused children become abusive parents because that’s what they know. Oddly, I don’t know many pampered children who become doting parents, possibly because they’ve been trained to see themselves as recipients rather than givers.
As a dad, even with grown children who have children of their own, I’m checking my own dashboard regularly. What can I leave on cruise control and what do I need to change, right now and forever? How can I be the same kind of father to my kids that my father was to me?
I’m still working on it, but the girls haven’t sued me for parental malpractice yet. I’m taking that as a good sign.
Happy Father’s Day.
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Let’s add this to the many reasons kids are smarter than adults, and likely to be much happier, as well.
My grandson decided to get into the porta-crib by himself, so he grabbed a step-stool and started pulling himself up. I offered to help him, but he said, “I can do it.” And then he got stuck, so he asked for help.
Brilliant! He got stuck and asked for help. The greatest lessons are so, so simple.
So when do we lose the ability—no, the wisdom—to ask for help when we need it? As adults, we chant our rugged individualist, self-sufficiency mantras repeatedly as we damage our health, our relationships, and our survival. As is often the case, we would do a lot better if we acted like children.
I thought about my grandson recently, in a suburban diner, as I was catching up on life with a guy I hadn’t seen for about a decade. We were about 20 minutes into our highlight reels when I felt the need to explain how he could solve all his problems. (My old record was four minutes, so this counts as progress.)
There’s no doubt I was right, of course. I knew what he needed because I could see things objectively, without being bogged down by emotional baggage or unnecessary details of his life. Foolishly, he was challenged by minor issues like "ethics" and "people" and how many "resources" he could devote to the problems. Let’s just say that he didn’t take a ton of notes as I spewed sagacity all over the table.
We commiserated for a while about how easily we can solve other people’s problems, a particularly relevant topic for two guys who have earned their keep as consultants. When you’re in the business of finding solutions, though, problem solving is the easy part. The biggest challenge is convincing the client to accept and implement the plan that they’re paying you to deliver.
I encountered this frequently with business founders who couldn’t accept the limits of their insights. Paraphrasing just a tad, “I built this company and nobody knows more about this business than I do, so nobody can solve any problems better than I can. If I haven’t fixed it, it cannot be fixed. Now, what was your idea?”
This resistance is pervasive in our personal lives as well. Someone asks if we need help and we say, no, we’re fine, we have it under control, we can handle it, no need to be concerned. Except, of course, that we can’t get out of our own way and we’ll be wallowing in our slop forever.
Every one of us has a friend who is trapped in an eternal do-loop, continually hitting the same roadblock and making the same decisions that get them nowhere. Every one of us has a friend who picks the wrong relationship, the wrong investment, the wrong job, the wrong health choices, over and over again.
And every one of us is that friend to somebody else. We need help, we know we need help, all our friends know we need help, and we still insist it’s all fine, totally under control.
This is one of those challenges that is dirt simple.
Any three-year-old could make the right choice here. Couldn’t we be just as smart?
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If you were sick and you finally found a medicine that kept your illness under control, would you stop taking it as soon as it started to work?
That’s the trap we’re in right now. All this social distancing and hand washing appears to be slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Slowing, but not stopping, of course. Even if 80% of us are locked in our closets 24 hours per day, somebody has to deliver the toilet paper.
All the people who drive the trucks and treat the patients and stock the shelves and fix the plumbing are still on the job. Some are driven by their commitment to the greater good, some cannot afford to miss a paycheck, and others are simply certain it won’t happen to them. It will, though, at least to some of them, and the outbreak will continue.
The virus will spread more slowly if they interact with fewer people, of course. If we go back to our regularly scheduled programming, we’ll just reboot the plague.
Maybe warmer weather will slow the spread, at least until the fall. Maybe it will turn out that drinking a gallon of Diet Rite each day really does work. Maybe a million old people will offer to die in order to save the economy. Maybe.
Right now, the stock market is orgasmic as the adult in the room predicts a peak, but a peak is not a trough and it is not an end date. When is it safe to come out to play, and how will we know?
Even as I write this, I realize that the whole situation looks very different in different parts of the country, even in different neighborhoods. Immigration issues look different in Boise than in El Paso. Gun control has a very different value proposition in Chicago than in Casper. The plague probably looks like no big deal in most rural areas, while it's a clear and present danger in densely populated cities. In fact, the situation looks different in downtown Chicago than in many of our suburbs.
Let’s assume, though, that we were and are taking this seriously. Let’s assume that we’ve seen enough deaths and enough hot spots that we all agree there is a threat. Even if we believe the threat is less significant in our corner of the world, it is real.
Now what? How do we prepare for life with a highly communicable disease that has no proven treatments and no vaccine? When is it safe to open the diner, hug the grandkids and stop washing our damned hands. (Honestly, I feel like Lady Macbeth, but not quite as guilty.)
It’s sunny and almost 70 in Chicago today, the perfect day to invite the neighbors over for a barbecue. Too soon, though. We have to wait until…what?
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.