Tag Archives: Parenting

“Are you proud?”

I was doing my best to be a badass. It was working pretty good. Well, it was working well enough to keep second graders in line at their fine arts visit to the university. It was the class of second graders that my eldest daughter teaches. I walked across campus on a brisk, cloudy morning to help corral and keep the kids in line. A job right up my alley? Perhaps.

For you folks with no experience in the art of elementary school field trip duty, let me tell you a 30 minutes cello + piano concert is an amazing cultural opportunity for these kids, but…it is not the easiest thing to get an auditorium full of 8 & 9-year-olds to behave and listen to a 30-minute cello + piano recital. Not an easy thing at all.

The kids were awesome! They paid attention and listened; really listened to the music. I only had to pull out the Coach Hays death glare a couple of times and even had a productive discussion with the supposed “naughtiest” kid in the class who I had the pleasure to sit next to.

After the show, the class waited for their bus to arrive on the sidewalk outside the venue. Classic elementary school style of single file line order. My daughter leads the line and my job is to bring up the rear and not to lose any kids. The precision spacing and order of the line begins to break down as soon as we quit walking and start waiting. Kids start nervously moving around and telling “interesting” stories about their cat, their little brother, or their mother’s current boyfriend. Herding goats is actually easier to keeping these kids in alignment, but we survived.

A group of girls drifts back to the end of the line and the spokesperson of the group slides over until she is standing directly in front of me. She looks up with an angelic, second-grader face and asks, “Are Ms. Hays’s dad?”

“Yes.” I begin to wonder where this is going as the throng of girls collectively inch closer.

“Mr. Hays, are you proud of her?”

BANG!

I was stopped in my tracks. My badass failed me. My cold heart melted.

Yes. I am extremely proud of my kids. One teacher and, in a week, two college graduates. I am beyond proud the way they’ve started their lives outside the nest.

“Yes, I am.” was my simple answer. Three words that easily could have blown up into a thousand words (and possibly with colorful language not appropriate for second-grade ears). The little girl’s face lit up and her smile almost made me break down in tears. The bus soon came and I said goodbye to all my second-grade friends.

As I walked across campus a proud dad, I hoped each of the little girls, and the rest of the kids in the class, had someone in their life to be proud of them. I wished the people in these kid’s lives appreciated their potential and will help them grow into something they can take great pride in.

It’s a great feeling having kids turning into adults, especially when they are turning into much better adults than their “badass” old man.

It feels kind of like…

WorldSeriesTrophyKSU

Every single day.

 

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New Year’s Eve #1

New Year’s Eve. Boy, howdy! I’ve had quiet ones and I’ve had crazy, insane ones. I’ve had snowy ones, ones with big crowds, ones with small crowds and ones I cannot for the life of me remember (and paid the price of a miserable January 1.).

The top of the list, New Year’s Eve Numero Uno, is by far one of the quiet ones, one of the ones spent at home with my young kids. I tried to recall the year and the age of the kids but can’t seem to pinpoint the details. It really doesn’t matter, they were around elementary school-aged.

As usual, the Mom went to sleep by the end of the 10:00 news. She, by habit, usually celebrates the New Year with the people of the Nova Scotia/Atlantic time zone, while the rest of the family celebrates in our resident time zone, the Central Time Zone. The kids and myself made a pact to stay up as late as possible with ten minutes after midnight being the dad’s preferred target.

Lo and behold, we turned on the television and TCM was running a all-night Marx Brothers marathon. We spread blankets on the living room floor, the kids got their various Disney character sleeping bags and pillows and we settled in for the night. We watched the Marx Brothers. We giggled. We laughed and laughed until about 3:00 AM when members of the crew began to nod off. It was the greatest of times.

As a parent, those are the times you never forget. Even these many years later, I still flashback to that New Year’s Eve whenever I see the Marx Brothers. The giggles and the belly laughs still ring sharp and true.

I know there’s the big deal in Times Square, I know there are loud, wild and woolly celebrations that go on around the globe to bring in the new year. But, to me there will always be one favorite New Year celebration, the New Year’s I spent sitting on the floor, surrounded by giggling kids, being completely entertained by Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

Here is the famous mirror scene from the classic, Duck Soup.

Happy New Year!

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Plinko

When I was younger, I viewed life as linear function. Sort of like the board game, Life. Move down the path, forward only. Get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and then make your pink, globe-shaped head, uber-thin wife sit in the back row of the sleek, blue roadster as the fam cruises the plastic landscape. Linear. Set a goal and go do it. Simple.

With age and experience I have come to find that life is not really like the game of Life at all, it is more like the Plinko game from The Price Is Right. You know the game. The contestant climb the stairs to the top of the vertical Plinko board and drop big round plastic chips down slots. The board has bumper pins spread over the surface to block the straight path to the targeted money slot at the bottom. Gravity pulls the chip down into collisions with the pins and it moves randomly down the course. Sometimes it glances off a pin and only slightly knocked off course. Other times the chip has a full force, head-on collision with the pin and gets knocked straight backward until gravity wins out again to start down another path. Plinko.

Doesn’t that sound more like real life?

Hey, I’m not complaining one bit. At age 48, with my wife, my three kids, two dogs, maybe two cats, great friends, a house in a cool small town, job(s) and never ending chaos, I welcome the Plinko-life. It is a grand adventure climbing up to the platform above the Hays family Plinko board, aiming our chips at the intended goals at the bottom of the course, and then letting go. Yeah, we fret when the chips glance off pins and veer away from their intended course. We feel the pain when a chip hits a pin head-on and gets knocked backward. Sure, it hurts and is a bit disheartening to see the chip plink further and further from the big prize.

That’s where the fun begins. We laugh as the chips dances down the board. We learn to enjoy the journey and try to get the most out of the new directions. These surprise changes of direction become moments of great joy, truer and more real than any plastic scenery can match.
Sure, I’ll miss my cool, blue roadster, but I kind of like my chances getting knocked around on the Plinko board.

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Parenting Legacy

One day when I am gone and people are considering my life or pondering as they read my headstone what type of person I was, I hope they ask one question:

What kind of parent was this person? 

Maybe then, through some advance in graphical interface headstones technologies, I am able to program a visual answer to this question, a question which speaks volumes of the joy a person experiences in their lifetime.   Below is the picture I  choose.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one is worth an infinite number of words to me. And yes, that is how we rolled.

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Five Things I’ve Learned: Parenting

These are five things I have learned (and am still learning) since becoming a father, with some things learned from the wise mother.

1. Watching your own kids is NOT babysitting, it’s called PARENTING.

2. The dining room table is one of the most effective family-building tools.

3. The kitchen, household and laundry appliances are unisex in design and engineering. Go figure.

4. Not much beats a good family game or movie night, especially when the Dad wins the game or John Wayne and/or Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones is the movie.

5. If you give them a good base and allow them to be them, your kids will become better human beings than you. (Just as you wished for the day they were born.)

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Blame it on Mr. Rogers?

Rest Day Read (SR-31)
Blame It on Mr. Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled
by Jeffrey Zaslow, The Wall Street Journal
“Fred Rogers, the late TV icon, told several generations of children that they were “special” just for being whoever they were. He meant well, and he was a sterling role model in many ways. But what often got lost in his self-esteem-building patter was the idea that being special comes form working hard and having high expectations for yourself….”
…The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you’ll have to prove it.”

I don’t know if you have to blame it ALL on Mr. Rogers, maybe just a little bit. But you have to blame this entitlement attitude on the ” ‘special’ just for being whoever they were” approach our society seems to have adopted. If you work with youngsters, especially young athletes, you have seen an explosion in the prevalence of this attitude. It is a struggle and a fight to convince kids they will reap greater enjoyment, confidence and self-esteem by working hard toward obtaining the goals they set for themselves. Mom and Dad cannot do the work for you. They can complain and moan and groan on your behalf to make things easier for you, but it doesn’t do you a dang bit of good in the long run. There is no way around it, hard work is the magic.

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