Beating Your Fears Like The Neighborhood Bully

We are on vacation doing what my wife refers to as soft adventure. That means we are doing fun things with some risk but under the watchful eyes of trained guides.

I had read the preliminary itinerary a month ago. When I came to rappelling down waterfalls, I hesitated. No not hesitated, I started to hyper-ventilate.  I have an extreme fear of heights. Technically it is a fear of being on the edge of something where I could fall to my death. If we are hiking in the mountains, I need a path that is either not on the edge or extremely wide so I can hug the inside lane. Some situations appear to affect me more than others. From what I can tell it has to do with whether I can see the edge and the nothingness beyond. If there are protections to my vision, say a line of trees blocking the nothingness that I would fall through on my voyage top death, then I my be OK.

So here I am, a man who does not like to be on the edge (literally or figuratively) reading about how my family will be purposely be leaping off a cliff with nothing but a string to hold onto. OK, it’s a rope but the difference is really not that much.

I am also a man who wants to demonstrate to his son that fears can be overcome. At least sometimes. So I said yes a month ago and now a month later was this morning.

A I am getting my gear on I still do not know if I will be able to go through with this. The problem is that a truck has left us in the middle of a jungle and has driven away. I am not sure what the small team of guides will do if someone in the group does not go forward. Back is not an option. I take comfort in the fact that these adventure tour places get lousy press when someone dies and so it must be safe. Right?

We will be rappelling 5 walls. The first is the highest at 165 feet. The cliff wall is a shear drop. It is my turn. Left hand loose on the rope as a guide. Right hand is your brake. You hold it straight down at your side. Lean all the way back. Push with your legs. Fall.

I hate the overuse of the word “amazing”. Not everything is amazing. This was. At first I was hesitant at first to let myself drop very far at a time.  But down I went. At one point I let go. It was a gas. Four rappels later and I was ready to sign up for more. Now that I sort of knew what I was doing I wanted the highest one again. I would drop like a stone  for 150 feet and love it.

The adrenaline was flowing so strong that my senses were on overdrive. I had the sights of the waterfalls, the jungle around us and the ground below as I descended. I could feel the subtleness of the of warmth in the air combining with the coollness from my wet clothes into a refreshing touch on my skin.

I still do not know how real people climb up mountains or rappel down them when they are not with guides doing most of the work to keep you safe. That is real adventure not soft adventure and I am will to leave that to the adventurous.

All I know is that I lept into the abyss against all of my instincts. I beat those fears back. And I am ready to do it again.

Ps. I will post pictures and a short video on my Facebook page in a week or so.

Difference Between Depression And Jubilation

One hit. Especially an opposite field double.

College Baseball. Love it.

Dorm Life Gets Spoiled

Luxury, amenities, walk-in-closet, view of the river, privacy, heated pools. What do all of these words have in common? They are not meant to be associated with college dorms. And yet…

Purdue, Boston University and Arizona State University among others offer luxury dorm living for the already spoiled college student. It is bad enough that these kids all had rooms of their own at home and got to drive daddy’s (or mommy’s) luxury sedan while going through high school. College is where turning into an adult is supposed to happen. That means, along with other things, getting along with others. Learning to make it on your own. Living in less than ideal conditions.

What can you learn living in your own room with a jacuzzi nearby? I am sooo glad that my son’s dorm is just basic housing, bad mattress, used furniture and fairly small room shared with another. Bathrooms down the hall. No air conditioning. Really, this is not like being in a third world country walking a mile to the river for clean water.

I know why the colleges build these luxury dorm facilities…because someone will pay for it. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune these are the first rooms to go.

What are these parents thinking? I will never get constantly spoiling your kid–just ask my son. When will these kids grow up?

What a waste of a good recession.

Its Over

What do I mean by over? I mean:

Main Entry: over
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: accomplished
Synonyms: ancient history, at an end, by, bygone, closed, completed, concluded, done, done with, ended, finished, gone, past, settled, up

High School. Its over.  The last day of classes was yesterday. The last high school baseball game was two days ago. The only thing left is the ceremony in a week. My son D left to spend his first post HS weekend at his college to be. Its over.

Did I know that this day was coming? Sure. A part of me knew this was coming on that day 14.5 years ago when I got married and became an instant parent. There is the key for me, the word parent. Being a parent has been a big part of who I am and what I enjoy. Yeah, yeah. I know that I have not stopped being a parent and there is much more life to live, yada, yada yada. Sure I know that what it means to parent a “child” has been changing rapidly over the last four years…but still.

This is the official beginning of that next phase in my life…oh yeah and in his. This is the Memorial day kick-off of Summer or maybe more appropiately the Labor Day kick-off of Fall. I am not ever ready for Fall especially knowing that Winter comes next.

It would be different if there were more still at home. That way he would just be the first instead of the first and last. Yes this is about  holding onto the past instead of  embracing the future. So what. Indulge me.

I worry about how well I have prepared him for this next step. Being me, it is easy to see every weakness, seeing the strengths comes harder for me.  I know it is time to let him fly. I will be there for him if he needs it. Who will be there for me?

OK. I am getting maudlin. More imprtantly, I should either find a story line  or stop for now. I choose the latter.

Its over.

I was thinking of going out with some weepy exit matching my mood. Then I remembered the way I felt when high school ended.

Prom Night

Prom 2009

Prom 2009

Do you remember your senior prom? I do. More on that later.

This was my son’s prom night. Yes that is a picture of my son and his beautiful date L. (I would have selected one where I remembered to turn on the flash but my wife has this thing about pictures on the Internet and there are only so many battles worth fighting and anyways this piece is about prom.)

Prom was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. To start, we gathered  at the home of one of the girls for pictures. It was fun and nostalgic. 15 couples and their parents. My son had some good friends in this group but only about a third met that description. Another third were boys that we have known over the years. These are kids that had been D’s friends, or he had played on a team with, in grade school or middle school. It was great to see and talk to parents with whom I had lost touch but at some time in the past 18 years we had a string of shared experiences.

It is also fun to see the kids looking very grown-up in their formal wear. I need to brag. I have a very handsome son who was decked out in a black tux with a pink tie and pale pink dress to match L’s dress. The dress was  a frilly thing made of shear fabric that laid in layers. Quite the attractive couple.

This is one topic where pictures show off  the night better than any words I seem to be able to find.  You are all invited to my house to see pictures. There are pictures of D and L. Pictures of D with a couple of his best buds. Pictures of all the boys and of all the boys and girls together. I even got in a few candids before my son caught  on to what I was doing and waved me off.

The majority of the boys were in rented tuxes. One in his grandfather’s tux, one made his own tye-died outfit. On the girl’s side, one of the girl’s made her own dress and two others. All three were different and all beautiful. These clothes transform all who wear them. For this one night all boys are handsome and all girls are beautiful.

We waited for the “party bus” that would take them to Navy Pier for the prom. Of course it was late. Very late. The different reactions of the generations were classic. Parents worried.  The poor parent who had made the arrangements was being continuously asked if she knew where the limo was as she sat with her phone trying to get updates from the company. The kids were ready to go but they were full of anticipation and without a care.

It came and took them down to a ballroom on Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. There they ate and danced from 8 until midnight and then went on The Odyssey, a large party boat that sails on Lake Michigan. More dancing and dining (the egg roles were great I am told) until3:30 am. Then back on the Party Bus which took them to one of the kids home where they were served Subway sandwiches at 5am, slept(?) for awhile and then woke to a catered breakfast. Not bad.

D stopped home at noon, napped for awhile and then on to a Bar-B-Que at L’s house. Not a bad weekend and only one week of his high school career to go.

His take on prom. He had a very good time. Interestingly though he said that given how people he knew had built up prom as the best night of your life it had not met his expectations.

I had no expectations for my prom…and it met them. I was dating Sarah at the time. My second high school girlfriend. We had been dating for close to a year and a half though I had tried unsuccessfully to brake up with her many months before. It took four years before I was successful.

The best and worst of my prom.

The best. After the formal dance we went to see Bill Cosby perform. This was 1974 so after I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show but well before he became a Huxtable. At this time he was still a stand-up comedian. And a very, very good one.

The worst. My tux. Sarah had a light green dress. I wanted a classy black tux.  I could not anticipate matching the color. Wrong. This one year only. I am sure that whoever designed this tux and put it on the shelf got fired since they must have rented only one. To me. My mother and my girlfriend insisted that I wear a green and white checkered tux. Let me say that again because I am sure that at this point you must be thinking that you are hallucinating. There is no other explanation. You are not. I did say a green and white checkered tux. At least the slacks were black.

Fortunately my son will have great memories of his prom night. I only have green and white nightmares of mine.

One Step Forward Six Steps Back

I wrote the other day about the great conversation I had with my son. This broke up a string of screamers. The good will lasted four days. Saturday night was another 10 rounder. Usual suspects. Grades. What they were, what they could be. How a little more studying and a little less play could bridge the gap.

Or from his perspective how everything was OK, under control. My expectations were too high. Everyone else does what he does. I am too serious and need to lighten up.

Its all in the perspective.

The Gift of Gab

My son and I have done more arguing recently than talking.  I know what he should be doing to better his life but for some  reason at eighteen he does not just automatically say “Ah ha, you are right dad”.  Go figure.

So tonight I asked him to read the “Best Gifts For Kids” post including the entire article so we could discuss it. He agreed (I will explain that little oddity in a minute). I was hoping that reading something written by another parent might give him some insight into what I was trying to do for (to?) him.

It started off slowly but we had a great conversation. For once we both listened as well as spoke. I shared with him how I felt and where I have not been doing a good job of bestowing some of these gifts. He shared many of his feelings about my parenting style as well as what he thought about each of the ten gifts.

When discussing the gift of conflict he pointed out that I certainly did not shy away from conflict. He was, however,  surprised that I felt guilty about not spending time with him. (Both are part of the explanation of this gift.) His retort was that if I felt guilty about the time why didn’t I spend less time on conflict, he would. I responded that I never sought out conflict with him but that my priority was to let him know what I thought was right rather than to be silent  so on the surface we would seem to be sharing a peaceful moment. We went back and forth on this one for awhile.

We also explored many of the other gifts. This conversation was the one of the most intimate and intricate father and son conversations we have had in a very long time. It was worth far more than the $15 it cost.

Yes, there was a reason he agreed so quickly. A couple of months ago he committed to, at my strong request, reading for 1 extra hour per week and then discussing with me what he read. He did that twice and then stopped. I finally got tired of the excuses and stopped his allowance until he read– and talked. At the beginning of the night he was two weeks in arrears and beginning to have a cash flow problem. I offered him a quick 1 week catch up if he read the post and the article and discussed it. I try not to bribe but we needed some reconciliation. The gamble paid off big time. (And he is still a week behind.)

So  based on tonight’s experience I am adding one more to the extended list of gifts to your kids. The gift of gab–with your parents.

Best Gifts For Your Kids

No, this is not about which iPod, new phone, new car, expensive trip to get your child. It is not about how to make your child like you more. Being your son’s or daughter’s “friend” is not in my top 5 of what they need. (BTW, not trying to be your child’s friend is probably the best way to make it happen.)

I saw this list on a website for people in the north shore of the Chicago area. This is generally an area of well to do parents. Often Filthy Rich. Check out the full article here, it is well worth the click. The 10 gifts presented by these authors are:

1) Gift of Your Time, Presence & Connection

2) Gift of Feelings

3) Gift of Unconditional Love /Acceptance

4) Gift of Empathy

5) Gift of Limits & Boundaries

6) Gift of Boredom

7) Gift of Struggle & Disappointment

8) Gift of Conflict

9) Gift of Chores and Responsibilities

10) Gift of Mistakes and Imperfection

I would add the gift of intellectual curiosity and gift of imagination. Other than that I found this to be an excellent list.

Slave Driver

The latest characterization by my son stemming from the draconian limits I put on his freedom.

Just to be clear, I demanded he come home last night instead of sleeping over at a friend’s house. He only had school on Tuesday and Wednesday this week due to Columbus day and parent-teacher conferences. He did no schoolwork on his off days despite having, in his own words, a lot of homework. I know his soccer schedule and other committments for the weekend. I wanted more homework done sooner than he had in mind.

Therefore treating him like a slave meant that I had no right to tell him to come home Friday night even though he played Wednesday night, played and came home an hour after curfew Thursday, and self directed his time on Friday for all but three hours. He chose to ignore me and came home Saturday morning.

Slave may be a bit more accurate given what I have in mind for him now.

The Onion Strikes Strikes a Blow For the Privileged

I have not checked out The Onion for quite awhile.  Based on this fantastic satire, Imay need to check out a few past issues. From the Onion website for 9/29/2008, here is the lead-in:

“In what local authorities are calling a “near tragedy,” Charles Wentworth, a 17-year-old Rutgers Preparatory senior and member of the affluent Wentworth family, came perilously close to suffering a consequence resulting from his own wrongdoing Saturday.”

Read the entire article here. Really, you must read it. This is the level of writing I aspire to.