Good For The Dads!

I never thought I would write something complimentary about members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the day has come.  Of course, my kudos are for their parenting, not their exploits on the gridiron.

Two members of the Steelers, James Harrison and DeAngelo Williams, have taken a stand against the “participation” awards that are now given to kids for pretty much everything they do.  Last year, Harrison made his sons give back participation trophies and wrote:

trophy-300x271-300x271“EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

This year, Williams made his daughter return a participation ribbon she received at a school track event, and reported that she went out the next day and won first place.

I think the notion of “participation” awards are one of the worst brainstorms ever devised by the fevered imaginings of school counselors and helicopter parents — and I say this not just because the participation awards the boys received cluttered our basement for years.  Whether it’s sports, or chess, or science fairs, the ribbons and trophies should go to those who compete and win, not just those who show up.  Kids know the difference between phony trophies and recognitions for true achievement; they discount and quickly forget the former and actually value the latter.

I’m with the two Steelers on this one.  Forget the stupid participation trophies, and don’t try to make kids think that the world won’t draw distinctions between performance when adulthood arrives.  Participation trophies teach kids exactly the wrong life lesson.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

When you think about it, the Star Wars movies are pretty much all about dysfunctional families.  Luke Skywalker’s relationship with his dear old Dad, Darth Vader, was a frenzied, arm-chopping, each-trying-to-control-the-other mess, and when we learned about Luke and Leia’s back story in the prequel movies, and saw that they were the disturbing product of an incredibly creepy and awkward romance, the broken familial bonds become even more pronounced.  We never learned anything about Han Solo’s family, or Chewbacca’s.  So far as we have seen, there is no happy family headed by Ward and June Cleaver in that galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens continues that heart-warming trend, except that now the circle of family dysfunctionalism has broadened even more.  One of the new characters was apparently abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself; the other was stolen from his family when he was a little tyke and forced to become a soulless storm trooper.  And let’s just say that Han and Leia’s family, and relationship, aren’t exactly what you’d see featured on the cover of Reader’s Digest.  What’s worse, Luke’s latest failure to establish a warm and loving relationship with a close relative has sent him off the reservation and off the grid, making him the subject of a universal manhunt.  And the ultimate sign of some serious family issues comes when a kid would rather hang out with a colossal 3D image of an ugly guy with a grotesquely misshapen head than spend some quality time with old Mom and Dad.

star_wars_episode_vii_the_force_awakens-wideSo let’s say this for the Star Wars franchise — for all of the uplifting music and cute robots and aliens and successful missions to blow up colossal planet-killing weaponry, the films don’t exactly sugarcoat the trials and travails of the standard nuclear family.  If you’re a Dad who’s planning on seeing it, prepare yourself.  You’re probably going to walk out of the theatre after watching it and think, sadly, that being a Dad is a pretty tough job and even heroes aren’t all that great at it.

That said, I liked the movie very much.  I’m not going to drop spoilers on those of you who haven’t seen it, but I will say that I thought the new characters were very likable and the new bad guy is a pleasant surprise because he actually seems somewhat conflicted and human.  Daisy Ridley, as Rey, takes the self-sufficient female character action up about 10 notches above the supremely capable Princess Leia from the original movies, and John Boyega, as ex-storm trooper Finn, is both believable in action sequences and funny to boot.  The special effects are terrific, as usual, the rolling ball robot is very cool, and the new aliens — especially the near-sighted female who runs a raucous watering hole where rebels and fascists alike can hang out and somehow managed to get Luke’s and Darth Vader’s old lightsaber — are great.  And it’s especially wonderful to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back in action, with Han teaching the youngsters how to properly do that rebellion thing and Chewie kicking some serious storm trooper butt.

Sure, there’s a some very familiar — very familiar — plot threads at work in the film, like the evil First Order that seems like Empire Light, a bad guy dressed in black with a black helmet, a desert planet, X-wing fighters and tie fighters zipping around at impossible speeds, another planet-busting gizmo, and a bunch of people looking intently at a video display while an impossible race against time is occurring — but there was enough that was different to keep the movie unpredictable.  And, I particularly liked the ending.  I got the sense that the old storylines had finally been disposed of, the Death Star recycling was finally completed, and now it is time to move on to something really new and different.  I hope I’m right on that.

Go see it!

Dadfacts

What do you do if you are a parent who is frustrated because your child simply won’t eat what you carefully pack in their school lunchbox?  One Dad decided to leave his youngster a note to encourage food consumption that read: “Every time you don’t eat your sandwich a unicorn dies. #Dadfact Love, Dad”

The idea that sandwich noshing might affect the health of mythical horned creatures is a tantalizing one, but what really attracted my attention was the notion that there are “Dadfacts” out there, ready to be disclosed to the waiting world.  This particular note-writing Dad has put his finger on something important.  “Dadfacts,” of course, would be unlike the unconditional reassurances and warming hugs that you receive from Mom.  No, “Dadfacts” would target the things that drive Dads crazy and make a daft, last-ditch, passive-aggressive bid to alter offspring behavior through statements that would make Moms recoil in horror.

I’ve got my list of “Dadfacts,” and I suspect other Dads do, too:

“Toys that get broken because they weren’t put away send out a “naughty” beacon that only Santa and his elves can hear.  #Dadfact”

“All of the adults who now live on the streets began their downward spiral by making their Dads pay late fees for rented videos and games.  #Dadfact”

“Plastic soft drink bottles that lose their fizz because someone failed to screw the top back on can never be successfully recycled.  #Dadfact”

“The amount of acne in teenagers is directly proportional to the number of times they return the family car with an empty gas tank.  #Dadfact”

“If you try to quit a sports team that you voluntarily joined during the middle of the season you’ll never actually see a dolphin or a whale.  #Dadfact”

“Wet, smelly towels left clumped on the bathroom floor retard the growth of facial hair in teenage boys.  #Dadfact”

“Spiders are attracted to the rooms of kids who say ‘I hate my clothes.’  #Dadfact”

Dads Above The Lannister Line

At first I thought it was very poor judgment for HBO to show the last episode of this season of Game of Thrones on Father’s Day.  (WARNING:  Spoiler Alert!)

After all, what Dad wants to see another Dad shot through the gut by a crossbow quarrel?  Especially when the shooter is the Dad’s angry dwarf son?  And, even worse, when the Dad is taking a dump in a privy, and his son doesn’t even afford his father the courtesy of allowing him to pull up his breeches and assume a more dignified appearance before firing the fatal bolts, and then leaves his ol’ Dad to die there in stinking vapor?

Then I realized that HBO is savvier than I am.  It obviously realized that, initially, Dads might be troubled by seeing Tywin the Terrible impaled by his offspring while answering the call of nature . . . but they ultimately would compare themselves to the ex-Hand of the King and realize that they were doing a pretty good job in the fathering department by comparison.  After all, most of us aren’t ruthlessly murdered by our children.  We also don’t have children who engage in incestuous relations, we don’t have sex with our children’s paramours, we don’t decide that our children should be sentenced to death by beheading, and we haven’t ruined our children’s lives by having their wives held out as whores to our personal army.

So yes, maybe there is a method of HBO’s madness in broadcasting last night’s episode of Game of Thrones on Father’s Day.  Even the most fretful Dad, wondering about whether they are doing a good job of parenting, has got to feel pretty confident that they’ve easily surpassed the Lannister Line.

A Dad’s Thoughts On Fathers’ Day

I’m a Dad, and today is Fathers’ Day. It doesn’t feel any different from a normal day — except that when Kish and I went to have breakfast this morning in Willsboro, New York, the waitress called me “honey” and told me that my meal was half price in honor of Fathers’ Day. I had pancakes in grateful celebration.

I don’t want or need anything material for Fathers’ Day. No cologne or ties or “No. 1 Dad” coffee cup, thank you very much. Yesterday we got to see Russell at his new place in Brooklyn, and I have been happily reading Richard’s posts about his travels in Europe. What more do I need?

I can’t speak for all Dads, of course, but this Dad just wants the children who have made him a Dad in the first place to be safe, secure, happy, and making their way in the world. This Dad wants them to be proud of themselves, to be good citizens and good people, and to be capable, interested, active participants in their communities and the world at large. When I see signs of those things with our boys, it is the best Fathers’ Day present I could possibly get.

Happy Fathers’ Day to every other proud Dad in the Dad-i-verse.