Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More Than the F-Bombs

I knew the path I headed down had escalated beyond the reality of it. Knew it before I even opened my big mouth. Knew it when my understanding of what was really happening still stayed light years from where it could and would be some day. Knew that my volcanic reaction was more about me than them.

"I just don't want them watching those anymore!"

What had happened was this: a series of YouTube videos all about selling toys to kids unapologetically and incessantly called CookieSwirlC had invaded the lives of our children. These videos make our skin crawl -- the high-pitched bubbly pitching of kid stuff in the form of cute little videos with no educational or "nutritional" value whatsoever. Both the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I soon laid down the law of only 1-2 of them per day.

Then that led to the discovery of other innocuous YouTube videos on our TV thanks to our overpriced and comprehensive cable provider. For example, a series of silly guinea pig videos made by people with way too much time on their hands. Way too much. And those led to one in particular where the adult theme cranked the volume to 10 with f-bomb after f-bomb after f-bomb.

I didn't hear it myself, but the Mama told me it happened, and that thankfully the girls didn't really pay attention to the words and didn't repeat them either (yet). And that the Mama would turn that channel off pronto.

But I was already on the path of black and white -- my way or the highway.

"I just don't want them watching those anymore!"

When my emotions finally caught up with my rational thought, I articulated that I was scared to death of what was coming. That the girls were getting older and at some point their childhood would become an archeological dig in boxes and bags of old artwork and schoolwork, and in computer files of photos and videos.

I was scared to death of them seeing what we all eventually see: the sometimes shitty world that can hurt us and make us feel less than human. The Mama got, just wishing I would've said that in the first place.

Because more than the f-bombs, this was all about the great big world wide interwebs being accessible to our children and introducing them to the initially silly but eventually creepy subhuman. Yes, we set boundaries for them. Yes, we set limitations on how many and when, the same parameters with watching TV, playing kid games on their devices, etc. Yes, we also teach our girls to make their own wise choices, something that for all of us is a lifelong commitment. Which of course isn't easy considering the underdeveloped frontal lobes of our seven- and nine-year-old girls, still much more advanced than their boy counterparts.

We didn't have this kind of media access growing up, and yet that doesn't even matter, because today our kids do. So we keep doing what we're supposed to do as parents -- monitoring and filtering and limiting and explaining and empowering and turning off when we need to. YouTube for kids was a helpful segue. And yes, we're still the unapologetic parents who integrate it all into some semblance of family learning time.

However, can someone tell us how we block the CookieSwirlC videos please? No, seriously. Block them today. Please.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Because There's Always a Next Time

“Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.”

John Madden, Head Coach, Oakland Raiders (1969-78)



After the first game, one of the parents said, "Headline reads: The Tigers get pounced!"

I laughed. I knew he was kidding. Kind of. But it still stung because I was the head coach. The leader of a recreational all girls soccer team. The one who looks forward to teaching soccer fundamentals and teamwork and having fun, fun, fun no matter what level the girls are at. That's why everyone always gets a chance to play every game and rotate positions throughout the season.

And it's always a big plus to have really involved parents that feel the same way, even after the other team runs up the score on you.

"No, the headline reads: The Tigers play hard and have fun!" I replied.

He laughed. Kind of. Maybe a little uncomfortably. After he walked away I realized that not one girl on our team asked me what the final score was. I wasn't sure what that meant, if anything, but the year before half the team asked me each and every game.

But we won many games the year before. Most of them actually. We're really not supposed to keep score, nor keep a tally of wins and losses, but I still do. I'm humble about it, though. But I just can't help it either way -- I grew up playing more competitively even at an early age. The same age as the girls on our U10 soccer team, eight and nine year olds. There were more girls who'd played multiple years prior to last season, with a few going on to play competitively.

This year our team is full of raw talent, with fewer of them having played prior to this year. And that's okay. That's what I wanted. Why I wanted to coach starting three years ago. Why I now have two other amazing coaches this year to help me. I had only played soccer in junior high school decades earlier, but I knew that no matter what sport our girls wanted to play, if they wanted to play, and if it was something I could actually coach. It was stretch for me considering my sport was American football, not the rest of the world's fĂștbol.

I'm all about the stretch assignment, however. All about pushing myself to learn something new while helping to instill new skills in others including personal leadership and teamwork. It my sound a little campy to the cynics out there, but it's true. And because our oldest Beatrice wanted to give soccer a go a few years ago -- and still wants to play three years later -- that's a win in my book.

Our youngest Bryce is now playing for the first year. I'm not coaching her team, because I can't do both, and I can't always watch her if my games are going on at the same time, but I'm so excited to watch her own raw talent get refined as well.

Like our oldest, who doesn't have the same affinity to sports like soccer as our youngest does, but who also after three years of a big heart and who works hard. And it's certainly paid off -- watching her dribble and drive and defend and shoot like it's nobody's business makes us really proud. Makes me really proud being her coach and her father.

Because that's what it's all about for me -- for every single girl on the team. Which is why it was hard to hear in the last game the following:

"Coach, can you tell the team not to give me a hard time? It was just a mistake I made. Everybody makes them."

This coming from another play who had accidentally kicked the ball into our own goal, thinking she was kicking it to our goalie.

So during halftime, I reminded the team to cheer each other on when we do something good and to support each other when we don't. That we'll get it the next time. Because we'll always make mistakes and because there's always a next time.

Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.


That's right. There's always a next time, which if one of the hardest lessons we have to continuously learn, both as kids and adults. We may lose every single game, but in the end the headline will always read:

"Tigers are winners!"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Normal Not-End-of-Days Talk

“Here we come out of the cradle

Endlessly rocking

Endlessly rocking…”

—Rush, Out of the Cradle

It happened and she's never looked back. The seismic shift was clear, concise and immediate; I'm not sure exactly when, but sometime before the start of school this year for sure. And now she says it over and over to seemingly affirm her newfound maturity, the painfully necessary grounding of the years to come. Sure, we knew it would happen someday, a transition that most parents experience in late childhood into tween-land.

I stewed on that during the final dog days of August into early September when temperatures spiked to 107 degrees in Santa Cruz that included a humidity we don't usually get. Granted, we didn't have the Los Angeles fires burning out of control, or the Cascades fires. Nor did we have the horrific realities of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, and now Hurricane Irma hitting Florida, forcing millions to evacuate after wiping out the Caribbean. And we didn't have the devastating earthquake in Mexico either.

Since Labor Day our weather has returned somewhat to normal as have our lives with school starting and soccer games for both girls this year. Even with having friends in some of the affected areas mentioned above, and after making Red Cross donations and sending protective thoughts and prayers their way -- when you're not in it, you feel far removed from it. And your only reality is in the moment of driving your oldest daughter to her team's first soccer game you're coaching again.

"Dad," she said from the back seat. "What happened with the hurricane?"

There it was again: Dad. Not Daddy anymore. I couldn't remember the last time she called me Daddy, and yet it had to have only been a few weeks earlier when the seismic shift occurred.

"Dad?"

"What Sweetie?"

"What happened with the hurricane?"

"What do you mean?"

"Is it hitting land yet?"

Prior to leaving for the game, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) was watching Good Morning America on her iPad in the kitchen while fixing the girls breakfast, and the Hurricane Irma story was front and center.

"It hasn't made it to Florida yet, but it did wipe out a lot of Caribbean islands. It's one of the most powerful hurricanes ever."

Bea thought about this for a moment. And then, "Will people die?"

It's not that we don't talk with the girls about current events and the realities of life, but these kinds of questions were new for our eldest.

"There will be people who get hurt and some may die, yes."

"How big is it?"

"What? The hurricane?"

"Yes."

"Really big. It's going to drop a ton of water and the winds are really --"

"I know what a hurricane is," she interrupted.

"Okay, do you know how fast the winds are going?"

"No."

I tried to think of how to explain the speed. "Think about this: you know when we're driving on the highway we're going pretty fast -- around 65 miles per hour. Now, imagine going two to three times that fast. That wind will destroy a lot of stuff in its path. It would totally sweep you and me away if we were on the beach when it hit."

"Wow," she said. I wasn't sure she got it, though.

We kept talking about hurricanes and then tornados for a few minutes and I explained that we don't get those kinds of storms where we live, but we do get earthquakes. I told Bea about the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, what I experienced living in San Jose then, and what had happened to downtown Santa Cruz, about two miles from where we live now.

"So they rebuilt downtown?" she asked.

"Yes, they had to, because most of the buildings fell apart. All of Pacific Avenue."

"Will it happen again?"

I could hear the distress in her voice. She's a "feeler" like me, so I wasn't surprised that she got a little rattled. I felt bad.

"It could, but we don't know exactly when or even if it will happen again anytime soon," I said, neglecting to talk about the Mexico earthquake that had happened a few days earlier.

"What would happen to our house? Would it fall down? Where would we go?"

Her distress escalated a bit and thankfully we were just about to the the park where we played our soccer games. It probably didn't help that I had told her of all the people that had to leave their homes in Florida due to the hurricane.

The total trip to our soccer game was only a 10-minute drive, but it felt much longer, years longer, mostly because of this new level of conversation I had with my daughter.

"Dad, I'm a little nervous to play today."

"You'll do fine. Let's go have some fun."

Ah, back to the normal not-end-of-days talk. And while far from apocalyptic, going from Daddy to Dad has rocked my world a little. At least I've got a couple more years of Daddy with Bryce.

The week before the Mama and I watched our children play in the living room, still kids for now, while 1970's soft rock played in the background, and I remembered the fun times for me growing up and playing in the living room. The simpler times. The nothing else in the world matters times. And now we're both living it again watching them grow up. Mercy me, it was just seven years ago when Bea rocked a newborn Bryce laying in a car seat on our living room floor.

Endlessly rocking indeed.