I was thirteen-years-old the first time I got thrown out of a Dairy Queen.
The manager came charging out from behind the counter like an angry drill sergeant. He glared at Andy and me with an iron jaw and then threw a stiff thumb over his shoulder toward the door.
“Out!” he hissed.
“What!” Andy demanded (although it came out Wh-Wh-Wh-What!). “What about them?” He motioned toward the trio of octogenarians—a balding, silver fox and his two blue-haired lady friends—seated two booths behind us. They were stifling laughs with handfuls of tattered napkins.
“Close your eyes,” I told my teenage recovery group. “Imagine yourself twenty years from now.” I gave them time to conjure up images. “You bump into somebody from this group, and they ask, ‘So, what do you do?’”
I let the question hang in the air.
“What’s your answer?”
As they opened their eyes, I saw a few glints of hope, but mostly just doubt and anxiety. Some of them had already lost the ability to dream, and that’s tragic. In all of them, however, I recognized a familiar fear—the horror of failure—twisted up with self-loathing for not measuring up to society’s standard of success.
When I meet with teens in addiction recovery, they know the first question I’m going to ask. I always reserve a portion of our time together for one seemingly insignificant inquiry:
“What’s something that made you laugh?”
This past week, a couple of girls had a uniquely silly experience, and one of them made a point to take note of it. “We have to remember this to tell Bert when he asks for something funny!” she’d told her friend. And they had.
Both girls were laughing so hard, it took several minutes of gasping and happy-tear wiping to tell their funny story.
(From Bert’s practical parenting side …)
Decades prior to devising the X-Plan, I was fighting a different battle as a greenhorn stay-at-home Dad. Long before I was worrying about my teenagers surviving an unpredictable world, I was locked in another epic battle.
The Footwear Fracas. The Stocking Struggle. The Battle of the Booties.
After 2017’s Las Vegas shooting, my 20-year-old son texted me: “If your generation doesn’t do something about this, we never will. You guys still freak out every time there’s a shooting, but this is normalcy for us.”
His words shot me down.
I had a high school history teacher who was a Vietnam vet. He once informed us, “Just so you know, I did tours in ‘Nam. Tick me off and I might pull a gun and kill every one of you. And I’d get away with it, too. Just shrug and say, ‘Sorry. Flashback. I thought they were a bunch of gooks.’” His head bobbed up and down when he spoke as if pounding the words in like nails. A matter-of-fact expression on his face. Left eye pinched into a half-wink. Just like someone taking aim through rifle sights. Continue reading
It’s taken me some time to comment on coach Jeff Walz’s rant about participation trophies because … well, to be honest, I am (as coach says) “a loser.”
I have a “participation trophy” from youth football.
My team had a perfect season, a feat few athletes at any level can celebrate. Even the worst teams screw up and win a game a two. But not my football team. The Enslow Bulldogs. Perfection. Not a single win. Never even close.
I have the trophy to prove it.
A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.
“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed. “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”
“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged. “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”
Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher. Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches. I know their battles and the wounds they carry.
“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim. I found that, no, he didn’t. I fear most Americans might be as clueless.
(This may seem out of left field for some of my readers, but here’s some helpful info for folks with young baseball players. And baseball season is upon us–YAY!)
Okay, Mom and Dad, consider this scenario: You’re sending your kid down a dark alley where flesh-eating zombies lurk. Your child may carry one weapon, either a 4-foot-long broom handle or a 30-foot-long utility pole.
Which would you choose?
Though my Texas pals might balk, bigger is often not better. That’s certainly the case with youth baseball equipment.
I’ve had the maddening joy of coaching kids at every level in baseball, from tee-ball to high-school-age state tournament teams. At every level I’ve seen kids struggle because of one common mistake—they’re using gear that doesn’t fit them.
I realize that buying your kid a new bat and glove shouldn’t be rocket science. However, there’s a lot to consider (way more than I’ll attempt to address here). I have a few tips to help you pick what’s best for your kid.
(As seen on The Today Show, Good Housekeeping, HerViewFromHome, ScaryMommy, The Huffington Post, Mamamia, MomsEveryday, and numerous social and news media outlets. UPDATED – 3/3/2017)
Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery. Yes. Young people. I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions. I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand. This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.
Recently I asked these kids a simple question: “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”
They all raised their hands.
Every single one of them. Continue reading