Tag Archives: children

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley

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https://i0.wp.com/vetmed.duhs.duke.edu/Photos/cutebrownmouse.bmp I just tucked Budge in after an adventurous first day of Summer Vacation for her and the rest of the county’s teachers. Now I’m sitting here mulling over what would have happened if my plans hadn’t gang agley, as dear Robert Burns says. I know this much; if Plan F had managed to grow from seed to fruit, yesterday would have closed out my second full decade as a teacher. I was an emergency hire at Woodmont High School in October 1994 for the 94-95 academic year. A teacher who moonlighted at a retail store in the mall got a sweet promotion to full time district manager in another state and my resume’ was the one Dr. Susan Hoover-now-Achilles picked, I think at random, from a pile on her desk.

I realize now I’ve started in medias res so to catch everyone up, Plan A was to follow my dream to become a Midshipman at the US Naval Academy, marry my high school sweetheart at the USNA Chapel after graduation, make rank, win medals, and have pretty babies. As to the first part, I had the grades. At that time, I had the fitness ability. I had a sweet 1380 on the SAT (back when that meant something). What I didn’t have was an appointment. Ignorant babe that I was, I didn’t know one does not simply walk apply and get accepted into Mordor The United States Naval Academy; one must be “appointed” by a US Congressman from one’s home state. A few other shortcut ways exist, but I didn’t meet any of them either. Apparently, I didn’t impress either secretary enough to even get an interview with the august men so, NO NAVAL ACADEMY FOR YOU!https://i2.wp.com/www.sposabellaphotography.com/blog/2011/brittany/naval%20academy%20wedding_009.jpg

So, I did what I always did. I dropped back ten and punted to Plan B which was to enlist in the United States Marine Corps after graduation, marry my high school sweetheart after basic, get deployed, make rank, win medals, come home, and have pretty babies. Unfortunately, I’d wrecked my ’79 Mustang the summer before my junior year and a piece of bumper went through my left quadriceps right down to the bone. The wound got infected and turned into a cantaloupe sized subdermal hematoma which I delayed getting taken care of until it had seriously messed up the muscle surrounding the wound, the end result being a 5″x5″ puckered, sunken spot on my thigh with a direct tunnel of nasty scar tissue running right down to the bone. I went to my Armed Forces physical (MEPS) at Fort Jackson and was doing great until one of the doctors did something no one else had ever done . . . he put his finger right in the center of the scar mass and pushed. I hit the floor like a crack dealer during a Saturday night SWAT raid. He pointed out any enemy who captured me would do the same AND that spot was going to swell up tight whenever I ran, which he was right about — the swelling, not the capture — because my junior year wrestling i had to ice that spot after every practice. So, I spent the longest five hours in history on a bus back to Greenville from Columbia just to tell my very unhappy Gunnery Sgt. recruiter I was a medical washout.

So, dropped back ten more and punted to Plan C which was to go to college, marry my high school sweetheart, get a degree, and have pretty babies. Well, Plan C went down in flames one day in the spring of my senior year when my high school sweetheart announced to me at my locker on a Friday right after final bell, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is, ‘IT ISN’T YOURS'” then turned and walked out of my life forever to become the wife and punching bag of an odious Georgia redneck. On the positive side, once I finally woke up Monday morningish, I understood with perfect clarity what a “Lost Weekend” is.

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So, dropped back ten more and punted to Plan D which was to go to college . . . and after that things got a little hazy but, as you can tell, I’ve never been one for planning the details. So I went to college, became an engineering major for a total of two hours, and came out on the other side with a degree in Secondary English Education. I and my country bumpkin accent and grammar were off to become a high school English teacher. That was in 1993 and by the end of the summer, I’d lost any hope of getting a teaching job so with the aforementioned Plan D in tatters, I took the aforementioned job at Kufner Textiles. That year of 93 to October of 94 was a long, strange trip involving lots of adventures I may tell some other time, but not here.

Welcome to Plan E. Here, I worked as many hours per week as I could doing whatever, but mostly dyeing cloth dark blue, jet black, or sometimes whorehouse red. Whenever I changed lots, I had to climb into the dye vats and wash down the rollers and flush out the tanks. It was hot, wet, and absolutely miserable work, but those adventures I was having made it bearable for awhile. Then, on October 10, 1994, while in the middle of a change from blue to red, I got called to the public phone in the breakroom, Dr. Hoover of Woodmont High School wanted to see me for an interview as soon as I got off that afternoon.

http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/smurfs/images/8/8d/Smurfette-original.png/revision/latest?cb=20130824204416That interview was a hoot.https://avikstudio.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/hellboy_001b.jpg?w=160&h=219

Dr. Hoover forbade me from going home and changing so I walked into her nice spiffy office looking like the bastard love child of a giant Smurfette and Hellboy. As always happened when I cleaned dye vats, I had blue dye in my hair, on my face, and all over my clothes. I splashed red dye starting up the second lot so I had red mixed in all over as well. I tried to get her to let me stand on the sidewalk outside her office, but she knew nothing about how strong industrial cloth dye is and I knew nothing about what a raging, control freak, diet obsessed hellcat she was so I came in and plopped my happy dye covered ass down on her brand new office couch and crossed my legs. When I stood up again, I had the job, starting the next day. So that led to Plan F where I would teach like some of my favorite high school teachers had taught and stay in the same room teaching two and a half generations of children for thirty years and retire with a luncheon and a cake shaped like a book of Shakespeare Plays to write the great American novel. Somewhere along the line, I’d get married and we’d have pretty babies.

Well, I got my Budge, several ex-students now friends, but only ten good years of memories rather than the thirty I’d planned. I could go into detail and I have in a previous post as to what led to Greenville County Schools and me parting ways in a most unfriendly fashion, but I don’t feel like digging up those bones tonight. It’s in the archive. So ended Plan F. Funnily enough though, the day I left the school ten years later, you could still see the outline in blue of someone sitting, legs crossed and arm extended on the arm rest as clear as a mountain stream on that office couch. https://postmediamontrealgazette2.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/a-empty-teachers-desk-is-seen-at-the-front-of-a-empty-classr.jpg?quality=55&strip=all&w=660&h=495&crop=1

An old proverb, maybe Jewish, says, “Man plans and God laughs.” I’ve fought my way through a few more plans until Plan I finally took over after I was unceremoniously let go from my last chance teaching job six years ago now. Still, IF things had worked out, I’d be two thirds of the way to retirement today along with some of the best friends I’ve never heard from again. Funny thing my daddy used to say about that word “if;” he said, “If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass every time he took a step either.” Ah the plans of mice and men . . .

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

Those Who Can, Do; Those Who CARE, Teach

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Atlanta school snow“Teachers get paid entirely too much!”

“Teachers only work half as much as everyone else!”

“It must be nice having summers off!”

“Teachers couldn’t handle a REAL job!”

“Education students couldn’t handle a REAL major!”

I spent fifteen years in public education as a high school teacher and a middle school librarian; my wife is currently in her 11th year as a fourth grade teacher, and statements like these are just some of the hurtful barbs I’ve had hurled at us over the years. Public school teachers make wonderful policy whipping boys. Regardless of what is wrong with the country, be it a stale economy, high crime, unemployment, or any other issue — regardless of how tangentially the connection may be — blaming education and teachers is a sure fire way for a talking head to get some applause.

It doesn’t matter what the problem is. It doesn’t matter many decisions by people who last saw a classroom when Ancient History was Current Events. The song remains the same — if it’s broken, blame the teachers. The Left takes potshots at us as being too conservative and teaching “ignorance” like Intelligent Design, even though WE didn’t elect the people who passed the law. The Right blasts us for being in the pockets of the “radical ____ agenda” and filling their children’s heads with all kinds of socialist, communist drivel. You can put whatever you want in that blank as well. I’ve heard “anti-family,” “pro-abortion,” “homosexual” and others I can’t put in here even if Mama isn’t around to read my blog anymore.

But we teachers are still here and we’re still teaching (well, not me anymore, but anyway.)

When Winter Storm Leon (one quick tangent — whose the idiot who thought naming winter storms like we do hurricanes was thing? And they say TEACHERS waste taxpayer dollars!) slammed into Atlanta — totally by surprise OR after many unheeded warnings, depending on who you want to believe, nothing short of chaos ensued. All over the city, people stranded in cars took off hiking home. Some sheltered in the stores of compassionate managers and owners. Many, many teachers were not among those. They had work to do.

Once it became obvious the storm was getting worse and the traffic was hopeless, principals and teachers realized many of their pupils wouldn’t be getting home that day. With no prior preparation, schools all over Atlanta became de facto Hotel 6’s as educators prepared to take care of “their” children for the night. Many of these teachers had children of their own who needed attended to, but duty was calling louder than even motherly (and fatherly) instincts. A storm was raging and Atlanta’s educators rose to meet the monster with gym mats and cafeteria food, stage curtain blankets and bedtime stories from principals.

Just for a moment, please put yourself in the shoes of a child in K4 and yes, we do send them to school THAT little these days. Mommy put you on the bus this morning like she always did and told you she’d see you at home in the evening. You’ve never spent a night away from home; you haven’t had a sleepover yet that didn’t involve grandparents. Now, it’s getting dark. The bus you got on you thought was going to take you home has taken you back to school and you are just about to go into K4 meltdown mode.

Then, you see her — it’s Mizziz Smif’. This woman and her steadfast aide beside her have watched over you for the last 100 days as if you were their own. You are still terrified and most likely hungry, but you feel a little better. The lady from the office who usually terrifies you takes you out of a line of your classmates and puts a phone in your hand. Mommy is on the line. “Sweetheart,” she says, “You are staying at school tonight! Won’t that be fun?” Well, you don’t know about “fun” but now you know two things: 1) Mommy knows where you are and that’s a BIG HONKING DEAL to a four-year old and 2) you are somewhere the people know you and have done everything but swear oaths to take care of you. This may be scary, but you think it may turn out alright.

Stories have come in from all over Atlanta of teachers reading bedtime stories to children, of principals organizing early morning snowball fights to take the children’s minds off the gravity of the situation, of cafeteria workers staying to make sure the children had hot food to eat.

In. Loco. Parentis. Yes, it’s a legal term dripping with all the crap an army of lawyers can hang on it, but at the heart it means exactly what it says — “In the place of a parent.” It’s what every teacher worthy of the title holds closest to his or her heart whenever he looks at the young lives in his or her charge. For the 8 to 10 hours a day these children are with their teachers, their teachers ARE their parents and most of the time consequences be damned. People who think teaching is about 7 to 3 with summers off have no clue. The teachers in Atlanta who did not sleep so their children could weren’t thinking about the summer vacation. Teaching is more than that.

Happily, the debacle in Atlanta has passed with no children harmed . . . except maybe from a snowball to the nose, but teachers everywhere have stood in the place of parents and given the last full measure of devotion with no worry about what was to come.

Victoria Soto wasn’t worried about Common Core when she put her own body between a madman and her precious Sandy Hook first graders — taking bullets meant for them. Professor Liviu Librescu wasn’t thinking about his tenure hearing as he held the door of his Virginia Tech classroom shut even as the deranged gunman fired shot after shot through the door and into the Holocaust survivor’s body. The Sisters of Charity who taught at St. Mary’s Orphanage in Galveston, TX were not champing at the bit to get home on that dark September day in 1900 when all ten perished — each with her portion of the 90 children in her charge tied to their waists with clothesline as The Great Galveston Hurricane drowned the island.

All teachers. In loco parentis.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

Let Us Join With Rachel As She Weeps

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Rachel weeping I was all prepared to write something funny or something Christmasy as would befit the season, but this morning’s events in Connecticut have jolted me from that path and brought new sadness as well as sadness of memory to what should be the most wonderful time of the year. Earlier this morning, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza went into his mother’s 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered a kindergarten classroom in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shot and killed his mother, and opened fire on the children. All we know for certain at the moment is 18 children — all under age ten — are dead along with eight of their teachers. Those numbers could rise. Lanza’s mother was found dead later.

This hurts me on more levels than I can adequately express. For one, I was a high school teacher in the black days of Columbine and the spate of copycat killings which followed. My colleagues and I talked about little else during that awful period because we were completely aware it could easily happen to us. We all knew students — TAUGHT students — who were ticking time bombs whom we were powerless to help. I must have run over an attack scenario in my mind hundreds of times. I even set up my classroom to provide maximum cover for students should someone think the unthinkable. The school supposedly had a plan; I know I did and I told my students if they heard gunshots they only had to remember one instruction, “follow Coach Wham.” My children knew how seriously I took the phrase in loco parentis and if anyone was getting shot, it would be me or over my dead body.

As someone who struggles with mental issues of my own, I also hurt because I KNOW this young man had to be mentally disturbed in some way, shape or form. Normal, well-adjusted people do not kill innocent babies in cold blood; they simply don’t; not even in wartime. That’s why the epithet of “baby killer” is one of the most terrible insults anyone can spew at a soldier. I have no idea what will eventually come to light, but I’m willing to bet someone somewhere is thinking right now “I KNEW this was going to happen. I saw all the signs.” I know what it feels like to cry out for help in all the wrong ways and to feel so helplessly out of control and at the mercy of my own mind. I’m just thankful that my anger has always turned inward because I can’t imagine doing something like this on the worst unmedicated day I’ve ever had, but at the same time I ache terribly for someone so consumed he could find no other means towards peace than this massacre which ended with him taking his own life.

This tragedy disturbs me and angers me as well because I am a gun owner and a gun supporter, but I know it won’t be long until some politician tries to make a name for himself by leading a crusade against firearms. First of all, it makes me want to puke whenever I see some little political worm making political hay out of a tragedy like this. It cheapens the deaths of these innocents and it paints even more innocent people with an unfairly broad brush. I will soon be 42 and been around guns all my life, but I have yet to see one that could act of its own free will. Legislators can ban anything they want but until they can ban evil and hatred from the human heart they don’t have a chance of stopping violence because laws do not affect people who have no intention of following the laws in the first place.

Most of all, however, this awful episode deeply saddens me as a Christian. I know, as surely as I know stop signs are red, people are going to start throwing out expressions like “Where’s this ‘God’ of yours now?” They’ll ask, “How could a God who’s supposed to love us let this happen to CHILDREN?” They’ll claim, “I’ll never follow or believe in a God who is powerless to stop this kind of evil.” And it will go on and on. Atheists like Richard Dawkins have a field day whenever a tragedy like this occurs because they point at it as proof God doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, too many people won’t look for answers and will believe this wrong thinking.

Where was God? He was where He’s always been — sitting on the throne of Heaven completely aware of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or ever will happen from eternity past to eternity future. The hard truth is, God knew this was going to happen before the plan ever became a thought in the poor deranged gunman’s mind. What so many people fail to realize is “knowing” something isn’t the same as “causing” something.

So, why does God “let” these things happen? That’s a have your cake question. Sure, God can “make” His creations (that’s us) do whatever He wants us to do, but that’s a one way street. Make us do something once, we’ll be made to do everything forever. It’s free will. We all praise and love the idea of “freedom” and “free will” but most of us don’t want to acknowledge the fact that “freedom” means just that — and if we’re free to do good; we’re also free to do otherwise. Without free will, we would never have anything like school shootings, but we’d never have anything like the Mona Lisa or the Empire State building either. Free will is all about choices and in order to free us to make good choices, God had to acknowledge some of us would make bad choices. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

Finally, let me say one thing to those who can’t believe God could allow / do something like this AND to all the parents who lost their precious children in this horrible tragedy, God understands EXACTLY how you feel. He is a parent. He had an only child too — a son actually — who was also killed by hate filled, unfeeling men, with one important difference — God DID allow His Son to be killed. God knew from eternity past that His only beloved son would die, and He knew He would STAND ASIDE and allow it to happen even as that Son begged His Father for rescue. God the Eternal, Perfect Father watched His son die so that we could live. I do not pretend to understand it, but I know it is so. So for all the parents and loved ones who lost children today, understand that you are understood by the One who catches your tears in a bottle. If you will reach out to Him, even in this darkest hour, you will find Him waiting to comfort you.

The Little Cats are in the Barn

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I took to the sideline with a twinge of sadness this morning because it was the last game of the season for the mighty Sea Lions of the MFBC Upward Fall Soccer League and unfortunately, we were a little shorthanded today.

Right off, I missed my little cotton-topped Garrison with his front-toothless smile, but he was at a father-son camp-out weekend and I could hardly begrudge him that. Thomas and I agreed of all the bambinos, he “grew”. He was already a first class shooter and in the early games, he worried more about the score than the team, but as the season progressed, he picked up new skills, including a tremendous ability to find an open teammate with a great pass. He also calmed down considerably from the ball of energy and bounce who showed up at the first practice to hang on my legs and shoulders. He was really a fun kid to be around.

We also missed Tru today and that worried me most of all because his mom was in charge of snacks for after the game. I didn’t really care about snacks, but Tru missed the last practices following our penultimate. I missed that game also after an ER visit to get Budge’s gall bladder checked, but Thomas told me Tru had an “incident” where he beat on one of our girls during his session on the sidelines. Knowing Tru, he was showing affection, but it was unnerving to the little lady and her parents and I certainly understand. Immediately after the final horn Tru’s, mom scooped him up and hurried away; that was the last we saw him. Thomas’ reminder email went unanswered. I wish I could say Tru matured as much as the others, but he didn’t and I’m pretty sure it’s because Tru has more pressing problems on his little mind than soccer. I hope he’ll come out the other side okay. I know the road he’s on and I hope something I said sticks with him in the darkness ahead.

At first, I was worried Sophie might not show because she missed practice Tuesday, which is completely unlike her. We found out today when she showed up what caused her absence. She and her parents spent a week at DisneyWorld! I now know she doesn’t like Space Mountain — too dark — but she loved Splash Mountain and Thunder River and she met Mickey and ate at Cinderella’s Castle and saw all the fireworks and stayed in a neat hotel and got mouse ears with her name on them and voted for Pooh and not Captain Hook and WHEW! . . . well, you get the idea! We learned this during the game as she related each part of the story of her dream vacation while standing next to Thomas or me as the ball was in play, but on the other end of the field and therefore of less concern in the moment than the happiest place on earth. Did I mention Sophie is a darling, intelligent ONLY CHILD? She is not doted upon, but it’s obvious who the family’s centers on. I will really miss her.

I’ll still get to see little Lauren on at least a weekly basis since she’s my co-coach’s daughter and the reason he, then I, got into this gig in the first place. She improved a lot over the season, especially in endurance. Our first practices, she spent walking instead of running, but today, she managed to play the entire game non-stop. She is a precious little lady even if TREMENDOUSLY dramatic! Her parents are in the same community group at church as Budge and me and for the first several months, she didn’t care much for me. I’d speak to her, but she’d walk away with all the haughtiness a six-year-old can muster. After the first practice, though, she started talking my ears off. When her mother asked her why, Lauren’s reply was, “Oh Mom, Mr. Shannon’s my COACH!” Apparently, that makes it all different!

Now Jonas didn’t need to build up his endurance. For the entire season, he was never still. If he was standing, he was hopping from leg to leg. Sitting in the circle during half-time devotions, he bounced on his bottom, his energy level off any scale. I mentioned to Thomas if we could bottle Jonas’ energy, we’d make a fortune. I don’t think he knows how to walk; he ran full tilt everywhere he went, on the field and off. Of all the team, he was THE most competitive. Even when we reminded him the object was to have fun, he was always keenly aware of the “score.” He was a phenomenal player and we didn’t teach him much he didn’t already know, but he was a ball of energy on the field and always got the team going, even if he was prone to take the ball from anyone on the field, including his mates!

One frequent victim of Jonas’ ball theft was little Collin. Collin is without a doubt one of the ten cutest children I know. His round little face is capable of such exquisite expression, from extreme irritation, usually after someone took the ball from him, to boundless euphoria when he infrequently scored a goal. Oh I loved being around that child. I swear he could charm an angel. I felt we didn’t have a great start because he didn’t speak to Thomas or me during the first two practices or games. He’d just look when I called his name to put him in. I asked his daddy if he was quiet and dad grinned — a mirror image of his youngest son — and said, “Oh, just wait til he decides he likes you.” he started liking us halfway through the third practice and when he started talking, he didn’t stop. I didn’t mind though because even his voice was adorable.

There’s not one of my seven little soccer kittens I wouldn’t take into my own home in a skinny minute. I told all the parents I’d be glad to take them off their hands. Of course, they know I have no children so I got more than one knowing smile and nod. Apparently, I do not know of what I speak!

I still can’t believe I spent three months coaching these itty-bitties, but it was some of the greatest fun I’ve ever had in my life. Lauren wants to play in the spring, so hopefully Coach Thomas and Coach Shannon can put together another group of amazing soccer babies!

Here’s hoping. Love y’all and clean your soccer cleats!

 

Onward and Upward: The Joy of Herding Cats

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Back about the middle of July, my buddy Thomas texted me with a proposition. His middle child and youngest daughter, Lauren, was going to play soccer. He planned to coach and wanted to know if I would agree to help him as his co-coach. I have no idea what compelled him to choose me out of all the people he knows. I am certain it was not for my vast experience as an award winning soccer coach since my entire knowledge of soccer comes from one season as a high school head coach of necessity — which I’ve already discussed — and a few viewings of various FIFA World Cups over the years. Furthermore, I have no children of my own of any age so the little ones are a mystery to me, albeit an adorable one.  Whatever his reasons, I found my fingers texting back “Sure thing; it’ll be fun.”

Looking back, I’m relatively certain I figured Thomas would find someone better suited OR Lauren would decided to stick with horseback riding OR the Mayan Apocalypse would be several months early. I don’t think I seriously considered actually being a children’s soccer coach until a month later when I was actually sitting next to Thomas at the intro meeting for the MFBC Upward Soccer League. By then, my pride wouldn’t let me run away screaming; although it might have actually been less embarrassing if I had.

Too late for that, though. I was an Upward Soccer Coach.

Here I should tell you a few important details about this particular league. Upward Soccer is a Christian outreach program. Each practice and game include a time for a short devotion. It’s a way to learn about Jesus and play a little soccer. At least, that’s the theory.

One other important thing I need to mention. Our team? Three kindergarteners and four first graders. What experience I do have with children has always been with the middle school or older crowd. Now, I was expected to teach the “itty-bittys” about “The Beautiful Game.” If you are already laughing, stay tuned. It gets better.

In Upward, we play on a quarter sized field with four players per side. We don’t have goalies because no one wants a K5er getting kicked in the mouth going for a save. The goals are tiny as well — six feet wide by three feet high. Other than that, most of the rules are just like regular soccer.

Our team is Lauren, Addy, Sofia, Garrison, Jonas, Collin, and True. We are the Sea Lions, but secretly I like to refer to us as The Magnificent Seven. Officially, it’s called Upward Soccer, but a more accurate name for it would be Amoeba Ball. Keep in mind, K5 and 1st graders — eight on a field at a time. Basically, it’s a #3 sized soccer ball amidst sixteen whirling, stabbing, jabbing, and flailing lower limbs. Wherever the ball moves, the cloud of dust and children follow. Position play is a distant dream. If the ball squirts out of the scrum and a team-mate kicks it next instead of an opponent, we call it a “pass” and are deliriously happy.

It truly is like herding cats; especially given how all the kittens don’t always want to play at the same time.

Take Addy for instance. She is a precious child. At our first practice, I was trying to get her and her teammates to line up in two lines. How hard can it be, right? Let me put it this way; I used to laugh at the colored tiles on the floor at Budge’s school after she told me they used them to teach the children where to line up correctly. If I could have, I would have tiled the entire soccer field just to have colored squares. In little Addy’s case, however, it wouldn’t have helped. She was having a terrible time figuring out how to line up so I knelt down next to her and said, “Baby, it’s like getting in line to go to the gym or the lunchroom at school or maybe lining up to go out to recess.” She looked at me so very sweetly with her little pink bow and her cute glasses making her eyes even bigger and brighter and said in a completely guileless, precious voice,

“Mr Shannon, I’m homeschooled.” So much for THAT analogy.

Another tendency of these little ones I’m learning is how whatever enters their minds must exit through their mouths IMMEDIATELY lest it be forgotten, which would be a terrible tragedy. For example, here’s an exchange during our first devotion midway through the initial practice:

Thomas: “Can anyone tell me who Jesus is?”
Garrison: “I’m firsty; can I get a dwink of water?”
Jonas: “Does he go to school around here?”
Lauren: “Daddy, we learned about Jesus at Camp Grace.”
True: “I’ve got new cleats! See them?” (Holds up foot with new cleat on it)

That’s just the beginning of the tales. I have a ton more to say about our little team and since the season runs through October, expect more posts about this adventure. Right now though, I have to go do some research. Sofia is DYING to play Sharks and Minnows at the next practice and I have NO idea what she means!

Love y’all and keep those feet (and new cleats) clean!

Being a Bad Parent — continued

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People don't always notice signs.

I’ve had some people ask me about my last post. They want to know what set me off. Was it something specific or was I just railing against the general inability of some people to parent. Well, my post about poor parents actually DOES have its roots in a specific local family dynamic. Now I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by naming names, so let’s call them, oh, I don’t know — my next door neighbors. The ones on the right hand side as one looks at our home. The ones with the blue car with the duct tape and plastic tarp side window. And the pile of trash on the back porch. And the yard strewn with debris. You get the idea.

These people do not look after their kids! Gentle readers, I don’t live in DisneyWorld. This is a lower middle class / upper working class “mobile home subdivision”, basically a trailer park but we have to take the tongues and wheels off the trailers and we don’t rent the spaces. Kids NEED to be watched after around here.

What makes matters worse is this is a particularly FERTILE couple. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how the lower down on the intellectual level one goes in the animal kingdom the more offspring a given pair of animals produces? For instance, dolphins are super smart. Dolphins have ONE pup at a time. Two is a rarity. Frogs, though? Frogs will NEVER top anyone’s list of Einsteinesque fauna and they have THOUSANDS of offspring at once. The reason is obvious — the dumber the animal, the more offspring that are needed to ensure the species survives.

They are working on that principle right next door.

Happens WAY too much.

This woman has FOUR kids. The oldest two are both in the FIRST GRADE. They are only 10 months apart in age, and get this — they have different daddies! Let THAT math keep you up at night. These kids are 6 almost 7, barely 6, four, and two years old. The oldest is a girl and the rest are carbon copy boys.

Do these people not know what a TELEVISION is?

Anyway, they have this slew of kids. The dad lost his job in the downturn two years ago so he’s been working about six part-time jobs. I’m not sure if he works so much for the money or if he just wants to stay away from home. I know which one I’D pick. The mom stays at home with the brood until dad gets home at which point she takes the car to her job at McDonalds. I’d be worried about them financially, but when she was big as a barrel with the two-year-old she told Budge and me they were in good shape because of WIC, food stamps, and about six other government programs.

Now up to this point, you might think I’m just cracking on some poor white trash in an attempt to get blog hits. You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, I hesitate to call anyone white trash. Too many members of my family have been branded with that particular moniker over the years for me to toss such a label around lightly. More than that though is the fact that I’ve seen other families in similar states be adoring and careful parents and raise some amazing kids.

No, I’m cracking on this bunch because of the UPS truck.

I was straightening up the house about a week ago when I heard a LARGE vehicle LOCK DOWN on the brakes. I looked up to see the four-year old staring at the grille of the Big Brown Truck. I know this UPS driver and he’s not an excessive speed demon. If he’d been traveling two miles an hour faster, that kid would have been road kill.

Just a matter of time?

If that was a one time deal, I wouldn’t be going to the trouble of writing this, but that kind of thing is the RULE in their house, not the exception. The three oldest kids stay outside from the time school lets out until dark. They have NO IDEA what it means to look before crossing a road. To date, besides the UPS truck, two school buses, the Charter guy, the water meter guy, and at least six cars that I have seen have nearly wrung the brake pads off the front of their cars trying to keep from turning one of these chaps into a human speed bump. They NEVER look where they are going. I’ve told Budge that it is just a matter of time before someone can’t make a last second stop and that’s going to be terrible.

I used to never lock my gates. Now I do because these kids have no concept of “that’s not yours.” It’s nothing for them to go across my yard — which I really DON’T mind — and get out toys belonging to my OTHER neighbors’ GOOD child and start playing with them even if no one there is home! I can’t imagine how long I’d have been stuck inside if my mama had caught me doing such!

Let me be clear though — it’s NOT THE KIDS’ FAULT.

Too late to watch over them now.

If a six, five, or four-year old child doesn’t know how to behave, it is not his fault. It is the PARENTS’ fault. Children are just that — children. By definition they are ignorant of most dangers, evils, and pitfalls and thank God they are. The horrible state of the world will catch up to them soon enough. Until then, though, it is up to MAMA and DADDY to RAISE them and that requires a little something called WORK.

Now I’ve seen a child run out in front of a car before, but every other time it was because he wasn’t listening to THE ADULT STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. The adult is attempting to provide a safe transit from store to car and the child isn’t listening. Most of the times I’ve seen this happen, Mama or Daddy will reinforce the lesson of the near tragedy by a vigorous application of the Board of Education to the Seat of Understanding just as soon as everyone reaches the car.

Not this family.

No one is watching these kids. We live on the busiest street in our neighborhood and Mom is nowhere to be found unless she happens out onto the porch to smoke. Granny wouldn’t let me play in the FRONT YARD of her and Papa’s house and they lived on a street full of nothing but old people in the quietest neighborhood in Fountain Inn. If I GOT ran over it would be due to Mrs. Johnson losing control of her power scooter and tearing through the wisteria bordering the back yard. Otherwise, I was safer than the gold in Fort Knox. Plus, this was in the pre-Adam Walsh days when we kids didn’t know strangers would kill us. Someone in a van could pull up, offer these kids next door candy, snatch them into the vehicle and be gone and it would be suppertime before Mom even noticed they were gone. That’s insane!

I don't want this scene in front of my home. Children deserve better caretakers.

If anyone is looking out for these kids, it’s ONE little girl who is about ten and seems to be the natural “mothering type”.

You haven’t seen irony until you see a ten-year-old berating a four-year old at top volume like R. Lee Ermey on crack because the kid didn’t look before crossing the street. If it wasn’t for though, these kids would be as rudderless as a capsized canoe in a whitewater whirlpool. I for one think the child deserves a medal.

BUT IT’S NOT. HER. PLACE. TO. WATCH. THESE. KIDS.

I am at a loss to know what to do. As a final thought, if one of the kids DOES get hurt, I’LL have to call 911 because THEY don’t have a phone. Correction, they have a cell phone, but instead of leaving it at home in case — I don’t know — the two-year old swallowed something and needed an ambulance, Daddy takes it with him on his “rounds.”

Talk about priorities?!

Any thoughts on this comedy of errors? I’m open to suggestions!

Take care, y’all and keep those feet clean.

Perils of Playing House

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Consider yourself warned.

In this country, anyone wanting to operate a car, truck or motorcycle must pass a test and be licensed. If you don’t have a license, you are not legally allowed to drive. You may spend years in schools obtaining a medical or legal degree, but if you don’t pass the tests for the bar or for the medical specialty of your choice, you cannot call yourself a doctor or a lawyer and if you are caught trying to deceive people into believing you ARE a doctor or a lawyer, you will go directly to jail neither passing GO nor collecting $200.

BUT, any one man and one woman can pair up and, as long as they possess the correct anatomical and God-supplied equipment, make a baby and bring that baby into the world. In doing so, they often deceive people into believing they are, in fact, PARENTS. They are not. They are a sperm donor and a very sophisticated incubator. Making and / or birthing a baby doesn’t make you a parent any more than putting on a lab coat or a powdered wig (in England at least) makes you a doctor or a lawyer.

Therein lies the source of a huge amount of the problems facing the country today. Too many people are running around PRETENDING to be parents when all they are really doing is playing a cruel version of “house” just like kindergartners.

Why yes, I would like to get her started in her mama's footsteps as soon as possible!

If you want to know whether or not I am talking to you or if you should be giving me multiple loud “amen, preach it, my brother” outbursts is simple for me to ascertain with ONE question. Have you ever worried that you were not being a good parent or actually thought you were being a poor parent? If you have dwelt at any length on those statements, you are NOT a bad parent or — at the very least — you are trying. Just the fact that you CARE if you are a good parent or not says volumes.

Two of my favorite former students married, in due time, produced a gorgeous little tow-headed, blue-eyed girl just as pretty as her mama and as much of a smartass as her daddy. Her daddy has gone from being a favorite student to being a dear friend and he has said to me on more than one occasion, usually with tears in his voice, “Coach, I just don’t know if I’m being a good daddy to Lisa.” I tell him every time what I just told y’all, “Mike, the fact that you CARE whether or not you are a good daddy means you are trying really hard to be a good daddy and that is all any man can do.”

Entirely too many incubators and sperm donors today seem –by their actions at least — to view their offspring as accessories like a watch or a chihuahua, or maybe the next logical step in some middle class fantasy plan. Others actually see their children as INCOME producers and keep having them until the government says they won’t pay for any more. Worst of all, however, are those poor fools who see their children as “friends” and not “children.”

Here is a story I have told often and it still flabbergasts me more than ten years later. It illustrates the perils of poor parenting.

My second year as a teacher, I was in on a meeting with a 16-year-old tee-tiny white girl, her mama, the AP, the guidance counselor, and a few other assorted teachers. We were trying to explain to mama that baby-doll wasn’t doing so hot in the academic realm. When it came time for the mama to respond, she didn’t get three sentences out before her daughter spun around and unleashed a torrent at her that turned the air of the conference room a Smurfy shade of blue. This 16-year-old slip of a girl called her mama every name in the book and actually worked herself into such a rage that she had to be restrained and taken from the room.

Mama’s reaction? She put her head in her hands and started moaning about, “I just don’t know what to do with her. I’ve tried so hard to be her friend and get her to like me.”

Even then I was not known for having either volumes of tact or great reserves of self-control so while everyone else in the room (the older, more experienced ones) sat staring at the table, I got up and sat next to the poor woman. I put my hand on her shoulder and she looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes and I told her, “Ma’am, my mama is my best friend in this world. I love her like I love no other. She is 5’2 and weighs 110 pounds in a full winter suit of clothes, heavy boots, and soaked in a swimming pool. She has bad lungs from smoking for years and working in cotton mills. She is a bit past her physical prime. I am 5’10, 250 pounds (I was then anyway) have wrestled, coached wrestling, and fought in full contact karate tournaments. I’m in the prime of my life, but if I — TODAY — let alone when I was 16, said HALF of the words your daughter just said to you to MY MAMA, I know EXACTLY what she would do. She would walk over, pick up that nice heavy metal stool and proceed to disfigure the metal of the stool seat with the bone of my head. Once she had beat me unconscious, she would call Bull Street in Columbia and tell them to come get her son because he had OBVIOUSLY lost his mind. Ma’am, your daughter doesn’t need another FRIEND. She needs a MAMA.”

Well, she got all pissed off and I got another letter in my file, but I stand by what I said to this day. My mama has said many things to and about me and we’ve had our disagreements over the years but at NO TIME has my mama EVER uttered the phrases “I can’t do anything with him” or “I just want him to like me.” Mama never gave one tiny tinker’s damn if I LIKED her or if she was my FRIEND or not, but let me assure you she ALWAYS knew SOMETHING to do with me and it was the thoughts of what she COULD do that kept me on the straight and narrow most of the time.

This doesn't REALLY say "Juicy." It REALLY says "Mom and Dad don't care that perverted old men are going to stare at my butt."

Remember this — You are a PARENT. You RAISE the child. Teachers, pastors, day care centers, and TV stars don’t RAISE your kids. It’s not their job; it’s YOUR job and if you didn’t want it, you should have given little Johnny or Jill or LaKwisha or Jaquan up for adoption to one of the thousands of infertile couples like me and Budge who would love to have a child to raise but can’t. EVEN BETTER, if you didn’t WANT the responsibility of being a parent because it might CRAMP your style, you should have stayed off your back or out of that hotel room or out of the back seat of that car. As I have told more than one young person over the years when they were facing choices about sex, drugs, or rock ‘n roll, “If you don’t want to go to Atlanta, don’t get on I-85 South!” Stay on that interstate long enough and eventually you WILL end up in Fulton County, Georgia. Guaranteed.

Hope I didn’t terribly offend anyone, but I’ve just seen some stuff this weekend that has made me question how our species has made it this far! Unfortunately, the ones who need to read this the most will never see it! ***sigh***

Love y’all anyway and keep those feet clean!