Coax

Coax: (v) to persuade

I finally had enough children that I became a fairly decent father. Therefore I’m not responsible for the initial flops.

All kidding aside, one of the mistakes of all parents is investing too much time into the well-being and involvement of the child.

For me, this realization happened at the swimming pool. My first son, two years of age, came down in his cute little swim trunks. I could hardly wait to get him into the water and see him splash around–a vision I had perceived in a dream the night before.

But instead of jumping into the water or into my arms, he stood at a distance, critically, like an old maid viewing a Playboy magazine for the first time.

I begged.

I pleaded.

I made promises. (I’m talking about Baskin Robbins promises. In other words, the big scoops.)

He was unimpressed.

Matter of fact, he was quite enamored that he had gained my full attention over such a small thing. So in his toddler mind, he was dangling me over the abyss of an emotional cliff, giggling over my slipping grasp.

I hated myself.

He never did get into the pool. I must have asked him a thousand times, and I’m not exaggerating for the purpose of literature.

But by the time I got to the second, third and fourth kid, I realized that the key to engaging your children in good things is to always act like you just don’t give a damn.

I did not invite them into the pool. Matter of fact, I passed along the impression that they were “too small to swim.”

I jumped, threw balls in the air, and in no time at all, each of them came over to the edge, bouncing up and down, waving arms and saying, “Daddy, let me come in!”

I elongated the process (so there wouldn’t be any bitching about the temperature of the water). So when they got in, it was an honor.

Children are manipulative. They are not angels from heaven, unless you’re talking about the fallen variety, hanging out with Lucifer at the clubhouse.

Children were meant to come along with us, not us with them.

I have stopped all coaxing. I don’t coax anyone.

You can watch what I do, listen to what I believe or follow me around to see how hypocritical I am. Then decide for yourself.

I, for one, do not have time to talk people into pursuing good crap.

 

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Classroom

Classroom: (n) a room, typically in a school

I wish they would have told us the truth.

I suppose they were afraid if we knew the truth, we might get discouraged. Maybe we’d give up.

For some reason, our teachers and school administrators thought it was best to dangle the possibility of growing up to be adults someday
instead of letting us know that “who we are now” is pretty much who we would end up being.

We might have spent more time trying to do better instead of sitting in the back of the classroom hiding, hoping no one would call on us, refusing to emerge from our turtle shell to become lions and tigers, yet knowing that such a position would be impossible unless there were evolutionary stages in between.

Yes, somewhere along the line, in that classroom, we needed to transition from single-cell organisms into a more complex species.

They didn’t tell us.

Maybe they were hoping that high school, church, tests, our first sexual encounters or even college would stir us to new awakenings.

But since we carried the same personality and fears into each opportunity, we came out almost every time with identical conclusions.

So the fourteen-year-old kid who’s insecure becomes the eighty-four-year-old woman who still wonders if she’s pretty.

It is a bucket of shit.

I know that sounds gross, but it is the only description I can give for thinking that you can “leave well enough alone,” and well enough will give you anything…but being alone.

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Circumspect

Circumspect: (adj) wary and unwilling to take risks.

I have decided that the best way to protect our country from terrorists is to let moms and dads examine the bags at airports.

Think about it.

Your mother and father could always find a reason that anything you planned to do would either a) hurt you; b) make your grades drop; c)
keep you from God or the church; d) kill you.

If we put these moms and dads in charge at the airport, it would only take about two weeks before frequent flyers would grow weary of bringing along anything
that might be questionable. For after all, not only would it be rejected, but also you would have to listen to the lecture on why it was stupid to consider bringing it in the first place.

Mommys and Daddys are circumspect–careful to a fault.

In the process they possibly spare their children some potential danger, but also plant seeds of suspicion and “Mommy-and-Daddyism” inside them, until such an hour that these children are in charge of their own little offspring, who likewise need to be ferociously protected.

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Chosen

Chosen: (adj) having been selected as the best or most appropriate.

Without spraying dark, sticky thoughts into the air, I must admit that if I knew what I know now, I might not have chosen to be born.

I don’t think I would have chosen Mary and Russell as my parents. Considering my youthful antics, they might not have chosen me.

I certainly would not have chosen to be raised in the Midwest of the United States during a season when prejudice, bigotry and self-righteousness were considered to be “American values.”

I wouldn’t have chosen to be fat. Even though some people try to gain their self-esteem while encased in blubber, the excess poundage does take its toll.

I don’t know exactly what I would have chosen–I mean, I could continue this list and probably offend everyone I know.

But I certainly would have chosen Jesus.

This is not because I’m a religious person. Matter of fact, I have been known to doze off immediately at the mention of prayer.

It’s the practicality.

It’s the humanity.

It’s the responsibility that Jesus of Nazareth placed on himself and his followers that lets me understand that he “gets it.”

He gets what it means to be a human being on this planet called Earth. I don’t know if his manifesto would work on other planets. I don’t know anything about habitation in other galaxies.

But Earth requires a certain payload to launch your rocket.

I’ve chosen that.

I fail at it, and as long as I realize it’s a failure on my part and not a master plot against my happiness, I’m usually just fine.

I don’t know what else specifically I would have chosen.

I would not have chosen a career as a writer, because criticism and obscurity are your only friends.

Would I have chosen to pen this essay? Probably not.

I got up in a rather relaxed, lazy mood, and your interest just didn’t interest me that much.

So I’ve chosen, at times, to persevere–even though the immediate benefit does not scream its worth.

 

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Chore

Chore: (n) a routine task, especially a household one.

I suddenly realized that there is no happy word to describe work.

“Labor.” That sucks.

“Effort.” Well, that takes effort

“Struggle.”

Even the word “employment” is constricting, brings a frown to one’s face.

How do we expect to ever move forward in our consciousness when everything seems to be a chore? We didn’t like chores when we were children, so are we going
to wake up one morning having accumulated enough birthdays that we will become intrigued with doing repetitious tasks?

And if we don’t like doing these “events,” what’s to guarantee that the mechanic who’s repairing the airplane doesn’t get bored and take a shortcut?

If we don’t like doing the things we’re supposed to accomplish, won’t we eventually just do them poorly?

And once mediocre becomes normal, normal is certainly dangerous.

How can we re-train ourselves to believe that work is not a chore and that chores do not need to be repetitious, but rather, gain glamor and gleam by being enhanced with new possibilities?

This is not the season to insist on tradition. The work force in America needs a revolution–a revival, if you will–of the passion that originally made us believe we wanted to do what offered us a paycheck.

Don’t ask me to do my chores.

I will rebel, go to my room and listen to the music you don’t like.

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Chimney

Chimney: (n) the part of a chimney that extends above the roof; a chimney stack.

I grew up living in a brick home.

Dead center in the middle of our roof was a huge chimney. It was probably about one-third the size of the house. I don’t know why they made such a large chimney–the fireplace was tiny.

But affixed to the chimney, on the front, was a large letter “S.” Now, this had nothing to do with our name, so as young children we speculated on what the “S” stood for. We never actually came up with anything that made sense, but it filled some time.

What also occupied our interest was using our sloped roof as the bouncing area for a ballgame, where we tried to get the ball to bounce as near to the chimney as
possible without getting lodged behind it.

It was great fun–until the ball got lodged.

The chimney was so large that we couldn’t reach the ball with a long stick, and so, after three weeks there were six of our rubber balls stuck behind the chimney.

Every time I complained to my parents about the situation, they gave me a lecture on how foolish the game was in the first place and how if we didn’t throw the ball on the roof, it wouldn’t get lost behind the chimney. You see, to an adult mind, this logic made sense. But when you’re a kid, to eliminate fun just because it’s sensible is sheer torture.

So one day when my parents were away, we tok the youngest, smallest kid in our community. We called him “Toot.”

I’m not sure why. Maybe because it sounded small.

I stood on the bottom. Someone smaller than me climbed up on my shoulders, and finally, Toot scaled all the way up both of us, as we groaned in pain each time his foot stepped on our skin.

He got onto the shoulders of the fellow above me, and tried to jump over to the roof. He was able to get there–hanging by his fingertips.

We were scared to death.

We quickly tried to push him up on the roof as Toot struggled to pull himself up by grabbing shingles, which fell off the roof and onto the ground below.

Eventually, Toot, by some miracle, got his knee up on the roof, climbed up, raced over to the chimney, and threw down our six balls--and two frisbees which apparently had been thrown up there generations before.

We were so delighted that we forgot that Toot had no way to get down. He wouldn’t be able to get down the way he got up. So Toot sat on our roof waiting for my parents to return–because they had taken our ladder with them to do some work out on our farm.

When they arrived and saw Toot sitting on the roof like a little leprechaun, they were quite angry.

They quickly put up the ladder, retrieved Toot, and then began their lecture. They screamed, yelled, yammered and yakked for a good fifteen minutes. My friends wanted to leave, but my parents decided to be the disciplinarians for the neighborhood.

Afterwards, my mother turned to me and asked, “So what do you think about this?”

I thought for a long moment.

I probably should have thought a little longer–because without really being thoughtful enough, I replied, “Toot got our balls down.”

Needless to say, playing with balls was not permitted for me for several weeks.

 

 

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Buster

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Buster: (n) a mildly disrespectful or humorous form of address, especially to a man or boy.

Beware of an aunt who doesn’t have children of her own, and insists that she “really loves kids,” who comes to visit and in no time at all is so irritated that she starts referring to you as “buster.”

I had one.

I will not mention her name out of deference to her feelings, even though she has since passed away. We always have hope for people when they go to a proposed afterlife. For my aunt, my hope is that it is an adult-living condominium with no children allowed.

I will have to admit to you–she tried. Each time she arrived at our home, she came with a fresh, energetic approach, to relate to us kids as human beings.

She always brought books instead of toys. And these were books that were at least five years too old for us. There were no pictures, and she would always take at least ten minutes explaining the history, background and mission of the author.

She would also bring a casserole with her, ablaze with color and all kinds of ingredients, but for some reason, the taste and texture of it always reminded me of asparagus snot. (Now, I don’t personally know what asparagus snot is, but I thought it was a very descriptive way to relate my feelings about the dish.) More annoying, she stood over me and waited for me to taste it before I got the chance to scrape it into the trash can or slide it under the table for my hapless dog to slurp.

Also, this particular aunt was always on the verge of tears. Now, it didn’t take much. One day I was yelling at my little brother because he wouldn’t help me with the trash cans, and she came over to hug him in the most exorbitant way, looking up at me as she did, scolding me for failing to be sensitive to one of God’s precious creatures.

Interestingly though, it didn’t seem to bother her that when she talked to me, she was always suggesting that I lose weight, tuck in my shirt, or, on several occasions, remarking on how bad my breath was. I guess you had to be a little kid to be one of God’s creatures.

My aunt was a woman who married once, got a divorce, never had children–but was sure she would have been the best mother in the world.

Whenever I was out of line, she looked at me with her fiery eyes and said, “Buster, you should be glad I’m not your mother!”

She was right.

I was.

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