Tell Them You Understand It’s Difficult

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What it is about my cousin Janet is this – she isn’t a chicken shit, in a nice way I mean.  She is free of the retarding hang-ups and fears that prevent me from saying things that desperately need saying, and from getting off my ass when it needs some air.  Who knows, maybe she’s got a Mr. Hyde side that I’ve failed to see for fear of spoiling the image I have of her.

I don’t remember how it came up but during a visit a few years ago she mentioned that she had recently seen a woman with a facial deformity at the grocery store.  The deformity was severe and the woman kept her head down to hide herself as much as she could.  Janet continued her shopping but made her way over to the woman and gently began a conversation. They spoke for a few moments, and then Janet told her she understood it must be difficult for her, and that she just wanted the woman to know this.  The woman paused for a moment, and then began to cry.  But through her tears she managed to say that Yes, it was very hard. And she thanked Janet for her words.

“I would never do that,” I thought.  It was too far into someone else’s business.  I was afraid even at hearing story though I had never bothered to define what I was afraid of.

A year or so later my daughter was born.  She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which in the first six months alone required two surgeries plus she had to wear a NAM device (below) to keep her nose from sinking down into her mouth.  Even a small change from “normal,” a line on the lip or mild tilt in the nose, makes the human face look so different.

For parents the time goes particularly fast and before I knew it she was three and in preschool.  Three, despite its tantrums, is an amazing age.  At this age kids speak their minds.  Her classmates would often walk up to me or my daughter an ask “what is that on her face?” sometimes pointing to her cleft scar.  When the child’s parent was present they were horrified.  They’d begin to apologize to which I’d say there was no need.  Their child was doing what they were supposed to do.  They saw what everyone else saw – a scar and a tilted nose.  And they wondered what others wondered – Why is that? What is that? So they asked a question.  Unfortunately, older kids and adults don’t ask questions or talk about, let alone to, people that look different because we’ve been taught that it is intrusive and inappropriate.

Last year I finally got up the nerve.

One of my daughter’s preschool classmates was developmentally delayed.  For most of the two years they were in class together I never took the time to ask this girl’s mom anything about her condition, let alone acknowledge that there was one.  So at a playground birthday party one weekend I saw the mom sitting on a wall at the edge of the park as her daughter played on a swing.  I took a deep breath and went over and sat down next to her.

I prefaced that I hoped what I was about to say would not offend her.  I told her I thought that parenting for her must be difficult, and noted how much progress I thought her daughter had made that last year in preschool. Truly, this girl was now talking and interacting with a personality that I didn’t see at the year’s beginning.

She nodded her head, and the corners of her lips began to quiver as she fought back tears.  I started to apologize just like other parents had done when their kids asked about my daughter’s cleft.  And much like I had done to those parents, this mom held up her hand to refuse my apology.  She told me that indeed it was difficult, and she thanked me for what I had said.  I saw her again the next week at daycare and she stopped me in the parking lot and told me again how grateful she was for what I had said.  That brief discard of my fearful sensibilities allowed a moment for a few simple words, and they were still ringing in her ears days later.

 

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Sugar and Spice. Snakes and Snails. Kabblammo!

Let’s ease back into this Childish Man blog with something kind and supple. How about GUNS. (I intend to avoid the tired Second Amendment vs. Gun Violence discussion and hope your comments will do the same.)

A few weeks ago I began looking for a movement, an effort, something to which I could dedicate my energy and help “make the world a better place” not only for myself but especially for my kids. Nothing gets me emotionally bothered quite like framing an otherwise out-of-mind issue in a way that seems to threaten children. “Is your attic infested with Brown Recluse spiders? Your kids may be in danger!” Next thing I know I’m climbing up there with a flamethrower.

So my mind listed for me some choices that included collecting belly button lintsquirrel taxidermy, sous-vide cooking (sous-vide from the French meaning “eat raw food out of a Ziploc”), and gun control. I see now that this was a set-up from the beginning.

At this point I had little more than an opinion that guns are basically dangerous.  Clearly I needed to be more self-righteous before stroking a check to the Brady Campaign, marching a downtown street with a painted placard, or yelling obscenities from the balcony of a legislative chamber of my choosing.

As I often do, I began my research with some YouTube demagoguery. I watched videos of NRA hit man Wayne LaPierre. And then some tear-jerking clips of moms talking about their gun-murdered children. After a day shifting between rage and uncontrollable sobbing, followed by a few hours of bad whiskey sleep, it was time to sober up with some concrete numbers.

Before I continue, I must admit to being under a self-imposed news blackout for most of my SAHD (stay-at-home dad) days. With my battering ram of an 8-year old son who needs constant attention and a 5-year old daughter that is frequently in or recovering from yet another surgery (something I will get to in future posts), I don’t feel like spending my remaining time on news from Crimea or even from a few miles away.

Keeping in mind my blissful ignorance about gun statistics, and my general awareness of the emotional sensitivity that dominates the gun issue – the sadness of gun control advocates, the Obama-fueled paranoia of gun show retailers, and the mutual contempt that both sides seem to have for each other – I expected the statistics would blow away the competition in a manner of speaking.  Or at the very least that gun death numbers, when compared to other causes of death in children, and the relative sizes of the associated campaigns to save lives in those areas, would be fairly equal. To my surprise, they aren’t even close.

I’m not going into the numbers because, unfortunately, it isn’t terribly interesting.  I will let you visit the CDC WISQARS database and search the numbers on your own (and see the dreadfully formatted summary table below.  Sorry.  Click on it for a larger image). It is my conclusion, and perhaps it should’ve been all along had I cared to look, that if I am truly concerned about the safety of my kids I should be far and away more concerned about car safety, suffocation, fires, and drowning than about guns. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that any parent worry about or fear cars let alone anything else, rather that a healthy concern represent the risk. Unfortunately I don’t see passionate pleas from a Million Moms nor dollars flowing through lobbyists and political campaigns concerning the kids who die from burns or from drowning, things that kill children in greater numbers than all circumstances involving guns combined – intentional, unintentional, or suicide.

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For the record, I don’t like guns. I don’t own any. And I don’t want any. In my life and  in my community, no matter how often gun rights advocates tell me otherwise, they are unnecessary. I feel sorry for the victims of gun violence and their parents, families, and friends. But I also feel sorry for people who live in a shadow of fear of their fellow man, a shadow so dark that they spend hundreds if not thousands of their dollars on weapons, and even more lobbying for expanded “freedoms” to take guns into more places, like churches, bars, and airports.   The fear conjured by both sides is, to me, unjustified.

I have recently become a fan of Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and health policy researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine. He summarizes what I said beautifully, though it only touches briefly on violence, and I recommend at the very least that you see the video below about risks and our fears about them. In fact, I recommend that you subscribe to his HealthCare Triage videos as well as to his articles on the WordPress blog (www.theincidentaleconomist.com). I’ve found some great stuff here to help me temper my little crusades about washing hands (anti-bacterial soap) and even drinking milk.

Thanks for reading!

CM

Hello, Again

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I’m back and hopefully I’ll stay awhile.

But, I am changing the format of this blog. If you’ve read CM (The Childish Man) in the past you know I used to pull stories from my strange life to make you laugh. I hope some of them did. But within a few months I learned that writing humor is exceptionally difficult.

Humorists like James Thurber and David Sedaris and others put humor in their writing almost constantly. Rarely does a paragraph go by without a shock, bizarre metaphor, or at least a tickle. And although, from my experience, some of these bits come up easily, most of them require a finger down the throat, by which I mean not only that it’s unnaturally difficult but also that it burns afterwards. Whether self-deprecating or judging others, humor can get nasty and raw and this is often done unintentionally. It just comes out that way. This, along with the temptation to embellish didn’t sit well with me.  So I quit.

So now I want to write about my life and other topics with humor as a tool instead of an objective. I am still a self-emasculated Childish Man who also happens to be a husband and stay-at-home father of two. Therefore, this blog will cover parenting, but that’s not all.

Having been at home for five years now, I want to get back to some kind of work, though I don’t know what. The fear of job searching at age 43 after years of meal planning, laundry, and baseball/soccer practice logistics scares the shit out of me and it deserves attention. To say the least, it has been challenging to think about my life in terms of its outcome (“being happy” or “making a difference”) as opposed to its inputs and processes (“I cleaned up vomit today” or “I successfully avoided the temptation to drive into a fucking telephone poll”).

Perhaps I should make no promises about what this blog will become. At the very least, maybe we can all get through it.

Coffee Totally F***in Rocks!

Within a few minutes of drinking my first cup of coffee this morning, I was busy drafting out a vision, or rather a lingering memory, of last night’s pee dream.  You know, the realistic and worrisome, but partially waking, thoughts you get when your bladder is full and it’s telling you to get up before it demonstrates to you and your wife how much closer you are in life to wearing Depends than to the night-time pullups your kids wear.

Last night’s episode was about what I would be like, how I would react, when I finally admitted that I had a brain tumor (I don’t, fyi).  Would I pull my kids out of school to spend the two remaining months of my life with them, or would I embrace a life of “letting myself go” by swearing off clothes, personal hygiene, and personal dignity?  Would I be a reluctant bastard screaming at the gods, or be accepting of the reality that I would be never feel what sex is like in my fifties, sixties, or seventies?

Then I wrote down some thoughts about Boba Fett living in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, taking his little Fetts to private school and then hunting down a drive-through sausage biscuit. Next came the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle of Parenting, in which I determined that both the whereabouts and attitude of my children cannot be accurately known at the same time.  I also made a note about the uncertainty of this Uncertainty Principle – that once you discovered this truth, it would no longer apply.  A sort of “opposite day” in Quantum Mechanics, thereby giving rise the Opposite Day of Quantum Parenting hypothesis.

I wasn’t done.

Under this I also wrote:

  • A list of my favorite Christmas marches, including Bizet’s “Farandole,” of course, but also “Carolan’s Concerto” as performed by The Chieftains and The Belfast Harp Orchestra.  Although not a traditional holiday tune, the Concerto sounded Christmassy this morning as I whistled it while completely stripping and re-decorating the tree
  • “the pipsqueak terror?”
  • “basket of sundry goods to the Jewish mafia”
  • And, finally, what I can now only decipher as “Xmas mauphes.”

how-about-a-nice-cup-of-shut-the-fuck-upAfter returning from taking the kids to school, I began searching frantically through the kitchen for my notebook, which I eventually found in my pocket.  But during the search I noticed inside the sealed glass jar where I keep the coffee grounds was a two-tone brown of a dark shade atop a sediment of tan, like a wholly uninspired attempt at sand art.  I realized I had forgotten to blend the caffeine and decaf grounds that I normally brew, instead going pure and uncut.

And now, I’m going back to bed.