Unprepared Parenting Moments

nicubunu_Emoticons_Question_faceWhen I was young, I thought that parents knew what they were doing.  I thought that parents pulled from a vast store of knowledge about every situation.  I firmly believed that they were never surprised by anything and certainly never had to resort to adlibbing.

Oh, how naïve I was.

A couple of weeks ago, we heard that an indoor trampoline park that is coming to the area was going to be featured on Undercover Boss.  Hoping to catch some sneak peeks of what fun we might be in for – and show them to the kids – we turned it on.  During the program, one of the employees mentioned about how he was born a woman, has been living as a man, but needed some surgeries that he couldn’t afford to complete the process.

Yes, the kids heard this and yes questions ensued.

Let me first state that I have nothing against gender reassignment surgery.  In fact, I think it’s great that we live in an age when someone who feels more comfortable as a different gender than they were born as, can make that change.  I also don’t think the show was “at fault” in any way. The “transgender subject” shouldn’t be swept under the rug and ignored for fear that some small child somewhere might hear it.

The fact of the matter is that I just wasn’t ready to explain this complicated subject to my six and ten year olds.  We haven’t even had “the talk” with the ten year old yet.  How was I going to explain this?!!

I’ll admit that I resorted to the old standby of punting the question to the other spouse (“Ask your mother!”) and distraction hoping that they would tire of the question.  I even put them to bed that night hoping that the question would be forgotten by morning.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  JSL was still asking if they chopped off her boobs.

Side note: He’ll take any opportunity he finds to say the word “boobs.”  He really seems to like that word but in a potty-talk, not a sexual sort of way.  He also likes saying “poop” and is experimenting to see how much cursing he can get away with.  (The answer is none, but he’s still testing to see if there’s a loophole.)

The questions finally receded into the background after a day or two.  Am I proud of the fact that we danced around the question instead of giving a detailed answer?  No.  Then again, I don’t think our six year old and our ten year old – the latter of whom is actually about 6 socially due to Asperger’s Syndrome – are ready for that sort of thing.  I certainly wasn’t ready to give them a proper answer.

Hopefully, a few years down the line, I’ll be better prepared to talk to my boys about not just sex in general but the many complexities.  Until then, perhaps I need to hone my adlibbing skills.

NOTE: The “Emoticons: Question face” image above is by nicubunu and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

Love and Acceptance Trumps Hate

Love vs HateThe past couple of days were marked by two events that both had a few things in common and that we vastly different.  They were both events concerning men named Fred.  Both of these Freds were clergy members.  This is where the similarities stop, however.  As you might have guessed, one of the men was Fred Rogers, whose birthday was yesterday, and the other man was Fred Phelps, who passed away a couple of days ago.

Reading Fred Phelps’ Wikipedia entry reveals the life of a man whose religious beliefs led him to spread messages of hatred.  Every event he was at, every place he appeared, he was there to tell people one thing:  God hates you and you’re going to burn in hell.  He and his church picketed soldier’s funerals, Presidential inaugural balls, and more.  They even went to Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein in order to declare on the streets of Iraq that God hates the USA.  Looking at them, they seemed to revel in creating hurt.  The more hurt, the better.

If one good thing came out of their activities, though, it was the unifying force that seemed to bring people of different backgrounds together to oppose Phelps’ crew.  Bikers and gay rights activists, comic book lovers and the Foo Fighters – they all could come together to stage counter-protests.  At times, the protests were serious.  At times they were silent – for example, to shield family members from having to see Phelps’ group.  Other times, they would be hilariously irreverent.  (The Comic-Con counter protest is my all-time favorite.)

On the other side of the spectrum was Fred Rogers.  Known as Mister Rogers to millions of children and adults, he was a regular on public television for over thirty years.  Whenever you turned on his show, he was always happy to see you.  This wasn’t just an act, though.  He was extremely nice in real life too.

Don’t confuse niceness for weakness, though.  When he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys in 1997, Mister Rogers opted not to give the usual speech.  Instead, he told the crowd to spend ten seconds in silence thinking of the people that helped them get to where they are today.  The crowd laughed a bit thinking it was a joke but Fred – still nicely – told them he’d keep time.  He had an entire audience full of stars keeping silent for ten full seconds.  Not one of them dared to disobey him.

On the political front, Fred Rogers was always fighting for what he believed was right.  He won additional funding for PBS when cuts were looming.  When other programmers were decrying the VCR as something that could destroy their livelihood, Fred Rogers supported it because he believed families being able to choose when to watch his program would grow closer together.

Even his entry into television was an act of love trumping hate.  He initially hated the programming on TV, but saw the potential of the medium.  Instead of simply complaining about how horrible television’s programming was, he took it upon himself to create something wonderful.

Perhaps both legacies are best contrasted by people’s reactions upon their deaths.  Fred Phelps’ death was met with a mix of indifference and outright relief.  Fred Rogers’ death was met with near-universal sadness over his passing and wonderful memories of his life.

If I were to place a bet on the future, I’d wager that Fred Phelps will be, at best, a footnote.  His name will be a trivia item and not much else.  Fred Rogers, however, will still be well known.  People will still fondly remember Mister Rogers’ work both on-screen and off-screen.

The lesson that I’m drawing from this is that love and acceptance trumps hatred.  I life my life with the hope that I’ll leave this world a little better than it was when I entered it.  Fred Rogers definitely made this world a better place.  This world would be a better place if we had more Fred Rogers in it.

NOTE: The image above is made up of "Emoticons: Loving face" and "Emoticons: Devil face" both by nicubunu and both available via OpenClipArt.org.

An Electrifying Superpower

Anonymous_Lightning_IconI like to think that I have many talents.  I write, I code, I can remember tons of useless trivia (as every geek should).  However, there’s one talent that I’d love to give up if I could.  In fact, it’s gotten to the point that I’m beginning to suspect that it’s a secret superpower of mine:  I’m positively electric.

Seriously, I am.

Maybe it’s the dry winter air, but recently every thing I do seems to build up a static charge.  Sit down on the couch?  Charge.  Stand up?  Charge.  Walk across the room while wearing rubber Crocs?  Charge.  The charge then gets released anytime I touch anything.  There’s the usual light switches or electronic equipment (like my computer) and the unusual (getting shocked THROUGH my rubber Crocs or on the non-metal portion of the stove).

It’s gotten so that NHL cowers in fear whenever I approach him.  He doesn’t want me touching him for fear that he will be shocked.  Oddly enough, though, JSL seems thrilled to be shocked and gets disappointed when I don’t zap him.  I think he’s purposefully trying to be the opposite of his brother.  Either that, or I haven’t gotten him with a big shock yet.

As far as superpowers go, this really stinks.  I’m not immune to my own power so I feel the pain of every jolt of static electricity.  Every time I reach for a light switch, I cringe.  Every time I grab my computer, I fear the inevitable shock.  Even while simply walking, I can often feel the static charge building and know that it can be released at any moment.

My only hope is that this super power is super charged by winter’s dry air.  As soon as spring rolls around, my shockings should get fewer and fewer and I’ll be able to touch my loved ones without them leaping away or cowering in fear of my electric touch.

Self Promotional Failure

megafonoThere are many things in this world that I’m good at.  Give me a web application to build and I’ll excel.  Ask me to debug some JavaScript code and I’ll dive right in.  Is your CSS funky on mobile browsers?  I’ll whip up a nice, responsive design that scales from desktop to tablet to mobile device.  Want a shiny new WordPress website?  I’m on it.

One thing I’m not good at, though, is self promotion.

After helping SelfishMom with her WordPress plight, she asked me if I had a page that she could refer people to in case they wanted to hire me to work on some projects.  Yes, I am available for freelance gigs.  (I’m not available for parties or bar mitzvahs, though.  For some reason, kids just don’t find a guy writing HTML and JavaScript entertaining.  What do they know?)

Whenever I sit down to write my page, it winds up sounding too much like a boring, resume-ish listing of web technologies:

I have extensive knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, ASP, PHP, mySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, WordPress, and the Twitter API.

See?  I’ll bet half of you are asleep (WAKE UP!!!) and the other half are confused about what some of those strings mean.  You can no clue the cool things I can do when I put my knowledge to work.

I’ve been looking around for some examples of pages other people set up to advertise their services for hire.  Not just web coding, but speaking, social media promotion, and the like.  My conclusion:  There are some people out there who are really good at self promotion.  Maybe I can hire one of them to write the copy for my page.  Will trade promotional copy for web work!

However tough this is, I’m going to spend some time working on a "hire me for freelance gigs" page.  Look for it coming (hopefully) soon.

How are you when it comes to self promotion?

NOTE: The "megafono" image above is by roshellin and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

Don’t Take The Plagiarism Short Cut

writeIt was bound to happen eventually.  We sat NHL down by the computer so he could type out sentences to his spelling sentences.  As I was preparing dinner, I looked over and saw one of his sentences.  Only there was a problem.  It was way too advanced a sentence for him to have written.  I asked him and he admitted to having looked up words on Dictionary.com to be sure of their meaning.  While he was there, he noticed that they had the words in sentences.  Just what he needed.  Copying them would save a lot of time, right?

I knew then and there that it was time to introduce NHL to another word: Plagiarism.  I told him that he couldn’t just copy someone else’s work and try to pass it off as his own.  First of all, the assignment was for him to write out sentences.  Copying someone else’s work is not fulfilling the assignment.  Secondly, the purpose of the assignment is to learn how to use the words that he is being introduced to.  Grabbing sentences from the web isn’t teaching him anything.  Third, stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own isn’t fair to the original author.  I asked NHL how he’d feel if someone stole something he wrote and told people they had written them.

Sadly, too many people don’t learn this lesson this young.  Some go through life thinking that passing someone else’s work off as their own is perfectly acceptable.  Others learn their lesson later in life when the consequences are more dire.  These consequences can range from public shaming to losing your job or being kicked out of school.

In a way, I’m glad that NHL tried to plagiarize so young as this lesson is an important one to learn as early as possible.  Just like with Google Image Searches, text on the Internet is not free for the taking.  It can definitely be tempting, but you can’t just take text from Wikipedia or another source, use it in your own work.

NOTE: The "pen paper" image above is by aungkarns and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

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