Archive for category Mothers

Copping out to two evils

Every election cycle you hear the usual suspects trying to sound intelligent. They say, “Just pick the lesser of two evils,” for example.

What they’re really saying is:

  • They’ve done none of the research themselves about the issues
  • They’ve heard a lot of comments from people second-hand
  • They don’t really have the capacity to go learn anything about the candidates
  • They want to sound like they know everything

My opinion on this subject comes in part from Michael Medved, one of my favorite radio hosts. (This way you don’t think I’m pretending to have thought of it first.)

In every election cycle, the top two candidates represent two sides of the issue. Sure, one may see he/she is losing and try to emulate the other to siphon off votes, but there are still differences. (this idea stolen from a coworker) It’s like a tube of toothpaste – when you squeeze it, only toothpaste comes out. When the politician has to make a decision on voting, and assuming they haven’t been bought off on the issue by a lobbyist (see also: retired politicians), they will either vote to the left or to the right.

When that toothpaste gets squeezed, it is where you should be focusing. When the toothpaste gets squeezed, are the decisions bringing your town/city/county/state/federal government closer to the way you want things, or further? That’s what every election represents: two candidates, one of whom will take his/her area of responsibility closer to your ideal, and one of whom will take his/her area of responsibility further away.

Let’s take a good-old controversial issue like abortion, and the current candidates for President. If you want women to be able to cut little babies to pieces even if they could be born and given up for adoption right that moment, it doesn’t matter who has flipped on which issues. Romney is ultimately beholden to people who actually believe their religions, and Obama is ultimately beholden to people whose religion is little more than a flag pin on their lapel. No honestly religious person would say, “Yup, cut that baby out even though it’s due next week because it is [unwanted | going to make you too fat for that dress | ugly]” and so Romney’s actions will always tilt toward restricting most abortion.” (Please don’t waste my brain with stupid arguments about saving the life of the mother – every single abortion-limiting bill makes that exception so keep your intellectual dishonesty to yourself.)

No amoral person would ever say, “There’s no such thing as an [unwanted | ugly] baby! Make sure that little ball of ugly (or cute, if you’re lucky) comes out and we’ll make sure we find a nice home for it to some [childless | sexless | loveless | gay] couple who wouldn’t ever have any babies!” They’d say, “A baby in its 35th week of gestation is like a toenail. Cut it out!” And so Obama’s actions will always tilt toward encouraging all [poor | selfish | busy | distracted | African-American] women to abort, or anyone else with important [dancing | drinking | skiing] plans for the weekend who don’t have time to raise a child.

We could go through this exercise with any important issue of the day. Even if, like in San Francisco, your only options are a Democrat and a Socialist, if you’re a right-winger the Democrat will get you vastly closer to your ideal than the Socialist. In that case, it’s between the Democrat who wants to tax you for your financial success and confiscate your winnings to date, and the Socialist who wants to imprison you for it and slaughter your children so they don’t grow up to be bankers (I wish I were exaggerating here like I did with all the other stuff).

So in this election and every other, look at the two candidates: Which one gets you closer to your goals?

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Discipline 2.0: Executing It Properly

My Experience
Many people have assumed that since I suffered under bad discipline as a child, I must be totally against disciplining my own children. But the truth lies far from that assumption. I believe children should be managed in as tight of a virtual box as possible, so that when they rebel (because it will happen!), they don’t rebel that far. Set a high bar for your children, and they will rise to the challenge.

Where the children do not meet your bar, is quite likely where your fellow parent does not agree with the bar. If you want your children to get A’s in school and are willing to help them get there, you can make that happen – unless your fellow parent takes the approach that effort is what matters. Effort is not what matters. Effort is something easily faked and dodged. The proof is in results.

Another thing: We are teaching our children to survive a big, bad, ugly world where there are consequences for your actions. Now, we can’t dock their pay, we can’t fire them, we can’t demote them, etc. We can, however, devise a set of consequences for their actions that an employer can’t do: Place them on restriction/ground them, put tabasco on their tongues, put them in time out, flick them and smack their bottoms. They are learning to respect their elders, which (as Occupy Wall Street morons will never learn) translates to respect for your employer/manager/supervisor/boss/company owner. They aren’t learning a lesson to respect you as a marvelous human being, which is the warped definition of “respect” that the hands-off parents live by. We aren’t their best friends; we are their shepherds, trying to prepare them to forge out into the great, big, ugly world without us.

I believe most modern parents do not have the strength to discipline their children. And again, the point is not to hurt them, but to shepherd them into adulthood. That takes strength – the strength to deal with bad behavior even though they’re very, very cute. We are teaching them to think before they act.

I believe in time-outs, flicks, spankings, you name it. I think if your kid doesn’t respond positively to one or two smacks on the bottom, then you should try another method. I don’t think the answer is an increase in the number of times you smack that bottom. My schedule of punishment goes something like this:

First of all, and I’m surprised I have to say this – there’s no reason to ever close your hand and punch a child – anyone, for that matter, unless they’re a person of equal size/age who’s actually trying to hurt you (in that case, fight to win!). When I talk about smacking your child, it’s all about the open hand on their clothed bottom. I agree with threatening to do worse, but that’s a bluff and it’s totally allowed. Bluffing is one of our many parenting tools (example: a threat that you’ll “smack that look off their face” doesn’t actually mean you’ll smack their face, it means you’ve shown the strength to smack their bottom in the past and are convincingly threatening to smack their face instead).

Age 2-5: A child of this age doesn’t have a firm enough body to withstand the force of your hand. Keep your hands off of them. If they are being bad, however, they’re like dogs – they only remember what they’ve done wrong for a few seconds. You have to catch it and deal with it. You can flick their arm or leg with your finger. It shocks them like licking a 9-volt battery. But you should bifurcate your punishment between bad behavior and bad acts. If it’s bad behavior, then immediately send them to time out. If it’s a bad act – getting mad and biting someone, or purposely destroying something – flick them and then put them on time out. The pain is gone after a second, and the memory after their time-out minute is over. After all, with bad acts they can seriously hurt themselves or another person. And your damage to them is limited to the outward force of a single finger.

One tool, really only for public places, is pinching a part of your child’s arm that’s tender (like right behind the elbow). The nice part about this one (which yes, I learned from my mother), is that you don’t have to squeeze hard to get their attention – it’s very tender, and they respond without you having to leave a mark, which is what happens when you try to pinch a more calloused piece of skin, like their forearm or something. Then you just leave horrible marks that actually require healing, instead of getting their instant attention so you can correct bad behavior. Let me tell you: it is unacceptable that your child is lying on the ground throwing a 5-minute tantrum in the middle of the bank/grocery store/etc. That bad act of your child is the pinnacle of your refusal to act as their parent and deal with bad behavior (Translation: It’s your fault). I should add, if they’re spitting in your face, that’s your fault too. You can spit at an acquaintance; you’d never spit at someone you respect.

Another trick I learned is the impact of a very large movement that doesn’t actually hurt them. Somewhere in this age range, when my daughter was being bad, I would place her hand, palm down, on mine. Then I would reach way back with my other hand, and in a giant sweeping motion with the arm extended, I’d bring it up and over my head in an arc and meet my other hand – like a big clap. It makes a sound, it’s a big scary move, and it doesn’t actually hurt them. It snaps their attention at you and the lesson your’e teaching that moment.

Age 6-10. Your child is outgrowing the first phase. They realize at some point that the flick isn’t really anything but annoying and you can’t really scare them by clapping your hands around theirs. You have to safely utilize the smack. That means they must be clothed, because you’re not trying to denigrate them. That means you look very angry and make them stand up. You hold onto their arm so they stay upright and you don’t accidentally hurt them and you smack their bottom. I’m not against using a large spoon or a brush or something if your’e careful. Again: you’re the adult, you have self-control. They have not yet learned self-control, which is why you are exercising it and they are learning it.

What not to do: My parents decided they needed a terrifying implement for their spankings, and learned of the glue stick. If you know what a glue gun is, and how you can buy foot-long glue sticks for them, this tool was their whip of choice. And whip it is. You cannot break them on a bottom; they are indestructible except by heat. They are cheap and plentiful. If you’re ever in Wal-Mart, and happen to find an open bag of them in the crafts section, pull one out of the bag. Now hit your own palm with it. See how it whips back and feel the sting! My 45-minute spanking from the earlier post was with this. My parents would leave welts and it would sting to sit for days. It’s impossible to control this sort of thing – it really hurts, so you squirm, and you end up with welts on your back, bottom, sides and legs. Don’t do this.

Also between ages 6-10 you are learning to strip your children of the things they love. Even though you spent good money on their favorite things, you have to be willing to permanently rid your household of those things if they do not correct their behavior. I am all for doing these things in impactful ways – then they will remember the consequences for bad behavior. Some possible punishments:

– Taking a sledgehammer to their Playstation
– Making them carry their things to the Goodwill donation station
– Semi-permanently taking away the power cords to important toys/machines and not letting them have it back for a month.
– Letting a relative/family friend have the game machine (for example) with the understanding that you will ask for it back in a month/two months/etc.

My daughter doesn’t remember a single punishment I’ve ever meted out on her, except for some of these impactful ones, such as the time I cut the head off her stuffed animal with scissors as proof that it was never going to come out of the trash can. Again, if you make threats (such as throwing away stuffed animals) and then feel bad for them later, these sorts of punishments actually help ensure you will stick to your guns! After all, my daughter is precious; I am just as much a sucker as any other parent when she looks all cute and sweet.

Ages 11-17: It’s all about restriction, grounding and getting rid of their favorite things. There’s no law against making your child sleep in a bare room with a bed and clothes and THAT’S IT. They don’t have to have a door to their room. If they were living under these conditions, knowing that the key to their happiness will be turning around their bad behavior, then you will go far with your parenting.

Ages 18-30: Kick them out, please. There are plenty of cheap places to live, and it’s totally unacceptable to have 6-foot-tall children. They’ll respect themselves more if they’re out in the real world.

The important message here: Parenting is about exercising your strength which in turn builds their strength.

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Discipline 1.0: Surviving the Bad

Punishment is good and right and true – and that includes parenting.

If you’ve read my other posts, you will know that I am the child of parents who took discipline way too far. I won’t rehash some of those things – but I encourage you to “read” the other posts and “like” them to your heart’s content. But I have a few important things to say about it all.

The old adage goes: “That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” It’s true. I just look at my brothers, and I would have to say that I was much better armed for life’s obstacles than they were by virtue of the fact that I’d already been through what I consider to be significant battles of life. Quite frankly, divorcing my parents helped me divorce my wife. By needing to stay strong as my own person as a child (rather than succumb to my mother’s will), I formed my own opinions and steeled myself against the onslaught of those who would try to control me. I saw difficult situations as just another prison someone was putting me in, which I needed to survive until I could escape. It’s precisely how I viewed the last few years of my marriage – and that’s no exaggeration (as my friends will attest). It’s also how I reacted toward Air Force Basic Training, in which I excelled.

Side note on divorce: I want to spend one more moment talking about this parallel to prison and divorce. When I first asked my ex-wife for a divorce, I felt defeated when I couldn’t get out. She uncovered all of my sins, and proceeded to use them as leverage for why I was a horrible husband. She listed off a dozen things she’d always expected of me that I had never provided for her as a husband. Right or wrong, my perception of my prospects from that moment were, “Hide all my discomfort until I satisfy her list of wrongs, and then get out.” I knew I was right that I should be divorced, and I wanted to feel right in following through on that need.

Surviving this sort of childhood isn’t about fighting back every minute – no one can do that. It’s also not about learning to put up with it – I think that sort of thing will kill you in the long run. It’s about using every tool you have to make it better for yourself, convincing your captor that everything is just fine and dandy, and manipulating your way into better circumstances. I think that manipulation is an important muscle you must exercise in order to survive life, regardless of your circumstances. It doesn’t mean lying frequently – it means moving the chess pieces around you in a way that you can win. It means making alliances with those around you, and sidling up to those who oppose you so that you become indispensable until you indispose yourself, so to speak.

It’s not that I kick against every yoke. I understand that in the workplace, I work for somebody. I understand that there are hierarchies to life, and I encourage them. I just won’t be led by the nose into my own destruction. I had the thought throughout my childhood that my mother would be happy if I attempted suicide – after all, it runs in the family. But I created my own lofty sense of self-worth despite her deprecating treatment, so that was never going to happen.

it’s interesting, the parallels between how you feel as a child under unreasonable punishment and an adult under the yoke of a marriage that should be over. The other spouse often ends up striking the same chords that your parent(s) did. At least, my situations felt this way.

It’s also important to forgive, but never forget. You can’t walk around as an adult, despising your parent(s). You have to learn their lessons and then act accordingly. Herein is why I disagree with abstaining from corporal punishment altogether: should you be an anorexic (or manorexic!) because your parents ate too much? Should you refuse to get a job because your parents were workaholics? Should you eschew all religion because your parents were Scientologists, snake-biter Baptists or ascetics? Should you eat all junk food because your parents had a crazy diet? No: it’s about learning from your parents’ mistakes and living a life with reasonable limits.

My next post will discuss how to discipline your children properly.

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My 2nd Divorce

Every young man loves his mother. I wanted very much to make her happy. But I learned two important lessons from the long process of leaving her.

Background
My feeling of ownership over my mom probably happened when my dad started traveling a lot. I was “man of the house” (or so they said), and I would feel protective over my mom. We didn’t have an alarm system in the house, so while my dad was away I would prop our bar stools against the doors of the house. Then, I would take the pots and pans and balance them on top of the stools. In the morning, I’d take the pots, pans and stools down.

Side story: When I was about 11 we got our first cat. Cats are no good for keeping things in balanced places throughout the house, and periodically our alarm would go off.

When the divorce happened, I helped my mother with the divorce agreement. As I said in a previous post, I’m the one who pointed out to her that Dad was paying her child support (and not alimony). I liked the idea of getting rid of my brothers, but when there’s truth that others haven’t discovered I have to be the one to reveal it! (It’s just part of who I am.)

Here are a few things I did for my mom:
–>From the age of 5, I massaged her back and neck daily. She had a parasailing accident in her teens that gave her whiplash; she was in and out of acupuncturists’ offices.
–>I always helped set up chairs and tables at the hotel meeting rooms where my mother would have her multi-level marketing meetings.
–>I helped pitch her business to strangers at street fairs. At one hot, summery street fair I gave free five-minute massages to every slimy, fat person who was sweating like an unwashed hog who wanted my hands on them for five minutes, during which time I pitched them my mom’s business.
–>I already mentioned typing out her love letters.

It was like being married. (To answer one commenter: no, this is nothing Oedipal. I wanted motherly love, nothing else.) I helped with the business, I helped watching the kids, I cleaned the house since I was 5, everything I could. And only recently did I liken leaving my mother’s house to marriage.

The End is Near…or is it?
But then it started to unravel. In about February of 1994, I decided I needed to leave home. When I’d complaint to my friends, such as David D. and Brooke B., they’d tell me I needed to get out of there. At first, I was insulted by the suggestion. Then I realized I wasn’t actually in a healthy situation and needed to leave. I was estranged from my father (and he was probably out of town), so I knew I couldn’t go there.

Malachi
I had a friend named Malachi. He offered to get me out of there. So I arranged a time he could come by before my mother would wake up (she never came downstairs before 9 on the weekends). I loaded all my things into trash bags and put them in his car, and then I made him wait. I put my shoes just inside the front door (I remember; they were my snakeskin Doc Martins). When my mother came downstairs, I told her I was leaving. It had all the same feelings as a breakup; the uncomfortable, the bitter woman, everything. She told me goodbye, and as I leaned down to pick up my shoes, she lashed out in her meanest voice, “You can’t take those; you didn’t pay for them.”

Suddenly a thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew exactly how she viewed me, and my worth in this world as long as I was in her world.

Side note: Fast forward 17 years, and I had all those same feelings when I divorced my ex-wife. I’ll return to this side-note in a moment.

I ran out to Malachi’s car, and he took me to his Dad’s house. Malachi lived in a detached garage. He had a ton of THINGS piled into that garage. And I couldn’t just sleep in his place; I had to make nice with his dad, Martin.

Martin was a postal service worker who smoked more pot than anyone I’ve ever even heard of. He would smoke out his kids, daily. He agreed I could stay at his house but that I needed to find a permanent solution, quickly.

The first thing I did was call my friend David D. I told him proudly that I’d run away and I needed a place to stay. He said, in his laughing-at-you-because-you’re-an-idiot voice, that I couldn’t stay there.

Another thousand thoughts flew through my head. I knew right then I’d eventually have to crawl back to my mother’s house, because I had no options.

I had three days at Malachi’s house. One night, Malachi and I went to a party with a bunch of mutual friends. The guy who hosted that party is now dead (as a 30-year-old man, he mainly used these parties to sleep with 16-18 year old girls). I am pretty sure this party was the first one where I ever drank alcohol. As a Mormon, you can see that the road to apostasy was directly beneath my feet.

While at Malachi’s, I sat in the circle as Martin got his fill of his joint, his sons did, and they passed it to me. I took it and tried to get some out, and it was already spent – no pot left! By sheer chance, my one attempt to smoke pot was a failure. Thank goodness. For you skeptics, there was actually no smoke – it was dead. In 1997 I spent most of the year casually smoking cigarettes, so I know what it’s like to have smoke in my lungs. There was simply nothing there. Saved by happenstance!

Martin spoke ill of his wife, and I didn’t like that. He said he was full of energy and youth, and she was all used up, but that she was good to him so he wasn’t going to leave her (I just learned that he did in fact leave her in later years for a much younger woman). He also said he had a bad back, and thought I really needed to have my a__ kicked, but that he couldn’t do it on account of his back.

The Wisdom of Martin
I learned one important lesson from Martin. He told me to earn my keep I needed to dig out a tree stump in his front yard. It was a hot day and I dug and dug and didn’t get it out. I sweat a lot, spent an hour or so working on it, and told him I was giving up. He and his other son, Micah (I really liked his kids’ names), went out and dug the stump from the ground. He then lectured me about how I had an opportunity to do something good and failed. Then he and his son had a great father-son bonding moment. He said I failed because I stopped before I was done, and that one big lesson I needed to learn was to finish what I started. More to come on that in a moment, too.

The End is Not Near
On the third day, Martin made me call my mother. I knew the jig was up, and that I needed to humble myself. I cried, and she told me to come home. Martin spoke to her as well.

Lesson #1: Finish What you Start
Martin was right. I didn’t finish what I started. So I resolved from that point onward to finish anything I started. It didn’t work at first. I went to work at the Sony plant and quit the first job they gave me. Then I got assigned to watch old TV tubes come out of a 100-yard-long oven for 12 hours per day. I lasted two days. But each time I quit something like that, I kicked myself for not finishing what I started.

This motivation helped me finish college. It helped me finish law school too (because I hated so much of it, it was hard to do!). It helped me finish projects, and really continues to push me to this day. I recommend assuming that motivation if you can; it helps. However, it can also make you finish something that perhaps you weren’t meant to. But </I.I'd rather be a mediocre finisher than an excellent quitter.

Lesson #2: Parallels with Real Divorce
I now knew I had to get all of my ducks in a row if I was ever going to successfully leave that house. I knew I needed to get out; but how do you do it? It’s the same thought process you go through when it’s time to actually get a divorce from a spouse.

Fast forward to 2007, and I asked my ex-wife for a divorce without having anything planned out, and found my feet stuck in quicksand. Once again, I had to humble myself and not go anywhere, but had to get every duck in a row. I had to take her list of complaints, and fulfill them so I would have clean hands when I left. Whether or not she felt satisfied in her complaints, I had to feel I had satisfied my duty to her complaints.

Also concerning my actual divorce, I really don’t care that I have consternation from about a dozen people who think I’m horrible for doing so. I tried to leave and was stuck like a duck.

The moral of the story: It’s not enough to know you need a divorce; you need to work out a whole lot of the how of divorce too. I had to figure out how I could feel I had clean hands. That was important for me.

I am not saying you should put together a wad of cash you’ve withheld from your family (my uncle actually tried to tell me I was irresponsible because I went into divorce without any money to pay for it). I am saying you need your emotional and spiritual ducks in a row. You need to have God on your side because you will need His strength to do such a terrible deed. You need to realize that God wants to hear your prayers, asking for anything you need, and that includes the support to leave your spouse and continue being a good parent.

A month or two later, I leaned on my father and got out of my mother’s house. He came to my rescue when I needed him the most. I stayed with him for six months and then plunged into the world alone. And about 15 sideways years began.

Post-Script
I haven’t had any meaningful relationship with my mother since 1994. I do not hold anything against her. I forgive her, but I will not forget. As a result of “breaking up” with my mother, two of my brothers will likely never speak to me again. I cannot control whether they are under her thumb.

When I chose my ex-wife, I chose the person I thought would be least like her. Ironically, that ended up being the one thing I got in many respects. With my new bride, I have looked for some of those positive qualities which my mother did have, and then looked to avoid the negative.

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CPS Scare

After a recent post, I had a question from Beckwith Mansion, as to whether Child Protective Services ever stepped when I was growing up. They did! Here’s my story.

Backdrop
It was 1989, my first year in high school. I was 12, and 9th grade meant a new school, and my first parochial school at that (St. Augustine, an all-boys Catholic high school in San Diego).

I had plunged into as many Honors classes as they offered, and quickly found out that my effortless style in school would no longer cut it – I needed to hurry up and figure out how to do more, do better, and not be so apathetic. Unfortunately, I also learned how video games and modems worked, so those two things kept me busy in my off-time.

In Honors English, Mr. Cudal scared me. And he had no patience for my lack of effort, and no forgiveness for it either. He was a solid teacher I couldn’t sway to give me better grades than I deserved. First quarter went by and I got a C. And this is where the ball started rolling.

Mr. Cudal’s Class
Side note: Only three things I remember about Mr. Cudal’s class: PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In Developing Excellence, which we had to write at the top of every paper), memorizing the first stanza of The Raven, and being surprised at how excited I was to read The Last of the Mohicans and how little I liked the book (I couldn’t seem to absorb a single sentence of it, and my grade on the book report reflected that).

The Threat
My mother told me that if I didn’t pull up my English grade, I would be spending a night in the garage. This punishment was reserved for lying and getting really bad grades, and it was part of my mother’s “Japanese Torture” philosophy. It meant staying in the garage from the time I came home until the time I went to school. I was terrified of it because of the cockroaches. I was not allowed to sleep in the car, because that would be too comfortable and I was supposed to be punished. When I was sure my parents were sleeping, I went out to the backyard and pulled in the patio furniture so I could sleep on it and avoid the cockroaches. Spending the night in the garage also meant being forced to skip any meals while I was in there. Once in awhile, my parents would leave while I was in the garage, leaving my brother Luke as babysitter over Zack and Dustin, and Luke (in one of his greatest accomplishments) would sneak me some food.

The Bomb
When the last day of the semester (the last day of the 2nd quarter) came, we could stand in line outside Mr. Cudal’s office to get our grades before report cards went out. I was sure I had eked out enough effort to pull my grade up to a B-. When I got into his office, with the door to his office open I learned my grade and I started bawling (one more reason why 12-year-olds shouldn’t be in high school). I was blubbering about spending the night in the garage, and who knows what else. He shut the door and called in the school counselor, and my Spidey sense started going off; perhaps telling people about what happened at home wasn’t a good idea.

They calmed me down and asked if everything was okay. I wiped away the tears and left his office.

The Man
The next day, I got called into the counselor’s office. There was a nice-looking man with a beard there. You don’t see many beards any more. He introduced himself and said he was from Child Protective Services. He asked me everything and I knew I couldn’t deny what I said earlier, but I could soften the blow. I said, “I understand the reason for every punishment my parents have given me.”

The Worry
When I got home, I told my mother what happened. She told me I may have caused a disaster, that CPS would rip me away from my parents and send me to Hillcrest Holding Home, where they rape little boys every day. When the man from CPS knocked on the front door, my mother told me to go pack my things because unless she was able to talk him out of it, they’d be taking me away right that moment. I didn’t even know how to pack my things, so I sort of puttered around my room while I awaited my verdict.

The Effect
My mother charmed the socks right off of the CPS guy, and he quoted my statement to show how he knew it was going to be all right. He said obviously my brothers were well-adjusted, so if anything he might just take me out of the home for a few days. He also said if he had a kid as bad as I was, he would probably have punished me too.

The Aftereffect
The funny thing is, the nights in the garage didn’t happen much after that little incident.

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My Mother’s Wisdom

I learned some important lessons from my mother while growing up. Here are 10 rules to live by:

1) If you want to know how a woman will look in 20 years, look at her mother.

I know many people subscribe to this idea. But the fact is, barring some horrible physical disorder, you don’t inherit your parents’ fat cells, you inherit their habits. If you decide to live an active life and be a doer, you may be a little soft around the edges but you won’t be morbidly obese. If you decided to take up triathlons, do you really think by the time you run your first Sprint you’ll have any meaningful amount of fat left on you? NO.

In 1992, when I first crushed on the woman I married in 2011, she was a skinny little thing with a mother who had lost her figure. Until my bride found me in December 2010, I assumed my mother was right and wondered how that skinny little frame could put on 150 pounds. As it turns out, my mother was wrong. She’s still a skinny little thing. She’s skinny because she looked at her mother’s habits and chose not to inherit them. She has always lived a healthy lifestyle.

2) Going steady is tantamount to marriage.

I never said my mother was always wrong. But she did take it a little far. The premise is, if you’re 10 and you crush on a classmate, you shouldn’t do any of the usual flirting, “going steady” or any of the rest of childhood relationships, because it’s like an early marriage. If you aren’t ready to marry them, then you aren’t ready to “go steady” with them.

This may be mean, but perhaps if my mother had practiced more relationships before she married my dad, she would have learned to be a better partner.

3) Persistence beats resistance.

This rule is the one that I took with me to live by. It never fails. It is particularly helpful in my job. If you persist, you will always win.

3a) Subset of rule 3: If you persist and don’t win, it wasn’t good enough for you anyway.

What I will say here: This rule, when applied generally, works better for women than for men. Men can’t be brutally persistent or they’ll go to jail. It’s pretty hard for a woman to go to jail for being persistent.

4) Your competition is your enemy. Hate your enemy.

My mother would tell me when I was 8 and onward, “You have to see the people you’re competing against as your enemy. You have to hate them so you can beat them.” I would be all dressed up in a suit, with my sheet music in my lap, surrounded by other 8-10 year olds. I’d try very hard to figure out who was my toughest competition and hate their guts. It didn’t help. I won, but only when I ignored her advice. I still get an automatic hateful feeling inside me when I think about certain kids I used to compete with. And when I find myself in competitive situations, I have to consciously avoid being too aggressive.

The Law of Unintended Consequences: My mother set my brothers and I up to compete with each other. I can’t stand one of my brothers, and he can’t stand me. Thank you, Mommy. Then again, he is a loser.

4a) Subset of rule 4: Pulverize your opponents.

My mother always said, “If a kid tried to fight you, you have to knock his lights out. Aim for his gut and his nose – you have to flatten him.” What this actually accomplished is that I never fought in my life, because I was afraid of what damage that would do to someone (or the damage it would do to me if I missed!). Probably not the right thing to say to a kid, anyway.

5) White people are weak; best to discipline your children with “Japanese torture.”

My mother was never one to settle. When your kids are bad, why look like a wuss and make them sit in a corner? No, she wanted to exceed expectations.

5a) Subset of rule 5: Spankings should be measured in minutes, not strokes. At one point, getting a couple of smacks on the backside weren’t enough, so she decided to punish me by X minutes’ worth of spanking. I quickly learned to yell like the dickens when my butt got numb, or else she’d find more tender spots to spank in her rage. My longest spanking? 45 minutes.

5b) Subset of rule 5: Time-out is for wimps. My mom decided the best time-out is measured in days, and should be in a scary place. She punished us (mostly me, but once or twice my brothers got this one too) with X number of days in the garage without food. It was never more than 2 or 3, and there were ways to get food. We had our cans in the garage, and my dad ran his business out there, so I would use his mill (like a drill) to open cans and eat tomatoes and stuff. We had a lemon tree outside so I ate some of those in season.

6) White men who marry Asians want a subservient wife.

My mother had a best friend whose twin married a series of Asian women. I think because those marriages didn’t really work out, she was convinced the man married for subservience’s sake (that rhymes with “rake”, not “hockey”). The final reason I ran away from her house was that I was dating a Filipino girl for a few weeks. My mother wanted to forcibly end it so I wouldn’t shame her when her friends found out an Asian was in the picture. When I balked, she swung a large vacuum at my head.

7) Junk food is bad. Really bad.

My mother turned healthy eating into an element of our already out-of-the-mainstream religion. More people noticed my eating habits than my religion, and often would ask if it was part of being Mormon (with fear in their eyes).

7a) Subset of Rule 7: No white food. No white flour, no sugar, no salt and no milk. These were the rules she lived by, so we had a lot of honey, alternatie flours, soy milk, and she really had to fudge the salt so we’d get some sodium intake.

What good did it do? Well, she also had a rule against vaccinations, but my brother caught whooping cough anyway. Someone else I know had a similar mother and all the kids caught German Measles (that’s the Rubella in the MMR shot). All of us kids caught the flu every year, we all caught chicken pox, we still got strange rashes and tummy aches and everything else under the sun. It did nothing!

8> Fat people are bad people.

My mother despised fat people. She always told us, “If you ever get fat, I’m locking you in the bathroom till you get skinny. You’ll have all you need there: water and a toilet.” The funny thing is: she was fat until she was 19 years old. She certainly ate all the donuts she wanted until she needed to drop the pounds. I wonder if she ever fully lost her inner fat girl; she was certainly afraid of her.

9) Plan your children’s lives out for them.

My mother had it all planned out. I was child #1 and I would be a concert pianist. Child #2 would be a dancer or a model. Child #3 would be in sports. Child #4 would be… something, maybe an accountant to handle the other children’s riches. That’s a quote.

She also sat down child #2 and I and said, “Child #1, you will always have to rely on your brains because you don’t have Child #2’s looks. Child #2, you will have to rely on your looks because you don’t have Child #1’s brains.”

The aftermath of Rule #9: Child #1 gave up piano, is still smart and is now beautiful. Child #2 lost his looks and is still dumb as a box of rocks. Child #3 never got into sports. Child #4 is marvelous at the piano, can’t dance, can’t do sports, but has planned his own life out so well, he has things figured out better than the rest of us.

10) Set strict rules for the kids and then be a blatant hypocrite.

See all those rules above? You would think she would have learned about spankings, as her father was famous for his beatings. But no. See the dietary restrictions? She would have Rocky Road ice cream in the fridge at times, and bought herself chocolate frequently. She bought flour tortillas for her own meals. There’s more, I’m sure.

These are things I learned from my mother. What have you learned from yours?

By the way, I’ve come to one important conclusion: As parents, it’s our job to make sure we only pass on 1/2 of our personal psychoses. Good rule to live by. I sincerely hope I have less than half of hers.

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