Conflicting Feelings For a Parent.

Your author, step-mother Terri, my Dad Jerry Schuett, and brother Jeff.

I’m not the only one out there with conflicting feelings about my parents, or any specific parent. I can’t be. And this blog and other blogs I’ve written confirms this for me.

Today, had he lived my Dad would have been 75 years old. Unfortunately he was only on this planet until he was 64. At 48 years of age I can say with far more assuredness than I felt at the time of his death, that’s too damned young.

My Dad died of liver disease brought on in part by medical malpractice and in part, I’m guessing, with his life long habit of enjoying a cocktail whenever he felt like enjoying a cocktail.

Jerome Mathis Schuett was born September 26, 1937 to Delores and Shelby Schuett in Bellingham, Washington. He was born to people of moderate income and moderate everything else. Which is to say…he was born an American.

He was fiercely proud of being American, but his pride came from little effort of his own. He lived a life in which he tried to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and be damned anyone who in any way inhibited his selfish desires. He was American.

I clashed with my Dad through much of my teens and early adulthood. I never felt he was racist, but in today’s context few would say he wasn’t. He opposed me marrying a black woman. I distinctly remember jokes told in a family setting in my childhood that were racially tainted and disturbed me. But I also remember him speaking highly of people of color who impressed him. I remember him calling me Jackie Robinson for having ignored his opposition to marrying a black woman and saying, “You showed that it was all right”.

I felt he lacked ambition. And I felt a lack of respect for him because of it. But he worked for himself the last 27 years of his life, running his own business. Having done the same for the past seven years I have a new-found respect for how difficult that can be.

My Dad lost his temper far more than anyone would like. He never showed a reverence for Jesus, that I feel. My Dad seldom showed much reverence for anything that didn’t immediately serve his specific need or purpose. But he always counseled me not to hurt others. He always counseled me to NEVER start a fight, but if I did I better finish it.

It’s hard to imagine how my life would be shaped without him. But 25% of our nation is raised without a father. It’s frustrating to think of all the angry episodes he displayed for me in my formative years for all to see; and how in spite of my vow to not do the same how I have on far too many occasions done so.

What I can’t get over, what I can’t reconcile in my heart and in my mind…………………… how much I miss him and wish he had been available to me for counsel during some of the more trying times in my life.

My Dad was an extremely flawed man. Which, I guess, means that I am likewise. Because I will never forget his death-bed. At one point when he could no longer talk I said, “I hope you’re proud of me.” Though he couldn’t speak he almost cried, and with his reaction told me all I needed to know to forgive him his many flaws, and to love him the rest of my life.

You have parents. Hopefully they are loving and free of the contradictions that cause my conflicted emotions for my father. But as I’ve written before, if he/she is there, if they are present in your life, they have fulfilled more than what more than 25% of American fathers fulfill. Be grateful. Because someday, like my friend Rob McBride told me a long time prior to my own fathers death and a short time after his own father’s death, “forgive him for your own sake. You’ll miss him/them when they’re gone.”

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Giving in to Pop Culture. At Back to School Time, I’m Guilty.

On the Phone...again.

It’s back-to-school time. Time to get new clothes for the kids, pencils, binders, paper, and on and on. The way school funding is going we’ll be sending kids to school with their own desks and chairs in years to come. Shhhh…don’t let that idea get out. Some legislator might think its a good idea

My wife finally twisted my arm enough to get a cell phone for my 13-year-old daughter. She received it yesterday and screamed so loud I’m sure the fire department was put on ready alert.

I’m really happy my sweet girl is happy. But I wish I hadn’t been put in position to need to get this phone for her. I blame YOU. YOU, all the parents who bought their adolescents cell phones to play with and talk on and ignore other live human beings and discourteously interrupt live in-person conversations in order to respond to a text or a call. It’s an annoyance I will now have to tolerate.

A Nokia 6280 mobile phone (A1-edition), an UMT...

I never wanted to get my 8th grader a cell phone because she seldom goes anywhere and I didn’t feel she had a need. My thinking is she could have one by the time she was in high school and more frequently away from our home and school than she is now. And since there wasn’t a need I didn’t wish to receive the additional expense on our household budget.

My lovely and thoughtful wife has lobbied for our daughter to have this phone for more than a year. She feels it’s a security issue and makes reaching her easier. I dismissed this argument by correctly pointing out that our still-little girl spends 98% of her time at home or at school. And when at school if she ever needs to reach Mom or Dad she need only borrow the cell phone of any other kid, since they ALL have one. THIS is the argument that my wife used against me. I was repeatedly urged to give in because of the peer pressure exerted on a teen by their contemporaries who all have phones. I was told not having a phone made my daughter an outcast or an odd-ball who would be subject of teasing and that she might be ostracized. When she was in 6th and 7th grade and 12-13 years old I didn’t worry about THAT too much. But I had to admit as she got older my wife’s argument turned my thoughts.

As we all know teens can be cruel. Teasing and bullying have always existed and have always made the teen years tough. I honestly never understood those who referred to the “teen years” as “the best years of your life”. They were the worst years of my life. So insecure; so unsure of the direction of my life. Even if I could magically go back and live those years again with the knowledge I have now I wouldn’t do it.

So my daughter has a cell phone and we have an added, and in large part unnecessary, household expense because society has been sold a bill-of-goods in believing everyone, even kids, need the little hand-held device that dehumanize so many of us. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

OK…truth be told my wife’s final offer that convinced me to get our daughter a phone came down to a trade. She agreed with me to cancel our home land-line phone service in exchange for getting the cell phone. The home phone line is used only by my wife when talking to her Mom, and by my daughter. Now we won’t have the home phone and it’s $60 per month expense. But between my 20-year-old son, wife, 13-year-old, and my home office we still have 5 phone lines coming into our home. I think we’re covered.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

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Kids Should be More Afraid of Their Parents than Police

I was watching some classic Richard Pryor last Friday night, Richard Pryor Live in Concert, when he started talking about kids.

In the segment above you see him portraying a little kid so afraid of getting in trouble with his parents that he lies to them.

In this brief segment, he talks about his parenting philosophy:

It was then that it occurred to me that Richard Pryor was wrong and his parents were right. Kids have lost their fear of their parents in this day and age. And it means kids have lost their respect for their parents too often as well.

For the record, I am not advocating BEATING your kids. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with a spanking when appropriate and not done in anger. No parent should ever punish their child in anger. My Dad use to punish me in anger all the time and nearly 40 years later I still resent it. And if other kids are like I was, I often didn’t understand why I was being punished or why I was being punished so severely.

But on the few run-ins with law enforcement I had in my youth I can tell you I was more concerned with what my Dad would do and think than I was concerned with police or courtrooms or jail. They couldn’t hold a candle to my fear of what would happen at home.

My father never beat me. Richard Pryor talked about his Mama “kicking his ass”, but my guess is “kicking his ass” amounted to a switch across his backside. When I was little my brother and I got a wooden kitchen spoon across our bottoms when being disciplined. I did not want that! Thinking about it now and I can’t imagine such a device cause me any pain. But at the time, that spoon was terrifying.

And even the spoon was retired by the time I was 12 years old. By that age I was already taller than my Dad, so him getting physical with me was pretty limited. By age 16 it was non-existent. But that didn’t change my fear of him. Getting in trouble with my Dad was just about the worst thing I could do. Trouble with teachers, coaches and even police paled in comparison. And as it turned out, I grew into being a fairly successful man (I actually consider myself very successful because of the people in my life).

Being fearful of your parents does not mean you don’t love them and respect them. If you are a believer in The Bible numerous passages tell us to fear God. Deuteronomy 6:13 says, “It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7 says, “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” But numerous Biblical directives tell us to love God. Mark 12:30 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And, obviously there are numerous others. A kids feelings toward their parents can and should be the same balance between fear and love.

Do parents fear disciplining their kids because their kids won’t like them? On the subject of discipline writes: “If parents don’t stick to the rules and consequences they set up, their kids aren’t likely to either.”

As teenagers we all tried to get away with as much as we could with our parents. But the extent of what kids now get away seems to be far beyond what it use to be. Drug and alcohol use is up compared to 20 years ago. Teen birth rates climbed tremendously from 1940 to a peak in 1994 of 45.8 births per 1000 teens. It’s decline since then coincides directly with increased abstinence education; showing that teaching kids what they don’t want to hear actually works. Yet births to unwed mothers, many teenagers, has reached record levels.

On the positive side high school dropout rates have declined over the long-term. And teen criminal activity has also declined, at best, or remained static at worst. It depends on what you read.

I’ll be curious what statistics show about the past 3-5 years when such information is more readily available. Bad economic times can translate into bad social behavior. Whether that remains true, time will tell.

If you thought this blog was going to be about how bad things are compared with “the good ol’ days”, I’m sorry to disappoint. Education has gone a long way to overcome a lot of what ails individuals in society. But most of that education comes from better educated parents, and much of that education comes from good, loving parents unafraid to put the fear of God into their kids.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.