My Favorite Child

I wonder if any parent loves one of their children over their other children. I’m sure it happens, but few parents would admit it. Societally its one of the biggest sins a parent can make; loving one of their own over the other or others.

With Father’s Day approaching I thought I would tell you about my favorite.

I have three kids. Two are grown and out of the house and my youngest is ending her sophomore year in high school.

Arica Nichole Schuett 2010My oldest daughter, Arica, is my favorite because she was my first. The gift she gave me of merely coming into my life and giving me the title of “Daddy” is not something anyone else can ever claim. I still remember holding her in one arm as we walked or I rocked her or swung her to sleep. She was always an independent child and played well on her own. But our father-daughter time was abundant and a treasure for me. I coached her in softball for years until her skill exceeded my coaching ability and I “handed” her off to a team and a coach more fully knowledgable about the finer aspects of high level fast-pitch. Arica played other sports too. Arica grew into a beautiful young woman. She won a Scholarship Pageant. She became an artist. And she remains passionate about anything she does, touches or says.

My second, Christopher, Chris off FB 11-2010 is my favorite because he is my only son. When he came into my life he proved to be all boy. He was a handful. He wouldn’t sleep at night, and because he was so active he kept hurting himself. We had more trips to the hospital with him than my other two kids combined. And every time he hurt, I hurt…so badly. It was as if I had the broken arm or I was getting the stitches. Christopher was and remains one of the sweetest boys, and now men that I have ever known. And I love his happy friendly demeanor. It became cliche` in our house for him to tell his Mom at least 1-2 times per week, “This is the best dinner I’ve ever had.” And he always said it with such sincerity. Chris became a musician and now leads a band as its song writer, guitarist and lead vocalist. He even has some songs when he’s on the keyboards; proving Mom and Dad’s investment in piano lessons wasn’t completely in vain.

Micah 1st day of 6th grade 002My youngest daughter, Micah, is my favorite because she’s my baby. She’s the last one I’ll ever have. And she assured that we would go out of the baby making business with a BANG. Unlike her brother and sister (and I’d say ME at a similar age) she has not been in a rush to be grown up. She has remained content being young, being a kid. She is Sooooooo funny and makes me laugh all the time. Her innocence and sweetness is something I miss terribly any time I’m not home when she comes bounding in the door.

It’s a blessing to me that I have 3 favorite kids. I love them equally but differently. You’d be amazed how often kids, and adults get the sense that they are not their parent’s “favorite”. And as a parent its important to know that creating that sense in your kids can be damaging to them and your relationship with them. It might be something you don’t know you do and don’t do intentionally. But be observant and aware. They will always be your kids no matter your or their age.

Father’s Just Showing Up

Originally written as a Facebook Note June 21, 2009 I republish my memories and thoughts about my father here for others to consider as they think about their own father.

 

Jerome Mathis Schuett

 

When I think of my father I think of the day he died. I think of his temper and obstinate assuredness. And I think of the fact that he was there at every important event of my life. He was there. And that is what I find most important in my thoughts.

Someone once said “90% of life is … just showing up.” I shared this quote with my son today as we ate our Father’s Day breakfast, a delicious confection of Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict, honeydew melon, and hash browns prepared by my seventeen year old boy. Like so many things shared by father’s to their seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen year old sons and daughters he didn’t subscribe to the quotes logic and sentiment. He said, “That doesn’t make sense. What about the times when you show up and don’t do anything?”

I’m sure I disappointed him and failed to convince him with my brief uninspired retort, “Well, that would make up the other ten-percent. Wouldn’t it?” Nothing further was said; and I’m sure he didn’t give it another thought. But I hope, like so many of the things I try to impart onto my children that a time will come that the quote and its sentiment might settle in his mind and create wisdom.

Truly, I don’t know if “just showing up” is 90-percent of life, or if it’s 60%, 70% or if it’s a moving target. I tend to believe its more like 95%. All that is good or bad in your life “is” because you are or were in it; you were involved. You were participating. You showed up.

From childhood to adult hood the most seminal moment in my life came at age eleven, January 5, 1976. While returning home from my paper-route I unwisely attempted to cross a busy four lane street through heavy late afternoon traffic. I failed. A blue Cadillac whose driver never imagined a paper boy on bicycle suddenly appearing before his windshield smashed into me at full speed, some 35 miles per hour. The driver never having touched his brakes.

The event is fresh in my mind because I just relived it last Monday night. Since that cold and rainy night on NE 8th Street at Crossroads in Bellevue, Washington 33 years ago the event has invaded my mind every few years. And by invading my mind I don’t mean to say I think about or remember it. I mean to say I relive it and experience flying through the air. I feel my forehead smashing against the curb as my upside down body descends to the concrete sidewalk. My body feels the unsteady dizziness that pulled me back to the concrete after standing up once I landed. It’s not remembering. I’m there again. It’s as real as this computer on my lap.

I’m sure the meeting of my brother and his Mom this past weekend triggered this episode. His Mom was a big part of mine and my Dad‘s life in the year preceding the accident. They had split up by the time of the accident. But her surprise visit to me after my return home from the hospital was very important to me then and remains so today.

In experiencing the crash again, I see my Dad. He was there. He showed up. While lying on the sidewalk I was immediately surrounded by strangers. Someone had a blanket and covered me up. And I asked someone else to call my Dad to tell him “I would be late getting home”. In the intervening time before seeing my Dad an ambulance arrived. Paramedics examined me and cut up my brand new Swabbies (pants) I’d received for Christmas, not two weeks earlier. Though I was still a month from my twelfth birthday I didn’t cry. No tears came as I calmly thanked those who helped me, and apologized for causing everyone so much trouble. I remained perfectly lucid and emotionless as I explained to the medical technicians where my hurts and aches were that they couldn’t readily see. But when they took scissors to my first ever non-hand-me-down pants I began to weep.

The paramedic stopped cutting. “Am I hurting you?” he asked. “No”, I said, “But you’re ruining my new pants”. “You’ll get some new ones. It’ll be OK.” He didn’t know. He didn’t know they were my only ever new pants. And he didn’t know they wouldn’t be replaced. They would be sewn.

I was put on the gurney and loaded into the ambulance. Before the doors could close I heard a familiar voice. I heard my Dad. He had come. He poked his head in the ambulance door ever so briefly, saw that I was alive, said something reassuring. And then said, “I’ll see you at the hospital”.

I felt so much better. I feared that he would be mad. My Dad never handled unexpected bad news well. His typical response was to grimace and soon yell at whoever or whatever was his provocateur. In the case of my car-bike accident he may have lambasted the stranger who called him. He may have cursed every slow driver that impeded his two-mile drive from home to the scene of the crash. He may have shoved those who had curiously gathered around the ambulance as he pushed into the vehicles doorway. But he and I never talked of such things. He never made me feel bad for the accident that reconfigured my bones, and my hand specifically. All he did was make me feel better by being there.

There is no need to romanticize my father. He was flawed in so many ways. But he never missed one of my sporting competitions, or school events. He was at my wedding though he said he wouldn’t be because he didn’t believe in interracial marriage. Repeatedly time and again, he showed up. And every time he did I was glad.

And in the eight years since his death not an event or holiday has passed where I didn’t wish for his presence. This includes last weekend when I MET his other son. A son who’s life he never acknowledged or participated in. His loss.

His failure as a father to my brother and his temper and his lack of ambition, selfish nature, and lack of personal fortitude are all forgiven. They are all forgiven, because he showed up. He was there for me when my body was broken and when so many other fathers never would have been home to receive the phone call to begin with.

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

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

Perhaps you too can forgive your father his failings. If he was there he has already exceeded that which 25% of all American fathers deprive their biological offspring.

I pray my children benefit from what I impart. But I know they gain from my presence. I know tucking them in, cheering them on, and disciplining their transgressions can only help them provide their children that which those future grandkids of mine need most from their Dad and their Mom. Their presence.

Ninety-percent of life is just showing up, that may be true. But when it comes to being a father, or a Dad, it might just be the whole ball game.

Comments are welcome. Thanks for visiting.

My Dad with his first Grandchild, Arica.

Dad & Arica

My Dad with his first Granchild

 

Spanking Kids Leads to Adult Mental Illnesses – ABC News

Can spanking your child on the butt be cause of mental illness as those kids become adults? This study claims that to be true. But in my mind the study doesn’t go far enough.

As pointed out in this news story its long been understood that severe physical, mental or sexual abuse does lead to mental illness among victims.

Spanking Kids Leads to Adult Mental Illnesses – ABC News.

If this study is to be understood should participants also be tested or judged on all that they’ve become as adults? The assumption by this author is that all of us, even the most well adjusted, are mentally challenged in some form or another. All of us have certain quirks, worries, anxieties and occasionally depression (be it mild or more pronounced).

Let a study report on what percentage of those spanked in childhood become more disciplined, harder working, physically fit, and generally well-adjusted versus those who didn’t face stern discipline in their youth. In order words, focus on the positive not the negative. Then we can better judge how to best parent the next generation.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Father’s Day

My thoughts on Father’s Day seldom drift toward me and my kids. They always tend toward my Dad. He died November 30, 2001, the cherry on the sundae of the worst year in my life.

My dad and brother, Jerry and Jeff.

My Dad was a unique character. Jerome Mathis Schuett was born in Bellingham, WA in 1937, Grandson of a German immigrant; and son of a logger. While he frequently spoke lovingly of his father’s industry he was the only one of the three son’s of Shelby and Delores Schuett to never work in the timber industry.

My Dad left Bellingham for Washington State College in Pullman in 1956. Like all WSU grads he was a Cougar through and through. And he infected all the rest of his family with his love of all things crimson and grey.

My Dad’s temper, alleged philandering, and complete and total disregard for anything my Mom cared for led to their divorce when I was in the 4th grade. By the time I was in the 5th grade he had successfully sued for legal custody of my brother and I. He was one of only 17% of divorced men in the 1970’s to win custody in a court of law over mothers.

And thank God he did. He raised my brother and I to be very independent. By the time I was 13 years old I was cooking or preparing all my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I was doing my own laundry. And if my Dad ever asked to see my report card….I can’t remember it.

My Dad was flawed in so many ways. In fact there were long stretches of my adulthood, months and on one occasion years, where I didn’t speak with him. He was often crude. He was almost always devoid of any knowledge or care of hurting another human beings feelings. He was the macho man, only NOT.

Jerry Schuett made a lot of friends. But not a lot of close friends.

He left an impression on me that has been so deep and so lasting because he was there. Twenty-five percent of all Dad’s aren’t even present for the raising of their children. In the black community statistics are abhorrent. More Dad’s aren’t there than are. So knowing my Dad attended all my soccer, basketball, baseball and football games through high school puts him above a lot of Dad’s. Knowing he wanted us to be raised by him rather than our mother means a lot too.

Knowing his many flaws and that he and I clashed a lot, some have questioned why I miss him so much. My only logical answer is that he was always there. And now he is not.

At bare minimum, I know I have provided my kids at least that.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

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 kidshealth.org 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.

25 Years Since My Life Began…and A Lot Has Changed.

This Holy week is particularly special because I will be passing a milestone of tremendous significance to me. April 3, 1987 was the last day I spent in my life as an unmarried man. Put another way, my 25th wedding anniversary is April 4th.

I won’t bore you in this blog telling you how I love my wife, I do. Or how scared I was that wonderful day, I was terrified. It’s not necessary for me to wax-on about the many happy times we’ve spent, there are plenty. And I need not tell you of the commitment required from a man and a woman to stay married this long and however many more years we’re fortunate enough to enjoy together, total commitment.

But my reflective nature did think it was important to write about a significant change that has occurred in the last twenty-five years. Most notable is the fact that my marriage exists at all, and that no one (seemingly) has a problem with that. My wife is black, I am white. And this fact is nearly meaningless today.

This was not the case when we exchanged vows in Seattle, WA in 1987. We were a rarity. And we were a controversial rarity. My Dad was not shy in expressing his opposition to my marriage specifically and to interracial marriage in general. He told me. And in one sad and pathetic and somewhat funny telephone conversation he told my soon to be Mother-in-law. My Dad later claimed to have had too much to drink one night a couple of months before the wedding date when my would-be Mother-in-law called him on the phone to invite him to take a more active role in planning the wedding of her daughter to his son. As was told to me later he told her he was not interested in participating, or even attending the wedding. As the story goes he proceeded to clumsily explain to her the few times in his life where he felt he’d been “hurt” or “damaged” by people who were black. My Mother-in-law, being a strong and smart woman, quietly listened. And when he had finished his pathetic little rant she calmly asked, “Now, would you like to hear all the times white people had “hurt” me?” Having been born in Alabama in 1940 it didn’t take a PHd in Sociology to figure her list was long and severely more substantial than whatever my Bellingham, WA born Father was able to muster. He sheepishly declined to hear her tales. And he did attend our wedding. Though he told no one in advance that he would do so, and when my bride and I first became aware of his presence at our reception it was a pleasant surprise. He was one of the very few of my family members to attend. The cousins I grew up with and celebrated every Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July and other holiday’s and special events didn’t come or send gifts or cards. My Nana, my Dad’s mother, likewise failed to come or acknowledge our wedding. One of my two Aunt’s, one of my Uncles; none attended my wedding or acknowledged it in any way.

It hurt my heart that people who raised me and loved me had such unprincipled views toward the issue of race and family. But it was a stance from which society allowed them to feel comfortable. Even in the 1980s I felt the discomfort, the staring eyes, the unwelcome attitudes, the bias from others because I was with a woman whose skin was darker than mine. It remained an issue years into our marriage. I still remember how offended I was at a news teaser from KING 5 News Anchor Jean Enerson in which she announced a feature story upcoming for the 5 o’clock news by say, “Interracial Marriages!!! Tune in at 5 o’clock for the inside story on these increasingly popular HOT couples.” Hot couples? This was about 1996 when my bride of 9 years and I were living in predominantly white Redmond, WA raising two kids, trying to pay a mortgage, driving to school and family events on a nightly basis…I didn’t feel particularly HOT. I felt like any other couple getting along in this world. And yet, Seattle’s leading TV news agency felt the make-up of my marriage was striking enough to feature it in their prime newscast and to characterize it as “HOT”? Really? Over 30 years from the signing of the Civil Rights Act? It was nearly 30 years since

William Shatner as Kirk in a promotional photo...

William Shatner as James T. Kirk kissed Nichelle Nichols playing Lt. Uhura in TV’s Star Trek;

Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura.

marking the first time in television history that a white person kissed a black person.

According to a 2010 CNN report interracial marriages were at an all-time high making up 14.6% of all newly married couples. That’s up from 6.8% in 1980. The report does not distinguish what races or ethnicities make up the interracial couples. A report in the New York Times from just 1 year ago says of every 1000 marriages white men marry black women only 3 times, versus 19 Hispanic women, 14 Asian, and 947 white women. So even now we remain an oddity. But fortunately, a much more accepted oddity.

It’s fair to say that some people have a predisposition attraction to people of a certain race, and at times a different race. That’s fine; and I find no fault with such predispositions. It just doesn’t apply to me. I wasn’t then, and am not now particularly attracted to black women. I am predisposed to be attracted to attractive women, no matter their race or ethnicity. Such is and was the case with my beautiful wife. I didn’t marry her because she was black. I also didn’t marry her because she is attractive, though she is. I married her because she laughed at my jokes, and because I thought she was one of the most genuinely kind people I’d ever met. She still is.

While interracial couples are far less an issue today than they were in the 1980’s, I’m proud my marriage served as one small example of how unimportant race is in the living and loving of people. In 1996 my brother married a woman of Philippine decent. My Dad was all over their wedding, ingraining himself in seemingly every aspect of it. Some time after that occasion I asked my Dad why he was so involved in my brother’s wedding and so uninvolved in mine; why was it OK for my brother to marry a darker skinned Philippino but it wasn’t OK for me to marry a black woman? He answered in the best way he possibly could. He said, “You were Jackie Robinson. You showed that it was OK.”

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Me and my Bride- as kids

My False Irish Genes.

I grew up believing I was of German-Irish heritage. So St. Patrick’s Day and the history of Irish immigration to the United States was always fun for me to follow. I took pride in genetically and historically belonging to a people with such a proud history and such a tradition of closeness. In the United States few ethnic backgrounds for a Caucasian person clasp such togetherness, such ethnic pride.

Problem is…none of it’s true.

My German background is undeniable because of my name. The first Schuett coming to the United States in my lineage was my Great-Grandfather Carl H. Schuett.

Tombstone of my Great-Grandfather Carl Schuett in the Lynden Cemetery,Lynden, WA.

As best I can determine he entered the U.S. in Michigan via Canada in 1871 at age 15.

I believed I had Irish blood because my father told me so. He too always enjoyed playing the Irish heritage card on St. Patty’s Day. He believed in his Irish heritage because of his mother’s maiden name, Mathis. The pride in that name and it’s background evident by the fact that my Nana (Grandma) and her husband

My Grandpa Shelby Schuett in 1939.

Shelby Schuett named their first-born, my Dad, Jerome Mathis Schuett. My Dad’s brother’s, my Uncle’s, middle name  also came from the Mathis side of the family. He was named for my Great-Grandfather. Lee was his middle name. His Confederate father showing his Southern roots by giving his son a middle name in honor of Robert E. Lee. Outside of our family Mathis is a traditional Irish name, so I can understand my family’s belief in an Irish heritage that didn’t really exist.

About 4-5 years ago I began a life long interest of assembling my family tree through ancestry.com. The website is fantastic. I spent night after night staying up late…really late in the early going…scouring the birth, marriage, death and census records assemble on ancestry.com. When I started concentrating my efforts on finding the parentage of my Nana and all that came before her I was left both delighted and disappointed at the same time.

My journey began by trying to find that long rumored Confederate soldier I’d heard about in my youth. To find him I needed to find the birth place and parents of my Great-Grandfather William Lee Mathis.

My Great-Grandfather William Lee Mathis on his wedding day in 1908 in Bellingham, WA.

Fortunately I got a break when searching the 1880 Census. No other William Lee Mathis existed in census data at that time with anything close to the correct age other than my William Lee Mathis. The records listed him as a 2-year-old born in and living in Lee County, Texaswith his father Augustus C. Mathis and mother Elizabeth.

My Great-great Grandfather A.C. Mathis, far right, with his family in or about Lee County, Texas 1888ish.

The 1880 census data provided other important information that helped in my efforts to get back to Ireland. It showed the birthdate and location from where A.C. Mathis came; 1842 in Mississippi.

Confederate Army Veteran, Augustus C. Mathis, approx. 1875

After considerable time and research and travelling down dead-end roads I was finally able to locate my Great-great-great-Grandfather, A.C.’s dad, in the 1850 census. A.C. was in Pontoloc, Mississippi living with his farmer father John Louis Mathis, mother Luranah and seven siblings. The records also showed that John was born in Georgia and Luranah was born in South Carolina. So I was no closer to the land of Green.

Over a two-year period of nearly daily research I was able to trace the Mathis family tree from Bellingham, WAto Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, then pre-Revolutionary North Carolina, Virginia, and finally I found an ancestor who came from the Motherland…England. John Mathis died in Virginia in 1622 but was born in England, and his parents and Grandparents came from Wales. And as a side note his name wasn’t Mathis at birth. It was Mathews. NO IRELAND!? My Dad died in 2001 and never knew this information.

My Dad, Jerry Schuett

My research back on the various branches of the Mathis family tree never took me back to Ireland. Almost all the non-American lineage on that side of my family dates back to pre-1800s and comes from England, Scotland, Prussia, and France. The Schuett side was purely German. On both my Great-grandfather and Great-Grandmothers side of the family I was only able to research it back to Germany in the mid-1800’s. While not as dramatic or emotional my sense was like that of a child learning that they’d been adopted and all that they thought was true about their history, wasn’t.

I was delighted to learn that my family history in the United States on both my Dad and my Mother’s side of the family pre-dated the existence of the United States. Though I admit being disappointed in not finding Irish heritage.

So for Saint Patty’s Day now and forever more I’ll just have to adopt a temporary and fictitious name, like everyone else not Irish, Michael O’ Schuett…or should it be McSchuett?

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.