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.

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You Are Not Special Graduates

As a society we’ve come to adore accolades more than achievement. If you are like me and have campaigned against each member of the soccer team getting a trophy at the end of the season this commencement speech will appeal to you.

If on the other hand you think constant positive reinforcement with no discipline is the way to raise kids…this message will seem foreign to you.

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My High School Friends.

My Senior Portrait

What is it about your high school friends that creates such a bond? These people who occupy your life, in most cases for a mere 3-4 years, remain in your hearts, your memories, sometimes on your minds and in your dreams for a lifetime. Why is that? The permanency of your high school friends and acquaintances used to be reinforced only every ten years as reunions were the traditional every-decade opportunity to see everyone from bygone days and catch up on things. It was at the reunions that big smiles and big hugs occurred and ultimately led to…..nothing. For despite our fondness of our old classmates whatever it was that sent us in various directions after that final toss of the cap, whatever it is that keeps us from enjoying each others company outside of the every-ten-year reunion most people don’t hang with their old chums even when given the opportunity to do so at reunion time.

My school class 30 year reunion is upcoming this Summer. And of course some very good and dedicated people from my youth have organized and planned events for that time. Good for them. And thank you to each and every one of them. I’m looking forward to it, even though unlike reunions of ten and twenty years I’m not nearly as separated from my old pals.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Facebook has changed everything in this area. Over 800-million people worldwide have a Facebook account and statistics indicate that half of them log on every day. In the United States many, if not most, of these social media darlings made up their “Friends” almost entirely of old school friends. Now our society has gone from touching base with old high school chums every ten years to every ten hours. Remarkable!

In my case, I left

Sammamish High logo

Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA upon graduation in 1982 and never looked back. I had over 500 kids in my graduating class. By July of that same year the number from those 500 people who I saw regularly was reduced to a small handful. After going away to college that September that number became zero. Over the next 5 years my association with high school classmates included 3-4 people, and only occasionally. My wedding 5 years after graduation brought 5-10 of them together. The succeeding 10 years I occasionally saw the Best Man from my wedding, who was also a high school classmate and football teammate. He then left my life for the past 14 years; until re-emerging only a couple months ago (and not on Facebook).

From my perspective my disappearance from sight from all my high school classmates is not rare. In fact its pretty common. And also not rare, from what I have seen and read, my old school classmates remain dear in my heart and mind and always have. Distance and time has not dimmed my strong feelings for people who only occupied parts of three years of my life.

In the thirty years since that time I’ve found myself employed with at least 2-3 jobs where I worked closely with people for longer stretches than the 3 years high school required. In one case I worked 13 years at an employer with a base of staff that was pretty constant. In each instance of employment I worked with people for longer hours each day than was required in high school, in a field we all shared as a common interest, if not passion. We enjoyed the occasional marriage, and birth of children, and family deaths. Many social gatherings and even holidays have been shared with co-workers. Far more than what I experienced in and around high school. And yet in most cases the people who occupy a higher level of fondness and memory in my mind are the folks who shared three years with me thirty years ago, and then left my life.

It fascinates me.

I know not everyone’s experience is like my own. For instance, my wife hasn’t seen or associated with any of her high school friends in the 28 years I’ve known her. And she is a very loving woman, and loved by ALL who come in contact with her. She went to 3 different high schools in four years, for reasons that in the case of each move seemed logical, but clearly left her much more detached from the people with whom she graduated. Other’s may share her perspective.

English: Downtown Bellevue, WA

In the 3 years since connecting on Facebook with approximately 200 of my high school classmates I’ve learned a lot about some of these people who I didn’t know when we were all younger. In some cases I’ve been left to wonder if I went through high school in some debilitating fog. Oddly, most of the closest friends I had in high school are either not on Facebook or not active on it. So most of those I communicate with were either unknown to me entirely, or were mere acquaintances. And yet that fondness exists. Not surprisingly those who I care most about (generally speaking) from this collection of childhood friends are the few who shared my life before high school. I went to one elementary school, one Junior High, and one high school. I’ve connected on Facebook with a handful of others who can say the same thing.

Bellevue, Washington

Bellevue, Washington (Photo credit: brewbooks)

Perhaps the strong feelings and memories many people feel toward their associates of youth is merely nostalgia like we feel toward a good old movie or song. But I think it’s more than that. However friendly any of my school mates are now or then we’re forever joined as brothers and sisters in a common community, with a common history, and in many cases common experiences, common stories, places.

Headquarters of T-Mobile in the Factoria distr...

Factoria

Interstate 405 approaching downtown Bellevue, ...

Bellevue, WA

Because I write and I often aim to be provocative I know some of my old friends are surprised at the man I have become; just as I am in many cases intrigued by learning what they’ve become. But however divergent our lives now are, however successful some, however troubled others, we came together during the formative years that saw us transition from children to young adults. We had no choice in originally being brought together. It is all our choice to have reunited. And isn’t it beautiful that so many with varied interests and passions have made that choice? Should God bless me with another 30-40-50 years of life I’m looking forward to them knowing I am stronger reconnected with those who helped form who I am when I was being shaped.

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