Sunday, May 27, 2012


Two or three weeks ago, Thumper and I had the following conversation. It arose from a few different incidents:

Rodius: "If a boy hits you, you use words and tell him you don't like that. If he keeps hitting you, you can defend yourself. If a girl hits you, you never ever hit her back, you just get away. Because girls are special and magical, and it's our job as boys and men to honor and respect girls and women."

Thumper: "Uh, Dad?"

R: "Yeah, buddy?"

T: "Girls aren't magical."

Aerie very much enjoyed this line of thinking and has a few times reinforced it by saying things like, "Hey, buddy, tell Grandma: What are girls?"

And he rolls his eyes, sighs, and says, "Magical." Clearly he is not completely sold on this line of thinking.

It's easy to see why he has a hard time seeing the magic. The girls in the neighborhood are of the 7-, 8-, and 9-year-old variety, and now that he's crossed the line from adorable baby to annoying little kid, they're not nearly as kind or tolerant as they used to be. They lie to him. They trick him. They gang up on him. They tell him to go away. They play mean games in which they either try to get him to eat something disgusting or convince him that he has to marry one of them.

For some time, it tormented him, and me, when they treated him this way. He so desperately wanted to be around them that he continued to follow them around even though they weren't very nice. I didn't want to cramp his style or make him look even more like a baby by interfering, but sometimes I couldn't hold my tongue. And eventually, he began to realize that they weren't nice to him, and he started to want to do other things than play outside in the afternoon. We found alternatives like playgrounds and friends' houses in the afternoons where he could play with kids closer to his own age who didn't try to get him to eat "black bean soup" (mud) and "tootsie rolls" (dog shit).

But even with less involvement with the neighborhood preteens, his troubles with girls continued. Inevitably some girl, a little older, a little younger, would hit him, or kick him, or push him.

At the local inflatable play space last week, a little girl, somewhere between two and three, latched on to him and would not relent. She followed him everywhere he went, pinching and hitting and pushing and screaming. He tried his best to take my advice to heart, asking her to stop and trying to escape her, but after about 20 minutes, he finally pushed her down, knocking her on her ass. Instantly she was up and running to her mother in tears.

The mother, to her credit, seemed to know her own child very well, and having as far as I could tell seen none of their interactions, responded to her kid's cries of "That boy pushed me!" with "Tell him you're sorry."

When the girl cried, Thumper became extremely distraught. I tried to tell him he wasn't in trouble. I tried to tell him that I was proud at how hard he tried not to hit her. I tried to talk to him about how we could handle it next time, like possibly talking to the girl's mom instead of just getting away from her. But he was a wreck, and he didn't want to play any more.

Then we repeated the process again a few days later with another girl at a playground.

So I'm of two minds. From one perspective, my instructions to him about girls is perfectly valid and his emotional response is a necessary one. As a modern man in a new world, I don't want him to grow up believing he can and should take advantage of girls and later, women. I want him to think of them with respect and even reverence, though I'm not yet ready to explain to him the full extent of their strange, enchanting, and baffling powers. He must learn that size and strength do not confer upon him a righteous authority over those smaller and less strong, and I don't want him to grow up thinking it's acceptable to use other people, especially women, for his own advantage or pleasure without thought for them as human beings. On the other hand, I fear that I'm teaching him that he must submit himself meekly to those that would treat him without respect.

Too many times as a parent, it seems like there is no correct path.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stealth Racing

I've been in a diet and exercise slump lately. I've seriously slacked off on the workouts, doing one or two per week instead of three or four, and I leave out the weights as often as I include them after running. I've been walking more, and rarely even shooting for a full 10K. At the same time, I've been pouring an excessive number of calories into my belly and not even tracking exactly how many it is.

I'm grateful that I've found running, though. Having events like that list of 5Ks, 10Ks, Warrior Dashes, etc. to the right over there has helped keep me going. Where in the past, this down cycle would have seen me gaining back all of the 30 or 40 pounds that I've lost, this time I've only gained 6. I hadn't been on the scale in a while, because I didn't want to know how bad it was, but when I weighed this morning, it wasn't a disaster. That gave me a boost. I don't know how I'm going to re-focus and get back to two 5Ks and one 10K each week, improving times and increasing inclines as I was when I had the half marathon looming over me, but it made me glad that I haven't completely torpedoed everything.

And here's another boost: I was running on the treadmill at the gym this morning, watching Mission: Impossible III on my Kindle Fire. What with all the explosions and gunfire in my headphones, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I did notice when a lady stopped in front of the treadmill next to mine and chatted for a minute with the fit-looking woman who was running on it. The runner jerked her head toward me, and I heard her say, "...this guy..."

I thought, "I wonder what I did? Did I splatter sweat on her?" And I kept running.

I kept watching my movie. When she finished her workout, the runner who called me "that guy" tapped me on the shoulder. I paused the movie just as Ethan Hunt was about to get electrocuted by his wife. She said, "No, don't stop. I just wanted to tell you that you really challenged me for a great run. Thanks!" It felt wonderful hearing her say that because she looked like a runner. I look nothing like one.

I didn't even know we were racing!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Professional Finder

I'm not sure where this one came from, but this morning, Thumper announced that he wanted to make a commercial. We said we'd do it after lunch, but then we got distracted and forgot. Then he said again that he wanted to make a commercial. We said we'd do it after dinner, but then we got distracted and forgot. Then after dinner, he said it again. He also said he wanted to look like a sharp-dressed man, which here in Austin, the land of t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops, meant a long-sleeved button shirt and jeans. He was very proud to show his outfit to his Mama. So anyway. We made a commercial. If you need a professional finder, give Thumper a call. I asked him how much he'd charge, and he said, while rolling his eyes, "It's just silly. It's not a real commercial." Fair enough.
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