Friday, February 27, 2009

Dad's Mental

My father's father never raised a hand against his kids. There were six of them and they were mental.

There's not much to my old man and his Dad was even smaller but my father has the old man strength, just like my grandfather did. The type of ropey muscled, broad shouldered, massive forearmed, huge handed power that all of those generations before ours had, even those little guys, sprung from a life lived outdoors at work and at play, chopping wood and digging, building and lifting, physical labour, not sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

My Dad has a couple of pretty good stories about his Dad that capture him pretty good. My grandparents started their married life in the Soo, just up the road from Goulais, and my Dad talks about going downtown when he was five or so with his old man. Of course this was long ago now, it would have been the late thirties, and people didn't have much. My Dad and his brothers and sister had it better then a lot of people but you know what a different time it was when they still talk about the time they got canned Carnation milk, a case of it. They all remember that, it was such a huge deal.

So it wasn't Angela's Ashes with the kids dropping like flies at every turn, they didn't starve, but they hadn't any luxuries either.

So this one day they walk down the hill into town, just my Dad and his old man. My father would have been my daughter's age now. And they did a little wander and then as they passed a store my grandfather stopped and pointed in the store window where there was a red wagon, brilliant and shiny, and he said to my Dad "Do you like that, Jack?"

And my Dad nods, speechless at the beauty of it, and my grandfather tells him to wait right there and he walks in and he pays the man and comes out with the wagon.

When he tells the story my Dad pops his eyes out and opens his mouth wide wide wide to show what he looked like all of those years ago when his dad came out the door with that wagon.

He talks about how when they had moved up to Franz, hours north of the Soo, only accessible by train (my Dad's youngest brother was delivered by the brakeman on the train as it brought her into the Soo to go to the hospital - when the train got to the station they wrapped them up and brought them by sleigh to see the doctor - it was the middle of a Northern Ontario storm and the roads were impassable) and the six of them would be all upstairs in bed, being rambunctious and they'd hear the deep voice, low and rumbling from below, "Everyone quiet up there", and that was it, silence would reign.

He never raised his voice and he never raised his hand and all he would need to do is give a look and they'd snap to.

Good thing too based on a story my Dad told me once when we were at the Legion in the Soo. His brother Don had just passed away and the family was gathering and so a few of us cousins wandered over to the Legion to meet Dad and his remaining three brothers and their sister's husband. We drank and told stories and laughed because we'd already done some crying (and would do some more) and my Uncle Don would have wanted us to be doing what we were doing. So the oldtimers told stories and my Dad talked about the time that my grandfather was in the same building, having a few, and some big fellow was sitting across from him getting a little rowdy. And my grandfather, just a little fellow, not even five and a half feet tall, told your man to settle down and he was ignored. So he said it again, low and rumbling, and the big man stood up and the little man stood up and there was one punch and then the little man sat down and the big man had a little liedown.

Tough, my Dad said, clenching his own massive fist and smiled.

My Dad was cut from the same cloth as his father when it came to discipline. He never laid a hand on us, never raised his voice. But when he said jump we would always smile and say how high.

Me, on the other hand, well, I bring a little less calm and a little more, lets say, flair, to my role as father. Of course, first thing is I am more involved in my family then my Dad or his Dad were. That's not a slap or anything, that's just the way it is and the way it was. My wife works and she works shift work besides plus I don't travel at all for work and I take my role as dad super seriously. That cliche, that they grow up so fast, is true and I'll be goddamned if I'm going to miss my kids growing up, as long as I can help it.

So right now I'm having a Caledonian and carrying the baby around (I can feel, hear and smell her pooping - its a big one) while the two older ones are rampaging about upstairs; my wife is out for a run. She said she'd be back Sunday.

So I'm a full partner is raising these maniacs and let me tell you, its mental. They're mental. I'm mental. My poor wife.

What I do is try and keep them off balance. Just have them a little bit on edge. Fuck with them. One time my daughter was not doing something I required. She had been to a party a couple of days before and so there were some nice big balloons floating around. So I walk into the kitchen, come back with a knife and tell her if she doesn't get moving then the balloons say sayonara.

She moved pretty fast then.

Parenting is not easy but its also pretty straight forward.

1. Always be fair. Kids can smell a fraud a mile away. I came back from Buffalo with a litle Zamboni for the boy and nothing for my daughter. Before I took out the Zamboni I explained to her that because she had gotten a stuffed frog the week before for something and he had gotten nothing now it was his turn. She was totally cool. The week before he had been okay. They know we're not going to cheat one or the other.

2. Pick your battles. Kids are kids. They're mental. The other night the boy was in bed when my daughter came home from swimming. As I put her to bed she began to whine that she wanted a blanket that he had on his bed. If they had both been awake I would have told her to stuff it, walked out and closed the door. Because he was sleeping I gave her the blanket so she'd shut her piehole. Now Dr. Phil would say that by giving into her I was setting myself up for failure and teaching her that she could get what she wants by whining. Dr. Phil is a multimillionaire ass who doesn't live in my house. If I had fought with her she would have screamed bloody murder and woken up the boy. Two days later when my daughter threw a tantrum to try and get a honey sandwich for breakfast things didn't quite work out for her that way.

3. Make sure you can follow through on what you say. Threatening that they won't go to the birthday party tomorrow if they don't get to sleep right now is a losing proposition because you're going to take them to the party. Threatening to take away their truck or teddy bear is something that is easy to follow up on and it gets their attention just as fast.

4. You have to make the best decision for right now and for the future. Little kids love candy. They love TV. They love junk food. They love toys. When we're at Grandma and Grandpa's and Grandma gives them ice cream with chocolate sauce for breakfast we let them go to it. If we're all beat and they just want to veg out and watch some Scooby then that's ok. If I see a shiny new bike for my daughter and I can afford it then I'm going to buy it. But there's no candy in our house except after Halloween and Easter because we have friends whose kids have had their teeth pulled before they turn five because they are so rotten. My wife worked at a hospital in Florida where parents gave their toddlers bottlers with Coke in them. Our kids are only allowed a little bit of TV and the rest of their time is spent drawing, painting, running and you know, playing. And if my daughter is at the store and she asks for a toy I tell her to put it on her Santa list or get a job.

5. Let them take charge as much as possible. My daughter gets five bucks a week to do little chores around the house. We're buying her a new leotard and she wants one that is more then what we want to spend. We told her if she wanted it she could chip in and she decided to. A few weeks back she went to the movies with my wife and wanted the upsized popcorn and treat and she was told that she could chip in for that if she wanted it. She decided not to.

We let them make as many decisions as we can. We want them to have fun as kids but this is a longterm deal here. Giving them everything they want and waiting on them hand and foot isn't going to help them succeed down the road. We want to win now and in the future.

There's no guarantee that we are doing things the right way. We believe that we are. The scary thing is that we could be doing everything right and they could still end up a mess. You just do your best and hope for the best. We are strict but fair and we give them all of the love that we can. We don't run them down or hit them or treat them like they are afterthoughts but at the same time we don't dote on them, spoiling them rotten.
We all have this crazy mental wonderful life and hopefully seventy years from now my boy will be telling his grandkids about his old man with the same respect and love that my dad has when he talks about his.


I've said this before and I will say it again. I'm a MacT guy.

But its time for him to go. They're not going to get rid of him before the end of the season but this summer he has to go.

The roster is unbalanced, yes, and there are plenty of kids, yes, and I know that there are many people out there who I have a lot of respect for saying the devil you know, yes, but this game against the BJS was a microcosm of what has gone wrong this season.

A poor effort in an important game. Last season I think you could count on one hand the number of games where the Oilers were not into the game. They were losers but they tried hard, at least. Now I wonder was it who they moved, were these heart and soul guys who went out the door? Well Greene and Glencross certainly were. Reasoner was. Pitkanen was a good player but I think he had moments where you wondered where his head was. And Stoll and Torres as well. Is that fair?

In comes Cole, a guy noted for being a consistent player. Souray and Moreau were injured last season so I would consider them additions to the mix and they would certainly be considered hard workers, I think. And certainly Reddox and Strudwick and Peckham all make their living right now by playing with grit and determination. And Lubo is a skilled player but he certainly comes to play every night.

Not a lot of floaters coming this way.

So at worst I would say its a wash, at best you might argue that this club should be more consistent, especially considering the fact that the kids are more experienced.

And yet how many games have they come out flat? Plenty. A dozen. More?

And I'm not trying to sell the BJs short. They're a good club. But the lack of compete Thursday night was right there for everyone to see.

Then you have the weird tactical decisions. There have been a hundred of them this year and it has cost this club points. Considering where they are right now I would say that not playing Penner on the top line or playing Cole with Brodziak and Moreau or not playing Cogliano on the wing or icing a putrid PK with odd personnel or not playing Penner on the PP or playing Fernando at centre or playing Roli into the ground are all issues that have cost this club. You might defend one but you can't defend the body of work.Last night we saw another example as Moreau and Pisani were out at the end trying to score the tying goal.

Probably almost the last two guys you want out there.

And then you have the Moreau situation. Two more mind numbingly stupid penalties taken two hundred feet from his own net. Again.

How does he escape censure while guys like Penner, Nilsson and Pouliot find the bench or the pressbox every time? How does this double standard play in the room?

This team has been out of sync nearly all year. They look bereft of passion. Lost at sea.

A coach has two jobs really. The main one is to win hockey games now. The second one is to develop players to win in the future if the present is not that promising.

They're not doing a very good job of winning games now. And the kids are nearly all running in place or taking steps backwards.

Dad is watching the Hee Haw marathon while the older kids are lighting the dog on fire and the baby is eating its poo.

My grandfather would not approve. I certainly don't.


hunter1909 said...

MacT lives inside the 2006 miracle, as does probably everyone else at the giant drug store. None of them can stand the idea of losing in 2006, which would have cemented them in as being whatever they would like to think that they are, and probably are in fact, other for the REALITY that no, they didn't win the 2006 cup, and furthermore, now they never will with this management/coaching structure.

MacT loves Moreau and Pisani and Roloson, because they were 'there' in 2006. MacT has gone kind of insane, actually. Insane, because he wants Pisani to come up big, just like in 2006. Insane because Moreau, who everyone and their dog can see is an appalling captain to the extent that the once close knit Oilers dressing room is now just another fossil.

I remember being called out for wanting Schremp to be given a real shot to fuck up or make it, because it would cost the Oilers points. How many points has MacT lost? I'll bet money with any sucker out there more than Schremp could ever have cost the team.

Yeti said...

Potty training is not going well. She's two and three-quarters, and so damn single-minded that the only way to get her to do what you want is to tell her you don't want her to do it. You ask if she wants to go to the potty and she'll look you in the eye and say 'no!' (in that *Dad are you frigging stupid* kind of way) only to pee herself five minutes later.

At night watching the game I imagine this is what MacT is going through with Moreau and his lame-ass penalties. He probably says 'Ethan - if you feel the urge to hook let Macky know so I can put you on the bench for a while' only for disaster to happen ('oops again!') five minutes later. Perhaps he should threaten to take TV privileges away? Or at least the bloody captaincy.

Darren said...

Frustrating season for sports. I watched the Oilers sleepwalk again against CBJ, and I have watched Arsenal sleepwalk to four 0-0 draws in a row. You watch, you see somethhing is clearly not right and trust management sees it and will fix it. You wait, wait some more... start to wonder but trust they will correct it. And then you are near the end of the season and realize that those same problems are still there and wonder why nothing has been done to solve them, or at the very least try change. They get paid the big dollars, where is the improvement and fix for those issues all fans see? Ah, the angst indeed. Makes me want to never watch again, and yet I know tonight, the battle of alberta will be on, and come next saturday morning, 8am, I will watch another drab 0-0 draw as Arsenal slip further away from the Champions league and the threat of losing players. Why are we drawn to these teams when we know the result before the games have started? My wife would say b/c I am crazy....

Darren said...

Sorry, not the battle of alberta, minnesota...

Brad said...

I fuckin love this blog.

HBomb said...

Cute picture Pat. Is that young Kate, or your oldest daughter when she was little?

Swabbubba said...

All Hail Pat. The king of parenting both of his own and of the Oilers. You know I think what OIl need is a vist from a sage old uncle coming up to the kids and telling them how it is or way it it supposed to be. Maybe a visit from Uncle Mark or even Marty.

I was frightened on the level of urgency shown against the BJ. A win a they would see a crack of daylight. Nope they want use to wander in the dark. I had a couple Flame's fan on pretense call me to give the gears.

Go Oilers

Black Dog said...

Yeti - toilet training is murder, it really is. Why? Because little kids are mental.

Darren - I don't know. Why do we do it? Its a diversion. Its fun, even when they lose or they are dull. I am enjoying this season. Its frustrating but I like hockey and the Oilers are my team so ...

Black Dog said...

Brad - might have to put that in the sidebar, thanks.

Hbomb - yeah I love that pic. That's my oldest. She's five now. We're going out for lunch tomorrow.

Look at how young and handsome I am!

Baroque said...

You ask if she wants to go to the potty and she'll look you in the eye and say 'no!' (in that *Dad are you frigging stupid* kind of way) only to pee herself five minutes later.

See, here is the possible problem. My nephew would be asked by grandma "Do you need to go potty?" and his answer would be "I don't want to." She would then tell him "That's not what I asked you. Do you NEED to go?" Eventually the process was completed.

My mom did the exact same thing with all five of her kids. A few weeks ago, a couple of us were trying to figure out why we weren't lucky enough to have one of those parents you read about who have a hard time telling their children no, because not only did my mom have no trouble saying no, she taught all of us kids proper grammar at the same time.

Since kids have trouble with tenses, we'd point at something at the store and say "mommy, I wanted that!" Her response: "I'm glad you wanted that before and don't want it anymore, because that means you won't be disappointed when you don't get it."

Five kids, no rap sheets, and all gainfully employed (including one going for a PhD in engineering after working for a decade), so I guess were weren't traumatized too much by our childhood deprivation. We all have a good grasp of written and spoken English, too. :)

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Baroque.

A buddy of mine was telling me the other day of how one of his coworkers told him how she hated going shopping with her kids because she always ended up buying them stuff.

He asked why and she said that she HAD to and that he didn't understand and that he would find out (he has four year old twins).

The simple answer of course, as we all know, is to say no. Not sure why that's so tough for some people. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Yet another great blog post, BD. Really phenomenal stuff.

Although I'm not yet a parent myself, those guidelines sound spot on. I was brought up under a similar situation, and when I have kids I plan to raise them as my parents raised me. Teaching them how to deal with the real world, like managing money, while the parental safety net is still present is essential for children. How are they going to learn otherwise?

Black Dog said...

Thanks OF17.