Archive for parenting

BABIES: Lovely Lady Lumps. Check it out.

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2009 by erikball123
Jane and Rachael on our last outing.

Jane and Rachael on our last outing.

I think it was right around the Lansing border, as we pulled out of the Old Navy parking lot when my niece began her rendition of “My Humps.” She’s three, and I don’t recall ever finding that particular song any cuter. It’s not even a cute song really. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it…but put any lyric in the mouth of an innocent twerp…and you have what in the theatre we call “a moment.”

I love children. Contrary to what my students, or friends might believe, I truly, truly do. I always joke with my friends that the reason Emily and I don’t have kids is because we simply don’t have the space for another kennel. Or that the day the dishes and laundry get to a breaking point, then we’ll just hire some help, or have a child. I joke of course. Kinda.

I think there’s an old proverb that says “The soul is healed by being with children” and I’m reminded of the simple joys of being around small children every time I visit my sister and brother-in-law and have the pleasure of chillin’ with my peeps, Jane and Rachael.

Emily and I don’t want children right now for several reasons, all of which are none of any body’s business. I will attest that raising a child and giving them positive support, care and nurturing is the most important thing in the world, and (with the consideration that both of us come from broken families) we are very happy with our current schedules and routines and wish to expand on these personal endeavors prior to adding another living, breathing person to the mix. We both recognize the immense sacrifice having children brings and we’re not willing to go there yet. For the record, I do not feel the need to apologize for this.

Which brings me to my next thought: I think that it is every married couple’s responsibility to identify the right time to have children. (Or to have children at all.) The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply. I will say (until I’m blue in the face) that I’m a privileged man to work in the school that I do. But, I would be remiss to say that I don’t see neglect, carelessness and disregard in every other child, most of the time…in even the wealthiest of families. I look at my own family. I think I was raised well. I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink, I stayed in school and got good grades…we even ate at the dinner table together. For the most part mommy and daddy did well, I thought. (I will, however, choose NOT to discuss how they dressed me, which is the basis for another blog post and truly the reason I got into theatre. That’s for another day!) But, It wasn’t until my younger brother’s senior year that my parents divorced and I found myself in more ways than one, completely independent.

All too often children these days are expected to be independent before they should be. Bottom line. don’t assume that resilient young man is not in need of a kind word, or that head strong young lady doesn’t need guidance.  Unrealistic expectations and entitlement issues override the proverbial group hub and catch with dad in the side yard. It’s not fair. A child is an investment…not a purchase. You can’t strap a child in a car seat and then coast out on fumes into adulthood. It doesn’t work that way. Every freakin’ step of the way….every burp….every nap….every diaper…every homework assignment…every cent of lunch money…every curfew…every haircut….every boyfriend/girlfriend….everything!….is YOUR responsibility as a parent until they move out of the house. Somehow…someway…society has it tucked away in their Blackberries that it is okay to circumvent these demands. Raising a child and those integral moments (yes, that includes acts of defiance and temper tantrums) are not something you can TiVo and deal with later. The focus needs to be 100% on the baby…and all too often it’s about the baby daddy. I never want to be a “baby daddy.” (The mere fact that this catch phrase exists proves that the focus has shifted in a certain dynamic in our society from what is truly important.)

My wife would be the best mother in the world, and if our child is half as smart and half as pretty as she is, we’ll have a winner. But, I also want to do the right thing. I’m still working on me. I’m still working on our marriage. I’m still working on being an effective drama teacher. I’m still working on being an actor. I’m not ready to put these things in the back seat yet, and until I am ready, I think it would be selfish of me to bring a child into this world KNOWING that they would take a back seat to my goals. I think anyone has the right to call this selfish. Absolutely. I’ll take it. I’d rather take it like this…instead of being called selfish when I DO have a child.

Right now…my wife and I don’t want kids. Poo-poo to your heart’s content. (Don’t even start on the whole “clock is ticking” thing. In this fast-food, instant coffee world we live in, I don’t wanna hear it!) I assure you, our minds won’t change as a result of poo-pooing.

This decision is the reason we get raised eyebrows in church. It’s the fuel that burns the ever-present dropped hints from family members. It’s the bait that traps questions like “So, when are you two going to have a child” every time we hold a baby. Arrg.

It is no one’s right to have a child. It’s is no one’s responsibility. It is everyone’s great privilege. I take that very seriously.

I love the fact that you need a license to drive a car, buy a gun, sell a house, own a dog, or to go fishing…but no one needs a license to have child. Anyone with a certain appendage and a little bit of time has the opportunity, and all too often I see the product of rash, or in some cases, no preconceived thoughts.

If you pack your lunch for the day, you think to yourself…”hmmm, I think I’d like an apple. That Twinkie would be nice. Better have a sandwich. I do like peanut butter. Oooo, apple juice!” It’s a process. You know what you’re getting yourself into and you know what to expect later. You don’t strap a blindfold on and shove whatever you touch into an empty sack and hope for the best…which is what a LOT of people do, unfortunately.

I know my child will be a handful, because I was a handful. I know my child will have “issues”…because I have issues. I want to be thoughtful in the decision making process…in the hopes that maybe someday I will raise a child that will likewise be thoughtful. Maybe I’ll never get there, who knows.

So, don’t hope that this post will end in an announcement that Emily and I are having a baby. Ain’t gonna happen. Instead, please help to remember that not every couple is like you and your significant other. The curtains close in everyone’s theatre and people don’t always don’t get to see what happens backstage or in-between scenes, so don’t assume that everyone has the same plans for what will appear center stage.

Instead, trust that each couple (ones with a million rug rats, and ones with zero kids) are making the educated and thoughtful decision to do what is right. I’m not suggesting that everyone’s mind is hard at work, and until the teenage pregnancy rate goes down, I’ll never say that, but I will suggest that thought “processes” are happening in even the most unlikely of places and it’s no one’s job to identify and then critisize that. (Which is probably my ultimate criticism of any friend who has ever raised an eyebrow.) In our case, we’re ensuring our potential investment down the road, should we choose to go that route.

Sheesh, this turned out to be the defense’s closing statement! Well…..good. Whether or not you like it doesn’t matter. Everyone will judge just the same.

But, it is my hope that no one would assume I haven’t already thought about what it might be like for my own proud moment when my child breaks into Fergie’s latest and serenades a friend. I’ve thought about it…and for now I’m not ready. I’m happy listening to Rachael and provide my own backing vocals.

We’ll both be in the kitchen eating out of the sugar bowl.

I’m right…and you’re wrong!

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2009 by erikball123

Fazoli’s has pretty decent food for an Italian Fast Food joint. I’ve always thought that the 10 minute wait in the drive-thru kinda contradicted the idea of “fast”…but all in all, I continue to offer my patronage to the place. It’s the site of today’s topic.

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I pulled up to the window and received my food…and was curious as to why one soft drink was smaller than the other. “I thought I ordered two extra-large drinks,” I commented. What followed could be described simply as a one-way, minute-long, detailed commentary of exactly what I ordered, and why in the world I would even question such a thing, because obviously the drive-thru clerk is doing their job correctly and I’m not doing my job of paying attention.

I didn’t really answer back. I was flabbergasted. (Besides, I think they wanted me to answer back, and I wasn’t going there.) I received my food and drinks and drove away, too afraid to ask for the bread sticks they forgot.

What’s up with people lately? Cities, schools, small business and the like are being frosted with a condescending glaze of “right-fighters.” (An endearing term I respectfully steal from Dr. Phil.) Everyone is right…and don’t you dare confront them, lest you feel the lash of their scornful gaze and acidic rebuttals.

It’s not just adults in the workplace at 4pm on Friday at Fazoli’s…..named Jeff. More so, I fear we’re raising a society of right-fighters who are encouraged to stand firm. It borrows from the old adage of “if someone punches you on the playground…you punch back. That’s my boy!” These concepts, while strong-willed and I suppose in that regard, positive…are fueling an “age of entitlement” that will make everyone RIGHT…and everyone else WRONG, spinning us around in a never-ending rabbit season/duck season argument.

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Conversation…and dare I say, confrontation is like a dance. It takes two to tango, whether your partner wants to dance or not! You cannot engage in an exchange if you’re too busy being right!

As a drama teacher, I’d say this is one of my biggest challenges when working with my students. Entitlement issues are always present. (On the onset of auditions…as they mature from freshmen to seniors and climb the ladder of ensemble member to leading role…even in the most arrogant student and quirkiest wallflower I teach.) They are challenged with the demands of the stage and what it takes out-audition others in heated competition for the opportunity to do what they love onstage.

They are also challenged with living in a fish bowl onstage…and off. In school they walk the halls as the Cat in the Hat, Blanche or Stella, Sweeney Todd and Sandy Dumbrowski. You need tough skin to change into P.E. clothes every other day elbow to elbow with your peers, being referred to as the Magical Mr. Mistofolees. It’s a burden. To counteract that…they wind up protecting themselves with confidence, that sometimes overflows into brazen arrogance and conceit. These wind up being entitlement issues and they present themselves the very first time a prop is taking from the drama classroom knowing that “Mr. Ball won’t mind.” They’re not being malicious…they are just overly confident. This is dangerous ground. That same student will display that same confidence when ensuring a customer at their first job, that they ordered it wrong…and what they’re receiving is 100% correct.

So, what’s the solution? That’s a tough one. As I look at my graying parents and remember my childhood punishments of yesteryear…I recall a strict environment where school work came first and being polite or not was NOT my decision to make. I recall soap in my mouth…canceled vacations…and my father literally “pulling the car over.” I would be remiss to suggest giving someone “the belt” but I don’t think that’s the solution.

We now have a generation of adults, my age, who are raising children that are the product of a “wanna be a better parent” rebound. Parents don’t realize that they can certainly be their son or daughter’s friend…but they have to be their parent first.

I had a student absent from class this week…they were on their fifth cruise this year with their parents. Fifth. Another, a junior, has been home all week, alone. His parents away on business. I was in Marshall’s the other day in the sock aisle and could not believe how a 12 year old was talking to her mother. I actually heard the b-word. I felt embarrassed for the mom, angered at the child…and in totally disbelief that the mostly one-way conversation lasted as long as it did. Suddenly formal, black dress socks weren’t that important to me anymore.

My parents never spanked me as a child. My dad did, however, tell me of this paddle he made out of particle board that he hung in the basement closet. He indicated how large it was, and he said he painted it green. Pretty much a horror story for a 6 year old.

He said that he hoped he would never have to use it. Thankfully, he never had to. Around the age of 17 years old, in a non-related, high-spirited conversation, I asked my father if I could see this paddle. He told me it never existed. I couldn’t believe it. It never crossed my mind that it was made up. While this may be the reason for my sometimes obsessive/compulsive behavior and midnight paranoia about locking the door downstairs… I’m sure of it……it was whole fully effect in hindsight.

My parents had a level of expectation for every avenue of my growing up, and not meeting that expectation was not an option. Did I fall short? All the time. I was a kid…they do that. But, that standard, that house-wide understanding that we were to be at the dinner table at 6pm for dinner (for instance)….that starchness that forced it’s way into my personal teen routine…that’s what is needed today.

Parents today are not evil. They’re not stupid. They’re not careless. They are just…in their minds….right. Who’s job is it to evaluate the individual family’s parenting skills? Where’s that rubric? As a teacher, you can give As and Bs…you can re-do a seating chart…issue a detention. You can even sit down and “have a talk” with a student. But, in the end, they go home to a set of parents who are less concerned about “dealing with the issue with their children,” and more concerned about “skirting the blame.”

Another incident occurred when a student in my school was caught drawing graffiti on the bathroom walls with a Sharpie and given a Saturday detention. The parents called a meeting with the administration to explain how it was the teacher’s fault for letting the kid out of class.

It comes down to ownership. If you’re working in a drive-thru….why are you there? Ultimately to offer service to the paying patron, right? You dishing out pasta for $7.00 an hour. You’re not selling Cadillacs! Is the argument, or rather, forced “right-fighting” worth it? What do you gain? Entitlement?

If you’re a student auditioning for a play, and you don’t get cast…do you issue formal complaints regarding the cast list and the director’s choice? (Trying hard to find loopholes in the process.) Or, do you figure it’s part of a bigger plan and then go back to evaluate your audition offering and see where you need improvement. One is a little bit more pride-swallowing and labor intensive. (Isn’t that part of the actor’s job description?)

As a parent, would you rather support your student’s efforts in working hard to succeed…and if they fail, be part of the up-hill climb as their biggest support in the hopes that they will turn things around and make it o the top? Or, would you rather send a scathing email…leave an insinuative voice mail….or assume the teacher is out to get your child? I assure you that one path is easier to do than another…and I assure you…if teachers didn’t want your child to succeed, then they would have gone into real estate.

The bottom line is, right-fighting doesn’t work. You’re not dealing with the root of any issue. Instead your glazing it over with a sugar-coating that nullifies any positive effort on anyone’s part.

I call it sweeping it under the rug. Some people refer to that as “dodging.” Today I called it, “get out quick before the angry Fazoli’s man eats your face.”

Take the high road next time. Talk it out and work toward a positive solution. Be a part of a solution to find a resolve.  Succumb to the fact that you just might be wrong.

Who needs an extra large soda and carb-filled bread sticks anyways?

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