Tag Archive: Family


How Did We Get Here?

It seems you cannot go anywhere on Social Media these days, and not see, or hear something about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected Congresswoman from the 14th District of New York.  Whatever you think or feel about her, she is, or even, already has become the face of the Democrat Party, and even, the face of the House of Representatives.  “AOC” as she is commonly referred to as of late, is the constant butt of criticism from the Republicans as well as Conservatives in general.   Most of the criticism of her stems from the fact that comes off as not very bright.  Her social media posts are error prone, sometimes make no sense, and when confronted about the inaccuracies, she throws out more inanities, or hides behind her race/gender, and plays the victim.

I only bring up Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, because, well, Twitter user @aggierican put it best:

First, she doesn’t drive me crazy. She is a font of hilarity. She has served to shine a light on what passes for education nowadays.

This is true.  Now, before I get dunked for even bringing up “Millenials” my 3 oldest kids are of the “Millennial” generation, and they are pretty smart kids.  So, why does the Millennial generation get so much crap?

For starters, and I work in tech, so I work with quite a few Millennials, they seem, well, “clueless” for the most part.  Many of the young men I work with are suprisingly less-than-handy when it comes to doing stuff.  Yeah, you can call it “basic man’s work” if you want, but in all seriousness, many of the women are the same, when it comes to “basic woman’s work”.   To make it all make sense, let’s just call it “Basic Life Skills”, which is everything from managing finances, to knowing how to change a tire, go grocery shopping, and minor home repairs.  Back in the seventies and eighties when I was growing up, most, if not all, of the men that I knew, from my father, and my uncles, to friends of the family, and my friends fathers, they all had one thing in common; they could, to varying degrees fix something, be it a leaky pipe, faucet, flat tire, hole in the driveway, lawnmower. They could add a light switch to a room, remove and add light fixtures, put up a range hood, you know, do, for the most part, what needed to be done.  To that end, growing up, I learned some of these things as well.  My father taught all of his kids (including my sister) how to do basic repairs.  Both of my parents taught us all of the necessary life skills.  My mom taught us all how to shop, how to manage a budget, how to cook, sew, iron, and do a proper load of laundry.  Now, I am not saying I am an expert in any of these things, but, I did learn the basics from them, and developed my own style, and way of going about it.  The fact is, I learned how to be self-sufficient. It seems that many Millennials are anything but

So, what happened, then.  Why are so many young people unskilled in areas that were once thought of as “basic”?

One of the common threads among everyone one I knew back then was this:  We all, with very, very few exceptions, came from two-parent homes. I think, throughout high school, I knew of maybe a handful of kids that came from, as it was termed then, “broken homes”, or in other words, divorced parents.  As the 80’s wore on, that was changing.  By the 90’s things were rather different.  I think my generation could probably be called the “Divorce Generation”, not because we came from broken homes, but rather, we were the generation that ramped up the divorce rate.   Also, about this time, there was a growing shift in education as well.  The way kids were being taught was changing, more and more teachers were coming from left-of-center viewpoints, schools as a whole were starting to drift left.  Additionally, there were more and more families with two working parents, and the kids were left for daycare.  Add all of these factors together, and it points to how we got here.

I am divorced, twice. I spent time as a single dad.  My first marriage was done right around my oldest’s 5th birthday.  I had 3 kids at that time, and my youngest was about six months old.  What happened?  You name it.  Why did it go the way it did?  Who knows?  I was married in 1988, I had several friends that were married about that same time.  By 1995, all but two of them were divorced, and all of them had kids.  Divorce, and kids don’t go together at all, anyone who has been through a divorce knows that the kids take it the hardest.  Combine broken homes, with the stress of raising kids as a single parent, and the stress of being the non-custodial parent and trying to see your children, there all of the sudden becomes no time to do “dad” and “mom” thing with, and for the kids.  I know the struggle, I was a single dad for 10 years.  Single parenthood is living hell, all of it.  In addition to working, I was raising my kids, and trying to find a social life.  Things that come much, much easier to married couples who stay married.

Because one has to work to keep the roof over their head, pay child support, keep up with any loans, mortgages, and etc, that meant that the kids went to day-care, or  if they were school age, they went to after school programs.  So, we have parents who are apart, kids in day-care, going to schools that were increasingly becoming sub-par, and being apart from their main sources of support (family, mom and dad) we start to see why we have what appears to be a generation of people who seem to lack common sense, life skills, basic knowledge about their country, their government, and pretty much the world around them.

It is a combination of cultural and social shifts, and not a good combination.  We are seeing in Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and many others like her, the fruits of our public education system, and our higher education system.  No longer are kids prepared for life. Why? Well, part of the reason is the generation that raised them. I know, as a dad, I pushed my kids to be better.  I was also fortunate that my kids had grandfathers who were supreme examples of men.  Both of them, to varying degrees taught my kids the things they knew.  I also did the same.  I decided that I was going to raise my kids to be adults.  Because, as a parent, that is what one does, right?  It is the job of mom and dad to prepare the kids to handle things that happen in life, both good and bad.  What happened, was that we had a generation of parents who thought being single was more fun, became, in general, self-centered, and took care of themselves first, and figured “the kids will be alright”.  That same generation of parents also decided in many cases, that their kids need to be sheltered, and protected from bad things in life, and that “everyone is a winner”.  We took away the desire to compete, to be excellent, to go further, to out do everyone else, and win the prize.  Why did we ever do that?

My kids aren’t perfect, there was a time with my oldest boys where I wasn’t sure how they were going to turn out.  Additionally, neither me, nor my ex-wife were very good at “adulting” some days.  The sniping, the nastiness, and the fights all took a toll on me, on her, and on the kids.  However, at one point or another, I said “enough” and started to take back control of the things I could.  Eventually the rough parts evened out, and now at 29, 27, and 26, my oldest kids have their lives in order (about as much as one’s life can be at that age) and are heading in the right direction.  The important part is that they have matured, and they have learned how to handle life as it comes and deal with it.

The education system didn’t help then, and sure isn’t helping now.  My kids all went to a public grammar school, and junior high.  I remember an open house at our school. I believe it was when my oldest was going into 3rd grade.  His teacher, a brand new, fresh-out-of-college, overly cheerful, and positive young lady.  She was excited to be a teacher, and couldn’t wait to start teaching our kids.  She eagerly showed us parents into her class room.  The classroom  was decorated in bright colors, and shapes. There were comfortable chairs in the corners, and flower prints on the walls.  There were signs on the wall, in bright colors that said things like “Be Happy” and “We’re all Friends” but one caught my eye.  It was bright pink, and was in two or three different places in the room. In purple letters it said “Feel. Don’t think” (I kid you not)    I was less than impressed. I don’t think she was a day over 23, dressed, looked and talked like a high-school cheerleader, or Glee-club president.  Her philosophy, when challenged on her “Feel. Don’t think” signs was something like “Well, feelings provide guidance on how we should think about something, and, through those thoughts and feelings, we find, and define our truth”.  I left shaking my head.  The school in general was more of that. Regardless of the sport, and level of participation, each kid got a trophy, and praise about how well they did, even in cases where kids who were on the team, either didn’t show up, or hardly played.  The school’s philosophy seemed to be “We are all winners, who feel about everything and think about nothing.”

I would read stories about other schools around the country, how some districts were going the same way, and the focus was less on academics, and more on “self-esteem”  We also cannot forget that perhaps this generation of kids may well be the most medicated one in history.  “Attention Deficit Disorder” was being diagnosed and medicated in record numbers through the very late 80s and through the 90s.  My oldest son was diagnosed as such at age six (won’t go into details, but, there was clearly something up with that kid)  Back then, very little was known about the long-term effects of Adderall, Ritalin, and other ADD medications.

So, as we went along, we had kids in schools, some of which were just short of “indoctrination centers”, parents who had limited time for their kids, and a culture that was beginning to swing toward an attitude of entitlement, more and more kids were growing up thinking they were “owed” something.

The bottom line here, is this: We are here, because of us.  We are the parents who raised these “Millennials” so, as much as one might not want to admit it, we all played a role.  It seems, in general, that my generation decided that marriage wasn’t important, and perhaps neither was an intact family.  I don’t know how we forgot what it was like to grow up in a two-parent household, and the support and stability it offered.  I can’t figure out how we thought that being a single parent was a good idea, and that somehow, we were going to raise kids that turned out okay.  We became a generation of parents that was more focused on being “cool” than being a parent.  I was there, I know this.  I had some of the same attitudes at times.  It is like we refused to learn the lessons that our own parents tried to teach us when we were young.  We listened, but we didn’t apply what we learned. We ditched our morals, our standards, our faith, and our values so we could go out and be irresponsible, and we tried to justify it.  I know I did.  I had a few arguments with my dad and my mom about how I was living, and raising kids.  It was not until after my father passed away that I realized that there were things I could be doing better as far as raising the kids, teaching them, and showing them how to be a family.  It was these attitudes, this cavalier dismissal of what was once important, that have created what we have now.  Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and many others like her are this way because at one point or another, we abdicated some of our responsibilities as parents, and as citizens and left some of them for other people to handle.

In writing this, I realize that it is much more complex than I tried to spell out here. I tried to explain, in some way, how we got here. This “Millennial” generation did not just appear here before us.  This generation was raised by another generation that is now it it’s late 40s through early 60s, we brought them here, and it seems to some degree we have failed. The school system can be blamed, higher education can be blamed, so can TV, radio, music, social media, the internet, and on and on.  All of those did indeed play a role.  However, the front line, the bulwark against much of this, strong families and strong parenting, fell by the wayside.  We can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We have to deal with what we have here.  On the plus side, there are all kinds of bright, and resourceful young adults who know how to think, and lead, and have values.  I also believe, despite the negativity, the next generation, of which my two youngest kids (17 and 16) are a part of, seems to be kind of put off by all that has come before them, and seem to want something different as they grow to adults.  I see this not only in my kids, but in their friends.  One can only  hope, I suppose.

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I learned over the last few years, about the price one pays, to some degree, for living in a self-made political bubble.

I don’t know when it happened, probably somewhere during the early Bush years.  I slowly began to ensconce myself in politics, and it began to pick up speed, if you will, during the Obama years.  I went from being a “follower” of politics, to being more involved, to being totally immersed in what “my side” was up to, and how it was taking on the “other side”.  As social media began to rise, I began to follow, and comment on, and post almost purely political things. I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until one day, during a conversation with my mom, I launched into a rant about one political thing or another, and was literally yelling at my mom.  I don’t know why, but I was that wound up in it.  I was quoting websites, and blogs that I read.  Trying to make a point that my mom didn’t really care about.   To say that I upset her, is putting it mildly.  The upshot of the whole thing was I had not realized just how involved I had gotten in politics, and how much of my life was focused on whether or not something was in line with my political beliefs.  I analyzed TV shows, I analyzed books, and music, and movies, for anything that was not in line with my political beliefs.  In short, I had become insufferable to family, and even my kids and girlfriend.  I had always been “political” in that I had views, just like everyone else, however, what happened, is that those views became the end-all-be-all of my existence.  I began to think, somehow, that my views were necessary for my survival, and the survival of the country, well, a country containing all of the “right” people.  You know, the people who shared my views. I had surrounded myself with people who believed as I did, and ignored any counter arguments, or opinions that challenged what I believed to be true.  It didn’t matter that the argument presented was factual, what mattered was that it ran counter to my beliefs, and therefore, needed to be rejected.   It took a family gathering, where I managed to upset my entire family with a bunch of political remarks that managed to offend several people.  Shortly after that, I was talking with my mom, who informed me that because of my remarks at the previous gathering, discussing politics was off limits at the next gathering, and if I so much as brought it up, I would be asked to leave.

Now, you have to understand something.  My family is pretty easy going, and mostly laid back, and we can discuss many subjects reasonably, its how we were raised.  The problem with me was I was saying things without any regard for anyone else there, and practically demanding my view be accepted as the only correct one.   It is what woke me up to the way politics had consumed me.  My Facebook was full of nothing but political content, either groups I belonged to, or stuff I had posted myself.  My Twitter account was nothing but political follows, and my Twitter feed was an endless parade of memes, links to blogs, and news stories that favored my point of view.  I attacked anyone who posted content that ran counter to my beliefs, and by “attack” I meant I insulted, and belittled the person who dared to post something in opposition to me.  I didn’t offer a logical, cohesive counter-argument, I offered vitriol, because I believed that my position was the only one.  Now, note that I didn’t say someone posted disagreeing with my politics, no, they were in opposition to me.  To me.  That’s how deep I had gotten.  Someone who disagreed with my politics, was disagreeing with me, because I had become political.  It was all I was.  It was so bad, that my politics had pushed aside my faith in God, and every thing I had been taught. My religion, my values system my beliefs had been pushed aside, rather, replaced by my politics.  It was, at this time, I woke up and realized what I had become.  I was no longer me.  I had become a political creature.  This was all prior to the 2016 presidential race.  It was near the end of the Obama administration, and things were shaping up for 2016.

The other thing that woke me up, is a “news” story that I read.  The story was about a container ship that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.  The story breathlessly related that the container ship was loaded with weapons and other support for the Syrian rebels, that had been approved by Obama.  I read the story, and in a moment of clarity, I realized the story was fake  Using Google image search, I found another story, from 2014, featuring the same photo of the sinking ship.  The ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean, that much was true, however, it had nothing to do with Syria, the rebels, or, Obama approving any kind of support for them.  The ship had broken up and sunk because it was old, and the shipping line that owned it was going to de-commission it at the end of the voyage it was on.   Here I was, so committed to my side, to my politics, that I believed every story that I read, everything put out by my side had to be the truth, because we were right, we were the only ones with the correct ideas, with the correct solutions to the country’s problems.  Yet, here was a group, a “news” source that I followed that I had believed without question, posting a story that was, to use today’s vernacular “Fake News”. It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I began digging into the some of the stories that were posted by other groups. I began to find more of the same.

In the coming weeks, logic broke through.  I began to evaluate my subscriptions, the groups I belonged to, the “news” sites I followed, and even some of the bloggers I followed.  I stopped using Facebook for anything other than keeping up with friends, and activities within my Amateur Radio group as well as the hobby in general. I cleared my Twitter feed of all the political follows with the exception of a couple.  I began following people based on anything but politics, and in some cases, they were people I had followed because of their politics, but quickly realized that politics aside, they were funny, interesting, and decent people.  I also discovered that I could disagree with people, and not let it anger me.  I ignored people who tried to engage.  I quit paying attention to my mentions, and I was much better for it.

When the presidential race began to heat up, I distanced myself further, I stayed away from debate and discussing the candidates, because I thoroughly disliked both of them, and I couldn’t see any profit in taking a side.  So I let it be.  I still read other’s opinions, but I didn’t engage. I did know I didn’t want Hilary as President, but I could not get behind Trump, and that’s where I left it.  I stayed away from the arguments because they were everything I used to be, and everything I used to post.  Anger, insults, and no regard for anyone else’s humanity.

Politics is poison.  When your politics becomes your life, when everything you say, do, and get involved is nothing but politics, it ruins your life.  When you base someone’s worth on who they voted for, and ignore everything about them, you are short-changing yourself, and you have become unbearable. Whether or not you like Trump or hate him, or any other office holder, for that matter, is one thing, letting that admiration, or disgust dictate how you feel about family and friends, and is the deciding factor on continuing or discontinuing that relationship, then, you are the one with the problem.  No politician, or political cause is worth severing family, marital, or friendship ties over.

Back off, take a breath, re-evaluate, look at your life, and things around you.  Friends, and family are far more important than politics, or activism, or anything else. When the dust settles, and things have moved on, all you will have left is your family and friends.