Kids Learn More Than You Think

My oldest child is at that fascinating age of almost 17. There are so many things that make this age interesting. This is where they start doing their driving school thing. But even more interesting than the shift to adulthood as far as physical growth, is the other aspects of it. It’s the watching them learn to navigate through life. It’s watching them carefully think and form their own opinions. It’s watching their struggle as they try to break away from you while still understanding there is a lot that they have to learn in the world.

For as long as I can remember, my son wanted to be a forensic scientist. Eventually this grew into a want of being like Abby from NCIS: a forensic chemist but also a cyber forensic specialist. His goal has long been to work for the FBI to help solve crimes and make a difference in the world. I never told him what to be. But, apparently my fondness for crime shows rubbed off on him. Though now he is also wondering if he should be more like Spencer Reid, boy genius. It’s his life. I’m just here to offer support and advice as he asks.

That’s another fascinating thing about this age: your shifting role as a parent. With my younger son, it’s all about teaching right from wrong. It’s doling out punishments for not going to bed on time. It’s picking out their clothes until they learn that stripes and camo is not a great look. You give 6/7 year old choices, but you are still the one making their decisions for them. They don’t know any better yet. At 17, you’re done with that. Sure, you still make them take out the trash and do their chores, but now it’s about them. You give them a curfew of 12am, and remind them that this means they need to be walking in the door before the click hits that number. But you aren’t there to run their life anymore. Now, you let go and hope to whatever entity that you believe in that you did a passable job.

You’re not going to be there when they are at that party where they are offered a beer or drugs. You have to hope that they hear your voice of disapproval in their ear. You have to hope that if they did make the wrong decision in that moment that you were compassionate enough so that they call you instead of getting in the car with someone who is under the influence. I always told my son “my 10 minute lecture the next day is better than not having a next day”. I won’t lie and say that I won’t be disappointed in his decision, but I’d rather him alive than dead because he was too afraid to call me. I’d like to think that my child is always going to make the right choices, but I’m a realist. He’s going to screw up. I just hope that he knows I’m here to help pick him up afterwards. With my judgement of his situation to come later.

But what’s even more fascinating is the things they learn. My son reads the news, and like me doesn’t trust anything he reads. So he reads more until he’s down a rabbit hole where he feels like he has a good grasp on it. He talks about social justice, asking why things aren’t this way. Then I explain the logistics of “it may sound like a great idea, but like most great ideas, people ruin them”. He doesn’t like that answer. Even more recently, he has become fascinated by cold cases from watching crime shows with me and fascinated with things like false convictions. It turns out, these are things that have further inspired him to follow his current dreams. He doesn’t want good guys to get locked up because someone didn’t do their job in the crime lab. He doesn’t want families to not get justice for their loved ones. So much to the point of when he read “The Lovely Bones” for summer reading, he got so mad that he read the end of the book before he could move on because he couldn’t stand the fact the bad guy got away with it.

I say this a lot in these blogs, but you are not raising kids: you’re raising adults. Whether you realize it or not, your every action can impact your kid and this will either set them on the right path or the wrong one. It’s a big responsibility raising the next generation, but that’s what you signed up for when you made the decision to become a parent. Somewhere along the line, parents stopped remembering that and look where we are now because of that. Kids bully others because they see adults bully. They show kindness because they saw kindness. They work hard because they grew up with a work ethic. If we don’t teach these kids properly, other people will. And that usually never ends well.

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When Safety and Convenience Collides

I’ve had this long saga going on, dealing with the fellow residents on my street. You may have read the stories and followed along on the blog with this first major part, then the second part where the neighbors took this as a slight to them. As if this was all about some vendetta the city and I had against them. As if I was the only person who complained about the parking around the street, which it turns out has been a long running joke in Chicopee for forever despite their insistence that everything was fine until the troublemakers (us) moved in.

Recently, there was a decision where the street would be a one way street and that they would add some apartment parking on the street. What does this mean for the parking signs? Do we still get no parking around the bend so that emergency vehicles can safely maneuver around the street? I guess we’ll find out when I have to subject myself to another meeting of dirty looks and name calling.

What I do know is that I’ve never felt more safe on the street than I did when the signs went up. Even though I got dirty looks, people yelling passive-aggressively as I was outside because I was the cause for all their problems in the world. They didn’t care that the neighborhood was safer now. They cared that they wanted to do whatever they wanted, park wherever they wanted, because they are entitled to that. They have a right to be pissed; their parking situation is equally nightmarish as our street is with only 110 parking spots for 150 apartments.

I am scared. Not that I’m going to get mugged by my neighbors. My husband, who always worries, got enough of a security system where even if something does happen, it’ll be on camera or I can hit the panic button quickly to scare people off and get help right away. I’m not scared about that. I’m scared that things will go back to the way it was. Where cars wouldn’t be able to see the kids walking to and from the sidewalk to get to their school or bus stop or just going to the playground. I’m scared that I won’t be able to let my son play on the front yard again because what if another tractor trailer ends up on my lawn. Or even get scared about him riding his bike on the street because the cars blocked the speeding cars on the street from seeing him and he gets hurt or killed. I worry about those things. The neighbors? Don’t seem to care. I’m “just mad some pots got destroyed”. They don’t care that I put those pots there for the purpose of causing some resistance so that vehicles would stop driving on my lawn. They don’t care that it wasn’t 1 tractor trailer, it was 4 in 4 years. What if my son was there? What if the one had enough force to actually hit that tree into my house? But yea, totally about those pots….

I hope things turn out better than I’ve imagined in my head. My sons start school soon and I have enough things to worry about when it comes to their safety at school. I don’t need to worry about them getting hurt coming to and from. I don’t need to worry about an emergency happening and the ambulances and fire trucks not getting to us or our neighbors in time to save them. But, I might have to go back to worrying because parking wherever they want is more important than that. And I’m just a horrible human being for thinking that safety matters.

When a Bad Man Dies

When I saw the news about Epstein dying, I honestly cannot say my first thought was anything other then “oh well, a sleazy perv died and will get away with his horrific stuff. But at least he’s dead.” I didn’t immediately go tin foil hat. I didn’t care. Honestly, a bad guy dying is insignificant to me. He was either going to go free or not. If he went free like he did last time, the victims wouldn’t get justice. If he didn’t, he’d probably die in jail because pedos aren’t looked upon too highly in prison.

But then the crazies came out of the woodwork. If you were an irrational Republican, the memes and theories were all about the Clinton’s. If you were an irrational Democrat, it was all about Trump. Then there are the crazies who are convinced the royal family killed Princess Diana, who think the royal family did it. The memes are funny enough, but the unfortunate reality is that people believe them.

If you want to go the route of “It wasn’t suicide”, then there are a mass amount of rich, famous, and powerful men he could take down. There could be any number of them that would have the means to get this done. Last I checked, he was friends with both the Trump’s and Clinton’s and likely had dirt on both of them. These families were friends once, maybe it was a joint effort. Both have a lot to lose if those secrets came out, especially the family that is clinging so desperately to the presidency right now.

Or… alternatively, it was just a suicide. He was a cowardly man who preyed upon children. He was spineless. He thought because he was rich and influential that he would just get away with it like he did last time. Only, that wasn’t likely going to happen this time. He didn’t want to face that, so he did the Aaron Hernandez thing and just killed himself to get a loophole acquittal. I promise, sometimes things are just really that simple.

Instead of assuming he got away with something or that the secrets died with him, remember the victims. Listen to what they have to say because you would’ve learned more from them than him anyways. But you won’t listen to him. Because the minute one of them says the words “Clinton” or “Trump”, you won’t believe them. You will say they were paid off. They are making it up for political reasons, just as you have always said when these victims came forward. Kavanaugh didn’t do it, it was obviously a ploy to take away his entitled seat on the Supreme Court. But… what if he did? You assume Monica Lewinsky was a willing participant, but… what if she really wasn’t? Don’t lie and pretend that you care about the facts. You don’t. You care about what facts you can twist to fit whatever theory you have in your mind.

Me? I’m sad his victims won’t get the exact justice that they deserve, but I am glad that there is one less pedo in the world praying on children. I can go to sleep just fine at night knowing that.

No, Racism Isn’t Dead

Do you know who thinks racism is dead? People who have never experienced racism. Sure, I’m a white Irish girl from a middle class family so of course I haven’t experienced racism towards me. I wasn’t raised to be a racist. I had friends across the spectrum because I didn’t care what you were. I just made friends with people. I may have thought that racism was dead back then because I never saw it. My parents welcomed all of my friends because they trusted my judgement. I couldn’t even fathom that there were racist people out there.

Until I saw it. My first experiences with it happened when I started dating my now husband ages ago. People stared a little as we held hands walking around. I heard him get called some pretty awful names for both Asian people and Hispanic people. Which was hilarious, because he’s not Hispanic at all. But it wasn’t hilarious, because WTF people. He was annoyed, but brushed it off. You could tell this was something he’s definitely dealt with before.

After some time that faded away and I forgot about those incidences. Until this one time when we went voting together after we got married. I was looking around a the line and people walked up, got their ballots, and went on their way. Then my husband walked up and I heard something that I had never heard before. “Can I see your ID please?” I looked around him at the person, trying to figure out if I needed to run back to the car to get my ID because I didn’t have it on me. He was stunned, but pulled out his card and showed them his ID. He got his ballot and walked towards the booth area. I walked up, hesitantly. I gave my address and something strange happened: I didn’t need to show my ID. I didn’t see anyone else pull out their ID in a sea of other people that “looked like me”. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Then, the incident that really shook me. The one where some little girl refused to play with my son because he was a little Chinese boy. That wasn’t the last time that he was referred to as a Chinese boy in a negative way. It probably won’t be the last time he experiences racism because he happens to be part Korean. When I married my husband, I didn’t care about that. I cared that this was someone who treated me well and loved me and my son. I cared that he was my better half. I didn’t think “oh maybe I shouldn’t marry him because he’s different from me and I’m going to birth children who were different”.

So no, racism isn’t dead. Just because you’ve never dealt with it or witnessed it for yourself, doesn’t mean that it isn’t real. Just because you’ve never met a white supremacist, doesn’t mean that there aren’t white supremacists out there. The idea of that is insane to me. Just because they aren’t walking around in white sheets, doesn’t mean that it’s some tin foil conspiracy. It’s dangerous to say things like that, especially when you have such a massive following of people that mistake you for news instead of an opinion guy speaking out of his butt.

In short, racism exists and it’s dangerous to ignore that. As parents, it’s our job to raise our kids not to hate by showing them not to hate. That little girl that was ignoring my boy because he was “Chinese” was too young to become a racist on her own. At that age, she learned that behavior. We can easily stop this problem by teaching our children to be better.

You Guys Had it All Wrong… It Was the Video Games!

It was only a matter of time before the conversation came back to the favorite scapegoat: video games. Of course it isn’t the fact that these psychotic people shouldn’t have been able to legally purchase those guns to begin with. That isn’t the problem. The problem isn’t the fact that society has become more emboldened again to show off their racist and hatred-filled rhetoric to those youth that are vulnerable to those things. No, it’s the fact that a kid likes to play Fortnite or Overwatch that’s the problem.

For the people who are all about “guns don’t cause violence, people do” to turn around to go “guns don’t cause violence, but people do because they play video games” is a ridiculous argument. Look at the eSports community across the globe. Last I checked, Korea and Japan don’t have a mass shooting problem in their countries and those are probably the biggest countries for gaming. But please, tell me how I’m a terrible person because I enjoy games that may or may not be considered “violent” and allow my kids to play video games. Spoiler: I allow them to play video games because video games don’t cause violence. People cause violence, if you want to use that same line to protect your precious guns. I will fight for my right to play harmless video games more than I will fight for yours to have a gun that can shoot off 100 rounds too many per minute.

There have been the same amount of legit studies that show that vaccines are harmful as there are legit studies to show that video games cause violence. Spoiler #2: There are none. But science doesn’t matter when you want a scapegoat that doesn’t make you lose millions in lobbying money from the NRA. If video games had lobbyists that spent as much as the NRA does, this wouldn’t even be a conversation right now. But politicians don’t care about people; they care about money.

I’m not sure if they don’t care to find a solution, because as long as they are making millions it doesn’t matter if people they don’t know are getting shot and killed at these mass shootings. There has to be a solution, but politicians are too dumb, lazy, and greedy to figure it out. Maybe if there was more God in the culture they say. What they mean to say “If there was more Christian God in the culture”. Sure, you can vote new people in, but people can be easily bought to trade in their morals and integrity. They can make big promises but they won’t deliver. Our kids will continue dying. One day it will be someone in our family, maybe yours. Maybe even some day a politician’s family will be affected by these tragedies. Will it matter then?

The fact is that there is a solution, somewhere, that’s a compromise. Asking for stricter background checks before you let people buy guns that shoot multiple rounds at once is reasonable. Making laws that have people convicted of violent crimes or have proven to be a danger to others have their legal guns taking away is a reasonable answer. There are reasonable solutions that don’t interfere with your right to have guns and for other people to have the right to live. But it won’t happen, because no one wants to come to the middle since this whole damn country is a divided place where people hate just because. Where they won’t open their minds to hear another side. Where if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you’re automatically enemies. I used to think we were better than this. I try to teach my kids that we are better than this. I’m really starting to doubt if we are as we slide further down this path of disregard for other people. And that isn’t the fault of guns or video games or a lack of God. It’s our fault.

When Hiring Your Commander in Chief

If you are going to be the boss, I think that you should have a general idea of the inner workings of the company you are in charge of. For instance, if you’ve never cooked or worked in a kitchen in any capacity, what makes you think that you can run a restaurant? That can only lead to disaster. Why should we hold the President of the United States to a lower standard than what we would expect in any other business? They need to be qualified.

My issue with past presidents include the simple fact that they never served any time in the military. Presidents Trump, Obama, and Clinton never served their country. Here are 3 people, two of which at least had experience with governing and that silly little paper known as “The Constitution”, but never had the experience of boot camp. They never had to sit in the desert, wondering if the enemy, a spider, or the heat was going to kill them. They were qualified for half of the job of President, not the whole thing.

But the President is our Commander in Chief, the head of our armed services. You want to put someone in there who has served his country proudly. Who will be less hesitant to “just send troops wherever” because they have been there. They know that strategically it may not be the best call. Because of experience. Experience in the military should be a minimum requirement of the President. The ideal candidate will have both legislative and military experience. Maybe if we expect more, we will stop settling for… well, you know.

I’m on the fence of requiring military service for all citizens, mostly because my “mom” fears overrule my logic here. But at a minimum, a person who hopes to be president some day should perform military duty. I’d trust my country’s military better in the hands of someone who has experienced what every other soldier has. I want a leader who is an excellent role model, who can empathize with the military and their families. This will give them more compassion when they are handling things like improving the VA programs. The President should be a proud veteran of the United States Armed Forces. In fact, maybe we should be sure to hire only people with experience for their roles. Maybe the Secretary of Education should have a degree and work experience in, oh I don’t know… education. Maybe the head of the intelligence community or the Secretary of Defense should be decorated individuals of their fields. I have this silly idea of hiring people for jobs who have at least some experience in what they are doing, not just because they had the money to win.

It’s All So Sad

By now, the outrage seems to disappear anytime there is major gun violence. It’s just a thing that happens now, not some rare tragedy. Some thing that we are seemingly helpless to stop. Thoughts and prayers mean nothing to those who are dead, who are mourning. It’s just all so sad. This time it was another “mentally ill, lone wolf”. Code words for “an insane white guy with a gun, who may or may not actually be an alt-right or white supremacist or something but we really don’t want to talk about it”. If it were a Muslim or an illegal immigrant, we’d hear outrage of how liberal policies caused this to happen. But it wasn’t. So you just hear all about how it was some crazy guy, who doesn’t reflect the majority of legal gun owners.

The problem is that there are no real solutions. You can ban guns, but bad guys tend to not listen to silly things like laws. You could make stronger laws and spend more time enforcing those than arresting people who have a dime bag of pot on them. But ultimately, bad guys are going to find ways to do bad things. That’s kinda what they do. That doesn’t mean we can’t cut out a lot of it by making rules like stricter wait periods or allowing laws that take guns away from people who could potentially do harm to others. As they tried to do with the Parkland Shooter, a person who should never have been able to legally obtain the gun with his long list of issues. However, infringement of rights or whatever people are going to argue. The point is, these are things that will never, ever change.

Then you can focus on better mental health care. Look at ways to make mental illness less of a “taboo” and more of a “normal” illness. Maybe even make mental health care more accessible to everyone, and not just the rich people. State funding is always short for everything and private hospitals are just businesses. Again, this is a great idea but no one wants to actually put in the time to make these changes. Insurance companies and hospitals get to rake in the cash, and the people who need help can just suck it up and deal with it. It’s all so sad.

The problem comes down to money. Gun laws won’t change because of the substantial amount of money gun lobbyists toss towards politicians to ensure these laws don’t change. The health industry won’t change because of all of the money that insurance companies throw at politicians. (Notice a pattern here?) Money talks and the rest of the American people can just follow blindly because they don’t know any better. Not that what’s best for the American people has ever been a concern for politicians aside from talking points that end up being bought off anyways.

Actually, the problem comes down to the politicians that take the money. The ones who understand that American’s have a short attention span. By the time they forget about the outrage of tragic events like the one at the Garlic Festival, they are already posting selfies and live video of themselves as they do the most mundane thing while the masses are more concerned about that than what is going on around them. Politicians know that they can ride the wave while it’s there, but they don’t have to do anything about it. Because unfortunately, no one cares until it happens again. It’s all so sad.

There are no great solutions. That doesn’t mean that people don’t have to try.