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Why Girls Don’t Tell

Recently dozens of women across America, have stepped up and admitted to being sexually assaulted, abused or harassed. Most of these women have not said a word for years. And across the country, people are howling “Why didn’t she speak up thirty years ago? Why wait all this time to come forward with sexual misconduct charges?” I know why these women waited and I’m gonna explain it to you.

When I was 12 or 13 years old I went to a pool party with my mother and father, who was an architect. The party was  hosted by a contractor who was building a shopping center my dad designed. They had been working on the project for over a year. There were several other couples there but I was one of only two kids. The other child was a little boy, probably three years old. All the adults sat around the pool with their cocktails while we splashed around in the pool.

At 13, I was skinny and tan with long hair. And on that day I was wearing a purple and gold bikini that I loved. After a while I went inside the contractor’s house to get two glasses of orange juice.

As I opened one of the cabinets for a glass, I felt someone behind me, pushing up against my back and butt. I turned around and it was my dad’s friend, the contractor.

He told me my swimming suit was coming untied and then he started trying to mess with the swim suit strings on the back of my neck. I tried to move away but he blocked me and then started tracing my tan line with his finger tip, from my shoulder down the side of my right breast. When I tried to move away again he  smiled and said, “Don’t you want me to help?”

I ran out of the house and jumped into the sparkling blue pool.

I never told my mom or dad about the incident. I couldn’t understand why a grown-up was acting so weird and gross. And I was afraid if I told anybody I would get in trouble or it would start a fight between my dad and his friend.

I told one girlfriend about the incident, but nobody else. And she didn’t think I should tell anyone either. That’s how important decisions are made when you are 13 years old.

I tried to forget about the incident for the next twenty years. It was nothing, who cared? It was over and nothing really happened. Right?

It wasn’t until I was thirty years old and had a daughter of my own that I thought back and got mad. I got furious! How dare that scum bag put me in that situation. It scared me and made me feel as though I’d done something really bad. If anyone did something like that to my daughter I’d beat the snot out of them.

And if I learned twenty or thrity years later that this creep was running for political office, a position of power, I would spill the story in a heartbeat. I would tell anyone who would listen. But there wouldn’t be any proof and I doubt anyone would believe me, because I was thirteen years old and didn’t knowthe rules. I didn’t know I was supposed to tell when adults did gross, weird stuff, because I was only a child and had no way of understanding adults.

Goggles

Goggles

A short story

Steve jumped out of the car in front of Kroger. He was going to get a buggy and start working over the produce section while I found a parking spot. It was raining so I thought I’d be nice and let him avoid the run through the parking lot puddles. He was dressed for work, khakis, a red polo and good shoes. I’d been at the pool all day and wasn’t worried about my crocs.

It took me a few minutes to find a spot. Then I tried to sprit through the rain. Once inside Kroger, I dried my face and glasses with the inside of my tee shirt. It took me a moment to spot him. He had a buggy and was standing in front of the bananas and plantains. He was laughing with someone, a woman. I realized it was our neighbor, at least she lived on the same street. Heather Meyers. She’d obviously avoided the rain.

Heather stood in front of Steve’s buggy wearing navy leggings, a cute off white sweater and boots with cute heels. She looked like all the real estate agents I’d ever known. Perfect hair and lip stick, killer eye brows. My legs were longer and stronger, just because I’m a swimmer, but all her other stuff was way better than mine.

I don’t like the “real estate” look with the big lips and hair extensions. I wouldn’t want to look like that. But I understand why middle age men seem drawn to that look.

I took a breath when I realized Heather was touching Steve’s buggy. Actually it was more than touching, she was holding his buggy, as they laughed.

I tried to smile as I approached them, suddenly aware of how wet I was. Steve said, “Hey honey, you really got soaked. I’m sorry. You remember Heather?”

“Of course.” One of her hands moved off the buggy but the other still had a grip.

“We were just talking about this crazy old man at an open house today.”

I nodded and smiled. I wish I had my contacts in instead of my utilitarian glasses.

Finally Heather said, “Well, I’ll let you two get to shopping. See you tomorrow Steve.” And she touched him on the arm as she walked away. Four fingers, four perfect French nails, on his brown arm.

I couldn’t really speak. We shopped, got the things on our list and paid. I responded appropriately I think when Steve said something to me. But I didn’t have the words to talk to him.

We had decided earlier in the day that we would swim laps after the shopping so I headed toward the YMCA. Steve and I met and fell in love while we were both swimming the crawl and butterfly in college.

Steve  joked that our love was chlorinated. When we got married we were both still coaching and living like college kids. Then I got pregnant and we realized one of us had to get a better job. We literally flipped a coin and decided the loser would go into real estate. The market was booming and we both liked people.

Steve lost and had to take off his speedo. Things have been pretty good for the past seven years but we live in different worlds. I live at the pool, I work with kids and talk to parents, I wear my hair in a ponytail every day.

Steve has to dress like a grown up, make appointment, talk to clients and slogs through the paper work.

But every night we sit down for dinner with our son, Sam. Everything is good. We all laugh and tell stories about the day. We listen to Sam talk about teachers and friends and bugs. Then Steve goes into his study to work for another couple of hours and Sam and I get ready for bed.

I park in front of the Y. Steve takes my hand, squeezes it and says. “I’ll change and meet you by the pool. Did you bring my goggles?”

I nod and smile and once again he’s out of the car.

Because I’m already wearing my swim suit under my clothes I walk straight to the indoor pool. I can’t stop seeing Heather laughing, holding onto Steve’s buggy. She tossed her perfect blonde mane as she smiled at him. I remember doing that years ago.

Deliberately, I put our towels and goggles on the wooden bench, then stripped down to my one piece, took off my glasses then tightened my pony tail. Slowly, I sat down on the edge of the pool, lane two, and waited for Steve to emerge.

I was squinting in the direction of the men’s locker room when he stepped out. He still had a swimmers body, long and lean. But he’d given up the tiny speedos he swam in during college. Now he wore longer tight swim shorts that made his thighs and butt look amazing, even after years in the office.

He sat down in the lane next to mine and smiled. “You ready to do this.”

“Absolutely.”

“Well come on Coach.” He slid into the pool then started stretching his neck, shoulders and arms. For the first time I noticed he was unusually tan, considering it was November. Had he been tanning without telling me?

We both pulled on our goggles then agreed on twenty five laps and both kicked off.

After four decent crawl laps I stopped and pushed the goggles up on my forehead. I could see Steve’s minimal splash at the far end of the pool. I could see his elbows rise out of the water but from this distance, without my glasses, I really couldn’t tell if he was coming to me or swimming away.

A Dangerous Game…… Part III

Part III

The next morning, Cal dressed and walked into the kitchen.  Tara and Rachel were already eating pancakes with syrup and strawberries.  Typically, Tara slept until almost eight. The kitchen in the morning belonged to Cal and Rachel.

Tara looked at him but didn’t really smile. “I’m taking Rachel to school this morning, Cal.”

Pouring a cup of coffee, Cal nodded. Mark Greenland was already changing his family .

Driving to school, Cal banged on the steering wheel. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do and this was a foreign feeling.  He prided himself on being a man who always approached problems with a system. He studied them, laid out a plan, then took action. But now he was lost.

What he really wanted to do was find Mark Greenland and beat the shit out of him. But that would do at least three things he was sure of. First, it would get him arrested because the kid was a minor, only seventeen. Second, it would cost him his job. And finally, it would turn Rachel against him.  She wouldn’t understand. She didn’t know enough to understand and he couldn’t tell her.

Then Cal had a thought. Why not tell Rachel the truth? Tell her the whole story. She was a smart kid, she loved him and her mom. She was old enough to understand. He and Tara could talk to over dinner, explain everything and then move forward.  If Rachel knew the truth about Mark, she would be safe from him.

Simply having a plan made Cal feel better immediately.And it was a good plan, one that would help bring his family back together. Because he was moving forward, and simply telling the truth, Tara might even possibly start forgiving him.

At 3:00 Cal was on the field, holding a clipboard and pacing.  He was waiting for his team, but what he was really waiting for was the cross country team. By 3:30 his coaches and team were on the field. And so was the Cross Country team, but Rachel and Mark weren’t there.

While his guys ran laps, he found Murphy, the cross country coach, in the bleachers with a notebook and stop watch.

“Hey Coach,” he said as he sat down next to Murphy.

“Hey Cal, what are you doing up here?”

“I didn’t see Rachel. Where’s my girl?”

“Oh, another runner needed to get some new shoes but he didn’t know where the New Balance store was. Rachel offered to go with him. I hope that’s ok. It’s Mark Greenland, he’s a good kid, and fast.”

Call nodded and stared across the field. He didn’t see his players,  didn’t see the coaches or benches or field goal posts. He only saw a vast and empty space. A terrain unfamiliar to him but he knew he had to find his way across.

After telling his assistant coach to handle practice, Cal walked to his office and called Tara. He told her what Coach Murphy had said. Then waited for her to respond.

“Cal, oh my God, if you had just done the right thing. If you did what we agreed you needed to do, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. You realize that, right? But for some reason, that I still don’t understand, you decided to cover for this kid and now look what’s happening. Cal, do you understand this is entirely your doing? This is all happening because you didn’t do what you said you would do. All you had to do was THE RIGHT Thing!”

Finally he was able to speak, “Tara, here’s my plan. Rachel is smart. Tonight I’m just gonna tell her the whole story. I’m gonna tell her the absolute truth. She’ll understand. ‘

“You can try Cal but I don’t know if that will work.  She’s never really liked a boy before and they were texting this morning when I was driving her to school. You should have seen the look on her face. If it hadn’t been Mark, I would of thought she looked adorable. You have to find a way to make this stop. You have to. Hang on a second. I just got a text.”

The phone was silent and then Tara was back. ‘It was Rachel. She just said she’d be a few minutes late. She said she’d be home by seven.”

“Seven? No, tell her she needs to come home now.”

“Cal, I don’t want to start a fight with her before you even try to talk to her. Thirty minutes won’t change anything. But you have to fix this, you have to. If you don’t I’m gonna talk to Mark on my own.”

“I’ll fix it. I swear to God I will. At this point I don’t care what the fuck I have to do. I love you so much Tara and I’m so sorry.”

Cal waited, but she didn’t respond.

#######

Tara’s car was parked in the driveway. Cal parked, took a deep breath and got out of the truck. There were lights on in the house but not on the front porch.

His wife was sitting at the kitchen table staring at her phone.

“Have you heard anything else?”

No, I texted, “I love you,” but she didn’t answer.

After opening a bottle of beer, Cal sat down next to his wife.

“I’m just gonna throw a pizza in the oven for dinner,” she said absently.

“That’s fine, whatever is easy.” He took a sip of his beer. “Tara, Rachel has never ever been anything but smart and kind. Hell, she’s perfect. We have to have faith in her. She’ll get it, she’ll understand.”

“I hope you’re right but she’s also a fourteen year old girl. I remember what I was like when I was that age Cal. Think about the girls at school.”

“No! She’s not like them Tara. Rachel is nothing like most of the kids I see…..She’s sweet.”

Tara sighed, “I know she is. She’s really sweet. And maybe that’s part of the problem. We’ve protected her too much.”

Cal heard a motorcycle pull up in front of the house. By the time he got to the door, Mark was gone and Rachel was walking up the stairs grinning. She was carrying her backpack and a helmet. “Hey Pops!”

“What were you doing on a motorcycle, Rachel? You know that’s not ok.”

“I know but it’s all good,  I promise. Mark was super careful and he even made me wear his helmet so I’d be safe. His car was broken down so we had to take his bike. It was amazing.”

“No Rachel, you can’t do that. You can’t just jump on a motorcycle and take off. You have to talk to us. You know how we feel about motorcycles.”

“I know, but I promise, we were super careful. Really. And I’m home now. ” She hugged Cal for a long time, and he knew it was because she had so much fun, not because she loved him.

Cal pushed himself away and said, “Go inside. Your mom needs you.”

But by the time he stepped away from her Mark was already gunning the bike, and then he was gone. the chicken shit was scared to talk to him. He wouldn’t even look at him.

When Cal walked into the house Rachel was telling her mom about the adventrue. Tara was silent, she put plates on the table and waited for Cal.

They all made it through their first slice  before Cal tried to start the conversation. “So Honey, I need to talk to you about Mark.”

“I know you think he’s too old, Pops, but we’re just friends.”

Cal shook his head. “It’s not that Rachel.  I need to tell you about him. He’s not like he seems. He’s flirting with you to try to get at me cause he’s really mad about some things that happened last year.”

“Mad at you, why? And what do you mean he’s flirting with me to get at you? What, you don’t think a senior like Mark would think I’m good enough to flirt with, for real? ” She looked at her mother. Tara tried to hold her hand but Rachel pulled away.

Cal pushed on. “No, that’s not it. It’s just that Mark and I had an issue last year and he said he was gonna make me regret a decision I made about him. I think he’s gonna just try to hurt you, as a way of getting back at me.”

Rachel’s beautiful blue eyes were now rimmed in red and her bottom lip trembled”Mark and I are friends, it has nothing to do with you. Nothing.  You know he says such great stuff about you and I can’t believe how you’re trashing him. That’s crazy. He told me you guys wouldn’t understand because I’m a freshman and he’s a senior. He warned me and God, he’s exactly right.”

“It’s not about age, Rachel. Just listen, please?”

“Fine, I’m listening.”

Cal hesitated. He told Tara he would tell Rachel the whole story but now he wasn’t so sure. “Last year, after a practice I found Mark doing something bad, something he wasn’t supposed to do.”

“Something bad? What am I? Four?  What was Mark supposedly doing?”

Supposedly, the fact she used that word hurt. But Cal knew he had to keep going. “Mark was selling drugs to some kids, little kids.”

“Little kids, what kids, how old were they?”

“I don’t know, maybe 5th grade, that’s not the point.”

“And what kind of drugs?”

“Jesus Rachel, does it matter? There was some pot and some kind of pill.”

“You don’t even know what kind of pill it was?”

“Rachel, stop. That’s not the point.”

“Everything you are saying is  ridiculous, you don’t even know what he was “selling” to these kids you know nothing about. And besides,  he’d never do that. He told me all about his mom, about his whole family. They are a bunch of druggies and he hates that, he hates drugs.”

“Honey it’s true,”  Tara said, leaning in closer.

“There’s no way, that’s not him.” Rachel looked at Tara, pleading. “Mom, you don’t understand what he’s been through. You don’t understand how hard it’s been for Mark. You guys are just saying this because you think he’s too old for me. But age doesn’t matter. Oh my God, I can’t believe you  would make up this stuff just because you don’t like him. Mark warned me you might do something like this. I can’t believe he was right.” The tears were starting, she wiped them away as though anger was a weakness.

Cal stood up, then sat back down. “We’re not making it up Rachel. I swear. Honey you know we only want the best for you , you know that. Mark is not a good guy.  When I tried to talk to him about the drugs the next day, in my office, he went freakin’ ballistic, it was crazy. He’s not a good guy, Rachel.”

This time Rachel stood up, tears rolled down her cheeks. “He’s nothing like you’re talking about. You have no idea.  ” She took a step back from the table.” It doesn’t matter that he’s a senior and I’m a freshman but you can’t see that and he told me you would be like this.” She stepped even farther away form them. “Why can’t you understand that we are old enough to make our own decisions, to know who’s right for us? Why don’t you get it? You have to stop treating me like a child, because I’m not one anymore.”

And then she was gone, up the stairs. Gone.

The clock in the living room clicked, the pizza remained untouched, Cal and Tara were silent. They had no words. Nothing to say. For almost thirty minutes Cal waited for his wife to speak. Every time he tried to say something she shook her head, telling him to stop immediately. And so he did.

 

*Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think and Part 4 will be up next Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pit Bull Decision

A few months ago a skinny white dog with spots appeared on our lawn.  We have a great big German Shepard wolf hybrid who barked furiously at this stray. Our dog, Aries, tried to run the dog off.  Barking and growling constantly. The dog would disappear in the brush, then reappear an hour later.

This went on for three days and finally, on the third day, Aries allowed the spotted dog to come closer to the house. He was painfully skinny After another day or two the dog accepted our food but would not let us touch him.  When we reached, out he cowered and ran away.

Aries acts as though she still disapproves of the dog, who’s big square head seems disproportionate to it’s body.  But they were obviously becoming buddies.  After a week Spots allowed us to pet him, if we were sitting down and very calm.  He had cigarette burns on his head, so we tried not to touch those.

Fast forward three months.  Spots is firmly entrenched in our family.  He’s a joyous dog with a club like tail, that bangs back and forth when he’s happy. And that’s all the time. He’s broad chested with a  a neck as thick as an elm tree. We laugh because he sleeps on his back in chairs with his paws sticking up.  We laugh because he snores and if you hold you hand up in the air and say, “Face Five” he’ll jump up and hit your hand with his nose.

Spots, who probably weighs 50 pounds, is extremely protective.  Aries barks and growls when strangers drive up the drive way, but when we tell her to stop, she obeys.  Spots goes into “mad man” mode.  His bark and growls are terrifying and spit flies from his jowls.  We have to physically reassure him everything is alright before he believes it and calms down.  He feels he has to protect us at all costs.

If Spots wakes up in the middle of the night and need to go out, he comes to the side of the bed and whimpers. If that doesn’t work he puts his front paws up on the edge of the bed and very sweetly licks my ear. He’s that kind of dog.

Here’s my problem. Spots is obviously a pit bull mix. My guess is he’s a Pit Bull/Bull Terrier.

I don’t hate pit bulls but every time I hear a story about a pit bull attack, I’m one of the first to say, “Pit bulls are different than other dogs. They were breed to fight. They turn into savages way faster than other dogs.”  Other dog breeds are abused and neglected but you don’t hear about Hound Dogs and Labradoodles turning into ne cold killers because of the abuse.  In my opinion, there is a  flaw in Pit Bull DNA that makes them more likely to attack and sometimes kill.  It’s rare to hear of a Beagle, Great Dane or Collie attacking it’s owner, mauling a child or killing a stranger. Very rarely. But Pit Bulls do these things pretty frequently, especially when compared to other breeds. There’s a problem with Pit Bulls.

But I love Spots….so what do I do? Am I hypocrite who says, “not my dog”.  I think Pit Bulls are dangerous but I love Spots.

 

 

Teen Age Boy Brain Goes MIA

Rich people are different than you and me. And so are stupid, brilliant teenage boys.  Their brains are different, waaaay different.

My fourteen year old son,  makes great grades but still can’t remember to put on deodorant or brush his teeth in the morning before we leave for school. I’ll say “smell good?” a couple of times, he’ll say, “oh, yeah, right.” Ten minutes I’ll find him in his room studying sheet music or looking at a youtube video of a guy who strained out all the pulp from 65 dollars of orange juice……ate it.

“Sandor, you  don’t have time to watch that. Teeth and arm pits, Buddy”

“Yes ma’am.” he says smiling and walking into the bathroom.

He never remembers to ask for lunch money or pack a lunch.  Old schoolers tell me, “let him go hungry and he’ll start remembering.”

So I did that, two weeks in a row. He just walked around hungry for ten days.

He forgets to eat, literally forgets because he’s so caught up in playing the drums, writing music and talking to his buddies. Then, at three o’clock in the afternoon he’s suddenly so hungry he wants to eat his own arm. He devours everything he sees, first come first served, chips, cookies, noodles, post roast. It’s crazy how much he goes through and I say, “When was the last time you ate?”

“Last night at dinner I guess. I just forgot.”

But his brain is still functioning.  He still remembers to hug me first thing every morning when he stumbles out of his room. He collapses into me as though his life depends on it. Then starts him morning ritual.

I’ll send two boys into the store with a twenty dollar bill. “I need ten in gas.”

They will appear, five minutes latter with a Gatorade. “How much gas do you need?”

But they can memorize an entire foot ball play book so I know something is going on in their heads.

Everyday when he gets out of the car he remembers to tell me he loves me first. He remembers our secret handshake and all the different handshakes with his buddies. He remembers to do his homework and exactly how to mix the dog food for the puppy dogs.

He remembers when I touch my nose it means “say thank you”, when one of his sisters extends an open palm, he’s supposed to tap it with his fingers and say “happy chickens!” And he remembers to say grace in Hungarian at every family meal.

He remembers the language of family. He never forgets the words and gestures that make us…..us.

Sandor can always make up for a stinky day because he forgot to take a shower. He can always gorge after he forgets to eat.  But the families precious orbit and loving satellite system is different. When we need each other, we all have to remember. We all have to be there. His stupid boy brain will settle down some day and he’ll remember to brush his teeth seven days in a row. Until then what’s important is he remembers  “Happy Chickens and the “Sexy Dolphin Dance.”

I Have A Hobo Problem

hoboI have a problem with hobos.   First, let me say I like the word “hobo” way better than “homeless” or “less fortunate” because it sounds like they are choosing to be a hobo.  They want to “ride the rails” and travel the country in a box car with a jaunty bandanna, cute dog and a hobo sack tied to a stick.

I know the truth is most “hobos” have mental problems, drug problems, many are vets and it totally sucks.

Here’s my problem.  When I see a guy standing on the side of the road with a sign that says “Homeless Vet Need Food God Bless” I feel I really really need to give him a dollar, or five or ten because I’m afraid he might be Jesus.  I constantly think God might be testing me, sending His son down to test me.

If I was God, that’s what I would do. It’s the perfect way to find out what’s in a person’s heart.  Do you really want to help or do you want to look away, ignore or judge?

Some times I see guys on the side or the road with a sign, asking for help and I reach into my pocket quickly. Sometimes, I’m kind of slow or hesitant, because I don’t believe the people are actually poor, looking for a job, hungry or needy.

But what if I’m wrong?  What if my judgment is off, what if it is Jesus?  That’s what drives me crazy and makes me worry for my own soul.  I look at people, their signs, their clothes, their expression and I judge.

Judging is wrong. I don’t know what they’ve been through, I don’t know what’s in their heart. How could I presume to think I know anything about their heart. Deep in my heart I know I shouldn’t judge.  That’s God’s job. My job is to help.

 

 

 

 

Horsey Healing

img_0038Everyone has wounds, unique emotional scrapes and scars. Childhood and growing up, family and friends can sometimes  beat you up and leave sore spots that we try to ignore or cover up.

I have a running joke that I cheerfully keep all my emotional skeletons locked in a closest and that’s where I want them to stay.

If we are lucky in life, we  find salves and ointments, activities, places and people who make us feel better as humans.  There are things that can smooth the rough corners and edges of life.

This year I discovered a place, right down the road, whose sole mission is exactly that.  The Loco Bonita Ranch has some horses, a lot of them: and these animals have magical gifts.  They make people feel better.

Seven years ago John and Sonja McCaleb opened their ranch and their hearts to folks who need them. Kids who have to live in “children’s homes” , stroke victims, students with emotional struggles and adults with unnamed, but very real pain have a place and some horses who understand. It’s one of the craziest most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Sonja, John and their horses are quiet and kind, patient and encouraging.  I watched as ten year old girls, twenty year old men and middle age ladies suddenly found peace as they  brushed a 2,000 pound horse and talked. Years of physical and emotional pain dissolved as the horses nuzzled on them and tried to nibble the buttons on their shirts.

A lovely woman I know had a stroke a few years ago. She hadn’t been near a horse in forty years and all she wanted to do was ride, one more time.  Sonja and John made that happen and it was beautiful. There were tears and laughter and horse poop and the world was right for an hour. Despite her disability she left empowered, knowing she could still do anything she set her mind to.

High strung, anxious, angry teens slow down as they figure out how to brush a horse.  The look into those big dark eyes and breath in the peace of Loco Bonita. Sometimes as John or Sonja shows them how to take care of a horse they tell their stories….for the first time.

Kids who have been abandoned at home and bullied at school discover they have the ability to brush, saddle, bridle and lead an enormous, beautiful horse. And they can ride that huge animal without threats or abuse but with understanding and strength.

John and Sonja refuse to charge for any of their services.  They just won’t do it.

The eighteen horses at Loco Bonita along with the Llama, goats, pigs and dogs do wondrous good in the world.  The ranch is a place of peace and power, of grace and beauty.

Over the past 7 years Sonja estimated they’ve had at least 5,000 folks come through Loco Bonita and every one has been touched and helped by a horse. Both John and Sonja work full time.  They help people because it is their passion and God’s plan. If you would like to visit or make a donation to help feed a horse (they eat a lot) let me know and we’ll make it happen.

Peace be with you,

Diana

hampoland@gmail.com

“That’s Disgusting!” Said The Boy

norman-rockwell-thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479A few weeks ago a young man came over to go to the lake with us and spend the night. He’s a nice kid, has good manners and was fun. But Alex and I were both horrified, yes, that’s the word I’m going with, when dinner time rolled around.

The menu was pretty simple. Roasted chicken, green beans with bacon and baked sweet potato fries with ketchup. Sandor was excited but our 14 year old guest, who’s a big ol football player, looked concerned. He sheepishly said, “I don’t really eat that kind of stuff.”

“You don’t eat chicken?”

“No ma’am, well, only fried chicken, like chicken strips.”

“Will you try one bite?”

Reluctantly, he nodded his head yes. I cut off a piece of white mean with some crispy skin.He stuck it in his mouth and swallowed but was shaking his head no the entire time. The texture of actual chicken was so foreign and strange he had a hard time swallowing it.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I brought some food from my house, though.”

Let me go on record, my husband Alex, makes awesome roasted chicken. I could tell he was about to get pretty angry, so I rubbed his back, until the boy disappeared into Sandor’s bed room. “It’s not his fault and he’s obviously really embarrassed.  If you want to be mad at somebody be mad at his folks. This is their doing.”

Sandor came out, sensing there was “an issue”.

“When you go to Hunter’s house, what do you eat?”

“Junk mostly I guess. Cereal, pizza, fast food, soda.”

“So nobody makes any real food?”

“No ma’am.  Hunter’s really embarrassed.  He brought a pizza and some bagel bites with him though.”

I told Sandor to have him come out and eat with us.  We were all gonna watch a movie and eat dinner. I offered to put Hunter’s food on a plate but I promise, this is true. He sat at the far end of the couch, eating his pizza out of his back pack. And he looked like a beaten dog. I felt so sorry for the kid.

Parents, make your children eat real food! Don’t put them in this situation! Don’t wait till they are seven or eight years old or you will have an epic battle on your hands. Make them eat normal, healthy food when they are babies. Good Lord, I know you love your child but don’t let them grow up on a diet of processed junk food.

What would happen if you put pancake syrup in your gas tank all the time instead of gas. Well that’s what feeding your child junk food all the time is like. Sure everyone eats a Happy Meal, Nacho Dorito Tacos and stuffed crust pizza some times. Don’t cheer for your kid when they eat an entire bag of chips.  Being overweight in school can be really hard. Kids are mean.. Just stop it, ok?

Your kids will learn to eat and like what you teach them to eat and like. You have all the power. Use it responsibly, Spider-Man.

 

The Beauty of Boyhood

flip-out-2“Mom, we’re gonna go jump on the trampoline.”

“But it’s raining.”
“That’s why we’re going.”
The three thirteen year old boys thundered out the door in tee shirts and basketball shorts.

I made a fresh cup of coffee. When I heard Aries, our German Sheppard, barking, I looked out the window. She was on the trampoline with the boys in the rain. They were all laughing and she barked deliriously.

I opened the door. “Hey, get the dog off. She’s got claws and will shred the mat.”

Two of the boys said “yes ma’am” as they all coaxed the dog off the trampoline. But she jumped back up with them instantly, refusing to be cut out of the fun. Drops of water flew from the trampoline mat and off their soggy heads, every time they jumped.
I called the dog and told her to go under the porch.

For almost an hour the three boys wrestled and bounced in the rain. They peeled off their wet tee-shirts and threw them into the grass.

The tallest boy is a redheaded football player. He loves to tell us extraordinary facts about “gingers”. He’s very proud of his hair. The muscular boy with dark hair is a musician and vice president of the 8th grade Beta club. The smallest of the boys has bright blond hair. He’s very quiet but he’s the daredevil of the three.

They start playing a complicated game called Dead Man. It involves a blindfold, counting and body slams.

Listening to them laugh and talk trash, I realize this moment is Boyhood’s Last Stand. This is the golden moment and will be gone very soon.

Right now, in the rain, they do not have a single dark thought or worry. Two of the boys have girlfriends. They hold hands and hug on the middle school play ground. The boys sneak up behind the girls and pick them up, an act of affection and a show of strength.
The girls laugh and squeal and demand the boys put them down.

The boys do the same thing to each other, but there are choke holds and punching too.

Soon, very soon, there will be kissing and holding on desperately. There will be emotions, passion, love, anger, joy and frustration. They will still

have fun but will not play as much. And thoughtless joy will fade.

I should tell them to come inside and dry off. There is thunder in the distance. But I can’t do it. It will end too quickly on its own.

 

Please leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear from you. And if your interested having advertising on the page let me know. I’m pretty cheap. hampoland@gmail.com

Do Your Kid A Favor….Four Things

JpegThere are three things wait, four things, parents have to teach their children before they are five, six or at the latest, seven years old. Otherwise…it’s too late. And if you don’t teach your child these three things consider yourself a mediocre parent. I should know.

#1 Teach your kid how to ride a bike. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of patience and running around. Your child is going to cry and get mad at you. They will want to give up, but don’t let them. Take the time to hold the back of the bike seat and run up and down the parking lot or side walk.

Learning to ride a bike when you are young is easy and not nearly as scary because you’re a short person on a short bike, you are close to the ground and you don’t look like a complete doooof if you are wearing all kinds of elbow and knee pads, extra underwear and a football helmet.

Little kids fall down all the time, it’s not that big a deal. But when grownups fall down it’s a monumental embarrassment. Kids fall down then pop back up. Adults fall down then miss work for a week.

I failed to teach Mary how to ride a bike. We rode with training wheels, then took one wheel off but that’s as far as we got and I didn’t force the issue. So my beautiful, brilliant adult daughter still needs one training wheel.

#2. Teach your child to swim, or let somebody else do it. First there’s the safety side of the equation. Unless you live in the Middle East your child will spend time around water, lakes and pools, he’ll end up on a boat.

 

When grown ups try to learn to swim they are terrified because they know the reality of the situation. If they go under they will die. The adult brain also interferes with the learning process. A two hundred pound man may know he can float but he doesn’t’ believe his great big fat body will stay on top of the water. So he thrashes around, sinks, gets water up his nose and gives up. The end.

 

Teach your child to swim to the edge of the pool and to hold on before they are one year old. The kid doesn’t have to be an Olympic swimmer, they don’t need to know all the strokes including the butterfly, but they better know how to float and how to get to the shallow end of the pool.

And think about this, the planet Earth is 71 percent water. You don’t want your child to be afraid of 71% of this place.

When a child learns to swim it’s cute, when an adult tries to learn to swim it’s embarrassing and traumatic.

#3. Finally, please teach your child how to shake hands. Little boys and girls.  All you have to remember is “firm grip and eye contact”. Their lives will be better with this one simple skill.

When Jack was 13 or 14 he decided he wanted to look like an absolute freak, bright red mohawk, suspenders, plaid golf pants. Still, he had a great handshake, he knew how to look an adult in the eye and act like a man so coaches, teachers and ministers cut him some slack and still loved him. Grown men let him date their beautiful daughters in part, I believe, because he had an excellent hand shake.

If a kid has a pathetic handshake I generally think they are weak or sneaky. I can’t help it. And yes, I know lots of scummy, slimy people have great handshakes. But do your child a favor. Start shaking hands with them when they are two years old. Shake hands all the time at home. Role play, shake hands in the morning and say “nice to meet you, sir.”  Kids will think it’s fun and remember, when they are little, remind them to shake hands with new people in private before you introduce them.  After a while, it will become automatic.

And the best part, when they are little but shake hands like a grown man, people will say, “wow, great hand shake buddy!”  The child will be really proud and keep doing it.

When Sandor’s thirteen year old buddies come over I shake hands with them. If it’s gooey we work on it. It’s that easy. Young men need to know how to shake hands but if you don’t teach them they won’t get it.

If I were to add one more thing to teach your kid, it would be how to make a phone call, if they aren’t calling their friends.  They need to know how to say, “Hi, this is Morgan, can I talk to Heather.”  At least once a week a kid calls my phone, looking for Sandor. They just say, “Uh, where Sandor?” I tell them what they need to do (sweetly) then tell them to hang up and try again. 98 percent of them do it and get it right.

We all want to make our children’s lives better. You can teach them the skills that will absolutely help. And it’s actually fun!

 

 

 

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