Friday, June 30, 2017

Should the president be a role model?

Short answer: Absolutely.
Slightly longer answer: Abso-fucking-lutely.

Much longer answer: Since he's assumed office, Trump has gone out of his way to rudely respond to anyone registering the slightest grievance with his policies, his choices for officials, his use of his weekends, even the tweets with which he communicates with the country (and apparently with his staff, since he often announces new and different opinions daily).

But even within his large list of offensive tweets, it's understood that his most recent offensive message heralds a new low point, and probably a new difficulty for those Republicans foolish enough to continue trying to negotiate a channel by which they might actually govern.

In trying to defend his ever-increasing nastiness, his deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Americans might be better off looking to God for behavior modeling than to the POTUS.

Setting aside that God's behavior, unlike Trump's, can't be articulated (some people get long, painful, lingering deaths, others quick ones; some places receive wave after wave of decimating environmental and economic disasters, others simply do not; there is no theology that explains that, only several suggesting we get used to it), there's also the important command, imperative to Christianity, that all adherents try their best to emulate Jesus. Trump claims and has had claimed for him that he is a Christian. Perhaps Huckabee Sanders can explain to us: What aspect of Christ's behavior is he modeling in this most recent tweet?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I don't want to be in charge

I've spent the week in The Thick visiting my dad at his nursing facility, and while I'm here my wife has been having difficulty dealing with the Tall Kid, our foster son. According to her, one of the things he's told her several times has been, "Well, Bobby lets us [whatever it might be he wants to do and she doesn't want him to]. He doesn't have an issue with it."

So naturally relationships between fathers and sons has been on my mind.

She's right when she suggests I'm inconsistent in disciplining him. This is a part of why I've never wanted kids: I can be quite consistent when I'm working, say, with teenage boys and girls because it's only for a number of hours a day, and then I go home and I don't have to care about them. When I'm home, I don't want to be in charge, I want to drink a couple beers and read a book and go to bed. In my defense, I knew going into this situation that could not be how things happened, but I didn't really think much about it.

But I can't be like my dad who, for all his plusses, was not much of a disciplinarian or involved in my day to day life when I was a kid. My mother was easily the primary fount of good and bad behavior, punishment and praise, in the lives of my sister and I. When she was disappointed or angry, or proud or happy, we were aware of it. She was a larger-than-life personality, a Mama Rose without the pathetic demands for attention or the murder accusation. I think I was, somewhere in the back of my brainpan, under the impression I could count on the same happening as a foster dad.

Since my mom died my dad has played a larger role in my life than ever before. One of the things he's done of which I'm proudest is to have been the priary caretaker for my mom the last decade and a half of her life. A favorite memory from those years is his gently tugging a scarf around her neck and making certain her shirt collar was comfortably inside the scarf, reminiscent of my own actions readying residents of group homes where I worked for winter walks. After his retirement as a banker, my dad spent several years volunteering at the same sort of group homes, often doing overnights, work he has since said he wished had been his career.

The Tall Kid lives for basketball and I am watching a WNBA game, part of my determination to watch as many games as I can because I want to appreciate his playing and I want to share that appreciation with him in his language. This is another difference between me and my dad, who never tried to be a part of my life outside (or, so far as I could see, inside) our home. I don't know this will make me a better dad than him, I don't think about it that way. I like to think, since I'm not his father, this will make a difference as the Tall Kid matures.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We Have a Kid

I think a month and a half break from publishing is long enough. During that time, much has happened. Trump's first hundred days have come and gone, numerous scandals relating to said 100 days and earlier have been discovered or uncovered, members of a family were murdered during an argument between a woman and her "bully[ing,] ticking time bomb" of a husband who nonetheless had access to a gun, people were killed by van and knife in London, and a lot of people naturally were killed between May 1 and May 31 around the world in various terrorist attacks. And during this period, we finally took in a foster son.

It was a long process, begun last year. Since, over the years, we have housed up many of my homeless and traveling friends, my wife said, "I think I'm getting the hang of this. Maybe we can have a kid come live with us." We'd talked for years, mostly in the theoretical language we appreciate, of having a teen come to live with us, but now we decided we had crossed the Rubicon between theory and practice and were ready to give ourselves in place of lectures or a little charity. So we began what was, in retrospect, not so bad a process but at the time seemed a huge burden to carry, essentially explaining the way we'd decided to live our lives in such a way that people for whom anything much outside the lines was a line too far (and they begrudged us that, oh yes, they did, keeping us on tenterhooks down to the wire as to whether they would even accept us or not) to be satisfied that we would not assault or eat any teenage children they threw our way. We knew, from the beginning, we would prefer teens as that age is very hard to place, but is the age group with which we were most comfortable.

The Tall Kid is a good kid, 6'4" of opportunity and issues. Like any of us are. Without getting into his history, I will say he's in foster care for the first time, having been placed with different members of his family and being rejected in each case. He behaves well around home, and while there are missteps, they aren't major ones (well, except using my wife's still-working credit card information on her former phone he uses to order sneakers, but we caught that fast and dealt quickly with it. One of the major elements I insist on is that, once a situation has been corrected, that's the last he hears about it, unless he does it again); it's been different at school. There, he's an authority-confronting, teacher-defying frequent user of their In-School Suspension Room, and the day before the end of school his principal called to tell me he had worn out his welcome there and was now suspended for the rest of the school year (which meant, of course, a day and a half).

We are hoping he makes the changes he wants to over the summer before starting high school. We suspect many of the problems at school are attributible to his past behavior and the fact, as someone new to the foster system, and as a Tall Black Kid, he's a focus of attention. At least high school offers  a place for new behaviors. I'm not so naive to assue he suddenly straightens up and flies right. I remember my own teens too well. But I am hoping the new place makes him want to be a different, better person.

I'm reading a book that's 20 years out of date, but is nonetheless one I'm learning a lot from: A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence, by Patricia Hersch. If nothing else, it gives me an insight into the way his parents might have grown up and why they treated him in the ways they did. Color me hopeful.