July 11

I Am Not A Racist, Am I?

Racists_04

Soccer season is approaching, and I am always a left a bit slack jawed by the things I see in youth sports. The behavior of parents is nothing short of crazy sometimes. There is a lot of emotional investment by parents in the success of their kids in sports. So much so that some parents will intentionally keep their kids playing at lower levels than they belong, so their kid is not only on a winning team, but is the star that makes the wins possible. Soccer in my community is a diverse sport. You see many Latin American and other international first and second generation kids playing. No one thinks much about it on the surface, but there is a trend that I have noticed over the years. There is still a lot racists out there.

My boys have played on teams that have a large number of Mexican and other Latin American kids on them. My daughter is black, and also plays on a team with some Hispanic kids on it. My other daughter now plays on a team with Hispanic kids. They have been coached by Hispanic and Nigerian coaches over the years. My view of this is from the other side most of the time. I see the racists, because kids I care about are their targets.

I remember the first few times I would run into parents I knew at the soccer fields or the indoor facilities and they would say something along the lines of, “I hate playing the Mexican teams, they play dirty.” I would cringe at the words, but didn’t think much about it. Then I was talking to a dad on my daughters team. He pointed out that the parents on the other team would get mad every time the Hispanic girl did something. We started joking that they would do the same when my daughter did something. She delivered a perfectly legal hip check to win the ball, and the other parents almost lost their mind as one of their precious little girls was knocked to the ground. We observed this for a while, and joked that if his daughter did something they wouldn’t be bothered. Shortly there after his daughter plowed through another girl with a stiff armed push. She knocked the other girl down hard, and it was clearly a foul that the referee didn’t call. The other parents didn’t respond at all to the obvious foul, even when the other girl took a while to get up. That is when I started watching all the games with a different set of glasses. I noticed that this was a trend. The darker the skin, the more likely the parents were to believe that the child was doing something on the field that they shouldn’t be.

The problem is that we have closeted discussion about racism. People don’t want to believe that they are influenced by the appearance of other people. They don’t talk about it, so they don’t realize that they respond badly to someone different than they are. The argument generally is they have friends and co-workers from other races, and aren’t bothered by them. Most people in the USA are prepared to discard their preconceived ideas once they have a personal relationship of some sort with someone, but that doesn’t discount the fact that they have them. If I were to mention to any one of these parents the idea that they are responding to skin color and not actions that happened on the field, they would be outraged. This is taboo. Only bad people are racist. I have been faced with racism through my daughter. My own, and others. The truth is we all judge people from what we see. It is a much healthier thing to recognize this, and then be able to intellectually manage it, than to pretend that somehow we are immune to this very basic human reaction to people who are different than us. It is natural for us to regard people who are different from us with suspicion. It is seen even now throughout Europe. People who are all essentially white and similar in so many ways, see the differences in each other and judge each other based on ideas held internally about those people. These ideas don’t matter much once you know each other’s names, but to ignore that you have them is silly.

Perhaps it is the history of slavery in our country that has made the idea that any hint of racism makes you a bad person. I don’t believe that this is how it should be. Racism is natural. We should not succombe to our natural racist reaction to people who are different than us, but to acknowledge that you respond to someone based upon what you see, at least initially, is not a bad thing. Our modern world gives us the luxury to go against our base instincts, but these reactions are natural defense mechanisms. The more different than your mother, father, sisters, brothers, cousins, etc. that someone looks, the more likely they are a threat to you in all parts of the world that are not first world nations. This is the way that people have had to defend themselves over the course of human history. Skin color and other dramatic physical characteristics are easy marks of someone being different from your family. To see the difference and recognize the reaction, and then to alter your natural reaction is a sign of first world social mores and a developed intellect.

Watch what you see out there. I think you will be surprised by the amount of racism there is out there, and how much you respond to race in your own life. I don’t say this as a negative judgement on people. I think it is natural. It is something that if you recognize in your own life, I think you will begin to accel in relationships with people not only of other races, but of your own, because you are paying better attention to the individuals around you.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

May 2

Constantly Changing

High Dumbo Range

This has always been an issue. She has always been an unsettled person. We moved 6 times in 14 years. She left me by moving back to the city, and she doesn’t feel like she was thoughtful enough in her choice, and wants to move again. I almost believe that what precipitated the separation was a desire to move when we were upside in our house. The market killed us. We had made good money on each house up until this one. We are taking a bath in this one. We are selling a house that is more than twice the size of one of our old houses for less money than we sold that house for. It sucks. She expected that I would stay in that house, and be the one stuck while she moved up here and started her new life without me. She would be the known one at the school, and I would be one of those dads. I turned the tables a bit. I wasn’t willing to live that far away from my kids. I moved shortly after her to a place near the kids schools. I am not in the same district, but close enough to drive them there quickly. I am in the neighboring district. I don’t really care if she moves. The kids will, but I am out of the business of telling her she is making mistakes. She can do that fine on her own. I do keep notes on those mistakes. I want to make sure that I keep at least equal time with my kids. My problem is that she can’t seem to find anything in the same school district, and can’t work her schedule around school when she has the kids, so they need to ride the bus, or go to the schools near the high school she works at. This puts me in a position of choosing a place that is convenient to the schools they are in, but not very convenient to where she is looking. It will make my mornings tougher, and make getting to work harder. I hope she changes her mind for at least a year. If she is more patient, she will find a place in the district we are in now.

We have not been separated for a year yet. The schedule is constantly changing. First we were using a 2/3/5/4 schedule. It meant we were changing houses only once during the week. She had the 5/2 part of the schedule. She complained that the kids didn’t feel like they saw her as much, so at the first of the year we swapped schedules. I got the 5/2 part of the schedule. The real reason that the kids felt this way, was because they hadn’t. I took the kids to most of their practices, even when they weren’t with me. There were a number of nights that I would be there while she did something else like the gym. I would do homework, fix dinner, and get them off to showers and bed. She would come home just in time to kiss them good night. This still happens some, but I am much more apt to ask her to bring them over to me, or go get them, and have them spend the night or evening with me. She hasn’t handled my oldest well. They explode at each other. I have posted about this before, and there is more to come. He has done some crazy things in his rages at her. Rages that just don’t happen with me. She has been threatening him with having to come live with me all the time. I finally pulled the trigger, and asked that she let me have him during the week. She would have any access to him she wanted, but he would spend the night with me. He would still have his weekends with her and his siblings, and he would be with me and the other kids when they were with me. It amounted to at most 2 days a week where he may not see his siblings. I thought this was needed to give them some space to develop a new kind of relationship. She was not sold, but went along with it for a week and a half. She then talked to a counselor about him and came over and pretty much took him. She wanted to have him when the other kids weren’t there, except the weekends. The weekends would stay the same. So now he spends 5 nights a week without his siblings. A new family dynamic is being created, and its not good. They still don’t get along any better. She just doesn’t explode in front of the other kids at him. This is sad for me. I really would rather be back on a schedule where he gets to be with his siblings all the time, especially if things aren’t going to change for him and her. I am sure that by the time school starts she will want another change. I am almost tempted to propose that we do one week on, and one week off. Friday through Thursday. We would still help each other with practices, but the consistency I can provide in week, I think would be good for all of them. It would feel less harried, and give me a better work schedule.

With the moving comes changing schools. My oldest has been in 4 different school systems and is only in sixth grade. The kid who hates change keeps getting changed. Even if she doesn’t move, she is trying to change his school to one that feeds into her high school, so she can keep a better eye on him. If she moves they all will be moved to another school, because she can’t get them or pick them up from school. They will have to go to a school where they can ride the bus for her place. I can’t keep them in the same schools. If they came to my schools, I would use the bus. I would also allow them to come to my place every afternoon and start homework until she gets off work. Something she won’t allow. She also won’t go for having to pick them up every afternoon. They have all just made some new great friends, and I am sad that she might uproot them again. Without a pattern of this changing all the time, I don’t believe that I can get them residential status with me to provide that stability. I am going to have to talk to a lawyer and see if filing for that type of custody would do some good.

Changing teams is the next thing she wants to change. She has tried ever season to move my kids from one team to another. She begins bad talking the coach, and making other people feel bad about them as well. I am not happy with this. My son is being made to feel bad about a coach who loves him. A coach who cares for him probably more than anyone outside the family. A coach who does a fine job, and mostly for free, even though he should be being paid. She is doing this for my daughter, who plays on a team with my niece. My niece fought hard to get on this team, and has been a great player on the team. They have fun together, and this is one of the rare times that they get to be together with the busy life our families have with four and three kids a piece. She has told me that it is my responsibility to get them together, and that it wouldn’t be her fault they see each other less. I haven’t told her, but I would not take her to games in favor of playing with cousins if that is the choice I am forced to make. I think I will win with my daughter, but not with my son. His coach is working with us while he is suspended from playing by us for grades and school work. Any random coach who just liked how he played would drop him from the team at the first opportunity, because he is not invested in him.

I hate the fact she constantly wants to change things for my kids. I hope she will settle down, but without me to settle her in her life as a husband, I doubt that she will. I fully expect she will become more chaotic. Divorce is such a huge change for the kids. I don’t think changing the rest of their life is smart, but I don’t have all the say. I hope that my kids get through this without any more damage than necessary. I will try hard to do this on my part.

Ten-Foured,

JeD

April 27

Gladiators

#10: Gladiator

This is phenomena that I have been following the last few weeks. I haven’t done any studying, but have used the experience of having 4 kids who play on 8 different sports teams right now. Moms are treating their children as their personal gladiators. They push and push their kids to do better and better. This doesn’t sound bad on the surface. We should all like our children to pursue excellence. The problem is that it seems to be very comparative in nature. Women are constantly looking for their hero. Go out to any dating sight and you will see headlines referring to knights and heroes. Now this is a phenomena that seems to exist in all women and their children, but it is decidedly stronger in the single or divorced mother. What I have seen is women, particularly those with weak husbands or no husband begin to drive their children to perform better and better. This doesn’t only apply to sports. You will see this in school, the arts, and other areas where kids can be compared. This also isn’t just their male children. There are plenty of women driving their daughters to perform for the sake of being the best. All you have to do is turn on TLC and watch some of those _______ Mom’s shows. I don’t think this is a new phenomena. My reading of history tells me that any society that life has become to easy, and that the wars that are fought are far away begins to have this. Just as women used to give men something of theirs to have when they fought as knights, mothers see their children as fighting for them on the pitch or grid-iron. Somehow they feel like they are a part of it. Language can give this away in some nuanced ways. I used to get caught up in saying we had a bad game like I played. I never was that emotionally involved, but the language was there. I have realized over the last year of separation that my language has changed. Hers hasn’t. Its like she is a part of the game through them. I do think that this is worse in a world where these women don’t have men as heroes. Dads and husbands are not important in their life, or don’t exist. These women have displaced the adult masculine archetype with their little gladiators.

Another driver is the constant comparison that women do. They compare husbands or boyfriends. They compare houses and schools. They compare kids. They want their kids to be the smartest, fastest, strongest of all their friends. They will get angry, actually angry when their little one gets beat by another kid on the field. They aren’t just being overly critical, but are having a visceral emotional reaction to the event as if they experienced it themselves. Their champion isn’t the best. I see this as my wife isn’t happy unless my kids play on the best teams. They are good athletes and normally can play with whomever they like, but I have no desire for them to constantly be seeking the next best team. I was an athlete, and the relationships with teammates and coaches ultimately is far more important to me than being the best. I want the kids to learn and develop not only in their sport, but through their sport. I see very little of this from the moms. They seem to be looking for wins. An example that I see right now in my life is my oldest daughter. Her coach has pushed the team up a division. She wanted to test them, and see some different competition than the last season. They were a .500 team in the lower division. They haven’t won a game yet. The testing is working though. The division is small, and so they get to play most of the teams twice. So far they have played better games against each team they have played twice. They are becoming stronger and more skilled. They are also learning to overcome adversity of a stronger opponent, and get to see the results by playing the same teams again. I think it was a good choice. My STBEW does not. She was furious last week when my daughter was asked by her coach to help with a lower division team right before her game. She said something along the lines of “She is one of her best players, what is she thinking wearing her out before her own game.” I like that if my daughter wants to play she gets to. She is a good player, but at this level of play the best player changes from week to week, and that is how it should be. That is how they get better.

The craziest thing I have seen happen, and its creeping into my STBEW’s arsenal, is punishing for poor performance. Not taking them out for a promised treat. Actually being angry at a kid for not being their best. Making them feel bad about having a bad game. They feel bad enough. The best kids already take on the weight of the entire game on themselves. Sports in my opinion serve many purposes, but ultimately the kids aren’t going to learn most of those if they aren’t having fun. I have only punished my kids for things that happened in sports when they disrespected a coach. The rest of what happens on the field is up to the coach. I will talk with and partner with the coach on solutions for ongoing issues. Poor performance in competitive sports is generally punished with less play time. The kids learn quickly that if they do what the coach wants then they get to play. Now my experience is competitive sports. My opinion about recreational sports is that the parent may have to discipline poor behavior more, because play time incentives are hard when every kid should have equal time. Performance should not be a big issue in recreational sports. Many of the same lessons can be learned, but the intensity is very different.

This is similar to the previous one. Women are always looking to climb. They are much more likely to push their kids to change teams to find a better opportunity. Men seem much less likely to do this. They understand the value of the camaraderie of a team. I like the idea of my kid being on the same team for a long time. They develop lifelong friendships there. They can be a part time mercenary, if they want more games, meaning they can go play with other teams anytime they want. Kids who change teams constantly may be better at the sport than the other kids, but they are mercenaries. Just like the military has very little respect for the mercenary, even when they need them, so does the team that brings on a mercenary for a season. That kid will not be accepted, because everyone knows that he will be gone next season or next year. My daughter is on a team with her cousin. It is a good team. There are some moms trying to convince everyone that the coach isn’t very good. They are disrupting what is a pretty good thing for most of these girls, and especially good for a couple of girls I love. She wants her to change teams to a more prestigious coach. She has never seen a team he has coached. He just has the right credentials to be impressive to her. All her arguments about the team my daughter is on now, and why it is bad, also apply to the group of girls this guy is supplying. The icing on the cake to try to convince me to let her move is that another coach is going to allow his superior athlete daughter to play on the team. She misses the point. Its not actually about winning more games. Winning more games when they are young demonstrates development. I like to push my kids. This daughter already plays on a top division with team an age group up with this same girl. The problem is all these moms are missing the reality of who their kids are and what they have right now as they look for the bigger and better deal.

The final thing I see moms do, and this one is particular to the broad category of “single moms” is the tendency to try to imitate fathers. A harsh word from a father is taken differently than the same harsh words from a mother. As much as the world wants to deny that men and women are different, and that we fill different roles in our kids lives, it is true. They end at screaming at the kids for every technical detail of their play. I know some dads do this, and coaches tend to have a chat with them. The truth is the coach may have different desires. I find that I have stepped back. Having been a player and a coach, I have insight. Its not insight he needs during the game. I cheer, I encourage, and sometimes I have something to say about general game play, but I let the coach do the details. I can always talk to him about details on another day. I hear moms literally threaten punishment for poor play. I know the the quintessential overbearing dad shown in movies does this kind of thing, but I rarely see him. There is no more than one per team, if that many. Now I see multiple moms doing this. They are almost always “single moms” that are imitating what they think a father brings to the game for the kids.

My words to any mother who is in a situation where the father is not there, whether its a co-parenting situation, dad travels, or a true single motherhood, you are never going to be dad. Don’t try to replace dad. When dad isn’t there, the kid needs his mom to be the best mom she can be, and she can’t be that while trying to be a good dad to. Sure throw or kick the ball around with them, but coaches, male teachers, and neighborhood dads are going to give him a better dad experience than you are. Don’t force who gets to do this for your kids, especially boys. Sure guide them, but let it happen. If you are truly being a great mom, they will choose wisely. Now I say this with a forked tounge, because I don’t find that most women end up without the fathers around by making the best choices for their kids. If they did, then the father would be there in most cases. I do hope there are a few women who have turned around, and recognized the past mistakes, and are trying to do things right from here on out. This message is for you. You are not a dad, and can’t do it any better than I can be a mom. Dads are important, but a mom cannot be the missing dad. Being the best mom will soften the blow of not having their dad. I say this as a man who constantly is telling his kids that I am not your mother. I will not try to be your mother. I am your father, and I will continue to be your father for as long as I live. Your mother is your mother, and if you need your mother right now, I will do everything I can to get you to her. I do this with an ache in my stomach mourning that my kids are not in a two parent home where mom and dad are there together. I then go on and act like a dad. I hope my STBEW does the same, but I know she doesn’t. She tries to act like a dad, and my sons respond to her in ridiculous ways. She then calls me in a panic to get me to handle the problem she has created, if only she had been the mom, and handled it like a mom, or called me as the dad in the beginning to handle a situation that required a dad.

Ten-Foured,

JeD