Sunday, March 26, 2017

I thought this parenting thing would get easier

I thought it was supposed to get easier.
I thought the older the children grew, the easier the task of raising them would be.
I thought wrong.
When our first child was born more than two decades ago, I thought the task was insane.
The whining, crying – and that was just me; you should have seen the fuss the newborn made.
Going from no kids to one kid was a big leap. Raising the wee one becomes all consuming. You are at his every beck and call, 24 hours a day.
Feeding the little gaffer several times a day, changing his diaper every two or three days, I mean come on, how much can be expected.
I am kidding about the diaper thing, of course. As any parent knows, when Junior needs a diaper change, he needs it now and he is none too shy about vocalizing his displeasure when the garment that gathers recycled food matter becomes uncomfortable.
Eventually, the diaper days are done, then, it's potty training where you make a big deal when Junior goes poopoo on the potty.
Any self consciousness is wiped away by the time you finish dancing around the bathroom with a toddler because he made a stinky in the potty.
But with potty training comes accidents, so you never leave the house without at least one extra change of clothing because, as I learned quickly, when Junior has to go, he goes.
“Daddy, I have to go peepee,” said Junior while we were in a store one day.
“OK, son, hang on I will get you to the nearest bath....”
“Too late, Daddy. I already go.”
Cue the change of clothes.
Similar stories can be told of all my children, and I am sure every parent can relate.
I was prepared for that aspect of child rearing – sort of – before we had children. I knew once a child arrived, my life was no longer my own and I accepted and even embraced it.
I really did enjoy being a dad — maybe not the cleaning up barf from all over the floor, crib and wall at 2 a.m. — but, most of the time, it was a task I did enjoy.
It was fun to watch them reach milestones like:
  • successful potty training
  • going to school
  • going to high school, etc.
But I must admit, once they got into early adulthood, I thought my parenting stress and responsibility would reduce.
This is where the parents of adult children snicker at my naiveté.
I am learning one set of parental stress is simply traded for another.
Helping them through the early years of adult life is proving to be a bigger challenge than I thought. I used to think once you're an adult, you are on your own to forging your own path.
While they are forging their own path, that path leads through post-secondary education and that means money – lots and lots of money.
My two oldest are in university and working hard to get by. Both go to school full time and work part time, but they still need a little help once in a while.
When they are a few dollars short on rent, or tuition or books, it is often up to the Bank of Mom and Dad to help out.
So the stress of getting them out of the baby and teen years morphs into the stress of helping them through the young-adult years.
Not just the financial stress, but there is also emotional stress as they navigate life, love, loss and all that other stuff young minds encounter.
There's the stress of watching them make less-than-ideal decisions, or trying to help rein in the raging hormones of a teen girl (that is a story in itself.)
But that is just part of what parenting is all about, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Now, if you will excuse me, tuition is due for both of my oldest, so I am going on eBay to sell a kidney.
Any takers?

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Computers are nothing but pure evil

The more I use them, the more I am convinced computers are vile entities designed to make me crazy.

I suspect I am not alone in my assessment of the ‘marvels’ of technology.
Many movies have been made about computers running rampant and destroying humanity. I say we are almost there.
The electronic beasts have effectively taken over the world and are in control of everything from traffic lights to international banking.
They were supposed to make life easier, but as my home computer proved this week, that’s like saying alcohol makes people wittier.
My computer had been acting up for some time and the other day it gave the electronic version of a death gurgle and shut down.
My computer at work is in good shape, but it still drives me crazy because, after all, it is a still a computer.
Then there is the perennial problem of the electronic terrors crashing without warning. One minute you are merrily working away, your fingers happily caressing the mouse and then - BAM – you are left staring at an error message.
I think I know why quirky little things happen when using the infernal machines: computers are evil.
More than once I have wished I could bring a computer to life just so I could have the pleasure of killing it.
“Hi, I’m your computer. I have just come to life.”
“Really, that’s great.”
“Reboot that.”
Acting as a buffer between feeble-minded computer users – I’m not mentioning any names here - and the technologically bloated machines are the tech experts, who are sometimes referred to as geeks.
I, of course, would never call them that and have a deep and heart-felt respect for their astounding ability to communicate with said machine, and to correct whatever digital crisis the device may be enduring.
I really mean that. I am not just saying it because there’s a chance the company tech will read this and take offence to being called a geek.
Because if he were to take offence to the comment (which I am not making) the next time I go scampering to him for help, he might just stick his fingers in his ears and go, “La-la-la-la-la” until I went away.
Or worse, he might put his hands over his eyes and say, “Where’d the tech go? Where is he? He’s all gone.”
When it comes to fixing computers I am lost after re-booting, which is the first thing I do no matter the problem.
Smoke and flames could be pouring from the hard drive and my first course of action would be to reboot. If rebooting doesn’t work, I might try hitting it on the side like the Fonz would have done. I would like to add that never works on computers or anything else for that matter.
I would then think bad thoughts about the computer before running to our most beloved in-house computer tech who is not unlike a knight in shinning armour waiting to battle the evil, glitch-breathing dragon that has dared attack one of his flock.
One time I explained the problem, but he was too busy to tend to the matter immediately, so he rattled off some possible solution and asked if I knew how to do it.
I said I didn’t have to know how to do it. That’s what he was for.
He corrected the problem in about four seconds.
“The least you could do was make it look difficult so I could salvage some shred of self worth. Maybe spend a whole minute fixing it or something, I mean, c’mon will ya. Every body is watching.”
Maybe I’ll just sit back and wait for this whole computer “fad” to end.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long wait.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm old and wise. I used to be young and stupid

It happened once again.
The clock kept ticking and another birthday came and went – just like it does every year.
I have been roaming this earth for a little more than half a century, soaking up knowledge and storing it in the vast intellectual vault that is my brain.
OK, I will admit a lot of that knowledge is absolutely worthless. Did you know cockroaches have teeth in their stomachs to break down their food? Now you do.
Just another useless tidbit of information I have archived over the years. I could barely remember the information in a book I am studying, but I do know all bananas have a very low level of natural radiation.
But I am much wiser now than I was 20 or 30 years ago.
There is a difference between being smart and being wise.
Smart will help you figure out quantum mechanics, wise will help you realize you are not smart enough to figure out quantum mechanics.
There have been many instances when I have passed my hard-earned wisdom on to my children – only to have it completely ignored.
Not because it was poor advice, but because teenagers know everything in the world that has ever been worth knowing.
Junior bought a truck a while back. A great big four-wheel drive that is much more truck than he required.
A co-worker asked me why he needed a truck that big.
“He didn't 'need' one that big, he 'wanted' one that big.”
And to a teen, 'want' and 'need' are very often the same thing.
While the truck is in pretty decent shape, it needed new tires before long
Wisdom told me the rubber would be expensive. And when I mentioned that to Junior, he replied, “I know.”
I told him they would cost more than $1,000.
“I know.”
I told him with the bank loan, insurance and his social life, coming up with that kind of money will be hard.
“I know.”
Well, the time has come for the rubber to hit the road and that rubber is going to cost a bundle.
When I mentioned it is time to replace all four tires, he replied “Ya, but they are expensive.”
To which I had the great pleasure of responding with, "I know."
My son is very smart, but he is not very wise.
What young lad is, really?
I wasn't at that age.
It has taken five decades to accumulate such a vast wealth of knowledge and intelligence. Well, knowledge anyway, I have never claimed to have an abundance of intelligence.
It is a shame you cannot download all that wisdom to your children, saving them from making he same mistakes you made at that age.
But because it is the first time they have done or experienced something, teens think it is something completely new and us 'old people' wouldn't understand.
What the kiddies don't appreciate is us 'old people' have already walked that path, we have already experienced what they are now just discovering.
I am sure my own father wished he could have injected his wisdom into my teenage brain, just like his father and his father before him.
But before you can be old and wise, you must be young and stupid.
I admit, I took the stupid part to new heights (well, new to me anyway), but what teen didn't do stupid things in the name of adventure and excitement?
Wisdom teaches you it is not smart to try and jump a barbedwire fence with your dirtbike. The stupidity of youth says 'Go for it, dude.'
Wisdom also knows new tires for a big truck are expensive, eating fast food several times a week is not good for you and the world will not stop rotating if you do not get the latest and greatest gadget.
Not all 'old people' are wise, and I have some peers who are still making some very dumb decisions. Fortunately, I am now wise enough to not make the same choices.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I love dinosaurs (and they love me)

I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but I just love them.
I have been fascinated by the Jurassic critters for as long as I can remember.
Every time I saw a drawing of one, I always got this odd feeling inside. I am far from being a kid anymore, but when I went to a local dinosaur exhibit, I got same feeling all over again.
Perhaps I should have been a paleantologist instead of a media guy. Or a firefighter instead of a media guy, or a singing barber instead of a media guy or a...never mind, you get the idea.
Anyway, as a wee lad I just could not get enough of the ancient monsters.
Because in a way, that's what they were – real, live monsters.
Growing up, I had books on dinosaurs, life-like plastic dinosaurs and was (am) a fan of pretty much every movie ever made that includes a dinosaur.
I know the movies are not factually correct, but I am willing to over look that just for the chance to see a dinosaur moving and roaring.
However, as a kid all of my toy dinosaurs had to be factually accurate and a silly 'pretend' dinosaur would just not do.
Those dinosaurs usually ended up in the business end of my pellet gun. Which, I must admit, was pretty darn fun.
I would envision myself as being lost in time and having to battle my way past a hoard of gnashing teeth and flesh-ripping claws.
Of course the beasts always lost, and I was always the hero. Childish, I know, but give me a break, I was only 23.
Actually, I was around 10 years old when I got my first pellet gun and discovered the joys of shooting things – like rampaging dinosaurs.
But not the realistic dinosaurs. Those were far too important to fall to the lead projectile of my break-barrel air rifle.
I knew more about dinosaurs by Grade 5 than most kids know in a lifetime. By Grade 6, my teachers forbade me from doing any more book reports on dinosaurs.
By high school, dinosaurs had been replaced by my other passion: motorcycles. I have loved motorcycles for as long as I loved dinosaurs.
Cars, girls, work, motorbikes, girls - all distracted me and my focus on dinosaurs faded into the far reaches of my mind – until my son got old enough to become interested in things and he became interested in dinosaurs.
I did not prompt him to want books and toys on the great beasts, he just gravitated to them on his own. I was one proud papa, and in my 30s I was once again laying on the living room floor playing with plastic dinosaurs.
Junior knew a lot about dinosaurs. He knew many of their names, what they ate and other 'vital' information.
But he too grew out of the dino phase and the numerous plastic dinosaurs were relegated to a corner of his room where they waited to once again roam the earth.
They only had to wait a few years. A good friend of our had a son who was fascinated by dinosaurs to the point that was all he talked about, played with and drew.
This was my kind of little dude.
So I gathered up all the toy dinosaurs we had and, with the permission of junior, gave it to our friend's little guy who looked like he had just won the lottery as I handed him two bags full of the beasts.
Dinosaurs may be long gone, but they are definitely not forgotten.