The Punk

“Gentlemen?”

Recently I was given a stack of writings which my great-grandfather wrote for my grandma. I love them so much I thought I would share.

This one is titled “The Punk”. I remember this being read to me as a young man of 13 or so, after I had been caught with some friends doing some non-gentlemanly things of which I will refrain from detailing. Needless to say I needed to hear this.

It’s definitely not politically correct, so if you are easily offended you might want to leave. Keep in mind that his was a different time, don’t project your modern sensitivities onto former times.

The Punk

Let us begin with a sort of syllogism:

The pig is an animal. The pig is without ideals. Man is an animal. Without ideals, man is a pig.

The few ideals I have come to me from my father. He was imperfect, as we all are, but not nearly as much so as he would have been without these ideals. They were “fixed” ideas, and gave stability to his character. I learned while yet very young–without quite knowing what it was that I was learning–that, right or wrong, I could depend on my father. Nothing else could have meant quite as much to a boy. He gave me many a light thrashing, but never one I didn’t deserve. Nor were the thrashings as severe as they might have been. These thrashings were given more for the “impression” than for punishment. “Mercy is greater than justice, ” he thought. Possibly he believed that the way to make an “impression” on a boy’s mind was by way of the seat of his pants. About that I wouldn’t know, but that idea has very often occurred to me. I believe he felt that too often and severe whipping of children was a dangerous practice. Young children are creatures of impulse and learn to reason as they go along. To raise a decent child is, at best, a full-time job and but very few people are properly fitted for it. And too, it is an individual task. Production-line methods will not do, for children are individuals and require individual training. In our modern world children are much influenced by people who never give them a serious thought. I have often been surprised at some of the silliness children bring home from school. And much of this silliness does not come from other children, but from supposedly mature people–their teachers.

My father, for some reason unknown to me, seemed to be prejudiced against the word “gentleman,” and rarely used it. Possibly he wished to avoid the narrow sense in which this word is so often used–particularly by the English. Gentlemanliness was a thing not of birth or wealth, but of behavior. The blackest and most ignorant negro was a gentleman, and worthy of all respect, if he behaved like one. For your amusement I will tell a tale he told us.

Henry Clay visited my grandfather once or twice. One day while taking Clay for a tour of the field, they came to a slave working alone. As they passed, the slave lifted his palmetto hat, and my grandfather lifted his (not palmetto) in return. As they rode on Clay expressed a little surprise at this. “I will never allow so humble a man to surpass me in courtesy,” said my grandfather. As I have run across this same tale, dressed differently, in a dozen altogether places, I haven’t the slightest doubt that it was the purest “malarkey.” Somehow how this courtesy mixed with the word “slave” does not go down well. If the tale was true, I fear that my grandfather was “showing off” before this Kentuckian.

My father’s ideals were–as it appears most worthwhile ideals must be–social. Aside from earning a living, and not entirely aside even from that, the most important things were our relations with the people around us. As I set some of these ideals down, I realize that to many people of today they will appear to have been impractical, or illusory, or Quixotic, or to many young men and women, downright Sir Galahadish. But times change and so do ideas; whether for the better or the worse, each of us must decide for ourselves. Gentlemen, as my father defined the word, are fast disappearing, and it looks as though in a few years they will be museum pieces, like mummies.

A Gentleman will not:

  1. Steal
  2. Lie
  3. Cheat
  4. Boast
  5. Bully, insult, or in any way impose on those unable to defend themselves
  6. Make a clothes-horse of himself and attract attention by strangely cut and flashily colored clothes, lest he be called a fop or a peacock. Personal adornment should be left to the ladies, with whom it is proper. Man and their clothes are like books–wise words are seldom found in rose colored bindings.

Men are physically stronger than women. This strength carries with it an obligation. The obligation is that this strength be used to aid and defend the weaker. By the weaker is meant men as well as women and children; and by strength is meant mental as well as physical strength. Women, although weaker than men, are the mothers of men. Generally, they suffer more than men, and those who raise families work harder than men. It is the duty of man to make woman’s life as easy and as pleasant as possible. It will be hard enough at best. All women should be treated with respect at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. There are proper times and places for all things. Men must be very careful of their behavior toward women, especially in public. Anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to familiarity must be avoided. When in public with ladies, men must never speak in a loud voice or indulge in loud laughter. To do so will attract unfavorable attention to the lady. Ladies must never by spoken to across the width of a street. Unless absolutely necessary they must never be spoken to at any distance that exceeds fifteen feet. Only three things are expected of a gentleman meeting a lady on the street–to lift his hat, bow, and keep moving. The first two are not nearly as important as the last. It is the duty of a gentleman, in the absence of a lady’s own friends or relatives, to defend her against insult and injury. This rule applies to children and other weaklings as well.

When a caller comes, welcome him and see that he has a good chair. Then look around for something to offer him. The best you have will not be too good, or the least you have, too little. On a hot day, if there is nothing else, a glass of cool water will be pleasant. This small offering will add to the caller’s feelings of welcome and will help put him at ease. This is an ancient custom and, when done and received with the proper spirit, one of the finest.

The visitor under your roof is sacred, as you will be under his. We are not permitted to insult a man in our house, nor his own.

But, “Alas, how are the mighty fallen.” We go from one extreme to another. My father did not live to see what I have seen–a respectable young lady walking down the street being whistled at, barked at, howled at, and hooted at by every punk within half a mile. My father, had he lived to see this, would have done one of two things; either dropped dead with rage, or hurried after his shotgun. He would have been very certain that the young lady resented all this public sex-inspired hullabaloo, and would have regarded each whistle and cat-call as a separate insult, to be separately taken care of. But I am not nearly as certain of things as he was, for I have once or twice seen young ladies, in the midst of such din, smile, as if pleased or complimented by such a demonstration. I consider: Either this young lady is not as fine a creature as we have believed her, or she does not realize the true meaning of the bedlam created by this pack of more or less sexual degenerates. This demonstration reminds me of another I have seen. It was that of a pack of ten or a dozen male dogs following after and fighting over a female. The male dogs were certain the female was in heat. Apparently this pack of punks assume that the young lady is in the same condition.

Surely these men are not normal. Certainly no group of sane, civilized men would be thrown into such a convulsion by the mere sight of a young lady passing along the street. But–such is the punk.

We have compared the man without ideals to the pig. But we will not compare the pig with the punk. After all, the behavior of the pig is not too bad if we keep him penned up and away from the garden. We are not allowed to pen up the punk–unfortunately. For to be a punk is not a crime–only a tragedy.

I have exaggerated purpsely. I am not through with the punk, nor am I serious. Let us close on a pleasant note:

“The emblem of man should be the axe. For each man always carries one concealed somewhere about his person, and is ever seeking a chance to grind it.”

-Mark Twain

Dailyish Thoughts #104

Literally nothing to do with this post. But look at that snail go!

My youngest just turned five, my eldest is about to turn thirteen. And I am just getting older by the minute. People don’t give kids enough credit. Those minds are quick, clever, and always absorbing. It is a joy to watch these wonderful people grow up. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take at least a little bit of pride in them. But really, what have I contributed much more than a few genes (and all the good genes are from their mother)? They are wonders on their own.

Why do I suddenly have a flashback to some horrible Chinese food we had in Arkansas? Does anyone else ever pull up random memories completely without context? That place was awful, and I’m easy to please, so that’s saying something.

We are talking about completely rearranging the house again. Rooms will be repurposed, furniture rearranged, and multitudes of items “rehomed” in the trash or shelves at Goodwill. This should be interesting…

Advice From a Bus Driver

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It’s been a long week. One of those weeks that have put a few more gray hairs into my beard. I started my bus route this week. Most of the kids are well behaved, they get on the bus, they sit down, they don’t yell and terrorize each other. But one school… oh… wow…

Here’s what I would say to them if I could sit them all down in a room, with no traffic or schedules to distract us:

Dear middle-schoolers:

First off, I’m not here to be a guru or to be your parent or your coach. I’m just here to drive you home safely and efficiently.

I am not mad. I am concerned, really. I care about you, and not just your safety on the bus. I care about your character, I care about your potential, I care about your future. It’s not a cliche to say you are the future of this world. You literally are the future.

To the ring leader. The Boy Scout. The one who will probably have a referral by Wednesday of next week. I was there once. I know the dirty jokes, stupid dares, and pranks that happen in camps and meetings all across the country when you think the adults aren’t paying attention. You are young and naive and you will do every thing you can to test the boundaries around you. But you are also trying to impress your friends. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sudden quietness and semi-respectfulness when certain peers get off the bus. Here is some advice: if you have to act like an asshat to impress your friends, they are not the kind of friends you should have.

To the ones of you calling me old and “that white guy”, I’m probably younger than a lot of your parents. This gray hair is a result of stress and anxiety of raising five kids your age and younger. I’m not old, I’m learn-ed. And why does it matter one lick what color I am? I don’t look at you and take note of your skin tone, I couldn’t care less. But I do look at you and notice your behavior. Young and ignorant behavior has no color bias. Stop making a big deal out of race and I guarantee you will go further in life.

Now about your respect of others, I can’t wash your mouths out with soap. I can’t change your language in the short time I have with you every day. To be honest, I don’t care if you are loud or use “adult” words (do you kiss your mother with that mouth?). I have five kids, I know noise. I’ve learned to tune out the nonsense and key in on emergencies. Or in your case the insults, the disrespect, the meanness. You’re at a competitive age. You compete for attention, good or bad. You believe that tearing down others is the best way to climb to the top. Again, I get it. I was your age once. I said some horrible things to others.

Want to climb to the top? Have some respect for others. And yourself. You disrespect yourself when you tear down others. Be better than those around you, and bring them up with you. Out-do each other in awesomeness, not cruelty. That way you all succeed, or at least none of you are destroyed before you have a chance to get up.

Most of all, dear children, I have this advice: sit down, seatbelts on, windows up.

Safety is first on this bus.

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Daily Thoughts #66

I feel poor sometimes, and perhaps by definition I am. But then I actually spend time with someone who has been poor for awhile and I realize not just what I have, but how ungenerous I am. You want to meet a generous person? Go find someone who is barely getting by.

Apple harvests can be a painful endeavor. I’m grateful for ibuprofen and Arnicare.

As crazy as they can be, I personally think I have some good kids. It makes me feel ashamed sometimes how non-judgmental they are when I am positive my face can’t hide anything. It doesn’t even matter if I am not thinking judgey thoughts, I can feel my face responding to my surroundings. Them? Anywhere they go they are at home, not a word or a look to make one think they are out of their element.

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Not There

I’m not where I want to be.

This might come as a surprise to most of you.

Or not.

Maybe you have guessed that I am a bit restless in my current situation. Maybe you suspect that I am merely living a lie and will eventually give it up and go back to my old way of life.

I don’t want to go back.

I left a career of nearly ten years to go do something else that I loved. Then I left that after two years to give my wife an opportunity to do something I knew that she would love (and I wasn’t wrong). But am I doing what I love?

Yes and no.

I love being with my kids. I love teaching them and talking to them and watching them become great little people.

But sometimes they are real jerks. Sometimes I get tired of being around them. Frequently I feel like I fail them on so many levels. But I love them. So yes. I love what I do.

But.

I need adult interaction. And more than just the superficial internet interactions. The presence of people is a balm for my anxiety and loneliness. There are times when being around the kids perks up my spirit, but they are the takers in the relationship. Adults give and take, the dynamics are different. Right now where I am I do not get the kind of adult interaction I need.

I have dreams and goals. But I never think I am good enough. I am always the contingency guy. I have a goal, I assume right off the bat that I won’t get to it, so I automatically search for all the secondary plans.

Where do people get their optimism? How does one make a goal and dream and actually think themselves good enough to get them? How do they take control of their lives and make the things they want happen?

Or do they? Do people ever actually get what they want? Or am I just watching too many movies? I swear I see people out there on blogs and Facebook and elsewhere living the lives that they want. Surely there is something flawed in their life, something they don’t like, something that is not quite right.

How do they live joyously despite those things? How are they successful in jumping past those kinds of problems and focusing instead on the good things, the successes?

The simple answer is that they aren’t. Everyone has struggles. No one is arrived 100%. Some people are just better at displays than others. They are simply good at social media.

Or perhaps they really are hopeful. Some people are just optimists. They do a good job at seeing the good and understand the best way to make those good things happen is focused work towards them.

So the answer to getting where I want is simply focused discipline? Make an effort to get adult time? Focus on the good goals and spend a little less time on contingency?

Time will tell.

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Fatherhood Is Not Babysitting

This was in a Facebook group I’m in. Most people got the joke. One guy commented:

“What exactly is this meme saying?

Why is the woman abandoning her God given role as mother “for the next few days”?

Why is the father being regarded by both women almost as a boyfriend?”

My response was “you gotta be trolling.”

But looking at his timeline I really don’t think he was. His posts show that his worldview assumes men and women were created exclusively for distinct “roles”, women to pump out babies and stay with them constantly until they are capable of pumping out their own, and men to go out of the house most of the time to till the fields and provide the means to buy food (which definitely falls into the woman’s role). These roles are rigid and unbending.

I’m not completely opposed to the idea of roles. In any organization, such as a family, division of labor is helpful to ensure that all jobs are taken care of.

But implicit in this guy’s worldview is the idea that men are incapable of raising children. The fact that a woman would “abandon her God given role” and leave her children in the incompetent hands of their father is appalling. We all know men don’t have the capacity to nurture. We know their attention spans are way too limited to ensure the kids get all that they need to survive.

Implicit in this worldview is the concept that fathers are nothing more than babysitters when they take responsibility for the care of their children. If this guy had his way, the mother would never be out of the child’s presence. The father would will never be left out of his league watching the kids for a few days, let alone a few hours.

Maybe I am being uncharitable. Maybe this guy is a great father. Maybe he lets his wife “abandon her role” and go out occasionally. I don’t know.

All I know is I take exception to the idea that men are useless for raising children. I reject the notion that fathers are babysitters and the jokes about them needing “rescue” and being incompetent.

This guy may not have understood the meme, but I think most of us got the point loud and clear.

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Daily Thoughts #46

Have to love driving to town with some purpose in mind and only getting it half done. Thanks customer support for not being there.

Good sleep is necessary for good health. I kicked two out of four of the kids out of the bed and man did it make a huge impact!

Taco Saturday has thrown off taco Tuesday. What am I going to do for dinner tomorrow?

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Daily Thoughts #43

It’s paycheck Friday! Which means… bills… Oh well, it was nice to see those numbers for a few hours anyways.

Well, bills and carnitas fries… My kryponite.

There is nothing wrong with dancing to tunes from your childhood in front of your 12 year old, no matter how awkward it makes her feel.

Speaking of childhood, I realized today that I missed mine. I didn’t learn how to play foursquare until I was 30!

I must be doing something right, she’s singing along with those songs…

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All You Need is Love

“Love…is a many splendored thing.

Love… Lifts us up where we belong.

All you need is love…”

While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.

Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.

Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.

In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).

Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.

But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.

God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.

Adventures in Fathering

Four out of five, because it’s impossible to get them all together…

When you take over as a full time parent, people always seem to have expectations for your success or failure. Dads are particularly singled out with these expectations, but not in the way one might think. From what I have experienced, the male of the species is expected to do a lot less.

I get compliments all the time about my kids. I suppose I could just chalk it up to how good they really are, and beautiful, and smart. But most of the compliments seem to be aimed at me. But I am only half of the reason they are how they are, if that. Would people compliment my wife like that? Would they compliment her if she had to wrestle all five of them through a church service? They tell me I’m doing so well bringing them week after week, would they do the same to her?

The double standard seems to assume men aren’t as capable of parenting as women. Fathers are inept creatures, barely able to juggle one child, let alone five.

Frankly the assertion makes me laugh. Yeah, my kids are a handful. They are constantly moving, vibrating really, and sometimes they make noise at inopportune times. They treat me like a jungle gym. They stand firm in “no” and make me drag them by the leg into certain places. But it isn’t hard. It’s exhausting sometimes to be sure, but not “hard”.

I love them. I love the challenges they bring. I love watching them make connections and grow and learn. I love that they force me to be strong and active. I love that they ask complex questions and make me think. If I was not actively involved in their lives I dare say I would atrophy.

I pity the men out there who don’t have kids, or at least act like they don’t. I pity the men who don’t know their kids well enough to know what discipline works for what kid (hint: they are individuals, every one is different). I pity the men who never engage with their kids, physically or mentally, for they will grow olds quickly without the exercise.

Most of all I feel a bit grumpy towards the men who fit the stereotype of inept and aloof. They are the reason for so many misplaced compliments towards men like me. They are the reason I will get five compliments to every one my wife gets. They are the reason my kids never get told how awesome they are, everyone is too busy being surprised by me.

Next time you see a lone father (or mother) with well behaved (mostly) kids, compliment all of them.

They’ll appreciate it.