Tag Archives: children

The Bravery of Children and Colin Kaepernick

Eight years ago I clicked on a video that came across my Facebook feed. I thought I was clicking on a news article. The headline read something along the lines of “Police Officer shoots and kills handcuffed teenager”. I thought it would be like the news on television, I didn’t think they were going to actually show the video. But it was just the video, there was no article. I watched it thinking it was about to cut out, or that there would be some editing, but there wasn’t.

I sat and watched Oscar Grant be shot to death.anaheim

That image haunted me for weeks. I can still see it in my head. What struck me was that there was no running, jumping, shouting, not even a real altercation. Just a kid in handcuffs lying down on a subway platform, a cop standing up over the top of him. Then he reached into his holster, pulled out his firearm, and with a little “pop”, Oscar Grant was dead and the cop was still just standing there. It was not bloody, it was not dramatic, and it was, strangely, casual.

Since then there have been hundreds of viral videos of people being killed and I do not watch any of them. There is nothing for me to gain in watching another person die. I don’t need to be convinced that injustice happens. I know it does.

But then a few months ago I did click and watch. I did so because I knew it didn’t include a death, and this one came to me from a source less popular than normal, so I hadn’t heard from side channels all about it, and so I watched.

I watched and what I saw sort of surprised and inspired me.

I cried. That isn’t normal for me.

What I watched was a bunch of semi-rowdy brown kids standing on someone’s lawn, and that someone, a white off-duty police officer with a shaved head, was confronting one of those children, physically detaining him, and then the man pulled out a pistol and fired it into the ground amidst a crowd of obvious middle school kids. It was shocking to watch a grown man deliberately pull out a gun and fire it in a crowd of children. It was even more shocking considering that on the sidewalk, watching the whole thing, was a grey haired white man with a cane, just standing there unmolested. Within ten feet from each other, the able bodied white adult thought the situation dire enough to discharge a lethal weapon, while the man who required a cane felt safe enough to just stand there. It was astounding. But that wasn’t why I cried.

I cried because what stood out to me the most was the collective bravery of this crowd of children. It was real life heroism. The contrast between the fear of a grown man with a gun and the backing of the government, and the bravery of brown children, moved me. Who are these kids? If this is the rising generation I am both in awe of their capacity, but more so, I am devastated that this is what is demanded of these children in our modern society. This was not Chicago or Baltimore, it was Anaheim. The suburbs.

These are children who I am sure have seen that same Oscar Grant video. These are kids who know the names Treyvon Martin and Tamir Rice. I have no doubt these kids knew the stakes. These kids knew that a grown white man with a gun might in reality kill them, no matter if they are unarmed, and that this white adult won’t necessarily go to jail for killing them. Knowing this, these kids didn’t run away. They stayed for their friend.

I watched it over and over in amazement. Not only did the kids not run away, they rallied behind their friend. And for some reason on that day, I felt for them. They gathered behind him and pled with the adult to let him go. They argued, they begged and pleaded- even tried insults. They grabbed their friend and tried to pull him out of the captor’s grip- all the while pleading and begging. The white man did not pull out a badge. He just held his ground and detained this kid. The kid didn’t attack the man he just pulled and pulled and squirmed trying to escape. And his friends did not abandon him. After some time, having exhausted other options, a few of the boys switched tactics. They tried punching the man, not in his face which is what any fighter would do if trying to hurt someone whose hands were preoccupied, but rather they punched at his hands. They weren’t attacking the man, they were attempting to free their friend. It didn’t work. Then they tried to tackle the grown man. They were unable. They were so helpless against him that after fending off multiple tacklers this white man retained enough control to hold this boy in one hand, reach into his belt with the other, and pull, then fire, his weapon.

The kids and the camera scream and run, then slow, and regroup.

Again, I do not have the words to fully express that these were just children!

I am not sure if I, in my many decades, have ever done something so brave. But they did. And the reason they had to do this was because of a grown, white, police officer who thought keeping a kid off of his lawn was adequate reason to fire a gun.

When police arrived on the scene, they arrested two of the children, but not the adult. He is still on duty with the LAPD.

The family of the child who was restrained is suing the officer bevause the state saw no grounds to press charges. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, who are representing this grown man, called the lawsuit a “shakedown”. They followed up by saying,

“We hope that this lawsuit determines why multiple young adults chose to physically assault a police officer and what the parents of these young adults could have done to teach their children right from wrong,” the statement read.

It is obvious why those kids did it.

And it is in large part, why I understand, and support Colin Kaepernick.

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That One Place Everyone is so Excited About: Disneyland

When my first child was old enough to understand words and look at pictures, I began showing her images of Hawaii and calling them Disneyland. I did this in hopes that when her peers and surrounding adults would inevitably begin celebrating and pushing this fabled “land”, she would be under the impression they loved Honolulu and that she would imagine herself there… not Anaheim. img_7173

Because I would rather spend all of my money taking my child to the North Shore than some manufactured place with people dressed up as cartoon characters. I figure both places are about as equally expensive (truth), so I might as well trick my children into making me happy.

As with most preconceived notions of parenting, my plan failed.

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Upon realizing that in large part due to current proximity, my children and spouse would full-on demand a Disneyland visit, I full-on planned to send them along without me. Yes I love my family and truly enjoy watching them be happy, but I am not sure my being there to see it is worth $200.

Do you know how much prosciutto I can buy for $200?

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I understand that the things I have typed so far, already qualify me for some sort of firing squad. I do not intend to be sacrilegious, seditious, or even traitorous, I just don’t want to spend $800 for my family to see someone dressed up as Snow White.

Everyone tells me it isn’t just that. But it is in fact also that.img_7204

Let me attempt to be objective about this. I will admit that:

The production value of everything they do is far above and beyond whatever “par” is.

The rides, especially roller coasters, are fun.

There is at any given time and in any given place, something to do or see.

The crowd management systems and procedures are surprisingly effective, and do in fact minimize the horrors of waiting forever behind hordes of everyone to do something fun for a brief moment.

The food while not being cheap, is not bad.

My wife and children loved the place almost more than they love me. They might strike the word almost. I added it to make myself feel better.img_7210

So, having admitted all of that let me list what Disney is not:

Near the beach.

Affordable.

An actual kingdom.

The Devil.

Heaven.

As good as Six Flags.

 

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Being a Kid

When you are little the world is controlled by giants. Everything is taking directions from someone else whose kneecaps look you in the eye.IMG_8005

When and what to eat. Or not to eat. What to wear. Where to live and to whose family you belong. Everything is decided and dictated by someone else and you have no say in who that is. They decide if you are rich or poor, hungry or overfed, blonde or brown haired. Everything is up to them. They control everything and when you are young, your only hope is to eventually get taller. Getting taller takes time, it takes years, and years are the longest things there are.IMG_3683

When you are little the world is measured out from task to task. School comes right after breakfast which comes after you get dressed right after you wake up. Then you color, then a snack, and then a nap. You play. At the end you clean up and then you wait, and if the worst happens, you wait ten minutes because they forgot about you and you almost died because you knew they weren’t coming. But those horrible minutes are erased by cartoons which lead into dinner. After dinner they like to torture you. Sometimes baths but always bed. Bed, where you lie there in the dark being quiet forever until it all ends. Why do they make us do that? It is boring, it is scary, and most of all it is long.IMG_2059This is a day, and to grow up they want us to wait a year? How many bath-times is that? We all want to grow up faster but they won’t let us. They say it isn’t them, it is just how it is, but however it is, it is still out of our control. Just like everything.IMG_2915

They tell us to enjoy it and be happy. They tell us not to cry. They say they wish they could go back and be where we are, then turn around and give themselves another scoop of ice cream and stay up late watching television. We never got extra ice cream and always had to go to bed. They say they want what we have but they never do it. They stay up all night.

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Building a Child, Reluctantly

I am probably not the best parent in the world. I am definitely not the best parent in my house. I normally think of myself first, my wife second, and then there are these small people with these endless needs and demands that normally don’t fit neatly into my ideal plans on how to spend my day. I am currently working on being less self-centered, but it is hard to do since everywhere I go, I find myself tagging along. I am hard to shake. Not only am I hard to shake, but I’m also a little bit lazy.IMG_9091

This is problematic in that when the kids are too lazy to clean their room, I am frustrated because I am also too lazy to clean their room. There are those who will (and if they are reading, already have in their minds) retort that a good parent doesn’t clean the kid’s room because they need to learn to do it themselves. I make no claims at being a good parent and find myself in a pickle because teaching a kid to clean their room is much harder than simply cleaning it myself, and as stated before, I am too lazy to clean their room.

With this as context, I was sitting in the living room reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol II, when my six year old looked up from her note pad and asked, “Dad, what are these things called?” pointing to the door hinges. “Those are called hinges.” She went back to the couch and her note pad, then asked, “How do you spell hinges?” I answered appropriately.

“Dad. Will you build me a house?”IMG_2141

She presented to me a drawing, plans really, of a house, complete with directions of where each “nale” should be placed and instructions on putting h-i-n-g-e-z on one side of the door. I was impressed with her level of forethought and terrified, not by the thought of saying no to this child, I’m good at that, but rather terrified at the amount of work building a house would take.

“Uhhhh, we already live in a house.”

“No Dad. Like a small one. Like maybe this big,” she said holding her hand about four inches above her head.

“No.”

“Then can I build one?”IMG_2131

A child willing to do something I was unwilling to do is hard to turn down. Maybe I was enticed by the possibilities this principle might introduce, like maybe I say no to doing my taxes and she offers to do them for me. Paying bills? Going to my job? This had possibilities. “Sure you can build a house, but it’s going to take some planning. Where is this house going to live?”

“Out back.”

“The courtyard out back looks very nice. What if I don’t want to look at your house? We are renting our house, what if we move? How will your house fit through the door when we want to move it? Nails don’t come apart.”

She bit the back of her pencil and looked up at the ceiling. She didn’t have an answer. This was perfect, because I am not only lazy, but I am also a know it all. “What if you use hinges instead of nails? The whole thing can fold up like Ikea. Go re-draw those plans.” She re-drew the plans.IMG_2130

Were I to write a book on being a great parent, which would be fiction, I would recount all the events that followed. Not only did I allow my child to pursue her dreams but I let her use a power saw in the process. My theory on fatherhood is that if you are lucky enough to get a good kid, don’t mess them up. This is best done by getting out of the way. If getting out of their way takes effort, like getting off the couch, then by all means let the child get themselves out of the way by building their own house out back. This is what I did. Rather, this is what she did.IMG_2152

My next plan is figuring out how to motivate this six year old to want to pay rent. After all, her house is on my property.IMG_2161

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Mount Rubidoux: the beginnings of repentance

Children have a way of naturally highlighting the deficiencies in their parents. Quite often these adult shortcomings are obvious to everyone except the specific parent in question. We parents get caught up in minutia, lunches, pick-ups, drop-offs, lost homework, lost shoes, bed time, sugar intake, oil changes, lessons, stop hitting, say thank you, and on, and on. It’s like running with your head down.nicetrail

Then your six year old, the one who spends no time thinking about any of these things, asks, “Dad, have you ever been on top of a mountain?”

“Uhhhh, yes. Of course I have. On top of a mountain is in fact my favorite place to be. I would rather be on top of a mountain than anywhere else.”

My answer was a little indignant. Of course I’d been on a mountain. I grew up on a mountain. If I were to divide up my identity like a pie perhaps two of the six slices would be labeled “mountain man”. It was not till that moment, sitting in a car in the suburbs, that I realized my child had never been on a mountain. She had never seen me on a mountain. Never sat on the summit and felt the joy of looking out over the world. The simultaneous peace and excitement felt when the ground drops away in all directions.balancing

I have never given that little girl that experience.

Or a pony.

Or a marshmallow the size of a house.

She is deprived.

“Are we on a mountain now?”

“No, we are in a Target parking lot.”

“I want to go on top of a mountain. Can I go on top of that mountain?”

She was pointing up at Mt. Baldy.

“Maybe once you get bigger you can go up there.”

“Have you been up there?”

“No… No I have not.”climbing

Not only have I not been on top of Mt. Baldy but I haven’t been anywhere for far too long. No, strike that. I haven’t been nowhere for a very long time. I had spent so long, and my children have spent their entire lives, living in a place that is so much somewhere that getting to nowhere is quite hard.

I had never taken the six year old to nowhere.

I do not live nowhere now. Nor do I live somewhere. We live in between.jumping

Repentance doesn’t happen overnight but you must start right away. My supplication for outdoor forgiveness began in small steps; steps about the size of six year old legs.

Mount Rubidoux in nearby Riverside has a summit of only 1,329 feet. It has a paved trail. It has a tower, a cross, a large American flag, and on one Saturday morning, a very proud little girl.IMG_1460

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On Fatherhood: Miracles

 

Let me first state that the first order of good fatherhood, and the only one on which I can claim expertise, is finding and keeping the best woman possible. In my experience this is best achieved through dumb luck, hard work, and a belief in miracles. You see, fatherhood is a series of miracles.

The first miracle of fatherhood happened in my life when my wife agreed to marry me. There is no real explanation for how or why this happened, but I can testify that it did.times square

I realized the second miracle approximately three months after the birth of my first child. It was late one evening, I was holding this small person in my arms, looking into her deep brown eyes, and I realized that this child was in fact, alive. It was true. I watched as she breathed in, then out, then in again. She spit up on my shirt. She was definitely still alive; a miracle.

This was not the miracle I expected.swingy

The child was very expected. Say what you will, it is very hard for the birth of a child to sneak up on anyone. We had two years of time to become a good team, then nine months of incubation, all followed by a very dramatic episode that resulted in a very small, very alive, little girl. Thousands of years and billions of births came before us, so none of these things were unexpected. These were very natural, very intentional, very, yes, expected. They were also very external.

The miracle I did not expect was so unexpected, and here is the strange part, that it never actually happened. That is right. The unexpected miracle was realized when the miracle I did expect didn’t happen.

Sitting there, looking at this beautiful little life, I realized I was still just me. I wasn’t different. Inside I still felt like I did three months, nine months, Two years ago. I did not feel more loving, think I was any smarter, no cosmic shift, I was still me. Just-me.

And after three months, she was still alive.

A miracle. workthebag2

That was nine years and another kid ago. The miracles keep coming.

Watching kid number one at the bar in ballet class I see an unmistakable, undeniable grace. Her mother, despite being the best woman I should have never caught, does not have that grace, and I am still just me. Watching kid number two sit on the naughty step after throwing a shoe, I see a sort of bravery, the sort that looks a person ten times her size directly, unflinchingly, in the eye. She does not cringe, she does not shrink; she is absolutely not me. But I am still me.

That is the unexpected miracle.

After all these years I still feel like me and they are not just OK, they are great.

Now sure, I have changed, I have grown, but nothing miraculous. It has all been very labored, very progressive. A natural growth that comes from repetitive actions and climatization. Remember miracle number one?IMG_0604

A large part of what makes her great is that she does not do everything. Parenting is meant to be a team sport and she is the John Stockton of motherhood. She can shoot just fine but she is great at passing. Thanks to her ability I can change any diaper at any time. I know all the words to Good Night Gorilla, can make a pony tail, and have an arguably miraculous ability to leave the house five minutes late for school yet still drop the kids off ten minutes early. All the while I am still just me and she knows it.

That is the miracle of fatherhood.

We are not granted magical powers. We do not rise in esteem through our skill or our innate qualities. We are not transformed from without, nor do we experience this huge flash from within. Most of the time I experience a sort of nothing. A sameness. Normality.

But if I try. If I show up and then show up again. I get to see miracles.

Not some form of super me. Just me.

And still; miracles.IMG_6732

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