Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Hunger for More

I’m one of those people with an insistent and persistent voice in my head that tells me, “It’s never enough!” Though this whimsical voice residing in the folds of my brain, penetrating my every thought is constant, it presents itself in various ways. There are times when the voice is a gentle whisper reminding me that dreams are to be pursued and other times it is a nagging, ear piercing scream forcing me to get off my butt and never except mediocrity.

I’ve been blessed and through these blessings I’ve also been cursed. You see, the proverbial clock is ticking and as I crawl through my thirties with an uncomfortable urgency, I realize that the longer I wait for something to happen – the longer I’ll wait for something to happen. God has invested these “talents” in me and I struggle daily with whether or not I have the audacity to tap into them and use them. It takes a lot of courage to multiply and not bury your gifts in the sand for safekeeping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also been surrounded by the most incredible and supportive people in the world. It doesn’t stop me from wondering if my words fall on deaf ears or even worse ears attached to mouths wondering, “just who the hell does this guy think he is?” My goal has never been to be all things to everyone, just everything to me. One of my FB friends posted a quote from Bill Cosby, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” These are truly some of the most profound and prolific words ever spoken!

The funny thing about having the desire for more is that it is a lot like buying a new car; once you make the purchase you start to see your car everywhere! I have friends in my life that are doing some pretty amazing things.

I have a friend that is attending law school after recently losing her mother, a friend who has turned pain that no man should endure into the most thought provoking and engaging music I’ve ever heard, a sister who has started a whole new life in another state, a cousin who is serving in Iraq along with his wife but has not lost a single drop of love or admiration for her, a friend who recently got married but had words of encouragement for me, a fellow blogger who is changing the world’s perception of children with Down’s Syndrome, a friend who has just been commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps and whose wife is pursuing her Master’s degree, countless single-mom friends who have sacrificed everything for their children, a friend who has not let recent incarceration steal his thirst and hunger for life, friends who have dedicated their lives to educating children and the list goes on and on.

To list all of the accomplishments of the people in my life would be impossible, the one thing that they all have in common is that not one of them have allowed life to dictate their definition or pursuit of happiness. My desire is to constantly strive to adhere to the instructions of the voice in my head and take my place amongst the incredible people God has encircled around me. My goal is to be a blessing and make a mark on this earth that can be seen from heaven.

One of my favorite Shakespearean quotes is from the play Twelfth Night:

Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

I’m ready!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Character, Crime, and Punishment

Recently, I was forced to perform as the subsection, “Disciplinarian” under the broader role and responsibility of “Father.” This is a hat that although fits me quite snug, I absolutely hate wearing. It breaks my heart to discipline my kids and to be the one to teach them the life lesson of consequences. The irony is that I’m about to use the World Wide Web to discuss the nature of my son’s offense when, as a child, I loathed the fact that after not sparing the rod my mother would get on the phone and tell her girlfriend’s about it. I understand now that she wasn’t bragging about her physical prowess over me, instead she was looking for confirmation that she did the right thing because her heart was breaking.

Currently, I’m writing from a hotel room in the Midwest and my son is nestled in Southern California, living, playing, and apparently practicing skills I hope he never uses again. I received a phone call a couple of days ago that was obviously prompted by his mother. I could hear her voice in the background encouraging my son to “Tell your father” what he did. The next voice I heard was that of my oldest, Jordan trembling as he informed me that he forged his mother’s signature on a homework log that was supposed to be signed by a parent and turned in earlier that morning. I was furious! “Off with his head” was my first reaction. This is one of those situations that, as a parent, you punish out of fear more than anger; both are equally dangerous.

Hypocrite, thy name is Anthony.

So I began to verbally chastise my twelve year old on the immoral, illegal, and downright disgusting behavior he engaged in. As I spoke, I could hear his breathing quicken and I could only imagine that he was terrified of the pending consequences. I even hit him with the coveted, “I’m so disappointed in you.” What I did not tell my son was that when I was around his age I too dabbled in the art of deceit known as forgery. I remember getting a poor grade on an assignment and rather than give it to my mother for signature I practiced her difficult autograph in my room late into the night. So late, in fact, that I fell asleep with pages of evidence scattered all around me. When my mother came into my room to suggest I get in bed she reacted out of the same fear.

His mother got on the phone and we both were extremely upset. I have to say that I am very lucky because my ex-wife and I are still very much partners when it comes to raising our son. We see eye to eye on most things and respect each other enough to confront the other when we don’t. I had already handed down the punishment before she took the phone. We have been planning a camping trip for the past couple of months and I decreed that Jordan would not be able to go. The camping trip being his idea, he was devastated. His mother agreed with me that not allowing him to attend the camping trip was just. I was still reeling at the fact that he would do something so devious and asked her exactly how it all happened.

Here’s where things get sticky.

Periodically, Jordan receives a “homework log” from his math teacher that shows all of his recent assignments and the grades he received, including incompletes. The idea, of course, is to keep parents informed of their child’s progress throughout the semester. Jordan had some missing assignments, which his mother and I knew about and turning in the log was an assignment as well. Before he brought home the log to be signed, we warned him that we were not going to tolerate another missing assignment. Now I must explain that my son is the king, well let’s be honest, the prince of procrastination. The king is typing these words on to this page. He failed to get his mother’s signature and when faced with turning the log in that morning he made a decision that showed a complete and total lack of judgment. He knew that if he didn’t turn in the log he would receive another missing assignment and be punished. Because he waited so long to get a signature he signed it himself, copying his mother’s signature from another paper she had previously signed. He turned the paper in and his teacher wasn’t aware that he was handing in a forgery.

That same evening, Jordan and his mother were sitting at her kitchen table doing homework. After making her promise that she wouldn’t get mad, Jordan confessed his sin. He confessed without prompt or even the threat of getting caught. As a matter of fact, we later would learn that the teacher would not have even suspected him of a crime. Part of his punishment would be to go to school the next day and confess to his teacher as well. His mother told me that she had to look at the paper he signed again to realize that it wasn’t legit.

So here is my dilemma. The crime my son committed was wrong and needed to be dealt with severely. The character he displayed was refreshing and quite impressive. As judge and jury was I to take into consideration that his conscious wouldn’t allow him to get away with it?

At first, I stood my ground. I reasoned that just because someone has a conscious or moral obligation to himself doesn’t mean that the punishment shouldn’t fit the crime. Or does it?

I wrestled with this quite a bit. Melissa, my current wife, disagreed. She called me later that night and informed me that she was suffering from the same guilt that I was. She reminded me that Jordan knew what he did was wrong as displayed by his unsolicited confession. She also believed that if I came down too hard on him it might deter any future confessions. I might inadvertently teach him to ignore his conscious and roll the dice. So, I relented. Jordan will go on the camping trip this weekend and I thought of a more creative way to punish behavior I never want repeated. The punishment is still harsh enough to correct but lenient enough to reward his integrity.

I want my kids to understand that in life consequences are inevitable. I also want them to trust that their parents are understanding, yet firm. I only hope that this experience was enough to teach my son the lesson he was supposed to learn. I know I learn valuable lessons in patience, gratitude, and trust.


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