Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It's probably the new "energy drink" phenomenon that really caught my attention, but other than being a legal addiction, caffeine is a great example of the concept of addiction itself. One can put many other things in the same boat, like meth, cocaine, heroine, prescription pain killers, narcotic cough syrups, money, attention, the list goes on. When one is addicted to something, they have to have that thing, and once they get it, they want more. I remember when Mountain Dew had the most caffeine of any drink, now it's hardly comparable to Monster and Red Bull. I have even heard of water with caffeine in it, and if you made coffee with it, you increased the caffeine content.
So what's the big deal? Sure, some of the list above are illegal, some bad for you but legal, like caffeine, and some allegedly good for you, like money, or attention. Who ever heard of anybody younger than mid 50's dreaming of a smaller house? Fewer clothes? Less to do? I've spent my life wanting more, more money, more fame, more house, more car, more everything. And once I get what used to seem like "more", it becomes the norm and I again want "more". That's addiction. The bar keeps getting higher, what once was considered satisfactory just no longer makes the grade. So...what about attention? That's not bad, is it?
Consider your first child. That child got a level of attention that you won't be able to provide for any subsequent children. And is it enough? Is that child ready to share that attention when #2 comes along? Or is that child asking for more attention? The level you previously provided is not enough anymore. Always more. As humans, we must be built this way. So what's my point? Other than to tell you not to get into illegal or harmful addictions? 
I want you to look at reality, accept the fact that with your kids, whatever level of attention you currently provide won't be enough for them in a year. No matter how much you give. No matter how big a deal you make of how well he colors in the lines or she recites her abc's, they will each want more attention and recognition than you gave previously. It's human nature. So start low! When they're babies, meet their needs. Feed, change, burp. Hold them and look at them and count their toes and fingers, but only because you want to. When you find yourself holding the child because if you don't he or she will scream and cry, you're witnessing addiction at one of its earliest levels. So start low. Don't neglect, I'm absolutely not saying that. But don't overcelebrate early success, because you're always going to have to top your last celebration or "you don't like it, daddy?". Once again, I'm not speaking of meeting needs. I'm talking about that basic human right as far as the liberal educators are concerned, "building self esteem". Be very careful here. Self esteem is built in. That's why the 2nd great commandment according to Jesus is "love your neighbor as yourself". He didn't tell us we had to love ourselves. That's a given. Back to your kids - rip off the "my child is an honor student at..." bumper sticker, peel off the  cheesy baseball icons or cheer icons with your kids' names beneath them on the back window of your SUV. For whom do you do this? Do the kids say, "mom, you don't have my name on the back of your Escalade and that hurts my self esteem"? No! To tell the truth, they are likely embarrassed that you've messed up a perfectly good - though overpriced and a gas hog, with 4 more seats than you have people to put in them - vehicle (I digress, sorry, hard to not run down rabbit holes). Do you need to go to all their games? From the time they're 3 and chasing butterflies instead of pop flies? NO! Hell, no! You're creating an addiction. In you and in them. You're setting their expectations for your attendance and attention so high that by the time it really matters, you'll be the rabid dad who comes out of the stands to tackle the coach because your kid didn't play enough or hit the kid who hit your kid in the football game. You are getting them addicted to you being there all the time. OK, if it's fun for you, just like holding the baby in the illustration above, that's different. But I'm talking about the mandatory attendance at anything your kid does anytime, anywhere, because somewhere you've been convinced that to NOT attend all those events you will crush that fragile thing labelled as self esteem and your kid is going to be the next "troubled youth" who shoots up a school or a mall. Stop now, before it's too late. 
Realize that the level of attention that you give your child now, whether for reading a certain number of books or peeing in the pot or showing up at the soccer game or making good grades or being in the school musical or drawing a picture that got chosen to be shown in the mall with a bazillion other pictures that look like 3rd graders drew them, will set the level of expectation for the future of attention in your child's life. So, set the bar low. Love your kids. Don't worship them. Be with your kids, but not always at an "event". Have dinner together, skip soccer practice, show your child that you treasure the time with him or her more than the commitment you made for him or her. Relax. Enjoy your children. I'm not telling you to neglect or fail to notice accomplishments. But only to the level that those accomplishments deserve. Making the honor roll in middle school doesn't deserve a bumper sticker. In fact, have you ever seen a bumper sticker that says "my kid got into Harvard"? NO. You celebrate more personally and less publicly, more appropriate for the level of accomplishment. I think something of this thought is in my "birthday party" blog from a while back. Just remember, you are growing a kid who someday will expect a medal for showing up to work everyday if you reward the normal, expected things in life. Show some restraint. Just because everybody else on the block is touting their kid's accomplishments, you don't have to. Your kids will know that you love them by your attention in the areas that matter, and by your attendance at things like - baths, bedtime prayers, dinner, church, impromptu fishing trips to the neighborhood pond, Braum's runs after dinner "just because" - that's what they'll remember. 
Save something for the big stuff later. Don't throw all your good pitches too early in the game. Remember, they will always want more, so if you start low, you can peak at the right time.

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