Kidding aside, parenting outcomes can be amusing

There is no justice when it comes to having children. Frankly, there are days when it seems like you might have gotten someone else’s kids.

Our oldest is laid back and easygoing. As his mother, I know he wasn’t always this way and I have the crow’s feet to prove it. His wife genuinely is laid back, soft-spoken and reserved.

They were blessed with children who, if unsupervised, would and could walk on the ceiling. Naturally, they’d paint the bottoms of their feet first.

The couple you might expect to have cooing doves somehow wound up with braying donkeys. Completely adorable and lovable donkeys, mind you, but children with an energy level and focused determination usually exhibited only by superheroes.

No two kids are ever alike.

At age 3, our youngest arrived for a family visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s one weekend, flung open the door to the mini-van upon arrival and yelled, “Don’t anybody try and kiss me!”

When she was about 9 and had stirred things up before school, I asked her if she woke up every morning wondering what she could do to cause trouble.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”

Guess who got the most easygoing, pleasant, smiley, good-natured, happy baby in the world?

Our three kids look at one another’s kids and marvel at the inequities of the gene pool. It’s almost like their children’s personalities were switched at birth.

Jerry Springer, line one.

I’ve seen it in other families, too. The wild thing grows up, marries and gets the demure children, while the demure sibling weds and has children that have to be dragged out of public places by the backs of their necks.

A young woman raised in a family of all girls has all boys, and a young father raised with brothers, football, baseball and basketball has ballerinas.

If only parenting required nothing more than navigating familiar waters. But it rarely does. Planning and anticipating are essential to good parenting, but the truth is, you can never fully imagine the future. Sometimes you simply live it when you get there.

You may wind up with a child who is nothing like the child you were for a reason—so that your mind can stretch, your brain will grow and your feet will learn to sprint.

Parenting is not about recreating a smaller version of you; it’s about discovering someone entirely new. It’s exploring how the pieces fit, who that boy was meant to be, what her talents and gifts are, what comes naturally and what needs a push.

Parenting is often learn-as-you-go. It is a lifelong endeavor punctuated with intense joy, sleepless nights and profound humbling—the humbling part is what keeps us all from becoming experts.

Parenting is the most challenging and worthwhile job you’ll ever have. Now go scrape those kids off the ceiling.

How I learned to speed read in less than a moth

I’m a speed reader. Have been since I was a teen. My mother worked for the continuing education department of a university and they were offering a class on speed reading and needed one more person to fill out the class. I became that one person.

The class only met for an hour or two for a few weeks, but when the goal of a class is speed, you don’t need to meet for long. The instructor said to make your eyes go across the lines of words as fast as you could and not be concerned about what the words meant.

I read “Animal Farm” in 10 minutes. Cover to cover. The instructor asked what the book was about. I said I didn’t know, but if I had to guess I’d say it was about animals on a farm.

He looked displeased.

I’ve been speed reading ever since. I can’t stop and I can’t slow down. Today, for example, I plan on reading Churchill’s four-volume “History of the English Speaking Peoples.” Over lunch. I hope it’s more memorable than “Animal Farm.”

As a result of all this speed-reading, I often experience a delay between what I think I read and what something actually says.

The other day I passed by a mall with a large sign that said “Auto Theft Sale.” I thought how efficient of auto thieves to bypass the chop shops and simply sell all the stolen cars in a big tent at the mall. A half-mile later it dawned on me that the sign had said “Auto Tent Sale.”

Last week I read a recipe that called for Monster cheese. I’d never heard of Monster cheese before. I kept reading and, in the back of my mind, I was thinking Monster cheese must be a really, really large block of cheese. Probably with green flecks. A second reading revealed it was Muenster cheese. If Muenster cheese has green flecks, it probably is monster cheese.

That faux pas falls in line with a local restaurant we frequently pass with the big red sign that says “Human Cuisine.” No wonder there are never many cars in the lot. Actually, it says “Hunan Cuisine.”

Every time I drive through a construction zone I gasp. The sign says, “Hit a Worker $10,000.” It reads like they’re offering a reward. Of course, it’s not an enticement; it’s just that my eyes rarely take in the last line that says “Fine.” It’s a $10,000 fine. Someone really needs to rephrase that one.

A department store chain keeps running a promo that says “FIND YOUR YES.” Inevitably, it registers with me as “FIND YOUR EYES.” I always note that my eyes are still in my head. I don’t know where else they would be, but the lettering is so commanding I feel it necessary to double check.

Speed reading has bitten me on the backside more than once. Especially as a writer. Just aks any of my editosr.

Special needs we all share

I was late to church. So I sat in the back row.

My seat on the very end of the last row gave me the great and pleasant distraction of a wide view. It also put me adjacent to, and several rows behind, a family with a young adult daughter who is severely disabled.

Her wheelchair was in the aisle. Her father was next to her and they were doing the dance—the one that parents of special needs children often do. She’d bob her head and her father would lean forward and whisper in her ear. She’d turn her face toward him, he’d lift a small towel and dab at her mouth.

The bob, the lean, the turn and the touch. One, two, three. One, two, three.

They are movements unconsciously synchronized through unspoken needs, knowing and time.

The father and the girl danced a bit and then the girl’s mother cut in. She whispered to her husband and they changed places. The mother was next to her now. The young woman in the wheelchair lifted her arm overhead. It looked like an involuntary reflex, but her mother knew its true meaning. The mother reached over and smoothed hair that had strayed from her daughter’s ponytail. The young woman raised her arm again, the mother smoothed the hair again, a second time and a third.

One, two, three. One, two three.

Contemplating how much that young woman is dependent on others, it dawned on me that while most of us can walk, talk and smooth our own hair, we are probably more like her than we are different.

We all share the same need for someone to sit beside us, to whisper in our ear, to make sense of what is happening, to help unravel events as they unfold.

We all share the same need for kindness, tenderness and a gentle touch. Not only from those we are closest to, but even from those who are strangers, the ones who help clear a path and open a door.

We all share the need for someone to help clean up after us, big messes, small messes, the tangible and the abstract.

We all share the need for someone to engage with, someone to crack us open and pull us out, to discover what we have to offer.

Maybe it is the similarities, not the differences, which often prompt us to turn aside from those afflicted and dependent. Instead of locking eyes, smiling and saying hello, we look away — not because it’s hard to look at them, but because deep down we know what we are really looking at is a partial reflection of ourselves.

Could it be those whose needs are displayed on the outside, remind the rest of us of the needs we cloak on the inside?

We all share similar needs; some of us just wear them inside out.

Go (silent) team!

It’s called Silent Soccer. Maybe you’ve heard about it—perhaps by way of hand gestures or a sporty little mime. Nothing loud or boisterous, of course.

Youth leagues have been implementing Silent Soccer weekends (fingertips to lips here) where parents and fans on the sidelines are told to put a sock in it. No yelling, no cheering, no screaming, no coaching from the sidelines.

Some leagues allow polite clapping, others do not. Some leagues allow parents to wave signs and rally towels, others encourage parents to bring lawn chairs, pillows, their favorite jammies and take a nap. Not really. But they could.

Believe me, at some of the soccer games our son played in as a little guy, a nap would have been entirely possible. In his first league, he even got the trophy to prove it. “Participant.”

But that was then and this is now, when a growing number of parents apparently confuse youth games for the World Cup. A few bad apples behave aggressively, yelling, screaming, berating their own children, making rude comments about other people’s children and bellowing to outcoach the coach. It’s not mature or attractive behavior, but on the upside, at least they’re looking up from their cell phones.

In Silent Soccer, the only thing parents and fans can say is, “Ssssshhhhhh!”

No whistling. No noisemakers. No breathing. I made that one up. You can breathe. But only with permission.

Don’t talk among yourselves. And keep your eyes on your own paper. I made that one up, too.

The next step will be requiring hall passes to leave the sidelines to visit the concession stand or the restroom.

It is just a matter of time before the NFL adopts “Silent Sundays.” I can hardly wait for the “White Noise Olympics.” Maybe next would be the “Would You Please Be Quiet World Series?”

I always thought learning to play the game involved learning to tune out the noise on the sidelines. Or maybe that was the goal of motherhood—learn to focus on driving and tune out the noise in the backseat.

Silent Soccer is an infantile idea imposed on the masses instead of addressing a few fans behaving badly. The bottom line is, if you act like a child, there is no shortage of people happy to treat you like a child. Even if you don’t act like a child, there is no shortage of people happy to treat you like a child. Unfortunately, we have sent a number of such people to Washington.

Maybe what the soccer leagues need to do is proclaim “Grown Up Saturdays,“ where adults are encouraged to root, cheer, and have a good time, but act like adults. Let the coaches coach, the kids play, and the adults model some self-control by leaving the attitude and the trash talk in the car.