Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, June 19, 2016 5:18 pm

Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m kidless. Victoria has headed off to the Broyhill Leadership Conference, and Hooper is partaking of Coach K’s alleged knowledge at Duke’s Dook’s basketball camp. (Pound for pound, the best basketball coach in this state is Bob McKillop, but that’s a subject for another post.)

On the one hand, it’s kind of a bummer: This will be the first time we’ve missed our routine of their “taking me out” to lunch or dinner. (I use the scare quotes because I always pay.)

But on the other hand, I’m OK with it, because they’re spending time this week learning things, including how to operate respectably without Mom or Dad looking over their shoulders, how to get along with their peers, and how to behave toward nonparental authority figures. And isn’t that a big part of parenting? If you’re not teaching your kids how to go along and get along without you, you could end up with a Cheeto freak in your basement, and who wants that?

We’ll probably get together next weekend, when they’ll be around for a couple of days before Hooper sets off for 10 days of wilderness camping with his Scout troop and I take Victoria down to Chapel Hill for freshman orientation. In the meantime, I’m relaxing in the knowledge that they’re learning and growing, taking steps toward self-sufficiency and self-efficacy. And when we do go out, maybe this time I’ll make them pay.


Friday, March 21, 2014 11:16 pm

An educator unworthy of the name

Long story short, a high-school publication in Fond du Lac, Wisc., is, in the words of regular contributor Doc at, “being punished for pointing out that RAPE IS REAL and it SUCKS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS.” And, more specifically, that at Fond du Lac High School, lots of people make jokes about rape, which REALLY sucks for those students who have been, you know, raped.

The school system is imposing a sweeping prior restraint on student publications because a student magazine dared to make an issue of this. Here’s the issue in question; the story at issue begins on page 11. Read the article — indeed, read the whole issue, or at least skim it to get a feel for the kind of publication it is trying to be — and then judge for yourself who’s being responsible here and who is not.

Doc, who works with student journalists in some capacity elsewhere in that region, and his First Draft companions who are scattered around the country, are keeping the heat on, with subsequent posts here, here, and here.

I weighed in with my own missive to the school system’s superintendent, Dr. James Sebert:

Dear Dr. Sebert:

I write as a lifelong red-state Republican, the father of a high-school daughter about to turn 16 — and a former journalist who won a lot of awards for publishing unpleasant truths. And I have one very simple question for you:

What in the pluperfect hell do you think you’re doing?

It is not your job to ensure an environment full of nothing but rainbow-colored unicorns. It is not your job to try to shield students from life’s unpleasant realities because they might somehow interfere with the educational process.

In fact, the very idea that you could is laughable. By the time they cross Fond du Lac’s thresholds for the first time, nontrivial numbers of students at the high school will already have endured more unpleasantness than most U.S. adults could possibly imagine, including but not limited to starvation, bullying and other physical abuse (including from family members), sexual abuse and incest, date rape, stranger rape, psychological abuse, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and pretty much anything short of a mass murder. Are you seriously arguing that those aren’t already interfering with the educational process? And if not, then why don’t you want to talk about them? Certainly we won’t stop them from interfering with the educational process until we do talk about them.

Are you seriously arguing that students shouldn’t talk about these issues, issues that are a real, and damaging, part of their lives, issues that are harming and will continue to harm their educational processes whether Cardinal Columns discusses them or not? Because if you are, you forfeit all moral claim to the title of “educator.”

It’s that simple. Sure, a misbegotten Supreme Court ruling might give you the right to censor student publications. But keep a couple of things in mind. First, this is basically the same Supreme Court that more recently has stated as a fact that campaign finance does not cause corruption, which is on an intellectual par with the high court’s declaring that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka-dots. Second, having the right to do something is not the same thing as saying you must, you should, or that it might not be a bad idea.

Anyone who seriously considers himself an educator and engages in prepublication review ought to presume news items publishable unless they are proven otherwise, and ought to require no more than the minimum change necessary to make unpublishable items publishable. Topics in general shouldn’t be reviewed at all because high-schoolers are high-schoolers: They’re going to write about what’s important to them, whether or not you like it and maybe even because you don’t. What should you do about that? Nothing. Let. It. Go.

I reviewed the article in question and found it not perfect, but excellent for high school journalism, with due consideration obviously given to the journalistic imperatives to report the truth while minimizing harm. And if you want to argue that the article was not necessary, you need only consider the results of the accompanying poll, which is about as rigorous as polls of students at a single high school can get. Rape jokes are everywhere at Fond du Lac High — and so are the rape victims who have to listen to them and are degraded by them. As an educator, you ought to find THAT intolerable, not a piece of journalism about it.

You’ve still got a chance to make this a teachable moment — for yourself, the school system, the high-school faculty and administrators, and the students. If you’re truly an educator, then that’s what you’ll do. If you need to consult outside experts — rape-crisis experts, clinical mental-health counselors, whatever — for context and advice, swallow your pride and do it.

The kids at Fond du Lac High deserve better. So do their parents. So does their community, whose taxes pay your salary. How you handle this situation going forward can make a nontrivial number of students’ lives easier than they are now — and, oh, by the way, improve the educational process. So get going.



Obviously, I don’t expect either a response or a change of heart. But this sorry excuse for an educator is now all over the Internetz as a stick-up-his-butt censor, which may well give pause one day to any larger school system that might consider hiring him. And I think it’s important for reporter/editor Tanvi Kumar and her fellow student journalists, who performed admirably not only in their original journalism but also in how they have handled themselves so far in the resulting dispute, to know that there are people out here watching them with pride and admiration.

I’m sharing the story of these kids with my own high-school-age daughter. I want her to know that the adults in her life (other than me, of course) are fallible, and that this is what one very important kind of fallibility looks like. But I also want her to understand the merits of what these student journalists were trying to do, and why, and how well they went about it, and to learn from them as well — things like responsibility and curiosity and courage and judgment that to date have been utterly absent from the people running that high school and that school system.

I want her, in short, to learn very quickly at least as much as these Fond du Lac student journalists already know about how, when, and why you speak truth to power. Because everything I see in our society suggests to me that we need more of that, not less, and will need more for many years to come. I want her and her generation prepared, for one small and simple reason: The future of the country and the well-being of their fellow citizens depends on it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011 7:21 pm

Keeping your head in the game

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 7:21 pm

During the drive to take Victoria to the doctor today, we covered the following topics in our conversation:

  • Tiger Woods and his caddy parting ways.
  • The importance of caddies to PGA Tour golfers.
  • The importance of golf to this region in particular and North Carolina in general.
  • The importance of Pinehurst No. 2 to golf.
  • The significance of Black Mountain’s golf course (at least at one time, the world’s only par-6 hole).
  • The fact that Black Mountain’s par-6 hole is a gimmick.
  • What a “gimmick” is.
  • Examples of other kinds of gimmicks.
  • The prevalence of gimmicks in politics and government.
  • The importance of mathematics in determining what is a gimmick and what is not.

And that was just the first half of the trip. Total trip distance: 4.7 miles.

Parenting. It’s a participatory sport.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:30 pm

Why my kids need to go the heck to sleep when I tell them to:

Because if they don’t go to sleep, then I can’t go to sleep. And if that happens, then according to science, I can’t be held responsible for what happens:

The next time your boss scolds you for low production and claims that as the reason for not giving you a well-deserved raise, she may not be unfair. She may be sleepy.

A new study shows that when people, in this case college students, are sleepy they are more likely to think about how events could have turned out differently and ponder how situations could have been better. Depending on the outcome, they may blame others and even seek revenge.

Oh, well, I probably already threw away my shot at Father of the Year anyway.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 8:51 pm

You kids get out of my yard … and stop trying to get me to buy you beer.

Tom Scocca gets at something I’d sort of sensed but hadn’t really grasped. Maybe it’s because my parents didn’t make a big deal either way about drinking when I was kid. Maybe it’s because, with the legal drinking age then 18, I could get beer pretty much anytime I wanted it from about 15 on, and its very accessibility rendered its acquisition somewhat less urgent. Ida know. But as a quasi-responsible parent, damn, am I annoyed I didn’t grok this faster:

What are beer commercials about? The two central premises are these:

1. Beer—cheap, common, domestic beer—is a rare commodity that drives men mad with the desire to have it, at any cost.

2. Women are the great obstacle between men and the fulfillment of this desire.

Taken literally, this is baffling. Beer is cheap and easy to find. The only cost should be $6.99 for a six pack, at any convenience store. And rather than hiding from women to drink their beer, many single adult heterosexual men seek out female company when they’re drinking. “Drink our beer and avoid contact with women!”—who could possibly be the target for that pitch?

But it makes perfect sense if the target audience is—and it is—16-year-olds.

The girls aren’t really girls; they’re Mom. And Mom is the first hurdle in the thrilling obstacle course that makes up the world of the teenage beer drinker.

Geez. It’s the tobacco companies all over again. On the bright side, far fewer than one in three people who drink beer are going to die prematurely by using the product as intended, and secondhand beer, although certainly toxic (not to mention odoriferous), is more easily avoided and almost never lethal.

Sunday, September 12, 2010 12:07 pm

Medical report, Chez Alexander

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 12:07 pm
Tags: ,

Victoria: Hooper. I am begging you. Will you please take cold medicine? Because every time you breathe, it sounds like there’s vomit up your nose!

Hooper: Well, you would know, Miss Vomitrocious!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:57 pm

Third-grade stoicism

Filed under: Hooper,Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 8:57 pm

I went to wake Hooper up this morning at 6:30 to find him uncharacteristically already awake and getting dressed.

“Thanks for going ahead and getting dressed, buddy,” I said.

And the kid who still pronounces the pasta dish as “puzghetti” replied, without looking up, “One does what one must.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010 3:25 pm

Not exactly made out for a life of crime, although he does seem to intuit some Fifth Amendment basics

Hooper (crawling into my lap, sniffling): I hurt my hand!

Me: I’m sorry, buddy. Let me see it. (No obvious injury found.) What’d you do to it?

Hooper: I kind of banged it.

Me: What were you doing?

Hooper: Don’t ask.

Me: Were you doing something you weren’t supposed to?

Hooper: Daddy, I said, Don’t! Ask!

Me: Um, OK.

Quote of the day, Valentine’s Day edition

Noting the gory nature of the death of the holiday’s namesake, Nicole Simmons McPhail announces on Facebook, “Instead of a heart filled with candy, I’m giving out livers filled with liquor bottles.”

UPDATE: Noting that, sadly, love doesn’t always bear all things, believe all things, etc., Beau Hall, also on Facebook, observes, “Sometimes love just needs its coffee.” Like this morning, when, before really waking up, I signed Hooper’s Valentine’s card, “Love, Lex.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010 11:10 pm

Girl Scout cookies. Made with real Girl Scouts!

Victoria’s in her fifth year of Girl Scouts, and it’s only now occurring to me to let y’all know that if you’d like to buy Girl Scout cookies, she’s sellin’. My parenting skills? Suck. If you’re in the Greensboro area, call or e-mail (the addy is on the “About” link on the right side of this page) and we’ll set you up.

Sunday, December 20, 2009 8:12 pm

Caveat pater

So when Hooper asked if I’d give him some money to get the snow off my car, I said OK.

As it turns out, I should have asked him what he was going to get the snow off the car WITH.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:14 pm

Why I love winter

Filed under: Fun,Hooper,Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 9:14 pm

Because if it gets cold enough, even Hooper decides to wear socks.

Hooper hates socks. He’s not fond of shoes, for that matter, but he hates socks. The problem is, if he wears shoes without socks for a day, then comes home and kicks off his shoes, Nature herself howls with indignation at the desecration. The very air we breathe takes on a greenish-brown tinge and becomes suffused with the odor of fresh canine feces at a range of roughly three microns. Windowpanes crack. The studs in the walls scream in protest. Lucky, The World’s Dumbest Puggle, who doesn’t exactly smell like a rose himself, drops with a 32-pound thud onto the kitchen floor, senseless, while my eyes stream tears of blood.

He’s wearing socks tomorrow if I have to staple them on.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 1:00 pm

A temper tantrum is pointless if there’s no one around to enjoy it

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 1:00 pm
Tags: ,

Via one of my Facebook friends, Best. Toddler. Tantrum. Ever.

Friday, November 21, 2008 7:13 pm

Apparently I’m not a total failure as a parent after all …

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 7:13 pm
Tags: ,

Sometimes he shouts, “I hate you!” And sometimes …

Saturday, February 9, 2008 7:55 pm

Memo to self

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 7:55 pm

There’s a reason why the Pinewood Derby instructions say to have a grownup do the cutting-out part: It’s dangerous.

Even for grownups, in my case.

Friday, June 1, 2007 8:04 pm

Reading ain’t all he’s learning about books

Daddy (reading from list of bad book-related puns): What color is a used book?

Hooper: Overdue?

Saturday, February 3, 2007 4:19 pm

Yes! My evil plan to protect my daughter is working!

Filed under: Fun,Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 4:19 pm

Victoria (to friend, while playing Barbie/Ken): Yeah, he started dating a girl. I don’t know why. Nineteen is way too young to be dating.

Monday, January 15, 2007 11:40 am

Asking the tough questions

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 11:40 am

As I parent I feel obliged to raise certain questions because experience suggests that no one else will. Today’s:

Why does Radio Disney have M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” a song so old it can almost vote, in heavy rotation?

Prompt answers appreciated. Effective solutions even more appreciated.

Monday, January 8, 2007 9:33 pm


Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 9:33 pm

Hooper was shocked, shocked to learn yesterday that there are consequences for failing to do what Daddy asks.Just as he has been similarly shocked many times in the past and, no doubt, will be many times in the future. Boy’s a slow learner (which, to judge from the childhood experiences of my brothers and me, he comes by honestly).

So shocked was he that no fewer than four times between lunch and dinner he shouted, “I don’t love you anymore!” (For comparison, I think Victoria might have shouted that at me a total of twice in her entire life.)

To which I gave my standard response (which infuriates him): “Eh, that’s OK. I still love you.”

Which, now I think on it, must be what God spends a lot of time saying.

Friday, January 5, 2007 9:01 pm


Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 9:01 pm

Hooper [at the Harris Teeter after I wouldn’t let him grab one of the small toy buggies to push around the store because I was in a hurry]: “Daddy! You are very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY, VERY, VERY, very, very, very, very IN TROUBLE. WAIT ’til MOMMY finds out.”

Me: Um, OK.

Sunday, December 31, 2006 5:52 pm

Things you don’t want to hear your kids saying, cont.

Hooper: “Ice, ice, baby … I’m ice, ice, baby … “

Things you don’t want to hear your kids saying

Victoria: “Daddy, we’re playing reporter! See how curly my hair is?”

Monday, November 13, 2006 6:40 pm

CSI: Greensboro

Hooper: Daddy, I didn’t mean to bite her!

Victoria: Well, then, how do you explain these teeth marks!?!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006 5:06 pm

Memo to Victoria and Hooper

Filed under: Fun,Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 5:06 pm

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, November 2, 2006 10:32 am

Man, I hope Hooper never finds out about this

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 10:32 am

Man arrested for dragging his son out of bed to go to school.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 6:36 am

Memo to the book publisher who e-mailed me at work today

Filed under: Why, yes, I AM a bad parent. Why do you ask? — Lex @ 6:36 am

You’re trying to get some free publicity on a book about funny things kids write from a guy whose blog is made up in part of funny things HIS kids say. In other words, you’re asking me to pimp the competition.

And you’re not even offering to bribe me?


Friday, September 15, 2006 8:16 am

The right perspective?

Hooper’s attempts to play team sports haven’t worked out so well — he’s fine with the sports, but not so much with “team” — so, to give him an outlet and, just maybe, give him a chance to learn some self-discipline, we’ve enrolled him in tae kwon do classes. We went and signed him up last night and bought his uniform, and when we came home, he donned the uniform, kicked a kitchen cabinet door loudly and announced, “I can’t wait to kick my first butt!”

Oh, dear.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 9:17 pm

It’s like this

I told Victoria last night that she needs to stop using the word “like” inappropriately and that if she didn’t, I was going to start fining her a penny for each offense and that would be the money I would retire on. She didn’t believe me until I, like, totally took a penny away from her after she said it again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 9:24 pm

How the mind of a 4-year-old works

Not well, apparently.

Some insight for new parents and those pondering parenthood: The Terrible Twos often ain’t all that terrible. Two just gets a lot of bad press. Its evil older brother, 4, however, is the real criminal. I mean, you can still put your 2-year-old on a leash and no one will look at you funny. (No, really. No, really. Shut up.) But if you try doing that with your 4-year-old, some busybody is probably going to call Social Services and then your calendar for the next several months is just shot all to hell.

I mention that because, as I recently noted, Hooper’s time as a 4-year-old is rapidly drawing to a close. It has been a, um, an interesting year, a challenging year. I’ve mentioned before that Hooper is not a fan of boundaries or structure.

He can still be incredibly sweet, cute and affectionate, and he still charms total strangers effortlessly (In elevator at motel near Savannah, Ga., to stranger who has just joined us: “Hi, I’m Hooper! What’s your name? What’s in your suitcase? Do you have any cookies in there? Have you ever been in jail? Daddy says if I ever dial 911 again I’m going to jail!* Unless there’s a fire! But if there’s a fire and I dial 911 I don’t go to jail! What’s in your suitcase? Have YOU ever been in jail?” Etc.).

But he also has had a hard time recently complying with requests that do not involve getting food or watching TV … and an even harder time grasping the connection between his failure to comply and the resulting consequences.

Hooper: Daddy! Stop yelling! I don’t like it when you yell at me!

Daddy: Hooper, if you’ll do what I ask you to do, then Daddy won’t have to yell at you.

Hooper: OK.

Daddy: So, what do you need to do to keep Daddy from yelling at you?

Hooper (quite sincerely): I don’t know.

*This was a couple of days after he dialed 911 on our room phone at the hotel at Disney World. Fortunately, because it was an internal phone, the call went to the front desk.

Monday, February 7, 2005 9:21 pm

Since she asked

Victoria: Why are you both getting all in my face?

Mommy and Daddy: Because that’s where your loose tooth is

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