Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Before the internet made it so easy, people shared funny stuff in another way: they photocopied whatever it was — humorous image, joke, botched headline — and shared it by mail.

Don’t laugh. Not too long ago, that was cutting-edge technology.

It’s also a fact that lots of the material now online is old, dating back to the snail mail days. I was reminded of that recently when I ran across the list below of “Things My Mother Taught Me.”

I’m pretty sure I photocopied this at some point and sent it to my mom. If I didn’t, shame on me.


My mother taught me about religion.
“You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

My mother taught me about time travel.
“If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”

My mother taught me logic.
“Because I said so, that’s why.”

My mother taught me foresight.
“Be sure to wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”

My mother taught me about irony.
“Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

My mother taught me about osmosis.
“Shut your mouth and eat your supper!”

My mother taught me consideration.
“Go outside if you’re going kill each other. I just finished cleaning.”

My mother taught me about contortionism.
“Just look at the dirt on the back of your neck!”

My mother taught me about hyperbole.
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, don’t exaggerate!”

My mother taught me about anticipation.
“Just you wait until we get home.”

My mother taught me about the circle of life.
“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!”

My mother taught me about stamina.
“You’ll sit there until every bite of that spinach is gone.”

My mother taught me about the weather.
“It looks like a tornado swept through your room!”

My mother taught me about injustice.
“Think about the millions of children in the world who are less fortunate than you.”

My mother taught me about inevitability.
“When your father gets home, you’re really gonna get it!”

My mother taught me about physiology.
“Stop crossing your eyes. They’ll get stuck that way.”

My mother taught me to think ahead.
“If you don’t pass your spelling test, you’ll never get a good job.”

My mother taught me about ESP.
“Put on your sweater. I can tell when you’re cold.”

My mother taught me black humor.
“When that lawnmower cuts off your foot, don’t come running to me.”

My mother taught me how to become an adult.
“Eat your vegetables, or you won’t grow up.”

My mother taught me about genetics.
“You’re just like your father.”

My mother taught me about my roots.
“Do you think you were born in a barn?”

My mother taught me about wisdom.
“When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

My mother taught me about justice.
“Someday, you’ll have kids, and they’ll turn out just like you!”



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Later this month, my twin granddaughters Katie and Kelsey turn 17. The other day, I sent a text message to their dad regarding gifts. Here is our exchange…

Rocky: For the girls’ birthday… cash or gift cards?

Britt: Thanks for asking. Cash seems to work best these days.

Rocky: Roger.

Britt: They really deserve coal.

Rocky: Suck it up, Dad. Your function right now is to provide a target for teenage angst.

Britt: Seems I am ground zero.

Poor Britt. He’s a good guy and a good dad, but his fate is to endure the classic parental trial by fire with two teenagers at the same time. That’s brutal.

When my boys Britt and Dustin were teens, at least I was able to deal with them one at a time, several years apart. How would I have coped — or failed to cope — had they been a tandem? Ugly to contemplate.

To be honest, I regret that my parenting skills were never tested on girls. I always wished that a girl had been in the mix. They say boys are easier to raise, but I’ll never know.

What I do know, having been both a teen and a parent, is that parents play a hugely important role during the teen years — as sounding boards and punching bags.

Teenagers need a safe way to deal with and vent some of that pesky angst. If they can’t do it at home, they’ll be forced to find another outlet. That scenario isn’t likely to end well.

And frankly, the parents don’t need to be very good at the task. Or calm and adult about it. They can even rant and blow their cool, if so inclined. No strategy is necessary. You’re free to wing it.

A parent must, however, adhere to a few simple rules: provide the target; keep it in the family; refrain from throwing anybody out of the house; and make it clear that whatever sparks may fly, you love your kid anyway.

Compared to Britt’s situation, I guess I had it easy: one kid at a time.

As for Dustin, his daughters are now 13 and 10. His time is almost here, and he’ll get the same kind of “break” I did.

On the other hand, Dustin and I have to navigate these waters twice. With Britt, it’s one and done. That certainly has its appeal.



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ABC Package is a large and well-stocked liquor store in Athens, Georgia. From its convenient location on Atlanta Highway, it has served the alcohol needs of the University of Georgia student body for 25 years.


ABC Package opened in the early 1990s, coinciding with the years my sons Britt and Dustin were students at UGA.

Both boys, it turned out, conducted business with surprising regularity at ABC Package. I learned this when I would balance their bank accounts (this being the old days, before debit cards and such, when writing checks was still a thing), and I would see checks payable to ABC Package.

Oddly enough, they both had the same explanation for this — five years apart, mind you — which they expressed to me with sober, stone-faced sincerity.

The conversations went something like this…


Rocky: Britt, I balanced your checkbook yesterday and made a deposit. I see you wrote four checks to ABC Package. Seriously?

Britt: Oh, that. Well, the thing is, ABC Package is the only place in Athens that will take a check for cash. I go there to get spending money.

Rocky: You don’t go there for beer or liquor or anything.

Britt: Nope.

Rocky: I see.


Rocky: Hey, Dustin, tell me about these checks to ABC Package. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?

Dustin: Dad, it isn’t what you think. ABC Package is the only place in town that will take a check for cash. That’s why I write checks there.

Rocky: So… you write checks to a liquor store, but not for alcohol.

Dustin: Correct.

Rocky: I see.


All of which reminds me of the classic question, “You expect me to believe that? What do you take me for?”

The correct response being, “Everything I can get.”



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At some point back in the 1990s, I came into possession of this pocket-size, soft-cover booklet:


It’s tiny, the size of an index card, and 70 pages long. It presents the full text of our two key founding documents, and, except for a stirring patriotic preface, contains no embellishments or editorializing. At the end is a blurb about the Cato Institute, which published the booklet and was selling copies for $1.00.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a publication from the Cato Institute, which is a conservative/libertarian “think tank” founded in the 1970s by cuckoo wingnut Charles Koch.

That villainous source notwithstanding, the booklet seemed like a handy reference tool — assuming the Cato Institute wasn’t loony enough to tamper with the wording of the documents.

I decided to trust them. Publishing that booklet is probably the most positive thing the Cato Institute has ever done.

Anyway, I kept the booklet around the house and referred to it surprisingly often. (Hmmm, the amendment that abolished slavery — was it the 15th? No, that was Prohibition, wasn’t it?)

Fast-forward to 2014.

My granddaughter Maddie, then age nine and in the 4th grade, mentioned one day that her class soon would be studying the Constitution, including all the amendments thereto.

Being the considerate grandfather I am, I gave her my little booklet from the Cato Institute. Maddie was very pleased. I heard no more about the booklet and forgot all about it.

Fast-forward to this summer. Maddie is now 11.

Early one morning recently, I arrived at her house for babysitting duty. As my son Dustin was preparing to leave for work, he chuckled and said, “You won’t believe what Maddie did yesterday.”

Now, Maddie, as I’ve mentioned before, is a special kid. She is super smart — to the degree that it’s kinda scary.

This is a child who, at age eight, looked up the email address of her state representative and contacted him, on her own, with a philosophical question about jurisprudence.

Based on past experience, I knew Dustin was about to tell a pretty good story.

Dustin said he and Maddie and her sister Sarah were driving somewhere, and he had occasion to bark at them for something — being noisy or boisterous or whatever. When they didn’t settle down, he wondered in a faux-stern voice if tasing Maddie might be a way to bring the situation under control.

Dustin is in law enforcement. He has access to Tasers and other such tools of the trade.

“You couldn’t tase me,” Maddie told him. “That would be a violation of my 8th Amendment rights.”

Dustin was, he said, rendered speechless.

He said he is plenty familiar with the amendments relating to police work — the 1st, the 2nd, the 4th, etc. — but he drew a blank on the 8th. He was obliged to ask Maddie to explain.

“The 8th Amendment protects me from cruel and unusual punishment,” she replied.

After that, a spirited discussion ensued between them as Dustin tried to remember which of the 27 amendments did what. Maddie patiently (and probably a bit smugly) corrected him and schooled him on the highlights of the key amendments.

Shortly after Dustin left for work, Maddie came down for breakfast. I asked her about the incident. She smiled knowingly and related essentially the same story as Dustin.

The school year ended weeks ago, so I asked when she had last studied the Constitution in class. Back in early spring, she said.

“But,” she added, “I’ve got that little booklet you gave me. It helps me keep all the amendments straight.”

Ah, the little book. It all came back to me.

Setting aside her breakfast, Maddie went upstairs, retrieved the booklet from her bedroom, and brought it to me. The little thing looked so familiar, if a bit more battered and thumb-worn than when I had it.

There was a time, I told her, when I had a pretty good grasp of the Constitution, but that was a long time ago. “How do you retain all that detail?” I asked her.

She just shrugged and went back to her cereal.


If your memory needs refreshing about the U.S. Constitution and 200 years worth of amendments, I suggest this website, which presents the complete text with helpful explanatory notes.

Maddie could explain it herself, but the website will save time.


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A month or so ago, I pulled up behind a large black SUV at a traffic light. The stick figure family, I observed, reached halfway across the back window.

According to the stickers, the family consisted of Mom, Dad, two girls, two boys, a dog, a cat, and a turtle.

The vehicle was seriously dirty. It was covered in a uniform, yellowy-orangish layer that was a mixture of (1) Georgia red clay, which, when dry, is as fine as baby powder and adheres nicely to waxed metal, and (2) pine pollen, which was afflicting us at the time.

Written in the thick coating on the back window, clearly by different fingers, were four names: Kaylan, Shiloh, Holder, and Pruitt.

Fine names all, but more to the point, they reminded me of how American baby names have evolved over the years.

For example, consider the names a few generations ago of my Dad and his siblings. They were Walter Anthony, James Allan, John Daniel, and Martha Elizabeth.

Dad’s kids: Walter Allan, Frank Lee, Thomas Daniel, and Helen Elizabeth.

My kids: Britt David and Dustin Drew.

Their kids: Kathryn Sierra, Kelsey Elizabeth, Madeleine Grace, and Sarah Rose.

All in all, a mixture of the classic and the popular. You can see the evolution of name choices in this one family.

Seeing the names on the back of the SUV got me curious, so I Googled the subject. Below is the official list (from Social Security records) of the most common American baby names over the years.

Baby names-1


James, Robert, John, William, Richard
Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol


Michael, David, James, Robert, John
Mary, Deborah, Linda, Debra, Susan


Michael, John, David, James, Robert
Lisa, Mary, Karen, Kimberly, Susan


Michael, Jason, Christopher, James, David
Jennifer, Amy, Heather, Melissa, Angela


Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Daniel
Jessica, Ashley, Jennifer, Amanda, Sarah


Michael, Matthew, Christopher, Jacob, Joshua
Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Samantha, Sarah


Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Ethan
Emily, Emma, Madison, Abigail, Olivia


Liam, Noah, Mason, Ethan, Logan
Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Isabella


A few last random points about names…

— I always liked the name Brandi, but I didn’t have a daughter.
— My granddaughters have pals named Sophia, Isabella, Olivia, and Madison.
— The boys who live next door to me are Eli and Aiden.
— Among my childhood friends were Claude Lumpkin and Merwyn Lassiter.
— My dad grew up with a kid named Gober Soseby.
— The name Walter is no prize, but at least it isn’t Claude, Merwyn, or Gober.
Baby names-2

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“So… I have this mole on my back,” said Sarah, my youngest granddaughter. Sarah just turned eight. She enters third grade next fall.

“It’s pretty big, but the doctor said it’s not dangerous.”

“That’s good news,” I said. “Be glad he didn’t say, ‘Nurse, hand me that scalpel.'”

Her eyes widened, and she grimaced dramatically at the thought.

We were in my car at the time, Sarah in the back seat, chattering about this and that and making occasional eye contact in the rear view mirror.

“How big is this mole?” I asked. “Have you looked at it in a mirror?”

“No, I don’t need to,” she said. “It’s just a stupid brown thing.”

“Does it itch?”

“No. I usually don’t even think about it.”

“But you know what?” she added suddenly, straining against her seatbelt. “Mom and Dad gave it a name! They call it Fred!”


“Yes! They think it’s funny, and they laugh, but it’s embarrassing!”

“Well, it IS kinda funny.”

“Yeah, but what if someone at school found out? That would be awful! Pretty soon, every kid in school would know! I’d be walking down the hall, and they’d be, like, ‘Hi, Sarah! Hi, Fred!’ Can you imagine how humiliating?”

“I see what you mean. But kids are always clowning around. It’s harmless. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Yeah, right. I’d be laughed out of school.”

Later, when I dropped her off, I gave her a hug and said goodbye.

I was tempted to add, “Oh, and, goodbye, Fred!” but the better angels of my nature prevailed.

Sarah 2-15

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A bearded, grandfatherly man is waiting in the self-checkout line. Ahead of him are a couple in their 20s and a BOY about four years old. The MOTHER is massively pregnant. The FATHER wears a Duck Dynasty t-shirt and a Georgia Bulldogs baseball cap. All is quiet except for the beep beep boop of the checkout scanner.

The boy stands next to their shopping cart, watching with interest as the mother hands purchases to the father. The father scans them and places them in the bagging area. He breaks the silence.

What about wood glue? Aren’t we out of wood glue?


I thought we were out.


(Pointing to a rack of candy atop the scanner)
Mama, look! They got Snickers bars! Can I have a Snickers bar?

No, you don’t need no candy.

Aw, Mama, please! Lemme get a Snickers bar!

Yore mama said no! End of story!

You never let me git NOTHIN!

Boy, don’t you start! Yore mama said —

Son, we’re gonna eat lunch in just a minute. You know you can’t have a Snickers bar right before lunch.

(With difficulty, she leans down, intending to pick up the child and put him in the shopping cart. The father quickly intervenes and lifts the boy into the cart.)

(Standing up in the shopping cart)
Can I get a Snickers and not eat it till after lunch?

You don’t need no damn Snickers bar!

(The boy stretches forward and grabs a Snickers bar from the display rack)

Goddammit! Put that thing back!

Oh, let him hold it till we’re done. He knows we ain’t gonna buy him one.

(She continues handing items to the father, who scans them and places them in the bagging area.)

(Meanwhile, the boy is studying the Snickers bar, turning it over in his hands, looking closely at the wrapper.)

(The father scans the last item. As he leans aside to place the item in the bagging area, the boy lunges forward and passes the Snickers bar over the scanner.)

Beep beep boop.

Goddammit to hell! Did you see what he did! Did you see that!

(He looks around for a store clerk, apparently to void the purchase of the Snickers bar.)

Oh, never mind. Let’s just go. I’m tired.

(As he feeds cash into a slot in the checkout station)
Boy, I have HAD it! You know what? I’ve got a mind to eat the damn thing myself! You wanna watch me eat it?

(The boy bursts into tears. All customers and staff in the vicinity turn in their direction.)

(The boy continues bawling. They load up the shopping cart and head to the exit. The automatic doors open.)

(Addressing the father in a serious tone)
You are NOT gonna eat that Snickers bar and make him watch, you hear me?

Hell, I didn’t mean it, and you KNOW it. He can HAVE the damn thing — after lunch. OKAY?


(Immediately, the boy stops sobbing. The doors close behind them.)





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