It’s Been a While

Posted October 23, 2014 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Someone asked me a few months ago why it’s been so long since I posted something. It certainly isn’t because I haven’t had anything to say. Another dear friend mentioned that she missed my writing. Looking over past posts, it took me quite by surprise that it’s been nearly a year since the last one.

Two theories are worth considering. The first is that my ambivalence about social media overpowered the therapeutic value of the writing. There’s some merit to this, because that ambivalence has grown during the past year into outright antipathy. It’s disturbing to see how many more outlets have appeared for people to share their every thought, feeling, and selfie with the world. We’re living in a celebritocracy in which people make videos, which they hope will go viral, rather than spending time actually making a positive contribution to the world. Even terrorist organizations use social media to promote their political agendas and recruit new members. However, I don’t need social media to keep writing. As mentioned in my first entry: “Merely sitting down to write is a valuable component of a comprehensive wellness program.”

The second theory, then, is that I no longer needed the stress management outlet, which writing provides. Did I replace writing with something else? Or, was there simply much less stress to manage? The answer is “Yes” to both. In the past year, walking and listening to music (not always at the same time) became far more active, engaging methods. At the same time, some lifestyle and attitude adjustments proved extremely successful in reducing my subjective experience of stress. And, this year presented me with far fewer objective stressors than in years past.

Writing is still a very beneficial endeavor no matter what one’s level of stress. We can all use the creative and therapeutic outlet. However, I’m just not sold on the value of writing for the benefit of those in cyberspace. Too many blogs, too much rambling, too much information overload, and not enough actual connecting with each other. To paraphrase Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption: Get busy living or, get busy posting to social media.

Love and Compatibility

Posted November 11, 2013 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Why are humans so obsessed with love? Throughout history, love has been the inspiration for art, the impetus for war, and the essence of religious doctrine. People have done very great and very tragic things in the name of love. However, as an emotion, love has to be our strangest, most indefinable one. It just means too many different things in too many different contexts.

We’ve been overly passionate about using the same word to describe what are, essentially, different feelings. For example, the emotion parents feel for their children is not the same emotion we feel towards a dear friend or our life partner. We’re so articulate about so many things, yet we get stuck when it comes to love. Commonly, people attempt to differentiate between feeling “love” and feeling “in love,” but this just reinforces the idea that we don’t have enough words to properly express our true feelings.

Here’s a radical notion: Despite love’s role in the trials and tribulations of the human experience, if we can’t adequately define it and if we don’t have enough words to adequately describe it, maybe it’s not as important as we think it is.

In essence, love is a word to convey an internal emotional experience. Like all internal experiences, we may use a common label for it, but there is no way to know if I am actually experiencing what you are feeling. “But I love you!” “If you loved me, you wouldn’t _____ (fill in the blank).” There’s just too much conjecture and not enough consensus. Therefore, instead of being overly concerned with one’s own internal emotional experience, it would be far more beneficial on the small scale of a romantic relationship and on the large scale of world peace if we also focused our attention on the internal emotional experience of the other person. In other words, when I love you, but emphasize your feelings instead of mine, I will do whatever it takes to keep you loving me.

Although wonderful in songs and movies and other creative expressions, the concept of love in a romantic relationship is just too subjective, and frankly, too nebulous to be of much value. Not uncommonly, people commit to a relationship before they know the other person very well because of the intense, albeit ethereal feeling of love, which certainly is no guarantee for lasting success.

Rather than focusing on something as idiosyncratic as love, the emphasis can shift to something objective and measurable. And that brings me to compatibility. The dictionary defines this as an ability to exist harmoniously. An appropriate synonym is like-mindedness. It sounds obvious perhaps, but effort is needed to discover in what ways two people are alike. We’re talking about specific values and interests and goals. This is fairly easy to assess in relation to concrete things like tastes in music and food or preferences in recreational activities. It’s quite a bit harder when evaluating compatibility in things like personality, political views and religious commitments, and financial responsibility. While opposites may attract, they don’t generally lead to harmonious coexistence.

There is no single criterion to determine like-mindedness. So the first challenge if two people would like to determine the extent of their compatibility is to identify what’s most important to them. They should spend time getting to know each other by learning about their specific beliefs, values, and priorities. Research has shown that the more similar two partners are in many key areas (e.g. age, education, religious and political beliefs, socioeconomic status), the happier they will be. And, if mutual attraction and sexual compatibility are important, by all means this should not be ignored. Once you are certain that there is great compatibility in many other critical areas, that first kiss can seal the deal!

The feeling you have when you are with someone with whom there is great compatibility is stronger than love. It provides a level of security unavailable by love alone, because the components of compatibility are not transitory; those interests, values, activities, beliefs, and history are what make us who we are, and they aren’t going anywhere. Compatibility, then, allows you to simultaneously keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.

Parental Faith

Posted September 27, 2013 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

They asked, “Aren’t you worried about his safety?” My 21-year old son was heading off to Israel for three months as a research assistant in a lab at one of the world’s most prestigious science and technology universities. Tensions were rising in Syria and Egypt. The rhetoric from Iran was troubling. But, I said, bad things can happen anywhere. After all, as a parent of two extremely independent and active boys, I’ve had lots of practice holding my breath and crossing my fingers for long stretches at a time.

The summer flew by. I enjoyed hearing updates from the lab and about his weekend excursions around Israel. I remained calm when told of the mountain bike accident (sans helmet), which left only a few gnarly scrapes and bruises. Our Skype visits helped me feel that he wasn’t alone on the other side of the planet. And, I secretly rejoiced when he agreed to my suggestion to come home a week early after his work in the lab had finished.

We had a great couple weeks at home before my world traveler returned to Boulder for his senior year at CU. And then it began to rain. And rain. And rain. And flood. They had to leave his home and spend a night in a YMCA shelter, but returned to find things were not damaged—unlike some friends who were, quite sadly, displaced by the storm. He said that he didn’t feel as worried as some around him who hadn’t been through anything like that before, as he recalled a few San Diego wild fires that had come pretty close.

Parenting is an exercise in letting go while holding on for dear life. Nothing we do takes as much faith; faith in our children’s ability to make safe decisions, and faith in our ability to endure if they don’t. But this belief does not magically appear one day like a baby’s first tooth or a teenager’s first whiskers. Faith is cultivated from the beginning when parents see how resilient their children can be. It is nurtured over years of witnessing your children recover from scrapes and bruises, upsets and disappointments, and too many close calls to count.

And perhaps most importantly, faith is required from the first day you bring that baby home from the hospital. You have to believe in your own resiliency. We can’t always be there to protect our children from international tensions or natural disasters. But, in order to have confidence in our children’s ability to navigate those dangerous waters as adults, we have to allow them to develop autonomy as toddlers. If you give them the space they need to pick themselves up when they fall in kindergarten, they will make you so proud of their ability to take care of themselves during crises in college.

Conservative Hypocrisy

Posted January 31, 2013 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

As much as I prefer to avoid being sucked into the frustrating futility of political debate, there are times when I fear that remaining silent will cause my head to explode. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good verbal wrangle as much as the next overly opinionated guy. But political debate has drastically changed over the last few decades. In the past, ideology drove the discourse. When that happened, there was consistency among one’s viewpoints. You could pretty much tell where someone stood on a particular issue by knowing their position on a different topic. For that matter, if you understood their ideological beliefs, you had a pretty good chance of knowing their views on most issues. You could disagree with those who didn’t share your perspective, but you still respected them, primarily for staying true to their principles.

These days, so many people abandon ideology and, instead, cherry-pick their position on this topic and that topic without any concern for sounding like a total hypocrite. How can anyone respect someone whose core values seem so arbitrary or contradictory? Yesterday, a perfect example of this testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on violence. Gayle Trotter, who is reported to be a lawyer and gun rights advocate, believes that women should have the right to choose to arm themselves with assault weapons. Without providing any evidence of actual incidents in which such weapons were crucial to the survival of a woman and her children, Ms. Trotter attempted to appeal to the Senators’ emotions. She was championing the cause of vulnerable women. However, in her blog from April 2012, Ms. Trotter conveyed her opposition to the Violence Against Women Act. You either support causes to protect vulnerable women or you don’t.

In Ms. Trotter’s case, it is clear that her rhetoric in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday wasn’t about women; it was about opposition to gun control. If she was really a champion for vulnerable women she would support proposed bans on assault weapons, because, according to a recent study at Harvard, women are at greater risk of violent death in states that allow easier access to guns. Ms. Trotter doesn’t have the courage of conviction to take a stand on her conservative ideological beliefs against gun control. Instead, she obfuscates and pretends that no one will connect the dots of her hypocrisy.

The icing on the cake of my rant against conservative duplicity came on my drive home last night. I was behind a black Ford Explorer. The driver looked a little like Jimmy Buffet with a large Bluetooth device in his ear, loud Hawaiian print shirt, and full head of wavy, gray hair. He didn’t look like an idiot, but then he only had a brief moment to make an impression, which he unambiguously did with his moronic bumper sticker: “Liberalism is a mental disorder.” Of course, that is a perfectly reasonable sentiment for an ideologically-consistent conservative. This ignoramus, however, apparently fails to see what a hypocrite he is. The Explorer had “DP” license plates. For those of you unfamiliar with California’s Department of Motor Vehicles regulations, that stands for “Disabled Person.” Yes, the person who believes that liberalism is no different than, say, schizophrenia, benefits greatly from laws written and passed by liberals! Thanks to the tireless efforts of liberals who stood up for the rights of the disabled, this bozo gets a variety of benefits that his fellow conservatives would have denied him.

I’m sure that there are plenty of hypocritical liberals, too. However, data from recent research helps to explain some of this inconceivable hypocrisy. A study reported by LiveScience concluded that “Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies.” Perhaps so many of these folks don’t recognize the extent to which they continue to contradict themselves, because they lack the cognitive skills necessary for such insight. In any case, these findings help me to conjure up a little compassion for hypocrites who just may not know any better.

Morbid Curiosity

Posted December 12, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

 

Not exactly the bleachers...

Not exactly the bleachers…

 

New Yorkers awoke last week to a gruesome photograph on the front-page of the routinely gruesome New York Post.  The picture and accompanying headline memorialized the tragic death of Ki-Suck Han who was unable to climb out after being pushed onto the subway tracks ahead of the oncoming train that struck him.  Public outcry following this awful incident was not about mass transit safety, most likely because such events are quite rare.  Instead, the uproar centered on the Post and the trend of smartphone owners to record everything, including the most horrific, gory human misfortunes.

Two days after Mr. Han’s death, USA Today ran a piece about the Post’s coverage and, more specifically, citizen photojournalists, which was headlined: Subway death photos—what do they say about us?  The story quoted the co-director of an institute for ethics and society who believed that “many people would be ‘morally offended’ to learn that others on the platform snapped pictures just after his death.”  The article went on to make a distinction between typical gawking at human suffering and the extent to which people go these days to record something horrifying for uploading on various social media sites.  Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these behaviors and examine how much we should, or shouldn’t, be outraged by such actions.

There are several ways in which we tend to react to human suffering.  What does it say about us that people are entertained by the pain of others?  Certainly, this is something that has taken place for centuries.  From the blood sports in the Colosseum to public executions in the old west, people turned out in droves to witness the deaths of other people.  Today we have mixed martial arts where combatants are given bonuses for the best knockout and best submission of the night; for the screaming crowds paying top dollar to watch, it’s the bloodier and more brutal the better.

Other reactions to human suffering have received considerable attention from social psychologists.  What does it say about us that people don’t get involved when confronted with someone else’s distress?  The bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the perceived presence of others deters people from helping someone in need.  Latane and Darley researched the bystander effect after Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City in 1964.  Despite her cries for help, none of the dozen or more people who heard the crime occurring did anything; it apparently took twenty minutes for anyone to even call the police.  There are numerous more recent examples of this and many reasons why it occurs.

I may not jump in to help if I think someone else will.  I’m even less likely to get involved if I think someone with more experience or expertise is going to intervene.  When there clearly are others around, diffusion of responsibility allows me to think that my help won’t be necessary.  Also, we may not get involved if the situation is ambiguous or if we aren’t positive that the other person is actually in distress.  At the same time, there are plenty of examples in which jumping in to help a person in need did not turn out very well for the helper.  It seems reasonable that many people would be reluctant to get involved if in doing so something bad could happen to them, e.g. drowning while attempting to save someone else who is flailing in the water.

There are times, of course, when providing assistance isn’t necessary or possible.  Nevertheless, people continue to gawk at the suffering of others.  Rubbernecking is a routine occurrence on the highway, as passing motorists hope to catch a glimpse of an accident victim being tended to by first responders.  Some argue that these incidents, and the tendency to stare at them, serve to reassure us that we are okay; there but for the grace of God…  So, what, then, is the difference between old-school gawking and the current trend to use smartphones to record these incidents of despair and death?

I disagree with those quoted in the USA Today story who suggested that the moral difference is “trying to capture something for yourself or social media.”  They miss the mark by blaming social media sites “where everyone has to parade their own dubious accomplishments in front of the world.”  The technology may have changed, but the fascination with others’ misfortunes and the desire to share what we witness with our friends are nothing new.

No, the distastefulness of the current trend to record and upload the suffering of others stems from something else.  The moral outrage is not in our morbid curiosity.  The real offense is that so many people are looking to profit from these photographs and videos.  With smartphones ready, witnesses to life’s traumas see through the human suffering to the potential of a large payday.  The technology has made it possible for anyone to become the next Zapruder if they happen to be at the wrong place at the right time.

However, we have to be careful not to overgeneralize the prevalence of this problem.  The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that may leave us assuming that everyone is looking to profit from the misery of others.  We see so many examples of people hawking their recorded gawking that it’s easy to assume such reprehensible practices are more common than they really are.  In the end, not everyone’s first move in a crisis is for their smartphone.  Just as plenty of folks stayed home from the Colosseum and MMA is not everybody’s cup of tea today, there have always been and always will be Good Samaritans.  As Will Rogers said, “We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and applaud when they go by.”  While some condemn the citizen photojournalists, let’s not forget to appreciate those who are willing to get involved even at risk of great personal peril, simply because it is the right thing to do.  And, that says something good about us, too.

 

 

Us versus Us

Posted November 22, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire today.  This morning, India executed the final gunman from the 2008 attack in Mumbai.  Earlier this week, the FBI thwarted a “very serious” terror threat in Los Angeles.  People from numerous states continue to circulate petitions to secede from the U.S.A. simply because they were upset after the reelection of President Obama.  The list goes on and on and, sadly, probably always will.

We live in an Us vs. Them world.  For decades, researchers have investigated the nature of intergroup dynamics and prejudice.  Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues demonstrated in the 1950’s how easy it is for animosity towards “Them” to develop after middle-school aged boys were randomly assigned to one of two groups at an Oklahoma summer camp.  While competition between the two groups quickly led to strong prejudice against campers in the other group, Sherif showed that the mutual hatred could be overcome when the two groups were forced to cooperate to accomplish superordinate goals; the boys from both groups had to work together to solve problems that impacted all of them.

This is a fairly common plot in science fiction films.  When faced with a threat to Earth’s existence, such as an alien invasion or planet-crushing comet hurtling our way, humans—at least in the movies—are able to ignore group differences and rally together to solve a common problem.  The old “Them” becomes the new “Us,” as the aliens are the new “Them.”  The superordinate goal shifts to the very survival of the planet and away from what, in comparison, can only be seen as trivial group differences.  Once the superordinate threat is removed, however, we appear incapable of maintaining the happy Hollywood ending.

Why do people revert to old Us vs. Them distinctions?  The Sherif studies also show us that intergroup conflict is inevitable when people perceive unequal levels of power between groups.  Animosity increases as people feel unfairly treated by “Them.”  But this doesn’t happen simply as a result of intergroup dynamics.  As recently spotlighted on 60 Minutes, research by Dr. Karen Wynn and her colleagues at Yale University led to the conclusion that “infants prefer those who harm others who are unlike them.”  Lesley Stahl summarized part of this groundbreaking work: “We want the ‘Other’ to be punished.”  Therefore, superordinate goals may not ever be enough to eradicate the destructive consequences of prejudice.  Likewise, it seems pointless to attempt to expand our definition of “Us” (e.g. Earth dweller) in the hope of creating less intergroup conflict, since there will always be disparate levels of power between various groups.

Instead of attempting to eliminate Us vs. Them thinking, it would be more fruitful to work towards greater acceptance of and appreciation for “Them.”  If the Yale research demonstrates that humans are predisposed to prejudice, then considerably more effort needs to be directed towards teaching its opposite.  One group that is valiantly doing this is Interactions for Peace, a small non-profit organization with a global reach (www.InteractionsForPeace.org).  Through a variety of programs that begin with pre-school children and continue through high school and into the community, the organization’s mission is to educate and create life-long peaceful problem solvers by teaching self-awareness, self-confidence, cooperation, and communication.

Differences between groups will remain.  What must change (to accomplish the superordinate goal of avoiding World War III) is how Us and Them confront our problems.  We are all, as they say, in this together.  As hyperbolic as it may sound, our future depends on people learning how to become peaceful problem solvers.

We, the People

Posted November 6, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Not exactly the bleachers…

I’ve never been a fan of politics, which is due entirely to politicians.  It’s been said time and again that the most qualified person to hold office is usually too smart to run!  In theory, the electoral process is completely brilliant.  People—all of us over the age of eighteen—can have a say in who governs.  And, in theory, those seeking office have a deep commitment to govern their town or state or country according to a coherent ideological vision of what is best for their constituents.  But it is also people who turn a great idea into something quite distasteful.

In the past week, several friends said, in my presence, that they would leave the country if their presidential candidate lost today.  I heard similar threats in 1968, 1972, 1980, and 2004.  Others have said to me that the country is heading towards a revolution as the gap widens dramatically between those who have (more and more) and those who have less (and less and less).  Does it all boil down to fear or greed?  Some fear that they will lose what they have, while others fear that they will never have enough.  At the same time, there are far too many who really don’t have enough!  With so much at stake for everyone, why does the repulsiveness of politics leave many to turn away and become apathetic, non-voters?

I try not to be too cynical, which is often quite difficult.  Nevertheless, this brings me to why I’m writing about this polarizing, emotionally charged topic.  I watched transfixed as people stood in early voting lines for two, five, even eight hours to cast their vote.  I’ve never experienced anything like that nor heard such a thing happening here in California.  Am I naïve or oblivious?  What prevents these states from emulating what the most populous state in the Union does to prevent such voting chaos?  Some will argue that this is all part of a larger scheme to make it more difficult for voting to occur if those forced to stand in never ending lines are expected to vote for candidates other than those the election officials would like to see elected.  Let’s hope our founding fathers (and mothers) would be appalled and embarrassed if that’s what is actually responsible for these outrageous voting conditions.

In some democracies, Election Day is a national holiday, while in others it takes place on a Saturday.  People don’t have to choose between voting and going to work.  These countries strive to have huge voter turnout and do what is necessary to achieve it.  Yet in our country, despite all the efforts to make it more difficult to cast a ballot (and there are far too many to describe here), people stand in line for hours and hours, miss work, and brave the elements just to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  The dedication of these voters and their commitment to our democratic process is, to me, as heroic as our nation’s willingness to pitch in after a natural disaster.  When push comes to shove, a whole lot of us still strive to do the right thing.

The Fall Classic

Posted October 27, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

As the World Series is in full swing, my thoughts return to baseball.  This time, however, I ignore the familiar refrain of “wait ‘til next year,” which is commonplace because the teams I root for from childhood (Cubs) and adulthood (Padres) are rarely in contention.  Instead, as the citizens of San Francisco and Detroit prepare for their revelry or disappointment, I recall two past Octobers in which we felt our own defeat and delight and have a few thoughts about this October as well.

First, though, let’s take a brief detour down Memory Lane.  Throughout my life, every summer my father recounted that his father never took him to a Major League baseball game.  It’s not as though they lived around the corner from a ballpark, but my grandfather, suffering from cancer, told my dad that they would go to a game as soon as he got better.  He died several months later.  My father was nine-years old.

I don’t remember going to Wrigley Field with my father when I was a child, but I think we must have attended at least one Cubs game.  Like his father, I think he was too busy.  However, after moving to California, he had a lot more free time, and we went as a family fairly regularly to Dodger Stadium throughout the ‘70s.  We sometimes sat up in the Top Deck, but usually found ourselves in the sun and fun of the Left Field Pavilion.

Throughout college and graduate school, I went to a couple games per season.  It was never about the baseball as much as the whole experience.  I never understood friends who would turn down a chance to sit in the bleachers at Fenway Park during the early 80’s, especially when the hated Yankees were in town.  This was an inexpensive way to spend an afternoon with friends, hot dogs, and beer.

Then, a handful of years later when my older son was three, I took him to his first Padres game.  He was mesmerized, and I was hooked on how it felt to see his pure joy over the spectacle of a Big League game.  When the boys were seven and four, I took the leap, and we became season ticket holders.  Going to baseball games with my boys continues now, seventeen years later, to be among the most enjoyable activities in my life.

Which brings me to October #1: Defeat.  The Padres had a magical year in 1998.  The boys and I went to at least 20 games and watched many more together on television.  We were like all those smug fans we’d seen over the years who just knew their team could not lose.  A spot in the World Series was a foregone conclusion.  And, as season ticket holders, we had tickets to all of the playoff games, including the Series.  The boys were just as excited as I to attend their first World Series.  But, I dropped the ball.  I sold our tickets to Games 3 and 4 and purchased extra tickets to Game 5 to take my parents with us.  The hated Yankees swept the Padres in four games.  The chance for the boys to go to a World Series game involving their hometown team, even in a losing effort, was gone.  They were great about it, but I feared that this was an opportunity that might never return (and so far hasn’t).

October #2: A little redemption.  Four seasons later, Sunday October 27, 2002 to be exact, the Angels were hosting the Giants in Game 7 of the World Series in Anaheim.  We pulled for the Angels as our nearest American League team and certainly hoped that they would trounce our division rivals from San Francisco.  Mostly, I saw an opportunity to make a little peace with myself and purchased four tickets to the game.  The boys and I picked up my dad on the way up.  We were in the left-center field bleachers where we could enjoy the torment Barry Bonds received from the Anaheim faithful.  The Angels won 4-1.  It was certainly one of the most exciting sporting events any of us has seen in person, and while it may not have made up for 1998, it sure was fun to be together cheering for the winning team.

Our view from the bleachers…

October #3: A cold dose of reality.  The other night, the Giants reported that they hosted Brian Stow and his family at Game 2 of the World Series in San Francisco.  Mr. Stow, a proud Giants fan, was confronted by some vicious Dodger fans who brutally beat him in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium after the game on March 31, 2011.  He suffered severe brain trauma and is continuing his rehabilitation efforts.

Rowdy, often intoxicated, fans cause trouble during and after sporting events all over the world.  (Such barbarism seems to occur regularly even at youth events like Little League and Pop Warner games.)  “Sports” are not the problem.  Serving alcohol at these events does not seem to be the problem, as most people who partake remain quite peaceful.  But, sadly, our recreational activities are not immune to the ills of society.

Simply, too many people are not adequately equipped to control their rage and will take advantage of any reason or opportunity to release it, even over something as trivial as one’s favorite team.  While there may not be an easy solution, hopefully, the politicians and policy makers will find ways to more effectively prevent what happened to Mr. Stow and those who have encountered violence at our stadiums and ballparks.

There is no safe haven, although there ought to be.  The bleachers should always be a safe place to bring your children and, someday, my grandchildren.

Parenting 101

Posted October 20, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Not exactly the bleachers…

I recently stumbled upon an online article while reading the news one morning.  Authored by a gentleman listed as a freelance writer and daddy blogger, the title intrigued me: “10 Things I Hate About Being a Dad.”  I expected to read things like racing to the ER at 2:00 a.m. with a child with a 103 degree fever or any number of other, not uncommon medical emergencies most parents encounter.  Instead, the list included items such as “playing Candy Land,” putting in “eye drops,” and attending “school carnivals.”

What kind of parent says he would “rather be water boarded than have to visit the Gumdrop Mountains one more time”?  After all, you play games like Candy Land to entertain your children, not for your own entertainment.  Oh, and by the way, playing games—even simple, repetitive ones—provides numerous learning opportunities for children, including taking turns, good sportsmanship, and experiencing their parents on an all-too-rare equal playing field.  Who doesn’t love the reaction of a four-year old after beating mom or dad for the first time?

I’m not particularly proud of my initial reaction.  That list made me mad.  Having spent the last 30+ years working with victims of trauma, including more than I can count who were parents attempting to cope with unimaginable tragedies involving their children, it seemed completely dimwitted to hate playing Candy Land with one’s children!  I loved playing board games with my kids.  Candy Land was fun when they were that age, and we enjoyed playing chess together when they got a little older.  (Now, it’s Words with Friends via smartphones.)  My indignation was fleeting, as I convinced myself not to dwell on what surely must have been intended to be no more serious than any of David Letterman’s Top 10 lists.  In the least, the author’s attempt at humor just fell a bit flat.

For some reason, however, the phrase “10 things I hate about being a dad” kept creeping back into my head.  I returned to the article and perused many of the 538 comments left by other readers.  There was a mix of solidarity and contempt from parents who either shared his view of the little, annoying things parents have to endure or who found his dissatisfactions to be, as I initially did, quite trivial and indicative of a case of terminal self-absorption.

And that is where I figured out why this article got under my skin.  Being a parent is a VERY tough job.  There are lots of frustrations and challenges even during the best of times, and we all make mistakes now and then.  Yet, although we are required to pass tests and obtain licenses for many things in our society, adults can procreate with impunity and become parents without any training or skill whatsoever.  While the author of the list may be a fine parent, many people have no business raising children.  Playing board games, going to school carnivals, nursing a sick child back to health, and being there to nurture our children during all of life’s ups and downs require levels of selflessness that many folks do not possess.

So, if you find yourself agreeing that there is anything that you really “hate” about being a dad or a mom, please consider taking a parenting class or seeing a licensed family counselor.  You might benefit from learning some tools to improve your patience.  Try to remember that your children really need you a lot more than you need your children.

What, me write?

Posted October 13, 2012 by danielblumberg
Categories: Uncategorized

Not exactly the bleachers….

I’m a reluctant convert to the world of social media.  That’s not too surprising, since I continued using a pager long after most folks traded in theirs for a cellphone.  Although there are many corners of the social media world into which I may never venture (e.g. Twitter), I find myself less averse to a stroll into the blogosphere.  So, for my inaugural attempt, it seems fitting to contemplate why writing a blog doesn’t offend my sensibilities.

That’s not to say that all blogs are created equal.  There appear to be numerous reasons why someone would make regular contributions to a blog.  Some people have something to sell, like a product or a service.  Their blog is a convenient marketing tool, assuming that they can get enough people to read it.  I react to these blogs as I do most advertisements; I ignore them.  Other people use their blog as a teaching moment.  Just as all the world’s a stage, so it is a classroom where we are all teachers and students throughout our lives.  I enjoy reading blogs from this perspective (and hope mine will become one of them).  Still other folks write a blog because it’s an easy way to brag about how wonderful they are.  These blogs are the modern equivalent of the neighbor’s super 8 movie projector pulled out of the closet and foisted on the unsuspecting, but captive audience forced to watch reel after reel of vacation footage.  Why do people think that anyone really cares about what they have to say in a blog?

And, there’s the rub.  While hoping to offer an informative nugget or two, one would never be able to write a single word in a blog if worried about becoming the clueless (or narcissistic) neighbor who is oblivious to others’ lack of interest in his home movies.  But, that leads me right to the reason a blog is the perfect social media forum and, perhaps more importantly, why I find myself embarking on this endeavor.

It doesn’t matter if I have anything important to write.  It doesn’t matter if anyone learns anything from what I’ve written.  And, it doesn’t matter if anyone at all ever reads one of my posts.  The best reason for writing a blog is in the act of writing itself, whether or not what is written is ever read!

To make an undertaking like this worthwhile, it has to be personally fulfilling.  Therefore, I intend to practice what I’ve been teaching for the past 26 years.  Merely sitting down to write is a valuable component of a comprehensive wellness program.  Consistently, research shows that daily writing has a variety of medical and psychological benefits.

So, although I hope that anyone who happens to read these reflections will find something amusing or a little informative, my goal is to provide myself with a creative outlet.  Perhaps this has something to do with the developmental stage in which I currently find myself, which is clearly the topic for another day.