I always sorta’ saw myself as a tough guy. Not physically but in a mental patient kind of way. I never pampered myself. Didn’t let the weather affect me; scorcher, nor’easter, flooding, blizzard -didn’t matter. I went about my business doing whatever it is I do. I used to coach wrestling. Anyone who’s ever spent time in a wrestling practice room knows the saying “Suck it Up!” When you’ve got nothing left in the tank; you’re gasping for air; there’s thirty seconds left on the clock. Suck it Up!
I incorporated this politically incorrect child-rearing philosophy into raising my kids. They flirted with 100% attendance almost every year of their school lives. Got a headache? It’ll pass. Queasy stomach? Don’t be a baby. Tired? Stop whining. And, of course, you never get to quit anything. Well, at least, without giving it your best shot.
I’ll admit sometimes exceptions had to be made. My son, in middle school begrudgingly agreed to try out the saxophone with the marching band. My wife and I fully supported him. We had to since we were the ones that coerced him into it. We bought a saxophone. He immediately hated it. “Stop complaining”, I told him. We made him practice every night. He hated it more. He hated the band. He hated us. But we made him stick with it. Until one evening, while we were trying to watch television, we heard this awful discordant screeching coming from his bedroom. Yes, it was time to let him quit. He seemed to have no concept of the instrument. I think he was strumming it.
The kids grew up and produced kids of their own. Now I have grandkids. They get the benefit of Pop’s life lessons. “Suck it up!” “Don’t be a baby!”, “Don’t be a girl!” (Not a real popular expression anymore). “Stop your whining!”
I was in charge of my first-grade granddaughter Anabel and her friend at a playground one day. The friend fell off the swing and started wimpering. Anabel looked at her in astonishment and very matter-of-factly let her know, “There’s no whining with Pop.” The girl instantly stopped her crying and climbed back on the swing.
I took a bike ride with my grandson, Sean. He’s seven. We rode two miles out and we headed the two miles back. Halfway back, he asked to stop. “For what?”, I inquired.
“Just keep going. We’re men. Men don’t get tired.”
“But I’m just a boy.”
“I know but I’m going to make a man out of you.”
We rode on with no further complaints.
Last Thanksgiving I took Sean to a high school football game. Coldest Thanksgiving on record. Killer winds and in the teens. It was unbearable; we left at halftime. On the ride home, Sean asked, “Pop, can we go fishing?” “I don’t know, kid”, I replied. “It’s awfully cold and windy out there.”
He looked over at me and, with a hint of a smirk, declared, “Don’t be a baby!”
We went fishing. I froze my ass off and kept my big yap shut!
Steve can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org