Recipe for a Great Mom – Reflections from One Outnumbered Male

I was sifting through my students’ essays when I came across this undeniably true thesis statement… “If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” I resisted the urge to add to the margin in snarky red ink, “No kidding.”–maybe even with a little smiley face.  After 25 years, that line is still is one of my favorites along with “UFOs are possible” (which is true, they are unidentified) and “Mr. Walsh, you don’t really read these journal entries, do you?” (to which I added, “No”). But on Mother’s Day, I’ll borrow a bit from my student’s paper and tweak it a bit… “If it weren’t for the mothers in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” When my wife laughs that I’m often more of a feminist than she is–I observe it’s not from any noble ideal, it was simply self-preservation–growing up with my dad traveling 3 days a week… Read More…

“Me too!” – Graduation of a Kind Soul

“Me too!” My mom actually had a dress decorated for my three year-old daughter with her all-inclusive expression painted above a daisy. Abby came into my life five weeks before my father left it.  She was kind enough to arrive ten days early, at the respectable time of mid-afternoon for Patrice, who doesn’t mind a good night’s sleep.  Abby’s is a good old soul and today she’s done with high school. We were worried that her kindness would make her vulnerable, the same happy-wherever-she-is spirit that endeared my father to so many people.  But our fears were eliminated one day while driving with both kids in their car seats behind us.  (I still believe a wonderful baby shower gift would be one of those Plexiglas barriers found in squad cars and taxis.) “Aidan took my bear!” she screamed in protest to the universe. “Aidan…” I reasoned, invoking my inner Mike Brady. “What?”… Read More…

Killing Kids’ Questions: Critical Thinking OR Critical of Thinking?

Bad parent!  I could read it in the old woman’s eyes as my eight year-old son let the door shut in front of her.  “Why do I have to hold the door open for her?” he pleaded to my embarrassed scolding. “She wasn’t carrying anything.” “Because it’s polite.” “Why?” “Why what?” “Why is it polite?” “Because that way she won’t have to open the door.” “But why can’t she do it herself?” It was bad enough to get the old lady’s glare, now I got the pitiful head-shake as she huffed past us. “Dad!”  He demanded, “Why?” I snapped, “Just do it, okay?” That was probably the moment, as I retro-grade my parenting ten years later.  Maybe that was when I had cut my son’s natural curiosity right in half.  Nature or nurture?  Do we, by default, stop asking questions as we get older?  Or are those questions driven from… Read More…

The 5-Cent Anti-Parent

I’d ruined years of my wife’s child-rearing–for only a nickle.  My two-year old son and I  were heading into the local K-Mart.  I can’t even remember what I was buying, probably something for my beat-up boat, but I’d brought Aidan along.  We were heading in to the store’s entrance when he saw the merry-go-round, one of those three-seaters. I put him on the donkey and congratulated myself on my parenting skills.  Aidan rocked back and forth, having a wonderful time.  I smiled at the joy that was about to happen.  I put the nickel in the box,; he lurched forward with the music and grabbed those painted ears tight.  His eyes widened, then a large grin came over his face as he rode the 4.5 laps around the little circle.  When it abruptly stopped he tried doing what we all do with a broken car or a stalled fairground pony; he rocked back and… Read More…

Year 6: Outlasting the 100 Year Old Tree

I was out working in the yard today and looked at the massive maple tree that sits in my front yard that must be 100 years old. The poor fella..it’s rotting and falling apart. And since the Main Street in front of me is a state highway, I’m at the mercy of waiting for the State of CT to come cut it down. Later in the day, a massive branch fell and nearly hit someone walking. I sent my swat team of boys out to clean up the mess. But that damn tree…I wasn’t supposed to see it die and rot. I was supposed to be out here in Connecticut 3 years and then back to Detroit. That was the plan. That was 2007. As we all know life often throws curve balls at us. Fast and furious sometimes. On June 29, 2009 I had a huge curveball thrown at… Read More…

No Surprises: Raising a Son with Asperger’s–and Training His Dad

A trip to Disney Land–what could be a better gift for your small child? Certainly Parent-of-the-Year awards were likely–if not for originality at least the East German judge would most likely hold up a “7.8” for enthusiasm. My wife and I had been giggling to ourselves for over a month as we prepared for the look on our four year-old’s face when we pulled into the parking lot. We knew he’d see Mickey Mouse on some billboard and it would be magic time. Wrong. Again. Aidan didn’t see a mouse; he smelled a rat. As my wife unpacked the video camera during a supposed routine morning drive while in Los Angeles visiting friends, he looked suspiciously at her. It was third day of our visit to the coast and both kids were pretty numb after going in and out of seat belts in various cars, airplanes and strollers. We watch… Read More…

The Four Ignored Elephants of Quality in the Classroom & Teacher Retention

I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh and his hallucinogenic-trip, envisioning heffalumps and woozles, the other day… My priest was giving me an update on contract talks with his elementary teachers. “I tell them, ‘You only work 3/4 of the day and 3/4 of the year, why should you expect full-pay anyway?’” I wanted to say “Yeah, Padre, and you only work three hours on Sundays and get free clothing, room and board.” But then I’d have to escort him to the confessional right afterwards for absolution of the sin of sarcasm. *** I gave up my calling last summer and quit public school teaching after 25 years. That was never my plan; I was going to go 40 years. It wasn’t “kids today,” parental apathy or even standardized testing. Frankly, we were going broke. After my state and city imposed four years of pay-cuts–including a 9% six-month retroactive cut… Read More…

Father’s Day Legacy: Jim’s Love of “Now”

I was doing some vital, long-forgotten yard-work in 1995 when my neighbor Beth yelled across the street, “Happy Father’s Day!” It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.  Aidan was already a day or two over-due, so officially the greeting was premature.  But I smiled and realized that she was right.  I was in the club.  And someday, if I did things right, my kids would dread that holiday, as much as I did.  Jim Walsh was impossible to buy for and it didn’t help that his birthday fell on June 28th, so we needed to double our futile efforts as soon as school got out. I have taxing memories of Saturday odysseys through the sporting goods and office-supply aisles of  K-Mart trying to find something, anything, for my dad.  And when I  was wrapping up the golf-score clicker, the “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy,  the back-scratcher,… Read More…

“The Meanest Mom on the Block” – Misdiagnosis of a Four Year-Old

You wouldn’t know she would win the award to look at her–the picture of innocence at 22 years.  She even took pains to perpetuate the illusion, showering me with exotic presents like wooden mallets and fancy ribbons, my favorite chocolate cake, even my cousins Pat, Sharon and Susie standing by as witnesses on my second birthday. I can see it so clearly now; I was already on my way out–like the crooked candle on the right.  Somewhere out of frame, lurked my upgrade–the 1966 Katie. And in two years it would be official; the election results would be in. Ann Walsh, by unanimous decision, would be voted the “Meanest Mom on the Block.”  Apparently, when she was informed of the official tally she was reduced to tears.  My misdiagnosis of my mother’s parenting style came back to haunt me in a tattered album that I’d pretty much ignored most of… Read More…