When Does Fatherhood End?

So here is a question for you.  When does fatherhood end?

It isn’t rhetorical, but one that you’ll have to wrestle with frequently as the kids grow.  Stages of growth change as one passes into another and each with its own set of challenges

A Summation to Date…

Change happens.  It sometimes comes unexpectedly and in the blink of an eye and at other times, with considerable notice and more than a little planning.  As I write this, Middle is on the cusp of leaving for his freshman year in college; when I began writing this website, he was in the fifth grade.  Eldest is working two summer jobs to squirrel away money for her final year of college and she was in middle school when the first article ran in 2008.  Last night, I realized that Youngest has continued his persistent growth spurt as I now have to slightly incline my face to look into my eighth-grader’s eyes.  When I began this project, he was just entering kindergarten.

Some years ago, my better half suggested that I write a book.  I personally enjoy writing although it’s sometimes been frustrating because being the stay-at-home parent with active kids doesn’t always lend itself to long periods of time for reflection and composition.  Activities, errands, meals, laundry, paperwork and all of the things that make a household run means that the traditional model of sitting down for hours to compose an essay or article isn’t always operative.  Never having written a book and knowing that the fatherhood is cool but look at the funny things that happen when Dad is in the household meme was well covered, I opted to start with a website instead with the notion of moving on to a book. 

That hasn’t yet happened.  But after more than 740 articles and essays to date, I’ve learned a few things.  The first is that the writer that I’ve become is not the writer that I was at the inception of this site.  I believe that a writer has to have a voice and what I write now is nothing like what I wrote at first because I simply didn’t yet have one.  My voice is that of a father who sees massive change ahead and who wants desperately to raise his children to be productive and moral adults in an America that’s going to be truly different from the one in which I was raised.  I am a late Boomer, now in my mid-fifties, and believe that my generation has done a poor job of parenting, most especially in letting their children become wrapped into an electronic cocoon and devoid of the guidance and information that kids need in a complicated culture.  I do not believe that a person raised as part of the Me generation – who truly embraces that notion – is the best fit for a role that is as far removed from Me as being a parent.  It is personally galling to talk to a young person and hear the phrase I wish that someone had told me and my personal vow has been that my own children never be able to say that about me.

The second is that I’m not the kind of writer who can just sit and write a quick article in response to one thing or another.  A publicist told me years ago – yeah, I tried that – that I was what was referred to as a source writer, someone who wrote in the background and frequently provided materials for others but never engendered an avid following that left a lengthy comment thread.  She was correct because I find it difficult to write quickly and can indeed spend hours – and on a few occasion, days – to find the right information and words for a particular article or idea.  It’s honestly a bit lonely since I hear so little in response yet it’s immensely gratifying to know that over the years, so many have taken the time to place me on their Syndication Feed

So…What is This Middle Class?

There’s been an ongoing flow of ink and discussion about the decline and potential demise of the American Middle Class, that economic entity in which many Americans were raised.  The data over the past seven years has shown material damage to the entity with a drop in median family income as well as a loss in median family assets.  A record number of Americans are receiving food assistance, more than 93 million are no longer in the workforce and the discrepancy in wealth distribution is now at a point not seen since the Gilded Age of more than a century ago.  My own thinking in the more recent past has been about the questions, what precisely is the American Middle Class and how did it come to exist?  When did it become a real thing and what factors led to its rise?  I don’t believe that you can remedy a situation until you manage to understand it and frankly, focusing on only the economic data is akin to saying that the patient died of massive hemorrhaging when that hemorrhaging was actually caused by multiple gunshots from a Sonny Corleone-style gangland shooting.  And yes, that is a purposefully pointed analogy.

What we’re watching now is just a bleeding out from a wounded mass of people, but that hemorrhaging is the result of both purposeful and inadvertant policy decisions that have occurred over the course of decades.  This American Middle Class didn’t just arise because a gaggle of World War Two veterans returned home and said Woot! We survived, so let’s start buying!  It arose from the culmination of four principal factors that coalesced together after more than a half-century of oft-times painful development.  Had any of these factors not occurred, my belief is that what we’ve come to appreciate and mourn would probably never have existed in the first place and we’d have been no different as a nation than any other developing nation with an intransigent oligarchy.

Another Look at the American Middle Class

There’s been a persistent drumbeat of commentary over the past eight years – since the onset of the Financial Crisis of 2007 – that pertains to the demise of the American Middle Class.  It’s the start of a period that I refer to myself as The Great Reversion.  It’s framed within the context of a declining median family income as well as declining number of assets, backdropped against what is now the largest gap in wealth distribution since the Roaring Twenties, prior to the Great Depression.  But to consider the American Middle Class in such a light is too shallow, both in terms of what it is happening as well as how it came about.  What’s happening to the American Middle Class is not just an economic event.  To say that the American Middle Class will suddenly make a magical comeback with a

A Nine Year-Old With an Uzi?

On the news that a nine year-old girl accidentally killed a shooting instructor with an Uzi submachine gun, I could only sit back in slack-jawed wonder and shake my head in literal disbelief.  Seriously, who in the hell even considered that this would be a good idea?  The range owner?  The parents?  The dead instructor?  Certainly, common sense died well before the child took the weapon and it’s with that that the questions now arise once again about gun control.  But even before you get to the philosophical questions about the right to bear arms in America, what are some of the common sense questions that a parent should ask before allowing their child to handle a firearm, if at all?

As a full disclosure, I am a gun owner and have had each of my three children undergo basic pistol training with a trained instructor.

Conversation with the Teen:  Is the American Middle Class Dead?

You know that a concept has hit the mainstream when high school social studies teachers raise it in class.  Such was the case with the apparently imminent death of the American Middle Class, a topic that was raised by Middle’s honors history teacher the other week.  This teacher is a known and highly respected quantity since Eldest made it a point to tell Middle that he had to get this guy if at all possible since he makes it a point to riff on the subject matter with topics of modern consequence.  As he discussed the industrialization of the Far East, he shifted the topic over to the problems facing today’s American Middle Class and it was a topic that Middle brought home in a later conversation.

What Middle, and most, know is that the American Middle Class is suffering from a significant income drop over the past decade due to a true paucity of jobs.  He’s aware that many of the jobs now created are of the lower paying, benefit-free variety in the service sector so that the typical American that loses a decent survivable wage job can replace it with a lower paying job.  The first whammy is the loss of income and the second whammy is the new need to suddenly pay for previously "free" benefits that had been covered by the former employer such as health insurance.  Okay, you not only now have less but you have new and unexpected uses for that decreased income…When the news hit that millions of health insurance policies were being cancelled and the former policyholders were being forced to go to the market via the 1929 Obamacare Flivver (with a rumble seat), we had to explain that the cancellations were actually expected since the old policies were non-compliant with the new health insurance feature. Reissuing new ones with the required features, available to anyone now, would cause new policies with wholly new pricing.  Lesser income, likelihood of more variant hours worked and a new category for the money than what was faced by the parents are huge stressors.

So the middle class is under assault but like the refrain from the old Monty Python skit goes, I’m not dead yet…

The Legacy for the Kids…and I’m Outraged

Things change a person’s political perspective – age, experience, education – but something else that changes a political perspective is parenthood.  Through most of my young adult life, I could be classified as a socially liberal and fiscally conservative person.  I did listen to Limbaugh but spent late afternoon drivetime with NPR to get a different slant on the same topic on which Limbaugh had opined just a few hours previously.  Now I no longer listen to either but choose to get the news from a wide variety of internet sources, including foreign newspapers.  But fatherhood changed that political perspective and I’m now…well, I’m not entirely certain how to categorize it but it’s safe to say that I’m simply angry with what our political, corporate and financial sectors have become.  But while I’m angry with them individually, their proto-fascist collusion in the past decade or more drives me to outrage for this legacy that’s being crafted for my – our – children.

What our nation is becoming is increasingly fascist.  The exact definition of fascism is murky, dependent upon multiple factors.  But Franklin Delano Roosevelt best described it thusly in his 1938 address to Congress on the curbing of monopolies:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.




“Inflation is low now, but could be excessive in the future”

And that is the headline from a post on cnbc.com.  The comment is attributed to Federal Reserve Governor Bullard, and the story is so developing that as of this writing, there’s no actual story attached with the caveat that it’s “developing”.

Gee, y’think, DiNozzo?

That a comment like that would come from a Federal Reserve Governor is stunning, a recognition that present policies are a set-up to a potential inflationary event that’s inimical to it’s long-held policy standard of price stability.  The theory is that the ongoing rounds of Quantitative Easing will throw enough digital money to the banks – which should theoretically lead to actual physical cash amongst the public – floating through the economy that spending increases, leading to greater economic activity and recovery.  Despite all of the controversy about inflation versus deflation, the evidence from my small PracticalDad Price Index is bolstered by the recent Walmart news release that Q2 (2013) comparable store sales were flat partially due to low inflation

My Greatest Fear for the Kids

The issues are piling up like bodies after an earthquake.  Coherent domestic energy policy?  No.  Coherent campaign finance reform?  Nah.  Rational gun control programs (and yes, I belong to the NRA)?  Nuh-uh.  The inability of the political sector to even remotely regulate the financial sector?  Um, nope.  We live in a short attention-span society driven by a 24 hour news cycle, in which shouting takes the place of dialogue and any discernible movement towards real consensus and action is seemingly impossible.  In this take-no-prisoners environment, we’ve lost the ability to compromise.  But of all the issues out there, the one issue that literally leaves me breathless at its ramifications for my children is that of the NSA’s domestic electronic surveillance programs.  This policy is the one thing that scares me when I think of their future.

My goal is that the kids have an understanding of the world in which they not only live but of the world into which they’re moving.  Through the years and despite the technological changes, the constant is human behavior and how processes work.  I try to assure that the conversations flow about different topics but the reality is that different topics flow better with some kids than others due to age and interest, and occasionally whether or not I’m holding up something else they deem more important in order to cover something that I believe that they need to hear.  Yeah Dad, I get it…the goal is to separate us from our wallet contents, now can we please go?  Subjects flow from economics to politics to anything else that seems to be either relevant or interesting, whatever is current or is important that they understand.  Fracking?  check. Fiat money and the Federal Reserve?  check.  What is this ISIS thing in Iraq and why doesn’t it have something to do with Archercheck.  How is it that a Stinger launcher that we ostensibly provided to Syrian rebels, who are only moderate Al Qaeda fanatics versus the fanatical Al Qaeda fanatics, seem to have migrated through various conduits so that they wind up in the Messerschlitz garage down the street and launched to celebrate this most recent 4th of July?  check.  Stupidity is run amok.