short stories

The Challenge of Raising Children

Brothers and Sisters, Brothers and Brothers, or Sisters and Sisters, close enough in teenage years, and let the wars begin. Who is right or who is wrong does not matter. The casualties of these wars are parents. Early gray hair and shaking hands are what parents have to look forward to. Oh, the joys of having children! And, Lord help me; I would not give my children up for the world.

Three young brothers, all about the same age, play together

It always looks like a good idea, at the time, to have our children close in age. This way, your child will have a playmate to grow up with. Right? We also see it as a good idea to have our children at an earlier age, so we will not be quite as up in age when they are out of the house on their own. We realize that our parents give us advice, but they are old and probably do not know anything about how things are done in this day and age. (I see a lot of head nodding and hear a lot of laughter from the older folks out there, right now).

Let us say you have two children in your early twenties that are eighteen months apart. You have set yourself up to have them raised and on their own by the time you hit your mid-forties. You and your spouse can enjoy your later years before entering the retirement age. Well, it may seem to be a smart plan, but it is not necessarily a good idea at all. You and your spouse have not had the time yet to mature as much as you need to be parents. This is not meant to be a slam on you, but there is a lot of truth to it. If you wait until you both are in your thirties to have children, there is a better chance that you will be better prepared for what is about to happen in your lives.

Children turn your lives upside down in ways that are never expected, and are different with every set of parents. The unexpected becomes your norm! If you believe that you know what it is like to have kids, and you do not have any yet, lord help you. You are about to be educated in ways you could never dream of. You think school was hard to get through; welcome to true schooling! The adventures you will go through with these brighteyed little ones are a joy, but also a wake-up call to even the strongest, most levelheaded parents alive.

Reading parent guide books can give you simple solutions to try with your children. You will not find solutions to all the problems you will face as a parent in these books. There will be times when you will have to come up with solutions for your child’s life on your own. You will face problems that have never been written by any author of any book. At times children will send you into the Twilight Zone, pushing every one of your buttons. You are being tested by the best! These angels will at some point become the little monsters you have seen in other children. How about that child yelling at the top of his lungs in the store because he did not get a toy? You will at times, hear people murmur, “They need to teach their children better”. Could you be this parent talked about one day? If you are mentally able enough to handle this once in a while, you are well on your way to having well-behaved children. If you let your little darlings run over you one time, you are in for a long road. This road will lead you into a disaster zone called “The Ultimate Teenager“!

All teenagers are, to put it nicely, a nightmare! If you think your children will be the same lovable creatures when they hit the “Teenage Zone” as they are; now, you are in for the ride of a lifetime! You will swear this cannot be your child. Parents that believe it is easier to raise children close in age will be hit with the double feature of nightmares.

As a parent, you will learn how mentally stable you are. Children will take you to the edge of your sanity and then push harder. This is all in the growing phase for the child as well as the parents. I have heard said, You pay for your sins with your children. This is a distressing reference, but it does hold some truth. You will start to understand the pain your parents went through with you. You will appreciate your parents more. This is the circle of life.

You are a legal adult by age, but you become a grown-up when your first child arrives. You believe you can do a better job than your parents did. This in some cases is true, but for most of us, it is a wake-up call about the wonderful job our parents did to raise us.

Grandparents enjoying each other's company with no children in sight.

How can a grandparent enjoy a child more than the parents? Now, I am a grandparent, and it is becoming clearer to me why this is. I am now going to lay this secret out for you. Grandparents enjoy their grandchildren because once the visit is over, the children go back home! Grandparents are on cloud nine watching as their own children go through child raising struggles. Your parents tried to teach you. Well, now it is your turn! You will find yourself acting the same as your parents did with you. You will finally know the nightmare you put them through.

You will start looking forward to the day that you and your spouse can have your home all to yourselves. Your parents will ask you, “Do you remember when we told you to wait to have children and not rush into it?” They will laugh when you answer, “No.” They will always be there for you, as you will be with your children. However, the advice for you will only come when you ask for it. No longer are your parents bound to raise you. They tried their best with you, and now get to sit back and watch how their teachings took hold. Yes, your parents made mistakes, and yes, you will too!

Parents have the hardest job known to the human race! We do not understand this until we become parents ourselves. You may look at the way other parents raise their children and try to follow them. This will help in some ways to give you a starting point. However, children need unique teaching designs set for their understanding. Parents with multiple children understand this. Although you love each child with the fullness of your heart, you will find your love different for each of them. This is the awesome thing about love, it can expand in as many ways as is needed. If you do not think so, just talk to parents who have four, five, six kids or more. They will tell you they love all their children, but in different ways for each one. Because of this, I believe the definition of love should be a bunch of question marks expanding into the unknown.

Young boy at the table with his family, holding hands for prayer before dinner.

Children are a blessing from the good Lord above. Children may bring you closer to God as you cry out for his help. Be patient with your children and allow them to go through the different phases of life. This will help your offspring to become well-rounded adults. Disciplining your children is showing the love you have for them to grow up to be the good people they can be. Allowing your children to “run the show” is telling them you do not care how they turn out in life. A respectful adult comes from the years of love and training given by their parents. There is no magic formula for raising your children, but you must do the best you can for them, as your parents did for you.

Children are hard to raise. They, at times, will have you wondering if there is a grand solution to raising children. The only thing I can tell you is, do not rush into having them, and love them no matter how crazy things may seem. I hope in some way this helps. If you are a teenager reading this, try to take it easy on your parents. They are doing their best for you. Take care, my friends, and do not forget to follow me. Remember, we are all in this together.

Scars bring back memories

I can recall many things from my past adventures from the scars and creaks of my body. Some were great times, that over time have left a lasting impression. Some are marks of how dumb and maybe even crazy I was in my youth. We all have our scars both mentally and physically that we live with and remind us of our past.

I look at the scar on my right forearm and it tells the story of one such time. This was caused by not only my teenage super genius but also a double barrel wood stove. Alas, the wood stove proved to be as intelligent, if not more so, then I was with all my brain power at work.

Wooden fence In the snow

It was a very cold winter’s day with snow and some ice packed ground as far as the eye could see. This was a typical winter’s day for Missouri. I wanted to get as much heat out of that stove that was possible. As a teenager and indestructible as I thought I was, the thought never crossed my mind of the dangers I was putting myself, my dad’s garage/mechanic’s business in. With the proper dried wood inserted, that stove would put out enough heat for three times the size of the shop. I wanted to get the stove going quickly because it was as cold inside as it was out. This would become a difficult task since I had been lazy the last few days, and not brought in the wood from the outside to dry out. I now found myself with wet wood to burn.

My teenage genius kicked in and I knew what to do. Being that this was an auto shop, motor oil was readily available! Instead of putting in some smaller kindling and then working my way up to larger sticks of wood, I  thought better of taking a little extra time and muscle to split the bigger logs. I stuffed that bottom barrel as full as I could with the whole logs. I also took smaller sticks and filled in alot of the cracks between the logs. Not quite sure why I did this last part with the small sticks but it felt right at the time. I left just as much room as I needed at the top to get my hand and a quart of motor oil above the wood and poured it evenly all over the wood. I took some news paper and stuffed it in, then lit the newspaper with a lighter.

Won’t be long now I thought. The newspaper quickly burned up but, the wood did not. Well crap, what do I do now? Putting my super teenage brain back to work, it came to me. We had a parts washing station that used diesel fuel and solvent to clean engine parts with. Ahh, a cup of this should do the trick! A can that used to contain green beans in it was just what the doctor ordered. I filled up the can and once again reached in the barrel above the wood and poured the contents evenly ( it never crossed my mind that a small ember could ignite, from where I had lit the newspaper earlier and my whole arm would be there for the burning inside the stove! ). This, thank the Lord above did not happen. Once again, I stuffed some newspaper in and lit my masterpiece. The newspaper burned quickly and went out. Now my friends, I’m thinking, maybe I’m not quite as bright as I thought I was. No, that can’t be true, I am a teenager, the smartest person on the face of the planet! I just need a new plan, is all.

Double barrel wood stove

I sat down across from the opening of this stupid stove and once again put my genius to work. I have to come up with a solution and have the wood stove lit and shop getting warm before my dad got up and reminded me how lazy I had been for not bringing in wood the last few days to dry out. Geez, parents can be such a pain! They think they are so smart just cause they are old. That’s exactly what I was thinking at the time. Not too long after that, my thoughts would change dramatically.

I got up and walked around the shop, letting my great teenage brain do its work. My dad had told me diesel fuel was safer than gasoline because it didn’t have the explosive properties like gasoline. Actually he said the fumes of gasoline are what are so explosive but, I only remembered what I wanted to, don’t want to give the old man too much credit. So what I need is something that has that quick heat rate to get my conglomeration started!

Looking around, I couldn’t seem to find that gas can but, here’s a can of WD-40 and some paint remover. Still looking for the gasoline, I walk by the stove and sprayed some of that stuff in. Couldn’t hurt I thought. Meanwhile, all of the stuff I have put on my wood is soaking in and creating a great time bomb but I didn’t know that then, even though I was the smartest person on the planet at the time.

Low and behold, there’s that can of gas! Since I was so smart, I knew not to use to much. I don’t want to lose my eyebrows today. Keeping in this frame of mind, I got that green beans can again. How much should I use? I would use half a can but, the wood is wet, better use a whole can to be safe.

Once again I reached my hand into to stove and poured the contents in, not knowing that this is even more dangerous than before, if the smallest ember were to be present. With the gasoline added, I know that this will burn and I won’t need paper to start it. Once again my brain went to work and I decided not to put the lighter to it with the door of the stove open. I knew there would be a quick flash and as I said, I don’t want to lose any eyebrows! I closed the door and opened up the small vent in the door  to be able to lite it from. I have now created even a bigger bomb because of the closure of the door!

Lit match

I made sure the flu was all the way opened on the chimney pipe between the top barrel and the ceiling. I got a long stick, lit it and slowly led it to the small opening in the door. Baaboom!!! Not only did it ignite but it shook the whole building and moved the stove six inches to the right. I wish I could have seen the explosion from the chimney stack out of the top of the roof. I bet flames shot ten feet in the air! The heat was almost unbearable but the worst was yet to materialize.

As the heat began to build, there was a red glow coming from the top barrel and creeping on up the chimney pipe. I watched in awe and fear as my superior genius showed its effects. Oh Lord, let this thing calm down before my dad gets here. I will never hear the end of this if it doesn’t! As the super heat grew farther up the pipe, the tar that was put around the pipe on the steal roof was starting to liquefy. How do I know this? Simple deduction since the tar that was meant to keep rain out of the building, was now raining down the pipe!

Brain flying into trash can

I have to slow this down somehow. My thoughts were racing and so was I. Running around like a crazed maniac, yelling and screaming like a little girl. How do I cool this thing off? I grabbed some welders gloves and reached down and opened the door on the bottom barrel. What did this do to help? Well nothing except letting some pressure escape and filling the shop with black smoke. Running around some more and wondering where was my super genius brain now. My brain had gone on vacation and left me on my own. This was a good and bad thing. Even though my teenage brain had shut down and allowed full spread panic to set in, at least it wouldn’t come up with anymore stupid ideas. I can come up with just as much damaging ideas without the use of my brain anyway.

Showing how the teenager thinks, I wasn’t panicking because of the possible life and death situation I had put myself in. I was panicking because of what my dad would say, think, do or whatever that crazy old man might have in store for me. I knew I had to do something and quickly but what? Looking back, I could’ve just let it calm itself down. It was contained, no fire had come out of the stove and it would’ve slowed down given enough time. But, Dad could be here anytime now. Come on Billy, think!

Cartoon showing a human head open with brain peaking out

I guess my brain had decided to return which was not a good thing for me. I slowed down a little caught my breath, between coughs of smoke that was filling my lungs, and seen a steal bucket of water, which we used in case of burns or whatnot, sitting in the corner of the building. I ran over and grabbed it. I decided I didn’t want to throw it in the opening of the stove because, this might cause the smoke and burning wood to come out towards me. I decided to throw the water on the side of the barrel. This was one of the greatest mistakes I have ever made in my life!

As the water from my bucket hit this glowing red hot stove, it turned immediately to super heated steam that blasted me in the face which made me fall down. I was fortunate not to get major burns from this blast. I truly believe, by this time, God was feeling sorry for me and my stupidity. He would however allow me to take something away from this disaster to remind me for the rest of my life.

Something else happened when that water hit. It created my final bomb like effect. From cool meeting hot, an explosion erupted threw the stove and up the pipe with a huge bang, sounding like a cannon being shot, right there in the shop! With the tar melting and rolling down the chimney pipe, the thunderous shake from this final explosion was enough to once again move the stove farther out of place and send showers of tar flying this way and that. A chunk of this tar, approximately six inches in length an about one inch wide, landed on my right forearm continuing to burn and now adding my flesh to the substance that it could devour in its path.

Picture of scar on my forearm

Lying on the concrete floor now with my ears ringing from the blast, choking from the smoke in my lungs and cringing in pain from the hot tar on my arm, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer the smartest person on the planet. Actually I could think of plant life that had more intelligence then me.

My dad showed up shortly after this  picked me up, carrying me outside, where he dumped me on the ground. He quickly checked me over and then went and opened up the big doors on the shop to let the smoke clear out. He checked to make sure the stove was cooling down and that there was nothing flammable close to it. Returning to me, he asked what happened. I explained what I could and showed him my arm. He said, “Bet that hurts, huh?” “Yes sir.” I said choking down the pain. “I guess from now on you will bring the wood in to dry like I told you too.” I groaned, waiting for the lecture, “Yes sir,” That was it, no lecture. He told me to go put some ice on my burn and get my a$$ back here and clean up my mess.

Nowadays, I would have probably been going to the emergency room but, back then, it just wasn’t necessary unless there was a broken bone, a lot of blood or alot more flesh burning, especially with a father that had been a Marine in the Vietnam War. It may not have been considered the smartest thing, according to today’s standards but, it did make me alot tougher then today’s teens.

The burning lasted for days and it was months before all of the tar disappeared from my arm. This left me with a scar and a memory of times gone by.

I have many stories of my youth and I’m sure you do as well. Slowly but surely, I will post these stories and the lessons learned from them. We make many mistakes growing up and depending how we react to each of these situations, will depend how much of a well rounded person we grow up to be. I hope you have enjoyed a small look into my past and will share this post with your teenagers. Maybe, just maybe, they will learn something from it.

I always welcome your thoughts and you are more then welcome to share my post. Take care, God bless and Remember, we are all in this together.

Enjoy the age you are

Enjoy the age you are. Life goes by quickly! It’s funny how the older you get how time goes by so much faster! Truth is, time stays the same but we change. The older we get, the more we pay attention to time. Why is this? I believe I have the answer.

My daughter walking across bridge

I was talking with my youngest daughter the other day and the subject of time came up. She is just becoming a teenager  this year and she said how she was scared to grow up. I gave her the Ole “Time goes faster as you get older.” She just stared at me. It hit me then, this is really something she wants to know and understand. I decided this was about to turn into a serious conversation that I’m not prepared to have.

How am I supposed to explain to a twelve going on thirteen year old what I mean. I myself didn’t start seeing it until I was in my forties. I’m still not real sure I understand the full complexity to this. I just feel, the older we become, the more things we have missed.

I decided to go with an approach that I have learned and hope that it helps my beautiful daughter, and hopefully others like her out there. I know we all have regrets, whether it be a job, girlfriend/boyfriend or even losing a friendship over something dumb. Whatever it may be, it still leads me to the same conclusion. I will try my best to explain this the way I explained it to her. She seemed to pick up on it and gain the understanding I was hoping for.

When we are young, the one thing we want more than anything is to grow up. Once we are grown, the one thing we want more than anything is to go back to being young again. We need to start enjoying the age we are now! It doesn’t matter if you are twelve, twenty-five or eighty-five. If you are twelve, enjoy being twelve because thirteen is just around the corner and you will never see twelve again.

When we become older, the only way to enjoy twelve again is through our children and our grandchildren. Maybe you will be fortunate enough to be around to enjoy your great grandchildren. Take full advantage of this because you will never be twelve again. On the flip side of that, enjoy what ever age you are now. If you are fifty, enjoy fifty because you will be fifty-one soon enough.

Middle aged couple looking over ocean

And for goodness sake, don’t look back at missed opportunities, look back at successes. Enjoy life now! We are only here for a little while. Don’t make yourself miserable over something that is long gone.

I hope this helps. Enjoy today and Remember, we are all in this together.