We have recently added a concierge-style service to our list of ways to help our clients. Often clients need immediate help, more sessions that insurance will allow, and other ways to reach out for help. For that reason, we are adopting a way that can help provide those services. Our concierge-style service will allow clients the opportunity to see the therapist within 12 business hours of contact between the hours of 6 am and 8 pm. The number of sessions per week and per month is not limited like it would be when using insurance. For this reason, this is a strictly non-insurance style of treatment and service. The cost for this service is $275 for a 50 minute session and $325 for a 90 minute session. We also offer monthly “subscriptions” to our concierge-style service which will offer up to 18 visits per month for a set monthly rate. For rules and other information, please contact us.
I was fortunate enough to be an All-American high school football player. I was lucky enough receive a full-scholarship to a major university to play football. I enjoyed my time as a college athlete. I went on to receive a master’s degree in sport psychology followed by a doctoral degree in counseling psychology. I needed all that experience and more when I came home from work and found out that my oldest daughter (my only daughter at the time) had been put in a gymnastics program without consulting me at the age of three years old.
It started out simply enough. One thirty minute class a week, a few bucks a month, no big deal really. But after only having been in gymnastics a few months, we moved to Atlanta and without any research we joined Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta. Very quickly they moved my daughter from the recreational side of the gym to the competitive side of the gym. The time commitment moved from 30 minutes or an hour a week to a couple of hours a week and the financial piece ticked up a little bit more. She was now at the “Progressive” level. Now she was doing “intragym” meets. She was winning them.
Another year passed and they moved her up “progressive advanced”. More time, more money, more wins at the intragym meets.
And yet another year passed. Now she was up to pre-team. Now she got a team leotard for spirit leotard Wednesdays. More time, more money, another win. Also, her first back injury. It was nothing severe, nothing long lasting, but it was a first.
The next year, less than 4 years after walking into a gym for the first time, she was competing with other gyms across Georgia and the southeast in Level 4. At this time, I saw other gymnastics parents and I had heard stories. My training as a sport psychologist and as an ex-athlete gave me some guidance. I wasn’t going to be the father who put the weight of the world on my child’s success and failure in her sport or any sport. I wasn’t going to be the parent who only focused on gymnastics. Who pushed and pushed and pushed. I wasn’t going to be the parent who only talked to their kid about gymnastics. I wanted more from my daughter than to “just be a gymnast”.
I made a commitment to myself and my daughter that we would not focus on gymnastics. Whatever would be, would be. When I picked her up at night I would ask her two questions. The first question was always, “Did you have fun”? The second question was always, “Did you work hard”? That was it. My questions about gymnastics were done by the time we were out of the parking lot, literally. I was committed to this.
The hours grew. She had moved from the little 30 minute a week class to 4 days a week at 2 hours per day. My six-year-old was in the gym 8-10 hours a week. The price tag was going up. We were no longer at just monthly fees. We now had a quota to meet to pay for coaching fees, travel time, meet entry fees (and parent entry fees), a spirit leo, and the plethora of competition gear. Personally I was out of pocket probably $4000 a year (more or less). My daughter was not great on beam, bars, and floor. She had three natural gifts though. One was speed, one was the willingness to work exceptionally hard, and one was her ability to be coached. Level 4 was a success. She had a number of wins on vault throughout the year and a number of podium finishes.
The hours grew again. On to Level 5. More time – up to 12-15 hours a week or so. The price tag went up. The intensity went up. Straight from school to practice. Practice was 3:00-6:00, 4 days a week. She continued to do well. She won her first all-around and continued to place on the podium frequently. She was getting better. But the questions stayed the same. Did you have fun? Did you work hard? In the end, when it would be all said and done at some point in the future, that was all that really mattered to me. Even if she never won another event. When she looks back on her gymnastics career, what will she have taken from it?
Another year, XCEL Platinum. This year was different. A month before the season started, she tore an abdominal muscle. For a gymnast, this is difficult because the core is the key to everything. She couldn’t even condition to stay in shape. For the first time since she was just short of 3 years old, she couldn’t even come in the gym. A month out of the gym, led to about 6 weeks of recovery which means she missed her first meet ever. When she came back, she struggled. As a matter of fact, she struggled for the entire season. She did better than the average gymnast but was no longer standing on top of the podium. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishes started to mount. Her frustration, for the first time in a very difficult sport, was starting to show on her face. But we kept asking the same questions. However, at 9 years old, she was the one extending the conversations. We tried not to push beyond what she was bringing up. Sometimes we failed, but we generally succeeded. It was her decision on how much gymnastics to talk about. School was getting harder. Her sister had joined her at the gym and her little sister’s natural ability was very evident from Day 1. Things were changing.
The next year came along with middle school. School ended at 4:15 and she went straight to the gym and practice started at 5:00. She would be there 3 nights a week, with optional Fridays, until 9:00 pm. Covered in chalk, she’d eat dinner and 9:15 and start her homework at 9:45 at night. Saturdays were 9:00 – 1:00. 20 hours per week. The financial commitment was huge. Not only were the monthly fees, quotas, and everything else going up, but we were having to drive and fly long distances and full weekends for meets. Between both my daughters, the financial commitment was nearing $10K per year. But as parents (now me and their stepmom), we were committed to doing what was best for them and having them involved in a sport where they could succeed, not sit around the house after school as their biological mother would have preferred.
Right before the beginning of her Level 7 season, something happened to both of her wrists. We weren’t really sure what, but we knew it was painful. In all likelihood, it was overuse. Tendonitis. No big deal. We would treat it every night after practice. Ibuprofen, hands to elbows in buckets of ice water for 20 minutes after practice. She hated it. We hated it for her. The coaches hated it. But she continued. No missed practices. She continued to work hard. It was clear that she was in pain. This was not fun for anyone, especially her. She pushed through. Meet after meet after meet. The pain, the treatment, the struggles on certain events were very evident. The practice time and quality decreased. After her final meet of the year, with no improvement at all, we took her to the doctor for a third time (the first 2 diagnoses were tendonitis). This time it showed something much different – a broken right wrist. Casted. A nice green cast for the year end banquet. It was then then I realized how physically tough my daughter was and how mentally tough she had to be to deal with her coaches yelling at her about why she wasn’t better every day for 5 months and how she managed to practice and compete. Yes, she competed an entire season in gymnastics with a broken wrist. I was in awe of my own daughter. She never complained. Not once. She did what she thought she had to do.
Due to the fact that she had the broken wrist and missed so much time and wasn’t able to progress her skills, she was forced to repeat Level 7. We were all disappointed, but we knew it was coming. When strangers and family members asked her how she was doing, she would tell them 100% of the time she wanted a college scholarship and wanted to be a Georgia GymDog. When a lot of kids say they want a college scholarship, its because they have a parent or parents who have invested their own personal identity into their kid’s athletic prowess. Its not necessarily the kid’s life goal or dream, it’s the parents trying to fulfill their own childhood dreams through their child. In this case, I had my dream met. I played college football, I didn’t need that from my daughter. Her stepmom, who was and is 100% invested in her success, didn’t know the first thing about gymnastics when she first came into our lives and certainly never pushed as she wouldn’t have known HOW to push it since she had no previous knowledge of the sport or even that you could get a college scholarship in it. I was shocked that after 2 years of injury, she was still 100% moving forward. No thoughts of quitting. She wanted this college scholarship all on her own. I was exceptionally proud of the attitude.
Once she recovered from her broken wrist, she competed Level 7 again. The wrist issues continued for the entire next year. Intermittent pain, but the complaining was minimal and the effort was still maximal. The hard work paid off as she returned to previous form and was again back on the podium with high finishes on a regular basis.
We decided when the season was over, she would get her first vacation…EVER. She was one of the very few kids who didn’t want to take time off. If the coaches were there and expected her to be there, she was there. Every holiday she was there, even when most kids weren’t. She was committed. It was time to give her body a break though. It was breaking down. We rewarded her 13 years of life and exceptional work ethic with a 10 day cruise. Guess what she did on the cruise. She conditioned 7 of the 10 days. She was at the gym on the ship working out. She didn’t want to not be in shape when she came back. Level 8 was waiting.
Within in days of returning to practice in early July, disaster struck. A return of the injury from 2 years ago. X-rays concluded this time it wasn’t broken. Tendonitis was the diagnosis. Anti-inflammatories and rest. She couldn’t do anything. Literally. Every time she put weight on her wrists, she was in agony. Her skills suffered. She was going backwards. She was relegated to 4 hours of conditioning 5 days a week. This was painful. It was painful for her emotionally and us as a family. Something was about to give. It was decision time.
I handled this on my own first. I needed to be ok with whatever happened next although the decision would be in her hands ultimately. I have a daughter who had managed the stress of competitive gymnastics, the coaches, the time commitment, and all advanced classes in middle school with Straight A’s. I had to trust her to whatever decision she wanted. But I had to prepare myself first. I, too, had committed. Tens of thousands of dollars, the emotional stress of watching her compete for years, the carpools, the not being able to spend time with her because she was at practice for thousands of hours over the years. I had to figure out how to be ok with this. Yes, I knew she could move to diving or pole vaulting or track which is where most gymnasts move to (if they do anything at all), but its just not that simple. It took me a few weeks and many conversations with my wife. I understood, as with my own athletic career, that you can’t do this forever. And I remember back to when she was 2 ½ years old the reason I didn’t want her in gymnastics – the injury potential. That day was possibly here now. I trusted that my daughter was wise and smart and likely unhappy. Was she staying in it now to make me happy? I had to make sure this was not the case.
My wife and her had a conversation one day where my daughter basically confirmed, she didn’t want to tell me she was done. Really it was more that she couldn’t bear to repeat Level 7 again even though she had progressed to Level 8 but her injury wasn’t allowing her to move forward and maintain the Level 8 skills. I had failed to communicate to her that I was ok with it. I had resolved the issues in my head but failed communicate them to her.
So the next day I took her to our local high school parking lot for a driving lesson (yes, I know she’s only 13). But before we started, I parked the car and had a father/daughter talk. I asked her what she was thinking. She told me the same thing she told her stepmother. When I reacted with a smile, she looked taken aback. I asked her what her surprise was and she told me that she thought I would want her to continue gymnastics. I had to explain to her that that time comes in every athletes life. I was there. I went through it. I had to quit college football due to a back injury. We discussed options: diving, pole vaulting, track (which she threw out immediately due to “too much running”). Her natural personality and everything she has learned from gymnastics enabled her to have that tough conversation with me.
Not long after that Rio happened. We were, as a family, glued to it every night. We all stayed up until midnight watching the gymnastics (and everything else for 2 weeks). Both my daughters were glued to it like they would be in Beijing. Even the one who knew her days were numbered. Interestingly enough, there was an above average interest in the diving. David Boudia, Abby Johnston, Kassidy Cook, Steele Johnson. My daughter actually picked them out of the opening ceremonies parade of nations having only seen them once. My wife and I gave each other the sideways glance. What was this? The conversations about diving started to increase. Critiques, listening, slow-mo re-runs. We learned. The twinkle in her eye started to re-emerge.
We immediately set out on two paths. One, the wrist injury was more serious than tendonitis. She had to get an MRI. Second, I set out on finding out more about diving and how to get her started. Before the MRI results came in, we had already decided that August would be her last month in a leotard. It was clear that competing in gymnastics at the level at which she was accustomed was not going to happen at Level 8 in 2017. She would stay simply for the conditioning aspect. That was my decision but no argument from her. I also found a top level diving academy. She had her first tryout the day after her MRI.
It was a one hour tryout and they knew she’d never jumped off a diving board before but that she was a Level 8 gymnast. Ten minutes on learning how to crow hop then to the pool. 1m pencil jumps and lean over dives for 10 minutes. Then to the 3m (which I told her there is no way they would have her do). 3m pencil jump and lean over dives. 1m. 3m. 1m. 3m. At minute 58, she jumped off the 5m platform.
After every single dive for 1 hour as she swam out of the pool, she would give her stepmom and me a big giant smile. Every time! Even after a terrible entry, there was a shoulder shrug, a grin, and then a smile. We wouldn’t have been able to wipe the smile off her face with a chamois full of gymnastics chalk. I haven’t seen her smile like that in years. We knew 30 minutes into that practice, the decision was made in her mind if the diving academy would take her. When we asked after it was over if she wanted to do it again, she violently shook her head yes. The coach told us they would be in touch.
Two days later, on Friday evening, the diving coach called and asked if she wanted to come back the next morning for another private lesson/tryout (since official practices didn’t start until September). This had to be a good thing. There was a conflict. She had gymnastics practice that next morning. She had a decision to make and this decision was all hers. Turn down the diving practice, skip gymnastics practice, or have that very difficult conversation with her coaches telling them that she was retiring from gymnastics and then go dive. I made one thing clear to her: this decision was hers and that she would be telling the coaches of her retirement. She was no longer the quiet, shy, 3-year-old or the hesitant withholding 9-year-old. This was her last chance to show the coaches how much she’s grown under their tutelage. She decided she wanted to dive.
She went in to the gym at 8:30 am on that Saturday morning. She, with her stepmother and me quietly by her side for support) told the coaches that this coming week would be her last week and thanked them for everything they had done for her. She was so unbelievably mature in such a tough situation (I remember having to do that with my college football coach at almost 20-years-old and she handled it just as well). After a 20-minute conversation, we left to go dive. She came back to the gym the rest of the week and made the following Friday her last day. She had a long hug and conversation with her coach, her long time friends and teammates cried and smiled and hugged (and asked for all of her pre-wrap and tape), and off she went into that goodnight (ironically to return 24 hours later for a birthday party for a teammate at the gym).
So for those of you parents who are reading this, I hope you’ve gotten the point of this story. It doesn’t matter whether your son or daughter is a gymnast, football player, chess player, golfer, swimmer, or math club member. We, as parents, put them in these activities for a number of reasons. Being involved in something is better than being involved in nothing. It increases their chances of lifelong success because of the lessons they learn. Time management, how to win with class and lose with class, hard work, dedication, team work, determination and perseverance, reduce the risk of obesity, etc. This is not about us as parents. We are merely a support mechanism and a financial means for them. Its not about pushing our kids to get scholarships or trash talk other kids. Its not even about proving who’s the best or being able to brag about it on Facebook or Instagram. Their success is not your success. Their success is something for you to be proud of. Their failures are not your failures but rather an oppotuniry for you to teach and guide. Their success is THEIR success. Its not about fulfilling our own lost childhood dreams. Its not about us, its about them. Remember that. When you can teach your kids all of that AND see them smile so big it lights up the night sky regardless of what place they come in, then you know you’ve done your job.
Can be seen on Dr. Behrman’s blog at http://wp.me/p7iJxx-i
Its not infrequent that I get a call from a potential new client citing they need anger management counseling. Its also not infrequent that in the middle of counseling a dating or married couple that one of them professes that the other has anger management issues and needs to come in on their own. Anger problems have always fascinated me for a number of reasons. What are the causes? Triggers? Speed and pattern? These are just a few of the questions of which we don’t truly have any definitive scientific answers.
There’s no doubt that there is a small subset of people who are genetically predisposed to having a very short fuse. With these individuals, a simple personal history can show that the individual has had “anger issues” as far back as he or she can remember, literally. A therapist, spouse, or friend could have a quick conversation with one of the individual’s parents’ and quickly ascertain that the person was like this as a very small child. Even more weight is given to the genetic component when there was an absence of anger and violence by the parents during childhood.
The second group of people with “anger issues” are those who grew up in a household or other environment where anger and violence was both present and prevalent. The individual learned through experience that this type of expression of emotion and behavior was acceptable, at least on some level.
The third group, which is the subject here, is the group that doesn’t have either the genetic or childhood history that would theoretically lead one to be an angry adult. This is the group that I really enjoy working with in my private practice. Its also the group that I believe will cause a dramatic rise in crime rates over the next 4 years and its based largely on the current political landscape. There are a number of reason why I’m making this bold claim. Let me say it again, I think by the year 2020 we will see a dramatic rise in white collar crime, gun violence, and domestic cases (not necessarily household violence like husband and wife, but just domestic cases in general).
Scenario #1: Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November
The Republican party has spent the last 8 years doing everything they possibly could do to bring down President Obama. This is not a political statement, but a statement of fact. They have made this public claim multiple times over his 8 years in office. As soon as he won re-election in 2012, they automatically assumed that Hillary Clinton would be running in 2016 and have made it, again, their public mission to do anything possible to defeat her.
In their mission to punish the Democrats and the nation for President Obama’s election and re-election, the Republicans have brought congress to a complete and total halt. This is not necessarily finger pointing as it’s a well established fact that congressional accomplishments over the last 8 years have been nearly nil. Literally, an all-time low. The Democrats have also failed to provide any substance or fight to the congressional floors, but have chosen to sit idly by and point their fingers at the Republicans rather than make any serious attempts to fix the problems in Washington.
As a result of this do-nothing Congress, our nation has taken multiple steps backwards in nearly every significant area. People are mad. People are angry. In walks Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other notable Republicans. They are hell bent on defeating Hillary Clinton.
So what happens when she wins? Well basically more of the same. The Republicans are angrier than ever. Not only are they enraged at the voters, but the dissention within the ranks will be not only palpable, but probably on full display for the world to see. In their anger, dissention, and possibly crumbling of the party, they’ll forget that their jobs are to fix this country. We will undoubtedly see more of what we’ve seen for the last 8 years. Angry Republicans and do-nothing Democrats. Both, unwilling and unable to get anything substantive done. Who then feels the brunt of this? The American People. How will they express their displeasure? With Anger.
Scenario #2: Ted Cruz somehow defeats both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
For those that don’t follow politics, Ted Cruz is more or less hated by the overwhelming majority of the Senate (I’ll assume that means the House as well). During his years in the Senate, its widely known that no one has wanted to work with him. He is generally characterized as an extremely difficult person to get along with and work with. If this is the case, why would this suddenly stop if he’s elected president? It’s possible, but not likely. Republicans will be happy because Hillary Clinton is not in office, but other than that, what’s the gain? They (both parties) still can’t or won’t work with him. Once again, no progress.
Scenario #3: The Donald becomes President Trump
As a psychologist, not a political pundit, I see this as worse case scenario. The Republicans absolutely despise him and are doing everything in their power to defeat him with anyone. ANYONE. The Democrats abhor him. Psychologically speaking, the damage that he will do to the American psyche is tremendous. First, lets look at some Trumpisms:
“We’re going to make some very, very good deals.”
“We’re going to knock the hell out of them.”
“My plan is to erase the lines around the states. That’s my plan.”
“We’re going to win. We are going to start winning again.”
“We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
“They hate us.”
“We’re going to do it a lot.”
“We’re going to make the best deals with the best people.”
These are just a select few from dozens and dozens of answers he’s given when asked for specifics. Its very clear that Mr. Trump doesn’t have a plan. What he does know is that American’s love winning. We love winning the Super Bowl, Olympics, golf, tennis, everything (ask him about his club championships). What he’s failing to provide people is a specific plan on HOW he plans on “winning.” What’s he doing is nothing more than a football “rah rah” speech. He’s setting grand expectations with no playbook. He’s saying we’re going to win the Super Bowl, but he has no coaches, no playbook, and no plan.
What he does know, however, is that Americans are very angry for the reasons cited above. He, without remorse and doubt, is playing right into the anger that Americans have over our do-nothing Congress for the last 8 years. He has riots at his rallies, he taunts people, he calls names, and frequently acts more like a 5-year-old than a presidential candidate. Its one thing for many Americans to say or think “yeah but this is what we are all thinking and he’s just saying it out loud.” I disagree. He’s stirring up trouble, setting expectations, and treating this race like its ratings season for The Apprentice. The rest of the world is seeing him as impetuous, impulsive, childish, ill-tempered, and dangerous. Would you work with someone like that?
Now back to my bold prediction for 2020 and the crime rate and group number 3. Whether its an individual sitting in my office or the one who is being pointed out by his wife or her husband, one of the primary sources of anger is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations can also lead to disappointment, laughter, mockery, sadness, and a host of other emotions, but anger is one of the more dangerous ones.
In this case, unmet expectations will be met with anger because they are starting with anger. Americans are angry with President Obama. We are extremely angry with congress. The Republicans are angry with Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats while the Democrats are angry with the Republicans. And as this ugly cauldron bubbles we have a presidential race that is bringing the anger to a slow rolling boil. Republicans have set expectations that they’ll defeat Hillary Clinton and undo all of the “unconstitutional executive orders” on Day 1. Donald Trump, who isn’t playing by any rules, is riling up anger seemingly with every other word both from his supporters and his antagonists. He’s declaring victory at every turn both now and in the future.
People are expecting big things and as the Trumpism goes “very, very big things”. What will happen when these expectations go unmet? People will get angrier and angrier. Fingers will get pointed. Democrats will blame Republicans. Republicans will blame Trump or Cruz (some may even find a way to blame Rubio or Romney for not doing a better job in their campaigns). Americans will blame both the President and Congress. We’ll also suffer. Whether its our economy, foreign policy/wars, healthcare, immigration, trade, etc., our anger will be magnified even more than what it is now. We’ll be let down, disappointed, hurting, and angry. As a result, as any social scientist will tell you, crime rates will rise. More people, more anger, more issuestp be angry at, more access to weapons….more crime. You saw it here first.
Yes, I keep my kids in the basement. Before you go calling DFACS, let me explain.
When I was growing up in the late 70’s, through the entire 80’s, and into the early 90’s, things were different then. In the words of one of my favorite singer/songwriter’s @CoreySmithMusic “…and now my conversations start with ‘when I remember when…”. I remember when we didn’t lock the door to our house more often than not. I remember when my parents (who both worked full-time jobs) left in the morning and told me “ride your bike to go see your grandmother today” which was several miles from my house. I remember when I was told to ride my bicycle to the YMCA to play for my kickball team while they were off at work. I remember doing this riding without a helmet. I remember my mom teaching me how to cook (mainly chicken and spaghetti since those were the only things she knew how to make). I remember doing a lot of things back then that kids don’t do today.
How many of you reading this make your kids wear a bicycle helmet? How many of your 13-year-olds know how to make more than something they can just stick in the microwave? Wash their own clothes? Know what their grades are? When your kids have free time do they sit in front of their video game device of choice or Netflix or (Lord help us) YouTube?
Think about the bicycle helmet question for a minute. How many of you that raised your hand said, “yes, because its safe”? Yes, you all did. So if that’s the case, was it not safe when you were a kid because very few people reading this who were born before 1980 or maybe even 1985 wore bicycle helmets as a kid. This is a microcosm of our society as a whole. When we were kids our parents went off to work or did their thing and left us to our own environment. We were told to “go play”. And we did. We didn’t have mom or dad walking us across each crosswalk. We didn’t have them holding our hand every time we left the house or making playdates for us.
What happened when we fell off our bicycles and scratched ourselves up or cut ourselves open? What happened when we drove out in front of car and nearly got hit or maybe even got tapped? We’d go home, get a band-aid, maybe a few stitches, possibly get yelled at or chastised by a parent. Then what would we do? We’d go back out the next day and we’d actually be more careful. We actually LEARNED something from our mistakes.
I remember as I was getting ready to go to college and my mom was explaining to me how to wash clothes so I knew how to do it when I got there. She gave me the most basic instructions and said “ok, its all yours.” About 2 weeks into college, I was wearing pink clothes to all my classes. That was the last time I washed my whites with my reds. I LEARNED.
As I sit and listen to my parent-clients’ day in and day out, I’m amazed at not only my own “failures” with my son who is a high school senior, but at the culture that today’s parents are engrossed in. I remember as my son was growing up believing that I should protect him and show him that I loved him by trying to make his life easier. It was well intentioned, just like my own clients today are well intentioned. But in our good intentions, we, as a society are really doing an amazing disservice to our kids. We follow every grade online and remind them to do their homework. I’ve seen many parents do their kids homework for them! Don’t get me started about the parents who write their kid’s college application essays. We nearly have a heart attack if they produce work that isn’t “A” quality or as good as little Johnny’s. We walk them through every single phase of life and we absolutely refuse to let them fail. We flat out refuse! What exactly are we teaching them?
We’re teaching them to be helpless. We’re teaching them that they can’t succeed in life without us standing over them and guide them in every conceivable way. We aren’t raising them to be adults. We’re raising them to be children.
I love my parents dearly and all in all they were fantastic parents. They gave me the tools and experiences to be a successful adult. However, one of my most frustrating memories is when my dad, who is and was extremely handy, asked me to come help him. His idea of helping him was to tell me “go over there and get that thing and bring it to me so I can fix this doodad.” I never knew what anything was called. I never learned how to actually fix anything.
With that being said, they NEVER did my homework for me. Most of the time they didn’t ask if I even had homework. They signed my papers when the teacher sent them home but generally they saw my grades at the end of every 6-weeks. My guess is they never even knew my high school or college GPA other than to know that I graduated Cum Laude from undergrad and I went on to get my doctorate. After my immediate lesson on chicken and spaghetti, I figure out how to cook on my own and now love to cook for my 3 kids.
Luckily, I learned from my mistakes with my oldest who will be attending Florida State University this coming summer. I started changing actually a few years ago when two things grabbed my attention. I started becoming concerned about how he would handle college if and when he got there. He couldn’t, literally, function on his own. I needed to help him get there. And I needed to do that by doing less, not more. The other more eye-opening experience happened when I asked him to do a task at home. After contemplating (not even attempting) that task for less that 60 seconds, he literally went to go find his 8-year-old sister to help him. I actually blurted out in shock, “you need your 8-year-old sister to help you do this?” Then I realized that indeed he did.
In evaluating my own parenting successes and flaws, I realized that over the 12 or 13 years I had been raising him, I had set him up for failure by trying to be too good of a parent. It was time for a change.
My first task…teach all of them how to cook. The very first thing they learned together was shrimp and grits (by their choosing). Probably the most inedible thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was a $25 lesson, but a lesson that is joked about in my house to this very day. They learned the difference between 1 tbs of salt vs 1 c. of salt. They used the 1 c. of salt. Five years later, all 3 of my kids (18, 13, and 9) can make a full meal. A meal, not a sandwich or a hot pocket. A meal. If we are busy as parents, we tell them to pull out a cookbook and make dinner. They wash their own clothes, clean their own rooms, know when to brush their teeth, etc.
What’s this got to do with keeping my kids in the basement? A year ago we finished our basement. We furnished it. It’s a place where our kids can go be kids. They can go down there and get away from gymnastics and college prep and homework. They can play pool, hang out with their friends, have sleepovers (that THEY initiate), make a mess, clean it up. It’s a place where they do arts and crafts and make things for their friends. They wrap birthday presents and good luck gifts. It’s a place for them. The kids. It’s a place where they can grow up and not be under the ever watchful eye of the adult. We have a mini-fridge where we keep beer, wine, sodas and where they have to make good decisions. It’s a place where my 18-year-old goes with his friends and they have to decide whether to sneak the alcohol or take the sodas and waters instead. It’s a place where they can talk candidly with each other (siblings and friends) and not have the adults be ever mindful.
Its absolutely imperative that if we want to raise our kids to be healthy, functioning adults that we start learning that their future is THEIR future, not ours. We need to consider OUR need to make them the best now and balance it with what’s in THEIR best interest in the future. We need to let them skin their knees, fail, talk to adults without us being there, do their own homework for better or worse. We, as parents, have must let our kids today figure things out on their own so they can be healthy, happy, functioning adults, not needy, helpless, overgrown children tomorrow.
I remember a few years ago hearing about the new French president who was newly elected. My first thought was “They had an election? I never heard a word about any campaign.” Given that we, and in this case I mean both the general population and the media, believe we are the only country on Earth and news of other nations politics are largely ignored, I didn’t give the campaigns a second thought. In 2014, I was aware of the campaign battle going on in Israel after President Peres decided not to run for re-election. I wanted to take some time to enlighten myself on the candidates purely for the sake of knowledge. A few weeks passed and then a few more and before I knew it Israel had a new president. My thought this time was “Already? They just started campaigning”. That was 2014.
In January of 2013 (actually probably more like December of 2012) we had begun our own campaign cycle here in the United States. However, this was not for an election in the spring of 2013. Nor was it the campaign cycle for the summer or fall or even winter of 2013. We don’t hold elections in the spring, so it wasn’t for early or mid 2014. It wasn’t even for 2015. It was for November of 2016!
In France, campaign season lasts just a few weeks. In Israel, it last for about 3 months. In countries all over the world its commonplace for election season to be nice and brief (and cheap-ish). Here in the United States, however, we begin the cycle of tearing this country apart, being divisive, judgmental, obstinate, and challenging the moment a new president is elected in preparation for the event that will inevitably occur 4 years later (especially by the losing party). In our love of “winning”, we forget that we should be working together for success even if we lose. And there lies one of the principle psychological problems we face as a country.
Fast forward from the French and Israeli elections and other elections around the world to the fall of 2015. I remember hanging out with my wife on our couch after work enjoying our time together, watching the news (although I must admit that if memory serves the “news” we were watching was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and seeing @RealDonaldTrump riding down an escalator and announcing his intent to run for President. Remember that at this point we were all certain that Jeb Bush, #MarcoRubio, Ben Carson, @TedCruz, and @HillaryClinton would be running and their campaigns were either actively or passively already underway and had been for several years. My wife and I laughed at The Donald, took it as a publicity stunt, and really didn’t give it another thought.
Debate after debate passed. News cycle after news cycle passed. Poll after poll (after poll after poll) passed. Mr. Trump’s numbers rose. Mr. Bush’s numbers tanked. Rubio and Cruz stuck in neutral. Dr. Carson appeared as a shadow on the outer edges of the debate stages. Governor Kasich. And let’s don’t forget the guy who claimed to be the governor of New Jersey. And there were others whose names won’t stand the test of time.
And then the debate on the Thursday before Super Tuesday arrived. My wife offered to go get my daughter from gymnastics practice at 9 pm so I could sit and watch the debate that started at 8:30. My 18-year-old son, who is a high school senior, sat with me (on his phone of course but was listening nonetheless…or so he says). We listened as Mr. Trump talked about winning and his poll numbers. We listened as Senator Rubio took shot after shot after shot at The Donald. We listened as Mr. Rubio took personal shots and legitimate shots at Mr. Trump begging and pleading for a specific plan. Apparently Senator Rubio doesn’t think erasing the lines around the states was a plan. We laughed as Mr. Trump struggled to get across any semblance of a plan and was visibly shaken and sweating. My wife and 13-year-old daughter walked in about 9:15 and we also sat together and witnessed this circus. I wondered what people around the world thought of this ridiculousness.
The next day I was checking the news in between my clients and as soon as I got home I immediately turned on a cable news network. In between my office and home, I stopped at the gym. Instead of having my personal treadmill TV on ESPN where it usually is, I had the news on (and I wasn’t the only one). There was very little talk of the circus the night before. All the news was focused on the day’s circus. Donald Trump had stolen the show again. This time by bringing in his old nemesis, Gov. Christie. Once again, Donald Trump had managed to dance around all of the issues that slammed him in the face the previous night. He spent the next press conference making fun of Marco Rubio like they were two 3rd graders at my youngest daughter’s elementary school. Mocking, harassing, teasing, embellishing. Marco fired back doing the same thing. Small hands, funny hair, sweating. It was ludicrous.
My wife had gone earlier that day to vote. As I was finishing up with my last client at about 6:00, my client asked me if I had voted and I told him I was heading to do that as soon as he left. He asked me who I was voting for. I didn’t mind. I told him. We started a tradition in our family last August that every week we’d take our son out for a lunch or dinner. Just the three of us to talk about college. We wanted to give him the opportunity to ask questions, contemplate, clarify, voice concerns and fears, etc. I got to the polling station about 6:45, just in time to cast my vote. I then met my wife and son and the restaurant for his “college night”.
I arrived just at 7:00. We grabbed a booth just minutes later. The restaurant we were at happened to have a big screen tv and it just happened to be facing me. By the time our server had brought our waters they had already called the race in our home state of Georgia for Clinton and Trump. Let me say that again. Minutes after the polling station had closed, the cable news had called the Georgia race! MINUTES!
We sat and we talked. I found myself glancing up at the screen as the poll numbers for Vermont, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, and so on scrolled across the screen. I watched the breakdown of Virginia by county. I watched as Texas and Arkansas and Oklahoma unfolded. Then it hit me. We weren’t talking about college. We were talking politics. We spent our son’s college night this week discussing politics. As we were getting up to walk out of the restaurant I said to my soon-to-be college freshman, “you’re screwed.” He responded back with, “I know”. I stayed up hours watching the pundits repeat themselves over and over and over again. Eventually fading off before Rubio ever won his lone state.
The next day, Wednesday, I saw my usual batch of regularly scheduled clients. Of the seven I had that day, only one didn’t bring up the election in some form or fashion (and that’s because he was a 14-year-old kid with mild Autism). Six clients that day brought up the election. Five wanted to discuss it with me at length. I’m a psychologist. I’m not a political pundit or campaign manager. While we did discuss their views on the candidates and why people are voting the way they’re voting, the purpose of the discussions they all had was how what is going on is related to their individual stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety. Relationships. Marriages. Family. Those are my areas of expertise. I tell all my clients that while I have a PhD in psychology and have a very well established and respected practice, what I do is not your typical psychology, therapy, or counseling. I hold a very firm belief that while we are all unique, we don’t live, love, work, or otherwise function in a vacuum. Our lives are shaped by the people, places, events, experiences, and world around us. This includes the political landscape (aka The Circus) that we are experiencing in this very lengthy election cycle.
Who among you regularly complained, discussed, or even gave much thought to illegal aliens coming in from Mexico before Mr. Trump said he would build that mighty wall and make the Mexicans pay for it? Note the word “regularly”. Did you think about it on occasion? Probably. Was it a major concern? Maybe. Maybe not.
Who among you considered Mexicans rapists? Probably very few of you. As most of us know, the majority of rapes are perpetrated by people close to us, not by an illegal Mexican who just crossed the border who is looking for a way to feed his or her family and find a place to live. The illegal aliens have other things on their minds other than raping strangers.
Who among you even knew what the word amnesty even meant before you googled it during one of the debates or hearing the word on the news?
Who among you really, truly knows what is constitutional or unconstitutional about the Affordable Care Act other than just the Republicans say it isn’t constitutional and plan to repeal it? Who among you even knew ObamaCare was actually even actually called The Affordable Care Act? Who knows what Donald Trump means by “erasing the lines around the states?” If you do, please tell me.
Who among you can actually detail what ANY of the candidates’ positions are on any given topic that has been made an issue in this campaign (other than repealing ALL of President Obama’s executive orders and Obamacare)?
This is my point. The fight between Republicans and Democrats and the fight within the Republican party has been thrust upon us from every imaginable angle. Some real, some imagined, some manufactured. Our heads are spinning. As members of the human race, we strive for control of ourselves, our environment, and the world around us. We desire order and structure. We want to know what we are getting into and what we are going to get out of it. As this campaign season moves forward, we are getting less and less of everything we need, want, strive for, and desire. We are getting candidates who are manufacturing issues that don’t really exist purely for the sake of raising the ire and emotions of the general populous. We have candidates who say one thing one day and one thing the next. And we accept this (that’s for another blog on another day).
This disconnect between what we desire as human beings and what is being presented to us in this campaign year is challenging our psyches in an unhealthy way. We want order. But we are getting disorder. We want consistency. But we are getting inconsistency. We want stability. But we are getting instability. We want people who have our best interests at heart. But we are getting a circus just for the sake of winning.
We, the people, are being conned. Not by Donald Trump or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. We are being conned by ourselves. We are choosing, yes choosing, to get caught up in the circus. It may be entertaining in the moment, but we are not investing in ourselves right now. We say to our family and friends, “How can anyone vote for Donald Trump? He’s going to ruin us.” We say, “Marco Rubio is establishment and look where that’s gotten us.” We say, “No one in congress will work with Cruz. They all hate him.” And moments later we’re all worked up. We end up in the same mindset, the same disarray, the same inability to get across a cohesive message that these politicians exhibit day in and day out. If they are causing these stresses and anxieties within us about our present and our future, then you are doing the same to yourself by trying to articulate and debate their very same messages.
I’m reminded of these words by Alicia Keys:
Some people live for the fortune
Some people live for the fame
Some people live for the power
Some people live just to play the game
Now I’m not saying don’t listen or learn or have an opinion. I’m not saying don’t vote or don’t care. What I’m saying is that these Machiavellian personalities (and our Machiavellian political system itself) is absolutely not conducive for a lower stress, lower anxiety way of living. I’m saying learn wasn’t doesn’t work. If, as human beings, we are consistent with our beliefs and morals, organized, honest, do what’s right instead of doing what it takes to win, we’ll literally feel better. If we’ll let our internal systems and psyche drive our external behaviors, we’ll be better off. Take the time to engage in the the things we actually enjoy rather than becoming overwhelmed with the 24/7 cycle of the things that cause us stress.
What if you ask a friend, colleague, or family member, “How Do I live?” What kind of answer would you get if they answer honestly? Are your organized or disorganized? Are you honest or do you play the game? Do you live the Machiavellian lifestyle? Are you consistent with your kids, siblings, parents, and others are around you? Is your life a circus?
Remember that anxiety comes from not controlling your internal mechanisms of thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and attitudes. It comes from inconsistency. It comes from lack of clarity and constantly changing values and beliefs. It comes from a lack of authenticity. It comes from a lack of boundaries.
On second thought, maybe we can learn something from Trump, Cruz, Rubio and the like.
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Alan Behrman & Associates, PC has a new name and a new therapist. Thanks to incredible feedback and referrals we are now no longer just Alan Behrman, PhD, but Alan Behrman & Associates, PC. We are also extremely excited to welcome our brand new therapist Diana Cortina! Please click here to see more about her. She’s available for new appointments immediately.
We just hired a brand new therapist who will be here and ready to see clients soon. Her name is Diana Cortina-Rodriguez. She is a very talented, young, bilingual therapist who is fluent in Spanish. She sees all areas of therapy including teens, adults, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, parenting issues, etc. She will be working nights and weekends starting soon. Call now to set up your appointment because she’ll fill up quickly.