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The Difference Between Men and Women

For my Wave Riders course participants, this story is a pretty funny illustration of this week’s course material from Dave Barry.

Let’s say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: …so that means it was…let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means…lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Martha is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed – even before I sensed it – that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Fred is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Martha is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Fred is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty…scumballs.

And Martha is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

“Fred,” Martha says aloud.

“What?” says Fred, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have…oh dear, I feel so…”(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Fred.

“I’m such a fool,” Martha sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Fred.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Martha says.

“No!” says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that…it’s that I…I need some time,” Martha says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Fred.

“That way about time,” says Martha.

“Oh,” says Fred. “Yes.” (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Fred,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Fred.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it.

The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?”

And that’s the difference between men and women.

See more awesome stuff by Dave Barry in his ‘Complete Guide to Guys’

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Present Moment Parenting


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Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys: Watch this.

Warning: This is kind of heartbreaking, but important to see. It shows 30 seconds of one of those “boot camp my kid” shows. I’m opposed to such shows and think they exploit children for entertainment and financial gain. However, this kid’s answer to the drill sargeant’s question is profoundly revealing and brings the drill sargeant to tears. Dads, mentors, caregivers of boys, don’t let the message slip by you. (You’ll need to turn the volume up)

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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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Wave Riders: Boys football team scores with emotional intelligence

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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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Meet Joshua Koepp…

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’d like to be a professional guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness leading paddle trips in the summer and cross country ski adventures in the winter.

What was your best experience training professionals?

Presenting Power of Play for the first time at the year 2000 annual MnSACA conference. It was a thrill to be able to share great ideas for helping children develop community and social skills through play, and I got connected with Rick Gravrok and Lisa Walker.

What was your best experience learning?

Starting the School Age Care B.A. program at Concordia University with the B015 cohort. I was so pumped-up that there were other professionals who shared my vision for the out-of-school time professions.

What is your best experience teaching children?

That’s difficult. Here are so many. The first thing that comes to mind was when I created a large, wall sized mural with the third-grade Friendship Connection group in Roseville, MN. They were my first group in School-Age Care, and the excitement, creativity, and fun the kids had with this project was euphoric.

What is your best experience teaching adults?

I’m taking teaching to mean in the classroom, rather than training in workshops. So, teaching, I think it was seeing the light bulbs and satisfaction on the faces of MCTC students as they got in touch with their Strengthsquest Signature Themes and then created final portfolios using those strengths.

Shifting gears a little bit now. Since you have such passion for helping boys understand themselves and grow up healthy, what was the first time you remember being proud of yourself as a boy?

Interesting question. I think it was when I learned to pump on a swing set and keep myself going. It was one of the first times that I remember doing something for myself that I used to have to depend on my parents to do for me.

What is the first time you remember being bullied or teased?

The high school boys on my first grade bus used to steal my hat every day. It was a blue hat with my elementary school’s name on it and a white tassel. They used to say that the tassel was a “lice” (I didn’t know what that meant) and toss it around like it was a hot potato. Then they would hit it and stomp on it. I would try to correct them and tell them it was a tassel, and they thought it was funny that I knew that word and would call me a “gay boy.” I thought gay meant happy, but I was pretty sure they meant something different by the way they were saying it. I don’t remember very many peaceful bus rides, although I wasn’t always the focus of their entertainment.

That’s a pretty vivid memory. Was it traumatic for you?

Honestly, it sounds a lot worse telling about it. I feel more angry about the idea of that happening to one of my own boys than I do about it happening to me. When it happened, I remember feeling sort of scared that I wouldn’t get my hat back because I thought it would have made my mom sad. But I didn’t really feel like I was in danger. I just figured that I’d be at school soon and the bus ride would be over and that I’d be all right. We always want to keep our kids safe, but I think that going through a few experiences like that helps boys become stronger and more secure in the long run, especially if they can return to a safe, caring family context to recharge and process.

You talk a lot about how important it is for dads to understand their emotional world in order to help their sons be emotionally healthy. When was the first time you ever felt angry at your children?

That’s a tough question to think about. I remember feeling frustrated with crying and some of the other things new parents deal with when their babies are really young, but I wouldn’t really call that feeling angry. I remember one time when Braden was about two. My wife and I were playing with him on the bed and he was feeling energetic. He threw his head backwards and smacked me right in the nose. It was a strange experience, because my first reaction was this angry feeling at him for hitting me in the nose, as if he knew what he was doing or tried to do it. It scared me a little that I could have such a visceral reaction to this little kid that I loved so much.

When you shared that story, it reminded me of some of your workshops about emotional intelligence for boys and men.

Yes. It’s absolutely critical for dads and all men to get in touch with where there emotions come from and what they can do with them. We’ve all got a shadow, and if we don’t get to know it and learn how to be friends with it, our emotions and reactions will get the best of us in all areas of our lives. When we develop emotional intelligence, we set ourselves up for success and are able to teach our boys to do the same thing for themselves. Our culture isn’t always a very boy-friendly place. Dads, moms, and caregivers need to help boys learn to understand, respect, and appreciate themselves, their biology, their feelings, and the gifts that come with being a male.

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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Karate kids don’t want ninja parents

First BoardMy son started karate when he was 5 years old in the “Little Masters” program at National Karate, Arden Hills. He loved it from day one and broke a board a board at age 6 in front of a crowd of people. During the first year, I watched almost every lesson from the observation gallery. Sometimes I made comments. Sometimes I tried to explain things. Sometimes I gave encouraging looks, and, yes, I admit, I also gave judgmental frowns and occasionally barked a correction. I knew better, but would get caught up in the moment.

Ninja parents are the karate version of helicopter parents. They’re always watching and jump out of hiding to rescue their kids, fight their battles or get involved when they don’t really need to be. While I don’t really consider myself a ninja parent (who does, right?), I realized I was starting to act like one when I caught myself making comments from the parent gallery. It’s almost always a bad idea. Here’s why:

  1. It embarrasses and disrespects your kid.
  2. It steals their opportunity to learn (yes, even if you’re just trying help).
  3. It undermines the role of the instructor.

Think back to when you were a kid and your parent stuck his or her nose into you and your friends business. How embarrassing, right? Even if you have a very young child in karate or another sport, it’s important to remember that this is a time when he wants to see himself as strong. This is his chance to put his game face on. There’s no better way for me to screw that up than to chime in with advice about how to correct his form or execute his move.

Even “encouragement” isn’t really all that helpful. If he does something good, he already knows it. I need to let him enjoy his moment of accomplishment and soak in the satisfaction that comes with it. If I bust out with all sorts of praise and affirmation (even non-verbal), I run the risk of making my kid’s success dependent on my approval. He can start to always look to me for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down about everything he does. I’ve learned to save my affirmation for after the lesson and let him relive the moment again in the car on the way home.

This lesson the hard way with my son. I had the bad habit of shooting him a frown during the lesson if he was being lazy or sloppy. I’d also give him a nod if he did something good. He started looking over at me after every move to see what I was thinking. This caused the most problems when he was sparring, because in the moment that it took for him to look over and “check in” with me, his partner usually threw a kick or punch and scored a point. Besides that, he wasn’t rating his own performance and self correcting. He was constantly looking to me.

But what if my young karate kid gets frustrated and starts to cry? What if the instructor is being too hard on him? What if he loses it and gets angry?

When these situation come up, it’s important to keep in mind that the student/instructor role is a subtle dance, especially in karate. Karate instructors are like coaches, teachers, role models, and trainers all wrapped into one. When they’re working with little kids, they walk the line between pushing and praising. Let your child and his instructor develop their own relationship. It will be something they value. Sometimes instructors might be tough on them (just like you). Sometimes they won’t push hard enough. That’s okay.

Karate instructors are long-term. Kids often stay with the same teachers for many years. They grow up with them. This kind of long term relationship has GREAT benefits and goes through different seasons at different times. Unsolicited “help” from the parent gallery sends the message to your child that you lack confidence in his or her ability to understand the relationship and grow with it. It sabotages the subtle dance between student and instructor.

I don’t watch every lesson anymore. I stop to observe now and then, so I can be connected and help my son celebrate his achievements.  Children learn best when they can, for the most part, work out their challenges and solutions themselves. It can be frustrating to hold back, but it’s also very rewarding.

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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Boys Boys Boys

SibblingBullies1 I’m the featured speaker on the Dakota County Technical College Early Childhood and Youth Development blog this month. Follow the link above to hear me talk about boys and emotional development tips.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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Comments on “You Just Broke Your Kid”

14511567_sI just read a blog post from Dan Pearce on his blog Single Dad Laughing. The name of post was “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations.”  It tells the story of an angry dad he saw at Costco who was emotionally and physically abusing his son while waiting in line. He goes on to give a pretty impassioned exhortation to all of us dads to be present with our kids, understand our impact, and learn to control our emotional lives.

I know there are many of us who have done and said things to our kids that we deeply regret. I know there are many dads out there who would like to do better and be better. If you’re interested in judgment free coaching to improve your skills, get in touch with me.

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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