When You Have To

When Robert was very little and weighed something like a metric ton his favorite thing in the world was to sit on one’s leg while one pretended one’s leg was “horsy.”  And when one had done it a million times, there was always the “do again.”

And because we were his parents, and he was a cute child (even if he weighed more or less a metric ton) we tried and we often did far more than we expected.

This relates to yesterday’s post, of course.

It is not just laying down your bets and taking the result – it’s how hard do you try.

Every traditional story – every satisfying story – the result comes after failure.  Anyone who has read the biography of great men knows that, to paraphrase Phil Dick in The Man In The High Castle, it is told that way because it is real.

I’ve tried this book thing, for instance, for TWENTY ONE iterations, before Darkship Thieves sold relatively well.  Was it a learning curve?  To an extent – but those are the published books, and while most of them were not bestseller material, they should have sold “wellish”  except that there continued to be… issues I couldn’t control in distribution and such.

So.  I continued trying.  In my case, perhaps beyond the bounds of sane human beings.  But I didn’t have an option not to, so I did.

The thing is, I hear, with my kids’ generation we’re not seeing as much of that.  People give up at the first countretemp.

Maybe I’m being unfair. That’s the ones people complain about, not necessarily all the kids.  On the other hand we’ve managed to give them an almost adversity free life and an education while adversity seems to rain on people randomly, for things having nothing to do with the quality of their work.  Part of me wishes to say “this will not end well.”  Of course, I have no idea how to fix it.  How do you make a kid  go through adversity without being a horrible parent, just for the heck of it?

And besides, perhaps it’s not this generation.  Perhaps it’s human.  We try really hard and at a certain point we go “I’ve tried enough” and give up.

Perhaps that’s why we need stories to tell us that it’s not like that.  It’s when you’re bleeding and broken, and dragging yourself on shredded feet that the reward comes.  It’s when you push beyond what’s possible.

Since I’m pushing beyond my brain, having flown yesterday and then slept too late, I’m just going to say “Go you, then, and do likewise.”

Our nation, our world, our current evil times have need of many exceptional people.

122 thoughts on “When You Have To

  1. Thank you, Sarah, that may be what I needed. After reading Heinlein for years I began writing a few years ago. I began assigning opus numbers right away. If nothing else they help me keep track. Given that Homer’s Odyssey was my college favorite it was not surprising that my theme revolved around the concept of the Homeric superman. Specifically I have played with the theme of the supermen and their development and splitting away from homo sap. Opus one and two taught me a lot but eventually died a natural death. I just wasn’t that good yet. Opus three was coming right along. It was at an exceptable level even if it did fall short of being the great American novel. Then I found I had been superceded by the real world. My SF plot was recent history. If you are interested look up Charles Murray’s latest book.
    Since then I haven’t been able to develop a plot or characters that interest me.
    So, I gather that you are saying “hang in there, it will happen.” I hope you are right.

    1. Ron, I’ve had the commenters here provide me with a dozen tips that I could use for a book. I’m currently at 155 pages on one of them, and have about that much left to write. Just read, keep an open mind, and think of the possibilities. They’re endless!

  2. At least for some people the problem may also be the idea that unless they can be the best it’s not really worth it. That unless you become a bestseller, or win the gold medal in the Olympics, or the firm you start will make you a millionaire in less than a decade you might as well give up because being the second best, or worse, just a hard worker who can maybe finish somewhere in the middle group of the runners in the race is not good enough.

    In my country it used to be that if somebody was said to be a hard worker, or a good worker, it was seen as high praise in itself. Now it seems to be taken more in the sense of being a sucker, unless said hard worker is also getting damn good financial compensation for all that hard work.

    1. There is some of that in the problem, people thinking that if you can’t be the best, why try. There is also the encouragement to “do your best”, but no follow up with, “you could be far better if you would work at it”.

      Clearly, not all is lost, because there are still people out there who excel due to hard work, but more and more of the majority just don’t feel the need to exert themselves to do quality work.

      Another possible reason is that we have gotten used to the disposable culture, and buying cheap things that can be thrown away when they break, with no great loss. If you don’t have a discerning eye for quality, then why try to provide it yourself?

      1. I think a corollary is that you should try your best, always striving for the top, and you shouldn’t accept a third placer ribbon.

        This is not to say that if you fail that you should give up – far from it – but you should never be happy with “second best.”

    2. My sire once told me he had a dream to “change the world.” Thing is… he wanted to go straight from where he was to changing the whole bloody world, and I never really saw that he wanted to go through the steps of changing… well, first himself, then local stuff, etc. He should do what he wanted and money should fall into his lap. (Which, when he talked, it often did; man could sell ice to eskimos. Mind, the glamour didn’t really last long, so he was always in Con Man Mode…)

      He never aimed for something sustainable.

      It ain’t just this generation. It was the one before as well. We’ve just got so much more communication that you can see all the entitled gits.

    3. This gets me a lot. I have been given some pretty spectacular gifts, and I usually succeed at what I do. When I don’t, I immediately conclude it’s because I’m just no good at it, and I give up in a huff.

      As I have gotten more experienced (I don’t claim wiser) I have managed to notice when I am doing this more often and override it. Learning that it’s okay to just be okay is really hard, though.

    4. The Army had a slogan they used on one of their recruitment campaigns that said “be the best that you can be”. Not necessarily the best in the world, but the best that YOU could be. I’ve been doing that ever since I left home at 17. There are some successes and a few failures, and I doubt I’ll ever be “THE best”, but I can look back over the last 48 years and see many successes, in many different fields. Not GRAND successes, but consistently better than the absolute minimum necessary to get by. I plan to continue on that track, doing my absolute best on anything I try. I hope for success, but accept failure as a learning process that will lead to success in the future.

      Hard work, quality work, should never be disparaged. Giving the best you have may be “self-rewarding”, but a pat on the back or a word of praise does wonders to improve morale.

  3. Agreed – people want quick results or they give up. We have movies and books now where the protagonist “wins” just by sitting around and being good (or at least not bad) and everything just works out; he/she doesn’t earn anything. Kids in school too often make A’s without much effort because the schools no longer challenge them, or don’t want to hurt their little feelings and self esteem (not to mention getting trophies just for showing up, or helicopter parents).

  4. I think it’s more subtle. Part is “can’t fail and damage that self esteem” but also there is an awful lot of pressure to be good at EVERYTHING. If you are not one of those lucky persons who “always wanted to be X”, finding the thing or things that make you want to keep pushing, work late, narrow your options, pay the price is not easy in this society with so many options to choose from. I’m not talking survival here (survival being instantly riveting). I’m saying the clamor can be overwhelming, bewildering. It’s like being in a cloud of no-see-ums and being bit constantly. Where do you place your attention?

    1. Part of this is the Marxist belief that humans can or should be perfect. DON’T get me started.
      As for your question — the gifted are particularly prone to blowing out their lives trying to do everything at once. Hence my “you places your bets” post. You HAVE to jump.

      1. Perfectionism is a terrible trap to fall into. My mother had that problem at it stopped her career in its tracks (she was a singer). She believed in the natural perfectionist, which didn’t help her when she won an opera audition and they wouldn’t hire her because her language skills were pretty bad. Her voice was gorgeous though. They told her to take a few semesters of German and come back. … she didn’t.

        It took me years to realize that her favorite saying “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” was tainting my ability to learn. I think doing it well is important but she thought doing it well was doing it perfect. Unfortunately perfection is also an abstract. You can not know what is perfect in someone else’s reality.

        1. I grew up with two apparently conflicting sayings: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, and “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it BIG – don’t just tiptoe in and be timid about it, give it everything.” My parents believed in giving anything your best, and if you didn’t do well, you learned from it.

          1. “People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy a half-slug who must tighten his belt.”

            The All Time InterUniversal Champion of this is Donald Trump. The man has gone bankrupt I don’t know how many times, and he still has more money to spend on broads and blow in a week than I will earn in my whole lifetime.

        2. Fortunately, even though my dad’s a perfectionist, he was never militant about it. I still picked up a lot of that tendency, but he never made me go back and do something over and over just because it wasn’t perfect.

      2. In the Soviet Union it was often explicitly laid down that since you were living in the perfect state, any deviations from the New Soviet Man were entirely your own fault.

    2. This is true. The pressure on kids to get As – which used to be for the top brains only. C really used to be an acceptable grade. Real learning involves failing, but you can’t have any failures if you want the top grades. (In my high school, which had no grade inflation for harder classes, I saw bright kids dropping out of the harder classes because they didn’t want to hurt their GPAs.)

      My dad loves snow-skiing, and he says, if you aren’t falling at least once a day, you aren’t pushing yourself to get better.

      1. I think you can have failure as a learning tool as long as you don’t accept it as the end result. Fail, learn, but don’t stop until you succeed.

  5. I dunno if I’m gifted, but I *AM* particularly prone to trying to do everything at once, and getting nothing done at all. It’s SO hard for me to pick something and focus on it.

        1. I would, but I know that, since your comment was at the bottom of the list at the time, I just forgot to click the “reply” button.

    1. One of the worst things done to Teh Gifted is to deny them proper challenges, something we’ve discussed here in the past. Like putting a 6′ 200 lb kid on the same football field as 5th-graders, they never learn the skills necessary for success farther along.

      1. I have actually heard a teacher post online that gifted children will emulate their parents’ and other adults’ working hard even if they are never giving them actually challenging work.

            1. The problem I ran into was that after grade school, neither jr high or high school offered CLEP or advanced classes, so I went right back to being bored. So…when I got to college, I was completely unprepared because I literally didn’t know how to study.

              1. I was bored in college until I tried to take German (my first language class since High School French). I was totally unprepared for a class that was as intense as I had always been told college classes were, and by the time I realized it, it was too late to catch up.

              2. Scott – been there, done that. Have the transcripts to prove it! It wasn’t until I had more than five years in the Air Force that I learned how to study. Remarkably, my grades improved when I did!

              3. One of my friends who homeschooled her boys gets them into at least one college class a semester. They have at least a year’s credits when they finally go to college and they are not bored. One of the boys went to a charter school and was bored to tears because he was working at a far higher level.

              4. Me, too – bored in high school other than my advanced classes (and even then I didn’t study much – my calculus teacher said it was a big problem with college kids not knowing how to read a textbook because they’d never had to open a book much in grade school. If it hadn’t been for my wonderful college roommate, who had excellent study habits, I’m not sure I’d have made it through freshman year.)

                But yeah, it’s amazing, the difference in my grades back then between a class I didn’t care about and one I did. When I went back to school a few years ago for the masters, I found I much preferred evening classes to day classes: day classes are full of bored kids who are only there because they have no choice; night classes are full of adults who actually want to learn something, which meant the material was more difficult, but much more interesting (and thus easier).

        1. Yes and no. I marveled at how efficiently my dad could pack things, so I worked very hard to learn how to do that. Other things, not so much.

        2. I shudder to think what other nonsense she is teaching. For one thing, how many kids these days witness their parents working, much less are able to recognize whether they are working hard? Sitting at the computer pretty much looks the same whether you are reconciling a cash account with over ten thousand checks a month clearing, writing a novel or participating in an MMORPG.

        3. That teacher needs attitude adjustment. With the large clue-bat, the one with nails in it. I wasted a ridiculous amount of my life because I did just barely enough to get by for most of study time (for me, that amounted to top grades on the strength of raw talent and a good memory).

          It is insanely traumatic to discover that you have to actually WORK at things when you’re in your final year of college. This is also a very bad time to be trying to learn good study habits, good research habits, and the like.

          There’s also the flip side: if a kid doesn’t see a difference between what happens when they work hard and what happens when they don’t, they’re not going to work hard. Gifted kids are also prone to doing things on raw ability without understanding why whatever it is they’re doing works well – with the result that when they do put in an effort on something, they screw it up. So they internalize a negative relationship between working at something and the results they get.

          Yes, been there.

        4. It’s serious crap. That stereotype about gifted kids coasting and hitting a wall (usually in college, but it depends on the gift level) when they suddenly have to do actual work is a stereotype because it is effing Holy Truth. What you hear from gifted adults is either that, or that they learned to work hard because somebody made them do it want to or not. No notable exceptions in my experience.

  6. There are ways to encourage children to develop true grit. One of the biggest ways is for parents to say “No” when asked for a thing. But that requires parents be grown-ups and not their kids “friends” — and being a grown-up is hard.

    You do not have to be mean to your kids (although they will claim you are) or create adversity — life is plenty hard already. What you do have to do is not let your kids coast through life, a la Kip Russell at the beginning of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.

    1. This reminded me of Betty MacDonald’s epiphany in Onions In the Stew where she encounters Yet Another Childrearing Book and prepares to be lectured by the author about how she is doing everything wrong. But then…

      He thought that the most intelligent approach to the problem was to understand that the adolescent, just by the nature of the beast, is going to chafe and rebel and he needs something specific to chafe and rebel against. Lay down strict rules of behavior and enforce them. Rebelling against nothing is very frustrating. Demand that the adolescent go along with the family routine. Do not allow him to keep the household in a continual uproar. If he were away at school such actions would not be tolerated. Why are they at home? He said there was entirely too much talk about ‘giving an adolescent his head.’ He said that this was actually merely the shifting of the responsibility from the parent to the child, because anybody knows that giving a sixteen year old his head is like handing him a squash. Instead of giving your child too much freedom, too much money and all the responsibility for his actions, try giving him limited freedom and money, a strict code of behavior and oceans and gallons and mountains of love. Not the deep-hidden-river I-bore-you-so-I-will-have-to-like-you type of love, but the visible, hug-and-kiss, lavish-compliment, interested-audience kind. Tell your adolescent he is brilliant, handsome, charming, witty and lovable. Tell him every day. Tell him even when you are taking away the keys of the car and would like to kick him. Assure him and reassure him and re-reassure him. Love is the most important element in human relationships. You can never give a child too much love.

      (Emphasis mine.) I have always remembered this – in the context of the story, it’s very memorable because of the issues she is having with her teenaged daughters – and I still think it sounds like a pretty good approach.

  7. Since it’s been a bit of a bummer last couple days in the real-world, I thought I might share a coup I just achieved for my less than real world, currently in progress.

    A small arc of one of my secondary character’s story takes place on a cruise ship that’s full of undead and steaming north without anyone at the helm. I’ve been trying for a week, trolling various maritime professional forums and such, sending private messages of appeal for an interview, and got no where.

    Then, after our earlier exchange about Google vs Bing, I tried a Bing search and found this guy on the first page.

    AN AUTHOR! I tracked an email down and fired it off, explaining up front what I’m doing (zombies) and he was all for it, offering to do a phone interview.

    On top of that, another part of the story involves a Marine helo unit out of the DC area. I tracked down and secured an interview with a former marine pilot who also flew Marine One a couple of times who also agreed to answer questions.


      1. And, to take us right back to melancholy, Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed in Lybia, was also Vilerat, a well-known member of a large player-run corp in the MMO Eve Online. One of his last messages was ingame.

        1. ARG! No your coup in gaining sources for you book, not the news about Sean Smith (may his family and friends be comforted and may he rest in peace).

          1. I am still too angry to write about the last couple of days. There are things I can’t write about, because it would leave scorch marks on the screen. I suspect they’ll come out in stories later.

            1. Agreed. I’m still puzzling out for myself the reasons that my reaction to the Twin Towers attack was solemn grief while my reaction to this most recent atrocity is red-misted rage. I have some theories, but no conclusions yet. My poor family is finding me a little difficult to live with at the moment, so I better step up the pace.

                    1. I am right hand dominant and left eye dominant. It can get pretty hairy. It took me awhile to realize that if I didn’t close one eye, I would be off the target. It helps that the hubby is my spotter. Together we shoot really really well…

                    2. I was taught how to shoot back when you were still taught to close one eye, works better for me. I have tried shooting with both eyes open, not only is it distracting and not as accurate (for me) but it also gives me a headache if I am taking a lot of shots that way.

                    1. It depends on what the numbers signify. If ordinal data, the B-12 would be six times greater than the B-2. If the numbers represent geometric progression or lagerithmic* the B-12 could be hundreds of times more powerful.

                      *similar to logarithmic but with more hops. Like revenge, it is best served cold.

                    2. But it’s more fun to pretend it’s a next-next-next-gen fighter-bomber-Satellite TV receiver (or something).

                1. Actually, I’d like to plan a B-52/B-1/B-2 ARCLIGHT strike on both Benghazi and Cairo, followed by a very large nuke on the Aswan High Dam. I’d tell the survivors (if you can find any) that this is just a love tap. Mess with us again and we’ll get angry. But then, I’m a mean, evil, wicked, bad, nasty, cruel, & heartless SOB who believes that if you can’t instill respect, instill abject fear.

              1. What makes me steam is seeing the black flag. Come on, people! Why are we (and the Germans now, and others) allowing anything like this to happen without a response, preferable one involving disproportionate force? We know who is instigating this, we can see that certain governments are abetting if not aiding the “spontaneous mobs” and the US sends them $$? Grrrrr.

                  1. The rant is so pushing to come out I can barely think.

                    That simply begs for a joke involving the concept of “prairie-dogging”, but prudence forbids that I mention it on these pristine pages.

                  2. BUT Sarah tomorrow is not a Thursday.

                    Considering the information that is continuing to come to the surface I suspect it will get far more interesting before we are done. To quote Margo Channing: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night! (And likely the first of many.)

                    1. YEP – imho we are going to see that many of the protections that we had around the embassies (and consulates) were taken out. Just an idea… I think if it is this or something else it will be really embarrassing to the politicos. (I said all of them and not one political party) 😉 Of course… corruption is corruption and it has nothing to do with political views. It is a moral issue.

            2. … right after reading this I had Hugh Hewitt’s weekly segment with Mark Steyn on and I don’t think you could scorch more than Steyn contrasting Obama’s bloodless response to his ambassador’s death and Reagan’s address after the Challenger explosion and Thatcher’s speech after the Brighton Bombing of the Tory’s party conference.

              There may be humans less impressed with our president than Mark Steyn, but none more eloquently unimpressed. Look for the transcript at Steyn’s web site.

              1. Transcript now available:

                HH: Now I’ve been talking with all the other journalists who are planning on interviewing you, and we have agreed that regardless of what the new edition of the book says, or what you want to talk about, or even what you answer, we want to know about your involvement with Harry in Vegas.

                MS: (laughing) I am proud to say, I can’t remember how long ago it is that I’ve been to, since I’ve been in Vegas, because I’m like an old Vegas guy. I really don’t like new Vegas that much. I’m like a kind of Caesar’s Palace era Vegas guy. But I must say, just speaking about Vegas, I thought that thing last night with the President saying he had a tough day, and comparing the dead Americans in Libya to campaign supporters, which he did, I thought was one of the most disgraceful, inept and embarrassing performances by a head of state or government that I have ever seen. Every American should be ashamed of their president this morning.

                HH: Well, you got where I was going with that. The President gets word that our ambassador is killed, three other Americans slaughtered in Libya, and he reacts by getting on a plane and going to Vegas to raise money. What would have happened to George W. Bush, Mark Steyn, if he had done that?

                MS: Oh, I know, but you know what’s interesting? Sometimes, the schedule goes whacky. Everybody knows, everybody remembers the opening of the Michael Moore film, where he gleefully mocked President Bush getting the news of 9/11 while he’s in that grade school reading My Pet Goat to the 2nd graders, or whatever they were.

                HH: Yup.

                MS: And Michael Moore and the left ran with that to the point where Osama bin Laden in one of those videotapes he released was doing My Pet Goat jokes straight out of Michael Moore’s film. In this instance, the President actually has time. He can say okay, well maybe the Vegas thing is booked, I don’t want to disappoint people, we’re going to go ahead with that. Everything then depends on the tone. He didn’t script his remarks. I mean, this is a man, for example, who doesn’t have, I think, great empathetic qualities at the best of times. But to slough it off in that bloodless language, when he says, and I believe this is a direct quote, obviously our hearts are broken today. If you say obviously before it, your heart is not broken. He said oh, it’s a tough day. It’s not a tough day. It’s a tough day for the families of the four people who were killed. Why can’t you, you’re spending $4 trillion dollars a year, and you’ve got these 12 year old speechwriters you’re so proud of, why couldn’t…and you’re the king of the prompter, why couldn’t you on Air Force One, you’re the only head of state in any major country who has a plane to fly him around his own country in a 40 car motorcade. Why you’re on the stupid plane, why can’t you actually take the trouble to learn some words that would mean something and are appropriate to the occasion. If you think of Reagan after the Space Shuttle thing, if you think of what Mrs. Thatcher said after the Brighton bombing that killed cabinet colleagues of hers, it’s horrible, it’s disgraceful. Nobody, no novelist would attempt to do anything so crass after this man is dragged through the streets, he’s killed dragged through the streets of Libya. God knows what’s happened to him, if you believe some of the worst stories out there. And then the guy goes to Vegas. Why not just do it at Caesar’s Palace with a bunch of showgirls. An American who watches, and regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, if you’re not embarrassed by the buffoon who is serving as president of the United States after that performance last night, there’s something wrong with you.

                1. Yup, that’s pretty much what I thought (not to mention only mentioning it for a few minutes in the Vegas speech). And yet this man is considered more empathetic than his opponent?

                  Empathy is proved by deeds, not words. “I feel your pain” is meaningless jargon.

  8. Frank Herbert’s _Dune_ mentions the “amtal test” — “the only way to know the true nature of a thing is to see what it does when it fails”, applied to people as well as objects. Anyone can be “great” when everything goes his way — it’s when things drop in the pot that one finds out who the truly great are (for a historical example: Look at the aftermath of the Battle of Chickamauga — note how the Union commanders reacted; then note which one of them kept his job…). More people need the “amtal test” these days….

  9. I told my boys when they were very young, that they had 18 years to learn all they could from me, because when that magic day came, they had to either have a job, be in college, or join the military. At 6, they became responsible for cleaning their rooms and taking care of their toys. At 12 I stopped doing their laundry and cleaning up after them. They learned to wash, iron, fold and put away their stuff and sew on buttons. At 14, I stopped cooking for them every day, every meal and they had to learn to cook for themselves. By the time they were out of high school, both of them had jobs, had moved out on their own, one to college – one to work and be with his partner. When things got tough, and they didn’t think they could do something, we always told them one thing, “You will never know until you try.”

    Parents who try to protect their kids from failure end up with a failed kid sleeping on their sofa at the age of 30. Failing is part of being successful, and if kids grow up with helicopter parents who keep fixing their world for them, they will never become responsible adults. Parents should stop making excuses and find the reason for their kid’s behavior – generally the finger points directly at the parental unit and how they treat their children.

    It is the difference between cooing and baby talking to your kid and talking to him/her like a normal person. Either dumb yourself down as a parent, or expect you child to advance. Then, once they are grown, get out of the way and let them be a grown up. In our house, that starts by age 16.

    I was once accused of neglecting my boys because I let them work on an old 1966 Chevy long wide bed truck, without me at home to supervise. There were about 10 boys at my house every afternoon without an adult supervising. They were all between 15 and 18. I figure if they need a mama to watch everything they do at that age, then the kid has been babied far too long. My answer was, “You have to let them grow up sometime, and now is good because it would be a lot harder to do when they are over 40.” A good parent has to do what has to be done and get on with things.

    1. It’s an extension of the principle that you don’t carry your kid around the time or they’ll never learn to walk. They learn to walk by trying and falling on their (usually well-padded, at that age) butt. Sometimes hurting themselves in the process.

      I was babysitting my younger sibs from the age of 13, although not for long initially. By 18, I was capable of running the house, and doing all the cooking. I didn’t move out, but I was doing a big chunk of household chores and managing the grocery list by then. When Mum was bedridden for 3 months when I was 21, I ran the house. While finishing my degree.

      Moving out for me meant “my god. I have PRIVACY! WOOHOO!”

      1. I started washing the dishes at six. I began cooking at eight. At ten I began the housework. After thirteen I watched my younger brothers and sisters. Before I was fourteen I ran the house–laundry, cooking, cleaning, canning and home-schooling. Plus my mother went through some post-trauma birthing stuff so I raised my one brother from feedings, cuddlings, and training. I taught him everything. (He is now a bank president).

        Anyway I had to leave home at twenty-one to be my own person.

    2. My folks let Sib and I roam with a pack of neighborhood kids. You learn basic survival skills pretty quick after falling into a half-frozen creek with a mile to get home. You also learn not to be the first one to test the ice on said creek. Try tossing rocks on it first. then send a lighter kid, like one’s younger sibling [insert evil grin].

  10. “The thing is, I hear, with my kids’ generation we’re not seeing as much of that. People give up at the first countretemp.”

    I am like that more often than I care to admit. In my case, however, the problem is one that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. I was taught to try, and if you fail, then figure out what you did wrong and fix it when you try again. Most of the time, however, I have no idea what I did wrong, hence no idea how to fix it.

    1. I’m a reader and researcher. If it doesn’t work the first time, I’ll look for some documentation and then ask the hubby. 😉 If it doesn’t work after I try several times, I might leave it for another day or another decade.

      1. BTW has any one ever dealt with a double-blind? Or in other words a situation that would fail whatever you did or said? I have and it is not fun. I prefer to avoid those situations and people.

        1. Oh, yes. I had that in a few employers, where nothing I did was good enough, but I wasn’t allowed to know what would be good enough. Also at one school, where I was the designated victim for damn near every kid within a couple of years of my age.

          The only thing you can do with that situation is learn to recognize it as fast as possible, and keep telling yourself you have nothing to do with the end result until you can get the hell out.

          And get out as fast as you can. It leaves scars. Not always physical.

        2. Close. I worked in a particular chain restaurant. Their were two managers of equal authority on the floor, and who would give contradictory instructions. One also would go to the kitchen and he would turn off the light that was to signal your order was as soon as the cook hit the switch. The other would send you to stock the stations when you had active tables. Eleven of us trained at the same time, and when I left after two weeks only one other of that training class remained. She felt she was stuck trying to work off breakage charges… Cognitive dissidence? Well I wasn’t trying to hold two different contradictory ideas at once. Whatever it was that work place was not fun.

            1. Whatever I know that no part of my brain found that place agreeable.

              cognitive dissonance
              Etymology: L, cognoscere, to know, dis, opposite of, sonare, to sound
              a state of tension resulting from a discrepancy in a person’s emotional and intellectual frame of reference for interpreting and coping with his or her environment. It usually occurs when new information contradicts existing assumptions or knowledge.
              Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

              dissonance [dis´o-nans]
              discord or disagreement.
              cognitive dissonance anxiety or similar unpleasant feelings resulting from a lack of agreement between a person’s established ideas, beliefs, and attitudes and some more recently acquired information or experience.
              Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

                1. One part of me finds the concept of cognitive dissonance comprehensive and explanatory of much otherwise inexplicable behaviour. An other part of me finds cognitive dissonance emblematic of the worst kind of pop psychology, a facile term tossed casually about by people with no true comprehension of what they’re spewing. Frankly, the whole concept gives me a headache.

        3. Today’s Trivia Word: In chess, the expression for this is “zugzwang.” Although it is a bit more involved, because it means a situation in which you have to move, because it is your turn, but there is no move you can make which will not make your position worse.

          1. it means a situation in which you have to move, because it is your turn, but there is no move you can make which will not make your position worse.

            That sounds exactly like a night I had one spring break with these two young ladies from the University of Georgia.

  11. “How do you make a kid go through adversity without being a horrible parent, just for the heck of it?”

    Life supplies adversity, large and small. You just gradually take the training wheels off – it is very hard do decide when, but you know you have to do it. It’s in the original parent-child contract.

    Some parents try to weasel out of that contract when they find out how hard it is; they haven’t read the addendum that says it gets harder every time you postpone dealing with the current problem.

    You pays your money, and takes your chances. The consequences will come.

    Our parents didn’t always know they had to do this, or didn’t choose to – some of our generation didn’t turn out so well. I tell mine after the law says they’re adults, they’re adults (more or less). I advise, if asked, for a few more years; point out things like government paperwork they really should get going on; live with their choices – as they do.

    And give them the gift of me having a life of my own to worry about, you know, retirement, and health, and money. It seems to be working.

  12. “How do you make a kid go through adversity without being a horrible parent, just for the heck of it?”

    You don’t have to seek it out. Teachable moments come in all shapes and sizes and are sometimes not recognizable.

    When I was at the age these days called middle school, I fell off the wagon. I’d been a straight-A, honor-roll grind until that point, but started to rebel against the regime.

    In an attempt to straighten me out, my parents told me to get a job. And to incentivize me, they assigned me chores around the house. So long as I didn’t have an outside job, I had to do house work. Including doing the dishes. I did the expected lackadaisical job. So they made me do them over. And they inspected my work. And dinged me for EVERYthing.

    As a matter then perceived (by me) as defensive, I got REALLY good at doing the dishes.

    Twenty-plus years later, at my baby sister’s wedding, Mom apologized to me. Said that, at the time, they wondered if they’d overstepped, but felt like, once begun, they had to see it through. I told her it had taught me how to set up a task, what it took in terms of concentration and diligence to complete a task, and it made me — in a strange way, unafraid of work, of, if you will, getting my hands dirty.

    Not what they planned, but an acceptable outcome. At the time, I thought it was adversity. I whined (to myself) that it was horrible, cruel, child slavery and child abuse … all that. Of course, my objections were puerile at best and just plain silly. And, in no way, would it be considered true adversity.

    But take note of my mother’s reaction. She felt abusive at the time, but also felt that the lesson was necessary. And, in the end, it was of value.

    Anything can teach. And kids are a hell of a lot more resiliant than even CARING parents can know.


  13. We’ve got one of those “teachable moments” right now with Timmy. I downloaded “Angry Birds” onto my wife’s Kindle. He wants to spend every minute playing it. We told him he couldn’t play after school until his homework was done. THEN we ran into a major snag. He may not be ABLE to do his homework – at least, not right. It’s more than just the dyslexia that we see readily and can work around. We’re beginning to think there may have been more significant damage done to his brain and his optic nerves than we thought (He was thrown head-first into a chair at 18 months by his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend spent 4 1/2 years in prison for it, and we ended up as Timmy’s permanent guardians.). We’re beginning to wonder if he doesn’t see words differently every time he sees them. He needs to see a neurologist, but there are so few anywhere that will accept Medicaid. We make him do the best he can, but sometimes that’s not very good.

    1. I am sorry to hear about Timmy’s problems. Have you thought about getting an IEP. With an IEP (children who have my disease are encouraged to get one with their school) can get other help for the child. http://www.concordspedpac.org/WhatIEP.htm

      I have a couple of friends who were in special ed for children with various problems. It is different for each State. Hope this helps some…

      1. Cyn is absolutely right. It helped my youngest to have one. When he was younger, it included an assistant for taking tests. I don’t remember how that worked, but I think it was basically that the assistant would help him read the test, and would write the answers that he gave, so he didn’t have to struggle so much to get the writing done in time.

        1. Unfortunately to get an IEP, the parent or guardian have to ask for it and sometimes buck the school system. They don’t automatically help children with problems.

          1. DAMN, what is it with some school systems? Sean’s school set up meetings with us as soon as they got the diagnosis (ADHD and ODD – no not THAT ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder).

        2. Timmy has an IEP, but that doesn’t help any with diagnosing what particular problems he has, and how to address them. That’s going to take a neurosurgeon and an MRI or several. So far, we haven’t found anyone qualified that will take Medicaid, and the three phone calls to Children’s Hospital in Denver have been so much tossing stuff into the wind.

          CACS – RE your comment: I agree completely. Also, the hundreds of times each day that Department of Social Services put abused children back into the parents’ home, where they’re abused all over again. We spent four years working as therapeutic foster parents for a private group in Evergreen back in the 1970’s. We adopted our son through them — he was also brain-damaged. Today he’s 38, and permanently locked into the mentality and behavior pattern of a teen. Our work with him has well prepared us for working with Timmy, but it’s still a rough battle. Besides, in the late 1970’s we weren’t both over 65… 8^) We just keep plugging along, doing what we can.

        3. My kid had an iep through highschool. I don’t think he needs help in college — but we’ll take him soon to get his hearing checked. When we last went he was progressing towards normal — mind you even best case scenario that’s at 19 which is still more than a year off, but…

    2. Some blankety-blank serves 4 1/2 years for abusing a toddler. The child pays all his life for what was inflicted upon him. This is where I start seeing red.

        1. You are entirely correct when dealing with the individual child, in this case Timmy, that the care of the child should come first and foremost. He needs clear eyed advocates. The job takes a special kind of people, not everyone has the abilities or temperament necessary.

          I volunteered as a tutor for at risk kindergartners for a while. I can be a bit emotional about the subject. I see red because I know that we have a system that allows this to continue to happen. As Mike mentioned, the present pattern puts a strong preference on placing children back with their parent(s). This occurs even when it is known that the parent has abused, or has stood by while others have abused the child, on many occasions.

          1. Sometimes the individual child is the only one we can help. I don’t know how to change the “preference.” I know that our neighbors have called the CPS for at-risk children. They were ignored. The police only pick up the children when they do something like break property or windows. It is frustrating that the law system is broken since the Feds are now in charge of the money and the local governments.

            This is what happens when the government is too centralized imho.

    3. Might not be that — have them look for sensory issues int he autistic spectrum. Some kids get the issues without the autism. If he has issues with finding certain textures inexplicably rough or hears very well, but seems to hear everything at the same level, so he complains the pin falling across the room obscures your voice right there, I’ll give you some names. Marsh has this issue — or had. And it presented as both dyslexia and weird hearing issues. The good news is that there are both exercises and treatment and palliative apparatus.

      1. We know one of the people in the area – Steve Shapiro. He worked with our youngest daughter, who is SEVERELY dyslexic. Jean is going to try to contact him next week, since we have had absolutely no help from Peak Vista. We’ll see what happens.

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