Tag Archives: kids

Rocky IV…for Parenting

In 1985, the Internet Domain Name System was created. Ronald Reagan was sworn in for his 2nd term, Rocky IV debuted and Rocky Balboa began the first steps to ending the Cold War.

If the original Rocky was the classic, Rocky II the inevitable sequel, and Rocky III Sylvester Stallone showing off how muscley he could become, then Rocky IV was all of those movies wrapped up in to one.

Rocky IV is filled with montages, a great soundtrack despite the fact Bill Conti did not compose (the only one of the movies he did not), Apollo dies, James Brown sung, more montages, and, up until The Blind Side, was the highest grossing sports movie of all time. Before my wife and I got married, I laid down two caveats: 1. She had to take my last name. No hyphens. 2. Before we got married she had to watch Rocky IV with me (I was going to put a 3rd one in there about calling her Adrian but I didn’t want to push it)

Now I know what you’re saying, “Yeah Jimmy, we know Rocky IV was an awesome movie. That’s why Frank in sales took conversational Russian before he boxes the only Italian guy in receiving, but what does Rocky IV have to do with parenting?” I’m glad you asked.

Much of the trials and tribulations Rocky goes through in the movie (and his career) is not unlike a typical Tuesday for any parent. Spend 12 hours in a house with a toddler and I guarantee you, avoiding the KGB and running up the side of a snow covered Russian mountain will seem like a vacation. After double digit rounds of getting his head pounded on, Rocky had the same look I use to get when my girls wouldn’t take a nap. Still don’t believe me? One of the songs from the movie is called ‘There’s No Easy Way Out’. If that doesn’t sum up the first 3 years of your child’s life, then I don’t know what does?

Now beyond the comparisons that could be drawn between a boxing movie and parenting, Rocky IV offers up all sorts left hooks of wisdom as you will soon see. So without further ado, I give you,

Rocky IV…for Parenting

You wanna ring the bell?

Alright…Ding Ding

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Rocky: But to beat me, he’s going to have to kill me.

Heed special attention to this one if you’re a new parent. One thing you need to understand about your sweet little bundle of joy is that they are going to test you like no one has ever tested you before. Like going 12 rounds with a steroid filled Russian hell-bent on putting you in the grave. So you have to be willing and able to go the distance, which, when you open your kid’s diaper for the first time, we feel like you just died. But if that’s what it takes to outlast the tantrums, fits, sickness, misbehavior, and possible a left jab to your groin when you aren’t looking, so be it.

Apollo: And without some challenge, without some damn war to fight then the warriors might as well be dead.

Just when you think, ‘Thank God, my kids are old enough to make their own breakfast, get dressed, bathe, tie their shoes, and any other daily function of life that you spent the first few years of their lives doing’ is the moment you realize they don’t need you. Or at least they need you less. I’m going through this right now with my girls. I look around and there is no war to fight (Metaphorically of course.  There are plenty of wars to fight with them especially as my oldest nears adolescence.).  No shoes to tie. No food to cut. When it is what you know, you crave it. Parents need to parent just like warriors need to pummel each other repeatedly about the head.

Drago: He’s not human. He’s like a piece of iron.

This was a pivotal part in the movie. Ivan Drago, up until that point was seemingly indestructible. Then he stepped in to the ring with a man who was equally (if not more so) indestructible. One of the flaws kids have is their notion of invincibility. If, after everything they throw at you, you’re still standing there telling them to go to bed, there is a good chance they don’t say it exactly how Ivan did (and even less chance they do it in a Russian accent) but they’ll be thinking it.

Isn't this how everyone gets ready to have kids?

I did this 5 times a week during the 3rd trimester. To prepare.

Nicoli Koloff: Whatever he hits, he destroys.

A few seconds after you leave junior alone so you can run in to the kitchen to pull out the dinner that has burnt, the dog is shaved, the curtains are torn down, the TV is broken and your child, who can barely walk upright, is traversing the stairs. Whatever kids come in contact with, they are bound to destroy, just like a a crushing punch from Ivan Drago. Realize the destructive power of your children, cover up, and for godsakes, put that glass candy dish out of reach.

Duke: You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed. But when its over, I know you’ll be the one standing.

This speaks to not only the night before the biggest boxing match of your career but also the night before your last kid moves out of the house. I shouldn’t paint such a dark picture of parenting. Parenting is the most rewarding thing in my life but that is after middle of the night trips to the Emergency Room, stressing about their safety, their health, grades, acceptance by their peers, did you remember to close the gate at the bottom of the stairs, did you remember to take junior’s car seat off of the top of your Accord when you left the grocery store. You worry as a parent and it can be a nightmare. The worst nightmare you’ve ever dreamed. But in the end, if you’ve done everything you can then stand tall (and maybe get some sleep).

Drago: I must break you.

Listen, don’t take it personally that your kid tests the boundaries set by you and your significant other. Tip toeing the line of rules is encoded in to each and every child’s DNA. Its what they do. They are going to try to break you because, like the steroid riddled Russian boxer who only knows he must destroy, this all they know. Eventually they’ll change (somewhere around their 30’s) but until then, they don’t want to break you, they ‘MUST’ break you.

I must break you...and I don't care about your curfew.

I must break you…and I don’t care about your curfew.

Rocky: Going one more round when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.

I don’t know if there is a better metaphor for parenting than this gem from the Italian Stallion. You’ll be exhausted. Stressed. You’ll most likely smell like a mix of strained peas and the diaper genie that hasn’t been emptied since your child’s baptism. You’ll hear your name called even when no one is in the house. You’re nerves will be raw. You won’t want to get up for that midnight feeding. You won’t want to try and clean the dried baby biscuit off of the high chair. You won’t be able to do one more problem from their math homework. And just when you think you can’t go on, you do. Why? You’re a parent. And when you get back up, not only does it make a difference in your life but it will make all the difference in theirs.

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Who I Am

I recently took a sustained hiatus from writing. Actually, it was a hiatus from my writing on this site. I continued with some fiction writing and reviews for seperate sites but I ignored Founding a Father. For the past two months (which in our online world and blogging might as well have been 16 years) I kept my distance from the site I had once spent so much time. Part of it was a loss of inspiration despite being a husband and father of two girls. That alone should have spurred me on to writing something but the spark I had burnt out. Every time I sat at my dining room table in front of my computer, the words never could make it on to my computer screen. Part of it was a preoccupation with rediscovering how much I love to draw as I have penned a web comic series for my Dads Round Table site and have been busy preparing napkins for my kids’ lunches. Part of it was laziness. As a wonderful blogger recently wrote, “The bad thing about blogging is that it requires consistent time and effort.” – Abby off the Record (if you’re a writer/blogger/or someone who enjoys the written word, you need to go to her site…after you’re finished reading my stuff of course). I got lazy and wasn’t prepared to put in the consistent time and effort it takes to keep the wheels of a blog rolling. And possibly the biggest factor to my recent departure from the world of blogging had been a malaise in my career. My work was stagnant. I was making little to no money and my entire disposition had changed. Instead of wondering if I should write about my 11 year old or my 8 year old or relay a conversation I had with my wife, I was wondering (more like ‘consumed’) with trying to figure out how I was going to pay my mortgage.  I had set my sights on finding a new job.  I put everything on hold until I could figure out what I wanted to be.

Now, I have made no secret about my early aspirations about growing up to be Captain America. I spun a prose of such conviction on my 3rd grade ‘When I Grow Up’ paper, you would have thought I had already ingested the Super Soldier Serum and was just waiting to be fitted for my shield.

Life has a way of crashing us back down on level ground so unforgivingly, even for an 8 year old, it is easy to realize a career in the superhero business just isn’t going to be feasible. So as devoted as I was to the idea of becoming the Star Spangled Avenger, by the following year, I had rerouted my career path. In the years that followed my 3rd grade paper, I had bounced between ambitions of firefighting (until my Mom told me that was much too dangerous of a job), digging up dinosaur bones as a paleontologist (years before Jurassic Park flooded that job market), drawing comic books (the next closest thing to being the characters), teaching, joining NASA, archeology (I was 6 when ‘Raiders’ premiered and Indy had a whip and gun…of course I wanted to be an archeologist), Ghostbuster, Jedi Knight, politician, actor, chef, radio DJ, and stand up comedian

Once I had hit adolescence and found myself face to face with my high school guidance counselor, who asked me, ‘What do you want to be?’, the truth was, I had no idea. At age 18, I had run through scenarios for so many different careers, my mind quickly flooded with ideas.  Realizing there was no way I could major in the ‘Force’ and I couldn’t cook toast, I blurted out the next career that had spun to the front of my brain. A teacher.

I spent the next 4 years of college being educated on how to teach others. I almost changed my major twice in those 4 years until my mom reminded me the first 4 years of college were on her and my Dad. Any subsequent years spent in a 101 class I would have had to pick up the tab. I confirmed the length of time I would have to spend in college with my advisor had I decided to switch majors during what was my sophomore year. I don’t remember the exact amount of time over the 4 year threshold lain down by my mother, I just remember him telling me it would be more. He might have said years, months, he could have said days. It took 3 minutes of consulting my budget (which was being supported as a part of the janitorial staff at the University cafeteria) for me to make my decision.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. In 4 years.

Sixteen years later I am closer to being a bullwhip and revolver carrying archeologist than I am a teacher. And the truth is, I still don’t know what I want to be. Currently I am in the construction industry but that has only come after stops in car sales, office equipment, business consulting, HVAC installations, insurance, the healthcare industry, retail sales, unemployment, forklift operator, and car sales (a second go round). I’ve had enough W2’s in my lifetime to wallpaper a house. This year when I did my taxes and only had one job to file for, Turbo Tax prompted me if I wanted to add another positon with a ‘Really? Just one?’  I was waiting for the site to make me swear on Scouts’ Honor or offer up my oldest child.

I have changed jobs for family reasons, money, more money, the idea of being able to have a job title of some measure of importance, and out of necessity (also known as unemployment). Admittedly, I have found reasons to justify my moves between careers.  Sometimes it was beneficial and other times it wasn’t. I have spent so much of my working life in search of what I wanted to be I forgot something more important than what I want to be.  I forgot to remember who I am.

I first discovered it 11 years ago and again 8 years ago.  I am reminded of it every time I walk in to the house from work and I see my girls. Every time a scared voice calls me at 2 am to battle against nightmares or thunderstorms. It is crystal clear who I am when I spend a night on the sofa or floor while my sick daughter sleeps in my bed.  On my side of the bed.  Usually on my pillow. Each kiss good morning and good bye, every glance, every smile, giggle, and hug reminds me. Every time I get mad because neither of them seemed to hear me say ‘brush your teeth’ or ‘be sure to go before we leave’, I remember who I am.

I’m a father. It has been staring me in the face all along.  “Account Executive”, “Sales Consultant”, “Product Specialist”, those titles come and go. And as important as they are to making sure I can keep the lights and heat on in my house,  jobs are the reason we set our alarms for morning but its my kids who wake me up and get me out of bed (even when they don’t jump on me with their elbows aimed directly at my midsection).  Because of who I am, I stay concious of the examples I set, it is why I have been known to jump with jubilation over events normal folks (non-parents) would find trivial (any parent can rattle off a laundry list of those “trivial” events right here), it is how I learned what love really is, what my parents were talking about when they told me ‘Wait until you have kids’, and why it doesn’t matter what I want to be.

What I want to be doesn’t mean anything to my kids. They don’t care how many cars, copiers, insurance policies, services or widgets I have sold in my life.  They don’t care what my customer satisfaction scores are or if I’m an Associate or a Consultant or Executive.  They only care that I come when they call my name, I never get scared of the dark or thunderstorms or going in to the basement first.  I want there to be no question about just how passionately I take the role of ‘Daddy’ because it has been my daughters who have shaped and defined not what I want to be but who I am.

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The malaise is gone (and hopefully so is ever having to use the word ‘malaise’ again). The spark is reignited. There are stories to be told. Fish have died, we’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of 44 1/2 feet of snow, I got a new job, I still have an 11 year old and 8 year old running around my house, and my wife and I continue to have conversations with one another. I hope to be back at Founding a Father on some level of consistency if for no other reason than for my own passion to write. Those of you who have hung around, I thank you. I knew I would be back, I just wasn’t sure when and it is great to see you all again. For those of you who are discovering this site for the first time, welcome. Consider this a great time to jump aboard.