Tag Archives: Parenting

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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The Swing Set

In all of my years on this Earth, I have never seen anyone not having a good time swinging on a swing set. Take a look around at the constructs of metal and plastic at a playground. I have seen kids cry going down a slide. There is fear in ascending 468 metal steps to get to the top of a metal slide where you will either break the sound barrier before you hit the bottom or you wore shorts and it is a 105 degree summer day. Walk across the balance beam hovering 3” over the ground and surrounded by 8” of mulch. Not much fun there. But a swing? If you can kick your feet you can have fun. And if you can’t, one small plea for a push and someone will have their hands on your back and then its joy city.

It was with this thought that over 6 years ago, I decided to put a swing set in my backyard. Over the course of one weekend, I put my engineering skills and the life of my Black and Decker cordless drill battery to the ultimate test. I bought the kit, wood included, from Home Depot. Three tons of wood, a bag of bolts which for all I knew were leftovers from when the Empire State building was built, and the instruction manual that read like Kierkegaard wrote them (a bunch of pictures, no words, basically saying put it together however you feel). With the engineering focus of Imhotep, I put together what would become my kids’ swing set because: 1. No one has a bad time on a swing and 2. Nothing says “I love my kids” like telling them to get the hell out of the house and go play.

I had even sprung for the deluxe swing set. The set that didn’t stop at the swings. It had two separate climbing walls, a rope ladder, slide, a periscope, steering wheel, and a second story sitting area topped by a green and yellow tarp roof. It truly was a marvel of mankind’s ingenuity or just sheer luck I was able to put that thing together without ending up in the ER. Either way, the swing set at the base of our backyard has stood in magnificent pressure treated wooden glory for the past 6 years. It used to be a beacon of recognition to anyone passing by there were kids in this house. Kids who found the utmost pleasure in swinging, climbing, crawling, standing, and pretending on the swing set.

But like the sands of time have eroded the great pyramids at Giza, so too has time been a cruel friend to the kids’ swing set. At one point, the pressure treated wood showed no cracks. The screws were held tightly in place with their exposed heads still shining. The tarp roof was taut. There wasn’t the static electricity of a small substation built up on to the slide yet to hinder a child’s speed. The 3′ tall climbing walls seemed like 30′. Even after my kids spent hours all over the swing set, it showed no signs of age or the ruination only toddlers can put on to anything they get close to.

This was when the girls were young. Their minds much less occupied with the trappings of their lives. They were content with what the swing set offered them. Now, it seems maturity is coming at them with the speed and ferocity of a runaway freight train. There didn’t use to be texting, or Candy Crush, or Instagram selfies. They cared little about mud getting on their sneakers. Their youth thrived on the simple pleasure of climbing a wall, steering a wheel, looking at the house through a periscope and simply swinging.

But youth gives way adolescence. While my kids are in no way “old” their age does not deter them from attempting to portray themselves as much…much older. Adolescence is right around the corner, which means time spent in our backyard has given way to time spent elsewhere.

The swing set in our backyard has felt the ramifications of this new found distaste for what my kids call, “kiddy stuff Dad”. Cracks have shown up in the wood. The metal screws cry out against the aged pressure treated wood they have been screwed in to. Their shine is shadowed by rust. The rafter holding together all of the pieces, like Atlas holding up the Earth, now curves. There are pegs missing from the climbing wall. The green and yellow tarp, once taut, is now in tatters content to flap in the wind. It looks as though the less it has been needed in recent years the more rapidly it has aged.

Yet, when my kids have had the urge to get back on to it, the swing set is there. It creaks a little more than it used to but everything still works. The slide, the climbing wall, and the swings. And for those brief moments my kids forget about how “uncool” they perceive their swing set to be, you can see the joy on their faces.

So I let it go. I was ready to take it apart and donate the pieces to a recycling plant but those rare moments my kids have need for the swing set are enough for me to hold off on my demolition. I’m willing to let time and age run their course because time and age also sparks something else in us.  It sparks our need to remember and long for again. So the swing sets sits in our backyard. A little older, a little more torn and a little more worn just waiting for that day when my kids remember they need their swing set.

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