Bulldozer Parents

Image source: Pixabay.com Used in accordance with Pixabay license

Are you a helicopter parent? A snowplow parent? A bulldozer parent?

These terms have been in the news a lot lately as the latest scandal rocks the college entrance world. People are appalled by reports of parents who have bought their kids’ way into college.

Gasp! You mean people with money are using it to seek an unfair advantage? Say it isn’t so!

OK, sarcasm aside, these latest reports do strike people as being even more abusive of wealth than what we have come to generally expect and therefore accept.

All of the reports I have read talk about the unfairness of it all, focusing on the kids who worked hard to get into college, but didn’t have the financial resources to clear the path to their entry.

The victims being pointed out in the majority of these stories are the rest of us. Those of us who are playing by the rules.

To me, the real victims here are the kids (young adults) whose parents are doing this to them.

That’s right, to them, not for them.

Imagine being one of the kids who had no knowledge of the strings being pulled and paths being cleared by their parents. Imagine finding out after the fact.

If it were you, how would you react? Would you be happy to know your parents were willing to go to such great lengths to support you in your future?

Or, would you see it as yet another way your parents are telling you that you are not good enough. Do you see it for what it is – that your parents don’t believe in your ability to do things on your own.

How does that set you up for a bright future?

As for the Varuca Salts in these stories, those kids who demanded that their parents wield their influence and money to get them what they want, they get what they deserve. An unearned and vapid life. An existence devoid of any real accomplishment. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, let the rest of us continue to truly prepare our kids for their own futures – by letting them succeed, or stumble and recover, by their own hands.

Making It Look Easy

Inigo Montoya: You are wonderful.

Man in Black: Thank you; I’ve worked hard to become so.

The Princess Bride

I love watching people who are skilled at their craft.

The scene from “The Princess Bride” quoted above is a perfect example. Two highly skilled swordsmen in an epic duel. Both such masters of their blades that they make it look easy.

I recently had a front row seat at a concert by Ellis Marsalis and his trio. Ellis Marsalis is a jazz pianist and the patriarch of the well known Marsalis clan. Perhaps you’ve heard of his more popular sons Branford and Winton, or the younger Delfeayo and Jason.

The concert was an evening of awesome music and performance. Ellis is well known in the jazz world for his smooth style at the piano. At 84 years old, he can barely walk. But, when his hands start moving over the keys, you forget that he needed assistance to get to his position on the piano bench.

He makes it look easy.

If someone had said, “You are wonderful,” he would have been justified in responding, “Thank you; I’ve worked hard to become so.”

What is it that you do that elicits that statement?

I’ll bet that there are things you have done for so long that you find them to be easy to do and that you have forgotten how long you worked to become proficient. With most things we do on a regular basis, once we become good at them, we forget that it was ever hard. Take walking for example. Or riding a bike.

There’s a fun saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The concept of that saying is that when we have mastered a particular tool or technique, we tend to apply that tool or technique as our first choice for anything we encounter.

What’s the go-to tool in your toolbox?

There’s nothing wrong with this “everything looks like a nail” approach. When we have great skills in a particular thing, it makes sense to apply those skills.

The problem arises when we become so enamored by someone else’s mastery of their particular tool of choice that we forget that isn’t the only way to accomplish the task.

Each of the Marsalis brothers plays a different instrument. Imagine if they all thought they had to create music the same way as their dad.

And yet, that’s exactly how we often think. We see someone who is good at artistic painting, or sewing, or creating masterful Excel spreadsheets. We can’t do those specific things, so we feel “less than.”

Often, this gets exacerbated by the Excel expert who thinks the only way to do, well, pretty much anything, is by using Excel. So, everything they show you involves a spreadsheet. If you’re not good with that tool, the job becomes harder and wrought with frustration.

Go back to the original objective. What are you trying to accomplish? How is that “expert” using their tool of choice to accomplish it? What are your skills? How could you apply what you are good at to accomplish your goal?

There are many ways to attach two pieces of lumber together. A hammer and nails is only one of them.

In music, the variety of instruments makes the music better. We all need more cowbell. But, even that has its limits.

Use your tools. Make it look easy.

You are wonderful. You’ve worked hard to become so.

Simple Luxuries

Photo of a piano with a microphone on it.
Photo copyright ©2019 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What brings you pleasure?

What are your favorite little luxuries?

Where do you draw the line when it comes to saving money?

For my wife and I, coffee is a big one. We make our own coffee, but we are particular about the brands that we like. It’s not always Starbucks, although that is our go-to favorite. We’ve experimented with cheaper brands. Every time, though, we come to the same conclusion: it’s worth it to us to spend a little bit more for the brands we like. So we watch for sales and stock up when we can.

Being just the two of us in our house now, we also tend to spend more for smaller packaging rather than buying the mega-packs that would be cheaper on a per unit basis. We view it as paying the stores to store the excess for us. We’ll come back and pick it up as we need it, thank you.

There is something satisfying about being able to spring for life’s little luxuries. These are different for everybody.

For some people, it’s Charmin ultra soft toilet paper. Maybe it’s Jeni’s Ice Cream. Or, perhaps it’s that specific type of ballpoint pen, medium tip, black ink, that only comes in 5-packs and can only be found at that one store.

I am fond of good quality legal pads. White paper. College ruled. Somehow writing on them just feels better. It makes the ideas that get scribbled there seem more important.

I could go on and on about my personal choices for which things I find worth spending a bit more vs. where I am willing to go with the cheaper brand. You might get a laugh out of the list. You would likely disagree with many of the choices.

What matters more, though, are the choices that you make. Only you can determine those items that are important to you.

If you are a compulsive saver, uber frugal, who finds pleasure in how much you save by buying in bulk, go for it. If you are fine with plain old stick pens, have at it. I am not suggesting you do otherwise.

However, I do think it is important to identify those areas where treating yourself, even if only occasionally, is valuable. It sends a signal to your brain that you value your self, that you see yourself as being worth it. And you are.

So, go ahead. Throw caution to the wind. Buy yourself the extra-bright colored super-sticky 3M brand Post-It Notes.

You have earned it.

You are worthy.