Beware of childhood memory loss

You don’t have to be tuned into CNN every day to realize that our country is facing some serious medical issues.  Number one on the playlist right now is the Ebola crisis and with winter fast approaching folks are worried about all of the varied strains of Flu to deal with.  Here in Michigan there has even been a very nasty virus circulating through the schools.  While all of these are very serious concerns I am going to add another condition that is a real problem to all of the parents out there.  This particular ailment is not physical in nature and although my experience involves young boys I am sure parents of daughters have battled this as well.  I could not find a true definition in any medical journal so I have taken it upon myself to name this affliction.  (I am not a doctor nor did I play one on TV but dammit its my blog and I will do what I want.)   I have named this particular disease Adolescent Airhead Disorder or AAD for short.  You may also know it by its more common name, I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached to my shoulders syndrome.

I am sure one of your first questions is, “How can I tell if my child has AAD?”  The simple answer is this.  Look at your little bundle of love and ask them piercing questions like,” Do you have homework?”  “Where in the world is your lunchbox?” and “Why are you only wearing one shoe?”  If your future Rhodes Scholar looks at you with a blank stare and then mumbles, “I dunno.”  Or if they nervously glance around the house waiting for the dog to come steal dinner off the table to divert the attention, then yes folks you probably have a child with AAD.  In my house a simple question like, “didn’t you just have a coat on”  can lead to 10 minutes of filibustering that would make a U.S. Senator blush.  God forbid you ask your future rocket scientist something as challenging a, “hey, can you look and see if there is milk in the fridge.”  In my house I may as well be asking for an essay on quantum physics before I get a real answer.  Here is the good news.  The next time you look at your beautiful child and ask, “what do you mean you left your half-finished science project on the bus and it is due tomorrow?”  Know this.  You are not alone.  Millions of parents are suffering along with you.  The fact that the beer and wine section at the grocery store continually expands is not a mystery my friend.

Alas,  here is the bad news fellow frustrated parents.  As of this posting there is no cure for AAD.  No magic pill, no goofy organic supplement and although it has been tried, even shock therapy doesn’t work.  Apparently,  it is also frowned upon in most countries.  I don’t understand why it can’t be used in small doses for Pete’s sake but that’s a blog for another day.  So parents, the best we can do is sit back and understand what we are up against.  Basically we face an army of adolescent goof balls that no matter how well they do at school can literally freeze up mentally when asked to put socks in their sock drawer.  Maybe it is the constant electronic stimulation that makes them lose focus.  Maybe it is feeding them processed chicken nuggets and frozen pizza 4 times a week.  I already mentioned I am  not a doctor, I am just brainstorming over here.  Perhaps through repetition and training we can eradicate this plague from our children.  On the other hand watching these little angels stumble around trying to figure out where they left their backpack is actually pretty entertaining after a cold beer or glass of wine.

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The Need is Everywhere

I am not sure if I am naive or just plain stupid.  Although neither are a very appealing choice I guess I would prefer the former over the latter.  All I know is that my view of things are definitely beginning to change.  I know, I know, old age.  As many of you know, I work in the worst parts of Flint, Mi every single day.  I am talking straight up GHETTO.  The worst of the worst.  The most violent city in the United States, affectionately known as Murder Town U.S.A.  And while the violence is bad enough the thing what always grabs me is the poverty.  I am talking about people that literally have nothing to eat.  Folks scraping up change to try to afford a honey bun at the local liquor store.  Kids eating .50 cent bags of chips for breakfast because that is all that they could afford.  No decent clothes to wear.  Nothing to protect them against the harsh climate here in Michigan.  You see little ones in dirty, ripped up clothes and no coats even when the weather turns awful.  You look around and feel like by no choice of their own that these kids have so little hope that it is awful.    At times my mood varies from sad, to appalled, to the point where unfortunately I become disinterested.  I justify my occasional disinterest by saying, “Hey, it’s not my problem.  This isn’t my town, these are not my friends and neighbors.”  Trust me, I am not proud that I can easily become immune to it but when you see it every day and realize that there is no easy answer it’s awfully easy to quit work at 5 and head to my lovely home in my lovely neighborhood and leave all of that stuff behind.  I drive by thanking all that is Holy that my family is in the position that they are in.  Even on the worst nights of semi burnt Digiorno pizza after 3 hours of some sports practice my family will be fine.

Here is the problem.  This story is not confined to the city of Flint.  It is not just an “inner city” problem.  You see, I felt pretty good after I left Flint and got home every day.  I mean, that kind of sadness, that kind of desperation, that kind of poverty wouldn’t follow me to the friendly confines of Davison, Mi.  I have lived here my whole life.  It is a wonderful town.  Unfortunately, in all my years of living here I have apparently missed a few things.  This is where things do begin to affect my city.  My friends, my family my neighbors.  Trust me, this is not a knock on Davison.  I am strictly casting a critical eye at how oblivious I have been.  What I failed to see in my own little myopic middle class upbringing and my current life as an adult here in Davison is that we have folks right here that are hurting as well.  Don’t get me wrong, we are not suffering nearly like the folks in the Flint.  We don’t have the violence, blight, gangs and drugs but do you know what we do have?  What we have are families in trouble.  Kids without enough to eat.  Families clawing by who through whatever means can barely get by.  I don’t recall this as a kid growing up here and again I blame myself.  When everything in your world seems terrific it easy to have blinders to what is going on around you.

I think what has really brought it home to me is having so many family and friends in the education system here in town.  Teachers, administrators, volunteers. There are days when I swear I am surrounded by people that just want to put a red checkmark on some grammatical error I have made.  These are the folks that are really on the front lines with these families and their children.  Have some of these parents ended up in trouble due to bad choices?  Absolutely.  Does that mean that their child should have to go to kindergarten without a coat when it is freeing outside?  I think not.  When kindergarten teachers are going to the dollar store to by toothbrushes and toothpaste for students because parents will not. Well then folks, something is amiss.  And before you think I am exonerating bad parenting understand that I am not.  I have no tolerance for it but I just don’t understand why a kid should suffer because of it.  Understand this, A cold, hungry child didn’t choose to be that way.

This is not just a Davison thing either.  In many “nicer” communities the same thing is happening.  Families are having a hard time.  Jobs have been lost.  Medical bills can pile up.  Any number of things can happen.  And spare me any political rhetoric because I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t care if the Republicans screwed things up. I don’t care if you think the Democrats are idiots.  Pointing fingers at a political party may be the single biggest waste of time I can think of.  Please.  Save your breath and think about maybe offering solutions instead of just spouting clichés from whatever bought and paid for news source you choose to watch.  Go ask yourself this one, when is the last time some schmuck shouting the party line on CNN or FOX News actually really “did” anything.  Yeah, I will sit back and wait for that answer.

Here is what I am thinking.  No matter where you live, no matter how nice it is, there is need.  We have the holidays coming and although looking out for others shouldn’t just happen in December I suppose it’s a Hell of a good time to start.  Look around your town, check with your kids schools.  I am thinking if even the small group of folks that read this offer even a little help it will get the ball rolling.  When you’re out loading up on Holiday gifts and groceries throw a couple extra things in there for your local food bank or Toys for Tots.  Have your kids go on a shopping trip with you and let them pick out a couple of things to donate even if it is just coloring books from the dollar store.  Do you have old coats, gloves, boots, etc. at home?  I bet your local school or church would take them.  Sometimes when you take the blinders off and take a look around you see things much more clearly.  So the next time I am stuck in the drop off line at the Middle School in my nice warm SUV I think I will stop complaining about the horrific driving and appreciate what I have.   I am asking all of you to take a look around and realize that none of those children that are suffering asked to be where they are.  Not all of their parents are deadbeats.  Not all of them are “working the system.”  Many of them just need a little help.  Cold and hungry comes in a lot of shapes and sizes and a lot of it looks a lot more like you and I than we care to acknowledge.

Alright friends, done with the rant.  Please feel free to share, comment and brainstorm along with me.  You can also follow on Twitter @Craiger 211.  Thank you everyone.