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COLUMNIST: Parental Advice

Getting old in relation to being a dad is great. Watching our children explore, grow, and develop as little people is fascinating if you take the time to enjoy it. Trying at times, yes. But to be able to both look at the big picture, as well as study the little snapshots our little people provide us really is amazing and rewarding.

Our oldest daughter just completed her first year of pre-school and to witness the start of her young academic career certainly gets me thinking a lot about the future.

I was talking parent philosophy and swapping children stories a couple weeks ago with a friend as we leaned on the fence at a baseball game. Our girls are about the same age and we traded anecdotes. Nothing too deep, just little stories just about every parent can appreciate.

We studied our children and speculated whether they would be dancers, scholars, athletes, bullies, etc. We analyzed their movements and abilities, trying to figure out how we can force them to bat left-handed, or how we can steer them to the sports we enjoy to watch and coach. Selfish? Sure, but we have that right now until they start paying rent and are old enough to make their own decisions.

I don't consider myself a deep thinker but did come to a pretty important conclusion in relation to school and our girls growing up. There are just a few simple rules I hope to teach my girls as they prepare for the next 13 years of school.

Don't be mean to other kids, help others that need help, and don't get picked on by bullies. Simple rules which I hope will provide a good base in the social and academic aspects early on in school. Playgrounds can be brutal and kids need to learn early on to make it through with a limited number of bloody noses.

I am actually most concerned about being the parent of a bully. Nobody wants that and it may be tougher to correct. If the situation arises where one of my children is on the receiving end of bullying, I think I could easier teach them to stand up to the natural selection of playground survival of the fittest, than to correct bullying tendencies.

Our girls love the parks and playground equipment here in Mills. I enjoy watching them play and interact with other children. As I observed the playground dynamics the other day I was a little concerned with their common sense.

On more than one occasion both my older girls were first to go down the slide on morning trips to the park. I need to teach them you don't do that after rain the night before. An important lesson is to wait until the next kid goes down first, let him or her get their butt wet and clear the way for some dry sliding. They're only 3 and 2 so I think there's still time to teach.

Jump ahead to high school and the concerns become more serious. As a father of three girls, there is the boy thing and potential problems associated with those little devils already in my mind. I don't want to worry too much about that just yet though.

There are other lessons to be learned.

Take, for example, the recent news of a high school party being busted and a number of New York Mills teenagers getting alcohol-related tickets.

Gasp! Not in New York Mills. Say it isn't so. Shhhh... guess what? This wasn't the first party to be busted and certainly won't be the last.

Parties happen and kids drink in high school. This has been going on since the beginning of time and isn't going to go away in our lifetime. Certainly not all kids drink in high school, but it's a natural rite of passage for many as they get closer to adulthood.

No need to get too excited at first, or even second offenses. Things happen, be it bad luck or poor decisions. The majority of the time these are innocent enough acts and kids should be taught to accept the consequences and learn from their mistakes. Most do. It just takes a little longer for some.

I recall the advice of my father when I was in high school, and I imagine I'll pass on a similar version to my girls. If you make the choice to attend parties and take part in underage drinking you better be ready to face the consequences, whether you are caught or not. Just be smart about it. Don't drive after drinking. There are options.

That's standard advice I think most parents pass on. And I remember my father telling me, and at times this is more valuable in the minds of a teenager, if you are at a party and the cops show up, make sure you are standing next to someone who can't run as fast as you. That, and make sure you pick the right corn row to run down.

I was happy to learn there were plenty of responsible teens who were not drinking at the recent party which has created almost as much buzz around town as the fishhouse bust of the '80s. That is encouraging. Maybe there is hope for this generation. Just as there was hope for mine, and each generation prior to those of us who are now parents.

More advice I'll likely pass on: When the cops come, and you decide to hide in a dog house, make sure the mutt doesn't hang around to give you up. Maybe carry a pocket full of jerky to distract the dog in the event this situation arises.

Congratulations to this year's NYM graduates. I look forward to many years of watching my girls stumble through life's decisions, and eventually walk across the stage to pick up their diplomas.