Tag Archives: American Dream

Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

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There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

The American Dream Wrapped Up in a Cannoli

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I first met Caity DiFabio at the epicenter of all clichés.  A bar.  On a trip to Louisville two years ago, bored and waiting for a friend, I settled onto a stool and ordered an Old Fashioned.  That such a young girl could serve an ancient cocktail the right way surprised me, almost as much as her sarcastic wit and quick smile.

English: Picture of an Old Fashioned cocktail,...

This cocktail is targeted at a specific demographic: old. Old Fashioned Image via Wikipedia

Eventually my friend showed up, Caity got off work, Old Fashions took a sharp left toward tequila, then dinner, which was a great excuse for….more tequila, enough laughter to annoy everyone at the bar who wasn’t in on the joke, and tears.  Lots and lots of tears.  If you happen to have two x chromosomes, you know that four seasons of emotion over a seared tuna salad with a stranger is rare.

Not only was I impressed with Caity’s mind, but also?  That girl could drink.  She was the one with her arm around me at the end of the night as I sniffled over a long-lost love and babbled my way into a cab.  Anyone who doesn’t agree that tequila is the ultimate truth serum hasn’t gotten to the bottom of the bottle.

This however, appeals to just about everybody, including your underage son. Tequila via Flickr

Even though she was hardly born the year I left Louisville to go to college, I knew almost instantly she was an old soul, and we would be friends.  Not the talk-on-the-phone-every-day-to-compare-notes-on-life’s-little-nuances kind of thing, but a real connection nevertheless.  It seemed what we had to say to one another mattered, regardless of the chunk of variable time and space placed in between.

So it came as no surprise when I got a Facebook message over a year later that she had something important to tell me.  Caity is from a family of restaurateurs, and spent considerable time in and around the kitchen growing up.  They had decided to open a branch of their restaurant in Louisville, and she was to be a key player in the new initiative.  At the time, she was excited and scared and nervous and ready, and was also only twenty-two years old.

DiFabio’s Casapela opened in 2010.  Caity was barely legal to crack the pop-top off a beer when her family launched the restaurant, much less understand the delicate balance between supply and demand, and that the term “management” is really just secret code for “what the customer wants, the customer gets.”

English: Beer cans and bottles.

Image via Wikipedia

Yet somehow she got it, and is doing it, and still has time to sit down over a shot of tequila and listen to the bleary-eyed stranger of the night lament the things that matter most.

Day after day and way too late into the evening she shows up, often early, to orchestrate the chaos and earn an MBA on the fly that kids her age pay up to $40,000 a year to buy.  If you ask, she won’t tell you that running a family business in a foundering economy is harder than she thought it would be.  She won’t mention the NOI isn’t always in the black, her stemware keeps disappearing, and she doesn’t get to see enough of her dogs.

Image via Flickr

She’ll just smile that impish smile, fill your glass, and substitute the Piccata for the Marsala, because you could have sworn that’s what you ordered (you didn’t).

At a time when corporate profits are being redistributed as dividends or kept in cash instead of creating jobs, and the stimulus package that was or wasn’t is debated around town, it’s the Caity DiFabios of the world who remind us what it means to pursue the American Dream.  All of it.

Image via Flickr

If she wanted to, Caity could simply ride the coattails of the lost generation, cash her unemployment check, and go home.  Instead, she’s building a business, hiring employees, and figuring out how to handle the bills.  And life.  Even when she’s supposed to be off, she shows up every day, regardless of what happened the night before, to do her job and roll with the tide of whatever crazy customer happens to come in the door.

I won’t bore you with my take on the gorgonzola filet versus the chicken parmesan.  This isn’t a restaurant review…it’s more of a critique on life.  As far as I’m concerned, Caity’s already earned a full five stars because what she’s doing is the heart of the American Dream, and I’ll take it with or without the sauce.