Oh No…Puberty! 

September 25, 2015

“Hey, Dad,” my son, Jack, hollered. He was slightly out of breath after rushing out of the house to meet me as I pulled into our driveway last night. “I’ve got some great news — I’m becoming a man…”

Jack has always been mature for his age. His first complete sentence was, “Quite frankly, this pureed chicken in a jar is barely edible.” (Or something like that.) For the most part, he’s been smarter, taller, faster, stronger, and more emotionally advanced (not necessarily in a good way) than many of his peers. He has also always been self-conscious, anxious, and worrisome.

This fall Jack started middle school. Over the summer between 5th and 6th grade, some major changes took place among the tweenage boy population. Suddenly Jack is one of the smaller kids. Some of the boys sport a thin hipster-esque mustache. A few of his friends sound like they might be Barry White’s illegitimate children. For the first time in his life, it seems my son is feeling a little inadequate. 

Man or woman, I think we can all agree that middle school was at least awkward at times, if not generally horrific. It’s a time of change and uncertainty. Besides the growth spurts, facial hair, and changing voices, there are also zits, gym locker rooms, and body odor. Not to mention a newfound attraction to the opposite sex. These are key ingredients in a recipe for crippling anxiety.

By far the biggest problem for the guys, however, are the sudden, Viagra-like erections. Ok, it’s not that “big” of a problem, but trust me when I say that panic attacks occur when you are sitting with a boner, and you realize that class is about to end. The more you worry about it, the “harder” (sorry) life becomes. As a result, every dude is forced to learn the fine art of casually walking down the hall while clutching a Trapper Keeper against his junk, should the bell ring at the wrong time. Under really bad conditions, there is the ol’ “re-tie the shoe(s) trick,” which more physically developed kids may need to opt for. The bell ringing isn’t the end of the world, though. In fact, it can be a blessing. Far worse is the fear that you will be called up to the blackboard during class for some reason — without a shield. This is the definition of pure terror.

For the most part, these things haven’t been an issue for my kid. He is very impatient to catch up to his friends, or so he thinks. He’s in for a rude awakening.

“Come on, I gotta show you this,” Jack continued last night.

Intrigued, I followed him in the front door. As soon as we entered the living room, Jack dropped trow. “Check it out!”

Confused, both about what was happening and what he could possibly be happy about, my immediate reaction was to console him. Don’t worry, buddy, it’ll eventually get bigger, I considered. I bit my tongue. “What exactly am I looking for?”

“Look, right there!” I strained my eyes. Then, I saw it, just as he declared, “It’s a pube!”

And so it begins. My baby boy will never be the same. Soon he will have a peard (pubic beard, of course) down there, and other things, which I don’t even want to think about, will start happening.

This morning I walked past the bathroom, where Jack was naked; closely examining his nether regions.

“Start shutting the door,” I pleaded. “In fact, start locking it.”

Wish me luck. Better yet, wish Jack luck.

  
Humor me for a moment, and please hear me out. Let’s pretend that you love the color red. You have a sporty red car, and love to just drive around on sunny days with the windows rolled down and the radio on, minding your own business. But wait, one day someone stops you on the street.

“Whoa, hold up, buddy. What are you doing in that red car?”

“Oh gosh, I just love the color red,” you reply with a chuckle.

“Hmm, well, we don’t allow red cars.”

“Excuse me? Why not?”

“Because I have this book here, which says that anyone with a red car is evil and should ideally be killed by stoning. Cars are only intended to be the color blue, no exceptions. I can’t really kill you, but you will need to have your car painted blue immediately. Oh, I almost forgot — unless you ask for forgiveness, you will spend all of eternity in a bottomless fire pit. Nothing is actually going to happen now, but when you die watch out, because that’s when it starts.”

This conversation sounds ridiculous, yet way too familiar. Maybe I’m just becoming more aware as I get older, maybe I’m just paranoid, but doesn’t there seem to be more and more hate and social injustice in America? Specifically, hate and injustice in the name of God — because the Bible says so.

I’m not trying to insult the Bible or Christianity. I know many Christians who are truly great, caring people. The majority of Christians are like this, as with the majority of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, atheists, etc. I completely respect the opinions and beliefs that most Christians adhere to. Likewise, the Bible has countless verses that emphasize (and, in fact, demand) kindness, compassion, and love.

Unfortunately the Bible also contradicts itself. A lot. There is a growing number of people who choose to overlook the message of love, and focus on the parts of the Bible that condone the avoidance, oppression, and even persecution of those who do not believe or act a certain way. I know from repeated firsthand experience that there are many Christians who believe they will experience eternal damnation if they show any support or kindness to so-called “sinners.” Just last week, one of my lifelong friends told me that I will never understand unless I believe the way he does. “It’s a heaven and hell issue. I listen to what God tells me in the Bible.”

So, to these people I ask this question:  Can God change His mind? I’m being serious. Is it possible that the Bible needs updating? Thousands of years later, is there just a chance that God has grown wiser with age? Could He feel bad that He has caused so many of His children to turn against each other? Maybe there should be a Newer Testament, in which God declares that He is sorry for all the guilt, fear, hatred and war that Christianity has caused, and that He has decided we should just be kind and respectful of others. He might also remind us that we can leave the judging to Him.

Many will scoff at this. They will bring up the omniscience of God; that He knows that past, present and future, so why would He possibly need to change His mind? Fair enough, but why then do we bother to pray? Is it just to try to make ourselves feel better? If a baby is expected to surely die, and we pray for mercy, and the baby survives, did God change His mind and perform a miracle? If the baby dies is it because God decided not to change His mind, and therefore simply works in mysterious ways? If He knows everything, why did He create us? Why put us through this exercise if He knows our fates already? It’s like God is just watching a rerun of a horribly sad reality show. Ah, yes, here is the part where Bob sins, and then…wait for it…asks for forgiveness! Yes, Bob, you are good to go until you screw up big time in March of 2019. But then you ask for forgiveness again and everything is fine when I take your life by way of a massive heart attack in 2028…

My goal is not to question God or bash Christianity, but just to make people consider that if there could be even a razor-thin possibility that God could change His mind, then there would be nothing wrong with a mere mortal doing the same. The Bible can be followed the way Mother Teresa did, or the way the Westboro Baptist Church does. You have a choice, and either way you are following the word of God. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.” Living with hate and fear sure seems like a hard life to me.

Christian extremists — those of you who feel that people who believe differently than you are not just wrong, but a threat or even evil — please consider and remember one Bible verse above all others:

Colossians 3:12,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

This is actually a great message for any of us, regardless of our religious views. I’m far (really far) from perfect, but I want to get better. As hard as it is for me sometimes, I won’t hate the haters — but I will try to change their minds. Let’s all get older and wiser. Let’s just be nice. I’ll go first.

  
We are the United States of America. 

We must never forget. 

We all remember that day when everything stopped. 

We stared at our televisions, listened hard to our radios, and constantly refreshed our dial up internet connections. 

We called our family to say we love them, we called our friends looking for any information, we called on God asking for answers.  

We had no answers. 

We watched, listened, and waited. 

We flinched every time we heard a police siren in the distance. 

We began to slowly get details. 

We were in shock, we were physically sick, we couldn’t understand. 

We heard stories of fierce bravery and of unthinkable death, making the manliest of men weep — both with pride and sadness.  

We came together as a nation. 

We put our differences aside. 

We are the United States of America. 

We must never forget. 

We are all one regardless of any beliefs, or lack thereof. 

We may not understand each other, but we must respect each other. That starts with me. And with you. 

We can do this. 

We can be one again — under any circumstance — not just tragedy. 

We must have each others’ backs, otherwise we are alone. 

We are the United States of America. 

We must always remember.  

  
September is one of my favorite months. It’s a time when a lot of good change is taking place, like the kids going back to school, cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors, and the start of football season. My wedding anniversary is in September. I can get away with wearing shorts and a sweatshirt in much of September. And, this year, the Kansas City Royals are poised to clinch a division pennant for the first time in 30 years…in September.

We also have a national holiday this month. Everyone is aware of Labor Day, you know, when we celebrate having jobs by taking a day off, but how many Americans are aware of the many “unofficial” national holidays that fall in September (or any month, for that matter)? Let’s take look at a few of the highlights:

September 2

National V-J Day — This of course means “Victory in Japan,” and celebrates the surrender of Japan in WWII. This is not to be confused with B-J Day, which in my house usually falls on my birthday. Sometimes. September 2 is also National Blueberry Popsicle Day…what a coincidence.

September 4

National Lazy Mom’s Day — No comment.

National Hug Your Boss Day — As a former “boss,” let me just say that I never (ever) wanted a hug. I didn’t want anyone coming in my office, let alone anyone providing a loving embrace to my torso. Not a good day.

September 8

National Pediatric Hematology Day — I know this is one day we never fail to celebrate in our house. So much fun!

September 10

National Swap Ideas Day and National TV Dinner Day — “Hey pal, I got an idea, you might wanna consider eating healthier.”

September 12

National Day of Encouragement — I like the idea behind this one, and feel like our nation has what it takes to make it happen. “C’mon, we got this.”

September 13

National Defy Superstition Day and National Fortune Cookie Day — “Hey Larry, that was some damn good Chinese food, huh? Don’t forget a fortune cookie. It’s bad luck not to eat them.”

“Forget about it, Bob. Today is National Defy Superstition Day, so I’m staying away from those!”

“Whoa hang on there, Larry. It’s seriously bad luck not to at least read your fortune, plus it’s National Fortune Cookie Day.”

“Oh crap, yeah okay, lemme have one.”

September 14

National Eat a Hoagie Day — Does anyone outside of Philadelphia actually use the term “hoagie” anymore? It just sounds creepy.

September 18

National Double Cheeseburger Day — Much better than hoagies.

September 19

National Big Whopper Liar Day — Say wha?

September 20

National Wife Appreciation Day — “Honey, I love you so much and am so sorry for lying to you yesterday.”

September 21

National Alzheimer’s Day — Sadly, this one is often forgotten.

September 23

National Bi-Sexuality Day — “Hey Larry, what are you doin’ this afternoon…”

September 25

National Math Story Telling Day — Because only the best stories include some mathematics.

September 26

National Pancake Day and National Family Fitness Day — Visit an IHOP and a park, and it’ll be pretty obvious what families are observing which days.

September 27

National Crush a Can Day — “Who else is a freakin’ bad-ass like me (crushes can)?”

September 29

National Attend Your Grandchild’s Birthday — “Um, today’s not my birthday, Grandma.”

“I know, Timmy, but I’m here and happy birthday anyway.”

Living in such a heavy world, it’s good to have a little fun. Have a great September, everyone.