Monthly Archives: July 2011

Icing on the cake

Some nights ago, during dinner with my family, my father asked me how the job-I-no-longer-have was going, and if I were overworked, underworked or neutral. As he did not know at that point that I was just a day away from leaving the job, I said it was neutral, mainly because I had slipped into autopilot mode and the work consisted mostly of brainless data entry. Then he said, “Then I don’t think this job is for you. You may want to consider looking for a new one.”

So I blurted, “Well, now that you mention it, I do have a new one!” Then I told him exactly what I would be doing come August, and then braced myself for the declarations of disappointment at my job-hopping and rashness, and threats of disownership.

Instead, my father said, almost to himself, “I think that would be the right kind of work for you. You have the talent, so you might as well do it.”

At that point I became somewhat confused. My father, who has spent most of my life convincing me that I would be doomed to fail in whatever I decided to do, was being supportive of my decision to leave the public relations profession and become a writer for a lifestyle magazine. He wasn’t ranting about how stupid I was being once again, how rash my decisions always were, and how I was throwing away a good career that I had more than the qualifications for. Even my mother, sitting at the dinner table with us, looked surprised.

I suppose his sentiments sort of stem from the high standards he placed on his children. Having been a big corporate figure himself, he thought that my first job back here, in a bank that he himself had worked in years ago, would be the best thing that could happen to me — until he realized that the environment of a government-linked corporation had not changed since the years he had been in one. And even when I left the bank to join an agency — the ‘other side’ of public relations — he still was not convinced it was the right job for me, not because, as I had assumed, it wasn’t with some other big corporation, but because even he knew that it wasn’t the kind of profession that I was, for lack of a better term, made for.

And so, it was after I had processed the conversation in my head that I realized I shouldn’t have had to be too surprised at my father’s reaction to my news. He was just being himself: totally unpredictable, and completely reliable when someone actually needs him to be. And that made all the difference in the world to me.

The very best part of the conversation was when, at the end, he said, “Who knows, maybe if you do well enough you could even be syndicated. You can write a book. Oh, I know — you should write a fictional book based on your new experience working in this country. You can call it The Social Climber.”

The end of this road

Well, here we are again. It feels like we were just here not too long ago, doesn’t it?

How did it come to this? How did we just wake up one day and realize that things weren’t the same anymore, that we just weren’t as compatible as used to be? And, most importantly, how were we going to move on from an impasse that was so crippling I couldn’t even wake up and stare you in the face?

I always thought that when I left the first time, it was because I hated the circumstances I was in: the place, the people, and the politics. And, indeed, that was a significant part of the reason I left. But even after I had come to a new place, with new people and hopefully less irksome politics, I realized that the problem lay not primarily in the circumstances of what I did, but more so in the nature of it, of what was behind all the things I never had any patience or regard for.

So when it finally hit me, crystal-clear and diamond-hard, I knew that I would have to leave you again. Not you, Corporate World, but you, Public Relations. I knew that I wasn’t happy with what we were doing anymore, and that I would have to take a huge step out of this bubble we had kept ourselves in for three years in order to find out if staying in the bubble was what I was ever meant to do in the first place. Make no mistake, it was a terrifying step, but one that I know now was necessary for me to regroup and discover what is most important to me when it comes to holding a job.

Again, this isn’t entirely your fault. I think if ever the cliché “It’s not you, it’s me” were to be overused it would be in the case of the relationships that have nothing to do with my personal life. You had a lot to teach, and I did learn a lot from you, but it’s not your fault that we live in a society that values adulation more than transparency, relationships more than efficacy, and politics more than polemics. Once any or all of that changes, the landscape of what we do would mean so much more than just bowing to the source of our livelihood.

We had a good run, you and I. Three years, and not a single tear, despite all the rage and frustration. Of all the lessons you taught me, the most valuable ones were to always, always look at the big picture before drawing any conclusions, to trust my own instincts, and to depend on nobody but myself.  You were the very first part of my journey into the real world, and these lessons I will take with me to what can be deemed a completely new playing field. Let’s hope they will save me from striking out again.

Company in derision

I came across this on CNN, and it rings so true and sounds so much as though I wrote it myself that I will rein in my own disdain and let the article speak for itself:

Permissive parents: Curb your brats

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — If you’re the kind of parent who allows your 5-year-old to run rampant in public places like restaurants, I have what could be some rather disturbing news for you.

I do not love your child.

The rest of the country does not love your child either.

And the reason why we’re staring at you every other bite is not because we’re acknowledging some sort of mutual understanding that kids will be kids but rather we want to kill you for letting your brat ruin our dinner.

Or our plane ride.

Or trip to the grocery store.

Or the other adult-oriented establishments you’ve unilaterally decided will serve as an extension of your toddler’s playpen because you lack the fortitude to properly discipline them, in public and at home.

And we know you don’t discipline them at home because you don’t possess “the look.” If you had “the look,” you wouldn’t need to say “sit down” a thousand times.

If you had “the look,” you wouldn’t need to say much of anything at all. But this nonverbal cue needs to be introduced early and reinforced diligently with consequences for transgressions, just like potty training. And whenever a kid throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the shopping mall it’s just as bad as his soiling his pants to spite his parents, and it stinks just as much.

I have seen a small child slap her mother in the face with an open hand, only to be met with “Honey, don’t hit Mommy.” I have seen kids tell their parents “Shut up” and “Leave me alone” at the top of their lungs — and they are not put in check. I shake my head knowing it’s only going to get worse from here.

If I’m sounding a bit judgmental, I assure you I am not alone in my judgment.

Remember that couple that was kicked off an AirTran flight for being unable to control their 3-year-old back in 2007? The child threw a tantrum, refused to get in her seat and delayed the flight by 15 minutes. In a subsequent interview with “Good Morning America,” the mother talked about how much more understanding the passengers were compared to the crew that removed the family. That may be true — but I’m also willing to bet plenty of passengers were happy to have a much quieter flight. An AirTran spokesperson estimated 95% of the 9,000 e-mails the airline received were supportive of taking the family off the plane, according to MSNBC.

Responding to complaints about crying babies keeping people awake, Malaysia Airlines decided to ban infants from first class in some of its flights.

I don’t know about you but I would gladly support an airline or restaurant that didn’t make someone else’s yelling, screaming, kicking offspring my problem.

And there are kid-free cruises and resorts for a reason.

Children are wonderful but they are not the center of the universe. The sooner their parents make them understand that, the better off we all will be.

This is the part of child-rearing people don’t like to discuss, because socially, it’s not OK to dislike kids. The ugly truth is it’s the spineless parents who parade their undisciplined children around like royalty that make people dislike kids.

Parents who expect complete strangers to just deal with it are not doing anyone, including their children, any favors. They are actually making things worse. Not only are their children allowed to interrupt social events and settings when they are young, but they often grow into disruptive forces in the classrooms later. And nobody likes them for that.

I covered education for years and one of the biggest complaints from teachers was about the amount of time they spent disciplining students. Their threats were empty because parents sided with their kids. And, of course, the use of corporal punishment in the classroom is seriously frowned upon, and even punished.

Spanking is not a cure, and should not be the first resort, but I don’t think it should automatically be taken off the table when dealing with small kids. We’re so preoccupied with protecting children from disappointment and discomfort that we’re inadvertently excusing them from growing up.

A young child slapping his or her parent’s hand away in defiance is not cute, it’s disrespectful. In my house, growing up, that would have earned much more than “the look” from my mother.

If I sound a bit old-school, I am. If I’m coming across as a bit of an ogre, so be it.

As a parent, I can empathize with how difficult raising children can be. There are challenges, especially within the framework of divorce, when parental guilt can sometimes blur what should be the best decision.

But I don’t believe making a child’s wishes top priority is a demonstration of love. Nor do I believe I, or the rest of the world, should act as a surrogate parents for somebody’s bad-ass kids.

You wanted them, deal with them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.