Archive for November, 2012

Thank heaven for little boys

“Thank heaven for little boys” reads the light blue sign in my youngest son’s room. My wife secured it after the birth of our third bundle of testosterone. We now have four and what a joy it has been. A real reason to give thanks… for my wife.

Every once in a while I’m jolted into an awareness that homes with four little girls don’t operate like ours. Such as the night I shuffled in the dark to do my business and descended onto cold, wet porcelain.

My better half reminds me often how undeveloped a boy’s frontal lobe is – the one used for sound decision-making. The one that makes gravity and germs and other pesky forces of reality negotiable.

As it stands, I’m hearing a lot of, “Hey guys! Who wants to do a dog pile?” and, “Tackle me!” Two-hand touch is as foreign a concept as daily bathing.

At one point, I pulled a big brother off a little one and the little one started crying. I took away his playmate!

Bodily functions, of course, consume plenty of air. “Who went tee-tee in the garage?” I asked one son, about three at the time. “A skunk did,” he replied. Somebody call the city!

The logic hasn’t much improved. When I asked him two years later, “Who passed gas?” he blamed it on the actors on TV. Our TV is smart, but not that smart. Thankfully so.

A great irony of boyhood: For as inaccurate as they can be at the toilet, they can be remarkably precise with a BB gun. “I shot a dove, but he flew away.” Hmmm.

Other weapons can be just as deadly in the right small hands. “I saw three deer and killed them all…with my pocket knife.” What courage.

I once let one son wander in the woods near a pond we were fishing. Upon his return, I asked him what he saw on his walk. “Fierce animals.” I had no idea.

If worms bait fish, bodies of water bait boys. The longer you stay around them, the more likely boys will get in. Temperature and attire make no difference. Neither do speed or depth. It’s only a matter of time. Despite what mom may say.

Boy moms have a particular vernacular. Sometimes they re-direct without squelching: “You are welcome to do that outside.”

Other times they direct without question: “You HAVE to wear shoes.” Mumbling to themselves is no sign of instability, “Just when I think it can’t get any louder…”

They are not responsible for supernatural feats of exploration. “Hey, look! That baby just climbed over that fence.”

They do their best to cultivate character and culture, sometimes without effect. A church teacher recently asked our 4-year-old for a song to sing. “Tonight’s gonna be a good night!” Thank you, Black Eyed Peas. May you always be eaten.

Even yet, the simplicity can be lightening. One Christmas, all one son asked for was a mouthpiece. The kind footballers and boxers and boys with three brothers use to protect their teeth. They’re a buck fifty at Wal-Mart.

Cheap and useful. Maybe those frontal lobes aren’t so undeveloped after all.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

On politics, football and country music

It’s a great time to be an Aggie Democrat. Texas A&M’s football team knocked off defending national champion and top-ranked Alabama Saturday, continuing an idyllic debut in the Southeastern Conference. And, as we know, Democrats held serve in last week’s national elections.

Aggie Democrats acknowledge on their Web site that “Aggieland is still a very conservative place.” But that hasn’t squelched any pride: “Despite what you may have heard, Texas Aggie Democrats is the best organization at Texas A&M.” I know a cadet or two who may object.

The point: Very rarely do we get everything we want, like Aggie Dems have now. Usually, it’s what country musician John Anderson sang, “Everybody’s got something. Nobody’s got it all.”

Some thoughts as we enter another few years with President Obama and A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel at their respective helms.

The truest thing I heard about the election results and I don’t remember from where: America is neither ready to give up its welfare state nor pay for it. In other words, we want the impossible. We want it all.

One one hand, the President and his party’s Senate majority were re-elected to continue the benefits that were surely worth their weight in votes.

Would you vote against the man who signed your two years of unemployment checks into law? If you were one of the 15 million who began receiving food stamps during the last four years, would you bite the hand that has fed you?

The debate rages over whether we’re more a country of economic producers or government services consumers. I don’t know. I do know that more and more entrants into the voting age population have been touched significantly by government provision.

Head Start, pre-Kindergarten, free and reduced breakfast and lunch, social worker involvement, welfare assistance, CHIP (children’s health insurance program).

If you’ve benefited from these, are you likely to vote for a candidate who talks about reforming entitlements? No more than this son of a small business owner is going to vote for a candidate who talks about higher taxes on successful entrepreneurs.

On another hand, the Republican House majority stands as a desire for at least some government restraint. An irony considering the sober upper chamber was intended to bring reason to the whimsical House.

Nevertheless, the wisdom of the American people has long achieved such balance, alternating between Republican and Democrat presidents, routinely splitting Congresses. Even if gerrymandered lines get us there, it remains wise to avoid all extremes, as the good book says.

In the end, the election likely came down to the political capacity of the candidates. Barack Obama has the gift of presence in the moment. The ability to make whomever you’re with feel like they’re your only priority in the world.

Mitt Romney was more aloof though not in a bad way. If his mind was elsewhere it was because he was devising some elaborate solution to some complex problem. Ultimately, voters could tell and they went with the candidate who would make them feel important if given the chance.

Back to football and country music. Now is the time for politicians to follow the remarkable example of the “boys of fall”, as singer Kenny Chesney calls them. Three hundred pound men who push and pull and hit and hurt each other for three hours.

Then, with helmets off, they walk across the field and hug and smile and joke about bygone days. Win or lose. For camaraderie, for mutual respect, for life after football.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Today two roads diverge

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” Bob Frost once wrote, “And sorry I could not travel both…”I am truly sorry we cannot travel both. Oh, how I wish for unlimited services with no debt to show; for riches without inflation in tow. For unlimited pleasures with no cultural price; for a completely safe world without sacrifice.

But reality is steeped in forks in the road, in decisions to be made. So, choose you this day, America, who will serve you.

Down one road, just beyond the bend in the undergrowth, lies a private sector that competes and innovates and risks. Down the other, a state that controls industry and investment and winners and losers.

One road grants equal opportunity for all. Desire, work ethic, determination, and, yes, serendipity decide winners. The other road delivers far less in a more equitable fashion.

One road has government research dollars going to general industries and technologies with subject matter experts allocating resources. The other gives government dollars to specific companies and pet projects (e.g., Solyndra / green energy).

One road wipes out debt and deficits with cuts and efficiencies. The other fills gaps with taxes and fees.

One road lightens government regulation and empowers small and mid-sized businesses. The other increases bureaucratic demands that eventually squeeze out little guys. They lack the scale, after all, to comply with all the regs. They are forced to consolidate into the behemoths.

For example, the banking industry. Thirty years ago, more than 14,400 commercial bank charters dotted the U.S. Today less than 6,300 remain. Last year no new charters were granted by the FDIC, the first time that’s happened since the FDIC began in 1934.

Now roughly two-thirds of U.S. commercial bank assets are held at the five largest institutions. You know their names.

As small banks die, small businesses die, because they don’t show up on the big banks’ radars. It’s the European way. How would you like to have 2 plumbers in town, 2 electricians, 2 yard guys? It’s not good for anyone, except the government which can control few more easily than many.

Back to the yellow wood. One road leads to a society woven with committed, historical family structures. The other offers a concoction of kids born out of wedlock and fathers living apart from kids. Religious institutions are forced into submission by tax status threats and hate crime legislation.

One road inspires a health care system that discovers world-class cures and develops state of the art care. The other distributes treatment based on one’s ability to wait. It won’t matter if I want to sell my car and work three jobs to pay for my wife’s surgery. A bureaucrat will appoint a day and time that may be too late.

Down one road is a government more limited, defined and, dare I say, constitutional. It is more capable of being effective.

Down the other is a wooly mammoth of government expansion. Future elections won’t determine whether we’ll have a conservative or liberal government. They’ll decide whether conservatives or liberals will run the large and liberal government.

Will we take the road less travelled by socialist Europe or communist China? I don’t know. Will it make all the difference? There is no question.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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