Category Archives: Good Quotes

Good Quote for February 27, 2014

“All too rarely do I hear people asking just what it is that we’ve done to make so many children’s hearts so hard, or what collectively we might do to right their moral compass – what values we must live by.”

― Barack ObamaDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

I’ve never bought the idea that people are just born good and then are corrupted by an evil society. That said, I’ve also never bought the idea that we are naturally depraved and have to have all of our horrible impulses tempered by constant vigilance either. I’ve spent a fair bit of time with kids and I’ve seen them display as wide a range of moral thoughts and behaviors as most adults I’ve known.

Instead of a black and white style “good” or “evil”, I think we’re all born with a drive to get our needs met. Good and evil actions come from how the situations we’re put in interfere with our ability to meet those needs and from the tools (i.e., coping skills) we have access to when the situation isn’t ideal.

So, in that sense, I like the way the question in this statement is framed (“what collectively we might do to right their moral compass”), but I think the answer is pretty straightforward: We have to shape the world, from our individual families on up to society as a whole, so that it meets everyone’s needs. That includes obvious physical needs (food and shelter), but also emotional needs (love, a sense of fulfillment, justice, security, etc.). The latter is just as important as the former.

In other words, we have to create situations that minimize conflict over needs.

That’s a tall order though. An impossibly tall order. That’s why we have to look beyond that. We have to teach our kids how to use their own physical, intellectual, and emotional tools to cope with times when the situation they’re in isn’t up to muster. I think in general that means modeling the way we use those tools ourselves. That’s the other reason I like this quote so much. He begins with a question that points at kids and the ways in which their character seems lacking. That’s where a lot of people stop, but he continues by pointing at us as adults and as a society asks us to consider the values we model.

Good Quote for February 24, 2014

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves—say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

Yesterday, I got really angry at my daughter, Grace. I had told her to stay on the sidewalk and not keep walking on the berm of snow. Which apparently meant it was a good time to walk on the berm.

That’s the part where I got angry and told her she was going to write lines about doing what she’s told when she got home.

We were actually parting ways — she and her brother, Liam, were heading back home with Wendy and I was going to meet them there later. When I finally got home, she had finished her lines. I was able to go give her a hug and a kiss on the head. She was able to tell me something funny she had just read.


She should have listened. I should have reacted more calmly than I did. It’s nice to be able to show Grace that I love her even when she makes mistakes. And it’s nice to know that she loves me when I make them.

It’s easy to love Grace and Liam when they’re impersonating the happy kids from Currier & Ives prints. If Victor Hugo was right, and it feels like maybe he was, it’s even more rewarding to experience the way that love continues even when they don’t listen and I overreact.


Good Quote for February 16, 2014

“Of course, everyone’s parents are embarrassing. It goes with the territory. The nature of parents is to embarrass merely by existing, just as it is the nature of children of a certain age to cringe with embarrassment, shame, and mortification should their parents so much as speak to them on the street. ”


― Neil GaimanAnansi Boys

Just one more to supplement the Rick Riordan quote from the last post.

On the Embarrassment of Parents

“Have you ever noticed how parents can go from the most wonderful people in the world to totally embarrassing in three seconds?”

― Rick RiordanThe Red Pyramid

There’s nothing like chaperoning field trips to gauge where kids are when it comes to being embarrassed of their parents.

Take my son, John. He’s in the second grade. I saw a girl in his class sucking her thumb the other day when I was picking him up from school. Sure enough, when I help chaperone his field trips, he’s right by my side, holding my hand. When I chaperone my daughter Beth’s field trips I get a more fourth grade treatment. Not unfriendly. Not overtly embarrassed. Just a little more wary.

The seeds of embarrassment have been planted.

As a human and a dad, it can be a tough pill to swallow. I mean, where do my kids get off being embarrassed about me?

A) I’m cool. I have shiny aviator sunglasses that make me look like an out of shape extra from Top Gun.

B) I spent multiple years handling their poop. That should preclude them from ever thinking that I’m an embarrassment.

Still, the fact remains. Kids spend an inordinate amount of time being embarrassed by the existence of their parents – even in the midst of realizing that we parents are actually the most wonderful people in the world.


It’s really, really, really normal. Kids are actually at the beginning of a grand experiment in becoming individuals, who are separate from their parents, around the same time parents begin to notice that their kids are beginning to be embarrassed by them. How are they supposed to develop into grown up, independent people if they are constantly reminded that their existence depends upon us? And yet, they do depend on us and that dependence is tied to an attachment that makes them feel safe and loved.

There can be a really powerful conflict in kids’ minds between those two impulses — feeling independent vs. feeling loved, protected, and safe.

It hurts to feel like my kids are ever really ashamed of me. But I know that what they’re really ashamed of is their own ambivalence about fear, dependence, and becoming a grown up. My presence is just a reminder of it.

So I let it go. And I let them know I’m okay with standing back. And it’s okay for them to be independent and try out being a big kid without me. And that I’ll be there ready to love and protect them as much as they need when they’re ready for it.

But I don’t tell them all that in front of their friends.

Good Quote for February 12, 2014

“I never, even for a moment, doubted what they’d told me. This is why it is that adults and even parents can, unwittingly, be cruel: they cannot imagine doubt’s complete absence. They have forgotten.”

― David Foster Wallace

via Goodreads

Update: Thanks, Todd, for reminding me of “This is Water” by DFW. I’m putting a link to the video here in case people don’t make it down to the comments. It’s ABSOLUTELY worth a watch!