Row Boat Man

In the Spring of 1976, I told my dad that I was thinking about quitting school. I was not asking permission. Back then, a 16 year old in Illinois could quit without parental consent, no signature required. My older sister quit every other day. Okay, just once a week, on average. She’d stomp into the school office on her way out the door, slam her books down on the counter and declare, “I quit!” And, on the very next day, mother would march her right back into the office to re-enroll.

Sis was emotional, so her quits were always in reaction to something, a tiff with a teacher or whatever. Mine was different. My quit would be an action, not a reaction. Much consideration needed to go into my decision, which is why I wanted to talk my dad. It never occurred to me that my parents may object. But, like I said, I wasn’t asking.

He did not tell me no. Dad never tried to control me, at least not in my teen years. I didn’t even have a curfew. I was expected to be courteous, to let my mother know if I would be home for supper, to call if I was going to be out late. At the most, he’d say, “think about what you’re doing.”

Oh, he did firmly ask me to stop trying to sign my sister up for the Army. That’s about as close as I can recall of him ever telling me no on anything, and that was just because they were getting tired of recruiters coming to the house. Yeah, every time my sister ticked me off, I’d fill out one of those military postcards in her name, get her a free pair of socks or whatever incentive was offered for requesting more information. Do they still do that? Maybe it was a 70’s thing. Those postcards were in about every scholastic magazine.

When I told dad that I was thinking of just not going back the next year, he knew it was my decision. I would be 16 in July. All he did was ask me why, and then he told me a story about a man in a rowboat.

Yeah, a man in a row boat. This poor sap set out to row his little boat all the way across the ocean. It was a long and perilous journey, months and months at sea. He was almost there, but he didn’t know it because he could not see the shore. Just another day or two, and he’d be there. But, he was tired, so he told himself that it’s too far away, he can’t make it, may as well give up. So, he turned his boat around and rowed all the way back.

It made a lot of sense. I already had 11 years of schooling, so what’s two more? Even if I did not graduate, I’d still have a 12th grade education.

Still, it was my decision. I opted to sign up for Graphic Arts at a vocational school for the next year to give myself a change of pace, with only a half day of High School classes. I was back in regular classes for 12th grade, as we moved to Ohio just before my senior year and Graphic Arts was not an option at the vocational school there. And yes, I graduated at age 17.

This is on my mind tonight… not exactly sure why. Maybe it explains why I don’t give up so easy, or why I hang in there far longer than I should at times. If it is a relationship, I don’t want to start over with someone new. If it’s a goal or a project, then it’s a “what if I’m almost there?” Maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t want to row my boat all the way back across an ocean.

Thanks for reading!


Self Defense for Babes

wpid-img_20150419_154534-1.jpgGrandma’s first lesson in self defense: how to break a frontal choke hold.

Of course, I did not choke a six year old… I just placed my hands loosely on her neck and asked her to show me how to get away. She tried wiggling while pulling on my hands with her little fingers. Then I showed her how to use her core strength to break free by shoving both of her arms up fast and hard between mine, to reach for the sky with all her might instead of trying to pry hands off of her. We practiced. The first time she broke the resistance in my arms, her eyes got wide and I could see her confidence soar. So, we practiced some more.

When her brother started paying too much attention, we changed hand position from neck to shoulders as I do not want him to start playing choke your sister. He plays rough with her as it is, tries to throw her to the ground like a wrestler, so she already knows how to break those holds.

It is this scar by her neck, not rough playing siblings, that makes grandma think that she needs to learn some self defense techniques.

The scar is from an attack from a bully at school. She was in a toilet stall in the restroom when the older girl (a first grader) crawled under the door and snatched her up by the neck, choked her hard enough to leave bruises, and drew blood with fingernails.

The incidence sparked a controversy on Facebook between aunts and great-aunts, cousins, friends, and relatives all debating what should be done about it. Some think the school is at fault, that mama should raise hell with the school for letting a kindergartener (my granddaughter) go to the restroom by herself. Others think charges should be pressed on the bully and/or her parents, or at the very least, the bully should be suspended. As far as we know, the girl was just given a talking to by school personnel. It was treated as no big deal, just a fight between two little girls.

Men who see that she has no problem slamming her brother when he gets too aggressive, or tackling boys while playing yard football, do not understand that she is a little girl who certainly did not expect to be physically attacked on the toilet. They come off as if the attack was her own fault by asking, “Why did you let that girl crawl into your stall?” They tell her that she should have done this or that, kicked the girl in the head, stomped her hands, anything to stop her from crawling in.

This grandma wants to teach some self defense techniques that can be practiced, but not used to hurt her brothers. I am not sure what those are… what is age appropriate for a six year old?