4 years of writing, still not an expert on parenting

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

April 12, 2012

Four years ago this week, I began writing the “Because I Said So” column. In more than 100 columns, somewhere in the ballpark of 50,000 words, I’ve written about anything from holidays to school days, from newborns to puberty to middle age. I’ve written about Memphis, movies, music, time travel, books and matters of familial and national security.

What have we learned?

Probably nothing. This isn’t an advice column. Oh, please don’t seek advice from me. I have been a parent for more than 14 years and have four children, yet every morning when I wake from blissful slumber to a world strewn with dirty socks and baby dolls, I wonder if I’ll be able to do it again; if I have the will to delude myself into the fantasy of being in charge for even one more day.

What I have expected on any of those days is for one of my children, most likely 5-year-old Genevieve, to turn her large brown eyes on me and say, “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

Of course I don’t. I know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I knew once how to hook up the Wii game console to the television and remove training wheels (and then put them back on for just a few more weeks). As a first-time father, however, I knew nothing at all of comforting a child late at night, colic and rashes, where Waldo was (or who Harry Potter was, for that matter), why bad things happen to good people, and explaining how the Internet, the Electoral College and combustion engines work.

As a father of 14 years, I still have only a cursory knowledge of very little, or any, of this, but what I have learned over the four years of writing this column is that neither do any of you. The common denominator in parenthood seems to be a sense of being overwhelmed much of the time and exhausted the rest. I’ve been stopped by readers in restaurants or the grocery store and told that their daughter also loses her mind when the seam of her sock rubs her toes the wrong way or that their son subsisted for three years on little more than frozen pizza and chocolate milk as well.

Are we bad parents? No, we’re just tired. Do we have difficult children? Mostly, yes, especially that little girl with such sensitive toes. But we’re doing our best to raise up children into adults who will have children who make them crazy.

I can attest that one of the biggest fans of this column is my own mother, who has gotten to see her revenge played out in public every two weeks for a hundred weeks running. This column is dedicated to her, and to the mother of my own children, and to all the parents out there who struggle and scream, encourage and laugh, day in and day out.

Four years goes by in the blink of an eye, just as childhoods will. Write down the funny stuff, remember the sad, and share it all with your children for years to come.

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‘Zero to a hundred': Cyclist adapts regimens to unique demands of clients’ lifestyles, abilities

Health & Fitness feature story for The Commercial Appeal

April 9, 2012

Leanna Tedford was athletic growing up in Clarksdale, Miss., where she played four sports in high school. In college, however, those active ways were pushed to the side and the weight gain that goes along with more sedentary days became inevitable and, seemingly, a way of life.

But then she began talking with personal trainer Clark Butcher.

Butcher, owner of Propel Endurance Training and co-owner of Victory Bicycle Studio, has been a competitive cyclist since he was 16. He’s been coaching for a dozen years, having gone into the business while a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., at age 18 when he was finally eligible for liability insurance.

The Cordova High School graduate has raced competitively in the United States, Canada and Europe, and is a certified USA Cycling coach (USA Cycling is the governing body of all cycling events in the country).

Butcher worked with Tedford to develop an exercise and diet program that would benefit her overall health while not being too obtrusive to the late-night lifestyle of the popular Memphis bartender for Jim’s Place East. He noted that “the idea came about over beers and fries at the Hi-Tone.” … (read more)