Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This Blog is dedicated to Sarah who just turned 15 on the 3rd of May. Sorry for the mistake in forgetting. And for all of the other mistakes along the way. I have made lots of them over the years. I hope all is well.


You know, when I write these blogs, I often do not do as thorough a job editing as I should. And by way of an excuse, no matter how lame it sounds, in general these days I am confined to only a certain amount of time to work on them. This is the case because of yet another bout of computer problems mixed with the usual money problems that has me yet again at the internet cafe. And so because I only have so many minutes with which to work, the writing of the text currently takes up more time than the editing, which generally is the opposite from how I work. I mean, I am not just spitting this crap out, I do think about what I am saying, but I simply don’t go over what I have written more than once, and so you see errors a lot. And often I only see the mistakes after I get home or when someone lets me know about them.

A good example of a rather large mistake was several days ago when I suggested that people would not wish to trade “restraints” for beans and porridge. Of course the word was supposed to be “restaurants” and the mistake was caused by clicking the wrong word when I spell-checked what I had written. The last blog I wrote, the one about Yevgheni had a bunch of writing mistakes in it and as I read that one to an audience Anya and Egor) I had to re-edit it as I went along. I know that no one wants to see a glaring error on a book they are reading. I hate this myself, and all I can say is that I am sorry and that I will fix these things as time permits. And that I hope what I said and how I said it in general was worth the read.

Now we all make mistakes and I have never claimed to be perfect, but I do believe in making ones best efforts to be good. I think in fact that this is the number one job everyone has as far as living in a society is concerned. I know that this goes against the grain of what is the current people-think, which stated in language would probably be something like get-every-last-thing-you-can-as-fast-as-you-can-and-think-of-it-as-a-game-because-hey-its-all-good-and-it-doesn’t-matter-anyway. And you know I get laughed at a lot because I am missing out and all of that. But I feel I have lived a lot as far as that goes. And I think that I know what it is that i might be missing and I also see or at least believe what I see as being things that we all miss out on because of how ruthlessly selfish the world these days actually is. I believe in my opinion and I also believe I have seen adequate results from what I do to justify contemning to believe in it. And to put this into words, I believe that people have a responsibility to care for the world and not to just take from it.

I have been having an ongoing argument with Egor over this point. Egor is Tatyana’s son. He believes that he has the right to do as he likes whenever he likes and that this is all that is or should ever be important to him in his life. He is absolutely adamant about this and is willing to go to great lengths to prove his right to be as stupid and useless as he can possibly be -so long as he can at least get a laugh out of it, of course. It is quite an argument we have actually, and the worst part of it is that I am sure that most of the time he does what he does just to get attention. Any attention will do, positive is fine but probably negative is better. I have a theory where this comes from, but that is most certainly for another time and probably another format.

Now, I know Egor is only 9-years-old (He will be 10 in a month or so) but still I like to see a little effort. Ok, Ok, I can hear you laughing at me now. What do you mean, he is only nine? Of course all 9-year-olds are horrible. This is normal. Lighten up for god’s sake. And I understand this but still I believe that getting to where one is going required a little attention to the road, so I am on it anyway. I like him to at least try to know right from wrong. I like to see that he is trying in school, that he is making friends and that he knows where he is in the world. I mean, is it wrong for him to at least of a few thoughts in his head as he goes about his days?

I don’t think it is and I do think that this is the “father’s” job, the parent’s job to do so. I do think that trying to help a young person join into the world well is important and I don’t see where paying a little attention to the legitimate things in life, the responsibilities of life is bad for anybody. You wanna argue with me about this, write me a letter and we can chew on it as long as you like.

And so because this is the sort of thing I focus on and because obviously these things do no come so naturally to 9-year-olds, or to anyone anymore apparently, from time to time it becomes necessary to impart a little discipline. I mean, you have got to get through to the kid somehow when something is not done correctly. Positive reinforcement is much better but the kid would actually have to do something well in the first place for that to work. So, if you catch my drift it hasn’t been a cakewalk.

Now, here in Belarus, discipline is still delivered the old fashioned way: Whack!! What the hell do you think you are doing? Whack, Whack, Whack!!! And then all of the screaming and crying that comes along with it. You can hear it all over town. Whack! It wasn’t me it was her! Whack, Whack, Whack!! And, when you talk to other parents, they tend to get a smile on their faces when they compare notes as to the quality of their beatings. Lascivious is I think is the word that describes this smile. They really seem to take some pleasure in it.

But here I go again: I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in beating on someone just because I am bigger and stronger than they are. I don’t see the point. And I especially don’t agree with it if the end goal is supposed to be some incorporation of intellectual reasonableness into the child’s consciousness. I mean, why would physical violence instill an ability to see right and wrong in the first place? To be, this only teaches them how to be violent ibn the solution of their problems. And there is no such thing as quality violence except in Star Wars films. I mean, someone would have to explain to me how practicing fascism (you listen to me because I am stronger) is a proper way to teach democracy or socialism (we are all working together and listening to each other as a means to make for a better world). See what I mean?

(As a note however, I do think that if you should be on a bike and some fascist off duty, lying son-of-a-bitch cop should try to hit you with his car, I personally DO advocate punching the motherfucker right in the mouth. Whatever it costs…)

And so instead of hitting our little chess master, we give him what is called in Russian strafnoi rabota (penalty work) in the form of pages to write. Now I write and so certainly I do not see how doing this most basic form of thinking enhancement can hurt. In fact I see a lot of good that comes from this. I see it as quality time, I see it as building his intellect, his patience and his overall ability to see the world. I mean hell, I might even be giving the little beggar a trade. In the worst case scenario, if the kid ends up only pushing the open across the page as fast as he can in the hopes of finishing as fast as he can, well, where is this not the single most important aspect of any bureaucrats job? And at least he does it, quality or not, right? Who knows?

But this is the point: I don’t want an idiot. And I especially I don’t want a violent, criminal idiot. What I want is a practical and functioning person to look at for the next, oh, 30 to forty years, however long I have left. Two years. Whatever. I mean, I have always thought that raising kids was like signing a contract to produce a TV show. You have 16 to 18 years to get it on the air, and then you have to watch it every day for the rest of your life. And if this is the case, really, wouldn’t you rather have a hit?

Anyway we have had varying results from this straff work. In some ways, Egor is a little better in school. I mean, he can handle the physical part of reading and writing better. He is more accurate in bookwork and can do the writing part a little faster now. And he is a little faster in conversation and handles ideas, when he bothers to listen, a little better. He also understands that he can handle more work than he ever thought that he could. But he still is very irresponsible and so all I can hope for is that these things that we do with him will have positive results down the road. And at least he knows we are there and are paying attention for what that is worth.

And as of today, he is finished form his latest straff and will be free again just in time for the end of school. At first we had only given him a couple of pages to write, sort of a stay in the hockey penalty box. But then the straffs sort of started to build. 10 pages, 20 pages. We started to study how long it took him to write and started thinking in terms of “straff time”, how many hours of extra work he would receive. This last “straff” turned out to an entire notebook. You can just imagine what led up to this. The work took a little more than a week. He would have finished this weekend but, you know, he decided not to do the work when it was time to do it and so of course he lost some rights and his free time that he would have had had he finished quickly. And so this is how it goes.

But again, I only hope I have not made a mistake in this. We only have one Egor and he only has one life and more importantly, only one childhood. And so I try to do this job of being a father to him as well as I can, but I also have to be really careful that do not take from him something he will need or that I can’t give back. And really, I am terrified of breaking something that can’t be fixed. And like anything one tries to do well, it is never easy.

(At this moment in the writing, Tatyana has just dropped Anya in my lap. Tanya has to do some of the bureaucratic stuff today and so I am trying to get this blog out while fighting off Anya’s tears and fidgetiness…)

-3 hours later

(Hey again. This is me returning several hours later to try and finish off this morning’s writing. Anya was just too strong for me and I had to pack it in.)

Anyway, what I was saying is that I often wonder if I am being a good “father” to Egor. I am not his biological father, nor am I his legal father. I also never allow myself to be called Uncle. I am to him Adam and I am and will always be simply a friend. However, I do have the right to discipline him but in every case I must explain very, very clearly why I would do so. And, I always ask him and his mother for any arguments he might have. If I am right, and there was a punishable offence, it is an agreed upon thing and at least in theory the boy understands what is happening.

I hope I am doing a good job and that I am better at it than the first time I had a chance at it. That first time was a long, long time ago and is a story that will not be told here or anywhere. It is something I have paid for as much as any man has ever paid for anything and has everything to do with why I am here and doing what I am doing to be here.

At any rate I am trying to do the best I can with what I have to work with. Egor is going to walk out into the sunshine after his last day of school Friday a free man having paid his writing debt to the end. I have heard almost every word he has written. And some of his stories are pretty cool. And he even has an idea or two as well. And for that matter, some of Tatyana’s stuff isn’t bad either. Who knows, I might even allow them to do some posting here from time to time. I mean, why not; this is their story too, isn’t it?

For question and comments write to me at: beinghad_mail@yahoo.com
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More soon…


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