Coaching Youth Baseball

This week was the end of the youth baseball season in my stake at church. I volunteered as a coach this year, like last year, and I’d love to keep doing this every year forever.

Spending one night a week out there helping 4th and 5th graders hold and swing a bat correctly is a pure joy. I sure see results a lot faster there than in the classroom! The kids from church are great fun to be around–kids this age always seem excited about everything, and they really give it their all.

The snack stand at our field has nachos with pretty much unlimited jalapeños for $1.50, and they serve Shasta root beer and Orange Crush. Good times.

Cheering these kids on–and cheering on the other team, too–just seems like a great way to spend a bit of my Thursday nights. Here’s just one more page in an epic about a life I love.

Oh, and the stake sports committee gave me this candy as a thank you. So, bonus!

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Nationalist Entitlement

A headline at Breitbart this week says, “Danes Should Not Become The Minority In Denmark.” A resolution just passed in their parliament to that effect. The article contains some predictably anti-immigrant sentiment.

So I looked up the birth rate in Denmark. It’s 1.7. Remember, 2.1 is considered steady, to keep the next generation the same size as the current population. Denmark has been below 2.1 since 1968. That’s nearly half a century.

I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to preserve “their” people–though to make it an issue of “us vs. them” is needlessly odious–since the loss of any ethnicity is tragic, but it bugs me when people say they want to preserve their culture…without ever doing what’s necessary to save that culture.

Nobody has a right to automatic cultural conservation. There’s hard work involved, and history teaches us exactly what that hard work is. It starts with creating a next generation. You can’t transmit your culture to children you didn’t have.

So don’t be surprised when others come in and that culture changes. Nature abhors a vacuum. Neither Denmark nor any society in a similar situation has a right to complain.

The Tragedy of Jack

I just read a scary social criticism essay that discussed, among many other things, the self-destruction of feminism, and included this great bit:

But when that ends, and reality comes crashing down, it’s sad how quickly they scramble to validate the feminist lives they’ve led by simply telling themselves more lies. 40 is the new 20! Test-tube babies! MILF’s and Cougars! When, frankly, it just means nobody’s visiting you in a nursing home in the end.

And when I read that, I remembered Jack. That’s not his real name; I forgot his real name.

My dad died last July, and in the two months leading up to it, he made the rounds of a few hospital rooms and convalescent homes. In one, his bed was in a room with Jack, their areas separated by a curtain. Whenever I went to visit Dad, Jack would invariably interject himself into the visit, speaking up through the curtain, or even wheeling himself around it if he could get into his wheelchair.

He wasn’t a bad guy, but his desperate loneliness made him aggressive. Sometimes my dad would yell at him for horning in on his time with his family. He openly longed for attention. I tried to talk to him for a bit on each visit, though he clearly wanted more.

Once, when he’d asked if I had kids, he seemed joyously surprised at the total. I asked the same of him, and he scowled.

“No, never wanted them. Never liked them.”

The irony was sickening. Here was an old man who had chosen not to have any descendants, and now he was desperately lonely as he died.

As birth rates continue to drop, as our civilizational death spiral swings on, this scenario will become more common. In fact, it will explode exponentially. Soon, our nursing homes will be a bursting industry filled will dying invalids who never wanted to make a family, and who may bemoan their loneliness and dependence on strangers.

Contrast this with my wife’s grandfather, who had an army of three generations ready to care for him after a stroke.

If you’re a young person looking for a stable career, look into elder care. The 21st century will give you fantastic job security.

On Having 7 Children

Back in my 20s, when I had three children, I knew a fellow teacher who had five children. I thought that was a lot, and wasn’t sure how he or I anybody could handle it.

But now, my seven children seem like no big deal.

Part of that is because they’re mine and familiar–we always get acclimated to the changes in our lives, and whatever the status quo is becomes normal. My family doesn’t even seem large to me–it’s just what it is, so that’s average.

Part of it is how well I know them. Obviously, I’ve known them their whole lives. I’ve seen their personalities develop and change, so I don’t and can’t see them as mere burdens or responsibilities–they’re just seven smaller, younger people who I happen to know and love. Don’t you know and love a bunch of people? It’s no big deal.

One part of my lifestyle that I never get fully acclimated to, though, is just how much love a big family creates. It surprises me every day. Since the kids all have different ages and personalities themselves, having seven children isn’t just having the same family member seven times, it’s seven different loves. I’m blessed with a life that truly fills up a whole heart.

How Family Dysfunction Hurts Education

Three examples from my experience as a teacher:

1. A young man struggles with his work at school because his divorced mother has a hard time getting him to school.  His father tries to facilitate contact with the teachers and get his work made up, but it’s just too overwhelming.  Despite the student loving his school and wanting to thrive there, he ends up having to switch schools in the middle of the year.

2. A young woman is very successful at school, until her mother starts hitting her in fights.  The student has to move in with her aunt and, like the young man above, switch schools in the middle of the year, losing a leadership position at the school she’d attended for years.

3. A young woman has difficulty focusing on maintaining her grades while her mother has to move their family frequently to avoid her father, a drug user who, since getting out of jail, is harassing them.

Cherry-picked worst-case scenarios from over the years to make a point?  I wish.  I saw all three of these things happen in just the last two months.

Family structure and stability are so crucial to success.  That’s common sense, and it’s also supported by mountains of research.  Still, we don’t talk about it anymore because it might be inconvenient for some adults, or hurt our feelings, or be politically incorrect.  And kids just keep paying the price for it…

 

How the Family Is Changing

When I once asked, “Is there any combination of consenting  adults you *wouldn’t* accept as a marriage?” only one of my more liberal acquaintances really addressed the question with a substantive response.  He said he wouldn’t support legalizing polygamous unions because of the confusion they would create.

He was absolutely right, but this is another example of how social progressives must not have truly examined the likely consequences of changing the definition of marriage, because such a reality will absolutely be the actual result of where our society is going.

I know this because we’re already well on the way.

In 2012, Brazil formalized a three-person union.

Also that year, a bill was introduced in California to allow children to have more than two legal parents.  The bill made it all the way to the governor before being vetoed.  Obviously, such an outcome is inevitable if same-sex marriage is sanctioned.

As the journal Public Discourse noted:

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A Plea For Civility About Same-Sex Marriage

The video is a shorter version of this script:

The most common assumption today is that if someone doesn’t agree with changing the definition of marriage to include gay couples, it’s because they’re ignorant and hate gay people.  That’s wrong.  So assuming that someone who disagrees with you must be evil and stupid does not help make the world a better place.  It’s divisive and cruel.  It’s also an ad hominem attack and a straw man argument that should be beneath all of us.  I’m not going to make the case for traditional marriage here.  There’s something basic that needs to be done first.

I want to make five main points today:

First: Society doesn’t work well when we misrepresent people we disagree with.  We have to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

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Family Matters

From a recent edition of NPR’s Talk of the Nation:

When you have very low fertility rates, it may be OK for a while, but over time your population gets older and older. And as your population gets older and older, as I think Stan was pointing out, what you start to see is, if you will, the ecosystem for families begins to weaken.

You have – the schools begin to close down. The kind of restaurants and facilities you have, the tax system has to change in order to support the older people. So there are a lot of things that happen. But fundamentally, it’s not like we can have the population we have now, and that population will be, in terms of age, like it is. It will be very old. You have to start thinking about societies by 2050, where there’ll be more people over 80 than under 15.

And

PATRICE: Well, in my circle of friends, I’m about 24 hours old, and when I talk to a lot of my friends, we – a lot of them don’t seem to be interested in having kids at all. You know, it’s sort of the concept is odd, or they just think oh, well, it’s – kids are expensive, and they’re going to tie me down, I’m not going to be able to have the lifestyle I want, kind of like the guest is saying.

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Demography Redux

A post at First Thoughts this week links to some recent rumblings over much of the world’s fretting about the global population reaching 7 billion, despite the fact that nobody seems to be worried that most nations now have a falling birth rate.

So which is it? Does the world have too many people, or too few? The most honest answer is probably that the threat of “overpopulation” is alarmist and emotion-based, whereas worries about declining birthrates are underappreciated, even though they are more grounded in hard facts. Indeed, if predictions like Kotkin’s play out, and emerging nations follow the demographic trends of advanced ones, the strange phenomenon of societies breeding themselves out of existence may no longer simply be a first world problem but a global one. It’s entirely conceivable that, 100 years from now, should the ‘birth dearth’ continue to spread, our progeny will look back nostalgically on earlier times when people fretted about “overpopulation.” Indeed, in a growing number of contexts, professional demographers already are.

Quite right.  As a teacher, I often hear people pay lip service to the trope that “children are our future,” but few seem to appreciate just how crucial that human capital is.  In the long run, fewer children must mean less of a future.

This reminded me of an exchange about demography on NPR about a month ago.  Even they’ve had a few stories in recent years about the dangers of falling birth rates, but a comment by the snob interviewer in this one irked me a little.  Continue reading

Parents Are Not Entertainers

I used to love it when my children would come up to me and ask me to play with them.  This is what it’s all about, right?  Quality time, giving them your full attention, responding to their needs. 

But after a while I began to realize what was really going on.  Most of those requests for play time weren’t coming from a desire to be close or because they missed me.  They were just bored and wanted me to entertain them. 

My kids, like most children, I’m sure, frequently complain of boredom when they aren’t being actively entertained by something electronic.  As much as we limit their TV and computer time, they still yearn for them as their go-to way to pass the time in life.  Once their allotted time for those things has run out each day, I can often see a dull fear come over their faces, a lost and lonely cowering that says, “Now what?” 

And that’s when the pleading for more Daddy time comes in.  See, they never want Daddy time when they can watch TV or play a computer game; just when they don’t want to figure out what to do for themselves.

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My Four Year Old Son Made Up Some Jokes

Q: How does an elephant get out of a tree?

A: He jumps out of the tree.

Q: How does an elephant get through the door?

A: He goes through the door.

Q: How does the elephant get milk?

A: He goes and gets some milk.

Q: How did the elephant get to school?

A: He walked to school.

Q: How did the elephant make people laugh?

A: He told a funny joke.