“Mister, do you appreciate your kids?”

The above quotation was from my then five year old nephew. My brother had taken his family camping and the boy had wandered over to the adjacent campsite where a father was loudly berating his kids for a series of outdoor infractions and received this query.

I was reminded of it early this morning when I saw Serena Williams become history’s oldest Wimbledon champion at almost 34 years of age. Tennis fans know that the success of Serena (and that of her 15 month older sister, Venus) was only possible because her father, Richard Williams, was able to rescue them from the mean streets of Compton, California almost two decades ago. Unlike the typical sports parent, Mr. Williams “titrated the dosage” by not rushing his daughters along too fast. They both played only a few tournaments a year in their teens and thus were nor burnt out at age 30 like so many athletes.

My sport was running and I was a two-time state of Texas two mile champion and received a full college scholarship in the pre-Title IX era. My son inherited more athletic talent than me and was running circles around seven year olds before his third birthday.
But, like the typical non-custodial parent, I only had “visits” and also had to overcome a 700 mile distance between us for a decade.
The only real impact I was able to have in those years of 15% parenting time was academically: in second grade he was doing math problems and dealing with science topics that his peers never saw until sixth grade.
Now that he’s in middle school and starting his teen years, I’m helping him cope with puberty and the coming peer turbulence. After hooking up the TV cable for the first time in over three years, I found that, if selective, “2 1/2 Men” can help introduce sexuality topics (if one is prudent in choosing episodes) and that the old “Mary Tyler Moore” from the 70’s can be helpful for both boys and girls entering their teens.

I’m including below a YouTube link from a classic episode: “Lou Dates Mary”. In can help girls deal with the inevitable sexual harassment and it can help boys deal with the atmosphere on today’s college campuses (see U. Virginia and Duke U.) where they often don’t have a presumption of innocence on sexual matters.

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