Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Chicago School Closings – Keep the kids safe first

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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I really respect Dr. Steve Perry.  He’s truly someone to admire for the work he’s done in creating a model school in CT.  His work on the TVOne show Save my Son is ground breaking.  However, he has strong opinions on what should be done with the schools in Chicago that I don’t entirely agree with him.  In general, I believe that chronic under performing schools should be closed.  Why keep a school that just can’t cut the mustard open?  However, Chicago is in a situation where the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is strap for cash.  They are in a budget hole for 1 Billion Dollars.  One of the ways to help close the gap is to close almost 60 under utilized/under performing schools.  This will force students to potentially go to schools outside of their district.  This isn’t an insignificant number of kids.  Some of the argument from”experts” has been parents and kids just need to deal with the inconvenience in order to provide a better educational environment for the children.

 

 

Perry Quote

 

This isn’t just an issue of “convenience” for parents and kids.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but kids are getting shot in Chicago.  If you are a single parent and you have to leave to get to work at 6:30 and leave your child on the bus stop at 7:00, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.  We can’t even protect our children when they are going around the corner to the neighborhood school.  How in the world are we going to protect them going to in some cases a marginally better school miles away?  All due respect to Dr. Perry but, I’ll listen to him on this issue when he puts his son on the bus stop by themselves on the corner of 59th and Wood St. in Englewood at 7:00 in the morning for an entire school year.

In choosing between two evils, I choose the option where my child has a higher chance of being safe.  We have to figure out a way to efficiently manage capacity while ensuring we are protecting these kids on the way to school. We can’t just say “shut them down” without considering child safety first.

 

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My son almost made me cry

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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Image

So, I’m back in Chicago.  Part of the motive is financial as I get to reduce my living expenses moving back into the old place.  But, I could have rented the house out and still saw a benefit.  The main reason I’m back is to help bring about change.  I moved because the city was dangerous and I had teenage boys.

My sons are prayerfully safe and off to college living near campus.  So, me and my wife are back in the city.  My oldest son really is concerned about our safety and didn’t understand why we made the decision to move back.  I sat him down and talked about why we moved in the first place.

The phase of life where I need to protect my sons in that way is over.  Now the phase where I need to help raise other boys and provide leadership within the community has come.  After having this conversation with him he said, “You don’t have to do it alone.  I’ll help you too.”

This is all a father can ask of his grown son.  Not that he takes over the family business or is a success in corporate America but that he grows to be a man of integrity.  It almost brought a tear to my eye when he said these words.  But, we don’t have time to be sentimental.  We have to get this house in order so we can start having people in our home and making a difference in our community.

Happy 59th Birthday Dad RIP

Posted: March 19, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad
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My Dad

My Dad

Today my dad would have turned 59.  He died 4 years ago of complications from diabetes of all things.  He had a great deal wrong physically but in the end it was a heart attack attributed to diabetes.  Today, I honored his memory by running 13.5 miles.  It’s the furthest and longest time I’ve ever run.  My dad had a saying he would tell me and my brothers ALL the time, “Your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”  That saying had driven me and my brothers for years.  We basically just know one speed and that’s “hard.”  We may not have been the brightest, fastest, strongest or most talented but there were very few people that could out work us.

This is always an emotional time of year for me.  Not only is it my dad’s birthday but 10 years ago my little brother reached the apex of college sports by being a major part of the Marquette team that went to the Final Four.  My brother started all 33 games that year.  His work ethic reminded me of the lessons my dad would teach us about being physically tough.  I’d like to think when the picture below was taken after they beat #1 Kentucky to reach the Final Four he thought of those words.

Todd Townsend

Todd Townsend

To this day we just don’t know how to turn that voice off in our heads.  It drives all of us as fathers, husbands and employees.  The fact that my dad died of diabetes and I’m inflicted with the very same decease forces me to work harder on my physical fitness than almost any other area of my life.  That’s why I ran 13.5 miles in his honor.  I’ve always had this goal in my mind.  A few years ago, I came pretty close to it but came up lame at about 11 miles.  I actually didn’t set out to run over 13 miles when I started but as I got to thinking about my dad I just physically couldn’t stop running.  All I could think about were the cold winters in Chicago when my dad had us in the alley helping to change engines and transmissions to help make ends meet.  I wanted nothing more than to go in the house.  But then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember him teaching me how to lift weights and just after a few reps I’d want to sit the weights back on the rack and go and relax and then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember in high school waiting to the last minute to write that computer program for the science fair and falling asleep at the keyboard and he’d peek into my room and say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

I remember coming to him as an adult and telling him how tired I’d become from working 2 jobs trying to support my family. “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

College as an adult and work – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Getting diagnosed with diabetes – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

That 10th mile of running tonight – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Me in tears at the 11th mile –“Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

My whole life, I’ve heard these words.  I may not always be able to push my body past the limits but I know the speed at which my dad lived his life and how me and my brother go. – Hard!

Me and My Brothers

Me and My Brothers

Happy birthday Dad, we love and miss you dude.

More opportunity to make poor decisions

Posted: October 3, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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I remember before I moved out to the burbs the conversation I had with my teenage and middle school aged sons.  I warned them about the difference is peer pressure and the types of challenges that they would face in the suburbs versus the inner city of Chicago.  The challenges within Chicago were kind of obvious.  They needed to stay clear of drug dealers, gangs, not wear the wrong colors and make sure they kept their hat on straight.  It may seem weird to some of you but that’s part of being a male minority in Chicago.  But the rules were pretty basic and engraved into them as part of my training and the training from the neighborhood.

I warned them that the challenges that they would face in the suburbs would be much different.  The kids in the suburbs had different problems.  In most cases their new peers would have excess material wealth.  Some of their friends would have a couple to a few hundred dollars a month in deposable income just from lunch money etc… This opens a whole new world of temptation for trouble that’s not apparent.  The obvious one would be drug use.  I warned them that drug use among suburban teens would be much different than drug use among inner city teens.  The options are just greater and even more dangerous.  It was these types of challenges that I feared the most.  The city was kind of easy for me to understand and navigate as a parent.  I grew up with similar challenges and could help my kinds avoid them where the suburbs were a completely different animal.

Both kids are now off to school and doing well but as I reflect on our transition, I’m grateful that both of them had strong morals and were good kids.  I don’t know how I would have handled the same transition.

I “passed” physics my senior year of high school with a D-. For some reason, I just could not wrap my head around the material. I had always been a good student, without putting forth much effort, and never got a grade lower than a B. But, there was just something about physics that I didn’t grasp. So when the teacher asked if anyone knew Newton’s three laws of motion, and my hand shot into the air, she looked suspicious. Despite her misgivings, she called on me, and I proudly recited:

“A body in motion will remain in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. A body at rest will remain at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The teacher was surprised.

When I would ride in the car with my dad, he was always teaching me things. And one of the things he drilled into my brain were Newton’s Laws of Physics. He left out the most complicated one (something about force and mass and vectors… I still don’t know it!), probably because it would be hard for a seven-year-old to grasp. But he would spend car rides talking to me about physics, the planets and space, and mechanics. I was, and still am, a total science nerd. He did this so much that I easily remembered Newton’s Laws long after I was “too cool” to listen to my dad’s lessons in the car. He talked to my brother about sports. He talked to my sister about softball. He talked to my other brother about boy scouts and building things. He talked to us about what WE cared about.

Fred Clauser Family Photos

My dad was the typical suburban dad. He coached my soccer team, and my sister’s softball team. He ran the clean-up detail after the carnival for the local Lion’s Club. He sat outside with neighbors and friends while we kids ran around the block and played outside. He went down in the basement and played video games after work until dinnertime, with us kids bugging him for our turn. He had to endure our chaotic dinnertime, crude jokes and bad manners, despite his desire for some peace and quiet when he came home from work. These are my primary memories of him.

I guess what you would call my secondary memories revolve around his professional life. He was a police officer for 32 years, eventually serving as the Chief of Police in Lake Zurich, where I grew up, and then Barrington Hills, a neighboring town. He also traveled to accredit police departments from time to time, and taught a class on community policing at a local college. What I remember most of his professional life, was that we had to wait to open our presents on Christmas morning until my dad returned from the police department, where he dropped off food and treats to each shift of officers who worked on Christmas. As far as I knew, he went to work before I got up in the morning, did his thing, and then came home in time for dinner.

After a long battle with cancer, my dad died in our home, surrounded by his family, at the age of 54.

My family didn’t want to have a funeral. We wanted to have a small gathering at our house, with our family and friends, where we could remember my dad and be with those we loved. Lieutenant Murphy, who worked with my dad, asked us to reconsider, and told us that there were many people he had professional relationships with who would like an opportunity to say goodbye. We agreed, my mom told Lieutenant Murphy who she thought might be able to speak, gave him two songs we wanted played, and the rest was taken care of by extremely kind and generous people.

My dad’s funeral is where I learned that my sister, brothers and I only knew a small part of my dad.

When we arrived at the funeral home, there were over a hundred police cars from all over the state, and some from even further, lining the streets. The processional to the church where the service was held stretched about as far as you could see, with each of those cars flashing their lights. The service ended with bagpipes and a full 21-gun salute. Even though we were obviously all very sad, we had to admit that it was pretty cool.

During the memorial service, the hundreds in attendance listened to the Chief of Police in Wilmette talk about his time with my dad at the FBI Academy, and moving up the ranks with him in Wilmette. I learned that my dad literally wrote the book on police accreditation (we have a copy at our house). We heard the former mayor of Lake Zurich, and the mayor of Barrington Hills both talk about the impact my dad had on their communities, his commitment to his officers, the awards and honors he had earned as the head of their police departments, the deep respect people had for him both professionally and personally. I learned that when my dad was out socially he would order a whiskey in a tall glass with lots of ice, and nurse it throughout the night. He wanted to be part of the fun, but didn’t think it was appropriate for the Police Chief to be drunk, or even tipsy, in public. We heard my uncle talk about my dad as his family and friend, the only part that was familiar to me.

Lieutenant Murphy said, “He acted like our father. He thought of us like his family, and he treated us like a father treats his son or daughter. Whenever you had a problem, you could go to him. He was a mentor and teacher and an all-around great guy.”

That was the most important thing I learned about my dad from his funeral. He truly cared about people, which is what made him so passionate about police work. He was more than a co-worker or boss, neighbor or uncle or friend, he was respected, trusted and endeared by many, many people. He had a way of showing people that they were important to him through his kindness and attention in his extremely busy life. When there so many people who needed his time and energy, he was able to make each one feel important.

I had no idea. All those people would not have been able to attend the modest gathering at our house we had originally planned.

*****

We live in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make our families, friends and co-workers feel as if they are important to us.

Our lives seem to be constantly interrupted by our cell phones, social media and computers. At home with family, we feel the need to check emails and text messages from work. While we are at work, we might be checking facebook and twitter, trying to keep in touch with our friends. While out with friends, we might be getting calls or texts from the babysitter or kids at home. We are often made to feel that if we aren’t multitasking, we simply aren’t doing enough.

It is worth it, though, to fully focus on the people that are important, without distraction, and enjoy them.

So, if I don’t answer your phone call, or text you back immediately, I’m not ignoring you. I’m just focusing on another person that is important to me. And when I get back to you, I want to be able to do the same for you.

One of the things I loved about my relationship with my dad is that I could come with him with any kind of crazy thoughts and ideas on decisions I had to make in life.  He never really judged me or tried to change my mind.  He just armed me with information and let me make my own decision.   He would also advise me to never let my decision be someone else’s thoughts but my own decision.  At the end of the day I wouldn’t look back and say, “Why didn’t I just follow my own thoughts?”

Recently, my oldest son came to me to discuss leaving school.  I take education extremely seriously and he knows this but I also want him to feel as if I’ll support him in any decision that he makes.  I find it difficult to do as my dad did for me.  He’s my son and it’s my opinion that it’s the best time in life for him to go to school.  In the back of my mind I remember the crazy things I’d tell my dad and now I wonder what he really thought or wanted to say.

My wife came to me after the conversation and said it was my entire fault.  All she heard was my words in his voice.  I had to laugh.  I thought the complete opposite.  She said he spoke of being a leader and making decisions based on what he felt was right.  He doesn’t want to do something just because it’s going to make us happy or it’s the popular thing to do.  Where does the kid get this crap from :). Just do what I want and not what I say, fine time to listen to me now kid.

I have to just face it.  My son is a grown man that I’ve trained well.  Thanks a lot dad.  Somehow I feel you are looking down on us with that stupid knowing smirk I’ve seen so many times.  It seems growing up never stops.