The Funnies

by Honolulu Mother

I recently came across an article on Charles Schultz’s long run with Peanuts, and the way the strip changed over the years.  I grew up with those paperback Peanuts compilations that everyone had, so the 60s and earlier strips were familiar to me, and then of course I was reading the 70s strips in the paper every day as they ran.  I agree with the article that the later strips all about Snoopy and his extended family were . . . not good.  It was somewhere in the midst of an extended story arc about Spike talking to a cactus that I finally stopped reading the strip.  Although Woodstock I always liked as a kid.  Then again, I liked Garfield and Marmaduke too at that age, so I wasn’t really a discerning comic connoisseur.

Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t around yet when I was a kid; I’m sure I would have loved it if it had been.  My own kids certainly do.  The same goes for Foxtrot, for that matter.  The kids have pretty well loved my Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes paperback collections to death.  I have a particular fondness for Foxtrot’s Camp Bohrmore story arc.

Bloom County was big during my teen years, along with The Far Side.  My husband has a precious, irreplaceable Far Side mug that he sweats over whenever a kid uses it.  Calvin and Hobbes appeared on the scene when I was in college, and that was also when I discovered Life in Hell — this was in Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons years.

Of currently running comic strips, there are several I enjoy, like Pearls Before Swine, but none that really stands out as The Best.  I have mixed feelings about some of the family-based strips.  Take Zits — it never was a favorite, and still isn’t, but lately I keep getting the unsettling feeling that I may actually be the mom from the strip.  Regardless, the Sunday funnies is far and away the most thoroughly read piece of the paper every week, especially by the kids.

Some old-style comics have online, unofficial “improved” versions with strategic editing.  Garfield Minus Garfield, for instance, or Dysfunctional Family Circus.

And then, of course, there’s the wide world of webcomics, which is a whole field by itself.  Skin Horse, XKCD, and Hark! A Vagrant are some of my favorites.

Does your household still get a newspaper in which to read the funnies?  Or do you read them online, or in book form (even checked out of the library)?  Which strips are your favorites?  And are some of them associated with different parts of your life?


117 thoughts on “The Funnies

  1. Oh, man, this makes me realize that my kids are totally deprived — they almost never read the funnies at all. That whole Sunday morning routine, with everyone lazing around with sections of the paper, fighting over who got the “good” comics section first — gone. Just doesn’t exist for my kids. Makes me sad.

    Personally, my first big comics love was Doonesbury — I learned more about the Vietnam War and Watergate from that strip than in school. Later one was the more wonderful absurdist-but-pointed comics that really shaped my sense of what is funny in HS and college — Bloom County was *it* during HS (I still have a stuffed Opus), and later I found the Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. In fact, as I write this, I am staring at five Far Sides, two Doonesburys, and one Calvin and Hobbes that I cut out of newspapers or tear-off calendars and have taken from job to job. And two Sally Forths I like, along with one Baby Blues that I resemble too closely. (Ditto on the Zits comment)

    For DH, it all boils down to one word: Dilbert.

  2. We still get the paper every day. DD always comes to the table and the first thing she says is “where are the comics?”

    I agree with HM, there isn’t any one that really stands out anymore. I skim them but there aren’t any must-reads any more, even Dilbert is fading. Bloom County is back on Facebook so hopefully that will step up.

  3. My favorite Dilbert I’ve ever seen, which I’m unable to locate through their search feature, has Dilbert’s boss telling him something like “Remember last month at our company’s Q&A session with the CEO, you asked him why your project had been canceled? He said that was a great question and he was going to look into it and get back to you. Well, him looking into it means that the question has come down to me, and I’m going to delegate it to you. Draft your response for me by the end of the day, and we’ll send it back up.”

    OT, I think the Onion and its imitators have taken the place of traditional comic strips for me. I never really read comic strips in the paper.

  4. Those first two links are reminiscent of the conversations (several hours now) I’ve had with Apple senior advisors over the last few days as I’ve tried to get my new pink iPhone to work. I’ve been playing the part of the idiot user.

    Me: “But where are my apps? Are they backed up on my iCloud?
    Apple: “Yes, don’t worry they’re there. But they’re just in a place where we can’t see them.”

    Apple: “Don’t worry. Even if they’re not on your iCloud you can retrieve them at the app store.”

  5. My favorite is Calvin & Hobbes. Nothing else even comes close, although the early Far Sides were also good.

    I also like Dilbert more as I get older.

  6. I used to religiously read a few favorite comic strips in the newspaper. Today, none. I occasionally check a few like XKCD when it comes across on something I’m reading. Maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor?

  7. Although I did get the WSJ delivered for a long time, I haven’t received a daily paper with comics since I moved here about 18 years ago. I don’t specifically look for comics in my daily internet activities but I’ll read stuff posted on FB. I do enjoy a good Dilbert! Back in the day, I used to follow Funky Winkerbean, but I think he was still a teenager when I last read it.

  8. LfB – I had a fascinating conversation recently with a couple federal employees and the efforts that they and many of their coworkers were expending in order to get classified as non-essential. They’re hoping for another government shutdown in December, and would love the extra days off for Christmas preparations (knowing full well that they’re practically guaranteed to be fully paid retroactively).

  9. I took a sociology class my freshman year that had a unit about the psycho/social importance of comic strips. Or something. There was a lot of reading about Krazy Kat and Pogo and how they were awesomely representative of something. I just thought they seemed stupid.

    I have friends who are serious comics geeks. Apparently all right-thinking people everywhere hated Cathy, but I liked some of the earlier Cathys. I also liked Dykes to Watch Out For. And sometimes I like Existential Comics, although it’s pretty uneven.

  10. I used to read the comics in the Sunday Daily News with my grandfather. My love of newspapers came from my grandparents. We still receive the local paper each day. I love Dilbert!! My whole career in banking was a long running Dilbert strip.

    I used to love the Peanuts when I was a kid. The Snoopy stuffed animal with clothes was introduced at Macys when I was in elementary school. I had a lot of Snoopy stuff when I was in elementary school. I still look for some of the Peanuts cards if I am buying an actual card for a bday.

  11. When I was little I loved Family Circus, especially when it was one of the maps that showed footprints of where the character traveled. I also loved Far Side, and once I started working Dilbert. But nothing will beat Calvin and Hobbes. No other comic strip or book could express the love one has with their childhood stuffed animal as good as that one.

  12. Milo — That linked article will be coming up as a topic here, probably next week.

  13. Milo, I’m planning to make DD read that article while I stand by to define the big words. Her school has turned her into a recycling nut, and last week she yelled at me for putting a food wrapper in the regular trash.

    In one of my old jobs I got a close up look at one of the major recycling industries, and was horrified by the amount of pollution involved. I still clean and separate most items because we are required to by law in our city, but if something would be gross to clean out I just toss it in the regular trash.

    My kids love the Peanuts movies. DD just started reading Calvin and Hobbes, and I have the complete collectors’ edition – but in books too large for her to lift. That day will come….

  14. Fun topic!

    I still read the comics every day, although now I skip over about a third of them in my paper. They have Dilbert in the business section, which forces me to at least open it. I read Peanuts for the nostalgia factor.

    All time favorites are The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. Zits is my son and me in so many ways! I was always cutting them out because in the three or four frames the author could put his finger so perfectly on our relationship. I now take pictures of them and send them in a text message to my son (away at college) at least once a month.

  15. My husband is “essential” which means last shutdown he worked through it without pay, and then when he finally got paid it wasn’t till the pay cycle *after* the non-essential people who’d been off work got paid, apparently because theirs was easier to process! Junk all the way around.

  16. I love Doonesbury. I discovered him in high school and would read through collections of his strips just howling with laughter. I think his longevity and the range of topics he covers puts Gary Trudeau head and shoulders above the rest.

    I also love Bloom County, the Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes. The late 80’s seemed to be a golden period for comic strips. I’m pleased to say that DS seems to have inherited my love for Calvin and Hobbes. I also like Stone Soup and Lynn Johnston’s “For Better or Worse” – I liked how her characters evolved and grew up over time.

    I read the comics pages in our local paper most days; DS enjoys the Sunday comics. DS also likes Garfield and Pearls before Swine. DD and DH have never had any interest in the comics.

  17. “Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t around yet when I was a kid; I’m sure I would have loved it if it had been. My own kids certainly do. ”

    I was an adult by the time Calvin and Hobbes came into existence, but I still loved it.

    My kids literally wore out my C&H collection.

  18. Like so many others here, my favorite is Calvin and Hobbes. I own several books of the strip. My kids discovered them a couple of years ago, and it’s been fun to see them enjoy the strip as much as I did.

    I also really liked “For Better or for Worse.” I loved how the characters aged in real time — I felt like I was sort of growing up along with Michael, Elizabeth, and April. My mom used to like the strip as well, and she and I would actually have conversations sometimes about what was happening in the Patterson household.

    RMS, I will admit to liking Cathy. My mom liked that one, too. When I left home, Mom would sometimes send me strips showing Cathy’s mom being way overprotective, and she would attach a little note saying, “See? I’m not the only one!!”

    Dilbert is awesome. When I worked in BigLaw and lived and breathed billable hours, I had this one tucked in my desk drawer:

  19. Dilbert in real life…an hour ago, someone asked me to revise my expense report to “show my math” for the mileage charges. Apparently, multiplying total miles by $0.575 is something that should be done in proof form now.

  20. NoB, I love that!!!

    HM, yes…still has that head-scratching quality though.

    Milo, I have a crazy client right now who would drive you UP THE WALL. It’s like I’m living in opposite world when I talk to her.

  21. Dilbert in real life…I have to fill out a one page form for *every* expense I have, including a $2 cup of coffee.

  22. L – :)

    Houston – It looks like I might be joining you there. Per diem is OK this time, I’m told sympathetically, but they’re really trying to shift to 100% itemized.

    Question for the group – If you’re expensing a dinner and you want a cocktail, do you ask for it on a separate tab?

  23. “If you’re expensing a dinner and you want a cocktail, do you ask for it on a separate tab?”

    Yes. Otherwise the whole dinner will be rejected.

  24. I wish I never read that article… Peanuts is my favorite comic. Snoopy is my favorite cartoon dog. I will continue to believe in the magic of Peanuts.

    As for others, I like For Better or For Worse. I grew up with those kids, and really enjoyed the end of the strip. And then the beginning when the author started all over again. It’s fun to read them anew. I also like Funky Winkerbean. I followed that one through the time jumps (Funky is now middle aged), but I lost it when I stopped reading comics daily.

    Finally, I LOVE Piled Higher and Deeper.

  25. Milo & Houston – that’s funny! We are moving to 100% per diem! I’m potentially going to a conference next week, and the form is brutal!

  26. “Apparently, multiplying total miles by $0.575 is something that should be done in proof form now.”

    See, Common Core math *does* teach valuable skills. :-)

  27. If you’re expensing a dinner and you want a cocktail, do you ask for it on a separate tab?

    I’m per diem so I don’t need receipts.

    Are you implying that some people are getting it on a separate check even if they don’t have to?

  28. I love Doonsebury, too. To me it is the printed version of The Daily Show – they both make me realize, oh, *I* am not crazy, everyone else is!

    My paper only carries it on Sunday now, not during the week. Is that my paper or the comic strip only being weekly, not daily, now?

  29. Rhett – I think that’s what Houston is doing and advising me to do. I don’t want to scan in a receipt that says Stuffed Shrimp – $22, Maker’s Bourbon – $8.50… and then explain in comments to subtract the cost of the alcohol and associated tax, if the tax rate is different on the alcohol…

    A separate check for the drink would be easier.

  30. I know people love Peanuts, but Charles Schulz has been dead a long time. Can we get some new material? I am sure there are many talented cartoonists out there who would love a regular spot in newspapers. Or not? Are all the new cartoonists only digital with their own webpages or FB postings? But really, I’ve thought about this before. Same with Car Talk. I do enjoy Car Talk, but how long will NPR keep playing old shows? Aren’t there new talents out there that deserve a shot?

  31. Rhett – I don’t think so. I haven’t pored over the different sets of regulations, though.

  32. i like the good old days when you could expense anything on the credit card o your choice, and keep all of the points.

    off topic….I think (maybe!!) that today is the last day of the work in my house. Should I tip the two guys that really did most of the work? If yes -how much? they were here about 60% of the time during the last 3 months. The generally were in my house about 5 or 6 hours a day.

  33. Lauren, with our porch and deck, we gave the employee who did a lot of the work a $100 Outback gift card. (The owner got nothing :) ) But tipping expectations are very different here vs. NY.

  34. As a child I followed the narrative comic strips – Brenda Starr was probably my favorite. As a teen I liked The Wizard of Id. All of the others you mention only hit the papers after I left home. As a young adult I was more of a comic book fan – Marvel particularly, but my favorite underground strip was Fat Freddy’s Cat – usually just a little 4 frame bit at the bottom of a Fabulous Furry Freak Bros page.

  35. i like the good old days when you could expense anything on the credit card o your choice, and keep all of the points.

    Are they liable for the balance?

  36. no..I just meant that it would get approved if it was charged to any credit card. It didn’t have to be a Chase or Diner’s Club card to get reimbursed. I’ve worked for banks that had explicit rules about the card that had to be used, and you were not allowed to keep the points. I actually had to use Diners Club for one bank in the 90s.

  37. Lauren: For the amount of time they spent at your house, I’d give each worker $200-$300 in cash each (if you liked them and they did good work).

  38. Lauren,

    That sucks. The only time I’ve heard of them keeping the points is when it was their card – they paid and were responsible for the bill. In most cases (that I’m familiar with) while you might have a corporate Amex you actually had to sign something that said you were responsible for the balance and the card was granted based on your credit. So, if they are making you get a card in your name with your credit and then taking the points – that’s just shameless exploitation.

  39. One of the very best parts of owning your own business is getting to decide what constitutes a business expense. Wine totally does.

    Not sure Marker’s Mark makes the cut. ;)

  40. Cost of College – I’ve been sitting on a recycling/waste post idea. I’ll send you my thoughts so you can consider adding them to the future post (with the NYT article).

  41. Grocery Bags, I think Gary Trudeau is spending most of his time now working on Alpha House (political satire TV show).

  42. My twins read a couple dozen Garfield comic books over the summer. They are beginning to understand male:female relationships from John’s lack of success in getting a date. It’s pretty funny to hear two six year old boys hypothesize about the dating world.

    I loved The Far Side and The Family Circus is seeming a whole lot funnier these days. We get a Sunday paper delivered so my kids can read the comics and we get a little local news. I think local newspapers play an important role and both kind of want the paper and feel obligated to support it at some level. Rhett, I love the Dilbert you posted above. I’ve spent the last month in IT hell at work.

    Milo, I thought of you when I read the recycling article.

  43. yes…I don’t mind trashing JPM. If you didn’t charge something on one of their Chase cards, it had to go to the MD for approval with an explanation. This was even for a $6 salad from Au Bon Pain if you were running for a plane. It is great if you are a stockholder because they don’t like to give anything to their employees for free. It was very different when it was legacy Chase or legacy JPMorgan. Once they merged with Bank One, all of the perks disappeared. No points, and no Amex!!!!

    The best deal was when I worked for a European bank because everything could be charged on Amex. I had to pay for the enrollment of my personal card, but I could dump everything from my corporate card into my personal account. They let us charge everything on Amex, so it was very easy to accumulate a lot of points.

  44. “Not sure Marker’s Mark makes the cut. ;)”

    FIL keeps on hand Maker’s, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s No. 7, and Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack. And he drinks about as little as I do, but we’ll try to compare and contrast when I’m there. It’s hard for me to tell them apart.

  45. Thanks for the advice. My DH wants to give them nothing, but I tried to explain that I think our issues were with the contractor. I am going to give them cash when they leave today because these 2 guys did the best they could under the circumstances.

  46. Is it the norm to tip the workers who remodel your house?

    Tipping the guy who did most of the work on our kitchen remodel did not even enter our thought process.

  47. I am scrambling because I didn’t know it was a thing to tip for this type of work, but my father asked me when I mentioned that they might finish today. I am going to do it based on the comments today, plus it just feels right since my contractor was a loser. they did most of the work.

  48. Are others also getting the “Hello, I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin” emails from total strangers? What do you do?

    I’ve been ignoring them.

  49. I tip someone who did work on my house if they did something well above and beyond, if it involved accommodating with good humor the needs/curiosity of a resident child/pet or fixing something of mine off book. For example, the kitchen reno was a package deal from a reno company. But the plumber spent extra time at my house because I had a complicated faucet AND he disabled the restrictor on my pre existing shower head. So I gave him a big tip, which he refused at first, and I told him to get something for his kids (it was a lot of extra time and conversation). I also have given the young guys from my electrician April (freezing weather) Red Sox tickets – with a I’m not going to be able to go on Sat, can you use these. But I don’t consider tipping the contractor’s workers routine.

  50. “Hello, I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin” emails from total strangers? What do you do?

    Total strangers as in no idea why they would be contacting you? In my case the strangers are recruiters so I usually agree.

  51. On another topic: I am on Twitter DM with Verizon support, attempting to arrange to get a replacement iPhone 6s for the one I received last week that is not working properly, even after 6 days, about 9 hours, and several Verizon and Apple reps attempting to troubleshoot. Obviously I’ve been extremely patient. They keep asking the same troubeshooting questions over and over. At this point I just need to ask for instructions on sending my phone back. I should call them. Any advice from the experts here on how to get them to replace my phone quickly?

  52. Any advice from the experts here on how to get them to replace my phone quickly?

    If you make an appointment at the apple store you can just walk in and they will give you a new one right there. There is an apple store in White Plains.

  53. I’m stuck at the screen to restore from icloud back up. It keeps rejecting my password, even after numerous troubleshooting actions by Apple reps. However, I just got the Twitter Verizon rep to order a new phone for me! I think maybe commenting here might have done the trick. :)

    There’s an even closer Apple store, which I may visit after I get my new phone. I hated the idea of making time to go, but it probably makes sense.

  54. Thanks, Rhett! I’ll probably go to the Apple store. I think I need/should make an appointment. It’s near a new Container store that I’ve been meaning to visit.

  55. I’ve never been inside an Apple store. It’s about time I experience their genius service.

  56. Just as an aside, somehow I don’t think the Apple store will replace my phone if I originally had it sent directly from Verizon.

  57. CoC, I wish I could meet you if you go to those stores soon. I have to go to Container Store, but I am dealing with a bad cold. I haven’t been to that new location yet, but I really need to just get some rest and get better.

  58. Apple will replace your phone in their store if it is still under warranty. My mother purchased a phone last year from Verizon, and she had it replaced in the Apple store. (the location that you may visit.) It was the Apple people that offered to replace it because it was under warranty.

  59. Lauren, haha, those Container stores can be dangerous places. So many nice things. $$$

  60. Occasionally, my iPhone 5s says “SIM card failure.” So I turn it off and turn it on again, and all is well. This has happened maybe three or four times in the past few months. (As an aside, iOS was able to guess in the top three every word in that last sentence after “three” without any first letters.)

    Any ideas on the SIM card issue? There are few things I’d enjoy less than browsing Apple help forums.

  61. I’m just teasing about Maker’s Mark – there’s a bottle of it on our bar right now, as it is the drink of choice of one of my husband’s colleagues. I’ve never even tasted it.

  62. Milo,

    It’s dirty. Take it out and wipe it with an alcohol swab and you’ll be good.

  63. Finn – I remember that Far Side exhibit – it was at the Academy of Sciences some years back. What fun!

    Grocery Bags – We have Doonesbury reruns in our paper Monday through Saturday, but Sunday’s strip is new.

  64. Follow up on the firing of the gym teacher: The principal sent another email today. She said “I received feedback that my announcement was not timely and felt impersonal.” Apparently we weren’t the only ones annoyed about it. She explained the privacy issues and said they wanted to run it by their lawyer before sending anything out. She did say that the teacher was not taken out in handcuffs.

  65. The earliest Apple Store reservation available is 6 days from today. Hopefully I will not need to go . . .

  66. It will be obvious (I think) who I am, but I feel the need to go anonymous since I’m discussing a child. This is a plea for words of wisdom or really more comfort from wiser ones here.

    Our oldest son has always been very athletic, good at all sports, and particularly at swimming & basketball. But recently he has hit a wall, declares he “hates” everything, and wants to pull off his swim team & not do basketball this winter.

    Intellectually, I understand these things need to be kid-driven, and we support him making changes. But emotionally I’m really struggling with it. This is not a case of him wanting to replace one sport with another – he just wants to do nothing. And I have seen over the years how much happier he is when he’s physically active (eg, he’ll come home from school in a rotten mood, spend an hour swimming, and then be on cloud 9). Also, sports have been something we do together, and I’m pretty sad about that not continuing.

    So although we are letting him make his own decisions, inside I don’t agree he’s making the right ones, and I’m depressed about it. Please help me internalize all the “right” feelings.

  67. Anon,

    Why the assumption that his exercise needs to come in the form of an organized activity? How old is he?

  68. @Anon – I see from you post that he is doing swim team. Is the basketball a very competitive league ? It may not be the sports or competition itself but the very busy schedule that comes with being on a competitive team. Maybe you can talk to him and see if this is an issue. In that case would he happy playing sports at a less competitive level ? Both my kids do sports and activities but at a non competitive level with downtime built in. They still learn and can continue till they graduate high school but proceed at a slower pace. It needn’t be all or nothing.

  69. @Anon — Boy, that’s tough. Really sorry.

    Basically, Rhett is right. It sounds like he clearly needs to be very active (in fact, if he’s depressed/stressed/etc., that activity is even more important). But that doesn’t need to come from the organized sports he has always done. So you have the opportunity to suggest to him that you will agree to drop the teams, but then he needs to come up with some other plan to get a comparable amount of physical activity.

    Beyond that, will he talk to you about why? It might not even be related to the sports — it could be a hormonal phase; it could be the social scene on the teams; it could be depression, or anxiety about schoolwork/feeling overwhelmed about the demand on his time; it could be a new group of friends, or the effects of some illegal substances; or maybe it’s just he’s been doing them forever and is tired of them. Until you know what’s driving this, it’s hard to know the appropriate response, but a big change in behavior/personality is usually a sign that something is going on inside, and he might not have the words to talk about it. If it were my DD, the first thing I’d do is go to the doc, just to make sure there is no underlying physical or emotional issue; if he comes back clean for depression/etc., then you can focus on the sports vs. physical activity question. But YMMV, of course; I waited too long to go to the doc with DD, so I have an obvious “learn from my mistake” bias.

  70. Anon:

    Any body image problems or concerns with adjusting to an older body? Drugs or substance abuse? Depression? Girlfriend/boyfriend matters?

    I’d try to rule all these out.

  71. “he just wants to do nothing”

    Sounds like your DS is wants a break. Two sports can be exhausting. Let him set his own pace. My kids don’t like organized sports, but I’m ok with that. Instead, they play racquetball, run a mile or two every day and do push ups and sit ups. They are happy that they are not playing sports and we are happy that they get physical activity–doing something that they can continue into adulthood.

    You said that sports is something you do together–find something else to do together–bike riding, running, a soccer rec league, etc.

  72. Anon: It could be that, as the sport grows more competitive at the higher levels, there is more pressure and the sport becomes less “fun”. Add *sshole parents and coaches to the mix who are overly focused on winning and performing v. having fun.

    Also, as homework and school pressure heats up, it becomes hard to balance multiple sports with academics. I’ve seen all these examples play out with my friends’ kids.

  73. It could be that, as the sport grows more competitive at the higher levels, there is more pressure and the sport becomes less “fun”.

    I think this is 90% of what is going on. He is athletic enough that up to this point, he’s been able to excel without pushing himself particularly hard. Working, yes, but not working HARD. And now he’s starting to see that if he wants to continue to be one of the best, he needs to take it to the next level in terms of effort, and I don’t think he wants to do that. So he’s rather just stop altogether.

    Which, like I said, intellectually I understand, and I do think it’s his decision to make, but inside I so desperately wish that he would make a different decision (and I sort of hate myself for not just accepting he is who is he is). I think if he were the type to do other physical activity outside of an organized sport I could live with this easier, but he’s never, ever been the kind to just go for a run or a bike ride or play a pick up game with friends. He’s always gravitated toward organized games and sports (this is consistent with his personality in general – when he was little he would never just ‘free play’ with toys, but always loved board games).

    In my gut I don’t *think* there are issues with depression going on, but I do think it’s worth considering. I wonder what the best way to evaluate that is.

  74. I so desperately wish that he would make a different decision

    Could that also be part of it? He’s sensing the pressure and rebelling against it?

  75. I think if he were the type to do other physical activity outside of an organized sport I could live with this easier, but he’s never, ever been the kind to just go for a run or a bike ride or play a pick up game with friends.

    I was thinking more that you’d get a family membership to a gym and use the time you currently spend at basketball and swimming to work out. Presumably none of us here are suffering from an excessive amount of exercise. So, it would be as good for you as it is for him.

  76. Anon,

    I wish you well. I’m so sorry you’re going through all this.

    Evaluating when someone is depressed is difficult. On the surface, your son is exhibiting classic symptoms, but as you say, there are more factors involved. Does he have a trusted adviser who isn’t you or his other parent? A guidance counselor, a favorite aunt/uncle? You could always have your son go over his plan with that source, and have that source see if they pick up on anything. I wish you luck!

  77. Anon, I’d be interested in hearing his age. I was recently talking to a friend whose then ninth grader (or tenth?) quit all sports last year and did nothing but veg out and watch TV. He also grew 5.5 inches b/w last fall and summer, and when my friend looked at her newly tall kid in the summer, she suddenly understood he’d been too tired to play all the sports. Not sure if that could be going on with your son? (If you are who I think you are, this could be it, given what I recall of your DS1’s age).

    I will say that swim practice, in particular, always felt like sheer drudgery to me. I sort of love that kind of physical punishment, yet I still cried my way through a fair number of practices (which you can get away with in a pool). So, if it’s even slightly less fun for him to compete now and/or if he’s not doing as well in the meets, the drudgery can become all he knows. Add to that the early AM practices if he has those, and … ugh.

  78. Anon–could it be fear of failure or rather fear of not being among the best? This was an issue with DS and swimming. He’d been really good but at the next level would have been just okay. He chose to quit but runs XC instead. And he’s not a great runner but he never expected to be.

  79. Anon: Cut yourself some slack and give things time to settle down. As long as you are outwardly supportive, you are doing your job as a parent. I get it. We all have irrational moments, but about different things. That’s the great thing about this board–by sharing our experiences, we are not so alone.

    Regarding regular exercise–it’s a requirement in our house. You play sports or figure out some other way of getting your heart rate up. DH is a big believer in this, especially for boys, as the teens are when your body is most able to build muscle.

  80. “I wonder what the best way to evaluate that is.”

    Start with your PCP. Try to have a private chat with the doc beforehand to relate what you are seeing with your son. Then the PCP can run a few tests to rule out physical issues (e.g. thyroid) and have a private chat with your son. Maybe your kid will open up to another adult, but even if not, your doc will have a list of questions to ask to spot depression, anxiety, drug use, etc. This is what drs are trained for — your PCP may not know everything about depression, but s/he should know the questions to ask to trigger a referral to someone who does.

    Also, does your kid have perfectionist tendencies? If so, I second Benefits Lawyer’s suggestion — if you’re perfectionist, it’s pretty common to prefer not to try and preserve the illusion of perfection than to do your best and be forced to admit that the illusion was just that.

  81. Anon – just want to say I agree w/ Houston on the internal thought issue.

    You’re different than your kid. You want different things for him because of that, and when he chooses A and you wish he’d choose B, it’s tough not to be disappointed. Outward support is the first step, and slowly work on your internal thought process so it catches up. It doesn’t have to be immediate. Fake it till you make it is a key to parenting tweens and teens, imho (assuming their choice isn’t completely whack, but merely differs from yours).

    I can’t tell you the amount of self talk I’ve engaged in, along the lines of, “He’s not me. He’s not an extension of me. He’s his own person. This is what he wants. It’s not what I want for him, but he’s the one who gets to choose.” If this level of semantics appeals, try remembering that it’s not the decision you are supporting, it’s the kid. That always helps me.

  82. Anon, I don’t have much to add to what everyone else said. I will throw in another vote for taking him to the dr. just to get checked out. Good luck.

  83. Thanks so much all of you. He is a tween, and so he vacillates wildly between moodiness, sleepiness, and little-boy-sweetness. I flat out can’t keep up. (And that’s part of why I am so deeply mourning the break from swimming, which has always been a mood stabilizer for him.) He is an easy kid to love (big picture he’s amazing), but right now not an easy kid to like (because in the moment he’s an ass).


    Ah, parenting.

  84. I so desperately wish that he would make a different decision

    Could that also be part of it? He’s sensing the pressure and rebelling against it?

    Yes. I do think some of it is wanting to assert his right to now make his own decisions about what sports/activities he wants to do, even if it’s none.

    it’s not the decision you are supporting, it’s the kid

    I wish I could tattoo this on my heart.

  85. I am usually eager to tell people to not take their kids to the doctor – most things will blow over if they are ignored, or become obviously worse. However, I agree with the above that this is a situation that I think warrants a visit. I come from a family that doesn’t talk about feelings – so it always surprises me how frank most people (teens included) are with their doctors. A good doc will know the right questions and make the right recommendations. You should know that in many states, a child seeking mental health care over the age of 12 (14, 16, etc). has decision making capacity and privacy (no parental consent or notification).

  86. @Anon — yeah, that sucks. If he’s a tween, that probably makes “serious” problems less likely and more normal hormones/early rebellion/independence-seeking more likely. So you can probably relax that he’s really ok and just starting the long, hard process of defining himself independently of you. Not that that makes it feel any better. :-)

    Even my cherubic, lovable almost-10-yr-old is starting to get those early hormones, and it’s *hard* to hear my sweet nice little guy suddenly spout his sister’s snark tone and sulk for an hour about homework. I’m so used to him being the nice/easy counterbalance to his sister, so it’s a big shift in the tone of our family life. But I figure as long as it balances out so that most days I like at least one of them, that’s about all I can ask for. . . .

  87. Anon, my tween DD recently announced to us that she would not be continuing softball.

    She thought it was getting too time-consuming–her school team coaches wanted all the girls to play on club teams during the rest of the year, and she saw it taking more time as she got older, and during a brief break during the summer, she realized how much she values her down time.

    She also wants to do other activities in HS, and determined that she could not do these activities as well as softball, and decided she does not like softball enough to give up the chance to try these other activities.

    Of course, your DS’ reasons may be totally different, but perhaps there are some commonalities.

  88. Finn, my nephew stopped running cross country for a similar reaason. He really enjoyed it and was good at it, but the coach said they had to do indoor and outdoor track as well, and he wanted to do other things.

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