David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

496 Years and Counting

Imagine a Protestant locked in a dim, dank room with a Catholic. The chairs are hard and uncomfortable, the lighting poor. Outside where the sun is shining, children are frolicking in the surf as their contented parents sip drinks with little umbrellas in them. The protestant and the catholic can come out of the moldy room when one convinces the other, converts him to the contrasting point of view. Until the transition takes place, the protestant and the catholic can talk as long as they like, but can only send out for food from a restaurant whose menu options include grease fried in fat and a puree of toad parts special.

Can you imagine this conversation lasting 500 years? I can envision just such a schedule. Because indeed the conversation has lasted just shy of 500 summers. Catalyzing the Protestant Reformation, Luther tacked those 95 theses on the door in 1517, coming up on half a millennia ago. A quick glance at the headlines around the globe would suggest that the chat is not going to end any time soon: the Catholics are not going to become Protestants; the Protestants are not going to convert to Catholicism.


A buddy of mine in his 50s was complaining about his second wife. They’re going through a rough patch and it’s pretty clear the marriage is heading toward dissolution. “If only she would listen to me.” he says. “If only she would do what I say.”

This just in: she’s not.

“But, it’s so obvious,” he goes on. “We don’t have money for this. We barely have enough money for that.”

My gentle readers will forgive me if I had faded out by this point in the conversation and—thinking about watching my children play on the beach—wasn’t listening closely enough to remember the ponderous details.

“Why can’t she just see things my way, do what I want?” he went on. “I’ve been divorced before, I don’t want to get divorced again, but she just won’t listen to reason.”

Were I a different sort of fellow, I might have pointed out that the only person at the scene of both accidents was the person speaking.


As parents, what makes us think that we can control the choices of our children by yelling at them? Don’t misunderstand: I agree that you’re right about your children. I’m not questioning the accuracy of your beliefs. You’re older and you know better. I’m just wondering if yelling at them is the way to effect positive change.

Is there another way to influence our kids to become successful and content as adults? First and foremost, we have to focus exclusively on what is in their best interest. Not everyone can play in the NBA. If I, a paunchy, balding, middle aged man can finally come to terms with the desperately unpleasant reality that LeBron James need not worry about my usurping his position, then surely you can accept that not everyone can matriculate at Princeton. Not everyone has the academic chops to be admitted—which is just as well. Only a subset of the three million high school grads in 2013 can fit on a campus with 1400 first-year students.

Haranguing your kids that the alternative to heading to New Jersey is plummeting down the road to perdition and sloth is contraindicated.

You have less control, influence, and authority than you think you do. The serenity prayer isn’t just for those of us who mourn the poor choices of loved ones.

The president of the United States, a man who is, by all accounts, more powerful and smarter than you or I, mentioned recently that he cannot control the congress. You have less authority than he does. You think my kids are easier to control than are those 435 congress people? You haven’t met my kids.

Here’s what you can do: be who you are. Let your kids be who they are.

In the meantime, you can model. If you would prefer that your children read books rather than play video games, get off your computer and scarf up a paperback. If you would prefer that your children resolve conflict with calm reasoning rather than volcanic outbursts, consider screaming less loudly the next time a family decision doesn’t go your way. If you want your kids to be healthy, consider putting down that double bacon cheeseburger and the martini. Here. Have a nice carrot. And don’t even tell me that you only smoke pot when your children are out of the house and that your children don’t know that you take the occasional puff. If you smoke pot, then your children already know that you do.

They told me. They’ve told everybody. Take it to the bank.

Physics 101: “186,282 miles per second; it’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.”

Bad Parenting 101: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

If you feel like every day is a battle with your kids, an unending diatribe of unrealized expectations and disappointments that could go on for 496 years, maybe it’s time to walk out of the small dark room into the sunshine and the children playing on the beach.



Copyright © David Altshuler 1980 – 2022    |    Miami, FL • Charlotte, NC     |    (305) 978-8917    |    [email protected]