Parenting Millennials

I probably sound like Ward Cleaver when I remind my children how rough our lives were compared to theirs. It’s apparent that every generation has a horror story to tell their children to make them appreciate how good they have it. Ironically, we still make it a goal to want better for our kids than what we, ahem, ‘endured’. That kind of makes the infamous ‘when I was your age’ series of ‘walking to and from school, uphill, both ways’ a weak anecdote to garner their sympathies as we negotiate their comparative luxury. In the end, I think we, as parents, learn more about sacrifice than our kids do.


A psychology professor at a small midwestern university was teaching a class on ethics and during the section of the class dealing with forgiveness, showed up in class with boxes of tomatoes and little plastic bags from the grocery store. He instructed each of the students to take a bag, a marker and begin. If they had been offended in some small way by a friend or neighbor; they were to take a small cherry tomato and write the name of the person, and the offense on the skin of the tomato, and deposit it in the bag. If they had been offended in a bigger way, take a Roma tomato, and write the name of the offender, and the offense on that. Use as many tomatoes representing how often they had been hurt by others. And if they have been hurt in some huge way, take a big ol’ beefsteak tomato and write the name of the offender, and describe the offense all over the tomato and put it in the bag.

When each student had filled his/her bag, the professor then gave them this assignment:

“From now ’til the end of the semester, you are to carry this bag with you wherever you go. To class. Across campus. To the cafeteria. Even to your bed with you at night, right beside your head. If I see you without your bag of tomatoes, I will dock your grade. You must carry this bag until the end of the semester.”

Well, the first week wasn’t so bad, he docked a few students when they were caught without their bags, or forgot them in class. The second week brought more objections from the classmates – “these bags are getting heavy, and inconvenient to carry.” By week three, the students’ complaints were intensifying: “The bags are getting mushy, and starting to rot and smell.” “It’s disgusting to be seen with these rotting tomatoes.” By the fourth week, the students’ complaints were off the chart: “No one wants to be around me, ’cause this bag stinks!”

Finally, the professor asked if he’d made his point. Did they understand that carrying around a bag of unforgiveness, living with a spirit of resentment, harboring a hope for revenge will eventually begin to stink – and no one will want to be around you!”

“So, if you have received the lesson”, he said, “take your bags outside, and dump them in the flower beds around campus. In a couple weeks what will we find? Yes, the rotten tomatoes will grow some new plants.”

So too when we forgive – when we plant our hurts and resentments in the fertile soil of God’s love and grace, God will bring new life, new joy and new freedom to us.

©2013 Kermit Culver


Life has a funny way of working sometimes. Just when you think everything’s all right, you get blindsided by something out of left field. Not only does it hit you in complete surprise but it often hurts. In an effort to find comfort we look for answers and meaning hoping to rationalize the situation. Knowing nothing in our power can change the outcome there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll live more cautiously in order to guard ourselves against future pain.

I tend to believe that everything happens for a reason and that as painful as some situations are, there’s a reason for it. It’s been said that ‘God doesn’t waste a hurt’ and though I don’t always understand why some things have to happen the way they do, there’s a higher purpose. One that will likely shape and prepare me for something greater.


I have learned a great many things in my life as both a designer and educator; some good, some bad. Among the most despicable acts one can commit as a designer or student is taking the work of someone else and passing it off as their own. Please don’t misunderstand. It’s common practice for many designers to research different styles for inspiration, but when the line between motivation and plagiarism becomes so blurry that it’s indistinguishable you’ve got to question it.

What’s more troubling is that many offenders know it’s wrong but continue to do it anyway, convincing themselves that somehow the vile act has some redemptive value. I’ve even heard faulty logic claiming that it isn’t really copying if you change at least x percent of it. I hate to break it to you, but most copyright lawyers will tell you there is no magic formula! Cheating is cheating. If you’re doing an homage or a parody that’s something different – here identification of the original is important to understanding and appreciating the work.

It’s disturbing to see a growing number of people turn a blind eye toward this type of behavior. One could almost go so far as to say that society’s general lack of ethical and moral fortitude might be the cause. Where does that start? With each of us. Can we really blame others, even if they represent the majority, for our individual lack of integrity? Is it really old-fashioned to be honest and truthful? Is it considered progressive to be more UN-like the generations before us? Does society now hold a higher view of a cheater these days than they once did? If you claim you don’t believe in statistical morality to determine the difference between right and wrong, then stop looking at what the crowd is doing. Do the right thing – be original!

Test Anxiety

Nothing quite beats the prize for sadism like the 9 volt battery test. Certainly you recall this simple procedure. If you ever doubted that your (insert 9 volt battery-powered device here) wasn’t working you could always pull the battery out and use the good ol’ tongue gauge to test it.

The ‘9 volt jolt’ ranked right below ‘peeling off band-aids’ on the pain index but the anticipation of whether or not you’d ‘get it’ was like Russian roulette. How many devices in your world would you risk personal discomfort to check to see that they’re in working order? (“Yep, that blade is sharp all right!”)

The stupid part is, until they came out with the built-in battery testers on the packaging, I half dreaded opening any battery-powered device to find that it was 9 volt powered. It’s almost like you had to conduct the tongue test. If it was a AAA or AA battery there was a private sigh of relief. I mean c’mon! It’s not like you can toss one of those in your mouth to find out if they had any juice left in them.

The Talk

I knew the day was coming, but the school curriculum pretty much sealed the date. My oldest son’s class will soon be covering HIV in science and with it will come some talk about ‘changes’ they are all going through. Rather than have a bunch of squirrelly school boys educating each other, I thought I’d step in.

After having a nice lunch I thought I’d take him for a drive where we could discuss the topic with some privacy. After pulling into a parking lot and turning off the vehicle, I knew he was suspicious about why I wasn’t getting out. Nothing can prepare you for the awkwardness that this moment brings and once I started there was no turning back. I was going to have ‘the talk’ whether either of us were ready for it.

I must have gotten a little too graphic because at one point he complained of having a stomach ache and actually got out of the van to sit down in the parking lot. I thought he was going to refund his lunch. After the initial queasiness wore off I found out a little about what he knew and let him know where the boundaries were. We even shared some stories that we could both laugh about. Ultimately I wanted him to know that if he ever had questions about anything, that he could come talk to me.

Afterward he looked at me and said, “Dad, I feel more mature right now.” I told him how proud we were of the young man he was becoming but that he was still a boy and not to get carried away with his ‘maturity’. He’s a smart kid and I know he’ll learn more than what I’ve told him today, but being there to teach him the secret handshake of manhood was quite the experience. The talk with son number two will be in another three years. I should be ready.


In today’s ‘fast food’ world it’s hard not to get things our way. Often times we dispose of something perfectly suitable to upgrade to something better, not out of necessity, but preference. How spoiled are we? It’s times like these that I am thankful that we live with the blessings we do. I try very hard not to take for granted those things I have which I don’t deserve but strive to be content instead.