I’m just going to come right out and say it: I don’t care about too much anymore.

I don’t care whether Lindsay Lohan’s in a courtroom, in a jail cell, in a rehab center, or sporting her SCRAM at the International Space Station this week.

I don’t care about alleged sexter Brett Favre. Or Farve. Or Favvvv-ruh. Whatever. Stop crying wolf already and retire for real. (And wait…is that Mel Gibson I hear singing your praises for bumping him from headlines for a week or two?)

I don’t care what various and assorted celebutards are tweeting or twatting or twitting about every moment of the day.

I don’t care about slurring Snooki and her never-before-seen-in-nature orangeness. Just sayin’.

I don’t care about the Real Housewives of Anywhere. If y’all are “real,” I’d hate to see a show about the “Petty, Insipid, Self-Centered, Self-Important, Self-Absorbed, Catty, Artificial, Over-Botoxed, Vacuous Housewives.”

I don’t care that Kourtney and Kim are Taking Manhattan. In fact, wake me when they drive their Kardashian into a brick wall.

I don’t care whether Brangelina is/are on the rocks.

I don’t care that The Hills are still alive with the sound of fame whores in reruns.

I don’t care in which swanky locale Paris is oh-so-unfairly being charged with DUI or drug possession this month. Get a life, honey, or at least get a better handle on hiding your contraband.

And speaking of Hiltons, I don’t care that Perez Hilton claims he’s going to stop being a bully. Your picture’s still gonna be in the dictionary next to the word “obnoxious.”

I don’t care who thinks they can dance, who dances with the stars, who allegedly has talent, who’s smarter than a fifth grader, whose project is on the runway, who’s the biggest loser, who’s America’s next top model, or whether the bachelor and bachelorette ever find spouses.

I just don’t care about all this insignificant, sensationalized, badly-behaving, unclassy drivel.

Because despite what the bloviating, celeb-captivated media would like me to obsess over,there’s really one main thing I truly and deeply care about. Raising my boys. They’re Job One. And Two. And Three. And Four.

No offense, but I’ll pass on having a village raise them. The village’s standards are woefully inadequate. You know what it does take? It takes a parent or two, who focus more on parenting—what’s happening inside their own household—than about every juicy gossip item that gets broadcast around the world in an instant.

Now, I’m savvy enough to know that I’m probably up here haranguing to myself on my desolate, righteous soapbox. But I’ve finally been pushed over the edge, and I decided it was time to raise my voice and be controversial. Between a toxic combination of reprehensible customer service and degrading media broadcasting, I stop in my tracks nearly every day and feel profound sadness and utter embarrassment about the moral decay of our country. People seem to have little regard for things like values and character anymore. We no longer seem to care about anything, in fact, except for doing as little we can get away with in our jobs and gawking at the lascivious lives of others. And apparently that’s just fine with the masses.

Customer “service” these days typically ranges from indifferent and unhelpful to downright miserable and argumentative. There’s no incentive whatsoever to please the customer, and by “please” I simply mean completing the transaction and delivery or repair as promised. If you tell me the sofa is arriving at your warehouse on Thursday, don’t cop an attitude with me on Friday when I’ve finally tracked you down and you admit it’s going to be another week. When I have to sit at home for four-hour windows—EIGHT DIFFERENT TIMES—to get the cable modem working properly, don’t get all up in my face when I want to talk to your supervisor about adjusting the bill. I’m not paying for service I never had, and furthermore, I should be billing your company for my time. Shut your excuse hole. I want a sincere apology and some accountability on your end.

And please help me this figure out—did the media make the decision to dumb down the news content or have we become a nation of such mindless morons that we care about nothing other than celebrity scandals and which issue screaming blowhards choose to rant about today? It’s both sad and shameful to see how our country has eroded. Talent and intelligence is marginalized, while fame—by any means—is glorified, becoming the overwhelming aspiration for our youth. An undignified casualness and a disrespectful, go-eff-yourself attitude is the cultural paradigm in many of our schools. Rampant, baseless litigiousness fosters the concept that no one need be accountable for their own actions, because there’s always someone you can sue for your missteps. There’s actually a company called WhoCanISue.com. What kind of a message does all this send to our kids—our future leaders?

Somehow, in some way, evidently my boys are unusual in this day and age. “Unique in a really good way,” I’ve heard. What supposedly distinguishes them from other kids? People cite the fact that they’re polite and respectful and personable. They’re responsible and accountable and independent. They’re cheerful and kind and helpful. They smile, and they look people in the eye when they are speaking to them. I just assumed most kids are like that…why wouldn’t they be? I’m continually confounded to hear that this is not the norm. Folks are often intrigued and curious about how we’ve managed to raise boys with these atypical qualities in this day and age, and in Letters From Home, I tell the story of how we’ve managed to accomplish this. However, my friends, I can let you in on a little secret. Believe it or not, a village didn’t teach them all that. Their parents did.

Are they perfect kids? Ha! Are we perfect parents? Hardly! But I guess we’re doing something right—and different. Raising good kids comes down to the family unit and what and how I choose to teach them—not what the village, the media, the government wants them to know. While I agree with President Obama in his 2009 speech to school children that it’s crucial for them to stay in school, I believe it’s the parents who need a good talking-to about their responsibility—well beyond making sure kids “don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with the Xbox.” Being a parent isn’t a casual hobby. It’s a job. A tough job. If fact, it’s the most important job for our future. And, to the shock and dismay of most people these days, jobs aren’t always fun.

My job description is pretty straightforward:

  • Set high expectations and model a serious work ethic.
  • Value education, honesty and patience.
  • Reward success.
  • Encourage informed risk.
  • Promote humility and integrity.
  • Give kids the tools and emotional support they need, but make them accountable for their accomplishments and actions.
  • Teach them how to be resilient and learn from adversity.
  • Show them how to be charitably inclined. Inspire them not to settle for mediocrity.
  • Empower them to have the confidence to challenge substantively but respectfully things they view as incorrect or unjust.
  • Help them realize there are short-term repercussions and long-term consequences to choices.
  • Expect them to use good manners, be kind and thankful.

Almost as harmful as absentee parents are helicopter parents. One of my most critical job responsibilities is to resist the urge to save the day, as in let them try—and fail sometimes—and then help them draw critical life lessons from their failures. I don’t buy into the concept that everyone should get a trophy so no one’s feelings are hurt. Everyone isn’t a winner all the time. Everyone isn’t invited to the party. I’m a strong proponent of the “Suck It Up, Dude” philosophy. Life isn’t all fun and games; in fact, it’s mighty important to learn to deal with change and loss and disappointment pretty early on. The younger kids are when they acquire the “get over it” skill, the less whiny and entitled they grow to be, and the more adaptable and resilient they become, as children, teens, adults.

Maybe it sounds draconian, but when you mix in love and supportiveness and laughter, you get pretty well-adjusted, “unusual” kids, which, sadly, seems to be more the exception than the norm.

My kids know that “hope” doesn’t get you anywhere—hard work and focusing on goals results in accomplishment. I’ve told them and I’ve shown them. The village needs to raise the bar. Take responsibility. Be accountable. Be gracious. Our future doesn’t depend on hope. It depends on action. Discipline. Resilience. A willingness to work hard. To care about each other. To respect the ideals upon which this nation was founded, and to take supreme advantage of the opportunity and freedom it offers.

Oh yeah. There is one thing that I do hope. That I’m not a lone voice in this effort to wake up our country. Stepping down off my soapbox now.

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