Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Don't Suck

Our elementary school starts each day at the morning assembly with a motivational quote by someone notable, read to the whole school by one of the students. I enjoy the tradition, but I think a few of the quotes might be a little lofty in their goals.

Now, I realize that this is the greatest country in the world, and as such, our educational system needs to prepare the leaders of tomorrow, but when I hear my three boys being regaled with quotes about changing the world, I often can’t shake the thought that fifteen minutes earlier I was yelling at them to get out the door and they were ignoring me and rolling around on the living room carpet trying to fart on each other.

I’m just saying, some of the quotes might be shooting a little high, that’s all.

I believe I have found a more realistic goal for America’s youth. I saw a guy jogging the other day, and he was wearing a T-shirt with two words written on the back. It said, “DON’T SUCK,” and I immediately adopted his shirt slogan as my new mantra.

I think in a way, DON’T SUCK has always been my unofficial motto. When I sit back and reflect on it, it’s what I’m really trying to do with my life. I may strive for success or even greatness in this little area or that little endeavor, but striving for greatness is tiring. Most days I just don’t have the energy for it, and I have certainly never had the energy or the internal fire to strive for greatness on a large scale. Most days I’m just trying not to suck. Yes indeed, DON’T SUCK guides my life.

DON’T SUCK guides our parenting philosophy as well, both in how we try to conduct ourselves as parents, and what we try to impart to our children. We’re certainly not awesome as parents, but every day we get out of bed and at least try not to suck at it. Some days are better than others; some days we’re the "nutritionally balanced and healthy three-course dinner that everyone thinks is delicious" parents, knocking it out of the park, and other days we’re the “at least we had milk for the dinner cereal” parents, just barely managing not to suck. Call us for free advice!

We have told our children time and time again they can be whatever they want to be. They’re not blowing my hair back just yet, but that’s OK. So far, it seems the first one wants to be an inventor who’s not required to move a lot. Or a paleontologist who is also allowed to sit for extended periods of time. The second one is uncertain, but wants to make sure that no matter what he chooses, everyone else around him will do everything his way. I’m thinking something in government - maybe a dictator. The third one has given us absolutely no clear idea of a career destination other than wanting to scream out everything he says at ninety decibels. Maybe a punk band’s lead singer? Time will tell.

No matter what direction they take, my advice to them will remain the same. Just don’t suck. You don’t have to be the best at everything. You don’t even have to be the best at anything. Like Judge Smails so wisely told Danny Noonan in Caddyshack, the world needs ditch diggers too. If you have that internal drive to be great at something, then great. It’s great to be great. Work hard and go get it! But in everything you do - whether it’s something you want to do, like to do, need to do, or have to do – the baseline remains the same: DON’T SUCK.

I’m thinking of writing a parenting book.

In an effort to be helpful (in other words, to not suck), I suggested my new motto as an obvious addition to the elementary school morning quote pool. I even pointed out that many of the current quotes are so long the kids have to bring the paper up with them to read them off. DON’T SUCK could be easily memorized by your average elementary schooler in just a few short days.

Seems like a no-brainer to me, but the principal hasn’t gotten back to me yet. I can’t figure out why.

See you soon,


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  1. Number three told me he wanted to become "a writer like dad". Pretty silent path, no? Maybe he'll write with only uppercases.

  2. Ha! I can see him now, sitting in his office all alone, yelling at the computer screen as he types away.

  3. Smidge, you obviously "don't suck" as a writer if your number three aspires to be a "writer like dad." Congratulations! I'm a speechwriter, and all I get from my tres "ninos"--a term now consistent with the infamous weather phenomena--are eye rolls and sighs as I tell them to write in active voice or take it easy on the gerunds and unnecessary adverbs. Go figure! Instead of "Don't Suck," perhaps I'll just settle for "Suck Less." Have a great weekend!

  4. I wouldn't get too congratulatory - Last week he wanted to be a rodeo clown...