Time to jump into the pool and swim today!

IMG_0694My exposure to organized sport swimming was limited to second-hand knowledge of my younger cousin, who is currently ranked very well in some regional division that I’m sure is very impressive to those in the know. He is an immensely good water polo player (if you don’t know what water polo is, it’s basically where you ride a bunch of horses through a public pool whacking the opponent’s balls with a long-handled mallet) and received several scholarship opportunities to play at the collegiate level. My younger cousin learned to swim at the age of two or three from his father, a man so passionate about swimming that he had a jet installed in his pool so that he could swim the same lap for infinity. Starting at this young age, and under the guidance of a very intelligent, driven and passionate father, my younger cousin (we’ll call him “Frandon” for the sake of anonymity) became a very accomplished swimmer, and developed debilitating, stress related OCD at the age of six.

Frandon would frantically wash his hands to the point where they would bleed, and then subsequently freak out about the general uncleanliness of having chemically crackled, bleeding hands. If he so much as got a drop of urine on him while using the restroom in the middle of the night, Frandon would panic and immediately have to take a shower. Then he would wake up the next day, and go to swim practice where he would swim in a vat of chlorine saturated kid pee. No, Frandon was never told what was really up. But it all paid off in the end, because due to the pressures he overcame as a child, Frandon became one of the best swimmers around and is now going to college for chemistry.

Swing and a miss on the whole Subway endorsement deal.

So when I was offered the chance to write an article for swimtoday.org about the fathers of Olympic gold medal winning swimmers, I agreed to bring my wits to heart of the establishment, ready to cut deep into the “hover-parenting” phenomena that has single-handedly created the profession of “Child Psychologist.”

Contrary to my beliefs, the event turns out to be a delightful gathering of families. Everyone is in perfect shape. Smiles are everywhere. There are no parents critiquing their child as they come up for air. They even have outdoor massage tables, presumably to take the edge off of swimming on a gorgeous June afternoon.

Then something happens. After some charming crowd banter from Olympic Gold Medalist Rowdy Gaines, each of the dads begins telling their story. Present are Dick Franklin, father of Missy Franklin, and Pat Dwyer, father of Connor Dwyer. Their children are some of the fastest swimmers in the world. The running theme of both upbringings? As Dick Franklin puts it:

“Don’t push them one way or the other.”

Now remember, I came here expecting the equivalent of a seven year old’s beauty pageant in respect to the quality of parenting. I arrived believing that any sort of success in this field would have been the direct result of borderline child abuse. Yet here I was, listening to these very unassuming men of calm demeanor talking about how all they cared about was that their kids were having a good time. Each parent testified that at certain points in the Olympian’s upbringing, certain activities (skiing, basketball) began to fall to the wayside so that the child could focus on swimming. It was the child’s choice. They wanted to focus on swimming. They were thinking for themselves and making judgment calls for their own future. If it happened to be that Missy Franklin wanted to pursue competitive chowder guzzling, I’m almost next to positive that her father would have said, “Absolutely, my little Bread-bowl.” Unsurprisingly, in the case of the greatest competitive swimmers in the world, it turns out that they were not made into swimmers through the intricate and complicated handling from their parents, but that they most likely were “born swimmers” and their parents simply enabled and encouraged them to be the best version of themselves, whatever that may have been.

Or I dunno, maybe having enough economic security to afford a house with a pool/membership to a swim club/live in an area with enough affluence such that it can afford to construct and maintain an Olympic sized indoor pool during one of the worst droughts in recorded history eases the burden of raising champions…

But I’m pretty sure it’s probably the first thing.

You can follow Swimtoday.org via @swimtoday.

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For more information, check out your local swim club and join in on the funnestnessisisity.

Strong, Weak and Vulnerable At The Same Time

by Kevin

guest_post_imgThese past few months have been quite the experience of being a dad and plenty more unsuspecting roller coaster turns to come I am sure. I have written quite a number of posts relating to the struggles and the coping (lack of) of ET suffering from GERD, but I never actually started from the beginning as such.

Have you ever been strong, weak and vulnerable at the same time? Read on to find out, why I felt this way all at once.

Ever since our son ET (real initials) was born, initially I was overcome with such happiness and joy that literally everything else in my world did not matter as long as I had both my wife and son by my side.

We were in the hospital for the most part of the first week in trying to set up some routine in his feeding patterns and getting the advice we so desperately needed from the helpful staff of midwives and nurses.

As the days and weeks progressed, things were shaping up to be great, we were told one great news to another and that it would only really be a matter of days before we can take our son home. As quickly as we were told that we could, we also quickly found out we could not take him home. After a number of tests and monitoring on the little fellow, we were told he had a mild case of Jaundice which is essentially a yellowness in the skin.

Our little guy had to undergo photo-therapy which involved him being stripped down to his nappy and a blindfold put on and carefully monitored via number of cords and placed inside a transparent box housed with a couple of UV-based lights.

We were told he had to be under these lights essentially for a full twenty four hour period while maintaining the regular three hour feeding intervals at the time.

As the days progressed, ironically our level of sleep increased because we knew that with him being in the nursery and carefully monitored by the doctors and midwives, we ended up booking a staying in room in the ward and we could sleep knowing we would be the first to hear of anything from the midwives regarding ET.

After the first session of photo-therapy, we were told his levels of Jaundice had decreased quite significantly and that after a few more standard checks we would finally take ET home. During the moments at home we had been anticipating taking him home for such a long time, we were in for quite a ride, the feeding hours seem to jump quite erratically, ranging from some two and half hours to three hours and one piece of advice we were told by one of the midwives before we began the process of going home was “Remember, just feed on demand when at home”

Because of her profession, we figured this midwife must know what she is talking about, seems to make sense we thought he is obviously growing and getting older by the day, it must be normal for babies to get to the on demand feed stage this early in their life, of course later on we were told by other medical professionals this should not happen at this early in his life and that we still should have continued to wake ET up every three hours for his feed.

We had taken ET home, and he was still being breastfed at this point, the first night was great feeling we followed every advice we could remember from the hospital, we changed his nappies, fed him, carried him as the days went on and everything seemed great.

I can’t remember exactly when we started to notice a change in his behaviour. It was after just one day, we had began to notice his complexion had seemed a little yellow and that is when we decided to call the hospital, and after a few calls back and fourth and monitoring from home, we took him in for observation.

And this is when we essentially had what felt like everything thrown in our face, his was underweight, his Jaundice level had rebounded and significantly higher than what they were before the first photo-therapy session and so again he was under the UV-lights for round two of photo-therapy. Even though we as a family had gone through with ET being under the UV-lights the first time, the second time felt such like a tonne of bricks just came crumbling down on us, it was harder on us to accept the fact he had to go through such an experience again and I think being able to take him home for such a short amount of time before hand had contributed to this.

After a full photo-therapy session, we were essentially given the green light to once again take him home, again everything was going well initially until we started to notice and suspect he wasn’t eating a much as he should have and as days and weeks progressed, we noticed we had such difficultly in settling him after a feed.

We thought this is just normal as all babies cry and need soothing and settling but we didn’t think too much of it. During a routine check up see an excellent paediatrician, he officially diagnosed ET with GERD (severe reflux)

The anticipation of become a father, I had read up on all I could to at least think that I was going to be prepared in some way or another, but never in my mind did I anticipate even the thought of a child suffering from GERD.

All up to this point before finding out ET has GERD, I felt incredibly strong for ET, being able to provide for him, be able to look after and nurture him and suddenly feeling weak. As the weeks progressed, we began to notice a change and a lot of trial and error with his medication to try and suppress his reflux, we felt like we were on top of it all, we had overcome his GERD and for the most part it is definitely under control.

Occasionally when I am feeding him (on prescription formula), and trying to settle and soothe him, I am finding it very difficult and tends to push on my patience, I end up being frustrated and I unfortunately take it out on those around me that mean to me the most and it is incredibly unfair on them, I feel tremendously vulnerable and weak during this moments while at the same time feeling I should be stronger, to be there for my son, to provide for him.

Being a parent is definitely the hardest thing I have done in my life and having such an overwhelming rush of feeling strong, weak and vulnerable at the same time has made me realise that in some strange way this is all perfectly normal and that things do happen for a reason and has made me take a step back and realise that the real person who is having most difficult time is ET who has to go through the pain from GERD and dealing with an incredibly short-tempered excuse of a father during those times when he needed it the most.

Do I feel incredibly stupid for the way I have been handling this whole situation? Of course, I am working on this and as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words and I vow to prove that to the fullest not only for myself so I can look in the mirror and be proud of who I see, but for my wife, for those around me that care about me, for those I love and care and most importantly for our son ET.

The Two Most Important Decisions Your Child Will Ever Make

Barry-300-320x240by Barry Adkins

“It’s just alcohol; at least they are not doing drugs.” How many of us have said this, heard it, or thought it? Often we think that as long as they are “just drinking” our children will be okay. The truth is, most illegal drugs are tried, for the first time, under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol kills more than all illegal drugs combined. Try using Google to search for the term “alcohol abuse,” and check out how many results you get.

Those precious children that you have held, burped, changed diapers and loved, have hopes and dreams. They dream of growing up and finding a cure for cancer, making the world a better place, being president, (insert your child’s dream here). They will be faced with many decisions that will determine whether their hopes and dreams are realized. Decisions like where they want to go to college, what they want to study, where they want to live, etc.

All important decisions, no doubt, but the two most important decisions your child will ever make are about drugs and alcohol. Make one bad decision with respect to drugs or alcohol and all of the above hopes and dreams are gone, vanished into thin air.

It’s too late for my son, Kevin, but it’s not too late for your child. The decisions your child makes about drugs and alcohol will have a profound effect on how their lives turn out. Educate yourself, and then educate your children. Act as if their lives depend on it, because they do.

When you lose a child the most that you can hope for is to make something very good come from it. That is what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing.

I Try

When they’re young, how do our children see us? When I look at my kids, I am in awe of the love that I feel emanating back from them. When you think about it, we are their world. They look at us for guidance and leadership. They trust that we will never let them down or hurt them in anyway. When I see the love in their eyes, I’m in awe. It’s a feeling that you can actually sense radiating from them. The term “unconditional love” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I have no idea what to call the way that they must see us, but that’s ok. I think a label would only cheapen it anyway.

Every day, I’m amazed by their love. When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they want to do is crawl into our laps and cuddle. When we leave to run some errands, they always want to go with. Even when we have to punish them, they don’t hold a grudge. Within 30 minutes, they are back. They want to play Candy Land with us not because they like the game, but because they want to play with us. They want us to be down on the floor and in their world. As much as we may want them to play by themselves for an hour, all they want is to be next to us.

Think about that for a minute. Think about the love that small person has for you. They don’t love you because of how you look or what you drive. They don’t care about what kind of car you drive or if your hair is grey. They simply love you because you are thier parent. That’s it!

Think about the trust. They don’t care how many mistakes you’ve made. They don’t know how many times you’ve failed over the years. They know, without a doubt, that you will do the right thing. They believe, to their core, that you will take care of them.

Wow… How do you live up to that? How do you even come close to being the person that they think you are? How do you become infallible? How do you pick that child up, look him or her in the eye, and say, “Yes, I am your daddy.” How…

If you’ve read this far thinking that I have the answer, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m just like everybody else. I’ve failed many times. I have made plenty of mistakes. I haven’t always been a good person. I’m as lost as you are. I can only tell you what I do.

I try

I try to be the person that they think I am. I try to be a good enough father to deserve that love that they show. I try to earn that trust that they give me. What else can I do? There’s no magical elixer that will make me a good father. It’s hard work, and it’s often painful.

I still make mistakes all the time. There’s no way that I am the person that they think I am, but I’m trying. I doubt that I will ever become that great, but hopefully, I’m a little bit closer today than I was yesterday. Maybe, I’ll be even closer tomorrow, or maybe there will be a set back. Either way, I have to keep trying.

After all, what else can a guy do….

Love Thy Neighbor

I want my children to grow with love. To grow with kindness. To be genuine. To be full of heart. I see it in their eyes. It glows through their skin and radiates through their smiles. It shines in their laughter, and their shenanigans and goings on.

I had an experience tonight that quite frankly scared the shit out of me. I’m not going to go into detail on it, but it was all too similar to a year I had in high school. That year, through loss, I learned how to truly value your friends. Tonight, through grace, there was no loss. But the memory of the fall of 1999 is still too close to the front of my mind. It still hurts. But tonight, I cry mixed tears. Tears of joy and relief. And tears of sorrow and regret. And I thank God that I am able to sit here and write this through blurry eyes.

And I do some serious thinking.

What are we doing to teach our children about the value of another person? What are we doing ourselves to seek out the value in other people?

What am I doing not being the example of one who does these things?

I want my children to grow with love. To grow with kindness. To be genuine. To be full of heart. I see it in their eyes. It glows through their skin and radiates through their smiles. It shines in their laughter, and their shenanigans and goings on. That is what I want them to live in. I don’t ever want to see that light and that love fade.  Yet, I know where life can bring us to at times, and how that light can burn too strong, for too long, and eventual begin to fade.

The power in life is knowing how to truly cherish that kindness, heart, that laughter, and those shenanigans. How to carry that light to the darkest of places, knowing it will always light the way. I really don’t think it can be that simple. It’s not just a capability we develop as we grow older It is a test of our strength and our weakness. Of our souls, our hearts, and our minds. It is an epic battle of sorts that we must fight from time to time. It’s a battle we fight for our fellow man, woman, child.

I think I lost the last skirmish.

But tonight is that turning point. Tonight is when I sharpen the swords, rally the troops, and prepare for the surprise attack at dawn. How far will I let the darkness blind me in my walk? Or, will I choose to kindle the flame that burns so brightly in my children’s faces? I can see it in them. I know it’s there. And I know that it is my duty to protect it at all costs, and to no end. That duty calls for me to show that same light in myself.  A journey I think I am ready to take on once again. I am willing to fight for my fellow man, woman, and child.

The world is in pain. The world is in vain. The world is losing that light from the inside out. As we grow older, it is a fight that our children will inherit from us. An environment that we will create. The question now remains: How are we prepping them for battle? Are we just playing defense? Or are we going to start the revolution?

WWF in Fatherhood? Differences in Raising Boys and Girls.

As a father of two girls there is a perceived notion that you must raise your daughters in a certain way (or at least I sometimes get this impression form the people that I interact with). At the same time, when I talk to fathers of boys, I hear differing things about their impressions and the ways in which they feel that they can and should raise their boys as well.

For girls, there is the impression that society expects that they will be introduced to dolls, dress up and the like and that fathers will support this feminine societal view. While boys are given toy guns, legos, cars or trucks to solidify their manhood. Who says though that it has to be this way? Who says that a girl can’t love playing with cars or trucks? Who says that a boy cannot like playing with a Cabbage Patch Kid doll?

For me, I have always encouraged my girls to do what they want to do. Whether this is playing baseball or dolls, dress up or cars, I am encouraging them to be the person that they want to be while at the same time encouraging them to explore areas outside of the normal societal mores.

As a father of two girls there is a perceived notion that you must raise your daughters in a certain way (or at least I sometimes get this impression form the people that I interact with). At the same time, when I talk to fathers of boys, I hear differing things about their impressions and the ways in which they feel that they can and should raise their boys as well.

For girls, there is the impression that society expects that they will be introduced to dolls, dress up and the like and that fathers will support this feminine societal view. While boys are given toy guns, legos, cars or trucks to solidify their manhood. Who says though that it has to be this way? Who says that a girl can’t love playing with cars or trucks? Who says that a boy cannot like playing with a Cabbage Patch Kid doll?

For me, I have always encouraged my girls to do what they want to do. Whether this is playing baseball or dolls, dress up or cars, I am encouraging them to be the person that they want to be while at the same time encouraging them to explore areas outside of the normal societal mores.

I have been encouraging this from an early age and I show this not only in the things that I let them see and try, but also in the things that I do with them. Thus, whether it is wrestling and roughhousing with them on the floor or dancing will we can’t see straight, I am pushing myself to look outside of the box while at the same time encouraging them to explore non-traditional society roles and activities.

I truly believe that fathers who do this are building their daughters into strong, well-adjusted members of society that will be able to stand on their own two feel and who will be able to decide for themselves in the end what is right and what they will stand for. In the end, that is what I want for my daughters. I want them to be self-sufficient and I want them to know that no matter what society will say that they can do and be what they want to be no matter what!

What about you? How do you encourage this in your own children?

A Square Peg

I know that Gavin is different. Hope knows that Gavin is different. Marley knows that Gavin is different. We’re ok with that, and in fact we promote and encourage it. Can your child name all of the different sections of the tongue that correspond to all of the different tastes, then show you, in full detail with tongue out and fingers on tongue, where the taste buds for each are located? I can’t even do that, and I’ve been eating everything in sight for over 30 years. I’ve given those little taste buds a run for it, and he still knows so much more. Sour, sweet, salty, chocolaty, absolutely amazingly. It would be so much more amazing, though,  if he wouldn’t use my fingers on his tongue to show everyone.  As if I don’t wash my hands enough at work.

What’s going to get me is when Gav figures out that he is different. That is going to break my heart, and I don’t think I will be able to handle it well. He is so carefree, so unaware of what everyone thinks about him. If he is happy, then what everyone else thinks doesn’t really matter. He’s oblivious to what Joe Public thinks about him, his actions, his outbursts, and what he wears. He makes himself happy, tries so hard to make everyone around him laugh, and doesn’t care about who doesn’t like it.

I know that day will come. I know that he will realize someday that those kids aren’t laughing with him, they are laughing at him. Hope and I talked one night about him being the punchline, and although I would have died before I let her see how that affected me, I  was raging inside at the thought of his discomfort. It’s hard enough to go through adolescence without the added weight of a developmental disorder. Kids are mean, I know that. But when you are a kid, those kids are your world. For better or for worse, they are your life. They create your Abraham’s Bosom, or your Dante’s Inferno. The one time in life that, along with sticks and stones, words can always hurt you.

So here is my plan, and if you think it’s a bad one, well, just hold your breath till I tell you to stop. I’m going to teach him that he is a square peg.  I really hope this works, and that he doesn’t try to break down the word “peg” into it’s Latin roots or try to tell me where the phrase came from. It’s not beneath him to do that. He’s way smarter than me, and he knows it. I am just an amazing bull-umm, what’s the pc word here? Pooper? Not to brag, but I can fool about any 6 year-old out there.

So the theory is that a square peg will not go into a round hole, without considerable effort. If Gav is the square peg, and social acceptance is the round hole,  and that by him being himself he just won’t fit. Something needs to give. Now, he could change himself to fit the round hole, and on the outside that would seem to work. But it wouldn’t be fair to him. He’d be changing himself to fit into what society feels he should be. My plan is to teach him that the round hole should change to fit him. He is so amazing and wonderful, straight out of the box. So let everyone else change, Gav, and you stay the way you are. I know that you can convince those people that how you see the world is actually how it is, because you’ve done that for me. My view on the world is now changed, and you are the reason for that. You have shown me that what the neighbors think doesn’t matter, because their kid will still come over to play. You’ve shown me that sometimes a social outburst, although extremely inappropriate and mildly embarrassing, is sometimes needed to move my overloaded Wal-Mart buggy up a few spaces in the check-out line (that one works for Hope more than it works for me. Everyone just shoots me dirty looks and I end up slinging my own social-class slurs at strangers. Maybe he doesn’t have Asperger’s, he’s just an observationist).

My Aspie is so many things, and one of which is not a round peg. I vow to never allow this child to feel that it his he who does not fit into what everyone thinks he should. I will strive daily to show him that he is amazing and wonderful, and that it is the world around us that must change to accept him. All the while I will be working to change the world around him. And in the meantime, we just might tackle that pesky shoe-tying thing.

Calling All Dads

There has been a considerable amount of outrage lately throughout the dad community, particularly the dad blogging community, over a label. In its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, the U.S. Census Bureau refers to stay-at-home dads as “child care,” even though those dads are obviously the primary care providers in the family. Essentially, babysitters. The report also lists moms as the “designated parent” if both a mom and dad exist in the household, or in single-parent homes. But dads, stay-at-home dads in particular, are not happy.

Of course, moms have been the traditional primary caregiver pretty much since the beginning of time. Over the past decade or so, a small shift has occurred and more dads are staying home with the kids. Still, we dads have a long way to go before we catch up in the child-care street-cred department.

But that’s not stopping involved dads from circulating a petition to put us on equal footing with moms when dads are the “designated parent.”  I signed the petition in solidarity with the dads I know and admire. Dads who stay at home and take care of the family. Or Dads who, like me, work but are active participants in the lives of their children.

I do, however, have news for all of these irritated dads, myself included: we are not the problem. In fact, I think we may be in the minority. The truth is, a lot of dads are fine with being called the babysitter. They call themselves that. And if their wives or girlfriends or whomever happen to need them to watch the brood for a finite amount of time, they roll their eyes, sigh deeply and grin and bear it. Again, THEY call it babysitting.

I recently took a day off from work to get our house in order – literally – after we returned from a Disney vacation. I performed the normal duties a stay-at-home parent might tackle any day. Meal preparation, school drop-off, food shopping, laundry, house cleaning. And it made me realize: I’d be damned if I’m the babysitter today. I shared my feelings with my Facebook community and was surprised that a lot of the moms who commented said I was the exception, not the rule. That not all dads are active and involved. That the men in their office constantly refer to spending time with their kids, without their wife, as “babysitting.” Some moms even said they don’t trust the dads with more than the basics, and for good reason.

A light bulb went on inside my head. Let’s face it: there are tons of guys out there who still pull the old ball-and-chain routine when referring to their significant others. There are too many guys out there who don’t cook, do laundry or give the kids a bath. There are even guys out there who would rather have a guys’ night out instead of a family movie night.

And those are the guys the Census report reflects. And no petition will change things until these guys get out of the dark ages, throw on an apron every now and then, roll up their sleeves and get some Play-Doh under their fingernails.

I am fortunate. I see involved dads every day in my life. Family members and friends. At work. At my daughter’s school. At dance class. But until the vocal minority becomes the majority, until these guys recognize being a father and being a dad are two totally different things, we will all be considered the babysitter. And you know what? Big deal.

Let’s drop the righteous indignation. Let’s realize who we’re really talking about. Let’s stop demanding respect from a government bureaucracy who decided on a silly label based on a survey of a measly 35,000 households. The only people I need respect from is my family. My wife and my little girl. And as long as they call me husband and dad, everyone else can call me whatever the hell they want.

Changing My Default Setting

Sometimes, I find that I need to change my default setting. I’m not necessarily talking about computer programs or the speed dial on my phone. I’m talking more about my attitude and the way I interact with the kids. Every so often, I’ll find that my default response gets stuck on “NO.”

Sometimes, I can trace the events of the day that led to the situation. Maybe there was a rough day at work. Maybe I didn’t sleep overly well the night before. Maybe the kids had been running me ragged all day, and I just didn’t have anything left. Other times, it’s more of a surprise. Either way, I’ll find myself responding to every question that the kids ask with “NO.”

To be fair, that’s the correct answer for a large percentage of the questions. When Princess comes up and asks if she can jump off her bunkbed into a pile of pillows, the answer should be negative. When she asks me if she can paint, however, the question at least should be considered. Unfortunately, when my response gets stuck, I’ll usually say no before she’s even done asking the question.

There are times when the answer should absolutely be “YES.” I’ve had times where Little Dude asked if he could help me unload the dishwasher and told him no without even thinking. Princess might ask me if she can go read a book, and I’ll say no. Afterwards, I’ll look back and think, “What was that??? I just told my son that he can’t help me do the dishes and my daughter that she can’t read a book. Why on earth would I say that?” Then, I realize that my default response has gotten stuck again.

At that point, I’ll try to stop and reconsider things. I’ll realize that I’m putting the kids into a position where they are bound to get into trouble. If I forbid them from doing anything, they’re going to get bored and find something to do. By eliminating all of their normal options, I’m driving them towards unusual situations. That’s definitely not setting them up for success.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I should have my default setting switched to “YES” either. That can be just as bad. If Little Dude asks me if he can chase the dogs with his toy sword (very much in the realm of possibility), the answer should absolutely be no. If Princess asks if she can color on the wall (also very possible), she should be discouraged.

I need to keep my default response set to “Let me think about it.” That’s fairly safe. Maybe there are times when painting a picture isn’t a good idea. If we have company coming over and don’t want a mess, for example. There may be other times when it’s perfectly acceptable. It might be a little work to get everything set up, but that work may result in a kid that is totally entertained for the next 2 hours. It may actually take me longer to unload the dishwasher with a 3 year old helping me, but there are some valuable lessons contained in that process. It would be absolutely worth the extra time and there would even be some bonding in there.

Next time that you’ve had a long day, and you find yourself dismissing every question that your kids ask, try to stop and think for a second. Are you answering no because that’s what the answer should be, or is your default setting stuck again? It might be worth the effort to stop, take a deep breath, and reassess things. I’m not saying that it’s time to start allowing everything, but the night may go a lot smoother if you simply take a second to say, “Let me think about it.” Maybe the answer is still no, but maybe you’ll realize that they are trying to do something completely innocent. Maybe, by answering yes, you’re entire night can get turned around.

Dad’s Eye View

I guess that’s how it is when you grow up and have children. The world is in a constant state of change, but so am I. The view through the window is never the same twice, and neither is the view from the eye’s of a dad.

When I was the same age as my little ones, it always seemed that all the world was a stage and that life was a movie starring myself. Outside of my agenda, nothing else really seemed to matter. I could never see the dangers that lie ahead in life. The let downs and the downsides that I would later experience.

There was change happening all around, but I couldn’t see it, couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t able to recognize that the world was in constant motion, and that life would not stay the same way forever. The time was magical. It was full on wonderment and excitement.

Now I have two little ones of my own, and the view of the world has changed so much. Through a new set of eyes, a dad’s eyes, the world is a much different place. Activities that, as a child, seemed so harmless, I now look at with fear while watching my children. All the cool games we played, all of the cool things we got into, they no longer seem so cool. They seem dangerous, and sometimes, even dumb.

I remember all of the fun things we used to say in elementary school because we thought we were cool, or just because we weren’t near our parents. Those phrases, words, and jokes are now the very things that my ears dread hearing from my own kiddos. They are the very things that I feel like I have to say “no” to a thousand times a minute.

But that is life, right?

I guess that’s how it is when you grow up and have children. The world is in a constant state of change, but so am I. The view through the window is never the same twice, and neither is the view from the eye’s of a dad. I want the best for my children, for them to be happy, healthy and safe. I don’t see the world as I once did. I know about the dangers, the unfairness, the let downs my children will face. I don’t see the unending canvas of endless possibilities of fun and excitement. But I do remember what it was like, and I promote and applaud my children for that same view.

My eyes see the world in a different light now. That’s part of the job and part of growing up. I see the world as a dad would see it. A scary place to set your kids into, a place of uncertainty and excitement. A challenge to show the world who I am as a dad as it reflects through my children. A challenge against the visions of manhood we see displayed all around us, and a fight against the way the world depicts me as being a dad. I see it as a place that needs a lot more change before my kids become full fledged members of society.

Maybe I’m just rambling, and perhaps the words will get lost with the past views that have passed in front of my window. Perhaps it’s not the world that has changed, just me

Mom, Dad or Parent

Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

Anyone who follows the parent blogging world knows the recent addition to the stereotype built against dads. The Huggie’s “Dad Test” ads expose a point of frustration for dads: the idea that dads are not capable to handle the duties that are required of having a kid. Changing diapers, feeding, watching, etc.

Being a professional in the marketing and advertising field I completely understand the use of stereotypes. We have to have them to reach out to a target audience affectively. Take the standard 35 year old mom. A helpful stereotype for marketers for this demographic is that her hobbies mostly consist of activities with her family. She probably is active on social media and enjoys providing some type of motherly act for her family. Whether it’s cooking, housework or just making sure that everyone in the family is happy she’s all about the role of being a mom (whatever that may mean to her).

That’s an example of a useful, non-offensive stereotype. There’s a clear difference between how a mom is stereotyped and how a dad is when it comes to advertising. If it’s taking care of the house, kids, etc the dad is often the incompetent one. When it comes to everything else (deodorant, cars, beer) we are focused on sex and things that make us “manly.” It contradicts the social trend of changing roles. More women are getting college degrees than men. 38% of dads are the primary caregiver of the child (up 17% in 10 years). We are moving closer to not having defined roles as parents. You’re don’t have the characteristics of a “dad” or “mom.” You’re just a parent. Both are responsible for nurturing, loving, watching, interacting and developing their children.

I talked about this in a past post, so I won’t keep building on this. I am happy for this new role of the “21st century dad.” Sure, it means being a man is being more vulnerable. Sure, you have to show your feelings, realize when you’re wrong, and let your wife take a shot at her dreams outside of family life.

I’m a firm believer that we go in cycles as a society. Something gets bad. We become aware. We change it. It gets better. It gets worse. We become aware. So on and so on. We are very aware of what an absentee father does to a kid’s development. We are highly aware of the high divorce rate and what that does to families. We recognize this and men who are willing to realize that they need to be more of an involved parent will have well developed kids and happier marriages.

I also believe that we make a point to place blame on others for our misfortunes. Should marketers realize that they need to change the way they look at dads? Yes. Are men making more daily household purchasing decisions? I believe so. But let’s not put all of our energy into talking about how mistreated we are as dads. Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

By Jared Miller

Catch Jared on Twitter @WingDaddyHood and on his blog!

A Clone of My Own

Clone of My OwnWith advances in technology, some people are dreading the arrival of human cloning.  Not me, though.  I welcome it.  After all, there is too much that I want and need to get done and too little TechyDad to go around.

My first clone’s job would be my day job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do for a living, but working 40 hours a week is a massive time sink.  There are so many other things I could do with that time, but then there’s the pesky issue of needing money to pay for stuff.  So Clone #1 would get to go to work while I stayed home.

Staying at home isn’t quite so simple, though.  There is always an errand or three to run.  Plus, there are home repairs to do.  Also, despite my best efforts, there’s somehow always some mess to clean up somewhere in the house (usually toy-related).  So I’ll need Clones 2, 3, and 4 for those.    Maybe 5 and 6 also.

I’d also like to spend more time with my wife.  Go out to dinner more.  See movies more.  Have date nights more often.  So I’ll need a clone for that.  Then again, there are often movies that I want to see which my wife has no interest in.  So add a clone in for that one.  Better make it two – I hate going to the movies alone.

I’d love to spend more time playing with the kids, but they often want to play different things.  Let’s add a pair of clones so they can each get their own personal dad.

Finally, I’d like to have more time to code personal projects (like FollowerHQ), so let’s add a clone for that.  Then there’s the novel idea I had… Oh, and the techy home projects I thought of but never got around to completing.  So add in two or three more clones.

What are we up to now?  About 14 or 15 clones?  Boy, this house is getting a bit crowded.  Not to mention that I’m going to need a few extra clones to find new jobs to pay to feed and clothe all of these clones.  They might all be me, but they are also probably more trouble then they’re worth.  Besides, with all of these clones doing everything that I want to do and need to do, what will I do?  Sit on the couch watching TV?  Now that I think about it, I’ll abandon Project Techy-Clone.  Sure, my life may be hectic.  Sure, I might not be able to get everything done that I want to do.  It’s my life, though, and I’m going to enjoy it!

What I learned in Pre-K

I am very fortunate to be able to eat lunch with Marley’s Pre-K class 3 days a week. I know that eventually she will be embarrassed by my presence and will want to crawl under the table whenever I show my face around her friends, so I embrace her invitation to join her at lunch with open arms. I look forward to my time with her and her class, as I get such a kick out of how their little minds work. I love the excitement and wonder that the world around them brings, the simplicity of their conversations and interactions with each other, and their explanations about how things work. Life is so simple, so happy, so amazing to them. Although they go to learn, they have taught me so much.

First off, did you know that eating a chicken sandwich makes you better at Paper-Rock-Scissors? Or Paper-Rock-Tornado-Froze-Flowers-Shark-Lightning-Rock-Thunder-Hammer? At first I didn’t really believe it, either, but now I will testify that it is a proven fact. After just 3 bites of his sandwich, one little boy spent the rest of lunch undefeated. Never-mind the fact that he waits until everyone else goes before he chooses his weapon of destruction, or that his little sidekick made a rule that every time she said “POW!” everyone but he lost. Nope, it’s all chicken sandwiches. I think it has something to do with the steroids and additives.

Shoelaces are the nastiest things on earth. Surprised? Think about it. Next time you find yourself at a primary school, just try to count how many tots are running around, shoes untied, strings dragging, aglets flopping to and fro. Now, think about bathroom visits. Little girls aren’t so bad, but think about the aim that little boys have. Yep, that’s right. There are probably as many yellow puddles in the restroom floors as there are kids running around with untied shoes. Now, think about the last time you saw a kid approach a puddle and back away from it, without stomping and splashing right in the middle. Wanna tie those shoes, now? Guess that’s why they stay untied.

Noses. Are. Nasty. Second only to shoelaces, in my opinion. Now, those noses are so tiny. Nostrils the size of pencil erasers. So can someone please explain to me how so much can come out of those tiny little snotter-boxes? It’s like watching one of those clowns or magicians pull a scarf, or hundreds of scarves, from their sleeve. It just keeps going and going to point where you’re not so impressed anymore, you just want it to end. I’m starting to think that some sort of Shop-Vac with a tiny little attachment may be a great idea. As long as I don’t have to empty it.

You can tell so much about a kid by how they color. Seriously, just hear me out. The more time that I spend with these kids, the more I get to know about their personality. They are all so different, so unique, and so predictable. As I look over the coloring pages hung up in the hallway, I can almost name the artist without looking at the name scribbled on it. I can see how the anxious, impatient boy has lightly ran a crayon through the middle of his picture. It looks more like he was drawing intestines rather than coloring. I can see how precise and perfect the bossy, controlling girl took extra care to make sure that her picture was the best. All of the crayon marks are going in the same direction, too. Then there’s the hyper boy that spends most of his day in “the bad room”, which I assume is either In School Suspension or the office. His picture is a little more than half done, as I’m sure he got bored, quit coloring, and did something ridiculous that landed him in trouble.

The barter system is in full effect at lunch. A Pop Tart is worth 4 cookies or 1 Reese Cup. Carrots cannot be traded, but given away freely. The same with grapes. Sandwiches stay with their owner, and no talk of trading sandwiches is allowed. Chips of different types all hold equal value, despite their size or flavor. Candy, regardless of the type, trumps all. If you have candy, you control all trade. You’re the Trade Commission, they are department stores. You make the rules.

Spitting food on someone is basically like stepping on their throat. It doesn’t matter what story you were trying to tell, or if you were choked and just performed the Heimlich on yourself. If food leaves your mouth and lands on someone else, you are completely at fault and should be banished to the bad room for all of eternity. No questions asked. I’m so very glad it’s not covered by Dram Shop Laws, although if these kids have their way it soon will be.

Love triangles start in Pre-K. At least in Marley’s mind. She is never directly involved, so I sometimes question the validity, but everyday someone else is in love with someone else, who is also in love with someone else. It’s like a tiny little soap opera, minus the evil twins and complex story lines.  I don’t really know how much I doubt her, though, since yesterday I watched a girl practice kissing her hand. Before you get all worked up, it wasn’t kissing like you would see on late-night TV, but more like a snake striking. I really think she was like a tiny kissing ninja, working on her timing and speed to better enable her to quickly plant a smooch on the cheek of some unexpected, probably napping, little boy.

Lastly, I have learned that I need that time. I look forward to it daily and I am so very sad to see it end. I enjoy hearing them say Hi and Bye to me, I cherish the fact that at this given moment, Marley is proud to have me there, and I have improved so much at Paper-Rock-Tornado-Froze-Flowers-Shark-Lightning-Rock-Thunder-Hammer. I love getting to know these kids, watching them grow and learn. I know that my lunch visits will soon end, so I am savoring every last minute. And then I’m washing my hands.

Celebrating the 21st Century Dad

So today, I raise a glass, and my fist, and celebrate the 2st century dad. I celebrate the community and writers here at DadRevolution. I celebrate the dads I have been blessed to connect with online and elsewhere who share the same strong passion. And I raise my glass to James. Thank you for the anthem that simply just celebrates what we come together online for in the first place. We are dads. We are 21st century dads. And we are proud of that!

Here at DadRevolution, we share our experiences, hopes, successes, failures, and feelings on all things being dad. We come from many different walks of life. We live in different places, we work different jobs, and we live different lives. But we all come here and write about the one thing we all have in common. we love our lives as dads. We share a passion for being involved in the lives of our children, and hope to spread that passion through written word. I don’t think too many dads reading this right now would deny the importance of involved fatherhood, or deny that there is always a need to inspire other dads to be there in their children’s lives.

We at DadRevolution celebrate fatherhood. We celebrate success and failure. We celebrate all things that come with being a dad. Of course, by now, you have probably seen how the Huggies brand is trying to celebrate fatherhood. I’ve already tackled that issue in an open letter to the brand, so we’re not going to go their again today. Instead, I wanted to showcase something by someone that, in my opinion, truly celebrates fatherhood in this age. Take a look:

 

Aside from the obvious (the awesome hat he is wearing), James (@SaskaDad) has cranked out this great little ditty about the modern day dad. A great little tune that celebrates what it means to be a dad in the 21st century. Just a quick showcasing of the duties and joys that the modern day dad has in his life. It’s not a cry out for understanding, it’s not a war cry of “gather the troops we’re going to war against the stereotypes”. No. It’s a straight up anthem of loving what we are.

I am glad to see that kind of celebration. A dude, not that much different from other dudes, sits down at the kitchen table, turns the camera on, and for a brief moment, he rocks his socks off about something so important in his life. We spend a good amount of time trying to prove that dads today are not the stereotypes that we have so often seen in media. We spend a good mount of time fighting for equality in the parenting world. We spend a good amount of time standing together against brands and companies that continue to degrade fatherhood. But we don’t spend the same amount of time simply celebrating who we are.

So today, I raise a glass, and my fist, and celebrate the 2st century dad. I celebrate the community and writers here at DadRevolution. I celebrate the dads I have been blessed to connect with online and elsewhere who share the same strong passion. And I raise my glass to James. Thank you for the anthem that simply just celebrates what we come together online for in the first place. We are dads. We are 21st century dads. And we are proud of that!

Being Stuck in Dad Purgatory

It’s an afternoon in the Divadom and my wife is working, that means that I am the head honcho, the one and only guy in charge, or am I? Living in a home full of glitz and sequins I find that there are days when I think I am in control and in fact I find myself stuck somewhere in between, or in a place that sometimes feels like Dad purgatory. Have you ever been in this same place? Where you make rules and they are tested, you make punsihments, but they don’t seems to make a difference? Yes, this is the land I call Dad purgatory.

It’s an afternoon in the Divadom and my wife is working, that means that I am the head honcho, the one and only guy in charge, or am I? Living in a home full of glitz and sequins  I find that there are days when I think I am in control and in fact I find myself stuck somewhere in between, or in a place that sometimes feels like Dad purgatory.  Have you ever been in this same place? Where you make rules and they are tested, you make punsihments, but they don’t seems to make a difference? Yes, this is the land I call Dad purgatory.

I find this a hard place to be at times, because I want to be a good parent. I want the respect of my children, but it is hard at times to get to that point. I keep looking for the do-it-yourself manual when I go to the bookstore in the parenting section, but alas, there are many that have tried, but I have never found the one true guide that is the sure fire fix.

I find that this sense of dad purgatory sets in even further when a childs’ friends comes over. Sometimes these friends can bring out the best in our children and sometimes the worst (I always pray for the best of course).  When you not only have to parent your own child but the child or children of other parents who may not have the same rules that you hold your own children to. Alas, this is still the bane of a parent’s life as it will continue as long we remain parents, right?

So for me Dad Purgatory remains, but I attempt to break down its walls every day, making it easier and easier to strive to be a better parent and father… only time will tell if I am successful, but I sure hope I am!

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you do to keep yourself going and whether you have ever fell into this realm of Dad Purgatory as I have labeled it…

The Best Remedy

I had a rough day at work this week. It was one of those days that when my wife asked me if I wanted to talk about it, my response was, “Not in front of the kids.” In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing major, but it upset me nonetheless. I also rode the bus home that day, so I had about an hour or stewing in my own anger before I opened the front door.

I got home and went into the kitchen area to put my lunch container in the sink. My wife was helping our daughter with her homework, so I decided not to bother them at the moment. Instead I went to the living room and sat down on the couch. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Maybe I would read a book. Maybe I would fire up the Playstation. Maybe I would just sit there and stare at the ceiling. Before I could really figure it out, I heard a knock come from the door. This is fairly unusual, so I checked to make sure that the kids were out of the room and then assumed the “chest puffed out, I will protect this house” stance. When I opened the door, however, there was no one there. Then I heard the knock again and realized it was coming from the bathroom which is on the other side of the wall right by the door.

It turns out that my mom was giving my 2 year old son a bath. He heard me come home and wanted to show me something. I walked in, and he flashed me his cloud-clearing smile and asked me to come closer. I knew he was up to something, but I couldn’t resist that smile. I got down on my knees and leaned in close. In that cute way that only 2 year olds can, he completely forgot what he was going to do. He just looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on his face. Then, my mom gave him a clue. “Squirt him with your fish!” The big smile came back, and out of nowhere, he brought a bath toy fish and squirted me full in the face with water.

I pretended that I was astonished by what just happened which brought out the trademark Little Dude giggle. Then, he said, “Daddy, come here closer.”

I told him, “No, you’re just going to squirt me again.”

With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “No, I need tell you somefing.”

I knew what was coming, but I leaned in anyway. Once again, the fish flies out and sprays me right in the face. We played this game a few more times until me and my mom were both pretty soaked. By the time I left the bathroom, I had to go change my shirt and wipe my face off. I did all of this with a smile on my face though.

I was still upset later on when I told my wife about work, and I still had to deal with it the next day, but for a good chunk of time, none of that mattered. Our son had managed to turn my mood around in less than 30 seconds. It’s moments like this that make you realize how awesome it is to be a father. There’s nothing like it, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

No Harm, No Foul, No Apologies

In these ways, moms and dads are not that different. We all share a common ground which should be remembered by both parties. We share our fallibility, we share the parts of us that make us fail at times. We share human nature. And when it comes to being human? No harm, no foul, no apologies.

**Note: This is a fixed up repost from my personal blog. As certain events have unfolded in my life, and with words that have been floated my way recently, it is very fitting to my mood today, so I wanted to share it here too**

 

There is probably a lot in life that I should apologize for. Fighting with the wife, punishing a child then later finding out they weren’t the one at fault, being late to work because I had no motivation to show up. Perhaps I should take into consideration the lies I told my parents when I was a kid, the times I stole from others during my later teens and early 20’s, and the guy I flipped off and almost wrecked the day before the wife gave birth to Little Man.

These are just a few things I could think of that I should apologize for. There are many more, but it would take years of posts to list them all. The better side of this is that I have done things that don’t warrant an apology, whether others see it as right or wrong. The biggest , and perhaps most steadfast action I will never apologize for, is for not being mommy.

Here we go:

People like to compare dads and moms, and hardly ever is it in a good way. Though that is a view that has been shifted greatly in recent years, but there is still a long ways to go. In more specific detail, people like to compare SAHDs to SAHMs like they are inferior, weaker, and more likely to fold under pressure. Recently, personally, it has been said that maybe if I did things more like mommy then my new role as the at-home parent during the week wouldn’t be so bad.

Here’s the thing:

I am not mommy. I am not my wife. I am not a female. I don’t do things the same way she does, but I will never, EVER apologize for that. Since when did doing things different mean that you were doing things wrong? Nap time came 30 minutes later than normal. Big deal, we still napped, and were up in time to get Little Man off the bus. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

I think that popcorn and apples are perfectly acceptable snack time foods. Oh dear Lord though, I gave them something not so healthy along with something healthy. But guess what? Nobody is in bad health, nobody had explosive diarrhea or a case of the farts that would run out any weiner dog nearby. Nobody puked, nobody even cared. It was snack time with a movie, and popcorn and apples sounded delicious. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

When it comes to discipline, I take the role of “Daddy Law Enforcement Agent” pretty quickly. There are some things that can slide with a quick “no, don’t do that” or will cease with the simple use of a child’s middle name. However, there are sometimes when more direct actions need to be taken. A time out, a slap on the hand for a hitting infraction, or being sent to a room until crying has stopped. Again though, I parent on my terms, not anyone else’s. Despite some of the harder days (like a recent hand in the diaper, poop in the face incident), despite the fact that there are evenings when it seems there is more disciplining going on than singing and dancing, my children love me, and I love them. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere really. Just been kind of bothered by comments and remarks I have heard from people about my parenting style. And being told that I should be more like mommy? Well, that just sends me over the edge. I am not mommy. I am not a female and I am not my wife. Parents use different styles. It’s different between moms and dads, different between dads and dads, and different between moms and moms.

What matters is that I choose to parent effectively, lovingly, and without harsh judgement. Do I always succeed? No I don’t. But do you always succeed? No you don’t. We are human and we are fallible. That is how we work. We succeed or we fail. But we learn what we can for the next time. Even if next time is not the same as the previous, we have something to go by that helps us make better decisions.

In these ways, moms and dads are not that different. We all share a common ground which should be remembered by both parties. We share our fallibility, we share the parts of us that make us fail at times. We share human nature. And when it comes to being human? No harm, no foul, no apologies.

Terms of Engagement: Drawing the War Plans

With the change in parental roles in our house, came a change in attitudes, routines, and habits. None of us were prepared for all of the changes, and all of the new stress that came along with it. This also included how to handle aggressive and undesirable behavior from the children. We knew that there would be some acting out, some of that “pushing the boundaries” jazz, and all that other junk, but we did not have any knowledge of how to decide if and how to intervene or administer punishment.

Buzz Lightyear lies wounded on the battlefield. Not too far from him, Optimus Prime lies fallen. Both, victims of a horrific act of violence. Two of the world’s strongest allies became innocent bystanders in a war that was never there’s. The time was 6:47 in the evening. Hell hour. The giants that stood above these iconic heroes, rained tears down on them, as if truly sorrowful for their actions, and for ending the run of the famous toys.

In hindsight, I guess the kids really did feel bad about throwing the toys, sending them to their makers. Or to the force flex trash bag. The war was exhausting on both sides. Ultimately, daddy won the the battle, but nobody won the war. Now we were all in a state of mourning. The kids mourning for their lost possessions, and I for my inability to keep the civil unrest in order, and prevent such atrocities. Then, with just a few words, my son looks at me, and puts it all in to perspective. He says:

I wish Mommy was here. She would bust your tail, Daddy!

He is probably right. She would.

What really intrigued me about him saying this was that it noted in my mind the fact that he knows, without a doubt, the differnce in our parenting styles and disciplining methods. And trust me, him and his sister are both good at exploiting these differences to get their way. They are master deceivers and workers of the system. They sit up late at night, exchanging and comparing notes through the gates at their doors. They are knowledgeable and well armed.

Okay, that was a bit dramatic. My kids spend more time yelling at each other to be quiet than they do plotting. They are sweet in their own ways and for the most part, decently behaved. Yet, as they get older and approach the ages of 5 and 3, they become more possessive over toys, over attention, and over each other. This generally leads to sibling rivalry, and at least once a day, the need to place a call to the Daddy Law Enforcement Agent, for immediate intervention and sentencing. Still, there is definitely the knowledge there that shows that my wife and I should perhaps hash out a war plan, and terms of engagement, when it comes to discipline in the house.

With the change in parental roles in our house, came a change in attitudes, routines, and habits. None of us were prepared for all of the changes, and all of the new stress that came along with it. This also included how to handle aggressive and undesirable behavior from the children. We knew that there would be some acting out, some of that “pushing the boundaries” jazz, and all that other junk, but we did not have any knowledge of how to decide if and how to intervene or administer punishment.

There are times when a time out, or being sent to the room, or the loss of a privilege or toy must happen. Sometimes there might just be the need for a light rap on the hand, or a firm holding of the hand, followed by short and definitive verbal response. Such as “I do not want to see that again” or “We don’t hit in this house”. Then there are times when a simple calling of the full name and the raised eyebrow will suffice. And of course, there are times when the behavior is pure instinct in reaction to the change, and it should be allowed under supervision and understanding. The gray area for us is in how we judge what category behavior falls under, and what the law of the house says should happen in response.

This isn’t the point of the post where I give out wonderfully thought out advice on how to avoid this problem. This is the point where I straight up tell you that I have no advice on this. In fact, this is the point where I turn to the DadRevolution community. I know we aren’t the only ones who disagree on discipline and different aspects of the parenting  job. This is new territory for us, with new changes, new stresses, and new needs to hash out new plans.

So today I am asking you. How do you answer these questions?

  • Who lays down most of the domestic law in your home when it comes to children and discipline?
  • Do you struggle to maintain an even playing field between discipline styles in the home?
  • Are your kids experts at exploiting the difference in parenting and discipline styles?
  • Do you have set rules that were set in agreement between both parents? Share these?
Now it is your turn. Share your answers in the comments below!

A Parenting Success Story

This fatherhood thing is hard. It’s mostly trial and error, and it tends to be more error than trial. You do your best, stay up all night thinking about it, and then try it again the next day. You work hard to do the right thing and raise your kids to be good people. You make a lot of mistakes along the way, but that’s what parenting is all about. Every once in awhile, however, you try something, and it actually works. It’s like taking 12 shots to get to the green and then sinking an 85 foot putt. You just stare at it and wonder how you got everything right this time. It makes all of your hard work worth it. I recently had an 85 foot putt, and I would like to share it with you.

Our son is 2 years old, and he certainly has an attitude to match. Like most 2 year olds, he doesn’t like to hear “no.” He is normally a terrific kid, but he has a scream that can shatter glass and eardrums, and he likes to use it when he doesn’t get his way. He also makes spitting noises when he doesn’t want to listen to you. Because he’s so young, I don’t expect him to be happy when things don’t go his way. He’s not old enough to realize that there are reasons we tell him “no.” I did, however, very much want the screaming and spitting to stop.

We had tried quite a few things with little success. Timeouts don’t work, and it doesn’t make sense to yell at him to stop yelling. If we put him in his room, he’ll just wait until we shut the door and then start playing. That certainly doesn’t seem like much of a punishment, and it’s definitely not reinforcing good behavior.

Then, I decided to try something slightly different. Every time he would scream or spit, I picked him up and carried him into his bedroom. I laid him down in his bed and then shut the door while I stayed in the room. I sat down on the floor and simply stared at the wall. Since I stayed in the room, he wasn’t able to get up and play. If he got out of bed, I picked him up and laid him back down.

Once he realized that he couldn’t get out of bed, he started with his normal reactions. He would scream at the top of his lungs and make spitting noises at me. I just kept staring straight ahead. I didn’t flinch or acknowledge his actions in anyway. At first, he would keep going for 5-10 minutes. I would sit there during the entire time and just look at the wall. I always made sure that I could see him in my peripheral vision in case he tried to kick the wall or hurt himself in any way.

After a while, he realized that screaming and spitting wasn’t going to get him what he wanted. He stopped, and immediately said, “I’m sorry, daddy.” As soon as he said that, I picked him up and gave him a huge hug and explained the situation to him. If he screamed or spit at anyone else, I also ask him to go apologize to that person.

This process went on for a couple weeks. Every time we played the game, it would get a little shorter. 5-10 minutes of screaming turned into 1-2 minutes and an apology. That turned into 30 seconds. Pretty soon, he would say that he was sorry as soon as I laid him down. Next, he started apologizing as soon as I picked him up. Once he realized that screaming or spitting wasn’t going to get any reaction from me, good or bad, he changed his behavior.

Over the past week or so, there have actually been numerous instances where he normally would have turned and unleashed his voice. You can actually see the thought process take place in his eyes. Instead of screaming or spitting, he just turns and walks away. He’s still not happy with the situation, but he’s doing a better job of expressing himself.

Did I just turn our son into a fully functioning member of society? Absolutely not. It was a small victory though. It’s made me realize that maybe I can do this fatherhood thing after all. It certainly wasn’t the most fun experience, but it worked. Now, if I could just get our daughter to listen to us…

Metal Mayhem

What started with my dad providing these memories for his son by being there, going to the shows, and enduring what those shows entailed, now continues with that same son, now raising a son of his own, and using a passion for music to create some grand memories. And in the end, that’s what it is all about to begin with. Not that we all share the same musical taste, but the fact that we were there and a part of the memory to begin with.

If you follow me on Twitter then you may have noticed that recently I have been on a kick of listening to metal. Bands like Confide, We Came As Romans, Killswitch Engage, and Bullet for My Valentine, just to name drop a few. Since high school, I have had an ear for metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, and music of the like. Some great father/son memories were created between me and my dad going to hardcore shows to see local scene heroes Stretch Arm Strong. To this day, I still think that my dad might have enjoyed going, just as much as I enjoyed getting down in the pit. You would never find him down in there with me, but the point was he cared enough to endure the intense volume of music and heat in the venue. What can I say? My dad ROCKS!

Little Man has also become somewhat of a fan of metal as well. Both of us being influenced by my brother-in-law. “Uncle Bubby” as he is called by the little ones, is a guru of all things metal music. We have had some great times in this house banging our heads until we got dizzy, riffing it up on air guitars, and just killing it on air drums. Then of course, being in my growing age, I get out of breath, have to sit down, and then the party is over. But it doesn’t seem to matter to the little dude. Whether we rock out for 10 minutes or one song, the fact is daddy took the time to rock out with him.

It never ceases to amaze me how music seems to provide those moments, or create memories, or just be such an influence in our lives. Music holds a special power that uplifts, brings people together, gives them a reason to carry on, or just seems to define who a person is. Now honestly, you would have to actually ask my dad whether he enjoyed the hardcore and punk shows, or listening to “For the Record” 18 times on the way to the video shoot at the Elbow Room. I’m sure there were many nights where we got home, he went to the bedroom and told my mom to break out the ibuprophen. But that is who my dad is. To him, it was about an opportunity to provide a special moment for his son.

For myself and my miniature me, while I don’t think he is ready for his first concert, we create our own experience right here at home. Even when I have my guitar out jamming, he will take some time to get his guitar and rock right along. He can’t play chords, he can’t really carry a tune, or pull off brutal metal growls, but the boy has a passion for music. Through this shared passion, we create bonding moments everyday in which music plays an important role. When he wants to rock out, we rock out. When he wants to join me in rocking, he does.

Funny the things that we find bridging the generations in our families. For us, metal mayhem just happens to be one of those things. What started with my dad providing these memories for his son by being there, going to the shows, and enduring what those shows entailed, now continues with that same son, now raising a son of his own, and using a passion for music to create some grand memories. And in the end, that’s what it is all about to begin with. Not that we all share the same musical taste, but the fact that we were there and a part of the memory to begin with.