The Shredded Paper Incident

I turned my back for a few minutes and went downstairs. I returned to this. DinoBoy(3) tipped over a bin full of shredded paper and waded through it like a pile of leaves.
Me: “Woah buddy. I see a huge mess on the floor. How’d this happen?”
DB: “I tipped it over and made a mess!”
Me: “I see that. Did you have fun doing it?”
DB: “I walked through it. It was fun!”
Me: “I bet. Seeing all the little pieces of paper flutter everywhere was pretty neat. But now there’s a huge mess to clean up.”
DB: “Yeah. It needs cleaned up.”
Me: “Do you know what these are?”
DB: “No. What are they?”
Me: “They’re little bits of shredded paper. So people can’t get information we don’t want them to have in our trash. That’s why they’re so tiny. So. How do you think we should clean this up?”
DB: thinking, thinking, thinking “Ummmm. I don’t know daddy.”
Me: “Okay. I have an idea. I will help you, but you need to clean this up. Okay?”
DB: “Okay. What’s your idea?”
Me: “Take this paper and watch me.” I took a piece of paper and folded it to show him how to use it as a shovel to scoop up large quantities at a time and dispose of it back into the bin. “Next time you see something that could make a mess like this, ask me first and we can come with an idea, okay?”
DB: “Okay. I’ll ask next time.”
Me: “Excellent. Thank you buddy.”

He didn’t exactly know what the paper was for or why it was cut up into little bits. He saw a bin full of something cool, something new. I saw an experiment, not a mess (although it was a mess). To him, it was a new experience. He wasn’t intentionally making a mess or trying to upset me. There needs to be no punishment of any kind.

It took about half an hour to clean it up moving at a toddlers pace. I could have done it much quicker with a vacuum cleaner and then talked to him about it. But that wouldn’t of taught accountability. I always include him in the process of cleaning up. It’s a lesson learned.


When Activism Becomes Extreme.

On observations…
Activism, no matter what form or shape or cause, is comprised of passion. An injustice is seen and vigorously fought for. As with any activism; there are extremists. Those who find themselves so overtaken with the injustice that emotions often drive the conversation, which frequently leads to heated arguments instead of civil discussions.
I fully understand these individuals. I was one; and still am sometimes and trying to change. These are the people who attack on a personal level because they find it very difficult to separate the person from the act. A good friend told me once: “Sometimes you have to punch someone in the face to get their attention.” It’s a beautiful saying and I fully agree. However, it can be done without making it personal.
As soon as you go on the offensive (or defensive) with attacking, an insurmountably wall erects itself and the conversation becomes dead before it begins. No one will learn, or even be interested in learning, at this point. Why would they? At this point you’re defending your pride, not your argument.
In many instances it’s best to just disengage and walk away. Save your sanity from those who have no desire in learning your side. Being rude and uncivil is what makes movements seem to be led by a bunch of unhinged loons that people take with a grain of salt. Unfortunately a bad reputation is a common byproduct of activism.
Before I became a father, I thought nothing of spanking, circumcision or allowing a child to cry in a vein attempt to train them. Now as a father, I have learned better and fight vehemently against them. I see the injustice in these. I voice these opinions. I will not stop voicing them. But just because I don’t allow myself to lash out at a naysayer by arguing or allow myself to walk away upon realizing their intent is not to truly understand but to simply argue and pot-stir; in no way am I condoning that injustice or accepting it’s continuance.

On my blog, I have many many people that don’t necessarily agree with everything; but do listen. They lie in the background, absorbing what is being said and reading the comments. They take some advice and leave some advice. What if one of these people are on the fence and see someone admit they spank or someone that circumcised their child or left them to cry or any else you don’t agree with. What if this person who admitted this was attacked and pounced on by ‘peaceful’ activists? What if this person watching then decided to deem the cause as batshit crazy? I will always defend my opinion. I will always discuss my position. But I will never attack or bash.

The more we are the crazy, the bashing, the unhinged offensive attacks; the less we allow the movement to move forward. The more we are willing to teach through understanding, modeling and with poise; the more we will be listened to as a sane voice. A voice worth listening to. We can be that voice without the extremism. Extremism is not a good thing.

‘You need to toughen them up.’

“The real world’s gonna walk all over them if you don’t toughen him up.”
How exactly? Yes, it can be a cruel and rough world. But if I show my child the good in people. The potential in people. That a person is more than just a negative moment. Show him all of the positive in the world. The good deeds done by strangers.
If I can counter his negative with understanding and positive guidance. That mistakes do not define a person. That people are indeed flawed. To meet this hostility and harshness with patience. That a positive interaction could potentially change someone’s entire course of life. 
If I can teach my child to be strong. To be be well spoken. Explain that failure will happen. That rejection is a part of life; but just a small part of it. Teach him that he can pick himself up and start again. That a bad encounter isn’t a personal reflection of him. If I can make him see the value in himself. His self-worth. His self-esteem. The negativity won’t permeate his outlook. His demeanor.
If I can do all of these things without the threat of punishment. The threat of being hit. Without that little voice of fear in the back of mind, whispering to him reminders that those whose love him and protect him are capable of hurting him. If I can do this. Then the answer is no. No the world will not walk all over him. No he won’t need to endure a childhood of being ‘toughed up’ for this ‘real world’ you speak of.
If anything; he will enter this world. Bringing with him true empathy that is lacking in it. True understanding. He will supply it with optimism. Fill it with hope. He could, quite possibly, make changes in this ‘toughened’ landscape; that very well may ripple through it. Softening it’s image. Making it more endurable so future generations won’t need this ‘toughening up’ you’re so fond of. Instead of continuing this cycle of toughening, how about we try this different approach. One that doesn’t assume the worst in people. 

‘Kids these days’ is a matter of perception.

Kids These DaysI took my son to the park tonight. It was dusk as we rounded the corner to the play structure. There we saw a band of 10-12 year old boys. They looked like the kind of kids most would consider rebellious and disrespectful. Their attire was suspect; all had black hoodies, baggy pants, crazy hair, a demeanor yet to be determined. Their bikes tangled in a heap next to the swings. They were standing on the swings, climbing up the slides and being wild. What I saw in them was me. When I was young. When I was given the freedom to be out with friends without supervision.

We approached the structure with caution and looked for an opening to climb up to the tier where the slide entrances were. I walked in front one of the boys standing at the monkey bars. As I passed the boy swung out, unaware that I was there. He missed me as I reached out to stop his swing. I apologized because it was I that walked out in front of him. To my surprise, he said he was to blame: “I didn’t see you and almost hit you. It’s my fault.” “No worries” told him as I moved on with my son.

I kept an eye on them as they were attempting a ‘how many college kids can fit a phone booth’ routine but with a swing. We went down the slide a couple of more times before my son spotted the empty child’s swing next to where the boys were attempting their record. On our last attempt down the slide one of the boys was blocking our path trying to go down the steps. I stepped aside to allow him through. “You can go first.” he told me. “There are a ton of ways down this thing and only one way up. I’ll go this way so you can come up.”

After our last trip down, I reluctantly agreed to push him on the swing next to the boys, as I was leery being to close to their antics. “Watch out for the little kid.” one of them said as I placed my son in the swing a mere foot from them. “Oops. Sorry.” another one said. I pushed my son as high as the swing would allow while, much to my amazement, all five boys managed to fit on the swing. One called out to a buddy that was out of ear shot to push them all.  He didn’t respond. “Hey, you guys all got a good hold?” I ask. “Yep.” So there I was, simultaneously pushing a group of pre-teens and my son. They laughed until one fell off; then they all spilled off of the swing. They thanked me, told my son they liked his hair and sped off on their bikes after discussing who’s mom was making what for dinner.

The moral? The ‘kids these days’ rhetoric is a perception of adults that forgot they were once children. This perception would have led me to believe that these boys, the ones I pushed on the swing, were troublemakers. Being wild, climbing improperly on the equipment, banding together. When I first saw them, as I said earlier, they reminded me of me. Kids having fun, acting their age without concern of their perception. Once involved in their world; they were respectful and nice to me while being mindful of my 3 year old son. But you wouldn’t have known, or guessed, that by looking at the 5 second window we all use to pre-judge.

Kids these days. We were all once kids; indulging in various stages of enjoyment. We see them in hordes in the malls, at parks, at the movies, arcades (yes, those still exists) and assume the worst. We see them embracing their freedom and living up their childhood. Like ‘kids these days’, we all hid things, did things we may regret, rebelled a little. As we age, we forget these things. We live in the adult world, where we expect everyone to be well mannered and respectful of everyone. Forgotten are the days when we ourselves were still learning and figuring out our place. Forgotten are the days when we were still learning to regulate our own emotions and impulses. Admit it, you’ve said some pretty harsh things under your breath and had some harsh thoughts. The difference? We have the ability and life experience to not act upon them. To veto the impulse before it gets executed.

People will tell you kids these days get away with much more than they did. That is simply not true. Looking back on my childhood and teen years I got away with quite a bit, as did all of my peers. No worse than today’s youth. Forgotten are the all your childhood shenanigans in favor of the times you were reprimanded. Why? Fear has a stronger tie to memory. It’s a basic built in survival trait. We avoid fear. Things that hurt. Punishment will stand out more than the time you went into the woods with your friends all day and came home just after dinner was served and your parents didn’t say anything.

If you go back far enough, every generation claims the succeeding one has issues and is out of control. Somehow, I don’t believe that is the case. The problem with ‘kids  these days’ is its perception from the previous generation. They are different than us, they are in to different hobbies than us and strive to be their unique selves in an environment that demands they be specific ways. We see a struggling child in the store and think the worst: they need punished and taught respect. We are too quick to dismiss them and resort to the common rhetoric we have all grown accustomed to: ‘kids these days’. All generations had their groups of true troublemakers. What they did not have was social media blasting the small sect of kids that do act out and are disrespectful while rallying around calls for harsher punishments; further distorting this perception. All my peers, including myself, that did questionable acts and behaved certain ways throughout childhood grew into successful adults. Not because of harsh punishment or more ‘ass whoopings’; but because they simply matured into men and women. There is nothing wrong with kids these days. Only our perception of them.

Drop the “To get to her, you need to go through me” tough-guy act with our daughter’s dates.

57585073You’ve all seen them. The pictures, the posts, the memes with a father and his infant / young / teen daughter. Sometimes the father has his arms crossed with a scowl on his face. Other times he’s holding a gun with the same menacing expression. Sometimes there’s even older male siblings practicing being a bodyguard. All of these with the intent to intimidate and be confrontational when it comes to future male suitors for their daughter. “To get to her, you have to go through me first”.

I know, no big deal right? Harmless fun. Only I find these things laughable and ridiculous for a few reasons.

a) It shows that there is absolutely no faith that boys can be raised to be respectful and polite to women (or by default to people in general). Instead of raising daughters to fear men, lets raise our boys to respect women. To have self-worth. To say it’s wrong to go against a woman’s wishes. To stand up to those who do.

b) It shows that those fathers have zero confidence in their ability to raise their daughters. If they truly believed they could raise a self-aware, strong, confident woman then this whole song and dance becomes pointless and unnecessary. It shows no confidence in their daughters ability to be a good judge of who she befriends.

c) It shows that feminism still needs to be talked about. It shows that woman are still weak and feeble creatures that need their fathers with guns to protect them. It shows ownership over someone else’s body and decisions.

Yes I have a daughter. No, I will never bully or intimidate a friend or future boyfriend or girlfriend she brings home to meet me. If s/he is worthy enough in her eyes to bring him/her home, then s/he worthy of my respect until s/he proves otherwise. This thought process of the possessive, over-bearing father is outdated and rooted in insecurity.

The evolution of the relationship with my son.


DinoBoy and myself enjoying popcorn and goofing with the camera. This is the picture that choked me up.

The other night I cried.

It was a personal moment.  The rest of my family was peacefully sleeping. I was browsing through hundreds of old pictures; searching for that perfect one for a profile picture for an upcoming interview. There were endless pictures of just my son and I. Some were selfies where we were goofing around making silly faces. Others were of just him, enjoying life; unhindered with no agenda. They were all taken while my wife was at work and we were on mini-adventures; whether at home or while out.

These were moments just the two of us shared; a still frame from a life still being lived. I pause at one picture. It is slightly blurry and not well shot. It’s fuzzy, much like my memory of the moment in time it captures. This photo is both flawed and perfect. It represents more than just the image it contains. It holds the power to conjure memories. Those of my son and I dancing in the living room, gazing upon the moon in wonderment, sneaking in a bowl of popcorn after my wife went to bed, our hikes through nature during the brisk fall in the Midwest. Moments when we could just stop and have a cuddle on the couch while indulging in cartoon.

It was then that it dawned on me. This chapter that I am recalling is complete. Written and concluded. That these free, unbridled moments when it was just two of us are now over. The world we used to enjoy as a duo has quickly evolved into a trio. Those quiet, intimate moments no longer exists with the same frequency. My attention is now divided between two children who need me equally, but in different capacities.

In that moment, the realization of how much I truly missed the closeness, that special bond and the undivided attention I had with my son became too much. The emotions flooding me culminated into a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Only tears alleviated them. It felt as if I was mourning the loss of a relationship. A relationship that is evolving so fast I failed to see it. A child growing so quickly I did not want to admit it.

The relationship with my son has not been lost. It is not  fizzling. Rather it has matured. He understands. He is quickly becoming more independent. It was that independence that I mistook as a lack of connection. Our bond is still strong; still intact. The neediness is gone. The clinginess is fading. In its place is a new being. One that is needy. One that is clingy. One that needs that constant touch, love and holding. He sees this. He understands. He is not mourning this evolving relationship. He is embracing it. At times we both fumble in the moment, but he knows.

After the emotions run their course and I feel better for having them; I now know. I understand.  It is now time for me to embrace it.

“I support breastfeeding. But…” – A list of common rhetoric.

Supportive PartnerYesterday I saw a meme about a conversation a mother had with her 4 year old over breastfeeding her younger daughter. The comments on the post were…..well, very discouraging.  “I support breastfeeding. But…..” followed by a host of excuses. If there is ever a ‘but’ after “I support”, then you don’t support it. Period.  If your support was true, it wouldn’t need any modifiers. There always seems to be a core list of ‘buts’ that people use to mask their conditional support. I’ll try, as feeble an attempt it may be, to dispel these common modifiers through my own experiences.

“Use a cover!” – Ummm, no. My children do not like covers. They are hot little creatures that sweat and a cover compounds that. Have you ever seen a mother attempting to cover a child that doesn’t want to be covered while nursing? Yeah, little flailing limbs that draw about 1,000% more attention than the act of nursing without a cover ever would. Covers are not an option for us.

“We’re trying to eat here.” – And so is my child. We eat at the table, my child eats at the table. It’s simple really. Should I deprive my child of food because you yourself are eating? That seems illogical. You’re also making my wife uncomfortable, so please swivel your head the other way and focus on your own table and family.

“I don’t want my kids seeing that!” – What, how nature works? What breasts are really meant for? A special bond between a mother and child? If anything, kids SHOULD see this. If anything, a child will think NOTHING more of a nursing mother other than she is feeding her child. Children do not see a problem with that, adults that think their children shouldn’t see it do.

“That child should be on regular milk.”  – Regular milk? You mean pumped breast milk from another species of mammal designed specifically for their own offspring? Because that sounds like what nature intended to be natural and regular. The only milk I’ll ever classify as regular is the milk that my wife produces for my child with her own body.

“If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old for it.” – By this logic a child should never be breastfed because they ask for it no sooner than they are born. A lot of children sign it by 6 months and most can ask for it verbally at 1 year. AAP and WHO recommends it until at least 2 years old. This is a completely flawed argument. Humans have evolved this special ability called speech, and a child being able to ask for it, whether through crying, signing or verbiage, makes it much simpler on the child and mom.

“I don’t just pull my stuff out in public. That’s all these mothers want to do.” – You figured them out. There is this whole sorority of nursing moms that get their jollies on flashing their breasts in public. Nursing is legal exhibitionism don’t you know. The last thing any mother (and their partner for that matter) wants is a stranger staring at her breasts while she feeds her child. And honestly, as much breastfeeding and nursing as I’ve seen (not just from my wife but from the plethora of parenting related events, conventions, rallies, etc. that I have attended) I rarely see that much actual boob. And as a side note, your ‘stuff’ cannot nourish and sustain an infant’s life; so until it can, it stays in your pants.

“Can’t you pump and use bottles?” – Doesn’t work that way. It can, but most of the time it doesn’t. Most babies have difficulty transitioning from bottle to breast and latch is greatly affected. Some moms, no matter the grade of pump, just won’t produce milk with one. Only the baby stimulating the breast will work. And then there’s the working moms. Moms that spend the day away from their child (my wife falls into this category). When they are home; they are nursing. Plain and simple. That is their bonding time. They pump all day and can’t wait for their little one to latch on and have that reconnecting moment.

There is a good chance that mother had a hard time getting to the point she is currently at in her nursing relationship. It may be her first time being comfortable enough to publicly nurse. She may have overcome a great struggle to even breastfeed in the first place. Also, the nourishment and hunger of my child will always trump your argument. Every. Time. So the next time you are slightly uncomfortable around a nursing mother, you might to think twice before reaching into your bag of worn out rhetoric.