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.

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Oh, dear experts…

According to the experts I should have a clingy child. One that will not venture out or become independent. Supposedly he will need us forever because of how he is being raised.

Confused Expert

Confused Expert

Little do these experts know my son is the one I have to constantly remind to stay close because he is so eager to explore all of his environments. When we are out he seldom needs our guiding to navigate his world. Should I tell these experts that my son often shuns my help in an attempt to conquer his endeavors all on his own? “I can do it!” he will scream as he takes control.

These are the same experts that said my son will never sleep on his own or through the night if we allow him to nurse to sleep and not have access to our bed. Or that he will be unruly if punishment wasn’t provided for misbehavior. Or that we are creating an entitled brat because we reach agreements by compromise instead of dictating demands.

No dear experts. You are quite wrong. Independence is fostered through connection and a safe, secure home-base. Respect, validation and responsiveness provide that foundation. Oh experts, I hate to inform you that my son is quite capable, independent, respectful and cooperative despite going against your expert advice. Thank you anyways.

That Similac Ad: A rebuttal of sorts.

MomWarsI know everyone on earth has seen it, laughed at it, cried because of it and inevitable got into some debate from it. I’m not going to get into the psychology of the ad itself as it’s been discussed ad nauseam. I will however briefly explore a wider realm of detriment it imposes: a disguised attempt to end The Mommy Wars. I’m not a fan of the term, but I’ll stick with it since it’s universally known as that.

I’m going to dive in about the meatier battles within the war. If you use a stroller over baby-wearing, then roll on. Disposables over clothe? Not worries. Formula vs. breast? He’s being fed, right? How you chose to birth or whether you work or not doesn’t matter. Even though some hold merit over others; these are all the smaller ‘to each their own’ type battles. But under this same umbrella would fall the bigger, more detrimental practices such as CIO (cry-it-out sleep training), corporal punishment and circumcision; which definitely do not fall into the ‘to each their own’ hat when science has proven otherwise.

Imagine for a moment, that all discourse on parenting practices ended. That would mean studies on the effects of these harmful practices would halt and anyone speaking against the act would be deemed a judgmental asshat. Yes, there are those extremists who sling mud and run off at the mouth on all sides, but a majority of those are simply presenting information in an attempt to inform, not belittle. This often comes across as attacks to those that are sensitive or have quilt from utilizing them.

A complacency in allowing inadvertent (yet sometimes purposefully) harmful practices would be the suppression of further discussions and sharing of pertinent information vital to future generations; which is a grave disservice. I would never, ever say “It’s okay that you struck your child. You love them.” Or pat someone on the back and tell them it was good decision to allow their child to scream themselves to sleep; we’re all just parents after all. I will never condone the circumcision of your son; a practice routinely done mainly in the U.S. and is largely falling out of favor (most of the world condemns the U.S. for it). How can I condone any of these things when they have been proven to cause harm? That’s not ‘mommy wars’; that’s fighting for the well being and rights of our children. That’s being pro-child.

This ad is eerily similar to one with the photo shoot of the various moms holding opposing signs together in harmony, and now the granola add. In light of these two campaigns anyone who speaks out (on either side) is frowned upon; further suppressing information. As is anyone that doesn’t particularly like the campaigns. ‘How can you not like them and their message?’ they’ll scream. Let us not forget that Similac is a for-profit company that is combating a large breast feeding movement, which is potentially cutting into their margins.

I say let’s keep the discussions going, keep sharing the information and parent on. Let’s stop the bashing, name-calling and mud-slinging during these discussions. It is true: we do all love our children and want the best outcome for them.

Today I yelled at my son.

Today I yelled at my son.

We just bought a new entertainment shelving unit to combine two pieces to reduce clutter in the front room. I had it all disconnected and pulled out and was attempting to re-connect everything into the new unit. I was knee-deep in wires, routers, plugs and power strips. I was quite frustrated and getting angry with myself at my multiple mistakes in re-connecting things. Multiple attempts kept ending with errors, things not booting up properly or connected to the wrong inputs. I typically do not become easily frustrated but this was really boiling me.

TheBoy, typical to his character, was right there buzzing around me happily wanting so much to be involved with what I was doing. He was humming delightfully as he got ever closer to the main power strip; full of blinking lights and the big, lighted power button.

“What you doing?” he asked.
“I’m hooking all these boxes back up so we can listen to music.”
“I can help.” He said cheerily, reaching out for the tempting button.
“Please don’t touch that. It will turn everything off and that won’t make me very happy” I warned. “I need you over there. Let’s see how many dinosaur magnets you have. Can you go count them for me?” He briefly left and came back, ever closer to the power strip. “Buddy, I need you. To go stand. Over there. While I do this.” My voice matching my level of frustration.

“I help.” He said innocently and that’s when it happened. That big lighted power button was too much for him to resist. He pushed my literal and figurative button. My frustration was too much for me to control. I snapped. I firmly grabbed his hand and belted: “What did I tell you?!” very menacingly with a look in my eye I have never shown him. He gave me a look I have never seen before: fear. His expression, one that I will never forget nor want to see again, made my heart sink. I felt a level of horrible unknown to me.

I immediately let go and he recoiled and hid behind the window curtain; pulling it around him tightly. I knelt there, head down collecting myself. It took a good bit of coaxing for him to come out. He eventually came out on his own terms. He was leery, and rightfully so. I opened my arms and invited him in. Hesitantly, he accepted and we hugged. I apologized profusely and promised him he was safe. I have never, in his 2 years of life, seen him afraid of me; and it shook me.

“I’m so, so sorry I yelled and grabbed your hand TB. You just wanted to help daddy, didn’t you?” He shook his head yes. “You saw daddy playing with all these cords and wanted to help. I’m sorry I yelled like I did.” I held him tight and rubbed his back.

With everything still a mess, shut down and unplugged; I asked if he wanted to read his favorite dinosaur book. We reconvened on the couch; him on my lap and a book in hand. Together we reconnected and bonded over dinosaurs, cuddles and hugs. We laughed; we tickled and enjoyed an afternoon at the park in the refreshing air and cleansing nature.

I do blame myself for this incident. Perhaps it was a task I should have worked on with my wife home or given him a small, manageable task adjacent to my current project. Either way, it did happen. Why am I telling you this? To show that even though I’m here, with this blog, we are all working on being a better people. A gentler parent. To meet a situation with a calmness. There will be times when we all falter and slip. A day when our point of patience is surpassed and we vent in ways we regret. Today was such a day.

Phase Two Parenting – A Toddler With Wants and Emotions

     I have noticed a dramatic shift in how we go about our day-to-day and what’s involved. Let’s just say parenting has become its namesake. We shifted into the second phase of raising our son. Phases? Yep. The first phase is what I’m going to refer to as “The Simple Phase”. This phase started when Bub was brought home from the hospital and ended somewhere here recently. It involved raising a child who was a number of things; above all of which was not mobile. His needs were basic: comfort, physical contact, simple nursing, the ease of a diapy change, etc. Most of our time was simply spent bonding and enjoying an immobile small human that would smile and coo at our nonsensical banter.
     Those days are long gone and enter in phase two of our journey. Phase two consists of a Bub that is now mobile (crawling and standing); has more complex needs, and is now starting to understand that his actions come with consequences, be it good or bad. A few examples being when I drop food on the floor, the puppies circle vulture-like under my highchair. Or I pull daddies records off the shelf and he has a mini panic-attack at the sight of 30 records scattered about. Basically, that his manipulations of his environment have a reaction. Simple science for a little guy. (Did I say simple nursing earlier? Now it’s an acrobatic performance that may or may not contain biting. What? My teeth are coming in and Mom’s nipples are chewy!)
     Just when I was enjoying the first phase and really diving into getting things done, phase two initiates without my consent. And that’s what has me nervous. I know exactly how I want to go about handle his new abilities and emotions. He’s slowly started to differentiate wants from needs and when the wants are not exactly baby-safe or boundary-crossing, enter in the whole new phase of parenting. A phase in which our idle techniques go front and center.  We definitely want to practice gentle and non-violent parenting, but it’s the execution that has me a bit frayed.
     This is a good time to bust out the old paperbacks and do some studying. While I have read and researched quite a bit online, putting it to practice is a whole different beast. I know I’ll be tested well beyond what I’m accustomed to, especially considering how I was raised, which was a more authoritative dictatorship: Mom ruled the roost while dad deferred to mom. I plan on being much more involved in the decision process.
     I have always been a dominating but loving dad to my pups, but it’s different with Bub. I’m not going to be dominating or bully my child into submission. Here’s a small quote of mine I posted elsewhere:

     “I will not be condescending to my child. Instead, I will kneel down and teach him so he can learn, discuss with him so he can understand, and treat him as the equal he his.

     This is what I want to live by when raising Bub. This will become my mantra. My go-to saying when I know I’m getting frustrated and overwhelmed with the demands of a toddler that’s pushing my boundaries.  That quote is the very essence of gentle parenting. I will give him options instead of demands. It works every time in my head, but I know reality has something else in mind. Prepare to be tested!

New Dad? Feeling Helpless? You are Important!

     
Image courtesy of
Google Images

     So, you have become a Dad. First off, congratulations on your new arrival! This is truly a magnificent time in your life. There’s nothing more exciting than returning home with a new life that you in part created. After all, nothing has ever seemed more in line than that first day back after all has sunk in and the reality strikes like a personal attack from Zeus.

     What? You mean nothing is in line? You feel slightly lost and can’t seem to get a grasp on anything? Sometimes transition into fatherhood can be extremely daunting and quite overwhelming.  There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of helplessness.  It’s a common feeling among many first-time fathers. That feeling is intensified when your precious new bundle is clung to Mom and wants nothing to do with you. After all, Mom’s doing the nursing; getting a good block of bonding time and baby seems to take comfort in only Mom’s company.  Fear not concerned parent! You are more useful that you think.
    It’s important to know that Moms body is going through some crazy hormonal times right now. She’s exhausted. The demands of baby are taking their toll on her (and you no doubt). She’s healing in ways we can’t think of, or choose not to think of. These are rough and beautiful times for her. And you are the most important person she has, that your baby has.
      It all starts with taking a grasp of the bigger picture.  It is essential Mom and baby build the bond they are. Don’t worry, you’re time will come.  I’ll get to that. Right now, your first major responsibility is to play gatekeeper. There will probably be a flood of people wanting to investigate the new arrival, and who can blame them? But it’s up to you to protect your new arrival while Mom and baby take care. The last thing they need is people coming in and out, disrupting the new family time while everyone is still getting settled. For us, immediate family saw Bub in the hospital the day after his birth. After that, no one was to come over till after a couple weeks until some semblance of a routine was being formed. Step one accomplished.
     With Mom tied down; whether it be because of baby or healing from birthing; there’s a bit that needs attending to. There’s everyday chores that’s now up to just one to accomplish. That’s not to say Mom and baby get neglected; just that the shared duties are not so shared for a while. (Really all that I did were very essential things: dishes and laundry when needed, everything else can wait.)
     The best thing you can do for Mom? That’s where things become a little more fun. Even though she’s likely not on her feet much; while she’s nursing a good foot rub could be in order (just don’t expect it to lead anywhere!) Or maybe a light shoulder rub is in order. Or how about simply being there next to her; not that you’d be running about town anyhow, right? Just your presence alone will provide strength she wouldn’t otherwise have. She needs you to be there, reassuring her when she’s feeling her most depleted.
     Now what about my time with baby? Let’s face it, Mom will need reprieve. There’s no way around that. That’s when it’s your time to step in and shine. This is the best part of the deal. While Mom and baby’s bond is far more crucial at this stage, you get to partake in numerous bonding moments. So strap in, here’s a list of things you should be a scholar at within the first few days.
  • Although some of these may be chore-like in nature, they serve as critical bonding moments for us dads. Newborns need their diapies changed how many times a day? Too many, right? (Don’t worry; their poo doesn’t really stink until they start solids) Swoop your little one up, singing and talking to him the whole time while changing. I like to sneak in little kisses on the forehead and stomach. Turn it into a fun, quiet moment. It’s really not the chaotic task that it’s made out to be.
  • Babies need a bath a day. While the cord is still attached, they can’t really take a traditional bath; a sponge bath. Turn this into the same opportunity as changing the little guy. Look him in the eye while singing and smiling. Don’t forget the lotion afterwards! It gets better when they’re older and you can actually bath together. We do almost every day. You sir, should be a changing and washing master.
  • Is baby fussy, just ate and is so tired he’s fighting sleep? Swaddling works miracles! It’s an awesome skill to learn and allows you to rock baby to sleep within minutes. Nothing is more satisfying than having the ability to put him peacefully to sleep. It also let’s baby know you’re a trusted source for the sleep he’s resisting.
  • All those night time waking’s? If you’re not bed-sharing or co-sleeping, you can show that you’re there for your partner by being the one that gathers up baby and bring him to Mom. It means the world to Mom knowing that she’s not taking the full brunt of your new nighttime regimen. That not only allows Mom more comfort while nursing, it also lessens her up-time at night. You might get a chance to use your swaddling skills if he doesn’t fall asleep at the boob! It again shows baby that you’re a source of trust by responding to his nighttime needs, which strengthens your growing bond

     Of course there will be numerous times that you and baby will have together. These are just the basics to get started on a routine of being there for your partner and bonding with your new child. While these may seem like a no brainer, when you’re in the heat of the battle it might not be so simple.

     It’s important to know that you are the glue holding together this awesome new life. Don’t let trepidation and hesitancy stop you from being important.  It’s also very important to understand that Mom and baby’s bond is going to be a completely different type of bond that you will have with baby. Don’t get discouraged and don’t sideline yourself. It’s always tough in the beginning; no matter how prepared you think you are. It’s a new start, wrought with struggles and patience. Hang in there; be there for Mom and remember, you are important and needed more than you know.

A Becoming Dad Thank You

     
This is the picture that inspired this post.

     As father’s day approaches I find myself as the one being celebrated instead celebrating my father/in-law. It got me thinking about how I actually became the father I currently am. I know where I started, and it’s definitely miles from where I currently am. When we first brought Bub home I was absolutely in love with our bundle, but something still wasn’t complete. I thought in the hospital that I would be completely fine. Everything went perfect there and it seemed like he adored me. Looking back, those moments in the hospital seemed dreamy at best now. It wasn’t until we got home that it went from dream to abrupt reality.

     After our arrival home I found myself looking at a crying miniature human in his most tiniest, vulnerable state. With my wife in the other room, my eyes flooded with tears as I watched my son wailing in his little carrier. For the first time in my life I felt an extreme confusion without the faintest idea of what to do. I was completely clueless.  All of a sudden I felt a disconnect between my son and I that blacked out any bond we previously developed. A little postpartum depression perhaps? With my wife coming back in the room I walked to the kitchen to mask my leaky eyes and onset of confusion.
     Fast forward a day and the confusion settled as I settled into my new role. My feeling of disconnect was still present, but not as severe. I was still lost; well not lost and much as directionless. I loved my son immensely, even through these feelings I was fighting. But as a father, I felt something amiss.
     Somehow I stumbled upon Becoming Dad. I saw Darren’s postings about him and his son; their relationship, all the happy and inspirational moments they share. I went to his site and read what I could and what Becoming Dad was about. Something about this project inspired me. I can’t quite pin-point what it was, but something sparked in my head and saw something in my fatherly role that wasn’t previously there. I began seeing Bub in a new light. Seeing how conscientious a father Darren (and other guest admins) were and his mentoring helped me regain something I left at the hospital. I still couldn’t tell you what exactly it was that helped, but it was through Becoming Dad.
     Shortly after I subscribed to Becoming Dad, Darren set up a Dad’s only group, to which I quickly joined. I think I was one of the first few to join. In this group, fathers from around the globe quickly shared and answered questions. This was quite possibly the best outlet I had since Bub’s birth to receive feedback without feeling judged or ridiculed. Not only did I receive feedback, it felt rewarding knowing I was in turn helping and guiding others.
     So I would like to send a thank you to Darren and his project of Becoming Dad. I don’t know where I might be in my role of father if not for stumbling on your site. I can say that Becoming Dad inspired me to become the father I am today, in my first celebration of Father’s Day as a father. I consider you a silent mentor in my journey, even though we’ve never officially spoke to one another.

     Many will scoff at such a thing as classes for Fathers to be and the like. I say open your mind and accept what could be. It helped me tremendously in my current role. I’m now the strong, conscientious, connected father I wanted to be. I’m now fully immersed in all things Bub and that’s in part why I began my blog and FB page. To share with the others the joy in raising him.