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.

The evolution of the relationship with my son.

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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.

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.

There Will Be A Time

There will be a time.

When little hands won’t tug at my shirt to be picked up just for fun.
When a nose can be blown without assistance.
When scrapes and cuts can heal without magical kisses.
When little toes won’t tickle the small of my back throughout the night looking to get comfortable.
When I can walk past the front door without having to move tiny shoes that never find their way back to the shoe bin.
When I can open the fridge and not have to peer around a small, curious head for my next meal.
When an exhausted little person won’t rest his head sleepily on my shoulder, yawning contently in my ear.
When hugs become less frequent.
When my daily “welcome homes” won’t consist of unbridled laughter, ear to ear smiles and open armed embraces.
When dependency gives way to independence.
When I can sit in awkward silence and just be.
When there won’t be crayon markings needing cleaned off of walls from a budding artist.
When imaginary food won’t be fed to me.
When “Daddy” simply becomes “Dad”.

That time can stay in the future.

To the mother at the mall: I’m Sorry

To the mother I saw at the Mall before I became a parent.

I was leaving a store and you were there. You had a kid in tow, maybe 3 years old. Your son, in the moment we crossed paths, was have a terrible time. Flailing about in your arms, he was struggling to cope with his emotions. He undoubtedly wanted something or wanted to go somewhere and you told him no.

His screaming did not deter you. A fist inadvertently hitting your head or shoulder did not cause your temper to flare. You stood there, in the entrance to the store we were leaving, patiently holding your child tightly. Letting him work through his moment.

Your love did not waver or become conditional should he keep in his struggle. You did not threaten or exert force to end his tantrum. You held him tight in your arms, showing him it was okay. Exhibiting a calmness during his storm. A lighthouse for him to find the shore.

To you I owe an apology. As our lives briefly intermingled, I gave you a look. It conveyed a message. Control your child it said. For that look, however fleeting, I’m sorry. My journey is now where yours was when we met.

Staying firm in your decision while still embracing love and a safe space for your sons emotions takes remarkable control and patience. You displayed that, even in the judgement of public eyes. For that, you are incredible.

I would like to not only apologize, but thank you as well. For setting an example that I so vividly remember over 2 years later. It’s these small, brief encounters that ripple through society and make all the difference. Thank you. For it is possible you might have subconsciously aided in my gentle parenting journey.

First Year of Fatherhood – A Reflection of Sorts

     Thank you Bub for being there for me. This past year has been tremendously eventful and altering. I love you so very much. You have become my sun in which I revolve. You make every day bright and optimistic. I look forward to a lifetime more of sunny days thanks to your warmth.     My son’s first year of life is just a couple days away. That means I have been a father for approximately 21 months.  Never in my life would I have envisioned ending up where I am today. I could write about how my life has changed. I could write the differences in my day to day after my son’s arrival. How elated and stricken with an instantaneous overabundance of unfiltered love and pride the day he was born. Then how two days later when we arrived home I cried because I felt so lost and confused as my son lay crying in his swing; and how I overcame that. This could be about all the small things that fill me with joy every day being in his presence. How my heart swells with pride with each accomplishment he achieves on a daily basis. His mental development is staggering and amazes me every step of the way. I could write how my heart is capable of expanding infinitely to accommodate all these things to fit. But I won’t. I’ll instead write about how having my son changed me as a person.  He’s opened my eyes to many worlds and circles I was never aware even existed.

     Before he was born, I’ll admit this with some hesitancy, I was not fond of children. In my life I have never really interacted with them or held them or really have ever been in the vicinity of them. For the sake of keeping honesty forefront, they kind of annoyed me. So why would someone who did not care for kids want kids? My wife’s ovaries were panging fiercely, sending messages she could not ignore. Despite my tussle, I could envision myself as father; but this is delving into another story of its own.
     What my son has taught me through experiences is that children are completely awesome, unique beings. When I see a child laughing or smiling, I smile back. Before I would turn away because it felt awkward to look them in eye for reasons I can’t quite explain. Knowing the impact a simple gesture has on child’s psyche changes how I interact with them. I see it every day with my son. A smile brightens their lives, even if they don’t know you. A friendly wave enriches their view of the world. I realize now these tiny little people are forming opinions of their world, not just living in it. Who am I to taint their fragile psyche by ignoring their curiosity rather than thriving in it?
     My view and opinion of children have changed. They are little people with concerns, needs and real emotion to each decision we make for them. A long time ago I adopted a one-size-fits-all opinion to children. This simply is not true. Children are as unique as snowflakes with personalities to match. What works with my son may not work on his friend at day care. When I see a young child playing and giggling and enjoying life I’m overtaking with a smile and acceptance.
     With the realization of how mentally fragile children and infants really are, my level of empathy has grown to levels I thought myself incapable of. Understanding the emotional need of my son has transferred over to many other areas. Most significantly to parents with special needs children or parents I see struggling for one reason or another or simply a child have a tough time of it. You could say I have bias empathy. But that empathy has never been tapped in me before.
     Love is instantaneous. Cliché? Perhaps. Fact? Absolutely. I was one that had to work on love. There was no love at first sight in my life. Yes, this includes my wife. That’s another story as well. But the second I saw my sons head emerge from its 9 month hibernation; I knew love can be instantaneous. Didn’t I say I was not going to write about being filled with love upon his birth? I did, and I lied. How could I not mention it? It’s one of the greater experiences of becoming a father.
      With my sons arrival I felt the urge to learn all I could about the decisions that needed to be made regarding his upbringing. Instead of just going with the flow of what society and western medicine want to you to believe, I researched each decision with vigor. It’s that need for further clarification that had ultimately led me ultimately to where I currently stand; which is an advocate for a variety of issues that I never knew existed!
  •  Breastfeeding.  Who knew it was a “controversial” act in public? Never would I have imagined I’d be advocating for the most natural of ways to feed a child. Why would that even need advocacy? Breastfeeding has been an integral part of our son’s upbringing.  He has been exclusively breast fed up to 6 months and still nurses at 1 year.
  •  Natural, safe and intervention free birth. This is a big one. The birthing realm mystified me from the beginning. My wife was pretty knowledgeable, but not me. Now I know more than ever! This happens to be another advocacy dear to us. In fact, we just attended our first Improving Birth rally just this year. I could not have had more fun there. The things you can learn and teach others are astonishing!
  • Child Advocate. We have learned that children have no say so in a number of areas. Whether it is spanking or bullying from adults; I have come to understand how kids are being raised by being systematically beat down by parents (psychologically) in an unintentional manner (sometimes intentional). Through learning gentle methods that exclude physical and mental harm; we try to understand better how to handle disciplining children and teaching natural consequences
     These are just a few of the ways my path has changed. Nights once spent seeking out records and reading comics have morphed into seeking information and reading various “parenting” books about gentle parenting and AP parenting. I have even began dabbling with a blog about the whole experience of raising my son and things we now advocate for. Wait a minute? Where else would this have posted? So my life has changed drastically in the past year. It’s been fulfilling in ways I can’t put into words. Where I once stood as being inconsequential I now know where my path lies. I am still learning how to get there and I will allow my son to be my guide.

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!