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 This thought process of the possessive, over-bearing father is outdated and rooted in insecurity.

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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.

“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.

I always give choices.

I always give choices.

But won’t that allow them to walk all over you? – No. It won’t. Quite the opposite. A child that’s happy with their choice is more cooperative to do the task they chose. If I say “Hey buddy, would like to help me vacuum or help mom pick up your blocks?” I’ll get a happy little boy helping clean the house.

They’ll just get what they want all the time! – Well, what exactly is wrong with that? I get what I want most of the time. So does my wife and most people I know. Unless it’s work, I indulge in my wants and interests. Childhood shouldn’t be a sacrifice of choice and wants over an irrational parental fear. Besides, isn’t life spent pursuing our interests?

What should it matter if they want the red cup? Or if you picked out a green shirt but they want the striped one. Big deal. We turn it into an issue that really isn’t there. Let them have their red cup and striped shirt. It won’t spoil them. It won’t entitle them. Give them the choice before you pick it out, before you pour the water.

Lamenting the Past. Embracing the Present.

I was driving down a pedestrian inhabited street, looking at all the various people as I pass them. My mind drifting to imagine their life; their current state of being. While observing all the smiling, carefree faces as they walk, jog and congregate at will I was suddenly struck with a sense of limitation. Everything now took planning and preparation. The inability to be spontaneous was subconsciously being mourned.

I lay in bed; listening to the 3-day music festival taking place just a block from my house. Its heavy bass and screaming vocals infiltrating my quiet bedroom as my family slept. I found myself envying all the people participating in its controlled chaos. A favorite past time of my wife and I: going to many concerts and festivals throughout the summer on a moment’s notice. The possibility of never experiencing the rush of singing side-by-side with powerful artists was subconsciously being mourned.

I was sitting on the couch watching recorded shows while my children took their nap. Commercials for vacation destinations were being splashed in my face during every intermission; almost to the point of taunting. Places that were once annual retreats as well as places I have yet to experience. My mind filled with possibilities of what could have been. Places that were not meant to be were subconsciously being mourned.

TheBoy and I enjoying the zoo; transfixed on something.

TheBoy and I transfixed on something while while riding the shuttle at the zoo.

It’s okay, healthy even; to be mournful of past lives now simmering in purgatory.  After all, they define who we are and how we have ended up where we are. But that’s exactly what they are: past lives. The lives I see on the streets while driving, the ones I imagine at concerts while lying in bed or those I see enjoying destinations I may never visit are no longer mine. They are no longer a priority.

I forwent those lives for my current one. A rebirth of who I am, who I choose to be.  When I come home and a little boy comes running for a hug; when I spend my evening reading books to an audience of two; when that little boy is snuggled up to me while his baby sister sleeps on my chest as we watch an evening movie.  I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in my place of bliss. I’m at a oneness with who I am and the path I chose. There are no regrets or grudges with the lives of my past; just peaceful content.

Losing yourself in parenthood is not a bad thing. Your children need it; they deserve it; if only for the first few years of their life until they become a little more self-sufficient. Our past lives, interests and hobbies will always be there; either waiting to be revisited or simply serving as a reminder of our journey. It’s important to not let it consume who we currently are.

I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.