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 This thought process of the possessive, over-bearing father is outdated and rooted in insecurity.

“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.

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.