Parents: It Is Never OK to Change a Diaper at the Table

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I want you to imagine you’re at a restaurant, with your kids, and a man walks inside holding a paper bag.

He orders some food and sits down at a nearby table. Then, without warning, the man opens the paper bag and you see it is full of shit. Yup, that’s right. I’m talking actual human feces out in the open where you and your family are eating. He closes the bag up quickly but you’ve already seen it and the smell of piss and crap is now wafting through the air. Outrageous, right? If you’re anything like me, you’d complain to the manager immediately to have this guy removed. Human excrement in a dining area? Disgusting!

Now, replace the man with a mother and the paper bag with a diaper, and that’s exactly what happened in Texas earlier this week.

Miranda Sowers and her three daughters, including a 3-month-old, were at a neighborhood pizza joint when the infant dropped a stink bomb in her diaper. Sowers went to the bathroom, but there was no changing table. Not wanting to pack her family up, she decided the best course of action was to change her diaper right there at the table, on one of the chairs, near where other patrons were eating.

Understandably, people complained to the manager and Sowers was given her food in a to-go container and asked to leave. Yet amazingly, she felt SHE was the one who was wronged, and ultimately decided to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, as well as alert the press.

Let’s get one thing straight — what Sowers did is disgusting and wrong.

Not only is it unsanitary to introduce feces to an eating environment, it’s also incredibly rude and unnecessary. There were other people eating around mom and her clan, yet because she was displeased with the lack of a changing station (a reasonable criticism, by the way), she went ahead and polluted everyone else’s lunch that day.

It is never the right move to open up a poop-filled diaper where everyone is eating. Ever. Excrement + Eating Area = No. Yet when I put this story on Facebook, I had an even bigger surprise — a number of parents defending Sowers! Check out some of the comments:

I think we should not judge since mommies have baby brain at 4 months pospartum (sic).”

The restaurant needs to take care of business and put in changing tables, or have a sign that says don’t bring your kids here.”

I changed LO at the booth in chipotles on out (sic) way back from NC because they didn’t have a changing table in the bathroom. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.”

 I would’ve done exactly as she did. And then never go there again, because obviously they don’t think parents make up enough of their clientèle to warrant a place for their childrens bathroom needs to be met, even though I’m pretty sure it is a health code violation to not have a changing table for this exact reason. She was right in reporting them. Maybe the dumbass in charge will figure it out.”

Wow. I mean…WOW! I’m not stunned and speechless often, but the fact that anyone was defending this mom and blaming the restaurant, well…it threw me. A lot.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks.

I don’t think it’s out of bounds to politely inquire as to the absence of a changing station in the bathroom. Key word: politely. But that having been said, restaurants are not (and should not be) required to cater to one certain group. If you don’t like it, you have the option to dine elsewhere and if enough people speak with their wallets, the message will be received.

But the main thing I want to talk about is regarding where she should’ve changed the baby absent a changing station in the bathroom.

Moms may not realize this, but the one thing dads get really good at really quickly, is learning how to change a diaper in suboptimal conditions. Because even when you find a restaurant with a changing station in the ladies room, chances are there isn’t a matching one in the men’s room. So we need to make it work however we can, and that ain’t always pretty (or easy).

So what should Sowers have done when forced to think like a dad? The easiest thing to do, if it applies to you, is go back out to the car. I’ve changed diapers on every seat and in the back. It’s easy, it’s only messing up your own stuff, and you’re not bothering anyone else. If you don’t have a car (or the car isn’t available for some reason), then I would try the bathroom counter. If that’s not feasible, then you suck it up, throw the changing pad (yes, she had one with her) on the cleanest part of the floor you can find, and make it quick.

What you should never do, under any circumstances, is introduce human fecal matter into the same vicinity where people are eating. And if you do have an unfortunate mental lapse and proceed to be rude and disgusting, you should not blame the restaurant. The restaurant is not responsible for you or your kids, and it is not responsible for how you dispose of dirty diapers. That is YOUR responsibility as a parent.

When the hell did some parents become this entitled?

Having kids doesn’t mean the world should cater to us. It doesn’t mean every business needs to be prepared to meet our needs. And it certainly doesn’t mean we have the right to gross people out with our kids’ bodily functions during meals, simply because we didn’t plan ahead.

Upset about the absence of changing tables? Leave.
Need to change a diaper? Find a way to do it that doesn’t affect everyone else.
Feel unwelcome? Find a more family-friendly restaurant.

But don’t screw up in a mind-bogglingly discourteous way and then turn around and blame someone else for your stupid mistake. That’s the kind of stuff that gives all parents a bad name. We’re better than that.

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Working Parents Squeeze In Their Moments

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The canoe glides along silently, save the “plunk/whoosh” sound of the paddle slicing through the water’s surface. The gargantuan clouds are puffy and impossibly white, but not foreboding — no rain checks needed today. A summer zephyr gently prods us along toward a cove spotted with lily pads, as the oldest and I look to add to our summer bass total.

“Dad, this is very calm. And peaceful,” he says from the front of the canoe.

But all I can do is look down into the clear water to see the milfoil just below the surface. Thick, green submerged weeds like fuzzy fingers reaching up from the depths. I can’t help but feel this invasive species is reaching for me, trying to rob me of time like it’s suffocating the water quality in the pond.

I’m only on Day #3 of my vacation, but already my window is closing and one thought is flashing in my mind like a neon sign — DO MORE!

This is the curse of working parents.

I work two jobs (three if you count the blog) and I struggle to provide as a breadwinner and a father. Rent, bills, and canoes aren’t cheap, which makes the hours at work numerous and quality time scarce. I get three weeks of vacation every year, but I use one for conferences and the other around Christmas when things are crazy. That leaves one week. One week solely for my kids. One week to do everything.

Lately I’ve been envying my wife for being a stay-at-home mom, which is ironic since I’m not even sure I could do her job. Or that I’d want to do it, if we’re being honest. I know her role is filled with damn hard work and days she questions her sanity when our youngest won’t nap because his 1-year molars are coming in and he’s drooling blood in a fit of rage. I know sometimes she feels like she wishes she could trade places with me.

But stay-at-home parents have the thing I’m most envious of — the knowledge that they’re doing the most important thing in raising quality human beings.

They are in the trenches and doing the grunt work. Sure they’re unappreciated now when the kids are young, but in 25 years they’re going to realize my wife was always there. The reliable one. The go-to parent. And they’ll have a bond with her that will be deeper and stronger than one can imagine.

Me? I’m the guy working on the computer. Answering one last email and sending one final freelance pitch. So on vacation, I really pour it on.

“Let’s go the museum!”
“Hey, how bout a baseball game?”
“Want some ice cream?”
“Time for fishing!”

Where MJ is a fire that burns slowly and steadily, I flash hot and bright and then fade back into the office. She’s steady as the tides, I’m a tsunami. I’m an annual meteor shower and she’s the moon.

Working parents don’t witness milestones, they’re told they occurred. The phone call at the office that he got his first tooth. The video she sends you of his first steps, and hey — at least we saw it before all of Facebook. So there’s that. It’s enough to make us feel like spectators, or subscribers to the newsletter of our own lives.

Which is why when vacation hits, I get a little desperate.

We tried to get Will to ride his bike without training wheels last year. It went horribly. He wasn’t ready or physically able, and it ended with lots of crying, pouting, and frustration. Will was also pretty upset.

But this year, I vowed to make sure Will could ride his bike by the end of the summer. And I was going to see it, dammit.

When we went at the beginning of vacation a week ago, it was…rough. I was too hard on him and placed way too much pressure on the poor kid, and his performance reflected that. I was trying to force it so I didn’t miss it, and in the process I damn near ruined everything.

Yesterday was my last day of vacation. After we went fishing, I nonchalantly asked if he’d like to try bike riding one more time. This time, I took an entirely different tack. I told him it didn’t matter if he did it, only that he improve from last time. I had him sit down first and envision a successful ride, and then try to emulate in real life what he mentally pictured. I smiled and told him stories of my learning-to-ride failures as a precocious kid.

He fell. A lot. But then, well…he didn’t.

Once my attitude was positive, so was his. He refused to accept my help because he wanted to do it on his own, and he constantly repeated affirming messages to himself throughout the whole thing. “Just keep trying, Will” and “Will, remember to pedal, steer, and not panic.” 

And then off he went, pedaling furiously away from me as I jogged to catch up. As apt a metaphor for parenting as there ever will be. But this one — learning how to ride a bike — this one is ours. Will’s and mine. I needed a win, badly, and my wife saw that and graciously let me have it. Because she’s awesome and far too good for me.

Back on the pond, the interesting thing about milfoil weeds is there are no known biological controls to fight them off or slow them down. In time, and like time, they come whether we like it or not and eventually they change the existing habitat. Armed with that knowledge, my vacations in coming years have taken on a whole new meaning and level of importance.

If you only have a week, you’d better make it count.

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The #PretzelGuys Go Fishing

Disclosure: I was compensated by Life of Dad and Snyder’s of Hanover for this promotion.

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Will and I love to fish.

What started as a fishing derby on a whim one year ago has quickly turned into a passion the two of us share. It’s strange that a 6-year-old who can’t be still for six seconds and his ridiculously impatient father have taken such an interest in an endeavor that requires patience first and foremost. Yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Simply put, during the last 12 months, fishing has become something that fuels our relationship and gives us common ground.

Because our fishing trips often turn into an all-day adventure (especially now that we’re out on the water with the canoe), I need to make sure we’re well-packed. That means our fishing poles, our tackle bag, lots of water, and something that ensures our energy doesn’t wane before we land the big bass.

That’s why we never go fishing without Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels.

They’re the perfect fishing snack because they’re healthier than junk food yet not too filling. Plus, my picky 6-year-old likes them. Call me boring if you must, but I prefer the original Pretzel Snaps. My son, on the other hand, likes the Sourdough Nibblers. But whether you go with the Pretzel Butter Snaps, Pretzel Sticks, or Mini Pretzels, you really can’t go wrong.

And while I’m not sure the good people at Snyder’s realized this when they began making their delicious pretzels, here’s a little known fact — my son discovered another use for Snyder’s pretzels:

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When it comes down to it, Snyder’s is now as much a part of our fishing trips as landing huge bass. And sure, I’m getting paid for this so I understand if you’re rolling your eyes and thinking I have to say all this. But the truth is I ate and loved these before I was ever contacted by the company. They’re delicious, they’re healthier than a lot of other snacks, and they give us the pick me up we need to row and fish for hours.

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And now for some even better news that affects you directly.

Snyder’s of Hanover is running “America’s Summertime Favorite Sweepstakes” on their Facebook page, and you should check it out immediately. There are not only weekly prizes to be won, but also a chance to win $10,000 toward your ideal family vacation.

Check out the hashtag #PretzelGuys on social media for more great information.

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The Year of Sam

sam_standingwill_sam.jpgA moment and an eternity.

That’s what it’s felt like, Sam, since you entered our lives exactly one year ago. One year. That amount of time has never seemed so brief and simultaneously endless. Fleeting yet perpetual. And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

I endured your first year just as much as I enjoyed it. I’m not particularly proud of that, but it’s the truth.

You had colic and didn’t sleep well. You scared the shit out of us with a stint in the hospital. And frankly, I failed to bond with you like I did with Will. But someday, when you read this, I want you to know that’s on me and not you. And don’t think for a second we ever regretted having you, because you are amazing. It just took me a while to see how lucky I was and get over my selfishness.

Will was easy. But you, my little Sammy, are not. Where Will is hesitant and bashful, you are bold and fearless. Where he is slightly timid, you are a tornado and no matter where we set you loose, you wreak havoc. But one is not better than the other. In fact, I’m finding out the challenges you present make overcoming them that much sweeter because you make me actively work to be a better dad way. You make me a better person.

The good news is where I have failed, your mother has come through like a champ.

She suffered from postpartum depression with your brother, but this time around she has been Queen Mom. I’ve never been more proud of her, watching her shine and excel in her new role as stay-at-home mom. And you are so lucky to have her. So am I, for that matter.

But where you’re luckiest, Sam, is how fortunate you are in the big brother department.

It has been the honor of my life watching you and Will together. Nothing makes my heart swell more than the sight of you two together, laughing and smiling at things only the two of you understand. Will has taken to his role like a duck to water. He’s so patient and careful with you, and you love him so much. I couldn’t be happier watching you two play together, and although you’ll fight in the future I also think you’ll be the best of friends.

As for me, I want to apologize and thank you Sam. I’m sorry for the struggle this past year. I wasn’t a bad dad, but I wasn’t a great one either. And you deserve my best. But the good news is I’m going to work to be better and improve. Because we waited so long for you and now that you’re here, there’s no way I’m going to drop the ball again.

I love the little guy you’ve become. It’s so much fun to make you smile and see your toothy grin. I like the game we play in which we scream at each other and laughingly match pitch. I yell “gorilla baby!” and you beat your chest, which is fundamentally awesome. Watching you walk around and get stronger with each step does my heart good, and I’m so proud of you.

And the best part is, better days are ahead. But for now, happy birthday my beautiful baby boy. You completed our family in a way I only ever imagined. I love you.

 

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Please Look Back Every Once in a While

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I worry sometimes about losing sight of you.

Today it’s scenic Borderland State Park, a wooded expanse of trails, trees, ponds, and greenery so lush it should be it’s own Crayola color. The seat belt can barely contain you as we look for a parking space, as your energy has you bouncing in your seat, waiting for the millisecond I put the car in park so you can tear open the door and breathe in the scent of the outdoors. I used to demand you carry your own fishing rod, which you did without complaint. But your running combined with the sheer jubilation of being 6 in a state park is too much to prevent the tip of your rod from hitting the ground. And trees. And other people.

So I am relegated to a status familiar to dads — pack mule. And that’s OK because your smile alleviates every burden.

You’re at the trail map now, sounding out the words and tracing a path to the pond. You don’t enter the woods so much as you explode into them like you are being shot out of a cannon. The cement walkway of the visitor center gives way to a dirt and rock path as the trees and forest envelop us. Soon the crunch of our footsteps on rocks and hard dirt turns to soft thuds, as fallen pine needles pad our steps. You know the rule is stay with dad, so you reluctantly obey. But I see your eyes silently pleading for the sweet release of running on up ahead.

“Go ahead,” I blurt out, smiling and feigning an inconvenience both of us know to be false.

I’m not worried about you getting lost, because you have a good sense of direction and your heart and head will guide you. I’m not worried about you falling down, because you’re resilient and you’ll always pick yourself up no problem. I’m not worried about the ancient tree roots crisscrossing the path, because (even though you don’t yet realize it) there are no obstacles you can’t overcome. I’m not worried about the mud puddles because I can’t stop you from stepping in it from time to time — nor would I want to — and sometimes our missteps turn into our greatest blessings. I don’t want to stop you from going down your chosen path, and I have no ambition to clear it for you or walk in front of you to make it easier.

Before I had kids, my dad thanked me once for making it a point to include him in things and for inviting him to hang out occasionally. I didn’t really give it much thought at the time, but now I see exactly what he meant.

I just hope you’ll actually look back and slow down every once in a while, to let me watch you on your journey. Because as your dad, I genuinely believe it’s going to be a sight to behold. And even though it’s inevitable you’ll disappear around bends and be out of sight for a while, I hope with all my heart you’ll let me catch up and keep you company from time to time.

I worry sometimes about losing sight of you. Because I love being around you so much and (minus your teenage years) I never want that to change. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path, pal. But please don’t forget to look back every now and then.

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If you liked this feel free to check me out on Twitter and Facebook. If you didn’t like this, that’s OK too. You can still follow me on those accounts and then hate-share everything I post. As long as my incessant need for your attention is satisfied.

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