Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Son, The Boy Scouts, and Why I Won’t Support Discrimination

photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony - Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts - Yongsan Garrison - Korea - 090509 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony – Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts – Yongsan Garrison – Korea – 090509 via photopin (license)

The boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, cautiously walked toward us as we exited the store. He tugged at his Cub Scout neckerchief and cleared his throat before speaking. He was polite but nervous, as he quietly explained how he was raising money and asked us if we’d like to donate.

Unlike many people, I don’t mind being approached by folks outside of stores asking for donations. That’s especially true when young men and women take it upon themselves to bravely approach strangers and ask for financial support, because that’s not an easy thing to do. I almost gave him a dollar based on that alone.

I thanked him for his time and congratulated him on his efforts, told him he’s doing a fine job, and wished him luck. Then I politely declined to donate and walked away.

When we were out of earshot, Will gave me a confused look and wanted to know why I wouldn’t give the boy any money. So I told him even though that boy and his friends are surely very good and devoted Scouts led by progressive parents and leaders doing positive work in the community, the people in charge of Scouting at the national level have a rule that prohibits gay people and atheists from being leaders. And, until very recently, wouldn’t let in gay or atheist members. Which means Will’s gay extended family wouldn’t be allowed to lead a troop because they’d be considered harmful to the development of kids. Hell, it means I couldn’t even lead a group because I don’t believe in God.

His reaction? “What?!? That’s not fair. Why can’t they just be nice?” Yes. Why indeed.

I posted the encounter on my Facebook page and thought nothing of it other than it was a good lesson for Will. However, others had a very different view of what happened. Here are a few comments I received:

“So lets take it out on the scouts that work very hard.”

“Maybe instead of refusing to support them and teaching your child that its ok to judge people. Maybe you should try volunteering and help to change policy.”

“Discriminating against all scouts is just as bad as discriminating against all gays or all blacks or all trekkies (had to throw that is to lighten up the subject). If you show discrimination at all to any group in front of your children, you are teaching them that discrimination is ok. It’s hypocritical. We teach are kids to show love and respect to everyone, even our enemies and those that have different opinions.”

“Im a fan of yours man, I usually like everything you post, but this. Sounds to my like a lesson in division and discrimination.”

First of all, politely declining to donate is not discrimination. Not by a long shot. And it’s certainly not in the same hemisphere as racism and homophobia.

Discrimination? Setting a bad example? Negative judgments? All things the Scouts engage in at the national level by banning gays and non-believers. But instead of focusing on the organization actually discriminating against people, they focused on me. Suddenly I was the bad guy discriminating against the Scouts. All because I refuse to financially support an organization that willfully engages in judgmental discrimination.

That is the fuzziest of fuzzy logic.

I fully realize there are local groups of Scouts who think the ban on gay and atheist leaders is ridiculous. I get it and I appreciate it. I love that they’re working to bring about change from the inside, and I applaud their efforts. With their hard work, this backward and self-defeating policy will change and the Boy Scouts of America will take a page from the more inclusive and forward-thinking Girl Scouts, who long ago began to accept every one of its members.

However, until that day comes, I will not donate. And I will not allow my son to join.

To do so, in my eyes, is to condone a bigoted, hateful, and damaging policy that goes against everything I believe in and all the moral values I’m trying to instill in my boys. It’s the main reason I quit Scouts when I was a Webelo. And while Scouting has undeniably good qualities at the local level, those packs and troops are still part of a larger body that thinks gay people and non-believers aren’t fit to be good examples to children.

That’s especially damaging when you consider gay kids can now be Scouts, but once they turn 18 and want to continue their association with the organization as leaders, they cannot. Gay Scouts? Acceptable. Gay adult Scout leader? Potentially harmful and unfit for duty. What a difference a day makes.

Imagine being a boy in Scouts who begins to realize he’s gay. I’m sure it’s hard enough to come out as it is, but now imagine you’re a dedicated Scout who wants to one day lead a troop and continue giving to the organization you love so much. Knowing you can’t be a gay Scout leader once you turn 18, maybe you continue to keep your true self hidden. Suddenly you’re living a lie and failing to be true to yourself, all because the organization to which you’ve selflessly dedicated yourself won’t accept you. Why? Because you’re attracted to people of the same sex. As if that affects your ability to tie a knot or be a good person.

Think of the terrible message that sends, and now question whether or not you want to promote an organization that sends people into a shame spiral and doesn’t value who they are. Not me. No way.

No organization is perfect. But I need to at least be able to begin with a solid foundation that includes basic equality. Absent that very simple and necessary requirement, I can’t lend my support. And I’m certainly not going to voluntarily expose the most precious people in my life to it.

I’m also not going to stand here and be accused of discrimination when I’ve done nothing of the sort. Not wanting to fund homophobia and taking a stand for equal rights is not something for which I’ll ever be ashamed. Nor will I listen to people tell me I’m setting a bad example for my son. Once informed of the policy, Will told me he would never want to be part of something so unfair and unnecessarily cruel. That kind of compassion and willingness to take a stand for what’s right at such a young age is worth more than any merit badge he could ever earn.

Here’s hoping the Boy Scouts do what’s right at the national level and change this ridiculous policy. Once that’s done, I’m more than willing to lend my support. Just ask the Girl Scouts who have gotten rich selling me cookies.

Share Button

Why Our Favorite ’80s Movies Couldn’t Be Made in 2015

80smovies

One of the best parts of becoming a parent is reliving our own childhoods with our kids. For some that means joining Little League, rediscovering old toys and playing with them again, and — especially for me — watching the movies I loved as a kid with my boys.

I know I’m probably biased, but I consider the 1980s (and early ’90s to an extent) to be best time period ever when it came to movies. They were kooky, crazy, adorable, hysterical, adventurous, gut-wrenching, and heroic.  And since I was a kid myself at the time, I especially gravitated toward the movies that also involved kids. Anything coming of age or including an awesome adventure was OK by me, and since my parents were pretty liberal with what my brother and I were allowed to watch, we took it all in.

Now that Will is 7 and getting old enough to appreciate more than Saturday morning cartoons, I’ve started slowly introducing him to some greatest hits from my youth. Except…well, I came to a startling realization.

Barely any of these movies could be made today.

It’s only been 25-30 years or so, but watching these movies and being reminded of how life was then is startling. What is called “free range” parenting today was simply called “parenting” in the ’80s. Kids did stuff all the time, often unsupervised, and no one batted an eyelash. Was it as safe then versus now? Probably not. But it sure seemed a whole lot more fun.

With that in mind, here are eight movies from back in the day, and why they just couldn’t be made in today’s climate.

******************


8. The Breakfast Club
First of all, look at the reasons they’re in detention. Claire skipped class to go shopping, which parents these days would likely excuse and then scream at the principal for doling out a detention to their precious cherub. Andrew taped Larry Lester’s buns together, which would probably result in a lawsuit instead of detention. Bender pulled a fire alarm which is a much bigger no-no now than back then, and might get a kid expelled. And Brian was found with a gun in his locker! Even though it was a flare gun, if that happened today the school would (justifiably) be on lockdown with a SWAT team close behind. Also, I bet one of those kids had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch in the library, and no way is that allowed anymore due to allergies. I just hope they didn’t have Oreos, because then they’d all REALLY be screwed.

7. The Sandlot (yes, I know this is from the 90s)
First of all, there’s no way all of these kids would be let out to play alone all day. Second, some safety obsessed parent is going to take one look at that field and get the city health department down there in a heartbeat to condemn it because it’s not up to code. And PETA would not take kindly to the treatment of Hercules. But sadly, the biggest reason this movie wouldn’t be the same is the scene with Squints and Wendy Peffercorn. Faking drowning just to get a kiss from a gorgeous lifeguard would not be looked upon kindly today. Instead of considering it capricious hijinks, Michael “Squints” Palledorous would be labeled a dangerous sexual predator, and he’d never marry Wendy, have nine kids, and own the local drug store.

6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If it wasn’t the parental GPS tracker in his phone that told his parents where he really was, any modern day Ferris would no doubt give himself away on Periscope when people started taping him on the parade float. Also, holding hands with those kids in the art museum would’ve ended with charges filed. But the good news is you can still go to Wrigley Field and watch the Chicago Cubs lose.

5. Stand By Me
First of all, what parents do you know who would think nothing of their kids just disappearing for 2-3 days on end without a word? Second, they’d probably end up in trouble when they find the body on the tracks and take incriminating selfies next to it. But I’m sure in this version that would all be forgotten when Verne and Gordy go viral and become famous after Teddy captures the train dodge on video and puts it on YouTube.

4. Dirty Dancing
Why can’t Dirty Dancing be made today? Oh, I don’t know. How about BECAUSE JOHNNY IS 35 YEARS OLD AND BANGING A 16-YEAR-OLD GIRL?!?!?! Nobody puts Baby in the corner, but somebody is going to put Johnny in a jail cell. However, sadly enough, the options many women have concerning their reproductive rights are still as disgustingly limited today as they were then.

3. Lean On Me
Principal Joe Clark can handle the poverty, hopelessness, disrespect, and decay of the educational system in inner-city schools. But this movie can’t be remade because he would’ve quit after just one day of dealing with Common Core.

2. The Goonies
This remains the absolute, hands-down favorite movie of my youth. I watched it 742 times and I still can’t get enough of it. However, you can’t remake Goonies. First of all, I think the developmentally disabled community would have a much bigger problem with the portrayal of Sloth than it did 30 years ago. But mainly, some huffy parent in Astoria would call the police to report a roving gang of young children who shouldn’t be out alone. Then, when the police investigate, they’d find none of those kids were wearing a helmet while biking. That means the Goonies never get into the Fratelli’s basement, don’t get to go on the treasure hunt, never find One-Eyed Willie, and Mikey’s marble bag is heart-breakingly empty when the bulldozers come to turn their home into a new golf course. Which is a moot point anyway since Mikey and Brand’s parents would lose custody due to the lack of bike helmets, and Rosita would be stuck raising the boys in addition to her own family. Yeah, like I said, I watched this movie A LOT!

1. The Karate Kid
The 1980s version of this all-time great movie is filled with things that just wouldn’t fly today. In this version, Daniel-san would likely never get to complete his training. Why? Because suspicious neighbors alerted CPS that a minor was sneaking into an old Asian man’s house everyday, and was made to do manual labor in exchange for a free vintage automobile. But mainly, this movie would be ruined in 2015 because of the end. Imagine watching Daniel-san doing his crane kick, beating Johnny, besting the Cobra Kai, triumphing over evil, and then — no winner is declared because everything ends in a tie and everyone gets a trophy. No thanks.

Alright you ’80s movie nerds, tell me which ones I missed and why they wouldn’t work today!

Share Button

Take an Interest In Your Kids No Matter What

“Dad, I don’t want to play baseball anymore.”

It didn’t exactly come as a surprise. To be honest, I don’t think he’s ever liked baseball. It’s too slow, too boring, with too much time out in the field doing nothing. Soccer? Basketball? Will loves those. But not baseball. Which is tough for me because baseball is the first thing I thought of when I found out we were having a boy. Field of Dreams, fathers and sons, and the “Dad, you wanna have a catch?” moment of pure hardball bliss for which every red-blooded American dad yearns.

I tried telling him it’s a learning process. That the games would be faster and more exciting this year because he’s older now. I showed him Red Sox games on TV and tried to explain how much baseball means to me. That last part he understood. And with a pained look of worry at the thought of disappointing his old man, he agreed to give it one more shot.

And then it was my turn to frown at the disappointment I felt in myself.

***********************

chorus

See the little kid circled in that picture? That’s me circa 1992 or so. On a Sunday. At church. Singing in the church choir. See my face? I’m not at all happy to be there.

The reason I’m there at all is standing on the left. That’s my grandmother, whose transcendent musical talents were truly extraordinary. She was a masterful pianist who taught many a neighborhood child out of her home for many years. But her true talent? Singing. Grandma Ga-Ga (as I called her, much to her chagrin) was a classically trained soprano and member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus. And as she would have no problem telling you herself, that was kind of a big deal.

Now guess who showed early vocal prowess as a young kid.

Yours truly was taken under her wing as a toddler and immediately given voice lessons at every turn. And not to toot my own horn, but I was good. So good, in fact, my grandmother had me try out for an area chorus. Not only did I make the cut, the choir director was so impressed he invited me to join an elite boys-only choir in Providence that paid me, a 10-year-old, to sing.

This place was no joke. In the fifth-grade I was spending at least 10 hours a week rehearsing. Most of the time we weren’t even given music, because the choir director would make us learn the songs bar by bar and commit it all to memory. When he heard someone out of tune, he would make each one of us sing individually until the out of tune culprit was found and shamed.

OK, to be fair, he probably didn’t shame us. But it sure felt that way to a nervous 10-year-old trying to live up to his grandmother’s high standards.

It didn’t take long for me to start hating singing. The time commitment was absurd for my age, and the pressure was often debilitating for me. I obsessed about pitch, memorizing the songs, my diction, and I guarantee I was the only little kid petrified about diphthongs and having a “lazy mouth.” Add to that, I had really started getting into sports and I loved playing basketball, soccer, and baseball.

But whenever I mentioned quitting singing and piano, my grandmother would lay such a guilt trip on me and start talking about wasted talent. I didn’t want to let her down, so I simply piled sports on top of school and the absurd rehearsal schedule.

Then one day I came to a realization that changed my relationship with my grandmother forever.

She was very interested in the piece my choir was singing and she wanted to hear us rehearse. I told her that’s impossible because our director closed off practice to parents and outsiders, but still she insisted. It was summer and therefore the windows would be open, she said, allowing her to sit in the car with my mother and listen to our voices drift down from on high.

And suddenly I realized my grandmother had never come to any of my sporting events. Ever. Not a single game. Yet she was more than happy to sit in a hot car in a church parking lot just to hear a few notes of our rehearsal.

I loved my grandmother very much, but if you didn’t share her interests then you were of no interest to her. You served no purpose because you were of no use to her as she sought to further her love of music. Even when she met my friends, the first thing she’d do is force them to sing. If she thought they had promise, she recruited them. If not, she dismissed them on the spot and away we went.

I’ll never forget how that made me feel.

***********************

December 13, 1991.

Hardcore Boston sports fans might remember that night as noteworthy because Dennis Johnson, the Boston Celtics legend and Hall of Fame point guard, was honored at the old Boston Garden on “Dennis Johnson Night.”

And my sports-crazed dad had tickets.

But what history has forgotten about that date, is it was also the day of my 6th grade concert. Specifically, my chimes concert. Yes, that’s right. Yours truly was also an esteemed member of the Norton Middle School Hand Chimes group. Why didn’t I mention that before? Look, I don’t like to brag but let’s just say the early 90’s hand chime scene was vastly underrated.

Hand Chimes

I’m kidding of course. It was terrible. I only joined because I had a HUGE crush on one of the girls who was in the group, and that was my pathetic attempt to make in-roads. Because ladies love the chimes, right? Ugh.

Anyway, my father found out Dennis Johnson Night was the same evening as my chimes concert. I saw the look of guilt and panic on his face immediately. He started asking me if I even liked the chimes. I told him I didn’t. He asked me how upset I’d be if he missed it. Not at all. He asked me if I had another concert in the future? No.

And that was it. I fully expected him to go to the Garden and see a little piece of Boston sports history, and I didn’t blame him for it at all.

But that’s not what happened. He skipped the game and showed up at my concert instead. Sure, to this day I still hear about how he missed that game in order to attend a godforsaken chimes concert and I’m sure my mother played a part in forcing his hand, but it ended up meaning the world to me. It told me he (and my mom who was ALWAYS present) didn’t just care about me when what I was doing was interesting to him. I saw him sacrificing something meaningful to him simply because his kids — no matter what they’re participating in– are MORE meaningful.

It’s a moment I swore never to forget.

***********************

Fast forward 24 years to my teary-eyed son who hates baseball but is willing to play solely because he knows it means a lot to his dad.

Baseball was my thing and I’ll miss going to his games and watching him on the diamond. But this isn’t about me, it’s about Will. And as a father, I’ll be damned if I ever make my kid feel like I’m not interested in his interests. So we decided on karate and cooking classes in the summer.

Do I like or know anything about cooking? Hell no. To me, cooking is Kraft mac & cheese. But you know who’s going to be at every single one of Will’s cooking classes taking an interest and rooting him on? Me. Big time. 100%.

Whatever he’s doing, I’m going to be there and I’m going to be into it. I’m going to support him and let him know what he’s doing is important to me. Because he is my interest. And always will be.

Share Button

5 Reasons Parents Will Love Marvel’s Daredevil

DaredevilI’m not a comic book guy. Hell, I was never even a comic book kid because I worshiped at the altar of Boston sports. My superheroes growing up consisted of Larry Bird, Reggie Lewis, Roger Clemens, and Drew Bledsoe. Yet now, as a parent to two precocious boys, I’m suddenly knee deep in Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of The Avengers.

But Daredevil? Never heard of it and had no plans to watch it. But boy am I glad I’m wrong a lot.

Marvel has proven once again they are completely on top of their game, by bringing the story of Matt Murdock to life in a riveting way. By day, Murdock is a lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen who went blind as a child after an accident in which some nuclear goop got in his eye. But by night, he is a vigilante superhero whose heightened senses from the accident allow him to be a ninja badass taking on the city’s criminal element.

You might watch it for the acting, which is superb. Or for the fight scenes which are meticulous and smooth in their complexity. But as I voraciously consumed watched Season 1 in record time, I realized I was enjoying Daredevil on an unexpected level as well — as a parent.

So with that in mind, here are five reasons parents will relate to Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, and Karen Page as they take on the evil Wilson Fisk.

************************

5. Knowing When People Are Lying
Matt Murdock’s heightened senses allow him to basically be a human lie detector. Even though he can’t see, he can sense when people are breathing heavy, experiencing rapid heartbeats, and trying to deceive him. This is no different than knowing your kids so well you don’t even need to look at them to know they’re trying to pull one over on you. And sometimes the most difficult part is knowing they’re not being straight with you, but not letting on and allowing them to make their own mistakes.

4. Being Filled With Self-Doubt
There are no parenting manuals for new moms and dads. As a result, we often pretend we know what we’re doing, but in reality we have no clue. We’re just making it up as we go along, doing what we think is best, and hoping it works out. Likewise, I really enjoyed how Murdock has no real plan. He’s got his sense of right and wrong and the bare bones outline of a plan, but the specifics often come into focus on the fly.

3. Relationships Become Difficult
When you’re a blind lawyer/vigilante superhero leading a double life and spending your nights risking death for the sake of your fellow citizens, it’s safe to say secrets are a big part of your existence. And that makes relationships fairly difficult. While nights with a newborn aren’t about battling villains in epic martial arts showdowns, they’re still pretty horrific. You go a few months with little to no sleep, and you’ll feel like a human punching bag too. Nothing wreaks havoc on a marriage like a baby. Well, nothing except being a superhero crusader.

2. Struggling to Keep Tempers in Check
As with all great superheroes, the line between good guy and bad guy often becomes blurry. Murdock gets so blinded (pun intended) by his need to bring his nemesis Fisk to justice, he often worries he becomes as obsessed as the people he’s battling. While he prides himself on never crossing the line of taking human life, his temper constantly flares as he approaches the point of no return. Likewise, my kids routinely drive me to my breaking point. Like the time when you tell your kid not to hit, explain why hitting is bad, sing songs about not hitting, and then — SLAP! He hits you right in the face anyway. The urge to yell and spank is strong. So strong.

1. Protecting Loved Ones At All Costs
In the end, this is what Matt Murdock and Daredevil is all about — selflessly and unceasingly protecting the people you love. Even when they can’t see it or don’t know he’s doing it, Murdock always keeps everyone’s safety at the forefront of his mind. Parents know this feeling all too well, as the safety of our children is paramount. All the worry, obsessing, and precautions are because we care so much. That’s why Murdock takes all the beatings and it’s why parents endure the Terrible Threes.

For some other great things to watch on Netflix, check out the following:

netflixapril

1. Revenge
2. Pretty Little Liars
3. Bloodline

***********************

StreamTeamBadge

I was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an iPad Mini. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

Share Button

Letter to My Unborn Baby: What If You’re a Girl?

ultrasound

Dear Baby,

Welcome to the halfway point of your womb incarceration. I know you’re growing just fine because your mom’s stomach suddenly decided to pop, which is nice because now people can see she’s pregnant instead of wondering if she’s had a few too many ice cream sundaes.

It’s odd to write to you and not know whether you’re a boy or a girl. As I’ve mentioned before, you have two wonderful older brothers. When I was growing up, I had a brother too. That means not only do I not know what it’s like to raise a daughter, I don’t even know what it’s like having a sister.

Which is all a long way of saying I’m a little worried about how to raise a girl.

First off, everyone is hoping you’re a girl. I think it’s mostly because we already have two boys, and people just naturally seek balance — which I think is odd. And a little annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a daughter. I think. But I also think it would be unassailably cool to have three boys as well. But in the end, as long as you’re healthy that’s all I really care about.

And yet I can’t help but let my mind wander.

If you’re a girl, will I baby you? Will you be the quintessential daddy’s little girl, compounded by the fact you’re the youngest? If I buy you pink princess things am I ruining you for life by buying into society’s harmful gender norms? If I deny you pink princess things that you ask for am I then trampling your independence and personal tastes?

Am I contractually obligated to enroll you in ballet at birth? At what point should I take out my loan at the American Girl Doll Store? If I point you in the direction of sports is that a good thing that will make you more well-rounded, or does it represent me pushing my interests on you unfairly while turning you into a tomboy?

I’m against guns, but do I need to invest in a shotgun when you start dating? Do I need to frighten your suitors with not-so-thinly-veiled threats of bodily harm, while handing them an asinine list of rules? And at what age do I even start letting you date? What if your brothers start dating at 12 but I don’t want you to date that early because I anoint myself protector of your virginity?

Will you watch The Three Stooges with me and the boys on Sunday mornings? Can I bring you to Patriots games with your grandfather? Will you enjoy trips to Fenway Park?

Yes, I’ve wondered these things. And yes, I immediately felt like an idiot afterward. Because when push comes to shove, if you’re a girl, I won’t be raising a daughter — I’ll be raising a person. A person who I need to get to know. A person who will develop tastes for many things all on her own. A person to whom I plan to teach compassion, kindness, and strength of character just as I’m doing with your brothers.

It’s the same game plan I’ll follow if you’re a boy. Hell, it’s the only game plan I know. So while I used to joke about freaking out with a daughter, I’ve come to realize it’s not the case. I just want you to be strong and smart and brave and kind — sex organs be damned.

So continue incubating, little one, and we’ll see you in another 20 weeks on or around Sept. 5. But the Patriots raise a championship banner against the Steelers on Sept. 10, so please try not to be late. That’d be just like a woman.

Yours in loving sarcasm,
Dad

Share Button