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Baby Milestones Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be

This is a sponsored post for which I was compensated. But, as always, all opinions are my own.

simplethings

As a first-time parent, I was obsessed with Will meeting milestones.

First words, first steps, first time walking. Not only did I want him to do all of these things, I wanted him to do them QUICKLY! If he wasn’t ahead of the curve, I worried. Actually, worried is a bit of an understatement. In reality, I FREAKED OUT! The harsh truth is I’m an ultra competitive person and parenting can be a contact sport. It’s impossible not to play the compare/contrast game with other parents who have kids the same age.

And like an idiot, I fed into that.

It’s only with some time and distance that I’m able to see milestones were feared, and never enjoyed. And as a parent, that really sucks. I didn’t rejoice when Will said his first word, I breathed a sigh of relief that he was ahead of schedule. I didn’t celebrate his first steps, I lamented the fact that friends of ours had a kid who walked a week earlier than Will.

Even now, with Sam, I still get caught up in it. He isn’t saying as many words as he should, and despite Early Intervention assuring us he’s fine, I’m still driving myself nuts over it. Thankfully this time I’m actually listening to my beautiful and wise wife, telling me to knock it off and just enjoy everything.

I don’t need to tell you another parent how quickly time passes once you become a mom or dad. And once that time is gone, it’s gone forever. So as someone who already screwed it up once, do me a favor and promise me you’ll worry less about milestones and more about the journey.

The only milestone you should really care about is how much you love and appreciate your kids. And if you’re doing it right, you’re notching a new line higher and higher every single day.

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Lest we forget, not all milestones are positive ones.

A kid’s first illness — even one that’s not serious — can be a pretty frightening time for parents who have never been through that before. I know that was the case for us. But when the kids get a bad cough, the first place I go is the medicine cabinet to grab some Little Remedies 100% Natural Honey Cough Syrup.

With the motto “less is more,” Little Remedies is committed to natural ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors, or alcohol, which means kids get everything they need and nothing they don’t.

They Honey Cough Syrup is a simple, natural remedy for coughs and sore throats, containing just three ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, and can be used by kids older than 12 months.

We trust Little Remedies to treat our kids, and when the first cough milestone hits, you should too.

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Puss in Boots Now Showing on Netflix

PussInBoots

I hate cats.

Not only am I allergic to them, I just can’t stand them. They’re elitist, holier-than-thou feline devils who only want to give and receive affection on their terms. My wife had three cats when I met her, and I was in hell. One of them routinely pooped in my shoe. And naturally, despite wanting to be left alone, they would proceed to climb on top of me during the night as I slept. My wife told me it was them showing their love for me. I maintain they were trying to drape themselves around my neck and kill me in my sleep.

We still had two of the cats when Will was born, but had to get rid of them when we moved. And as much as I loathed them, I was sad for him. So imagine the joy he felt when I told him I had found a cat we could have in the house that both of us liked.

Netflix Originals has just come out with The Adventures of Puss in Boots, an animated series that expands on the popular and lovable kitty with huge eyes featured in Shrek and the Puss in Boots movie. The swashbuckling smart-alec cat is back and embarking on a bunch of zany adventures that my 6-year-old laps up like milk. Your kids will love it too.

But if you really hate cats that much (and I don’t blame you), Netflix has some great stuff for dog lovers too.

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And if you’re an adult looking for some great pet-themed content, Netflix has you covered there too. Feel free to eat your four-legged loving heart out with these awesome movies and shows.

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So whether you align with soulless kitty cats or loyal and honorable dogs, jump on over to Netflix and start enjoying some great original programming and terrific shows and movies they have.

C’mon meow, go on and do it. Throw me a bone here. Doggone it, I’m serious. Sorry, but I can’t paws-ibly stop.

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StreamTeamBadgeI 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.

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Parental Hypocrisy

spellingwords

We’re pretty hard on our oldest son.

My wife and I push Will hard and expect a lot from him. Why? Because he’s very intelligent and more than capable of above average work. We’re not (completely) unbearable task masters or Tiger Parents, but we definitely crack the whip from time to time and set the bar high. Because you can’t assume you’ll get great results without expecting greatness at the outset.

So as you might imagine, we take Will’s performance in school very seriously.

Will, who is in first grade and turns seven in April, generally performs very well on his homework and weekly tests because he’s a bright kid. Unfortunately, he’s come to know he’s smart and that is his undoing.

In September at the start of classes, he realized homework consisted of reading at a level slightly below what he’s used to, and doing math he had already learned. And yet he struggled initially. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do the work, but because he thought he was above it all. As a result, he began making careless mistakes because he liked to rush through assignments and be the first one done. His letters were formed haphazardly, and his math suffered because he’d see “9 – 3= ?” and add instead of subtract.

We put a stop to that real quick.

We hammered home the need to take his time. With the help of his teacher, we worked tirelessly on reading and following directions. Forming his letters was the most difficult part, as he sees no reason not to make a lowercase “r” the same size as a capital “R.” Little things, but important things.

It took a few weeks, but it worked. Or at least we thought it had worked until yesterday.

When I got home from work I went through his homework like I always do, but his spelling words marked up with copious amounts of red ink stopped me in my tracks. Everything was spelled correctly, but his letters were all out of whack again. Having just let him have Minecraft on the iPad last week as well as Minecraft tutorial books, I came to the rapid conclusion he was rushing through his schoolwork to get to his new, all-consuming hobby.

And my wife and I were PISSED!

MJ and I put on our game faces and called him into the kitchen using his full name, which every kid knows is parent-speak for “kiss your ass goodbye.” We were unified. We were justified. And dammit we were going to make academics a priority in a BIG WAY!

“William,” I began, with a disappointed look on my face. “There is no excuse for this. What the heck happened here?”

Will threw on his “deer in headlights” look and flashed his innocent Bambi eyes our way as he took the paper. His eyebrows scrunched in confusion as he scanned the page, but then shot upright as if hit with a sudden realization. He started to talk but I cut him off because I was already rolling, and had no interest in that moment of listening to him.

And then the riot act commenced as I rained down the thunder.

“Will, this is unacceptable. Completely unacceptable! You worked so hard in the beginning of the year on your letters, and now we’re seeing this? What’s changed?? I’ll tell you what’s changed, you had Christmas vacation and then you got Minecraft. Well you can kiss that goodbye. We’re cutting down on TV, because you’re watching too much. But most of all, we’re saying goodbye to Minecraft. For at least a week. Because it’s clear you’re paying far more attention to that than you are to your schoolwork. Will, you’re better than this. We spent all this time talking about proofreading and checking things before you turn them in, but now you’re clearly rushing again. You’re not paying nearly enough attention and it has to stop. I’m sorry you’re going to hate us, but this is the way it’s going to be until you can prove to us that you’re responsible enough to do your school work the right way. Only then can you earn Minecraft back. Now, what do you have to say for yourself?”

I was SHOCKED to see he was calm and quiet. Usually if we threaten to take Minecraft away, he acts like we’ve just tasered him. But not this time. Instead, he was perfectly unaffected and — wait, is that — son of a bitch, I think he might have a faint, smug smirk. If my rage meter was already high, this sent it through the roof. But before I could rain vengeance down upon thee, he finally spoke.

“Mom, Dad…that’s not my paper. See? It has someone else’s name on it.”

Sure enough, he was right. I felt the blood drain from my body as the panicked expression on my wife’s face grew. To her credit, she apologized right away and said how sorry she was. As the self-satisfied grin spread across his face, I knew I’d also have to apologize. After all, I had just accused him of not proofreading and checking his work, while failing to make sure the test was even his. He had me dead to rights — and he knew it.

“Dad,” he chirped, with an aura of smugness. “Do you have anything you’d like to say to me?”

There was no way out, so I offered my apology and told him I needed to be more careful too. And I could tell from the look on his face it was sweeter than Christmas and his birthday combined.

And then, in an all-too-familiar tone known to those fluent in smartassery, he delivered his knockout blow.

“That’s OK Dad, we all make mistakes and I’m sure you’ll do better next time. I’ll be in the other room…playing Minecraft!”

Touche. Well played, son.

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The Things I Wish For My Sons

boys_hopeI don’t know about you guys, but current events both globally and nationally have me feeling pretty pessimistic. And frustrated. And sad. And pissed off.

ISIS beheading American journalists. Terrorists shooting up magazine offices for religious reasons. Police officers choking people to death for selling loose cigarettes. And the rest of us trying to metaphorically choke one another out in the aftermath, via friendship-ending arguments on social media.

I just see so much fear, hate, and division lately that for the first time, I’m beginning to think we’re beyond help. You’ve heard of “too big to fail?” Well I’m becoming reasonably convinced this country is too entrenched and polarized to change. The default mentality is “pick a side,” and any mention of viewpoints that don’t perfectly and totally align with whatever side you’re on is met with more scorn. The middle ground disappeared as we sprinted to extremes, not realizing or caring that both sides are now too far away to hear all the shouting.

But mostly, I’m sad for my kids. All kids. My youth was filled with stories from my dad about politicians like Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan — two men who didn’t particularly like each other but hated stalemate and party politics even more. Men who shaped the country from different sides of the fence, but knew progress was always more important than politics. But now, I don’t have examples like that to show my kids. Our leaders today are just fine with government shutdowns in lieu of compromise, because anything less than a hardline is soft. Because somewhere along the line, bipartisan became a four-letter word.

And unfortunately, society in general has decided to mirror that misguided train of thought. So to combat it, there are some things I wish for my kids. Things I need my kids to know and do. Things, I hope, all kids will take to heart when we hand them this mess we’ve created, and ask them to fix it.

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I hope you value education. Not just your own, but education for everyone. It all starts there. No matter what anyone says, an education is not elitist nor should you ever distance yourself from it. Embrace it.

I hope you are steadfast in your convictions, but never so much that you’re permanently cemented in place. Changing your mind because of peer pressure or political expediency is bad, but a change of heart after considering new information? That’s important and necessary.

I hope you live life as a helper. There will be times to help yourselves for sure, but never stop doing your part for others.

I hope you recognize what’s right and always shout down the wrong. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, bullying — it isn’t enough not to do it yourselves. Stand up to it when you see it and do your part to snuff it out.

I hope you never take things at face value. Ask questions, even the uncomfortable ones. It’s better to be someone who thinks too much about things than too little.

I hope you find something bigger than yourselves in which to believe. Whether it’s religion (admittedly, I hope not) or the local professional football team (please be Patriots fans), it’s good to engage in something like that at times.

I hope you find your voices, but never forget it’s usually more important to listen.

I hope you are confident in your intelligence, but never afraid to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. You’ll always be better for it.

I hope you find love, but always strive for reciprocity in relationships. It’s all about a healthy give and take, so don’t ever travel down a one-way street.

I hope you never get so jaded you stop caring. It can be tempting at times when things look grim, but always remember a pinprick of light is crystal clear in the dark. So be the light.

I hope you do more than experience pain and disappointment in life. I hope you find a way to learn from it. Take what you can and use it to make yourself better.

I hope you own up to your mistakes. It’s not fun being wrong and apologizing isn’t pleasant either. But if you’ve screwed up, then make it right. It’s the first step toward earning back the respect and trust you lost.

I hope you’re always genuine. Sure you’ll talk a little differently to your buddies than to your boss, but always be you. People can sniff bullshit and insincerity a mile away, so just be yourselves and you’ll be seen as reliable. Never forget, people respond to honesty.

I hope you can always see the good in people. This is the one I struggle with the most, and you probably will too. The age of the Internet and individual media platforms make it easy for the idiot fringe to be heard and noticed. But don’t let perception trump reality, because people really are inherently good.

And lastly, I hope you always love like madmen. Love is fierce and powerful, so don’t bother trying to temper it. Love like you’re on fire and let the people you love know it. When you exit this life stage left, those closest to you should have absolutely zero doubt about how you felt for them.

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I Will Never “Date” My Kids

meandtheboys

I’m not sure when it got trendy or acceptable to advise people to “date” their kids, but I sure wish it would stop.

Look, I get (and appreciate) the sentiment behind it. Essentially it’s a way of saying spend more one-on-one time with your children. Go out just the two of you, make him feel special, do something he likes, and really talk about things without interruption. All of those things are good, and all of those things are necessary. I try to do that with Will as much as possible with our fishing trips and clandestine ice cream parlor visits, and Sam — well, frankly Sam is happy no matter what. But when he gets a little older, I’ll give him the same one-on-one time as Will.

Let’s put aside the creepy factor that goes into associating the term dating (and all that comes with it) with your children for a second, and focus on the other reasons this isn’t a good idea. Namely, I hated dating. Really, it was horrible. More than that, I was terrible at it. And if I had to suddenly date again, I’d still be horrendous.

If I followed the Internet’s advice to “date” my kids, it’d be a pretty ugly picture. I’d pick Will up and accidentally bring flowers to which he’s allergic. Then I’d nervously stammer and stutter my way through dinner, while wondering if it’s expected that I pay, or tell Will to fork over his allowance in an attempt to be egalitarian and progressive to pick up his share of the tab. Although to be fair, either scenario likely ends with me just getting a hug and kiss on the cheek before calling it a night.

Even the “relationship experts” who tell me to date my wife are way off base. Dating was such a horror show, I never want to go back to that. True story, on my first date with MJ I unknowingly referred to the penis size of one of her relatives (LONG story). I’m not even kidding. That’s how bad I am at dating. And saying the right thing. And having any game whatsoever. The point is, I don’t want to date. I want to be married and spend time with my wife. I don’t need to pretend to date because the reality of marriage is so much better.

The same goes for my kids.

I’m horrible at dating and I hated it, but I’m good at being a dad and I love spending time with them. And that’s all this is. It’s not dating, it’s spending quality time with our kids. It’s being an involved parent. So let’s just call it that without invoking dating and all that comes with it.

And when it comes time for my boys to actually start dating, let’s hope they fare better than their father.

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