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All You Need is Love (and Beat Bugs on Netflix)

Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles
Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles

It’s not always easy to know if you’re raising kids the right way, but if they know about The Beatles from a young age, then congratulations — you’re doing at least one thing very right.

But introducing young kids to old music isn’t easy. If parents say “Hey guys, I’ve got this great music you’re just going to love,” then that’s the kiss of death. So how do you get kids to stop listening to all the annoying crap and like the things you like? You trick them into it.

I admit, I had my doubts about the Netflix original, Beat Bugs, because at first glance it seems like just another obnoxious kid cartoon. Plus the sun has a face that really freaks me out. But then I realized it’s a cartoon built entirely around Beatles songs, and it quickly got really awesome up in the Daddy Files household.

My kids took to the theme song and haven’t stopped singing “All You Need Is Love” since. And let me tell you, there are few things cuter than a 3-year-old belting out “ALL YOU NEED IS WUV!” over and over again. The story is about five bug friends who live in some guy’s lawn, but that’s not really important. What you and your kids will love are the more than 25 Beatles songs that will warm your heart when sung by the next generation.

And some big stars are voicing them, too. You’ve got:

  • P!nk: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
  • James Corden: “I’m A Loser”
  • Aloe Blacc: “Rain”
  • Robbie Williams: “Good Day Sunshine”
  • Eddie Vedder: “Magical Mystery Tour”
  • Frances: “In My Life”
  • The Shins: “The Word”
  • Wesley Schultz (of the Lumineers): “Honey Pie”
  • Sia: “Blackbird”

When Tommy hears the opening he loses his mind. When the older two hear the familiar strains they flock to the couch. Beat Bugs has the distinction of being the only thing that can bring my three boys together on the couch for an extended period of time without killing one another. That right there is worth it.

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So if you’re a fan of children singing adorably and a Beatles aficionado, you’re going to love Beat Bugs. And if you’re not a Beatles fan, then you’re clearly a cyborg and this isn’t for you.

As a Netflix StreamTeam member, I received free Netflix for a year and other products for this post. But as always, all opinions are my own.

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No Grown-ups Allowed: Why The Little Prince on Netflix Made Me Sad

TheLittlePrince_DaddyFiles

Will uttered the sentence, pictured above, three short years ago when he was five. When I showed him this The Little Prince graphic Netflix sent me and told him how much I loved it, my son immediately illustrated why the movie — a cautionary tale about becoming an adult — is so important.

“Manners? That was a stupid thing to say. Oh well, I was just a kid then.”

Just a kid. My 8-year-old seems to think he’s become a full-blown adult in the three years since melting my heart with that super adorable phrase, and he looks back at his “ancient” 5-year-old self with mocking disdain.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic gets a reimagined, animated twist courtesy of Netflix, and it’s really, really good. The existing story fits within a modern framework of an overbearing Type A mother who over-schedules and overworks her young daughter until she’s an automaton with absolutely no imagination or flexibility. But when she meets the strange man next door known as The Aviator and is taken by his hand-drawn story of a celestial “Little Prince,” her imagination is set free and she embarks on an emotional adventure that is literally out of this world.

This movie moved me. Part of it is because it’s just legitimately touching and well-done, but it wasn’t all pleasant. Mainly because I realized I’ve got a fair amount of the mom in me.

I’ve always pushed Will to grow up and stop acting like such a child. I never understood the fun of “using your imagination,” and I still don’t. I chose journalism because it’s the opposite of creative writing and I liked recounting facts and actual happenings in a clear and concise way. I don’t like nonsense, tomfoolery, or whimsy. I live in the real world, and I make Will do the same.

As far as I’m concerned, when your head is in the clouds it just means you can’t see anything clearly.

The Little Prince makes a powerful argument against all that. It’s a nod to the fact that maybe the real world could use a little imagination and a little less rigidity. That there is room for silliness, innocence, and color amongst all the monotony. That growing up shouldn’t mean growing callous or losing all joy and frivolity. And it certainly doesn’t mean I should pass that along to my kids at such a young age.

Speaking of age, if you’re interested in knowing where you stand in The Little Prince’s eyes, you can take Netflix’s Grown-up Test. Here’s how Will ranked. Let’s just say I came in slightly older.

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Sometimes I watch TV to zone out because I just need something mindless to pass the time as I unwind. But occasionally you watch something that stops you in your tracks and makes you pay attention. If you’re up for it, I highly recommend it. And after you watch it, take the test with your kids and see how you rank.

As for me, I realized I need a little less adulting in my life. You never want to go “full grown-up,” and I intend to let my three little princes lead me back to some serious silliness in the near future.

*I am part of the Netflix Stream Team and received free products and Netflix for this post.

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There’s No Such Thing as Taking Too Many Pictures of Your Kids

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“Put the phone down.”
“You’re taking too many pictures of your kids.”
“Your eyes are the best camera.”

If you’re a parent with Internet access of any kind, you know how controversial a topic phones are in relation to your children. You can’t whip out a soon-to-be-outdated phablet without hitting some parenting “expert” or “guru” telling you what a materialistic and superficial jerk you are for posing your kids in a pumpkin patch or posting a selfie with the kids to Instagram during Touch-a-Truck.

I’m pretty confident in my parenting, but after reading so many of these articles talking about how I’m not actually enjoying life because I’m living it through my cell phone camera lens, I started to worry maybe they were right.

So one day I left the camera in the car.

I took Will and Sam on a hike through some local conservation land, and it was gorgeous. It was hot out, but felt 10 degrees cooler when we entered the forest and walked beneath the canopy of towering maple trees. The pine needles padded our steps and my boys bounded forward with youthful zeal, as slits of sunlight periodically found them and dotted their backs.

We explored the forest and inspected downed trees while wondering if a giant blew them over in a fit. We climbed rock formations and claimed them as newly discovered lands (Willtopia, SamLand, and Dada’s Village if you must know). We ran to the next trail map and studied it forcefully, as if it alone held the key to our ultimate survival.

And then we saw the butterfly.

A Monarch butterfly, you know the type. Wings a deep Halloween orange with jet black lines that made it look like an ornate stained glass window. Little white circles dot the tips of the wings and its head, as it rests on some grass seemingly weightless. It was totally still, and so were my boys. Enraptured. Until…

“Dada,” Sam whispered excitedly. “Take picture of butterfly!”

Crap.

“Sammy, I can’t. I didn’t bring my phone with me,” I said with fear rising in my throat. “But that’s OK, wanna know why? Because we have something better than a camera — our eyes. Let’s look at the butterfly and study it really hard, and we’ll take a mental snapshot so we’ll always have the butterfly in our memory.”

I even did that thing where you make a camera out of your hands, hold it up to your eye and snap a “mental picture.” And I immediately recoiled in horror and felt an unyielding desire to kick my own ass.

He knew it was bullshit. I knew it was bullshit. Sam flipped out and started crying, because — well, that’s what almost 3-year-olds do. The unphotographed butterfly must have also sensed the bullshit level rise to dangerous levels, and with his moment of zen interrupted by shrieking, flew off for parts unknown.

In a desperate attempt to stop Sam’s meltdown, Will had a phenomenal idea. He reminded Sam about our geocaching adventures, and started talking about finding hidden treasure. This idea pleased Sam greatly as his sobs subsided and excitement took over as both boys turned to me for the coordinates to our next find.

Coordinates I didn’t have, because I didn’t have my phone with me.

Taking an excessive amount of pictures of your children and adventures is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. Committing things to memory and looking at the world absent a lens is overrated garbage, mainly because 1) taking pictures doesn’t always take you out of the moment, and 2) my memory sucks.

I’m a working dad. I’m up at 5:30 am, I work all day, I come home to parent, I do some more work, I go to bed. My mind is a ball of mush. It takes me at least two tries to get my kids’ names right, I poured my beer into a sippy cup last week, and the only things I truly remember are random ’90s song lyrics. So while it’s a noble thing to live in the moment and try to commit to memory the look on my sons’ faces when faced with the unparalleled wonder of a Monarch butterfly, I’d rather have my camera so I can have it forever and share it with the people I love who weren’t there.

Cell phone cameras are incredible and allow me to relive moments from years ago whenever I want. You’d be surprised how much I revisit them, especially now with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature that allows you to relive memories from years ago.

Excess can be a real problem in so many areas, but when it comes to pictures of the people and places I love most, there’s no such thing as too much. So have fun being “in the moment” and thinking you’re superior because you left your cell phone in the car. I’ll be busy happily recording memories and avoiding toddler meltdowns.

Just think, if I listened to the know-it-alls and didn’t have my phone with me, I’d miss moments like this.

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What Kind of Parent Attacks a Grieving Mother? Donald Trump

I have to believe losing a child is one of the most horrible things a human being can experience. It is something so fundamentally unspeakable as to be feared by all parents, and when it happens there is nothing but universal sympathy and empathy from anyone who has ever cared for a child as their own.

Except for Donald Trump, it seems.

Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala spoke at the Democratic National Convention last week, criticizing Trump for his call to ban Muslims from entering the country. That’s because their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq and protecting his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. They had some harsh words for Trump, and offered the Republican presidential nominee a copy of the U.S. Constitution for him to read.

But instead of ignoring them or offering his sympathies and reiterating the party line about how he’s still the best choice compared to Hillary Clinton, Trump went on the war path. He decided the best defense is an overly aggressive offense, so he put two grieving parents in his crosshairs and said this:

“She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But a plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet, and it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.”

The message is undeniably clear — Donald Trump believes Ghazala Khan was forced into a position of subservience because she and her husband are Muslim. So, while being criticized for being anti-Muslim, Trump decided his best course of action was doubling down and taking ANOTHER shot at Muslims by suggesting the grieving mother of a fallen U.S. war hero was being intimidated by her husband and not allowed to speak.

Nevermind the fact that she has spoken out in the past (and would do so again after the fact), there is something much more despicable and troubling at work here.

Donald Trump is a father of five children. He is no stranger to parenthood and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Yet despite sharing that common bond with the Khans, Trump made the decision to berate and belittle two parents whose son sacrificed his life for his country. I repeat, Trump, a man who hopes to one day command soldiers, doesn’t have enough respect and consideration for Gold Star parents to stop himself from lashing out and attacking them.

There is something wrong with Donald Trump. There is something wrong with any parent who can’t conjure up enough sympathy and respect for parents who have had to bury a child.

Don’t tell me this isn’t about parenting and don’t tell me I shouldn’t discuss politics on a page largely devoted to parenting issues. This is the presidential election and EVERYTHING relates back to parenting. The person we vote for will shape the world in which we live for at least the next four years. He/She will likely nominate multiple U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

It is not acceptable to attack our Gold Star parents. Just like it’s ridiculous to attack POWs who endured a hell I can’t possibly imagine while being held captive. Yet that’s where we’re at with Donald Trump.

Politics has always been nasty, but Trump has navigated us to uncharted waters. He has no empathy or sense of compassion. He thinks only of himself and is so thin-skinned he feels the need to fire back at all of his detractors. Women who disagree with him are “fat pigs,” media outlets who criticize him using his own statements and verifiable facts are banned from covering his campaign, and now Gold Star parents are apparently in play for Trump. Sen. John McCain, Speaker Paul Ryan, and even the VFW have publicly stated how horrified they are by Trump’s actions, yet Trump is undeterred and totally willing to say anything about anyone at any time.

This isn’t fighting against political correctness. There’s nothing correct about what Trump is doing by removing the last vestiges of civility from politics. This is about a lack of humanity and an inability to empathize with anyone who has a dissenting opinion. It’s an indicator of how things will work if (deity of your choosing forbid) Trump becomes President Trump. It’s disgusting and dangerous and wrong.

And it’s beneath us as Americans.

Seriously, folks. What Trump is doing and saying isn’t worthy of this country or the office he’s trying so desperately to occupy. If you’re a parent and you’re OK with the way Donald Trump has acted toward the Khans, then seek help. Immediately. Because you are broken.

When the face of the Republican party can’t even find common ground with other parents who are mourning dead children, there’s a problem. We have a problem. Let’s make sure we don’t put the problem in the Oval Office.

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My Son Learned It On Netflix

Home- Adventures with Tip & Oh

I don’t think TV should be a child’s only teacher. But the fact remains, there are some damn good shows out there that have taught my 8-year-old a lot.

This isn’t a license for you to plop your kid down in the living room and let your TV do all of your parenting tasks for you. But it is an acknowledgement that a lot of the shows you can find on Netflix are really fantastic for teaching facts, history, science, and some really important lessons about life, love, friendship, and morality.

I sat down with my 8-year-old son, Will, and interviewed him about some of the shows on Netflix that have taught him valuable lessons. Here’s the scoop, right from the mouths of babes.

4. DinoTrux
This show isn’t just an entertaining romp through a made up world of prehistoric vehicles and creatures, it’s filled with valuable lessons about teamwork and getting along.

Will says: “The T-trux and the Reptools didn’t like each other at first, but that’s because they didn’t talk to each other. They learned to always work together when they had a problem, because you friends can have really good ideas you didn’t think of.”

3. Home
Adults know this movie (which was turned into a subsequent Netflix Original series) as the alien with Sheldon Cooper’s voice. But kids actually took some valuable lessons from the adventures of Oh and Tip.

Will says: “It taught me to never give up on my dreams, even when there’s a lot of trouble. Oh and Tip were looking for Tip’s mom and they never gave up even though it seemed impossible.”

2. Charlotte’s Web
A timeless classic I watched as a kid, that is apparently still just as relevant today. My son had a simple yet poignant reaction.

Will says: “Always be kind to your friends.”

1. Sofia the First
Despite initially battling the stigma of Sofia being a “show for girls,” Will really grew to like this one. And so did I, because I love how Sofia battles with coming into money and privilege while trying to stay true to who she really is and her roots.

Will says: “Just because you’re royalty doesn’t mean you can stop being nice. You should always be kind to other people even if you’re rich.”

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I was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and a smart TV. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. 

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