My oldest son is eight. A few months ago he asked if he could earn more money in his allowance by taking on additional tasks – specifically, walking the dog. The only problem is I’d lose sight of him if he walked our dog down the nearby dirt road, so my wife and I regrettably said no.
So what is this thing? In a nutshell, it’s a portable device a little smaller than my wallet which you can put in a backpack, someone’s pocket, your car, or a suitcase and know where it is when you want to check. It costs $99, has a $36 annual fee, and you can download the free myAspenta app on iOS and Android, or on the web at myAspenta.com.
I am disgusted by the Brock Turner case. I’m appalled that he raped an unconscious woman, I’m aghast at his lack of remorse, and I’m furious about the far too lenient 6-month jail sentence (3 months with parole) he received from a judge who seemed more concerned with the perpetrator’s future than the victim’s suffering.
But with the exception of the rape itself, it’s the letters to the court from his mom and dad that have me feeling the biggest amount of white-hot rage.
Loving and supporting your son is expected. After all, they’re parents. You can’t just stop loving your kid, but failing to even acknowledge the victim while simultaneously painting a convicted rapist as the “real” victim?
Sickening. Reprehensible. Soulless.
It also perfectly illustrates the problem, and highlights the sense of entitlement that likely led to a 19-year-old Stanford swim star thinking there’s nothing wrong with taking what you want, simply because she wasn’t awake to say she didn’t want it.
No one can undo what happened to the poor victim or take back the egregiously slimy letters sent from the parents of her rapist. But there is one thing I’d like to do, and that’s write the kind of letter Brock Turner’s parents should have sent in the first place. Maybe there’s an off chance they’ll see it, and in turn, see where they went wrong.
We’re sorry. So, so sorry.
No parent wants to believe their son is capable of a crime like this. We didn’t believe it at first. Hell, we still can’t believe it most days. How do you reconcile the memories of the sweet child you nurtured and raised, with the person found guilty of penetrating an unconscious woman? It really is unthinkable for us, and completely devastating.
But we realize this isn’t about us. It’s about the victim.
No one should have to endure a sexual assault. No matter how drunk or promiscuous, no one deserves to be dragged outside and violated while they’re not even awake. We’re so sorry for the young lady who has dealt with this pain, and will always deal with it, for the rest of her life.
And we’re sorry our son is the cause of it.
I can tell you countless stories about Brock that would, under different circumstances, make you smile. Maybe even warm your heart. I’ve seen him be genuinely kind, compassionate, and empathetic. I’ve seen him work unbelievably hard to achieve goals in the classroom and the swimming pool. I can tell you with complete certainty our son is not a monster.
However, it seems he’s done a monstrous thing. Witnesses saw him at the scene and a jury has found him guilty. It hurts to even type those words, but that’s the reality of the situation.
Truth be told, earlier versions of this letter looked much different. We regaled you with stories about Brock’s past to show how wonderful of a person he was. And we focused on how depressed he is now. How he can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Never smiles. We think of his future as a registered sex offender and how he won’t even be able to coach his future kids’ sports teams. But in the end, we erased it all. Why?
Because we looked at our daughter, and imagined how we’d feel if she were the victim of a similar crime.
No matter how much Brock suffers, we understand the victim here is the young woman who was raped. That’s not easy to say when realizing it means our son — who we love with all of our hearts — might end up in jail. But even though this is the only illegal act he’s ever committed in the past, we understand the seriousness of what happened. We realize the life-altering nature of it. And we can’t help but wonder if we’re partly responsible for raising someone who could do this.
We can’t say Brock doesn’t deserve jail time for what he’s done. But, as his parents, we also can’t stand by and do nothing as you potentially sentence him behind bars, where the same crime will likely be perpetrated on him. So we’re asking for mercy. Please don’t send our son to jail. We believe through counseling, registering as a sex offender, and listening to stories of rape victims while learning firsthand the horrors of what survivors go through, he can be better. We understand how it looks asking for mercy regarding a crime so heinous, but parents look out for their kids and we’re doing that now. No one is beyond saving, and that includes Brock.
We are eternally sorry for the heartbreak this has caused the victim and her family. We’re even more sorry our son is at the heart of it. We have a daughter too and we can’t pretend to even begin to imagine what it’s like going through all this.
Brock made an unconscionable and indefensible decision that night that will impact everyone involved forever. It might be asking too much, but we’re hoping you can find a way to muster the compassion our son couldn’t conjure up that night. If you do, he will do better. We’ll do better. We will walk hand in hand with him to do advocacy work and try to prevent this from ever happening again. Because we are genuinely and terribly sorry for the pain that’s been inflicted during this time.
We acknowledge the terrible thing he did, but we will always love our son. We can’t help it — no parent can. But as parents, we are also forever scarred by what the victim has endured and thinking about what she and her parents are going through is bone-chilling.
Thank you for this opportunity, and please consider a merciful sentence for Brock.
While I don’t use TV as a babysitter, it does help me parent from time to time.
I know, I know. Blasphemy, right? The current thinking is NO TV UNTIL 2 BECAUSE SCREEN TIME IS THE DEVIL!!!!! I just don’t buy it. Maybe it’s because I love TV and I want my kids to love it too, but I’ve found the things they watch often have life lessons that sink in better than when I try to impart them. Does that sting admitting Netflix can reach my kids better than I can at times? A little. But you know what? If it gets the job done and the message across, I’m OK with whatever works.
The truth is, Netflix has some great shows with ever better messages. I’m not saying let Netflix do all the work, but use these episodes as conversation starters that plant seeds of discussion. For example:
Sofia from the show Sofia the First is on the left. She’s Princess Sofia now, but before her days of wearing tiaras she and her mom were just regular, common folks. With common friends. But in Season 1, Episode 2 when she invites her common friends to a sleepover in the castle, Sofia’s snotty new sister, Princess Amber, doesn’t approve of the girls who were plucked from poverty. Not wanting to rock the boat, Sofia asks her old friends to conform to her sister’s snotty ways.
I showed Will this episode when he said one of his first friends at kindergarten didn’t like new friends he had made. While it’s important to make new friends, I told Will it’s important not to forget about your old friends, and never exclude them or ask them to be who they’re not just because it’s inconvenient for you.
In Season 1, Episode 7 of Dragons: Race to the Edge, my kids learned an even more important lesson — sometimes your friends act like idiots. When Ruffnut & Tuffnut find out they are the owners of the Dragon Riders’ island, they become — well, jerks. They’re arrogant and bossy and they treat their friends like crap. And they don’t realize how awful they were being until it’s almost too late.
I tell Will sometimes he’ll have to deal with friends like this, and sometimes HE’LL be the one doing this. That’s why it’s important to always think of how your words and actions are affecting the people around you.
One of my new favorite shows since last year is DinoTrux. Mainly because it has a lesson in every episode for younger kids.
I’ve started showing this one to Sam, almost 3, because it stresses teamwork constantly. As a rambunctious almost-3-year-old who doesn’t exactly like to share or play nice with his brothers, I’m letting Ty the T-Trucks and Revvit the Reptool show him things always work better when you team up with friends. Like in Season 1, Episode 4 when Scraptors take Ton-Ton and the group can only save him if they work together to come up with a plan.
Don’t get me wrong, you still have to parent. But thanks to some great shows on Netflix, you don’t have to do it alone.
***I am part of the Netflix Stream Team and received free Netflix and a SmartTV for my work. As always, all opinions are my own.
Look, I know in the past we said some things that were…unfortunate. OK fine. I said the things. It’s just, you know, sometimes you can be a little overwhelming. The crowds, the price tag, the movies that (until fairly recently) never seem to give a crap about dads, the unyielding amount of merchandising, your SUPER devoted fans who tend to border on overzealous maniacal obsession — it all seemed just a bit, well, MUCH!
So yeah, some things were said in the heat of the moment. Some promises of never bending to your will or succumbing to your charm. Some pointed remarks to Disney-loving friends and family members about how brainwashed they are. And bold assurances that despite not having set foot on Disney property in 30 years, I was never going back.
Sooooo…yeah. I’m sorry about that.
I was recently invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, an invite-only social media conference at Disney World. I went with my wife and three kids to stay at the Disney Beach Club Resort, mere steps from Epcot, and partake in trips to Disney World’s three other parks — Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
And it was awesome. Like, freaking wonderful. I thought about pretending otherwise so I wouldn’t have to publicly admit how wrong I was, but brutal honesty is my brand. And if I’m being honest, I really loved Disney.
I could talk about a lot of things pertaining to the conference that helped make it great. Things like getting a sneak peek at the first half hour of Finding Dory, getting to watch Alice Through the Looking Glass three weeks before its release, hearing from Disney executives and film producers who gave us peeks behind the curtain as to the inner workings of the park and the movies we love, and the heavily discounted park rates we received as conference attendees.
But that’s not how you won me over, Disney. Wanna know what the turning point was?
The look on Sam’s face when he saw Mickey Mouse in real life was something that will be gloriously imprinted in my memory until my life fades to black.
Other parents repeatedly told me it was magical, but I ignored them with a sarcastic roll of the eyes. But even if I had believed them, it still wouldn’t have fully prepared me to be in that exact moment. To see his eyes go wide, the realization set in, and watch as he gleefully careened into his favorite character’s arms for a gargantuan hug was a moment for which I was ill-prepared — especially since it was during registration and I had no idea Mickey would even be there. Everyone always prattles on about “Disney Magic,” but let me tell you — it’s real. That moment pictured above? That’s real, tangible magic. It got a little dusty and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little choked up.
Yes, I was a fairly ardent Disney cynic. But I’m also a dad, and the fastest way to my heart is through my kids. You make them deliriously happy, you’re A-OK in my book.
Except for you Rapunzel. You’re suspect.
Lest you think I’m just caving because I was offered hotel and park discounts, some free products, and behind-the-scenes experiences, there were things I didn’t care for.
The name of the conference, Disney Social Media Moms, is really unfortunate. There were a half dozen or so dads in attendance, and sponsors were generally pretty good about including the fathers (Hanes brought us boxers in addition to bras for the lady folk). But why not just change the name of the conference?
“Disney Social Media Parents Conference” would be perfect. It’s one little word, but the shift toward inclusion from an esteemed organization like Disney would be a HUGE step for involved fatherhood. Amazon just changed the name of its parenting program from “Amazon Mom” to “Amazon Family,” and I’d love to see Disney follow suit.
And as someone with a definite fear of crowds, I did have a hard time navigating the packed Disney parks. Combine that with pushing a double stroller while simultaneously dodging the plethora of people using motorized scooters, and it’s safe to say I was pretty frazzled at the end of each day.
But all of that was outweighed by the good.
The Beach Club Resort was absolutely beautiful, a 5-minute walk from Epcot, and featured a lagoon-like pool the kids could’ve stayed in all damn day.
Meeting the characters (except for princesses, who Sam seemed to fear like they were the stuff of fiendish nightmares) was phenomenal and even Will (8) was staring at them in wonder and excitement.
Also, my kids love animals. A lot. Especially Sam, who calls all the animals at the zoo his friends. So imagine his delight when we went on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom, and saw rhinos, giraffes, and hippos!
And managing to catch heartwarming moments like this one, in which Sam thought his MagicBand (the FitBit-esque wristband you wear at Disney that gets you into your hotel room, onto the rides, etc) was a walkie-talkie that connected him directly to Mickey Mouse.
Yet for a brief idiotic moment, I actually cringed while on this dream vacation specifically because I knew I had been wrong and would have to admit it. I repeat, I was momentarily upset because I was having too good a time.
Being steadfast is generally a good thing, as sticking to your principles is an admirable quality. However, Disney reminded me there’s a marked difference between steadfast and simply stubborn. My stubbornness was preventing me and my family from having a good time, and missing out on some truly remarkable memories we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
Disney isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But I get it now. I understand the “magic” is in watching the looks on your kids’ faces when their minds are blown by meeting their favorite character they’ve only ever seen on TV. And while I’m still not one of those “OMG DISNEY IS THE BEST EVARRRRR!!!!” folks, I understand the draw now.
Part of the magic is the escape Disney provides.
I heard from people who were different growing up and had some pretty hard times, but their brief Disney vacations provided moments of acceptance and true happiness. And for someone like me who talks about gun violence, domestic violence, child negligence, politics, and other controversial and important issues on a daily basis, I realized there’s room for the lighter stuff too. It’s not a cop-out to enjoy a little Disney respite, it’s actually good for the soul. The world’s problems are still there waiting to be tackled, but reconnecting with my family in the “happiest place on Earth” left me refreshed and gave me a severely needed break.
Long story short, sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Especially when wrong is as cute as this.
Will is 8. Sam is 2. They don’t share very much in common and the things that do overlap seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate.
The 8-year-old is proving to be the toughest to gauge right now. I watch with a mixture of amusement, admiration, pity, and sadness as he fluctuates between little kid and young adult. He wants so badly to be grown up some days, but at the same time he’s only 8. He is in that No Man’s Land of wanting more responsibility, but immediately reverting back to being a little kid when it proves too much for him to handle. He rushes boldly out into the land of big kids, only to retreat to shelter of childhood when that older world leaves him longing for the innocence back where he came from.
All of that means it’s been an especially rough time trying to get Will to play nice with Sam.
Will is too cool to play with “babies” most days. He wants to ride his motor scooter, his bike, and practice his Taekwondo. When we ask him to play with his little brother we’re most often met with eye rolls I thought wouldn’t start until he was a tween, and sarcastic remarks that sound disturbingly familiar (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in that regard).
I know the age difference (5.5 years) is going to make that kind of thing inevitable, but I also want my kids to find more common ground. So how do we accomplish that?
By watching TV.
I know that’s not the new age, popular answer. I know I’m suppose to preach screen-free child-rearing and start opining on how technology and electronics are ruining our kids and blah blah blah. Well I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it.
Our Netflix sessions routinely bridge the gap between Will and Sam right now. Obviously I can’t watch The Avengers with Sam like I can with Will, but thanks to the broad array of programming on Netflix I am able to find things we can all watch as a family.
If you have kids with a fairly big age gap, consider these titles to satisfy both of them.
Will stumbled on this kooky cartoon a few years ago and he still loves it. Even better, he’s passed that love on to Sam, who also can’t get enough of Oscar, Harchi, Buck, and Popy. It’s a nonverbal cartoon and I can hear the hysterical laughter from upstairs as they happily watch it together.
All kids love animals no matter their age, and my kids are no exception. Martin and Chris Kratt, the two zoologists featured in this show, have taught my children an AMAZING amount about animals. We went to the zoo recently and I was reading from one of the signs near the exhibit, and Will said, “Dad, I know this already. It was on Wild Kratts.”
Yeah yeah, I know. Some of you think the Princess Bride is too inappropriate for my 8-year-old, nevermind my 2-year-old. Well you know what? Pipe down and keep your judgment to yourself. This is one of my favorite movies and it is awesome for everyone. It’s fun, adventurous, filled with memorable lines, and hasn’t stopped being entertaining after all these years. It also keeps both of my boys entertained at the same time, even if we do have to skip by the ROUS (Rodent of Unusual Size). So yes, I will have fun storming the castle thankyouverymuch.
What movies/shows do you use to bridge the gap between your kids?
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 smart TV. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.