Stop Criticizing the Ice Bucket Challenge

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Apparently it’s not enough to do good deeds anymore, unless you’re doing them “correctly” or for the right reasons.

Perhaps you’ve participated in the now infamous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people video tape themselves getting a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads, donate, challenge others to do the same, and then post the entire thing on Facebook and other social media. You probably did it, donated, and felt pretty good about yourself, right? Well wipe that smug smile off your face, because some people think donations that come via marketing campaigns and viral memes are negative.

Yup, that’s right. You’re donating incorrectly and for all the wrong reasons. You big jerks.

Nevermind the fact that as of August 20, the Ice Bucket Challenge helped raise $31.5 million (and growing) for ALS research. Because (and stop me if you’ve heard this in the last couple of weeks) it shouldn’t take Facebook and videos of ourselves getting buckets of freezing cold water dumped on our heads to donate. We should donate because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’re guilted or pressured into it by friends, family, and social media, according to the critics.

Look, if someone had told me a month ago that I’d be showering myself with freezing cold water and donating to charity because of it, I would’ve mocked them. In fact, I was so dubious about the Ice Bucket Challenge that I held off on doing it, even though I had been repeatedly nominated. I only did it after I found out the challenge had actually led to a spike in donations.

Because here’s the thing — it doesn’t matter how or why people donate. It just matters that some good is being done.

Same goes for this story making the rounds, about a bunch of Starbucks customers in Tampa who started a “pay it forward” campaign, in which each person paid for the coffee of the person behind them. Hundreds of people in a row performed the good deed, but it ended when one pompous blogger intentionally broke the streak because the Starbucks baristas had begun asking each customer if they wished to continue the streak. To him, that violated the unwritten rules of good deed doing because it was more peer pressure than anything else.

Bullshit. Utter bullshit. Because good deeds are good deeds, even when they might have been prodded into existence by a little guilt.

Who among us hasn’t taken our kids’ fund raisers to work and hit up coworkers? Ever dug a dollar out of your pocket at the supermarket because the Scouts/Cheerleaders/Pop Warner are having a charitable drive? Volunteers man phone banks and make calls to raise money for charity as well.

If you gave to any of these, you’ve done something good. Something worthy of celebration. So what if you felt some pressure from social media to donate to ALS? I bet a lot of people knew nothing about the disease before they did the challenge and donated. And so what if a barista asks you if you want to buy coffee for the person behind you? First of all, you can always say no. There’s no shame in that. Second, I’m hoping knowing about “pay it forward” will prompt people to do it more often.

The world is so fucked up right now. Whether it’s racial tensions exploding in Missouri, another truce broken in Gaza, beloved actors committing suicide, or journalists being beheaded, we’re under siege from bad news. The world strikes me as off kilter and our humanity has never felt so fragile.

So in the face of all that, I think it’s pretty abhorrent and ill-advised to sit there and criticize things that are helping people.

No one deserves a medal for doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. Our donations don’t make us superheroes and we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back and be done with charitable giving and random acts of kindness, simply because we took part. But you know what else people who give to charity don’t deserve? Condescending and misplaced scorn from people who have nothing better to do than knock people doing something positive.

In a fit of irony, those railing against the millions raised the “wrong way” for ALS are guilty of the very same narcissism they allegedly abhor in others. So let’s criticize actual problems and misdeeds, and celebrate the fact that for a little while, we all came together and did something positive.

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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.

 

sambday

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