The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

“Hey mom and dad, can I start walking the dog on the dirt road to do an extra chore and get a little more allowance?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question from my son, who is turning 7 in a couple of weeks. We live in a small suburban town where both my wife and I grew up. We are friendly with most of the neighbors, with one glaring exception. In order to walk the dog, he’d have to cross one quiet side street in front of our house and then walk on a dirt road with only one house on it. He’d be out of sight for a bit but still within shouting distance. In my mind it was a win-win because he’d learn the value of hard work and taking initiative, and he’d be getting some exercise to boot.

Which is why it’s ridiculously unfortunate we had to tell him no.

Why? Because as my wife pointed out, “I’m fine with it, but we can’t do it because someone will see him alone and call the cops. We’ll end up battling Child Protective Services just for letting him walk the dog by himself.”

I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was being silly, but I couldn’t. Because unfortunately, this is where we’re at when it comes to overprotective parenting in 2015.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the single working mom who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked because she couldn’t afford childcare. Or Tammy Cooper, the Texas mom arrested after a neighbor told police she was neglecting her kids simply because they were outside on scooters. If you need something more recent, there’s the Maryland couple charged with “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) after doing nothing more than allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk home one mile from the park unsupervised.

Yet letting kids fire Uzis which results in a tragic death? Totally allowed and the parents are free from legal blame. Have fun trying to figure out that “logic.” But I digress.

As a child of the 80s/early 90s who grew up with the freedom to ride bikes around town unsupervised until the streetlights came flickering to life, I’m mystified as to where we went wrong and deviated so far off course. But then I read the online comments from said overprotective parents, and the answer is suddenly very apparent.

It’s all about fear and misinformation.

Without fail, when discussing this with other parents who disagree, I’ll see someone write “Well times have changed and the world isn’t as safe as it was back then.” Ironically, they’re not all wrong. Times have changed and the level of safety is not the same as it was in the supposed good old days. Want to know why? Because the world is a safer place in 2015.

Yes, that’s right. Statistically speaking, the data shows we are living in a much safer world than 20+ years ago.

Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in the US declined by 48%, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Homicides fell by 51% and forcible rape was down by more than one-third. Furthermore, crimes against children specifically have declined since 2003. According to the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, physical assault against children ages 2-17 was down 33%, while instances of attempted and completed rape declined by 43% between 2003-2011.

And if you want to focus on kidnappings, the Polly Klaas Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the recovery of missing children – found there are only 100 stereotypical “stranger abductions” each year, in which a child is plucked off the street by an unknown person. There is a higher chance of kids being abducted by family members or acquaintances, according to the foundation’s website.

In fact, if you’re really worried about the safety of kids, you shouldn’t let them ride in a car. Or swim in a pool. Because more children die in car accidents and drownings than are kidnapped by strangers.

I used to simply shake my head at the overprotective parents of the world and go on raising my kids the way my wife and I think is best. But this incident has made me realize that’s not always possible.

We’ve moved beyond good Samaritans rescuing babies left in hot cars and scooping up toddlers who have found their way out of houses and are playing near traffic. Those kinds of things are not the problem, and are in fact expected as members of the human race. Too many kids are suffering real, terrible abuse and that must never be allowed to continue. However, the irrational fear of the way other people parent and the willingness to alert the authorities simply for disagreeing with a parenting style other than their own, is also a genuine concern.

The Maryland parents know their kids best and know they’re capable of walking to the park alone, just as I know my son can handle walking the dog by himself. But the bottom line is that no longer matters, because the way other people parent is now directly impacting my ability to raise my children how I see fit. Because if parents 300 miles from me can be charged simply for letting their kids walk to and from the park, it is not a stretch to think the same thing could happen if my son walks the dog alone.

Unfortunately, our lives could be turned instantly upside down with one phone call from someone who simply disagrees with how we parent. That’s not right, and that scares me. It should scare all of us.

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The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Is a Role Model

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The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a new show on Netflix. And it is freaking spectacular.

Seeing that it’s co-written by Tina Fey, I had a feeling it’d be great. But I underestimated how wonderful, funny, smart, silly, and simultaneously uplifting it would be. You see, Kimmy was part of a cult for 15 years and spent that time in an underground bunker with her sister-wives. Then one day she was freed by the authorities, and despite being completely out of touch with modern living, she joined the world.

Does she have issues and some life turbulence? Oh yeah. But remarkably, she never uses her past and what happened to her as an excuse. Instead, she moves to New York City and decides to find her own path no matter what.

I couldn’t help but think of my fundamentally awesome wife, who is her own version of unbreakable.

My wife is an amazing person. And while Kimmy climbs out of a literal hole to rejoin the world, my wife constantly has to scratch and claw her way out of the metaphorical hole of mental illness and depression. When MJ could no longer work as a bank manager due to her condition, I feared for the worst. Here was a workaholic, Type A, career-driven woman who suddenly finds herself unable to work, saddled with depression, and a baby to take care of while I was working my job.

But just like Kimmy Schmidt, MJ reinvented herself.

She didn’t have much of a plan and the odds were against her, but with persistence she did it. And just like Kimmy, she had help from a few friends (Tituss, Jacqueline, and Lillian are hysterical in the show). My wife found her way as a TERRIFIC stay-at-home mom. It’s not a role she envisioned for herself early on, but she rolled with the punches and eventually found what makes her happy.

You can continue to watch our lives unfold here on this blog, but visit Netflix to enjoy watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and get inspired to reinvent yourself as well.

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If your little ones want to be similarly inspired, check out these great movies on Netflix.

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  1. Turbo
  2. Antz
  3. Mulan

For the adults, here are some of my favorite movies where characters reinvent themselves.

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  1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  2. Chef
  3. Silver Linings Playbook

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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Where Parents and Serial Killers Meet

Sam had his first haircut this morning. Goodbye curly mullet locks of baby blonde cuteness, hello to him looking 10 years old in minutes.

Such is life when you have young ones. 

When the hairdresser began cutting, she turned to us and asked if we wanted to keep some of the hair. My initial reaction was to laugh, but before I could say or do anything my wife gave an enthusiastic yes. So we took it.

When we got home, MJ immediately went to the bookshelf and took out a Daddy Files book my brother put together for me as a gift. She opened it up and I was floored at what I saw.

More hair. Specifically, the hair from Will’s first haircut. And that’s when I worried we might have bypassed eccentric and crossed into creepy. 

What’s the plan with the hair and teeth we parents save? What will we do with them? What’s the end game? Because honestly, it made me feel like we had a little too much in common with some very bad people.

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The 11 Most Obnoxious Internet Commenters

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Ima?ge: FLICKR/babbletrish (license)

Internet trolls. I hate them. And yet I’m habitually guilty of feeding them.

I’m not proud of it. OK, I’m a little proud of it. Sometimes. But after seven years of writing about controversial topics online, I can say with complete certainty I’m exhausted by Internet trolls and the terrible (yet inevitable) kinds of people who lurk (mostly anonymously) in the dreaded comments section. The ones who you think can’t possibly be that stupid or misguided, yet manage to surprise you every time. The people who have you wondering whether the human race is ultimately doomed. The people you wish would come out of their mom’s basement long enough for you to shine the light of truth and righteousness on them while they scurry back under their bridges. Hopefully without an Internet connection.

I’m not going to list every single one of them.

For instance, I’m leaving off the Grammar Cop because, well, I am one. And despite all of your bitching and moaning, the difference between their, there, and they’re IS that important! Instead, I’m focusing on the big ones. The large, hairy, nasty, atrocious, obnoxious, festering types you find in the comments section, who make you mad enough to kick kittens and punt puppies.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to document them here, but without further ado, here is my list of the 11 worst types of internet commenters. Also, I’m alternating between male and female pronouns lest you think Internet trolls are limited to one sex only.

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11. All Caps
An oldie for sure, but still as obnoxious now as when he first honed his craft in AOL chat rooms 20 years ago. If you’re unfamiliar, using all caps online is known as “shouting.” And unfortunately, many people think they can stop losing an argument BY TYPING IN ALL CAPS TO MAKE THE POINT THAT THEY ARE RIGHT BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE LOUDEST PERSON ALWAYS WINS THE ARGUMENT NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!!! These poor souls don’t realize their stupid, vile comments are no more acceptable or correct just because everything is capitalized.

10. Only Reads the Headline
I once wrote a piece titled “Frozen Turned My Son Gay.” Spoiler alert: Frozen didn’t really turn my son gay. Cinderella did. You see? That’s me using a forgotten and frequently misunderstood tool called sarcasm, to prove how ridiculous it is that some bigots out there were claiming a movie had the power and capability to affect a child’s sexuality. But you would only have known that by, you know, actually reading the article instead of merely a five-word headline. It’s stunningly sad this has to be said in 2015, but it’s important to read the thing on which you’re planning to comment.

9. Link Spammer
This jerk doesn’t have the time to personally educate you as to all the reasons you’re wrong. So instead of making her case, she’s going to send you links. Lots and lots of them. Here’s a link to this study, here’s another link to this guy’s academic research paper, and here’s another to a blog post she wrote in which she referenced more studies with more links. She knows no one has time to read them all, so she’s going to maintain she proved her point with the links but you’re too lazy to read them so you must be wrong. It’s the online equivalent of blinding people with paperwork so they get distracted and give up.

8. The Hitler Guy
The one troll I automatically dismiss and refuse to engage any further is “the Hitler guy.” Simply put, he’s the one who winds up comparing everything to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  It’s Godwin’s Law – “the theory that as an online discussion progresses, it becomes inevitable that someone or something will eventually be compared to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis, regardless of the original topic.” Against gun control? You know the Nazis limited weapons, right? Did your town ban trans fats? What is this, Nazi Germany? Unhappy with the teachers union? Clearly they’re the educational gestapo. Do not engage the Hitler guy and try to shut him down. Wanna know why? Because that’s exactly what the Nazis would do!!!

7. All Memes, All the Time
This person has no words. However, she has amassed a library of memes and uses them religiously during arguments. Because responding to valid criticism with pictures of Grumpy Cat and Willy Wonka really drives your point home.

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6. Captain Politics/Blame Obama
You could be talking about butterflies and rainbows, but “Captain Politics” will find a way to turn the conversation political and divisive. And, of course, it’s always capped off by blaming President Obama. Because rainbows are gay and butterflies are traditionally thought of as symbols of change, which means Obama is clearly trying to push his liberal agenda of gayness in an attempt to weaken the state of Christianity in this country because he’s really a Muslim who is NOT EVEN FROM HERE!

5. The Racist/Homophobe/Misogynist
These are easy to spot. Just look for a string of insensitive and disgusting slurs complete with terrible grammar and lots of misspellings. As a bonus, you can Grammar Police their nonsense and point out how stupid they are afterward — a trolling of the trolls so to speak — which does bring out more of their idiocy, but makes you feel better as well. So it’s a wash.

4. The Martyr
This is one of my favorites to hate on, because they really don’t see their own stupidity. This gal’s calling card will be terms like “Well I’m entitled to my opinion” and “You’re trying to take away my freedom of speech just because I disagree with you.” What this person doesn’t realize is since she just spewed her unbelievably terrible opinion, she demonstrated her freedom of speech which is very much intact. Furthermore, she also can’t see that while she is free to have an opinion, she is not immune from the fallout of stating said opinion. These trolls either don’t know or don’t care that while freedom of speech means they won’t be put in jail for projectile vomiting their filth in public, they are absolutely and unequivocally responsible for facing the consequences of those words. But rather than face up to them, they cry foul and claim they’re the ones being bullied. Because they’re stupid.

3. The Purveyor of Non-reliable Information
This is The Link Spammer’s dumber, more dangerous cousin. He finds something on the Internet that validates his preexisting opinion on a topic, and he runs with it. He publishes it on Facebook with an incendiary diatribe methodically listing out all the problems and the ways in which is is wrong. WRONG I SAY!! The only problem? It’s not true. Because it’s from an extremist website that literally makes shit up. The reason I say he’s “dangerous” is because too many people don’t bother checking their sources, which is how this misinformation winds up spreading like a disease all over social media. Bonus points when this clown becomes infuriated over a completely fictitious piece of made up satirical news, a la The Onion.

2. I Don’t Care/I’m Done With This Conversation
These people might be my favorite of the bunch. They’ll emphatically state they don’t care, and they’ll leave comments such as “No one gives a shit about any of this!” Right. Because the best way to show you don’t care about something is taking time out of your busy day to write a comment and post it online. That’ll show ‘em, Tiger. Then, when you call them out and they’ve “not cared” for eight or nine more comments, they’ll publicly announce they’re leaving and they’re done with this because they have better things to do. Newsflash: they care and they don’t have anything better to do. Because people who don’t care don’t bother, and people who want to leave just leave. They don’t stick around and belabor the point for 53 more comments.

1. There Are More Important Things
“This is what you care about? Out of all the things happening in the world, you’re arguing about this?” Holy hell, for the love of Pete, shut your mouth with this crap! In my opinion, this is the single dumbest comment anyone on the Internet can make. Why? Because of course there are more important things. No one is saying otherwise. But by their “logic,” all any of us should be discussing is The. Most. Important. Thing. But, ummm…what is the most important thing? And who gets to decide that? Is it world hunger? Cancer? Sex trafficking? War? Look, just because something isn’t the most important thing, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Right now hundreds of dad bloggers are trying to honor our friend Oren Miller, who recently died of cancer, by getting Amazon to change it’s diaper subscription service from Amazon Mom to Amazon Family (sign the petition, please). Is this the most pressing issue the world is facing? No. Is it important to us and involved fatherhood? Absolutely. So we’re focusing on it. And many of us are doing it as we simultaneously support initiatives to end hunger, the gender wage gap, and other huge issues. So knock off this crap about “don’t you have more important things to do?” There are enough issues for all of us to focus on, you sanctimonious boobs.

So, that’s my list. Did I miss any?

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A Letter to My Unborn Baby

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Dear 3rd Child,

I wasn’t always sure I wanted you.

Oh, sorry about that. Where are my manners? Hi, I’m your dad. Nice to meet you. I’m the owner of that loud voice you’re probably already sick of. If you can even hear. Honestly, I’m not even sure you have ears yet because I hate those baby development calendars that tell me how big you are by comparing you to different fruits and vegetables. You know, this week you’re a peapod and next week you’ll be the size of an avocado. Maybe it’s because some of the vegetables they use are really strange, and because I don’t eat enough of them I don’t know what they look like and then all perspective is lost. I start to feel like if I can’t use vegetables to figure out your size then maybe you don’t exist. Maybe none of us really exist. And suddenly I’m in a full blown existential crisis all because I’m unfamiliar with rutabagas.

Sorry, sometimes I get off topic a bit. As I was saying, I wasn’t really sure I wanted you. I know that’s a horrible first impression I’m making, but it’s the truth.

You see, you’re our third child. The only problem is, I never planned on having more than two. It’s nothing personal, just that I’m a big believer in man-to-man defense. Or, in other words, one parent for each kid. It’s simple in theory, and it comforts me not to be outnumbered. But your arrival means your mom and I have to switch to zone. We’re going to be out-manned, forced to play a prevent defense. Insert additional football metaphors here.

It’s not like your mom tricked me or was deceitful. When we talked about how many kids we wanted she always said “two or three at the most.” I think I just ignored the latter part and assumed we were on the same page. And then we had trouble getting and staying pregnant, so in my mind, three was almost definitely not in the cards.

Last April your mom told me she was pregnant. Unfortunately (or from your purely selfish perspective since you wouldn’t exist, fortunately), it didn’t work out. But from that experience, I learned a few things. Mainly 1) how nervous I am about having a third child, and 2) how much that doesn’t matter because another child would be a wondrous, awesome thing.

We lost that baby before I could really wrap my mind around the whole thing. But here you are in the second trimester, and the reality is staring me full in the face. But, as usual, when one of my kids seems to be the problem, one of my  kids solves the problem and shows me how stupid I am.

Case in point…

I’m freaking out because we have no place to put you. We rent a cozy 3-bedroom duplex and currently, all bedrooms are occupied. To make matters worse, none of them are very big. So the question becomes where do we put you? And the answer is we have to put your two brothers in the same bedroom — the thought of which causes me great consternation.

When Sam was born Will lost his play room because it turned into Sam’s nursery. Now another sibling is on the way and Will is going to lose half his room to a 2-year-old tyrant. As an older brother who shared a room with a younger sibling for nearly a decade, I can commiserate. That experience can be suffocating and the age difference (5 years between them) makes it even tougher. I was dreading having to tell Will and the meltdown that would surely ensue.

But guess what? Will wasn’t angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I told him he’d have to share a room with Sam his eyes lit up and his smile grew wide and bold.

“You mean I get to share a room with my brother??? YESSSSSS!!!!” he said, much to my surprised delight. “I bet Sam will even climb up into my bed and cuddle at night. I can’t wait.”

And suddenly I felt very silly. It reminded me of two years ago when I worried I couldn’t possibly love another human being as much as I loved Will. But I soon found out our hearts automatically expand when a new baby arrives, and in that vein we’ll find a way to make it work regarding everyone fitting under the same roof.

As for Will’s reaction, shame on me for not seeing that coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well his tune will change after a few weeks or a month of his brother all up in his face all of the time. That’s inevitable. But let this be a lesson to you, baby boy or girl, of the kind of family into which you’re entering.

Your oldest brother Will has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than any 10 adults put together. He is patient, a great teacher, and so full of love he’s in danger of bursting. He’ll be your guide and best friend. Meanwhile your older brother Sam is a tornado. He attacks life with zeal and fears nothing, yet he hugs every other kid on the playground and has smiles for everyone. You’ll be closest in age to him (26 months apart) which means you’re going to battle him your entire life. Yet all the while you’ll want nothing more than to be just like him. He will push you in ways that are frustrating and obnoxious, but ultimately he’ll make you a better person and he’ll force you to work harder and keep improving.

And your mother? Well, she’s a saint. And a gorgeous saint at that. But as beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even more spectacular on the inside. I don’t have to tell you that though. You literally know what I mean.

You’re not entering a rich family so I can’t promise you a carefree life detached from financial struggles. You won’t have the finest things, occasionally you’ll have to go without, and some days we’ll barely scrape by. But there is one thing I can promise you with complete certainty. You’re being born into a family filled with love. Passionate, unyielding, copious amounts of love and loyalty that we’re never afraid to express. From your parents to your siblings to your grandparents and beyond, love will comfort you and cushion you far better than a life of riches and luxury ever could. So welcome, my little one. You’re the last piece of the puzzle and the world is waiting. Stay safe and grow strong and healthy.

One last thing you should know — it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. As long as you’re a Patriots fan.

Love,
Dad

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