Tag Archives: debate

An Open Letter to My Son About Closed Minds

prejudiceDear Will,

Today you came home near tears because someone told you two gay people can’t get married because it’s wrong and gross. Your aunts are gay and your cousins — who you love with a wonderful ferocity — are a product of their very much legal marriage (Massachusetts has had gay marriage since 2004). When someone insults your family, it hurts. You hurt right now, and I’m sorry for that.

I’m also sorry that it’s not the first time, nor will it be the last.

I absolutely despise having to tell you about this ugliness at such a young age. Last year, when we stopped going to a certain area business because they were casually tossing around racial epithets, you had questions. And rightly so. That’s how I ended up describing the evils of racism to a 5-year-old. And now you’re faced with more ignorance and ugliness. And this time it’s that much harder because it’s from a friend.

I want you to know right up front, I’m proud of how you reacted. You told them (I’m using the incorrect pronoun to avoid repeatedly saying he/she and to avoid singling anyone out) gay people can get married in Massachusetts. You used your aunts as a valid example. And you told them the most important thing is that two people love each other when they get married.

Will, your friend is only 6. They might think marrying ANYONE is gross, or they might not have had anyone explain gay marriage, or — and this is the scary part — they might have parents who truly do believe it’s gross when two people of the same sex pledge their lives to one another.

Unfortunately, you said this person didn’t want to be friends anymore after your argument. It’s my hope that, because you’re 6, something shiny will distract you both and you can go back to being friends with this incident a mere afterthought and anomaly. But I’d be lying if I said these kinds of differences don’t leave a trail of broken friendships in their wake.

I know you tried to explain the truth to this kid. I also know you were extra frustrated because you knew you were right. And you are right. Gay people can be legally married, your aunts are legally married, and as long as two consenting adults love each other there is no reason they should be denied the right to marriage.

But at some point, the sad fact of the matter is you’re going to have a friendship strained — and ultimately broken — by intolerance.

Will, sometimes I forget you’re only six years old. I say that because your wisdom, empathy, and compassion for others far exceeds the limited number of years you’ve graced us with your presence. You are kind to every living thing — even apologizing to the worms we fish with when you put them on the hook. That’s why I hope you continue to do what you’re doing when  the road gets rocky.

Remember, some kids are brought up in an environment of hate and intolerance. That doesn’t make it right or excusable, but if that’s all they know then you need to keep that in mind. Salvage the friendships you can and never burn a bridge unnecessarily. But if a friendship becomes truly toxic, it’s OK to extricate yourself from the situation. Never be afraid to surround yourself with love and positivity, because you are a bright light my friend.

And the world needs you to shine.

I watch you, you know? Even when you think I’m not looking, I am. I’ve seen you on the playgrounds and at birthday parties, and I love what I see. You have a refined and razor sharp sense of right and wrong, and you don’t just stand up for yourself — you stand up for whoever needs it. If someone is being isolated, you play with them. If someone is being made fun of, they’re met with a “HEY! THAT’S NOT NICE!” It is one of your finest qualities, and to possess it at such a young age is astounding.

Please never stop standing up for what’s right.

As you get older, the easiest thing to do in those situations is nothing. No one likes to be made fun of and the quickest way to become a target for bullies is to come between them and their prey. But guess what pal? Ironically, the quickest way to bring down bullies is to stand up to them. It’s not easy, especially when the bully turns out to be someone you thought was a friend. Remember, as Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Continue being a good kid who stands for something and resides firmly on the side of what is right and just. You’re amazing and I’m the proudest father in the world.

Love,
Dad

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8 Stupid Things You Should Stop Saying to Dads

fdaydumb

As Father’s Day approaches, dads all over the country are being asked what we want as a gift. Most of us say something along the lines of “I don’t need anything because I’ve got you and the kids and that’s all I need.”

Screw that.

I’m asking for something this year. Something specific. And I’m not just requesting this gift for myself, but on behalf of involved dads everywhere. Basically, I want you to stop making us insane by saying (mostly unintentionally) stupid, thoughtless, and insulting crap that makes us crazy.

Please read this list and take it to heart, because sometimes it’s the people we’re closest to who are the biggest offenders. The best part is this gift is free, it’ll lower our blood pressure, and it’ll stop us from secretly hating you every time you open your mouth.

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8. “You’re SUCH a good dad.”
Wait…what? Is he really complaining about people COMPLIMENTING dads? Yes, he is. And I’ll tell you why. When I’ve received this compliment, I’ve never been doing anything extraordinary. I didn’t just save my boys from oncoming traffic or rescue them by fending off a rampaging grizzly. I was just out and about with them being a dad. Sometimes I wasn’t even alone, my wife was right with me. And therein lies the rub — no one would ever give that compliment to a mom. As a dad seeking to be an equal partner in parenting, that means no special treatment. If you wouldn’t compliment a mom just for doing her job as a parent, don’t do it for dads either. We shouldn’t get praise simply for doing what we’re supposed to do.

7. “Looks like dad dressed the baby.”
I’ll admit, I don’t have what most people would call “fashion sense.” I think purple and orange are complimentary colors, stripes and plaids go together just fine, and “dressing up” means the jeans with no holes. So when it’s my turn to get the baby dressed, I’m much more concerned about simply dressing for the weather than the runway in Milan. It doesn’t freaking matter that the kid’s pants don’t go with the onesie, and matching socks on a baby are a moot point since they take them off anyway. Is the baby warm enough if it’s cold? Cool enough if it’s hot? Are all the parts that are supposed to be covered, covered? Then mission accomplished. Besides, what kind of weirdo is judging a little kid on his/her fashion sense?

6. “What do you do all day?”
I’m not a stay-at-home dad, but this one is for all the guys who have made the fundamentally awesome decision to raise their kids full time. The people who ask this question offer it up not out of an insatiable curiosity to gain insight, but rather to passive-aggressively render judgment. And the answer, according to most of the SAHDs I know, is “more than you think and more than you do” most of the time. Full-time dads are every bit the parents full-time moms are. That means they’re cooking meals, changing diapers, doing the laundry, and running around with the kids all day. Modern masculinity is changing, so I suggest you start adapting too.

5. “Don’t worry sweetie, mommy will be back soon.”
When I’m out with the kids alone and Will starts whining while Sam throws a fit, it can get ugly. But what makes it even uglier are the people (yes, this has happened multiple times) who come up with a condescending smile and say to my kids “Ohhhhh, don’t worry. Mommy will be back soon.” Huh? Are you kidding me?? First of all, kids have tantrums no matter which parent is there. Second, don’t tell my kids mommy will be back when she’s not there. Hell, mommy might not even be in the picture. Maybe I’m a single parent. Maybe I’m gay. The point is, you have no idea what my situation is and when you put your foot in your mouth like that you’re more apt to choke on it.

4. “You’re doing it wrong. Here’s how I did it…”
This one stings because a lot of the times we hear it from our spouses. And sure, sometimes we do the wrong thing. Who hasn’t put a diaper or onesie on backward? But other times — like with how we’re holding the baby or how we choose to discipline — it seems like the “wrong way” really means not doing it “your way.” And that’s not cool. Parenting is trial by fire and eventually we’ll figure out what works — just like you did. But we need that opportunity and we don’t need to be told we’re doing it wrong just because we’re not doing it like you do. Let go of the reins a little and you might find dads come up with an even better method or idea.

3. “Oh my. You’re brave.”
Again, this is said to me simply because I’m a dad out with my two kids. And to be fair, it’s usually uttered by someone older who is part of a different generation. But still, it’s not like I’m not fighting in a battle or traversing a field of landmines with my kids. I’m just out at Target. Are moms “brave” for taking their kids on errands? Of course not. You expect that from moms. So if you’re not willing to pin a medal of honor on her simply for being a parent and going grocery shopping, don’t bother with one for dads either.

2. “Oh look at you playing Mr. Mom today.”
Calling dads “Mr. Mom” is a cardinal sin in the dad world, and when you say it to an involved father you’re taking a metaphorical dump all over them. Fatherhood isn’t a version of motherhood, and dads aren’t playing the part of a mom. That implies parenting is some sort of womens’ work and we’re not having that. In fact, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past 25 years and even working dads are focusing more on work/life balance because there’s a renewed focus on shared parenting and being present. That’s why, as articles like this one point out, it’s time to retire an antiquated term that is harmful to both dads and moms.

1. “Dad must be babysitting today, huh?”
If you follow even one of these pieces of advice, make it this one. Please, for the love of all things holy, stop referring to fathers as babysitters. YOU CAN’T BABYSIT YOUR OWN KIDS!!! We’re fathers, not paid caretakers. People would never look at a mom with her kids and ask if she was babysitting. Yet when a dad is out with his kids, so many people automatically and without thinking about it call it babysitting. Hell, even some dads refer to it that way because it’s so accepted. So just remember — dads don’t babysit. Ever.

Did I miss any?

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All Men Are Dangerous

strangerdanger

She was probably 13 or 14 years old. Clad in black skinny jeans and forlornly meandering about, she pulled her tattered hoodie over her jet black pixie cut and walked away from us as quickly as her Chuck Taylor low tops would carry her.

But not before I noticed that in addition to way too much mascara, her eyes were red and swollen with tears.

A crying teenager seemed so out of place considering the night we were enjoying.

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Would You Wear Pajamas at the Bus Stop?

pjsbusstop

Marriage ain’t easy, and we’ve been through more than our fair share of rough spots.

Pregnancy, not being able to get pregnant, multiple miscarriages, dealing with abortion protesters, financial hardships, mental health issues, and the Great Hershey Bar War of 2009 are just some of the bullcrap MJ and I have endured in our eight years of marriage.

But now we face a much bigger — and completely unexpected — problem which is currently threatening to tear us apart.

Pajamas at the bus stop.

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Gender Matters: My Son Won’t Play with “Girl Toys”

boys_girls

“Will doesn’t care about Elsa from Frozen. He’s a boy and that’s girl stuff.”

That’s what a dad said to his daughter in front of my 5-year-old son recently. My son who, just a few days earlier, excitedly danced in his seat while watching Frozen in a movie theater accompanied by — gasp! — me. His dad. Yup, that’s right. A father and son trip to see an animated Disney musical about sisters, relationships, love, and sacrifice.

You know, total chick stuff.

Since this is someone we encounter on a fairly regular basis, I suppressed the dad blogger rage and accompanying vehement diatribe on gender equality that was desperately attempting to escape from my mouth. But I saw the confused (and slightly ashamed) look on my son’s face and it broke my heart, so I knew I had to say something.

“Actually, Will and I saw Frozen and we absolutely loved it. That movie is great and it’s for boys just as much as girls,” I said, choking down my anger. “Right buddy?”

But after hearing it labeled a “girl movie” and therefore unacceptable, all Will would offer at that point was a tepid “Well, it was OK.” Just OK. Three days ago it had been deemed “AWESOME!!!!!!”

And then it was my heart that broke.

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