Tag Archives: fatherhood

Please Look Back Every Once in a While

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I worry sometimes about losing sight of you.

Today it’s scenic Borderland State Park, a wooded expanse of trails, trees, ponds, and greenery so lush it should be it’s own Crayola color. The seat belt can barely contain you as we look for a parking space, as your energy has you bouncing in your seat, waiting for the millisecond I put the car in park so you can tear open the door and breathe in the scent of the outdoors. I used to demand you carry your own fishing rod, which you did without complaint. But your running combined with the sheer jubilation of being 6 in a state park is too much to prevent the tip of your rod from hitting the ground. And trees. And other people.

So I am relegated to a status familiar to dads — pack mule. And that’s OK because your smile alleviates every burden.

You’re at the trail map now, sounding out the words and tracing a path to the pond. You don’t enter the woods so much as you explode into them like you are being shot out of a cannon. The cement walkway of the visitor center gives way to a dirt and rock path as the trees and forest envelop us. Soon the crunch of our footsteps on rocks and hard dirt turns to soft thuds, as fallen pine needles pad our steps. You know the rule is stay with dad, so you reluctantly obey. But I see your eyes silently pleading for the sweet release of running on up ahead.

“Go ahead,” I blurt out, smiling and feigning an inconvenience both of us know to be false.

I’m not worried about you getting lost, because you have a good sense of direction and your heart and head will guide you. I’m not worried about you falling down, because you’re resilient and you’ll always pick yourself up no problem. I’m not worried about the ancient tree roots crisscrossing the path, because (even though you don’t yet realize it) there are no obstacles you can’t overcome. I’m not worried about the mud puddles because I can’t stop you from stepping in it from time to time — nor would I want to — and sometimes our missteps turn into our greatest blessings. I don’t want to stop you from going down your chosen path, and I have no ambition to clear it for you or walk in front of you to make it easier.

Before I had kids, my dad thanked me once for making it a point to include him in things and for inviting him to hang out occasionally. I didn’t really give it much thought at the time, but now I see exactly what he meant.

I just hope you’ll actually look back and slow down every once in a while, to let me watch you on your journey. Because as your dad, I genuinely believe it’s going to be a sight to behold. And even though it’s inevitable you’ll disappear around bends and be out of sight for a while, I hope with all my heart you’ll let me catch up and keep you company from time to time.

I worry sometimes about losing sight of you. Because I love being around you so much and (minus your teenage years) I never want that to change. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path, pal. But please don’t forget to look back every now and then.

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The #PowerofDad is a Lasting Legacy

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Even though I’ve been a dad for six years, I’m not sure Father’s Day will ever truly feel like it’s for me. Because it’s for my dad.

When I talk about the #PowerofDad, I’m talking about the impact dads truly have on kids. Despite grounding me and harping on me at every turn for my entire life, my dad is and will continue to be one of my best friends. My mentor. My guide through uncertainty. He’s the first one I want to call with good news and he’s the one whose advice I seek when things go awry.

In short, the #PowerofDad is the ability to raise a strong, confident, compassionate kid who, in turn, passes his power down to the next generation like I’m doing with my kids. As a tribute this Father’s Day, here are some things my dad taught me that had a powerful impact on my life.

LOYALTY AT ALL COSTS
Sports is VERY important in our house. Boston sports. Namely the Red Sox and Patriots. My dad is a lifelong Sox fan and has had Patriots season tickets for more than 40 years. I grew up with tortured stories about failed Red Sox teams and Game 6 of the ’86 World Series was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. But whether the ball rolls through Buckner’s legs or you freeze your ass off on aluminum benches in a freezing blizzard, my dad taught me the importance of showing up. Rooting on your team. And NEVER leaving before the final whistle.

MAKE IT ABOUT MORE THAN JUST YOU
My dad helps run a local business, but his contributions don’t stop there. He has twice served as a selectman in our small New England town, which means he’s part of a board that sets policy and makes important decisions that impact the town. He has also served on the Finance Committee (appointed at 18 while still in high school), is the current Town Moderator, writes a local politics column in the daily newspaper, and even had a cable access TV show. It meant spending less time at home, but it also meant taking an active role in making sure my hometown remained a nice place to live. Too few people give of themselves, and my dad taught me to think about others in addition to my own.

SPEAK UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT
I think this one might be genetic, as most of you know I don’t have a problem speaking up when I feel passionately about something. The right thing is seldom easy, and my dad never lets the wind of popular opinion blow him off course. When the local police department wanted to limit its search for a new chief only to candidates in town, he told them it makes more sense to search everywhere instead of just in your backyard. Pissing off the police is never fun. And let’s just say standing up for things like gay marriage wasn’t always chic, but my dad did. And each time he publicly expressed an unpopular opinion, we’d have a busted mailbox and sometimes even death threats to show for it. But right is right, and I carry that with me.

ALWAYS BE PASSIONATE
Come over to our house to watch a sporting event. I dare you. My dad is a nervous wreck. He paces, he yells, he runs around the house, and he has an array of lucky objects that he swears bring our teams luck. But whether it’s an epic meltdown or a wild celebration, people come over just to see what will happen next when we watch a game. And when we attend in person, we leave our hearts in the stands. My dad takes that approach to sports and applies it to writing, family, and everything else he does. So while I might get a little heated sometimes, I’d rather be filled with passion than a bump on a log.

NEVER STOP COMMUNICATING
Family dinners are debates. Picnics turn into philosophical discussions. And the wit is as acerbic as it is quick. But we talk — we always talk. MJ and I never go to bed angry because we resolve our issues. Will is excelling at writing because we stress the importance of communication at every turn. And my father has been chosen to deliver more than two dozen eulogies, which seems macabre at first until you realize what a huge honor it is to deliver someone’s final public sendoff. It’s difficult and unpleasant, but hugely important and a great privilege.

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Sam at the grave of my father-in-law George — whose eulogy I delivered last year.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lessons my dad has taught me, but I’m incredibly appreciative to have had such a great example of how to raise my boys. And if you’re looking for another great example of fatherhood done right, check this out:

Yup, that’s right. Oral-B just nailed fatherhood. I know you wouldn’t think a company best known for toothbrushes would be on the leading edge of involved fatherhood, yet here we are. And to top it off, they don’t stop with that kick-ass video.

Although it goes against my aforementioned sports loyalty, I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit Oral-B for enlisting the help of — oh man, this is harder than I thought — New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning. Ugh…I feel dirty just writing that name. But he and Oral-B are teaming up with the March of Dimes at an event devoted to supporting the small yet important photographic moments between fathers and their kids.

And speaking of support, I was lucky enough to receive an Oral-B Black 7000 Electric Toothbrush. It’s actually half robot half toothbrush. Seriously, this thing is the Rolls Royce of toothbrushes. It’s got multiple brushes and six different modes — including tongue cleaning. There is also pressure sensor technology that lets you know if you’re applying too much pressure. I’m not making this up.

And when you turn it on, it syncs up to a digital timer that lets you know the optimal time to brush, and even gives you a smiley face afterward. It sounds excessive, but my 6-year-old is freaking pumped on a daily basis to visit with his sentient robot toothbrush pal for brushing, a game of chess, and planning world domination. Or at least brushing.

If you want in on this ridiculously advanced technological toothbrushing movement, you’re in luck. Here’s an exclusive $7 off coupon.

So keep your robot toothbrush close and your dads even closer this Father’s Day, as we look past the Hallmark cheesiness and remember to celebrate the #PowerofDad

***I partnered with Oral-B and Life of Dad, LLC for the #PowerofDad Father’s Day promotion and was compensated for my involvement.

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8 Stupid Things You Should Stop Saying to Dads

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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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Why I Always Tell My Son He Can Do Better

pats_game Will stands at home plate, bat in hand, eyeing the pitcher. His back elbow is up, the bat is off his shoulder, and his feet are shoulder-width apart — just like we practice in the backyard. The ball comes toward him, he swings, and he misses.

And that’s when things go south. Because if Will doesn’t do things right the first time, he gets pissy. Just like his old man.

Immediately I watch his body language change to express defeat. His elbow drops, the bat languishes on his shoulder, and his feet are together. The next swing is lackadaisical and another miss. The one after that is even worse. Soon he’s just absently swatting at the ball with a frown on his face, forgetting everything we’ve worked on because he didn’t get instant gratification.

Eventually he makes contact and runs down to first base, where he stands on the bag and looks for me on the sidelines. He raises his eyebrows and tentatively gives me a “thumbs up.” He’s seeking my approval, as he does after every single play. I want to give it to him. I really do.

But I don’t this time. Because it’s not deserved, he didn’t try very hard, and I know he can do better.

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My Son Is Reunited With His Long Lost Lovey

Monkey has been Will’s friend, constant companion, confidant, and protector since before his first birthday. With soft “fur” on the top and a red, satin material on the bottom, Monkey was the perfect lovey for cuddling. And Will had a deep bond with it.

I didn’t realize how deep until a few months ago when Monkey went missing.

I knew telling him Monkey was gone would be bad, but I didn’t realize just how much it would affect him. He was crushed. Beyond that, really. The repercussions from losing Monkey got so bad it started to negatively impact his school work and his social behavior. At first I was worried we weren’t doing a good enough job providing that to him ourselves as parents, but in talking with other moms and dads they reported similar stories of deep and very real bonds with stuffed animals, security blankets, etc.

I thought we had turned a corner and moved on, but a recent show & tell for Will’s kindergarten class brought back a flood of loss and grieving. Stuffed Animal Day was pretty traumatic in this household, and it led to lots of tears and tapping right back into that reservoir of sadness.

In my head the solution was easy. It was time for Dad’s Dose of Tough Love. Move on, kid. There are plenty of other stuffed animals. Monkey isn’t real. You’re too big for loveys anyways. MJ did not think it was advisable, but I didn’t see any other alternative. Plus, I kind of thought losing Monkey was a blessing in disguise since I would’ve had to take it away at some point anyway.

But then Will caught me off guard and, once again, showed me what an idiot I am.

“Dad, can I ask people on Facebook if they’ve seen Monkey? Like with missing kids?”

This was the result. It broke my heart.

My wife (who is so much smarter than I am) tried to tell me losing Monkey was like losing a friend, but I just couldn’t see it. Until that video. His pleas devastated me and his words were daggers into my cold heart, as I realized I had been downplaying my son’s very real emotional trauma.

But then came the phone call from my parents, and the realization that the universe tends to work shit out on its own whilst dispensing lessons that should be obvious but often aren’t.

But instead of telling you about it, have a look at the moment two good friends were reunited. I dare you not to cry.

His look of joy and relief made my Grinch heart grow multiple sizes that day. Because I realized anything that makes my son that happy and secure can’t be a bad thing. Hell, my wife brought her favorite stuffed animals to college. I brought my sports collectibles too. Really, it’s no different.

So long lost friends are once again reunited, and a peace has settled over the Daddy Files estate. And one stubborn dad in southeastern Massachusetts has been shown his way isn’t the only way, and he has lots to learn when it comes to parenting.

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