Tag Archives: parenting

Stop Telling Parents Not to Talk About Politics

“Stick to parenting.”
“I thought this was a parenting page, stop talking politics.”
“You make this look like a parenting page but it’s just the liberal agenda in disguise.”

I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years far worse than the ones above, yet I’m less irritated with the threatening and hateful rhetoric than I am with the criticism that comes with running a parenting page that also talks politics.

First of all, this is free content. Facebook isn’t paying me to have a page or write things on it and I don’t host ads on my website so I’m not using that traffic to monetize my site. I do it because it’s fun (most of the time) and I gain some sense of satisfaction from it. If you were a paying customer then MAYBE you’d have some ground to stand on because you could argue you’re not getting your money’s worth, but seeing as this is free and Facebook is optional, stop your bitching.

Second, I’m not hiding anything nor am I out to trick anyone. Yes, this page is mostly about parenting. However, right there in the “About” section DIRECTLY ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE, here’s what it says:

Yup, that’s right. The same people bitching about the “liberal agenda” masquerading as a parenting page didn’t even bother to check the freaking “About” section, which would’ve told them, in no uncertain terms, I regularly write about politics.

Third, this is my page. I created it, I crafted it, and I and I alone decide what gets posted. That means the people whining about what’s on my free page that they’re under no obligation to visit, have essentially come to my virtual house where they decided to bitch about how I decorate and offer me unsolicited advice on how it can look better.

To which I say “Get bent. Screw you. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”

You want to disagree with me? Fine. I love debate and I’ll gladly engage in it with you. But debate the issue. If you think Donald Trump is the best president we’ve ever had and all my criticisms are unfounded, then argue your point. Prove it. Back up the things you say with facts and supporting evidence. I promise, I’ll hear you out. I’ll disagree with you vehemently, but I’ll listen.

What I won’t listen to is you telling me what I should and shouldn’t be writing on the page I created and run all by myself.

I’ve been doing this a lot of years and 99% of the time it isn’t that people don’t want to talk politics — it’s that they don’t agree with MY politics. It’s so indicative of the ridiculously polarized environment in which we currently find ourselves. When people find their way to my page via a non-political article they enjoy but then scroll through my archives or social media and discover I’m a liberal, that’s it. After discovering they don’t share my political views, they can’t like one or two things about me — they have to dislike EVERYTHING about me. Because otherwise, they’re supporting liberals and liberals are BAD. It’s all or nothing, middle ground be damned. Even though they like the parenting and fatherhood stuff, they don’t want to hear me mix in my political views if they don’t jive with their own.

Sure, there are some people who genuinely don’t want to talk politics at all, and those people I direct to my good friends at Life of Dad. There’s something to be said for desiring a little escape from the overwhelming political mess and divisive atmosphere we’re in right now, and I’m glad there are sites out there that provide it.

But my page is not that. It was never meant to be that. It never will be that. And in fact, I feel a responsibility to talk about politics MORE, not less, as we get further into the failed experiment of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

The thing that infuriates me the most is the belief that parenting discussions should be separate from politics, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s happening under Trump is unprecedented and awful and must be discussed at length. And newsflash — it not only impacts you as a parent, it affects your children as well.

The  anti-immigrant sentiment has many children worried about losing their family members and having their lives uprooted when Trump deports them. There’s been a spike in hate crimes since Donald Trump won the election, as xenophobia and fervent nationalism has caused increase violence under the “America First” umbrella — especially in the classroom where some teachers report bullying is on the rise in the name of Trump.

And just last week, Trump began the process of pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The man who holds the highest office our nation offers doesn’t believe in basic science, and has us joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only two  nations who won’t do their part to combat climate change.

The main goal for every parent is to leave the world a little better for their kids than they found it, yet we’re living under a presidential regime that is pro-coal, anti-science, and anti-planet. If you can’t see the importance of politics as it relates to parenting in the context of “we need to take care of the freaking planet for our kids,” then something is fundamentally wrong with you.

Think about that — we can’t even agree on saving the planet. That ain’t right.

So no, I will not stop talking about politics on my parenting page. As comforting as it may seem to bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is normal, that’s just not the case. So while all well-reasoned, intelligent, factually based arguments are welcome on my page, the one thing you aren’t allowed to do is tell me what I should and shouldn’t be writing about. Facebook is free, so if you want a parenting space without politics, start your own or scroll on by to one of the other millions of pages out there.

What’s happening in our world is worthy of discussion, especially among parents.

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I Put the Phone Down For a Day to be In the Moment and Here’s What I Learned

A beautiful moment preserved for all eternity thanks to a smartphone camera

I’m addicted to my smartphone.

If you’re a parent and you’ve ever been on the Internet, you know how shameful a statement that is. Because if we’ve learned anything from other parents who write about parenting on the Internet for an audience that is largely mobile and reading these things on their phones, we know the combination of phones + kids is bad. Harmful, according to so many of these writers who know beyond a shadow of a doubt parents on phones are irreparably damaging their offspring.

On Sunday, I put our canoe on top of our minivan, loaded up the fishing gear, and decided to take my 3-year-old for a canoe ride down the Charles River. When we parked the car at the put-in point on the river, I had a panic attack as a horrific feeling of dread and anxiety washed over me.

I forgot my phone at home.

Truth be told, my first instinct was to jump back in the car and go get it. But I stopped for a second and calmed myself in order to contemplate something truly outrageous — spending the next few hours in nature with my son sans smartphone.

I thought of all the articles I’ve read telling me what a deadbeat I am for using my phone so much around my kids. I thought of how valuable it could be to be present in the moment and not witness life through a small screen. I also thought about the epic tantrum Sam would throw if I told him we had to go home and then come back and how much I hate detours, but I swear I thought about the value of the no phone thing too.

In the end, I decided to go it without technology. Just a dad and his son. Fishing and paddling and talking and connecting with one another and nature. Besides, who needs a camera when the mind’s eye is so wondrous, right?

Well fuck that shit, because the answer is me — I need a camera. And going without my phone was absolutely awful and I’m never doing it again!

I know you were expecting another one of those “I was addicted to technology but I went without it and I had some spiritual epiphany and now I’m a different man and a better father and I’m here to annoy you with my newfound anti-smartphone wokeness” bullshit, but that’s not happening. And here’s why.

First of all, the scenery was really beautiful along the river and capturing some shots would’ve been nice. Second, we saw deer, turtles, an otter, and a family of geese. It was really cool. Know what wasn’t cool? Sam asking me to take a picture each and every time wildlife appeared, and having a fresh new meltdown every time I reminded him I didn’t have my phone on me. It was nice being in the moment with multiple tantrums.

But the big reason I’ll forever kick myself for not going back for my phone is because Sam caught his first fish on this trip — and I missed it.

I’ve let him reel fish in after I’ve hooked them, but this was the first one he caught after casting with no help from me, setting the hook, reeling it in, and then landing it in the canoe. When he realized he had a fish on he FREAKED OUT with excitement and began reeling like a madman. He was shouting “I’VE GOT A FISH! DADA I’VE GOT A FISH! I’M A REAL FISHERMAN!” and his shrieks could be heard clear across Populatic Pond. He and the fish battled but eventually Sam got the better of him and plopped a smallmouth bass into the canoe. Once in the boat, Sam screamed “I CAUGHT A FISH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!” with triumphant resonance. And as a proud papa, my smile widened as my eyes watered. And at that moment Sam turned to me, cocked his head to one side, and said something I’ll never forget.

“Dad, you got that on video right?”

Don’t get me wrong, it was as Kodak a moment as they get and I’m thrilled I was able to see it. But know what would’ve made it better? A video or picture I could look at any time I wanted. Something I could show relatives and friends. Something I could show him years from now when he’s unable to remember any of this. Hell, something I can refer to when I can’t remember any of this.

All of these parenting “gurus” tell you to live in the moment so I’ll be able to remember things clearly, but I work 50+ hours a week while raising three kids. My days start at 5:15 am and don’t end until the maelstrom of dinner and bedtime has concluded around 10 pm. Half the time I don’t even know what day it is, and I legit can’t remember my kids’ names. I called one of them the dog’s name yesterday. So having every photo and video I take automatically back up to Google Photos and be categorized online for perusal any time I want is HUGE for me.

An that’s the other thing. One of the arguments from these smartphone critics is “You’re taking a photo you’re never going to watch again so what’s the point?” Well maybe we’re a bunch of narcissists in this house, but we watch old videos and go through old pictures constantly. Once in awhile we’ll spend entire evenings going through YouTube videos from years ago and watching the kids grow up. And EVERY SINGLE TIME we say “Oh wow, I completely forgot about this. This is great.

I hate to break it to these professional parent-shamers, but it’s entirely possible to take pictures and videos of your kids and “be in the moment.” Using a smartphone to record kids and being present are not mutually exclusive things, and I’m not sure why it’s now socially acceptable to simply believe that’s the case. If you overdo it then sure, it can be a problem. That’s true for anything — especially dispensing judgey parenting advice on the Internet.

Lastly, when I got home, MJ was FURIOUS at me because if something had happened I would’ve had no way to call for help. So in addition to missing a milestone moment,  not being able to capture the cool animals, and disappointing my son, the absence of my phone got me chewed out by my wife to boot.

All I know is I’m going to wield my smartphone all the time and capture as much of my kid’s childhoods as humanly possible. And I’m not going to question that decision or feel guilty about it for one damn second. Because some day years from now, MJ and I will be sitting down getting happily misty-eyed at random videos we’ve taken over the years.

The beauty of this technology is that it’s allowed us to retain the random, wonderful moments that are too often lost through the holes in memory’s floorboards. It’s the virtual recycling bin that allows us to reuse the overflow of memories our minds are simply too full to comprehend for the long-term. Or, more simply put, it allows me to live in future moments as well as the original one.

I will hold on to the memory of Sam’s first fish for as long as my addled mind allows. But I sure do wish I had caught it on video.

It won’t happen again.

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Buzz-buzz

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“I SAID IT’S TIME TO GO!”

This experience started out like all the rest the last few months — with the best of intentions and me trying to find my back to involved fatherhood. And then it ended like it always has for the last few months — with me getting impatient and yelling at the boys.

This time it was Sam. I took him to walk the dog down the dirt road across the street from our house. The road ends at a small pond that Sam loves, mainly because it’s now frozen over and he discovered that when you throw a rock on a frozen pond it makes a really cool noise. But when 3-year-olds find something new and fun, they want to do it again. And again. And again and again and again. Over and over until they’ve squeezed the enjoyment out of it like so much blood from the stones they seek to skip along that ice-encrusted surface.

I knew he’d want to linger and I told myself to be patient with him. After all, with the hours I work we haven’t had much time together and I know he just misses me.

So we threw rocks for five minutes and it was fun. Then I felt the familiar sensation of a buzz in my pocket. Work email. Dammit, I’ll have to respond to this. I gently say “Hey bud, it’s time to go back, OK?” He ignores me in favor of picking up another rock and tossing it down to smash against the ice.

Buzz-buzz.

I feel the discomfort growing as I try to read the email, herd Sam, all with the dog’s leash attached to my wrist, which is yanking me as I try to catch up on what I need to do when I get back to the house. I put my phone in my pocket and kneel down beside him and tell him again how we have to go home. He cries and says “NO!” and I can see him digging in his heels. I take a breath and try to reason with him and tell him “Peanut is cold, we need to walk back so he’ll be warm.”

Buzz-buzz.

I’ve now lost my patience and the thought of emails I haven’t yet responded to fills me with more dread and loathing than is healthy. But that buzzing is my job, that job is my future, my future is that house, and that house is everything I want for my family. Which means whatever that email is is the most important thing right now. The ridiculousness of that statement is not lost on me, even in the moment. Yet it has taken hold of me and I can’t fight it. Not now. Not there at the frozen pond with my phone abuzz and my son’s temper flaring and the dog pulling — pulling me in a thousand different directions so that I’m everywhere and yet nowhere all at the same time.

Buzz-buzz.

“SAM, I’VE HAD IT. LET’S GO OR YOU’RE LOSING A TOY!” I scream, too loud. Too close to him. I’ve now triggered Sam’s fight or flight response and he almost always chooses fight. He scrunches up his face, balls up his fist, and grunts like it’s Lord of the Flies. He’s savage now and I made him this way, only now I’m off the reservation too.

I snatch him up but he’s big and I have the dog, who pulls me off balance and forces me to put Sam down. He views this as a victory and runs back toward the pond as I yank the dog to give chase. He’s screaming about wanting to throw rocks. I’ve just threatened to take every toy he’s ever owned or will ever own. Our father-son walk has turned into a grudge match and neither of us is going to yield an inch.

Buzz-buzz.

This imbalance can’t be blamed on the kids or work. It’s my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose but that doesn’t matter, and it’s up to me to fix. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to excel at my job without working the hours I work. I don’t know how to be a good parent if I routinely go 2-3 days during the week without seeing them, and then spend my weekends being annoyed by them and the work I didn’t get to during the week.

It’s easy for others to tell me I just need to spend less time at work, but my job is what’s allowing us to move into a great house. My wife would work if she could, but she can’t. It’s not good for her health and I won’t have her in that situation again. So I stumble on, hoping to find a middle ground I’m not even sure exists and wondering how much human leeway I’ll be afforded by my family until I’m nothing more than a stranger passing in the night who shows up late for events and spends time screaming at little kids for wanting to throw rocks on the icy pond.

I have no answers, just anxiety. It is the fear of worrying you’re screwing everything up and realizing you won’t really know the answer to that until it’s far too late. It’s the terrifying notion that a job you love and the people you love could very well need more time and attention than you have to give, yet something has to give. Otherwise you end up having WW III over rocks on a pond.

Buzz-buzz.

 

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There’s No Such Thing as Taking Too Many Pictures of Your Kids

cell phone

“Put the phone down.”
“You’re taking too many pictures of your kids.”
“Your eyes are the best camera.”

If you’re a parent with Internet access of any kind, you know how controversial a topic phones are in relation to your children. You can’t whip out a soon-to-be-outdated phablet without hitting some parenting “expert” or “guru” telling you what a materialistic and superficial jerk you are for posing your kids in a pumpkin patch or posting a selfie with the kids to Instagram during Touch-a-Truck.

I’m pretty confident in my parenting, but after reading so many of these articles talking about how I’m not actually enjoying life because I’m living it through my cell phone camera lens, I started to worry maybe they were right.

So one day I left the camera in the car.

I took Will and Sam on a hike through some local conservation land, and it was gorgeous. It was hot out, but felt 10 degrees cooler when we entered the forest and walked beneath the canopy of towering maple trees. The pine needles padded our steps and my boys bounded forward with youthful zeal, as slits of sunlight periodically found them and dotted their backs.

We explored the forest and inspected downed trees while wondering if a giant blew them over in a fit. We climbed rock formations and claimed them as newly discovered lands (Willtopia, SamLand, and Dada’s Village if you must know). We ran to the next trail map and studied it forcefully, as if it alone held the key to our ultimate survival.

And then we saw the butterfly.

A Monarch butterfly, you know the type. Wings a deep Halloween orange with jet black lines that made it look like an ornate stained glass window. Little white circles dot the tips of the wings and its head, as it rests on some grass seemingly weightless. It was totally still, and so were my boys. Enraptured. Until…

“Dada,” Sam whispered excitedly. “Take picture of butterfly!”

Crap.

“Sammy, I can’t. I didn’t bring my phone with me,” I said with fear rising in my throat. “But that’s OK, wanna know why? Because we have something better than a camera — our eyes. Let’s look at the butterfly and study it really hard, and we’ll take a mental snapshot so we’ll always have the butterfly in our memory.”

I even did that thing where you make a camera out of your hands, hold it up to your eye and snap a “mental picture.” And I immediately recoiled in horror and felt an unyielding desire to kick my own ass.

He knew it was bullshit. I knew it was bullshit. Sam flipped out and started crying, because — well, that’s what almost 3-year-olds do. The unphotographed butterfly must have also sensed the bullshit level rise to dangerous levels, and with his moment of zen interrupted by shrieking, flew off for parts unknown.

In a desperate attempt to stop Sam’s meltdown, Will had a phenomenal idea. He reminded Sam about our geocaching adventures, and started talking about finding hidden treasure. This idea pleased Sam greatly as his sobs subsided and excitement took over as both boys turned to me for the coordinates to our next find.

Coordinates I didn’t have, because I didn’t have my phone with me.

Taking an excessive amount of pictures of your children and adventures is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. Committing things to memory and looking at the world absent a lens is overrated garbage, mainly because 1) taking pictures doesn’t always take you out of the moment, and 2) my memory sucks.

I’m a working dad. I’m up at 5:30 am, I work all day, I come home to parent, I do some more work, I go to bed. My mind is a ball of mush. It takes me at least two tries to get my kids’ names right, I poured my beer into a sippy cup last week, and the only things I truly remember are random ’90s song lyrics. So while it’s a noble thing to live in the moment and try to commit to memory the look on my sons’ faces when faced with the unparalleled wonder of a Monarch butterfly, I’d rather have my camera so I can have it forever and share it with the people I love who weren’t there.

Cell phone cameras are incredible and allow me to relive moments from years ago whenever I want. You’d be surprised how much I revisit them, especially now with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature that allows you to relive memories from years ago.

Excess can be a real problem in so many areas, but when it comes to pictures of the people and places I love most, there’s no such thing as too much. So have fun being “in the moment” and thinking you’re superior because you left your cell phone in the car. I’ll be busy happily recording memories and avoiding toddler meltdowns.

Just think, if I listened to the know-it-alls and didn’t have my phone with me, I’d miss moments like this.

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What Kind of Parent Attacks a Grieving Mother? Donald Trump

I have to believe losing a child is one of the most horrible things a human being can experience. It is something so fundamentally unspeakable as to be feared by all parents, and when it happens there is nothing but universal sympathy and empathy from anyone who has ever cared for a child as their own.

Except for Donald Trump, it seems.

Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala spoke at the Democratic National Convention last week, criticizing Trump for his call to ban Muslims from entering the country. That’s because their son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq and protecting his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. They had some harsh words for Trump, and offered the Republican presidential nominee a copy of the U.S. Constitution for him to read.

But instead of ignoring them or offering his sympathies and reiterating the party line about how he’s still the best choice compared to Hillary Clinton, Trump went on the war path. He decided the best defense is an overly aggressive offense, so he put two grieving parents in his crosshairs and said this:

“She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But a plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet, and it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.”

The message is undeniably clear — Donald Trump believes Ghazala Khan was forced into a position of subservience because she and her husband are Muslim. So, while being criticized for being anti-Muslim, Trump decided his best course of action was doubling down and taking ANOTHER shot at Muslims by suggesting the grieving mother of a fallen U.S. war hero was being intimidated by her husband and not allowed to speak.

Nevermind the fact that she has spoken out in the past (and would do so again after the fact), there is something much more despicable and troubling at work here.

Donald Trump is a father of five children. He is no stranger to parenthood and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Yet despite sharing that common bond with the Khans, Trump made the decision to berate and belittle two parents whose son sacrificed his life for his country. I repeat, Trump, a man who hopes to one day command soldiers, doesn’t have enough respect and consideration for Gold Star parents to stop himself from lashing out and attacking them.

There is something wrong with Donald Trump. There is something wrong with any parent who can’t conjure up enough sympathy and respect for parents who have had to bury a child.

Don’t tell me this isn’t about parenting and don’t tell me I shouldn’t discuss politics on a page largely devoted to parenting issues. This is the presidential election and EVERYTHING relates back to parenting. The person we vote for will shape the world in which we live for at least the next four years. He/She will likely nominate multiple U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

It is not acceptable to attack our Gold Star parents. Just like it’s ridiculous to attack POWs who endured a hell I can’t possibly imagine while being held captive. Yet that’s where we’re at with Donald Trump.

Politics has always been nasty, but Trump has navigated us to uncharted waters. He has no empathy or sense of compassion. He thinks only of himself and is so thin-skinned he feels the need to fire back at all of his detractors. Women who disagree with him are “fat pigs,” media outlets who criticize him using his own statements and verifiable facts are banned from covering his campaign, and now Gold Star parents are apparently in play for Trump. Sen. John McCain, Speaker Paul Ryan, and even the VFW have publicly stated how horrified they are by Trump’s actions, yet Trump is undeterred and totally willing to say anything about anyone at any time.

This isn’t fighting against political correctness. There’s nothing correct about what Trump is doing by removing the last vestiges of civility from politics. This is about a lack of humanity and an inability to empathize with anyone who has a dissenting opinion. It’s an indicator of how things will work if (deity of your choosing forbid) Trump becomes President Trump. It’s disgusting and dangerous and wrong.

And it’s beneath us as Americans.

Seriously, folks. What Trump is doing and saying isn’t worthy of this country or the office he’s trying so desperately to occupy. If you’re a parent and you’re OK with the way Donald Trump has acted toward the Khans, then seek help. Immediately. Because you are broken.

When the face of the Republican party can’t even find common ground with other parents who are mourning dead children, there’s a problem. We have a problem. Let’s make sure we don’t put the problem in the Oval Office.

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