Tag Archives: parenting

What It’s Like Having Three Kids

Photo by Meri Belanger of Sootie Studios.
Photo by Laura Fiorillo of Family Tree Photography.

Imagine you’re wrestling an alligator with your bare hands while also trying to catch a monkey who is just out of reach and throwing feces at you. Then you’re asked to simultaneously tame a lion.

I’ve only been a father of three for six weeks, but this is the most apt comparison I can think of when describing what it’s like to raise a trio of children.

The jungle metaphor is overplayed, for sure, but it has persevered through the years for a reason — there’s truth at the heart of it. Granted, the “animals” involved are pretty damn terrific and the danger they pose is dwarfed by the cuteness they exude, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is hard.

Two was difficult. Three is HARD.

Two meant a divide and conquer mentality. Three means being outnumbered and out-manned at all times. Two meant we could still play man-to-man. Three means zone and the dreaded Prevent defense. And even though Tommy can’t talk, it seems he’s been able to telepathically communicate certain commandments to his older brothers, which have been mutually agreed upon.

  1. There shall be no time of day during which all three children sleep simultaneously
  2. No more than two brothers can be in a good mood at the same time
  3. One of the three must always complain of hunger or thirst at all times
  4. Someone must always be crying out for attention
  5. None shall allow either parent to defecate alone behind closed doors

But lest you think this is some sort of unbearable task or prison sentence, allow me to disabuse you of that notion posthaste.

This is awesome.

I love being a dad. Now multiply that love by three and you have my current level of elation. And gratitude, since I never forget this road we traveled was not easy and seldom smooth. So while MJ and I are exhausted zombies who wake up at all hours of the night, can barely keep our eyes open during the day, and have forgotten what it’s like to poop without a captive audience, we’re also two very lucky and happy people.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it’s so easy to embark on journeys you know are worthwhile.

We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but it didn’t matter. Now, at the young age of six weeks, Tommy makes us feel like he’s been here all along and both MJ and I can’t imagine life any other way. Three boys bring a certain amount of chaos to our lives, but what’s life without some commotion?

Screaming jags eventually cease and give way to the rhythmic rising and falling of tiny chests. What was just the bane of your existence mere minutes ago becomes the source of all your peace in an instant. Bedtime kisses between brothers, however fleeting the moment, live on for time eternal.


It’s hard, yet so easy. And so worth it.

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The Real Reason The Walking Dead Scares Me


The Walking Dead terrifies me, but not for the reasons you’d think.

It’s Halloween and scary movies/TV shows are all anyone is watching.  AMC’s The Walking Dead (available on Netflix) tops that list for many because it is a thrilling epic involving hordes of flesh-eating zombies that are quickly taking over the world and snuffing out the last bits of humanity that remain. And to make matters worse, some of the people untainted by the mystery plague zombifying the world have turned into violent sociopaths hellbent on killing everyone they meet.

But while there have been countless gut-wrenching death scenes (too often involving our most beloved characters) featuring people being ripped apart by the undead, zombies and gore don’t scare me.

I’m most horrified by the idea of being a parent in a climate of hopelessness.

Rick Grimes leads a band of misfits through the ongoing apocalypse, but first and foremost he has to worry about his teenage son Carl and his toddler Judith. Being exposed to that unyielding and unsafe environment is bad enough, but having to worry about your kids in it? It’s the most terrifying thing I can think of.

Maybe it scares me more these days because sometimes it feels like we’re not so far removed from The Walking Dead.

If you’re a news junkie like I am, it’s difficult sometimes to read the headlines every day and not wonder if bringing three kids into this world is an act of cruelty. Kids are shot to death in schools and in accidents after getting a hold of loaded weapons on a damn near daily basis, yet no one in charge will even attempt to fix the problem. Too many families live in poverty and then have to deal with the added insult of being vilified for accepting handouts.

In the show, the longer Rick is exposed to this environment the more of his humanity erodes. The very meaning of decency changes in real time, and doing the right thing becomes an impossibility because the “right thing” loses all meaning. Rick, in an attempt to protect his family, has gotten dangerously close to turning into the very thing he guards against. After one hits a certain point, sometimes there’s no return.

As a frequent denizen of Internet comment sections, I have seen a lot of ugliness from a lot of people. There’s a certain segment of the population that is honestly looking forward to an end-of-days scenario like The Walking Dead. They secretly (and not-so-secretly) wish for armed revolution. For a chance to overthrow the government. For chaos and insurrection and every man for himself survival of the fittest. They pine for the day they can put their stockpile of weapons and their bunker to good use.

The storylines in The Walking Dead don’t scare me because they’re spooky fiction, but because of how quickly it could become reality. And I’m scared to death of raising kids in the thick of hopelessness and horror.

But hey, it’s just a TV show. Right?


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.

Check out more great titles on Netflix!

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One Good Thing

onegoodthingI believe the only metric for parental success is whether you raise human beings who are a credit to humanity.

To that end, my wife and I are trying very hard to raise three boys who are a benefit to the world instead of detriments. One way we’re doing that is to impart the importance of compassion, empathy, and kindness to our kids. And that’s not always an easy feat.

Will likes to help people, but he’s only 7 years old and doesn’t fully understand the impact of his words or the importance of tact. Such was the case during the first week of school when he mistakenly thought his idea of helping a girl in his class was to give her unsolicited fashion advice and critique her wardrobe. He thought he was helping, but we had to explain to him how hurtful words can be — even when that hurt is unintentional.

First we explained why it’s not proper to criticize the way anyone dresses because it hurts feelings, and then we had him apologize the following day. But we also saw an opportunity to take things a step further. In addition to apologizing to the girl, we also asked him to figure out something nice he could say to her and give her a compliment.

He was hesitant at first, but he did it. Will told her he really liked her glasses. And then he said “Mom, dad — she smiled. She was really happy and she said thank you. I liked making her smile because I never meant to hurt her feelings the first time.”

And just like that, “One Good Thing” was born.

We told him since he liked complimenting her, he should do it again — except this time to someone else. And he did. Every single day for the last three weeks, Will has gone into school and given someone an unsolicited compliment. He has complimented boys, girls, and teachers. He has positively commented on Minion jackets, cool jeans, how someone got an answer correct in class, and dinosaur shirts other kids have been wearing. He’s complimented friends as well as kids with whom he doesn’t usually talk.

When he gets off the bus, the first thing he does is tell us who the recipient of his “One Good Thing” was, and the specifics of the compliment. It’s become his routine, and a way to inject some positivity into the world.

I won’t lie and pretend he’s an angel who did this without resisting a bit. At one point he rolled his eyes and said “Why do I have to keep doing this all the time?” So we spent an hour or so talking about Karma, and the idea that the good you put out into the world will come back to you tenfold when you need help from others. He looked at me like I was crazy.

But guess what? He no longer thinks I’m a nut.

Will brought his beloved arrowhead to school earlier this month for show and tell, but accidentally dropped it while showing it to friends. It shattered into a million pieces. Will’s art teacher told him she’d do her best to fix it, but it was beyond repair.

However, she had other plans.

She knew Will got the arrowhead at Clark’s Trading Post on a trip this summer with his grandparents. So she graciously took the time to call up Clark’s in New Hampshire and buy another arrowhead for him on her own dime. However, she was talking to one of the owners of the store and upon hearing her story, he generously agreed to send her a new one at no cost.

Boom. Karma explained in a way my meager words ever could.

I’m not a raging hippie or a New Age guru. But I absolutely believe the good you put out into the world is palpable. And contagious. I know it sounds naive to believe the world would be a better place if everyone just did a little more good, but that’s OK. It might be naive, but I also think there’s some truth to it. So I’ll continue to practice small, random acts of kindness. And I’m going to teach all three of my boys to do the same.

One good thing isn’t a lot, but multiple ones add up quickly and this is an easy way my kids can be part of the solution instead of the problem.

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How Are Parents Voting for Donald Trump?


“I don’t like him. He’s STUPID!”

My oldest son, 7, was having some problems getting along with another kid at camp. Frustrated by the inability and unwillingness of the other boy to agree on the rules for a new game they had created, Will waited until camp was over and we were in the car to lash out and vent his anger which had been building all week.

My son is a good kid. A very good kid, actually. But he has very specific and strong opinions as to how things should work, and when someone opposes those beliefs he gets instantly frazzled. As soon as he called the other boy stupid in front of me, he knew he was a goner. And so was the beloved iPad, taken away for two days. Because in our house, frustration with someone does not give you the right to call them names and belittle them. There are better and more productive ways to deal with a problem than throwing a tantrum and calling everyone who disagrees with you stupid. Because manners are important, as is treating other people with respect.

This lesson, which most people begin learning as toddlers, has apparently escaped the current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Trump has surged ahead in polls recently despite a string of incendiary comments and verbal gaffes that would sink most candidates in a heartbeat. “They’re rapists,” is what he said about illegal immigrants from Mexico. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” were the words he had for Sen. John McCain, who was held prisoner and tortured for five years during Vietnam. He also wants to do away with the 14th amendment of the US Constitution, which grants birthright citizenship to those born on US soil.

And when asked about his history of making misogynistic comments during a recent presidential debate, Trump joked that he only referred to actress Rosie O’Donnell in that manner. I repeat, the leading Republican candidate for this country’s highest elected office called a woman (who wasn’t at the debate or part of it in any way) a fat, disgusting, slob on national television. But that wasn’t even the most horrifying part of the night. Do you know what was?

The applause following his comment.

Trump called Rosie O’Donnell a fat, disgusting animal and hundreds of people in attendance began cheering for him. Cheering, hooting, and hollering for a man publicly making misogynistic comments and fat-shaming a woman who wasn’t even there to defend herself.

Surely some of those people celebrating Trump’s misogyny are parents themselves. Hell, I know Trump supporters in real life who are parents. I know for a fact they would NEVER let their kids get away with calling someone a “fat pig” in public, and there would be swift consequences if it were to happen.

And yet they’re voting for someone who does this kind of thing routinely. It’s fundamentally baffling.

My son made a disparaging comment about someone in the privacy of our car where no one else could hear, and he still got in trouble. Yet Donald Trump engages in despicable personal attacks on the grandest of stages, and gets a bump in the polls following each disgusting display? Something isn’t right.

I hear so many people talk about kids today and how they have no respect. No manners. No discipline. And sure, some don’t. But some of these same people are voting for Trump, who sees respect for others and decency in general as a weakness. They like him because he’s “un-PC” and “says what’s on his mind.” Except they’re forgetting a few things.

Saying everything that’s on your mind at any given time is not a sign of strength, it’s a sign you lack self-discipline, social awareness, diplomacy, and manners. And calling Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig or all illegal Mexican immigrants rapists isn’t a case of being courageously politically incorrect — it’s just being mean-spirited, cruel, and wrong.

If Donald Trump can’t be better than this, then we as Americans have to be better.  I understand people are fed up and scared and frustrated, but that’s no reason to condone a candidate who uses that fear and frustration to incite hate and bigotry. Who preys on the voters’ existing anger and seeks to make it OK to voice insults and engage in name-calling without forethought or remorse. Who inspires two brothers to beat a homeless man while he sleeps simply because “he looks like an illegal.” Who is supported by people like this:

“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’” Jim Sherrota said. “That’d be one nice thing.”

Donald Trump is a walking, talking temper tantrum who screams first and thinks — well, seemingly never. If my kids acted like this they’d be living their lives in time out, which is precisely where we should put the Trump presidential candidacy. Presidential candidates don’t have to be perfect, but they should at least be civil and able to conduct themselves with basic human decency, especially if they’re going to be participating in tense, diplomatic negotiations.

Strength and unchecked aggression are two very different things, and strong leaders don’t have to resort to bullying tactics and name-calling to make their points and exert influence. Unfortunately, too many people are confusing the former with the latter.

That’s why I don’t understand parents voting for Trump. If we won’t put up with this behavior from our children, let’s not make it acceptable for presidential candidates either.

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Should We Tell Kids They’re Special?

photo credit: I am Special via photopin (license)
photo credit: I am Special via photopin (license)

“Dad, am I special?”

What seems at first glance to be a question with an easy, straightforward answer from a parent (“Yes son, of course you’re the most specialiest specialty in the history of special!”), suddenly wasn’t so simple. If you think about it, that question is fraught with unexpected complications and potential repercussions depending on your answer. As a result I had to think long and hard about how I responded.

Some parents are recoiling in horror at this very moment because I didn’t automatically and exuberantly tell my son how special he is. I get it. However, what message are we really sending to our kids when we resort to that?

They say all kids are special. Well, if that’s true, then doesn’t “special” lose meaning? If every single child is special, does ordinary become extinct or nonexistent? Don’t we lose the perspective necessary to make special a distinction if everyone falls into that category?

But more important than that, aren’t we creating dangerous levels of entitlement? Hey, there’s nothing wrong with positive reinforcement for hard work or a job well done. But I’m sorry, you can’t convince me that constantly telling children they are special at every turn doesn’t create a the potential for an unbelievably entitled generation of kids.

Unfortunately, I only need to look at my oldest son for a real-life example.

A few years ago, I played a trick on him and convinced him I ate all of his Halloween candy. Well, the Jimmy Kimmel Show saw it, liked it, and used it. Suddenly Will was watching himself broadcast to millions of people. They even used his image as the thumbnail on the YouTube video, which has been seen by nearly 40 million people.

I was really excited and I went on and on about how special this was, and how special he was to appear on television and be seen by millions of people. Then the local media found out, and we were featured in newspapers and even had a segment on the local TV news. Soon Will was telling his friends, other parents, teachers, and everyone he could that he was a TV star. I just thought it was really cute and I encouraged it, because damn — it’s JIMMY FREAKING KIMMEL!

About a week after all the hoopla, I took Will on the train into Boston for an event. When we walked on board the crowded car, he was smiling and looking around at everyone. I just thought it was because he loved trains, but after a few minutes his smile faded and he started to get grumpy. I asked him what was wrong and his answer hit me like a brick.

“Why aren’t these people saying hi to me, dad? Don’t they know I’m special because I’m famous from the TV?”

Oh. Shit.

It took quite a bit of doing to walk that one back. I just didn’t realize what was happening, but what did I expect? I spent a solid week telling him how special he is, so how could I be surprised when he believed every single word of it and expected other people to treat him that way too?

I spent a lot of time after that talking less about being special, and more about being privileged. As a writer and blogger, I get some nice perks and things sent to me by companies. But now, when that happens, we spend a ton of time letting our kids know we’re lucky to be getting these things, and it’s not the norm. That they’re not getting them because they’re special, but because companies are advertising. I tell Will he’s no better or worse than any other kid in any other part of the world. However, he’s luckier than most and he needs to try to understand and appreciate that privilege without thinking he’s better than anyone else because of it.

I’m not supporting the degradation of kids or calling for the total elimination of positive reinforcement. Sometimes it takes a teacher/parent/friend showing a special interest in kids to make them feel worthy and propel them to success. However, I don’t want my son thinking he’s special just because he’s been told that all his life. Because make no mistake, far too many children fall into that category. Just ask this guy.

I will tell my sons they were born into a certain amount of privilege that will aid their ability to be great, should they concentrate their efforts and abilities. I will tell them I believe in them and support them wholeheartedly. I will tell them they have great potential that can only come to fruition with hard work and perseverance.

But that doesn’t make them special. It makes them like millions of other kids all over the world. It shouldn’t be a bad thing to tell kids that, either.

So how do I answer the question with which I began this piece? I tell my son he’s special to me and always will be. But other than that, no. He’s no inherently better, worse, or more special than any other kid.

If I do my job right, that message won’t destroy his fragile self-esteem — it’ll push him to work harder and be less self-absorbed.


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