Tag Archives: parenting

Parents at Playgrounds on Phones Are the Worst People Ever

mj_finger
I’ve been waiting for a chance to use this picture for three years!

There are some bad people out there.

The world is full of liars, cheaters, serial killers, rapists, pedophiles, and New York Jets fans. Unfortunately, the derelicts are living next to us, conversing with us, and subversively poisoning our way of life as they chip away at society’s common decency. They’re right under our noses, yet because there’s no readily identifiable mark of evil to witness, it’s impossible for us to tell the good guys from the dregs.

Until now.

If you’re not familiar with the worst people on Earth, I’m not surprised. No one has ever actually seen what they look like, because their faces are perpetually pointed down. Yup, that’s right — we’re talking about parents at playgrounds who use their smartphones!

I know. Savages, right? I mean, these are our children. Our babies. Our future. But sadly, you can’t throw a dead Angry Bird on the Internet these days without coming across another heartbreaking tale of innocent children being shamefully neglected by smartphone wielding monsters. Seriously, it’s an epidemic.

And you thought ISIS was bad news.

I’m sure you’ve run into their ilk at the local playgrounds. It’s always the same horrid scene. Kids happily cavorting and scampering around the playground, instantly making friends with other kids as only children can do. They climb the climbing walls, slide down slides, and cross the monkey bars while enjoying some exercise and the outdoors. On the surface, everything seems fine until you see the parent sitting on the bench tapping away on a phone.

Make no mistake, these people are what’s wrong with society.

Don’t approach them, as they probably won’t notice you anyway. Because hell, they’re already missing every single precious moment of their baby’s life and clearly prioritizing technology over their own flesh and blood. Instead, just make a mental note of everything they’re doing wrong, and shame this abomination on your blog as soon as you get home.

These people are so dangerous because they’re not thinking about the children. I mean sure they could be a stay-at-home parents who devote every waking second to the kids all day long up until this point and now they’re searching Pinterest for a dinner recipe while their kids get exercise, but that’s beside the point.

And yeah, I guess this could be a working parent returning a quick email because she negotiated a flexible schedule and the ability to work remotely so she can see her kids more often instead of coming home from the office after they’re asleep, but that’s neither here nor there.

And yes, there is an infinitesimal chance the dad on the phone needs just five minutes to himself to check Facebook or read the news while his kids play, because he hasn’t had an adult conversation in more than a week and he fears his brain is turning to mush. But that’s hardly relevant.

What is important is shaming these parents without knowing anything about their personal circumstances.

After all, if your head is buried in your phone how can you ensure your kid’s safety? Didn’t you watch the incredibly frightening video about child abduction??? Anyone with a furry creature and a warm smile can steal your kid at any second. I mean yeah, technically that video uses erroneous statistics and only 115 “stranger abductions” a year are reported in the US. And it’s true the world is actually statistically safer now than at any point in recent history. But the point is, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR KIDS!

Every mom and dad knows the only way to be truly great at parenting is to spend 100% of your time and energy on your kids and always put them first at all costs. That’s just science.

You need to follow them around the playground and be a shadow.

Is junior having trouble climbing the ladder? Help him immediately. Is your little girl in the middle of a nonviolent disagreement with another child? Step in as soon as possible and resolve it for her. Do your children have trouble playing independently and need you helicoptering around them at all times? Then congratulations, because you’re winning the parenting game.

In a world where the bad guys often look like good guys, it’s comforting in a way to have a common despised enemy. That’s why it’s not enough for you to parent your own kid and let other parents handle things in a more hands-off way. You have a responsibility to point out perceived shortcomings of others based on little to no actual information, and use it for blog fodder and just making yourself and others feel better about themselves in general.

In a world gone mad with terrible dangers like parents with smartphones and deflated footballs lurking around every corner, it’s up to you, super parent, to continue to fight the good fight.

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Is Lying a Part of Parenting?

I lie to my kids.

I don’t say that to brag nor do I shy away from it. In fact, I wrote an entire post about the lies I tell my kids that went viral last year. After seven years and two kids, it’s just a fact of life. I’m honest with my kids to a large extent, but sometimes it just makes more sense (and is far easier) to tell a little white lie.

“Can I watch Caillou again?”
No, it’s not on TV right now (boy does it suck when they learn to read the channel guide).

“Is the Polar Express real and can I really ride it to see Santa?”
It’s real but you can’t ride it because you already believe.

“Are you and mommy wrestling?”
Yes. We’re wrestling. And ONLY wrestling. Now go downstairs and watch Caillou while waiting for the Polar Express.

I know there are some parents who claim they NEVER lie to their kids and are honest about everything. Good luck with that. I don’t advocate a strict diet of lies for anyone, but sometimes family members tell some little white lies and fibs that are necessary to get through the day and make life a little easier.

The trick is knowing the difference between an appropriate bending of the truth and huge lies that can tear people apart and cause years of hard feelings and destruction.

Bloodline

That’s what happened to the Rayburn family in the masterful Netflix original drama, “Bloodline.”

Set in the aesthetically stunning Florida Keys, the Rayburns are a prominent local family who own a bed and breakfast in paradise. But as the four Rayburn children gather at home for a family reunion, Danny Rayburn, the black sheep, threatens to expose all deep, dark secrets festering just underneath the surface of the beauty of South Florida. Soon the lies are unraveling just as quickly as the family is being torn apart.

If you like rich characters and a slow-burning drama that peels back the onion in tantalizing fashion, you’re going to tear through the first season of Bloodline in a heartbeat.

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If you’re looking for some new kids’ programming on Netflix, try these:

MayNetflixBox1. Richie Rich, season 2 (5/22)
2. Littlest Pet Shop, season 3
3. All  Hail King Julien

StreamTeamBadge

I 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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Time is a Flat Skipping Rock

skippingrocks
photo credit: via photopin (license)

“You need to get better at managing your time.”

We have the same exact fight with Will every single night. An hour before bedtime we ask him to think about his plan for the rest of the evening. For instance, he can watch TV or play Minecraft for an hour, but at 8 pm he’ll have to go right to bed. Or he can choose to watch TV/play for half an hour and then we can rest for a bit together upstairs and chat before bed, which he loves to do.

He’s always so sure and steadfast when he makes the initial decision. But then, as bedtime nears, he gets buyer’s remorse and wishes he had chosen the opposite. Then come the tears, the yelling, the tantrums — it’s exhausting. But we stick to our guns and talk about the importance of time management. Time after time.

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I took Will to a local swimming hole with friends over the weekend. The weather is unseasonably gorgeous here for early May, so the kids fished for a bit and then stripped down and went for a dip. They were pirates, adventurers, and archaeologists digging in the water’s edge for time’s forgotten fossils.

Well, the clan of Spidey underwear clad explorers  didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur. However, they found the next best thing: flat rocks.

The sun-splashed afternoon quickly became a rock skipping competition of epic proportions — each kid side-arming stones in an attempt to skim it off the surface of the water and create as many jumps as possible. Who could skip rocks the farthest? Who could get the most skips? Which one of those trumps the other?

Then Will hucked a nice one at a great angle and attained maximum skippage. A nice big, arcing first bounce followed by four or five additional skips before the limits of the universe intervened and halted all progress. He turned and looked at me with a beaming grin and eyes sparkling with self-satisfaction in the noon-day sun.

He suddenly seemed so grown up, almost like a different person. And I wondered where all the time had —

Oh holy hell.

Time management is a crock of shit. It only took one look at the skipping rocks kissing the water’s surface combined with my suddenly seven-year-old son to realize time can’t be managed. Not really, anyway. Nothing as inexorable as time can truly be managed. Or contained. Or even slowed down. A few guys tried it once in the 1980s, but their DeLorean antics produced some unpredictable results.

We are shot out of a cannon into life’s pond and the clock immediately starts ticking. We skip along the surface and our respective ripples trace our journey. They are the major milestones of our lives — first date, graduation, buying a house, marriage, kids — because those things are the most visible. They are the moments stamped most markedly in time for all to see.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the most important.

Time can’t be stopped or slowed down. But it can and should be savored often, and survived when necessary.

And although the splashdowns are the obvious focal points, most of life is the in-between. The bulk of our journey consists of the flight — rocketing through the air not knowing exactly where or when we’re going to land — and hoping we bounce up and keep going for just a little while longer. Just skipping ahead one more time until physics kick in and we inevitably sink to the bottom.

We’re all in flight and set in motion, and you can manage your time or enjoy it. For me, it’s time for the latter.

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My Son, The Boy Scouts, and Why I Won’t Support Discrimination

photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony - Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts - Yongsan Garrison - Korea - 090509 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Flag Retirement Ceremony – Troop 80 Boy Scouts and Pack 89 Cub Scouts – Yongsan Garrison – Korea – 090509 via photopin (license)

The boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, cautiously walked toward us as we exited the store. He tugged at his Cub Scout neckerchief and cleared his throat before speaking. He was polite but nervous, as he quietly explained how he was raising money and asked us if we’d like to donate.

Unlike many people, I don’t mind being approached by folks outside of stores asking for donations. That’s especially true when young men and women take it upon themselves to bravely approach strangers and ask for financial support, because that’s not an easy thing to do. I almost gave him a dollar based on that alone.

I thanked him for his time and congratulated him on his efforts, told him he’s doing a fine job, and wished him luck. Then I politely declined to donate and walked away.

When we were out of earshot, Will gave me a confused look and wanted to know why I wouldn’t give the boy any money. So I told him even though that boy and his friends are surely very good and devoted Scouts led by progressive parents and leaders doing positive work in the community, the people in charge of Scouting at the national level have a rule that prohibits gay people and atheists from being leaders. And, until very recently, wouldn’t let in gay or atheist members. Which means Will’s gay extended family wouldn’t be allowed to lead a troop because they’d be considered harmful to the development of kids. Hell, it means I couldn’t even lead a group because I don’t believe in God.

His reaction? “What?!? That’s not fair. Why can’t they just be nice?” Yes. Why indeed.

I posted the encounter on my Facebook page and thought nothing of it other than it was a good lesson for Will. However, others had a very different view of what happened. Here are a few comments I received:

“So lets take it out on the scouts that work very hard.”

“Maybe instead of refusing to support them and teaching your child that its ok to judge people. Maybe you should try volunteering and help to change policy.”

“Discriminating against all scouts is just as bad as discriminating against all gays or all blacks or all trekkies (had to throw that is to lighten up the subject). If you show discrimination at all to any group in front of your children, you are teaching them that discrimination is ok. It’s hypocritical. We teach are kids to show love and respect to everyone, even our enemies and those that have different opinions.”

“Im a fan of yours man, I usually like everything you post, but this. Sounds to my like a lesson in division and discrimination.”

First of all, politely declining to donate is not discrimination. Not by a long shot. And it’s certainly not in the same hemisphere as racism and homophobia.

Discrimination? Setting a bad example? Negative judgments? All things the Scouts engage in at the national level by banning gays and non-believers. But instead of focusing on the organization actually discriminating against people, they focused on me. Suddenly I was the bad guy discriminating against the Scouts. All because I refuse to financially support an organization that willfully engages in judgmental discrimination.

That is the fuzziest of fuzzy logic.

I fully realize there are local groups of Scouts who think the ban on gay and atheist leaders is ridiculous. I get it and I appreciate it. I love that they’re working to bring about change from the inside, and I applaud their efforts. With their hard work, this backward and self-defeating policy will change and the Boy Scouts of America will take a page from the more inclusive and forward-thinking Girl Scouts, who long ago began to accept every one of its members.

However, until that day comes, I will not donate. And I will not allow my son to join.

To do so, in my eyes, is to condone a bigoted, hateful, and damaging policy that goes against everything I believe in and all the moral values I’m trying to instill in my boys. It’s the main reason I quit Scouts when I was a Webelo. And while Scouting has undeniably good qualities at the local level, those packs and troops are still part of a larger body that thinks gay people and non-believers aren’t fit to be good examples to children.

That’s especially damaging when you consider gay kids can now be Scouts, but once they turn 18 and want to continue their association with the organization as leaders, they cannot. Gay Scouts? Acceptable. Gay adult Scout leader? Potentially harmful and unfit for duty. What a difference a day makes.

Imagine being a boy in Scouts who begins to realize he’s gay. I’m sure it’s hard enough to come out as it is, but now imagine you’re a dedicated Scout who wants to one day lead a troop and continue giving to the organization you love so much. Knowing you can’t be a gay Scout leader once you turn 18, maybe you continue to keep your true self hidden. Suddenly you’re living a lie and failing to be true to yourself, all because the organization to which you’ve selflessly dedicated yourself won’t accept you. Why? Because you’re attracted to people of the same sex. As if that affects your ability to tie a knot or be a good person.

Think of the terrible message that sends, and now question whether or not you want to promote an organization that sends people into a shame spiral and doesn’t value who they are. Not me. No way.

No organization is perfect. But I need to at least be able to begin with a solid foundation that includes basic equality. Absent that very simple and necessary requirement, I can’t lend my support. And I’m certainly not going to voluntarily expose the most precious people in my life to it.

I’m also not going to stand here and be accused of discrimination when I’ve done nothing of the sort. Not wanting to fund homophobia and taking a stand for equal rights is not something for which I’ll ever be ashamed. Nor will I listen to people tell me I’m setting a bad example for my son. Once informed of the policy, Will told me he would never want to be part of something so unfair and unnecessarily cruel. That kind of compassion and willingness to take a stand for what’s right at such a young age is worth more than any merit badge he could ever earn.

Here’s hoping the Boy Scouts do what’s right at the national level and change this ridiculous policy. Once that’s done, I’m more than willing to lend my support. Just ask the Girl Scouts who have gotten rich selling me cookies.

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Why Our Favorite ’80s Movies Couldn’t Be Made in 2015

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One of the best parts of becoming a parent is reliving our own childhoods with our kids. For some that means joining Little League, rediscovering old toys and playing with them again, and — especially for me — watching the movies I loved as a kid with my boys.

I know I’m probably biased, but I consider the 1980s (and early ’90s to an extent) to be best time period ever when it came to movies. They were kooky, crazy, adorable, hysterical, adventurous, gut-wrenching, and heroic.  And since I was a kid myself at the time, I especially gravitated toward the movies that also involved kids. Anything coming of age or including an awesome adventure was OK by me, and since my parents were pretty liberal with what my brother and I were allowed to watch, we took it all in.

Now that Will is 7 and getting old enough to appreciate more than Saturday morning cartoons, I’ve started slowly introducing him to some greatest hits from my youth. Except…well, I came to a startling realization.

Barely any of these movies could be made today.

It’s only been 25-30 years or so, but watching these movies and being reminded of how life was then is startling. What is called “free range” parenting today was simply called “parenting” in the ’80s. Kids did stuff all the time, often unsupervised, and no one batted an eyelash. Was it as safe then versus now? Probably not. But it sure seemed a whole lot more fun.

With that in mind, here are eight movies from back in the day, and why they just couldn’t be made in today’s climate.

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8. The Breakfast Club
First of all, look at the reasons they’re in detention. Claire skipped class to go shopping, which parents these days would likely excuse and then scream at the principal for doling out a detention to their precious cherub. Andrew taped Larry Lester’s buns together, which would probably result in a lawsuit instead of detention. Bender pulled a fire alarm which is a much bigger no-no now than back then, and might get a kid expelled. And Brian was found with a gun in his locker! Even though it was a flare gun, if that happened today the school would (justifiably) be on lockdown with a SWAT team close behind. Also, I bet one of those kids had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch in the library, and no way is that allowed anymore due to allergies. I just hope they didn’t have Oreos, because then they’d all REALLY be screwed.

7. The Sandlot (yes, I know this is from the 90s)
First of all, there’s no way all of these kids would be let out to play alone all day. Second, some safety obsessed parent is going to take one look at that field and get the city health department down there in a heartbeat to condemn it because it’s not up to code. And PETA would not take kindly to the treatment of Hercules. But sadly, the biggest reason this movie wouldn’t be the same is the scene with Squints and Wendy Peffercorn. Faking drowning just to get a kiss from a gorgeous lifeguard would not be looked upon kindly today. Instead of considering it capricious hijinks, Michael “Squints” Palledorous would be labeled a dangerous sexual predator, and he’d never marry Wendy, have nine kids, and own the local drug store.

6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If it wasn’t the parental GPS tracker in his phone that told his parents where he really was, any modern day Ferris would no doubt give himself away on Periscope when people started taping him on the parade float. Also, holding hands with those kids in the art museum would’ve ended with charges filed. But the good news is you can still go to Wrigley Field and watch the Chicago Cubs lose.

5. Stand By Me
First of all, what parents do you know who would think nothing of their kids just disappearing for 2-3 days on end without a word? Second, they’d probably end up in trouble when they find the body on the tracks and take incriminating selfies next to it. But I’m sure in this version that would all be forgotten when Verne and Gordy go viral and become famous after Teddy captures the train dodge on video and puts it on YouTube.

4. Dirty Dancing
Why can’t Dirty Dancing be made today? Oh, I don’t know. How about BECAUSE JOHNNY IS 35 YEARS OLD AND BANGING A 16-YEAR-OLD GIRL?!?!?! Nobody puts Baby in the corner, but somebody is going to put Johnny in a jail cell. However, sadly enough, the options many women have concerning their reproductive rights are still as disgustingly limited today as they were then.

3. Lean On Me
Principal Joe Clark can handle the poverty, hopelessness, disrespect, and decay of the educational system in inner-city schools. But this movie can’t be remade because he would’ve quit after just one day of dealing with Common Core.

2. The Goonies
This remains the absolute, hands-down favorite movie of my youth. I watched it 742 times and I still can’t get enough of it. However, you can’t remake Goonies. First of all, I think the developmentally disabled community would have a much bigger problem with the portrayal of Sloth than it did 30 years ago. But mainly, some huffy parent in Astoria would call the police to report a roving gang of young children who shouldn’t be out alone. Then, when the police investigate, they’d find none of those kids were wearing a helmet while biking. That means the Goonies never get into the Fratelli’s basement, don’t get to go on the treasure hunt, never find One-Eyed Willie, and Mikey’s marble bag is heart-breakingly empty when the bulldozers come to turn their home into a new golf course. Which is a moot point anyway since Mikey and Brand’s parents would lose custody due to the lack of bike helmets, and Rosita would be stuck raising the boys in addition to her own family. Yeah, like I said, I watched this movie A LOT!

1. The Karate Kid
The 1980s version of this all-time great movie is filled with things that just wouldn’t fly today. In this version, Daniel-san would likely never get to complete his training. Why? Because suspicious neighbors alerted CPS that a minor was sneaking into an old Asian man’s house everyday, and was made to do manual labor in exchange for a free vintage automobile. But mainly, this movie would be ruined in 2015 because of the end. Imagine watching Daniel-san doing his crane kick, beating Johnny, besting the Cobra Kai, triumphing over evil, and then — no winner is declared because everything ends in a tie and everyone gets a trophy. No thanks.

Alright you ’80s movie nerds, tell me which ones I missed and why they wouldn’t work today!

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