Tag Archives: video

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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Do What You Love, Kid

willdance

One of my greatest fears is passing down my laundry list of insecurities to my children.

Will, who turns 6 next week and is in the throes of kindergarten, loves music and loves to dance. Well, he used to love to dance. I’m still not sure what happened, but at some point in the not-too-distant past, he became extremely self-conscious about it. Now he’s convinced he’s a terrible dancer and — even though he admits he loves it — thinks any attempt to dance will just end with him embarrassing himself.

I was heartbroken. And just like that, I was transported back to the panicked fragility that constituted my youth.

Continue reading Do What You Love, Kid

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Fathers, Sons & Farting (Video)

For my money, sharing experiences with your kids — even from the earliest age — is probably the most spectacular part of parenting.

Watching as Will found his hands and feet, teaching him sign language, witnessing him take his first unsteady yet determined steps — these are all privileges of parenthood. Milestones on a journey that hold so many highs, lows and unexpected detours. And now that Will is a little older (4.5 to be exact), I’m enjoying these shared experiences even more. Coaching his tee-ball team, watching him play soccer, taking him to his first Patriots game, grinning as he realizes his first childhood crush on a girl — it’s truly fantastic and I’m loving every minute of it.

These shared experiences will come to serve as the foundation of our father-son relationship. Although we’ll disagree and he’ll inevitably hate me at some point, there are some things that will land us on common ground, about which we’ll always be able to talk. The Red Sox, the Patriots, girls and —

Farting?

Yup, farting. I’ve covered this ground in the past, but it bears repeating. Farts are hysterical for guys. Probably for some women too, but not for most I’ve met. And certainly not for my wife. If Will and I fart, or hear a fart, or hear somebody mention farting, we crack up laughing. Every. Single. Time. Without fail. But it’s more than just entertainment, it’s also competition.

If we’re all sitting on the couch and Will farts, he’ll immediately smirk at me and giggle. At that point my eyes narrow, my stomach tightens and I one-up him. Then he sneers at me, scrunches up his nose and grunts with spectacular concentration and focus until he can squeeze another one out. Which prompts me to once again return fire. Back and forth we go, volleying like Nadal-Federer, until MJ loses her mind and tells us to stop before she shoves a cork in us both.

Then Will and I laugh, give each other high-fives and prepare for our next battle at some point in the near future.

Is this a good habit to get my son into? Probably not. Does it make our air Glade Plug-In air freshener work overtime to battle the stench of our efforts? Most of the time. Does my wife look at us disapprovingly and threaten to murder us each and every time we engage in our flatulence festivals? Well, see for yourself.

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Where Do Babies Come From?

Our friends Alicia and Vic just had a little baby girl named Amy a few weeks ago. My best friend Craig and his wife Kelly also had a daughter five days ago named Jordan. Will saw both Alicia and Kelly repeatedly throughout their pregnancies, watched their bellies grow and seemed to be constantly amazed and filled with questions as to how the baby grows and survives in the womb.

So I guess it’s only natural for him to wonder how they come out too.

It started Saturday when I told him Jordan was born and showed him a picture. He was ecstatic and wanted to hold her, because he recently held Amy and loved it. It was so cute because of how focused he was. He took his responsibilities as a baby-holder ULTRA seriously and was all business. It took major coaxing just to get him to loosen up and smile. But I digress…

So long story short, Will asked me how baby Jordan came out of Kelly’s stomach. I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I bought myself more time by asking him how he thinks babies are born.

“Baby Jordan came out of Auntie Kelly’s bellybutton,” he said.

We all have different parenting styles. For instance, some parents would be tempted to concur with Will’s explanation of childbirth and leave it at that. Others opt to make up a story that loosely resembles the truth but skips all the uncomfortable parts. I don’t fault the parents who go these routes. I get it. But ultimately, when faced with these situations, I’ve chosen a vastly different path.

Honesty. Brutal honesty.

“Not quite buddy,” I began gingerly. “Babies don’t come out of a bellybutton. Actually, they come out of a woman’s vagina.”

“WHAT?!? ‘Baginas??’ Stop it dad. You’re kidding.”

“Nope, I’m serious,” I said. “The mom pushes the baby out through her vagina. That’s how it happens.”

But apparently the mere notion of natural childbirth was decidedly unnatural to my son. He really didn’t believe me. So, faced with his continued curiosity and the fact that he doesn’t believe me, I did what all modern parents do when facing a quandary.

I asked for advice on Twitter.

I got some well-intentioned, run-of-the-mill advice at first but then someone suggested something very simple and brilliant. He said there are many videos of natural childbirth on YouTube, so why not show Will what I was talking about instead of inadequately attempting to describe it?

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re screaming “Are you crazy??? You’re going to show your 3.5-year-old a video of a partially nude woman giving birth?! That’s so inappropriate!” And that’s fine, you’re welcome to your opinions. I know my sister-in-law Melissa had the same reaction, and she’s a medical doctor. But I see absolutely nothing pornographic or inappropriate about childbirth, and therefore I see no reason not to show Will. It’s pretty much akin to breastfeeding. Yes Will sees a glimpse of a woman’s breast at times when she’s feeding a newborn, but so what? We tell him that’s how babies eat. And he accepts it, realizes it’s no big deal and moves on.

I want to be honest with my son and give him straight answers whenever possible. And this was one of those times when it made total sense. So, I showed him.

The video was of a woman engaged in a homebirth. She was pushing and grunting, and Will watched with a look that conveyed interest mixed with confusion. Then the woman got on her knees with her back to the camera, gave one final push and suddenly the baby’s head was visible. Will’s jaw dropped and he smiled, pointing to the baby. And for a moment, I was very proud of my son for being so adult, and for my parenting techniques and decision to show him.

“Do you have any questions bud?” I asked.

“Yeah dada. Why does the baby come out of the mama’s bum?”

Ruh-roh Shaggy.

“No no no, the baby didn’t come out of her bum. It came out of her vagina.”

“Um Dad, ACTUALLY it came out of her bum. Look.”

“Will, I know it kinda looks like the baby came out of her bum, but trust me. It didn’t. Babies come out of vaginas.”

“How do you know, Dad?”

“Because I watched when you were born and I would’ve remembered you coming out of Mom’s bum. Trust me, you came out the vagina.”

“But Dada, there’s pee in baginas. Did mom pee on me?”

At that point, far off in the distance, I thought I heard the distinct sound of a train derailing, crashing into a building and then careening over a cliff landing with a fiery explosion. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, I went from teaching my son a valuable life lesson to discussing ass play and golden showers. And the worst part is he’s obsessed with babies right now and he talks to anyone who will listen about babies falling out of bums and how mom peed on him.

Needless to say I’m dreading the inevitable call from his preschool teacher, and having to explain to her that my son and I were watching YouTube videos together and talking about vaginas and assholes.

That stupid stork is looking more and more appealing.


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Thar She Blows: The Hurricane Irene Edition

One of the coolest parts of being a newspaper reporter is during “all hands on deck” situations. Elections, murders, the deaths of prominent people—if it’s breaking and it’s big news in my coverage area, I’ve been on it.

I chased President Barack Obama around Martha’s Vineyard and had a gun drawn on me by Secret Service agents while running through the woods trying to get a picture of Obama teeing off on the golf course. I was first on the scene at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy when Somali pirates seized a graduate of their school and the country anxiously waited as he was held captive until Navy SEALs could free him in dramatic fashion. And I polled grieving Cape residents the day that Sen. Ted Kennedy—the Liberal Lion—died of a brain tumor and officially ended the days of the Kennedy mystique.

But nothing brings all the reporters to the table faster than a natural disaster.

Yesterday, with Tropical Storm Irene bearing down on the region, I found myself in a strange place. My house. After all, storms and other such events always had me roving around looking for good photo opportunities and people to interview. When everyone else is ducking for cover, reporters are out looking for a scoop and keeping the public informed. And since I live right on the water, there’s never a shortage of stories during a hurricane scare.

Despite quitting the paper three months ago, I found myself unable to sit still yesterday. So I called up Karen who I knew would be manning the copy desk, and told her I’d phone in updates. She wasn’t surprised. It’s not like I got paid or anything, but once a reporter always a reporter I guess. Accompanied by a friend, we drove all around the Upper Cape and got some videos and pictures.

This is the Sandwich Boardwalk, an exceptionally beautiful spot.

I know this doesn’t look like much, but anyone from the area will know the water is NEVER this high. Usually there’s a good 10-15 feet between the bottom of the dock and the surface of the water. But yesterday, Irene churned up quite a bit of high seas and had the water just a few feet from turning the Boardwalk into a glorified dock.

And this was three hours AFTER high tide.

The picture to the right is a tree down across Woods Hole Road.

Woods Hole is a tiny fishing village in Falmouth, Mass. It is kind of a world unto itself, and this road is the main artery that goes from the village to downtown. This tree fell less than a minute before we drove up on the scene, and we watched as a bunch of good Samaritans immediately whipped out axes and hacksaws to clear the road.

It was really impressive how neighbors instantly realized the importance of clearing this road, because the only other way to get to Woods Hole is a road by the beach that was flooded. That means in case of an emergency, rescue vehicles might have been cut off from an entire section of town. But New Englanders are a hearty bunch and they were out there in a flash.

Speaking of beach roads, this is Surf Drive in Falmouth.

Normally it is an absolutely beautiful stretch of road with a multitude of beaches and a gorgeous view that includes Martha’s Vineyard in the distance. But on Sunday it was a much different story.

Water was coming over the road and flooding it, tearing up pavement and leaving huge rocks, sand and other debris on the street.

This picture to the right is not a lake. That is the road, or at least it’s supposed to be.

A few pick-up trucks and bigger SUVs were able to make it through, but a couple of cars tried and quickly realized that wasn’t such a good idea.

This downed tree was in Bourne, near John’s CapeSide Diner on Route 6. It fell on some wires but locals said the power didn’t go out. When I left this scene one guy was attempting to cut the tree himself, saying “It’s OK, they’re just cable wires.”

New Englanders are a breed apart.

And speaking of a breed apart, that leads me to perhaps my favorite picture of this entire hurricane.

To the right is the John’s Capeside Diner sign. Now it’s commonplace for people to protect their property. But while most people board up windows, someone decided to take unorthodox steps to protect this restaurant sign.

Yup. That’s duct tape folks.

Wind gusts got up to 65 MPH and wind and rain lashed the region for hours yesterday. Many large trees and even some small structures were damaged yesterday. Which all leads me to wonder how the hell someone thought some duct tape on a sign was going to make a damn bit of difference.

But then again, it’s still there so what do I know? Further proof that duct tape fixes EVERYTHING!

And finally, you always hear about the total wackjobs who either surf or swim in the ocean during hurricanes. Well, it’s your lucky day because here they are. This was taken at Nobska Beach in Woods Hole. And the incredibly attractive young lady in her underwear and thin T-shirt had absolutely no bearing on my decision to capture this footage. None at all.

But do pay attention to the 40-second mark when she gets CREAMED by a wave, and don’t forget to read underneath the video for a new Daddy Files feature!

 

And finally, I’m starting a new thing on this site. At the conclusion of every post, I’ll offer some featured Amazon.com products relevant to my content. Today, it’s this REALLY cool contraption I found that would be great for power outages. It’s a hand-crank AM/FM radio that also charges your cell phone, tablet, eReader and more. You can charge the internal battery beforehand and then charge your phone, crank it to charge or use the solar panels to charge it during a power outage. For less than $30 this is an awesome thing to have in a pinch!

If you guys could click on the link to buy your Amazon items, I’d really appreciate it. I only get pennies on the dollar but all of it will go towards defraying the cost of running this website. Thanks guys!

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