Tag Archives: Will

The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

“Hey mom and dad, can I start walking the dog on the dirt road to do an extra chore and get a little more allowance?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question from my son, who is turning 7 in a couple of weeks. We live in a small suburban town where both my wife and I grew up. We are friendly with most of the neighbors, with one glaring exception. In order to walk the dog, he’d have to cross one quiet side street in front of our house and then walk on a dirt road with only one house on it. He’d be out of sight for a bit but still within shouting distance. In my mind it was a win-win because he’d learn the value of hard work and taking initiative, and he’d be getting some exercise to boot.

Which is why it’s ridiculously unfortunate we had to tell him no.

Why? Because as my wife pointed out, “I’m fine with it, but we can’t do it because someone will see him alone and call the cops. We’ll end up battling Child Protective Services just for letting him walk the dog by himself.”

I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was being silly, but I couldn’t. Because unfortunately, this is where we’re at when it comes to overprotective parenting in 2015.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the single working mom who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked because she couldn’t afford childcare. Or Tammy Cooper, the Texas mom arrested after a neighbor told police she was neglecting her kids simply because they were outside on scooters. If you need something more recent, there’s the Maryland couple charged with “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) after doing nothing more than allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk home one mile from the park unsupervised.

Yet letting kids fire Uzis which results in a tragic death? Totally allowed and the parents are free from legal blame. Have fun trying to figure out that “logic.” But I digress.

As a child of the 80s/early 90s who grew up with the freedom to ride bikes around town unsupervised until the streetlights came flickering to life, I’m mystified as to where we went wrong and deviated so far off course. But then I read the online comments from said overprotective parents, and the answer is suddenly very apparent.

It’s all about fear and misinformation.

Without fail, when discussing this with other parents who disagree, I’ll see someone write “Well times have changed and the world isn’t as safe as it was back then.” Ironically, they’re not all wrong. Times have changed and the level of safety is not the same as it was in the supposed good old days. Want to know why? Because the world is a safer place in 2015.

Yes, that’s right. Statistically speaking, the data shows we are living in a much safer world than 20+ years ago.

Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in the US declined by 48%, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Homicides fell by 51% and forcible rape was down by more than one-third. Furthermore, crimes against children specifically have declined since 2003. According to the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, physical assault against children ages 2-17 was down 33%, while instances of attempted and completed rape declined by 43% between 2003-2011.

And if you want to focus on kidnappings, the Polly Klaas Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the recovery of missing children – found there are only 100 stereotypical “stranger abductions” each year, in which a child is plucked off the street by an unknown person. There is a higher chance of kids being abducted by family members or acquaintances, according to the foundation’s website.

In fact, if you’re really worried about the safety of kids, you shouldn’t let them ride in a car. Or swim in a pool. Because more children die in car accidents and drownings than are kidnapped by strangers.

I used to simply shake my head at the overprotective parents of the world and go on raising my kids the way my wife and I think is best. But this incident has made me realize that’s not always possible.

We’ve moved beyond good Samaritans rescuing babies left in hot cars and scooping up toddlers who have found their way out of houses and are playing near traffic. Those kinds of things are not the problem, and are in fact expected as members of the human race. Too many kids are suffering real, terrible abuse and that must never be allowed to continue. However, the irrational fear of the way other people parent and the willingness to alert the authorities simply for disagreeing with a parenting style other than their own, is also a genuine concern.

The Maryland parents know their kids best and know they’re capable of walking to the park alone, just as I know my son can handle walking the dog by himself. But the bottom line is that no longer matters, because the way other people parent is now directly impacting my ability to raise my children how I see fit. Because if parents 300 miles from me can be charged simply for letting their kids walk to and from the park, it is not a stretch to think the same thing could happen if my son walks the dog alone.

Unfortunately, our lives could be turned instantly upside down with one phone call from someone who simply disagrees with how we parent. That’s not right, and that scares me. It should scare all of us.

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A Letter to My Unborn Baby

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Dear 3rd Child,

I wasn’t always sure I wanted you.

Oh, sorry about that. Where are my manners? Hi, I’m your dad. Nice to meet you. I’m the owner of that loud voice you’re probably already sick of. If you can even hear. Honestly, I’m not even sure you have ears yet because I hate those baby development calendars that tell me how big you are by comparing you to different fruits and vegetables. You know, this week you’re a peapod and next week you’ll be the size of an avocado. Maybe it’s because some of the vegetables they use are really strange, and because I don’t eat enough of them I don’t know what they look like and then all perspective is lost. I start to feel like if I can’t use vegetables to figure out your size then maybe you don’t exist. Maybe none of us really exist. And suddenly I’m in a full blown existential crisis all because I’m unfamiliar with rutabagas.

Sorry, sometimes I get off topic a bit. As I was saying, I wasn’t really sure I wanted you. I know that’s a horrible first impression I’m making, but it’s the truth.

You see, you’re our third child. The only problem is, I never planned on having more than two. It’s nothing personal, just that I’m a big believer in man-to-man defense. Or, in other words, one parent for each kid. It’s simple in theory, and it comforts me not to be outnumbered. But your arrival means your mom and I have to switch to zone. We’re going to be out-manned, forced to play a prevent defense. Insert additional football metaphors here.

It’s not like your mom tricked me or was deceitful. When we talked about how many kids we wanted she always said “two or three at the most.” I think I just ignored the latter part and assumed we were on the same page. And then we had trouble getting and staying pregnant, so in my mind, three was almost definitely not in the cards.

Last April your mom told me she was pregnant. Unfortunately (or from your purely selfish perspective since you wouldn’t exist, fortunately), it didn’t work out. But from that experience, I learned a few things. Mainly 1) how nervous I am about having a third child, and 2) how much that doesn’t matter because another child would be a wondrous, awesome thing.

We lost that baby before I could really wrap my mind around the whole thing. But here you are in the second trimester, and the reality is staring me full in the face. But, as usual, when one of my kids seems to be the problem, one of my  kids solves the problem and shows me how stupid I am.

Case in point…

I’m freaking out because we have no place to put you. We rent a cozy 3-bedroom duplex and currently, all bedrooms are occupied. To make matters worse, none of them are very big. So the question becomes where do we put you? And the answer is we have to put your two brothers in the same bedroom — the thought of which causes me great consternation.

When Sam was born Will lost his play room because it turned into Sam’s nursery. Now another sibling is on the way and Will is going to lose half his room to a 2-year-old tyrant. As an older brother who shared a room with a younger sibling for nearly a decade, I can commiserate. That experience can be suffocating and the age difference (5 years between them) makes it even tougher. I was dreading having to tell Will and the meltdown that would surely ensue.

But guess what? Will wasn’t angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I told him he’d have to share a room with Sam his eyes lit up and his smile grew wide and bold.

“You mean I get to share a room with my brother??? YESSSSSS!!!!” he said, much to my surprised delight. “I bet Sam will even climb up into my bed and cuddle at night. I can’t wait.”

And suddenly I felt very silly. It reminded me of two years ago when I worried I couldn’t possibly love another human being as much as I loved Will. But I soon found out our hearts automatically expand when a new baby arrives, and in that vein we’ll find a way to make it work regarding everyone fitting under the same roof.

As for Will’s reaction, shame on me for not seeing that coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well his tune will change after a few weeks or a month of his brother all up in his face all of the time. That’s inevitable. But let this be a lesson to you, baby boy or girl, of the kind of family into which you’re entering.

Your oldest brother Will has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than any 10 adults put together. He is patient, a great teacher, and so full of love he’s in danger of bursting. He’ll be your guide and best friend. Meanwhile your older brother Sam is a tornado. He attacks life with zeal and fears nothing, yet he hugs every other kid on the playground and has smiles for everyone. You’ll be closest in age to him (26 months apart) which means you’re going to battle him your entire life. Yet all the while you’ll want nothing more than to be just like him. He will push you in ways that are frustrating and obnoxious, but ultimately he’ll make you a better person and he’ll force you to work harder and keep improving.

And your mother? Well, she’s a saint. And a gorgeous saint at that. But as beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even more spectacular on the inside. I don’t have to tell you that though. You literally know what I mean.

You’re not entering a rich family so I can’t promise you a carefree life detached from financial struggles. You won’t have the finest things, occasionally you’ll have to go without, and some days we’ll barely scrape by. But there is one thing I can promise you with complete certainty. You’re being born into a family filled with love. Passionate, unyielding, copious amounts of love and loyalty that we’re never afraid to express. From your parents to your siblings to your grandparents and beyond, love will comfort you and cushion you far better than a life of riches and luxury ever could. So welcome, my little one. You’re the last piece of the puzzle and the world is waiting. Stay safe and grow strong and healthy.

One last thing you should know — it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. As long as you’re a Patriots fan.

Love,
Dad

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Why All Parents Should Volunteer in Their Child’s Classroom

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It’s Friday. And I love Fridays.

For the last couple of months I’ve been volunteering on Friday mornings at my son’s school. I was nervous at first because I’m not someone who volunteers for anything. I’ll happily lend support from the sidelines where I can blog and snark from the cozy, reclusive cheap seats, but actually volunteering? It always gave me the willies.

But after getting leveled with some hurtful but totally accurate criticism from my wife about being a naysayer who never throws his hat in the ring to actually make a difference, I decided it was time to put up or shut up.

Best. Decision. Ever.

The work itself isn’t glamorous, as it mostly consists of making photocopies. And by mostly, I mean all I do is make photocopies. And after my first time, I almost never came back. Between learning the copier, correcting and preventing paper jams, figuring out the toner, getting paper cuts, and getting interrupted by teachers who need to make emergency copies on the spot, it’s a bit overwhelming at first.

I guess the rational part of my mind knew all those copies had to be made by someone, and that someone is usually the teacher. But as a parent, all the worksheets just magically appear in Will’s backpack. It’s kind of like sausage in that regard — I don’t really think about how it’s made. I’m just glad it’s there.

Well let me tell you something folks, I’ve now seen how the sausage is made and how much time it takes to produce. And frankly, I’m not sure how teachers have the time to, you know, actually TEACH with all the damn copies they have to make. Needless to say, I’m happy to take some of the copying and stapling duties off the plates of teachers if it means they can spend more time instructing students.

And speaking of the classroom, that’s by far my favorite part.

I get a sneak peek into Will’s classroom during the day. On Valentine’s Day, I even got to chaperone a little party they had. I get to put faces with all the stories Will brings home about his classmates. I get to see the classroom Will describes in vivid detail. But most importantly, I get to be his hero during this unbelievably brief time that hero status can be achieved just by showing up to school to make a few copies.

When he sees me walk in his face lights up and he’s proud that I’m there. All the other kids rush over and greet me by my new name — “Will’s Dad.” I’m not Aaron or Mr. Gouveia or even Mr. G. Just Will’s Dad, which might sound like a loss of identity, but is actually anything but.

Will leans his head against me and whispers “I’m glad you’re here.” The other kids recognize me and wave. Some of them show me their new Patriots shirts, others have bracelets they’ve made, and I’m always besieged by play date requests for them to play with Will. I know almost all of their names now, and I’m a tiny part of their routine. And it’s glorious.

When I’m done making my copies, they’re usually at gym or music so the classroom is empty. I drop the gargantuan pile of copies on the teacher’s desk and then I grab a sticky note. Every week I write a message to my son and leave it on his desk as a surprise when he gets back. I tell him I love him and I sign it the same way.

“Love,
Will’s Dad”

If you can find the time, volunteer at your child’s school. It helps the teacher, your kids will love it, and you’ll find joy in a completely unexpected place. And if you need help with the copier, just holler.

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What To Do the First Time Your Baby Gets Sick

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The first time your baby gets really sick is freaking terrifying.

I know that’s not going to win me any literary awards or cement my status as a wordsmith, but it’s the damn truth. Will was about five months old the first time he came down with a fever. Which turned into a cough. Which turned into wheezing. Which all combined to scare the absolute crap out of me and his mother, and forever redefine our concept of fear.

Every parent knows what I mean. Even first-time parents, which I was at the time, know something is wrong before any thermometer shows a reading. The baby just isn’t right, and we can see it and sense it.

Then you feel the forehead and it seems way too hot. With shaky hands, you take the thermometer and read it — 103.7 degrees.

Oh crap!

Words can’t really describe that initial fear. For me, it was just abject terror. Will was running a very high fever, coughing, and had started to wheeze. He was still so little and watching him struggle just shattered me. I knew it was my job to protect him, but I suddenly had a slight panic attack when realizing I had no idea what to do.

Honestly. No clue. That’s tough for me to admit, but it’s true. I didn’t know what medicine I could give him, what I couldn’t give him, whether to call the pediatrician, do I take him to the ER? This was the person I held most precious in the entire world and it was devastating to realize I had no idea how to take care of him.

With the help of hindsight and years of experience, I now know it wasn’t the life or death debacle it felt like at the time. And while it would be easy to forget that fear and tell new parents to just relax, it’s never that easy.

I wish I had had something like the New Baby Essentials Kit from Little Remedies, which won’t be enough to treat the really serious problems that require a doctor, but at the very least give you options for a cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever. To have it all in one place would’ve given me some peace of mind and solved some of the early mysteries of what I could and couldn’t give to my son. Now this kit is the main component of gifts we give to new parents.

So moms and dads, it’s OK to be freaked out. It’s normal to be scared out of your mind when your tiny baby gets sick for the first time. But there’s plenty of help out there in the form of medicine, other parents, and of course, Google (use in small and smart doses). In my experience, fevers aren’t really a concern until they’re 101 degrees, Little Remedies has the most natural and effective medicine that helps my kids, and if you think it’s more serious don’t hesitate to call the pediatrician.

Hang in there and rest assured, you’re not alone.

***Disclaimer: I was compensated by Little Remedies for this post. However, I used their products way before they ever approached me and I stand by their effectiveness and endorse them 100%. Check out their website and Facebook page.

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A Love of Dinosaurs, Netflix Style

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February is for lovers. But since we’re not really a Valentine’s Day household, we don’t get all sappy with overpriced cards, chocolates, and schmoopy movies. Instead, we engage in hobbies we love.

Will wants to be a paleontologist. It’s been that way since he was in daycare. That means he is OBSESSED with all things dinosaurs, and so we spend a lot of time nurturing that. And when you’ve had six days of school canceled in a three-week span due to 7 feet of snow that’s fallen, that time has increased exponentially as we have to find things for him to do inside.

One such thing was a piece of plaster with dinosaur bones hidden inside. Kids get a tool to chip away at the plaster and reveal a T-Rex skeleton in about a half dozen pieces. It’s a brilliant idea and Will absolutely loved it.

He was so careful as he was chipping away at our kitchen table his “dig site” because “I know how fragile the bones are, dad.” He’d fine the edge of some bone and dance around the kitch — sorry, ahem — the dig site like I did when the Patriots won the Super Bowl. And he was so exacting and precise when extricating bone from plaster, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

But like all good paleontologists, his ultimate success was due in large part to his preparation.

If kids want to learn about dinosaurs, Netflix is a fantastic resource — both for education and entertainment. He has used the online movie streaming service to watch documentary after documentary regarding dinosaurs. Right now, here are some fun ones currently available:

dinosaurtraindinotasiadinoking

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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.

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