Spanking the Time-Out Away?

Another Stay At Home Dad that I’m friends with posted a link to a TIME magazine article entitled Time-Outs Are Hurting Your Child, which essentially makes the case for eliminating the use of the popular child-discipline technique of the time-out. You can read the article for yourself by clicking here. That got me to thinking about all of the news over the last month covering Adrian Peterson’s arrest and indictment on child-abuse charges for beating his four year old son with a switch. Peterson has publicly stated that he uses that form of discipline because it’s the same thing he endured as a child growing up in East Texas and that it taught him discipline. Of course, there are plenty of studies that decry the effectiveness of physical punishment. In an article from the American Psychological Association it was noted that

Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Americans’ acceptance of physical punishment has declined since the 1960s, yet surveys show that two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids.

Interestingly enough, just last week I had a conversation with six other friends about this exact topic. I mentioned that I was spanked as a child and it didn’t cause me to become aggressive, antisocial or develop any other issues mentioned in studies like the one above. Interestingly enough, the five men and one woman in the group also all experienced some form of physical punishment as children and none of them (to my knowledge) had experienced problems related to their punishment. In fact, most shared stories of a parent or teacher or coach who laid down the law in a manner that wouldn’t be tolerated in 2014.

In my house on Quarry Lane my parents had the rod. It was a 2-3 foot long wooden dowel, maybe the diameter of a dime, that sat atop the refrigerator in the kitchen, ominously peeking at us from above. My parents believed in the Bible verse that says

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24)

When I was a child, I got spanked. Not often. But for the big stuff. Maybe a handful of times my whole childhood. And every single time I deserved it. I learned from it. I stopped the behavior that warranted the spanking and made better choices. I did not become physically aggressive as a result. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m anything but antisocial. But, that flies in the face of the quote above. So, why did that physical punishment not affect me so negatively? I’ve thought about this answer quite a bit, especially over the last month or so since the Peterson story broke. I think it’s because my father, at least when he spanked me (I cannot speak for my three siblings), did it the right way. He never did it out of anger or in the heat of the moment. Instead, what usually happened is that my mom (who was a SAHM) would catch me doing something really bad and I got sent to my room to wait until my dad came home from work. Once he got home my mom would talk to him about what I had done and then he would come get me from my room and we’d go to my parents’ room. Sitting on the edge of the bed my father would instruct me to lay over the flat area of his quads. Before he spanked me he told me a few things. “Carl, I’m doing this because I love you and want to correct  (fill in the blank bad behavior) . I know you’re probably not going to understand this until you have children of your own, but spanking you hurts me more than you.” With that he would tell me the number of spanks I would get (usually 5-6) and do the deed. He never pulled my underwear down and he never swatted my bottom more than the number of times he told me. And I never saw him spank me in anger. In fact, after the spankings, while my butt was still sore, I would give him a hug and then go and apologize to my mom or whoever I had wronged. Once that was completed my punishment was over. (Except for the one time that I was grounded for 10 days for making a fire on some rocks so close to the house that some of the aluminum siding was warped. But that’s another story.)

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From my spankings I learned a few things. First, I learned that what I had done was wrong and needed to never happen again. I needed to change my behavior. Second, I learned that my parents loved me enough to discipline me to correct my behavior. And third, I learned that I still needed to apologize for my actions after receiving my spankings. I didn’t learn that it was okay to hit other people or be physically aggressive toward them. I didn’t learn that “might makes right”. I didn’t learn that violence was the answer. I wasn’t damaged physically or mentally because of the spankings. But, here’s the thing. Even with my positive experiences with spanking my wife and I chose years ago to not spank our children. She didn’t have such a glowing experience with corporal punishment as a child and I also saw my dad spank my little sister one time the wrong way. She was a toddler and he was spanking her to try to make her stop crying. Obviously, it didn’t work and all it did was send him into further anger. Thankfully, he stopped before taking it any farther, but it was enough to scar/scare me to really question its effectiveness. Obviously, it was his problem and he wasn’t doing it properly. But, I believe it goes to show the slippery slope of physical punishment on children. All it takes is one time where the parent loses it – just for a few moments – and the spankings become beatings and a situation like the one Mr. Peterson is facing.

Please hear me when I say that in no way do I support what Peterson did to his son in beating him so severely with a switch that he left cuts on the boy’s back, arms, neck and testicle. I understand that he had good intentions but he lost it as a father when the discipline transformed into child abuse. He’s a small and very strong man who gets paid millions of dollars to play a violent sport. I’m a tall and very strong (not the same as Peterson, of course) man who gets paid millions of kisses to be a SAHD. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I can discipline my children without spanking (or beating) them. I think that the key to the success of my father’s spanking is the same as my success of not spanking. It’s relationship. Even while being disciplined, I knew that I was loved and could trust my father to not hurt me. Like my father, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I yell at my kids. But I don’t hit them. I love them. I take the time to correct their behavior when needed. We’ve used 1-2-3 Magic Parenting with some success since my oldest was a toddler. She’s now 19. I look at her and my other kids, ages 15, 12, 10, 4 and 1, and note with a great deal of humility and thankfulness that they’re all pretty good people. Sure, they have their moments of sibling conflict, but they’re all pretty polite and kind and helpful most of the time. I love them and I even like them! I’d like to think that being at home with them for the last 14 years has had an impact in shaping them as the individuals they’re becoming today. Helping to guide them through conflict into a place of peace can be difficult. Tiresome. Yet, in the end, it’s worth it. My kids are living proof of it.

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9/11 Memories

West Pierce (Washington state) 9/11 memorial

Thirteen years ago today, September 11, 2001, I woke up early before work to play basketball with some other men at my church. After basketball was over I drove to Kromrey Middle School in Middleton, Wisconsin, where I was a 7th grade science teacher. I taught periods 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9. In between I had meetings, supervision and planning time. At 7:50 am the bell rang and the students entered the building and made their way to their first period class. In Science that day I was giving them their first quiz of the young school year and then preparing them for the next day’s lab. Since all of my science classes included children with varying special needs there was an adult para-educator present each hour. As the 8 am start of the day neared the “para” for 1st hour asked if I’d heard the news about an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. I was shocked that something like that could happen and had not heard the news since I’d been playing basketball or at work since 5:15 that morning. After the bell rang to start the day and the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements had finished over the speaker I welcomed my students to class and handed out their quizzes. While they were quietly working I quickly retrieved from my storage closet in my classroom the TV/VCR cart that the other 7th grade science teacher and I shared. I placed it near my desk, facing me (away from my students) and turned it on. I was curious to see what was going on in New York. What I saw on the TV screen horrified me. By that time, maybe 8:15 am Central time, both of the WTC towers had been hit by jetliners and black smoke was billowing out of the buildings. The para and I stood there speechless as the network announcers tried to keep their composure, watching along with the rest of us at the unfolding spectacle. Little did we know how much more would happen over the next 90 minutes. We had no idea we were witnessing one of the most significant events in the history of our nation. As my students turned in their completed quizzes they started to watch the news along with me. Once all of them were done, I turned the TV off for a moment and explained, as best I could, what had happened in New York that morning. I made the decision to scrap the rest of that day’s lesson plans and allowed my students to watch the news, as that was clearly of great interest to all of us. Just before the class was to be dismissed American flight 93 slammed into the Pentagon. I think I had NBC on, and they scrambled to show footage as best as they could of both the twin towers and the unfolding scene at the Pentagon. At this point I knew that this would be a day that none of us would ever forget.

8:50 am. Second hour kids entered more quietly than usual. Word had spread that something was happening in New York…and that Mr. Wilke had a TV in his room showing it. Once passing time was over I turned the TV away from the kids and told them that we were going to still go ahead with the quiz but that the rest of the lesson for the day had been scrapped so we could focus on the current events. They seemed to understand and started their quizzes. That gave me an opportunity to glance at the news again. It was about 8:55, and the crew was still in disbelief over the three hijacked planes and the subsequent attacks. They were trying to calmly talk about the rescue efforts going on in both locations when suddenly the South tower of the WTC collapsed. I’m pretty sure I made some sort of gasp or whelp because my students all looked up at me at the same time, wondering what I had just seen. I wondered the exact same thing. What had I just seen? Did that massive building just disintegrate before my very eyes? Oh, dear God, please help them. This is beyond terrible. All I could do was robotically turn the TV to face them so that they could see for themselves what had just happened. The sound was off but the picture was clear. This was destruction that none of us could ever comprehend. I collected their quizzes (I guess, although I don’t really recall doing it) and we all watched together. Then, not even 10 minutes later, United Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. More chaos on the TV. I was only 28 at the time and couldn’t make sense of it. I knew that my students couldn’t either. As the time wound down for second period I did something that I had never done before. I encouraged my students, “If you’re of the persuasion that believes in the power of prayer, now would be a good time.” I told them that I was not saying this as their teacher, but rather, as a fellow human being who was having trouble understanding what was going on. I don’t know if any of them prayed or not. I know that it’s all that I could do at that moment. As that class was being dismissed the second WTC tower collapsed. We all just stood in place for a few moments in stunned silence. Trying to process.

Third hour arrived and quietly took their seats. I made the same announcement as before about the quiz and change of lesson plans. While they worked on the quiz there was a knock on my door followed by a student handing me a note from the office. Apparently, the principal had decided that the tragic events in New York were too much for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders to watch. The note was to all teachers in the building, asking us to refrain from talking about it any more. Don’t show it. Just go about business as usual. Stick to your lesson plans. I ignored it. For the only time in my six years of teaching, I purposely disregarded the wishes of my administrator. There was no way that I could possibly try to stick to my original lesson plan. Not with what was happening. This was historic. This was, in my mind, on par with the Kennedy assassination. Bigger than the Challenger accident. Bigger than the original Gulf War “shock and awe” in 1990. I wanted my students to see this in real time. This was an event that would change America. I showed the para in my class the memo and she agreed with me that we should keep watching. I told my students what the principal had written and explained why I wasn’t complying with his wishes. They began to cheer but I quieted them with a reminder that this wasn’t about me being a rebel but rather about the significance of the moment. I told them

Remember where you are right now. Your kids and grandkids are going to ask you about this some day. 

The principal never showed up to check on my classes the rest of the day to see if I was obeying him. That’s not surprising since he only actually came to my room maybe four times in my five years at that school. By the time my 8th hour class arrived there had been no new attacks or developments like there had been in the morning. The kids were still unusually quiet. I believe that the severity and significance of the events earlier in the day were beginning to register with them. The school day ended without anything more significant happening and I was eager to get home to my family.

At that time we only had two daughters, ages 6 and 2. My wife was six weeks from completing her final rotation of Medical School and eight weeks from her due date with our third daughter. As a first grader, my oldest hadn’t heard anything about the day’s events and I was glad for her continued innocence. I guess she picked up on a little bit of the news so we tried to explain to her what had happened. I remember holding my two year old a bit longer that night when I rocked her to sleep in my arms. I’m pretty sure I sang God Bless America while holding her body, tears streaking down my face. Mourning the events of the day, the loss of so many innocent lives and  loss of innocence and security for people. We all know how much has changed as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Whether impacted directly through the loss of a loved one to the attacks or indirectly because we’re all part of one country and the human race, we must never forget what happened on that terrible Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Like I told my students 13 years ago, if you’re of the persuasion that believes in the power of prayer, now would (still) be a good time. Please take a moment (or more) today to honor the memory of those who perished, whether they were in the towers, on the planes or on the ground trying to help the victims. Even if you think it’s all too dramatic for your taste or that it somehow doesn’t affect you, at least have the courtesy to be quiet and allow others the space and freedom to remember in their own ways. If you have a memory of that day or a story to tell, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you experienced on this day 13 years ago.

God Bless America

 

Dear Kids…A Letter About Ray Rice

My dear children,

You kids know that I love to watch football, both college and the NFL. It’s something fun that we do together, cheering on our favorite teams and players. I’m so thankful that my passion for football is wearing off on you. Most of the time this is a good thing. Well, on Monday something bad happened in the world of football that spilled over into the “real” world in a messy way. You see, last February this football player named Ray Rice and his then fiancée, Janey, were at a hotel and got into an argument. As they got into an elevator their argument escalated and they got physical with each other to the point that he punched her with his fist and knocked her out. Cold. After she fell to the floor, he tried to carry her limp body out of the elevator into the hotel lobby. The police were called and they both got into a bit of trouble. Mr. Rice avoided legal problems by agreeing to undergo some counseling for his anger. The two of them got married a short time later.

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Ray and Janey Rice and their daughter, Rayven

The guy in charge of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, suspended Mr. Rice for the first two football games of this season. When the story first broke it generated a bunch of negative publicity as many people thought that the two games wasn’t enough of a punishment for a crime that violent. There was even a security video from the hotel that showed Mr. Rice dragging her limp body from the elevator. On Monday morning TMZ’s website obtained the entire video of the couple’s altercation, showing them entering the elevator, their ride down and their exit (which was already published). It was very difficult to watch the two of them in that elevator, clearly upset with one another, knowing what was about to happen. Seeing it unfold like that was simply shocking and disgusting. It unleashed a whole new level of public outrage against Mr. Rice, the NFL and his team, the Baltimore Ravens. Seeing what had happened removed any doubt about how it all went down. By the end of the day, the Ravens had fired Mr. Rice and the NFL announced that he was suspended indefinitely. Even the White House released a statement about it.

“The President [Obama] is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society. Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that’s true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors. Stopping domestic violence is something that’s bigger than football – and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it.”

Please pay attention to what I’m telling you here, kids. Hitting another person is wrong. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have no business hitting another person. That is why I’m so serious about you not “playfully” hitting each other when you’re at home. It is a big deal. There has to be zero tolerance of physically violent behavior and it starts at home. I know that I’m not a perfect parent and that sometimes I even raise my voice and get impatient or irritated with something you’re doing. I’m sorry for that lack of self-control at times. But you’ll never see me hit you or Mommy or anyone else. And I won’t tolerate you doing that either. Hitting is not okay. Not even pretend. This isn’t just a “real men don’t hit women” kind of statement. While that is certainly true about men, I also want you, my daughters, to not hit other people when you’re angry. Don’t do it.

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Mr. Rice is a strong man. He is not very tall like I am, but he is very, very strong. While I may not be as strong as him, I am a foot taller than his 5’8″ stature. That said, I have to always be very careful of my body because I could injure someone with it because I’m so big, even if I’m not trying to hurt that person. Ask your mother how many times (mostly when we were first married, but still happens once in a while) I would “bonk” her with my arm or leg because I’m so freakishly large. I sometimes forget how strong I am compared to others. I’m not bragging. It comes with being a “giant” among “normal” people. I have to be careful not to hurt other people, especially little kids when I’m with you at the park or the YMCA. You kids are not small people. To my son, at age 10 you’re taller than many adults. By the time you’re fully grown you’re likely going to be close to my height. You’re going to have to show a lot of self-control with your strength. It is not okay to use your strength and bulk to intimidate other people. That would make you a bully and I won’t allow it.

To my daughters, I want you to know that it is never okay for your boyfriend or husband to hit you. Ever. Not even on accident. If that should ever happen I want you to get away from him right away. Call me. True love will never motivate someone to hit you. If he hits you he does not love or respect you as a person. He is toxic and will end up hurting you. He is not the kind of man you want to be the father of your children. Run away. Far away. Never look back. Don’t fall for his “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry. I promise it will never happen again. I love you.” If he really loved you he wouldn’t have ever laid a finger on you.

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Finally, let this awful incident be a reminder that our actions have consequences. Both Mr. and Mrs. Rice have made public apologies for their actions. Mrs. Rice even went online to defend her husband the day after this latest video surfaced. Yet, it is really a case of too little, too late. There is no amount of apology from either of them that can change the public perception of Mr. Rice as a violent man who knocked his wife unconscious with one punch. He may well be a good guy. He’s probably involved with charities. He even has a young daughter. Heck, he might otherwise be a good husband. But, right now, none of that matters. What matters to the public is that, in one awful moment back in February, Mr. Rice lost his cool and hit his wife. He lost all that he had worked so hard for over the years in just a few minutes. Let it be a lesson to you about the importance of always having self-control. All it takes is one moment out of control for you to experience some truly awful consequences.

Love,

Dad

Fail Mary Was Called Correctly

Almost two years ago one of the most bizarre and controversial endings to a NFL game took place at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. The last game of Week 3 of the 2012 season featured a Monday Night Football showdown between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers came back in the second half of the game to lead 12-7 with :08 left on the clock in the 4th quarter. Seattle had the ball, 4th & 10 from the Green Bay 24-yard line, needing a touchdown on the game’s final play to win. I was at the game with my daughter and we were among the thousands of Packers fans in attendance that evening who were loudly cheering and chanting “Go Pack, Go!” as the ball was snapped on that fateful play. Everyone in the building, player and fans alike, knew what play was going to be called and that the odds of Seattle completing a “Hail Mary” pass in that situation were very low but still, the play must be run. The day before a game had ended with a Hail Mary TD completion, so it could happen. The ball was snapped, Russell Wilson, the Seahawks QB ran away from some pressure while his receivers ran toward the end zone. From about 40 yards out Wilson tossed a beautiful spiral to the left corner of the end zone where two of his receivers and five Packers defenders were gathered. What happened next was crazy and seemed to defy logic.

My daughter and I at the Fail Mary game

My daughter and I at the Fail Mary game

Before I get too far into this post, I should disclose that I grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Green Bay. My parents were both Packers fans and I have been a cheesehead my whole life. Since I grew up in the 1970s and 80s I missed the glory days of the Lombardi championships that my dad told me about over and over. Nope. I got to watch Lynn Dickey get clobbered because he only ran fast when it was back to the sidelines after failing on 3rd down. For several years in the mid-80s the preseason papers declared “The Pack is Back” in vain. I had to endure 8-8 seasons and the hated Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Shuffle and the Fridge on their way to the 1985 title. I was happy when Don “Majik Man” Majkowski became the QB, thrilled when Brett Favre led the Packers to sustained success (4th and 26 notwithstanding) and the 1996 Super Bowl title, and ecstatic when Aaron Rodgers took over and they won it all in 2010. I’m a die-hard Packers fan even though I now live deep in Seahawks country, about 40 miles south of Seattle near Tacoma, Washington. I was fortunate enough to be at that game nearly two years ago. If anything, the admission that I’m about to write should be more surprising since, as a Packers fan, I should feel like the replacement refs screwed the Packers on the last call of the game. But, I just can’t do it.

Pre-snap view of last play from my seat.

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Back to the game. The ball’s trajectory was perfect, heading toward Seattle’s WR, #81, Golden Tate, yet the Packers were in place to defend it. As the ball was nearing, Tate shoved the back of Packers CB, #37, Sam Shields, with two hands, forcing him to the ground. Shields would’ve been in perfect position to bat the ball down. Despite that obvious offensive pass interference (which wasn’t called; almost never would be called in a similar situation) another Packers defender, #43, M.D. Jennings, timed his leap perfectly and cradled the ball to his chest in mid-air among the other hands reaching for the ball. As Jennings fell through the air Tate reached around Jennings’s body and put his hands on the ball. Since Jennings had jumped the highest, he was also the last to come back down to the pile of players on the turf, both of his arms still cradling the ball. As the players reached the turf they continued their struggle for possession of the ball. The outcome of the game was hanging in the balance of this one decision by the referees. In case you had forgotten, the regular NFL referees had been locked out by the owners and commissioner so this was the third week of the season in which replacement refs were used. The players, coaches and fans were all upset by the poor quality of officiating since it wasn’t nearly the same quality or consistency as with the regular refs.

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With that as context, it wasn’t shocking to see the two refs in the area give conflicting arm signals. One indicated time-out (for an interception) and the other a touchdown (for a reception). Pandemonium ensued at the game, both on the field and in the stands. The Packers players argued with the ref that it was a pick. The Seahawks players jumped around joyously at their fantastic finish. Those of us in the stands stood bewildered, not knowing what we had just seen. The head referee announced that the play would be reviewed but had been ruled a TD on the field. There was no replay shown on the JumboTrons at the game. Just an uneasy feeling among the Packers fans that they had just been robbed of a hard-earned win. The MNF telecast on ESPN showed the replay several times, with commentators Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden sharing their feelings that it was an interception. They even consulted a retired ref, Jerry Austin, who confirmed that he felt it was an interception. “This is the most bizarre sequence you’ll ever see at the end of the game” said Tirico. Added Gruden, “For the life of me I don’t know how M.D. Jennings doesn’t have credit for the interception”.

After further review the call stood and Seattle won the game. After a brief delay the meaningless extra point was kicked and the fans left the stadium in shock. We still had not seen a replay like the TV audience had. I used the bathroom on the way out and a Seahawks fan told me that he was sorry. His friend had called him to tell him what he had seen on TV. A few of my friends texted me or posted on Facebook that they thought the refs had screwed up that last call. I listened to post-game talk-radio and heard dozens of people rail on the refs for that terrible call. It was all over the internet that night and in the weeks to follow. Some people even called for the NFL commissioner to reverse the call and give the win to Green Bay. Since I live in Washington state not too far from Seattle I was able to listen to the Seattle-based sports talk radio guys the next day. Every single one of them agreed that it was an interception and that Green Bay should have won the game. One of them went so far as to say that any Seahawks fans who seriously thought it was the right call should have their heads examined. They even laughed about it on air. I guess I was sold that this was a bad call. Packers should have won the game. Case closed. Move on.

Not so fast, though. A few days later I happened to see this picture from a different angle that made me reconsider.

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What I saw was two players who were both fighting for the ball. Tate’s arms were not wrapped around Jennings. And guess what else? Tate has two feet on the ground with two hands on the ball. Jennings has no feet on the ground yet. And then my mind began to question what my eyes and ears had been telling me. Q: When is a player given credit for a reception? A: When he has control of the ball and two feet in bounds. Q: Who has possession of the ball first in this photo? A: Tate! I was mortified. No way. No how. I’m a Packers fan. This cannot be. While my eyes were done my brain wasn’t. Q: What is simultaneous possession? A: When two players gain control of the ball at the same time. Q: If Tate had possession of the ball first, even if partial, does that make it simultaneous? A: Yes. UGH! In the NFL, a simultaneous catch goes to the offensive player. So, in my mind, I believe that the decision to call the Fail Mary pass a touchdown was the correct call. I have shocked many Seahawks and Packers fans over the last two years with this explanation. I have yet to hear a rebuttal that isn’t based on emotions or what the guys on ESPN said during the game. If you have one, I’d love to hear it.

Before you tell me I’m an idiot (and maybe I am, but that’s not for this discussion, please) and don’t know anything about football let me share some more observations about this game with you. Since I’m a Stay At Home Dad I have the “luxury” of spending a lot of quality time cleaning the kitchen and folding the laundry, usually at night when everyone else in my family is asleep. This has afforded me the opportunity to not only obsess over think about this game too much but to also watch the game replay on www.nfl.com multiple times. I’ve come to the conclusion that the refs were horrible the entire game and made a couple of significantly awful calls that cost the Packers the victory prior to the Fail Mary play. In fact, had the calls been made properly earlier in the game, the Fail Mary play probably wouldn’t have happened. The first such play happened on Seattle’s first play right after the Packers had scored their only TD to take their first lead of the game. With 8:44 left in the 4th quarter, on 1st & 10 from their own 20, Wilson took a play-action fake and was flushed back and to his right by #93, Erich Walden. As Walden dove at him, Wilson threw the ball slightly behind his receiver, who tipped the pass up into the air, where it was snatched by as Packers player. Interception. Packers take over just outside of the red zone with a chance to put the game away. Nope. The referee decided that it was a penalty on Walden. Roughing the passer. 15 yard penalty against Green Bay. It was Seattle’s first first-down of the second half. Both Gruden and Tirico question the call, particularly because Wilson was out of the pocket and had already shown his ability to extend and create plays with his running ability.

The second play happened just two and a half minutes later, with 6:10 left in the game. After consecutive offensive holding penalties Seattle faced a seemingly insurmountable 1st & 30. Wilson tossed a pass toward his tall WR, #18, Sidney Rice, who is running a go-route down the left sideline. Only he is matched step for step by Sam Shields, Green Bay’s CB. The two of them made some contact as they ran, with Rice clearly grabbing and pushing Shields in his back while they run and then going over and through his back as the ball dropped from the sky to them. As the pass fell incomplete to the ground the referee tossed his flag at their feet. Before the call is announced, Gruden stated, “It’s on Rice. I don’t even believe they’re going to call this on Sam Shields.” So, of course, it’s on Sam Shields, defensive pass interference. A 32-yard penalty that gives Seattle the ball at the Green Bay 35. Referring to the botched calls, Tirico added, “It’s making it hard to watch every game.”

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Gruden concurred, “I’m about to jump out of the press box here.” While it’s possible that Seattle could have still gotten a first down on that drive, it probably wouldn’t have happened if there had been no penalty or if it had been ruled offensive pass interference. And I won’t even go into any debate about the blatant offensive pass interference on Tate on the Fail Mary play. Both Gruden and Tirico referenced it during the final minutes of the ESPN telecast.

All in all, the game was a microcosm of what the league was experiencing with the replacement refs. Complete frustration with the poor quality and terribly inconsistent (and sometimes incorrect) enforcement of the rules. Because of the bizarre finish to the MNF game and comments made by many players, specifically those by Packers MVP QB Aaron Rodgers the day after the game, the regular refs were reinstated for the games in Week 4. Despite the poor officiating and the questionable outcome of the game, both the Packers and Seahawks made the playoffs that season. If the outcome had been reversed, the Seahawks would still have been the #6 seed in the NFC, but the Packers would have been the #2 seed and had a bye week instead of being the #3 seed. While it would be easy to blame that on the Fail Mary game, the reality is that the Packers lost several close games that season (at Indianapolis two weeks later and at Minnesota in Week 17) that would have also secured the #2 seed. The improbable come-from-behind win for the Seahawks was the first 4th quarter comeback for their rookie QB Russell Wilson and helped to boost his popularity among fans as some of them had been grumbling about the offense’s lackluster play over the first few weeks of the season. Obviously, things worked out pretty well for Seattle with Wilson as quarterback over the following 16 months. Just ask the fans of the San Francisco 49ers or Denver Broncos.

Back to School Blues

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Today is the big day. It’s been written on our family calendar for months. It’s a day of anticipation and dread. It’s the first day of school. As a Stay At Home Dad it means the return of taxi driver to my daily routine. As well as alarm clock and lunch-preparer for my kids. Today is a day that I both dread and celebrate, but not for the reasons many parents do. As a former student (a long time ago) and former teacher (not as long ago) I loved the first day of school. There was a sense of optimism and possibility and freshness. A new year with a new teacher and mix of old and new friends. Getting to see friends and colleagues again after the summer break. It almost made the chore of getting everything ready worth it. Almost. After all, it was still school. It also meant the end of staying up late and sleeping in. Playing at the park, hiking at Mt. Rainier, going to week-long camp, and vacationing in Europe, to name a few. Doing nothing and enjoying it. Replaced by getting up early (rude alarm clock) and homework or lesson planning and correcting papers.

What I don’t understand, though, are the parents who are celebrating that their kids are finally out of their hair. Fruit of the Loom (makers of fine underwear) even started a #TGIBTS (Thank Goodness It’s Back To School) campaign to capitalize on this sentiment among parents (although it was aimed at moms). It makes me sad that there are some moms and dads who genuinely celebrate the absence of their kids. I’m going to miss my kids while they’re at school. It’s going to be quiet(er) with only a four year old and one year old at home all day long. What ever will I do with all of my newly-found free time? HA HA HA! As much as the teasing and such between my kids is a little bit annoying, I love having them at home. They bring so much joy to my life on a daily basis. I’m going to miss the fun that we have just doing life together. Yet, I love that they get to go and learn and be with friends and teachers and experience things that I cannot give them. I loved being a student (even though at times I had to work hard) and had a lot of fun in school. While I wasn’t a fan of the significant homework and studying in high school and college I understood it to be a part of my “job” as a student. I hope that my kids will view their educational opportunity in the same way. If anything, I celebrate the new and fun things that my kids will learn this coming year.

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The only bit of dread that I have is in wishing I had done more with my kids during their time off. Did we do enough fun stuff to make up for the days where we did basically nothing? Did they get to do something memorable enough that they can write about it for their first assignment in English class? Will they look back on their Summer 2014 as fondly as I do? I hope that they each can answer yes to all those questions. But, in the minds of my kids, I’m sure they’re probably already starting the countdown. 180 school days to go. June 11, 2015 can’t come soon enough.

50 More Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public

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August 1-7 marked World Breastfeeding Week and there were numerous articles that shared a variety of viewpoints about breastfeeding. As a 13 year Stay At Home Dad of six I’ve been my wife’s biggest supporter in her desire to breastfeed each of our children for as long as they choose. She has received many dirty looks or sideways glances from people who somehow think her choice to nurse our child is somehow offensive when done in public. The reality is that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and not at all offensive, even in public! In fact, there are many things in life that are truly more offensive than a woman nursing in public (NIP for those that like acronyms). Almost two months ago I came up with a sarcastic and light-hearted list of 50 Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public. It quickly became the most-viewed post of my fledgling blog, Big Cheese Dad. Many people added suggestions and I held on to them in anticipation of this post. So, thanks to the collective creative genius of my friends and readers, I am happy to present, 50 More Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public. As always, please like, comment and share if you enjoyed this list.

  1.  People who have no idea what they want when the get to the register at Starbucks. In store or drive through.
  2. People who drink all but the last couple of swallows of milk and put the jug back in the fridge instead of rinsing and recycling.
  3. People who don’t know how to merge or won’t let you in when you’re trying to merge. You’re supposed to use the gas pedal to merge, not the brake! Ever hear of the “zipper method”? I’m just getting started with drivers. Ugh.
  4. People who congratulate women who aren’t pregnant on their pregnancies (just fat, thanks). <<—her quote, don’t get mad at me!
  5. Backwash. If you’ve ever given your toddler a drink of your water or juice you know exactly what I mean. And exactly what they were just eating. It will be floating in your beverage. Drink up!
  6. Helicopter moms (or dads) at the playground. Let your kids play and explore and have fun. They can do it without you hovering.
  7. When my kids complain about being bored while on summer vacation. Really? I can find you a chore or 50! And, adults who complain about being bored. Really? You’re an adult. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
  8. People touching your baby. DON’T! She just got better after a week of a runny nose and you’re not going to start that again. Do you know how hard it is for a baby to nurse that has a plugged nose?
  9. Wearing socks with sandals. I thought that was standard here in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Ask my kids. Actually, don’t. Nothing I do is cool by them.
  10. Guys who think they’re really funny and could do stand up comedy because of that one funny “that’s what she said” joke made by the water cooler that one time.
  11. People who think a pregnant belly in public is an invitation to touch it. When tempted to reach out and touch a belly, channel your inner MC Hammer and think: U CAN’T TOUCH THIS!
  12. People who leave grocery carts in parking spaces instead of walking the 20 feet to put it away. Lifestyle exercise is okay.
  13. Hitting or slapping a child. Disturbingly ironic when done to punish that child for crying or hitting or slapping someone else.
  14. School. Especially math. Who needs it really? Can’t I just ask Siri what 25% off is instead of actually using my brain?
  15. Smokers who think the world is the trash can for their butts.
  16. The Detroit Lions. Submitted by a Michigan resident. This Packers fan won’t disagree. I purposely made this one #16.
  17. Flossing teeth in public. Really, any personal hygiene in public. That includes mining for gold while driving. And, please, don’t eat that booger. Unless you’re a toddler, and even then it’s gross.
  18. Drivers who don’t respect pedestrians or bicyclists.
  19. People who don’t pick up after their dogs. On walks in the neighborhood or at the dog park. You’re giving the rest of us a bad reputation.
  20. Public selfies. At every single tourist spot. Stop already.
  21. E-cigs. And the rude people who try to push them on you at the mall.
  22. Cell phone usage while in the bathroom. We can tell where you are by the echo. Dead giveaway.
  23. Guys texting while standing at the urinal. Put it down and wait. And by it I meant the phone.
  24. Parents who leave their young kids alone in the car. No matter the weather. It’s not worth it. I’m going to call 911…and I probably won’t wait even five minutes if it’s really hot or really cold.
  25. Parents who smoke while their kids are in the car.
  26. Parents who are louder than their kids. Just because we’re bigger doesn’t mean we have to talk over them.
  27. Victoria’s Secret. If you think Nursing In Public shows too much breast then you MUST have an issue with this company. Walk through a mall and you’ll see what I mean.
  28. When people in the back of the plane stand up as soon as the seat belt sign is turned off. You’re in back. You’re not getting off this plane for at least 10 minutes. Sit down. And stop sighing so dramatically.
  29. Saying the F-word and other vulgarities in family-friendly places like grocery stores, parks and swimming pools. My kid doesn’t need to hear that.
  30. Neighbors or relatives who make rude insinuations about your parenting choices or abilities without coming right out and saying it. Passive-aggressive anyone?
  31. This is for my wife…When the new TV show that you discovered and think is really cool and decide that you’re going to follow gets cancelled after only one season. Talking about you, Journeyman and Alcatraz. Yet, we have how many reality-TV shows and game shows?
  32. Candy Crush Saga notifications/invitations. Or Farmville. Or whatever game you’re playing. Waste your own time. Not mine.
  33. People who don’t follow the “walk left, stand right” concept on escalators and moving sidewalks. Or those who stand in the middle, clogging it for all.
  34. Wisconsin drivers in Illinois. (from the Illinois guy, of course)
  35. FIBs driving in Wisconsin. You know you’re from Wisconsin if you understand the reference. Mom, don’t click that link. It’s rude. No, I don’t use it. 🙂
  36. Traffic circles. No. Actually, people who treat traffic circles like a stop sign and always stop.
  37. People who wear yoga pants or sweats or sweaty workout clothes to the store. Too much. Or too little, I guess.
  38. People who show up late for something holding a Starbucks (or other establishment) bought coffee.
  39. People on their phones at cash registers. Or at the doctor’s office. Whatever happened to common courtesy?
  40. People who throw gum on the ground or in urinals. And it’s always the nice or new shoes that attract the gooey gum.
  41. People on their smart phones while at a red light who wait an extra 5-10 seconds to go once the light turns green. And they’re always in front of me. BEEP!
  42. People who try to outrun emergency vehicles. Or those too oblivious to see/hear them to get out of the way.
  43. People who are ungrateful for their jobs in this tough economy. So it’s not your dream job. At least you have a job.
  44. People in restrooms (public or my own house!) who don’t flush. Related, why must people be so nasty in public restrooms? Feces on the walls and TP everywhere? Give me a break.
  45. The South’s obsession with the Confederate Flag/Pride. Y’all do understand the meaning behind it, right?
  46. Waiting rooms. Snotty kids. Loud cell phone talkers. Old and germ-infested magazines. TV on a station no one wants.
  47. The price of gasoline. Which pretty much affects the cost everything else.
  48. The rapid decline of manners in most people. Saying please and thank you and being pleasant is just as easy as being pushy and demanding and patient.
  49. Our general obsession with boobs that fuels multimillion dollar plastic surgery and lingerie industries while at the same time interfering with the primary and most important function of said boobs.
  50. Anyone who thinks that a woman breastfeeding her child is flaunting her breast or her sexuality in everyone else’s face. She doesn’t need to cover up. Maybe it’s too hot. Maybe her baby won’t eat properly with a cover. It doesn’t matter. Ultimately, it’s none of your business. Look away if you’re so offended. But don’t harass the mom and her baby. She’s feeding her child the way God intended. Leave her alone.

If you agree that women need to feel empowered to nurse in public please share this list across social media platforms. I’d love to be a small part of the growing support for all moms (and dads!) to care for their babies as they see fit and without public scorn.

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Special thanks to the following people (listed in order of appearance, some with multiple entries) who contributed ideas to the list above: Josh Gloer, Kathleen Cleg, Allison Tedford, David Wallach, James Ward, Scott Posey, Benjamin Mullen, Jonathan Criswell, Dawn Rubbert, Cuda Mitchell, Marty Josephson, Bryan Alkire, Laura Hargis, Kelly Berg, Kathy Robinson, Kathy Lehman, Marty Josephson, Trish Sheikh, Tony Hernandez, Jeff Tepper, Eric Williams, Michelle Swank, Jessie Johnson, Janet Crum.

Wait…I’m a Feminist?

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I had this interesting thought when I was in the shower this morning. It occurred to me that I might just be a feminist. I’d never really thought of myself like that before, but, as I was contemplating my roles as husband and father, it dawned on me that I’m a feminist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. According to the World English Dictionary a feminist is “a person who advocates equal rights for women”. I’ve tried to live my life in a way that treats all people with the same kindness and compassion, regardless of their gender. But, it’s more than just kindness and compassion toward women. It’s also about changing the way that women are treated and perceived by society. I would guess that most of us would say that women should be given the same social, political, legal and economic rights as men. While much progress has been made, there is still more work to be done to truly level the playing field. One area that has recently been getting a lot of attention on social media platforms is the use of the phrase “like a girl”. There’s an ad by Always which beautifully illustrates how many of us, often unknowingly, contribute to the negative connotation of doing something like a girl. (Click here to view the ad.

As a dad of five daughters I don’t ever use that phrase. I want my daughters to believe that they can do anything they choose however they want to do it. And I will support them 100%. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t always have such an enlightened view. Growing up as a teenager in the 80s it was common for boys to throw around the phrase like a girl as an insult when someone did something “weak”. For example, “Billy, you throw like a girl” or “Phil, you run like a girl“. It was mean-spirited teasing that implied that doing something, anything,  like a girl was inherently inferior to the way that a boy would do it. I even complained to my mom one time that my little sister, who was probably 6 or 7 at the time, was throwing the football like a girl. Instead of lecturing me, my mom stated the obvious that she IS a girl, and that if it bothered me that much I could teach her how to throw the ball better. So I did. My sister still throws (and catches) like a girl BOSS! She throws a better ball, with a tighter spiral and greater accuracy, than most guys I know. 

I’ll admit that first gender-equity lesson from my mom didn’t penetrate my thick teenage skull very deeply. A few years later, at age 22, I was excited to become a father for the first time, as my wife was pregnant with our first daughter. Only, we didn’t know her gender until she was born. So, in the months leading up to her due date many people asked me if I thought we were having a boy or a girl. Without hesitation I always answered that I was hoping for a boy, since I was under the impression that boys were better. That I would be more fulfilled as a father if I had a son. I couldn’t have been more misguided. Thankfully, my wife, the oldest of four girls, kindly pointed out that girls could play sports and do pretty much anything that boys could do…and that I was being a sexist jerk for thinking like that. Which was totally true. Thankfully, pregnancies are nine months long, so I was able to realize before our daughter was born that praying and hoping for a healthy baby of either gender was the correct way of thinking. 

Still, I hadn’t fully let go of the phrase “like a girl“, even though I had a daughter of my own. That moment arrived a couple of years after the birth of my daughter, when I was teaching 7th grade and coaching the 7th grade girls basketball team. During one of the practices the girls did something (I don’t recall specifically what it was since this happened in 1997) that frustrated me and I blew my whistle to get their attention and started to tell them that they needed to throw better passes, to stop throwing it like a ________ . And I caught myself before I said it. That last word on the tip of my tongue. All 15 of the girls looking at me, waiting for me to finish. And then it dawned on me just how much of a male chauvinist pig I was going to be if I said that last word as girl. So I said baby. And right then, and there, I promised myself that I would never, ever, use the phrase like a girl to put someone down. I also started getting on people who used that phrase as a pejorative. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I’ve been blessed with five daughters…to show them and others that it’s great to live like a girl.

When my second daughter was born in 1999 we found out her gender before she was born. I was excited to have another daughter. There was not a shred of disappointment in my being. Sadly, though, many people assumed that I would want a boy and even had the audacity to suggest that I would be disappointed to have another daughter. The sexist comments were even worse when we found out we were expecting a third daughter in 2001. I was completely satisfied with being a DODO (Dad Of Daughters Only). I felt that God had truly blessed me with three daughters and I was excited to be their dad. In 2004, when our fourth child was born we didn’t reveal his gender to anyone else until he was born, although we knew. Once he was born, pretty much every friend and family member commented that I must be so relieved to finally have a boy. And, “are you done having kids now that you got your boy?”. Again, why would I be more or less fulfilled as a parent or man if I had only daughters or only sons? I was appalled by the overarching sexism that was so predominant in people’s well-meaning comments. And most people never even realized how awful the message was that they were conveying even if it wasn’t intended. I made a mental note to never make such a sexist comment to any parent. Ever. 

While I’ve never attended any political rallies for women’s rights or done anything like that, I have tried to instill in each of my kids (including my son) that all people deserve equal rights and equal treatment not only under that law, but also socially. And that starts with my own attitudes and those of my children. I even had to reprimand my own daughter (I won’t name which one) for using the phrase like a girl to try to insult her brother. I pointed out that she was actually insulting both him and herself (and her gender) at the same time. And that there was no room for that kind of attitude in our family. It’s a tough battle sometimes, but I believe it’s worth it. And as a Stay At Home Dad, I get the opportunity to reinforce the gender comments while correcting any negative ones that might slip out of my kids’ mouths. It’s a role that I embrace. Literally and figuratively. So, does that make me a feminist? You make the call.