Why #BlackLivesMatter to me

I’m not black. So, why would a parenting blog written by a 43 year old Stay At Home Dad of six kids write anything about race? In a word, compassion. I spent the better part of the last week and a half watching multiple tragedies unfold, often in real time. I saw videos of Alton Sterling’s death. I saw Philando Castile die while his girlfriend watched it happen and broadcast it live on Facebook. I saw almost a dozen police officers get shot (five fatally) in Dallas while protecting a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Through it all I wept. I watched those videos and what struck me was the humanity of each person. Each of those lives mattered. Those men were husbands, fathers, sons, boyfriends, best friends…and now they’re dead. I watched the 15 year old son of Alton Sterling bravely standing by the woman speaking, trying to comfort her, only to break down moments later and sob uncontrollably. I want Daddy. I want Daddy. I didn’t see color. I saw my own 11 year old son for a moment there. I wept again for that young man, now fatherless. I watched in shock last Thursday night as the police officers were gunned down in Dallas. I wept. I prayed for our country. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for compassion.

As a parent one of the most important things I’m trying to teach all of my kids is compassion. I will have failed as a parent if my children are not compassionate people when they leave home. But, I cannot teach that if I’m not compassionate myself. I believe that being compassionate is the ability to look at things from the perspective of others, to understand them better, so that I can help them accordingly. For example, on Sunday afternoon I was driving home from the mall with two of my kids and there was a woman standing by the side of the road trying to get across the five lanes with a heavy-looking large pull-cart behind her. I stopped my van and motioned for her to cross. After two cars whizzed past she had a chance to cross in front of me, but the oncoming traffic was approaching and she was slow. So, I turned to the left and blocked the two lanes to shield her, to ensure her safe passage. I was about to leave when she told me that she was trying to catch the bus which just blowing past the stop (because she was too slow to make it there). She asked for a ride to the bus terminal a mile away and I instead offered her a ride home. I introduced myself and made a new friend, Samantha. I had been less than two minutes from home, but drove this lady 15-20 minutes to her apartment building in downtown Tacoma (and then 15 -20 minutes back home). Samantha talked the entire way there, telling me about her mother (dying of cancer) and her husband (disabled with seizures after getting shot in the head) and her own injury (motorcycle accident at age 16 that nearly severed her foot) which caused her to limp even now at age 55. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Samantha is black. Interestingly enough, though, the color of her skin wasn’t a factor in my ability to show her compassion when I saw her standing by the side of the road. All I saw was another human being who needed a little bit of help.

I guess this brings me back to the events of this last week. I am saddened by what seems to be a lack of compassion among many of my friends. The black lives matters movement began as a way to draw attention to the ongoing problem of black people being disproportionately targeted by some members of the law enforcement community and then unfairly treated by the legal system. I’ll admit that when I first saw the #blacklivesmatter hashtag a couple of years ago that I ignorantly responded with #alllivesmatter. I didn’t understand. I thought that it had to be one or the other. Thankfully, I have some pretty awesome friends who either wrote or shared articles that showed me the error of my thinking. Some of these friends are dad-bloggers (like me), who have teenage children (like me), but have black skin (unlike me). I learned that these men have been racially profiled all of their lives. They’ve been stopped by the police dozens of times simply because of the color of their skin. I think in my 43 years of life I’ve been pulled over exactly three times. Twice for speeding (deserved) and once for going through an intersection on a yellow light (undeserved, no ticket). Not once for having a broken taillight or a wide nose. Philando Castile, who was days shy of his 33rd birthday, had been stopped 31 times by police over the years. He’s 10 years younger than me. I seriously doubt that he’s that bad of a driver. My friends shared that they’ve had to have conversations with their kids about how to respond if when they have an interaction with police so that their kids will come home safely. For real. This is where I started to really begin to understand how much white privilege I have but I don’t even realize it. I can let my son ride his scooter a few blocks to a nearby Walgreens to buy some candy, even while wearing a hoodie, and not worry that he’s going to get shot by a neighborhood enforcer or a police officer. He’s even managed to sneak a Nerf gun in the waistband of his shorts into public and no one complained or called the cops on him. Moreover, I don’t get pulled over “randomly” when driving around town running errands because I might look like a suspect due the color of my skin or the width of my nose. The inherent privilege of being white in America was something that I had to make an effort to learn about, particularly about how minorities don’t share that privilege. I don’t have to be sorry for being white or ashamed of it. Yet, I believe that I do have a responsibility as a human being to treat others with compassion and to fight for justice wherever I see the need for it. Sometimes that means that I need to educate myself, to learn the stories of my brothers and sisters who don’t look like me, to mindfully build the bridges that lead to a true change of heart and compassion.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit tricky for some people. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” upsets a lot of people. They think it means that only black lives matter and that black lives matter more than anyone else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Black-Lives-Matter-quotesThey love to fire back with All Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they do. But, until we, as a country and as individuals can act like ALL lives matter then there will remain a need for movements like Black Lives Matter. For example, just last week I shared several things on my personal Facebook page about the deaths of Sterling and Castile. There weren’t many comments and my feed wasn’t filled with anyone posting stuff saying All Lives Matter in response to those two men dying. Yet, within a few moments of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas my feed was full of people sharing pictures of the badge of the Dallas Police Department and using the phrase Blue Lives Matter. People were showing compassion and concern for the victims and even their communities and families simply because the victims were police officers. I respect the men and women in blue as much as anyone and believe that they have incredibly difficult jobs that require them to be “on” 100% of the time. One momentary lapse could cost them their lives, so the national outpouring of compassion for their families is well deserved. But, why couldn’t that same compassion be shown or expressed for the victims just a few days before? Or for any of the countless victims of black on black crime that All Lives Matter folk love to derisively reference? If ALL lives matter then even the lives that some might deem “worthless” should matter. If ALL lives matter then no one will rest until there are ZERO incidents of police brutality. I believe that I can say Black Lives Matter at the same time that I say Blue Lives Matter because I value both groups. Why? Because we’re all human beings. Compassion doesn’t depend on color.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks it’s okay to racially profile people based on their race or ethnicity or any other trait. I don’t want to live in a country where abusive or racist cops are tolerated and the good cops suffer the tragic consequences. I don’t want to live in a nation that points out the high rate of black on black crime as an excuse to say that the police can use excessive force or that exposes the record of victims in a not so subtle way of saying he got what he deserved. We’re better than that. We owe it to our kids to be compassionate for one another. Step out of your comfort zone and educate yourself. Talk to your kids about this topic. Help them to understand so that they can grow up without the racial tension that is so prevalent in our nation today. As a SAHD, I get to see my children interact with others in a lot of situations where there’s no adult hovering over and directing their every move. I’ve noticed the ease that my 6 and 3 year old daughters have in playing with boys and girls of any skin color in places like a children’s museum, a McDonald’s play place or the playground at a park. I’m thrilled that my 11 year old son’s best friend is witty, respectful, silly, smart, and loves to catch frogs just like my son. The fact that he and my son don’t share the same skin pigmentation is irrelevant to their friendship. Why do we, as adults, make such big deal about this? Why is it so hard to show compassion for one another?

I want to leave you with a quote from my friend Janice, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her daughter and one of my daughters became friends early in grade school and were best friends until we moved to Washington state four years ago. Her twins, now 17, are black and were adopted by Janice and her husband as babies. As a white parent raising black children she offered a unique perspective on my Facebook page last week when I posted a (much shorter) version of this blog post calling for compassion.

Thank you so much, Carl, for speaking truth and compassion. My son and daughter, who you know quite well, are deeply upset. When a 17 year old girl was treated with over the top brutality by Madison, WI, police my daughter became very upset and agitated. When I spoke to my son about the gentleman who was murdered by police officer in Minnesota, he said, “Mom, can we not talk about this now” as he turned his face and his eyes swelled up with tears. My twins have been experiencing this grief and fear on regular basis. They have been ignored, verbally called “n” word, followed in stores, gawked at, frowned at, not given food while waiting in line after ordering and more. The macro and micro agressions cause a human to be in a state of constant vigilance, increase anxiety, create emotional stress and more due to lack of safety and peace. Yes, they are humans with huge big hearts of compassion! They are giving, gentle, hard workers who do treat others with respect. However, when they walk out the door into “society”, they play a game with loaded dice. We need truth and reconciliation talks to really understand our history and the violence against black bodies. Perhaps readers of this thread would like to read, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Thank you again, Carl. It is very hard to turn toward this violence and actually see it for what it is. My 17 year old shared, “I think I will go to school here because I haven’t been shot yet.” The war against black bodies hasn’t ended. The slave codes allowed the beatings, rapes and murder. We as a society have much work to do. I’m open to suggestions as I’m blinded by grief.

So, I ask you, my dear readers, what are YOU going to do to help bring healing to our country? Are you willing to cultivate compassion in yourself and in your children? I know that I am and I hope that you are as well.

 

 

*****Here are some links to articles that I’ve found helpful in educating myself regarding Black Lives Matter and policing in the United States.*****

Surprising New Evidence Shows Bias in Police Use of Force but Not in Shootings

Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks

Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person

Solutions

The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

See beyond “the police” for change…

The video of Alton Sterling’s son is the video you should watch

Adrian Perryman’s Video

http://www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-memorialize-police-officers-killed-dallas-sniper/story?id=40488652

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What’s In Your Garden?

It’s raining again today where I live, which isn’t surprising given that I live in Washington state, which is part of a region known for its amount of rainy days each year. But, this post isn’t about rain as much as it is about what the rain produces: green grass. As I was sitting alone one recent morning enjoying a cup of coffee before my kids woke up, I realized that the rain was responsible for turning everything varying shades of green, even through the winter here. During the long dry summers the lush grass goes dormant and turns brown if not watered. My neighbors, however, have a sprinkler system that waters their yard every evening at 10:27 pm. Rain or shine. The lesson, though, isn’t that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (even if it’s true in this example), but, rather, that the grass is always greener where you water it!

All too often in life it’s easy for me to forget to express my appreciation to the people in my life who love me. As a husband and father I try my best to use my words and actions to encourage my wife and kids, and I know that is music to my ears when they do the same to me. I can’t help being an incurable romantic, so I love it when my Facebook newsfeed contains posts by friends who are publicly expressing their appreciation for their spouses, children, parents or friends. I’ve especially enjoyed reading posts from a husband or wife that is bragging about something that his or her spouse did, said or accomplished. It’s such a simple act that has profound meaning. Genuine kindness and appreciation are the showers that bring life and health to relationships.

Just last week my kids helped me to prepare a small section of soil next to our driveway that we use each year to grow sugar snap peas.

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Rows of Sugar Snap Peas sprouting

We carefully removed the weeds and then planted the rows of seeds. In about 10 weeks we’re going to be enjoying some delicious sugar snap peas because you reap what you sow! The same is true in relationships. If I’m on the lookout for opportunities to tell my wife and kids how thankful I am for them or how much I appreciate something that they did, that’s going to not only strengthen our relationship but also help me to focus on the good in them. As a bonus, it will likely be encouraging them at the same time. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. I have a friend who posts three things for which she is thankful every Tuesday, calling it GratiTuesday. I love that attitude of gratitude that she intentionally writes about each week. I want to be a husband, father and friend that is known for cultivating kindness and gratitude in his garden of life.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the opposite of the attitude of gratitude is also true. The saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” probably happened because the people involved didn’t take the time to notice or appreciate what they had right in front of them all along.

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What’s in your garden?

I firmly believe that if we each spent a small fraction of the time that we usually use to complain about people and instead used that to water own yards or gardens, then we would see some beautiful grass, plants and flowers right in front of us. I know that I can complain about things to my kids or wife, but that only comes off as nagging or pestering and ultimately hurts our relationship. The reality is that if I’m looking for ways to be hurt or things to complain about, I can find them (or manufacture them) pretty easily. Yet, all that does is feed the negativity and create distance and hurt and separation in the relationship because I’m filling myself with contempt for my loved ones. On the other hand, when I choose to focus on the good and to communicate my love and appreciation, our bond is strengthened. I’m finding that looking for the good in my wife and kids is important when I’m not feeling in a particularly appreciative mood. I want my kids to see and feel what it’s like for their dad to love and appreciate both them and their mother, no matter the circumstances. My attitude of gratitude isn’t dependent upon receiving thanks and appreciation from others. It’s a choice that I get to make daily. Sometimes even minute by minute. In the end, though, I choose to be loving and kind instead of critical and ungrateful.

This notion of choosing an attitude of gratitude is actually based in scientific research by people much smarter and more educated than I am. I recently came across some articles from famous psychologists Gottman and Gottman that really confirmed what I had already been feeling and inspired me to be more intentional in looking for the good in my wife and kids (and others, of course). What follows is an excerpt from their findings.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Please do yourself a favor and take the ten or fifteen minutes needed to read the articles which describe their findings in greater depth. (Links to the articles are here: Business Insider article, Masters of Love-Atlantic article)

Perhaps your reaction will be like mine, both convicted encouraged and inspired by what you read there. I hope that your loved ones will appreciate the changes that they see in you and that you will notice how much better they also look once you’ve consistently been showering them with your kindness and generosity. After all, we reap what we sow. So, what’s in your garden?

Can You Help Me, Sir?

“Why did that crying lady talk to you, Daddy?”

Oh, the precious innocence of childhood. My five year old was sincere in her question after I had been approached in the parking lot after completing our purchases at Petsmart.

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(Photo found via Google search)

As my son (age 11), two daughters (5 and 2) and I neared our van a woman rushed up to me and through well-rehearsed gasps, sobs and tears, explained that she had just been released from jail and was desperately trying to get back home to Everett (a city north of Seattle, about an hour from where I was in Tacoma), but her car needed gas and she didn’t have any money. “Could you please help me out? That man over there (she gestured at someone) gave me $5. The police gave me a quarter (she opened her palm to show me the shiny coin). But I don’t want to get arrested for panhandling and go back to jail. Please, sir, anything would help.”

Thanks to my son’s maturity and good sense, my little kids had gotten into their car seats while this charade played out in the parking lot beside my van. I told the woman (truthfully) that I didn’t have any cash on me and before I could say anything more she walked off in the direction of some other people in the parking lot.

Panhandle

Brazenly approaching her next target.

My kids have observed me helping out some of the plethora of people who panhandle in our area. They’re frequently standing at a busy intersection at the exit from that very shopping area (there’s also a Target, Hobby Lobby and a dozen other stores there) and at the end of exit ramps. On more than one occasion we have brought hot food and coffee to them. We’ve prepared bag lunches and had them in the van to give out during our excursions. Last year my oldest daughter wrote a song describing some memories she had of us helping homeless people and I blogged about it (read it here). Some might say I’m a sucker for trying to help those who appear to be in a rough spot. I’m guilty of giving a dollar or two to people at times because I choose to believe that people can actually be good and that it’s okay to try to be kind to others. I try to model compassion and kindness for others so my children will grow up with similar values and a willingness to help out others.

“But, Daddy, why didn’t you help her? Why didn’t you give her any money?” My sweet girl just wanted to help that woman. Unfortunately, I had to gently tell her the harsh reality that not all people are honest or trustworthy. In this particular case, this very same woman had approached me as I had returned to my car after shopping at Target with my 14 year old daughter and our exchange student. She told me the exact same story, only this most recent time had been more polished with emotion and tears and that shiny quarter. That previous time I had chosen to give her a couple of bucks (I told you I’m a sucker sometimes), even though red flags were there. I remember that I told her “God bless you”, wished her well and shook her hand. She seemed to be sincerely grateful and warmly returned my hand shake while I gave her the small amount of cash. I remember saying a quick prayer for her as I climbed into my van. After that exchange my 14 year old daughter and I talked about the issue of panhandlers and how there were multiple reports of people scamming and earning crazy amounts of money by playing off preying on the generosity, goodwill and kindness of strangers. Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me. I thought about confronting this scam artist and getting all up in her business. Maybe I would have if I hadn’t been in a time pinch to get my van from the repair shop before it closed in 20 minutes. It’s probably better that I just left it alone. I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered to her or been the epiphany that turned her life around. I likely would’ve come off as just another sanctimonious white guy. In reality, I wasn’t really angry. Rather, I was filled with sadness for this woman who was essentially stealing from others. I don’t understand the mindset that one must have to choose this type of behavior, but, ultimately, I feel sorry for her. Still, the next time someone asks me for some help I’ll think about it. I’m less likely to reach into my pocket for any cash because of these kinds of experiences although I’m still willing to look for a meaningful way to help others. I wish there was some sort of happy ending to this story, a way that I could neatly wrap it in a bow that makes us all feel better. But that’s not the reality of this situation. Instead, I’m left with a heavy heart that I had to explain to my five year old that not all people tell the truth and that they are willing to lie to others to get some money. But, I’m glad that she could begin to learn that lesson in a safe environment with me to help her process it.

As we pulled away from our parking spot I noticed the woman walking across the parking lot toward her next Target. Literally and figuratively.

Farts are Funny and Six more Life Lessons from my kids

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to really pay attention to my job more than the distractions in my iPhone. Since I’m nearing the end of my 14th school year as a Stay At Home Dad that means my “job” is really my kids. I realized that I had been prioritizing such worthy endeavors like Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Trivia Crack, Words With Friends and the latest sports talk on the radio or the ESPN app. Even though I justified it as only a few minutes here and a few more minutes there, it added up to a less than satisfactory job performance in my own mind. I don’t want my children to think that they are less important than whatever was holding my attention on my phone. As a result of being more present and mindful in my day-to-day life I’m learning a few things that perhaps I’d been too distracted to fully appreciate before.

Farts are Funny. Yeah, I went there right away. Couldn’t hold that one in any longer. (Get it?) Not my farts, mind you. But when my kids let one fly it’s pretty much the most hilarious thing around. How many times have you seen a princess/ballerina playing with her baby dolls pause her play to rip one? I have on an almost-daily basis. Not only that, then she has to comment about how loud it was or how her tummy suddenly feels better. No shame at all. You’d think she was a fifth grade boy, not a precocious almost five year old. Yeah, those of you who know me in real life know that these apples didn’t fall far from their tree.

I love you, Daddy. While my almost two year old isn’t saying those words yet she is able to communicate it pretty effectively by her desire to snuggle with me. I used to use that snuggle time to play on my phone. Lately I’ve just been snuggling her, basking in her unconditional love and adoration and smelly morning breath. There’s something so special about those first few moments after I take her out of her crib in the morning; how she lights up with the biggest smile and literally dives into my arms, burrowing a hole into that spot where my neck and shoulder meet. I’m soaking that up as I know it’s not going to be like that forever.

Games. Games. Games. 

Victory!

Victory!

Instead of checking email or blogging or playing on my phone I’ve been choosing to play more games with my kids. You might recall that I recently wrote about how I beat my kids when we play games. Shortly after writing that blog post my ten year old son finally beat me in the board game Carcassonne. My four year old became interested and he and I taught her how to play and she beat us both in her first game! Just a couple of day

s ago my son crushed me in a game of Monopoly, proudly bankrupting me as he ended up with more money than the bank. I love the quality time we spend together playing games, especially when they earn a well-deserved victory. That victory smile and sense of accomplishment is terrific.

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Camel ride at the zoo

What do you want to do? Instead of trying to be some sort of super-intuition daddy I just ask my kids what we should do today. One week it meant going to the zoo three days in a row. It’s good that we live only ten minutes away and have a membership. Sometimes we stay home and bake cookies, put together lots of puzzles, read lots of books, color, play games, or go to the park or open gym at the YMCA. But in whatever we’re doing we are doing it together and I’m keeping my phone in my pocket or, gasp, even in my backpack/diaper bag. I’m saddened to see so many parents missing out on what their kids are doing at the park or indoor play areas because they’re paying attention to their phones instead. I’m that parent who is awkwardly playing “grounders” with my kids on the play equipment or climbing up the tall slide after my kids have asked me to join them. We even go to the beach close to our house for the sole purpose of throwing rocks into the water.

Turn the radio off? Wait, what? Turn down for what? (Yeah, I have teenagers!) Instead of blasting music all the time in the car with my kids I’ve been trying to listen to the never-ending questions of my four year old. She’s become very curious about how different things are made and often asks me to explain it to her as she observes things while we’re driving. Daddy, how was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge built? How are signs made? How are houses built? How are roads built? Are we still in Washington? How are cars made? How was the world made? Did God make the world? How?I could go on but you get the picture. So, I try to explain to her, using vocabulary that she could understand and concepts that make sense to her, the answers to her questions. I was feeling pretty pleased with my efforts on our fifteen minute trip to Costco today as I explained to her how roads were made. It helped that my dad was a civil engineer who worked for the city where we lived during my childhood and that the road in front of my childhood home was resurfaced one summer when I was probably about 10-12 years old so I witnessed exactly what happened. Upon completion of my explanation, my perceptive daughter showed wisdom beyond her years by asking me,

Daddy, do you really know all of these things or are you just making it up?

Seriously. Come on, have a little faith, you little stinker!

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Classics made hilarious by inserting the word toot at opportune times.

Toot Toot. On a recent road trip I was mindlessly playing on my phone while my wife drove and our kids kind of passed the time away, not really doing anything. After her prompting (I love you, honey!), I found some board books that I keep in the car for my almost two year old and began to read them aloud. Only I changed one word as I read them. I added the word “toot” (as in, fart) in place of the word “whistle” in the book Whistle for Willie. I know, it’s kind of juvenile, but, like I wrote above, farts are funny. And you have to know your audience. It’s kind of like playing Mad Libs but with well-known children’s books by beloved authors like Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats and Margaret Wise Brown. My kids were cracking up when I read Goodnight Toot, The Very Tooty Caterpillar and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Toot. Of course, now my daughter wants me to read like that all the time. I hope this passes quickly.

Slow Down. Sometimes Most of the time I need to just slow down and let my kids be kids. Let their natural curiosity explore the world around them. Just a couple of days ago this point was driven home for me by my little girls.

Decorating the white flowering bush

Decorating the white flowering bush

We were walking back to our van after playing in the Open Gym at the YMCA. My four year old was being kind of pokey and I was absentmindedly asking her to move faster and hurry up. I was already thinking ahead to trying to get a few chores done at home before I had to get my 15 year old from school in an hour. Only then did I notice what was making my daughter so slow. She was carefully picking up blossoms that had fallen from one of the shrubs and decorating a smaller shrub. Pretty soon my almost two year old joined her big sister and the two of them happily decorated the smaller bush like a Christmas tree. What once was a bush with only a small number of white flowers soon brandished pink, red and purple blossoms. It was fun to see them playing together like that and I was reminded once again of how much I have to learn from my own children.

Dad on Strike?

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Steve Harvey Show to see if I would be interested in appearing on his show.

Hi there! My name is Michelle and I work at Steve Harvey show. We are doing a segment called “Dad on Strike”. We are looking for stay at home Dads who feel that their family is taking them for granted and they want to go on strike! Do you know anyone who would be interested in coming on the show for this? Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx  for more info. Thanks, Michelle

Huh? I thought Steve Harvey was a comedian and host of Family Feud. I didn’t even know that there was a Steve Harvey Show! So, I looked online and found a little more info about this topic. Below is a screen capture from his website.

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Steve Harvey

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Aha! That’s the hook. They’re looking for Stay At Home Dads who don’t feel appreciated who would be willing to go on strike and then talk about it on national television. My experience as a SAHD for 14 years has taught me many things, chief among them is the fact that a career as an at-home parent (dad or mom) is vastly under-appreciated by both our families and society in general. I think know that feeling needed and appreciated is a real need for all people, regardless of their chosen profession. images-3I also know that many people think that it’s enough to just do your job without anyone telling you “good job” or “thank you”. While it’s true that doing a good job is a reward in and of itself, knowing that others appreciate you for what you’re doing is important. I know that when I was teaching (my career before being a SAHD) I often heard from my students, their parents, other teachers or my supervising principal that I was doing a good job; that my students spoke very highly of me as their teacher. As a SAHD I rarely ever get that type of positive feedback about my “job performance”. In fact, the feedback that I often get from my kids is along the lines of whining or complaining. “Dad, I want you to get me this Barbie doll? PLEAAAASE?!” “Dad, why can’t I watch a movie? NOW!” “Why do we have to eat this for dinner? Can’t we just order pizza?” If you’re a parent you know what it sounds like. And you know that you never hear your kids say, “Thanks, Dad, for making me eat veggies so I don’t get backed up” or “Thanks, Dad, for loving me even when I was being a total turd.” or “I appreciate you, Dad.” Okay, maybe that last one a little bit on Father’s Day… You get the point, though.

So, yeah, getting that invite from the Steve Harvey Show to go on strike and then talk about it on national television…um, NO THANKS! What’s not to love about an offer to damage both my career and marriage in one fell swoop? To loosely quote former President George Bush, “Not gonna do it. It wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” The reality is that I wouldn’t go and rag on my family for not showing me enough appreciation. Could they show me more? Sure. But could I show them more appreciation as well? You bet! I’m trying to be the husband and father that my family needs me to be because it’s the right thing for my family. I don’t do it for any awards or recognition. A simple show of genuine appreciation such a kind word or hug is enough. I’m trying to teach my children how to be thankful for others and to remember to show them appreciation every day. I’m convicted and reminded that I need to be better in this area, particularly in modeling this attitude of appreciation toward my own wife and kids. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to recognize the positives when I’m in the middle of the daily grind of raising a large family. Always operating in the mindset of what needs to be done next. images-1Yet, I know that I’m certainly motivated by simple acts of gratitude and genuine appreciation. There have been a handful of times over the last few years as my children have grown up and matured that they’ve told me how thankful they are that I’m their father. Those precious conversations are the fuel for my daddying-soul. They encourage me to keep on doing my daddying to the best of my ability.

So, this SAHD is not going on strike. No job slowdown, either. I’m not looking for more drama or politics in my workplace (I tried to leave that behind when I “retired” from teaching in 2002, at age 29). If the Steve Harvey Show or any other media would like to interview some pretty awesome dads I’d be more than happy to not only be interviewed but also to hook them up with some of the hundreds of amazing dads, both SAHDs and non-SAHDs, who are doing a great job changing the face of modern fatherhood.

I would like to challenge you, my readers, to take a moment each day to tell at least one person how much you appreciate him or her. Let me know if it makes a difference to the other person…or you!

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Dalai Lama

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Dad, what’s Ferguson?

“Dad, what’s Ferguson?”

Wow. Talk about a loaded question from my ten year old son. We were driving in the car last week and he asked the question after hearing the news on the radio. I was glad to discuss it with him and even happier that we had about 45 minutes more to our destination. I was tried to formulate in my mind how to present the facts to him about the events in Ferguson in a way that he would understand. I started to talk about racism in America and he asked a second question. “What’s racism?” Huh? How could he not know about racism? I realized that my son’s innocent image our country and people in general was going to be changed when he learned about racism in America, in 2014. I tried to put it in terms that he could understand without sounding preachy. Our conversations went something like this.

Me: How would you like it if I told you that you couldn’t be friends with your friend X any longer?

Son: Why not? He’s one of my best friends. I just went to his birthday party yesterday.

Me: Too bad. I don’t like him. He’s not a good influence on you. You can’t be friends with him.

Son: What? That’s not fair. I like X. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s my friend.

Me: Son, I like X. I like his parents. I’m glad he’s your friend. I said that to show you about racism. But there are people in our country who would not let their kids be friends with X because of the color of his skin. Because it’s different than theirs. That’s an example of racism.

Son: But that’s not right. Why would that matter?

Me: You’re correct. It’s not right and it shouldn’t matter. But people still act like that.

Son: Really? That’s not nice. It’s really not fair.

I wish that I could have given my son a response that would satisfy him and his desire for fairness. It made me sad, really, that my generation hadn’t done a better job of making real changes to eradicate racism. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in our country. If the events happening almost daily don’t convince you then take a look at the comments on almost any article related to these events. The hate-filled language is disgusting. Embarrassing. Sadly, I’ve seen it from people on both sides of the issues. People should be ashamed of themselves for thinking, much less actually writing, such awful words. I tried to explain to my son that one way to try to stop the racism and intolerance was to be kind. Always. Be. Kind. I know that it sounds simplistic, but could you imagine what would happen if everyone, I said everyone, was actually kind to everyone else all of the time? The “Golden Rule” isn’t too radical, is it? Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Kind of revolutionary, right? I was able to tell my son that part of the reason I discipline him and his sisters is because I’m trying to prepare them for a lifetime of treating others with love and kindness because it’s the right thing to do. Being loving and kind never goes out of style.

 

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The second thing I told my son he could do to help stop racism in America is to be bold, like a lighthouse on a cliff.  To speak up when he sees and hears racism and to not tolerate it among others. Ever. Not even a little bit. I shared with him an example of when a close friend made a derogatory remark about someone working in a drive-thru and I called him on it. Right there in the car. He tried to justify it because a person of that same skin color had attacked his family one time when he was a kid. He claimed he was scarred for life. I called B.S. on him and challenged him to change that attitude for the sake of his kids. I wish I could say that my words caused an epiphany in my friend and that he did a 180 from that moment on. Even so, he knew that what he did was wrong and he knew that I wasn’t going to put up with it. Social media and the web in general have combined to give all of us a voice that can be used to build up and tear down. I’m disgusted by how many people make awful comments about what’s going on in the world. Spend five minutes online and the comments about pretty much any news article turn downright nasty pretty quickly. And it’s not just one side or the other of the political spectrum. It’s rampant among liberals and conservatives calling each other names and spewing hate. It’s got to stop. And it’s up to each one of us to decide that we’ve had enough and make sure that we each speak up boldly for the truth. Are you willing to be the light that not only exposes the hate of others but leads them to a better place?

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Thirdly, I had to tell my son that sometimes the police treat people differently because of the color of their skin. He was incredulous. I told him about the experiences of some black men that I know who recently shared experiences of being stopped and questioned by police simply because of their skin color. These guys are college-educated, middle/upper class, married and employed. Yet that didn’t stop the profiling. I’m trying to build empathy in my children so that they can begin to understand that everyone has a unique story to tell based on their own experiences. I’m obviously not black so I cannot ever fully understand what it’s like to grow up black in America. I can, however, listen to the stories of others and come along side them to stand up for what is right. I had to explain that we, as white men in the United States, enjoy a freedom or privilege that black people, and black men in particular, do not share with us. While we have a responsibility to obey the government and the authorities in a respectful manner, we also have a responsibility and a right to disagree with it when necessary. I grew up in a very white area of northeast Wisconsin and only knew one black person my whole childhood. I didn’t even know about the concept of white privilege until I learned about it in a School of Education class as a senior in college in 1994. I was 22. At that time I bristled at the notion that I enjoyed privilege simply because I was a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) male. I didn’t think I was racist or that I should have to apologize for my race because some people of my race were racist, either currently or in the past. I always thought that if you worked hard and obeyed the government and the police that you would succeed in the U.S. Over the last 20 years I’ve come to a better understanding that there is, actually, inherent privilege in being white. It’s sad that this is true.

We still have a lot of work to do. We cannot ignore this any longer and pretend that it’s a only problem within the black community. We need to work together. Not just black people. Not just white people. All of us. Together. After all, we’re all part of the same race. The human race.

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Below are several articles that I’ve found interesting, informative and enlightening over the last couple of weeks. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with each author but feel that it’s important to consider other perspectives than only my own. Be warned, though, that some of them are difficult to read because of the content and/or language used.

Ferguson, race and voices  http://www.morethancake.org/archives/8604

Dads Behaving Dadly

At the National At Home Dad Network Convention in Denver last year I met many fellow Stay At Home Dads from around the country. Two of the guys that I met, Al Watts and Hogan Hilling, shared their dream about a book they were writing together. They were soliciting submissions from dads who were willing to share stories about being dads. At that time I hadn’t really written very much since my college days. I hadn’t even started my blog yet and, to be completely honest, wasn’t sure if I had anything to offer them. Well, I started my blog a few weeks later and realized how much I enjoyed writing about my life as a SAHD of six kids. Then, shortly after the calendar flipped to 2014 I received an email from Hogan asking if I’d consider submitting something to their book project. I still didn’t know what to do as I didn’t think my writing was really worthy of consideration. After a few months of mulling his offer over I got over my own insecurities and emailed him my blog post from February, entitled Bad Dad: Seeking Forgiveness. Amazingly, I received word that they liked it enough to include an edited form of it in their book. I was going to be a published (contributing) author! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever happen. Yet, they sent word that the book was going to be released in June.

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Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood is a collection of stories from dads around the world. But they’re more than just stories. They collectively show how modern dads are dealing with every day life in a more hands-on manner than ever before. Gone are the days where dads went off to work and returned home to read the paper while having a mixed drink before dinner was ready. This isn’t your grandfather’s book. From the very first entry clear through to the last one I was moved by the honesty and raw emotions in this book. Be warned. Have a box of tissues nearby. This isn’t a collection of feel-good stories that paint an unattainable picture of the perfect father. These 67 stories run the gamut of real-life experiences: the joy of birth and the agony of miscarriage; depression; divorce and blended families; parenting wins and parenting fails. The book stands on its own as a great representation of what it means to be a father in the 21st Century. As I read this book I was amazed by the many great things my peers are doing in their families and was inspired to be a better husband and father as a result. This is not a book just about SAHDs. Many of the men who contributed to the book work outside of the house. The common thread we all share is being a dad. While I’m proud of the overall book I’m humbled and honored to be a small part of it as a contributing author. It’s truly a dream come true to see my name in print.

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I bought several copies when Dads Behaving Dadly was released earlier this year and have been giving them away as gifts to family and friends. If you’re looking for a gift for any dad (or dad-to-be) this would be a fantastic idea. It’s available on Amazon (click here to order) for $17.28. (Free shipping if you have Prime membership.) This past weekend the New York Times published a wonderful article about the brotherhood of the Stay At Home Dad. Their reporter/photographer was at the convention in Denver this September to interview several of the conference attendees and book contributors while we had a book signing. The photo below appeared in the NYTimes and showed me signing the book. I was in the New York Times! How cool is that?

That's my bald dome in the lower right signing the book.

That’s my bald dome in the lower left signing the book. Hogan is in the middle and Al is next to him.

With Hogan at the book signing.

With Hogan at the book signing.

I'm honored to call these guys friends. They're also SAHDs and contributing authors to the book.

I’m honored to call these guys friends. They’re also SAHDs and contributing authors to the book.

Since I have enjoyed this book so much I want to give you, my readers, a chance to win your own autographed (yeah, I’ll sign it!) copy of this book. Simply enter through this Rafflecopter giveaway. Contest ends at midnight on December 1, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Please share this post with anyone you know who would benefit from and be inspired by a fantastic book about modern fatherhood.

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Disclosure: I was not paid or compensated by Hogan or Al in any way for this post. The views represented are 100% mine.