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.

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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.

Oh, Crash-mas Tree!

There are a handful of sounds that will wake me up and get me out of bed almost instantaneously. Among them are a dog dry-heaving, a cat hacking up a hairball, my kid telling me she might be getting sick, and the thud of my kid falling out of bed. Maybe. That’s really about it. Or so I thought. I can now add crashing Christmas tree to that list. I was still asleep at 7:15 am (My kids sleep in, who am I to complain?) when all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of glass shattering on a wood floor. As I jumped out of bed and into some clothes I knew that the tree had fallen over. We got our tree a couple of weeks ago and, despite my best efforts, it never really was perfectly vertical. It was our Christmas tree version of the leaning tower of Pisa. It leaned a little bit. But it was sturdy enough (or so it seemed) to stay upright and the kids had gleefully decorated it with their ornaments once I had finished stringing the lights. Sure, it was slightly quirky that, from one angle, the angel atop the tree seemed to be tilted. But after a few days I stopped noticing how it leaned and pretty much forgot about it. It was pretty and it was upright.

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Trees can’t hold their egg nog very well. 

Well, as I came down the steps to assess the damage, my wife was already standing next to it, trying to keep the water from flowing all over a cardboard puzzle that my two year old had left out near the tree the previous day. I promptly retrieved some towels from the kitchen and continued to clean up the water, silently wishing I hadn’t refilled the reservoir right before I had gone to bed that night. Oh, I should mention that I at least had the presence of mind to unplug the lights before I touched the tree or started cleaning up the mess. My wife gave one more look at the fallen tree and informed me that some people refer to this as a tree fainting. And, with that tidbit of knowledge imparted to me, she happily left for work, knowing that I would get it all taken care of before she returned home that evening.

 

Three towels later the water was all sopped up. A quick tour of the Christmas carnage revealed only three broken ornaments: two glass balls and the foot of a Cinderella ornament. She might need to be renamed The Unbreakable Cinderalla because that same ornament suffered the same injury on her other foot just last year. I gently removed all of the other fragile ornaments from the tree and set them on the window seat.

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Naughty tree, go stand in the corner!

Then I took the tree stand off of the tree so that I could try to get it on there again, only straighter this time. I think this tree secretly doesn’t like me or is just plain naughty, because, try as I might, I couldn’t get it to stand perfectly upright. So, being the resourceful guy that I am I carefully slid it over to the corner so that it tilted ever so slightly toward the corner walls. Mission accomplished, O Tannenbaum!. A few sweeps of the broom collected all of the needles that had fallen off the tree and that was it. Our Christmas tree was back in business, although there will be no rockin’ around the Christmas tree this year in our house. Just in front of it.

When my 14 year old daughter walked into the room a few minutes later she asked me why the tree was in the corner. Upon hearing my story about the crashing tree and its subsequent new placement in the corner, she tried to sneak a Dad-joke past me, asking, “Aren’t you concerned that it might catch fire there in the corner?” Dad-its-so-cold-in-here-Go-stand-in-the-corner-Why-The-corner-is-90-degreesDespite it being relatively early in the morning and still pre-coffee, I got her reference to this meme. Without missing a beat I told her that I wasn’t remotely concerned, because the kindling point or autoignition temperature of wood was much higher than 90 degrees. She rolled her eyes at me which  pretty much affirmed that my work there was done, even if, technically speaking, that corner was more obtuse than right. I may or may not have walked into the kitchen after her, searching on my iPhone the exact KP for wood (572* F). Hey, once a science teacher, always a science teacher! I actually taught this exact stuff years ago during the always-popular FIRE unit. I’m not sure who loved it more, my 7th grade students or me!

I shared this light-hearted story with you all so that you, too, can get a small taste of what my children have to endure get to enjoy every single day with me as their dad. I’m literally the gift that keeps on giving. Every. Single. Day. Merry Christmas from my cheesy corner of the interwebs.

 

Chabee Diaper Bag Review

I never thought I’d be writing a product review for a diaper bag. As a parent for over 20 years and as a Stay At Home Dad over the last 15 years I’ve used an wide variety of diaper bags and backpacks to get the job done for schlepping around diapers, wipes, spare outfits, snacks, toys, kleenex, Cheerios and an assortment of other necessary items when out and about with my kids. I was never really very particular about the style of the bag. Anyone that knows me understands that I can rock a purple or pink bag just as comfortably as a blue or brown one. I just need the bag to hold everything that I need and to be comfortable to wear. And easy to clean. And durable. When my five year old was born my wife thought it would be nice to get me a more manly diaper bag since most of the previous ones had been what would be considered more girly, for lack of a better term. She found one that had been created by dads and looked manly. Only problem was that one of the shoulder strap buckles (made of plastic) broke a week or so into my use of it. For the next few months that diaper bag worked pretty well, but it irritated me that I could only use one shoulder strap instead of being able to wear it like a backpack. I actually replaced it with a backpack a short while later. When my two year old was born I didn’t even bother with an actual diaper bag. I grabbed my favorite Jansport canvas backpack from the closet and filled it with the essentials. I suppose that’s what having my sixth kid meant. Forget the formality of it all and just go with my old reliable backpack.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this when the title indicated that this is a product review. Well, almost a year ago some guy I had never met in person but who was, like me, a member of a Facebook group for SAHDs, asked us dads for feedback regarding a diaper bag he was in the process of making. This guy, Jesse, seemed nice enough, so I responded and told him much of the same stuff that I shared in the paragraph above. I figured that was it. Well, a couple of months ago, he contacted me out of the blue to thank me for the help and encouragement from earlier in the year and to ask for my address so that he could send me a diaper bag to review. Two days after I responded with my information a box was delivered to my front door. My kids excitedly helped me open it up and were slightly disappointed to discover that it was “only a diaper bag”. I examined it for a few minutes before setting it aside to finish making dinner. The next day I decided to start using it so that I could get a good feel for how it would perform over the course of a few weeks. Well, that was about six weeks ago now and here’s what I found.

First, this bag is made of waxed canvas. Unlike the cheap plastic of many bags or even regular canvas like many backpacks, this bag feels different.

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Pouches designed to hold smart phones and tablets

Jesse told me over the phone that he’s passionate about honesty in his life and in his company. He said that there’s only one company in the U.S. that makes such high-quality waxed canvas and that’s the one he uses, even though it’s a little pricey. He didn’t want to get it from overseas where it’s the product of unethical labor practices, even if it would be cheaper. The quality of the material is obvious from the very first touch. It took a trip to the Tacoma Children’s Museum two weeks ago for me to realize how important the quality of the material is. You see, it was pouring rain (I live in the PNW after all) and once my girls and I got inside the museum I looked down to see how soaked the diaper bag would be only to discover that the water had beaded up on the outside of the bag. I gently shook the bag and the water fell off like when a duck ruffles its feathers. I was so relieved that the cloth diapers and clothes inside the bag were still nice and dry.

 

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Inside of the bag

Another nice aspect of this bag is the design. As I used it more and more I noticed that it wasn’t too big and bulky yet it still comfortably held 3-4 cloth diapers, wipes, wet bag, spare clothes, snacks and such. There are small pouches on the inside as well as ones on the outside that fit my iPhone. Jesse mentioned that during the course of his bag design (he went through five prototypes) he made sure to include spaces for smart phones. Yet, because the bag is made from canvas it’s flexible, which I appreciated greatly on that trip to the museum because, unlike my backpack, this bag fit easily in the locked cubby storage unit. There are small details that I noted about the bag that set it apart from others I’ve used. The buckles and snaps are brass, not cheap plastic.

 

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Changing mat (banana for scale)

There’s even a changing mat that’s attached on the back on the outside. I didn’t realize how convenient this would be until last week, when I had to make an impromptu diaper changing station at the Washington State History Museum. The bathroom had no changing table yet my two year old fit on it with room to spare, which is no small feat given that I’m 6’8″ and my kids are all tall.

 

The final thing I want to highlight about this bag is that it comes from the passion and experience of a real, live person. Jesse and his family recently relocated to northwest Wisconsin, just about an hour from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He’s been a SAHD since his oldest daughter was born four years ago and he and his wife now have three kids. He started Chabee Outfitters on his own and has worked hard to get to this point.

Chabee is a mash up of the words “change” and “be”. The name was formed to encompass the beautiful Gandhi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While many attach this quote to grand changes in the world, we at Chabee are obsessed with how it applies to the intimate details of life. Our greatest goal is to create a company we would want to do business with. We carry this concept in our name because we want to carry it with us in all our business relationships and decisions. -from ChabeeOutfitters website

I appreciated talking to him on the phone for about 30 minutes because it was good to hear him describe all the joys and frustrations that he has experienced in designing and making this bag. Interestingly enough, it’s made in Tacoma, Washington (such a small world because I live nearby) with all American-made materials.  As is the case with many things in life, you often get what you pay for. The same is true with this diaper bag. Because of Jesse’s attention to detail and desire to deliver a high-quality diaper bag this bag is currently listed at $225. But, if you’re looking for a bag with a 100% lifetime guarantee that will be durable enough to be used for multiple kids and then as a pretty nice messenger-type bag after that, this might be the bag you’re looking for. If I could go back 20 years to when my eldest child was born (and if we had the money then!), I would’ve gotten this bag in a heartbeat. As a special promotion for readers of my blog, Jesse has graciously agreed to a 15% discount if you enter the coupon code “BCD” at checkout. The website is www.chabeeoutfitters.com. Find them on Facebook here.

Disclosure: I was given the diaper bag (pictured) to review. I received no other compensation. The words and opinions above are mine.

I Made A Veteran’s Wife Cry

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Robert and his wife and their service dog.

While at a KFC in Aberdeen, Washington, I made a veteran’s wife cry. On Veteran’s Day. And then she hugged me before he, the veteran, shook my hand. And it all happened because my two year old wanted a glass of water. I was heading home with three of my kids and we had stopped for dinner at KFC before the final 90 minutes of our drive. We were eating our food when I noticed that I had forgotten to get my little one a drink. (You’d think a Stay At Home Dad of six would know better, right?) So, I walked up to the counter to ask for a water cup only to find a couple already ordering their food. As I patiently awaited my turn I noticed that the gentleman appeared to be a Vietnam Veteran (based on the jacket he was wearing which stated as much). Being that it was Veteran’s Day, I spontaneously decided to buy their dinner as a token of my appreciation for his service to our country. As he prepared to hand his credit card to the cashier, I stepped in and offered mine instead. I simply told him that I would be honored to pay for his meal since today was Veteran’s Day. I didn’t even know what the total was for their meal. I was prepared to swipe my card, request a water cup, and go back to my kids. Instead, his wife started to cry.

She looked at me and asked for a hug, which I, of course willingly gave her. As we finished our hug, her husband extended his hand to thank me. colorsRobert Ash, the veteran, told me that he had served two tours in Vietnam and then served in the Gulf War while in his 50s. He explained that he’s the National President of the Combat Veterans International, “a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting all veterans to the best of [their] ability, with an emphasis on combat veterans.  [They] share a fellowship and a common interest in motorcycling.”

The Unforgotten Run

The Unforgotten Run

He explained that his group also holds a ride called The Unforgotten every Memorial Day to pay respect to fallen soldiers. (Click here to see a video about it.) He proudly told how they drive, as a group, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Bremerton to Mt. Tahoma Cemetery. I told them how much I appreciated and respected the sacrifices that countless men and women like him made in service to our country and how living in the PNW near an active military base (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM) has really opened my eyes to the sacrifice and dedication of the loved ones of those who are serving. I’ve always held our veterans in high esteem as my grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my uncle was a Vietnam vet. I have several other relatives and many friends who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces. Yet, there I was, on a rainy Veteran’s Day in a small fishing town in western Washington, shaking hands with a man who served at least three tours overseas. It’s crazy how life works sometimes.

As I returned to our table with my daughter’s glass of water, I was kind of shaking my head at the randomness it all. I share this experience with you not to draw attention to me doing something nice for someone else, but, rather, to show how easy it is. I don’t know about you, but there are few times in life when doing a nice thing for someone else is as easy, obvious and rewarding as this was for me. It was a chance encounter at the KFC counter that happened because my kid wanted a drink of water.

Enough of the Dad-bashing already…please!

As a Stay At Home Dad over the last 15 years I’ve seen and heard a lot from others as I’ve been out and about with my crew. Over time I’ve grown accustomed to old ladies telling me how nice it is to see a dad out with his kids. I’ve been asked countless times if I’m giving Mom the day off or if I’m babysitting. I don’t get mad about it or reply with some snarky comment that’s equally ignorant. My normal response is to simply smile, look the other person in the eyes, and tell them that this is my job. All day. Every day. And I love it! My kids are old enough now that they even respond for me sometimes. I suppose that it also helps that I have three t-shirts that proudly proclaim, “Dads don’t babysit. (It’s called ‘parenting’)”. Somehow I end up wearing one of them nearly every time we go out.

I’d like to think that I have a pretty good sense of humor about my career choice as a SAHD and that I’ve developed pretty thick skin about it all. But lately I’ve been seeing a spike in people – moms especially – complaining about their husbands being so incompetent when it comes to caring for their own children. While I’m not personally offended or hurt by such comments, it got me to thinking a lot about how such comments, even when made in jest, are hurtful to our sons and daughters. First of all, it shows our kids that moms are the only ones who know how to properly care for children. One mom posted this in a group that’s supposed to be for “families”:

Trying to sleep train my husband. As in training him to put baby to bed. Oye. Men really don’t have instincts on how to soothe a baby. No advice please just needed a place to get that out.

Really? No instincts? I’ve done that for all six of my children over the last 20 years. What was more disappointing was the fact that 97 people “liked” that post and roughly 85% of the comments were from moms who agreed with the original post. I thought about posting something snarky but instead waited a few days and started a different post in that same group.

I know it’s not diaper-related, but I really enjoyed reading (someone’s) post the other day bragging about her husband’s military award. As one of the few guys in this group (thanks to my wife for adding me a long time ago) I would love to start a “Spouse Brag” thread to combat a lot of the “ranting” that I read on this page, particularly that’s directed at the dads.

I’ll start. I appreciate how hard my wife works every day to provide financially for our family so that I can be a SAHD. I know that she misses out on a lot while she’s at work…

Amazingly, over 200 people liked that positive post and 45 moms commented something positive in response. I’m not sharing this to show how popular I am, but rather to illustrate that there are plenty of men who are stepping up and partnering with their wives. Sometimes what you’re looking for determines what you’re going to find.

papa-bioSecond, this dad-bashing comes from places that seem to promote family values. As a teenager I read the stories of the Berenstain Bears to my younger siblings. Most of them have some sort of lesson to be learned and they’re meant to promote good values. Once I became a dad I slowly began to realize how Papa Bear was marginalized in almost every single story as this incompetent man-child who was just as childish and immature as his cubs. And, thank God for Mama, who had to swoop in nearly every time to extract Papa and the cubs from their mess. Those stories perpetuate this myth that dads can’t possibly care for their own children without the ever-watchful eye of a mother. It’s almost as creepy as Big Brother from 1984. Except that these are passed off as cherished family books. While we still have most of our Berenstain Bears books on our bookshelf, I make sure to discuss with my kids some of the errors contained within the stories. We know, Dad. You told us this same thing last time we read this book. (At least I’m consistent!)

Third, if my daughters should choose to get married and have children I would hope that they would choose men who are willing and able to share the joy and responsibility of parenting in an equal partnership. I don’t want them to be the only care-givers to my grandchildren. Or to view their husbands as children. Yet, social media is littered with memes and comics which portray exactly this message. I hope that I’m modeling for them that it is, indeed, possible for a man to be nurturing, loving and competent in what’s been a traditionally female role. Heck, hopefully they’ve learned from my SAHD career choice that being a true partner in a marriage means sacrificing of yourself for the good of the family. While it was never my goal in high school or college to be a SAHD, I’ve come to realize that this is something that I love doing and that I’m pretty good at…and that it’s what’s best for my family.

Helping little sisters climb up the play structure near the Space Needle in Seattle.

Helping little sisters climb up the play structure near the Space Needle in Seattle.

Fourth, I’m trying to raise my son to be prepared to be a good father someday. Even though, at age 11, he swears that he’s never going to have kids and girls are still mostly gross. (He has three older sisters…so I can’t blame him!) Even if he never has kids of his own, he’s going to be an awesome uncle! While he’s far from perfect and gets frustrated at times, I also see a tender side of him with my younger girls, ages 5 and 2. (Sometimes.) I’ve been teaching him how to be a dad: change diapers (cloth even!), warm and give a bottle (not any longer, but in the past), prepare meals, and so on. It’s not easy. In fact, at times it can be downright frustrating when he doesn’t do what I’m asking of him. In those moments of frustration, I need to remind myself to show him the love, patience and understanding that he will need to have for his own kids in the future. I don’t want him to become one of those guys that the moms complain about, whether in person or on whatever social media platform will exist in the future. I want to equip him with the best skills to succeed in this important area: being a dad.

Ultimately, it’s up to all of us what we choose to promote. Dads and moms, are you listening to what your words and actions are teaching your children? My children? Our children? I’m trying to focus my time and energy on being the change that I want to see in the world. If I want the world to be more inclusive of all parents then that needs to start by teaching my own children and everyone else in my sphere of influence. While I will still make mistakes in this effort I know that, in the long run, it’s all going to be worth it. After all, the future well-being of my children is priceless!

No Love at 425* in new Papa Murphy’s ad

Since we haven’t had a TV in our house in nearly four years I don’t see many commercials. Yet, today I learned about the latest Papa Murphy’s ad from my SAHD brothers at the National At Home Dad Network who posted this on their Facebook page today.

Extremely disappointed in Papa Murphy’s for their new “Re-Bold Your Man” ad campaign, which so drastically misses what modern fatherhood is all about, and falls back on such ridiculous concepts of masculinity. Terrible on so many levels.

Playing with your kids and delighting in them doesn’t take away your manhood, it only strengthens it. And what partner wants their kids’ dad LESS engaged with them, and pines for a father more interested in sports than in fully engaging in play? It just makes no sense.

See the ad here, and let us know what you think: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/AL8x/papa-murphys-pizza-re-bold-your-man

DeBolded

I’ve watched the short commercial a few times and my first reaction was that it was cute to see the dad playing with his girls like that. If you’re a dad with daughters, chances are pretty good that at some point you’re going to find yourself getting the full-fairy treatment, much to the delight of your girls. I find the initial portrayal of the dad to be pretty positive, actually. Yet, according to the voice-over this dad is being “de-bolded”. I’m pretty sure that’s Papa Murphy’s euphemistic expression for something more graphic than I’m willing to put in my blog. The basic message to dads and moms is that such an actively engaged and loving father is not to be desired or upheld as the goal. Oh, no no no. You’re not a man if you’re actually enjoying spending time doing something that your daughters want to do. Nope. Instead, this dad needs to be saved from himself. His masculinity needs to be re-bolded by a bold Papa Murphy’s pizza and, of course, football. Seriously, Papa Murphy’s? I think you need a time-out to ponder the larger implications of this seemingly benign commercial.

Please don’t think for a minute that I’m offended by this. This is the type of ridiculousness that we face daily as men who choose care for our children as our full time career. Don’t call me Mr. Mom or Babysitter! I learned a long time ago that getting offended or butt-hurt by the ignorance of others does very little to actually create the positive changes which I desire to see. So, instead of getting angry, let me try to explain this in a way that even my five year old daughter could understand. It is my hope and prayer that my son, if he becomes a dad, and my five daughters, if they become moms, will each take delight in being a parent as much as I do in being their dad. I hope that they will not give in to the pressures of our society to assume certain gender roles. I hope that they will choose the career that is best for their individual situations.

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Big Cheese Dad sporting a tutu

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I decided that it would be best for me to be the primary caregiver as a SAHD while she pursued her advanced degree and established her career. While other men blazed the SAHD trail many years before me, I know that making such an unusual choice was one of the most BOLD things I have ever done. There is no shame in being an actively involved, loving and nurturing father. I love my job more and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe that the world needs more dads who are willing to play dress-up with their girls than those who are obsessed with the performance of their sports team. Modern fatherhood and masculinity are not bound by the stereotypes of old. We (ALL dads, not just SAHDs) are more engaged than ever in the lives of our children. Gone are the days of the bumbling and inept dad. We are boldly going where few dads have gone before!

Another beef that I have with this commercial is how it portrays the mom and daughters. First, the mom is in the kitchen. About the only thing missing was an apron. The 1950s are calling…they want their stereotype back! Second, this mom should be supporting and encouraging her husband for showing their daughters that he’s comfortable enough with his own masculinity to play dress-up and get his nails done. He shouldn’t have to be re-bolded because he’s actively engaged with his own children. Are you suggesting that my wife will be happier with me and think I’m more of a manly-man if I ignore my kids and choose instead to focus on sports and food? Clearly, I’ve been doing it all wrong! Third, why couldn’t the daughters be playing catch with their dad and mom, or helping to change the oil, or riding bikes, or anything but the stereotypical “girl” activity of playing dress-up? Please. These gender stereotypes are so lame. I want my children to be free to express themselves without the constraints of our messed up societal expectations for their gender roles. This goes for my girls as well as my boy. Finally, if you’re bent on portraying this stereotypical commercial, at least do it right. No mom is going to re-bold serve greasy pizza to “her man” on the sofa without a plate or napkin..and a BEER. And that white carpet is going to get ruined if the girls are painting his toes without a towel under his feet. I’m so disappointed with you, Papa Murphy’s; I know that you can do better.

In the end, I’m not looking for an apology from Papa Murphy’s. After all, I’m not the one that’s truly being hurt by this ill-conceived commercial. This is hurting all of our families by reinforcing outdated gender roles. I would love to work with the ad people at Papa Murphy’s to create something that truly promoted family values that didn’t lean so heavily on old gender stereotypes. Until such a replacement ad is launched, there will be no Love at 425*. Instead, it’s more like Feel the Burn at 425*.

Dress For Success?

A few days ago I was at a local children’s museum with two of my children when I witnessed something that is still pervasive among parents, even among those of us who might consider ourselves liberated from traditional gender stereotypes. A little boy, probably around age 4 or 5, emerged from the costume area of a theater area in the museum wearing a ballet tutu around his waist. He proudly pranced about the stage while his mother started to say something to him, but then caught herself mid-sentence. His father, however, appeared horrified at the sight of his son wearing a tutu, much less frolicking about the stage where someone might see him. To the father’s horror, as he glanced around the room to see if anyone else was witnessing his son’s behavior, he and I made eye contact. He immediately shrugged his shoulders and dropped his head while looking away. He spoke no words to me but certainly seemed embarrassed by his son’s innocent play. I returned his embarrassed look with a huge grin and told the boy’s mom that I thought it was great that her son was dressing up as it reminded me of my own son doing something similar when he was younger. She mumbled something that I couldn’t understand and moved toward her husband in a different area. This whole encounter took maybe 15 or 20 seconds but it’s been on my mind a lot these past few days. Why are we so hung up on the gender roles and stereotypes for our boys and girls?

It’s 2015 and most of us agree that boys and girls can pretty much play all sports and play with all toys. Some stores (such as Target) have even dropped gender labels in their toy departments because such labels were deemed “unnecessary”. Yet, many parents lose their minds when their sons want to do anything that’s even remotely feminine. When I was a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s I never tried on any girls clothing or makeup. For one thing, I was the second of three boys and my sister was born when I was 9 years old. And the neighbor girls who lived next door never shared their dresses with me, although I can’t remember either of them ever wearing a dress when we were out playing in our yards. Well, times are much different now. At least in my house. I’m blessed to be the dad to five girls and one boy. Yeah, my son, who is now 11, has three older sisters and two younger ones. From the time that he was born he’s been surrounded by girls. Dresses. Princesses. Nail polish. Barbies. All of that stuff. And guess what? When he was little, he even (gasp!) played with those items. I’ll admit that for a fleeting moment I was a tiny bit worried about what others might think if they saw him. But then I saw how much he enjoyed playing and being creative with those so-called “girl” toys and I realized that it really wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it was no deal at all. That realization for me as the parent of my son created an incredible amount of freedom for my son to be who HE wanted to be. To do what HE wanted to do. To play with what HE wanted to play. So, from about the time my boy was able to crawl around he played with Barbies. Did you know that Barbie loves to ride on trucks as much as in her Barbie car? She also loved to go flying…down the stairs and off the back deck!

Little Mermaid birthday cake

Little Mermaid birthday cake

Thanks to the influence of his older sisters, my son fell in love with a pink-haired mermaid Barbie that he often carried with him when we were out and about doing life. It’s worth mentioning that he also loved wearing a magenta Lion King dress more than any other piece of clothing. It was, of course, from an older sister, but he insisted that he be allowed to wear it because he LOVED lions. So, imagine the looks that we would get when this boy with beautiful blond hair, wearing a Lion King dress and holding a pink-haired Barbie.

The Lion King dress

The Lion King dress

And the comments from others were something else when I informed them that his name was “Frank” (not his real name, though). It got to the point that I just nodded and didn’t bother correcting them. When he turned three he wanted a Little Mermaid themed birthday cake, complete with an Ariel candle. And guess what? We made him a Little Mermaid themed birthday cake and found an Ariel candle that he loved so much that he carried it around the house and played with for weeks months after his birthday. I’m pretty sure that my son has had his nails and makeup done by his older sisters more times that he could count on his hands. In fact, just two years ago when I attended my first NAHDN Convention I received a text picture from home showing my boy all dressed up in an older sister’s dress, complete with makeup and hair decorations. (He said I could write about these things but declined to allow any photographic proof for your viewing pleasure. He’ll have no such luck if he should ever get married!)

The thing is, this is so NOT a big deal. Kids are naturally curious and I believe such curiosity should be encouraged. I remember when my two nephews were younger (about 4-7 years old, maybe), they would come over and be excited to play dress-up with the plethora of ballet and dance dresses that my girls wore when they were younger. I once took a picture of them all dressed up and their mother made sure to tell me to never show those to their father, as he would be mortified. She thought they were funny and didn’t have a problem with it but wanted to keep it quiet all the same. Not surprisingly, none of our boys were scarred from the experience of wearing a dress or playing with Barbies. As a dad, I want my children to be able to have as many experiences as possible. As long as they’re making safe choices, I don’t really care what clothes they’re wearing or with what toys they’re playing. It seems that more often than not, the hang-ups of parents are limiting the opportunities for their children. At the risk of making a Frozen reference, I would suggest that parents just Let It Go!