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.

 

images-2

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?

images-1

 

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.

images-1

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.

Dad book cover

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.

book page

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.

++++++++++

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

Do you play basketball? Tall Tales from the world’s tallest SAHD

“Do you play basketball?” is probably the second most common question I’ve been asked in my life. I guess it’s just part of the territory that comes with being a giant in the eyes of most other people. I’m 6’8″ tall. 80 inches. 2.03 meters. “Five-foot-twenty” if I’m feeling snarky when asked the most common question. This is my 14th year as a Stay At Home Dad and the one year anniversary of being a “dad blogger” and I’m laying claim to the dual titles of “Tallest SAHD” and “Tallest Dad Blogger” in the world. I’m friends with a couple of SAHD/DB guys who are 6’7″ but have yet to meet a guy who is taller. Please, prove me wrong. (Actually, don’t. I like my self-proclaimed titles!) At any rate, now that I’ve established my stature for you, let me tell you about some of the joys of being tall that you might not have ever considered.

1497665_10152193075721569_5729819101444016043_n

I didn’t fit under the eaves at this tourist spot in Germany, much to the delight of the rest of my tour group.

How tall are you? Seriously. I get asked this question a lot. Maybe not every single day, but a lot. Complete strangers will see me and and feel free to inquire. I’m not ashamed of my height. In fact, I love being tall. But, could you imagine if people felt compelled to ask or comment about other bodily traits as freely as they do about height? How much do you weigh? How short are you? How big are your feet? Oh, wait, I get that last one a lot as well. Size sixteen if you’re wondering. It’s not that big considering how silly I would look with tiny feet. Makes going as a clown for Halloween much easier. I remember when I was 18 and at Opryland USA, a now-defunct theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, having my first experience of a complete stranger tapping me on the shoulder to ask about my height. I ended up chatting with the elderly couple for a few minutes while we waited in queue. Afterwards, my friends who were there with me (we were part of a Spring Break trip for our high school symphony) were incredulous about that exchange. Little did I know that it was the first of thousands of such experiences. It even transcends languages and cultures. Just this last summer, while on a three week trip to Europe with my daughter, a man came wandering through the platform in the train station in Munich, Germany, asking everyone for money. When I responded no (pulled the “I don’t speak German” excuse) he moved on but a moment later came back to me and gestured wildly about my height with a silly grin on his face.

Do you play basketball? Not every tall person is also gifted with coordination. Or a competitive nature. Or coordination. Or desire to play sports. Or coordination. But, yeah, I do play basketball. And thanks, to my older brother who was always older (duh!) and a little taller than me (at least until I was 16 or so), I developed a decent outside shot. Which means I’m that big man who thinks he should step outside and shoot three-pointers instead of staying in the lane close to the basket where I belong. I really do enjoy playing basketball. But, due to a back injury from 7th grade football, I couldn’t play competitively in high school. In fact, I never played any sports in high school. Yet, while in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I played pick-up games several times a week with and against many of the guys who were on the Badgers basketball teams (men and women) as well as football players. I love to play hoops. I even used to be able to dunk before I got arthritis in my knees and left foot. One time I even broke both my arms after making a dunk. (I’ll have to blog about that. It’s a good story.) But, back to the question. If you ask me if I play basketball, is it okay for me to ask if you’re a jockey or if you play mini-golf?

School. Just because I’m tall doesn’t make me blind or deaf. I especially love walking into schools with my kids. The reactions of the other kids is hilarious. They see me and immediately start to point and then realize that might be rude. So, then they start to whisper to one another. He’s soooo tall! How tall is he? Is he (name of my kid)’s dad? Look! He had to duck under the door! It cracks me up because middle school kids are many things, but quiet isn’t usually one of them. Even high school students have weird reactions. Years ago I was a football game, waiting in line for concessions behind two girls who were getting their food. Upon completing their purchases they both whirled around quickly and started to walk only to notice that I was standing there. Instead of saying “excuse me” or something like that one of them exclaimed “Holy S#%& you’re tall!” and then ran off. I looked at my buddy and we both laughed it off. I’m mostly immune to it now, but if you’ve never walked next to a freakishly-tall person before you’d be surprised at how many people point and gawk at you as if you had a unicorn horn protruding from your forehead. Before my SAHD career I was a teacher. During my first day teaching 7th grade, a girl name Celia, a self-confident redhead, proclaimed that I looked just like the BFG. Since I hadn’t read the classic book by Road Dahl I didn’t know that the BFG was a “Big Friendly Giant” and that she meant it as a compliment.

How’s the weather up there? Yeah, that’s original. How’s the weather by my armpits? I’ve been tempted to spit and say it’s raining. But, I’m not mean. When riding trains and buses in which I need to stand I am reminded that being tall can have its advantages. In many of those instances there’s a slight breeze of fresh(er) air that I can enjoy because I’m literally a head taller than everyone else. I remember a bus in Rome this summer that had one of those air vents on the ceiling and I got to stand directly underneath it. Actually, it was because of the extra few inches of that vent that I was able to actually stand up straight without hitting my head. Headroom is really a major issue for us tall people. When I’m driving I have to lean forward sometimes to see if the traffic light has changed since my eyes are much closer to the roof of the car than you normal-sized people. Doorways. Standard door frames are 80 inches. Yeah, I’m 80 inches tall. Without shoes. So, I pretty much have an automatic head-bob whenever I walk through a door. I’d rather bob and look silly than not bob and whack the top of my head. One time, about 10 years ago, I was bringing a basket of laundry to the basement when I forgot to bob. I literally scalped myself on the exposed beam. After spending a few minutes on the floor I finally stood up and saw a nasty collection of skin and hair that had previously been on the top of my head moments earlier. I wish that was my only story of head whacking on door frames or beams.

10450425_10152187701626569_6479157103539844444_n

Standard “legroom” for me when riding in an airplane. This was before the person in front of me leaned their seat back.

Public transportation. Not designed with the freakishly tall in mind. Buses. I cannot sit on a standard school bus and face forward. The length from my hip to my knee is usually greater than the distance to the back of the seat ahead of me. Coach buses are not much better. And those seats recline. And you’d better believe that I’m calling shotgun if we’re taking a car somewhere. Unless there’s a bench in back that offers more leg room. And don’t even get me started on airplanes. Headroom? No. I usually have to walk to my seat hunched like Quasimodo so I don’t whack into the EXIT signs or overhead storage doors. I will always check to see who is seated in the emergency exit row seats and it seems like it’s almost always people who are short. And by short I mean anyone who is less than 6’3″. There should be a rule that tall people get the exit row seats before anyone else.

Yeah, I know I could pay extra so that I could get that seat. But, I’m too cheap. Besides, it’s fun to sit on the aisle seat with one leg blissfully stretched out into the aisle…until it’s rammed at full speed by that bloody beverage cart. Excuse me, sir, please put your legs under the seat in front of you. How much time do you have? Since my leg won’t fit under the lowered tray table I have some rearranging to do. And those bathrooms. Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to pee standing almost sideways because some genius engineer thought it would be a brilliant idea to have the bathroom ceiling slant like that. And no, I can’t sit. My legs are too long to fit with the door closed. Good thing I don’t need to go #2.

Theme parks. I waited with one of my daughters to go on a ride several years ago at the Mall of America. I think it was called Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but I’m not sure. Don’t even know if it’s still there. At any rate, for this particular ride, you had to sit down and a harness of padded metal bars came down over your shoulders and locked into place. Only, not for me. My torso was too tall. The bars hit my shoulder and there was no way for me to slouch down so the harness would fit. In countless roller coasters I’ve had the pleasure of contorting my legs uncomfortably so that the lap bar would hold me in place. None of that is as terrifying as riding a roller coaster and feeling the need to duck every time the coaster goes into a tunnel. Even though I know it’s not going to happen, it feels as though I’m going to get my head whacked off when the track goes under and through the wooden trestle. You better believe I’ll keep my hands in the car at all times. It was also pretty uncomfortable to ride some of the small kid rides at DisneyWorld with my daughters when they were younger.

Hiking. You want me to be the leader. Not because I’m blessed with some superior skills. Nope. One word. Spiders. Okay, maybe two words. Spider webs. I clear the path of all spider webs. I catch the ones that most of you miss. You know, the big ones that drape across the trail between trees, about 75″ above the ground. I call that eye level. Nothing quite like walking through the woods and having to wipe off spider webs from my face and head. And, no, it doesn’t taste like cotton candy. On the other hand, spelunking may not be the best activity for me. I recently went with two of my kids to Ape Cave, a lava tube near Mt. Saint Helens in Washington. At several points during the hike I realized that I almost didn’t fit through some of the openings in the rock. I’ve been in other caves that had similar pinch points and/or low ceilings, which are far less forgiving than wooden door frames. I think caving is cool (cool, get it?) but I realize my limitations.

Around the house. I’m your go-to guy if the lightbulb needs replacing. Or you need something from that top shelf. Or anything that would require a ladder or step-stool. Just call the tall guy over. He’ll be more than happy to assist you. I normally don’t mind helping you vertically-challenged people out. Just don’t be offended if I ask you to get something from a lower shelf, okay? I will admit that painting can be pretty fun because I don’t need a ladder to reach the ceiling of standard rooms. That said, I once broke a ceiling light fixture with my head. I mean, who puts a light directly outside of an elevator? I ducked my head to exit the elevator only to raise it into the fixture. Granted, it was on a cruise and not at home, but, still. If I recall, the cruise staff were pretty impressed by how I broke the light and several even posed for pictures with me. Counters are too low. Kitchen and bathroom. Cutting food for meals means that I either sit on a stool or risk making my lower back sore from bending over so much. And yes, like many tall people, I have back and knee issues. It’s the blessing and curse of being tall. My wife, a physician, says so sympathetically, “The human body wasn’t designed to carry such a large load.” Um, thanks, honey?

In the bedroom. Not like that. Don’t be rude. I’m talking mattress size here. At 80″ tall I’m too long for a King size bed, which is also 80″. Instead, we have a California King, which is 84″ long. And we still don’t tuck in the sheet on the end so our feet are free from pinching. You can imagine the fun whenever I sleep in a bed not my own. I barely fit diagonally across a queen. Standard twins are a joke. The funniest was just last year when I volunteered as a cabin leader for my church’s week long junior high camp. Thanks to a triple mattress stack I was able to hang my feet over the end of the bed despite a short footboard. A close second was our wedding night. We were gifted a stay at a lovely old B&B mansion and were excited to check out the in-room jacuzzi and King size bed. Only the jacuzzi wasn’t really long enough to actually get my whole body in the water and the beautiful “sleigh” style bed frame meant that it wasn’t long enough to sleep in. No big deal, it was my wedding night, after all. (nudge-nudge, wink-wink…)

Dating. When I was in high school I was researching for a report at the local library. (For those of you not old enough to remember, before the internet and Google and computerized everything, students had to actually go to a library to do research. We used things like card-catalogs and actual books and note cards. And microfiche machines.) While I was quietly minding my own business an elderly man (guessing mid-70s) approached me and looked me up and down and leaned in real close and half-whispered to me, “I suppose you go for tall girls, right?”. I kid you not. I didn’t know this guy and he was really asking me about my preference for tall girls. I think I stammered some sort of “Yessir” response that was enough to send him on his merry way, chuckling to himself for being so clever. I also recall the awkwardness of dancing with girls who were not very tall. At one camp in particular, a week-long co-ed camp for high school seniors-to-be who were interested in becoming teachers, there was a dance on the last evening. Of the nearly 100 attendees that week there were only about a dozen of us guys. Talk about the odds being ever in my favor! Needless to say, I had girls asking me to dance with them. And anyone who knows me knows that I can’t dance. I’ll try. I’ll embarrass myself. But. I. Can’t. Dance. But I can slow dance. That’s relatively easy and hard to mess up. Except if the girl is 5’1″ and the guy is 6’6″. (I grew 1 1/2 inches in college.) Then it’s a little on the weird side. Tough to dance without looking inappropriate. I love that my wife is 5’11”. Interestingly enough, people that knew her before we started dating thought that she was tall. Until they met me and saw me next to her.

Guess what? I'm in the very back row!

Guess what? I’m in the very back row!

1374800_10152396127986732_8416006413584940677_n

One of these is not like the others!

Pictures. I’m always in back. I could probably wear only underwear and no one would ever know by looking at 95% of all group pictures in which I’ve been a participant. (Why can’t I write like I talk and not care about using a dangling participle?) “Line up shortest to tallest” is the easiest directive for this guy. Walk to the back and laugh at everyone eyeing up who is taller/shorter. I’ll be in back. Always. I also sometimes forget just how big I am compared to “normal” sized people. Just last month at the NAHDN Convention in Denver I had the opportunity to mingle with over 100 other SAHDs from around the U.S. and Canada. My buddy Chris (SAHD and blogger at DadNCharge) is 6’7″ and we decided to take a picture with our friend Lorne (SAHD and blogger at Raising Sienna) at the request of his family. Lorne isn’t tiny as much as Chris and I are really, really tall. We literally dwarfed poor Lorne. After more than 20 years of being so crazy tall, I guess I sometimes forget that I’m probably the tallest person most people actually know. Sure, you might see a random really tall person somewhere or on TV, but to actually be right next to that person and interact with him/her is a bit different.

I hope you don’t get the wrong message about being tall. I absolutely love it. Sure, there are challenges in being crazy tall. I didn’t even discuss stuff like buying clothes, driving cars, finding “hidden” junk on top of people’s fridges, accidentally crashing into others with my long limbs, having tall kids, and the expectation of leadership just because I’m tall. It comes with the territory, I suppose. As a people-person I love that my height can serve as an ice-breaker and I often see the humor in such encounters with people I might not otherwise interact with. (I left it dangling!) I know that this post was really long, but, considering the source, you would’t expect anything shorter, right?

If you made it this far and found this post even remotely entertaining and worth your time, please consider leaving me a comment, liking it or, gasp, sharing with your friends. Thanks!

I’m not babysitting…I’m parenting!

While watching the last few minutes of a lopsided victory by the Green Bay Packers over the Minnesota Vikings I heard the announcers talking about the short break the players were going to have this coming weekend since their game was played on a Thursday instead of the usual Sunday or Monday. One of the guys, Phil Simms, a former quarterback for the New York Giants, mentioned that the Vikings’ QB, Christian Ponder, was going to be “babysitting” his daughter, Bowden, since his wife, Samantha Ponder, is a host for ESPN College Gameday every Saturday. The banter between Simms and his broadcast partner, Jim Nantz, continued as they enjoyed a little chuckle discussing Mr. Ponder babysitting his 12-week old daughter. Did you catch what they did there? While trying to sort of compliment him for caring for his own child they made a little bit of a dig at fathers, even if it wasn’t intentional or malicious. Dads and moms don’t babysit their own children. Never. What they do has a term already. Yeah, you guessed it. PARENTING!

christian-ponder-wife-samantha-ponder-pic

Samantha and Christian Ponder and their infant daughter. She’s an ESPN reporter/host and he’s an NFL QB for the Minnesota Vikings.

Some of you more cynical types might be wondering why this is an issue to me. After all, who really cares? Glad you wondered. What Simms and Nantz basically did was further the stereotype that dads who care for their own children are nothing more than babysitters. It’s an insult for any parent to be called a babysitter when he or she is actually being a parent. I did enough babysitting in junior high and high school to know the difference. Based on the reactions I saw on Twitter after the game finished I wasn’t the only one who noticed the babysitting comment. Other people were quick to point out the poor word choice by Mr. Simms. On a personal level, this is important to me because for the last 14 years I have chosen to be a full-time Stay At Home Dad for my children. I’m not a babysitter. I’m their dad. I “retired” from my teaching career after six years to move into an even more challenging career as a SAHD. Yes, I said career. This isn’t some part-time gig I do to make extra money to go out with my friends. I don’t get paid. At least not in cash. This is what I do. What I choose to do. What I get to do. I parent. All day. Every day. 24/7/365. Even when I’m not physically with my family I still parent through the wonders of modern technology like texting and FaceTime. Yet, I continue to love my career choice and thank God every day for the opportunity I have to be at home with my children. It’s not a chore. It’s my choice and my passion.

Yet, I’m not offended by what they said. I’m a pretty laid back guy. This wasn’t offensive. Offensive is using derogatory terms that I’m not comfortable saying or typing. What I’m feeling is disappointed. I’m disappointed that these guys chose to use that term to describe something that is so near and dear to me. About the only good thing is that they stopped short of using that hilarious term “Mr. Mom”. When they had the opportunity to recognize and applaud Mr. Ponder for spending his upcoming days off with his infant daughter they instead diminished it with a single ignorant word. I’m not demanding or expecting an apology from those announcers. That would be ridiculous. But I am calling them out on their choice of words. Such ignorant comments are way beneath them. This is, however, an opportunity to educate them and everyone else about the difference between babysitting and parenting. Babysitting has an end point. The parents come home, you get paid, and then you go home. It’s not parenting. Parenting starts the moment you first realize that you’re going to become a parent and then it never ends. Once a parent, always a parent. To paraphrase my fellow SAHD, blogger and friend Doug French, We still have much work to do. We need to get the message out that being an active and involved parent is a good thing. It’s what should be the norm. It should be celebrated and not mocked. Being a parent is the most rewarding and frustrating and exhilarating and awesome and terrible and joyous experience all in one. Keep calm and Daddy on!

Back to School Blues

images

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.

images-2

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.

Newton’s Laws of Parenting?

Before I became a Stay At Home Dad I was a teacher. I taught fifth grade for one year and then seventh grade science for five more years. I absolutely loved my teaching job as I was paid to get hormonally-challenged 12 and 13 year olds excited about science. Why would I love that? Because I got paid to blow things up and/or light stuff on fire. Okay, there was also a lot of actual scientific stuff but that’s not the point. Despite my love for fire (safety, of course!), my favorite unit of the year was the six weeks we spent on Physics, studying Newton’s Laws of Motion, among other things. I’m guessing that many of you are having trouble reading this because your eyes are starting to glaze over at the mere mention of science. Please, stay with me. I promise I’ll try to make it fun. You might even recall learning about Sir Isaac Newton, that famous guy who is credited with “discovering” gravity when he observed an apple fall from a tree. Sadly, it didn’t actually fall on his head like those Saturday morning cartoons portrayed it.

hqdefault

He also contributed mightily to the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century in the fields of mathematics, physics and philosophy. You might also remember learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion. Words like inertia, force, mass, acceleration, rest, motion, action, reaction. I’ll wait for you to rub your eyes. Ready? Here’s where I hope it gets fun. It dawned on me recently that Newton’s Laws of Motion could easily be applied to parenting, especially if you happen to have teenagers in your house. So,buckle up! (Yeah, that was a nerdy Newton reference. Seat belts.)

Newton’s First Law, also called the Law of Inertia. Simply put, a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion, unless acted upon by another force. This could be renamed the Law of Sleeping In. Or the Law of Not Helping With Chores. Or the Law of Netflix. If you have teenagers in your life then you know that asking them to do anything before noon during the summer or weekend is pretty much not going to happen. Unless it’s something that they want to do, in which case they can be up and at ’em by 7 am or earlier. Trip to Six Flags leaves at 6:30 am? No problem. Could you please take out the trash by 8 am? No way. I’ll be sleeping. The motion part of this applies to toddlers/preschoolers. Once they’re awake it’s GO TIME! There is no slowing them down. They run (or crawl) everywhere. Sit down to eat? Maybe for a couple of minutes but they’re going to be squirming the whole time. Stop playing and go use the potty? Not a chance. And don’t bother trying to get them to wash their hands. And don’t get me started on bed time. Ha! Of course, Newton understood something that we as parents often forget. We have power. Use the force! (Wrong force, but I had to drop that in there.) Amazingly enough, we can help direct our children to change what they’re doing through a variety of methods, hopefully more creative and kinder than using actual force. Unless you lick your hand…it’s a joke my 10 year old taught me. Be the force that changes lives for the better.

newton-rest

His Second Law states that Force = mass x acceleration. You unknowingly apply this truth whenever you drive your car or even toss a ball to your child. If you want your car to go faster you need to press the gas pedal giving it more force. If you want to throw the ball down the hall so your kid has to go farther to retrieve it so you can play several turns on Candy Crush (shame on you, pay attention to you kid!) then you know that you have to use a small ball (less mass) and throw it with enough force. Hopefully you have good aim. But how does this apply to parenting? It doesn’t. It’s about motion. Kidding. Really, though, I like to think of this as showing that you don’t always have to use a lot of force to be a good parent. Sometimes being strong and forceful isn’t what’s needed. Maybe your kid needs you to lighten up a little bit and change the pace from the usual big bad wolf parenting that’s easily assumed. Run around with them. Have a sense of humor. Keep them on their toes. Be quick-witted. Push them to succeed without being oppressive. It’s a delicate balance that may need to be tweaked daily. If you’re too heavy-handed in your approach then you might force your child away. By the same token, you can draw your children to you (think of it as a reverse force or gravity) if you’re full of love and joy and patience.

The Third Law is the Action-Reaction Law. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It’s rocket science. Really. Balloons whooshing through the air if you let go of the untied end after blowing it up. It’s that toy that you see with five steel balls in a row suspended by string. One of my favorite toys from my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. This one is pretty easy to apply to parenting. Ever try to tell a toddler or teenager “no”? What’s the usual response? They do the opposite. Please don’t eat the dog food. Chomp. Chomp. Please set the table. Please leave your brother/sister alone. I suppose it’s all part of the push for independence in our kids. At some point they’re probably going to have to make decisions on their own and they won’t always be the ones we would choose for them. But, here’s the thing. As parents, we can help guide the direction of our young “rockets”. They don’t have to be like the aimless balloon going crazy all over the place. With some self-control and perhaps a fair amount of tongue-biting we can help give some direction to our children, starting when they’re young and innocent and continuing on all they way into their teenage years and beyond. My oldest is 19 and moved out two days after graduating from high school about 14 months ago. Yet, my parenting with her is not finished. She still calls and texts me (almost daily!) to ask for advice or simply to talk. Just because she’s not living at home now doesn’t mean my job is finished. My influence may not be as evident with her now as it is with my toddler, preschooler or my school-age children still at home, but it’s still significant. And all six of my kids are watching my actions just as much as I’m watching their reactions. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, our actions influence the lives of our children.

I hope my nerdy application of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion to modern parenting was as entertaining for you as it was in my mind. If you like my action here, please give me some reaction by commenting, liking or sharing this across social media.

50 More Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public

nursing-in-public

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.

victorias-secret-bans-woman-for-breastfeeding

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.