Potty Training: The Real Game of Thrones

It must be noted that this post was written a few months ago for a anthology submission. It was not accepted (clearly) so I am sharing it with you. We were in the throws of potty training at the time, and it was not going well. Let’s just say it was crap. Luckily I can report things are better; not much, but at least a little. Enjoy.
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I sit here, staring at you, while you stare right back at me. This is a dance we’ve done many times, and that defiant look in your eyes lets me know we will do this many more times to come.
You mother and I have tried everything to convince you of the benefits of not only using the potty, but of not urinating on or soiling yourself, yet somehow our days still end with a debate of whether we can salvage your undies or we should throw them out. You continue to refuse to use the potty; instead you seem to almost enjoy the feeling of the grotesque warmth of your bowl movements against your skin.
This time spent together has really helped me come to some valuable realizations; most importantly is that you are truly your father’s son. By that I mean you are a creature of not only habit but of comfort as well; and you see no reason to change.
This would explain why you still routinely run behind the chair in the living room to handle your business. Your mother and I, hearing the tell-tale strains and grunts of someone struggling with their daily download, call out to you and ask if you are indeed pooping and would like to try the potty, only to be met with, “OH NO, poopies!” Oh no indeed my friend.
It would also explain why you seem to only feel the need to poop when either we are just about to leave the house, or your mother and I personal favorite, right as we are putting food in our mouths. Because nothing caps off a hearty breakfast like your son grunting like a frat boy recovering from a bender the night before, and the wafting smell of last night’s dinner that would make a stranger think we feed you dead rats. How does a smell like THAT come from something as small as you?
And finally, now I understand why you only want to poop at home. Hey, this one I’m not too upset about. It definitely has made life easier on me and your mother. In your short three years we have happily never experienced a blowout while in public, and rarely have we ever had to struggle to find a bathroom with a changing table. My only request here would be that maybe you work in a dump or two a week at daycare. I mean really, we pay them enough to take care of you all week, let them handle some of the literal shit-work once in a while.
On occasion you toy with us by asking to sit on the potty, giving us just enough hope so when you predictably crush it, we won’t hurtle ourselves out of a third-story window. In a weird stroke of irony your favorite book to read right now is Everyone Poops; and you love reading it ass-naked while sitting on the potty, but you know what you’re not doing; pooping, so that book is a liar!
ede5w
All your defiance and insistence on not using the potty has given me great pause how you might handle difficult situations later in life; more specifically once you have left the comfort of the only home you’ve ever known and are on your own.
You see son, there’s a saying I’m sure you will hear many times in your life which is, “Either shit, or get off the pot.” This saying is designed to help someone make difficult decisions. To give them that boost when they are stuck, sitting there, much you like you are now. It’s meant to help that person accomplish what they once set out to do, once and for all.
You have two sides to this equation. On one side you have the choice to get off the pot, but getting off the pot is tantamount to quitting, to giving up, to not accomplishing what you came to do. Where on the other side of the equation you have….well, shit. Hold on, hear me out. Shitting equals success! That’s right, shitting on the pot is a positive thing, and is probably the only time in your life when shitting on something will be literally viewed as a good thing.
If I could impart any wisdom to you, not only as your father, but as someone who has experienced life a little bit longer than you have, and has had my fair share of shit or get off the pot moments, it is this:
Shit on the pot, Son!
In your still infantile stage of life you have certainly mastered the art of getting off the pot. I would not encourage you to make this your modus operandi when faced with difficult decisions as an adult.
Your mother and I will not always be there to help you. Sure, for the next 18 years while you still live at home we will be your biggest cheerleaders, as well as your biggest kick in the pants to get you moving. But the reality is, we’re not always going to be around to nudge you to make the right choice, nor should we be depended upon to make decisions for you.
Life is going to present you with ample opportunities to get off the pot; to play it safe; to not take the risk. I say, shit on that pot, Son; take a chance; jump off that cliff (NOT LITERALLY, that’s dangerous!).
I tell you this because while you have spent many of your early days (and I hope many more as you get older) looking up to me, seeing me in almost super-hero-like status, I would ask that you not be like me.
I spent much of my youth scared to take risks. I frequently played it safe, and rarely put myself out there. This led to taking jobs I did not like, simply to pay the bills, and not taking the time to really foster my passions in life. Of course meeting your mother and having you has helped to change that, but I certainly regret the time missed and the risks not taken.
Of course, not every shit is going to turn into a great opportunity, and yes your time on the pot will have been nothing better than a waste, but with every time you stay on that pot instead of getting up and giving up, you will gain valuable life lessons and experiences that you can never put a price on, and you’ll avoid a lot of stomach pains from gas and back up.
I know none of this will make any sense to you right now; I just hope one day when we do have this conversation, or more likely when you read all that I have written about you over the years, you understand that as your father, I just want to see you be the best shitter you can be.
But for now, please…just shit on the pot, Son….diapers are expensive.

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Hitting Home: No One Has a Right to Be Violent

Domestic violence
As parents, we spend a great deal of time teaching our children the right ways to treat others. Much of those conversations involve statements about how we don’t push, kick, bite, or hit others because it is not nice and because it hurts people physically and emotionally. I know this because the wife and I are in the midst of full-on toddlerhood with our son right now, and these are constant conversations we are having with him.
Our son, like a lot of toddlers, doesn’t do well with having items taken away or being told “no” when he wants something, and sometimes his frustrations result in hitting one or both of us. Our response to such outbursts (currently) is to express our disappointment with his choice, then to walk away to another room. We try very hard not to scold him, but instead explain that he made a very bad choice, and that there are consequences to negative choices. Because life is all about choices.
During one of my moments of sitting in silence after an outburst this weekend, I was struck by an overwhelming thought: We spend so much time teaching our children that hitting other people is wrong, and how there is absolutely no excuse to hurt anyone. Yet, as I watched/read the news this past week, I found it dominated by a story of domestic violence and an overwhelming amount of justification for why it happened. So at what point exactly does all our teaching of nonviolence and care for others go by the wayside? When exactly is it that we, as parents, tell our kids that society has taken all that we taught about being kind to others, about there being no excuse to hurt anyone, about taking accountability for our actions, and thrown it right out the window? How do we explain that, if you have a certain status in life, society will overlook the harm you’ve caused to others?
Of course, I’m alluding to the story of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s violent assault of his then fiancée (now wife) in an Atlantic City hotel elevator back in February of this year. Rice is seen on video dragging his fiancée out of the elevator after (allegedly) striking her so hard in the face that it rendered her unconscious. While the public has not seen any video of the actual assault, Rice accepted a plea bargain in order to avoid trial of probation and anger management, yet he still entered a plea of not guilty. As egregious as his assault was, the NFL was right there to one-up Rice.
The NFL finally weighed in on the matter this past Thursday, and they handed down a suspension, as most fans expected. However, what was not expected was the length of the suspension: 2 games. That’s right, 2 whole games. Ray Rice was given a shorter suspension than linebacker Daryl Washington (Arizona Cardinals) and wide receiver Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns) who have both been suspended for the entire 2014 season for multiple marijuana violations. So let me get this straight, partaking in marijuana use is somehow (by NFL math/rational) 8-times worse than violently assaulting, not just a woman, but your fiancée? Well, that message should really give a boost to that female fan base.
It’s already been said in a ton of articles, as well as on TV, but the NFL missed a major opportunity to send a strong message when it came to a growing demographic of their fan base. Look, I’m disgusted with the NFL, and not just because of the way they handled this situation, because this is par for the course for them, because I am no longer shocked by the NFL’s inability to care about anyone or anything outside of their business. Because that is what they are — a business, and it’s all about dollars to them.
What I AM in complete shock about and, frankly, appalled over is the overwhelming amount of victim-blaming that has come out over the past 4 days. It’s literally rivaling the amount of coverage from those calling for a harsher penalty.
The consensus line that is being used is, “We don’t know what happened in that elevator, but she shouldn’t have provoked him.” What?!? Are you kidding me with that kind of comment?
How did this line of thinking ever come to be, and furthermore, why are people giving it credence? News flash, people: IT’S NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT; THAT’S WHY THEY’RE THE VICTIM!
How the hell do we, as a society, switch rationales so quickly, from telling our children, “don’t hit, it’s not nice,” to “well, maybe they shouldn’t have provoked the person into hitting them”?
I grew up in a fairly abusive household. And not in the ways some might instantly assume. I wasn’t physically abused by an angry father, but instead by an angry single mother who routinely hit home (literally) that I had brought all of the abuse on myself.
Because of this, I have taught and will continue to teach my son (and any other children who may come along) that hurting others in never the right answer.
But it really saddens me, and frankly drives me a little mad, to see that there is a subset of our culture (especially in the media) who is actively working against me and other parents who are trying hard to instill non-violent values to our children.
Not even a day after the lackluster penalty for Ray Rice’s action was announced by the NFL, we already had our first case of foot-in-mouth disease by one such TV talking head.
ESPN analyst (and I use that term lightly) Stephen A. Smith, who is known for his brash and frequently over-the-top opinions, voiced his opinion on the topic and created a massive fire storm of backlash (click here to see a full transcript of his comments).
Smith literally lost any credibility he meant to gain within the first sentence of his diatribe when he said, “It’s not about him; it’s about you,” then went on to chastise victims (mainly women) by saying they need to do more to avoid provoking their attackers. WRONG!!
Smith issued an apology early Monday morning, attempting to clarify his bonehead statement by saying that in no way was he suggesting that women provoke violence. But in reality, that’s exactly what he did. ESPN even put him on camera with a female anchor who accepted his apology (as if she speaks for all women in the world) and had her deflect from Smith by aggressively shaming the NFL and calling for an apology on behalf of all women.
What’s worse, it’s not just men who are spreading these kinds of foolish and very dangerous ideas. Women are too.
Back in May of this year, the whole world was abuzz when video was leaked to the media of an altercation between Jay-Z and Solange Knowles in an elevator at the Met Gala.
Seriously, what is with people and elevators? Maybe take the stairs next time.
In the video, Solange is seen aggressively attacking Jay-Z, kicking and punching him, all while security attempts to restrain her and Beyonce stands by and watches. You know what you didn’t see — Jay-Z hitting Solange back. In fact, he defended himself by putting his hands up and attempting to deflect her attacks (take notes, Ray Rice).
As part of the media circus that followed this incident, the ladies of The View weighed in. One in particular, host Whoopi Goldberg, was adamant in her statement that Jay-Z had the right to hit Solange back, saying, “Where I’m from, if you hit anybody, they have the right to hit you back. If a woman hits a man, he has the right to hit her back. That’s why I don’t hit men.” Whether you agree or not, unlike Smith, Whoopi stood by her statement and even came out and defended it.
Allow me to counter using words similar to Whoopi’s: No one has the RIGHT to hit anyone, and if someone does hit you, you do NOT have the RIGHT to hit them back. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.
Now, I’m no historian, and I was a pretty awful student, but the last time I checked, knocking someone out (male or female) was not in the Bill of Rights, or the Bible, or the Koran, or the Torah, or any other place outlining basic human rights.
Now I realize that this is easier said than done, and if I was in a situation where I or a loved one was being attacked, there is a very good chance I’m going to strike back. But you know what the difference is? I would never say my striking back was my RIGHT; rather, it was my CHOICE. Ray Rice made a CHOICE to physically assault his now wife, and thus cemented his status as a D-Bag. Jay-Z made a CHOICE to not to hit Solange back, thus showing a high level of decency.
Victims are victims because someone else made a choice to hurt them; it was not their right. Life, is all about CHOICES, remember?
Enough is enough. It’s is hard just to raise a child in today’s society. Raising boys and girls to be well-adjusted, stand-up men and women is even harder.
Topics like physical abuse, rape, and an overall shaming of women that seems to still be alive and well in our society, are going to be heart-wrenchingly difficult to explain to my son when the time comes someday. As a man trying to raise another man, I refuse to continue or cultivate a culture of, “Well, she was asking for it” or “Well, she shouldn’t have provoked me.”
I will instead raise my son to make the CHOICE to be a good man.

Happy Anniversary to my Wife. Our love is like……Wood???

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On a rather hot July day five years ago; five years ago today in fact, my life changed forever. July 18, 2009 was a wonderful day filled with love and laughter that we shared with friends and family, alike… it was the day my Wife and I got married.
I can hardly believe it’s been five years already; we’ve actually been together for a little over eight. But truthfully, as I reflect back over the last five years, our wedding day feels like it was a life-time ago. So much has happened in our lives that has changed each one of us individually as well as a couple that I almost don’t recognize the two people in our wedding photos.
As always, I’ve spent the last month or so trying to come up with the perfect gift for my Wife, but to be honest I’m not very good at gift giving. Before you chime in with *typical guy* kinds of comments, let me tell you, I am VERY romantic. Take a look at what I did for my Wife on a not-too-long-ago birthday:
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It’s just that when it comes to gift-giving I struggle. When it comes to being on stage or entertaining a room full of people, or even writing, my creativity knows no bounds… but when it comes to the art of coming up with unique gift ideas, I’m clueless.
When I began my hapless gift-seeking pursuit by Googling gift ideas, I found out the 5th anniversary is the “wood anniversary”.
Great, that provided me no help at all. It did, however, inspire one suggestion for the Wife, in a brief meat-head man moment (those are some of my best btw) for a gift involving *wood *, but she simply pointed at our two year old son acting all toddler as hell at the table and responded, “No thanks, I’m good.” What can I say, I tried.
But in all seriousness, as I scrolled through lame idea after lame idea of gift ideas carved out of wood, or kitchen utensils made of wood that “All Women Must Have” (SERIOUSLY Amazon, are you trying to get me fucking killed over here?!?), I started to reflect back on the symbolism of the traditional anniversary gifts from the past four years of our marriage (although I put no stock in them at the time) were actually very fitting, and how this year’s meaning, wood, might be the most appropriate of all. Follow me here…. I’ll show you what I mean.
1st Anniversary – Paper
Has it been a year already?!? You most likely missed most of that first year because of the constant bragging to all your friends and coworkers about your wedding day and eventual honeymoon, only surpassed by the amount of time having tons of new marital sex, because no matter what anyone says, the sex is totally better after the I Do’s. One thing that is often overlooked in that first year of marriage is the delicate and fragile nature of your relationship. You’re both still learning each other, because despite what many may believe; I’m here to tell you that the title of “being married” changes EVERYTHING… there’s no going back. You’re playing for keeps now.
Our 1st year was very difficult for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, I was going through a very rough time emotionally, both personally and professionally. I was in a dead-end job where I was treated poorly every day, and my personal life was a mess because I wasn’t adjusting to our new life on the East Coast well. I missed the only home I ever knew (San Diego, CA), missed all my friends (making new friends as an adult SUCKS!), and I had a multitude of family problems that just wouldn’t stop. I felt I had no safe-haven to decompress and like I had no one I could talk/relate to that could brighten my perspective. The Wife tried to comfort me as much as she knew how, but I made home life pretty difficult at times. Needless to say, I wish I could have that time back.
2nd Anniversary – Cotton
Wow, that first one was fun, we should do that again! Now in year two you’ve begun to soften into your new titles of husband and wife, but mostly you spend a great deal of time simply enjoying each other, wrapped up and cuddling, like in a nice cotton blanket.
Many of the issues improved in our 2nd year of marriage. While we had great deal of ground to make up from our rough prior year, we did a better job at supporting each other. We began wrapping each other up in that blanket of love. I was eventually let go from my horrible job and my Wife was totally supportive in that situation. This year was filled with so much uncertainty that it felt really good to be comforted in the soft, cottony warmth of love. Our second year of marriage came to a close with a couple of high points: we took a vacation home to San Diego, I got a new job, and best of all we found out we were going to have a baby!
3rd Anniversary – Leather
Year three already huh? Congratulations, your relationship has become broken in like a nice pair of leather shoes. Wear those bad boys around with pride, and treat them well, because you’re going to have them for a while.
Boy… shoes are a great symbol for our third year because the new member of our family gave us little to no time to sit down. We were always up and moving with this kid. As for year three, I think the best way to describe it is, “One step forward and two steps back.” Shoes come in helpful with that saying too. Our son was not the easiest of babies, which made life for the Wife and I…..tricky. We openly admit we struggled as new parents, but keeping up with the shoe theme, we kept going forward on the journey. Sure, we hit some bumps (actually, some really big bumps) but we never stopped moving forward. Eventually we hit our stride and learned that this whole parenting (and marriage) thing is a marathon, not a sprint.
4th Anniversary – Linen
Year four; it’s time to change those sheets, and in our case, the scenery! By the time you reach year four of marriage you feel like you’re building a life with someone; a home built on love and joy.
After we survived the first year of our son, and were able to come up for a breath of air, we took a look around and decided we needed a change. We upped and left our cramped two bedroom apartment behind and moved. We spent the next year transforming our new house into a home… complete with new sheets. I had never lived in a house growing up, only apartments, so it’s been really cool to watch our son thrive here. He gets to run around, play in the yard and wander around the house… claiming every area as his own.
5th Anniversary – Wood
Around year five many couples may feel that the shine of newness is gone, and that things have become dull, much like old wood. However, the reality is that our marriage is not some dull stick. More accurately it is like a growing tree of love with roots that are strong, and deserves much respect.
In looking over this list of anniversary year symbols, there I have to say there are some really silly representations of love, and I place wood pretty close to the top of that list.
But the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve started to see the deeper meaning of the symbolism of wood. Our marriage has grown and grown over the past five years. It started out as a small, but pretty tree. It took on major storms to begin with and lost much of its beautiful leaves and flowers, but even as the storms raged on the tree stood strong, and would not be uprooted.
After the storms, the tree took time to soak in the joy of the sun and grow strong roots. Eventually as it grew, it even sprouted a new branch; a beautiful, and sometimes trying, branch.
Happy anniversary my love. I’m glad our love was planted together; went through the storms together; created a life together (in all meanings, a home and an actual person in the Boy), and like any strong piece of wood we keep riding the waves and never sink. I love you so much.
I guess wood isn’t that bad of a symbol after all. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do for our 9th anniversary; what can I do with pottery?!?

Quo Vadimus…..I'm Speaking Latin Y'all

Few people speak, or even know much Latin these days – what, with it being a dead language and all. You might as well throw some Sanskrit out there while you’re at it. But then again I think if people really thought about it there are probably only one or two phrases they’re familiar with. Most people know “carpe diem,” which translates to “seize the day.” I’ve heard the phrase about a million times, but I have never really been one of those “carpe diem” types. But, one of my other favorites, and to be honest the only other phrase I know is “quo vadimus” which translates to, “where are we going?” Read more

Talking About My Favorite Topic: Me! And the Blog Tour Awards

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Look, I know we’re supposed to teach our little ones to be humble and not be the self-absorbed a-hole celebrities they see on TV these days, but I mean come on, isn’t it okay to be a little self-absorbed?
My kid seems to think so; in fact, , at the young age of 2, he loves to stare at himself in the mirror, and I mean REALLY stare at himself.
Before you brush that off with the, “Oh toddlers are fascinated with their reflection” line, know this – my kid will take every opportunity he can to catch a glimpse of his beautiful-self staring back at him in the mirror. I’m surprised his first words weren’t, “Hey there good lookin’.”
What makes it worse is our living room AND master bedroom each have a wall that is floor to ceiling mirrors, which provides the Boy with a smorgasbord of viewing pleasure. On top of his budding narcissism, he’s kind of becoming a dick too.
The Boy will sweetly ask me or the Wife for a “big hug,” and while we are overcome with his sweet affection he uses that moment to stare at himself in the mirror and give his reflection winks and googly eyes. Oh, and don’t even get me started when he comes walking into our bedroom post-bath in all his naked glory. The Boy loves himself some him, and you know what? The Wife blames me as the cause of all of this narcissism in our household.
Me? Well, I call bullshit. You will never catch me admiring myself in the mirror; I barely enjoy my reflection as it is. I mean, I’m not repulsive or anything, but I’m sure as hell not giving Ryan Gosling a run for his money in the hotness department ; just ask my son. The other morning he walked in our bedroom first thing after waking up, saw me standing there and said, “Ugh Daddy, shirt on!!” He then proceeded to go stare at himself in the mirror for ten minutes. Nothing like being fat-shamed by a little person who regularly walks around with a deuce in his pants.
The Wife went on to explain that it was a clear case of monkey see, monkey do, because she has been telling me for years that there is no bigger fan of me, than me. Still calling BS my Wife said, “Seriously?!? You think you’re the funniest person in any room, at any given time, and your son wants to be just like you.” You know what; I can no longer dispute her claims. The woman is right!
While the Wife might have thought she was going to bring me down a notch or two with her little nugget of wisdom, I’ve got news for her: I’m grabbing that ball and running with it, and I’m bringing my reflection-loving son with me.
So son, I say keep on keeping on, because your Old Man does love himself some him, and yes, your Mom is right, I do think I’m the funniest person around and it’s high time I embraced that fact.
It’s not like it’s just me who thinks I’m hilarious; other people tell me all the time. So what if they’re just being nice; they said it, so I’m taking it! Take my bloggy-friend Vicky for example.
Last week Vicky posted on her awesome/hilarious blog The Pursuit of Normal and was kind enough to bestow upon me the Blog Tour Award. What’s the Blog Tour Award you ask? Is it something you can hang on your wall? Did it come with a cash prize? Nope, it came with something better than cash; okay not better than cash, because cash would have been awesome, but it came with a mention about my blog, which in the world of writing is known as attention-dollars! Because despite what any person tells you; if you write, you love attention.
And in her post she says, “Mike is funny, really, really funny.” Her words, not mine. BOOM Wife, I do believe that is game, set, match for Yours truly.
In truth, I was so giddy when I saw my blog mentioned, I felt like Sally Field at the 1985 Oscars.

Time to do what I do best; talk about myself and answer the Blog Tour Questionnaire.

  1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON? Well, the smartass answer would be this, right here. You’re literally reading what I’m working on. Ok, okay, I’m also working trying to get publications like HuffPo to know I exist. So far, no dice, but it will happen. I’m also working on a few new weekly segments for my blog; stay tuned for updates.
  2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE? Well, it doesn’t. I mean how many “My toddler is an a-hole” stories can we parents tell? Or stories involving tantrums, and/or poop? I mean, it’s all been done. I think that’s part of the beauty of blogging. You know you’re not being original for the most part, but your twist on a repetitive topic may tickle fans.
  3. HOW DO I WRITE/CREATE WHAT I DO? Oh this one is kind of difficult. Not for me so much, but for my editor (aka the Wife). I guess (according to her) my writing style is stream of consciousness. Planning: bleh, who needs it?!? Outlines: never heard of them. I write what I’m thinking about. Why?Because I’m cool like that. However, I do admit I should probably plan better because I think my editor is about to quit on me.
  4. HOW DOES MY WRITING/CREATIVE PROCESS WORK? Since the Boy is still too young to say silly shit to write about, and I’m certainly not going to sit around and watch him all day to see if he does something noteworthy, I tend to have lapses in my writing. I do however have a colorful childhood (that’s a nice way of putting it) to reflect back on when I want to write one of my more serious pieces. But I tend to enjoy the silly shit more, so maybe keeping people waiting will build anticipation.

So there you go. Me, me, and more of me. But to show you I’m not completely absorbed, I want to introduce you to some of my hilarious blogger colleagues that I enjoy reading, and I KNOW you will too.
~ Michelle from Mommy Back Talk is, like me, fairly new to the blog game. Her writing is so honest and true, not to mention spot-on with her post, I’m Sorry. Can we Still Be Friends.
~ The awesome blogger Foxy over at Foxy Wine Pocket. Whether she’s talking about her struggle with the infamous Poop Tree outside her house, or her two loves, Jason Bateman and stalking viewing open houses in her neighborhood, she’ll leave your sides hurting from so much laughter.
~ Jessica from Welcome to the Bundle is easily one of the funniest and most honest writers I’ve ever read/met. Jessica and I recently met at a blogging conference called BlogU. I was the only guy in attendance with about 200 women, and somehow I still lost Prom King to Jessica. To be fair, her outfit was far superior to mine. Follow along as Jessica talks about her adventures in mommy-hood as she wonders if she should help her toddler get ripped at their local baby gym or where she ranks on the list of her son’s favorite things.
There it is folks, the tour is complete. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Please make sure you collect all your belongings and exit the vehicle in an orderly fashion.
 
 

5 Reasons My Son is Like My Xbox

I am one of those quasi-adult parents – you know what I mean – the kind that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and now in our 30’s we are doing everything possible to hang onto some semblance of our childhood experiences at all costs. So, how do I do that? Well, at pushing almost 40, I’m still a gamer. For you non-gamer parents out there, that means I play video games…a lot.
I don’t just play video games; I invest quite a bit of time in my gaming hobby. I still visit GameStop and Best Buy to purchase new games, I still read reviews on the latest products coming out, and I still geek out with my friends and debate which console is better (Xbox or PlayStation).
My video game playing habit took a major hit in 2012 when our son was born. “Nothing’s going to change for me,” I foolishly told my friends, “I’ll just put the kid in my lap and play while he sleeps. Late night feedings will be cool; I’ll get in a lot of gaming time.” Yeah, think again.
Two and a half years later I continue the struggle to balance my nerdy gamer ways while in real life being a parent – that’s some pretty adult shit right there. In late 2013 I purchased a new video game console, and as we approach its half-birthday, I am noticing some eerie similarities to my toddler.
Only Responds to Yelling – One of the major attractions Microsoft tried to sell hard to the consumers was how their new console would be completely voice activated. Want to turn the Xbox on? Just say, “Xbox On” and it will recognize your voice and turn on. Want to do something other than game? Simply say the phrase, “Xbox go to…..” and fill in the blank and you will be binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, Skyping with grandma, or even watching TV. Problem is, just like our toddler, the damn system doesn’t do what we ask of it, the first, second, sometimes even the third time around. Many times I will be in the kitchen and hear my Wife yell, “XBOX ON, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!” Luckily, while just as difficult, our son receives a little bit more grace…..and I mean a little.
It’s always fucking watching me – While the last function was supposed to be cool, the next option is just downright creepy. Xbox has a built-in camera system that according to Microsoft, is always on, and is always watching; even when the system is off. So while it’s really annoying that my son follows me from room to room (even to the bathroom where he stares at me while I handle my business), at least when he’s asleep, I know there is no risk of him popping up and filming me while I walk around in my underwear and somehow posting that shit on the Internet. Trust me; no one wants to see that.
May Malfunction at Any Moment – Like any new generation of equipment or technology, there are usually some kinks or bugs to work out of the system. We consumers are usually more forgiving when it comes to techie items,like when my new Xbox crashes for no reason; it’s because we know a system update is right around the corner. But, where the hell is my system update for my toddler that is happy one second and then a ball of fury and flailing limbs screaming, “NO, I DON’T WANT IT!” the next?? You show me that product, Microsoft, and I will be yours for life.
The so-called experts are of little to no help – I’ve come to learn that when those times your techie gadgets inevitably fail you, much like your toddler will inevitably have a complete fucking meltdown in public, the people we are supposed to be able to reach out to, to help us fix our problem, are just as fucking clueless as we are. Sure, your big-box store nerd-smug-asshole behind the counter will eventually fix your hard drive. Just like whatever family member’s, doctor’s, or supposed child-raising guru’s advice might work when trying to calm your kid down, but at the end of the day they can’t ever tell you why the breakdown happened, or how to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s all a bunch of finger-crossing and hoping. So in my book, that makes you all full of shit.
Both are a serious drain on my bank account – Having a kid was a mutual choice between me and the Wife, but buying the Xbox One (aka the $500 paperweight in our family room) was all me. Both have the exact same effect on our bank account, however; they continue to take and take and take. Both require a continuous credit line for maintenance and upkeep. Examples include buying games or new products for the Xbox One, and clothing, feeding and paying for daycare for my son. I invest so much money into both, wondering what I’m really getting in return, which brings me to my last point…..
How my son is NOT like my Xbox – While I joke that my Xbox is a useless paperweight (and will continue to be seen as such given current release dates for new games and products), that depreciates in value daily; the same cannot be said for my son. I see my son grow and change every day. While the Xbox can easily go unused for days at a time, my Wife and I enjoy watching our son as he is becoming a little person; sometimes too quickly for his Dad’s comfort. I will most likely outgrow my video game addiction someday, but I will never outgrow being a Dad.

Happily raising the next generation of gamers
Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Searching For Dad

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As much as I try and deny it when my Wife laments about it, our son clearly has a preferable parent…Daddy. In a perfect toddler world, his preference would be to have us both within arm’s reach at all times, but that’s not always possible. If the Wife needs to leave the house, the boy will typically fuss a bit, he even might shed a tear or two, but if Daddy has to go? Like every morning when I leave for work? Well, if you ever heard the term Bat-Shit-Crazy, that comes from my son, JSYK. Screaming, heaving his body onto the floor, hitting, kicking, and more screaming. And more screaming.
And it doesn’t stop there. My son follows me from room to room when we’re home, saying things like, “Ko Daddy” (aka Come on Daddy) and “What’d you doing Daddy?” I think the Wife actually gave birth to my second shadow. If I somehow manage to leave the room by myself, he tends to get very whiny, and sometimes very nervous and scared; only be relieved and all smiles when he sees me and runs up and grabs me.
Sometimes I get frustrated by the whining, and at times wonder out loud to the Wife, “Why is he so upset? I’m right here.” My Wife always tells me how much he loves me (which I know), and how I’m his hero. She also tells me to put myself in his shoes; he feels lost without Daddy. It makes me really reflect back on my relationship with my father, or more appropriately, the lack thereof, and one very pivotal time in my childhood where I felt very alone.
Over the years people have inquired about my dad from time to time, as I have spent the majority of my time talking/writing about my mother and the abusive relationship we had.. I never really wanted to talk about my dad. I realize now, that’s because the emotions were far more painful because they were born from a lack of his desire to know me, or even see me.
After a nasty divorce when I was just a toddler, my dad who was in the Navy, went off and lived the Navy life as a single guy. This meant I rarely ever heard from him; never saw him; and many birthdays/holidays passed with little or no contact. He eventually remarried and had more children. I met him, and spent a small amount of time with him in my pre-teen years, but for the most part our relationship was non-existent at best.
In early June of 1992, the week of my 8th grade graduation, my father was in San Diego (where I lived) for some sort of naval training exercise. He reached out to my mom to let me know he was in town, but only for a few days; so meeting up wasn’t a lock to happen. In fact, as the words left his mouth, I could sense the instant hesitation and regret because he might actually have to meet up with me.
I wasn’t super book-smart growing up, but I knew how to read people really well at a young age, so I picked up on his hesitation immediately. Pushing that aside, I decided to go for broke and invited him to my graduation that week, stressing that I really would like him to come. More hesitation, but he eventually agreed and even mustered up a half-hearted response of excitement and sense of gratefulness for my invitation. I knew he was lying, but for all my growing up way too fast and being able to sniff out a bullshitter like whoa, I still was a boy without a father. A boy who had always silently yearned for male connection; something I had none of to that point in my life.
My mom tried to be supportive; her attempts however, could not hide her massive skepticism. If she were a betting person, she knew she would win all kinds of cash betting on my father being a no-show to my graduation. But I didn’t care; I knew he was coming.
The big day came. I still remember it like yesterday. It feels today, like it did then; like a scene out of a movie. My dad hadn’t shown by the time the pre-ceremony chit chat and socializing were over. So what? So I didn’t get to take a picture with him before the ceremony; there would be plenty of time afterwards to take pictures and go to dinner. The important thing is that he’ll see me walk and get my graduation certificate.
We all took our seats as the graduation ceremony began. Nervously shifting in my seat, I turned from side to side, looking back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he arrived. Scanning every face in the crowd, eyes squinted by the bright California sun, I saw parents’ faces full of pride and affection, but none of them belonged to me. Occasionally I would catch my mom’s face; a smile plastered on her face as if she has just swallowed cough medicine. She was trying to convey pride and joy, but just under the mask of faux-happiness was a tornado of sadness, worry, and angst, along with a dash of “I told you so,” as she watched me desperately search the crowd. But I didn’t care; I knew my dad was coming. I would not acknowledge her worry; I would not give her the satisfaction. This time she would be wrong.
The ceremony came and went like a flash; I stood and walked and returned to my seat. It went by so fast I could barely scan the crowd for my dad for what felt like the 500th time, but I knew he was out there and he saw me, so no sweat; that’s what was important.
As soon as all the pomp and circumstance concluded, we were released out into the world; but first back to our parents. My mom found me so quickly it was almost as if she materialized out of thin air. She was beaming with pride, tears in her eyes telling me how proud she was of me, and how much I have grown up, hugging me tightly; too tightly. That’s when I knew; my father never arrived. Even though I knew the truth the lonely, sad, boy inside would not be shoved aside this time. I blurted out, “Where’s dad? Did he see me?” My mother stared at me blankly for a moment, and just as I looked away I spotted the slightest of smiles form on her face. Not only was she not sad; she was happy this had happened. Victory was hers.
So yeah, my son hovers around me, and follows me from room to room. And yes, my son has to be involved in everything I’m doing, but you know what else he does; he bursts into the room on my mornings to sleep in and wakes me up by jumping on the bed, smotheringme with hugs. So my son whines when he can’t see me, or cries like a crazy person when I leave for work, that just means there is a super happy running hug with the scream of, “DADDY” when I get home.
I don’t begrudge him for getting upset anymore; well I try not to at least. And when he calls out, “Daddy, where are you?” I make sure to hug him a little tighter these days when I say, “I’m here buddy”…because I’ll always be here.
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A version of this story has been published in the book Dads Behaving Dadly 2 (clink the link to purchase this book).
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The Silent Killer


Ever since I started blogging about 6 years ago, I swore I would be brutally honest and forthcoming about any and all topics I wrote about.  I’m pretty proud to say that I have lived up to that promise pretty well.
Blogging has become my therapy over the years.  The dad blogging is for fun,  but talking about deeper issues; truly I tell you helps me make it through the day.  I know that sounds very melodramatic, but it’s true.  I see so much nonsense in this world, as I am sure most of you do as well, that it drives me absolutely bonkers sometimes.  I gotta vent or I’m going to go crazy man, for reals.
There are some obvious areas I have chosen to abstain from “true honesty.”  By that I mean I never refer to the Wife by her actual name, nor do I reveal my son’s name.  But, unfortunately, like many others, I have some very sick family members that would love nothing more than to track me down, just to cause me harm.  And when I say sick, I mean crazy-sick, not like curable illness-sick.  So you can see why I choose a certain level of anonymity in my writing.  Although this reality bums me out, I try and peel back the layers and let you all in as much as possible.
This blog helps me a lot; more than you may ever know, because there are still so many things I struggle with on a daily basis, but if you knew me, or were around me, trust me you would never know because I have become so good at hiding my pain and struggle that it’s almost as easy as breathing now, yet not as healthy.  But, some emotions have come bubbling up recently that I feel it only right that instead of hiding, like I am used to, I should stand strong, peel back another layer and show you a little more of me.  So….here we go.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 will be a day I will probably always remember for a long time, if not forever.  This is the day one of my childhood heroes died.  And not only did he die, but he passed in such a fashion that is so close and personal to me that it rocked me to my very core.  This past Wednesday, former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  Yes, he committed suicide in his own home; he was only 43 years old, and this was not his first attempt.

In 2010, Seau drove his car off the road and slammed it into a tree.  While he survived and claimed he fell asleep at the wheel, rumblings began to stir that this was no accident and there may be something deeper going on.  Sadly, we now know what that “something” was, in fact going on.  Seau, always known to be one of the most energetic and positive personalities in the NFL, suffered from massive depression, which eventually led to him taking his own life.  In the weeks, months, even years to come, much will be made over the fact that he chose to shoot himself in the chest; presumably to preserve his brain to be studied for the effects of concussions received while playing.  Even more sad, Seau is not the first former NFL’er to do such a thing; former NFL player Dave Duerson committed suicide in similar fashion, and left a note explaining he wanted his brain to be studied.
So why am I taking this so personally?  Well, one, Seau was a personal idol of mine….but two, and most importantly, I know what it feels like to suffer from depression, and sadly, I even know what it feels like when you come to that conclusion that it’s time to check out….sorry to make that sound so casual.
I have gone through most of my life struggling with depression, and I still do to this day.  Much like when they tell you that you will never “not” be an alcoholic, but instead you will learn to manage and live with the disease; I feel the same goes for depression.  I don’t believe it ever truly goes away, you simply learn to manage it, and hopefully suppress it in a fashion that makes life easier to manage.
I don’t really know how to segue to this next part of this story without it being super awkward, so just like pulling of a band-aid or jumping into a pool; I’m just going to do it.  I also relate, sadly, to the rest of the story about Junior Seau, with one major exception.
Around the end of 2005 I had pretty much reached an all-time low in my emotional state.  I was heading down a dark and lonely path and I could not see any way out.  I had recently purchased a condo, which I had no business owning.  I was not in the financial standing to even utter the word homeowner, let alone be one.  But, like many times in my life I listened to poor, selfish, pressure-filled advice from my mother, and once again landed myself in a situation with only one possible outcome…and it was going to be bad.
I always knew I shouldn’t be in that situation, but I wasn’t strong enough to say no to that woman.  I never was.  This had been the story of my entire life, and by the end of 2005 I just couldn’t see anything changing.  So, I decided to change it myself.  I didn’t see much value in living anymore, so as the holidays crept closer I had finally reached a decision to…..cash out, if you will.  I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this unspeakable act, but I simply didn’t care anymore, and I was fully prepared to follow through.

I started to quietly make plans to end things directly after the holidays.  I don’t feel the need to share my plan of how I was going to do it, but trust me when I tell you I was prepared.  I had already put in for 2 weeks off of work that would extend into the New Year, and I had come to the decision that a pre-New Year’s follow-through was what I wanted.  I didn’t want to risk hanging out with people on New Year’s Eve and start to feel guilty, thus backing out of my plans.  But, life had other plans for me.
Just prior to Christmas a friend from high school came into town for the holidays and she called me up to hang out.  This friend was actually a high school crush (on my end that is, she wanted nothing to do with me), and even though it never became anything other than friend-status, we remained cool throughout the years.  Like most school friends we lost touch when she went off to college and I joined the military.
We eventually reconnected through social media and chatted regularly via IM.  When she called me one day and said she was in town for the holidays and wanted to hang I was a little taken aback.  This was definitely going to throw my plans out of whack.  Nevertheless, we hung out.  In fact, we hung out every day, even after Christmas family stuff was over.  I wish I could tell seeing her made me so happy that it rekindled my joy for life, but that is just not true….in fact, to this day, I wonder if she was planning on doing the same thing I was planning.
This friend of mine had become the most annoying person I ever met, I swear.  All she did was complain about her life.  Every conversation was about her and all her troubles.  I feel terrible admitting this, but all I kept thinking was, “Good Lord woman, just jump and get it over with.”  I was so dumbfounded, how could this girl go from someone I was completely infatuated with in high school to…this?  And to top it off she just wouldn’t leave.  I kept asking her when she was flying back overseas, but she never had a straight answer.
And just like that, the very thing I didn’t want to happen did happen.  Since she never went home, we ended up hanging out on New Year’s Eve.  To this day I still wonder why.  There were so many other friends she could have hung out with, but instead she was with me constantly.  I mean all of her cackling-hen friends from high school were in town, yet she was always with me.  And before you start thinking there something sexual about this, I tell you now, there wasn’t.  Nothing ever happened.  Nothing ever was even hinted at happening.  She even crashed several nights at my place, but she always stayed on the couch, and neither of us ever tried to make something happen.
So, New Year’s Eve came and went, and I spent the entire night “faking the funk,” pretending to have a great time, when in actuality all I was thinking about was what I was going to be doing that very next day.  When the morning of Jan 1, 2006 rolled around (I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday) I was ready to move forward with my plan.  I walked out to my living room to BS with my friend a little bit and try and send her on her way so I could get started, but when I walked out to the living room she was already gone.  Blanket folded, pillow neatly placed on the blanket, and her dishes in the sink.  She was just gone.
As I later stood in the bathroom of my condo prepared to move forward with my plan I found myself standing and just staring in the mirror.  I stared at my reflection in the mirror, but that was simply an outward appearance.  In actuality I was staring into my soul.  I was watching the story that was my life; every disappointing day; one failed thing after another, and everything I ever quit.  And at that moment I heard the faintest voice in my soul speak, “You’ve never finished anything in your entire life…..”  Just then I started to cry at the realization of the brutal honesty of my life, but the voice was not finished.  As I prepared for more painful realizations, expecting even more affirmation to why my current course of action was the right thing, the voice said, “…..please don’t start now.”
Right then I was pulled back to reality like one of those scenes from a movie where the character was traveling through time and space.  Picture what it looked like when the Millenium Falcon went into hyper-drive.  I was no longer staring at my life, I was staring at my now.  I knew right then what I was planning to do was not the right answer; it was the wrong answer; the selfish answer.
From there on out I made the decision to get up and move forward.  I realized it didn’t mean that my life was any better, because truth be told it was not.  In fact it got a lot worse before it got any better, but I never would have known any of this had I followed through with my plan.
I decided to take small steps in improving emotional state.  I even convinced myself to start taking chances in life; small chances, and if they didn’t work out, then so be it.  My first small chance challenge I gave myself, ask out that Cute Girl (that’s what I called her at least) you see every day at work, but have never had the courage to speak to.  You know what I call that Cute Girl now…The Wife.
Now, I’ve said that I wanted to be brutally honest, and for the most part I have, but I also realize that I’ve skirted around the real issue in this blog. One of the hardest things I’ve learned in my time in therapy is that one of the best way to openly face your issues are to say them out loud, call them by name and take their power away. Because if you don’t, they will forever have a hold on you.  So here we go…
I have suffered from depression my entire life, and on January 1, 2006 I planned to commit suicide, but I chose life.  I continue to live with depression every day, but I will always choose life.  My heart goes out to all those who struggle with depression on every level, but most importantly those who cannot choose life in the end.  While some will point the finger at those who do succumb to depression and follow through with their plans that they are weak or that they are cowards, but I tell you now suicide is the greatest cry for help anyone can give, and know that even those individuals who are carrying their plans, they are not happy about it; they are crying out.
Now, to bring this full circle.  The passing my childhood idol hit me really hard.  I am still finding it hard to believe that a man such as Junior Seau would end his life this way.  Instead of morning his choice of suicide I am choosing to celebrate his memory, or at least my memories of him.  What does sadden me a little has been to see the amount of people who are so upset by what happened, but instead of properly mourning the man, they choose to degrade him by calling him weak or a coward.  On friend of mine on Facebook said he did not deserve to be called a hero because he was a coward.  They could not be more wrong.
If you do not want to see him as a hero, that’s one thing, but don’t sully his memory by calling him a coward because he could not fight off a debilitating disease.  He will always be one of my idols, but it’s more important to remember he was a hero to many people, but none more than the 3 children he is leaving behind.  He was their hero, and he always will be.
However, I will say one thing. The most important thing I ever did was to reach out for help.  I had to admit to myself that I needed help, and I still do.  I rely on the love from my friends/family and most importantly my Wife.  Had Junior been able to see the pain that his actions have brought on his family, I truly believe he would have chosen a different path.  There is no positive taken away from someone taking their own life.  I just wished he would have just been strong enough to say he needed help.
I know this is a heavy topic to read, but it’s all true, and it is long overdue for me to talk about.  I have never shared this story with anyone, including the Wife, and while I am not proud of the state I reached, I am proud that I was able to pull myself out, and most of all I am proud I chose life.  And I am proud to share this story with anyone who will listen.  If this story somehow makes you see me in a negative light, then I am sorry for that, but I am not sorry for sharing this story.  I am also proud that I have been strong enough to admit that I need help, and also strong enough to accept that help from others.  My Wife has long been an inspiration for me to grow and change and become the man I should have been long ago.
I have told my Wife several times throughout our relationship that at times I feel like she saved my life. I know she has always taken this in as some sort of over exaggerated show of affection.  Now she knows I mean it.
#55, you will always be one of my heroes; I’m just sorry things had to end the way they did.  I pray you find the peace in death that you could not find in life.

 

Avoiding Generation Meh

I was listening to the radio the other morning, as I do most mornings at work. I tend to listen to sports-talk radio while I sit at my desk and slag away at my mindless job. Like many people here in the DC area, I am a transplant from another (and frankly more awesome) part of the country. I hail from the heaven on Earth known as San Diego, CA, but that’s not really part of the story, I just like saying it.
I listen to a show in the mornings called the Sports Junkies. While the show is obviously geared around sports, the four guys who host the show bring a lot of pop culture and other aspects of life into the format to help reach a broader range of listeners. All four hosts are also married and have kids, which anyone knows about radio shtick, helps tremendously with anecdotes and jokes.
The majority of the jokes and humor are obviously geared towards the main demographic of the show (which I fall into), the male 18-45 range we hear so much about in entertainment. I just realized as I typed that how much closer I am to one side of that demo than the other; yikes, lol. And while I normally laugh along and write off most of the jokes about their wives and kids and normal shtick, one topic that was discussed on a recent show kind of grabbed me, and hasn’t let go.
On a recent show the men were joking and wondering if their kids (all who have grown up in what some would call a fairly cushy life due to their father’s decent fame in the radio industry, and thus sizable paychecks) did really possess the necessary life skills to “make it” if they were gone. One of the foursome joked/lamented that his son lays around all day on weekends and complains about being bored, all the while having all the trappings of iPads and iPhones, video games and every other piece of media entertainment readily at his fingertips. Another talked about how his kids don’t know what it feels like to sit in regular seats at sporting event as they have grown up around the free box seats and hook-ups their dads get via their local celebrity status. And finally all the men joked (or as it is in the DC slang “jonin”) on another member of the show because he discourages his son to wash his own car, and instead take it to a car wash to have someone else do it.
Again, all the comments were made in jest; however, there was a very real common thread in the jokes, and that was that their kids have all grown up soft, and have no life skills. Now, it wasn’t necessarily the fact that their kids were being depicted as lazy that stuck with me, or the fact that this can be said for a lot of kids these days; as technology advances we as a society creep closer to the couch; soon we’re all going to look like the people on Wall-E. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up.
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What got me was a comment made by one of the hosts. He claimed that while he hated to see his son lay around all day and complain to be bored, and even doubts his kid knows how to make a sandwich (SAY WHAT?!?), he didn’t really hold it against him because he himself is not a “manly-man” and didn’t really know, or even want to teach his son how to be a man.
OK, I’m going to leave the “how to be a man” comment for another time, because that phrase, #1 – pisses me off, and #2 – is probably a series of posts within itself. However; what I will talk about is how we, as fathers, or even mothers, let our kids just float along in life because we may not feel ourselves that we are “manly enough” to teach them life skills. I mean, isn’t that the definition of parenting; to teach our children to eventually be functioning adults some day? Isn’t that what you signed up for when you decided to procreate?
Look, I kind of get where that thought process can come from, as I was raised in a one parent household. And it’s not like my mom was a loving/nurturing/supportive person either. My mother’s parenting technique would make growing up with the Lannister’s like a cake-walk.
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If you don’t know who the Lannister’s are; I mean what are you doing with your life?
But despite my upbringing, I still learned to survive. Granted, I don’t really know how to sew, or even really change the oil on my car, but I do know basic life skills like cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn, and even changing a flat tire; all skills that each member of the show joked/lamented that their kids knew nothing about.
Why is this funny? Why is it funny to watch the generations that we are responsible for raising and teaching, flounder and struggle with the life’s most basic skills?
Look, I by no means see myself as a manly-man. Or at least not how manly-men have been depicted in the media for many, many years. But, I am someone’s dad, and I am someone’s husband, and that, in and of itself is enough of a driving force for me to want to know things; to gain knowledge on how to survive and provide, and furthermore to pass along that knowledge to my son.
I refuse to accept that my son, and any future children, should be allowed to lay around all day and do nothing with themselves. I pray for my son’s sake that he never says the phrase, “I’m bored” to me while growing up because I will simply explain to him how stupid that sounds. I saw comedian Louis CK on some late night talk show some time back, and explained what he said to his daughters when they said they are bored to him. He said, “’I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’”
Like I said, I know most of what the guys on the Sports Junkies were saying was meant to be light-hearted and semi-self-deprecating, but it’s at times like that, when people least expect they’re being vulnerable, that truth leaks out. I would venture to guess that many parents feel the exact same way about their kids as the guys were joking about. And instead of going on and correcting that by gaining knowledge themselves to pass on to their kids, they just sit back and watch a whole generation begin to fade away into the vast nothingness that is technology.

The Marginalization of Dad

We hear all the time “how far we’ve come as a society” on various topics. Whether it’s battling all forms of discrimination, marriage equality, recognition of individual civil rights, and even raising children, we hear how great we’re doing as a society and how proud we should be of all the progress we’ve achieved over the years. But I can’t help but feel that the more and more I hear how much progress we’ve made, I ask myself, “Have we really come so far? Have we really made progress, or are we just masking the poor behavior in new ways?”
Maybe one of the reasons I have a hard time really buying to the idea that we’ve come a long way is because there is still so much of the “old way of thinking” still running around. As I have navigated the scary waters of parenthood the last 2 years and some change, I find that I still hear/see a great deal of judgment and advice (which is frankly unsolicited the majority of the time) from those who came before me into parenthood. Where one would think that those who have traveled these waters before the rest of us would want to encourage new parents to find our own way, lifting us up with encouraging statements like, “don’t worry, you’re doing the right thing for your little one,” rooting us on and offering the small nuggets of wisdom to ease our worry in those moments of uncertainty, instead, I have seen more than a fair share of the opposite; people judging each other on the way they are raising their kids, and outright labeling each other bad parents. It makes me sad.
Today I read a story that showed that even those first beautiful moments after giving birth is not off-limits from judgment, and is instead seen as fair game for ridicule. I present you the story of Daniel Murphy. Daniel and his wife just gave birth to their child, a healthy baby boy named Noah, on Monday March 31, 2014. While this should be a time of joy and peace for the Murphy family, Daniel is catching public scrutiny for taking 3 days of paternity leave to be with his wife and newborn son. Why public scrutiny you might ask yourself? Well, Daniel Murphy is the starting 2nd basemen for the New York Mets, and his main detractors are no other than the well-adjusted, beautiful members of the New York media. Well, mainly one member of the media, radio personality Mike Francesa of the YES network.
Mr. Francesa took issue with Daniel leaving his team on opening day when he got word that his wife had gone into labor down in Florida. Francesa spent a full 20 minutes on his radio show on Tuesday criticizing Murphy for wanting to be with his wife when she gave birth to their child, calling paternity leave a “scam and a half.” Francesa didn’t stop there, he also went on to scold his fellow male coworkers at YES for using their company-granted 10-day paternity leave, accusing them of scamming the system and doing nothing but taking pictures for those 10 days. Francesca, in his infinite wisdom questioned,
“I don’t know why you need three days off, I’m going to be honest. You see the birth and you get back. What do you do in the first couple days? Maybe you take care of the other kids. Well, you gotta have someone to do that if you’re a Major League Baseball player. I’m sorry, but you do … Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple days, you know that”
Francesa wasn’t happy with simply questioning why Mr. Murphy needed to be there during the initial hours post-birth, he had to really bring it home. So he went on to completely minimize the role Daniel should be filling in his new son’s life by saying, “You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse.”
I really wish I could say that Francesa was the only talking head that had a case of foot-in-mouth disease on this topic, but I would be lying to you. Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason (formerly of the Jets and Bengals) jumped on the Meathead-Men wagon with Francesa by saying on his radio show, “You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball … there’s nothing you can do, you’re not breastfeeding the kid.” And if that wasn’t enough to cement his place in the Hall of Fame of Husbands, Esiason added the gem of all statements saying that if it were him, he would have told his wife to have a Caesarean section before the season to avoid any conflict with opening day, and that baseball is what makes the Murphy family their money, and should always take priority, even over childbirth. Husband of the Year right there folks.
To quote a great sports figure Vince Lombardi, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT HERE???” Seriously men, is this really where we are in 2014? Is this really the image we are supposed to be presenting for ourselves? I mean in this day and age where massive conservatives (who both Francesa and Esiason have supported) throw around the term “family values” like they’re asking for a glass of water, where does the idea of a husband saying, “Sorry wife, I know you’re giving birth to our child, but I have to go play baseball, because that’s more important” fit into the conversation?
While I would love to sit here and stoke the flames of anger towards the ignorant male voices on this topic, they aren’t the only ones pushing forward the idea that dads are the lesser option, or at least the less important option, in the early childhood years. Society, as a whole, is still literally *buying* into the marginalization of fathers . Hear me out.
Just back in 2012, Huggies – the major diaper brand Huggies – put out an ad for their new leak-resistant diapers. They said their diapers and wipes were so good that they could put them to the ultimate test, being alone with dad. They deemed the commercial as The Dad Test. The commercial went on to show snapshot moments of several men and their kids while staying in one house, without moms around, for 5 days. Oh no, how will these children ever survive?!?
Ok, first off…..the imagery and (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here) the story they were trying to convey is great. Watching video of the time spent between little ones and their fathers is awesome. But to achieve that goal by clearly portraying dads, as a whole, as some kind of Cro-Magnon knuckle-dragging man who just looks at his kids and grunts, is wrong.
And it’s not just Huggies who depicts fathers this way. I see it in advertising all the time. One common theme is that if mom is not around and dad is in charge, life is nothing but chaos and disorder, and it offends me every time I see it. Companies like Huggies call this insulting scenario the Dad test and frame in a way of, “Let’s see how these bumbling idiots survive without mom around. However will he make it?” Yet, when companies say something is “Mom-Tested” it’s framed in a way that the product has lived up to enormous expectations, and if it passes, it’s great. Just look at the ad slogan for Kix cereal, “Kid tested, Mother approved.” Where is the product that is kid tested, and Dad approved? I’ve yet to see it.
What this all boils down is companies feed off stereotypes in order to sell products, and we as consumers endorse those stereotypes when we buy products from these companies. Some may think this is an overly-sensitive point of view to have, but I would ask how they would react if the situation was reversed for any other product. What if the stereotype was reversed and labeled moms in the same helpless light as Huggies did with dads?
For example, there is an unfounded and completely offensive stereotype that women are worse drivers than men. So, what if a car company created an ad campaign and used the same parameters as Huggies, and conducted something called the “Women Driver Test” where they let female drivers keep a car for 5 days, and we see how well the car stood up while in their possession. Are you kidding me; there would be an instant public outcry for a boycott, and those ad executives would be brought to task for gender discrimination. So where is the outcry for dads? Why is it ok for corporate America to continue to play on the old-world thinking that dads are less capable than moms, and therefore less required to be around?
We say we’ve come a long way. We say families are changing and evolving. I say it’s time we stop just talking the talk, and actually start walking the walk. Personally, not just as a dad, but as a man, I feel it’s important to be a constant part of my son’s life, now and forever. I have been involved in every aspect of my son’s life (feedings, changing diapers, playing, rocking to sleep, teaching, discipline etc.), and those are not just moments that happened, they are also memories I get to have for the rest of my life, knowing I didn’t miss a single moment.
Much of the ignorance that was spewed by Mike Francesa, Boomer Easiason and others, as well as the creation of ad campaigns like the Huggies Dad Test, get brushed off by a copout excuse of old world thinking. People like Francesa justify their comments by saying things like, “this is how it was back in my day.” Well, I have news for you sir, this is clearly not *your day* anymore. While I realize, or at least would like to hope, the mindset of people like Francesa and Easiason are the minority, it’s the fact that this close-minded old world thinking is still preached that bothers me. While it’s fading away with the rest of the other the discriminatory thinking that has plagued social issues, all it takes is for one young person to hear those kinds of comments and when they latch onto them, it allows the heartbeat of misguided thought to keep pumping.
In order for us as a society to truly show we have made progress, we have to leave this old world thinking behind. The idea of this macho culture where a man goes out works all day while the woman stays home and tends to the kids, and the man is not to be involved or bothered is ancient and archaic. Instead of criticizing Daniel Murphy or any other man who takes time to be with his newborn child, maybe instead we should congratulate him and aspire to be more like them. I mean, aren’t there worse things in this world than supportive and involved fathers? I think so.