Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Make Sure Your Son Grows Up to Think Inside the Box

How to Make Sure Your Son Grows Up to Think Inside the Box

So when my baby turned two, I bought him a blackboard and some chalk. It was time for him to be creative. Sure, I thought, at first he'd just draw some lines, but with time those lines would turn into whatever he wants them to be. I don't know if he grows up to be an artist, but at least he will grow up with imagination and creativity and the simple magic of turning an empty page into a canvass.

And of course, as soon as I opened the box of chalks, he took one and started using it on the wooden bed frame.

And did I tell him what he did was beautiful? Did I encourage his imaginative thinking-outside-the-box? Did I quietly leave the room to let him explore his world alone?


I told him he should only use the chalk on the blackboard. The bed is for sleeping, and the blackboard is for drawing. And then I erased the chalk from the bed frame.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Really? I've never mentioned Child's Play x2 before? Sorry about that.

Some fathers (me included? Maybe) play this self-identity game once they become fathers. They look at themselves in the mirror and see a father where they once saw only a man. Maybe they feel a bit threatened by this new identity. Some fathers leave their jobs to stay home and take care of the children, and everything changes. Suddenly they feel they have something to prove.

While others, like Matthew, look at their children and embrace the change.

The sidebar for Child's Play x2 includes some of Matthew's favorite posts. This might be a good place to start. Or you can read his 100 Things list.

Or you can start where I started, with this amazing poem about the meaning of fatherhood.

Childs Play


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Storyville Librarians Give Fathers Parenting Lessons

Storyville is truly a unique place. It's a part of a library that's designed for kids up to the age of five, to interact with books and toys in different settings. There's a small kitchen, and a grocery store to play in, a theater where the children can try out costumes, and a little fake garden to dig in.

It's a place where one type of parent will lead the kid on to different activities, while another parent will watch as the child finds his way around. Both are good parents--it's all about the different style of parenting.

Now, I belong to a group of stay-at-home fathers who meet up once a week with our children. We go to parks, and to shopping malls, museums, and swimming pools. We are aware of the hardship of living in a society where stay-at-home motherhood is still the norm, but we do what's good for our children, and that's the only thing that matters.

Still, every once in a while, someone will say or do something that will upset, even enrage us collectively. This happened last week in Storyville.

I wasn't there, but a few of the more dedicated members of the group made the long drive to the library. The kids played together or explored their surroundings as the fathers talked to each other.

Soon, a librarian approached the group of fathers and told them Storyville was meant for interaction and that they should have interacted with their children rather than just watched them interact with each other.

When the rest of the group heard about that, it created many outraged emails, and at least one other blog post.

I emailed the library and expressed my frustration over this incident. The one question on everyone's mind was, Would the librarian berate a group of mothers? Mothers meet and chat there all the time, after all.

The second issue was that in my limited experience, standing on the sidelines and watching your child interact with the world is more common with fathers. This could create the impression that a father doesn't care about his child's actions, when in fact this is just a different style of parenting.

And furthermore, as not all the fathers from the group were in one area (some were indeed "interacting" with their children in a different area of Storyville), why did the librarian see fit to give all of them a lesson in parenting?

Judy Kaplan, the manager of the library, emailed me back. While part of the email was somewhat apologetic, most of it was condescending:

Early literacy and school readiness inform the guiding mission of Storyville. Though Storyville may look like a play area for children, it is actually a research based learning environment which incorporates the very important role of the parent as a child’s first teacher.

I guess I should thank her for the second lesson in parenting. She continues to describe the particular incident, where mothers complained to the librarian because unattended children were endangering others.

When appropriate and safe use of Storyville is compromised by the activities of unattended children, it is our responsibility to address the caregivers.

It still doesn't answer the question of why all fathers in the group were approached by the librarian, even though not all of them were together at the time. All fathers involved said the kids were constantly watched as they interacted with each other and with the many toys the place contained. No one treated Storyville like a playground.

Finally, by the end of the email, the issue of "interaction" is mentioned:

One of the comments you read, said, “My daughter and I have been to Storyville at least a dozen times during the last couple of years and not once was I instructed to “interact” with her, but only to make sure I didn’t leave her unattended.” This should not have been the case and I apologize to your group for this miscommunication. We will be sure our staff knows to be more informative, when welcoming visitors.

Well, I supposed that's as far as I can expect them to go. This will definitely not make me feel welcome in that place ever again. I love to watch my son explore the world on his own. I stand aside and watch him learn. Apparently, this is not something I'm allowed to do in Storyville.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

"You fail at parenting"

The Internet is full of good people. It's true. Do you need advice on any subject? Do you need a donation to your favorite cause? Do you simply need virtual companionship? You can find all that and more. I don't know what it is about the anonymity of the internet that allows people to show their best sides. But people who spend their days avoiding other people will dive head-first into the Internet with a ready kind word and a virtual hug.

That same anonymity, however, allows us to be the worst we can be.

A 5-year-old kid asked his father to help him write a "Stay Out Daddy" sign on his door. The father wrote these words for his son to copy:

You fail at parenting

The son copied his father's sign. The End.

But what could be just a short funny parenting story, turns out to be a story about Internet comments.

Sure, while I think this is funny and harmless, some of you consider any type of lying to a child wrong. Santa and the Tooth-Fairy aren't real, the dog has been cremated, and a son's wish to keep his dad away from his room is sacred.

But would any of you, in real life, say anything like the Anonymous comments below?

(It seems like some of the really offensive personal stuff has been deleted, but between all the "Leave him alone. It's just a joke" comments, there are still a few gems left.)

Someday you'll show him this post and laugh. You'll laugh, but your son will then remember why he always used to think you were a retarded dick- because you were. How low can you go, you sick fuck.

I don't know if you are small and manipulative, but you sure come off that way in this.

Your son is 5 years old and couldn't write "stay out daddy" on his own? Not only do I feel bad for your child as it is obvious that he is lacking in educational development, but that his inane father doesn't help the situation any.

You fail at parenting, you fail at life and way to make your kid look like the jackass you are. Please, go have your genitals removed promptly.

wow thats sad..you gotta trick your son into loving you..thats horrible

It's not about whether or the kid can spell - it's pretty fuckin messed up that at 5 the kid cant read. Seriously - he doesn't know the dif between awesome and keep out? either he's retarded, or this whole thing is made up

Thursday, December 3, 2009


One day, as I was surfing reading writing Tweeting and generally minding my own business, I stumbled upon Jason from Out-Numbered and immediately asked, "Where have you been all my life?" Even though I'm a collector of blogs, I'm actually more or less alone here, because his blog is pretty well-known. Still, more people should read it, and I'm proud to do my part.

Apart from the fact that Jason is funny and a great singer/dancer, what I like about his blog is that there are no fillers. There's no "Here's a picture of a tree we walked by on our way to Daycare." Apologies to tree-picture-bloggers.

Jason makes sure each post stands alone and is worthy of the readers' time. There's the amazing Snack-Story Fairytale, the disturbing Thanksgiving post, the post that could help all parents answer life's hardest questions, and many other posts where Jason shows us what it's like to be out-numbered by the females in his life.




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