Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dinner Time

While my kids were eating dinner, I finally thought I was ready to open the box we got from UPS, containing the ashes of my 17-year-old dog. Even just looking at his name on the cremation certificate was too much. I sat down and called my other dog, a 15-year-old. She came over and I hugged her head. My 4-year-old boy saw me crying.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm hugging Gingee," I said.


"Because I love her."

He put down his fork, stood up, and walked toward me with his arms wide open. He hugged me for a few seconds.

"I'm hugging you because I love you," he said.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Santa Claus and Debra Winger

I've seen a few parents ask others what they do about Santa. Do they tell their kids Santa is real? Do they tell them he lives forever in the North Pole, riding a sleigh driven by flying deer? And if they do all that, do they eventually tell their kids Santa wasn't real? Or do they wait for their kids to grow up and figure things out by themselves?

Well, here's why I can't do any of it. Here's why I tell my kids Santa is just a regular guy with funny clothes.

This is not a "Parents should never lie to their kids" post. I believe there's a place for fantasy in kids' lives, and there's nothing wrong with believing. My wife still remembers fondly the day she packed her bags and waited outside for the van that was supposed to take her to the Bad Girls Farm. It's one of her favorite father-daughter stories. And I took it away from her because my boy asked me if the farmer was coming and I had to tell him the truth.

So here's my story. Here's why I physically can't lie, joke, or even fib. And it has everything to do with Debra Winger.

When I was a young kid, let's say 8, my family and I watched a movie on TV together, and when Debra Winger showed up, as she often did in 80s movies, my father said, "You know, she's my first cousin."

Now if my dad told me something, it had to be true, even if it was just an off-hand comment. Which is why the next day I told everyone is school that Debra Winger was my dad's first cousin. Every time Debra Winger reappeared on our family's TV screen, my dad said the same thing, which reminded me that no matter how low I got and no matter what life threw at little me, I would always have this glamorous Hollywood connection to non other than Debra Winger. Of all people.

And as long as my dad kept reminding me about his Hollywood cousin, I kept telling people. I told old friends again, and I told new friends. I told elementary school friends and high school friends. Eventually I joined the army and told people there. "Remember Debra Winger? She used to be in movies? Well, she's my dad's first cousin! Cool, eh? I know!"

Until one day in my early twenties, I was sitting with my dad in the living room. We were watching the news, and when my dad saw one of the reporters, he said, "You know-- This guy was with me in the army."

I nodded.

"And do you know Debra Winger, the actress?" He continued. "That's his first cousin!"

Debra Winger

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Not many people know that, but while my daughter's room looks more or less like this one, in a parallel universe I'm the coolest dad alive. Over there, on planet Shmearth, I draw happy murals on my kids' walls, I design the invitations for my kids' birthday parties, and--generally thinking of the world as potentially-beautiful--I never miss an opportunity to make it a more colorful place for the next generation.

Until I find the space/time wormhole, though, I'll have to live vicariously through Brent's Designer Daddy blog.

Other than design-related posts, Brent writes about media portrayals of fatherhood, adoption, and two-dads families, as well as more personal posts about his experience as a father of a two-year-old.

As usual, I love linking to blogs that should be at least as popular as those featured on the Babble bubble. I hope I get you to visit the blog and maybe find your own inner designer-parent. Or at least your inner-designer-parallel-universe-parent.

Designer Daddy

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Other F Word Review

The Other F Word

At some point in the movie The Other F Word, Fat Mike--punk rocking, spike-haired, dominatrix-tattooed singer of NOFX--discusses his parenting philosophy. His wife and he decided from the beginning that they were not going to change. Unlike so many parents who divide their lives to before children and after children, and who end up with an inevitable midlife crisis of identity, Fat Mike and his wife decided to pull their daughter into their own punk-rock world, he says.

The Other F Word is a great documentary that needs to be seen by everyone. Everyone! (It is currently screening in a limited number of locations, so meanwhile take a look at the trailer below.) The filmmakers interview and follow well known punk rockers (as well as honorary punk rockers, like Tony Hawk) who spent the first part of their lives rebelling against any and all authority, and now find themselves in the position of authority figures for their kids.

While the movie is about the ironic struggles of punk rocking dads, the lessons of the movie belongs to all parents. While some of our childhood authority figures were more worthy than others, all of us rebelled to some extent, and all of us faced (and still face) the conflict between our proud rebellion days and our transformation into the targets of the rebellion. While turning into a rebel made perfect sense at the time, we're now shocked when we see the next generation dismiss us as the keepers of the old world we've turned out to be, at least in their eyes.

While some of us had more involved and loving parents than others, we all hope to do better, and while this is very central to the movie, where many of the musicians grew up pretty much by themselves, and are now determined to do a better job as parents, we all hope to do our best, certain our best can be at least as good as our parents'.

And all of us--even Fat Mike--delude ourselves, thinking our identities are strong enough to withstand the onslaught of kids... Soon after he makes his identity-guarding statement, he walks away from his daughter's princess bed to the kitchen to make toast with butter on a plastic plate with a picture of skull & cross bones. While the parents tried to pull the kid into their world, the kid had other plans. Looks like they met somewhere in the middle.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Get Chick-Fil-A Out Of School

I have recently succeeded in getting my kid's school to stop doing fundraisers at the local Chick-Fil-A restaurant. If you want to know how I did it or why, keep on reading.

Most people know only that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays, and they rightly assume it's owned by Christian people. Obviously no one has or should have a problem with the religion of a restaurant owner. People should have a problem, though, with what the restaurant does with their money, and that's especially true when it comes to a school associating with that restaurant.

Chick-Fil-A is a restaurant chain owned by Fundamentalist Christians. The owners are very proud of their religion and in the way they push their version of Christianity in their restaurants. In the past, a Muslim employee was allegedly fired because he refused to thank Jesus Christ during a staff meeting. Now that the company had to settle with the employee for an undisclosed sum, they simply do their best to avoid a similar situation by careful hiring. According to Forbes Magazine, "They screen prospective operators for their loyalty, wholesome values and willingness to buy into Chick-Fil-A's in-your-face Christian credo."

More to the point is the company's very public donations to anti-gay groups (some of these groups have been labeled "Hate Groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Supporting a restaurant that is so explicit in its opposition to gay marriage is taking a stand on a very controversial issue. If a school agrees with the restaurant that gay marriage is evil, then the school should hold events at Chick-Fil-A, but if the school opposes that idea or even chooses to avoid a political debate about civil rights, then the school should avoid associating itself with a company that has become the leading voice against gay marriage. News came out recently that Chick-Fil-A has given $2 Million to anti-gay organizations. When a school holds an event at that restaurant (or even worse, allows the cow mascot to visit the school for photo ops), it sends a message of support for the anti-gay agenda. By allowing your kids' schools to associate with Chick-Fil-A, your schools stop being neutral.

Now, don't get me wrong. My battle is definitely not with Christians in general. In fact, my battle is not with Chick-Fil-A or with anyone who dedicates his life to fight gay rights. People have a right to do that. However, the same law that guarantees their right to fight against the civil rights of others, gives me (and you) the right to do everything I can to stop my kid's school from having anything to do with them.

Here are some of the links I found.

Well, now that you know the facts, there are two things you can do. If you think your kids' school should take a stand against gay rights, enjoy your chikin'.

But if you think your kids' school should either support gay rights or avoid taking a stand on a controversial issue, please bring these facts to the attention of your kids's schools. I feel very fortunate that the principal at my boy's school informed me the school and the parents' association would no longer have anything to do with Chick-Fil-A. I do believe that most schools, when faced with these facts, would do the same.

A random picture found on the Internet. From

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This One is for Babble

I didn't make your best bloggers list, but thanks for the opportunity to nominate myself for a runner-up award! Actually, I'm compiling a list of the best parenting sites. You didn't quite make the Top 100 list, but feel free to send your buddies to vote for you (daily) in the prestigious Not Quite Made the Top List category!

And this one is for Klout. For telling me I'm influential about goldfish.

And this one is for--

Silly me... For a second I forgot what this whole thing was about...

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Daughter is a Psychic

Pick a number! 

Any number between 1 and 10! 

Prepare to be AMAZED!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stop me if you've heard this one before: So this dad goes into a PBS event...

A few weeks ago I was invited to an event PBS was holding. I didn't know anything about the context of the event, but after realizing my boy was going to have a day off school that day and after realizing Arlington, VA wasn't that far from Baltimore, I gave the only logical answer: "Sure, why not?"

An email days before the event indicated I've made the right decision. There were going to have high-end technology product demonstrations of PBS Kids games. And life-sized PBS Kids characters wandering about the place. In my head, I was holding my kids' hands as the three of us entered a large room filled with Curious Georges, cakes, and sexy robots.

Don't ask me what the sexy robots did there. I guess they were serving the cakes? My imaginary future is catered by sexy robots. Sorry, I don't make the rules.


So we reach Arlington and I recognize the logo on the PBS building, which gets me a little star-struck for some reason. Funny that you don't need to look at stars to be star-struck; it's enough to face a logo. Funny world we live in.

I get into the building, and it looks like I was right: It IS futuristic. All glass doors and glass stairs and high ceilings. I go up and sign here and sign there... What is that? Consent form? Sure, whatever. And what's this form? Day care? Sure I'll sign that...

Wait, what?

And before I get to stop and think, I've already abandoned my kids in a baby-sitting room and moved ahead to the event.

Now, the thing about me abandoning my kids and continuing to the event is that--

Well, I don't know about you all. My guess is that some of you are social animals. You go to these type of events and you mingle and you schmooze and you sometimes even booze, and you leave the room an hour later with two hundred new Facebook friends. However, as someone who uses his kids as a shield to defend himself from social interaction, I now feel naked. And when more parents get into the room, I realize that not only am I the only socially awkward person there, I'm also the only dad, and my only defense is in the other room, running away from a giant Curious George.

But really, I'm overreacting for COMEDIC EFFECT. The PBS people couldn't be nicer and more welcoming, the babysitters were awesome, and as far as I could tell, the mom bloggers didn't bite.

And as for the event itself--

PBS Kids has just launched dozens of new games on The games are all free, all smart, all very interactive, and all featuring the great imagination and playfulness of their creators. So the games are fun, but more importantly, they have the PBS seal of approval, by which I mean you can let your kid play alone (or against a friend) on a computer, an iPhone, or an iPad, and you know your kid is in good hands and that he might actually learn some age-specific basic math in the process.

The games are also meant to be played in classrooms and in libraries using touch screen technology, whether on computers or using interactive whiteboards. Some games use your computer/iPhone/iPad/Whiteboard camera or mike to put you in the game, which means you see yourself on the screen, jumping or clapping or doing whatever Curious George tells you to do, and George reacts according to your movements. It's all very neat and very engaging, and judging by the early reactions of some of the bloggers who got a chance to test the games at home, a great success with the target audience.

Being a demanding adult who used to play in the endless worlds of Grand Theft Auto games, I did find some of the characters' reaction in the games to be repetitive, but I also feel that kids won't mind that, and even the opposite may be true. In a world where so many things make very little sense, a little repetition can be reassuring to a child.

When it ended, I went back to the other room to pick up my kids. The three of us waved goodbye to the babysitters and to the PBS people, and even to the giant Super Why dude and Curious George who were waiting by the glass stairs.

I was encouraged. "See? They're not scary. They're nice. Maybe you want to take a picture with them? That'll be fun, right?"

But my girl turned her head away and my boy ran down the stairs. Now, I would have tried to get a picture with Curious George myself, because, you know, why not, but being the only dad there, I felt I was representing all dads throughout history, so I had to act like an adult...

I hope I got you to check out the site. It's free, so you should really just do it. And if I got you to the PBS site and you like the games and feel you should let your school or library know about them, then that's even better.

And let me know if you have any questions. I won't necessarily have answers, but I'm pretty sure I'll know where to get them, so ask ahead.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In Which I Suddenly Remember What It's Like to be a Child.

The other day we went to see some friends. My kids went into their 8-year-old girl's room while we stayed in the living room. After a while, I went to check in on the kids. They were watching Little Monsters, where Fred Savage finds monster Howie Mandel under his bed.

First of all, a sidenote: even with a blue face and pointy horns, Howie Mandel is less creepy in the movie than he is nowadays.

Anyway, I ask the girl what the movie is about, because it's obvious she's seen it many times before, and she tells me

This monster lives under this kid's bed, and he takes him with him under the bed to the Monster Land, where it's really cool, because there are no parents and no homework, and you get to eat candy . . .

But I already stopped listening because I'm stuck on that first thing she said...

It's "really cool" because there are no parents? But... but we're so much fun! I mean, sure, we say, "Don't do this" or "that," and we say things like, "I will NOT tell you again," and, "Go to your room," and, "I told you if you do this one more time we're going straight home, so now you can only blame yourself. And no screaming in the car. It's dangerous," and, "Sure you can have a cookie. After you finish your couscous," and--

Sometimes I get so involved in this role I'm playing, that I don't even stop to think... I wouldn't change any of the things I say, don't get me wrong, because it is my often-unpleasant job to turn my kids into good people. But on the other hand, if a blue Howie Mandel crawled out from under my boy's bed and invited him to a fun-filled parent-free land, I'd understand if he took his hand and crawled back in without even saying goodbye.

Friday, October 7, 2011


You know how they say everyone has a book in them, waiting for the right opportunity to come out? Well, if you don't have a topic in mind, all you have to do is get your other half pregnant, and the pregnancy-from-a-male-perspective book writes itself! Pretty much. I guess you need a writing talent too. And a sense of humor. In fact, you need a sense of humor to be a good parent. I learned that by watching the von Trapp family's story.

Ben, by the way, probably doesn't know what I'm talking about, because he refuses to watch The Sound of Music. Sad, I know.

Here's what some people say about Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad:

I peed myself a little reading this
As usual your post has left me running to the loo

But really, the blog is more than simply a pee-inducer.

According to his About page, the blog was mainly cut and pasted from his second book (about his experience as a new dad). This was a way to let more people know about the book and also a way to engage with people in a way a book couldn't do. It looks like the blog has now moved beyond that, taking a wider look at the writer's world. There is, however, a common thread in many of the posts: maybe the greatest gift you get with the difficult job of fatherhood is the ability to experience childhood again. You read the blog and you get the sense Ben is reliving his best years while determined to give his kids similar memories to chase when they become adults.

It's a funny blog, and it deals with many diverse subjects, but beyond that it's honest and touching.

And now I'm going to steal a picture of his boy from his blog.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

In Which I Try to Understand the Haters

Here's a year-old cut-and-pasted post from my previous blog. I haven't finished reading The Blogger's Manual: 101 Dos and Don'ts Every Blogger Should Know, so all I can do is hope you don't mind me doing that, and that maybe you even end up liking this post.

There are websites devoted to people who hate parents.Well, there's everything on the Internet. It's like that parallel universe theory. If the universe is infinite, then there's bound to be another planet just like this one, only a little bit different. Like, rainbows smell bad different. I'm trying to say that everything is on the Internet--including a site devoted to people who call parents breeders. It doesn't mean the Internet is full of haters, just that it's infinite and that infinite things contain all the beauty of the world and all its ugliness.

Thing is, it could have been me. I could have been the one complaining I had to work on Halloween because my co-workers' two-year-old kids wanted them around for trick-or-treat. I could have been the one saying fertility drugs should be banned. Maybe I would have been the one calling an online discussion between mothers a Moofest.

It's all there. And it could have been me.

I understand people who choose not to become parents. There are many good reasons not to be parents. Maybe you had bad parents and you're afraid of making the same mistakes. Maybe you heard "a child changes everything," and you want no change. I understand.

And I know it could have been me.

You go to a restaurant with a couple with babies. In the car, all they talk about is the kids. At the restaurant, the kids do all the talking, because it's exciting to be in a restaurant. And then the parents go to get a soda refill, and you give their kids a chip. When they come back, they say, "You gave him a chip??? Now he won't eat anything else!!!"

So I understand. You get older, and everyone you know is making babies. And you can see them losing their identities to their new glorified Parent identities, and just when you think they're about to regain some of what it was they had lost in the delivery room, they go and make another baby!!!

So I understand. Because it could have been me. I didn't want to become my parents, and I didn't want my life to change, so why make babies?

And yet, of course I was going to have babies. They're fun. And they allow you to relive your own childhood. And they cuddle. And they learn and they teach.

I understand the haters. I wish they didn't hate, but I understand them. I wish they didn't care about what I choose to do with my life, but that means I shouldn't care what they choose to do on the Internet. The Internet is infinite, which means I can avoid the ugly parts.

Oh, and there's a punchline. Earlier tonight, a friend (with no kids) and I went with my kids to Chipotle. We sat down with the food, and I went to get drinks. By the time I came back, my friend had already given Liam a chip, which meant Liam would eat nothing but chips. And as soon as I told my friend that Liam now wouldn't eat anything else, I realized I should have kept it to myself. Parents are annoying, I know. But look, he's reading my favorite book!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Daddy

I bet I could use my many years of Interneting to find out his real name, but I guess for now This Daddy will do... Actually I did just find out his name. I'm getting good at this game.

This Daddy's Blog is one of those rare corners of the Internet that is all too overlooked, because genuine posts and opinions are making way for niche-seekers and gimmicks. While the rest of us search for Twitter followers, Google+ circlers, and that new Facebook Top Story spot, This Daddy uses his blog to connect, to think in public, and to discuss his challenges and his triumphs. Remember the Internet was about communication before it was a trigger for booms and busts.

As usual, I hope to get a hundred new people to visit the blog, but I'll be happy if it's just one, so hopefully you'll be that one. Go to This Daddy's Blog, subscribe, follow on Twitter, and comment every once in a while. I'll appreciate it, This Daddy will appreciate it, and the Internet will appreciate it.

This Daddy

A Blogger and a Father

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Existential Crisis of a 3-Year-Old Boy

There's this funny little story. When I was a kid, I had a fight with my older sister. We were latchkey kids, alone in the house, and expected to solve our problems ourselves, which we did most of the time. But not that day. What my sister did was so mean, apparently, that for the first time I decided to call my mom at work.

My mom didn't have a direct line, and the number I had was of the receptionist.

"Can I speak to Mommy?"

"Who is your mommy?"


"But what's your mother's name?"


"There are many Mommies here. Does she have another name?"

"No! Just Mommy!"

... It went on like that for a while... At some point the poor guy even tried to imitate a woman's voice, asking, "Do you know my name?" But I was crying, because my sister was mean, and the evil receptionist at my mom's work would not let me speak to my mommy...

I don't remember exactly what age I was when that happened, but I can't imagine I was THAT much older than my 3-year-old son. So I thought this could be a fun story to tell him. He had other plans.

--Here's a funny story. You know, when I was about your age, probably a bit older, I lived in a house with my sister and my parents, Grandma and Grandpa, and--
--Where was I?
--What do you mean?
--Why didn't you live with me?
--I was a kid. You weren't born when I was a kid.
--It's... Hmm... Anyway, I had a fight with my sister, and--
--Why didn’t you have a fight with me?
--Because you weren't born yet. I was 3-years-old, maybe a bit older, and--
--How old was I?
--You weren't born when I was 3. You weren't around then.
--Where was I? Was I in Mom's belly?
--When I was three, your mom was one. You were not in her belly then... So... I was alone in the house with my sister, and we had this big fight, so--
--Was Madeline there?
--Madeline, as in your baby sister Madeline? No, she wasn't there. She's a baby.
--How old was she when you were three?
--She wasn't--
--How old was I?
--I told you... Now I'm 38, so I was 3 more than 30 years ago. It was a long time before you were born. But it's a funny story! Let me tell you the story. No more questions. So... I had a fight with my sister, and I decided to call--
--How old will you be when I'm 38?
--Seventy-three... Finish your food. It's nap-time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pink: The Futile Struggles of Progressive Parents

So, did we fail?

Maybe it's all those pink hand-me-downs we get for our girl. How can you say no to free clothes, after all?

Or maybe it started when we got tired of correcting people because of the short hair. We corrected them, they apologized... Who needs that? Why not put a little something in her hair? A little pink ribbon never hurt no one.

Maybe we simply can't help treating the girl differently because we were brought up at a time when females were regarded as weaker than males, physically and emotionally, and getting over that takes a generation or two.

We all fight it at first. We think we'll raise them differently. We think we're pioneers. And we fight it to the point of hypocrisy: making sure our girls never see a Barbie doll but thinking it's cute that our boys play with them.

But no matter how much we vow to be progressive and to raise our kids differently, the day comes when we realize that--for the most part--we've been fighting a losing battle. Sure, we still stand by our initial vow to let our kids be all they want to be with no relation to their sex, but on the other hand, that vow is now nearly meaningless, because our boys will only wear superhero underwear and our girls' favorite toys are combs.

Who knows... Maybe it's our fault. Maybe all it takes is a little pink button on the onesie, and subconsciously we end up treating her more gently than we did her older brother. We don't throw her in the air as high. We wait a little longer before we let her climb up and down the stairs. We run faster to see what's wrong when she cries.

Or maybe contemporary society is not that much better than the one we grew up in, and our kids never had a chance to grow unbound by gender stereotypes.

And maybe we don't matter at all. Never did. Maybe our kids' personalities--their blue and pink and everything in between--will be shaped less by our best intentions than by the intentions of the popular kids in their schools, the real decision-makers when it comes to future social norms.

And if that's the case, then maybe we should just let go. Let her play with her Barbie. Let him watch his X-Men. As long as we encourage them to switch toys every once in a while. And as long as we don't think we've failed them and society when they're unwilling to do that.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Zach (and other 8BitDads)

I've been following them on Twitter and on Facebook, and I've stolen more post ideas than I'd care to mention from them, and yet I just realized I wasn't linking to their blog until today. Well, that's been taken care of.

Zach--and sometimes Bryan and Justin--aim to be a resource for fathers and an authority on all dad-related info that comes up on the web. Basically a go-to place for fathers (but without ever taking themselves too seriously). And while a lot of their posts are less personal in nature, their personal touch appears on every post.

I believe that although we all love those best-of lists (8BitDad itself is nominated the Parents magazine Best Of Daddy Blogs), in the end, the only thing that matters to us as readers is how much we actually want to visit a site, and while we're there, how often they will get us to engage by commenting or sharing the post elsewhere. 8BitDad hasn't been around for a long time, but it's already the place I visit and comment on more than any other blog. This new blog is original and funny, and I'm sure you'll learn something new by visiting.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Which My Son Asks Me What Just Happened

Planet Earth

"What was that? That was an earthquake. What's an earthquake? Oh... It's when... You know... Like... We live on Planet Earth. I mean, we live in Baltimore, which is a part of Planet Earth. You know that ball you have, with the picture... Remember you asked me what it was, and I said it was Planet Earth? So that's what... So... We live on the surface of Planet Earth, in a place called Baltimore. Yes, in Maryland. Baltimore is in Maryland.

"Now, under the earth... like, under the ground in Baltimore and in Maryland and everywhere, there are plates. Hmmm... No. Forget I said that. There are big rocks under the ground, and sometimes they move because there's an earthquake. No, they move and THEN there's an earthquake when they move and hit each other. Something like that. So now these two rocks hit each other and there was a big BOOM, and it made everything shake all the way from North Carolina to New York or even further, and that's what just happened. Makes sense?

"No? Ask your mom when she comes home then."

I knew that day would come. I was a dreamer in high-school. In physics class, I sat by the window and watched the world. The teacher came over to my chair, and after a few quiet moments of just standing next to me (without me noticing), told the class, "We have a detective here! While we're wasting our time studying physics, he's busy doing his detective work. What are you looking at now, let me see... Oh, this guy walking there... Is he a spy? Are you searching for spies?"

Later that year, in the basement floor physics lab, which was the only air-conditioned room in the school, that same teacher told the class I was wasting the school's air-condition.

I didn't get science, in other words. And since we've made the decision to have kids, I was dreading the day I'd have to teach my kids something about science. As far as I'm concerned, if you fall off a plane, your best bet is to aim for a cloud, so at least it will be a cushy impact.

Considering I have no idea what I'm talking about, I think I actually did a pretty adequate job. And as long as my son never asks me about the way rainbows are made, I think I'm good.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Stay At Home Dad: POV

This video was taken a year ago and posted in the People in the Sun blog I've since neglected. Reposting stuff is quite possibly lame, so forgive me, but I love this video of a dad's point of view, dealing with a screaming baby, a random toddler, and two old Pit Bulls. Hope you like it too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In Which I Share a PR Email About Bullying

In a society where appearances dominate perceptions, physical features have unfortunately influenced bullying.

That's how the email starts. Well, fair enough. Although victims of bullying are often chosen at random, physical features can definitely influence a bully's actions.

So, what is this email about? Maybe they're trying to get me to publish a guest post about ways to confront bullies? I don't really do guest posts, but if it's for a good cause... Let's continue reading the email.

Kids are afraid to look stand out because of their difference of appearance; making them a potential bullying target.

That's not really English, but I can understand what they're saying. Kids who look or act even slightly differently from a perceived norm may be more likely to be victims of bullying than those who blend in. Also somewhat true, although it's not that clear cut. While kids in my elementary school bullied each other, the reason for bullying was often more random than related to clear physical differences. One kid's parents were too old. Another kid was too smart. One kid was a bad dancer... In fact, the hemophiliac, disabled kid in my class wasn't laughed at. Kids often helped him carry his bags on his way to school (even if partly because showing up carrying his bags gave kids an automatic pass for being late for class).

But let's continue reading this email, and see how a PR company suggests we overcome bullying:

Consequently, many young children with conditions such as astigmatism grow wary about their eye-wear in fear that they will be called “nerd” or “freak” by their peer aggressors. As a result of school-hall torment (and an attempt to avoid) the student may remove their helpful glasses. This action could lead to increased sight impairment and (increased) lack of educational focus.

Right. Wait, what?

Although contact lenses require a dedicated sense of responsibility, they can be an excellent choice for children.


Once contact lenses are decided upon by the family, and prescription is obtained from the child’s physician, the most convenient and inexpensive way to buy them is through

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Blogging Dad's Last Post

(Sorry for not linking back to the blog that had the link first. It's been a month and I just don't remember where I saw it first.)

A month ago, blogging dad Derek had his last post published after losing his life to cancer. It's sad, of course. It's also shocking, because his picture is still there on the sidebar, watching the reader. The last post is also uplifting and inspiring, being a celebration of the man's life, a love letter to his wife, and a guide for his daughters to help them find their own fulfillment in life.

A few religious fanatics have taken it upon themselves to educate the world about Derek's misfortune because, being an Atheist, he dared to suggest he now simply ceased to exist. They wrote in the comments that as Derek has not accepted Jesus, he would not get into Heaven. It always amazes me how the Internet can bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. Whether these commenters are right or wrong doesn't matter. There's a special place in Hell for people who leave evil comments on a dead man's blog.

To get a glimpse of our shared humanity, of our shared attempts to make the next generation happier and better in every way, and of our shared acceptance of our limitations, read the blog post. To get a glimpse into the darkness in our souls, take a look at some of these comments.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Spanking

Some of the parents who hit their kids are evil sadistic monsters. This post is not meant for them.

The rest of the parents who hit their kids are just ignorant. They call it spanking to make it seem harmless. They talk about tempting wall sockets and about kids running to the road every time they hear cars. These people don't have a choice, see, but to hit their kids. It's for their own good. Here's a good one: Spare the rod, spoil the child. It sounds true, so it must be true.

Here are the pros and cons of hitting a child:

1. It makes sense if you like hitting people who can't hit you back.

1. Your kids sometimes feel the outside world is scary. With time, they learn the people they can always rely on are their parents. By hitting their kids, the parents break that trust. The home becomes a violent place while the world outside becomes the relatively safe place. When this happens, you have failed your kids and you have failed in your commitment to your family. For every child who grows up to say being spanked put him on the right path, there are two who grow up with distrust for authority and cynicism toward the world because the people assigned by fate to take care of them had abused that role.

2. Spanking is simply unnecessary.

Your kid says something you don't like? Use a certain authoritative tone to correct him. Let him know you don't like what you hear.

Your kid runs around in the mall to the point that makes you feel uncomfortable? Use a more authoritative voice. Let the kid know this is unacceptable.

Your kid is about to run to the road? Use an emergency hopefully-once-in-a-lifetime tone. Let him know this will not happen again. The tone of voice that will make this clear is within you. It might be harder to find this voice than to find a hand to hit your child with, but when you hit your kid after he runs to the road you give the message that he's being punished because he was caught doing something bad, and that if you weren't there, he would have been fine; when you go down to his level and use your "never again" voice, you have the opportunity to teach him a real lesson, which was, after all, the point here.

3. There is a large gap between the number of people who hit their kids when they run to the road or put their wet fingers in sockets, and the number of people who use these examples as excuses. Most of the people who are ready to hit their kids when they do something dangerous, will hit them when they throw their food off the table, when they talk back, when they refuse to go to sleep at night, and ironically, when they hit other kids. If you're ready to hit, you will hit. And your kid will learn that hitting is what people are supposed to do when they don't get their way.

4. Some people, like a commenter below this article, argue that spanking is a last-resort disciplinary tool found in the parent's tool box. After everything has been tried and failed, thankfully we can dig inside our tool box, and look at that! He adds that "if all has been tried after a time and has not ended in a turn-around in the erring behavior, then spanking should be used." That would somehow make sense if that guy only had to spank his kid once. Obviously, if spanking is that last-resort tool that unlike those other failed tools, has turned around the erring behavior, then there will not be a need to hit the kid again! If this commenter hit his kid more than once, then spanking has failed just as badly as the other disciplinary methods did, and all we have left is an empty justification for pointless violence.

I know I'm more or less just preaching to the choir. People who feel the same as I do about hitting children will agree with me. On the other hand, people who do hit their kids will continue to diminish the physical and emotional pain they inflict by calling it spanking. They will continue to talk about last-resorts, tool-boxes, and electric sockets. They will continue believing they are right.

Still, there might be a small percentage of parents who spank because that's all they know, but deep down they feel it's wrong. If this post has helped them realize their gut feeling is the one they should follow, then it did its job.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Now that we're done celebrating the "Top Daddy Blogger Lists," it seems like a good time to highlight a blogging dad who has less visitors, less Klout score (whatever that means), and less blog comments than he deserves.

Henry, of Henry's Blog v2.0, writes about his kid, about the wife, about the soon to be Baby Number 2, about blogging in general and dad-blogging in particular, and about Twitter interaction. He posts quizzes and great photos and the occasional cool video.

We don't have that much time to read, and reading blogs is a zero-sum game, unfortunately. Soon enough, we find a small group of blogs we like and we stick to them, because otherwise we'll get lost on the Internet and Google Reader will show us the dreaded "All Items (1000+)" line. Still, every now and then, we should take the time to discover the lesser known gems of the Internet. This week, I hope I convince you to read a dad's blog you've never read before. Then I hope you stick around there and make it a part of your cycle. Dooce has enough readers, you know.


Friday, May 20, 2011

About Daddy Blogs and Lists

A few months ago, this blog was linked on another blog's "Top 25 dad-blogs" list. At the time, I mentioned it in passing on my Facebook page because it's always nice to be mentioned and acknowledged, even if, in the end, it didn't mean much. It didn't mean I was a better father or a better blogger, just that a particular blogger came across this blog and liked it. He also missed many great bloggers, and when some people commented, he was forced to go on the defensive and explain that, yes, the "Best Of" list didn't mean an included blog was better than the many blogs he excluded.

These "Best Of" lists keep appearing, and we keep falling into the trap. There was recently a list of the best blogging dads. To be in the list, you had to convince people you knew in real life or on the Internet to vote for you every day. Basically, the best "daddy blog" would be the one who brought the most traffic. Now, this is not some evil scam, don't get me wrong. The winning blog would get a badge and everything, after all. But in the end, it was meaningless. It was just another blog praying on our needs for approval. I'm not saying the winning blog wasn't the best blog out there, just that winning didn't make it so.

And now there's been another list published. This time, "The Top 50 Daddy Bloggers" were listed. For this one, bloggers didn't need to send traffic to win, but they did have to be already included in the site's list of PR-Ready-Blogs, and they had to have a high Klout Number, which basically counts the times a blogger has gotten retweeted. This means nothing to a non-Twitter user, and it says nothing about the quality of a blog in general, but the list was still titled, "The Top 50 Daddy Bloggers."

And everyone goes back to the site and complains. Me included (calling myself The Washington DC of Daddy Blogs. Pretty proud of myself for that one). About the metrics, and the research, and the arbitrary nature of such lists, and--

We forget what we're doing here. We look at blogs written by mothers and think we want to do THAT, but OUR way. And we get confused about the THAT part. Mom-Blogs or Mommy-Blogs aren't good because they're better connected with PR people, but because they're better connected with each other. These sites are not good because they have an honest disclosure policy, but because they're honest when they talk about their lives.

There are many, many, many great blogs written by dads. Some of them also try to sell us stuff, which is fine by me, as long as it's not the only thing in the blog. But what makes a good blog is honest writing. I don't need to know everything about your life, but when you write something, I need to know that you mean it.

There will be other lists. Some of us will be included, and some of us won't. Those who get in will mention it. Those who don't will complain or laugh it off. But in the end, it's all meaningless. If you write one paragraph that makes me think I'm not alone and that I'm not the first and only father who dares to say he loves his children or dares to say his best Father's Day present would be a day by himself without the kids, then you're a great blogger. Top 50, even.

But with all this Said and done, I'm still devastated about not being a part of Backpacking Dad's list of "Top 25 Sexiest Dad Bloggers." There is no justice in the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ramble On


Look for me over at Dad of Divas, where I ramble on about my wife, my kids, my Wii, spanking, Buddha, finding balance, self-identity, Cancun, Twitter, Sarah Palin, and Christmas music.

It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. It will make you rethink your life-choices. Well, it will make you rethink the decision to click on the link.

But do it anyway, because I prefer talking to other people than talking to myself.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Father's Business

We decided it was time to send our 3-year-old to pre-school, so we did our research and found one a block away from our house. Literally a two minute walk. It was recommended by friends and co-workers. It looked nice. The teachers looked nice. The kids seemed friendly. The teacher who took me on a tour noticed I had a foreign accent, so she told me the kids came from many different countries because a lot of the parents were students and teachers at Johns Hopkins University. It was all pretty much a no-brainer.

Sure, we did a little rethinking when we found out the kids had a Christmas pageant, but in the end, being Atheists doesn't mean we're anti-religion, so that was fine.

Really, it all looked great.

So I go there just one more time and grab an application. It's a short one, so really there shouldn't be any problem...

fathers business

For me, as a stay-at-home dad, that was a deal-breaker.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting For Superman II

Getting back to the routine after a long vacation is never easy. The girl forgot how to sleep by herself, the boy forgot how to eat without fussing, and the dogs forgot the basic rule of, "If you bark one more time during nap time, then I don't know what!"

Which means that while I slowly climb laundry mountain, I can make my life easier by putting on some Netflix. The boy wants Wonder Pets, but I put on Superman. Middle Ground.

One of the best things about parenting is the opportunity to relive great moments of my own childhood.

I saw Superman at the theater when I was about six. The whole family, probably like everyone else around us, stayed sitting while the credits rolled. And then this came up.

Waiting for Superman II

Nothing brings back my childhood optimism like this picture. This is not just remembering my childhood. I look at this picture and I'm there, at the movie theater, unable to leave my seat, knowing that nothing that happens in the next year will be as important as going to see Superman II.

My son is not excited. These are different times. Superman is a long movie, and the first half drags on while the action scenes seem rushed. The appeal of Superman is not immediate to this generation of kids. I'm not upset, though. One day, my boy will show his own kids an episode of Wonder Pets. "It's great because Ming Ming is supposed to be good, but she's really an egotistic b--" he'll begin to say. His kids won't care, though. They'll be shocked anyone could enjoy a TV show that wasn't in 3D.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Second Child Syndrome

Second Child Syndrome

I've been 100% in tune with my first kid's milestones.

He was on time for keeping his head straight. A little early when it came to sitting up. Clapped his hands according to expectations. A little behind on drinking from a sippy cup, but a little early for using straws. It took him a while to lift himself up. While the books said he was supposed to crawl forward, he only crawled backwards. He was walking at 13 months--pretty much on average. He was an early speaker, which was particularly advanced because he spoke two languages. He was behind on jumping. He was within range when it came to potty training. Late on using his bike pedals. Early on puzzles.

And now he has a little sister. She'll be a year-old soon, and I still have no idea how she's doing. One day I notice her smile, then she claps her hands, and then one day she starts to sing, and then crawl, and all I can think is, "Oh cool, I guess she can do THAT now."

And don't get me wrong--I think that's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A good way to judge a blog is to see how often you want to leave a comment when you read it. When I read a post by Mocha Dad, I usually know halfway through that I will have something to say. Even if I don't always agree with everything he says, I always appreciate his honesty, his great writing, and his love for his family.

In many ways--and I get back to that every once in a while--I believe the "Everything changes when you become a father" warning is absolutely right, other than that it shouldn't be a warning. Your self-identity encounters a modified You, which you must learn to embrace and sometimes to forgive. Things change when you become a father, but your pre-fatherhood experiences will determine what kind of father you will become.

I think about that when I read Mocha Dad. I think you can truly see the man who has become a father and saw that as an opportunity to reflect on his life and to better himself. And you can see the way Mocha Dad uses his experience and the values he has inherited to guide him as a father and maybe more importantly, to guide the next generation in his care.


Friday, January 7, 2011

An Answer to

Before I had kids, I couldn't tell the difference between a one-day-old and a three-year-old. It sounds like I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I never held a baby or a toddler before I held my own. Never changed a diaper, of course. To be frank, although I liked kids, I didn't particularly like babies or toddlers. Didn't see the point of these... things.

About time I've made my confession. I used to think I was really cool, playing in a band, with my long hair and my pack-a-day Winston Lights and all. And I used to think people were just being polite when they said their friends' babies were cute. But three years after we've started the adventure, I'm happy to admit I was wrong.

Three years ago, I started realizing every day was different. One day he actually looked at me, for the first time. No one has ever looked at me like that. Another day he held on to my finger. Another day he was turning his head to follow me, smiling, like he trusted me. And then one day he started looking more like his mom, thankfully.

And while he continued to grow and change, and to surprise us on a daily basis, we went and made ourselves another baby. Now we experience the adventure again.

Everything is the same, and everything is different this time around. She laughs at the same jokes, but she laughs in a different way. She doesn't do her best to fall off the bed, like he did as soon as he started crawling, but when she wants to fall, we can't stop her. She loves the same food he loved, but eats more of it, and throws more of it on the floor. Her eyes are blue, like his, but a different blue. She's as friendly as he has ever been, but more aggressively so.

There's an article from making the rounds now, because God forbid a week goes by without a pseudo-controversial article questioning people's life-choices. In this article, a long time stay-at-home mother writes, "Fourteen years ago, I 'opted out' to focus on my family. Now I'm broke." Well, let me say it now, just in case the world comes tumbling down and I'm forced to ask myself uneasy questions: Yes, it's hard. Yes, it might get harder. Yes, there will be days when I look back and wonder if staying home with the kids was the right thing to do. But I will never go out in public, and for the price of a freelance article on, tell the world my kids have ruined my life. I will never blame my kids for my own decisions. And I will never tell them, "You owe me for the time I'd invested in you."

I'm not the father of the year--probably not even the father of the day. But I own my decisions. Staying at home with my kids is the greatest thing I can imagine. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world, being able to spend so much time with these people. And if everything changes and I find myself with nothing, I will still be the luckiest man who's ever lived, because I was here for moments like these:


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