Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jif and the Choosy Dad

Jif and the Choosy Dad

A few months ago I wrote a post about Jif, the peanut butter company, and specifically about one of their ads, that is supposedly meant to celebrate dads.

In that ad, a guy is building a tree house for his daughter. She runs off to the kitchen to make him a peanut butter sandwich, and they eat together inside the new tree house.

Which is very cute until you consider a few things:

There are about 20 videos on the Jif Facebook page, all showing mothers in various stages of sandwich preparations and consumption: moms bond with their kids while making sandwiches, they chat about nutritional values, they have me-time with their peanut butters, and they feed their families. Dad, appearing on a single video, is being fed by his daughter. While Mom's role in the family is to feed her kids, Dad is there for projects. And when he's done, a female is ready to feed him.

It bothered me on the dads-being-ignored level, and it bothered me on traditional-gender-roles level. And the Jif slogan that appears in the ad (as well as everywhere else on Jif website), "Choosy Moms Choose Jif," represents what I think is a misguided thought in advertising: that in order to appeal to a certain group of costumers, you must exclude other potential costumers.

So I wrote that post in December and got no reaction from Jif. Not even a "We value your opinion" tweet.

But recently I saw Jif's new ad, and now I'm going to go ahead and take full credit for Jif acknowledging fatherhood.

Sure, I'd love it if father-and-son bonded over something less stereotypical than video games or sports, and I'd love for the lines "... and dads" to appear on the Jif slogan, rather than just sounding like an afterthought, but hey... This ad might not be a gamechanger, but it's still progress. And the father actually puts the peanut butter on celery, which gives Jif a few extra points.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Simplicity of Gay Rights

When my boy was 4, he saw another car with the Human Rights Campaign sticker. He was very excited. Now, I feel that as long as I can find the simplicity in supposedly complex issues, no subject should wait for my kids to "grow up." They're not the ones with the problem--it's the people who have grown up and still have a problem with equality that have the problem.

So I explained.

You know how most kids in your class have a mom and a dad, and you know how the moms and dads are married, like me and your mom? Well, most married people are men married to women, but sometimes men love men and want to marry them, and sometimes women love women and want to marry them, and when we put that sticker on our cars, it means we think they should all be allowed to do that. But some people think that men should only marry women, and women should only marry men. I know, it is silly.

The Simplicity of Gay Rights

Monday, March 18, 2013

About Titles and Respect

For the record, I don't think we're good parents and others are bad just because we teach our kids to call adults by their first names. Some people introduce themselves to the kids as Mr. / Ms. / Mrs., and the kids follow their leads and use titles when addressing them. Most people around here, though, use their first names when they meet the kids, and that's how they learn to call them.

As someone who didn't grow up using titles, I find it odd when people do use them, but I also know it's a cultural thing. If you grow up believing it's important that kids address adults with their titles, I respect that.

My kids' teachers use titles, and my neighbor calls herself Ms., so that's what my kids call them. And since part of our job as parents is to teach our kids to respect others, we definitely don't stop our kids from using titles.

My problem comes with people who think kids who don't use titles are disrespectful. I found this issue discussed on a forum, and while I know it's a cultural issue, I just can't accept that premise. Here are some of the comments:

I now have 1 friend who likes to have the kids call her by her first name and nothing else. I have heard it helps her feel like she is not getting older.

I'm always happy to accept other parents' decisions. My way is the right way for me, and that's all it is. But how can someone talk about respect, while using this as an excuse to slam his "1 friend," saying she likes people to refer to her by her first name because it helps her feel younger. That's absurd and ironically disrespectful.

you can tell which families are the class acts by how their kids address adults.

I've had to correct my kids when someone says "Oh, just call me Firstname" I don't care if they want to be called by their first name, at the very VERY least, it's Mr/Mrs Firstname.

So this is how you teach respect for adults? By ignoring their wishes and forcing your own ideas of respect on them? After one member says he only uses his first name around kids, another person tells him that no matter what, if his kids ever meet him, they will call him "Mr. [Lastname]."

Which makes me think it's not about respect. Using titles might have something to do with tradition and with local cultures, but it has nothing to do with respect. I've been wrong before (probably), and if anyone disagrees with me, I'd love to hear another view.

4/12/13 Update: This post has now been republished on Mamapedia: First-Name Basis.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Fatherhood Video

the fatherhood video

Following the success of The Motherhood video, Fiat 500L has now come up with a new video, this time featuring a dad. The concept in this one is a little different from The Motherhood video, but the main concept is the same: coping with the loss of the identity we've spent so many years establishing, and giving in to the new identity of Mom and Dad. Also, there's a dancing unicorn, a Kate Bush-ian singer, a keyboard guitar, and a whole lot of other New Wave references. And the twin carrier, which I honestly didn't even know existed.

We didn't have that driving-to-get-the-baby-to-sleep issue with our first kid. Not really. Every once in a while we'd find ourselves with a baby who wouldn't sleep, and usually all it took was some rocking, some "Shhhhhh..." or the sound of running water, and we'd be back to sleep before we knew what happened.

The second kid, though... That was a different story. She's a tough one. I remember, one night, I even took a picture of the dashboard after I parked the car in the middle of nowhere. I titled the picture: " A series of bad decisions has led me to this point." Of course, what I meant were the bad parenting (and other) decisions that have led me to get to know every street and alley in my neighborhood at 3am, but I'm pretty sure some people thought I left home. Which was a little awkward.

So I can identify with this video. I can identify with being a former Rock God turned Dad, and I can identify with driving around and around in the middle of the night, until you're not sure who'll fall asleep first--you or your baby, and I can identify with having bad hair in the '80s. I had a rat tail in school. Because I was cool.

And I'll end with these timeless words from the video:

It's fine because I love you
I will never trade your mother
But in future I'll be abstinent
So double up the wrapper

the fatherhood video 2

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.
A little over a year ago, we took a family trip to Barnegat Light, NJ for a wedding. My wife performed the ceremony, and my boy was the ring bearer. The couple had their first child a year later.

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.
That's us. Granny said we had to send her a family picture, so we posed. I don't usually smile at photos, but when my mother-in-law asks for a nice family photo, I smile.

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.
We had some great books to read in the beach house we rented. Like the latest from Kathleen Creighton! Yep, the doctor is in, alright. Also, I bite my nails.

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.
This is one of my favorite photos. That's a friend of ours playing baseball with my boy moments before the big storm. 

Five Pictures. Barnegat Light Edition.
And that's my girl. Always smiling. Don't know where she gets that from.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Confessions of a Temporary Monster

I can't imagine anything worse than that. I can't imagine anything worse than holding your newborn baby in the middle of the night, going through the routine of getting him back to sleep, then accidentally catching your reflection in the mirror and seeing a monster looking back. And I can't imagine anything worse than looking at that monster for a day, a week, a year--never knowing if the self-loathing would ever end. Not knowing if the monster is here to stay.

I know I shouldn't watch TV with my girl. She's almost 3-years-old, and it's one of those rare nice winter days in Baltimore. We should be playing soccer in the park, or riding a bicycle for the first time. We should be walking the dog together, or even just driving around with the windows down. Anything but TV. But that's what she wants to do, and me--well, I'm having the time of my life. It's actually colder in the house than it is outside, so I put a blanket on both of us. I turn on Netflix, and I play the next episode of Strawberry Shortcake. My daughter leans her head on my shoulder, and says, "I love you."

A friend of mine was recently asked what he felt like the moment his daughter was born.

"Instant, unconditional love," he said.

When my boy was born, I resented him. He was a stranger who had made the woman I loved suffer for 42(!) weeks, and that's all he was to me. He came out of my wife's belly, peed on the nurse, cried, and a few minutes later, the nurse left, and nothing made sense. Where the hell was that instant, unconditional love? They told me I would love! They said it was going to happen immediately and forever! He was my own flesh and blood! What kind of a monster was I?

I spent two weeks like that, certain I was evil, when it suddenly happened. It was just after a late night feeding. He finished nursing, but started crying again. That was my cue. Walk around, rock him back and forth and up and down, turn the water on, sing... I knew the drill.

But this time, he did something new. Whereas before, he would stop crying and go back to a deep, two-hour sleep, this time he just smiled at me. He was fully awake, and fully conscious, and I had never been happier. Never felt more alive. Suddenly, I had a son. He was my beautiful son, whom I now loved more than anything else in the world, and everything made sense.

Two years later, just before my daughter was born, people were telling me things would be different this time. With second babies, they said, you're no longer afraid of the unknown, which frees you to love immediately and unconditionally. And we were having a girl this time. What were we worried about? Dads instantly fall in love with their girls! It's a dad-daughter thing!

"Prepare to love like you've never loved before!"

So I prepared myself, and I waited.

This time, it didn't take two weeks. After two months, it still hadn't happened. So I kept waiting. By now, I knew I wasn't a monster, but a victim of misinformation. I wasn't emotionally dead, just emotionally stalled. And I was ready to wait for the rest of my life.

She took her first steps at 14 months. I stood her up two feet away from me, and let go. She looked at me, then she looked at her legs, wobbled a bit, and started marching. She made two steps, then dove into my arms the happiest she'd ever been. And after 14 months, everything suddenly clicked. I caught her! I saved her! She trusted me, and I was there. My wait was over.

I could do a lot of important or beneficial things with my daughter right now, instead of spending this nice day indoors. Yet I don't feel guilt or regret, because my daughter and I are sharing a blanket, and because she's leaning her head on my shoulder, and just when it seems like things can't get any better, she tells me that she loves me. I kiss her head, and I pet her hair, and I tell her, "I love you too. Another episode of Strawberry Shortcake?"

Confessions of a Temporary Monster

Thanks, The Good Men Project, for republishing this post: Confessions of a Temporary Monster: When Do You Really Start Loving Your Kids?

And thanks to the people at HLN's Raising America, for mentioning this post: When do you really start loving your kids?


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