Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Growing Kids, the Evil Agenda of Frozen, and a Star Wars Room

This week's roundup includes talking with kids about tough subjects, the hidden agenda behind Frozen, dealing with growing kids, and a very cool Star Wars room. Also, another installment of the Worst Dad in the World!!!

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!


Last week, following the arrest of Ray Rice for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, I wanted to talk to my Ravens-loving son about what happened. I postponed this difficult talk until my boy actually asked if he could wear his 27 Jersey to school. On the car ride to school, I tried to explain. (Explaining Ray Rice to My 6-Year-Old)

Gay Agenda

Gay Agenda
A blog post written by a crazy woman went viral last week, after she explained the way Frozen had a hidden agenda, meant to make us all love the gays. That post was unfortunately too late for one dad whose young son has turned gay the moment the end credits started rolling. (Frozen Turned My Son Gay)

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
This short post, written over a year ago, is still one of my favorites, because it's still honest and true, and probably will continue to be true for many years, unfortunately. I look at my boy as he navigates his way around the other kids in the playground, trying to fit in, and I feel nothing but compassion and pity for this kid, and then something silly happens and I lose it... I want Home to be a sanctuary--a place where my kids feel safe, where they don't have to fit in and act out, but instead, I turn home into just another obstacle. (Looking at My Boy)

Growing Up

Growing Up
Sometimes it's the most personal blog posts from others that make us think about our own experiences. My kids are still young, but I can imagine them as teenagers, and I desperately want to pull the emergency break and stop this one-way train away from me. Here's a beautiful, very personal post about a baby who's somehow a teenager. (Teenager)

Star Wars

Star Wars
We're moving in a few days, and my 6-year-old is very excited about his Star Wars room, which currently consists of nothing but Pottery Barn Star Wars sheet... If you're looking for more ideas from the artsy people at Etsy, a dad has collected a bunch of great items for a Star Wars themed room, mostly for babies, although a young kid can definitely find some items as well. (The Baby Star Wars Nursery)

Worst Dad in the World?

Worst Dad in the World?
The dad who took this video and uploaded it to YouTube has already deleted the video, probably because every other person with a laptop and a Google+ account called him evil, but... I'm sorry, I'm with the other half. It's slapstick comedy, and slipping on ice is a staple of winter fun. Also, no one got hurt, and everyone seems to have had a good time. AND we have a good old father-daughter shared activity. (Father Laughs Hysterically At Kids Slipping On Ice)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Explaining Arizona's Hate Bill Sb 1062 to Your Kids

A dad from Arizona, who is a member of our Dad Bloggers group, has asked for our opinions. He's not sure how he should explain Arizona to his kids. Arizona lawmakers are trying to turn discrimination against gay people into law, and unless Arizona's conservative Governor vetoes the bill, SB 1062 will become law. How do you explain living in a state with a majority of lawmakers happily voting for a bill that turns back the wheels of progress? A bill that sends a message that gay people should go back to the closet if they want to be accepted in society?

My first reaction to the question was remembering a recent conversation I had with my kid about Israel, where I was born, where I lived for the first 22 years of my life, and where my family still lives. And here's the comment I wrote in response to the Arizona dad's question, before I decided it probably belonged here:

Pfffff.... Arizona? Try explaining Israel to my 6-year-old...

I did start explaining it, and I'll definitely get in deeper into the Middle East conflict when he's older. I'm always honest with him, and I always try to explain all sides to him, even if he can tell that my views are subjective. Some of you have seen my post about explaining Ray Rice to my kid during our drive to school. We have long car rides to school (although it's all about to end next week, when we move), and my son is curious. I don't take credit for the fact that he's a really smart kid--that's all him--but I do take credit for answering all of his questions.

He heard a kid in school mention Jesus, so he asked me about it. I explained who he was, what some people believed, what others believed, and what I believed.

"Are there any other stories like that, with other religions?"

So I started explaining Muhammad, as much as I remembered. I explained how he was also persecuted, like Jesus, and how he escaped the people who chased him in Jerusalem, by jumping with his flying horse. And then I mentioned that because his horse jumped from a particular spot in Jerusalem, that spot was very important to Muslims, but it was also very important to Jews, because they had a holy temple there, and that's why they'd been fighting for 2000 years.

"Is that really why they fight, or are there other reasons?"

Now, at this point I couldn't stop, so I started talking about Jewish people being persecuted, and about the meaning of a Jewish homeland, and about wars over land and over limited resources, and about the occupation, and about being in the military, and about my friends who died in Lebanon for nothing, and about how, maybe, by the time he was older, the two sides wouldn't fight anymore, and they would look back and not even understand what the fighting was all about. The end.

"Do all Israelis think like you?"

Doh! So, in my head, I told him his grandfather was a freakin' Fascist with no regard for human life other than the lives he'd been taught to think were his allies, but I didn't say that, because he was 6, and more importantly, because it wasn't true. So instead, I told him some people in Israel wanted peace with the Palestinians, but they were afraid that it wouldn't be a real peace, and that Palestinians would use the peace to make Jerusalem their own. I told him many people in Israel were afraid Palestinians wouldn't let Jews live in Jerusalem, and that they believed peace would make life dangerous for people in Israel. And I also told him again that I thought they were wrong, and that Palestinians and Israelis would stop fighting one day, and then they would realize these 2000 years of fighting had been for nothing.

The conversation ended there. He seemed happy enough, and I put Pandora back on.

So what about Arizona? How does a dad from Arizona explain Arizona to his kids? My answer is, as always, to be respectful and honest with the kids and with the opinions of others, no matter how wrong they are, since demonizing them is not going to help us understand the validity of our own opinions. And it doesn't mean hate gets equal time and respect in the explanation. If the other side is ridiculous, it deserves to be respectfully ridiculed.

Maybe something like that:

Some people in Arizona are very conservative, which means they think change is happening too fast. When I was a kid, gay people had to pretend not to be gay, because some people wanted to hit them or even kill them when they found out they were gay. And now gay people don't hide anymore, and in many states and countries, they get married and have kids, and everyone is happy. But some people still don't want to be around gay people, and they want them to continue to hide, and to not be able to get married and have kids. It's crazy, but maybe they're afraid that if they sit at the same restaurant with gay people, they will turn gay themselves? It's like saying that if you sit next to a girl, you will turn into a girl. It's silly. But there are a lot of silly people out there, who think many silly things, and all we can do is say what we believe in, stand for what is right, and hope that one day these people realize that telling people they have to hide is wrong. Remember that video we saw, with Martin Luther King Jr. saying he had a dream that one day black kids and white kids would play together? Well, this could be our dream: to live in a country where no one has to hide or pretend to be something he's not, and that no one will be allowed to tell other people they can't sit in a restaurant. In our dream, people won't even think about doing that, because people will respect each other and love each other.

Well, something like that, anyway.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Explaining Ray Rice to My 6-Year-Old

I've postponed this talk for a few days, but I didn't want to wait anymore, because I didn't want the details to come out from my 6-year-old boy's kindergarten friends. Stuff like that has to come from a parent. The car ride on the way to school was the right place, and the time was now.

"Remember yesterday, when you wanted to wear your Ray Rice shirt, and I said you couldn't, and you asked me why, and I told you I'd explain later, but I didn't?


"Well, it happened. And I need to explain why I didn't let you wear his shirt. Ray Rice was arrested a few days ago. He was arguing with his friend, and maybe they hit each other, so they were both arrested, but it could be that he hit her so hard, that she fainted. Now, we don't know everything that happened yet. Maybe she hit him, and he tried to push her away to make her stop or something, but because he's a strong football player, she fell and fainted. I hope that's what happened. But if we find out that he hit her, then we can't be his fans anymore, and probably the Ravens won't want him on the team anymore."

"Because they're afraid he'll hit them too?"

"Hmm... No. Because they don't want people who hit other people on their team. So now we wait to see what happened, and the Ravens are waiting too. But until we're sure he didn't hit her, we can't be his fans and wear his shirts anymore."

So my boy is quiet for a while, and then, I kid you not, these are his exact words:

"But remember Ray Lewis--he was in the Ravens last year? He didn't do anything bad, did he?"

Oy... We're gonna need a longer car ride...

3/5 Update: A longer version of this post has been published on Huffington Post

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Fatherhood Lessons, a New Subreddit, and a Game of Life Giveaway

This week's roundup includes two fatherhood lessons, a Game of Life giveaway, an update on a possibly terrible dad, and a very cool video starring happy triplets. I also introduce the Dad Bloggers subreddit, the latest step on our way to world domination.

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Dad Bloggers

Dad Bloggers
Our Dad Bloggers empire expands. I've been a subscriber of the Daddit section on Reddit for a while, but it's gradually becoming inundated by dads' pictures of their babies. Now, babies are cute, don't get me wrong. Even other people's babies are cute. But a page full of baby pictures and no real substance can get old quickly. So I started a new subreddit specifically for dad bloggers, and now, after a week, it has over 100 subscribers. You don't have to have a Reddit account to take a look at the page, but if you do have an account, please consider subscribing, reading some of the posts from our Dad Bloggers group, and using some upvotes to help us show there's a place for real content on Reddit. (Dad Bloggers Subreddit)

Fatherhood Lessons

Fatherhood Lessons
We've all been there: angry at the world and can't seem to get a break, which happens too often at airports, and even more likely, at airports where we have to rush to catch a connecting flight. One dad lost his connecting flight and then lost his temper, only to then remember he was a role model, and as such, could use this moment to teach his kid a lesson about patience and humility, and to prove that apologizing is actually a win-win. Great story from Josh Misner, who usually writes at Mindful Dad, but was this week justifiably going viral on Huffington Post. (To the Ticket Agent at the Delta Counter)

Fatherhood Lessons II

Fatherhood Lessons II
Previously on the blog, I explained gay rights to my then-4-year-old. I find that any subject can be explained to a 4-year-old in a simple and honest way. And when we do that, when we look at a supposedly complicated issue and strip away preconceived ideas and subjective bias, we're left with a simple concept--in this case, two people who love each other and want to get married. (The Simplicity of Gay Rights)

Not the Worst Dad After All?

Not the Worst Dad After All?
A couple of weeks ago, Michael Sam Sr. was quoted as saying he had a problem with his son, Michael Sam, who is soon to be the first openly gay NFL player. Sam Sr. apparently told the New York Times that he didn't want his grandkids to grow up "in that kind of environment." For a week, Michael Sam Sr. was the worst dad in the world, because if Dick Cheney can teach you how to be a good dad, then you're probably a terrible dad. But now, Sam Sr. is telling ESPN that he has been "terribly misquoted. . . . I did not say anything about my grandkids."

Whether he said it or not is irrelevant. The fact that he thought it was important to give that second interview, though, shows how much progress has been made in this country, and how far we've all come (where even people who don't "get" homosexuality can accept it and accept their kids when they come out). (Michael Sam's Dad Actually OK With Son's Homosexuality, Claims He Was 'Terribly Misquoted')


A dad put together a video of his triplets, with one second from each day of their lives. I'm sure raising triplets ain't easy, but it sure looks like everyone is having a good time, especially with the whole jumping head-first onto the bean bag trick. (A Year in the Life of Triplets - 1 Second Everyday)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Dad 2.0 Summit, HTML for Kids, and the Worst Dad in the World

This week's roundup includes a recap of Dad 2.0 Summit, a new way to teach kids about HTML, fatherhood influences, an informative article from The Onion, a new entry into the Worst Dad in the World hall of shame, and more.

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Dad 2.0 Summit

Dad 2.0 Summit
Last weekend I attended Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, and had the opportunity to speak on a panel about the Dad Bloggers group, which now includes over 600 blogging dads. It was a great experience, and I wrote about it all, even including a picture of myself holding a skunk. For some reason. If you haven't heard about Dad 2.0, if you've been on the fence about going, or if you just want to see a picture of Skunky, it's all there, and much more. (Dad 2.0 -- Here's What Happened)

Father's Day

Well, it's a little early for Father's Day, but I found this picture recently, and had to put it on Instagram. It's amazing what kids get and not get from watching their parents. My son, who was 4 at the time, knew I wanted him to be nice, and he knew he liked hugs. And nothing else really mattered.

HTML Lessons for Kids

HTML Lessons for Kids
This is a great idea from Ryan Hamilton, the programmer behind the scenes at Life of Dad. In a series of audio episodes, Hamilton, aka DaddyDev, is teaching his young son about HTML and coding. Feel free to learn along with him! (DaddyDev 1: What is HTML?)

Influencing Kids

Influencing Kids
Previously on the blog, I had written about the 10 fatherhood influences I try to pass on to my kids. These include a love of books, an appreciation of (good) music, and trying to be honest with yourself as well as with others. I can't tell how I will do in the end, but I know I wish I had this list in front of me all the time, to reinforce the idea that I'm not just raising kids--I'm raising the next generation of people here, and my actions and my priorities as a dad will shape the future. (10 Fatherhood Influences)

"Shut Up and Sit Down"

In this post, I vowed to stop silencing my kid. It's been a few days since I've written it, and so far, I've stood by my word, no matter how many voices he makes up, no matter how many questions are followed by follow up questions, and no matter what else I have on my mind. ("Shut Up and Sit Down")

Stay-At-Home Dads

Stay-At-Home Dads
You know stay-at-home dads have reached the cultural zeitgeist when The Onion goes over the top to make fun of us. There's always the danger that someone reads this article or watches the video, and thinks, "Yea! Stay-at-home dads ARE 'embarrassing themselves and their sex by cleaning, shopping for groceries, and in some extreme cases, folding laundry,'" but I say if something is funny, it's a win. (Report: Rising Number Of Weak, Emasculated Men Working As Stay-At-Home Dads)

Report: Rising Number Of Weak, Emasculated Men Working As Stay-At-Home Dads

Worst Dad of the Week

Worst Dad of the Week
It's another edition of Worst Dad of the Week, and this time, it's hateful bigot edition. Lawmakers in Indiana are pushing an anti-gay-marriage bill, which reads in part, "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana." The chairman of the committee responsible for this bill is Indiana State Representative Milo Smith, whose son is gay, and lives with his partner. All Republican members of the committee voted to codify homophobia, but Smith may be the only one who excuses standing on the wrong side of history, saying he hopes that now, "no one will attack anyone based upon their personal opinion regardless what side of the issue they're on." Separating the language of this bill from its effect on real people is heartless enough, but doing the same while having a gay son is a whole other level of moral detachment. (Gay son ‘disgusted’ with lawmaker dad for pushing Indiana gay marriage ban)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dad 2.0 -- Here's What Happened

Last week I went to the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, and I have a lot to say, and very little idea of how to organize my thoughts clearly.

Here goes:

Let's get that out of the way first: Going to Dad 2.0 has made me want to become a better writer, a better blogger, a more professional Internet user, and most importantly, a better dad. It's billed as a conversation between bloggers and brands, but it's actually a conversation starter between the voices in our heads--between the voices that constantly tell us we're not good enough as writers, that we're not professional enough, that we're not driven enough, and that we don't pay enough attention to our kids, and the other voices, the ones we too often ignore, who point out our achievements as bloggers, who help us realize that something we write can touch someone else's soul, and who notice our successes as dads, rather than our shortcomings. Once the positive voices win over the negative ones, a further conversation with brands, with publishers, and with readers can be made. The short version: It's a conference filled with intelligent people who pave the way when it comes to new media, and who teach each other the meaning of modern fatherhood.

Also, I pet a skunk. If you know what I mean.

Skunk petting

I named him Skunky, and he's my best friend.

I walked around a lot, in a group, with a tour guide that I probably just imagined due to lack of sleep, and by myself, because I need to walk by myself sometimes. While I was walking by myself, a man stopped me on Bourbon Street, to let me know there were a bunch of "girls with your name written all over them inside!" I felt guilty, since they went through all this trouble, but I kept walking anyway. Here's the tour guide, saying something about the French and the damn Yankees:

New Orleans Tour Guide

Jason Katims had a Q&A with Jim Higley of Bobblehead Dad. Katims is the creator of Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, or in other words, the creator of some amazing fatherhood characters. The Q&A, which included clips from his shows, made me want to watch Parenthood. It also made me miss Friday Night Lights, and want to work on fiction--maybe a movie or a show. Everything about Dad 2.0 made me think, "I can do this."

I drank a lot of coffee. After I tweeted a picture of myself with a Starbucks cup, a Starbucks rep gave me a $5 gift certificate. I used it today to buy a Grande Something-Something and a cookie, and the $5 barely covered half. Still, thanks!

Lee Jeans was one of the sponsors, and gave away free jeans. Here's how it looks on me:

George Michael's Butt

OK, that's George Michael in "Faith." But here's my equally impressive butt, next to Chris Routley's (of Daddy Doctrines) butt, as immortalized by butt-artist Krandel Newton:

Our Two Butts

Carter Gaddis from DadScribe refers to blogging dads as a tribe, and I agree. Some of us write to create memories, others use blogs as stepping stones, and others see themselves as representatives of a movement, but we all have one thing in common: we all strive for an ideal of fatherhood. We strive individually to be good dads, and we strive as a tribe, pushing forward into a yet-unknown ideal of fatherhood, an ideal of honesty, and an ideal of a positive Internet in general.

Finally, a thank you to the organizers, as well as to the people who moderated, participated in, and watched our panel. On Saturday morning, as part of a panel about communities of dads, I talked about the Dad Bloggers group we have on Facebook. I take great pride in being the one who started this active group, but very little credit in watching it become--for me and for many of its members--the best thing about Facebook, and truly a must for any blogging dad.

And... Here I am with Aaron from Daddy Files, talking about the Dad Bloggers group. I'm the guy in the middle, with the un-evolved posture:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Shut Up and Sit Down"

I've mentioned the new Hank Azaria's Fatherhood web series on my weekly newsletter before, but the first few words from this trailer above deserve another post.

First of all, everything Neil deGrasse Tyson says is brilliant and deserves its own post/page/blog. Hell, the guy deserves his own Internet. Here Tyson brings this truth:
We spend the first year of a kid's life, teaching them to walk and talk, and the rest of their life, telling them to shut up and sit down
Which also reminds me of my favorite line from Cat Stevens' "Father and Son":
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen
And it's funny and it's sad, and it's almost universally true, whether we're strict children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard parents or progressive parents who believe in the importance of letting our kids express themselves.

I tend to see myself as a progressive dad. I like to see myself as encouraging my 6-year-old kid to have opportunities and support to truly become whatever he wants to be: a soccer player, a dancer, a construction worker, a stay-at-home dad, an astronaut, a ninja, gay, straight, or all of the above, but in reality, this kid, who hasn't stopped talking since he was born, and only stops talking when he sleeps, whether he's talking to himself, asking endless questions, or making weird noises, ends up hearing things like--

Please, not now.
Take a break! I can't hear myself think!
If you want to make these weird noises, go to your room, make these noises, and come back down when you've got them out of your system.

Or in other words: "Shut up and sit down."

In a way, I may be too hard on myself: it's true that when I'm with my boy, I can't hear myself think, and being a stay-at-home dad for 6 years, hearing myself think is not something I get to do very often. On the other hand, maybe now that he's in school and I get less and less opportunities to be with him, I should spend less time thinking and more time listening. This kid... this amazing kid who's been reading since he was 3, who sits in class during a rainy recess and solves math problems, who loves astronomy, dinosaurs, and Star Wars, and can talk about everything to anyone who's smart enough to listen--I should consider it a privilege to be in his presence when he's on a roll, whether he's decided to count to 1000 by 5s, or act up all the voices for the story he's just made up in his head.

Soon enough, my kid will stop trying. He'll have enough friends in school, who'll be more than happy to listen, to count with him, and to play along with his imaginary voices, and he'll end up seeing me just like any other kid sees his dad: as just another obstacle to overcome on his way to self-expression and self-fulfillment.

So here I am, making an effort, stating publicly that as much as these voices and the numbers may take years of my life, this life is not worth the time if I spend it dismissing my boy. For the first year of my kid's life, we taught him to walk and talk, and the rest of his life, I'm going to push him to walk further and talk as much as he wants to talk. And if my brain explodes in the process, then so be it.


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