Friday, March 28, 2014

They Don't Make Music like They Used to (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves Because We're Afraid of Becoming Irrelevant)

I have a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, and they listen to whatever music I listen to, and they like it, most of the time. But I live in fear. We're not the only influences in the kids' lives, and the older they get, the larger the chance of them coming home from school one day, humming a new Katy Perry song. Or Bieber. Or whatever manufactured teen sensation of the day they're innocent enough to consume and think of as their own.

When parents find out their kids have shitty taste in music, they either roll their eyes, or start a Good Music 101 class, and I had always considered myself in the second group. I've had it all planned out:

When the first crappy music makes it into our house, I will sit my kids down, play the entire Pink Floyd discography, then The Beatles, then Simon & Garfunkel. And Bjork. And Death Cab for Cutie. And Arcade Fire. Then The Velvet Underground. Then Talking Heads. Radiohead. Flaming Lips. Yo La Tengo. Then Robyn Hitchcock. Then we'll take a short break, and start our Bruce Springsteen lesson with Nebraska. When we're done, the only thing left to say will be, "Any questions?" And they'll know they've made a mistake, and that they're destined for better things.

Or maybe I will roll my eyes and know it's only a phase?

Recently I got to drive a rental car, which came with satellite radio. And like many people from my generation, my first choice when I turned on XM Radio was their '80s station.

This song was the first one to play, and I couldn't be happier:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away

If you're a child of the 70s or the 80s, you just repeated "gave it away" in Andrew Ridgeley's voice. That's what we do, because we listened to Wham! religiously as kids, and now as adults, we sing along and remember the good old days.

And that's the point. There were great songs in the '80s, but most of us listened to crap, and we ended up fine-ish. Maybe people who talk about the good old days are just afraid of becoming irrelevant? So they look back and imagine a time when everything made sense, and then they compare it to what young people face today: Snapchats, and twerking, and sexting, and terrible terrible music.

We weren't better than them, though, and us old men and women need to remember that. They listen to Bieber? You listened to George Michael. Their songs are all about sex? Didn't you sing along to "My Toot Toot"? Aren't you singing it on your head right now?

I have to remind myself to lay off the next generation. They will make their own mistakes, whether it comes from twerking of by listening to One Direction, but along the way, they will create their own culture and change the world in their own ways. And one day, 30 years from now, our kids will drive their hybrid cars jetpacks, and a Bieber song will start playing, and they will sing along, remembering those crazy 2010s.

We're not the first generation to pretend we're musical snobs, and we won't be the last. Our kids--the same ones who put up Miley Cyrus posters on their bedroom ceilings--will react to their own kids' favorite music with disgust, and try to convert them away from the dark side of manufactured crap, but in the end, crap will forever continue to be manufactured, kids will forever like it, and they will forever grow up listening to it with a nostalgic smile, singing along to bland lyrics with the same terrible rhymes repeating themselves one generation after another, and they will then lecture their kids about the golden age of music.

So when the inevitable happens, and my kids come home singing songs that offend all that is good and beautiful and edgy in the world, maybe I will choose to roll my eyes and move on after all. After all, I had this poster in my room:


Hey Hey Hey, this post has been republished on Huffington Post!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fatherhood Newsletter: My Little Pony, Existentialism, and Drugs

This week's roundup includes My Little Pony bullying, a toddler's existential crisis, a hunt for drugs in Vegas, a story about The Talk, 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!


After a kid was bullied by his classmates for wearing a My Little Pony backpack, and after the kid's parents were bullied by Internet troll Matt Walsh, who blamed them for the bullying, it was great to read this post on Slate, putting blame where it belonged. (My Son Loves My Little Pony. At 7, he already knows that’s not OK.)


Think 3-year-old kids don't understand death? That's nothing. Life before they were born is the real conundrum. (The Existential Crisis of a 3-Year-Old Boy)

Looking for Drugs in All the Wrong Places

This blog post tells the story of a dad who went up and down Vegas streets, looking for drugs. Apparently, Las Vegas is not as ready for kids as it claims to be... (Vegas, Baby!)


My girl watched the Olympics and decided she wanted to ice skate, so of course, I signed her up. And of course, 5 minutes into the class, she was out crying. What was I supposed to do now? (My Daughter's Olympics Dream)

The Talk

Parents always feel awkward about the talk. They have been feeling awkward 2,000 years ago, when their sons started spending a little too long in the far side of the cave, and they will feel awkward 2,000 years from now, when their sons lock themselves in their spaceship for hours every day. Here's one of the funniest versions of The Talk I've read, courtesy of a blogger's mumbling dad. (Dad’s sex mumble)


Friday, March 14, 2014

My Daughter's Olympics Dream

We parked at 6pm and walked to the ice-skating rink. My 3-year-old--almost 4-year-old--girl was very excited. She saw the skaters and the dancers at the Winter Olympics, and she wanted in.

"When I go in the building, I'm gonna skate in the 'lympics?"

"No no," I said, trying to balance pragmatic honesty and "You can do whatever you set your mind to!" fatherly support. "You're going to go in there, and it's going to be tough at first. You're going to fall a lot. But then you'll get up, and you'll practice more and more, and then you'll become really good eventually, and maybe one day you'll be at the Olympics."

"So when I'm 4 I'm gonna skate at the 'lympics?"

"No... Maybe when you're 14?"

"Yes, 14!"

So that was that. She was going to go in, fall, get up, and in ten to twelve years, a pink-eyed Bob Costas would interview me. Maybe I'd tell him about the day she started, when she thought she was going to skate at the 'lympics, and we'd laugh and laugh. But I wouldn't sit too close to him, because who knows where that eye has been.

At 6:15, the lesson started. My girl had her gloves, her skates, and her helmet on. She was going for gold!

At 6:20, she was out, crying hysterically.

Now I didn't know what to do. There's this cliché that says Mom comforts a crying child who's fallen off his bike while Dad puts him back on the bike. It's some nonsense that has more to do with outdated stereotypes than with reality, and that only serves to make us feel insecure about our actions as parents. But it affected me, and I was torn. On the one hand, I could convince her to try again, tell her to overcome her tears, and push her back into the ice. On the other hand, she was holding on to me so tightly, putting her trust in me after falling again and again on a frozen, slippery floor, and she was finally feeling safe again--there was no way I was going to let her go. Sure, I second-guessed myself, but when a child hugs you that tightly, you let her hug you.

But what about her 'lympics dream? I felt I did the right thing, but still... I wish life could be more like a video game, or a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you can always go back and make a different decision.

Back in the car, I had an idea. We would all go ice skating soon, as a family. We would wear skates together, and we would be cold together, and we would fall together, and we'd laugh about it all together. And then, maybe in a year, we'd try skating lessons again. By then, she wouldn't be afraid anymore, and she'd know exactly what to expect.

I called my wife and told her what happened. In 12 or 16 years, she said, when our daughter wins the gold medal, we'll remember the first time she went ice skating, and how scared she was, and how we almost gave up, before we decided to try again, and now look at her, a champion!

But I couldn't help feeling depressed about it. I couldn't help second-guessing myself. In a parallel universe, a dad who looked just like me, saw his almost-4-year-old girl crying hysterically on her first ice skating lesson, and when she wanted to leave, he told her she had to stay and finish the lesson. That girl cried more, and she fell more, and she had a miserable time for 30 minutes, but then, after a while, and after her 100th fall, she didn't care as much about falling. She didn't notice how cold the ice was anymore. She got up by herself, and she looked at her dad, and she gave him the thumbs up. Maybe she fell once more, only now, she laughed about it.

Back in this universe, I was alone in the kitchen, thinking and rethinking, listening to music from my phone on speakers.

I often laugh about how some songs make every mundane activity seem meaningful. Think about the theme song from Friday Night Lights, or the music from Game of Thrones. Or "Jupiter" by Holst. Or that bit from "Carmina Burana" (you know, the one that plays whenever something evil is happening in a movie). But nothing gives mundane moments spiritual meaning like Sigur Rós's "Hoppípolla." And of course, the song I make fun of all the time because of the way people who listen to it take whatever meaning they need from it, got me this time.

While the song was playing, I could see it, just as vividly as I now see the computer screen: I could see my 20-year-old daughter skating. I could see her spinning and jumping, and smiling the whole way through her routine. And as I saw her there, a mature, confident woman flying fearlessly through the air, I knew we'd try again. Whether I did the right thing or not didn't matter. We were going to try again. We were going to make this happen.

3/28: Post is now republished on Huffington Post

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Children's Hospital, Working Dads, and D.A.D.D

This week's roundup includes a car talk with my curious son, a reflection from a dad about a children's hospital, a Funny or Die fatherhood video, a rant against over-protective dads, and a reminder that working dads' stories need to be told.

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!

Car Talk

Car Talk
I've recently written about a talk I had with my son about the Ray Rice arrest. A longer version of this post has now been published on Huffington Post. Hope you get a chance to read it there, and maybe leave a comment or two. (Explaining Ray Rice to My 6-Year-Old)

Children's Hospital

Children's Hospital
Nothing made my wife and me feel as useless as we did when we watched our kid go into surgery. In the end, though, it was a routine procedure, and as soon as he was out, we took our stuff and ran home to return to normalcy as soon as possible. In this blog post, a dad writes about rushing his baby to the ER. Unlike us, before leaving the children's hospital, the dad looks around him and sees the pain that still remains in the hospital. He hears a screaming kid, and writes, "So much hurt. So much anguish. And I’m sure he/she had two parents close by, whose hearts were making the same sound of torment." (Not Everyone Gets to Go Home)

Dad Metal

Dad Metal
I found out about this Funny or Die video from the Super Dad Show podcast. Watch this video, and then subscribe to the Super Dad Show podcast. Or subscribe first, and THEN watch the video. (Dad Metal)

Dad Metal - watch more funny videos

Dads and Daughters

Dads and Daughters
You know those Dads Against Daughters Dating shirts and Facebook memes, threatening future boyfriends of their little girls? Well, one dad has had enough, writing, "I understand the love you have for your daughter, but let me be clear, if you mistreat my boys when they show up to your 1950’s doorstep to take your daughter out on a date, you’ll have to answer to me." Judging by the comments on his blog, he's not alone. (Dads that threaten their daughter’s future dates annoy me)

Working Dads

Working Dads
As a stay-at-home dad, I'm happy every time at-home dads get some attention from the media. It's important for dads and future dads to know staying home is something they should consider, and dads-at-home stories are generally positive. But I also agree with Scott Behson that the stories of working dads who can't find the work-life balance don't get enough attention. (5 Things You Should Know About Working Dads)


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