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Just Call Me Dad

Fatherhood in the 21st Century

I had another post planned for today, but a recent post by C.C. Chapman from Digital Dads made me rethink my plans. C.C.’s post was about a dance competition that he attended at which many of the elementary school age girls were dressed in fishnet stockings, tight boy shorts, and were performing very suggestive dance moves.

C.C. rightly (IMHO) suggested that he would refuse to allow his daughter to wear those outfits or perform those moves, despite the fact that dance is becoming a passion for his daughter.

Have You Been Tested As A Parent?

I haven’t, at least not in this way. Would I refuse to allow my son to do something that he wants to do, that his peer group is allowed to do, and that other parents in my circle think is okay because I don’t like it? I hope so.

One of the reasons I love writing about my experiences as a dad so much is because it forces me to sit down and think about parenting in a non-reactive way and to play out scenarios in my head and try to imagine what my response would be in those situations.

What Are Your Limits?

What I find so interesting about this story is that if just one of the dads involved had stood up and said “Hey, this isn’t right” this dance may never have occurred. Surely the moms and dads of those little girls knew that this was wrong, but they went along with it, not wanting to seem like a prude or go against the grain or draw unwanted attention to themselves. If just one person had objected, the others might have been shamed into rethinking that this was a good idea.

But not one of them did.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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I took two flights last weekend with my wife and son. I have heard many horror stories about traveling in airplanes with kids, so I took action early on to try and make sure the flight went well. None of these tips are sourced from experts, but they did work for me. If you have any tips that you would like to add, please leave a comment.

Talk About Flying

As soon as I booked the flights I started talking about flying with Nick. I explained that we would go to the airport, explained the check-in procedure, explained security, and explained boarding. I continued to do these things as I talked about the trip.

Experience Flying

I made flying a part of playtime. I would pick Nick up, make engine noises, shake and vibrate, and then run forward flying him up into the air. I would bounce him and say “Yeah! Bouncing is fun!”

Including Flying At Story time

I tell Nick an adventure story or two each night before he falls asleep. I tried to make at least one of them include flying.

Take a Drink With You

Kids don’t know to swallow when their ears pop from altitude changes, and the drinks aren’t served until you get to altitude, so take a drink onto the plane with you (buy it past the security checkpoints). I told Nick to have a drink when his ears started to feel funny.

That’s it. Everything went perfectly for us, no crying, so screaming, and no fear. He loved flying and wants to do it again as soon as he can. I can’t promise that these tips will work for you, but they definitely worked well for me.

For a long time now I’ve had the idea of putting together a huge list of songs for Dads to listen to. A while back I posted a few YouTube videos of songs that I liked, but that wasn’t enough.

My musical tastes lean toward country; although I like songs from almost every genre, I don’t really listen to other types of music on a regular basis. So, I’m turning to my readers to leave comments here and share your favorite songs about being a dad. They could be father-son songs, father-daughter songs, songs about being a dad, songs about kids, whatever. Basically, if you think it has absolutely anything to do with being a dad, tell me about it.

I will leave all of the comments up, but I’ll also aggregate the responses and put together a post in the future with all of the songs.

To top it off, for every comment that I get on this topic, I’ll donate $2 to the National Fatherhood Initiative.

Thanks, and have a great day!

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

I’ve always liked to think of myself as a very child-like person, thinking that this was preferable to being called childish. Of course, I don’t throw temper tantrums in Wal-Mart or throw food all over the table when I go out to a restaurant – it’s just that I try to view the world in a way that is a little simpler, a little better than perhaps it really is.

Of course, that level of thinking isn’t something that I always achieve; there are plenty of times when I get bogged down and stressed out. I think about responsibility and cleaning the toilet and balancing my checkbook just like you do.

Adora Svitak is a 12 year old girl from Washington state who recently gave a presentation at the TED conference on the topic of being childish – “What Adults Can Learn From Children”. She did an amazing job, and I’d like to share the video with you:

Thinking like a child alone can not solve the world’s problems. Even the best ideas still need to be executed properly, and that usually requires an adult’s knowledge of the way that the world works, an adult’s money, and an adult’s contacts. However, there are probably dozens of situations in my life where thinking more like a child would help me solve a problem, get more enjoyment out of my day, and smile just a little bit more before I go to sleep tonight. How about you?

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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I’m told I have a unique view of the world by many people. I try very hard to listen to alternate points of view, and I read people like Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss. To me, my view isn’t really unique, it’s just different from the mainstream.

It comes as little surprise to those same people that I have some different views on parenting. For example, Nick is quite stubborn, and I really like that. Yes, it makes my job as a parent harder, but I think a stubborn streak will serve him a lot better in life than subservience. I try to reason with Nick and talk to him in a normal (read: not baby) voice as much as possible. I get a lot of raised eyebrows, but I think I’m doing the right thing.

On Saturday, I was faced with a parenting dilemma. We had purchased a kite the day before, and we were intending to make it fly that afternoon. Mom had made a request: clean up the living room before we go out. Ordinarily, I will pitch in to pick up toys as long as Nick is doing something as well. Today, he decided that it was more fun to roll around on the couch. Mom was getting frustrated, and the point was fast approaching where we should start laying down the law by taking toys away if he didn’t listen. Instead, I chose an alternate method. I played stubborn.

I kept asking him to clean up his toys. Every time he left the room, I followed him and turned him back towards the living room. I shut every door upstairs so that he had no escape, and I blocked the areas of the living room that were clean.

This went on for about 45 minutes. I know – a really long time. I would ask, he would ignore. I would ask, he would try to run. Then, something strange happened. He sat down in the middle of the mess and started to cry. Then he stood up, picked up his toys, and put them all away. On top of that, he was a perfect child until he went to sleep for his nap. He listened, came when called, and behaved well.

I view this as a parenting victory – I think that my actions reinforced who was in charge and enforced the rule that he needs to listen to his parents. Still, I know there are a lot of people who would say that 45 minutes was WAY too long to wait, and that he should have had a spanking and grounding after being told twice.

What do you think? Did I do well, or was I a pushover? What methods do you use to get your toddler to listen?

In February I decided that I really had to do something to get into shape. Well, that isn’t exactly correct, because I do have a shape right now, but it’s sort of round and flabby as opposed to flat and rigid. Perhaps I should say that I decided that I really had to get into BETTER shape.

A long time ago I started a running program and I really enjoyed the time spent out on the streets, pounding the pavement. Eventually winter and snow and ice came to my city, and the running stopped. I had every intention of running in the snow, but come on -40 is COLD. Spring came, and I reverted to my other favorite physical activity: killing zombies on the Xbox.

In the beginning of March I made the decision to enter a local 5k race that was going to take place at the end of May. I paid my registration, and started thinking about how best to train. I decided that I would blow the cobwebs off of the elliptical trainer in my basement, and then follow the couch to 5K running plan. I’ve been pretty good about using the elliptical, but Monday marks the day that I have to get out my running shoes and start hitting the pavement again.

So Dads, if you have any encouraging stories to share with me, I would love to hear them. And on Monday if you feel the ground shaking a little, it’s just me punishing the streets in front of my house.

Happy Easter!

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

A while back I was asked to write a guest post for the great website http://www.gladdads.com. Unfortunately, I didn’t get off my butt until just a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, they were still happy to hear from me and recently posted the article that I wrote for them on potty training. i encourage you to check it out when you have a couple of minutes.

The worst four-letter word is of course…CAN’T. As in, I can’t do this, or I can’t do that. For some reason, Nick has started to say this a lot lately.

There are times when every four letter word is useful. The *F* one comes in handy when you drive your car into something, and I like to use the *S* one sometimes when I step in a pile of dog doo doo or a police car pulls up me behind when I am speeding.

The *C* word though – can’t – I’m not sure where it fits in. Yes, I could say that we CAN’T go to Toy’s R Us this afternoon, although saying that I don’t want to is probably more appropriate. Telling your son you can’t afford a new toy probably isn’t true either – you likely just don’t want to spend the money on that item.

When my son says he can’t do something, I try to respond with yes you can, I’ll help if you need it, or sure you can, let me teach you. I don’t like how often I hear the word can’t in today’s world. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for motivational tapes and books, but I really believe that the words that we use to describe our situations and feelings have an effect on us. I wouldn’t say that I believe in “The Secret” (I’ve never seen it or read it), but I don’t see any reason to put negative thoughts out into the world.

Am I being pedantic? Or am I teaching my son a life lesson? If I explain why I don’t wan’t him to say he can’t do something, will he remember the lesson his entire life and achieve great things, or will he think of Dad as a stuffy old writer who was always correcting him?

I remember reading somewhere that instead of saying “I can’t do something”, you should say “How CAN I do this?”. That is a lesson that I would like my son to learn.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

I do my best to be an active parent and not let the television babysit for me, but there are times when it is nice to turn on the Backyardigans (or more likely Thomas & Friends) and let my son be entertained.

As Nick gets older, he is more and more aware of the technology around him, especially as he sees Mom and Dad engaging in it. He’s been viewing videos on YouTube since he was six months old (In fact, for a time viewing The Wiggles was one of the best ways to get him to calm down when he was upset). He talks to Grandma and Grandpa on the telephone, and he sees me checking e-mail on my Blackberry.

With his growing addiction to Thomas & Friends, it was only natural that trains would extend into his YouTube viewing. In many ways this is great, because there is a plethora of Thomas & Friends videos and fan recreations on YouTube, many of them very well done and with millions of views.

I began wondering if I could capture some of these videos and transfer them to my telephone for use in outside situations. There are lots of places where kids are forced to wait such as doctor’s offices, restaurants, the mall, in the car, etc where a 5 minute video could prevent a crying fit or prevent him from running around bothering others.

What I found was a handy website called KeepVid (http://www.keepvid.com). This site allows you to download and save any video from YouTube (or other streaming video sites). It even gives you a few options for how you would like the video to be saved. Be aware that there may be copyright issues with downloading some videos.

This was great, and I could now watch the videos on my laptop without an internet connection. However, it didn’t really solve the problem of getting the videos onto my phone; none of the download options were compatible with my Blackberry. For that problem I turned to AVS Video Converter (http://www.avs4you.com). This software allowed me to convert the video into the correct format. Because I use the free version, there is a watermark at the beginning and end of the videos. Those of you using different devices may be able to download videos directly to your device without any conversion.

The end result is a 5 minute babysitter that grasps Nick’s attention when I really need it.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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I don’t pretend to be an expert on food. To be honest, I’m not even very knowledgeable about the topic of food. Sure, I’m a pretty good cook, and I have some ideas about what food is good for us and what food is bad for us. However, I don’t know enough to keep me from being in the 66% of people who are currently overweight.

A few weeks ago, Nick and I went to Wal-Mart in the afternoon and we bought a three pack of Reese Peanut Butter Cups. We each had one, and the third cup stayed in my coat pocket. That night when it was time for a bedtime snack, I offered him the third peanut butter cup. My wife made it clear that this was not an appropriate snack. Of course, when I actually thought about it, I also knew that this was not a healthy snack. However, habit and convenience led me to not think about it.

I think that most of us know about food, but we don’t spend a lot of time actually thinking about food or the food that we eat. Of course, as adults, we have every right to eat whatever we want and live with the consequences of that. However, my concern was that I was teaching Nick some poor eating habits, and that did not sit well with me. I reached out to a Nutritionist with a list of questions, and that will be the subject of a coming blog post. In the meantime, I came across an excellent video from TED 2010. In it, Jamie Oliver (of Food Network fame) talks about childhood obesity and the way that we feed our kids. It’s about 20 minutes long, and really made me think about how I feed my son, and also about how I feed myself. I hope that you enjoy it.


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