Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dumping the ads and reclaiming my space

This post has been a long time coming, but was finally pushed into the fore by a combination of finally having the time and this post on the Best Daddy Bloggers awards.

When I first began blogging 6 or 7 years ago (gawd, has it been that long?), the parent blogging world was very different, and my attitude towards blogging was very different than it is today. At the time, I wanted to undertake the technical challenges of setting up a personal webspace, having just finished a post-grad program in information technology. I also was about to have my first kid, and want a space to document that journey.

But I also wanted some place to connect with other Dad’s. At the time, there weren’t a lot of places for Dad’s on the web, not a lot of space for personal stories.

In those first few years, I wrote a few posts that got popular and passed around. I was seeing lots of traffic. I was also trying to balance work/life, and thought that maybe I could turn this blog thing into a way to make a few bucks. So, I signed up for Adsense, and explored the world of making a few bucks off my Daddy experiences. This was, oh, like 2005/06 or so. Early days.

But then I noticed something. It changed the way I wrote. The personal stories got less and less, and the blog became more like a machine I had to feed. I became obsessed with stats and tracking and checked my Adsense account often. It changed the way I blogged, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Right around this time, blogging exploded – especially parent blogs. Mommy and Daddy blogs were popping up left, right and centre. Sites like Minti and Babble appeared, and parents were forming and connecting online like never before. Blogging about your experiences as a parent became a business model, and I noticed that authenticity I saw in the early days disappearing from the blogosphere. Actually, authenticity became a business strategy. Me included. And I’m not feeling comfortable with it these days.

So, I am going to be removing the advertising from my site. I want to reclaim this space and reconnect with why I started blogging in the first place. It’s about me – this is my story, these are my memories. I put them out there as a way of both sharing and connecting, commiserating when the days are tough, and celebrating when the days are good.

I need to dump the ad’s. That is the first thing I need to do in order to reclaim this space as my own.

Hurting our daughters

It sickens me to think that these girls are the same age as my daughter. My reaction in seeing these photos was nothing short of visceral. Disgust. Sadness. Anger.

These are some of the images from the December issue of Vogue Paris, featuring models as young as 6 years old.

“Cadeaux”. Translated it means gifts. I am sure they title refers to the clothes these little girls are wearing. After all, Vogue Paris is a fashion magazine, and what 6 year old girl would be complete without their Bulgari bling.

Others have written about this much more eloquently than I have, including spelling out the reasons why these types of images are dangerous to our daughters. Therapist Ashley Solomon, who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness, said this on her blog.

Portraying girls in adult apparel and situations and portraying adult women as young girls (à la Britney Spears sucking on a lollipop in a Catholic school girl uniform) reinforces the sexualization of youth, something that harms both girls and society.

In fact, the American Psychological Association created a Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and found that these media, products, and societal practices are significantly harming the healthy development of young girls. Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, Chair of the APA Task Force, stated unequivocally, “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

Jennifer Grant also makes a point about this particular issue and the guest editor, Tom Ford that I also think is relevant.

Fashion designer Tom Ford was the guest editor and designed the controversial issue, including “Cadeaux.” Is it relevant that Ford is a close friend to photographer Terry Richardson (whose work is featured elsewhere in the December/January issue), and that Richardson has been accused of preying on child models and has written and gleefully performed a song called “Child Molester’s Coming For You”?

I think so.

And just to put this in context so we don’t miss the blatantly obvious point that this issue and magazine are all about the sex and not fashion, let’s look at the other photo essays in this magazine – one entitled “Pussy West”, and the other entitled “”Forever Love” featuring two elderly people who (according to this sensitive description by Hilary Alexander of The Times) are:

…so wrinkled they clearly have never had an intimate relationship with Botox, demonstrate that you may be geriatric but you can still get it on….

Well, good on them for still being able to “get it on”, but when you position provocative photos of little girls between other photo essays so obviously sexual, well then this becomes more than just pictures of little girls playing dress-up.

Dads, we need to be aware of these types of images, and how they harm not only our daughters, but society as well. This has to become an issue that we Dads not only talk about, but shout loudly about. Our young daughters are depending on us.

So please, spread the word. If you are a Dad who blogs and has a daughter, spend a few minutes and write a post about this yourself and send a message across the Dad blogs that this type of portrayl of our daughters is just not cool.

When the marketing department gets involved

Maybe funnier for me because today my girl turns 7 so we are right in birthday mode.

Embrace your inner 3 year old

This might be one of the most inspiring Ted Talks I have seen. The 3 A’s of Awesome or, as Open Culture calls it, the secrets to living an awesome life from Neil Pasricha, editor of the 1000 Awesome Things blog. Seriously, when you are feeling down, bookmark this puppy. Neil’s take on how to navigate adversity in your life and appreciate the little things is refreshing and all around wonderful.

If we are lucky, we get 100 years. A reminder of how to make the most of it.

Embracing the chaos – build a fort in the living room (if you can find the living room)

Giant Kid Fort

I loved this article from the NY Times on the movement to restore children’s play – a rallying cry for us parents to let go of our control freak order tendencies and leave it to the kids to rip apart the house and tackle some unstructured, imaginative play that involves loud noises, yells and dismantling of furniture.

Much of the movement has focused on the educational value of play, and efforts to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums. But advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well — starting with a willingness to tolerate a little more unpredictability in children’s schedules and a little less structure at home. Building that fort, for example, probably involves disassembling the sofa and emptying the linen closet. (A sheet makes an excellent roof.)

If you pop over our house, it’s a bloody mess most of the time. And sometimes the chaos does overwhelm and stress me out. Clutter everywhere. But I also see in that clutter the various superheros costumes my son dresses up in, the tinfoil robots and cardboard Viking shields, and my daughters ever present art supplies, strewn across three split levels.

And, as frustrating as I occasionally find it being asked to play with them only to be verbally thrashed and admonished because I am “not doing it right” when I have no idea what the hell “right” is, or even what it is we are playing, I know that I need to suck it up and have fun because it is important for them to be in control of whatever is going on, and for me to just go along with whatever scenario it is they have cooking up in their mind. Because in their mind me not “doing it right” is usually whenever I try to inject something of my own in their play, when in reality most of the time they just want me as a prop – a supporting actor in whatever epic fantasy they have cooking up in their heads but can’t always fully articulate.  It’s just part of the chaos. A challenge, for sure, and one that I am glad I am not alone in.

But promoting play can be surprisingly challenging to parents. Emily Paster, a mother of two in River Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb, tries to discourage screen time and encourage her children to play imaginatively. That usually works fine for her 7-year-old daughter, who is happy to play in her room with her dolls for hours. But her 4-year-old son is a different story, especially in the cold weather when he’s cooped up.

“If he wants to play, he always wants me to play with him,” Ms. Paster said. “This child has a million toys. Every kind of train you can imagine. But he really wants a partner. If I’m meant to get anything accomplished — dinner, laundry, a phone call — then it’s really difficult.”

I feel your pain, Emily. It’s bloody hard work when you are nothing but an ever present prop for a 4 year old’s imagination.

On a bit of a side note, another section of the article reinforces something I wrote about a couple days ago about overly safe (and ultimatley sterile) playgrounds for kids, and how play spaces these days are designed more for adult peace of mind that developing children.

Ms. Rosker has also campaigned, although unsuccessfully, to bring recess to her son’s elementary school. But school officials were too worried about potential injuries, unruliness and valuable time lost from academic pursuits to sign on to her idea and, she was surprised to find, many parents were similarly reluctant. “They said: ‘I’m not going to sign that. I’m sure there is a good reason why this is good for our kids — our school has good test scores.’ “

So, not only do we not want to give our kids challenging play spaces that help them develop, but we don’t even want to give them the time to do it because we are too concerned about “injuries and unruliness”. Something just feels wrong about that.

Image credit: Giant Kids Fort by Dave Bates used under Creative Commons license

A safe and sterile playground for who?

When it comes to playgrounds, a 5 year research study from UBC recommends municipal park planners dump the pricey playground equipment in favour of designing more natural spaces for kids to play.

We found that outdoor play spaces that contain materials that children could manipulate — sand, water, mud, plants, pathways and other loose parts — offered more developmental and play opportunities than spaces without these elements.

The report seems to suggest that playground equipment is designed more for adult piece of mind rather than to challenge and aid kids in their development. Such an emphasis has been placed on safety that it has sucked all the challenge out of most contemporary play spaces.

The playground equipment industry has a very aggressive marketing campaign going on that is largely based on putting fear and guilt into the minds of parents. Landscape architects are under a lot of pressure to simply install equipment because its easier and more recognizably accepted by adults as a place to play compared to [a more natural environment].

My own experience has found this to be mostly true – that more often than not my kids will tend to favour natural play settings over playground equipment. At my daughter’s school, there is a playground which is surrounded by a thick cedar hedge along the fence line. Over the years, kids have worn trails through the hedge and have created caves and hiding spots in the hedge. On any given day there are just as many kids zooming in and out of those trails and trees as there are climbing on the playground equipment.

Our backyard is another example on the natural side. We have both a backyard climbing structure/fort thingy, and two apple trees and an empty garden plot full of dirt. Guess which get played with more? Yep, mud and tree climbing wins the day, with the playhouse structure taking more damage from the weather than from kid use.

However there are some exceptions. My daughter, for example, is a monkey bar freak. She regularly blisters her hands on the things, and can spend an hour just swinging. And give my son one of these things:

Playground Climbing Web

and he is good for a morning.

I think that some playgrounds are becoming sterile environments because playgrounds are often spaces for parents moreso than kids. Sure, we want our kids to be safe, no question. But sometimes I wonder if that emphasis we put on safety is really an excuse for us to not pay attention.

I am not talking about hovering and preventing our kids from exploring the boundaries of their physical bodies in a safe way, but rather how many times I have been at a playground and see parents chatting away to each other, completely oblivious as to what their kids are doing. The playground has become a social center for parents and a kind of babysitter.

Not that parents shouldn’t socialize and visit – playground conversations with other parents has often been some of the most productive parent networking I have done. But I have seen many an oblivious parent use the playground as a babysitter, completely abdicating the responsibility of making sure their kid is safe to the municipal park planners, who in turn take their marching orders from lawyers and risk assessment professionals who always err on the side of caution. Meaning our kids get sterile playgrounds.

Photo credit: Playground Climbing Web used under Creative Commons license

0 to 10 years in 1 min 25 seconds

We are 70% of the way through this cycle with The Girl, who , in just a few days, turns 7.

And the winner for most overpackaged product this Christmas is…

Leapster game cartridges. Here is a photo of one of the games Santa tried to stuff into my sons Christmas stocking with a $2 coin  for comparison.


and here is the actual size of what was contained inside that package.

Wasteful packaging 2

What a bloody waste.  I wish the Grassroots Recycling Network was still doing their annual excessive packaging awards. I would be nominating Leapster.

Love your games. Hate your packaging.