Category Archives: Life as Dad

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.

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 terrifying first walk

Yes, I like to write about firsts. Maybe because as a parent there are so many of them.

I remember how terrified both my wife and I were when we first walked in the door to our house with a fresh, new baby girl bundled in our arms. We both just stood there, shell shocked from the seismic change that had just occurred in our lives, unaware of what having this new baby would really mean or even what we should do next. That feeling does gradually wear off. But it occasionally rears it’s quease-inducing head when we are presented with a new challenge we have never dealt with before. In the early days, it was the basics – first diaper changes, first solid foods, first baths. Today, it’s first day of classes, first time on skates, and first sleepover.

This week’s episode of This American Life, the excellent radio program from PBS, has a story of a Dad who undertakes a first with his four month old daughter – their first walk around the block together. This doesn’t seem like it should be terrifying. But for Dad Ryan Knighton, it was. His story is the first one in this weeks TAL (about 6:30 in in) and it hooked me. Don’t worry. No one gets hurt. It’s just a compelling story of a first for a Dad who experiences life from a different perspective.

Besides being a dad, I do have this in common with Ryan. I have also been asked if I am looking for Mom when pushing my kids in a stroller :).

Ryan has written a book about his parenting experiences called C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark

The lie I am happy to tell my kids

When you are 6 and 3, there are a few truths. White milk tastes better in a pink cup. Peas can never touch the potatoes. And on Christmas Eve, a fat guy in a red suit will somehow squeeze down the chimney and leave presents under the tree.

If there is one thing my kids believe in with absolute conviction is that something magical will happen on Christmas Eve. There is not even an inkling of doubt that what happens 6 days from now will not be real. The fact that Santa couldn’t be real is inconceivable – a possibility that has never entered their consciousness.

For weeks now, the talk around our house has been of Christmas. Of the family and friends we have coming, of the meals we will prepare, of the parties we will be going to. All of this is adding to their excitement level. They are vibrating with anticipation.

When The Girl was born my wife and I struggled with the mythology of the season. Is it okay to lie to your kids? Because, window dress it all you like, it is a lie.

It’s a struggle Chad at Vancouver Parent has been blogging about in an  excellent series of articles which has provoked tons of response, including some supposedly from kids who stumbled across his article in Google and had their world shattered. Chad, I don’t think you need to lose sleep over this one. It’s an inevitable fact that they would have found out anyway.

In the end, our decision was that childhood is a place where fairies and magic, bunnies that leave chocolate eggs, and fat guys who bring toys exist. In the culture we have grown up in, this mythology is part of of what makes childhood special and unique. The absolute conviction that this stuff is real is a big part of “the magic”.

In my twenties I spent many years working in commercial radio. During that time I grew to despise Christmas. Christmas just meant I had to work twice as hard selling people stuff. I spent countless hours locked in a voiceover studio pumping out commercial after commercial. My on location work tripled, and  Christmas Eve was often spent on location at various businesses around town trying to do a last minute pitch jobs on sweaters and stereo equipment, only to pick up the pitch on Boxing Day. By the time I hit 30, I was done with Christmas, and with commercial radio.

Since then Christmas has slowly became a more meaningful time of year. But it hasn’t been until this year that I have truly felt that mythical “magic” of the season. It feels like when I was a kid, and I attribute this to the fact that my kids are entering their peak Christmas years. They get it, and their excitement is infectious. I find that I am anxiously looking forward to a 6am wake up call to witness the magic unfold.

I am mindful that this will only last for a few years. The Girl is smart. She asks questions. And this years unwavering belief could become shadowed next as she spends more time with peers and in school with bigger kids. This may be the only year where they both live with the absolute reality that magic still exists. And I am going to soak it up.

As tough as the lifegrind sometimes seems to be, I know that when I am a drooling old fart these are the days that I will look back on as the best days of my life. And part of that is tied to the fact that I am feeding off the excitement of my kids. They are making this a magical time of the year for me, too. I am having so much fun with them as we all get swept up.

You see, in the end, it is really all about me. Selfish old me. I tell them the lie because I want them to believe in the magic because their belief is MY magic. It ‘s a magic that weaves an intoxicating spell over me and sweeps me up in tides of gushing sentimentalism.

The lie is not a lie we parents tell our kids, it’s a lie parents tell to ourselves because we want to believe. We want these moments to be pure and sparkling and live long in our memories. The lie becomes a device – an excuse we use to generate the energy and the excitement that heightens all senses, which helps to indelibly burn these shared family moments into our memories for years.

This year, for the first time since I believed the lie myself, I do believe in the magic of Christmas because I am living it with my kids. And that is why I am happy I told the lie.

A post for soon to be new Dads

Jim over at Sweet Juniper has created one of those wonderful posts that somehow manages to encapsulate exactly what being a Dad is.  A funny, sweet, sad, frustrating, and intimately poignant snapshot of a day in the life of one Dad.

I can especially relate to the moment he shares with his daughter who, after throwing up on his laptop battling a norovirus, reacts like I could imagine mine doing. Just when you think you know what you are being called on to do as a parent (in this case, make your kid comfortable while they battle a bug), parenthood throws you a small curveball and you realize that you are being called upon to do something else entirely.

I go into my daughter’s room to kiss her goodnight and find her sweating under blankets. Her best friend has lately found other kids he’d rather play with at school, and in her sleepy state that’s the first thing on her mind. Through her dream haze she says to me, “It’s good that he wouldn’t play with me today; I might have made him sick.” Here I’ve been worried I upset her with my reaction to what happened, but heavier things weigh on her tiny heart.

“I just want you to know that I love you, and that my computer isn’t broken after all.”

“Okay, Pops.”

“And don’t you worry about him. He doesn’t know how much fun he’s missing.”

A few lines later, musing about his angry reaction to losing his laptop, he says;

But how could you be mad at her? You might as well be mad at the wind.

Later on, an event happens that puts losing your laptop to a kid vomiting on it into perspective, and presents another reality of what parents are called upon to deal with, in this case it is Jim’s Mother-in-Law. Here’s hoping the follow-up post has some good news with regards to that situation.

This is wonderful writing, and a post that every soon to be Dad should read.

Dad news that caught my eye this week (via Twitter)

Dad news that caught my eye this week (via Twitter)

Dad news that caught my eye this week (via Twitter)

Dad news that caught my eye this week (via Twitter)