Ask Your Dad Blog

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No, Adrian Peterson. It is Not OK to Beat a Child With a Stick

Last week Adrian Peterson, Running Back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted by a Grand Jury in Texas for Child Abuse. While discussing it with various people, I have been absolutely stunned by those putting up a defense. Not just defending Peterson, but actually defending the practice of beating a child with a stick.

“You don’t understand because you don’t live in the South.”

“I don’t understand why it is OK to hit a 4-year-old child with a stick?”

“Yes. It is a cultural thing.”

“A cultural thing? What does that even mean?”

“This is how we were brought up.”

This is an actual conversation I had this weekend. In 2014. Now, I fully admit to not being from the South and lacking a regional and cultural context in which these things happen. And by “these things” I mean a child – a 4-year-old child – being beaten with a stick until his legs are bloody. And from what I have heard, this practice isn't exclusive to the South. But maybe, just maybe, my “lack of perspective” in this case is a good thing. Because instead of seeing context. Instead of seeing tradition. I see this:



And I am angry. I am disgusted. Not just at Adrian Peterson, but at any context in which this becomes acceptable and defendable. It is not. No child should endure this. If we did this to a prisoner it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. And yet, because it is “tradition” it is OK. In some families it is OK to beat a child with stick.

No. It isn't. It is dehumanizing. It is cruel.  And if you think it is OK, you are wrong. If your parents did this to you, they were wrong. I’m not saying you don’t love your kids, or your parents didn't love you. We are all fallible. Good intentions do not guarantee good actions.

I understand that a lot of parenting is done in the margins. There isn't some set prescription of how to raise a good human being, and the soul can survive and thrive in spite of many things. So maybe some of you were whipped when you were a child when you stepped out of line. And maybe some of you turned out just fine. But that doesn't mean you deserved it. You did not deserved a “whooping”. I know you think you did, and that is a part of the damage that has been done. When a wife goes back to her husband with two swollen eyes because she thinks “I shouldn't have provoked him” do we nod and laugh and say, “Oh yeah you had that whoopin’ coming!” No. We don’t. We shouldn't. And yet, we hear stories of our parents taking their belts off or sending us into the back yard to pick a switch and look at it with a grin and nostalgia.

“But what about spanking? Is spanking OK?”

I don’t know. We don’t spank our kids. I know plenty of folks who do. I imagine it is easier to scale back an open handed smack to the rear end than it is to adjust how hard you hit a kid with a stick, but just typing that sentence feels ridiculous. I know where the line is for our family. We don’t hit. Other families set that line other places. But we, as a society, set lines too. They are called laws. It is time for beating a child with a stick to be set on the other side of that line, whether it results in bloody lacerations of not.

“But Adrian Peterson said he took it too far. He admitted that.”

Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds? He was hitting his child with a stick and just got carried away? Oops?

No. He got carried away by picking up a stick in the first place, and no argument is going to convince me otherwise.

“But his mom did it to him.”

This child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.



“But children aren't disciplined enough these days.”

This 4-year-old child was beat with a stick until his legs were bloody.



“But that is just a part of the culture.”

No. That is not an excuse. Culture can change. I can think of plenty of horrible, dehumanizing "cultural" things we've done in this country that were deemed unacceptable and eventually outlawed. This one’s time has come.

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EDIT: A reader on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page shared this comment:

First things first - I agree that hitting with objects is never okay. I also think this article does a good job of providing some of the context that you are trying to write off as unacceptable and/or wrong. - Eric

This is the article he shared. It is worth reading.

The racial parenting divide: What Adrian Peterson reveals about black vs. white child-rearing

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dad, You’re Beautiful



There wasn't anything that prompted it. She had been running between the living room and her bedroom, leaping every few feet and attempting to fly. She was a fairy again. When she left the ground I could hear her take a breath that, milliseconds later, shot out in an audible “UH!” as she came back to the carpeted earth. Then she’d smile, start running and try again. The plastic fairy wings a friend of Stevie’s had bought her were adorable, but not very good at actually making her fly. On her eleventieth try she came running over to me on the couch, hugged my lap and told me that I was beautiful. 

“Dad, you’re beautiful.”

Handsome. Somewhere in the back of my head a voice said handsome. Boys are handsome and girls are beautiful. I opened my mouth to correct her, and stopped the words before they fell irretrievably into the space between us.

“Thank you! Why am I beautiful?”

She put on her thinking eyes. Now they are beautiful. When she puts them on her eyebrows raise and her cheeks widen just enough to give her tiny toddler forehead creases. 

“Weeeell…” She stretches words out when she is stalling. She gets that from me. “You’re beautiful … because… you’re beautiful.”

Handsome. Men are handsome, women are beautiful. There’s that voice again. I wonder how many times I have been told that. I wonder how many times the people who told me that men are handsome and girls are pretty were told that by someone else. Does it really matter? They’re just adjectives. They’re just words, right?

I've had the “words matter” fight many times. I've been on both sides. Lately, in the constantly changing and evolving world of toddler language I've fallen down on the side of communication. Communication matters. Did I want to teach her the “difference” between beautiful and handsome? Is that what this moment was about for me -- or more importantly, for her? 

I decided that I wasn't necessarily looking to evaluate the sociological repercussions of reinforcing gender-specific adjectives for beauty in my four-year-old. I decided that my concern wasn't what the difference between handsome and beautiful meant to me within a larger context. I just wanted to know what beautiful meant to her. 

“But honey, what does beautiful mean?” I asked. 

“Uggg!” She was getting frustrated. I knew I couldn't push it too much further. I definitely didn't want to make this a battle, but there is just this part of me that is totally and completely addicted to watching her work her way through these things. I don’t mind where she ends up. I just like to watch her flex.

She widened her eyes again. It was beautiful again.

“Dad, it means you are nice. And you play with me. And we have fun. And I love you. And can I go be Tinkerbell now?”

I suddenly felt one of those teary dad moments coming on. Sure, what she said wasn't the literal definition of beautiful. But in that moment, in that snap shot of her life, it was her definition. It was her moment. Communication achieved. 

“Yes. Of course. I love you too. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.”

And off she went to jump and land and jump and land and jump and land. 



EDIT: As pointed out by a reader: the exact definition of beautiful: 

(via dictionary.reference.com)


adjective

1.
having beautypossessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind:
a beautiful dress; a beautiful speech.
2.
excellent of its kind:
a beautiful putt on the seventh hole; The chef served us a beautiful roast of beef.
3.
wonderful; very pleasing or satisfying.

So she was right. I'm glad I kept my mouth shut! Thanks, Lindsay Bandscombe!

P.S. If you're just finding this blog, or you just signed up for Facebook (ha!) be sure to like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. I post a bunch of fun, funny, parenting related stuff over there. It's not just a bunch of me writing about how beautiful I am, I promise. 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stevie and the BOB - BOB Stroller Giveaway!

John here. After much begging and pleading from Stevie, I contacted the folks at BOBgear and asked if they would consider sending us a stroller to review. My surprise when they said yes was only outweighed by Stevie's excitement. As you'll read below, she wasn't just excited for a new stroller -- she was also excited to spend more time with me. (Weird, huh?) Anyway, aside from the stroller we received no compensation for this piece. All opinions belong to Stevie and I.

As most of you know, John and I became runners earlier this year. And by "we became runners" I mean we managed to run several miles at a time without dying or complaining too much. Ok fine I complained a lot. But we did it. We ran lots of miles. See? Here we are all sweaty smiley. Me with my sister/trainer and John with his...pillow.




John raised money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and I "won the lottery" as all the cool runners say and ran the half marathon. It took months of training and attempting to eat well. But in all that work, the hardest part wasn't the trudging up hills and trying not to have beer the night before a run. It was the scheduling. 

After lots of frustration and failed training weekends, we finally figured out a schedule. John would run on Saturday mornings and then continue to recover from that Saturday the rest of the day while I watched the kids. Then I woke up on Sunday and complain-ran for a few hours and did my respective recovery while John watched the kids. Works, right? Sure. Logistically, it worked. We were getting our run in, the kids were being cared for. But there was something we were losing in our weekends. Us time. John and Stevie time. You see, we actually like each other. Like, we like-like each other. And we like spending time together. He's the Robin to my Batman. The Tennille to my Captain. So I started to miss my husband. 

We struggled through our training and did our races. And they were amazing. And we were happy we did it. But the whole time we couldn't help thinking that we would continue to not hate the idea of being "runners" if we could actually enjoy it together

I give you: BOB. The end-all-be-all of running strollers. And this is a double, to boot. 

No need to adjust your screen. This stroller and I are just that sexy. 

BOB is fancy-pants. (I'm bringing back fancy pants, by the way. John thinks it never left us). 

I could probably go on for days about this stroller. Just ask any of our friends that are currently not speaking to us due to our incessant conversations about how much we love our new stroller. (Not really. But they're all totally jelly). 

No more fights about who gets to sit in the stroller. Duchess and Captain both get their own seats complete with their own canopies and snack pouches. And they get to hold hands. Calm your ovaries, ladies. I know my kids are adorable in this thing. 



Aside from the  convenience of having our kids strapped in together and comfortable while we run, the thing is just so amazing to run with. Seriously, show me a stroller that doesn't have shocks and I'll show you a stroller that needs some. The support bar of the BOB has shocks, you know...in case John and I ever run really fast. We did find it useful when we would randomly run over something on the road or in the parking lot. The kids seemed significantly less mad about it the bump. And hills? Well let's put it this way, have you ever seen a goat run up a mountain? Ok picture that. Now picture this: 


Are you proud of me? I got all fancy-pants (see?) and made an animated GIF for you to show the goat-like grace of John pushing a double-stroller full of toddlers up a hill. 

Aside from the obvious perks of being a running stroller. It's a pretty rockin' double stroller for everyday life, too. We've been able to take it to outings over the last few weeks and it's seriously a life saver. Though it seems pretty wide (and it is) it certainly isn't too wide for quick trips to the grocery store or the mall. 


We actually got down-right giddy about getting up at sunrise a few weekends ago to see the hot air balloon festival a few miles away. Normally we probably would have driven there and circled around and cursed the lack of parking. But we're a walk-if-it's-within-reason family now. And it feels goooooood. 


It's most certainly not the least expensive stroller on the market but, in my opinion, it's worth the price tag. We pass other couples at the zoo and at the park with their BOB strollers and we are able to give them the nod. John calls it the "BOB nod." It says "Yes. We know something everyone else doesn't know. How awesome running with kids can be." So overall, yes. We love our BOB. 

And none of this is hurt by that fact that our stroller is pushed by this handsome bearded bastard. I think I like-like him.



If you would like to check out this and other strollers offered by BOBgear, here is a handy dandy link. 

BOB STROLLER GIVEAWAY!!

Want to win your own BOB Revolution SE? Well guess what? They gave me an extra one to give away. This one is a single, but that doesn't mean it is half as cool. If you're a runner with kids, or a just like to get out for long walks, then you want this stroller. I promise. You can even choose which color you want. Enter below! (US and Canada only... except Quebec, sorry Quebec.)

Note: I want to make sure everyone is aware that the giveaway is for the single pictured below, not the double. Thanks! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Pieces of Parenting Advice I’m Tired of Hearing

5 Pieces of Parenting Advice I’m Tired of Hearing


Five years ago, when Stevie and I found out we were going to be parents, the first good, usable piece of parenting advice we received was this: 

“Take all parenting advice with a grain of salt. Everyone thinks they’re an expert. Use what you think is useful for you, in your situation, and just let the rest go.” 

And so we have. Some advice has hit home and made us better parents. The advice that we don’t agree with, or doesn't fit, gets tossed out the window to roll away in the dust behind the minivan. 

The problem is that no matter how many times we leave it behind, a few of the same annoying pieces keep chasing us down the highway. Here are five of them:

Don’t buy gender specific toys. 

No.

My girl can love pink and Disney Princesses and Tinker Bell if she damn well wants to. Sure, we tried to go with gender-less toys. We also tried going with toys marketed to both genders. We swore our baby girl wouldn't be covered in pink. We failed. She loves pink. She wants to be a princess. She wants to be a fairy. She wants to have tea parties. Yes, Batman is invited from time to time, but not nearly as often as Anna, Elsa, and Rapunzel.

Here’s what I do instead. I try to find lessons from whatever she’s into that empower her - Tinker Bell for instance. Do you know why she is called Tinker Bell? It is because she is a tinker fairy. A tinker fairy takes random parts from the environment, puts them together into a machine, and then uses those machines to make Fairy Hollow a better place. Yep, Tinker Bell is an engineer. Yesterday, while watching Secret of the Wings for the 43rd time, Duchess asked me, “Dad, what kind of fairy would you want to be?” There are also fast fairies, water fairies, plant fairies, etc. 

“I would want to be a tinker fairy like Tinker Bell.”

“Why?”

“Because Tinker Bell looks at things and doesn't just see what they are, she sees what they can become. I think that is really neat.”

“Yeah, me too.”

I can’t control what she likes, but I can learn about it, be engaged in it, and if I look hard enough I can find lessons in anything. I imagine in a few years I will be doing the same thing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Note: If either kid wants toys that are primarily marketed to the other gender, that is fine with me too. It just isn't the way their individual tastes have panned out so far.)

Don’t let them watch DVD’s in the van.

This also comes in the form of, “Don’t let them have hand-held games, phones, or any screen time.” It is usually accompanied by calls to engage them in the outside world while driving because if they are busy watching the Lego Movie, then they are missing the grandeur of nature while simultaneously failing to develop cognitive skills for interpersonal communication! Instead of letting them play Letter Lab on the iPad, or watch Tangled on the overhead, I should really be playing “I spy” or “the license plate game” or “car colors” with them.  

Look, when I am driving a two-ton minivan going 75 mph down an interstate highway in varying degrees of traffic, my focus is not on childhood development. My focus is on the road. I’m not running a preschool, I am driving a vehicle. When we get to the ocean or the national park there will be plenty of time for nature walks, and interesting facts about butterflies. If my wife is in the van, sure, we rotate activities. There are crayons and toys and games and song singing, but when the kids get sick of those after 5-10 minutes apiece, we’re going to throw in Frozen. If a few hours of Frozen can keep them entertained while we drive the post-apocalyptic waste land that is the road between Wendover and Reno, I’m perfectly fine with them not looking out the window. 

Don’t buy junk food for your kids. 

I’m the cook in our family. I take great pride in creating amazing meals with fresh ingredients. When my daughter tells people that her favorite food is cherry-tomatoes a tinge of parental superiority grows a bit bigger in my belly. That is, until you ask my kid what her second favorite food is – mini corn dogs.   

Tucked in the freezer behind the back-up bin of frozen spinach, and the super fruits, is a giant box of frozen mini-corn dogs. Next to the corn dogs is a box of chicken nuggets, which is hiding a box of frozen “fish” sticks. I’m done feeling guilty about them. 

Our nights are on a pretty tight schedule. After I pick up the kids from daycare, I have about a 45 minute window to have dinner ready by the time Stevie gets home. If anything delays me from the time I get off work, to the time I get home and start chopping vegetables, that time comes out of dinner prep. I imagine this is a pretty typical situation for a lot of parents. So yeah, sometimes I grab a handful of mini-corn dogs and toss them on a cookie sheet for the kids. Sometimes, if I am running really late I stop by ::gasp:: McDonald’s on the way home and grab dinner for them. It may not be optimal, but it is reality. You can stop telling me what I already know.  

Control your kids in public. 

OK, yes. You should control your kids in public. I don’t mind this advice in general, as long as it is in this context: “You should make a consistent effort to keep your children under control and, when possible, not have a negative effect on the experiences of others in common spaces.” That is good advice that, honestly, hasn't popped up much for us personally, but the one time it did was enough for it to make the list.

My problem with it comes when a stranger takes an unflattering snap shot of your life and then uses it as the perfect opportunity to deliver their advice in the wild – and by in the wild I mean the Jelly-Aisle at Walmart.

“You should control your kid.”

You’re right. I should. Right now, I can’t. No one can. I can sure try, and trust me, the fit my kid is currently having is bugging me a lot more than it is bugging you. Sure, your ear drums may be on the verge of rupturing from the infidecible screams emanating from my flailing three year old -- screams that are so loud that I had to make up a new adjective that combines the word infinity and decibel. And sure, you’d really like to look at the assortment of jams and jellies behind which this temper tantrum is taking place. I get how frustrating it is. I really do. But do you know what factor is missing from your experience that exists in mine, making mine infinitely worse? You. Not only do I get to deal with my kid, her screaming and flailing, and my inability to select a jam of my choosing. I also get a nice thick layer of embarrassment on top of the chaos. Your eye roles, annoyed gasping, and requests for me to “control my kid” do nothing to help.

See, here’s the thing. My kid is under control 99% of the time. Really, she is quite adorable and well behaved. You just happen to be here during the 1% of the time that Mount Kidsuvious is erupting. I promise that she and I have regular talks about how people should behave. We do a healthy mix of positive reinforcement and consequences. Trust me, when I get her out of the store and in a more controllable environment, there are going to be consequences. But nothing you have contributed to the situation is going to help at all. Please just move on, keep your angry advice in your head, and buy your paper towels first. The jelly will still be here long after I have thrown my kid over my shoulder and carried her out of the store. 

Parenting gets easier.

Older parents and grandparents like to say this one when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It is always with good intentions, and I don’t fault them for saying it. I just keep finding myself thinking that sure, some things seem to get easier, but they are quickly replaced by other, more difficult things. Kids aren't a continuum that starts at suck and ends at better. What is awesome about newborns will be replaced with something that is awesome about toddlers - same for the suck.

My suspicion is that there will always be awesome and there will always be suck, and waiting on “easier” is a fool’s errand. Easier is never going to come.  I’m not waiting for easier. I’ll take the good with the bad, not out of some hope that eventually one will outweigh the other, but with the understanding that parenting, like everything else in life, is lived in the aggregate of all of our good and bad experiences. Toddler fits in the supermarket will eventually become slammed doors and early curfews. It is never going to get easier, it is just going to get… different. 

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So there you go. I know. I know. Making a list of the advice that annoys me isn't going to make that advice go away. And really, it isn't all bad advice. Who knows, maybe someday it will get through to me, and I will look back at myself and think I was silly for writing this list. Until then, I’m just going to keep doing my best to find love in the chaos – even if that chaos is full of pink fairies, Happy Meals, endless road trips with Frozen on repeat, and the occasional public fit.

What advice are you sick of? Let me know in the comments. Or, come find me on Facebook. I'll keep some mini-corns dogs warm for you! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Best Concert Ever

Having a bad day? Oh boy, do I have a gift for you. On Reddit last week user nthed111 posted this video of French pop singer Patrick Bruel in complete awe at a concert in 1991. The video was aptly presented with the title:

That moment you realize your song is now bigger than you



You can just see the joy as he realizes that something he has written now lives on its own. I'm sure it is a moment that every artist dreams off. Well, then something awesome happened. Turns out this happens at concerts quite often, and the comments section of the Reddit thread quickly filled up with cathartic awesomeness. I found myself spending an entire Saturday afternoon clenching back happy-tears and watching video after video of what became one of the greatest online concerts ever assembled. Here are some more great ones from the thread. Enjoy!