Ask Your Dad Blog

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Can any of you get this kid in touch with Adam Sandler?

Jeff Lynch is an important guy in my life. He was the first boss I had that really believed in me. We worked together at UPS back in 2004 and I attribute a much of my success there, and since I left, to the guidance he gave me. I haven't talked to him in awhile, but the lessons he taught me about personal accountability and having a strong work ethic remind me of him often. 

In February of this year, Jeff's son Grady was diagnosed with Leukemia. He has a long, rough road ahead of him, but with the support of his awesome family and his doctors, I am confident he is going to kick cancer's butt.

As many of you know, I have been working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for the past two years to raise money for cancer research and families affected by blood cancers. I'm in-between fundraising cycles right now, but this is a cool opportunity to help a family affected by Leukemia in a different kind of way. This time I'm not asking for any money, just for you to use your personal reach to get a message out.

Grady wants to have a low-key BBQ and eat a kosher hot dog with Adam Sandler (May I suggest Hebrew National, they are fan-freaking-tastic). I understand why he wants said BBQ. Sandler has long been on my imaginary invite list to my own hypothetical non-sexual-man-crush BBQ. Other imaginary invites will would be delivered to George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Dan Rather... ok I am getting off track. I, like Grady, am a huge fan of Adam Sandler. If there were a chart of all the times I have laughed in my life, the Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore sections would take up a large portion of the chart.

So anyway, just a shot in the dark, do any of you know Sandler or someone who knows Sandler, or someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Sandler. If you do, would you mind showing them this video that Brady made? If we could make this BBQ happen, that would be pretty damn cool. Anyway, you know the drill. Share, tweet, smoke signals, psychic projection. Whatevs.

Thanks! John

PS - Adam, if you are reading this, here is the contact section of my page.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stevie vs. Spider

I was out of town on business this week. This is from Sunday night.

My wife has a rational fear of spiders...

Oh... and then on Thursday I saw this. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Spanking Would Be Easier

Photo by Believer9 (Flickr)

After the post about Duchess's epic fit in the daycare parking lot, someone commented to me that a quick, firm smack on the butt probably would have calmed her down. It might have. It definitely would have been easier than the chaos of strapping a flailing four year old into her car seat. And trust me, when my sweet little girl lowered her fist like a hammer onto the bridge of my nose, there was more than a small percentage of me that wanted to make it incredibly clear to her that hitting hurts. I think that is a pretty normal reaction to anger and pain, but it is not one I am comfortable with.

When Stevie and I became parents, we mutually agreed that we weren't going to spank our kids. It was a remarkably easy decision for us to make at the time. We had this tiny, soft, defenseless human cradled in our arms. We looked into her eyes, and then into each other’s eyes and said “Let us never spank this tiny perfect person we just made.”

And now sometimes I feel as if I have nothing. Time out rarely works. The taking away of toys doesn't work very well. The calm explanation of feelings only seems to be effective after the hurricane. But in the ramp up, in the moments before the fit, I have nothing. I look my daughter in the face and say, “Don’t you dare eat that chip I just told you that you couldn't have, that you then put in your mouth and are currently chewing, and which you just swallowed while I was finishing this run-on-sentence, which was only a run-on-sentence because I know once I reach the end of it and you have swallowed the chip I just explicitly said no to I am going to have to come up with some form of discipline to counteract your direct and obvious defiance of me, of which I have none, because you don’t care about time out, or toys, or anything else, and I can’t spank you because I promised tiny cute baby you that I wouldn't, and now you are toddler sized asshole and DID YOU JUST PUT ANOTHER CHIP IN YOUR MOUTH!”


(Don’t worry. That part was just in my head. Also, I put two asterisks in the middle, so it isn't a real swear word. Right?)

We did this to ourselves. For our daughter’s entire life we have been lying to her. We've been lying to ourselves. We've been building an invisible fence that only exists as long as she believed in it.

“Listen to us, or else...” 

“You had better do this before I count to 3!

“If you don’t get in bed right now you are going to be in trouble!

And she would run straight to bed! She never wanted to see what was on the other side of the curtain. The “or else” was enough. But, in our new parent haze, the problem "past" John and Stevie left for "future" John and Stevie to figure out was what would happen when we got to 3. So all it took was once... 

“Duchess, you had better do [random thing] before I count to three. I'm going to start counting. One… Two… (Oh no. She’s going to let me get to three. The jig is up. She’s figured me out. I have to stall. How do you stall counting to three???) Twwooooooooooo…. (Really, John. You just said two again, but longer. You’re a writer, and that is what you came up with? Do you realize you are still saying two while you are thinking this?) oooooooooooooooo (She’s called your bluff. Start crying. Pray for the phone to ring. Fake a heart attack. Just whatever you do, don’t say...) THREE!”

And the battle was over. She had won. We stared at each other silently blinking. I watched as she slowly realized that the control I pretended to have over her was an illusion. There was no spoon. There was no fence. Her world opened up. Mine collapsed. I tried again, because I am dumb

“One… two… three.”

Nothing. I had nothing. We've tried positive reinforcement, she laughs and eats another chip. We've tried time out. Sure, she sits in her room but she doesn't seem to mind.  I have calmly explained why she needs to listen, but my “why” doesn't seem to matter to her.

And so, in the rougher moments, I fleetingly wish I could spank her. It would be easier to make a spanking be the post-three punishment. A "firm smack to the butt" would make an excellent boogie man. 

But I won’t.

One time, about a year ago, I grabbed my daughter's arm as she wildly flung her tiny fist towards my face, and for one second I squeezed it. I watched as the look in her eyes went from anger to suddenly knowing that I am much, much stronger than her. Dad isn't just a soft cuddly guy. If he were to choose to, he could inflict pain. It wasn't a remarkably tight squeeze, but it was rougher than I had ever been with her, and as I watched the her eyes widen I quickly knew what I was looking at. Fear. My daughter was afraid of me.  

She started sobbing. I pulled her in close, buried my face in her hair, apologizing over and over again. She said sorry too, and that destroyed me. She wasn't sorry. She was too young to even grasp the concept of sorry. She was trying to avoid my anger. That’s not what I want. That’s not a road I want to start down. She shouldn't have to manage my emotions to avoid the possibility of getting hurt. 

I have friends that spank. They tell me, “just don’t spank angry.” That doesn't work for me. The only times I want to spank my kids is when I am furious with them. I can’t uncouple hitting from anger. Maybe some people can, but to me, all forms of violence, even the smallest ones, are emotion given physical form. It's not the father my dad was for me. And that is not the father I want to be for my kids.

So where does that leave Stevie and I? Do we continue to cycle through whatever the non-corporal punishment de jour is? I mean, on the scale of 1 to “Spawn of the Devil” I would say my kids, at their worst, are below a 5. So we’re not doing that bad. And it’s not as if they are in a constant mode of defiance. Even the fit from a few weeks ago ended up OK in the end. 

For the most part they are perfectly pleasant toddlers. I just wasn't ready for them to eat the apple from the tree of knowledge and suddenly realize that there isn't anything past me counting to 3. Without arbitrary consequences for their defiance I guess we’re going to have to teach them the actual reasons why they should listen to our instructions. This presents two challenges. We’re going to need a good reason, and somehow we have to get them to believe us. 

Maybe I’ll just start counting to 30. 

- John

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

And Then She Could Read

And Then Our Daughter Could Read

Duchess hops into my lap and hands me her single-word flash cards. I'd purchased the flashcards at Walmart over a year ago in one of those optimistic parent moments. You know those moments? They’re the ones where you’re walking around Walmart and you imagine your kid sitting in your lap, happily looking at flashcards and talking about how they want to be a doctor someday. They’re the ones where you close your eyes and see an exact picture of your child, older now and calmer, sitting in the shade of a cottonwood tree, reading “Of Mice and Men”. She gets to the end, “Tell me about the rabbits, George.” The air she is breathing gets trapped in her chest. She closes the book on her index finger and bites her lower lip to push the tears back in, then opens the book and looks back out over the vista with Lenny and George. 

“Cuh…ahh…t… Cat.” 

“That’s right! Good job!”

The smile that takes over her face when she realizes that letters make the sounds that make the words is bigger than her face itself. I am as surprised as she is. The flash cards have been sitting on the shelf since we bought them. Stevie and I have pulled them out a few times, but she never seemed very interested. Instead, she was interested in “Pete and Pickles” and “Are You My Mother” and “Star-Bellied-Sneeches” and “Room on the Broom” and “Skippyjon Jones” over and over and over and over again. I've never seen her mom say no to a book, and unless I have chicken in the skillet midway between raw and done, I can’t recall many times that I have said no either.


“Bag. Yes, that’s right!”

“I’m reading, daddy!”

Sometimes I close my eyes when I smile. This time I see her falling asleep in a bed we've yet to buy her. The light is still on – not because she is scared, or because she doesn't like the dark; the light is on because the evil wizard Randall Flagg is walking up the stairs of the tower to end Prince Peter. With each step he gets closer and with each step her eyelids sink. The unknown end is coming and she wants to push on. One more step. One more page. One half-sentence before her eyes close, fail to lift and she sleeps under a well-lit blanket of books, the wizard Flagg pressed against her chest, waiting for morning to come. My smile is a portal from my imagination to reality. I whisper good night. I turn the off her light. I open my eyes again. 

“You are reading! I’m so proud of you!”

She doesn't know the gate she’s just opened. She doesn't know that the world has just bloomed in a way that it has only done once before. The day we took her home from the hospital and carefully strapped her into her tiny car seat, while driving half the speed limit on back roads to avoid any sudden movements, I looked out over the Salt Lake Valley and said to Stevie, “The last nine months her world was inside you. For the last three days her world has been our hospital room. Her world just got infinitely bigger, and she doesn't even know it yet.” Stevie nodded in agreement and we cautiously drove her home to her freshly painted room that had already been filled with beautiful books. 

“Bih…ih..guh…  Big!”

“That’s right. Big. Very, very big.”

Thanks for reading my blog! If you would like to see more of the words I write, I also pretend to know what I am doing on Facebook and Twitter. Come find me there. Or stay here. Or both. Just don't leave me... ever. I just made it weird, didn't I? LOVE ME!  

Friday, June 20, 2014

You're in Charge of Your Body. I Still Get to Make Rules.

Source: Kristine-Claire Tumblr

Have you seen this shirt? It has been all over the place. I shared it. I cheered. I like to think of myself as a feminist father. And I agree with the shirt, mostly. 

Here’s the problem with shirts and bumper stickers and sound bites. They boil everything down into a simple digestible message that, while catchy and convenient, is also easily misconstrued. I could see myself buying this shirt, wearing it proudly, only to have it come back and bite me in the ass when my 14 year old daughter wants to create all the rules when it comes to dating. That’s not going to fly. 

Being a feminist father does not mean she gets to make the rules. I can just hear it now, “But dad! You have that shirt! My body, my rules. I get to ride on Snake's motorcycle without a helmet if I want to! And my curfew is now eleventy-thirty! And since that number doesn't exist, that means I never have to come home. Also, thanks for teaching me how to be a smart-ass. See you never, daddy!” VRRRROOOOOOM. And then she drives off on the back of that asshole, Snake’s hover bike and I never see her again. THANKS A LOT SHIRT!

Yes, I am exaggerating a bit. The shirt is simplifying a bit. Let’s find the middle ground. Here are my rules for my daughter. 

Note: These rules apply to my son too. I am just going to refer to my daughter so I don’t have to annoyingly write “her/him, they, my kids” this entire post.

1. You get to pick who you date. 

Yes, even Snake. I don't even care if Snake is a boy or a girl. You get to pick. I may not like them, and I may express my concern, but I don’t have veto power when it comes to who you like or love. I hope… I really hope that my opinion will still matter to you when you start dating, but I think that is more up to my finding a way to remain relevant than your deciding that my opinion still is worth anything. I hope I love all the people you date. I hope you pick people who see strength in you and love you for it. I hope your self-esteem is a gate through which only the worthy may pass, but you and only you get the final determination of who is worthy.

2. I get to pick when you date them and for how long.

By “how long” I don’t mean weeks/months/years. By “when and how long” I mean days of the week and hours of the day. You live in my house and I am responsible for your schedule. Most of the time your schedule will be negotiable and you will maintain a lion’s share of the control over it. But, if you are slipping at school, if you are not keeping up on your share of the household responsibilities, if for some god-forsaken reason you decide to become a Bears fan, your schedule belongs to me and Snake will have to stand outside your window with a boom-box. 

3. You get to use me as an excuse. 

In high school I had a girl tell me she was breaking up with me because she didn't want to disappoint her father. I was being too forward and she said no (not sex, but kissing, hugging etc.) I was respectful, but bitter. I hated her dad for a long time for “oppressing” her. Years later I found out that they just had a deal that she could use him as an out any time she needed him. They were that close. I hope we can be that close.
You can kiss whoever you want. I don’t care. But if you are in a situation that you don’t feel comfortable in, and you want to blame your “oppressive asshole dad” for needing to leave or break up or whatever, go right ahead. I have been called an asshole for much worse reasons. I know that emotional honesty is a better way to go, but handsy teenagers aren't always the best with emotional honesty. 

4. You have to listen to me when we talk about sex, or at least pretend to listen.

You have to sit down. You have to respond. You can be embarrassed. You can blush and bury your face in your hands when I say things like fallopian tubes and labia and… ok I won’t say labia. I don’t know why I would need to say labia. The point is, we’re going to talk about sex before you start dating, when you start dating, and after you start dating. It isn't going to be a taboo subject in our house. It isn't going to be something that we are ashamed of, but it IS going to be something I ask you to respect. Sex is a big deal. It is a bond between you and another human being. It has the power to begin the ULTIMATE bond between you and another human being. It is our responsibility as parents to teach you about sex, its benefits AND its risks. It’s your responsibility to decide what you do with that information.  Which brings me to the last rule, and back to the t-shirt. 

5. Your body. Your rules. 

When it comes to who touches you, when it comes to sex, you get to decide. Your mom and I can’t exert control in this area even if we wanted to. Our influence and reach ends at number 4. I hope that we do a good enough job between now and whenever you decide to take that step that it will be a decision you feel comfortable with, with a person you feel comfortable with, but most of all I just want it to be YOUR decision.  Don’t let anyone take that away from you. Not me, not your mom, and definitely not Snake. 


I don’t know if these rules make me a feminist father. I’m sure I contradict myself somewhere within, or I will when the realities of raising a teenager become more apparent. Like Whitman said: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

I just want my daughter to know that while I do not view myself as the protector of her chastity, I do view myself as the protector of her. And her brother. It’s my job. Not because I am a male, but because I am a parent. 

Note: I reserve the right to amend or add to these rules as needed when I have to deal with an actual, live teenager. It's nice to dream though. Until then, be sure to follow me on Facebook. I promise not to say "labia" anymore.