Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Please Don't Grow Up To Be A-hole

Please Don't Grow Up To Be an A-hole

Dear Offspring,

Today, if I could impart just the tiniest piece of fatherly advice, it would be this: Don’t grow up to be an asshole. Yes, being an asshole can be fun and somewhat liberating, but it leads down a dangerous path to a very scary reality. That reality is that everyone thinks you’re an asshole.

There are many different kinds of assholes. There are inconsiderate assholes and aloof assholes. There are violent assholes and cruel assholes. I’m fairly certain you won't become one of those, but there is one breed of asshole that I am afraid you may be genetically inclined towards becoming: the sarcastic, condescending, self-righteous asshole. I'm sorry to say that those genetics don’t come from your Mom.

Being an asshole will be tempting. I can only imagine it is going to get worse as you come into your teenage years. See, you are at a considerable disadvantage. Thanks to the universe’s somewhat cruel parental selection process, you are fated to grow up in a home where sarcasm, cynicism and satire will be hardwired into your brain as your main tools of defense for dealing with the stupid, stupid people of the world.

Often times you will want to tell these people how incredibly stupid they actually are. You may even think that you are actually helping these people by showing them the error of their ways. These are the moments when I am going suggest that you close your eyes, think of this letter, and just let it go. Telling someone how ridiculously dumb they are will not make them any less dumb. Yes, it may feel good at the moment, and provide you with a small kernel of satisfaction. You must ignore that. You must also ignore that if your kernel of satisfaction is combined with hundreds of other satisfaction kernels and heated over a fire of smugness, they will expand and explode making delicious, crunchy, self righteous popcorn. I know It tastes good, but every once in awhile a piece of a kernel will get stuck on the very far back of your tongue and no matter how hard you try and get it by cramming your finger back there, that sucker is stuck. Seriously, it’s almost as if it is suction cupped to the back of your tongue. It’s horrible. Horrible! Sorry, that stopped being a metaphor and started being a literal critique of popcorn about half way through.

My point is that it is a fine line we must walk. Putting up a wall of assholy sarcasm is an easy way to isolate yourself from some very good people. The problem is, when you view the world through a veil of cynicism, you end up seeing everyone’s faults and none of their positives. Kindness and compassion have brought me more joy in my life than any time I have found it necessary to point out that a person used the wrong there/their/they’re.

So do your best. I know it is hard. More often than not, I don’t follow my own advice. Your mom is a good filter for me, and for that I am grateful. I went through much of my early twenties without a filter. Because of that, I often met with the aforementioned consequences of being a sarcastic, condescending, self-righteous asshole.  

So to recap: Be nice. Understand that people are different and have different views. Just because you think you’re right, doesn't necessarily mean you’re right (unless they’re Republicans, then you’re usually right.) If people use improper grammar or use the wrong their/there/they’re, don’t correct them unless their paying you to be there copy editor. Bottom line: Choose to be the person that people call, not the person people call an asshole.

AND on the rare occasions that the stupidity of the world is just too overwhelming, when sarcastic rage bubbles up in your throat begging to come out and you know you MUST be an asshole or explode… make sure you’re a funny asshole.



P.S. If you haven't already joined us on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page, you should. No assholes allowed. OK, a few. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Circumcision: I Need Your Help

Not with the actual procedure... with a discussion about the topic in general.  I know this is a private/sensitive topic for some people. Feel free to click away, or comment anonymously, but I'm really hoping for some commentary on this post.
Here's the thing; I am at a loss on whether or not we should circumcise our son – a complete and utter loss. So much so, that my first, full blog post about my son is going to be about his penis. Sorry yet-to-be-named-son. I promise to delete this blog entry before you enter junior high. 
OK… let's get this first part out of the way. I am circumcised. Don't picture it. Think about something else: a beautiful sunset on a white sand beach, wheat fields undulating in the evening wind, the Washington Monument rising high above the national mall… wait, no. Stick with the sunset. Ok. Better? Good. I apologize, but I think it was important to establish where I am coming from. I'm done with the penis jokes. I swear.
Moving on; I am circumcised. I've never minded it. In fact, I've never really thought about it, which is weird since I've been incredibly aware of that region of my body since around 1993 In fact, I've never even seen an uncircumcised penis. I suppose I could use Google to find one, but there are inherent dangers in searching for such words.
So suffice it to say, I was (and am) unprepared to make this decision, which my wife has told me is up to my sole discretion. How come it's "my" decision and not "our" decision? Two factors:
1.   She's afraid it will hurt him, and my wife is the kind of person who puts spiders in cups and takes them outside. She has a very hard time causing pain.
2.   I'm pretty sure she wants me to own the consequences of this decision, which I'm willing to do. That's one "Ask Your Dad" moment I'm sure she's looking forward to.

Son - "Hey mom, how come Jimmy has foreskin and I don't?"
Mom – "Uhm… ask your dad… and what is Jimmy's mom's phone number?"
What consequences you say? Pick one: judgment, shame, animosity, resentment, loss of limb… pick one. To start, there are pretty vitriolic online communities fighting for and against male circumcision.  Outlying opinions range from, and I'm paraphrasing here: "It's a barbaric custom meant to inflict permanent religious markers on non-consenting infants through unnecessary, cosmetic genital mutilation" to "You're abusing your child and should be put in jail" all the way to "Uncircumcised penises will get infected and fall off shortly after giving everyone AIDS!" To "Don't let angry hipsters tell you what to do with your kid's wiener."

I know there are valid arguments on both sides, but this is what it generally devolves into on the interwebs. By the way, we have no religious obligation to circumsize, it is just a pretty common practice in the U.S.
While I have never been upset with, or even questioned my parent's choice to circumcise, I've read plenty of commentary from men who are upset that the decision was taken from them. I've also read stories of people who weren't circumcised and either through medical necessity or personal choice got circumcised later in life. It is consistantly described as a difficult and painful experience.
Lastly, there're the social factors… I can recall few scarier places than a junior high locker room. As much as I would like to believe that by the time my boy is in one, bullying will have been eradicated, I know that things like having a different shaped penis could make life difficult. But then… BUT THEN… what am I telling my child? Am I telling him that it is so important to not be different that I literally cut off the tip of his penis so he wouldn't get made fun of? Do I tell him anything? I never asked my parents. I never cared. Will he?
I just don't know. Like I said, I am at a loss on this one. So please help me. Did you, or do you plan to circumcise your son? How about forgoing circumcision? Why? Why not? Please keep the conversation civil, but let's have a conversation. (There's a way to comment anonymously if you'd like.) I know that this is one of those "Everything you're doing is wrong" type situations, but I'm hoping you all can help.
Sorry again for the wiener jokes,
P.S. My wife suggested that I outline a couple rules for the comments since this can be such a sensitive topic. Let's all applaud her optimism that people will actually comment.

A) Keep the language PG-13. My mom reads this blog. She's the only one allowed to use the f-word in the comments.
B)  Don't attack other people who comment. Your comment will be deleted if you do.
C) If you quote statistics, link to them or the article where you got them. (Your comment won't be deleted if you don't, but I'll be happy if you do)  
D) Thank you. (This isn't a rule, but really, I appreciate your input and thought I'd add it.)

Washington Monument

UPDATE!!! No really, I wrote an update to this post. Click here to read the exciting conclusion!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Weekends: Vegas vs Tea Parties

Certain parts of the following have been redacted at the "request" of my wife
A good buddy of mine is getting married this weekend. A couple weeks ago we took the obligatory six-hour drive to Las Vegas for his bachelor party and did our best to destroy our livers with a two day booze-fueled attempt to be 23 again. It was a blast. The ride home… not so much. Hangover + 6 hours in a car = sad Dad.
The bachelorette party, a two night fiesta that culminated with an overnight trip to Park City, was last weekend. My wife attended and I got the pleasure of having a daddy-daughter weekend with my little girl.
That too, was a blast. It was also somewhat enlightening. Everything was going smoothly until our Saturday-evening tea party. As I was sipping invisible tea out of a tiny, pink plastic tea cup, it occurred to me that one week earlier at that exact time I was in Las Vegas                                             with a                                                       drunk                        six              an angry, yet strangely sexy clown                                   the original, unedited Star Wars Trilogy                           and a picture of The Pope that my buddy still can't find! Suddenly my imaginary tea tasted very bitter.
The reminders of my Vegas weekend continued on Sunday. My daughter and I met up at the park with another Dad (he was in Vegas too) and his little boy. While watching the kids fight over who got to go down the slide first my friend looked at me and said, "Do you realize that at this exact time last weekend we were at the pool and you were…"
"Stop. Yes, I remember," I interrupted.
We sat in momentary silence and watched the kids laugh uncontrollably while they threw hand fulls of bark in the air.
"Them throwing bark in the air is strangely reminiscent of the money we were..."
"Shut up."

"I just hope that Flamingo is ok."

"I said shut up."
He shut up.
I guess my point is this: two weekends, two worlds. For the first couple years of my daughter's life I have attempted to keep one foot in each. I've wanted to be a responsible, loving parent and be able to have wild nights out. Obviously the wild nights out became few and far between because keeping a kid alive and happy is a thousand times more difficult when hung over. Still, I guess I had this ridiculous belief that when the rare chances came up I could still party like a "rock star."
I can't. This fact was cemented into my soul just outside of Cedar City when I realized I still had three hours to go and I wanted to puke out of my eyeballs. That, and I missed my wife and kid. Tremendously. Achingly.
I'm not saying I'll never go to Vegas again. I will. I'll just follow the dinner, show, bed schedule from now on. And, if given the choice between pretend tea parties and r                                                                                                                             upside down with whipped cream, I'll pick tea parties every time. Hands down.


making it rain in vegas
Not really us. We only make it rain c-notes.

The kids at the park

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Parenting: Everything You're Doing is Wrong

Spend enough time on the internet and chatting in parenting forums and it can start to feel like everything you're doing is wrong. Cosleeping? Wrong. Crib? Wrong. Are you using "time out" as a punishment? You're permanently damaging your child. Letting them "cry it out"?  You may as well call DCFS now because your kid would be better off being raised by a Honey Badger.  And dear god, did you give in to their tears and give your kid candy without first making sure it didn't contain High Fructose Corn Syrup? I hope you enjoy interviews about why your child ended up with the home decorating sensibilities of Ed Gein.  

Hyperbole? Yes. But this, perhaps a bit exaggerated for comedic effect, is how I feel lately.  

I would say something like "This is what we've come to." but I have a feeling we've always been this way. We just have more effective ways to communicate now. The internet is a giant magnifying glass focused directly on our collective parenting neurosis. We feel like we need to tell each other what we're doing right as parents and point out what other people are doing wrong. I'm no saint myself. I adamantly and openly detest the decision to refuse to vaccinate. Especially when said parents tell me to "do the research" and all I can think of is "You mean four years of undergraduate study followed by medical school, a PHD in immunology or epidemiology, and selection to a board of certified physicians that make recommendations based off of multiple, peer reviewed studies? Is that the kind of research you mean? Nah… I'm ok. I'm not going to do the research. I guess I'm just a lazy, horrible parent." I digress…

See. It's so easy. While I was typing up my rant against the anti-vaccination "movement", my daughter tried to remove a plastic plug protector with her mouth. With. Her. Mouth. Which brings me back to my original point: we're all doing it wrongyet somehow the human race continues. 

I don't know… I'm relatively new at this, but here's my unsolicited, un-authoritative and overly generic advice (opinion): Start from a place of love. If the decision you are making, or the action you are taking is rooted in a place of love, then that's a damn good start. Next, realize that there may not be a "right" decision, or that the "right" decision may be different for different people. I've found that in most cases there is a spectrum of decisions with benefits and drawbacks to every single one. Some are more drastic than others (cough... cough… I'm looking at you measles). Fact is, the vast majority of our kids are going to survive well beyond any modicum of control we have now, no matter how much HFC we give them. And yes, some auxiliary things we do now can give our kids small to large statistical advantages throughout life. I'm putting my money on love. In a lot of ways, by today's standards my parents were f*ck ups, but they loved me and they paid attention to me. When they messed up, they reevaluated and changed course. They didn't try to always be right. They strove to be less wrong. I consider them the best parents a kid could ask for, and I hope every day that my parental mess ups are as wrapped in love as theirs were. Love and adaptability—I couldn't ask for anything more. Well that and an MMR.

Striving to be less wrong,


P. S. One last hypocritical-parental critique on my part: I am a supporter of breast feeding. I think moms should breast feed as long as, and wherever they want. Still... maybe don't put a picture of it on the cover of Time Magazine. If you think the mainstream media is as cruel as it gets, you've obviously forgotten which ring of hell Junior High resides on.  

 Thanks Time Magazine for the image. Here's a link to the story it's associated with.