Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Crappy Parent

Image source: nalejandro (Flikr)

I see you.  

I see you sitting on park a bench with your iPhone out. Your kid is calling for your attention and it takes three or four times before you recognize that the “Dad” being shouted from the playground is the “Dad” that means you. You look up for a minute from whatever is happening on your screen, wave, and then go back the digital oracle in your lap.

I see you at the supermarket queued up with your kids. The older one wants what appears to be a plastic baby bottle full with liquid sugar. When you say no she starts to cry. You grab her by the arm, pull her ear in close to your mouth, and even though I don’t know what you whisper, I know it is bad because of the look on your kid’s face when she puts the candy back.

I see you at the restaurant. Your youngest has chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for what I can only imagine is the fortieth time recently. His cheesy fingers are holding your iPhone and watching what is probably some brainless cartoon you use to babysit your kids because you are too lazy to pay attention to them.

I see you lose it at the mall. Your kid drops a soda on the floor and your anger is far more than the situation deserves. People stop and stare at you. Your words are loud and hurtful and I wonder to myself how much you are damaging your kid.

Here’s what I don’t see.

I don't see that...

You play with your kid all the time. You spend the evenings after you get home from work reading books and teaching your kid how to read. You take her to the comic book store every Tuesday and let her pick two issues to reward her for her hard work. On weekends you take your kids to a park full of other kids. You want them to be able to play and have fun while you catch up on e-mails on your phone.

I don't see that...

After picking your kids up from daycare you need to swing into the supermarket to grab some chicken and milk before you go home and cook dinner. Last night your kid had a snack when she got home and didn’t eat anything you cooked. Because you two have talked about it, she knows that she doesn’t get a snack, but she asks for the candy anyway. When you pull her in close you remind her of the reason she doesn't get a snack and ask her to put it back. She remembers, looks a little sad, and does.

I don't see that...

You don’t get to go out to eat very often. Money is tight, and taking four people out to a restaurant is expensive. But it is a treat, and you want everyone to have fun. For you a treat is a medium-rare steak and potatoes. A treat for the kids means chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese. It is a special occasion… which is why, after your toddler tries to wander into the kitchen for the third time, you decide that the judgmental stares of others are worth being able to have a conversation with your spouse for the first time in a week.

And the yelling incident?

I don’t see that you've had trouble sleeping all week. I don't see that you had an argument with your spouse that day and it is still eating away at you. I don't see that you are stressed at work, and that usually little things don't make you mad like this. I don’t see the hundreds of times you didn’t yell at your kid. I don't see you say you're sorry later and explain that sometimes even grown-ups get angry and yell, and that doesn't necessarily make it right, but people make mistakes. I don't see your child forgive you.  

See, that's the thing. I don’t see anything but that one single snap shot out of your life, an iPhone, some chicken nuggets, a spilled soda or an angry face. That's all I see, and for some reason I think I know you. For some reason I think I know what kind of parent you are. You are a "crappy" parent.  

And you know what? Depending on which snap shot you see of my life, so am I. I am a crappy parent sometimes too. And I am an awesome parent sometimes, and so are you!

So let’s make a deal.

Let’s cut each other some slack. Let’s rest easy in the knowledge that there is much we don’t know about each other. Instead of offering eye-rolls or a frustrated gasps, let’s toss each other a smile and a nod that say “I’ve been there too.” When we’re really struggling, let’s offer to listen and hold our advice back until we’re asked. And most of all, let’s acknowledge that we’re all crappy parents sometimes. We all have our highs and our lows. The rest of the time we’re somewhere in the middle, treading water, and doing the best we can.

Knowing that we’re all in this together makes this Sisterhood of Motherhood, Brotherhood of Fatherhood, Fellowship of Parenthood… whatever you want to call it, great. Knowing we’re not alone makes the lows tolerable, the highs feel better, and the middle a lovely place to be. So please, crappy/awesome/and everything in between parents, let's just calm down a little bit, judge less, and enjoy the ride. 

Meet me in the middle, 


P.S. All those examples were me. I felt bad being judgy about others so I just used myself as a stand in. So yeah... OOOOHHH BAM!!! TOTALLY UNEXPECTED  M NIGHT SHYAMALAN PLOT TWIST! BRUCE WILLIS WAS DEAD THE WHOLE POST!!!

Anyway, the message is the same. Be cool to each other. We're in this together :) 


Did you enjoy this post? I would LOVE IT if you would come join the fun on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page

Did you hate this post? You should totally come yell at me on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page!

This is my final post with Similac and their Sisterhood of Motherhood Program. It has been a lot of fun being a part of this group. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Similac believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Similac’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dad, Am I Pretty?

“Dad, am I pretty?”

“Yes. You are very pretty.”

“Dad, what does pretty mean?”

“Pretty means a lot of things. In fact, it means different things to different people. It is kind of hard to pin down.”

“How do you know I’m pretty?”

What I wanted to say:

Because I get to see you when you are kind. Because your eyes widen and you smile when you see something you've never seen before. Because your forehead wrinkles when you are thinking really hard about something. Because when you get excited to do something you fling your arms behind you as you run out of the room. Because when I look into your eyes I see your mom, and I am reminded about how much we love each other. Because you climb on things you probably shouldn't climb on. 

You’re pretty when you ask questions. You’re pretty when I answer, and then you ask another question. You’re pretty when you squint in disbelief and say, “Is that real or are you just joking?” You’re pretty when you laugh at my answer.

Your face is pretty when you kiss your brother on the forehead. Your hands are pretty when they reach out to hold mine, when they take things from your mind and put them on paper, and when they take your excitement and transform it into clapped sound. Your arms are pretty when you wrap them around your mom, when you wave them in the air while dancing, and when you lay your head on them while reading. Your legs are pretty when you run and turn and jump and run again. 

You are pretty because you are alive. You are pretty because you are curious. You are pretty because you take the good parts of the world, pull them in through your ears and eyes and mouth and body, and shout them back out to me in action and voice, in everything you do. You’re the prettiest person I know.

What I actually said:

“I just know.”

“Oh! OK! Thanks dad!”

Then you ran off, arms behind you, feet beneath you, eyes open, too young to be worried about pretty, but pretty all the same. So, so pretty. 

Dad, Am I Pretty?

My First Car

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Michelin for this promotion.  I have received compensation for my participation, but my first car memories are my own. 

I've been driving nearly 20 years now. I've been in two car accidents. I've gotten one speeding ticket (last week). I've been through five cars, none of which by the way, were built after the year 2000. Driving is a huge responsibility. You have lives in your hands. Not just yours and your passenger's lives, but the lives of those around you. When I think back upon what a selfish little turd-bucket I was at 16, I am remarkably surprised that my parents helped me get a car. Granted it wasn't a car, it was tank. It was a 1966 Chevy Impala.

Hello beautiful! 
That is not actually my Impala. My Impala had many more colors than the beautiful metallic green you see in this picture. It also had some matte brown and red worked intermittently into the peeling paint. The interior was rough and torn. When we bough it, the carburetor had a birds nest in it. My mom, my dad, and I paid $700 dollars, split equally three ways, for that car. I loved it... for about a month. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why I Love Disneyland and Why I Hate that I Love Disneyland

I had this post planned for a year before we went to Disneyland. Here’s how it was going to work. I was going to start with the moment, the Disney Moment. Do you know which one I am talking about? After a full day in the Magic Kingdom, we would find ourselves standing in the center of the park, Duchess on my shoulders, the light parade passing by, and the fireworks lighting up her face with dancing, colorful shadows. Her giggles would be muffled by the music. In my periphery I would catch glimpses of her tiny fingers pointing at Aladdin, Rapunzel, Ariel, Sulley. Stevie would be holding my hand. My son, exhausted, would be sleeping in the stroller. Everything would be perfect.  Perfectly perfect in every perfect way.

And then I would deconstruct the scene backwards. I would explain the cost of the “Disney Moment.” I would do some fancy math and show how much we had invested in Disney over the last four years to create that look in my daughter’s eyes as the fireworks behind the castle mimicked the path Tinkerbell takes in the Disney opening to every movie.

The numbers were pretty staggering. Every movie, every toy, every blanket and book adaptation we had purchased since Duchess was born… the park tickets and the plane tickets, the hotel (which was very kindly covered by my in-laws).  It was a lot of money. We had, and continue to invest a lordly amount in our daughter’s love of all things Disney. And we’re not alone! Millions of parents are doing the same thing.

Going in, I was skeptical that it would be worth it. We have family members that are infatuated with all things Disney. Before the trip I had never really understood it. I liked Disney, but it wasn’t the be-all-end-all for me. Within a few hours of entering the park, I, like everyone else there, was sold. I teared up when I took Duchess on the Dumbo Ride, it started, and she screamed “WE’RE FLYING DADDY! LOOK! HI MOMMY! I’M FLYING!!” I’d have given all my dollars to see my daughter bury herself in Winnie the Pooh’s giant soft belly.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Night Was Hard

Captain woke up at two in the morning. 

Stevie got out of bed, went and got him, calmed him, took him to the potty, waited with him, took him back to bed, comforted him, and then came back to bed. At three in the morning he woke up again. I got up, went and got him, calmed him, took him to the potty, waited with him, took him back to bed, comforted him, and then came back to bed. At three-forty-five Captain woke up again. You know the drill.

This went on until four-thirty this morning. We took turns. We loved our kid while we were in the room with him, and when we came back to bed we cursed his name. We were so frustrated. This shouldn't have been happening. He’s two-and-a-half. Two-point-five-year-olds should be sleeping through the night. We should be sleeping through the night. I wanted to throw my own temper-tantrum. I wanted to slam doors and scream. I wanted to yell at Stevie, not because this was her fault but because I just needed to yell. 

Instead, she pulled me close. 

“I’m frustrated too. This will pass,” she said.

“I know. I’m just tired.”

“Me too.”

We closed our eyes and immediately fell asleep. 

At 4:45 AM Captain woke up and started crying again, and I wanted to die. Yes, that is overly dramatic but everything is overly dramatic at 4:45 AM. I threw the blanket off me, jumped out of bed and stomped to his room. I’ve learned not to dramatically open his door, because he is generally behind it. Instead, I opened it slowly and my son’s tiny face peered through the crack. 

“Don’t look at me like that, tiny puffy face man. I am tired, I have to work in a few hours and this is your fault,” I thought.

Tiny puffy face man looked at me and did his little lip quiver thing that is usually cute, but not at 4:45 AM.

“Dammit! I used to sleep! I used to sleep all night. I used to sleep in. Your mom and I took naps. Everything was easier. Why won’t you sleep? What are we doing wrong? What are you doing wrong? WHY?” 

But he didn't have an answer. He was just a face at my knee in zip-up footy pajamas and a stuffed Winnie the Pooh tucked under his arm. We stared at each other and I tried to hear him

“I’m tired, too. I’m frustrated, too. And I don’t have words, or someone to pull me in close and tell me this will pass. All I have is you, and you look really angry right now.”

I was angry. I've been angry.

I picked him up and pulled him in close. He wrapped his tiny arms around me and we went over to his rocker. He immediately laid his head on my chest and I lost it. 

“My friend died. My friend died and he was a daddy like me. I’m sorry that I have been angry lately. Your dad is dealing with some stuff, and I don’t know what I am doing. I have no idea what I am doing, and I’m afraid you can see it. I’m afraid you aren't sleeping because you can sense that there is something wrong with me. I’m worried that you aren't sleeping because I’m not sleeping.” I rambled on for a few more minutes whispering fears and prayers, and then he was asleep. I stood up, carried him to his bed, gently laid him on his mattress, and tiptoed out of the room. 

When I crawled back into bed with Stevie, she pulled me close again.

“You ok?” She said. 

“Yeah. I’m just frustrated. And I’m tired.”

“Me too. This will pass.” She kissed me on the forehead a little longer than usual.

A couple minutes later Captain started crying again. 

“I’ve got him,” we said.


Hey gang! A few things. Posts have been sporadic lately. I know. I'm sorry. Like this post kind of touches on, I've been dealing with some stuff. I am fine. Really - just sad and trying to find happy things. Writing has just been difficult, but it is getting better. If you need more Ask Your Dad in your life, I'm still posting quick, funny stuff on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page and on Twitter. Please come see me there. I promise to have more fun, frequent, happy, funny posts up here soon. Thanks for everything!

- John

Monday, June 8, 2015

3 Strategies for Being Equal Parents

When Similac asked me to join the Sisterhood of Motherhood they suggested a good thing for me to write about is how we can all be more accepting of each other as parents. For Stevie and I, before we even started worrying about how other people viewed us as parents we decided to concern ourselves more with how we viewed ourselves. What kind of parents would we be? 

There was one thing we were both 100% on the same page about. We were going to be a team. We would divide the work equally. We would make decisions together. We would be equal parents. 

Those were really easy words to say, but figuring out what they meant has been a much more cumbersome task. How do you divide up work when you have no idea how much work needs to be divided? How could we get on the same page when we had no idea which page the other one was on? Communication is another easy word to say, but sometimes communicating means getting upset, butting heads, disagreeing, and finding each other on the other side. 

We’re not perfect, nor are we trying to be, but we are getting a lot better at this whole equal parenting thing. Here are three strategies that have helped us find our way.  

Tag in, Don’t Take Over

Putting Duchess to bed hasn’t always been the easiest of tasks. She used to resist it with all the tears she could muster. It was difficult to deal with, and it was also difficult to listen to from the other room.

One time, when Stevie was having a remarkably hard night with her, I decided to swoop in and save the day. I poked my head into the room, made some silly faces, got the kiddo laughing, and offered to read a book. Stevie quietly snuck out the door and I finished off bedtime with ease. 10 minutes later I emerged from the room victorious and ready for my wife’s praise. She was not amused. 

“I had it. You can’t just come take over like that. It undermines me, and makes it more difficult next time.” She said. 

Of course she was right. I’d gotten upset with her the week before for nearly the same thing. Not grabbing the reigns from the other parent is parenting 101. But the screwy thing is, sometimes we want the other parent to tag in. Making things even more difficult, the situations where we want each other to step in look EXACTLY like the ones where we don’t. As you can imagine, we had a few conversations like this:





“SO AM I!!”

Notice that I didn’t label who said what in that exchange. That’s because the roles are interchangeable. To overcome this confusion, we came up with the tag-in system. Now anytime either of us hear the other one struggling with one of the kids we quietly approach, and make eye contact. 

The approaching parent then telepathically communicates with the parent in peril and mind whispers, “Tag in?” The other parent then psychically replies with either “Dear god, yes. Please get me out of this room before I explode,” or “Nah, I got this. Thanks for asking. Mental High-five fellow parenting partner!” 

It’s perfect. No one’s toes are stepped on, and we have an out if we need it. Best of all, it is done silently. To our kids it looks like an eyebrow raise, and a nod. To us it looks like ninja teamwork. 

Have a routine and be willing to break it

After five years, Stevie and I have a pretty set routine. We alternate getting the kids ready and taking them to daycare. We alternate picking them up. I get home and make dinner while Stevie plays with them in the living room. Then I play with them while she cleans up from dinner. On weekends I get to sleep in one morning and she gets the other one. What is nice is that our routine was built on a framework of equal opportunity parenting. It works about 40% of the time.  

The rest of the time life happens. I get stuck in traffic while coming home from work. Stevie has to finish up some work at home. The kids would rather play in the back yard than eat dinner. I’ve had a rough day and don’t want to put the kids to bed. Stevie has had an awesome day and wants to talk about it with her sister. A million things keep us from our routine, and that is totally ok. 

Our routine is our home base. We venture out and we come back. If something comes up that causes us to deviate, we adjust. But at the end of the chaos, we have our routine to go back to. 

Don’t keep score… but secretly know the score

“But I put her to bed last night!”

“Yeah, well I have given them their last six baths.”

“Yeah, but I cleaned up… the incident.”

“…OK, I’ll put her to bed.”

Our original idea was to keep all things even, but like I mentioned in the section about breaking your routine, that just doesn’t happen. When deviations from the norm happen, it is easy to start keeping score. Honestly, it is impossible not to. 

Our first try at this strategy was to just forbid keeping score. Any mention of score was greeted with a snarky, “I thought we weren’t keeping score anymore.” Eventually we had to admit that not keeping score was an impossibility, so instead we just both agreed to secretly keep score. But here’s the key, instead of looking for places that we are getting ahead, we try to find places that we are falling behind. 

It works wonders. If I can recognize that Stevie has put the kids to bed for the last three nights, it is easier for me to step in and say that I’ll snag the next three. If Stevie knows that I have given the kids their last three baths, she will know that she has been sucked into a parallel dimension where Bizzaro John pro-actively gives his kids baths. 

The point is, that we try to see what the other person is doing and make adjustments before the conversation has to take place where we make accusations. 


We still have a lot to figure out, and really, even though we strive to be equal parents all the time, the truth is that sometimes one of us needs to pick up the weight of the other. It is near impossible to be equal parents in the moment, but in the aggregate we've gotten pretty good at keeping things 1:1.

Similac partnered with bloggers such as me for its Sisterhood of Motherhood Program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Similac believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Similac’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.  - 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Late Night Star Wars with Pop Secret

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pop Secret and was compensated for my participation in this promotion.

When I was a kid, after my sister and I and my mom had gone to bed my dad used to stay up and watch movies. Every once in awhile a movie would come on that he though I would enjoy. He would come to my room, poke his head in the door and say "John-boy. Are you still awake? Want to come watch a movie?"

Of course, even if I wasn't awake, I would wake up immediately, jumping at the chance to spend some one on one time with my dad. Those late night movies are some of my most cherished moments with my pops. Included with the movies he would come and grab me to watch, no matter how many times we had seen them, were the original Star Wars. I can't tell you how many times my dad and I watched Empire together while the rest of the family slept.

So when the good dudes at Life of Dad and Pop Secret asked me to create a Star Wars themed video about watching movies and eating popcorn with my kiddo, I jumped at a chance. I love Star Wars, I love pop corn, and I love sharing those two things with my kids. So it was a perfect fit. Here is my video, it is an homage to those nights when my dad used to come get me out of bed to hang out. Now I get to be the dad!

I hope you liked my video. If you didn't, let me know by psychically sending your critiques to me via brain waves. I'll get them I promise. If you did, let me know in the comments! AND if you liked it so much that you are inspired to make your own video, go to this page on Life of Dad and post it there. You could win $1,000 in Pop Secret Popcorn, and Star Wars Gear. I'm assuming most of it will be Star Wars gear, because $1,000 worth of popcorn would look like this....