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.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer S'More Party!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LetsMakeSmores #CollectiveBias #sponsored

Mom speaking. Guess what? Summer's here! Ok, calm down, summer isn't really here. Not for two more days. But that didn't stop us from trying to will it here sooner with a s'mores party. With our marshmallows, chocolate and Honey Maid Graham Crackers, we are ready to make s'mores night! S'mores are a quick, easy solution for summertime snacks!

Duchess had her first s'more last summer and has been asking about them every since. We'd been waiting for another camping trip or big holiday but decided, what the heck? S'mores day every day. 

For every s'mores party, you need the classics: Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallows and Hershey's Chocolate Bars. We headed to Walmart to get all our gear for our little shindig. Anyone can tell you how to make the classic s'more. Crackers, chocolate, marshmallows, add fire. Sound familiar? Well let's shake up your party a little. 

Try dipped graham crackers instead of solid chocolate pieces

Warm some heavy cream in a sauce pan and slowly poor it over some chopped Hershey's chocolate bars (equal parts cream and chocolate). And hey, if you're feeling crazy, add some whiskey to it. Why not? Dip one side of your graham cracker in your ganache (didn't know it now had a fancy name, did you? Now you do.) Let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes or so and you're ready to roll. 

Now add your fire as mentioned and nom them s'mores.

Use a small fire pit on a random Wednesday rather than wait for a camping trip

Create a tablescape in your backyard to make things fancy.

Inexpensive flowers are an easy way to dress up your presentation

Maybe chalkboard signs and string aren't your thing. But they are definitely mine. 

So tell me. Have you given that first life-changing s'more to your kids? Waiting for the perfect holiday? Let us know in the comments! Oh, and if you are looking for S'more stuff, just look for this display at Walmart!

Friday, June 12, 2015

We Like Milk

Our table is always this clean. Always. Really....

I haven’t always been a milk guy. I poured it on my cereal when I was a kid, and I drank it with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because it is impossible to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without a cold glass of milk, but other than that it was always kind of an afterthought beverage for me. After. After soda. After juice. And then when I was older, after beer. Milk was way down the line of my preferred beverage of choice. 

Then we had kids. We never realized how inundated our lives were with sugary, high-calorie drinks until we had kids and decided to cut them out. No more Shasta. No more Pepsi. No more 2% actual juice, juice. We decided that our household drink staples would be water and milk. Before every meal our kids get a choice, do you want water or milk?  

With breakfast and lunch they usually choose water, but with dinner the answer is always milk. Not just milk, but MIIIIILK! I think they love milk more than I love beer. (Yeah, the beer didn’t make it through the juice soda purge.) 

So yeah, we love milk. Our kids love milk. Stevie loves milk. And why not? Our pediatrician recommends it. It has protein and fat and tastes like happiness. 

He's annoyed that I am drinking his milk.

That is why I was super excited to be asked to participate in the The Great American Milk Drive! While kids have access to milk regularly during the school year, when summer comes around that access declines for millions of families. 

But we can help! I am in a competition with a bunch of other dad bloggers to see who can raise the most money for The Great American Milk Drive! A donation of as little as $5 will deliver a gallon of milk to a local family through the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks. I’ve already donated $25! I am hoping you will join me. So do me a solid and follow this link to pledge the money you would usually use for coffee today to help!


On June 16, The Great American Milk Drive is challenging America to donate gallons of milk for kids in need in their communities with a major, one-day social media milk drive. America’s milk companies and dairy farmers will make gallons multiply across the country by matching up to $10,000 in donations. You can follow this social media-driven milk drive on Facebook and Twitter with #MilkDrive.

And now, here's a nifty info graphic with some more info. 

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Milk Life for this promotion.  I have received compensation for my participation (a chunk of which has been donated to charity... and the rest went to groceries), but my passion and thirst for Milk is my own.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ask Your Dad's 2015 Father's Day Gift Guide

Hey everyone! Father's Day is coming up quick. Last year I reached out to some of my dad blogger buddies and asked them what they were hoping to see under the Father's Day Tree on Father's Day morning. Last years list was super popular, so I decided to do it again this year! The over-arching theme of this years list seems to be Star Wars... and whiskey and bean bags. Looking for a Father's Day Gift for 2015? These 10 dads are here to help! 

Darth Vader Number One Dad T-Shirt - Teepublic ($14.00)

Chris Bernholdt, DadNCharge.com

Sick of the #1 Dad Mug? Buy this T-Shirt called Number One Dad. My wife would say I need another T-shirt like I need more Star Wars stuff. Joke's on her! This gift combines two of my favorite things, being a dad and Star Wars. Maybe it is the fact that I am a walking billboard but every time I wear this shirt it makes me feel like the last piece of bacon on a breakfast plate. Everyone wants it!  I've had more conversations with dads I didn't know over this simply clever shirt and, if you don't like this one, Teepublic has 135 pages of just Star Wars shirts so there is bound to be one you do like. 

The Working Dads Survival Guide - Amazon ($16.16)

Me, John Kinnear

I've known Scott Behson for a few years now. He is one of the smartest, most capable fathers I know. I am only a third of the way through this book, and I can already say it was worth every penny I paid for it. As a working dad, this book hits home for me in every way. I strongly recommend picking it up. 

Anything from Josh and Jen at Koch Leather - Kochleather.com (Prices Vary)

Stacey Robinsmith, Life in the Burbs 

My Father's Day gift idea is anything from Josh and Jen at Koch Leather. They are currently updating their website but they are typically very responsive to customer requests. 

When our kids got old enough that we stopped carrying a diaper bag it posed some difficulty. We didn't need a diaper bag but we needed something to carry the endless supplies that we carried to support our children. Things like extra snacks, water bottles, sweaters, pants, t-shirts, socks, shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and basically anything else we could carry out of the house. This is why we decided to invest in a Koch Leather tote bag. Their totes are stylish enough for me to carry and also strong enough to hold everything and to look awesome. Win-win-win. 

If you are not a big spender, Koch Leather still has a variety of small items that may fit your budget. Whatever you get from Koch Leather you will be a happy daddy! 

A tattoo of your child's drawing (Ask your local tattoo artist.)

Mike Reynolds, Puzzling Posts 

If you love your kids you'll spend an hour getting stabbed repeatedly by a needle!  Truthfully, this gesture has very little to do with the amount of love you have for your child but is an excellent idea for dads who have already been thinking about getting "ink did" to remind them of their kids. Through personal experience I can also promise that in addition to smiling every time you catch a glimpse of their work on your arms, legs or wherever you've chosen, you'll also spend the time in the tattoo shop high-fiving the artists who come in to look at one of the coolest and most original pieces they've seen that week. You'll also feel less regret the next time you make a late-night recycling purge of all the art they bring home from school.

The Cadillac of Bean-\Bag Chairs - Lovesac ($750.00)

I've always wanted a bean-bag chair. But my parents never got me one. They also never got me the fully functional space-shuttle I wanted, so that's two strikes. As a kid, I'd have accepted either one, and now that I look back on it, I'm pretty sure my parents missed a surprisingly achievable opportunity to make one of my two biggest dreams come true.

Now that I'm an adult, I've (kind of) given up on owning a space shuttle. But I'll never give up on having a ridiculously comfy spot to watch movies, read stories with my five-year-old, or to act as a landing pad for unlikely gymnastics. Simply put, I want a great bean-bag chair, and from decades of wistful research and anecdotes from my peers, Lovesac makes the Cadillac of bean-bag chairs. Someone get me one, stat.

Xiaomi Mi Band Fitness Tracker Band - Amazon ($17.94)

Michael Kwan, Beyond the Rhetoric

I don't care what anyone says about the so-called "Dad Bod." We could probably all stand to lose a few inches and shave a few pounds. I know I could. When I reviewed the Xiaomi Mi Band earlier this year, I didn't have the highest of hopes. At just twenty bucks, it's a fraction of the cost of other fitness trackers. How good could it be? As it turns out, it's surprisingly great, complete with detailed sleep tracking and a very elegant mobile app. The 30-day battery and IP67 waterproof rating don't hurt either.

Bioworld Big Boys' Star Wars Rebel Alliance Icon Backpack - Amazon ($49.99)

Keith Johnson, Adventures in Daddyhood

I figured that every Father's Day list needs a Star Wars plug. After all, one of the most memorable lines from the movies is "Luke, I am your father." Being the Star Wars nut I am, coupled with the fact that a new movie is coming out late this year, what dad wouldn't want this. I know I do. I always ask for Star Wars stuff for holidays because I never buy them for myself. I love this backpack because it has a lot of different pockets (just like a Rebel flight suit) and it holds all the stuff you bring on your journeys. And by your stuff, I really mean, all your kids stuff that you get to lug around for them. Enjoy.

Boba Fett Bathrobe - Think Geek ($69.99)

Nick Edwards, The Dadcade

Even the most feared bounty hunter in the entire galaxy likes to unwind and be comfortable. Whether I'm drinking my first cup of coffee of the day or drying off after a shower. I always like to represent the greatest mandalorian ever!

My Pillow - MyPillow.com ($109.98)

Larry Bernstein, LarryDBernstein.com

I want My Pillow.  Really, that’s what I want. And no, I won’t walk around with it like Linus and his
blanket. It would stay on my bed and lead me to dreamland.  Ahh!

What was I saying?

Oh yeah, I want My Pillow. I don’t get enough sleep. Does any father of young children?

Therefore, the sleep I do get should be restful, so that I wake up feeling ready for the day. I’ve heard a million ads for My Pillow, and each time I imagine myself with my head on the pillow. Just the thought itself is comforting.

You give My Pillow to the dad in your life, and you will make him one happy man!

Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle (Hardcover Book) - Amazon

Darrell Milton, Modern Father Online

I know this book has been out a few years, but with six months to go until the release of the new Star Wars film, and also having recently introduced my boys to the saga now that my first born is of the age that I knew he'd appreciate it more, I have rediscovered my own love for Star Wars. I have bought the set of the DK readers which is helping him learn to appreciate reading, and seeing that he gets to read about something he has fallen in love with, that's a bonus for him and for me. I have walked past this book in book stores and department stores a few times and have been very tempted to buy it, but I thought that I would leave hints so that my wife knows what I would like if she's planning on getting me something on behalf of the boys for Father's Day.

City Map Whiskey Glasses - Uncommon Goods

Kevin "Spike" Zelenka - Double Trouble Daddy

A great gift for Father's Day are these cool City Map glasses. Living in Las Vegas where everyone is from somewhere else, many people find the need to relate to where they came from. From cheering for a sports team from their home state to buying food and drink that they had growing up that they miss, they search for that connection.  Everyone is proud of where they are from (well...most everyone) and these glasses help show off your favorite city whether you lived there in the past, or still reside there.

and last but not least... my final suggestion...

Lodge 12 inch Cast-Iron Skillet - Amazon ($30.99)
Me, John Kinnear - Ask Your Dad

I don't need one of these, because I already have one. But if the dad in your life doesn't have one, he needs one. This skillet is the most important pan in my kitchen. I use it to sear and broil steaks. It is great for fish. You can move it from the burner to the oven. You can put a beatiful sear on just about anything, including your hand - be careful. But really, I love this skillet. I love it with all my heart, and if you have a dad in your life who loves cooking, but doesn't have a cast-iron skillet, he will love it too! 

OK, that's it. If you can think of anything we missed, add it in the comments! Also, be sure to come find me on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page and say hello! 

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.

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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....