Monday, February 12, 2018

Emails I Don't Know How to Answer

Every once in awhile I get a sincere email (or sometimes a sarcastic one) asking me how to be a good parent. I honestly have no clue. I don't even really know what that means. Learning most things is so linear. You learn, practice, do. Not with kids. We don't ask rocket scientists to build a rocket while simultaneously launching said rocket. They have years of school. They have simulations. And sometimes the rocket still explodes due to forces that may or may not be outside of their control.
So I don't know how to reply to emails asking me how to be a good parent any more than I would know how to respond to someone asking me how to build a rocket.
That said, kids are arguably more durable and less likely to explode than rockets, and replying to emails about parenting with rocket metaphors probably just pisses people off. So here's what I tell the backs of my eyelids when I find myself asking if I am being a good dad:
If you show up,
If you try,
If you try to be better,
If you listen with the intent of hearing,
If you talk with the intent of communicating,
If you teach instead of telling,
If you apologize to them when you fail,
If you fail and try again,
If you succeed and don't use it as an excuse to rest,
If you rest when you need to rest,
If you can be weak when you need to be weak,
If you ask for help when you need help,
If you admit to your kids when you're wrong,
If you tell them when they're right,
If you speak with kindness,
If you tell them their questions are good,
If they see you defend others,
If they see you defend them,
If they know you love them,
If your love is your attention,
If you show up.
If you try...
you'll probably be an OK dad.
I know there's more that I am missing. I know my failures will only be clear when they are behind me. But this is what I have for now, so it will have to be enough. It helps me sleep, and it keeps me showing up.
And that's all a parent can really ask for, enough confidence to keep trying and enough doubt to keep trying to be better.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guns and Silence

Did you know you can hear your own heartbeat? You can. All the time. It’s loud too. Try this sometime. Find a very quiet place where you can be still. Close your eyes and listen. It might sound faint and far away, but it’s there and I promise, it’s loud.

How do I know this? A few years ago, I got a call from my wife telling me that she was short of breath, her heart was doing “weird things,” and that she was going to the emergency room. Somewhere between 15-45 minutes later I too found myself in the emergency room screaming at the poor lady at the front desk to tell me where my wife was.

She was down the hall and she was fine. Turns out she has heart palpitations. Every once in awhile her heart skips a beat or it has an extra beat out of rhythm to help catch up for some small fraction of beats it missed at sometime leading up to the palpitation. At least that’s how I interpreted what the doctor was saying as I worked my hardest to suppress my own heart attack. He also said that part of why heart palpitations are so uncomfortable is because we’re so used to the normal beat of our heart that when even a single beat is off, our body become alarmed and we feel discomfort.

Last night Stephen Paddock, who had been staying for the last few days at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, used a hammer to smash out the window of his 32nd floor hotel room, and used between 1 and 10 of the guns to fire indiscriminately down into a crowd of sixty-thousand men and women attending a music festival below. The number dead is currently around 50. The number injured, 500. The Mandalay Bay Concert shooting of 2017 is the worst mass shooting in modern American history... second only to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting of 2016. I spent my morning calling everyone I know in Las Vegas to make sure they were alive. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are on fire.

We have to talk about gun control.

We can’t we can’t talk about gun control.

We have to prevent mass shootings.

We can’t prevent mass shootings.

Can’t we avoid politics and just focus on the dead and their families?

Now is when we have to talk about gun control.

The answer is that we need to love each other more.

You’re the problem.

No, you’re the problem.

Don’t worry. In two weeks someone will tweet something ridiculous, we’ll find something shiny to distract us, a Kardashian will marry someone or divorce someone. We’ll put a plaque in a field somewhere and login into Facebook in a couple months to see that a susceptible teen trusted the wrong people online, or our friend was depressed and took their life, or someone who needed mental health treatment had easier access to assault rifles than they did to healthcare, or gang members got a hold of untraceable guns that were purchased legally at one point in their existence but then sold and sold again through unregulated markets. Subconsciously we’ll check the number in the headline and if it’s a 1 or a 2 we'll shrug and scroll on, and if it’s a 30 or a 50 we’ll cry and feel uncomfortable, maybe reach out, maybe say it hurts, maybe ask for change… for a minute.

Somewhere around 30,000 people die a year in the US from gun related death. Just under two thirds of those are suicides, another third are violent deaths resulting from homicide, the rest are accidents and unclassified. 30,000 people. That is 2,500 a month. 208 a day.

That’s our current normal. That’s the heartbeat we can’t hear.

The heartbeat of America is 208 bullets killing 208 people a day, every day. Every. Single. Day.

And the only time we notice, when things are irregular, out of the normal rhythm, uncomfortable, is also the time we’re not allowed to talk about it.

It’s disrespectful.

I want to respect everyone’s feelings. I really truly do. I desperately want to put enough love into the world that it will somehow shift the scales of chance away from a person becoming so damaged that they want to shoot and kill people. But I will never understand why we can’t address the issue from both sides, the person and their access to a weapon designed to kill as many human beings as it can as fast as possible.

Too soon though. It is disrespectful. I’ve been told to wait 24 hours... which is someone else’s 72... which is someone else’s 30 days, which is someone else’s never. "It's too soon to get political."

This isn’t politics to me.

And honestly, I’ve been quiet all day today. At work, online, at home. I wasn’t going to say anything at all. Not out of respect (I do) or out of mourning (I am), but out of defeat. I am defeated. I don’t believe anything is going to ever change.

The big ones are getting closer and closer now. They’re getting less coverage. The half-life of a tragedy is decreasing with each mass shooting. Columbine was covered for nearly a year. Pulse was covered for a few weeks.

The big ones are becoming our new heartbeat, and pretty soon we won’t be able to hear them either.

Earlier this morning Bill O’Reilly made a lot of people mad when he wrote in a blog post about the Vegas shooting “This is the price of freedom.”

I very rarely agree with Bill O’Reilly, and only partially do in this case. This is the price we choose to pay for our freedom to have easy access firearms, these daily deaths, the less and less anomalous big numbers. We can fight about the "politics" of it, but somewhere inside we all have a kernel of the truth in us. This is the price we pay. This is our Hunger Games. Only it’s not once a year. It’s every day. Forever.

Sorry. I love you guys. It’s been a rough day for me, much much rougher for others. If you hate this post, just ignore it. Or message me and tell me you hate me. My love to you and your family. My heart for those who died and theirs.

- John

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Horrible Moments in Parenting #3569

Last week during dinner I was trying to ask Duchess about her day and she matter-of-factly told me that she didn't feel like talking. A few minutes later she had chewed her tortilla into the shape of a star and was remarkably proud of herself.

"Look dad! I made a star."

"I don't feel like looking at it." I quipped back.

And then she started bawling.

I thought I was being snarky and she would immediately relate it back to what she had said earlier, but that's not how it came across. It came across as cruel and dismissive... which honestly she has probably never experienced from me before.

Anyway... not my finest parenting moment. But, there are no take-backs. We fill our lives with irrevocable acts, and its only later we find out which ones actually mattered.

One time, when I was about my daughter’s age, my dad and I were going to the store. I was probably a year into reading and was paying particularly close attention to business signs. When we pulled into a strip mall I asked “Dad, why are the O’s on the Payless Shoe Store sign orange dots.”

“I don’t know. That is a really good question,” he replied.

Let’s be honest. It wasn’t a really good question. It was kind of a dumb question. Knowing the answer to why a graphic designer decided to make the O’s orange dots on the Payless Shoe Store sign probably would not have been a life changing realization. But all six-year-old me could think was ”YES! I asked a good question!”

Saturday, June 3, 2017

8 Positive Wonder Woman Toys - Dad Picks (Mom Edition)

Hey everyone! Stevie here. I asked John if I could write this round-up because of how much I have loved Wonder Woman lately.

Here's the thing, my daughter has always loved super heroes. For years she cycled through all her favorite Justice League characters. Any guesses on which one she wants to be this year? Wonder Woman.  Since the movie came out, she sees Wonder Woman everywhere and I LOVE IT. It's so empowering for her to see herself as a Super Hero and not just a love-interest or a damsel in distress.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

10 Best Star Wars Toys for Kids - Dad Picks

We're a Star Wars Family. It was one of my stipulations of becoming a family. I said, "Stevie, we can make tiny humans, but I need to be able to buy them lots of Star Wars stuff. She really wanted to make tiny humans, and moderately enjoyed Star Wars so it wasn't much of a debate. So hooray!

One thing we've found with our purchases is that there are a TON of Star Wars toys out there. Here are our ten favorite ones! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sleep and Hard Decisions

Sometimes the sponsored posts are fun. I get to try something new, sync up with a bunch of cool people, and make a few bucks to keep this blog running. This one was not as fun. It brought up some hard decisions. It caused some difficult discussions. Even as I am writing this I don’t know what the answers are, but before I get into all that let me just say: This post is sponsored by Beautyrest and in partnership with Life of Dad. All opinions are mine.

Beauty Rest sent me a sleep tracker that I have been using for the last thirty days to keep track of how much or, in most cases, how little I am sleeping. It is a pretty amazing little piece of technology. A sensor placed between my mattress and my box frame monitors my movements, my breathing, and my heart rate throughout the night. The plan was to use it for 30 days and see how much I could improve my sleeping. Stevie and I both put one on our side of the bed and every morning we look at how we slept, how our heart and breathing rates were, and how many times we woke up.

We woke up a lot. And it is my fault.