Things I’ve learned as a parent, or want others to learn.
The latter part of 2017 saw an endless parade of powerful men exposed for predatory behavior. As we enter the new year, I wanted to share some #MeToo stories that had an impact on me. At one point I thought this wouldn’t be timely any longer, but quickly realized what a weak (and completely inaccurate) reason that is for not joining the conversation. It’s never too late to examine how I’ve played a part in our culture of misogyny and abuse; never too late to explore how I can do better; and never too late to amplify the voices of the women who’ve shared their stories… and the countless more who haven’t.
For a long time, I’ve considered myself an advocate for women. I’m very much for a woman’s right to choose; I cheer when women excel in areas historically dominated by men; I’ve raised my son on female superheroes and discouraged gender-bias in toys, media, occupations, and the like. Hell, I even attended a conference at the White House on women and girls, marched in the Women’s March, and voted for Hillary — twice.
Plus I’m gay, which grants me Automatic Ally status, right? Seeing as I’m not a sexual threat to women, how could I possibly be a misogynist? How could I be part of the problem?
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For a long time, I prided myself on being a good dad when it came to teaching my son about race. But I’ve fallen short; and in all likelihood, so have most white parents.
I think back to when Jon was little, and how we didn’t use the words “Black” or “white” when referring to race; instead using “brown” and “peach” to indicate skin color. And whenever he would tell me about a new friend or teacher, I’d do this uptight, liberal, word-twist thing where I’d ask him to describe the person using everything but their skin color. And I’ll admit to still feeling a bit of pride every time my eight-year-old makes a non-white friend.
All of these may seem good-hearted or complimentary, but all they accomplish is centering me and my white child; not really teaching either of us anything about racism. I thought that if I avoided the terms “Black” and “white,” I’d somehow avoid exposing my child to the scariness of racism. Yet all I’ve done is dilute its true impact on people of color.
I was compensated by Med-IQ through a grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression awareness. All opinions are my own.
My Depression Story
My husband and I had talked about wanting kids very early in our relationship — like two weeks in early. Fast-forward 10 years, two apartments, a house and a dog later, and it looked like we were finally going to take the plunge into fatherhood.
Yet as we got closer to each decision and milestone, uncertainty started to creep in. The pressure of when and how to take these first, definitive steps; wondering how it would affect our relationship; the question of how we would go about forming our family; the potential challenges of being a two-dad adoptive family. All of these things stressed me out, overwhelmed me, and eventually shut me down.
As peak travel season approaches, many parents may be feeling anxious about hitting the road (or skies or open seas) with the kids. Things are crazy enough at home, so you’re probably imagining how much more stressful it would be out in the great wide world — where you have even less control.
Fear not! If you’re freaking out about a looming family vacay, who better to ask for tips, hacks, and general life lessons than a bunch of travel-tested dads?
I reached out to some of my pals from all over the USofA for the very best, most comprehensive Dadvice you’ll find. And in true dad form, these nuggets of wisdom/war stories are offered up with a mixture of common sense, bad puns, and lots of heart.
I don’t do a lot of memes, and I dole out parenting advice even less frequently. But this is a message I’ve had drilled into my head by therapist, friend, and husband alike, so I thought if I made it into a pretty graphic I might believe it more. And that it might help some other parent believe it, too.
Also, feel free to totally ignore this “advice” about being a “good enough parent” — because, you know, it’s on the internet.
Stay strong, be well, talk soon.
On Valentine’s Day, I shared my not-so-scientific gay/straight Relationship Comparison Study. It illustrated some of the ways gay and straight parents differ, many of the funny ways we’re alike, and how all our relationships need a little help sometimes — the message behind Plum Organics’ fun Do Your Part(ner) campaign
I also mentioned that my husband and I took Plum’s Do Your Part(ner) Pledge, making a commitment to try some new ways to rekindle and reconnect. I’m here to report back on our successes and failures, as well as to give away a bunch of nifty Do Your Part(ner) kits from Plum I’ve unofficially named BOX OF BOW-CHICKA-BOW-WOW.
You guys. YOU GUYS! Check it out — my son’s first ever lunch note! < beams with fatherly pride >
A little context
I’m writing this on a plane to San Diego for the Dad 2.0 Summit, where I’ll be for the next four days. I left at the butt crack of dawn, so didn’t have time to do a proper lunch note. “Proper” meaning the notes I make for my 7-year-old on the daily since he first set foot in school; meaning the Red Turbo Power Ranger he had requested I make for his best friend.
When I first read the words, I was sick to my stomach. It worsened as the coverage expanded, as I watched and re-watched the video and awaited the eventual (faux) apology. Nausea then gave way to disgust as I witnessed a serial assaulter attempt to shame his female opponent by exploiting the assaults of even more women.
Yet as this insanity unfolded, my greatest anxiety came from the question on repeat in my head:
How do I raise my son in the age of Donald Trump and rape culture?
Imagine yourself a kid at summer camp.
Perhaps it calls to mind bunk beds with flimsy mattresses. Potato sack races and three-legged races and racing around at dusk playing hide-and-seek. Scratching mosquito bites, catching fireflies, watching sparks swirl up from a fire into the night sky. A night sky so black and stars so bright, it’s like you’d never seen them before. An escape from school and parents and all the baggage that entails; a chance to be on your own, yet surrounded by others in the same, wonderfully wobbly paddleboat called childhood.
Now imagine one of your parents has cancer. Perhaps they’re in remission, or they’re enduring chemotherapy; or maybe they lost their battle and now you’re a teenager (or preteen, or younger) without a parent.
It all began the Monday before Mother’s Day.
My son’s kindergarten teacher sent me an email to inform me that over the last few days, Jon’s behavior had been “like spring fever on steroids.” How clever.
While that subject could fill more than a few paragraphs, this is about the seemingly secondary purpose of the note. It continued,
“We will be doing some Mother’s Day activities this week. Jon asked if he could do them for his Grandma – of course!! Just wanted to check with you on this.”
I replied to both topics; for this one: “Yes, he’s done things for his Grandma (or Nonna, Nick’s mom) in the past, so that’s totally fine.”
And this was true. Both at preschool and in Sunday school at my parents’ church, my son was encouraged to make something for his Grandma or Nonna on Mother’s Day — which he always did, without issue.
The holiday came and went. We called Nonna in Italy and Grandma in Virginia. We also spent a good deal of time consoling/entertaining our pouty 6-year-old who was frustrated none of his friends could come over to play. They of course all had plans with their mothers.
Come Monday morning, once husband and son were packed up and off to work and school, I finally got around to weeding through the stack of activity sheets, flyers, and crafts that get brought home from school each week.
Amongst the pile, I found a homework assignment, an activity sheet, a craft, and a card — all about or directed toward “Mom.”
I was initially surprised, then confused; this soon morphed into concern and irritation.