art + illustration
April is Alcohol Responsibility Month. And as a parent, making our children aware of alcohol and responsible drinking should happen early, appropriately and repeatedly.
But first let me drop a bit of awareness on you…
In 1991, 80% of American teens had consumed alcohol at least once. By 2020, that number had dropped to 44%. Some credit this decrease, in part, to an increase in parents talking to their children openly and honestly about alcohol.
This past year I’ve had the pleasure of working with Responsibility.org, whose mission is to facilitate these lifelong conversations between parents and kids. I’ve learned a ton from my interactions with the organization and strive to impart some of that knowledge to my readers… and of course, to my son.
So, in honor of Alcohol Responsibility Month, I thought I’d do just that — have a conversation with my 11-year-old about alcohol.
As I was coming up with questions, I realized I hadn’t had much in the way of father-son chats about alcohol. I knew he’d seen me and his Papa drink — and probably more often during quarantine. But what did he really know? What had he actually observed? How worried should I be?
Below is our enlightening (and entertaining) discussion.
You can’t swing a mismatched sock without hitting someone giving you parenting advice. Talk shows and books, blogs and social media, teachers, therapists, other parents, your parents — it’s everywhere and it’s constant. And as we’re a year into a pandemic, lord knows we need all the advice we can get. But I also know I’m not always ready to digest it.
Speaking of parenting advice, I recently sat in on a conversation with Jessica Lahey. Her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, is a New York Times bestseller. She’s also a teacher and a mom, and chock full of delicious parenting know-how.
Jessica crammed a lot of wisdom, feedback and advice into our hour-long chat, sponsored by Responsibility.org. And while a lot of what she shared rang true, I found myself terribly overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with good and helpful information, but overwhelmed, nonetheless.
Quarantine life has been taking its toll on me lately, and most days I feel like I’m just getting by. I was tempted to give in to my anxiety, chuck all this info out the window, and hope for the best (a common defense mechanism for me). But this time I took a different approach.
As parents, we’ve had to have a lifetime of difficult conversations with our kids, all within the last 12 months. Few of these are talks we’d ever expected to have, much less in such a short time span. Luckily, kids can be amazingly resilient.
Yet this resiliency doesn’t happen on its own. It comes from having those hard discussion with authenticity. It comes from creating a safe space for children to express and experience their emotions, and then helping them find their way past.
If you’re like me, you’re making things up as you go — extreme on-the-job training. Yet modeling authenticity is vital to both ourselves and our kids. Whether it’s peer pressure to drink or watching a rage-filled mob overrun the US Capitol, teaching our children how to respond to life — regardless of what it throws at us — is one of the most important jobs we have.
I’ve partnered with Dove Men+Care as part of their #DadsCare campaign to share some easy and creative ways to get crafty with your kids. Check out the short video I made with my son, as well as the descriptions of the steps in the text below.
During quarantine — or anytime, really — it can be easy to plop the kids in front of a screen and call it a day. Coming up with non-screen activities can be stressful.
Crafts are a tried-and-true way for kids to flex their creativity and stimulate their brains. It can also be a great bonding time with your kids. And let’s be honest, it’s also a nice distraction while you try to get some work done!
While I’ve been a graphic designer and illustrator for over 20 years, I sometimes feel like I’m still getting the hang of being a dad. But I know from experience that coming up with ideas for crafts and pulling all the supplies together can be overwhelming. So I’ve put together five tips to hopefully make it easier for you to get your kids crafting.
Transitioning from school year to summertime can be a pretty challenging process. Throw in a global pandemic with ever-changing levels of quarantine, and it can be downright traumatic. So, what’s a parent to do?
Even under typical circumstances, families are dealing with a looser schedule and fewer restrictions. While kids might think that’s an amazing set of problems to have, the truth is we could all probably use some guidance.
I recently sat in on a conversation with 2019’s School Counselor of the Year, Brian Coleman, hosted by the helpful folks at Responsibility.org. Brian had a lot of great tips for parents and caregivers for navigating this exceptionally uncharted journey. Below are some of the tips he shared as we embark on a summer with so many unknowns.
NOTE: I started this early in March for Women’s History Month, and then Coronavirus happened. Yet girls still need to be celebrated and kids still need to read, so better late than never!
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve pulled together 10 of my favorite recent picture books about girls. You’ll notice I didn’t say these books were for girls. Because while girls were likely the primary audience — and there really can’t be enough kids’ books celebrating girls — boys need these books just as much… if not more.
While Papa and I have always tried to raise our son to value and appreciate girls as much as boys, it’s still an uphill battle. For every Wonder Woman movie, Serena Williams victory or Elizabeth Warren speech there are dozens (hundreds?) more male superheroes, athletes and politicians being given the spotlight. Teaching equality and respect takes work, and one of the best ways we’ve found to communicate these values is through time spent reading to and with our child.
As a gay dad, teaching my son to celebrate the LGBTQ community has been a top priority from the beginning. Doing so not only ensures he feels proud of his own family, but it also reinforces the compassion I want him to show to others, including those that are bullied or excluded because of who they are or who they love.
Once again, pop culture has proven to be a fun and creative tool to introduce my son to all manner of colorful, queer characters. Not surprisingly, they made their way onto quite a few of the notes I put in my kid’s lunchbox, which I’ve pulled together in this list of LGBTQ superheroes.
Some of these may come as a surprise, as they are depicted as LGBTQ in certain media but not in others. Unfortunately, few are clearly and consistently portrayed as queer, so I’ve provided context and resources when warranted.
Ah, summer! Is there a three-month period more fraught with dissenting objectives between kids and parents? Moms and dads of course want their children to have fun, be outside, and all that other wonderful summertime stuff. But we also want to make sure they don’t lose every bit of knowledge, motivation, and discipline they gained during the school year.
The go-to solution for many parents is summer reading. But unless you have one of those magical make-believe children who LOVES to read every minute of every day, getting our kids to crack a book during summer break can be a challenge. And as the dad of a 9-year-old with ADHD and serious addictions to swimming, video games, scootering, and anything that’s not sitting still with a book, it can be downright excruciating.
In an effort to make story time more engaging — and less of a chore — this summer we’re trying out a new app called NOVEL EFFECT.
I previously worked with Med-IQ on their campaign about depression. I was excited to work with them again, this time to raise awareness about obesity (and obesity support) and to share my own story. After reading my post, please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked at the end. This is a sponsored post — I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
Over the course of the last six months I’ve lost more than 85 pounds, and it’s been truly, literally life-changing. I achieved this through gastric sleeve surgery, radical changes to my diet, and regular exercise.
But I couldn’t have done any of this on my own.
A while back I wrote about my obesity journey — the ups and downs of my life and how that affected my weight and health in general. Now I want to focus specifically on how support from others helped me along the way — to where I am today. And where is that? Happier and healthier than I’ve been in… well, longer than I can remember.
Again, the details of all the words can be rather cumbersome and tedious, so I’m employing my doodling skills once more to share my experiences and drop some knowledge. See whimsical graph thingies (and important data) below.
Support = Science = Success
Studies at the Mayo Clinic show that identifying and connecting with supportive and understanding relationships improves long-term success with weight management.
This graphic shows some of the different ways I’ve found support for my own health and well-being.
There are lots of ways to teach children about diversity… and not just during Black History Month. Certainly it’s important to introduce your kids to African-American culture through leaders like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Dr. King. But I’ve found some of the most effective lessons are those integrated into everyday life.
As a family of gay fathers and an adopted son, it’s vital our child feels visible, included and loved. Beyond surrounding ourselves with other queer and adoptive families, we also make racial diversity a priority. This has informed all aspects of our lives — from where we chose to live, to the friends we make, to the school our son attends. It also factors into the books, TV shows and movies we expose our son to. And of course that includes superheroes.
For those new to the blog, I’ve been creating superhero lunch notes for my son since preschool. They’ve been a great way not only to send him a bit of encouragement (or remind him to flush), but also a fun tool to introduce him to a wide array of heroes. And since this is Black History Month, I thought I’d highlight some of the awesome black characters I’ve doodled for my kid over the years.
I’ve listed family-friendly sources under each note so you and your kids can learn/watch/read more about these heroes. Feel free to copy or print the notes for your family’s lunches — be sure to send me a photo if you make your own!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This is the black superhero everyone now knows, thanks to the record-breaking, history-making Black Panther film. WAKANDA FOREVER! GOOD LUCK AT THE OSCARS!
FUN FACT: Black Panther was originally conceived by artist Jack Kirby as a character named “Coal Tiger.”