art + illustration
Our house of two dads and a son is never short on testosterone, so ensuring my kid has female role models is of utmost importance. And while he has plenty of real-life women to inspire him, I’ve also enjoyed introducing my son to the vast and vivacious catalog of heroines and villainesses from the worlds of comics, movies, TV and video games.
While I’ve already featured Black, Latino, and LGBTQ characters, I’ve not done a proper showcase for the ladies. And while this comes on the tail end of International Women’s Month, it’s never a bad time to celebrate Girl Power!
My hope with collections like these is to educate and inspire other parents to do the same. Each note below features a link where you and your kids can learn about that character, whether you’re looking to doodle them on a post-it note or enjoy a family movie night.
This past year marked the ten year anniversary of a couple of personal milestones: becoming a father and the birth of this blog. To commemorate a decade as both Daddy and Designer Daddy, I’m sharing a series of Top 10 lists. Each post will feature the most amazing/fun/memorable things/experiences/whatevers from the last ten years.
You may have noticed that I don’t write about my son as much lately. Once my kid (and perhaps more importantly, his friends) became old enough to read and surf the internet, privacy was more of an issue. It was cute sharing about my son’s potty training when he was a toddler. Not so much now that he’s a tween.
Nowadays my more personal writing falls mainly into two categories: sharing my vast (ha!) dad knowledge and reminiscing about the past. For the latter, I’ve enjoyed documenting many of my fatherhood faves from the last decade. For this list, I rummaged through the basement and have collected my favorite parenting keepsakes.
WHAT’S WORTH SAVING?
I’ve never understood the tradition of parents keeping their kid’s baby teeth (though I’m sure we have a few rattling around in a box somewhere). The same goes for locks of hair, newborn footprints, plaster hand molds. Those things don’t evoke memories for me; they’re just biological snapshots…and a little bit creepy.
The items I’ve chosen here tell a story, elicit a multitude of emotions, and remind me of how much I’ve loved being a dad. I should do this more often!
I recently wrote my first piece for Parents, about the Parental Rights in Education Bill (aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). This measure seeks to ban sexuality and gender discussion in Florida schools.
As both an LGBTQ parent and the parent of a child that identifies as bi, it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine all the ways this could harm families like mine.
The legislation would essentially erase LGBTQ students and their families, as well as queer history and culture. It’s sad, enraging, and absurd all at once. Sad as I think of all of the young people it could suppress and ignore. Enraging as both a protective papa bear and as a child who grew up closeted and afraid. Absurd as I witness the equivalent of attempting to remove unwanted letters from the alphabet.
While I was only hired as a writer, the illustrator in me had more to express about this hate-fueled bill. Click on the image above for a closer look.
Be sure to check out the full article, where I explain more about the bill, as well as ways to combat similar legislation in your own town, county, or school district.
Christmas Eve has always been a rather nostalgic time for me. Okay, maybe always is an exaggeration. Or perhaps even a lie. In actuality, most years I’m stressing out over last minute card-addressing or gift-wrapping or stocking-stuffing or house-cleaning or any other number of -ing things.
Yet this December 24th — due to a combination of good medication and intentional choices — I have time to soak up some of that nostalgia. One of the choices I made this year was to not design our family’s holiday card. While that might not seem like a big deal to most folks, it’s a bit of a milestone for me.
As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, I wanted to celebrate the Latino superheroes I’ve had the privilege of introducing to my son via lunch notes over the years. While this list could be longer, I’m including just the heroes I’ve created notes for. As I doodle more, I’ll add them periodically.
Throughout the year (not just designated months or days) I strive to teach my son to be curious about and appreciative of cultures and ethnicities different from his own. Often in the process, I discover new things myself. While researching for this article, I (finally) learned the significance of the September 15 start date of Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as the interwoven identity of Asian and Hispanic culture in the Filipino community. There were also a few characters that I didn’t realize were Latino until writing this post.
As with other minority representation in American pop culture, the inclusion of Latino/Latina/Latinx superheroes in comics, TV, and film is often a slow progression. Changing the ethnicity of existing caucasian superheroes (or just introducing new non-white characters) is still met with pushback from narrow-minded fans. Yet my hope is that as my son’s generation grows up with this more colorful and diverse universe, it will be reflected in the real world they create.
As a gay dad, it should come as no surprise that I read LGBTQ children’s books to my son. But what about all of you awesome straight parents out there? How many kid’s books with LGBTQ characters or stories have you read to your children?
I asked this question in a Facebook group of 1,200+ parents, and was disappointed that the most common answer was none. Even more surprising was that many hadn’t even considered it. Further, the majority polled didn’t know what LGTBQ children’s books were available… or if they even existed at all.
Luckily, Designer Daddy is here to help!
The list below contains books that are about same-sex parents or LGBTQ people; others address gender expression or identity. Some simply include queer characters as part of the story, without directly focusing on them. All are valuable stories to help normalize LGBTQ people and to teach children (and parents!) empathy and acceptance. It also sends the message that should your child ever identify as LGBTQ, you will be there to celebrate and support them.
There are certainly more exhaustive lists to be found, but this one is unique in that it’s DESIGNER DADDY APPROVED™ — meaning the stories are great, but the pictures are also pretty fabulous. Happy reading!
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.