I’m now the parent of a teenager. While that statement fills me with an expected amount of anxiety, I’m also unexpectedly hopeful. Or maybe that’s delusion. Or maybe my Starbucks is hitting just right this morning.
On the evening of my son’s 13th birthday, I was on the phone with my mom. We were reflecting about how Jon was becoming more independent, responsible, and mature – and just how much fun he is to talk to. She then added, “I haven’t seen him go through any angsty, isolated stage yet. And I don’t think he will.”
I quickly knocked on wood and jokingly scolded her for jinxing the next seven years. Yet in truth it was an encouraging observation from an expert in the field, having raised four boys.
So while I’m still in the throes of denial optimism, I thought I’d jot down 13 parenting lessons I’ve learned… to commemorate making it this far.
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.
HAPPY 2022! Can you believe we’re still* talking about (and dealing with) this $@#% pandemic?!?
As we transition from a year full of ups and down into one full of unknowns, many folks are experiencing high levels of anxiety (raises hand). And this is by no means limited to adults. Kids and teens are right there with us.
The hardest part for me has been getting my hopes up, making plans, looking forward to the future…only to be sucked back into a new wave of quarantines and testing, and the accompanying stress and fear. For parents, the challenge has been and continues to be — how do I manage my own anxiety while also helping my kids cope with theirs? Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind.
The end is in sight! We’ve nearly made it out the other side of the pandemic. Yet I sometimes miss those early months of quarantine where the focus was pure survival. Spirits were low, but so were expectations. Teachers and parents were more lenient as we all navigated unknown, unpredictable waters. Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, the pressure to be a Parent MVP is creeping back in. The urge to compare gets stronger every day, as does my old pal, anxiety.
As is often the case in parenting, my son taught me a lesson about comparison, expectations, and what kind of dad I should strive to be: Most Improved.
Okay, so the award wasn’t for my actual parenting skills, but rather my writing about being a dad during a pandemic. A series of posts I wrote during 2020 has won the Iris Award for Best Sponsored Content!
What’s an Iris Award?
Think the Oscars for parent blogging. Attendees of the Mom 2.0 and Dad 2.0 conferences nominate and vote for their peers in a variety of categories, ranging from writing to photography to podcasts. Each year the awards ceremony is a swanky affair held at the end of the Mom 2.0 Summit. While this year’s virtual version wasn’t nearly as swanky as usual, it was certainly no less an honor to be recognized.
Here we are, back-to-school, and already almost two months into sixth grade! My son is full-time in person (masked) at his new middle school, making new friends, learning new things, showing signs of growth and maturity. There were moments during the last year and a half when it seemed like we’d never get here.
If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time and energy worrying about this new school year, given the 18 months prior we all had to endure. And while I’m thrilled (so far/knock on wood/fingers crossed) with how things are going, I want to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for any challenges that come along. Because one thing every parent can be sure of is that there will be challenges.
I recently attended a webinar hosted by Responsibility.org that addressed some of the concerns many parents and caregivers are facing. Here are just a few of the questions (and answers) that spoke to me most.
June is without a doubt my favorite month. In addition to kicking off summer, June contains my birthday, Father’s Day and Pride. Seriously, can this month get any more fun? Yes! In honor of this most fabulous of months, I’ve stirred up a rainbow of delicious summer cocktails — one for each color of the LGBTQ Pride flag.
To keep the festivities fun and safe, here are a few pointers courtesy of Responsibility.org:
- Measure your drinks and cocktail ingredients. Familiarize yourself with the go-to bar measuring tool, a jigger. You can also use this handy Virtual Bar to help manage your alcohol intake.
- Have water and non-alcoholic drinks available. I’ve included a couple of mocktail recipes in the list below!
- Provide food to guests, and make sure you snack as you imbibe/host.
- Check to make sure your guests have safe rides home.
- Take some time to talk to your kids about alcohol and underage drinking, especially if they’re going to present at your get-together.
Feel free to click and print individual recipes, or share on social media. Scroll down to the end for even more tips on making and enjoying these colorful cocktails!
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.