Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If You Want Your Kids to Love Star Wars, You Must Stop Hating Star Wars

The year is 1977. Star Wars is on the big screen for the first time. The look of the film is something you have never seen before. You may be only 10 years old but you know that what you have seen is something special. You know that you will remember this moment for the rest of your life. 
Cut to 1980. You just turned 13. All your friends are excited to line up for the release of Empire Strikes Back. You have spent the last 3 years dreaming of this moment. Playing with your figures in the sandbox acting out scenes on Tatooine. Convincing, Lisa, the pretty girl next door to be the Leia to your Luke and stealing a kiss when she wasn't expecting it. Little did you know the impact the movie you are a bout to see will have on you. Once again, you will be seeing a near perfect film. It doesn't get any better than this.
Move on to 1983. You borrowed your dads brand new Toyota Celica Supra and picked up Lisa to take her for the opening of Return of the Jedi. You are in love, the girl and the movie make the most perfect night you could imagine. After you drop Lucy off at home you sit in your dads car and dream of what the future will hold.
Go on to 1997. Star Wars is back in Theaters. All 3 movie are being re-released but now they are updated and being called, "Special Edition." You buy tickets to the first showing, one for you and one for your new wife, Lucy. Driving to the theater you reminisce about the old days and talk about how the movies changed your lives. Then the opening crawl begins and you see the difference. The quality looks great, the movie holds up...But there are little things you notice. Scenes added in that don't seem to fit. And didn't Han shoot first. Your whole memory of what you believe Star Wars to be has changed. A short time later you get to see Empire and Jedi in this same new edition and you somehow feel...Disappointed. "But that's OK," you think to yourself, "I just found out they are making Episode I, II, and III. Those will certainly be amazing."
Skip forward to 1999. You are 32. You have had tickets to see The Phantom Menace for weeks. How lucky you were to have a brand new mega theater with 25 screens that sold tickets weeks in advanced! You and Lucy crowd into the giant theater with many old friends that were there with you in line for Empire Strikes Back. The lights dim and the music hits and the yellow crawl fills the screen. Thing were right again. The movie ends and something just feel off. So you go again and see what it was...And you realize. You hate this movie. Sure it is Star Wars; it has Jedi, it has aliens and spaceships and blasters...But it feels wrong somehow.
Jump to 2002. Attack of the Clones is out and yet you feel the same something isn't right with it but you plug on and decide to just wait for Episode III.
Move forward to 2005. Lucy is at home with the baby and has let you go out to see the midnight viewing of Revenge of the Sith. Now they seemed to hit it right. But it's over and the prequels have destroyed your faith in Star Wars. 

I should begin this by stating I am a major apologist when it comes to Star Wars and the Prequels. I have never held back my feelings about Episodes I, II & III, which is that I enjoy them. Therefore, I am kind of biased when it come to that. Recently I heard a song titled, "Why Is Dad So Mad?, a song about kids wondering why dad is so mad when they watch Star Wars. Hearing this made me think about what I have done with my kids and how they developed a love for the movies. I have never really held Star Wars back, I will let them watch them all except for Episode III (so they will be surprised when they see Anakin become Vader) and Episode V (so they are surprised when they learn Vader is Luke's dad) and I let watch Episode I as much as they want. No matter how much the Gungans or young Anakin may annoy me instead of turning and telling them this I say, "Look at those funny guys, kids. Aren't they silly?" then they laugh and want to watch more. Later, when they are a little older, they want to watch more as well but ignore the "silly" guys.

My kids love Star Wars. It is always a big part of my life. I read the books and I quote them when possible and the kids are always being exposed to it, through me. That being said, I have never pushed them to like it. I don't force them to watch the movies; I let them tell me when they will watch them. People always roll their eyes when I say I force it on my kids but the reality is I don't. I have the belief kids will always rebel against what their parents like when they are being forced into it. If you force your child to always listen to country music he will listen to rap as a teenager. I don't want them to hate Star Wars because their dad always forced them to watch it. I want them to come to it on their own and if they end up not liking it then it doesn't matter...I will still love them. In the end it's not about whether or not they are like us, it's about whether they respect us.

Imagine a kid who grows up with a dad that says he loves Star Wars but always says bad things about George Lucas and how he ruined Star Wars. I imagine my 6 year old, who will be nearly 8 when Episode VII is released, would not be looking forward to it if all I ever do is say bad things about the old one. Comments like, "I only like the theatricals versions, not the Special Messed Up Editions," and "the prequels are so bad I doubt the new stuff will be good," will be noticed by your kids even if you don't say them to them directly. I feel every dad that likes Star Wars wants to enjoy them with their kids. So let's do them a favor. Stop making fun of the past and look toward the future. Be positive and expect the best. Stop hating the prequels and enjoy them with your family. Simply because if you want them to love Star Wars, you must stop hating Star Wars.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Diaper Nostalgia

There I am walking into a truck at my part time job at UPS when it hits me. That smell so familiar that I will never forget it. I sniff around looking for the source, knowing exactly what it will be and sure enough I find it. It's a box full of diapers. As a parent you will always know that smell. The smell of a fresh diaper. Whether it is Pampers, Luvs or Huggies you learn to know them all. They are all unique and if you have had a baby you have more than likely bought them all. You have trained your nose to that smell from the opening of a fresh pack to the sniffing of a toddlers butt with he hopes you will smell that fresh smell and not the bomb the child may have left you. For me it is instant nostalgia; it brings me right back to the time I changed that first diaper on my oldest boy.

I remember the hospital diapers and how they didn't really have a smell but when we first got home and opened that first pack of Luvs diapers. Of all the diaper brands Luvs has the strongest smell; those were among the first ones we used and I hated it. The smell was too strong and made me feel sick from time to time. Over the years, though, I grew to love that smell and when I would walk by a store baby aisle or come to close to a persons diaper bag I could always spot the Luvs. And now I when I spot it I immediately go back to that first diaper change with all my kids and feel sad and happy that they aren't that small anymore. It reminds me how much they have grown and how much I have grown, not only as a father but as a man and a human.

Of course, I am not the perfect dad right now but when I remember how I was before that first diaper change and where I am now I see how much I have grown. I remember when My cousin handed me her baby years before I had my first baby and I was freaking out. I didn't want to drop the kid and I basically didn't want to be in that moment holding a baby. It scared me and I knew I wouldn't be a good father but when I had my own baby in my arms all that fear was gone and when I opened that first inky diaper and pulled out the fresh diaper and smelled that fresh diaper smell, I knew it would be all right. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

One Way to Fight Childhood Obesity

Child obesity is a growing problem in our country. There are many ways to combat this; buying healthier snacks and encouraging outside play are the top suggestions but where do we really start. How can we, as a country even begin to turn around this growing problem?  It begins with being an example to your children. By being an example of control and fitness. It begins by showing our kids that it is not OK to overeat and that watching TV all the time isn't good for you.

I have always been a big guy and even though I have lost some weight and I am being more fit I still have a big belly. My son, Jude, told me that he wants a big belly like mine. I didn't know what to say to him. On one hand, him saying this, means that he idolizes me and wants to be just like me when he grows up. On the other hand, he wants to be the worst part of me and the part of me I hate the most. When I was a kid I was always a bigger kid than most and because of being bigger I would be identified as a fat kid. Now that I am older and I look back at pictures of myself I see that I never really was not a "fat kid"; I was just bigger than the other kids. Being told I was fat by my peers made me think I was fat. I would identify myself as a fat person for the rest of my childhood. When I was a teenager I didn't care. I was fat; it was who I was, so why change it. So, I escaped into food, overeating and the indoors.

Now here I am sitting next to my 5 year old child, whom is also big for his age and trying to figure out why he wants to be fat too. When I look at him I am seeing the boy I used to be. I don't want to tell him that he can't be like me so what do I say? That is when I realize that his future is in my hands. Not because I control his food and exercise but because I am his example. If I can't live a life of good health and fitness then he will become that fat kid my childhood friends thought I was.

What can we as fathers (and mothers) do to fight childhood obesity? It is quite simple: Be a better example. Of course, this saying goes with many different situations. Don't want you kids to smoke: Don't smoke. Want you kids to go to church: Go to church. If you want your kids to be healthy and fit then you most live the same life. Even if you are naturally skinny your kids may not be so lucky so don't think you can eat a whole pizza around them and have them ignore it and only eat a little. They will see you doing it and think it is OK to wolf down a Little Caesars Hot & Ready on a Saturday night after playing video games for 9 hours straight. Go to the gym or take them for walks and tell them you are walking to be healthy. In the end, it isn't about how much weight you have lost or how much smaller you have become; it is about how you are living your life. They will see it and they will follow you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Masculinity and the Dad Community

One overall theme I see in the various Dad groups I am in is occasional slamming of moms and the media that don't understand what Stay At Home Dads do. I'm not saying that moms are being wrongfully attacked but I see lots of talk about how, "If only the moms on the playground knew I was a good guy" or "Look at me playing with my kids as well as your kids while you sit on your phone and ignore them." I see this talk often and in a lot of aspects it is true. Many times I have been on the playground and I have been ignored by the mom groups or I was the one playing while the kid's mom was sitting in the car. But there is one thing that isn't talked about. The problem of men. Yes, men. If there is one group that really doesn't understand what SAHDs go through it is men. Whether it is the occasional, "What do you even do all day," or "Why don't you get a real job?" comments we are always being judged and made fun off by our fellow man. There is this expectation to masculinity that is becoming an issue for me. Why is it that because I like to shop or because I love to play with my kids and take them to the park make me less of a man?

What Emma Watson said in her speech is dead on. The problem is not that women need to be more manly but that we as men have set the bar so high that anyone that isn't man enough to reach it isn't worthy of being called a man. Even in the SAHD community there are dads that still stick with the whole "Bro" attitude. They make masochistic comments, share photos of women and do everything in their power to emasculate any man that goes outside of the male stereotype by doing women duties or discussing women topics. Kitchen cleaning and minivans are not for these guys. I remember one time when I brought up a discussion on buying tampons for my wife and how I am completely comfortable buying them. Everyone else in the group was fine with it except one guy that was so disgusted that we would ever buy tampons only proved that we "must be buying them for our own vagina." This kind of talk is nothing new to men but it is a problem none the less. How can women be equal to us in the workplace and at home if we, as men, continue to put each other down when we are doing "women's work."

This need to prove our masculinity is a growing problem in America. If a women complains about being checked out, slut shamed or cat called she is simply told, "We're men, get over it." This has been used multiple time in some dad groups. And every time there is someone that says, "it's OK we are all guys here" and it is immediately followed by someone else saying, "Doesn't change the fact we need to be respectful." Of course, that is only in the good groups. There are some groups out there that don't care about what others say. They sit there and belittle women with no one telling them to stop. How can we expect the world to treat us like regular people when we act like teenagers behind doors? How can we expect to raise boys to respect women when we treat them like crap behind theirs backs? We need to unite as one and stop acting like we must "Man Up" and "act like a man" and treat women as if they are our own daughters. We must stop putting each other down and rise up together as great dads and caregivers. Our kids future depends on it. Forget being Masculine, I'm just going to be the best man I can be. If that means changing diapers and buying tampons then that is what I will do.

That all being said the online dad community is filled with the nicest most giving people I have ever had the pleasure to know. Without question they give of themselves completely to help anyone in the group that needs it. Recently a dad that was homeless came forward to ask for help so he could get a cheap hotel until he gets paid and they can find a place and right away many guys stepped forward to try and help him find a place to stay. I have seen dads pulled back from depression because of the help they received. I have seen guys ask the most deepest and personal questions you can think of and he is always answered without judgement. This dad community in my opinion rises above the male masculinity stereotype and not just because they raise kids but because they are genuinely great guys that believe in equality of men and women, 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Scariest Day as a Father

I was sitting with my, then 2 year old son Ben when I decide I was getting bored and wanted to sit at the computer. Since summer was over, it was my first week alone with the other kids in school and Ben at home. We had never had this much alone time and over the summer I had grown accustom to the older kids helping me keep an eye on him. It was the second day of school that year and our second day of being alone. I had done so many activities the day before, I ran out of ideas, so we watched TV instead. He was enjoying the show so I figured I could get away for a little bit and, seeing as the computer is in the same room as the TV, I figured it would be fine.

I don’t know how long I messed around on Facebook but I heard the laundry stop so I went into the laundry room to fold what was done drying. After about 5 minutes in there, I finished folding, went back into the living room and sat right back on the computer. I didn't even check on my 2 year old, I just went back to typing a comment. My friends were discussing Fight Club; obviously I had to join in the conversation. That is when I heard the blood chilling scream from upstairs. I jumped from my seat and I see him crying at the top of the stairs; blood steadily dripping from his hand as he makes his way down to me. I pick him up and see he has a cut between his thumb and his index finger. I can see white inside and as I take a good look at it, blood shoots out as if from a small squirt gun. I think back to all those cop/war/medical dramas and I put pressure on it praying that is what I am actually supposed to do and not making it worse. I am running around the house looking for something to grab when I see an apple sitting in the living room with the sharpest knife we own stuck through it. I knew exactly what had happened. We had just finished lunch and after I cleaned up I left the knife from cutting apples sitting on the counter. After running around for a minute as the blood is dripping and spraying everywhere I get my head together and finally find a new roll of paper towels and an Ace bandage. I wrapped his hand in it to at least stop the blood from dripping everywhere.

 He is still crying harder than he ever has and with every breath he takes I am praying he takes another. I can’t stop thinking about all those parents, I heard about as a kid, that walked away for 2 minutes from their babies and next they they knew the kid was in a well or taken or attacked or any other tragic that can take your child from you forever. I rushed him to the van, calling my wife an mother praying one of them will be able to pick up the other kids from school, and proceeded to strapped him into the car seat and rush to the hospital. As I got down the street he went quiet; I feared the worst had happened when I notice he was only asleep, I could feel his pulse racing as I raced every light to the hospital. For the rest of the drive I had one hand on the wheel and one on his chest, making sure he was still breathing. I couldn't stop thinking about what could have happened. I kept going to the worst scenario; He could have died while I wasn't looking and I was too “busy” to check on him. I has too lost in my own world of Facebook and acting like I am a great father to even notice my child was about to stab himself with a knife.

Turns out he missed all the important stuff and just needed stitches. My son was okay, but I was not. I kept thinking I was a bad father and that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a dad. I imagined what would happen if he had died; I saw the cops arresting me thinking I had done it on purpose, my wife going emotionally and financially bankrupt, my kids growing up knowing their dad had killed their little brother. The fear and mistrust that would always follow them for the rest of their lives. I saw my whole families future destroyed all because I just had to do one more comment and let all my friends know how much I like the movie Fight Club. I just had to read one more status; play one more game. I realized that to be a good father isn't just being in the room with your child. It means interacting with them no matter how bored you become. It means keeping them close even when you have to leave the room you must always know where they are and dangers are around them. It means showing them how much you love them at all times even when they do something they should not be doing. It means being a dad; especially at those time when you don’t want to be one. I’m not going to say I have changed a lot since this happened but it has done one thing for me; it has made me be more attentive and to pay more attention to him. As far as Ben goes he hasn't change much; in fact he gets in to things on a regular basis. He is now 3 and is just as wild if not more so…But I can say I have never seen him with that super sharp knife again.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Conversations With My Kids: Liam Says I Am Fat

Liam: Wow! You have actually gotten fatter, Dad.
Me <looks in mirror>: What do you mean?
Liam: Since the last time I saw you. Your fat used to hang here <gestures below his tummy> but now it is hanging here <gestures near his knees>
Me: What? When was the last time you "saw me"? <feeling like crap>
Liam: Yesterday. Before you ate split pea soup and starting farting all the time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Changes and the Things to Come.

It's been a while since I have posted I. My blog but there is a decent reason why. This past June I moved with my from Michigan to New Jersey. As a result, I have been to busy getting things sorted and getting into a whole new routine that seems to change on me everyday. As a result I have been depressed and somedays unable to cope with the changes. I miss my family; my daughter,my mom, my dad, my sister, my little nephew John, my friend Ian and many more people that I may have taken for granted when I was living in Michigan. After all most people that stay in one place for their entire life become content with the people and places around them. Sure I have a clean slate here in New Jersey but it's difficult to come to terms with the differences in my daily life. I struggle everyday getting used to handling 3 kids as opposed to the day being just me and my 3 year old. I have been lucky to spend a little time with the great guys if the NYC Dads group but they are just a little too far away for me to go into NYC every other day.

As some of my regular reader, if there are any, may know that last year I won a scholarship to the 18th Annual At-Home Dads Convention and had an amazing time. After the convention I started dedicating my free time to help with the National At-Home Dad Network, I have written for their blog, helped with the fundraising committee and helped with the scholarship committee. I had a main goal of helping make the scholarship grow more than it has ever done. Without having away any information since the network hasn't announced the winners or anything I can say that I have succeeded in this goal. Unfortunately, there is one goal I have not been able to fulfill, saving my own money to attend the 19th Annual At-Home Dad Convention this year. I began by spending cash and saving all my ones and change. I would not spend those. Over time I started to add 5s here or there and my saving started to grow big time. In a few months I had saved over 150 dollars. But then the move came and I was forced to use those savings. I have not been able to recover since. With the convention getting closer and closer and looking at our future finances it is obvious that I won't be able to go unless I can somehow raise the money. At the behest of my good friend, whom is going but wants me there too, I created a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the money needed to attend the convention. 

This convention is really special to me in so many ways. The guys that run it are all people I hold dear as close friends. When I am down they are there to help me. When I need advice they have all been there or are going through the same thing. The convention offers so much for any dad, whether it be an at home dad or a working dad, there are some great things to help you learn to be an even better dad. I came away from the convention last year feeling refreshed and feeling like I can handle it all. Now I need that refresher. I need that reminder that there are other guys just like me that all have some story that is different yet still the same. 

I have been lucky to raise over $100 so far but that just isn't enough to get me there. If you can donate anything, even a dollar please do it! If you are afraid someone may see your donation then you can donate anonymously and not have to worry about that. All I ask is that you consider something.