TWSS: Disney would be proud

A couple of weeks ago, we had to buy some shoes for Danni.  Danni is now old enough that she wants to pick her own shoes.  She is HUGE fan of the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  Target had some Disney Princess and Dora shoes in her size on clearance.  She went with the Disney Princess ones.

“Daddy, I love them!”

Right about this time, I jumped in to my DeLorean, raced up to 88 miles an hours, and went to the year 2024.

“Daddy, I love him”

Oh boy, I’m in trouble.

So being the quick wit I am, I decided to test her.  “Really, you love them.  What are their names?”

“That’s Cinderella, That’s Sleeping Beauty, That’s Snow White, and ummm…what’s her names?”

Got her. “Well if you don’t know that is The Little Mermaid and that’s Beauty than you can’t get the shoes.”

“Oh! Daddy so silly. That’s Ariel and that’s Bell.”

She got the shoes.

Previous TWSS:

Day After Inaugration

I Do, I Do

Let Me Ask You A Question

The Drawer

Christmas Lights

She Sings

Santa

Last Word

So Sick

Mommy Sad

You can find my almost daily musings at Buck’s Blog

Txting Words Of Encouragement

Ahhh, technology!  As a geek dad I am proud to be totally on top of the tech toys my kids are growing up with as their default accessories.  In fact, what us older gadget guys consider “toys” are hardly noticed as anything special by our kids.  They don’t know of anything but a world filled with mobile phones and laptops, instant messaging and high definition.  They are digital kids living in a digital age.  Analog is ancient history.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE (LUNCH) BOX

Remember the lunch box?  My first ones were metal, with a single flip down clasp, plastic pop-up handle, and the colorful images of my favorite TV characters embossed onto the lid.  I can still remember the distinctive and slightly spoiled scent that wafted forth whenever it was opened – the remnants of loosely wrapped sandwiches, overripe fruit and leaky containers of juice or milk.  The cool lunch boxes came with their own theme matching Thermos brand liquid containers, and there was just enough room inside for the thermos bottle, a wrapped sandwich, and a snack or piece of fruit… And the occasional surprise note from mom or dad!

THE ORIGINAL PARENT TO CHILD MESSAGING PLATFORM

When we were kids when we left the house for the day that was it.  We were out of reach and out of touch from our parents until the school bus deposited us back at home.  With that in mind, clever parents who wanted to reach out and touch their kids during the day had only one logical choice: the lunch box!  How many of you can remember the fun of opening up your lunch box only to find a note from mom or dad saying, “I Love You” or “Have a great day”?  It was a great feeling knowing that your parents were thinking of you while you were off in school and they were off at work or going about their day.  Getting that unexpected message from your parents was always a welcome treat and made the day go by better.  Today, we don’t need to stuff a lunch box in order to slip a surprise message to our kids.  Today we are easily and constantly connected to them, thanks to technology.

TXTING WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Our kids live by their phones and texting is their primary means of communicating.  With that in mind, a great way to send your kid a random reminder that you are thinking of them, that you’ve got their back – all the time, is to send them a text message once in a while.  If you know they have a big test at school, text them a simple “How’d it go?” in the afternoon, or “Good Luck” in the morning before the test.  Yes, they are not supposed to use their phones in school, but they do, and they will, so you might as well be an active part of it.  Texting certainly can’t and won’t replace the importance of real quality time together with your kids, but when you are both out and about and apart, texting some words of love and encouragement is every bit as effective as a note in a lunch box!

How about you?  Did you or your parents ever stick notes in a lunch box? Do you think texting is an appropriate way to touch base with your kids during the day?  Don’t text me your opinion – leave a comment below instead.  ;-)

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 20, Ethan, 18 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit: © JJAVA – Fotolia.com

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A Hero To Squirrels

I was scanning Twitter last night as I often do when there is nothing much to watch on the idiot box.  As I was scrolling through the main stream of all the people I follow I came across an absolute gem.

Robb Vaules – @infobahn, shared a quote from his son – “Quote of the night from my Son: “I have always wanted to be a hero to squirels.”

It got me thinking, firstly what a great ambition, I don’t know how old Robb’s son is but how refreshing to not find that he doesn’t aspire to be a gansta, fake celeb, or make millions throwing a ball around.  No this young man wants to be a hero to Squirrels.

I retweeted the quote this morning and one of my followers asked me how you become a Hero to Squirrels. I have no idea how you become a hero to squirrels, what’s more I have no idea how you inspire your son to want to become a hero to squirrels.  But I do think that its message goes beyond just the cutesy value that makes you go awww when you first read it.  What are we inspiring our children to become ? How do we transmit values to them?

How do we support their aspirations, even if it is to become a Hero to Squirrels.

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The Married Man's Aphrodisiac

OK, my brothers. When you was solo and needed to get some, you knew the drill. High rep light curls at the gym. New shirt and shave. Slap on some smellgood. Aaawwwww, yeeeaaa.

Wassat? Things have changed? The old tricks don’t inspire business time the way they used to, you say? Well pull up a chair, my brother, because the big man got a secret you need knowin.

Few things will summon the sweet sounds of horizontal mambo like the performance of… ready?… household chores.

Dass right. Your wife ain’t down with the charms of the Drakkar Noir you got in 1987. Put it away, my brother. That girl is tired. She need some extra special attention. She need to know you’re in touch with what she’s up against. She need to know you’re in it together. You gotta be shoulder-to-shoulder before you can be ugly-to-ugly, my brother.

Yea, yea, it’s cool. Downside is you gotta do the chore itself, though. Well chill on down, because I got the perfect choice for guys like me and you. The secret, my brother, is laundry.

Speaking for myself, I cook anyway. And sure, you can pretend you’re mowing astroturf while you vacuum, but that’s gonna take up an hour of your weekend. Laundry, on the other hand, has a bursty rhythm that lends itself to short naps, magazine articles, and playoff games. Laundry from start to finish is periodic bursts of something-you-gotta-do with big chunks of nothing in between.

And nothing moves the libido of your average exhausted child-caring, household-maintaining, middle-aged female like the wafting scent of Gain extra strength being poured all sexy-like (or not) by the man who loves her. Don’t even say anything… just pop in the darks and kick back on the couch for an hour. Then there’s 5 minutes of dryer transfer, and an hour after that some casual folding in front of the TV. At some point she’ll notice, and you just say “I’m doing the laundry, baby. I know you’ve had a busy week, and I thought this would help.” Later on you make your move.

AAAAwwwwwww, yeeeeaaaaaaaa, baby.  Give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

Still Just a Dad

The Bush twins wrote a beautiful letter for the Obama girls filled with wonderful advice on how to make the most of their childhood in the Whitehouse and most of all to always remember who their dad really is. Right now everything is incredibly positive and everyone loves their daddy but there will be rough waters and stormy weather in the years ahead of them. People who once praised their father will criticize him and attack his decisions and mental capabilities and even his character. Still, despite it all, the Bush girls remind Obama’s daughters to never lose sight of their real daddy.

It’s such a amazing message for us all. With all of the hatred aimed toward President Bush as he left office, it seems as if people have forgotten that he is, after all, human and a beloved father. We tend to forget that these public figures have families and friends that feel the sting whenever the media or the public ridicule them. At the end of the day, like him or not, even the President of the United States of America is still just a dad.

Worst of the Week: Homework Time – An Update

Welcome to my regular Friday feature, Worst of the Week. As a white, suburbanite husband and dad of two kids, there’s a lot that can go wrong and this entry is all about how to fix it. I hope you enjoy it!

I wrote a few weeks back that my daughter Erin (6) was having trouble getting her homework done. I took everyone’s advice and she has been doing better – with homework that is. When it comes to school work, she is lazy and unmotivated. Patty and I just thought it was some sort of “Mid-Term Blues”; a sort of getting back into things from a long Christmas break thing. That’s not the case.

Turns out she just doesn’t want to do her work. Oh, she’s very capable and when she’s up against the wall, she get’s it done fast and it even comes out correct. I have even seen it with my own two eyes when I come in a volunteer with her class in Computer Lab. For example yesterday, Thursday, I came in at my usual time and the teacher told me that Erin would be down to the Lab soon because she is finishing up her math work. To be fair, she wasn’t the only one working on this particular school work, but she loves coming down to Computer Lab not only because she loves computers, but she is always happy to see me. When I went to check on her, she finished up, with every problem correct, and proceeded to sit down at her station. She then worked hard on her computer finishing the assignment before many other kids. For that I am proud of her, but I just don’t know what to make of it.

Report Cards come out soon and following that there will be Parent-Teacher conferences. Perhaps then we’ll be able to straighten everything out.

The Mom Song Video

Now why would Dad-o-matic cover something called the Mom Song? Well, first, because it’s a hilarious and spot-on look at the work that our better half does on a daily basis. Of course, many fathers are Mr. Moms so they can really relate to this song too.

I think it’s also applicable to the job all dads do whether we have a regular 9 to 5 job or not, so it can actually be called the parent song. Here’s the music video with all of the words which fly by in rapid fashion in sync with the William Tell overture quite brilliantly by Anita Renfroe. I get a big kick out of this every time I see and hear it. We hope you do too, whether you’re a mom or a dad.

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepy head
Here’s your clothes
And your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now
Get up and make your bed
Are you hot?
Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where’s your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and your gloves and your scarf and hat
Don’t forget you got to feed the cat
Eat your breakfast
The experts tell us it’s the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at three today?
Don’t forget your piano lesson is this afternoon

So you must play
Don’t shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside
Don’t play rough
Would you just play fair?
Be polite
Make a friend
Don’t forget to share
Work it out
Wait your turn
Never take a dare
Get along
Don’t make me come down there
Clean your room
Fold your clothes
Put your stuff away
Make your bed
Do it now
Do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn?
Would you like some hay
Can you even hear a word I say?
Answer the phone
Get Off the phone
Don’t sit so close
Turn it down
No texting at the table
No more computer time tonight
Your iPod’s my iPod if you don’t listen up

Where you going and with whom and what time do you think you’re coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me
Makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You’ll appreciate my wisdom
Someday when you’re older and you’re grown
Can’t wait ’til you have a couple little children of your own
You’ll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now
I thank you NOT to roll your eyes at me
Close your mouth when you chew
Would appreciate
Take a bite
Maybe two
Of the stuff you hate
Use your fork
Do not you burp
Or I’ll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate
Get an egg A, Get the door
Don’t get smart with me
Get a Grip
Get in here I’ll count to 3
Get a job
Get a life
Get a PhD
Get a dose of reality
I don’t care who started it
You’re grounded until your 36
Get your story straight
And tell the truth for once for heaven’s sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff
Would you jump too?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said at least a thousand times before that
You’re too old to act this way
It must be your father’s DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straight when you walk
A place for everything
And everything must be in place
Stop crying or I’ll give you something real to cry about
Oh!
Brush your teeth
Wash your face
Get your PJs on
Get in bed
Get a hug
Say a prayer with Mom
Don’t forget
I love you
**KISS**
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom’s work never ends
You don’t need the reason why
Because
Because
Because
Because
I said so
I said so
I said so
I said so
I’m the Mom
The mom
The mom
The mom
The mom
Ta-da

Words by Anita Renfroe Copyright 2007 Bluebonnet Hills Music/BMI

Having a Large Family

My wife and I have five children. None are adopted, none are from other marriages, none are the products of multiple births. Just five kids, each born separately to us over the space of about 13 years.

In the time and place where I grew up (suburban Cleveland in the 1970s and 80s), this would have made us wholly unremarkable. Families of five, six, seven or more children were as common as sparrows in my neighborhood. Most of my friends got their clothes from older brothers, or else they were the ones passing t-shirts and jeans down the line to younger siblings once they grew out of them.

Nowadays, however, being a father of five puts me in something of a shrinking demographic. You just don’t see large families anymore, and I suppose there is any number of reasons for that. Oh sure, you hear about the Duggars and their 18 kids every once in awhile, and I know people who make a point never to miss an episode of “Jon & Kate Plus 8” on TLC. But those are freaky exceptions in what has increasingly become a world of one- and two-child families.

There’s a lot to love about having five children, not the least of which are the chaotic living room wrestling matches and the hilarious dinner table conversations as the kids get older. And as you might imagine, the challenges are pretty numerous, too. (No one told me having kids was going to be this expensive…)

We’re not in the same league as the Duggars or the Gosselins or even my wife’s cousins, who have 10 kids, including four they adopted from Liberia. But we’re still enough of a novelty in 21st-century America to attract curious stares in restaurants and to be asked the same questions over and over.

Here, then, is a list of the things people tend to ask whenever they find out we have five children at home, followed by my/our typical answers:
 

Five kids?!? Are you crazy?
Yeah, probably.

You do know what causes that, don’t you?
Yes, sex with my wife. Lots and lots of awesome sex with my wife.

How do you do it? I’m fried at the end of the day and I only have one.
OK, first off, never say you “only” have one like it’s a bad thing. It’s an awesome thing to have a child, and you’re understandably exhausted by the work involved. Just because I have five does not in any way make me a better parent than anyone else. If you had chosen to have five, you’d be doing the same things my wife and I do, and you may be doing them better than us. We’re by no means superheroes, but what we are, no doubt, is blessed.

What age range are your kids? Boys or girls?
We have three girls and two boys: Elissa is (almost) 15, Chloe is 12, Jared is 10, Melanie is 8, and little Jack just turned 3.

Do the older ones take care of the younger ones?
Sure, just like in any family where there’s a sizeable gap between the oldest and youngest. Our 12-year-old, especially, is like a second mom to the younger ones.

How do you make sure you spend enough “alone time” with each child?
Ah, there you’ve hit on what is to me the single biggest challenge to having a large family: Paying attention to every kid and making them feel unique/special. The only way to do it, I’ve found, is to make it a priority. I do one-on-one things with each of my kids all the time, which of course means I’ve had to let go of personal activities I used to enjoy like marathon running (too time-consuming) and reading (ditto). I don’t say that to make myself out to be a martyr or anything, because I’m not. That’s just the sort of thing we as fathers do for our kids, with no expectation that anyone is going to pat us on the back for it. And besides, I figure you only get one, brief shot at this parenting thing, and I really don’t want to screw it up.

Aren’t you concerned about overpopulation and draining the planet’s resources unnecessarily with a big family?
Another great question, and one to which I can only plead ignorance. It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really become aware of the dangers of overpopulation. I was blissfully ignorant in the years when we were having kids. Would we have changed our mind about having five had we known more about overpopulation earlier? Hmmmm, that’s a tough one. I don’t know, and I don’t even like to think about it because that’s like telling my younger ones, “Oops, you guys were mistakes! Had we been more well-informed, we probably wouldn’t have had you.” In any event, however much of a drain we are on world resources, I continually try to counteract that by raising my children to be people who, as adults, will have a significant positive impact on society.

Do you have a nanny or daycare provider for your kids?
No, actually, we’ve never had either one. My wife has been a stay-at-home mom since our second was born, and it has been a great help for us. Logistically, we rarely have problems getting the kids to their various activities, and when we do, all of the grandparents live less than 10 minutes away and are always willing to help.

Did you ever think about having any more?
Nope. After Jack was born, my wife and I just kind of instinctively knew that this was it. It certainly doesn’t help that we’re both pushing 40…having babies is a young person’s game, as far as I’m concerned! But we’re more than content with the five God has given us. And now that our oldest two are entering their teenage years, I’m guessing we’re going to be even more committed to our decision to stop!

 

By the way, as you might imagine, there are some great Web resources for people with – or those interested in having – large families. Two of the best are http://www.lotsofkids.com/ and the excellent “Large Families FAQ.”

 

Quote of the Month

I should explain. Firstly, please permit me to introduce Beetle, 9 weeks old and the latest arrival at Dungeekin Towers.

Now, I have a game I play with Dungeekin Minor when he stays with us at weekends – with much growling, I tell him I’m going to ‘eat his ears’. Cue screaming, laughter and chasing around the living room.

Anyway, we collected the boys on Friday and, as you can imagine, both dog and toddler were utterly smitten with each other on first sight. Minor plonked himself on the floor (first mistake) and Beetle, seeing a playmate of similar maturity, insisted on playing – and before we could get him under control, leaped up and had a nip at the dangly things on the side of Minor’s head.

Thankfully no blood was shed, but Minor was a bit surprised and shocked by the whole experience. He turned to The Darling G and I and, bottom lip a-quiver, said:

“But….but…only Daddy’s allowed to eat my ears!”

Little boys and puppies – the perfect combination.

TWSS: Day After Inauguration

A couple of months ago, Danni started retaining information.  This does not seem like a big deal but it is.  This went beyond her name and age.  Danni can hold conversations.  Although sometimes she has a little attitude attached with it.

A common question Danni gets is her name and age.  Most of the time, people who ask this are complete strangers.  A lot of cashiers ask it at the register to pass time while we are checking out the groceries.

Cashier: “Oh aren’t you a pretty girl?”

Danni takes thumb out of her mouth: “Yes, Maam, Thank you.”  Thumb goes back in.

The cashier is shocked that a conversation has happened with the pint sized being in the front of the grocery cart.

Cashier: “What’s your name?”

Danni thumb comes out: “Danni”

C: “How old are you?”

D: “Two”

C: “Wow she can talk really well.”

Last Friday, January 16, 2009, we were checking out and the cashier started interacting with Danni.  It started out as it always does.

C: “Hey pretty girl, what’s your name?”

D: “Yes, Thank You, Danni, two, July 28, Memphis, TN, Cordova, TN.” Thumb back in.

The cashier looks puzzled and looks at me or Chelsea for help.  We explain that she just said thank you for the compliment, her name, age, birthday, where she was born, and where she lives.

C: “Oh well aren’t you a smart girl.  Who’s the president?”

D: “George Bush.”

C: “Ha! Nope it’s Barack Obama”

And this is why I love my girl.

Danni: “Not yet” Thumb back in.

UPDATE: I asked Danni the day after the ingauguration who the president is and she said clear as day, “Barack Obama.”

Previous TWSS:

I Do, I Do

Let Me Ask You A Question

The Drawer

Christmas Lights

She Sings

Santa

Last Word

So Sick

Mommy Sad

You can find my almost daily musings at Buck’s Blog

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Rodney Atkins’ “I’ve Been Watching You” is one of my favorite songs for many reasons. One of them is because my six year-old loves singing it at the top of his lungs while watching the video with me. The other reason is because it’s a wonderful song for parents because it brings home the message so well that like it or not, our kids learn more from what we show them than what we tell them. Actions truly speak louder than words when you’re a parent!

I’ve learned this lesson over and over again with all three of my children. I can say the same thing countless times but it falls on def ears but if they see me doing it, especially when I pretend I don’t know they’re there, then I inevitably see them mimicking my behavior.

Unfortunately, this applies to bad behavior as well! I’ve finally learned to NEVER utter a cuss word even if you think they’re not close enough to hear. I’ve also learned never to cut corners or do things with anything but my best effort because they notice it (well, their mom usually does first but they do too).

So, it’s a simple notion but incredibly important and a powerful teaching tool. Teach your children by setting the best example as you possibly can with your actions, not just with your mouth. Walk the walk vs talk the talk. Always remember that they’re watching you!

“Watching You”

Driving through town just my boy and me
With a happy meal in his booster seat
Knowing that he couldn’t have the toy
Till his nuggets were gone
A green traffic light turned straight to red
I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath
His fries went a flying and his orange drink covered his lap
Well then my four year old said a four letter word
That started with “s” and I was concerned
So I said son now now where did you learn to talk like that

[Chorus one]

He said I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah we’re just alike, hey ain’t we dad
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you

We got back home and I went to the barn
I bowed my head and I prayed real hard
Said Lord please help me help my stupid self
Then this side of bedtime later that night
Turning on my son’s Scooby Doo nightlight
He crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
And spoke to God like he was talking to a friend
And I said son now where’d you learn to pray like that

[Chorus two]

He said I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
We like fixing things and holding mama’s hand
Yeah we’re just alike, hey ain’t we dad
I wanna do everything you do
So I’ve been watching you

[Bridge]

With tears in my eyes I wrapped him in a hug
Said my little bear is growing up
He said but when I’m big I’ll still know what to do

[Chorus three]

Cause I’ve been watching you dad, ain’t that cool
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are
By then I’ll be as strong as superman
We’ll be just alike, hey won’t we dad
When I can do everything you do
Cause I’ve been watching you

The Ultimate Dad Photo From Today's Inauguration

I saw this photo on the Chicago Tribune‘s Web site today, taken this morning by AP photographer Susan Walsh and couldn’t help but think that of all the heaps of congratulations our new president will get today, as a father, nothing will probably mean more to him than this.

AP photo by Susan Walsh from www.chicagotribune.com

Dude to Dad in Chief

A few months ago, I took some artistic license with a popular online video to create “Dude to Dad (Changing More Than Just Diapers) feat. Barack Obama.” For me, it was a rally cry for a new generation of dads. My hope was was that it might lead to “change” and I thought that was the only thing I shared with President-elect Obama.

As I sit in my office this morning watching the masses congregate in Washington, I can’t help but think beyond all of the pomp and circumstance. Soon-to-be President Barack Obama signifies many things for many people. For me, in my current life situation, he’s simply another Dad.

After the flowing speeches and the fancy balls, he returns “home” to his daughters and the same challenges that we all face. Recently, he wrote a letter for his daughters which was printed in Parade magazine.

Obama writes, “These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world.”

As I wait for my first child (a girl!) to be born, I have often wished/prayed/hoped for the same things. It seems my President and I may have more in common than I ever realized.

Hugh Weber is the soon-to-be-dad of a baby girl slated to be released on March 24th. He is a longtime Republican political operative and messaging strategist. You can follow Hugh’s journey to fatherhood at Dude to Dad or join the Dude to Dad community to offer him advice.

Kids and Pets … a Study in Patience Pays Off

Our daughter Katie has been through some serious pet angst.  She loves animals, but at the same time she loathes being licked or chased.  She gets along with the cat because the cat requires nothing of her, and she only has to deal with him for a few moments at a time.

We are animal people, though, and we have dogs.  Katie’s first real dog experience was Rocky.  Rocky was a Malty-Poo – very fuzzy -but very fast and energetic.  She wasn’t quite old enough or strong enough to deal with him, so she pulled back.  We tried repeatedly, but it’s not the kind of thing that can be forced.  We lost Rocky to illness – Katie was as upset as any of us, but I’m not sure they ever would have bonded because she wasn’t ready.

In November we got Gizmo.  Gizmo is a black and white Pekingese.  Katie held him a few times, but he grew up and now – just like Rocky was – he is fast and nippy.  We thought the whole experiment was going to fail again, but we took a final shot.  We got Rocky a little female dog for a companion.  She’s tiny, and fuzzy, and Katie is bigger.  She is thrilled to hold the puppy, and now is even softening toward Gizmo, who actually laid in her bed with her this evening.

The lesson learned here is, you can’t force kids and animals to get along. It’s a trial and error process, and you have to be sensitive both to the child’s side of it, and the animal’s side.  If you try to hurry, you might cause a rift between your child and animals that never heals, or takes years to fade.  If you are patient, the lessons a child can learn from the responsibility of caring for a pet, and the unconditional love animals exhibit for their owners will last a lifetime.

Learning To Bite Your Tongue

I don’t know about you, but the older I get the harder it is for me to keep my mouth shut.  It seems I have an opinion about everything and I almost always feel compelled to share it.  I may be able to chalk it up to being older and wiser, but it still doesn’t mean it is a good thing, so one of my goals for 2009 is to learn how to bite my tongue.

LET THEM MAKE MISTAKES

As a parent, I am realizing that I also need to learn to bite my tongue, especially as my kids grow older.  As parents we are natural born protectors and want everything to be just right for our kids.  But sometimes, even though we have the knowledge and experience to know what is coming and see a mistake our kids are about to make before they make it, we would be serving them better to bite our tongues and let them go ahead and make the error.  As long as it doesn’t involve anyone’s safety, or harm to person or property, letting our kids make mistakes is a good idea.  Yes, we have “been there,” and “done that,” so we know exactly what the outcome is going to be, but sometimes if we don’t resist the urge to step in and “save them” our kids won’t have the chance to gain that experience themselves.  Let them make the mistake and they will learn from that experience in a way that will be far more impactful than us telling them what would have happened.

SITTING ON MY HANDS IN THE PASSENGER SEAT

I was reminded of this when taking my daughter, who has her learner’s permit, for a drive.  We started out with me talking non-stop.  “Okay, signal your turn… now look.  Did you look?  You’re a little too close to that car ahead of us..  You’re going a little too fast.  What’s the speed limit?  You want to change lanes now…”  It is no wonder she finally put me in my place.

“Dad, be quiet already.  YOU are making me nervous.”

And she was right.  My constant corrections were more likely to cause a fender bender than her burgeoning driving skills.  So I bit my tongue.  And when I saw she was about to make a turn way too wide, I looked ahead, and seeing no cars coming at us, I bit my tongue again, and let her make the bad turn, ending up on the wrong side of the two way lane.

“That was bad.” she said.  “Yes, it was,” I agreed.  But now she knew what it felt like to turn too wide, and the rest of the ride her turns were perfect.

How about you?  Do you let your kids make mistakes, or am I making a mistake suggesting that you do?  Don’t bite your tongue just yet and share your opinion in the comments below.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 20, Ethan, 18 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit © Irina Opachevsky – Fotolia.com

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Take A Break

I’ve heard recently about a couple I know who are having some difficulties, the main cause is that they never take breaks away from their kids.

I am the world’s number one fan of my little ones, they seriously rock. They are also 2 and 3 (11.5 months apart), so they can be a touch exhausting. :-)

Recently I was lucky enough to take a few extra days in San Francisco after Macworld to spend with my wife, Heather. Together we walked all over the city in weather that couldn’t have been better.

Heather and I met as backpackers in Ireland, so we are both accustomed to adventures in unknown cities. We spent a few days exploring hidden, local gems without the use of any guides. It was just like the old days when we first met.

It came to us as a shock when we realized that we hadn’t had a holiday without the kids – ever. We skipped around the city like giddy school children, it was incredible to be FREE for a few days. We were free of any responsibilities,  no pull-up changing, potty training, prepared meals, bath time, nothing!

Do you have someone you can leave your kids with for a weekend? Have you asked your in-laws, parents, siblings, trust worthy friends for a weekend of babysitting?

Even if it’s just a weekend in a neighboring city, perhaps camping if the weather works for you. The main point is to get away with your partner, not to stay with friends, just the two of you. If you’re a single parent the same applies here.

Go away and take some time off – you deserve it.

Why do parents judge?

This has been bugging me for quite a while now. I figure the best place for me to air it out would be this forum. Now, my wife and I are repeatedly told that our children (Maddie is 10 and Joey is 7) are well behaved, polite, and fun to have around when ever they are on play dates or sleep overs. We have always taken that to consider that we are “doing things right” in our own way. In fact, I know that my kids are loved dearly and are very happy at home.

My question is this. Why do some parents feel they must judge other parents’ parenting style. Worse yet is when some feel it necessary to point out this perceived lacking to other parents. Now I am not referring to suggestions. Those are great. In fact if I did not like suggestions, what am I doing on this site. My wife and I have heard some great unsolicited advice and always felt it was up to us whether we follow it or not. Following that advice is in no means related to how we feel about these advisors as friends or parents. It simply means they pointed out a great idea and we chose to follow it.

My parenting style is to give my kids choices on some topics while at the same time having a select few topics that exist or may come up that are non-negotiable. I find by doing this, they for the most part know that there are topics I will not yield on and others that I will let them find out for themselves whether it is important or not. It leads to much less arguing and I find they are much more cooperative when they know they can have some input on some topics. For example, I will at no time let my kids speak disrespectfully to my wife. I jump on them every time and they know it is not allowed. That’s not to say they never do it. But they do catch them selves and I feel the more I stay on top of it the less it will happen. I also feel this may be why they are almost always polite to all adults they meet. As an example of topics I will not fight them own, I always tell them to wear hats, gloves etc. out in the cold. If they choose not to, I don’t ague with them, they eventually come back in and put them on if they are too cold anyways. I know they are not going to let themselves get seriously hurt and they feel like they have some input in their lives.

This brings my to my point of contention. I tell my son to always wear socks, and proper shoes when he goes to school. He hates looking for his socks, and has a pair of favorite sneakers that are falling apart so he usually ends up with these holy things on his feet where you can see his feet through the tops. I tell him that not wearing socks will give him problems with foot oder and these old shoes will get his feet cold and may both most likely will get him teased when he goes to school. My feeling is that eventually he will get sick of all that and wear the right shoes and socks. He is not in any danger, and we have one less battle to fight while getting ready for school in the morning. By the way he know wears his new shoes that Mimi bought for him with his socks every day.

Well we had a “friend” who we asked to pick up our son at school after school as a favor and drop him off at our neighbors house so I could go to a job interview. She said it was fine. She did, however, feel it was necessary to comment to our neighbor how disgusting his shoes with no socks were. She didn’t just discuss it. She went on and on about it. She works with my wife and actually pulled her aside in the break room as soon as my wife got to work to point out how embarrassed she was when she saw his shoes. This woman would always talk to us about how bad other parents are and now we know she is doing the same about us. I feel bad because her daughter and my daughter are best friends. They have know each other since they were born. I pray dearly that this will not effect their relationship. I know my wife and I will not it effect them.

We know that she feels we are poor parents because we give our children these freedoms. That is fine. I just wish she would keep it to herself and not gossip about it. It upsets my wife and frankly that pisses me off. I really do not care what others think about me. But upset my wife and kids and its on. I love my children for all that they are. I think they are very well adjusted, loving, caring individuals. In addition I would never EVER put anyone down for their parenting style as long as they love their kids and are there for them, who cares what they do. There is no perfect parenting protocols. We are not programming computer, we are raising humans.

Another topic she would hate is the fact that I let me kids play with the video camera and put up videos on Youtube. I am a geek so I like them to get involved with technology. I also know what the pros and cons are of this. They have a blast dong it and it is a great medium for them to work on their creativity. I actually do the posting and add the keywords for them and only after I see the video myself. I also let them know that their are other idiots out there that may put up some distasteful comments. Their latest work is hilarious and we have heard lots of interesting feedback. I will put a link to it at the end of this post if you want to check it out. Let me know what you think about it.

Well thanks for listening. I just feel that we are all individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses. Our wives/husbands are all individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses. And Most importantly our children are all individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses. This leads to an infinite possibility of combinations of personalities and parenting styles. I feel that I cannot guarantee that my wife and I will always be around to make the correct decision for our kids. Helping them learn the merits of making some decisions on their own will only make them better equipped as they grow up. I by now means think that our way is THE way. But it is OUR way. It works for us. More parents need to understand that. Parents do what works best for them. Its not right and its not wrong. Is best for them. Downing other’s parenting based on your own biases is a completely useless use of energy. And it can cost a friendship along the way.

How do you think we should have handled this? Do you have any similar stories? If you find yourself tending to judge like this, does this change you mind?

Thanks, Joey

Here is the video my kids made if you want to check it out:Tigger Barbie Girl

Worst of the Week: A Helping Hand

Welcome to my regular Friday feature, Worst of the Week. As a white, suburbanite husband and dad of two kids, there’s a lot that can go wrong and this entry is all about how to fix it. I hope you enjoy it!

Except for a few minor homework issues, Patrick and Erin were good all week, so I give you my Worst of the Week.

Late Wednesday night, I decided to add a few widgets to my (WordPress) blog. Unfortunately the integration didn’t go so well and I inadvertently crashed my site.

Now if you’re like me, after your Wife and Kids, your website is the most important thing in you life. If it goes down you go down and you scramble like hell to get it up. Even if that means staying up until 4am to fix it.

I couldn’t stay up that late, but on Thursday I contacted the one person I knew that could help me with my problem. My friend Ian, from New York City. Thank God I got a hold of him and that he was able to help me. In a matter 30 minutes of a few clicks I was up and running again. Ian is the kind of guy that I can depend on when things go awry.

I’m fortunate to have many friends with many different talents that can help me when I’m in need. Which brings me to my point – it’s not too early to have you children know who to depend on in different situations or to know what his (or her) talent is so they can help other kids, too (reading, baseball, tying shoes, trouble on the bus, etc.).

What is you kid’s special talent or does he/she have friends they can seek out when they are in need?

Indecently, I took Chris Brogan’s advice and upgraded to the WordPress Thesis Theme. It’s so much better then what I had before.

When The News Provides a Teachable Moment

Today is the day you just sit back and say “How in the heck did that happen?!”

It’s hard to escape the story of the US Airways plane that went down in the Hudson River yesterday and the remarkable activity that surrounds it. The more I read and hear about it the less inclined I am to say that all of these actions were heroic. Why? Because it seems to be that everyone involved in this story was just being themselves. The version of the person that we get to see in this circumstance is probably the best they can possibly be not really a hero. Here’s what I mean.

The pilot – Chesley Sullenburger. Is it right to say that what he did was heroic? On many levels I suppose it is. I think it’s better to recognize that it takes a person who thinks ahead, is prepared and truly cares to perform at all in this type of environment. Now this is purely conjecture on my part so take it for what it’s worth. I think that this man was built for this situation. I think he took all the necessary measures to be ready “just in case” and the people that were with him on this flight were blessed that he cared enough. He didn’t just ‘pull this one out’. He was ready. He has a consulting business in fact around airline safety. Hero? Sure, call him that if you want to. I would bet he would say that he was just doing his job. Here’s the question though. Could every pilot with US Airways perform the same way he did? I doubt it. This story may have been a lot different if he wasn’t at the helm.

The crew – Heroes? Sure, use the term. I think they would rather be known as people who knew their jobs and performed them to the best of their ability in a time of crisis. The term hero is for the media and the ego. I think that many people who were trained to do this kind of work put their heads on their pillows last night finally and were satisfied that they did their jobs so well that many people were alive that night that otherwise maybe shouldn’t be.

The passengers – Heroes? You call them what you will. I think these good people went into survival mode and simply kept their cool. It’s not heroic to keep your cool. It’s right to keep your cool. Thank God for the temperament of the passengers as a whole. It was truly amazing.

The rescue workers – Is there anything else to say about rescue workers in NYC that hasn’t already been said? Many of them bristle at the idea of being a hero in a circumstance like this. I think the heroic part of their lives was the day that they filled out an application to do the kind of work they do knowing full well they wouldn’t make the kind of money that some criminal on Wall Street does but that they would be tasked with helping people on a daily basis. Now that’s a hero.

So how does this impact being a dad? What greater chance do we have to show the good in people than at a time like this? We should sit down with our kids who are old enough to understand and take advantage of a news story that we can use for the good rather than having to explain away.

Face it, regardless of what we all do for a living we are just people. We may do things that appear to be heroic but I posit that anything we do is just an extension of who we are every minute of every day. If I am a self centered egotistical SOB I may not react in a way that would be helpful to others (remember George Costanza running over women and children to escape a fire on Seinfeld?). But if we live by the Golden Rule I think that in a situation like this we may all find ourselves with no other choice but to be ‘heroic’.

Our kids need to see the world at its best because most times it doesn’t present very well. Take the opportunity to explain some things to your kids this weekend based on what happened on the Hudson River yesterday. There may not be another example of people doing what they do, at the highest level and everyone coming out OK.

By the way, I will never forget or minimize the memory of those who have laid down their lives for others while simply doing their jobs. Firefighters, police officers, good Samaritans, soldiers and all others. Happy endings aren’t always available, I know. Someday if you believe you may have a chance to speak to those who sacrificed, I bet you they would say they were doing their job, not trying to be a hero. That’s a lesson we all need to receive.

A Laid off parent is ALWAYS gainfully employed.

Hello Readers. I am Joey Parshley and its been 3 moths since my last (and first) post. Things have been really busy and I have not been able to post as much as I wanted. Hopefully I will be able to post more frequently.

Well, as many of us have been experiencing, I was laid off on December 17th. The funny thing about that (I have been told to use ironic but I think its funny) is that it was the 1 year anniversary of my last lay off. I actually mentioned that fact to my wife as I was heading into work that day. At least then the first company shut its doors. This time around, it was a “Workforce Reduction”. I am not a big fan of euphemisms. I feel they are used to comfort the giver, not the receiver.

My point of this post is that us Dad’s (and Mom’s) are still gainfully employed even if we get laid off. It is a time that we can teach our children how to deal with adversity. Show them that not everything is hunky dorey but at the same time, it is not the end of the world. Teach them that, yeah it sucks and it is ok to feel down for a little bit, but moping around is not going to get you your next gig.

My daughter Maddie is 10 years old and my son is 7. They absolutely keep me grounded during these times. You simply cannot feel bad for yourself when they are such an important part of your life. They asked me all the tough questions like “will we lose our house” or “are we poor” and I tried to answer them all as truthfully as possible knowing that sometimes simply telling them that I do not know, but what I do know is that we will always have each others support and no matter what happens, together we will be happy. It always brightened up my day when after interviewing and picking up my kids, my son would always remember to ask “How was you meeting, Dad?”. And sometimes, just sitting on the couch with each of them in my arms made it all just melt away.

I am happy to announce that I was quite fortunate in this scenario. I start my next gig next week. This time around it was a great opportunity for me to show my children that in times of uncertainty, as long as you do all you can do, you can feel good about your situation. Things that are out of your control are exactly that, (out of your control). So if you cannot control it, remove it as far from your mind as possible. This was a horrible time to be laid off. But I had no control over that and I stopped dwelling on it. What WAS in my control was how I pursued my next gig and I took complete control of that. I started networking on day one (the moment I got home). Most may have taken off for the holidays knowing that there were not going to be many contacts. But I figured that would help me stand out more. I feel it may have given me a leg up on others I felt may be flooding the market after the holidays. In any case this is a situation that I will always be proud to talk to my children about. It is a valuable tool that I hope I can use to help them in case they ever find themselves in a less than ideal situation.

Why Your Infant Needs GMail

I learned a few days ago that a good friend of mine did something for his son that almost moved me to tears, on the spot. As an infant, he got him his own GMail account.

Of what use is such a thing to persons lacking control of basic bodily functions, you ask?

Well, my buddy uses this account to send his son messages for when he’s old enough to appreciate them:

“You were born today, and I am different now. Thanks for coming buddy. I will do my best for you.”

“You kept us up all night last night, and just when I was about to lose it, it seemed like you smiled at me for the first time. The rest of the night was easy.”

“You said your first word today, and it was “bah,” meaning pacifier.”

“You’re new nickname is Mr. 3-times. Don’t ask. You owe me, big.”

“We brought your sister home today and you were so gentle with her. You kissed her on the head and said ‘hi, baby. Do you want to play with my toys.”

Are you blubbering yet? I actually made those up, but you get the picture.

I simply cannot think of a nicer thing to do for your kid. First, it’s a powerful way to show your son or daughter that they were loved from the get go. Second – god forbid something were to happen to you – there’s a record somewhere of what you were feeling in the tiny details of life as your child came into the world. Finally, the little day-to-day details that you somehow forget as they grow up – that cute thing they used to say, the day they got their big-boy bed, the time they pee’d in the houseplant – all of those things are captured somewhere in a dark corner of the Googlesphere, stored securely in a permanent nook of our collective human consciousness.

So get your kid an e-mail address today, and ping him once in a while just to let him know you’re there for him. Always were, always will be.

TWSS: I do, I do, I do

In our house hold, Danni has started telling us what she wants to do.  She has been doing it for awhile but it has become more urgent.

“Who wants to go to school?”

“I do, I do, I do” is how Danni responds to everything.

“Who loves Mommy?”

“I do, I do, I do”

You get the picture.

I always like to “test” Danni and see if she is actually paying attention or just saying things.

“Who watches cartoons?”

Chelsea, Danni, and I all say, “I do, I do, I do”

“Who goes to work?”

Moment of silence and Danni look me straight in the eye and said, “You do”

Previous TWSS:

Let Me Ask You A Question

The Drawer

Christmas Lights

She Sings

Santa

Last Word

So Sick

Mommy Sad

You can find my almost daily musings at Buck’s Blog

Too Fat to Love?

The Government are frequently heard to proclaim that ‘families’ are the most important thing in life. We all know that a stable family environment is good for the development of happy children.

We also know the statistics – that children in Local Authority Care tend to perform less well in school, garner fewer qualifications and have lower chances in life than those from a family environment.

The importance of adoption cannot be overestimated. Adopted children are rescued from the State care system and, if the system is implemented properly, placed in loving environments where they can flourish. That, surely, is better than the alternative stagnant future for a child in care.

Yet it would seem that to Leeds City Council, the future well-being of a child is less important than whether the parents eat All-Bran.

Parents banned from giving a child the loving home all children need. Not because they’re alcoholics, smokers, drug addicts or benefits sponges – but because the prospective Dad is overweight. It’s revolting. Do the worthies at Leeds City Council really think that the love of a child is dependent upon the body shape of the parent?

Or is it just that their Nannying imperative is now so strong, their need to ensure that the lost kids of Britain, already abandoned (for whatever reason) by one set of parents, deserve only the unfeeling bureaucracy of the State as a future?

The Righteous of Leeds City Council should hang their heads in shame for the child they have just condemned.

Bring Your Work To Kids Day!

If you are a parent, you have probably experienced some variation of “take your child to work day” – you know, the one where your son or daughter tags along to the office and you plop them down in front of a computer and hope and pray they will be able to occupy themselves with games and the Internet long enough to stay out of your hair so you can actually get your work done.  What genius came up with that idea?  Most office environments would be interesting to a kid for about 20 minutes before some serious boredom kicks in.  Then what?  After all, most of us spend our time at work on the phone, in a meeting, or working on a computer.  And if your job day requires more active pursuits, it probably isn’t safe or appropriate to bring a child along.

DON’T BRING YOUR KID TO WORK, BRING YOUR WORK TO YOUR KID!

While I may not endorse taking your child to work, I do endorse taking your work to your child.  As working parents we spend an enormous amount of our time either at work or working and it is important for our kids to understand what that means because one day they will be working too.  Finding ways to share what you do with your kids is a great way to let them get to know a different side of you, and it is an important part of what you teach them and how you may shape their own views and “work ethic” as they grow up.  If you constantly bitch and moan about your “job” in front of your kids, what message is that sending them about “being employed?”  On the other hand, if you can find ways to share your passion for what you do, and involve them in the aspects of your work life that they can understand and relate to, you just may be building a foundation that will lead them to be the architects of their own successful careers.

WE ARE ALL ENTREPRENEURS, AND OUR KIDS ARE TOO!

We live in an age where we are all entrepreneurs of our own careers.  Whether we are an employee or the employer, in order to be truly successful I believe we need to be our own boss and treat our job responsibilities as a business that we are the CEO of, regardless of our actual position or title.  More than ever, today we have to create our own job security, and like it or not, this is the world our children are growing up in.  With that in mind, teaching our kids by example, that, while often demanding, “work” can and should be fun, rewarding, and involve PASSION, is one of the many very important lessons we are tasked with sharing as parents.

FIND WAYS FOR YOUR JOB TO MAKE YOU A HERO

No matter what you do for a living I bet you can find something to share with your kids that will make you a hero in their eyes (and your job seem really cool).  It could be as simple as an interesting picture or souvenir from a business trip, or a colorful piece of “schwag” you picked up at a trade show that lets you share a story about an interesting aspect of your trip.  It could be showing them the cover of a thick report with your name on it as the author or a contributor.  It could be a hat or t-shirt with your company name on it, left over from the last corporate bonding event.  You know your job, and you know your kids, so go ahead and figure out ways you can bring your work to your kids.

GO AHEAD, BRING IT HOME!

I have been very fortunate to have had a career that has touched on the entertainment, video game and music industries in ways my kids could definitely relate to and I’ve been able to “bring home” toy and video game samples, have a popular cartoon character show up at a birthday party, and share some fun stories of meeting some “stars” my kids were fans of (and I did stick my then 2 year old son Zach in a scene in a movie I worked on – now at age 20 he still brags about his name in the credits.) However, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living.  With a little thought and creativity you can find something you have done or have worked on that your kids will most surely think is awesome, and they will love the fact that you were willing to involve them in your work world and share it.  Something that may seem trivial to you will be huge to them, because YOU shared it.

Do you agree?  What have you done to “take your work to your kids?”  I’d love to hear interesting and unusual ways you have shared your work with your kids, especially if you have an unusual job or profession.  Please share your own experiences and opinions in the comments!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 20, Ethan, 18 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit: © Jaimie Duplass – Fotolia.com

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Worst of the Week: The Cost of the Detroit Free Press

Welcome to my regular Friday feature, Worst of the Week. As a white, suburbanite husband and dad of two kids, there’s a lot that can go wrong and this entry is all about how to fix it. I hope you enjoy it!

Here in Detroit in December between the Big 3 having to go beg for money and our beloved Lions going 0-16, the Detroit Free Press announced a restructuring program in order to save money and essentially to stay alive.

Ever since I can remember I have always had a paper at the doorstep in the morning. I’m one of those people who read, or at least look at it, every day; especially the Sports page. Starting as a kid, I was fascinated looking at the team statistics, standings, box scores and the transactions no matter what the league. I’ve passed that along to Patrick (8) and now everyday before he heads off to school he takes a look and gives me updates from the previous days games while I’m getting my morning coffee or making sure the kids lunch and backpacks are set. I even got him interested in reading the small columns that provide updates on the happenings of the four local teams: Red Wings, Pistons, Lions and Tigers.

Now come March this routine will change drastically. The Free Press will continue to be printed seven days a week, however home delivery of the paper will be cut back to only three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Not only will this affect Patrick and me, but it will also affect my wife Patty, who likes to go through the Sunday inserts and circulars that come with the Saturday paper. Those inserts will come with the Sunday paper.

I’m not here today to preach to you how great newspapers are or that they’re dying and some have suggested. Newspapers are changing and we have to change with them. Sure it’s easy to go online and get the news. I do it everyday with RSS and my mobile phone. But there is a benefit of newspapers as a delivery mechanism for content. It’s a fantastic portable device. It’s compact and full or information from Paris, France to Paris Hilton. But in regards to Patrick, it’s also teaching him how to search with his eyes and not some search engine on ESPN.com.

The Star Wars Dilemma

Violette's Haul What do people do when you have an older kid and a younger kid in the house, and the older kid wants to consume media that messes with the younger kid? That’s the issue at hand in the Star Wars Dilemma. I’m wondering if you’ve had this happen at your house.

My daughter is 6.5 years old. My son is going to be 3 in a few weeks. My daughter was allowed to watch Star Wars: Clone Wars, and then once we determined that she wasn’t scared for life, we let her watch Star Wars Episode 1 and Star Wars Episode 4.

She loved them. She had a great time. She’s totally into Star Wars.

My little guy, who’ll be 3 in a few weeks, watched it all, too. Well, his response was to get violent, to have horrible nightmares, to get really crabby and generally to shift from being our son into being this angry little man.

Whoops.

We stopped Star Wars right away and then pow, he was back to normal. I feel terrible about that. I didn’t realize it was having a very negative impact, but it was clearly connected to his behavior.

I get it. I understand the experiences. But here’s the question:

What do I do for my daughter, who wants to enjoy this content, who is appreciative and reacting well to the content, and who is now feeling shackled by her little brother?

How do you approach this?

TWSS: Let Me Ask You A Question

As any parent can tell you, once your kid starts walking and talking, you get little to no privacy.  This is especially true when it comes to bathroom breaks.  My wife tells me that she has not taken a bathroom break with the door closed in 2 years.

The other day Chelsea went to the store and left me home with Danni.  I knew the policy that if you are home alone with Danni that you need to turn on Elmo and leave the door open if you had to go the bathroom.  I turned on the DVR’d Sesame Street and told Danni that I was going to the potty.

The potty is sometimes referred to the “library” in my house.  So I might have lost track of time.  Next thing I know, Danni is at the door and said, “Let me ask you a question?”

Any man can tell you that they fell most vulnerable when their pants are around their ankles.  I am not a big fan of talking when this is happening and I definitely did not want my daughter to see me in that position.  I recovered quickly and said, “Sure honey ask away.”

Danni scrunched up her face and said, “You got poop?”

“Yes Danni I did”

“That smells.  You flush now.  Thank you.” and closed the door.

Previous TWSS:

The Drawer

Christmas Lights

She Sings

Santa

Last Word

So Sick

Mommy Sad

You can find Buck’s almost daily musings at Buck’s Blog

Beware of the Stories of Your Childhood. Seriously.

Favorite Children's Stories

Favorite Children's Stories

Every night we put our daughter Katie up on the big bed where Trish and I sleep.  She gets her hair braided to keep it from tangling in the night.  Billy (15) lays across the end of the bed, and Stephanie (18) comes in to sit at the foot of the bed.  While Trish fixes Katie’s hair, I read her bedtime story.  It’s become quite the ritual, and we’ve been through a lot of stories, and a lot of words.

What I’ve noticed though – most notably over the past few nights – is that you can’t trust those old stories to read quite the way they did when you were younger.  For one thing, there is a lot of content that is just no longer acceptable or appropriate.  There are words that no longer mean what they used to mean in general conversation.  Terminology and language are a shifting tide, and you can get caught in the undertow pretty quickly if you don’t pay attention.  It can make for some pretty tricky ad lib reworking of the old classics.

The book above is our current storybook – we’re about three quarters of the way through it.  It contains works by many well remembered and loved storytellers of days gone by, and overall we’ve enjoyed them all. There have, however, been moments.  For instance, I had to reword the title AND each instance of one word from that title when reading “The Blue Eyed Pussy”.  I know, I know, what am I, eight?  Remember, two teenagers and their mother listen too, and pretty much no way they are containing themselves if I read anything other than “The Blue Eyed Kitten”.

So the other night was the kicker.  We started a new story – “Almost an Ambush” by Le Grand Henderson.  Sounds safe enough, right?  Then you get into the story, and it’s like a Saturday Night Live skit.  We get a snicker from the teenagers when I read a line that states that the two privates in the play army are “Peewee and Floppy the dog”.  Boy child says…”Floppy privates?”  That starts it. Snickers abound.  I am trying to read the story and actually getting a little angry because they are ruining the moment for their little sister, who is too young to understand why they are laughing, and feeling left out.  Trish is snickering too.  I plunge onward.  I grit my teeth and read that the enemy “troop” is led by another boy.  Now I’m in full scowl mode, about to yell at them all to be quiet and listen…when my eyes catch the name of this boy.

I stopped short.  How in hell was I going to read “Stubby Johnson” – at that moment?  How could I not?  How could I even make that up?  From then on, every word, every line, seemed charged with more than it was meant to be.  I mean…STUBBY JOHNSON? (sigh).  We made it through the story, which is about how the dog, Floppy, who the boys were angry at for giving away their position in their game of soldiers on patrol, saves them from being stranded in a collapsed tunnel.  It’s still a good story – but maybe if they ever re-release this old book, they might consider a quick revision.

You can find a full listing of the stories in this book by clicking the image above.

Digital Storytelling Gets a Boost from Dave Armano

Some of you might know the name of blogger Dave Armano – he has a vast social network, is a regular contributor to AdAge and a frequent speaker at interactive and social media conferences.

Tonight, I watched Dave do something pretty amazing. With a short blog post and a tweet to alert the thousands folks who “listen” to him, he told a digital story. The story of Daniella and her 3 children. A story about how Daniella left her husband after years of physical abuse. And it included a photo. Just one. Of Daniella and her kids (they’re staying with Dave and his family).

Dave asked people do whatever they could financially to help them get an apartment. Enough to cover a deposit and rent for a few months.

So I pitched in and then sat back and watched others do the same thing, some folks noting how despite their challenging finances, they were still going to give, even if it was $1 or $5.

Dave’s goal was $5K.

In just over 2 hours, hundreds people have raised more than $8K for a family they don’t know and will probably never meet. Because someone they trust – a key influencer in their lives – asked them to help and made it very easy. Compare that with Tweetsgiving, a group that came out of nowhere and raised $11K in 48 hours around Thanksgiving to help expand a school in Nambia. People contributed generously and exceeded the $10K goal, but Dave’s relationship with the 200+ contributors is what has been able to drive this success in such a short timeframe.

You can see Dave’s original post here:

http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2009/01/pleas-help-us-help-daniellas-family.html

And see how Twitter is abuzz with it here:

http://search.twitter.com/search?q=armano

And Dave’s use of video to say thanks:

http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2009/01/thank-you.html

Dave’s generosity and first-ever request like this shows that success in social media continues to be based on real relationships with fans and advocates. And as dads, it’s a reminder that our #1 job is to be an example to our sons and daughters, to teach them by doing the right thing, not just telling them what it is.

The Great Daddy – Daughter Divide

I am at the edge. I am on the precipice. I am at the point of no return (or Know return for you Kansas fans). I am the father of a soon to be 12 year old daughter. She’s pretty. She’s smart. She’s developing (ugh, writing that was disturbing). As a result I am starting to panic.

These days, I get more raised eye brows and rolled eyes from her than hugs. The little girl scream of “Daddy!” when I come in the house is replaced by “Oh, Dad, puh-leeze.” when I pull some knot headed move that I was unaware of as being highly embarrassing or lame. To make it even more bizarre I also have a 2 year old daughter who knows a rock star when she sees one (that rock star being me, of course).  I am living on both sides of the Daddy-Daughter Divide at the same time.

So I am on the edge with my oldest daughter and I don’t want to let go. Thankfully, I have actually found a solution to slow this process down. It’s Daddy-Daughter Date Night.  A good friend of mine introduced the idea to me a while back and after I got over the creepiness of the name I gave it a shot. Man, it works like a charm.

I am not trying to trick my daughter into liking me by taking her to the movies and dinner without her mom, brother and sister along as well. Admittedly, at first it felt that way. Instead, I started to see that I had a chance to model what a great date should look like. I know she is a few years away from that but if I don’t show her now I will lose my chance.

I open the car door for her (not all the time because I am still a guy and I forget but now she even reminds me when I don’t). I treat her like a queen on our “date”. I tend to forget that she will measure her future relationships with guys using the metrics that I establish.  Honestly, the thought of a relationship with her and a boy makes me want to puke but it’s inevitable.

At this point in time in my daughter’s life I am both loved and ridiculed in the same breath. I have received the “At least you don’t usually embarrass me” line which is a small victory. I can’t settle for that though. She is just too important to not show her that if someone can’t treat her with respect and honor then that guy gets the boot (which I will gladly do for her).

I am at a critical point in my daughter’s development and I have a choice. I can let the world determine what is healthy for her or I can model what is truly best for her. This awareness has actually made me a better husband because she is watching me with mom as well. Talk about pressure!

No offense to other dads reading this but I am going to make it difficult on your sons. Actually though, I would like to think we could all benefit because by teaching her to expect the best from the opposite sex then the one that can offer the best will be a real winner.

Foolproof? No. Foolish? Maybe. I love her too much to not try anything for her, though.

Imagination Day

My kids like television… a lot.  Sometimes I worry (as do many of you) about the amount of TV that they consume.  I especially become concerned when their little eyes glaze over as the hypnotic TV trance brainwashes them into encouraging me to purchase Aquaglobes or Debbie Meyer Green Bags, or they reenact entire seasons of Spongebob Squarepants.

About a year ago we instituted “No TV Day” to minimize the amount of TV the kids watch.  On Mondays the kids are not allowed to watch television (DVDs were okay sometimes).  After a bit of consternation, the kids acquiesced and usually found another way to spend their time.  The success of “No TV Day” encouraged me to expand it to Mondays and Fridays which has worked quite well.

But lately, as the kids get a bit older, when the TV goes off, the Nintendo DS and computer (Webkinz, Toon Town, CartoonNetwork.com, etc.) goes on.  And that familiar glazed look returns.

At dinner this weekend my wife, the children and I talked about our concerns over the amount of time they spend passively staring at monitors (no, we didn’t use those words).  I proposed that “No TV Day” be expanded to limit other forms of entertainment.  My seven-year-old daughter suggested “No Technology Day” which sounded like it was headed in the right direction, but I wanted to put a more positive spin on it–a name that would reinforce positive behavior.  And “Imagination Day” was born.

“Imagination Day” is pretty much what it sounds like.  Watching television (even movies) and playing computer games are not allowed.  But the kids may interact with technology (even TV) if they are actively using their minds to create something e.g. composing a song on a keyboard or using my video camera to make a movie.  My wife and I must also adhere to the rules of “Imagination Day” (it’s only fair), but we are allowed to work, or write blog posts.  What better way to use my imagination?

Today was the our first run at “Imagination Day,” and the kids played very well together.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes; in the near future maybe every day of the week will be “Imagination Day?”

Kung Fu Panda – a Family Movie With a Mesage

This past weekend we gathered the clan in the family room and plugged in the new comedy from Dreamworks, Kung Fu Panda.  This film features the voice talents of a star-studded cast, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, and Jackie Chan, to name a few.  In our family, we like to find a film every now and then that all of us will enjoy; animated movies usually fill the bill, and this was no exception.

The animation is very well done, and blended with the amazing voice talent and an engaging storyline, made the film entertaining from start to finish.  The tale follows the dreams of a young panda, Po, who has grown up working in his family’s noodle shop in the Valley of Peace, secretly idolizing the Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey — under the leadership of their Sensei, a Lemur named Master Shifu.  Po dreams of being a Kung Fu master, even as his father dreams of his one day growing up and assuming control of the noodle business.

There are no really new or innovative plot twists in this film.  It’s the story of a young man with dreams who gets the opportunity to fulfill them.  While there is a lot of buffoonery on the part of Po (Jack Black), there is also a very heart-warming message permeating the script.  There is no effort to make great changes in the protagonist, but instead an effort to help him understand and have faith in himself.  The issues of parental projection of values and dreams is addressed as is that age-old chestnut about judging a book (or a Panda) by its cover.

We thoroughly enjoyed the film, from parents down to five-year old Katie.  Finding time and experiences that the entire family can enjoy grows more difficult as the dispartity in ages increases, and the older children begin to branch out into lives of their own.  It’s important to find a way to bridge the gaps and share some smiles; moments like this are special.  Here’s to Po, the true Dragon Master.

How Do You Cope When Your Kids Flee The Coop?

Be careful what you wish for… you might get it.  I always wished my rockstar son would keep his room clean.  Invariably, whenever I walked by and heard his guitar playing and opened the door I regretted the mess I saw.   Now his room is clean.  It is more than clean, it is practically empty.  It is empty because on Friday he and I shared a moving experience: he moved out!

The Nest Took One Giant Leap Toward Empty

I have been a single dad for the past seven years, and as my three kids have grown I have grown to depend on them being around.  As my sons crossed the age eighteen threshold and began to drive their own cars it was great to feel like I was no longer the lone adult in the house.  Having two responsible young men around to help was a welcome new phase of fatherhood, and frankly, knowing they could pitch in and drop off or pick up their younger sister in a pinch made my life a lot less complicated.

It’s Not The Motion, It’s The Emotion

Who am I kidding?  Worries about driving logistics is not the reason my throat swells and chokes up when I look at my son’s empty (clean) room.  The truth is I already miss him!  I miss the constant soundtrack of his guitar practicing drifting through the house, our own private musical score.  I miss walking into the kitchen and seeing him eating cereal standing at the counter, and telling him to sit down at the table and eat like a human being (only to stand and eat at the counter myself as soon as he walks out of the room).  I miss his presence in our home.  I can feel something missing, and I don’t like the feeling.

The Dorm Is The Norm

I am extremely proud of my son (and all three of my kids) and I can certainly appreciate his desire to stop commuting and live on campus as he becomes more immersed in his college experience.  After all, when I look back at my own University days, my education came as much from “living away from home” as it did from the textbooks, classrooms and lecture halls.  It is a priceless experience I have always wanted my kids to be fortunate enough to enjoy.  I just never imagined how hard it would actually be to let them go.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I am not afraid of ghosts, but I am scared of how my role as Dad is rapidly changing.  I am frightened by the sadness creeping into my heart as I realize that this is the first step toward the inevitable “empty nest” and a dramatic change in the way my kids will “need” me in their lives.  Intellectually I know this is all good and healthy and normal, and as good for me as it is for my kids, but emotionally I find it far more overwhelming than I had anticipated. Going from being their caretaker, to hearing your kids say “take care!” as they walk out the door to their own lives is a big deal!

A Moving Experience…

What do you think?  I turned to Twitter to help me decide on the title of this post, and now I am turning to YOU to help me finish it off.  Since this is all new to me, I’d welcome some tips and advice from those of you who have already been down this road.  Please share your own moving experiences in the comments.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 20, Ethan, 18 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit © Bruce Shippee – Fotolia.com

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Is My Marriage Solid?

I just came back from having a few drinks with a close friend.  We didn’t know each other five years ago – we met when our oldest children were in kindergarten together – and have managed to build a strong friendship since then.  It always amazes me how difficult it is to form close friendships after college.  There is something magical about the intense, shared experience of college coupled with the fact that that is the time when we are finally coming into our own as people (I hesitate to use the term “adults” since I didn’t display a whole lot of adult behavior between the ages of 18 and 22).

Anyway, we were talking about our families and our relationships with our wives and we stumbled upon this startling conclusion:  Every man we know is grappling, struggling with the same fundamental question in his personal life:  Is my marriage solid?  There are two facts of life conspiring to make the lives of American men aged 30-50 more challenging right now.  Forgive me the gross over-simplification, but I think it’s necessary to make my point.

First, as we age, most of us slow down; we have a decreasing amount of energy at our command.  There may well be exceptions, but I haven’t met them.

Second, as we move from newly-weds to empty-nesters, the demands on that diminishing energy pool change dramatically.

slide21Early in marriage, our robust energy is focused on the marriage and budding careers.  As we move into our late thirties and forties, careers get more time-consuming and kids hit the stage.  Not a lot of time to focus on our wives or even ourselves.  This is the stage when most of us fall out of shape and out of love.  Love in the romantic sense; our marital relationships are more important than ever, but for many of us our passion for our kids is more evident than our passion for our wives.  As the kids mature and gain independence – and here I’m conjecturing since I am not there yet – the kids consume less energy which means we can begin to focus on our wives again.

I saw my own parents go through this evolution.  There was a time when 110% of their time was consumed by kids and work, but now that they are semi-retired grandparents, their marriage seems to have regained a richness and levity that didn’t exist when I was living at home.

Why am I bothering to write this?  Because I think this is a universal issue associated with all young families.  It is easy to give up hope, to forget why you married your wife in the first place; to figure that your marriage will go downhill as time passes.  But that’s doesn’t have to be the case.  In fact, there are things you can do today to rekindle your optimism and commitment to your marriage.

  • Don’t give up the faith.  Recognize that the doldrums you may perceive have more to do with your stage of life than your connection with your wife.  At some point you and your wife will both have more time to devote to your relationship.  I can’t say when, but I know that kids become more independent over time which restores energy to your marital relationship.
  • Re-prioritize your relationship.  If you can see a light at the end of the tunnel – a rich, bright light – it is easier to commit more attention to it.  Dare to believe that you will turn a corner at some point, and you will find yourself putting more thought into maintaining a good marriage.
  • Look for the easy wins.  Most of us overlook chances to score huge points by doing the little things.  Take out the garbage without being asked, buy some flowers on the way home from work on a Friday, surprise her with a babysitter and a night out… These things don’t take a lot of time or energy, but they help our wives see that we are committed to our relationships.  And that, in turn, will inspire them to respond.

I’m no marriage counselor, but I’ve talked to enough friends to believe what I’m telling you.  I think women discuss the state of their marital relationships with their friends all the time; men never do.  And because we don’t, we have no support system to bolster us when we tire.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we men dared to talk about the universal challenges we face as fathers and husbands?  We’d all feel a lot better.

For more of John’s musings on fatherhood and parenting, visit his blog.

Rocking Unicorns : A Cautionary Tale

About Two years ago, when I was out shopping, I ran across an amazing rocking unicorn.  If you squeezed its ear, it came to life.  The head bobbed, the mouth moved, and it made horse sounds.  There was the clip-clop of hooves and a good, spirited neigh.  I was captivated by the thought of my little girl, then about three and a half, perched on top of this magnificent plush toy.  It was on sale, and I was weak.

I was also not thinking straight.  First off, my daughter was too small for any such toy.  It as a good year and a half before she was large enough to sit on it safely.  Secondly, and more importantly, I bought the thing because I thought it was cool, and without thinking about how she would like it.  Katie hates toys that talk or move.  She goes into hysterics over walking robots and shaking ghost-things at Halloween.  She’d growing out of that now, but at the time, if I’d given it the slightest thought, I’d have realized what was going to happen.

The $100 plus toy came home.  We showed it to Katie.  She was mildly amused and rubbed its nose.  Then we pushed the button in the thing’s ear, and it came to life.  She hated it.  We turned it off.  Her brother and sister, of course, would from time to time turn it on because they thought her reaction was funny.  I left it in her room, still clinging to my image of the little princess hugging the neck of her plush steed, but over the years she never liked it.  When it came time to decide what toys we’d take to donate to needy children, she offered him up almost with relief. That was this year.

The lesson, of course, is a simple one.  Don’t buy toys for your children that you think are cool unless they think they are cool as well.  Don’t project yourself onto them, but allow them to grow and guide them when you can.

The best gifts come through understanding your child.  Parents have to learn too.

-DNW