parenting

Why I’m Fine Without Facebook

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Four months ago, I made a decision to delete my Facebook page. I went back and gave it a second chance a few weeks ago. I have permanently deleted it (again).

Here’s why:

Before Facebook, I knew that I was often irrational. That my feelings Facebook deletesometimes got the best of me and that I often said things that maybe people shouldn’t say to other people. But then I realized that my parents did it and my parents’ parents did it and we all turned out OK.

Before Facebook, I knew who my true friends (and family) were. I knew that I could pick up the phone and call a select few people and they would be there day or night. And my Friend list didn’t comprise 400 people, most of who have to rely on Facebook notifications to know when my birthday is.

Before Facebook, I knew that, as a father, I am flawed. I knew that I could be myopic about projects; often ignoring all else in order to finalize something I was working on that would benefit my family. But I also knew that I spent a lot of time with my kids and my wife. That most of my weekends I spend running back and forth from one sports game to another and when not doing that, often playing with my kids in the yard throwing balls, riding bikes, you know…family stuff. But I also knew that I hug my children–a lot. A lot more than I was hugged as a child. And I tell my kids how special they are and how much I love them. And I have to believe, that no matter how I might yell sometimes, my kids can’t help but know how much I love them–because I’ve shown them.

Before Facebook, I knew that 15 years of marriage can make things seem a little stale–that maybe it’s not quite as exciting as it is when you’re first dating. But I also knew that my marriage was strong. That what we have as a couple is the envy of millions of single adults. And maybe we don’t have date-night as often as we’d like, but it’s not because as a man, I don’t care about my wife–that’s just life. You make sacrifices and you live with it. Period.

Before Facebook, I knew that I had a mild case of body dismorphic disorder. Despite being more active and fit than the majority of men I know, I still felt as if I’m somehow not skinny enough, or strong enough, or active enough.

Before Facebook, I could enjoy a person’s company, unfiltered by knowing every proclivity and every opinion they’ve voiced. Their personal political views, or sexual orientation or the crazy things that went on in their heads that they kept to themself didn’t interject itself into our relationship. Who cared? We’re friends because we “jive” not because we agree.

Before Facebook, I could pretend that the people I thought cared about me, actually cared. I didn’t have to wonder why someone I grew up with never comments on my posts, or why they act like I don’t even exist online. If I called and got your vmail and you never called back…I knew to let it go.

Before Facebook, men were men and women were women. However ‘wrong’ society might feel our actions to be, the consequences were ours alone to endure. We didn’t have memes telling us that traditional gender roles are outdated and that we’re somehow wrong if we feel that men should still do these sorts of things and women should do these sorts of things. And before Facebook, if a couple didn’t adhere to gender roles…great…they’ll work it out between them and live a happy life.

And on that note, before Facebook, I knew that my wife worked hard. That her full-time job and the time she spends with the kids often goes unremarked upon. But then, the same could be said of me. I didn’t need a women’s group pointing out how much money I should spend ensuring my wife gets spa treatments or nights out with the girls, while ignoring the fact that I work 10 hour days (incl. commute), come home many nights and cook dinner or bathe kids (or go straight to the ball field) and still do all the many other things required to keep a house from falling down around us.

Before Facebook, no one was constantly pointing out every woman’s successes and demonizing the efforts of men. Sure, maybe there wasn’t absolute gender equality in every facet of life, but we were surely moving in that direction on our own and everyone was benefitting from it.

Before Facebook, I didn’t feel guilty not evangelizing my faith. I’d come to grips with that the fact that I’m more a “James the lesser,” than a John the Baptist and was fairly confident that my sincere belief in God would suffice to qualify me for a seat in heaven, rather than the works that I did here on earth trying to convince others that free will should be trumped by fear or guilt.

Before Facebook, if I didn’t want to purchase a used pooch from the animal shelter, no one made me feel horrible about buying a bred-for-the-family dog from a reputable breeder.

But Facebook takes all of these things…all the things that makes life, life and it makes you feel like you’re wrong for living it your way, while trying its darned best to ensure that you live it “their” way. And that’s wrong. It’s OK if you want to surround yourself with others who live and love and feel as you do and you shouldn’t feel as if every time you look at Facebook, you have to defend yourself or your actions or feelings to someone else just because they post some strongly worded comment or picture-story that has 3,000 Likes from some international agency of change.

So I’m OK letting it go. No more will I be ruled by hurt feelings just because people didn’t agree with my posts. Likely, Facebook just didn’t show it to that many people anyway. It’s playing with our feelings and our lives and I’m quite through with it.

I’m OK without Facebook.

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Thanks for the memories

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A bit more than eight years ago, CareerMom and I bought this crib. We went to Toys-R-Us, Babies-R-Us and every other R-Us derivative you can imagine. I think we ended up about 15 miles north of our house in some suburb of the suburbs, in a no-name strip mall containing a high-end baby store.

And thus the Bonavita “Carla” crib came into our home.

Two weeks ago, I dismantled it. Eight years and three kids later it’s finally done. And other than some dried, crusty milk between the vertical slats, it’s in pristine condition. None of my kids “teethed” on the rails. It’s bittersweet letting it go, but it was time Baby-Girl got her own big-girl bed.

Government safety laws prohibit the donation of cribs manufactured prior to 2010 due to some issue with drop-sides on pre-2010 cribs and even though ours doesn’t have a drop-side, we still can’t donate it. Which is a shame. You spend $1200 on a crib, you want to see it not end up in a dumpster somewhere. But I think we have a taker for it (for free). Hope it goes to another good home.

Daddies vs. Predators

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It started out as this noise back in the back of his throat–not unlike the sound made by the “Predator” (just like this guy does it). He would do it usually while concentrating on something else, so I’m not even sure he realized he was doing it. Background noise tends to really get on my nerves, so after a while, I’d start saying, “Aiden, please stop making that throat noise.” Career-Mom who is normally quite stoic around such things, even succumbed after a while.

It has progressed.

Today, it’s not uncommon to hear any number of things coming from him, pretty much anytime he’s awake:

  • The Predator sound
  • Throat clearing
  • A combination of humming and gargling
  • Humming

This happens even when he’s eating. Imagine, if you will, a child with cereal in his mouth and humming at the same time.

Yesterday, I think I said, “Aiden, mouth noises!” at least 15 times and that was after ignoring it as long as I possibly could. I’m told that several of CareerMom’s nieces and nephews do the humming while eating thing, so I blame her naturally.
And at any rate, I only had facial ticks when I was a kid (like licking your lips so much that it created a half moon raw spot above and/or below your lips) rather than audible ticks.

Whatever the cause, clearly my fussing at him isn’t working. Here’s to hoping he outgrows it.

Gen X – The Guilt Generation?

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ImageIt seems that every generation gets a label these days. Kids in the early 20s now are called “Gen Y’ers” and they are the social media age. Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that we Gen X’ers supposedly have, though I’m really not sure where that “entitlement” label came from. Gen Y’ers are also supposed to be more driven, crave positive feedback and generally don’t feel the need to slave 50 hours a week at a meaningless job (bully for them!). Interestingly, they also seem less familial-inclined, which is a stark departure from my generation.

But even though my world revolves around my family, I struggle with the line between parent and play-buddy. On the one hand, I look back on my own childhood–one where I was generally an only child and if there was playing to be done, it was usually done alone. My parents just weren’t involved.  On the other hand, I don’t want the same for my own children, so I DO try to do things with them frequently and when you add in Career-Mom’s near-constant need to get out of the house and do something, it seems like we’re always on the go.

I struggle with this balance. For example today…we played outside with the kids for about an hour, then we took them down to the science museum. When we got home, they wanted me to ride bikes with them. Really? After everything we JUST did…?

So back to my quandry…I want to be with my kids and I don’t want them to look back on THEIR childhood–like I do mine–and feel like all their dad ever did was work around the house, but at the same time, I HAD my childhood already. Can I just enjoy my adulthood a bit? And can’t that mean that I don’t have to play with my kids and when I don’t, can I do it without guilt?

I’ll let you know how that works out. So far, I’m riddled with guilt.

Raised On Demand

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There is a part of me that is both horrified, and gratified, by the knowledge that television is a big part of my kids’ lives. I honestly don’t know what my kids would do at the end of a long day without it…or what I would do without it. Image

There are days, that one or more of my children will come home from school or daycare, and pretty much watch TV from the moment we come in, through dinner, and until we put them to bed. Now granted, often that’s really only like, two hours, but still…right?

And as much as it makes me want to gag admitting this, there are many a day when I’m more than happy to relegate my parental obligations to our 46” family friend. He’s a good friend.

But I don’t know…Lord, I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid and I’m pretty OK. I get as much exercise as my schedule will allow. I don’t eschew my job, family or other responsibilities in favor of watching “my show.” So I don’t know…I guess as long as your kids aren’t lard-arses and when you do pull them away from the tube to interact with other people, they aren’t complete Asbergers, then it’s OK?

Why it takes a village

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To say that mental problems run in my family, is like saying the Obama administration is moderately disliked by Republicans. That is, we have a bevy of problems, ranging from the debilitating, to generally just being an annoyance for everyone around us. There are probably a couple dozen people in this world outside of my immediate family who are familiar with my story in-total from having been adopted at an early age, to living through two divorces; an abusive mother; and any number of a dozen other things that alone, might explain some of the problems I have.

If I had ten thousand dollars for every time I’d heard someone say to me, “It’s a miracle you turned out as well-adjusted as you did,” I’d have at least…I dunno…a hundred thousand dollars! Though perhaps after blogging all this, I’ll hear it more often. If I’m being honest though, my problems pale in comparison to others. My problems don’t require medication. They don’t cause me to completely withdraw from the people I love for long periods of time. And they don’t make me want to act out on the society at-large, so generally speaking, I’m doing alright.

But there are times. Oh yes, there are times.

For instance, parenting. Parenting has been a challenge as I’ve discussed on numerous occasions and it continues to cause personal problems for me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, parenting is not for everyone. There is a line that each person much recognize within his or her tolerance and they must adhere to that line, for when you do not, THAT’s when you make the morning news.

My personal “line” was crossed the moment I found out we were having a third child (and yes, I’m probably going to hell just for saying that out loud). But I’m not going to spoil the literary moment here by telling you how much I love my children and how I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world, because frankly, that’s a bunch of crap.

In fact, there are about 30 moments, each day for the past year, that I’d gladly trade for say…more Hydrocodone.

After 11 years of marriage, my wife has learned the tell-tale signs of my having reached a point, which manifests itself in one of two ways:

– either via a sudden, violent outburst at one of the children in the form of a “STOP IT!” or a “SHUT UP!”

– or more often, the tightening of my jaw, the narrowing of my eyes, and an obstinate will to keep perfectly quiet. Don’t try and draw me out of it. Don’t ask me what’s wrong. Just leave me…the hell…alone for a while.

I think one of the failures of the human race is our desire to compare ourselves to others. I do it; I’m sure you do it to. We each hold ourselves to this impossibly high standard that’s based solely on the public persona shown to us by others who are privately just as screwed up as we are. I’m sure, to that divorced lady who lives up the street and who only sees me when I’m outside playing with the kids, that I embody everything a good father should (perhaps with the exception of Ryan Reynolds-like abs). Because all we see of people is what they want us to see.

But I do wonder how I compare. Oh, I know that I could search Google right now for, “Fed up Dads” or “My kids make me want to just walk away” and I could find thousands of people who have expressed similar feelings. But, we’re still in the minority when you consider how many parents are out there.

I look at people like “Father of Five” and that dude just makes me feel A) ashamed and B) proud all at the same time. Ashamed because he has way more kids than I do, plus works crappy hours (on second thought, maybe that’s WHY he’s such a patient dad…) and Proud because it’s nice to know we’re not all as screwed up as me.

So, my hat off to you FoF and all you other Fathers and Mothers out there who make having families bearable for the rest of us.

Therapy part II (cont’d)

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(Continued from Part 1)

“Let me start by saying that what I know, is both based on what I was told and what I remember, plus what I later found out,” I began. “I was adopted at about the age of two. I have a brother who is three years older than me.  I have other siblings–well, half siblings really, but who’s counting? Anyway, my brother and I were adopted at a young age. The story we were told growing up, and what I believed to be the truth, was later born out, so I was at least raised with the correct information and it was always openly offered.”

“Our mother and father were very young. My mother was about 16 when she got pregnant with my brother. Our dad was an Army guy and was stationed away frequently. A lot happened between them and us that eventually led to our adoption. Initially, we lived with different foster families, ultimately spending the remaining time with a great family in South Carolina. The couple had other children who loved us and treated us like their own. Years later, when I was in my 20s I visited them for a day. The father had passed away, but I saw the mother and a couple of the sisters. Anyway, South Carolina law, at that time, forbid foster families from adopting their wards, else we probably would have remained there. However, what would become my mom and dad, found us and adopted us and we lived in S.C. for about a year and a half before moving to Mobile, AL.”

“Do you know why you moved so far away, so quickly?” asked the doc.

“I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard two sides of the story, but ultimately it was for a job that didn’t pan out quite as they’d hoped,” I replied.

“I see,” she said as she scribbled something on her notepad and then said, “Please go on.”

Let’s see…in Mobile, we moved into a nice little house in a good neighborhood and life was normal for a while. It was traditional family life.”

The doctor interrupted, “And what do you consider “traditional?”

“Well,” I began, “You know. Dad works while mom stays home with the kids.”

“I see,” she said. “And how do you feel about that traditional style of life now?”

“Oooh.” I said. “That’s a prickly piece!”

“Why?” the doctor asked.

“It’s complicated I guess,” I said. “There’s a part of me that very much likes that idea and wishes I had that kind of life. In fact, I think if the country still had that kind of lifestyle ideal, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we have. But at the same time, I wouldn’t force my wife into that situation. I married her knowing full well that with her educational background, in all likelihood, she’d end up getting a better job than me and making more money than me. And I was right. So, I like the idea of a traditional family, but I don’t think it’s terribly practical if you live around a big city.”

The doctor made some kind of “Ummm, hmmm” sound, wrote something in her pad and then said, “Please continue.”

“Ok. After a year or so I guess things went a bit sour. Our “mom” wasn’t prepared for kids. I think she wanted them, but I don’t think she could handle them really and she did things that today would get you arrested if others found out. I remember what happened to me and I can only imagine what my brother went through. True Story, she put my brother and me in summer schools and daycares without my dad knowing it. I guess she handled the finances and just “hid” it from him.”

Within a year or so, my dad started working away a lot and my brother and I spent a lot of time either by ourselves, or with babysitters. Sometimes, rather than getting a babysitter, our mom would make us go to bed at like 5 p.m. so she could leave and lock us in the house and not have to worry about us. I remember one time we had a babysitter, but we were supposed to be taking a nap. It was broad daylight outside, and anyway, we were like four and seven years old. I didn’t know where “mom” went and I would guess neither did my dad. But all my neighborhood friends were standing at my window talking to me and my brother asking why we couldn’t come out and play and evidently I was pushing on the window and it dropped and chopped off the tip of my finger. Blood was going everywhere. I was screaming. My brother was trying to stop the bleeding. Eventually the babysitter, who was only 15, came running down and was freaking out. Luckily, our next door neighbor was home and she drove me to the emergency room. I remember “mom” showing up and her just being relieved that I was OK. I had feared she’d be mad, but she wasn’t.”

“Eventually though, she and my dad divorced. There are differing stories about what caused that too, but I think it mostly just built up and then one final precipitous event forced my dad’s hand. It was messy, but my dad capitulated to her demands and gave her everything but the kids and the house. My dad later admitted he had no idea that “mom” was treating us as she was. He didn’t know half the things she was doing on her own, much less to, or with, us kids.”

‘Do you remember how this made you feel when it was going on,” the therapist asked.

“I don’t know. When you’re four years old, I don’t think you understand that adult world. I mean, you can see and hear what’s going on, but I don’t think you understand the ramifications. I know we weren’t happy and I remember wondering why mom would get so mad when she told us to go to bed and then would catch us with our lights on. As a parent now, I can empathize with her to some extent, but I know that what was going on had an indelible impression on us and for that, I can’t fully forgive her.”

“You speak a lot about your mom, but not your dad. Was your dad good to you and your brother?”

“Dad tried, really hard. I remember being happier when it was just us and my dad, than when it was us as a family. My dad would take us to a really cool daycare and pick us up in the evenings. We ate out a lot and I remember my favorite being the nights we went to Krystals. I remember their chili and oyster crackers. Huh…it’s funny what you remember the most. Anyway, within about a year of the divorce, my dad started dating his second wife. She was a LOT younger than him, by about 18 years. They met at work and didn’t really date all that long before they got engaged.”

“Right before the wedding, my dad took a contract job in Montgomery. It must have paid well because we kept the Mobile house and rented another in Montgomery. Right after the wedding, my new grandmother stayed with my brother and me for a week in Montgomery while dad and our new mom were on their honeymoon. And that’s when I first remember my brother starting to act up. I remember he took dad’s little blowtorch and burned several holes in the doors of the new house. Dad was sooo mad when he found out.”

“How did your father react to what your brother did?” she asked.

“I honestly don’t know,” I said. “I know he was really mad though. As time went on, I learned to just go in my room whenever stuff was coming down with my brother. I think I felt that if I kept my door closed and pretended not to know what was going on, that I wouldn’t get in trouble. And it seemed to work…at least that’s how my 6-year old brain took it. That’s the first real “acting out” I remember from my brother and maybe my parents chalked it up to all the changes going on. As I remember, things got back to a normal routine pretty quickly. That first year was pretty good. We were a family again. We had a good neighorhood and lots of friends around. Dad was working locally, so the stress on our new, young mom was minimal. But then, after about a year, we moved back to Mobile and things went downhill fast. Dad started having to take out of town jobs, only coming home on the weekends. I didn’t realize it then, but my dad had lost his job with the chemical plant locally and had to take out of town work. But at home, we were kids, doing the usual kid things. Our new mom wasn’t prepared for it and rather than dealing with it well, she withdrew. She never got violent, which I probably would have dealt with better than the silent treatment she gave us.”

“Wait,” the therapist said. “Tell me about this silent treatment.”

“Well, when things got tough for her, she’d just retreat to her room and close the door, only coming out to do the bare minimum. My brother and I were necessarily fairly self-sufficient. We could generally get ourselves ready for school, and put ourselves to bed, so really all she needed to do was cook for us and that’s pretty much what she did. Sometimes, she’d go for days hardly saying a word to us. A lot of the times, I didn’t know why she was upset. It was probably because of something my brother did, but I thought it was my fault and I took it hard. I’d leave like, little “I’m sorry” notes under the door and stuff, but it didn’t help.”

“I remember that, at the time, I was in speech therapy classes in school because I couldn’t say my “s” very well. And I was a very emotional kid…would cry at the drop of the hat. And I guess I lost it once at school and I had to see the counselor and I told her what was going on at home. They called my brother in and asked him if what I was saying was true and he confirmed it. They wanted to call our house, but we begged them not to. We didn’t know what would happen. I mean, we were used to being mistreated when we displeased our mom and this…well this was surely going to be hell to pay. In the end, I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember any repercussions, so maybe they let it go. I just don’t know.”

Anyway, time passed. One summer the whole family stayed in this tiny camper in a campground in the DeSoto Caverns State Park so we could be near dad and another summer we did the same near some beach…I don’t remember which. I’m guessing our young mom put her foot down and told my dad there was no way in hell he was leaving her at home alone with the two kids for the whole summer! Despite living in a camper for three months, we had good times. Back at home, time passed and things remained fairly static. But it wasn’t long before my brother started acting more and more odd.”

To be continued…