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.

I’m apparently “That” parent

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Though you probably wouldn’t know it based on a casual conversation with me, I’m very passionate about a few things in lifeSeminoles Football—my family and kids ranking at the top of a very small list.

I don’t have many people I’d call a “best friend” though I have a good number of very interesting people with whom I rub shoulders with infrequently. We can connect as often as it happens and be completely cool with the fact that neither of us have made an effort to go have a beer together, or whatever.

Outside of work, probably the one thing I do the next most of, is spend time either coaching, or watching my kids play sports. It’s a year round thing in our house—football, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, dance—you name it. So in any given year, my kids spend a substantial portion of their free time with anywhere from 5-10 different coaches, and a cadre of assistant coaches, all “carefully” selected by our local city recreational staff.

Overall, our Rec staff do a good job. I’ve coached a number of years, across a number of sports and by and large most of the coaches are just dads who want to be involved. Yes, there’s “Daddy Ball” where a few dads get together and form a “team” to dominate the league, and there’s other politics, but generally speaking, we all have good intentions.

But when you work with that many different people, problems are bound to arise. I’ve had to step in and replace a coach with a drinking problem. I’ve felt obliged to step in and speak with a coach who seemed more a drill sergeant than a teacher—and I’m still feeling the backlashes of that one. There’s also been some very expensive programs where the “volunteer” coaches just want to show up and chit chat rather than actually work with the kids.

And so it was that in one of my recent conversations with our local sports staff, I was told that I’m the most vocal parent he’s ever had—and that made me pause.

It’s true, I’ve filed my share of informal complaints, both as a concerned parent AND as a coach and maybe sometimes I should have given a particular coach a few more days before sending a “WTH?” note to Rec staff, but I also feel like it’s sort of my job, as a parent, to be vocal.

Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play sports and in our case, our kids are actually really good athletes. We’re not a family that’s just happy that uncoordinated Johnny made a team. No, we’re a family who’s trying to make sure our kids are working with coaches who have the patience and experience necessary to help them progress.

So yeah, when I see a coach working his way up through the league based solely on the fact that he’s volunteering just so his average kid can get a spot in one of the league’s top tier teams, even though that coach is a tyrant on the field who bullies parents to the point where they’re afraid of saying anything lest their child get treated poorly (and stuck in the outfield), I’m going to say something.

And yes, I’ll accept whatever blows back on me because of it, but I detest bullies—kids and adults alike—and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family.

My team may not win every championship, but nobody ever cried on my field (OK, that’s not entirely true, but it wasn’t my fault…she was just really tired and didn’t want to be at practice) and to my knowledge, no one ever left my field not wanting to play the sport any longer.

If we win some games, the kids have fun and they learn a little something along the way, that’s a “W” in my book.

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?

Thank the Lord for spoiled kids

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I never got to wear parachute pants. Never got to feel its plasticky goodness against my skin.
I didn’t have friendship pins to give other kids to wear on their shoelaces, although I DID have a pair of those wide, neon shoelaces once that were popular in the early 80s.
Neighborhood kids didn’t play at my house because I didn’t have Star Wars action figures or any of the cool toys for that matter.

I had weeble-wobbles and a ball. That was pretty much it.

I knew that I didn’t have much, but I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have much money, or simply because my parents didn’t know how to spoil a child. Both my parents were raised in multi-sibling families and neither had much money and I suppose their parents’ spending habits transferred to them. And as it turns out, my parents’ spending habits transferred to me as well.

And that’s why I say, “Thank the Lord for spoiled kids” a-la CareerMom.

Though she might disagree, compared to me, CareerMom’s childhood could be likened to that of Richie Rich. They weren’t Ga-Jillionaires, but they had all that kid-crap that I never had. They may not have been on the cutting-edge of trends, but they at least had a stake in the game. Me…I was never even an also-ran.

Though we’re very similar in our approaches to raising children, there are areas where CareerMom and I differ, and in many cases, that’s a good thing. Take this idea of spoiling kids–if it were up to me, the kids would have what they “Need” and maybe something special every now and then. If it were up to CareerMom (and an unlimited bank account), they’d have that and so much more.

Take the latest trend, “Silly Bandz.” Have you seen them? Like everything else, they’re nothing. They’re little pieces of nothing that every other adult in the world is smacking their foreheads over and saying, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?” Basically, they’re rubber bands, colored and shaped like different things–animals, dinosaurs, space stuff, etc. And you’re not cool if you don’t have one, or 300 of them.

Obviously, these things never even showed up on my radar. I never would have known about them had CareerMom not shown them to me after having bought a pack for MLI, who has now used most of his birthday/chore money to buy several packs, which he trades with his friends at school.  CareerMom, on the other hand, uses them as rewards (some would call them “bribes”) for good behavior. Either way, it adds up to the fact that my kids are “cool” thanks to my wife.

Would I buy as many as she does? No.
Would she buy more if I didn’t look at her askance whenever she buys more? Yes.
But, we balance each other out and in truth, I’m glad that she spoils the kids a little. If nothing else, it means that in 20-30 years, neither of them will be blogging about how deprived they were!

Share and share alike

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popsicle

popsicle

There’s been a lot of talk about race relations lately, and here in Atlanta, you can’t turn on the television without being reminded of how unfairly certain segments of the population feel they’re being treated. Right or wrong, it’s a fact of life and one that I doubt we’ll ever see settled in my lifetime.

Regardless, there appears to be no end to the number of "experts" who have an opinion on what this group should do, or what that group should get as recompense, but it seems to me that society is overlooking perhaps THE most valuable resource we have when it comes to equality and living together peacefully — Parents.

Most notably, parents of similarly-aged, same sex children.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, the next time you’re out in public around families, I invite you to pull up a chair and watch the wonderment that is an intelligent parent successfully negotiating toys, snacks and general sharing with two little boys or girls:

Parent: "Here Mikey, here’s YOU a purple popsicle…"
Little Tommy: "But I wanted the purple popsicle!"
Parent: "Don’t worry Tommy, I have a purple popsicle for YOU too. See, you BOTH have a purple popsicle."

You could remove "popsicle" and insert any number of nouns here–car, toothbrush, goldfish, you name it–and the scenario would similarly play out. Now true, not every parent is adept at this sort of negotiating, but just about any parent who runs a house based on discipline AND love, could show some of our nation’s negotiators a thing or two.

However, there are times when a parent has to tell one child or the other a simple, "No." Maybe it’s because the child isn’t old enough, or mature enough for whatever it is his or her other sibling has, and that’s part of life too. Physically we may be all created equally, but we don’t mature equally and our life experiences don’t render us all equal at all moments of our lives. Just because a child thinks he’s ready for a slushy, doesn’t mean it won’t slip out of his little hands and end up a disasterous sticky mess on the floorboard of the car. And isn’t it better to just tell them "no" up-front rather than tan their hide later for something we shouldn’t have let them do in the first place?

There’s a lot of wisdom in good parenting. It’s a shame that such simple and straightforward dealing isn’t possible with adults. In many ways, petulant adults can be worse than kids when they don’t get their way. (And YES Lord, I realize you MAY be talking to me here too…)

P is for Pregnancy!

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image It is neither my intention, or desire, to turn this blog into a 9-month “and today in our pregnancy we did so and so” novella; but, it IS inevitable that when you’re living and breathing it on a daily basis, that things occur to you that you just have to share with the wider world. So today I thought I’d be very topical and bring you the word “PREGNANCY” in all its glory:

P is for Privacy. Privacy is something I’m about to lose when the new baby comes. See, our guest room, when not acting as a “Guest” room, acts as my own personal man-sanctuary. Here, safely ensconced behind two locked doors, I can do my bid-ness in peace…and pull a Costanza with a library book.

R is for Recreation. I’m going to have to find a new form of recreation as the boys get older. Currently, my only form of non-gym related recreation is golf. Golf, even at a cheap place around here, costs you $50 by the time you’re done. Multiply that times three (four if the next baby is a boy) and that’s just untenable. Hiking is sounding like a good (read: cheap) alternative.

E is for Energy. I think it’s very unfair for mother nature to so completely sap a woman’s energy for months prior to having a kid, only to suddenly give it all back to her in the form of “nesting” just before it’s born. I mean, it’s setting a completely unreal precedent! As if, once the baby’s here, you’ll be able to live on estrogen and adrenaline well enough to keep from falling over at every opportunity. Much more believable, would be to keep the mother (and father) awake for the last two months of the pregnancy, and to make them both allergic to showers, fine dining and television.

G – is for Gee. As CareerMom turned to me the other evening, after letting out a heartburn induced burp, “FOR REAL, no more. FOR REAL!” I turned to her and said, “Gee, I’m pretty sure I was pretty F’ing serious last time I said ‘No More’ too!”

N – is for Never. As in “never friggin’ again”

A is for Answers. Maybe by the time the third one asks me why God made his or her best friend’s skin brown, I’ll have an answer that sounds both intelligent and believable at the same time.

N – is for Nosey. Kids are the nosiest people. Daddy, what do you have in your mouth? Daddy, what are you doing? Daddy, what are you and mommy talking about? Daddy, why are you hiding from me?”

C Is for consistency. Which is the complete opposite of what you get when you’re pregnant. Last night it was in the low forties outside. We had the heater on and CareerMom had me turn the fan on in our bedroom because of her constantly changing body temp and hot flashes. Are you hungry? Are you nauseaus? Are you tired? Are you coming onto me? Are you crying? It never stops!

Y is for Youth. Because even in this crazy, crazy world of babies, and not enough time or money, when you’re out at a restaurant, like last night, and your littlest one stands up in a chair with a mouth full of brown, wet OREO that looks like a snuff of Skoal in his lip, and he yells out at the top of his lungs “BYE BYE” while waving to the crowd…you have to just smile. I just hope I remember the good stuff and forget the frustrations.