Fatherhood… doing it right

It’s Never Too Late to Play

Here I’m sharing a blog post by John Griffith, a (local to me) crew supervisor for the California Conservation Corps. You might have seen him as the white country-ish guy in this recent viral video:

On his blog, he has a recent post titled, It’s never too late to play: Corps programs are good news for young adults who grew up during the indoor-childhood epidemic. In it, he describes a Corps member who is slow and distracted as they pull invasive grass by hand from a northern California beach. The distraction is due to the fact this is the young man’s first time standing on a beach. At the end of their work day, he ordered everyone to play, and they made sand castles.

Juan’s castle walls grew around him while other “walls” melted into the sand. It wasn’t an underestimated wave that washed them away. Juan’s walls simply couldn’t withstand the allure that nature presents.

I’m talking about the walls that well-intentioned parents erect to protect their kids from the nightmares that haunt primetime after dinner — only to have the victims of those nightmares meet their kids’ eyes looking out from a milk carton at breakfast.

These fear-built walls keep kids from going outside to build a fort by the creek near their rural home. They keep them from discovering the secret sleeping spots of birds in their urban neighborhood. They prevent them from sliding down a grassy hill on a flattened cardboard box just outside their suburb. The walls so frequently erected against perceived dangers serve to hide a whole generation from the beauty and lessons of nature.

Our New Year’s Day tradition

Photo of my two kids, a birthday cake decorated like the northern hemisphere, and a plush snowman and globe watching.

Our New Year’s Eve / Day tradition is to make the world a birthday cake. While we eat it, we talk about the highlights of the past year and what we hope will transpire in the coming year.  We couldn’t fit 4.54 billion candles on it, so we made do with one.

My daughter is well-practiced in staging photos. My 4-year-old son puts on the geekiest awkward smile, so we told him to laugh. He responded by pantomiming raucous laughing by placing his fist to his mouth.

The Winter Ogre visits tonight!

Our ogre sock filled with toys that have lost their luster, alongside our regular Christmas stockings.

Our ogre sock filled with toys that have lost their luster, alongside our regular Christmas stockings.

Now is the time to place unwanted toys in an ogre sock near your front door. In early December, the Winter Ogre comes down from the mountains (or out of the sewers, subway, cave, etc.) to forage for supplies for the coming winter, breaking into homes to scavenge what he needs. The ogre, being not too bright, likes shiny objects, beepy things, and all manner of toys to entertain himself over the long winter nights.

The worst thing you can do is not prepare for the ogre. He could end up looking through every room and taking your most precious toys. If you fill a giant ogre sock with toys and leave it hanging near the front door, he will recognize it as a gift (because why else would the Small-Foots hang a big sock in their dwelling?). He will take the sock, containing your least favorite, old, boring toys — and leave the rest of your home untouched. You will know of the Winter Ogre’s visit when the sock disappears. Yes, he keeps the sock, because ogre feet get cold, too.

And if the shelves of a local nonprofit thrift store have a few more toys next week, all the better.

A Random Act of Reddit

tl;dr: Users of Reddit.com funded the purchase of 2,100 children’s books for a “free bookstore” I started at my daughter’s elementary school. Students are motivated in their classwork by earning a visit to choose a free book and struggling students receive special encouragement. Reddit’s generosity arrived at a pivotal time as the bookstore idea was coming together.

Links:

  1. More info about the bookstore (the original blog post)
  2. Photo gallery of the new bookstore (imgur)
  3. Photos of third graders on their first visit (school site)
  4. Photo of first grade boys reading during a sunny lunch recess! (school site)
  5. Map of Reddit donors

Photo of 2,100 books displayed in stacks on a carpet.

That’s what 2,100 donated children’s books look like. They were purchased courtesy of random strangers on Reddit.com for a “free bookstore” at my daughter’s elementary school. This post is for the donors. See close-up images (left, and right).

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Athletic Shoes for Increasing your Sperm Motility

Photo of a Gravity Defyer athletic shoe that bears a symbol that resembles sperm, or a tadpole.

I guess the message your Gravity Defyer athletic shoes conveys to the ladies is that your boys can swim.

Side note: You’ll find the darnedest things when buying used copies of National Geographic at a yard sale in a gambit to get your daughter excited about geography.

You Ruined Everything

Song by Jonathan Coulton [bio]

Two quotes, different children

My 3-year-old son is playing on the hard floor of our living room with a wooden train set.

“Mama, I see an ant!”

[Mom is walking in from another room.]

“We need to make it dead.”

[He smashes the ant with a train.]

“Mama, we have to take it outside so it’s not dead in our house.”

[Side note: Although he gladly squashes insects, he is opposed to eating meat, so we've stopped using the words chicken and turkey at the dinner table.]

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Anthem to Parenthood

This came to mind while communicating with a new parent who adopted a child from a troubled background. In short, there are lots of highs and lows and uncertainties as they bond and the past comes flooding out in tears. A phrase in the conversation caught my attention, “us being new parents and all.” I said, “Us old timers fall apart too. None of the rest of us know what we’re doing either.”

Of course, the Greatest American Hero didn’t either. He lost the instruction manual for his super hero suit before he got the suit home, yet was able to blunder his way through life saving the day. Here’s a longer stunt reel for the show. Here’s the theme song which also seems appropriate.

What I’m not sure is whether this mom realizes that everyone who knows what’s she’s doing is super proud of her… no prior parenting experience (not that anyone has it), choosing to adopt a child knowing there are issues to overcome. She’s certainly a hero in her child’s life.

Well, us old timers fall apart too. I’ll raise an obscure 1981 TV show in defense, The Greatest American Hero. An ordinary special education school teacher is given a super hero suit by aliens that gives him all the powers that come with being a comic book hero. He loses the instruction manual before he gets the suit home. Accordingly, he blunders his way through the greatest job on Earth. That’s a long way of saying none of the rest of us know what we’re doing either.

A father’s last post

Derek K. Miller of Burnaby, Vancouver, Canada –  Father, husband, writer, editor, musician, photographer, blogger.

See related: The Last Lecture.

Vampires are Real

With the Easter Bunny’s arrival today, we decided to quiz our 6-year-old daughter about fact versus fantasy in what we dubbed a Truth Deciding List. Each item on the list had three columns in which to place an X for real, fantasy or unknown. Here are her answers:

Real

  1. Desk fairies*
  2. Fairies
  3. Flying reindeer
  4. Gnomes
  5. Santa Claus
  6. Vampires

*Desk fairies periodically visit her classroom, placing a sticker or other goodie when a student’s desk has been kept clean.

Fantasy

  1. Cupid
  2. Frankenstein
  3. Monsters
  4. Space monkeys
  5. Underpants gnomes
  6. Unicorns
  7. Witches
  8. Zombies

See previously: Space Monkey Defense Tip #1.

Unknown

  1. Aliens
  2. Easter Bunny
  3. Elves
  4. Ghosts
  5. Goblins
  6. Leprechauns

A seed of doubt was planted about the Easter Bunny because, as she tells it, her Mom was too quick to say “I see one!” during the egg hunt, apparently not looking hard enough for the eggs. Never mind that this was the first year the bunny visited our home. In the past, we’ve gone to community egg hunts on Saturdays, then traded our kids’  candy for a new toy purchase the same afternoon. This year, I loaded up on sugar free candy for our own in-home hunt.

Meanwhile, regarding aliens, her uncertainty is rooted in things I’ve told her about the probability of life existing elsewhere in the universe (e.g., there is life, but we’ll probably never contact it). Unfortunately, I failed to quiz her specifically about the race of Alien Brain Crunchers who regularly visit our planet.

After making the list, my daughter insisted on being told which items are real or fake, but we told her everyone has their own truth deciding lists. Her list shows her truths at the moment.

They grow so fast

Two school photos of my daughter, one in kindergarten wearing a Cyberman robot helmet and one from first grade wearing the same helmet, now with red bows on the sides of the helmet.

Yearbook photos are taken in the fall. These are our spring photos. Her teacher this year asked via e-mail: What is the reason for the robot helmet? When we take the class photo I would like for her not to have it on.

I replied: Whoops, sorry for the confusion. The helmet is only for the single portrait photo. The whole-class photo would have no helmet, if only because robot bigotry is institutionalized at our school. The Rebel Alliance had the same problem. You didn’t see R2 or C3PO donning medals after the Death Star was destroyed. And don’t get me started about how Chewbacca got slighted. But, specifically about the helmet, if I’m paying for the photo, and it’s not for the yearbook, why not? And, my daughter thinks it’s fun.

It doesn’t hurt that our principal is from the UK and grew up watching Doctor Who. And, seriously, class photos are never good. They never capture your kid’s spirit. Last year’s photo was angled a little high, making my daughter’s forehead look big. This year’s is pretty spot on though. Nice sheen.

Super Hero Santa Witch

Photo of my 2-year-old son bending over with a toddler brook between his legs while he is dressed in a Santa costume with a green toddler tablecloth tied around his neck to make a cape.

…his idea, including using the ‘blanket’ from his toddler picnic basket as a cape.

I don’t care who started it

“Both of you, time-out. I don’t care who started it.”

Saying you don’t care who started it tells me you don’t care about my personal actions. I can do wrong and get away with it because you’ll punish both me and my victim, which is to my advantage because my victim gets punished first by me and then by you. My victim will soon learn he’s better off shutting up and being bullied in silence. You, misguided parent, perpetuate a cycle of violence.

My paragraph response above started out as a tongue-in-cheek reply in a web forum discussion, but now I’m starting to wonder if it’s true.

New Child Catalogue

87235-BF Musical Baby Feeder keeps the toddlers of the neighborhood well-nourished with a storage capacity of three quarts. Just hang it on the porch, open your curtains and enjoy the antics of eager infants lured by the soothing sounds of classical music and the aroma of strained bananas. Available musical selections: Debussy, Strauss, Traditional Americana, Cajun Zydeco. Runs on 16 AA batteries, not included.

That’s an entry from the tongue-in-cheek New Child Catalogue. Oh how I wish they had photos. Link via my brother’s friend’s boyfriend who operates the website. In a few more steps, I get to meet Kevin Bacon.