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Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
There’s a decent chance you will begin actually remembering certain events now. I say that because my own 2nd birthday party in April 1983 is the very first memory of my own life.
I remember my Italian grandfather holding me in his lap as everyone around the table sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It was somehow overwhelmingly sad, so I cried until it was time to open presents.
It is from that experience that I planned your 2nd birthday party. I wanted to make sure that you would have a fun, memorable party for you, your friends, and our family.
So I implemented 3 simple rules for planning your 2nd birthday party:
1. Find the right-sized location for the amount of people invited.
We invited about 30 people and they all showed up. (Yes, Jack, you’re that cool of a kid!)
Fortunately, our church had a mini basketball court for you and your friends to chase each other around in. My top priority was making sure you didn’t get antsy.
I also wanted to make sure you didn’t get overwhelmed by the amount of people there. With a location that open, you never felt closed in or crowded. That kept you happy.
2. Downplay the eating and singing part.
I think the real reason I got scared and starting crying at my own 2nd birthday party was because I couldn’t understand why so many people surrounded me and were singing a song I didn’t know. It freaked me out.
So as non-traditional as it was, I made sure we purposely didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” once it was cake time.
We didn’t even have you blow out candles in front of everyone. We just let you enjoy your cake while we served the guests.
Actually, you were more excited about sampling the Teddy Grahams, Animal Crackers, and Angry Birds crackers.
You were actually quite proud of them; as you see in this picture I took of you.
3. Speed up the gift-opening.
When it came time for you to open your gifts, your Mommy was equipped to jot down who gave you what. Then as I quickly read the cards to everyone, you opened your gifts.
I wanted to prevent stop-and-go action, ensuring a continuous flow instead.
That gave your guests time to see you actually react to and play with your new gifts beyond your initial reaction of opening them, because you didn’t necessarily know what everything was at first.
So that’s it. I’m not sure you actually will remember any of it, but in an attempt to help jog your memory, I conveniently saved the pictures from your 2nd birthday party for you on this link to The Dadabase Facebook page.
You didn’t cry at your 2nd birthday party like I did 29 years ago. Good job, son.
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Sunday, July 1st, 2012
(July 2012/November 1982.)
The phrase, “when I was your age,” is usually completed by a parent or grandparent telling a child how hard life was back in the day, when they had to walk 10 miles to school… in the snow.
But see, I was born in April 1981. That means my toddler and Elementary school years took place in the overly-synthesized, fantasy decade we now refer to as The Eighties.
We didn’t have the Internet or cellphones or iTunes, but that was okay. Because we had Saturday morning cartoons, Big Wheels, and “regular” Nintendo. We drank red Kool-Aid and watched the Smurfs. And life was good.
So now I think about my son and how his toddler and Elementary school years will take place almost exactly 30 years after mine. (I was 29 and a half when Jack was born.)
To be honest, I fear that his young years won’t be as cool as mine were.
Because when I was exactly his age now, it was November 1982 and Michael Jackson had just released Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time; while E.T. was the movie on everyone’s mind, having been released just a few months before.
Maybe it’s inspired by me currently watching the final season of Lost again right now, but I am very focused on the “flash-sideways.”
In other words, I’m constantly comparing the happenings and culture of how things were when I was my son’s age.
Something you will be seeing more of here on The Dadabase are articles were I feature two similar pictures: One of my son in modern day, followed by me at the same age, doing something likewise.
(I recently scanned like 64 pictures of my childhood from November 1982 to January 1984; which I will be sporadically using from here on out, as related to Jack’s age.)
So I trust you will enjoy the time-traveling that is headed your way. We are on our way to my favorite year ever, 1983.
I’m assuming most Dadabase readers also were young kids in The Eighties. Let me ask you:
Am I being overly nostalgic, or did we really grow up in the best decade ever for being a kid?
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Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Rubik’s Cube? Check. Retro Pink Panther bendable toy? Check. Ability to walk backwards? Check. Vegetarian? Of course.
On the drive back to Nashville on Easter Day, we made our one pit stop at the Starbucks in Manchester, Tennessee. We had to change Jack’s diaper in the front seat of the car.
To distract him, my wife reached up and grabbed my Rubik’s Cube and retro Pink Panther bendable toy I have kept in my Honda Element since before Jack was even born.
(I own every episode of The Pink Panther cartoon series on DVD.)
Just as we finished changing him, a guy in a tie-dye shirt pulled up next to us and got out of his car with his family, spouting out loud to us his immediate thoughts:
“That must be a pretty smart kid you’ve got there. He knows how to solve a Rubik’s Cube and he hangs out with the ever-classy Pink Panther. Nice.”
Was it really necessary to tell the guy that it was actually my Rubik’s Cube (my best time to solve it is 2 minutes and 20 seconds) and my Pink Panther bendable toy even though I’m 30 years-old?
Nah. I would prefer for an observational random stranger to believe my toddler is truly a hipster:
Yes, that my 16 month-old son chooses to listen to vinyl records over an iPod.
That he will only wear t-shirts if A) they came from a thrift store and B) they have the year 1983 on the front; along with unnecessarily thick nerd-core glasses.
That he would grow an ironic mustache if he could.
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Monday, March 19th, 2012
Though the Eighties made it okay for boys to play with dolls, the same decade also provided these same young men, who are now today’s dads, with the perfect models of manliness: action figures.
After all, males are designed to be creatures of action. Virtually from infancy, we leave playing house and having tea parties to the girls. Boys are the explorers, the daredevils, and the protectors.
Why does a diaper ad that may or not insinuate that dads are 2nd rate parents get so many men upset? Since 33% of stay-at-home parents are now men, it mens that we can’t be the sole bread winners that dads evidently were back in the 1950′s.
So if our job is to work by raising our kids more actively than prior generations, then don’t diss our ability to work and to take action. I’ll say it until it’s a cliche, but today’s dads don’t babysit; they simply are being active dads.
(Maybe packs of diapers should come with a free “active dad” action figure?)
Reading too much into it, as I love to do, I have realized that each action figure on my Top 5 list represents an important aspect of fatherhood. It’s as if these toys subconsciously taught us what we would eventually need to teach and lead our children:
Masculinity, self-respect and self-defense, the initiative to implement change as necessary, adventure, and spiritual leadership.
After much discussion on Twitter, Facebook, and in real life, I have gathered my version of the Top 5 Most Butt-Kicking Action Figures of the 1980′s:
1. He-Man (1982). It can’t get much manlier when your name is “He-Man” and you ride a green tiger. Granted, he looked a lot like a pro-wrestler, with the velvet underwear and whatnot. Either way, dads are the ultimate examples of masculinity for their children. We are He-Men for our kids.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1988.) Martial arts were a pretty big deal back in the Eighties. From The Karate Kid to Bloodsport, it was ingrained into our brains that we must able to defend ourselves against ninjas. Or in this case, to be ninjas ourselves. Dads must teach their kids self-respect and self-defense. We are Master Splinters for our kids.
3. Transformers (1984.) Everything had to transform in the Eighties. Like Mogwai transformed into Gremlins, so did robots transform into vehicles. I’ve said it plenty before, but today’s dad is constantly having to transform the traditional father’s role from what used to left more to the mom. In theory, we must become more feminine to be masculine. Dads must lead by example and know when to implement change. We are Optimus Primes for our kids.
4. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982.) It’s funny how I never really remember any of the characters actually getting shot. A bloodshed-free military? Sounds pretty nice, actually. Dads motivate and inspire their children to be adventurous and to be all they can be. We are G.I. Joes for our kids.
5. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983.) This classic sci-fi series came to a chronological end in the Eighties, reinforcing the existence of good and evil and the need to choose the right side. But it takes “the Force” to get the job done. Dads are the spiritual leaders for their family. We are the Jedi for our kids.
Now you know my list of the Top 5 Most Butt-Kicking Action Figures of the 1980′s. And knowing is half the battle.
P.S. For a great place to find and buy items such as these mentioned here, check out The Collectionary, a growing go-to place to search for classic action figures!
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Sunday, June 26th, 2011
The main way to be honest is to refrain from lying. The other way is to refrain from hiding your true thoughts and feelings. The latter is so much harder than the former.
Something I’ve never been good at, nor cared to improve, is the ability to use the #1 traditional American greeting: “Hi, how are you doing?”
Because even as a young kid, I have questioned the practicality and sincerity of that extremely personal question which acquaintances use to greet each other with. I remember when I started pre-school (in 1985), asking my parents how I was supposed to answer that question. They told me to say, “Just fine. How are you doing?”
So that’s how I would respond to being asked how I was doing. By the time I got to Middle School, I got so lazy at it that I just began simply answering with a mumbled “Doing good, doing good.” Conveniently for me, I learned that people were so used to having the questioned returned on them, that they assumed I was saying, “Doing good, and you?”
And at age 30, that’s still what happens to me on a daily basis.
I just can’t take something seriously if I find it to be anything less than sincere. Sure, I’m definitely over-analyzing our traditional American greeting. But to me, I feel that most of the time, we’re not actually asking the other person how they are doing. Why?
Because I’ve observed that so much of the time when people ask me how I’m doing, they don’t even look me in the eyes, and they just keeping walking past me as they say it.
For me to honestly answer that question, the person asking it A) has to be someone I know well and be able to be vulnerable enough to tell them how I am really feeling and B) has to show me with their body language that they actually care about the answer.
Am I being too honest by admitting that when I ask someone how they are doing, after they have just asked me the same question, that nine times out of ten I’m not really concerned with their answer? The exception is if the other person was being so open with me that their answer was anything different than perfectly positive: If the other person is admitting they are having a tough day or that something interesting (good or bad) was going on in their lives, I would jump on the chance to explore what’s going on in their lives.
Why? Because when it comes to relating to people, I am action-based, not emotion-based.
I understood this concept much more clearly when I spent the summer of 2003 (and 2004) in Thailand teaching at a Christian school. As I was immersed in Thai culture, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was hardly ever asked by the Thai people how I was doing. Instead, they asked me what I was doing, what I did earlier that day, or what I would be doing later that day. If I was holding a bag of snacks I had just bought from the store, they would reach for my bag, asking about my recent purchases. For that reason alone, I felt so at home and so connected with the Thai people. It felt so natural and real.
My belief and history with starting conversations is that if I start talking to someone by asking a personal question that intrudes on their emotions, unless they really know me, they will put up their guard and give me a generic answer.
So instead, whenever I greet a person, it is never with an emotional question. I always ask a question based on that person’s daily activities or make a positive observation based on their appearance.
Or if I can’t think of something to say, I’ll propose this one: “What was the most unique thing that has happened to you so far today?” I love to engage people in thought. I can’t handle talking about the weather.
I want real human connections with the people in my life.
It’s important to me to be as honest as I can be to people, without being inappropriately revealing. It’s a fact that as a man, I would be foolish to “wear my heart on my sleeve.” I learned very quickly after entering the work force not to reveal my insecurities and emotions to my coworkers. Because I observed that the men I respected in the work place kept their personal life private. I also noticed that women in the office who acted more like men, who suppressed emotional urges, were more likely to be successful.
So what does all this have to do with parenting and being a husband? After all, that is what this blog is all about.
Here’s how. Men are often known for hiding the way they really feel. They are known for holding in their emotions. Why do they do that?
The vulnerable answer is that we men are expected to be strong and in control. Expression of emotions and admittance of feelings compromises that image. And the truth is, the perception that we are in control is just as important as being in control, a lot of the time. That’s undeniably important for men to live by in the work place.
But not at home. Men must be able to separate the two versions of themselves: the work version vs. the home version.
While I may spend most of my day time hours turning off my emotions in the office, when I get home, it’s important for me to express how I feel to my wife. I must remind myself to flip the switch back to “home life” from “work life.” I know that it’s important for her to know what’s going on inside of my head. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes there’s just nothing really floating around in my head- just a blank screen.
I only get vulnerable about my emotions and insecurities with those who I am really close to. The rest get random conversation starters from me. But it’s those random conversation starters that can help build actual relationships. And that’s the reason I don’t ask people how they are doing. Instead, as they tiredly hold a warm mug, they unexpectedly hear from me, “What flavor coffee creamer did you go with today?” I’d rather start in the middle of a conversation than a stage prop beginning.
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1983, 1985, communication, conversation starters, fatherhood, honesty, husband, Liar Liar, lying, Thailand, truth, White Liar | Categories:
Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Story Bucket, Storytelling