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Saturday, January 5th, 2013
2 years, 1 month.
I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I believe if there is any change I feel I need to make in my life, I need to make that change no matter what day it is, as long as that day is still “today.”
However, it just so happens that around January 1st of 2013, I officially decided I want to make a point to stop participating in the polarization of America.
To quote Jimmy in one of my favorite movies, That Thing You Do, “I….. I quit. I quit. I quit…”.
In other words, I am choosing to see both Democrats and Republicans as good people.
I am rejecting the belief that “the other side” is completely irrational and/or evil, no matter how extreme or overzealous I am conditioned to believe they are, thanks in part to pseudo news channels like CNN and Fox News.
That goes for whatever “the other side” happens to be, not just political affiliations: pro-life vs. pro-choice, pro-gay marriage vs. anti-gay marriage, attachment parenting vs. supporters of the “cry it out” method, gun control reform vs. no gun control reform…
Basically, on all of these controversial issues, the side I am now on is technically… neither. Because I now publicly associate with the third party in favor of removing the “vs.” between the two polarizing sides.
Granted, I still have my personal opinions of how I feel about these polarizing topics, but I am much more interested in attempting to help tone down the collective angst regarding all the controversial issues that divide America.
I am tired of adding to the noise of two extremely polarized camps preaching to their own choirs.
With that being said, I was pretty skeptical a couple of months ago when I was approached by Susan Terkel, one of the authors of the then-upcoming book, The Circumcision Decision: An Unbiased Guide for Parents.
Knowing that my collection of blog posts on circumcision had put me in the hot seat with dozens of my readers, on several occasions, I had officially decided to retire from ever writing about circumcision again.
Then I received a preview copy of The Circumcision Decision in the mail. After reading it, I decided I actually wanted to participate in promoting the book, as much as possible.
In fact, I was so passionate about this book that the authors asked me to write a blurb for it, which is printed on the very first page, as well as, the back cover of the book:
“With grace, wisdom, and class, The Circumcision Decision impressively presents both sides of the story in such a balanced narrative, that some of us who have already made up our minds beforehand may now find ourselves challenged by the flip side.”
I proudly associate my name with The Circumcision Decision and am pleased to announce it was nominated as a 2012 finalist for the Books For A Better Life Award: Childcare/Parenting.
This book, which is now officially published and available for sale on its website, is the perfect answer to the circumcision controversy and, more importantly, to any soon-to-be parents of a son who are trying to best educate themselves on deciding whether to circumcise their son, or to leave him intact.
My guess is, no matter which side of the circumcision decision a parent lands, reading this book will simply give them the courage, confidence, and closure on how they honestly personally feel about circumcision to begin with.
Saturday, June 2nd, 2012
A year and a half.
What things do you see other parents do that annoy you, even though they shouldn’t? Plus, what things should bother you, enough to speak up against them?
I have a few “parent peeves” that come to mind…
Like hearing another parent making empty threats of discipline to their obviously undisciplined kid:
“Preston, I’m never gonna take you out in public again. You’re gettin’ a butt whoopin’ when you get home and Santa Clause isn’t gonna visit you this Christmas!”
Or watching a parent give their toddler a 24 ounce caffeinated soda.
My biggest one is medicating a toddler for ADHD or hyperactivity. But I’ve already preached my sermon on that one…
When should these things bother us as compared to when it’s none of our business? How do we know it’s our responsibility to butt in and try to do something about it?
Recently I asked whether we should really care what other parents think about us. Well today, I’m asking why (and when) we should care how other parents do their job.
To help answer these questions, I have designed a system for figuring that out and I want to share it with you today:
Superficial disagreement- A difference of petty opinion or personal preference. Action required: Think to self, “Hmm… that’s weird. That’s not how I would do it.”
Personal disagreement- A difference of opinion so strong it offends you. Action required: Write a Facebook status update or blog entry generically dissin’ it.
Moral disagreement- A difference of moral viewpoint. Action required: Personally confront the parent or the authorities.
I think all parent peeves fall into one of those 3 categories and it’s a matter of sorting out which action should follow on our behalf.
To demonstrate, I’ll throw you a few examples:
A parent calls their kid an idiot in the school parking lot.
A parent slaps their kid on their face at the park.
A parent lets their kids run around and play loudly in the department store.
A parent uses the “cry it out” method on their 4 month-old.
A parent lets their now 3 year-old sleep in the bed every single night with them.
You get the idea. What’s interesting is that I’m pretty sure there are parents to defend either side of each of those examples.
So ultimately, it comes to a case of good old-fashioned relative morality.
Yes, I’ve had people defend the one of slapping their kid on the face. I was told that internationally it’s not a big deal.
Your turn. What are your biggest parent peeves?
Thursday, October 20th, 2011
Back in July, a restaurant in Monroeville, Pennsylvania started banning children under the age of 6 from entering its restaurant. Evidently, this event sparked a trend called the Brat Ban- a ban in which a certain demographic of adults want to keep kids out of their favorite public places (at least during certain hours). In addition to restaurants, this also includes swimming pools, theaters, planes, and grocery stores. This trend has evidently fired up a debate with parents.
As a dad, I’m evidently supposed to be offended. I’m supposed to go on about how the Brat Banners are selfish, whiny, bratty people themselves who just don’t understand the reality and necessity of having to take kids into public places. I should also defend us parents by saying we can’t always completely control our children in public.
Here’s the thing: I say if a business can afford to ban kids, let ‘em.
In this economy, if a restaurant or store or entertainment venue finds more monetary value solely in adults as opposed to families, then let them capitalize on that. Honestly, if I showed up at a grocery store where they ban children during the hours I shopped, I would simply take my money and my kid elsewhere. That’s simply it- no drama from me.
Something I particularly like about the Brat Ban is that it raises social awareness of two extremes: A) the parents out there who let their undisciplined kids run around unattended in public and B) the adults who generally see children as a rude nuisance. I represent neither; instead, I am one of the normal people not taken into consideration in these scenarios.
I think that the more people talk about socially extreme situations like these, the more it creates a snowball effect where many of the extremists begin to conform to the expected social norm. These days, if a semi-celebrity publicly makes an allegedly racist, sexist, or anti-gay comment, all Twitter will break loose over it. But there’s a pretty good chance that 50 years ago the same statement would have barely raised an eyebrow.
So I say let businesses ignore the civil rights of children. Let that action speak for the company itself and what they value. I say let irresponsible parents keep doing their thing and let those who are annoyed by all children keep running their mouths.
Meanwhile, I’ll sit here watching from the bleachers with my well-behaved kid.
Passing the Mic:
What do you other normal parents think about the Brat Ban?
Do you agree with my take on it? If not, why?
Saturday, July 9th, 2011
I find it fascinating that as parents, we are often quick to point out the perceived flaws of other parents, as if it’s some game to “out” who the “bad parents” really are in our society.
After 48 hours of being published, my post “Positively Communicating with My Seven Month Old Son” received over 1,300 “likes” on Facebook. Interestingly, during that same short period of time, on Parents Magazine’s Facebook page my article received 167 comments; most of them vehemently criticizing me, while some passionately supported and defended me.
I’m learning just how polarizing my perspective on parenting can be. When I published that post, I had no idea that it would ever become so popular, as well as, so infamous. I just thought it was another post like any other day. It didn’t stand out as particularly special to me. Boy, was I wrong- because it hit a sweet spot for so many readers and struck a nerve with the rest. People either completely loved it, or hated it as much as I despise the TV show 16 and Pregnant.
Some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a while was reading through all the comments on the Facebook wall for Parents Magazine. While I felt so encouraged from those who supported me, the majority of the people who opposed my viewpoint said some really angry and/or hilarious stuff. (One of my favorite comments involves a unicorn.)
A common occurrence from several readers was the feeling that my tone was snobbish. This was implied because I stated I don’t like to see parents sarcastically joke about giving their kids away to strangers in public. (What about parents who can’t have children? How do they feel when they witness this same event?)
Sure, it regularly crosses my mind that having a child is tough; especially when he is not behaving as I would like. But I’m his dad and I’m suppose to be his number one supporter, not his number one critic.
Am I naïve and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent? Of course I am. I’ve only been a dad for seven months.
I have to speculate that that has something to do with why Parents.com chose me as their official daddy blogger, instead of a seasoned veteran who actually knew what they were doing. My lack of experience is one of the reasons The Dadabaseis interesting- because I am a newbie. I am learning something new as a parent everyday. I am wet behind the ears; that’s sort of my specialty here.
However, I was additionally perceived as a snob because some readers felt that I do not yet have the authority to write about communicating with my child because he is so young. But like I said in the article, I’m setting up the patterns now for how I will speak to him as he gets older. After all, it’s a gradual process and this is my way of preparing for it.
Another reoccurring (and I believe, caricatured) perception of me from those who disagreed with my viewpoint is that I am a hippie living in La La Land. That I am just so easygoing that my son is going to walk all over my wife and me as he gets older. That I am so preoccupied with not speaking sarcastically to my son that I will completely neglect the need for discipline.
Ironically, just a couple of days ago I did a Dadabase post about I how endorse and practice the “cry it out” method to get my son to sleep at night, prompting one reader to post this comment: “Actually, what you have done is not teach him to sleep well, but teach him that, no matter how hard he cries, how scared and alone he feels, or what his needs may be, you will not be there for him… Congratulations!”
The truth is, I actually worship the importance of creating structure for my son, setting realistic expectations for him, and when the time eventually comes, following through with discipline; not just threatening it.
It’s interesting to me that I am paradoxically both a snob and a hippie. What a weird combo.
Side note: Thanks to the Facebook wall comments, I was made aware of the fact that there was a typo in the article. I said “my wife and I” when I should have said “my wife and me.” My college degree is in English, of all things. So that’s one embarrassing faux pas. I went back and fixed it.
To some, I came across as a snob who thinks I am better than other parents and that my parenting style is superior to theirs. Similarly, these same readers jumped at the chance to criticize me for disagreeing with their own parenting technique. Is it safe to assume that these readers who so passionately disagree think that their parenting style is superior to mine?
As parents, we all do what works best for us and what we believe will be best for our children. We all have controversial parenting styles compared to other parents out there.
But while it may appear that I am clueless or fanatical to be so darn positive, just know this: My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are planted firmly on solid ground.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Must Read, People, Recaps, Story Bucket, Storytelling, The Dadabase, Writing | Tags: 16 and Pregnant, baby, bad parents, blog comments, controversy, criticism, cry it out method, dad, dad blog, faux pas, hippie, La La Land, parenting, parenting styles, parents, snob, typo, unicorn
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
I am fixated on being the best version of myself I can be; especially when it comes to being a parent. So I seriously wonder if anyone else in the world is as excited as I am to receive constructive criticism?
It’s nearly hilarious how in the unsupervised playground of the blog comments world, some adults instantly become childish. Some are only there to pick fights with either the author or other commenters, trigger-happy to name-call a random stranger; including but not limited “idiot,” “moron,” and “naive.” If these blog comment snipers can find an angle to make another person look less intelligent than they are, it evidently gives the blog comment sniper a feeling of superiority.
There is a school of thought among some blog authors that by allowing these dog fights to occur in the comment section of their post, it will at least help drive traffic to their site- therefore, nearly anything in the comments section is allowed. Well, I am not one of those blog authors and this is not one of those kinds of blogs. If a comment is malicious, condescendingly sarcastic, or deconstructive, I simply won’t approve it. Just because we are in the seemingly imaginary avatar world of the blogosphere, it doesn’t mean that the tradition of treating people with respect should disappear.
Note: So far, out of 102 posts here on The Dadabase, no one has left an inappropriate or disrespectful comment, so thanks for being cool!
I do allow comments with constructive criticism; just not deconstructive criticism. In fact, as the title’s message conveyed, I love and appreciate constructive criticism.
Constructive criticism truly never hurts my feelings or makes me feel bad about myself. I never take it personally. Because I am constantly overly aware that in each area of my life, there is still room for improvement. I depend on people telling me exactly how to improve- whether it’s what I do at work, at home, relationships with people, etc. So while I don’t go around fishing for constructive criticism, I always am excited to hear it. Because it means I get to become better at something.
However, constructive criticism means giving specific advice. If I am told, “You need to work on this,” without being given exact instruction on how to get better, I will in that case, get offended and frustrated. That would be an insult because the person is not respecting me enough to tell me exactly how to help myself.
I live by the belief that if you’re willing to bring up a problem to another person, you need to A) provide a proposed solution and/or B) ask that person to help you find one.
The way I see the world, everyday is filled with constructive criticisms anyway- whether or not it is spoken to me directly by another person. In fact, much of what I deem “constructive criticism” is actually just daily observational self-teaching. Sometimes it’s little things I observe in my social interactions; like what not to say in a conversation, after receiving a weird look from another person, or an awkward moment of silence. Sometimes it’s learning a better way to interact with my son as he is going through a new phase. Or learning a quicker way to rock him to sleep.
Each morning when I wake up, it’s like there’s an invisible scorecard that pops up in my head. It consists of a dozen little empty boxes, ready to be checked off each time I learn something new about myself. If I don’t learn anything constructive that day, then subconsciously I feel that day has been wasted. I thrive on constructive criticism; it gives me a sense of validation.
When someone has the guts to be bold enough to teach me how to improve at anything, I feel an enormous amount of respect for that person. Why get offended if someone tells me that I have a black bean skin stuck on my tooth? Instead, I would thank them and respect them for letting me know. But the importance of constructive criticism doesn’t just apply to after-lunch moments. For me, it applies to all situations in which my world can be improved.
Call it a superhero type of ability, but I literally am immune to being hurt by any criticism that’s constructive. There is not one tiny fiber anywhere in my body that is the least bit injured when I learn to do something better than the way I’ve been doing it.
I’ve asked other people about how they perceive constructive criticism and some have told me though it would be unwise to ignore good advice, they feel disappointed in themselves for not already doing it the best way to begin with. While I do recognize that as a valid way to feel and while I try to empathize, I simply can’t relate to that mindset. Because I evidently am wired weird and it seems most people I’ve talked to can not relate to how my mind works regarding this issue. So I fully acknowledge that I’m weird for thinking the way I do.
Yes, it’s an obsession of mine, but I have to know that I am the best man I can be. I see it as a frivolous goal to try to be better than any other person. So as a father and husband, I’m not competing with other men. I am competing with myself. I am in competition with tomorrow’s version of myself, because tomorrow’s version is more improved than today’s version. So the one person I am trying to better than is me.
I’m not a perfectionist. That to me, would be a waste of my energy. I’m not chasing that magical unicorn of perfection. I just want to be better than myself and I refuse to let any amount of pride or self-conservation get in the way of that.
BONUS- Wikipedia’s definitions of the two major kinds of criticism:
Constructive criticism aims to show that the intent or purpose of something is better served by an alternative approach. In this case, the target of criticism is not necessarily deemed wrong, and its purpose is respected; rather, it is claimed that the same goal could be better achieved via a different route.
Negative criticism (or deconstructive criticism, as I call it) means voicing an objection to something only with the purpose of showing that it is simply wrong, false, mistaken, nonsensical, objectionable, disreputable or evil. Negative criticism is also often interpreted as an attack against a person.
Categories: Deep Thoughts, Home Life, Storytelling | Tags: advice, being offended, blog, blog comments, blog traffic, constructive criticism, controversy, dad blog, parenting, perfectionist