Posts Tagged ‘ nfl ’

Brotherly Shove: Can Sibling Rivalry Be Avoided?

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

When I was around eight, I went with my mother and sister to a flea market. I was still young enough to be excited about buying other people’s garbage, but not quite old enough to understand the complicated dynamics of the sibling relationship. I only knew I wanted to walk away from this thing with at least as much as my sister did. After scouring the general area for about an hour and finding nothing of value, I spotted what I considered to be the real “get” of this otherwise lackluster sale — an orange skateboard. It was plain, it looked cheap and used, but it was a skateboard nonetheless. A few of my friends had them, and I wanted one pretty badly. So I made an iron-clad pitch to my mother, which consisted of jumping up and down and flailing my arms like E. Honda from Street Fighter. It didn’t work. I was told that I was simply too young to own a skateboard. But who wasn’t too young, you might ask? My sister of two years my senior. She was apparently the perfect age to begin her epic journey into the world of ollies and kickflips….or to dutifully toss the skateboard into her closet under her Strawberry Shortcake backpack, never to see the street once. I’ll let you guess which of the two happened.

Before I catch heat for pointing an accusatory finger at my sister or mother, I assure you that I’ve done the same thing with my own kids. Trying to maintain a balance between my sons is potentially the most challenging part of parenting. So whenever I’m tasked with being the reluctant referee between them, I do my best to consider both of their perspectives. After all, the thought patterns of the older child are markedly different from those of the younger. In general, here’s the difference:

Older sibling’s mentality: “I was here first. Everything used to be mine. Suddenly, I’m sharing? What’s that sh*t about? Oh, and I absolutely must have more than [younger sibling].”

Younger sibling’s mentality: “I’ve had to share since Day One. Can I get anything first? A bowl of ice cream, a stapler remover, anything?! Oh, and it would be kind of nice if I had at least half of what [older sibling] has.”

Right from the start, siblings are put into a position to hate each other’s guts. And I certainly see it with my kids. It never fails. My 4-year-old son, Antonio will be building a house with Legos when my 2-year-old son, Nate will nonchalantly stroll over and knock the house down, like a tiny Godzilla. Now, I can 100% understand Antonio’s furious anger in this case. He was minding his own business when someone else came along and ruined his good time. Anyone, child or adult, would at least be mildly annoyed by that. But then there are moments that aren’t so cut and dry…

In another instance, Antonio is eating a donut. Since Nate has a soy allergy and tons of foods are off the table (literally and figuratively), he can’t eat donuts. Antonio sees this as his opportunity to taunt Nate like he’s NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and had just sacked Tom Brady. Nate sees this as his opportunity to squeeze Antonio’s ear like it’s a Hypercolor shirt. Chaos ensues.

Clearly, there’s fault on both sides. And it would be unfair of us to only punish Nate for landing the first blow just as it would be unfair to punish Antonio harder simply because he’s “older and should know better.” So we punish them both. That way, they loathe my wife and I more than they loathe each other. Ultimately, it’ll save us more aggravation later.

So with that in mind, here are some strategies I intend to implement with my sons to make an attempt at curbing the dreaded sibling rivalry.

1.       Reward evenly. Punish evenly.

This likely won’t surprise my regular readers, but my wife is much more consistent with this than I am. If we come home from work with a toy for one of them, we (and by we, I mean my wife) make sure we balance out the exchange by bringing one for our other son as well. It’s not only fair, but it helps to ensure one of them doesn’t grow to be resentful of us or their brother. My only concern with this tactic, though, is it could lead to our kids still expecting precisely even treatment into their 30s and 40s. And sorry, I’m not calculating the time I spent at one of their houses for Thanksgiving down to the second. Also, it’ll make us poor.

2.       Deflate their heads, when necessary.

We all have egos, and it’s likely our siblings are the ones who have to stomach them the most. A great way to enable the growth of that ego is to raise your children to believe that they can do no wrong. I want my boys to know they are capable of doing plenty wrong. This especially applies to how they compare with kid #2. If my younger son is the less athletic of the two but excels at online chess, I want my older son to know that this is an example of him not being superior to his younger brother. Keeps the ever-precious ego in check and ensures that both my kids know that their successes are equally important to us. Besides, chess players are injured far less frequently (saves on medical bills)

3.       Remind them what brotherhood means.

You guys are brothers. That’s a special bond you share with each other and no one else. Are you really going to let a few broken bones, a girl known as “Butterscotch” and a night in jail come between you? That’s what I’m prepared to say if I’m ever at a police station at 4:00 a.m.

4.       Lead by example (don’t be a jerk).

If I’m not respectful of my wife, how can I expect either of my children to be respectful of the other? Meaning, if I’m reaching over and simply swiping the remote control out of her hand, I shouldn’t be surprised if my sons are equally as grabby. It’s especially challenging to be consistent with this (because asking “May I please have the remote, dear?” makes me feel like Mr. Rogers) but it’s crucial for us to set the tone and not be jerks with each other. If we’re constantly bickering, they’ll grow up thinking it’s acceptable to act that way. So I plan to do all of our bickering behind closed doors instead, like responsible adults.

Ultimately, my kids will have more than their share of fights. I get that. But I believe if I raise them with a healthy respect for each other’s belongings and offer regular reminders that there’s more than one king (or prince) in this castle, they’ll be well-balanced enough to both stand on the proverbial orange skateboard without falling or pushing each other off.

Do you have any strategies to avoid sibling rivalry, or perhaps an old strategy that disastrously failed? I want to hear about it! Feel free to add a comment below to keep this conversation going! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero for more parenting stories, inane observations, and acutely specific social commentary.

 

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Honest Thoughts on My Sons Playing with “Girl Toys”

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.


From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.

And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.

While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?

Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.

“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”

“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”

It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too.  I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.

Barbies:  Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.

Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.

Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.

Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time.  We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.

The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.

This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.

Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.

What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.

Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.

If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.

Thoughts? Rebuttals? Enter them by adding a comment below!

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Tiger Mom vs. Dolphin Dad: Pick a Side

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

In an August 1st Daily News article about parenting techniques, Tiger Mom was pitted against Dolphin Dad. In comparing the two drastically different methods, one simple question was asked. Since I’m a football guy and the NFL’s preseason is underway (Go Jets!), I’ll use a sports analogy to describe it:  As a parent, is it more important to be a militant, hard-nosed coach that nobody likes or an optimistic, confident quarterback that everyone adores? Sounds like a no-brainer to most of us, right? Well, anyone raising children will tell you that it’s not quite that simple. Not only is it next to impossible to remain optimistic and quarterbacky under the demanding stresses of parenthood, but one unsettling, ominous fact always lingers: All children require discipline. But how much? And to what end?

Amy Chua, aka “Tiger Mom” would certainly agree that children require discipline. In fact, she wrote an entire book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” where she touts her track record of raising successful children who don’t have play-dates, don’t watch television, and don’t get grades below an A—a traditional Chinese method of parenting.

 

“Go to your room or I will tap dance on your soul.”

 

Does this mean, though, that being disciplinarians with our children is more important than ensuring their happiness? Shawn Achor, aka “Dolphin Dad” argues in his forthcoming book “Before Happiness” that by smiling around your children, they are more likely to follow suit and smile, too. In his bestselling previous title, “The Happiness Advantage,” Achor states that before we can be happy or successful, we first need to believe that positive change is possible. So while compared with one another, both the Tiger Mom and Dolphin Dad philosophies seem to ultimately focus on two drastically different end games—a child’s intelligence and a child’s happiness.

Personally, I am far more concerned with whether my sons are enjoying their lives and meeting new and interesting people than if I’m positioning them to be Harvard graduates. To assume that success alone yields happiness is an inherently flawed notion. And I believe grooming one’s offspring solely to be professional successes deprives them of not only the joys of childhood, but ultimately contentment in adulthood as well. In other words, this might be the recipe for an office with a view, but it isn’t necessarily the recipe for being able to look in the mirror at night thinking, “I’m happy with who I am.”

Don’t get me wrong. And anyone who’s seen me in public with my children can vouch for this—I discipline my kids. And I believe that’s roughly half of my parental responsibilities, showing my children the invisible line between what is acceptable and what will get you banned from The Cheesecake Factory.

So am I a Tiger Mom or a Dolphin Dad? Mainly, I side with Achor. Although, when my son dropped my iPhone on my face, I was one pissed-off dolphin, flirting with tiger status. And I think that’s the delicate balance that we, as parents, need to strike. We have to be adult enough to dictate social and behavioral norms and enforce them but still childish enough to dress up like Captain Hook (and get into full character, voice and all) for our son’s pirate party (that’s the other half of my parental responsibilities). In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that if you’re not strict when you need to be and playful when it’s time to unwind, you’re not fully giving your child a sense of life’s possibilities. I think our children need boundaries just as much as they need to see that the enjoyment of life does not stop once they’ve outgrown their toys. Besides, everyone I know who was raised with overly strict, demanding parents are either alcoholics or listening to emo music now. But at least they’ve got high-paying jobs. So there’s that.

Which technique do you favor, Tiger Mom or Dolphin Dad? Tell me why by adding a comment below!

 

* Tiger photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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