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Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he 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.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
“When I was a kid…”
The very phrase evokes an eye roll before the sentence is even completed. It’s undeniably preachy, and above all else, it’s what your father said when you were eight and what you promised yourself you’d never say. But we do say it, don’t we?
“When I was a kid, the Internet didn’t even exist!”
“When I was a kid, we could only talk to people on this foreign concept called a land line.”
The list, as they say, goes on. But clearly, as time marches forward, the forthcoming generation simply won’t be able to grasp how much easier they have it now than those who came before them. And if you’re anything like me, you not only want your children to appreciate their current amenities, but you don’t want them to get so engulfed in those amenities that they lose appreciation for the natural highs in life that have existed far longer than Wi-Fi.
My father hosted a party last weekend for the family. The weather was impossibly perfect, especially for swimming. I was marveling at my 5-year-old’s rapidly expanding ability to hold his breath underwater for increased periods of time. After the pool, my brother-in-law and I sanctioned a wiffle ball game for our 5 and 6-year-old sons, while our younger children held hands and babbled incoherently to each other, skipping mindlessly through the grass. We played with towels wrapped around our waists, intermittently taking a timeout for a bite of whatever was coming off the grill. As the sun began to set, a cake was brought out with candles lit to commemorate the birthdays of me and my sister. With the buttercream still stuffed into their cheeks, all four of the children grabbed empty tomato sauce jars and began gleefully hustling around the backyard, in hopes of capturing the highest number of fireflies. And it was at this moment when I saw my nephew poking holes in the lid — so his illuminating prisoner could breathe — that I realized something important…
No one was on their phones.
I’ll be the first to admit that I often feel an unhealthy, obsessive connection with my iPhone. After all, it has a great deal to offer. It helps me connect instantly with practically anyone I know. It contains a calculator, a camera, a flashlight, a compass, maps, games, music, email, and of course, access to an Internet that has the answer to practically any question I could conceivably ask. But it can’t stand behind you to help adjust your swing. No kid ever pleaded with his mother to let him swim in an online swimming pool. And I’m pretty sure catching virtual fireflies would be pretty boring. In other words, I won’t pretend that smartphones and tablets aren’t a part of my children’s landscape, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t put them in situations where they could thrive, or merely eat a burger without having to post a selfie of him eating said burger on Instagram.
So, here’s hoping that when my children (and all of our children) are in their 30s and 40s and beyond, that they aren’t reminiscing about how many likes their Facebook post got, but instead sharing memories marked with human connection, social interaction, and time spent with arms wrapped around the ones they love.
Perhaps I’m falling right into the “when I was a kid” trap I vowed I wouldn’t. Or perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to have my sons experience childhood the same way I did. Maybe it’s both. But regardless, I feel that it’s every parent’s duty to “referee” their child’s relationship with technology. At a certain point, it will be out of our hands, of course. But if we don’t show our children the beauty of the natural world, can we trust an iPhone app to do it for us?
Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation below or tweet me here.
Image: Family playing on green grass in spring park via Shutterstock.com
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Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “A father is a biological necessity but a social accident.” In effect, she meant to suggest that dads are irrelevant in a child’s life (beyond conception, of course). That likely was never true, but it is an even greater fallacy today.
A new report by the Pew Research Center indicates that there are 2 million stay-at-home dads in this country (some father groups estimate the number would be closer to 7 million if it included caregiver dads who work part-time out of the home). And a growing number of them do so by choice rather than by economic necessity.
Whatever the case, men are more involved and more accepted as caregivers than ever. A new book by Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter: What Science is Telling Us About The Parent We’ve Overlooked, analyzes research showing that dads have a profound influence on their kids—socially, developmentally, economically, psychologically. They are role models and companions, and their positive presence is a big plus for kids. Here’s some of what we know now:
• Men use bigger words and longer sentences around babies than moms, which may help boost their language development.
• Dads’ tendency to let kids figure things out for themselves helps them become better problem-solvers.
• A father’s early involvement with his daughter leads to a reduced risk of early puberty and teen pregnancy. Higher math scores, too.
• Healthy interaction with dad helps a child forge strong, fulfilling relationships later in life.
• Kids who feel close to their fathers are twice as likely to go to college or get a steady job after high school.
• Kids with nurturing, involved fathers develop stronger social skills, are better at sharing, and make friends more easily.
• The more physical, exciting play style of dads—playing tag, wrestling—helps teach kids emotional self-control.
Although the research on this subject is still in its infancy, it’s clear that dads aren’t merely relevant but essential to their kids. I know. I’ve seen the impact my actions—both good and bad—have had on my two kids. On balance, I’d like to believe my daily involvement, engagement, and influence have had a positive impact on their development. And I know for certain the great joy, wonder, purpose, and fulfillment that they’ve brought to my life.
I’ll bet a lot of guys feel the same way. So does our magazine. That’s why our June issue featured a dedicated section for dads only. It explores the challenges modern fathers face in trying to juggle work and family (sound familiar, moms?). A humorous chart shows how guys evolve from denial to acceptance during the early years of fatherhood. We chronicle 12 skills kids learn best from dad, from telling a joke to throwing a baseball (also check out All-Star Adam Wainwright’s pitching 101 video). And one dad’s list of the 17 things he’ll miss most when his kids gets big is touching—and something that, a decade or two ago, would far more likely have been written by a mom.
So as Father’s Day approaches, let’s hear it for the dads. We may still be praised (and, in some cases, expect praise) for doing the same caregiving tasks moms are expected to perform, and we may never get to a point where the work of parenting is shared 50-50. But dad, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Find out more about new research on fatherhood from Paul Raeburn. Learn why involved dads are important and what happens when men become fathers.
Father’s love photo via Shutterstock
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Adam Wainwright, caregiving, dads, fathers, fathers day, importance of fathers, language development, pitching, problem solving, social skills, Stay at Home Dads | Categories:
Child Development, Education, Health, Must Read, News, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
I received my Father’s Day gift early this year when my June 2014 issue of Parents magazine arrived in the mail as always, a couple weeks ahead of the date on the cover. There, before my grateful eyes, was a DAD on the cover, with his gorgeous son on his shoulders! Okay, it wasn’t just any dad, but celebrity dad Nick Lachey. Still, it’s a dad and his son on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world (full disclosure: I am on the advisory board of Parents magazine, but it is the best parenting magazine in the world!). There are actually two covers of this issue of Parents. Flipping the magazine over, the “other” cover features Nick and his wife, Vanessa, with their son, Cameron. So there are two pictures of a dad on Parents magazine this month.
Why am I so excited to see a dad on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world? Because, in the world of parenting, this is a Jackie Robinson moment. A Michael Sam moment. An Emily Keicher moment. (Who is Emily Keicher? See below.) I love moms, and I would never want to diminish the importance of moms. I’ve been married to the wonderful mom of our kids for 27 years. But I’m a dad. And I have read every page of Parents magazine every month for many, many years. I’m a much better dad for reading Parents magazine. I’m also a much better pediatrician for reading Parents magazine. But in all my years of reading Parents and other national parenting magazines, seeing a dad on the cover solo with his child is a first for me.
Groundbreaking covers are not a new phenomenon for Parents magazine. Readers continue to buzz about the magical February 2013 cover story featuring Emily Keicher, a gorgeous 3-year-old with spina bifida who walks with the aid of leg braces and a walker. And how about the April 2014 cover featuring Chloe and Daniel Molina, 3- and 5-year-old siblings who both have autism? And now this, a DAD on the cover with his son.
Last fall I had the privilege of giving the keynote address at the 18th annual convention of the National At-Home Dad Network. They estimate that at least 1.4 million dads are home with their kids. At the convention, I was witness to the extraordinary commitment these men have made to their families. Typically, my own “No Regrets Parenting” seminars focus on helping busy parents make the most of the time they spend with their kids, and finding more time, despite their frenzied lives. But, for the At-Home Dads keynote, I also described the two additional challenges that stay-at-home parents, dads or moms, must face:
1. Making sure the need for efficiency—getting everyone where they need to be when they need to be there, and getting everything done around the house—doesn’t overwhelm the joyous experience parenting should be.
2. Helping the working spouse or partner to get more out of his or her parenting experience.
I hope I was able to convey those important ideas to those dads. But whatever I was able to contribute, they contributed more to me in the lengthy and animated question-and-answer period following my talk. I started the discussion by asking what works in other families to make parenting more fun. I wish I had recorded the answers—it would have been my next book! There were fabulous ideas, including “Talk like a pirate (on International Talk Like a Pirate Day),” “Celebrate May the Force Be With You Day (on May 4, of course!),” telling practical jokes (like putting a fork in kids’ breakfast cereal for a hoot), arranging scavenger hunts and “geocaching,” making homemade ice cream, and hosting costume parties.
Jane Goodall, the famous researcher of primates who was childless, is quoted as saying: “One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.” Well, one thing I learned (among many) from the At-Home Dads is that dads DO know how to have fun with their kids. Cover dad Nick Lachey sure looks like he’s having fun with his son.
Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere, whether you stay at home each day or struggle to get home most days in time for bedtime. Thanks for all the good stuff you are doing for your kids.
And pick up a copy of the June 2014 Parents magazine—Dads, it’s YOUR magazine this month!
Plus: What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
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dads, fathers, fathers day, harley rotbart, harley rotbart series, nick lachey, no regrets parenting, parenting, parenting style, Stay at Home Dads, vaness lachey | Categories:
Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
My parents split the summer before I started 5th grade – a time when kids start trying to prioritize friends over family. I imagine it was difficult for my suddenly-single father to try to connect to my sister and me, two tween girls obsessed with *NSYNC and Lip Smackers — things he didn’t quite understand. Despite our differences, my dad managed to create a close bond with us through his ultimate obsessions: the Syracuse University basketball team and the NCAA college basketball tournament.
I believe that I’m close with my dad because my parents are divorced. College basketball is a common interest I share with just him (my mom is a fan, but less extreme) which guarantees I’ll turn to him first to chat about games. I encourage all single parents to find an activity that they share with a child as a way to bond.
One thing’s for sure – my dad didn’t strategically plan any of this out; but what he did worked! Here’s how my father used March Madness to bond with my sister and me:
Start ‘em young: The Syracuse Basketball obsession has been passed down through generations of the Assimon family (who live in Syracuse, NY; I’m from Rochester, NY), so it’s no surprise that I received a stuffed version of Otto the Orange, SU’s mascot, from my extended family when I was born. Six weeks later, I was already “watching” games with my Dad.
Get Them in on the Fun: Game time is “Dad Time.” My dad has always had four basketball season tickets to games at the Carrier Dome so neither of us were left out. If the game was away, we’d go to our Dad’s house to watch them on TV. Aside from games, our family donated to the team, so we’d attend events like team practices and special dinners with the players. My sister even joined the ‘Cuse Kids Club (I was too old) and went to fun events thrown by the team with my dad.
Force Them to Get in on the Fun: By the time middle school came around, going to an event with either parent just wasn’t appealing. In order to spend time with his tweens, my dad always let one of us use our extra season ticket to bring a friend. Win-win.
Immerse Them in March Madness: My earliest memory of March Madness was in 1996 when Syracuse made it to the Final Four. I’ve never seen my dad act that happy about a basketball game before (the team can always do better in his eyes) and I realized that the NCAA tournament was special. It was an exciting time for our entire family and I’ve never looked at March the same way.
He started hosting tournament viewing parties at his home, and whenever Buffalo or Syracuse hosted early rounds of the tournament, he’d take us for the thrill of the experience. My dad and sister went to New Orleans in 2003 when the Orange won the National Championship, and to Atlanta last year when SU made it to the finals.
We’ve also participated in his office pool for as long as I can remember.
Get Them to Go to That School: It’s no surprise that I went to Syracuse University for college. This was a dream come true for the both of us: I LOVED everything about the school and my dad LOVED that I had proximity to the players. I’d get many calls from him asking me to see if injured players looked like they were limping when I passed them on campus or if I would I ask my friends at the radio station if they’d heard anything about a rumor he saw on message boards. Sure, it was annoying, but at least it got us talking!
Continue the Fandom Into Adulthood: When I moved to New York City after college, my dad would take me to the Big East Tournament (back when Syracuse was in the Big East). It was great father-daughter bonding time, plus he got to experience a bit of my adult life. In a few weeks we’ll embark on the ultimate March Madness experience – we’re going to the Final Four (my first time) in Dallas! (Aside from basketball, another reason we’re going is to meet up with my sister who works for the NCAA and will be working at the tournament!)
March Madness is especially important to me now that I usually only travel home for holidays. It’s wonderful that we have a common love of college basketball to bring us together; I’m very lucky and so thankful to have such a loving father who so successfully passed one of his hobbies on to my sister and me.
Photo: Me, my dad, and my sister at the Carrier Dome for the Syracuse vs. Duke game in February 2014.
Bond with your kids over craft time with these cool ideas.
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Monday, March 10th, 2014
Photo of the author with his father and brother.
Charlie Capen is one-half of the duo behind How To Be A Dad, a self-described “how-not-to” blog for dads, moms, soon-to-be parents, and everyone in between. Capen lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with his wife, Avara, and two boys, Finnegan and Arden.
It was a cold, windy day on the grassy plains overlooking a beach in San Francisco. The wind filled sails and people sat bundled up, pretending it was a summer afternoon. San Francisco had that effect on people. It was anything they wanted it to be.
My father jogged over to a payphone, pulled a quarter from his pocket and rang my mother. “It’s such a beautiful day. You should bring the boys down here. And we can fly some kites. It’s perfect.”
“Stephen, the boys are with you.”
That was the day my mother had a talk with us about what to do if we ever got lost, though it was more for my dad than for us. His chemically-sourced absentmindedness was an origin to many stories that started more or less in this way.
Mom’s directions were simple. Find a responsible adult. Learn your phone number. Learn your address. Learn to dial “911.” Times were much different. Technology wasn’t as suffocating and the news every-hour-on-the-hour coverage about scary abductions was nonexistent, though the “stranger danger” mantra was fast becoming a common phrase.
In hindsight, those instructions for our urban life as two young boys seem rather liberated. Loose. They were important enough to remember, which we did, but almost unsafe when compared to the guidelines most of us have now.
Today, I am confronted with something I could not anticipate before I became a father. Now that my son is one of those kittens that you cannot herd, at the tender age of four years-old, I have to teach him about being lost and finding his way.
However, this lesson isn’t what confuses me. It’s the response to a question I posed on our Facebook page and my personal profile:
“Who do you tell your kids to seek out if they get lost?” Simple enough, right? Not really. Some of the answers are just frustrating. Out of nearly 120 comments (ruling out the obviously humorous or ridiculous ones), more than half of commenters said some version of “FIND A MOM.”
Here are some of the responses:
Okay. Yeah. Those weren’t helpful. How about these:
Don’t get me wrong, I understand. A whopping 96 percent of assaults are committed by men. I’m not telling anyone to stop saying “find a mom” here. That works for me. In fact, it’s smart. Moms are parents. Parents with kids would intuitively be the right choice. But are we stigmatizing men and fathers in so doing? Even just a little bit?
I’m not saying men don’t commit these crimes. That’s not it. I’m saying our actions can be informed by statistics, but our attitudes must be guided by context. The location, the people in question and the specifics pertaining to the form of the moment are all crucial details that, if unobserved, keep us generally fearful of others. Especially, and unfortunately, based on their race or sex.
In the end, I’m asking you to look at this in a different light, from the point of view of a man who deeply and unabashedly loves his children, and, by proxy, any child who is in need. As my friend Whit said:
“I explained that the problem with teaching children that men are bad is that some of them might actually believe it — children that have fathers and brothers or those that will someday be men themselves. It was a terrible and ignorant weight to put on a child.”
I’ve had women ask me, sharply albeit inquisitively, which child was mine at the playground. I’ve had random, uninvited kids climb all over me and seen the eyes dart in my direction, watching my every move as I sheepishly try to stop them from making me a human jungle gym. It’s unacceptable that I couldn’t be a safe person to help a child in need, and that the odds aren’t perceived as in my favor.
This isn’t an edict but a simple request for an adjustment in how we look at keeping our children safe as told by a child who endured the very thing we’re talking about now.
Protect your child from predators with these important tips!
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