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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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Monday, February 10th, 2014
What with the Russian Deputy Prime minister telling gay Olympians that they’re welcome in Sochi—as long as they don’t touch any children while they’re there (seriously, that happened); reports of polluted water in Sochi hotel rooms; bizarre bathroom surveillance; and possibly unsafe sporting venues, the 2014 Sochi Olympics haven’t exactly been the feel-good, fuzzy-feeling event that the world was hoping for. So, if you’re like me, and are feeling a little grouchy about the games, I’ve got the one story will get you all turned around on the matter.
This Thursday and Friday, American athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace will be hurtling down the Olympic skeleton course in Sochi, face-first, at roughly 90 miles per hour. You heard me. Face-first. That’s pretty captivating stuff, but when you hear Noelle’s story, you’ll be ready to hand the woman a gold medal.
Back in 2010, already a world champion in skeleton, Noelle retired from her sport so she could spend more time with her husband and two small children. “It had been me saying goodbye, getting on an airplane, and taking off. There was no way we could afford to pay for everyone to travel with me, so I missed so many family milestones when I was training or on the road—I’d come home, and my daughter was already walking. I missed her first birthday. Something had to change.”
Roughly two years after calling it quits, Noelle and her family got big news: they were expecting another baby. “We were so excited to have a new little baby girl in our home. We started thinking about names and decorations, picking out cute little outfits and things. But when I was 18 weeks pregnant, that time when you think everything’s fine, I miscarried.”
“I just remember bawling and bawling. I had just gone in for an ultrasound. They’d told me the heart looked fine. The baby looked fine. I had nothing to worry about. But here I was, so utterly heartbroken,” she told me. “After my miscarriage, anytime I’d see a pregnant woman, up until my due date, I’d just think that’s supposed to be me right now. I was still counting down the weeks of pregnancy—which is strange, maybe, but I couldn’t help it. I just kept thinking about how I was supposed to be ‘this far along’ by now, or ‘I’m supposed to have a baby now.’ It was really, really difficult.”
Noelle’s husband, Janson, wanted to do anything he could to help Noelle through the grief and depression she was experiencing. For a while, they thought maybe getting pregnant again would help, that they could get back to where they’d been. But Janson had another idea in mind.
“He came to me one day and said, ‘What if you go back to skeleton?’”, she recalled. “I was like, no way. I’m done. Not unless the whole family can come. I’m not doing that again. I’m not being separated from you.”
Janson, willing to do just about anything to get his wife back on track, started crowd-sourcing donations so he and the kids could travel with Noelle during the upcoming competitive season. Before they knew it, Pampers and Babies “R” Us came onboard with sponsorships that have allowed Noelle to get back up to her crazy fast speeds without leaving her family behind.
Noelle’s six-year-old daughter, Lacee, still asks about the baby sister she’d been expecting, suggesting cute outfits she should wear when she arrives, but Noelle takes it all in stride. “Lacee’s not old enough to really understand what happened, but we’ve told her that her baby sister’s in heaven, and that she might come see us soon, or that she might wait to see us later. We definitely want more kids, so who knows, maybe she’ll get that baby sister, after all.”
In the meantime, the Pikus-Pace crew will be there (and we’ll all be watching!) as Noelle zooms past the finish line later this week—hopefully on her way to the podium and a well-earned medal.
TELL US: Have you ever experienced a miscarriage, or do you know someone who has? How did you work through the grief?
NEXT: Healing After a Miscarriage
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Friday, November 1st, 2013
I came across this video a couple of days ago on Upworthy. While the video appears to have been made in honor of Mother’s Day, I think its message is important enough that we should emphasize it more than on one faux holiday on the second Sunday in May. As a web site for mission-driven media with the goal “to make important stuff as viral as a video of some idiot surging on his roof,” I’m going to agree with Upworthy and say that this is meaningful and deserves to go viral.
Moms work really hard and love their children so much, and—as shown in these three minutes—that does not go unnoticed by said children. But Evolution Church, the makers of the video, gave one instruction to a group of moms: Describe yourself as a mother. I was expecting to hear responses like “Well, I tend to be a strict mom” or “I’m definitely a cool mom”—you know, a la Amy Poehler in Mean Girls. But what actually came out of their mouths was something more like this:
“There are definitely days when I have doubts in my abilities.”
“I struggle with….”
“I wish I knew how to…”
“I wish I was better at…”
“I wish I was more….”
Wait. Why were all of those responses about their deficiencies as mothers? Why is the first thing that jumps into these mothers’ heads when asked to describe themselves is what they are NOT good at? (Granted, the video editors could have chosen to take this angle, but these moms were not forced to utter self-criticisms.) And for that matter, why is self-criticism often at the forefront of women’s brains when we describe ourselves, period? As Jessica Simpson mentioned in her blog post the other day, even when the tabloids pointed fingers at her, she was really her own biggest threat.
I think we all need to practice a little more self-love. Of course there is always room for improvement, but why not think of what we can do better after congratulating ourselves for all the things we do right. After all, there must be a reason why the children of these mothers described their mommies with such an outpouring of love. One girl nearly cried as she confessed “[My mom] is like my heart … because she’s that close to me.”
So don’t wait until May to cut yourself a break, Mom. Chances are that for every little mistake you see yourself make, there are at least ten things you did right. Focus on that, and maybe even dial your own mom to say you love her. In fact, I think I’ll do that right now.
Plus: Find out what parenting style suits your lifestyle. Then, browse through these 11 no-fail tantrum tamers.
Image: Baby embracing mother outdoors via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 29th, 2013
One of my fellow-mom friends posted a picture on Facebook yesterday that made me LOL (for real). Picture this:
Five mothers, enormous grins on their faces, jumping mid-air, hands stretched to the sky. With this caption:
The kids are back in school!!!
I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a sudden urge to go airborne when my kids return to their previously scheduled lives. The bazillion likes and comments that followed the post included gems like this one, from a mom whose kids aren’t back just yet:
“I’m jealous I’m not in this pic!”
And this one:
“Only thing missing is the wine bottle!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m done with summer. So are many of my other friends, and I imagine so is the working mom I saw on my commute this morning with a not-so-happy preschooler in tow. (Like summer, camp’s over, too.) The only parents on my friends list lamenting summer’s end are teachers.
Okay, I get that.
But I’m sorry: I can’t apply sunscreen to one more wrinkled nose. I can’t take one more fight in the house between bored siblings. Even the kids seem over summer. I asked them if they wanted to hit the community pool one last time. Their reply? “Nah.”
Now is mom’s moment: when you make all those new school-year resolutions. Going to finally make those photo books. Try out those recipes. Exercise. Blog. Do amazing things at work. Do a happy dance on the table. The kids are back in school!!!
Inspired by my friend’s post, I say we moms start a campaign to add a new shot to all of those cute first-day-of-school pictures that are popping up in our feeds. Let’s capture moms in their various displays of euphoria after the kids have entered the building. Now wouldn’t that be one for the photo book? (Preschool moms who are seeing your little ones off to school for the first time: You get a pass. And tissues.)
Let’s enjoy this moment of freedom while it lasts, before the next chapter of the busy school year inevitably begins.
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