Posts Tagged ‘ parenthood ’

The Moment I Realized I Shouldn’t Force Football on My Son

Wednesday, October 29th, 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 posts twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here.  He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

We all do it. Every last one of us has interests, passions that we either hope our children will gravitate toward, or we flat out force on them. Family traditions, sports, fashion trends. All things we often unknowingly (or knowingly) push down the throats of our kids without consideration of their own preferences. But we still do it, because at our core, we are self-serving creatures with a relentless desire to recreate our own childhood, or to produce a new shopping partner or drinking buddy in 20 years.

I’m a New York Jets fan. It does not feel good to write that. Actually, it feels like admitting that I eat processed cheese out of a spray can. But like most dads, I bolted to pick up a Size N jersey when my first son, Antonio was born. “Look, he’s officially my child. He’s branded now,” I thought to myself. The fact that it was a Tim Tebow jersey made the moment that much more sadly fitting.

Over the next several years, he was given a Jets helmet, blanket, t-shirt, not all by me, but I certainly didn’t resist the continuation of the branding process. Then, this season started, and it became clear to me pretty quickly that my son was ready to be molded into a fan. When I turned on the Jets-Bills game last Sunday at 1:00, he joined me on the couch, and he seemed legitimately interested in the game, at least for a while. He predicted Jets to win 20-17 over our inter-conference foe. I was fairly sure he was wrong, but his clueless optimism was actually quite refreshing. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Any football fan knows the Jets’ season has been a complete and utter disaster, from top to bottom. And I’m one of those fans who lets it get to him. Moping around, grimacing, refusing eye contact. It’s utterly exhausting, and equally embarrassing. I’m a grown man who actually allows the outcome of a sporting event affect my mood.

As expected, the Jets lost, and lost big, their record falling to a dismal 1-7. If you don’t believe me, ask Mike Francesa. I sat there, despondent, silent. Antonio asked if the Jets lost, and I told him they did. Then, I saw something that made me feel physically ill. He slumped down in his seat and grunted, “Oh maaaaaan.” He was noticeably disappointed. Most people say that he resembles my wife, but in that moment, he looked more like me than he ever had before. And it made me sad. Very sad.

“Come here, honey.” I said to him. “It’s okay if you like to watch football with daddy. And it’s okay if you don’t. But one thing I need you to know is that we shouldn’t let a silly game make us sad. Daddy won’t do that anymore, and neither should you.” He nodded solemnly, I turned off the television, and we preceded to play “store” with his cash register.

I made two mistakes here. For one, I unabashedly thrust my own personal interests on my son, hoping he’d develop an interest and football would be something we could bond over in the coming years. Secondly, I showed him with my actions that the outcome of a game can and should affect you personally. I tried my best to quell that assumption, but we’ll see if he listens.

Later that night, when the subject of football came up once more, as much as it pained me to let go of the dream of sharing a fandom with my son, I encouraged him to find his own team (assuming he continued to have interest in the game), and that it could be whichever team he wants. He chose the Pittsburgh Steelers. While I’m not thrilled it’s an AFC team, at least it’s not the Patriots. That would break my heart. But what would break my heart the most is if I condemned my son to the same miserable, hapless allegiance that I’ve fruitlessly clung to all these years.

So, if you have a hobby or interest you’d like your child to get involved with, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with introducing them to it, as long as the downside doesn’t outweigh the good. And they don’t turn out to be bitter Jets fans.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to contact me at jdeprospero@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

Image: Football photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Are You Ever Truly “Done” with Your Job as a Parent?

Friday, September 12th, 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.

I was asked this question during a recent interview about my work as a writer and father. I sat silently and fidgeted with my pen as I searched for some poignant, poetic line to say. “Use an analogy. No, no, a movie quote!” I thought to myself. But still, nothing came to mind. Then, it came to me. And very much like the time I was searching for my eyeglasses while they were on my face, the answer was right in front of me.

“I anticipate that my job as dad will be done when I’ve breathed my final breath,” I said with a devilish grin. The more I thought about it, the more it became obvious.

There’s a piece of dialogue from the 1989 comedy “Look Who’s Talking” where the George Segal character claims he isn’t interested in being a father to his child with the Kirstie Alley character because he was past that phase of his life and had already “raised his kids.” To which the Kirstie Alley character replies, “Raised them? They’re 11 and 9! Don’t tell me they’ve moved out and gotten jobs!” And it fits right in with what we’re talking about today. At some point, at any point in your parenthood, will you feel like you’ve completed your mission? Will you feel like you can label the job as “complete?” I’m anticipating the answer is no, and here’s why.

When your child is a newborn, your job as a parent is to feed them, clothe them, put a roof over their heads, and provide care for them 24 hours a day. That’s the part of the job that’s the most physically demanding, but also often the least complex.

When your child is a toddler, your job is to teach them the basic differentiators between right and wrong, encourage them to start using a toilet instead of their diaper. You also are tasked with ensuring anything remotely dangerous is out of their reach, and assuming one is needed, scout out the appropriate daycare center. Oh, and also to feed them, clothe them, and put a roof over their head.

When your child has reached school age, your job is to guide them through their homework (without helping too much), teach them the importance of socializing and forming bonds with friends, without letting that socialization distract them from their work. This is also the time you are tasked heavily with refereeing their language, choice of entertainment, and the clothes they venture into the world with. And of course, you’re still responsible for every drop of liquid, every bite of food that goes into their mouth. Oh, and the roof over their head. Can’t forget that.

When your child is a teenager, he isn’t a child anymore, and he starts to make some of his own decisions, for better or worse. He likely will start to firmly believe that he has all the answers to life’s questions. It’s your job to either tell him the real answers, guide them to find the answer on their own, or simply allow them to fail and learn from their mistake. He will probably begin venturing into the dating world and start forming actual opinions. They may not believe it, but your role in their life is perhaps more vital now than it ever will be. And of course, there’s the food, clothes and roof.

When they become full-fledged adults, there’s debate on whether or not the parents are still “on the hook” for raising them. I may feel differently when my children are grown, but I believe your job as a teacher, nurturer, and friend goes on. And I know this because I still look to my father for advice. To me, he remains the unimpeachable, larger-than-life entity he was when I was six. I still seek him out to discuss health insurance, career decisions, family history, etc. I will always be his boy,  he will always be my protector, and I will always sit atop his proverbial shoulders.

That said, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to say the words, “I’ve done a good job as a father.” I might be able to say, “I’m doing a good job,” or “I’m on the right track.” But as a parent, my job remains perpetually unfinished, with that check box in the complete column happily and appropriately untouched.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Please add your comment below! Or follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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Image: “Son-set” photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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How My Friend Rallied Against the Empire State Building for His Cancer-Stricken Daughter

Wednesday, August 20th, 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.

Most of us, we bring a Barbie doll or a baseball glove home to our kids and we feel like a hero. But I have a friend who puts us all (or at least me) to shame.

In an article I wrote last December, I talk about my friend Matt Kabel and how he and his wife, Nicole, weren’t letting their daughter Sally’s rare form of cancer, known as Infant Mixed Lineage (MLL) ALL Leukemia, spoil Christmas for their family (and specifically for their two sons). Matt and Nicole threw on festive music, dressed up as elves, and did just about everything within their power to create an environment in line with the Christmases they grew up celebrating. And they did it all with smiles on their faces.

However, we’re now in summer’s third trimester, and a new wrinkle has surfaced in the Kabel family’s fight against cancer. Matt became aware that several friends and organizations had formal requests denied to have the Empire State Building “go gold for pediatric cancer.” Going about it another way, Matt posted to the ESB’s Facebook page, politely and respectfully appealing to have them reconsider. His posts, along with Sally’s photos, were promptly deleted, as were other posts made by fellow parents of children with Leukemia. This lit a fire within a community already well versed in fighting for what they love.

“Before this, the Empire State Building was my favorite skyscraper, anywhere,” Matt told me. “It has been a symbol to our family that, when we travel away, is a sign that we have returned home when it pops into view. Now, when I see it, my heart sinks, almost like finding out an athlete you admire is a fraud.”

Refusing to be cast aside, Matt swiftly maneuvered within his social network to capture the attention of Fox News, which quickly ran a story about the injustice. But it didn’t end there.

The story was picked up by the New York Daily News.

And The Huffington Post.

Sally’s mom, Nicole, was interviewed by CBS and a strong flock of supporters showed up on The Today Show.

Famous rapper Tyga made a public plea to ESB to go gold.

This store in Brooklyn showed their support for the cause with this roadside sign…

And to offset ESB’s refusal to illuminate in gold, Coney Island agreed to do just that.

But despite the overwhelming support and iron-clad case that ESB should show the same support for pediatric cancer that they have for the Democratic National Convention, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and meaningless sports playoff wins, the group that manages the famous structure’s calendar claims (via a recent statement) that there are simply too many different forms of cancer to accommodate all lighting requests, defending their stance by insisting that, by lighting up for “World Cancer Day,” they have effectively covered all forms of the disease. But I believe parents of kids with pediatric cancer would concur that with children, it’s wholeheartedly different. It just is. And if the Empire State Building wants to stand above us as the true “Heart of New York City,” the people in charge of it would have a heart. And pay the same attention to seriously ill children that it has to fictional, nun chuck-wielding turtles and men who throw balls for a living.

What I find saddest about this situation (aside from the sick children themselves) is the fact that the Empire State Building, an inanimate object loved by many, will now forever be viewed in a different light — pardon the pun. The structure itself has done nothing wrong. Yet, as Matt stated, he will never look at the building with the same reverence and awe that he once did. And frankly, that’s a shame. But what isn’t a shame, what isn’t sad at all is that Matt and Nicole (and so many parents like them) are serving as a powerful example of the lengths a parent will go to in order to defend the honor of their child. There is no cash award, no medal to hang around their necks should they succeed. Just the knowledge that their baby girl is being rightfully acknowledged, and that there is compassion in a world too often tainted by injustice. I truly hope that the Empire State Building comes around. And if they don’t, I hope the Kabels and other families dealing with pediatric cancer know that they are loved and supported by many and are not alone in their fight.

Me and my favorite skyscraper, Matt

For more information on the Kabels’ vs. the ESB, check out their Facebook page.

And to become a part of the Sweet Sally Sunshine community and to receive poignant analysis and updates on Sally’s condition, visit her Facebook page.

* Empire State Building photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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The “Five Ps” of Restaurant Dining with Small Children

Monday, August 11th, 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.

 

It’s possible, I assure you. Like finding a perfectly symmetrical, scar-less pumpkin the day before Halloween, or an ESPN article that doesn’t mention Johnny Manziel or LeBron James, having a successful, painless dinner at a restaurant with your kids could happen. Clearly, it doesn’t always happen but it’s attainable. Being honest, it happens about as frequently as a flawless pumpkin or a LeBron-less ESPN tweet. If you have any children (or follow ESPN on social media), you know exactly what I mean.

If you have older children, you’ve already been through “the dining experience” more times than you could likely count. But if you’re a newer parent with children aged 2-3, here are some tips I’ve found most useful when attempting to eat a meal without losing my mind or getting banned by the owner. I call them “The 5 Ps.”

Preparedness

The biggest mistake any parent can make when taking their small children out in public (especially to a restaurant) is not being able to come correct. By this, I mean you should have prepared diapers (if needed), a backup outfit, and the most crucial item: the entertainment. A coloring book, a doll, or an Etch-a-Sketch — anything that will occupy your child’s mind and deter him from destruction. If you’re counting on the restaurant to supply the crayons, it’s a risky bet as you’ll often be left, quite literally, empty-handed.

Punctuality

Whoever coined the phrase “time is of the essence” was clearly either a parent of young kids or a war general (or both). Because being tactical with your time is most important when leading troops into battle or feeding your children. And frankly, both acts can feel quite similar. In short, don’t bring your children out to a late dinner. Early on in my parenthood, I made the monumental mistake of arriving at a restaurant at a time we would normally eat dinner, forgetting that we’d need to be given a table, then order and wait for our food. And the place didn’t have crayons! Bottom line is: get to the restaurant at least half an hour before the time you actually plan to eat.

Portion Control

This is the trickiest maneuver to pull off successfully. Mostly because it depends on your child’s appetite and demeanor at the exact second you sit down to eat on a particular night. Has she not eaten a morsel since lunch? Has she eaten a granola bar as recently as half an hour ago? Is she being an irritable little jerk? These are all questions you have to ask yourself when ordering your meals. If your child looks like she can hold out to eat, give her a toy/book to play with first, have your meals come out together, and then eat at the same time. If your kid looks like a character from Dawn of the Dead, give her something small to eat to hold her over or have her food come out first.

Patience

A necessary virtue in any aspect of parenting, but yours will truly be tested when you’re surrounded by angry, unsympathetic patrons who are simply looking for a peaceful night out at Fuddruckers. Your child is undoubtedly going to do something to annoy them (and you). Take a breath, gather yourself, and try your absolute best not to lose it. Having patience doesn’t mean allowing your 2-year-old to knock down his juice cup on his little sister without consequence. It just means you can’t fly off the handle because two peas fell on the floor. Pick your battles. This leads right into the fifth and final P…

Poise

Goes hand in hand with patience. You can’t really have one without the other. Poise is the difference between flipping the table over and storming out the front door like Teresa Giudice vs. calmly carrying your unruly kid to a neutral zone and coolly, yet forcefully, threatening the disposal of the entire collection of whatever they love. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve lost it many, many times with my children in public. But I’ve found that, aside from the release of letting off steam, losing my cool only yields negative results. However, staying poised amidst chaos is a virtue worth its weight in gold, and it will make you the envy of every parent around you  who are slamming their fists on the table in disgust.

 

I know what you’re thinking: But Joe, I have definitely tried all of these tips and I still want to smash my face into a wall every time I set foot in an Outback. Trust me, I understand. It’s not an exact science. And like anything related to your kids, there is no handbook/guide that guarantees a disaster-less night. But if you think ahead, come correct, and maintain whatever composure you have left, there’s actually an outside chance you could (gasp) enjoy a meal with your kids. Just maybe.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to post a comment below or read more of my ramblings here.

Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners

 

Image: Restaurant table photo via Shutterstock.com

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The Great Outdoors: Is There An App For That?

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.

How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity

Image: Family playing on green grass in spring park via Shutterstock.com

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