Are We Still Searching for a Better Father?

There’s was an obvious level of terror when Melissa and I packed our entire lives into box to move to Idaho. I had been out for a short visit, and all she had to go on was a few pictures and my very detailed description of, “It’s pretty!”

Recently I discovered that another gentleman (that seems way too pompous, but I’m gonna allow it), somewhere in Idaho, has been blogging about his experiences here in the “Gem State.” While he doesn’t seem to be a dad, he often talks about things that speak to me in different ways. Like me, he moved from a much larger city to the slow paced life somewhere in what I assume is the Boise area. Also like me, he seems to be struggling to adapt to certain aspects of being in an area that can feel out of touch with the rest of the world.

Truthfully, some of what he talks about on his website is just untrue. Sadly though, it’s easy to convince people that life in Idaho is some form of black and white cartoon centered around a potato. People in Idaho know what the internet is, and I even saw our Governor take what I’m certain was an iPhone out of his straw hat, check the time, and put it in his overalls. Life here is not all that different from them big fancy cities.

One thing does tend to irritate me about many of the people here – sometimes I feel unwelcome. While I find the idea that Idaho needs to “catch up” with the rest of the world to be a little short-sighted, the very concept of a stay-at-home dad is still perplexing to some people in this state. I think much of it comes from religious points of view. The idea that the woman’s role is in the household, but there has to be more to it than that.

It doesn’t really bother me that people around here find it a little odd that I’m the one at home with the kids. What bothers me is their need to bring attention to it. As a man in an area that does not seem to understand that fathers are also parents, it’s hard to find the balance between being offended by people who seem to look down on fatherhood, and not caring at all what they think. It’s not okay that people ask Melissa why she is not the one at home. It’s not okay that people ask me if I’m having a “day off with the kids” and then give me the most confused look when I explain that I’m a stay-at-home dad. I wish that confusion was limited to this state.

I don’t feel a big connection to many of the dad bloggers I’ve come across, but that has a lot to do with me not trying that hard to make the connections. Still, I’ve come across some great sites and done a lot of reading and one thing I’ve seen discussed a lot is that  dads are too often forgotten in the parenting world. There are still people who want to perpetuate the idea that fathers can’t be every bit as involved in the lives of their children as mothers. There are still people out there who feel like something must be wrong with Melissa and I because our “roles” are not reversed. There seems to be a nation-wide level of complacency to commercials, clothing, greeting cards, movies, TV shows, and more, all portraying dads as not only less important than mothers to kids, but fundamentally stupid when it comes to our children. We are supposed to be good with a hammer, not a hug. Good with a lawn mower, but not a frying pan. This has sadly become a common ideal in the minds of many people, and I really have to thank the amazing group of dad bloggers who have pushed issues of unbalanced views of fatherhood into the light. People are way too passive about underselling the role of a father.

See, there’s not much poking fun at moms going around. That’s a good thing, but I do think it’s time for people to stop pretending that dads are some sort of mute sidekick when it comes to parenting. Great fathers are everywhere, and I think most people are aware of that. So I’m confused at the companies who make efforts to pretend otherwise. What more can fathers do to stop the negative image for the people come up with this crap? How is it that with many great figures of fatherhood around, people are still searching for a better father?

Fun little exercise, open up your eyes a little wider when shopping, watching TV, or even reading parenting materials. It becomes surprising how many commercials paint a picture of the lost dad who needs mom to save the day. You’ll hear things like, “dad-proof” or “mother approved.” You’ll read that “even dad can get involved with this!” or “you’ll be surprised to know that there are things we can learn from dad!” or “it’s okay to let dad push the stroller even though he doesn’t understand how to dress your child.” Let’s not forget the amazing “parenting” books that have a “special chapter just for dad.” It’s quite sad, as a father, to need to defend your commitment to your children to faceless corporations and strangers who have turned fatherhood into a joke. A big thank you to the dads and  parenting blogs out there, fighting for our real place in the lives of our children.

Not every dad is perfect, but that applies to moms as well. Sorry world, but there’s a lot of great dads around. Our bad.

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The enemy of my enemy is I hate the ocean.

If the only thing we have to fear is, fear itself, it stands to reason that the majority of the things the average person is afraid of…is irrational.

I recently watched a show that went into the statistical analysis of how likely you are to die in a plane crash as opposed to a car crash. Despite overwhelming evidence that plane travel is immensely more safe, people who are quite happy to hop in their car every day are afraid of flying. I am one of those people.

There are people who lose it at the sight of a snake or a spider, any bug at all, a mouse or rat. Statistics say the family dog is more likely to kill you than a snake.

The dark is a very big fear for lots of people. As we all know, everything scary happens in the dark.

If something exists, someone else is probably afraid of it. I was gonna say there’s someone out there probably afraid of me, but it dawns on me that they probably aren’t afraid of me so much as being afraid of the fact that I’m left handed….SIDE NOTE TIME!

For centuries religious and cultural practices have deemed left hand users inferior. The word itself is derived from the word lyft, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “weak.” During the times of corporal punishment in schools, teachers would often beat students caught using their left hand. In many third world countries where toilet paper is an issue, the left hand is considered the “unclean hand” since it’s the taught method to use your left hand to clean…yourself….after a nice trip to brown town. It’s said that those who fall out of favor with god stand to his left, which led to a variety of religious based nicknames for various groups…all which included the word “left.” Even today, the concept of forced conversion to becoming right hand dominate, is very common. Which has proven widely unsuccessful and often leads to several developmental issues. People are really stupid.

…anyhow…people are probably also afraid of my red hair, which of course means I have no soul.

Outside of flying, I do have one other fear. The ocean. The ocean and I have had a long term hate-hate relationship. Growing up in Florida, a short drive from several beaches, I certainly had a fair number of visits to the ocean. So over the years, as you might expect, I had some bad moments. When I was very young, I got knocked over by a big (big for a tiny little fella) wave. I didn’t like that very much. On a visit with my Church’s Youth Group, a bunch of us went out pretty far and had the pleasure of meeting a shark. I’ve never swam so fast to shore. I feel Olympic swimmers should compete in a pool that has sharks, to get the best possible times. One time I had my hand cut open by…something…in the water. I don’t even have a clue what it was, and I got probably a 4 inch long slice across my right palm. How’s that for unclean, right handers?

My biggest fear concerning the ocean would certainly be sharks. Maybe it traces back to the time I first saw the Sarlacc in Star Wars, but the idea of being eaten alive just never sat well with me, and experts have found that sharks investigate new things with a bite. Just because the shark may eat me on accident, doesn’t mean I have to be okay with it. It’s difficult, because like anything, I don’t want my hang ups to transfer to William and Carter for no other reason but, “Daddy doesn’t like that.” I don’t want to be the reason they don’t eat veggie burgers, I want them to find out how gross they are all on their own. It’s not very fair to cast judgement on sharks when they really haven’t ever done anything to me at all.

To be honest, I stopped watching at about the 47 second mark. Right when the guy said “Sharks don’t like people. Sharks don’t like to eat people.”

Now I know what he said is true, because he was on a news report, standing by the water. This makes him credible as an expert. Also he forgot to button his left shirt pocket. So obviously he’s got a knack for details.

Well, I am shocked. They don’t like us?! I can be down right delightful. That’s really not cool. We send all these nice people out into their home to place tracking tags on them…We give them things to play with and eat like license plates and hubcaps…We even immortalize them by making movie after movie where they (well CGI versions I guess) are always in a major role. I don’t understand what else people have to do to get on their good side. I’m just gonna say it, sharks are ass holes.

On the other hand, they have to be good parents. I mean, they don’t like to eat people, and yet they do. William never eats his green beans for me. I wonder what kind of reward or punishment system they are using.

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The Most Amazing Six Year Old I Know

Now 32 years old, I’ve become a little jaded to my birthday. I haven’t really “celebrated” my birthday in a long time. I’ve had people come over or go out for dinner, but I avoid much of a fuss. As you’d expect, it was a different story when I was little. I demanded wanted a big show. I wanted lots of people because that meant lots of gifts. I wanted a celebration of me! It’s an important thing to celebrate.

If you have never heard Patton Oswalt’s musings on when you should recognize a person’s birthday, go find clips. In short, he has joked that through your life, there is really a short list of birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. I really like it, partly because it falls into my own mindset of, “I turned 32…so?”

Very much on the list are the young birthdays. Ages 1-10 where you are a little kid growing up. These are ages where you expect to see a kid begging for a party with loads of friends. You expect trips to Chuck E. Cheese, bowling alleys, parks, or even backyards. You might cringe at the idea of what you need to put into the favor bags so that when the kids all see each other at school next, your child hasn’t lost any favor in the eyes of the other kids based on the wrong flavor of lollipop. So certainly for a 6 year old girl, the pressure is on the parents to provide the pony for kids to ride or a slew of princess dresses for a group of little girls to wear for an evening and feel like they are in a Disney movie. For parents Cherie and Shawn Flowers, something very different was requested.

Shawn and Cherie have two kids. Daughter, Mackenzie and son, Brady. Cherie is an amazing photographer and, like any proud mom, loves to take pictures of her kids. These photos tend to make their way across my facebook feed. Which I hate. Let me preface this with, I love my boys and I think they are as adorable as six puppies hugging seven kittens. Additionally I think their little boy is a handsome little fellow, but pictures of Mackenzie are painfully cute. I do not like it, and I do not trust it. As if being cute is not enough for her, Mackenzie decided to also be an astoundingly good person. Not just for a 6 year old, but for anyone.

Imagine what would go through your head if you asked your child what they wanted for their 6th birthday, and they responded with pet food, pet toys, and gift cards to pet stores. I can’t help but think I’d go searching for a mystery pet that our kids had been hiding from us. Incredibly, when Mackenzie asked for these things, she was just being a sweet and giving little girl.

Yes, she had her friends over for a party, and yes, she wore a tiara like any little girl might. What set her apart was that she asked that no one bring her a present. What she wanted was for people to bring items that she could donate to the Humane Society. My favorite part about this story is how people began praising Shawn and Cherie for coming up with a great idea. As if they made the decision to withhold presents from their daughter and put her face on some poster campaign to give donations to an organization. In truth, this was all Mackenzie. Why? She loves the heck out of animals.

I’m happy to praise good parenting all day long, and I know that Shawn and Cherie are great parents.  Still, I think this act of generosity surprised them as much as anyone else. Parents spend an amazing amount of time trying to guide the minds of their children in what they hope is the right direction. I think though, this is a great example of where exceptional parenting meets an exceptional heart. I can’t imagine how proud they must be of their little girl.

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