Monthly Archives: January 2012

Just Eat The Food…

While many of us parents might have different parenting styles, different ways to discipline and different views on education, I think most of us probably share some frustration with one thing – to get our kids to eat. Certainly there’s probably some of you overachievers that have figured out to get your kids to eat the healthiest of foods and to eat good portions each time. Those people can first stop lying and secondly, skip this post. For the rest of us, this is a constant battle.

Let me describe my kids eating habits. My 7-year-old daughter doesn’t have great eating habits. As I’ve mentioned, she has ADHD and takes medication for it, so that impacts her eating habits. For breakfast she like Eggo waffles during the week. On weekends she likes eggs, bacon, pancakes and other decent breakfast food. She eats lunch at school, which is an entirely different post. From what I gather, she doesn’t eat very well at school. Sometimes it’s because the food is nasty (I wouldn’t eat it) and other times I don’t think she is all that hungry. When she gets home she’s usually hungry for some kind of crappy snack (usually something sweet) and then dinner can be a complete toss-up. She is not a lover of many proteins. She loves carbs with a passion – pasta, bread and the like. The only meat she eats are chicken usually. To get her to eat anything other than that can be a complete struggle.

What a surprise, chicken strips again.

My son, on the other hand, is a meat lover. He eats some carbs, but much prefers meats. For breakfast he will usually have Cheerios on weekdays, but the same breakfasts on the weekends. I don’t even know what he has for lunch at school because I don’t get to see the menu, but undoubtedly he eats well. For dinner, he is far easier to please. He will eat almost any meat I put in front of him. The only thing he really hates is mac and cheese, go figure.

So as a parent I face two different struggles. With my daughter, it has almost always been to get her to actually eat her food. Depending on what’s on her plate, the dinner can go something like this:

Me: Gwyn, eat your meat. (She eats one bite, a bite of bread, talks, fidgets, etc)

Me: Gwynie, can you eat some more food, please? (She eats one more bit, lots more bread, one kernel of corn).

Gwyn: Dad, can I be done?

Me: Gwyn, you need to eat a little more for me, baby. (She eats a half a bite of meat, finishes her bread and one more kernel of corn)

Gwyn: I’m done, daddy.

After a loud sigh I try to convince her to eat a little more which can or can’t be successful. Depending on the day, I might fight the battle or not.

My son eats at the approximate pace of a 92-year-old man. He will eat his food, but is busy pretending to be Luke Skywalker in his mind and will forget that it’s actually time to eat. So by the time Gwyn and I are done eating, he has eaten about six bites and we sit there and wait for him to finish his food. There’s plenty worse problems to have, but it can make the end of some meals tedious as we watch him slowly finish he meal.

What is most troublesome for me as a parent is trying to get the right foods for my kids. To no surprise they like fast food and I take full responsibility for that. Even if I don’t eat it, sometimes we’re so busy I stop at McDonalds or another fast food place just to get them dinner at a reasonable time. And even when we don’t eat at fast food, they’re certainly not one to veer from the typical suburban chain restaurants. Much to my chagrin, they’re chicken strip, french fry eaters at many restaurants. I know I came to like foods like sushi, Thai, guacamole and others when I was an adult – but there has to be a way to move from the chicken strip/pizza mentality. But let’s face it, most of us don’t want to fight that battle when we’re at our neighborhood eatery – we just want to have a nice meal, so we let the kids order their chicken strips.

So how did we come to this? How did kids become such picky eaters? I think many of us, when we were kids were made to eat what was on our plates. I know I was. You ate what was on your plate or there was some kind of discipline. We didn’t waste food. Like most kids, I wasn’t adventurous in eating, but my parents weren’t exactly throwing cuisine from around the globe at me. But I do thank them for introducing seafood and some other dishes that people seem to freak out over. But how is it that I’m celebrating that I managed to get my kids to eat a burrito as some big victory? Why don’t our kids face the same punishment when they don’t eat their meal? I don’t really know the answer. I try to be tough about it, but at the end of the day, I can’t shove food down the kid’s throats. And it’s not always a battle I want to fall on the sword for.

So what’s the answer here? How do we get kids to expand their horizons? Or how do we get them to simply eat a meal? How do we get a fast meal in that’s not fast food? A lot of that is finding creative ways to get healthier food for the kids, some of it is taking small steps to expand their horizons. And I think some of it is giving them one option.

But here’s where I ask what you are doing or what you did with your kids? I’m incredibly interested to know how the other half lives. Are you facing the same problems? Help a dad out. And kids, just eat your food! Pretty please?

Until next time,

Kurt

Breaking Down Mary J Blige’s Mr. Wrong – In Defense Of Good Guys

We’ve already broken down T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock” and we know I’m not listening to enough alternative music to break down any songs there, so after hearing Mary J. Blige’s “Mr. Wrong” it was high time to break down this song.

One of the reasons I felt compelled to break down this song is the fact that I feel like 90 percent of women I have ever dated could probably completely relate to the song. The essence of the song is that she can’t quit her Mr. Wrong, despite all the crap he’s done. Sound familiar? Uh, yeah, I’ve heard this song and dance figuratively about 2 million times. Welcome to the modern woman, folks. But let’s break down this puppy…

The song starts out with a rap verse from Drake (which is a nice change of structure from most R&B songs that feature a rap verse, usually at the end). Drake is playing the Mr. Wrong in this case and is rapping with knowledge that he has done wrong. It starts with “Don’t it seem like, like I’m always there when it matters/But missing most of the other time, a terrible pattern.” A calling card of the jackass boyfriend – he’s there for a key moment or a grand gesture, but where is he on the random Thursday when the lady just needs somebody to watch Grey’s Anatomy with. Yeah, that’s right, I said watch Grey’s Anatomy with the lady – does that make you uncomfortable tough guy?

Drake goes on to rap, “And I’m always her regret, yeah, I’m always her regret/And I always make it harder on whoever’s coming next.” The money quote in this whole song. Women can’t help themselves and they always regret going back to their Mr. Wrong – even though they know he’s going to do things that assholes do. And guess who has to deal with the emotional baggage that Mr. Wrong leaves behind? Yeah, yours truly and plenty of other guys with good intentions. Hey douche, thanks for that. I really enjoy the months of wondering how we might break their heart, when really we’re treating them how they’re supposed to be treated.

Drake goes on to acknowledge that he has made Mary cry, but he hopes that she doesn’t hold grudges. And even if she says she does, let’s face it, she’s always got a soft spot for Mr. Wrong.

That moves us into Mary J’s part. She starts off with, “Bad boys aint no good/Good boys aint no fun/Lord knows that I should/Run off with the right one.” So here’s the line that pisses me off the most, “Good boys ain’t no fun.” And I am pretty positive this is a pervasive attitude for a huge majority of women. And let’s be honest with ourselves here, lots of good guys are pussies. Sorry if the word offends you, but let’s call a spade a spade. Or even if they aren’t one, women certainly perceive them as one. Perhaps it’s because the Mr. Wrong’s good parts include being mysterious, taking what they want, etc. Good guys don’t always do this – me included. But here’s the thing – don’t confuse kindness for weakness. There’s a distinction between treating a woman right and being a pussy.

Mary eventually moves on to say that even her family is telling her she’s an idiot. “My family’s screaming at me don’t do it/Don’t do it Mary/I guess they never had none.” First, don’t be a jerk to your family Mary. They’re trying to help you. I’m guessing they’ve also had some Mr. Wrong’s in their lives and they are trying to save you the heartache. Why, when presented with an overwhelming mountain of evidence on why their guy is a jackass, do some women blindly go back into a situation where they’re going to get hurt? I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

Don't do it, Mary!

But maybe we get to the heart of the matter when Mary sings, “When he put that loving on me, I can’t think of nothing/That’ll make me walk out/I’m holding on/I love my Mr Wrong.” So basically, he’s good in the sack. And if we’re being adults here, it’s obvious these are why these Mr. Wrong’s last for so long. A lot of them are probably good lovers. But here’s the question, why can’t good guys have that same kind of fire. I’d argue that in this case, perhaps us good guys need to have some Mr. Wrong in the bedroom sometimes. Not all the time, but certainly some of the time. But there’s also some things good guys do that we need to continue doing. Attending to a woman’s needs is never a bad thing.

“Even if I try, no, I never could/Give him up cause his loves like that/Aint no way that I’m moving on/I love my Mr Wrong” is the way the chorus and song ends. There we have it, Mary J isn’t giving up on Mr. Right. Will that last? Not a chance. Is this time when we just say, “Well, Mary, you’re an idiot. But this is the bed you made, have fun sleeping in it.” Sometimes you just have to let someone make their own bad moves if they don’t listen to reason.

So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me and others trying to carry the torch for the good guys. I’ve said it to women I’ve tried to date, I’m not really dangerous and/or controversial. The most controversial thing about me is my atheism. But I like to think I’m thoughtful, caring, attentive and good-hearted (but certainly nowhere close to perfect). Am I sensitive sometimes? Sure. Am I weak? Hell no. I do find if funny that many women who go for greener pastures in thinking that they want more Mr. Wrong tend to come back wishing they had appreciated what they had with their good guy. At least in my experience.

As a good friend once said, “You don’t need to be an asshole, but you can take come pages from the asshole playbook.” That’s a great lesson. Us good guys are smart enough to know we can learn from some of what draws women to Mr. Wrongs, at least any good guy with his salt is. But we’re not going give up our core values in this matter. So good guys are no fun, Mary? I know I hate being treated well, having someone think about my needs and go out of their way to make me happy. Being happy is no fun at all, is it?

Who knows how many good guys are out there? Are there still a large contingent of good guys out there or is the world actually dominated by Mr. Wrongs? Maybe we’re a dying breed, but dammit, we’re worth it!

Until next time,

Kurt

Hey Kid, You’re Not That Special

There’s an article in the Washington Post that talks about an overwhelming amount of research and stories about how the positive self-esteem, hand-holding culture of educating children isn’t working. I highly suggest going to read the article yourself, but I want to take a look at some of what’s talked about in the article.

I think our parents or our grandparents have probably told us a few times of how easy kids have it nowadays or even how easy we had it (for those 40 or younger). They didn’t have teachers always there patting our backs, telling us we get an “A for effort” or didn’t give them the answers to fix the problem. We’ve probably heard they walked uphill both ways, in the snow, to school. And it made them tougher. As much as we’ve laughed that off – they may have been on the right path.

We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.” Dweck’s studies, embraced in Montgomery schools and elsewhere, have found that praising children for intelligence — “You’re so clever!” — also backfires. In study after study, children rewarded for being smart become more likely to shy away from hard assignments that might tarnish their star reputations.

There’s two main points here. First, building kids up with praise and telling them they’re great isn’t the answer. What they’re saying is you can’t just tell a kid they’re great, smart, clever and expect them to get past that problem, figure out a tricky social issue or win that game. Secondly, we may have rewarded some children for having the answers come more naturally to them instead of urging them to show us how they got their answer or pushing them to new, more-challenging problems.

Do it yourself, kid!

But children praised for trying hard or taking risks tend to enjoy challenges and find greater success. Children also perform better in the long-term when they believe that their intellect is not a birthright but something that grows and develops as they learn new things.

So instead of offering encouragement for getting the right answer, we should offer praise and/or rewards for those kids who push through a difficult task or problem or children who choose to take the more difficult task. And when you think about that, it makes a ton of sense. When you accomplish a difficult task at work or home, don’t you feel really good about it? And most of the time it gives you the confidence you can take on something like that again.

The second part of the above quote from the story is something that I think is far more of an American problem. I think we’re brought up that having a strong intellect is something we’re entitled to, not something we have to work for. Even if we’re talking about people who finish high school and go to college, I think many people think by simply being there, they are entitled to have a strong intellect. In reality, it could be elementary school, high school, trade school or college, but you have to actually learn and you actually have to work through problems.

“We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things,” Rhee said.

So, I can see this with my daughter. Her cheerleading team won the first competition they were ever in and suffice it to say the entire team’s confidence is sky-high. Not to say that her cheerleading team isn’t good, but as a parent I have seen her get medal and trophies just for participating. I remember getting medals or trophies for participating. Does this make us give praise or rewards when our children aren’t actually good or improving? I worry that it can.

Cheerleading gives another perfect example of this. For the cheerleading team, there were two portions of the contest – a cheer and dance. The coach of my daughter’s team decided to forego the dance and instead focused on the cheer. Why this decision was made is still unclear, but in part, the girls were having trouble learning the dance at the beginning and I have a feeling the coaches scrapped it to focus on the cheer. Despite the team winning, I was disappointed the girls didn’t get to learn a dance. She’s in second grade. I would much rather her go through the struggles of learning a new routine and working on her coordination than on focusing on something her team can win.

Dweck said it is important to be clear with children about what proficient or gold-medal performance looks like so they know what to strive for. (Unhelpful: “You were robbed! Those judges must be blind!”)

The article talks about the fact that there are winners and losers in the real world. There are orders of finish. You either win the game or you don’t. You either score that business pitch or you don’t. These are facts of life. As parents, it’s easy for us to want to come to the protection of our kids. We may want to blame the refs for a bad call or say that the teacher didn’t approach a lesson the right way, instead of focusing on the things that our kids can do to be better next time. It’s really hard to do, but the evidence is showing it will make our kids better.

Here’s the rub though – how do we get people to buy into this as a society? These things take buy-in from parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, etc. And this doesn’t mean we have to be jerks to our kids. It means we have to let them fight their own battles. We need to show them the direction, but ultimately they’re going to have to figure it out for themselves. Remember the first time you rode your bike? Remember how glorious that feeling was. Your mom or dad may have given you the push, but you were the one that ultimately had to find balance and peddle. The same thing goes here, as parents we can give the push and we can start them on the path, show them examples and encourage them to stay the course, but we can’t do it for them. Sometimes they’re going to fail. But many times that’s where the biggest teaching moments come from.

My kid is great, and I’m sure yours is, too. We just need to let them figure out they’re great on their own – by letting them learn how much they have inside of them.

Until next time,

Kurt

Guest Post: Open Letter to My Children’s Future Stepmother

When my ex, Renee Kloeblen, did her first guest blog I got plenty of good response. So she wrote another one and will probably be a regular contributor. There will be more guest bloggers in the coming weeks and months, too. This one is interesting, it’s an open letter to the future Mrs. Kloeblen. But this probably is something similar many parents feel as they watch a new man/woman come into their ex’s life and become part of their children’s lives. Enough of my writing, here’s her post:


Not that I have met you, or know who you are, but I will. We will have two specific things in common: One, we will have married the same man. Two, we will both be the female figure in my children’s lives. This is not something that I take with a grain of salt. In fact, it’s probably the hardest thing I will have to share in my life. So here are a few things I would like to put out there to you before that time comes. As by now you will have known that I have two of the most precious lives ever created, of course, I am biased. I would only want what is absolutely the best for them. So I am positive, since their father feels that you are best, that I can trust that to be true. That being said, there are a few things I would like to say and share with you, woman to woman. Please be patient with me because I am new to this sharing thing. I am sharing a few things, one of my best friends, my ex-husband, and my two most precious things I have on this earth.

I promise that I will be respectful, but I can’t promise I won’t get my feelings hurt. I promise to be patient and kind. I promise to allow you to build a relationship with my children, but I can not promise I won’t feel jealous. I promise to be a united front and to back up your parenting decisions, but I can’t promise I won’t share my opinion in private. I promise to stand by when there is a tender moment for you to share with them, but I can’t promise I won’t envy. I promise to never speak ill of you to them, I expect the same. I can promise that it will take every bit of me to make it through this journey, but I promise we will make it together.

I have just a few things to ask of you, because after all these tender and precious souls will be in your hands at times. Promise me to always give Keegan hugs when his feelings are hurt. Wipe Gwynivere’s tears when that friend said something she didn’t like. Promise to play often and tuck them in. Read a story, or a thousand. Laugh with them, and always let them know you care. Let them know you love their father, but allow them their time. I am not asking you to love them, but I hope you will. (What’s not to?) I am asking you to have patience with them as often as you can. Be stern with them when you are enforcing rules, but kind. There is going to be poop, vomit, and pee, and I know you will do great! Have fun, dance, and ask me questions anytime. It’s going to take all of their parents to make their life a success. Be biased with me, help them win the race, share your stories of learning and call me whenever you need help. I don’t expect you to be perfect, and I know there will be mistakes. But together, there is no way we can go wrong if we care committed to them. And MOST of all don’t break their heart.

With Love,
Renee

I think that’s well said. I think those of us with kids want that from another person coming into our kids lives. Thanks again to Renee for her post. A reminder that you can find her on Twitter, @Ms_Nene.

Until next time,

Kurt

Tagged , , ,

How Did These 6 Things Become Fashion Trends?

I am a lover of sociology and studying how and why things happen in our society. To me, it’s fascinating to watch people’s behaviors and how those shape what we do, what we buy and generally what we consume and do. One of the things that’s always fascinated me is how trends become trends. Sometimes trends can boggle the mind with how odd they are and sometimes they can just seem so simple, you wonder why it took them so long to catch on. Let’s break down a few trends:

Punch women and be trendy!

1. Snapbacks: So if you remember for many years most baseball hats had snaps in the back. This was how hats worked for much of the 1970s through the mid 1990s. But then we had the proliferation of fitted baseball hats. These were worn in a number of ways: backwards, cocked to the side, sideways and any which way. Then we went to the flat-brimmed hat for a number of years, basically until Bieber pushed it over the edge. So then some in the hip-hop community must have seen the fitted flat-bill going to malls in middle America and had to do something new. So in comes the snapback. Now,these trends start in the underground scene way before they hit the mainstream. But to go with the more hipster hip-hop trend, snapbacks are back everywhere. Nevermind the fact that a year ago you could have bought a lot of old Charlotte Hornets snapbacks for about 20 cents each, now they’re what kids MUST have. Here’s the thing, snapbacks are quick nostalgia from the early 90s. They’re not exactly flattering or particularly attractive. But they have that cool factor, so throw out what you knew and buy one.

Level of understanding: Very little

 

Toot it and boot it

2. Women in boots: At least in the circles I travel in, you can’t walk more than a few feet without seeing a woman wearing boots these days. Seriously, the boot industry must be printing money. I don’t pretend to understand the ways of women’s fashion. I can’t even come close to understanding women, let alone their clothing trends. But the modern woman is loving the hell out of their boots. But I actually don’t mind this trend, because women actually look good in boots. Especially in the winter, it adds a nice look to a woman wearing jeans or a skirt. Plus, it often takes high heels out of the picture, which from a guy’s perspective mean less complaining about uncomfortable shoes, and for any guy, that’s great news. So ladies, not mad at your boots at all.

Level of understanding: High

 

I tried so hard for this look.

3. Skinny jeans: This has been a hallmark of the hipster trend, one of my least favorite trends of all time. The skinny jeans has really crossed a number of groups. Hipsters, hip-hop, bands of all kinds and their fans, most women, kids. Skinny jeans have kind of always been around in some capacity as many people liked their jeans tight, even if they weren’t designed that way. And women have always worn their jeans tight, thankfully. But with male bands an other hipster types adopting the style, then everyone else caught on. So now we see skinny jeans pretty much everywhere, much to my chagrin. Listen, I think women look sexy in skinny jeans, but even then, some women just can’t wear them that well. On the other hand, no men look good in them. Means jeans should give men a little room to breathe and leave something to the imagination. It just looks cleaner. Maybe I’m biased because I would likely make people sick if I had to slip my big butt into skinny jeans. Heck, I hate if my jeans even get a little too tight. I have big thighs, what can I say. I don’t think this trend stays around forever, as I don’t see the hipster trend staying around, to which we can all be thankful for.

Level of understanding: Minimal

 

2012 or 1984?

4. Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses: You know these sunglasses, Tom Cruise made them famous in “Risky Business” and they were a staple for much of the 1980s. Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you realize these have made a full-fledged comeback. It’s funny, now that I look at these, many of them seem to come from the hipster trends. I am guessing this started with someone finding an old pair in a vintage store somewhere, a few other people saw it and liked it and on from there. Now, this trend isn’t too far out there, they are a fairly classic look, the glasses are pretty straight forward. However, this trend has also pushed into regular eye glasses, with the big, Elvis Costello-style frames now popular among many people. Here’s the thing, you only have so many styles of glasses or sunglasses to rock, so I can’t really expect old trends not to come back. For instance, I look like an idiot in Wayfarers. It just doesn’t work for me, although it is fun to pretend that I’m staring next to Phoebe Cates in an 80s movie. How long this one stays around is unsure. These disappeared once, but I don’t know how long these have.

Level of understanding: Medium

 

Acceptable as pants?

5. Leggings: In yet another trend that was once popular and is back again, leggings on women are just about as ubiquitous as boots now. Leggings come in just about every color, although black tends to win out a large majority of the time. The issue with leggings seems to be if they are considered pants or not. A female coworker told me in no uncertain terms, “leggings are NOT pants.” However, I think plenty of women do wear them with pants (and many times will wear boots, too). Now, as a warm-blooded man, I don’t have much of a problem with leggings. Let’s be honest here, many women’s legs and butts look quite nice in leggings. Others simply do not. This is not to say a woman has to be thin to wear leggings, but you have to know how your legs look in them. In my opinion, leggings look good on a variety of women, just not every woman. And I get why they made a comeback, I mean how easy it for a woman to throw on some leggings? Then you can dress it up or down as the situation dictates. And one more thing, if you are wearing leggings as pants ladies, please understand that it’s very difficult for guys not to look at your butt. Just saying.

Level of understanding: High

 

Awkward!

6. The Hitler Youth haircut: Nothing says hey I’m on the hip side of the world than a haircut that mimics that of a Hitler youth. Somehow this has become a trend. To nobody’s surprise, we can again blame hipsters (and the lead singer of Arcade Fire) for this god awful trend. What is attractive about this trend? In some ways it has to be trying to be ironic, but don’t you think of the idea and then chuckle to yourself that it’s not a great idea. As this New York Times article says, the haircut was around before Hitler, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with wearing it without some odd looks. Listen, could someone wear a Hitler mustache, but that doesn’t mean you wont me mocked (see Michael Jordan). Sure it has a European look to it, but that doesn’t erase the stigma. And it makes guys look angry. Not a great look.

Level of understanding: Low

What I find curious is how all of these become trends. I wish I knew the first person to make these trends start. Was it at an ad agency, was it some creative guy in SoHo or San Francisco or Berlin? Or is it dumb luck that someone buys old snapbacks out of simple necessity and someone else thinks its cool? Who knows. I’m fascinated by how these things happen. If you happen to be a part of these trends, please take no offense, I am just fascinated by how these things happen.

Until next time,

Kurt

And Then There Are Great Days…

So, my 7-year-old daughter has ADHD. Her mother and I have been pretty open about it and it has been an ongoing struggle as parents to try and get her the education she needs while trying to deal with her ADHD. My daughter’s mother has ADHD, but wasn’t really diagnosed with it until adulthood. But now my daughter has many of the same traits.

Some of the issues in dealing with a child with ADHD are:

  • A lack of focus. They simply have trouble focusing on one task at a time. This can be a very difficult one to deal with, because as a parent you want your kids to be independent and do things for themselves as they grow older. However, the ADHD forces parents to constantly monitor what’s going on.
  • Trouble with friendships. Because my daughter has some trouble focusing, she often doesn’t stay doing one task with a friend for a long period of time. So when a friend wants to play a game or color or do a certain thing, my daughter often wants to move on to something else, leaving another friend wondering why she won’t stop to finish playing with them.
  • Trouble with school. One of the hardest parts of ADHD has been trying to get my daughter to excel in school. She is on medication and that seems to help, but her teacher’s know it’s going to be some work to get our daughter to succeed in their class. Her intelligence is there, it’s just getting her through her tasks.

Victory!

We seem to have gotten Gwyn’s medication to a good point and after a rough start to her year she seemed to really turn a corner and was doing better in class, able to pay more attention and focus in on what she needed to do. It’s still work, but it was getting better.

So when I got a call from my ex about my daughter’s report card, I was interested to see how things were going. It was with great joy that I got the news that it was Gwyn’s best report card ever. Her teacher had hand-delivered it to my ex because he was so happy. My daughter had more than doubled her reading speed and her comprehension was excellent. Her grades were all good, but the best part was a note that said my daughter’s study habits and work effort were excellent.

To call me a proud parent would be the understatement of the year. Beaming would be the best way to describe me. As a parent, you want nothing but the best for your kids and you hope they catch on to lessons from parents and teachers and to see that some of this is working – it’s incredibly rewarding. It brought me to tears sitting in my cubicle at work. These are the victories in life that keep you going, that make the homework and encouragement and the struggles all worth it.

While this is just one point in my daughter’s journey and my journey as a parent – it is a sign that something is going right. When you’re in the middle of your weekly routine, it can be easy to wonder if anything is going right. But it is. My daughter isn’t perfect and still has much work to do, but she’s getting it. She’s making strides. As a father, what more can I ask? She’s already made me incredibly proud and I can’t wait to see what direction her life takes her.

Until next time,

Kurt

 

Guest Post: Sex, Drugs, and Social Media – Will You Talk To Your Kids About Facebook?

In the newest guest post, my coworker and friend Sean Nicholson is weighing in on modern parenting – which should probably include conversations about what kids are doing with social media. You can find Sean on Twitter @socmedsean and you can read his incredibly informative blog. I think you’ll really enjoy his take – he’s a father of two kids of his own.

I admit it…when I was in high school, I was a total metalhead…and so was my mom.

It was kind of strange growing up with a mom who listened to AC/DC, the Scorpions, and M­ötley Crüe and there were some awkward explanations to my friends about why she often wore a black Van Halen 1984 tour t-shirt. But any downsides to having a rock ‘n’ roll mom were usually made up for by the fact that she not only listened to the music, but also seemed to understand it. Which helped her understand me a little better.

Hail! Hail! Rock And Roll!

During my teen years, the big issues facing parents were the topics of “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. Most parents seemed to (somewhat) understand how to have the sex and drugs conversations with their teens, but rock and roll was an entirely different story.

Photo courtesy of mikecogh via Flickr Creative Commons license

At the time, Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Center were busy trying to blame all of the woes of the 80s and 90s on the “Filthy fifteen” and the bands that produced them. Parents who didn’t listen to rock didn’t have a clue how to talk to their kids about it. So kids were left to their own interpretations of lyrics and the music, which sometimes had negative consequences.

My mom was a little different, though, and she took a slightly different approach. She and I talked a lot about music and lyrics…more so than sex or drugs. Here stances on sex and drugs were pretty straight-forward:

For sex, it was – “Wait, but if you choose to…use protection.”

For drugs, it was – “Do them at your own risk. Your brain is yours to waste, but I won’t bail you out of jail for drug charges.”

Her stance on rock and roll was a bit more complex: “listen closely, enjoy it, understand it, learn from it. If you don’t understand it, let’s talk about it.”

So I did. I remember once asking her about the lyrics to AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and we had a pretty good chat about revenge. The fact that she knew the song, knew the lyrics and was able to have the conversation put her in control and helped me better understand not only the music, but a concept that impacts teens every day.

So what does this have to do with social media?

I’m pretty sure that social media has replaced rock and roll as the complex issues facing parents, today. Too often, when I tell other parents that I’m the Director of Social Media for a digital agency, I get a blank stare and a request for clarification of what I do that goes something like “Does that mean you play on Facebook all day?” This is usually followed by  phrases like “I just don’t get that stuff!” or some nonsense like “it’s all about people eating oatmeal!”.

For those that do have some understanding of social media, I still hear things like “my kid spends way to much time on Facebook” or “I’m not sure how we’re going to handle this whole ‘sexting’ thing.” And then they stare politely at me, as though I’m expected to explain it all to them and clarify why their kids love Facebook and how to keep them from sexting.

Photo courtesy of Zawezome via Flickr Creative Commons license

My response in those conversations is generally the same each time. I start with a simple question. “Do your kids know what social media is?” The answer is usually “Of course!” because these are kids that have grown up with Webkins online, Club Penguin, and YouTube.

I then follow with “Do you know what social media is and how to explain to them what is and isn’t appropriate behavior online?” This one gets more challenging responses. Most parents have thought about the conversations that need to be had about online pornography and viewing inappropriate materials. So at least some thought is usually given to the topic.

Finally, I ask “have you had a conversation with your kids about what is and isn’t appropriate online and on their mobile device?”

Believe it or not, the answer is more often than not “No.” The fact that most parents haven’t had a “social media” chat with their kids tells me that:

a) They don’t see social media as an issue that warrants a conversation

b) They don’t understand social media well enough to discuss it

or

c) They recognize that it’s an issue, but don’t know how to address it

So if you have kids who are using the Internet, I ask you…which category do you fall into? Have you had “the talk”? Do you plan on it? If so, how will you approach it?

Don’t let your kids engage in social media alone…it’s a scary world out there on the Web and they’ll need all the guidance they can get.

It might be awkward to have the conversation, but I’m pretty sure it will be less awkward than finding out that they have posted naked photos on the Internet.

Thanks again to Sean for sharing his thoughts on what is going to something that continues to be a big topic in parents lives. 

Until next time,

Kurt

Tagged , , , ,

Dating As Dad

When people get married, their initial hope is that they never have to go through dating again. But as has become all too common, this isn’t how life often turns out. People get divorced and are thrust back out into the dating world again – this time with a whole new set of baggage. That baggage isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different. And it certainly makes dating a little more difficult because there are more aspects of a relationship you have to navigate.

One of the first aspects is that for a prospective woman, you are now a divorcee. That comes with a whole set of thoughts, expectations and concerns for women. They often know that you come with some bitterness towards an ex, some wounds of a relationship that didn’t work and that they might have to compete with a first love or someone that got to the point of marriage before.

I certainly learned my lessons from my marriage. Plenty of what I did wrong. Plenty of stuff I should have never put up with. Plenty of ways I was lazy. Plenty of ways that I could have been more aware of how things were going in the moment. I think those have shaped how I am now that I am dating. I have made efforts to not be lazy, not be complacent and to make who I am with feel appreciated. So far in the two post-split relationships I have had, that wasn’t enough. It’s tough to tell if me being a divorcee was a part of what didn’t work for those women – only they really know, but you can’t help but wonder. It’s not an easy set of baggage to get through.

An almost equal aspect of dating a divorced dad is the father part. Upon entering the dating world again, there are plenty of women who have been divorced and have kids of their own, just as there are dads who have kids. Undoubtedly, the concerns there are entering the picture as a potential stepmother, raising kids that already have two parents, those kids not actually being yours and how that limits time with a potential mate.

You've gotta have hope!

For whatever reason, I haven’t dated any women long-term that had kids. Perhaps this was a mistake. Certainly there are some things that only parents can understand. I can understand that it’s different for a single person without kids to have an open social schedule, but every other weekend I have my kids and I have them some of the days during the week. So in essence, your new girlfriend has to share you with your kids. Not always an easy task.

If things progress well, eventually it comes time of figuring out when to introduce the new woman in your life to your new girlfriend. In the two relationships since I split, I was able to introduce the kids to them – even though that might not have been the best in the end. Kids are very observant and when they see their dad has someone new in his life who makes them happy, I think they naturally want to be around that person. The two women were good people and took to the kids well and the kids loved a new person in their lives. However, it becomes very difficult to explain to a 7 and 3-year-old why daddy’s girlfriend can teach them cartwheels anymore or why they can’t come to the park with us anymore. How do I tell my daughter that woman X didn’t really like daddy anymore? No easy task, to be sure.

So I have a new girlfriend, someone I am very fond of. And it already is in my mind of how long to wait before introductions come along. I know the ex has very strong feelings of waiting a while, in part because of what has happened in my two other relationships. She is very justified in her feelings and is looking out for our children, I get that. She has been with a guy for nearly a year, so she hasn’t really had to go through much of the same, so she comes from a bit of a different perspective, but one that I completely respect. I mean, as a dad, I worry about what were to happen if her relationship, which is very solid, were not to work. They kids have grown very close to her boyfriend and would be pretty hurt if he were out of the picture. I get where she’s coming from. But another part of seeing if you fit with someone as a dad that’s dating is to see how a woman fits with your children. You don’t really want to get six months down the line before the first meeting to realize either side is incredibly uncomfortable with the other side. That’s a lot of wasted time. On the other hand, you don’t want your kids to meet a bunch of different women, they need stability in their lives. It’s a fine line to walk and I don’t think there is one good answer.

Despite all of this, I wouldn’t change what I’ve come through. I have learned a lot through my relationships. Just because they haven’t worked doesn’t mean they were a waste of time or that I am bitter. Consider me the eternal optimist. I guess it takes finding a woman that is optimistic that I am not tortured and tattered from my marriage and other relationships. I would like to think that I try to apply some of what I learn into my new relationships. I like to think that I try to buck the mold of what dating a dad, or even a guy is like. But I know some guys have been beaten down by their marriages – so I and other single dads fighting the good fight have a lot to overcome to convince a woman that we’re ready to head into the fray again.

In the end, that’s what I think really women want to be sure of, that they’re not going to be your ex down the road. There are no guarantees, but I think if dads try to really analyze why things didn’t work out, it can go a long way into making successful relationships in the future. You have to learn from mistakes, it’s essential. I know I am applying all I have learned into my new girlfriend. Will it work? I certainly hope so, but as the last year has taught me, there are no guarantees. But being knocked down a few times is  not going to keep this single dad from climbing on the horse again. If I didn’t, how could I ever tell my kids to get back on their bike after falling a few times and getting a few scraped knees? I’d be a fraud. Life’s far too short to give up.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies,” Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption

Until next time,

Kurt

 

Tagged , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.