I'm in grade 1, and I have a problem.
Every little while, at school, I get this magazine from Scholastics. They have all kinds of cool books and games and stuff. Like, last time, I got this spy book with an invisible ink pen with a light on it.
This time I want to get this Wii racing game I saw, and I also saw this cool, like, book with Lego attached to it.
Anyway, I want both of them, but my Mom and Dad say I can only have one, and I have to pay for it with my own money from my piggy bank in my room. They don't even want to make any kind of deal or anything.
Sometimes, when I use my own money, I have enough to buy two things, but the Wii is, like, twenty bucks.
I also have money in my bank account, but they say I can't use that because that's only for bigger things...'cause I told them once I wanted my own camera, and then I told them I want a karaoke machine.
OK, one problem is, I have trouble decided things sometimes. Like, which things I want: a big thing or a two little things.
But, the other problem is: my mom and dad. They're always talking about money, and saving my money, and buying things with my own money. But then, like, sometimes I want stuff and they still say 'no'. Then I say "C'moooonnnnn, pleaaase?", and they say 'no' again.
They say Scholastics doesn't mean it's my birthday every time I get the magazine. But, why would they give it to us if we aren't supposed to buy stuff from it?
I get that they want me and my sister to learn all about money. Sometimes, I give my money to charity, or I give my toys to kids who don't have toys. But, sometimes I want to do what I want to do with my money.
I mean, one day I'll be a grown up and have to buy a car and stuff. But now I'm just a kid. And this game is really cool...and I know it's twenty bucks...but it's worth a lot more.
Can you talk to them?
(my Dad says I'm not allowed to use my name on the internet, too. Sheesh.)
A red spot on my forehead remains from when I slapped it moments ago.
On her blog re-posted here, by the Chicago Sun Times, Betsy Hart explains why she hates this TV commercial:
I'll let her explain why:
"Well, let me offer this: Her Citi “thank you” points are not going to keep her warm at night. And they are not going to help her with the baby if she gets pregnant by the boyfriend she doesn’t think she needs to marry. Or, rather, who doesn’t think he needs to marry her. So what’s to keep him from finding a younger, more attractive rock-climber?"
"Few real women actually think like this, of course. They don’t want to man up themselves; they want the men they love to man up. And whatever we want in our professional lives, most women want marriage, and children, and a man who will pursue them and, in some tangible way, care for them. That’s how we are built."
Before I continue, I will make a small adjustment to my wall calendar: 2012, 1997, 1986, 1961.
Let's talk a little about: the women's movement, Gloria Steinem, and Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day, at it's known here in Canada). The movement, its most recognizable leader, and thousands of soldiers fought very different battles to win a very similar ideal: the right to choose. The right to be free. The Freedom of Choice.
It is not for me to encapsulate Ms. Steinem's teachings in my silly little blog, but the message I took away from her efforts, and the message I impart to my 5-year-old daughter is: she does have to be a mountaineer; but she can be one if she wants to.
She doesn't have to be pursued by a man, marry him, and have children with him; but she can if she wants to.
With decades upon decades of male-centric advertising rightly criticized for handcuffing women by framing them repeatedly in kitchens and coiling wires from vacuum cleaners, it's refreshing to watch an athletic woman coiling climbing rope instead.
I'm sorry if Ms. Hart is left with feelings of inadequacy. I experience similar feelings whenever I see Mr. Clean: a muscle-bound behemoth, with an earring, who loves cleaning my house "'till everything is shiny"...try living up to those expectations, Betsy.
When my daughter asks about this female mountaineer, I'll tell her this:
She climbs the mountain for the same reason anyone climbs a mountain: because she wants to; because she can. Because it's there.
I'll explain to her she never has to climb a mountain she chooses not to climb. She can choose to dance, or fight fires, or repair hearts, or style hair, or defend rights, or wrestle, or dive...or climb mountains.
When she asks what I expect of her, I'll answer: "I expect you to be passionate about your choices, and dedicate yourself to them. I expect you to be generous with others, and kind. I expect the intelligent person you are will rub off on those around you, and influence them positively. I expect you to be strong-willed, and fair. Committed, and flexible. Loving, and self-assured...
...like your mother, who asked me to marry her more than a decade ago."
That's 'man-ning up'.
Tags: "Betsy Hart", "Daddy Blog, "mountain climb", advice, blog, Chicago "Suntimes", Citi, daddy, daughter, Fatherhood, kids, Men Get Pregnant Too, mengetpregnanttoo, parenting, Steinem
Those who read more historical novels than I, know him as Pope Alexander VI.
Those who culturally identify more closely with Cable on Demand than the Library of Congress (ergo: me), think of him as Jeremy Irons.
Either way, like me, he was a father.
While I - year after year - navigate the learning curves of parenthood, the compromises of a successful marriage, the hours of full-time employment, and the complexities mowing the lawn without killing surrounding vegitation; Rodrigo Borgia fathered six kids, graduated from a pretty decent university (as Bologna as it may be), and spent 11 years as Pope.
I haven't even spent 11 years as 'Daddy', and I'm pooped.
Parenting was probably different in the 15th century.
He probably didn't spend his free time blogging - there's a couple of hours right there.
No tweeting - another three minutes gained.
Also, according to research I've done about 15th Century Parenting (see: watching Showtime's "The Tudors" and "The Borgias", and HBO's timeless "The Game of Thrones"), things were soooo much simpler back then.
Firstly, there was almost no discipline. There was nothing wrong with letting your kids hang from trees, ride bulls, play with swords, sleep outside, and hunt pigs.
Playtime was easier, too.They used real swords with sharp edges. Sure, this has certain disadvantages: decapitation, severe laceration, and blood loss among them. But, they were completely battery free!! Answer this question honestly: Which would you rather; a decapitated child, or one with a battery-powered fire truck with a switch he just...won't...stop...flipping!
Also, the kids played with...each other! Imagine...Borgia never had to deal with this:
When the Borgias wanted to go on vacation? They didn't check the budget, the wall calendar, the school schedule, and airline specials. They simply conquered somewhere warm and occupied it. Talk about "All-Inclusive."
Finally, returning to safety - which, other than nutrition, is a parent's biggest concern - when the kids were out of sight, they were truly out of mind.
Imagine: this Borgia guy had prison towers all over his Popedome...and no baby gates! How did he manage? Six kids, stairs all over the place, and no gates...no wonder they said he was crazy.
Most importantly, the one factor which contributed most to his ability to manage fatherhood and a papacy: he never wasted his time slicing grapes.
He never pulled his dagger out of its sheath for the purpose of painstakingly lining it up with the equator of the smallest fruit on the planet, and incising it to reduce its volume further by half.
Yes, I know all about choking hazards...I'm just saying...different era, different concerns.
Then again, when you're the Pope, I suppose you rely on another - more godly - level of protection.
Crap. Pass the paring knife.
Every so often I have a personal epiphany.
Sometimes it occurs while I'm repairing a toilet; sometimes...well...actually, they happen so rarely I only remember my most recent one - prior to yesterday's - had something to do with repairing a toilet.
Yesterday's was related to understanding the causes of my own stress. It typical male fashion, I've reduced it to an equation rather than deal with it more viscerally:
THE STRESS EQUATION: S = O + P2
In other words: Stress is equivalent to (O = the number of obligations you have) + (P = the number of people you are obligated to, squared) divided by the sum of (Su = the amount of support you have) - (T = the amount of time you have to fulfill these obligations).
This is the challenge shared by everyone and, in a unique way, by parents. Why unique? Because children, especially young ones, by default increase your obligations and provide no support of their own (cuteness and cuddling, while providing emotional support, doesn't get the dishes done.)
This epiphany came to me yesterday as I prepared one heck of a spinach salad alone in the kitchen. I was feeling short-fused and edgy, but couldn't understand why. Then I realized that even at that moment, although my wife was getting the kids ready upstairs to head out for supper, I was still fulfilling an obligation - making a spinach salad for a dinner party. It had been the most recently car added to a train of obligation which was a month long. Either at work, or at home; meeting deadlines, or doing laundry; answering e-mails, or calls of "dad...daddy...DADdy!...DADDY!!!" - I had been ceaselessly obliged to someone for something.
I call it an epiphany - and not just a sad realization - because understanding why I was stressed helped me cope with the stress itself. I could compartmentalize by identifying what was most irksome and then prioritizing what was most important.
This salad needed to be made - priority one.
The kitchen could remain dirty - leave it.
My wife was getting the kids ready - stop wondering how far along they are.
We may be late - so be it.
This epiphany removed the number of obligations I had at that moment and gave me more time, thus reducing my total level of stress.
Look, I'm well aware of the geek factor and high level of simplicity in this argument. But, I share it with you anyway, Dear Reader, if for no other reason than giving us all something to think about before we throw the &%*n' salad bowl out the window.
Now, stare at this, and relax:
Lately the impression I have of my children is: if they had a theme song which played whenever they entered a room it would be this:
If I could invent only one device, any device, which would facilitate my job as a parent it would be this:
The Speech-to-Thought Parenting Decoder Helmet, or STPDH.
How it would work:
I would wear a contraption on my head, something like this:
It would have receptors which pickup my kids' brain-wavesgenerated in the moments immediately after I've spoken to them. Those waves would then travel through the helmet and into my brain via some form of cochlear implant. Along their path, the signals would be transformed into sound which would be interpreted by my cerebral cortex or grey matter or hippocampus or something. This new understanding would relieve me of great stress and frustration, and prevent me from repeating myself ad infinitum as well as generally freaking out at them when they seem to be ignoring me.
Here is what I think I would hear:
MY WORDS: "Get dressed for school and come to the table for breakfast, please."
THEIR THOUGHTS: "That cloud...cool cloud...it's almost like a monkey...or a unicorn...or a truck...but monkey's don't fly...neither do trucks...I'm hungry..."
MY WORDS: "No toys at the table. Put them down and eat, please."
THEIR THOUGHTS:"I like trucks...vroom...'putt...putt...'...wooshhhhhhh...pow!....vroom......screeeeeeeech.....crash......I'm hungry."
MY WORDS: "Go get your boots on, we're late!"
THEIR THOUGHTS: "Where is my boot?...i have to poo...should I go poo?...i'm tired....what am looking for?...where did that plane come from?....where's my truck?...i think i'm pooing...it's cloudy today..."
MY WORDS: "Get out your books and get setup for homework. I'll get your snack ready."
THEIR THOUGHTS: "someWHERE Over the rainBOW....da...dee....doo...."
MY WORDS: "Wash your hands and face and come for supper."
THEIR THOUGHTS: "...look out!....here comes the super diver....('splash!')...oh, no!.. the killer penguin!!...swim diver!!!...(splash!)...swimMING, SWIMming in the SWIMming pool, when days are HOT, when days are COLD, in the swimming POOL....uh, oh, I should get a towel...look, there's one, folded neatly on the shelf for me...c'mere you..."
MY WORDS: "G'night. Love you. See you tomorrow."
THEIR THOUGHTS: "...keep him here....keep him here...ummm...tell him I have a tummy ache?....head ache?...maybe just 'I don't feel well?....no, no, he'll just tell me to go to sleep...how come I can't see the clouds?...oh, yeah...it's night time...oh, I've got it...." "Daddy, I have to poo."
There, now I get it. Thanks, STPDH!
You tried to do it all today, but just didn't make it.
At home, you promised to clear the plate: catch up on laundry, get supper into the slow-cooker, clean the aquarium and guinea pig cage, get the kids to complete their art project for school, get them to have a shower before the grandparents came to visit, and remember to get dressed and brush your own teeth.
At work, you promised delivery by the end of the business day: a presentation without typos, figures which withstand scrutiny, graphics which rival the competition, a speech which captures the crowd with its first sentence and doesn't lose them halfway through, and also try to leave the office on time feeling good about your job security going forward.
While workloads between working parents and those at home are often compared and debated, the consequences of a missed deadlines are rarely weighed.
In this Globe and Mail article a father effectively communicates the challenges faced by every full-time stay-at-home parent.
Referring to his 1-year-old son, he laments:
"And he won’t sit still. Ever. Try going to a coffee shop to relax, even for five minutes. I bring an arsenal of toys and treats to keep him busy. But it’s no use. Nine times out of 10, I end up chugging my coffee and fleeing the scene.
How I long for those easy, halcyon days at the office, days that can include any or all of the following: working quietly on something by myself; having a coffee break by myself; chit-chatting with people my own age; and earning plaudits for work well done (at least some of the time)."
However, on Saturday, I had a conversation with a working mom who spent the day racing against a 6pm deadline. The client was awaiting delivery; "sorry, you'll have it Monday" was not an option. She was working with insufficient resources, with almost no support staff, and her managers were with their families (it was Saturday after all). The situation was untenable, and very nearly impossible. Certainly these working conditions should be discussed with the office managers and avoided in the future. But, on Saturday, the client was waiting; this was not the moment for workflow evaluation.
Clearing a full workload triggers similar feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment, and pride whether at home or at the office.
Missed deadlines, however, can have very different consequences.
At home: if the house is a mess, there are dishes in the sink, the kids more closely resemble Pig Pen than Caillou, dinner isn't made and the laundry hamper smells like the compost bin; you will have to contend with your frazzled psyche as well as the expectations of your housemates. It may be demoralizing, but the laundry will be done tomorrow or the next day, the kids will have to go to school as they are, and it will be tuna and apples for supper.
At work: if the project is incomplete and the client isn't satisfied, they will take their business elsewhere. You risk be perceived as incompetent and risk the possibility of losing your job.
Again, it becomes a question not of comparing a quiet day at the office to a busy day at home or vice-versa. But rather the worst and best case scenarios of each.
Or even better: not comparing them at all, but rather accepting and understanding that one cannot exist without the other, and what is important is understanding which works best for you.