A Beach Guide for Pale Families

HenryBeach

Pasty people visiting the Florida panhandle is a recipe for a roasted epidermis. My pale family burns when we cross the state line. So why do we go? We want to swim in the ocean, play on the beach, and sleep in sand-filled hotel beds like any other family. We wanna make memories by dressing in all white for family photos so we look like creepy cult members.

If pale families are gonna survive the burning ball of light in the sky, we need a strategy or we’re gonna char like chicken on a kabob. Here are a few tips for your peaked pigmentation:

  1. Being a pale family at the beach means starting the day at sunrise to avoid the strongest UV rays. Of course, you should probably begin sunscreen application with small children before dawn. I suggest drinking a few sips of coffee before chasing your greased three-year-old around the hotel room. Go ahead and count this as cardiovascular exercise.
  2. Ideal beach time is between dawn and 9 a.m. The rest of the day I suggest watching Lego Batman in the hotel room and jumping on the beds until someone calls the front desk to complain. If there is an overcast, go to the beach; otherwise, take a trip to the grocery and do not return to beach until the sun sets.
  3. The perfect activity for pale families is crab hunting at night. You will find us walking at dusk in small groups with flashlights. What do we plan to do with caught crabs? Your guess is as good as mine.
  4. A healthy balance of time for a pale family is to spend 20% discussing dinner plans, 20% regretting not getting takeout, 20% at the beach, and 40% applying sunscreen.

Let’s be honest. Pale families belong in the mountains under a thick canopy of trees where risk of sunburn is minimal. We will never be the family on the beach basking in the blistering sun with their head tilted back as if they are having a spiritual experience. Sure, we enjoy looking at the beautiful ocean and building sandcastles but we get along with the sun like gummy worms left in a hot car.

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FAQ: How To Survive A Three-year-old

“This is the best age,” said an elderly woman at the park, smiling at my three-year-old son. I exchanged a polite smile. But what I really wanted to say is “Are you kidding me? This creature is a monster.”

When my son turned three, bad behavior escalated to a miserable level. I was caught off guard because I bought into the myth of the “terrible twos” and thought I was doing well enduring toddlerhood until BAM! my son turned three and things got real. I found myself missing my tantrum-throwing two-year-old who was mostly cute and a source of laughter. I was stuck with a threenager (now I fully understand why this term is used) and wished to thump on the forehead those who claimed two was the the worst age. They were full of it.

If you are like me, you will need help surviving this trying age. So, I’ve collected frequently-asked-questions and done my best to answer them as truthfully as possible. I hope they prove helpful. Remember, it’s not too late to consider adoption.

Q:  Why are three-year-olds so awful?

A:  Why is the grass green? The sky blue? I don’t know. I’m sure a children’s psychologist could offer an answer to why Mother Nature requires this developmental stage but all I can do is open your eyes to the fresh hell you are entering. Prepare yourself for chaos. A few weeks ago, I sat on my comfy couch reading the New York Times, sipping fresh coffee, engrossed in a story. In the middle of the article, a thirty-five pound force busted through the paper like a high school football player running through a banner. I jumped out of my skin. Coffee spilled on my lap. I uttered a unmentionable word. And you know what the lil’ jerk did. Laughed. He laughed at my scalded crotch. Despite my best efforts to deter this behavior, the kid does it to me every Sunday morning and laughs in my face. I don’t drink coffee while reading the newspaper anymore.

Q:  What motivates the three-year-old?

A:  A three-year-old has one goal: the decimation of your psychological well being. They are experts at pushing your limits until your mental health dangles by a thread and then, sensing weakness, press harder. In their gleeful eyes, you can see their calculations to undo you.

I typed on my laptop at the kitchen table. My son leaned against my shoulder trying different tactics to divert my attention. Banging on keyboard. Yelling. Sticking fingers in my mouth. When his efforts failed he dug in his nose and wiped the largest booger/snot rocket combo to come out of a little person’s nose across my computer screen. I looked at him startled. “How about that?” he said, giggling, proud of his handwork. The snot ran down the screen and forced me to stop and clean it. Did he get my attention? Yes, he did.

Q:  How bad can it get?

A:  The month my son turned three his ability to listen shut off and his goal to undermine my sanity rose to the top of his toddler bucket list, right above visiting LegoLand. Damn kid doesn’t hear a word coming out of my mouth unless it involves gummi worms, monster trucks, or watching Paw Patrol. Typical toddler behaviors like screaming, kicking, and throwing escalate but I believe the psychological warfare waged by three-year-olds is an act of evil.

The most effective tactic of the three-year-old is taking a simple activity/interaction and making it as difficult as possible. For instance, exiting the car so we don’t miss our doctor’s appointment turns into a ten minute negotiation/wrestling match. Here is my son’s latest trick:  he will beg forever to do something like go outside or to the playground and as soon as I give in and fully prepare us for agreed upon activity he will reverse his decision, refusing to participate. It sounds benign, but when a child does it 300 hundred times a day it qualifies as torture.

Q:  What to do if you snap?

A:  Throw them in the woods.

Q:  Is it possible to survive them?

A:  Yes. It is possible but you will need to learn coping skills. Here are a few of mine:  king size Kit-Kats, Cokes, Cajun Filet Chicken Biscuits, and potato wedges from the grocery deli.

This age sucks. But I’m trying to keep in mind it is a phase like all other phases of a child’s development. It shall pass. Maybe not as soon as I would like but it will pass. It always does. A veteran parent once told me, “if he is still acting like this when he is sixteen let me know and we’ll take him to a psychologist, otherwise just let it be.”

So, my only advice is laugh when you get the chance. Take breaks. Laugh at the absurdity of it all. Take more breaks. Laugh so you don’t toss your child in the woods.

Thanks For The Unsolicited Parenting Advice, Seriously

Thank you for the advice. You have obviously picked me out as a parent in need of caregiving tips. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy, demanding cashier job to offer me parenting wisdom. I know you didn’t have to do this. I expected to pass unnoticed throughout the 15 items or less line but you took the time to inquire about my parenting abilities. Thank you.

Your questioning moved beyond the surface level, beyond “how are you today” and “how old is he” to real talk. I knew from the look in your eye I was going to get more from you than I asked for. You are clearly a generous person.

“Here is my best advice for you,” you said, unprompted. Somehow you knew I was looking for a wise soul to drop parenting insights on me. My lucky day. There are so few people willing to speak to complete strangers about childrearing practices. But you stepped up to the plate. And you delivered. You payed it forward.

I was distracted trying to keep my two-year-old son from doing a nosedive from the shopping cart, while flipping through my keyring for my Kroger card, but you intuited what I needed, advice on swim lessons. “Start them early,” you said, “get them in the water now so they will not be scared later.” You proceeded to go on a lengthy lecture, including your experience in the water with children. It was TED Talk caliber. I kept waiting for a screen to drop from the ceiling and an elaborate slide presentation. You were that convincing.

Despite the fact my child already attended multiple swim lessons last summer, I did not interrupt you because you were so eloquent. Perhaps, insightful is a better word. You dug deep into your mastery and helped me to better understand the psychology of small children and swimming pools. Your analysis of the relationship between toddlers and water explained things in a way that, finally, made sense. Again, thank you.

I should note that I couldn’t help but notice the antsy customers lining up behind me as you shared your wisdom. Yet, you put them aside and focused on what really mattered: giving swimming advice to a parent who already suffered through a water gurgling nightmare at the local YMCA. Despite the people behind me fidgeting and clearing their throats, you maintained eye contact. YOU put your job on the line to help a parent. Where are all the wise elders like you in the world? The committed souls who choose to step forward and give unsolicited parenting advice in difficult circumstances. We need more people like you.

When I got home I shared our exchange with my wife at the dinner table. She too gained from your knowledge. She too realized your genius. We are now considering switching grocery stores. Once again, thank you.

Here Is What This Dad Learned Marching with His Son Last Saturday

Last Saturday, resisting the urge to remain in my warm bed, I attended the Women’s March in Nashville. Along with my wife, toddler, and mother-in-law, I gathered with thousands of Nashvillians marching through the streets, waving signs, chanting, cheering. I marched not because I am a model citizen; rather, a tiny voice inside me said either get your ass out of bed or stop complaining about the election results.

Initially, I felt uncomfortable in the the large, diverse crowd (an introvert’s nightmare) but the vibrating energy was contagious and reminded me why I was there in the first place–my son. I want him to learn to appreciate women and treat them as equals. I want him to witness strong, committed women in action. I want him to do a better job of treating women with respect than I did as a boy.

Marching through the streets not only felt good it also opened my eyes. Here is what this daddy learned at the Women’s March:

We need to trust women. I know this is not an earth shattering insight, but we really suck at it, especially when it comes to decisions related to a woman’s body. Reproductive issues are complicated and involve varied circumstances, so let’s not pretend we know what is best for a woman in every situation. We live in a nation that prides itself on giving people choices; therefore, I don’t understand why we have such a hard time allowing women to decide what is in their best interests regarding health care. At the end of the day, women deserve the right to make the final decision about what will be done or not done to their body. It’s THEIR body. So, back off and let their conscience guide them.

Our children deserve better. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or Independent or apolitical, I hope we can agree the lack of decency this past year was disturbing. I’m bothered by the barrage of name calling, mocking, shaming, and bullying our kids witnessed from adults. Our sense of decency swirled down the toilet bowl. Now, parents are navigating through a hostile climate where hate groups feel comfortable crawling out of their dark corners, spewing their warped ideology. It would be foolish to pretend our children do not hear them. If we don’t reject hateful behavior, then what does that say about us as parents?

We need each other. The Women’s March reminded me how much parents need each other to get through the next four years. It will be so easy to wallow in cynicism, isolate ourselves, and quit caring about what our children are absorbing. But if we make an effort to stay connected we can lean on one another and share our collective energy to keep spirits high. Resisting the hatred, bigotry, and ignorance is going to require a community of like-minded people who share the burden. If I don’t find it, I will buckle under my despair. I’m reaching out. Are you with me?

Oh, on a lighter note, below is my favorite sign from Saturday’s march.

What I Need To Say To My Dog Following The Birth Of My Son

People often talk about second children receiving less attention than first children, but in my family our first child is more neglected than our second. Our first child, a fluffy thirty-pound Sheltie mix, arrived in our home five years ago. She became our precious pup and was treated like canine royalty. We bought her premium bones, organic treats, and chewable toothbrushes. We took her to the dog park several times a week. She went on doggie playdates and attended doggy easter egg hunts. (I’m fully aware of how crazy that last one sounds.)

Our spoiled pooch slept in our bed, laid with us on the couch, and received endless belly rubs. But then life changed. A whopping ten pound baby boy entered our lives and our first child was bumped off her throne. Now, the treats are limited, dog park trips rare, and belly rubs have decreased. Our family dog went from the center of our world to the periphery. It’s not that we love her any less; she will always be our first baby.

I feel guilty for the lack of attention we give her, but I don’t know of anything we can do to makes amends for the radical changes. All I know to do is to apologize. So, here are a few regrets I should express to her after the birth of her brother. I hope she will forgive me.

5. For starters, I’m sorry. I know you didn’t see this coming. You probably thought you would always be the center of our attention. Maybe I should have showed you Lady and the Tramp. This is a natural change in the life of a family. Regardless, you will always be our first child, even though we just can’t afford to buy you fancy dog bones from the boutique dog shop anymore. I hope you will understand.

4. I know you have been neglected the last two and a half years. Your ball tosses and walks around the neighborhood have decreased. You get less toys. Oh, and I’m deeply ashamed of the time we forgot to let you outside for twelve hours and you got a bladder infection. I feel terrible about that. To be fair, your brother was a month old and I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t remember my name, much less your bathroom schedule. I know there are no excuses. Sorry.

3. I appreciate you practicing non-violent resistance in the face of your brother’s aggression. I know this takes the patience of a saint and you have proven you are a flexible pup. In the face of hostile hair pulling and eye gouging, you don’t even growl. Intuitively, you seem to understand this smelly ball of flesh is your sibling and important to us. This is pretty amazing. Much gratitude.

2. Thanks for the cute photo-ops with the the baby. They are appreciated and your cooperation does not go unrecognized. Resting your head on our son’s back was a nice touch. I know many of the shots were demeaning, so thanks for begin a good sport. Your participation goes a long way towards good family moral. If I can remember, I will get you a juicy bone next time I’m out, but let’s be honest. I will probably forget. I can barely remember to restock the diaper bag with wipes before I leave the house.

1. Most importantly, thanks for welcoming your brother (my son) into the family and making him feel welcome. You didn’t have to do that. Actually, you probably did. Living with a toddler is still better than the Humane Society. Here is the best I can do: I promise you shelter, food, and (inconsistent) belly rubs.

Searching for the Hatchimal, This Year’s “It” Toy

I stare at my laptop screen watching a wide eyed, blonde haired girl cup a spotted egg in her hands. She tilts the large egg and it sneezes, burps, and hiccups. Waving it through the air, it squeals and releases a dizzying noise. Yellow lights flash inside the shell. She taps on it and the creature inside taps back causing her smile to stretch further. The lights flash red and blue and finally rainbow to signal the creature is ready to hatch. I lean closer to my laptop.

She rubs and rubs and rubs the egg bottom until a beak pecks through the shell in a circle, allowing her to remove the top half. Large, round eyes appear attached to a furry bird-like creature with flippers for wings. With a stroke of its head, the turquoise and pink bird announces “I love you.” My skeptical, adult heart fills with giddiness, which translates into overwhelming desire. I want a Hatchimal. For my son, of course.

I search online for nearby toy stores and the next day strap my son in the carseat and drive twenty minutes across Nashville to a Toys “R” Us. Traveling on the highway, I second guess my decision. Since the birth of my son, two and half years ago, my wife and I have made a conscious effort to avoid showering him with excessive toys; instead, using our money towards visiting children’s museums, zoos, and parks. But now I find my commitment to avoiding the holiday toy onslaught being tested. I don’t want to contribute to the hyper-consumerism of the season, but I also want my son to experience the same excitement I did opening presents as a child. I want the magic of the season to register in his eyes.

Inside the fluorescent light filled toy warehouse, I push the shopping cart, my son’s legs dangling through the seat holes. We stroll up and down the aisles stuffed with colored plastic. Parents and grandparents pass by me debating colors and sizes. Around every corner an automated toy roars or gives orders or sings. My toddler, wiggling in the wobbly shopping cart, reaches for everything and transforms into a shelf emptying monster. It feels like I have entered the center of the holiday frenzy.

“Hello, can I help you,” says a middle aged woman with fluffy grey hair, standing in a blue apron handing out store credit card flyers. “Do you have a Hatchimal,” I ask, hoping for directions to expedite our visit. “I wish,” she says, “I wish we had thousands.” Standing in the middle of the aisle, I stare at the woman with a dumb look. She continues, “The last time we had them was on Sunday and people camped out in the rain, a hundred or so, and bought all sixty when we opened.” “Really?” “Sorry, we might get more but we don’t know when. Best thing to do is call ahead.” I thank her and push the cart down the bicycle aisle. It occurs to me in that moment I might be the only parent on the face of the earth unaware of the Hatchimal shortage.

After a half hour of stressful wandering and children screaming, I pry an excavator from my son’s fingers and promise to bring him back just so we could leave. In the parking lot, as I strap him into the car seat, I ask, “Did you like the toy store?” “YES,” he says, pumping his arms with the same enthusiasm he displays when eating french fries.

Driving away I picture people camping on the gigantic toy store’s sidewalks, waiting in line for a Hatchimal. On our way to the next stop, the robot bird lingers in my mind, I turn on the radio but I cannot keep myself from thinking about the Hatchimal and me…I mean my toddler playing with it on Christmas morning.

I pull open the double doors of a small toy store tucked into a strip mall next to a Barnes and Noble. Wooden floors. Hand painted columns. Shoulder high shelves holding well-made toys along with smiling employees pleasantly chatting with one another. Holding my son’s hand, I approach a table near the cash register where two women wearing red aprons gift wrap toys in bright red wrapping paper.

“Are you wrapping a Hatchimal?” I ask. “I wish,” one of them says, echoing the employee at the large store. She glances up for a second before resuming her wrapping duties. “Did you have any at all?” “Yes, we got a small order but they sold out the first day. You can’t predict these things. It will be January before we get anymore.” I feel awkward asking for a Hatchimal in this store; it is like ordering a hamburger in a four star restaurant. “I’m sorry,” she continues, “as soon as I placed our order they were being sold on Amazon well over retail price.” I nod and thank her and my son yanks my arm towards the train table.

I reminisce over classic toys on the shelves, while my son handles trains, eyes lighting with excitement and tiny lips making sound effects as he connects one wooden car after another. All of his attention focuses on the colorful trains in his small hands. Watching him play, his imagination and sesnse of wonder send a warm sensation rushing through my chest. His care-free play is pure and beautiful. Not wanting to rush him and appreciating the calm environment, I let him connect trains for half an hour before leading him towards the door, waving goodbye to the smiling women in red aprons.

On the way home, moving slowly with the flow of congested Nashville traffic, I recall Christmas mornings from my childhood. My middle class parents went out of their way to create a spectacle for myself and sister. We awoke on Christmas morning to toys spread across the furniture and overflowing stockings. Rushing into the living room sent excitement through my scrawny body and the heap of toys felt like a dream come true. I spent the day constructing race tracks and model rockets and playing video games. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles visited to admire the loot we collected and I was happy to offer a tour of the goods. I was undeniably spoiled. I look up and glance in the rearview mirror at my son, spinning the wheels of a Matchbox car with his tiny fingers, and my heart sinks at the thought of him not opening a Hatchimal on Christmas day.

At home, I search online for the popular toy. I discover a Hatchimal online costs anywhere between two to three hundred dollars, nearly five times their retail price. On the company’s website a note is posted to temper expectations, making clear the overwhelming demand has created a shortage that cannot be overcome this month. The note offers a dose of reality that crushes any delusional hope inside me. In light of this newfound information, my chances of purchasing a Hatchimal seem non-existent, yet the rest of the day the fuzzy creature refuses to slip out of my mind. I feel embarrassed for falling this far down the Hatchimal frenzy hole.

Later in the evening, on the couch, I ask my wife, “Do you know what a Hatchimal is?” “A what,” she says. “A Hatchimal, it’s the popular toy right now.” “I don’t think I care.” “You will if you see the video.” I interrupt her television show to make her watch. “That thing is silly,” she says after watching. “What?” “Yeah, I can tell you are obsessed with it too.” “Picture our son opening it on Christmas morning, he would love it.” She grins. “This is not about him, it’s about you.” I shake my head. She continues, “I know you, I can see your gift giving obsession coming out.” I scrunch my face denying the claim. She warns me not to hide a box of Hatchimals in the house.

Later, lying in bed, staring at the dim ceiling, my wife’s words stick in my brain. This is not about him, it’s about you. As an adult, I’ve often swung from one end of the holiday gift giving spectrum to the other, either indulging in the consumerism or becoming overly critical of it. Wallowing in it or scoffing at the gross materialism. Part of me loves to give gifts because I get a kick out of it and there is also a part of me disturbed by the mindless consumption of stuff we will toss out or dump at the thrift store by the end of next year. This unbalanced way of life and its impact on the rest of the world leaves me feeling guilty.

But the part that bothers me most is the reality that I’ve spent my life relying on things, material possessions, to feel good about myself. To name a few: toys, collectibles, cars, books. The list could go on but I dont’ feel like naming them all. And I don’t pretend my dysfunction is unique, it is probably the norm in our “throw away culture” that encourages consumption of goods at every turn. In this regard, I am not a special snowflake but I am reckoning this holdiay season with my own materialism. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t push it into a dark corner. I’ve spent my three decades on this earth shoving things into the void in my soul thinking it would make me feel better but it only left me empty, searching for something substantial.

After a restless night, my Hatchimal obsession fades but on the days leading to Christmas, out of curiosity, I keep my eye on Hatchimal prices and watch as sellers lose their nerve. The prices drop signficanltly. Three days before Christmas, you can purchase a Hatchimal for about a hundred dollars on Ebay. My fingers are eager to click the Buy It Now button and somehow justify the order to my wife. I try to rationalize paying a hundred dollars for the spotted egg, but something inside me does not budge, probably my commitment to paying our mortgage. I shut the laptop screen.

Looking back, my childhood toys are long gone, most of them discarded, probably piled in a landfill somewhere unknown. I do not long for them now; rather, I cherish memories of eating sausage balls with cousins, studying the Advent calendar with my sister, and putting together puzzles with parents freed from work responsibilities. At age thirty-six, these are the moments that stick with me.

I’m making peace with the reality I will not get my hands on a Hatchimal this Christmas. I’m okay with it. I don’t need to pay a small fortune for a programmed creature in an egg to create a sense of wonder in my son. He’s already got it.

Forget Hatchimals, Here Is What Your Kid Really Needs For Christmas

I would love to give my son a Hatchimal for Christmas and watch his eyes light up as the furry creature hatches, waddles and squeals. To be honest, I want this season’s most popular toy too. The damn thing is so adorable. It’s large, flashing eyes and lil’ flipper wings are irresistable. Don’t ask me to admit how many times I watched the demonstration video on the company’s website. It’s pathetic.

In a perfect world, every child who wants a Hatchimal would receive one wrapped under the tree. But the world is full of jerks who snatch them off the shelf and resale them online for ridiculous prices. Unless a Christmas miracle occurs, like someone magically appearing on my doorstep with a free Hatchimal, my son will not get one Christmas morning, along with a lot of other kids. At first, I felt like crap because I can’t purchase the robot bird, nor can I create a Christmas present spectacle for my son this year. We are a one income family (my wife works for a non-profit) and I stay home to provide childcare. Our tight budget does not make room to buy a mountain of toys.

While I cannot purchase him the “it” toy, my family’s simple Christmas celebration this month has opened my eyes to the vast difference between what I want for my child and what he needs. Just because I cannot provide a avalanche of plastic toys doesn’t mean I can’t give him what he needs most, my attention and time, which are richer than a piece of plastic, more meaningful than a programmed penguin, and more likely to be remembered when he is my age and his toys are buried somewhere in a landfill.

For all the parents out there who are struggling with the expectations and pressure of the Christmas toy onslaught, here are three things you can offer your child that don’t require a trip to the toy store:

  1. Tell your child a story. It might seem obvious to suggest sharing a story, but how often do we rush through the holidays without pausing to tell a personal story to your child. Tell them about your childhood Christmas experiences or share with them a family story from another generation. Stories go a long way in shaping our children’s identities and offer a dose of family history. It doesn’t need to be an epic tale; recall a memory from a Christmas morning that is meaningful to you. Christmas ornaments are great prompts for story sharing.
  2. Create a family tradition. Common traditions like decorating a tree and baking cookies are great but what if you created a new tradition to suit your family. When I was a child my family worked large puzzles together, the type with hundred of pieces and took at least a day to put together. I can still remember dangling my feet at the table where we assembled the Christmas scenes. I nibbled on sausage balls and studied my grandmother’s focused face. This year my wife and I added a gingerbread house to our repertoire. And we always watch The Sound of Music together and sing-along.
  3.  Encourage an act of generosity. The year my son was born my wife adopted an elephant living in an animal sanctuary. Every year she donates money to support the elephant, which is endangered due to poaching, and talks with my son about why they are helping the animal. She reads him updates on the animal’s growth and progress. Of course, there are simpler things you can do that cost no money. The key is the spirit behind the action and the commitment to thinking about someone else this time of year.

So, take a deep breath when you feel the pressure of the season, and know the irrational  expectations are mostly dictated by people eager to get your money and don’t care about your kids’s actual needs. It’s easier said than done, but I”m going to try this season to offer my child the things that make the season truly meaningful and know that will be enough. Okay, time to take a deep breath.

 

CDC Instructs Parents To Set Diseased Grocery Carts On Fire

kidscartDec. 1st, 2016

Atlanta, Georgia–The news has swept the internet today after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported children’s grocery carts are cesspools containing deadly disease. “We’ve found disease in the carts ranging from E. coli to Ebola. I recommend you avoid placing your children in them at all times,” says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. The report comes as a shock to parents with small children who are constantly sick with colds, conjunctivitis, and fevers.

As a result of the report, major grocery stores chains across the country are removing carts containing the plastic extensions. When asked how to respond if a children’s cart is found at a grocery store, Dr. Frieden instructed, “Set them on fire. Douse them with gasoline and strike a match. But do it safely in the parking lot. This is the only way to destroy the diseases and prevent them from spreading.”

Below are a list of life threatening diseases found in children’s carts from all 50 states:

SARS
Leprosy
Influenza
Measles
Bird Flu
Meningitis
Rabies

Frieden encouraged parents who have allowed their child in a cart recently to seek medical treatment. “If you love your child and want them to live to a mature age, I advise you to allow a medical professional to take blood samples,” said Frieden. “And for parents concerned about future trips to the grocery store with small children, I encourage you to consider Amazon Fresh.”

The report has left many parents in tears feeling overwhelming guilt for placing their children in danger. “I’m terrified,” said Suzy Weaver, a mother from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who allows her child in the carts on a weekly basis. “I pretended to not notice him gnawing on the plastic steering wheel and eating pineapple samples off the seat.” Another parent, Tom Wilson, a father from Salem, Oregon, noted, “I was concerned when I found feces in a cart, but I thought the exposure would help build up my daughter’s immune system.”

After the release of the report, many parents are calling for elected officials to create legislation banning children’s carts. Frieden didn’t think this was the solution, instead saying “we have to move forward and parents need to be vigilant. Again, the best thing to do is carry a gallon of gasoline in your minivans and torch any kids’ carts you might encounter.”

Later today, probably in the middle of the night, President-elect Donald Trump is expected to respond to this crisis with a tweet.

More News: Chuckie Cheese Ball Pit Contains Mystery Animal

5 Reasons You Should Be Thankful For Your Toddler

henryfloorI don’t remember the last time I slept past 6:30 a.m. I don’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater. I don’t remember the last time I ate a meal at my own pace. I don’t remember the last time I went an entire day without changing a poop diaper. I don’t remember the last time my toddler ate what I prepared him for dinner. Yet, I cannot think of anyone I want to spend more time with this Thanksgiving.

Just when I think I might toss him out the window he snuggles against me on the couch to watch an episode of Puffin Rock. He gently leans his head on me. The same head he used to ram me an hour ago. He pats me with the same palm he slammed into my nose this morning. How such a destructive creature could exist in such a cute body is a mystery I cannot explain. All I know is I am grateful for him.

I’m gonna take a moment to list why I appreciate this monster-truck-loving, peanut-butter-face-wearing, belly-button-jabbing child. I don’t know what I would do without him. And I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Well, I might consider a massage recliner, the kind they have on display at Costco is the closest to heaven I’ve been.

Anyway, here are five reasons I am thankful for my toddler:

5. Toddlers have a remarkable capacity to let go of things and move on. For instance, the other day I accidentally smacked him on the chin when the car seat belt slipped causing my hand to bonk him. I felt like crap. He cried, lip quivering, maximizing my guilt. I apologized. And two minutes later he wanted to talk to me about the foxes in his book as if nothing happened. Tiny people are refreshing because they tend to not hold grudges, harbor resentment, and wield bitterness.

4. The kid makes me laugh every day. Whether its giggling at his own farts or stuffing his face with linguini or his uncanny ability to locate dog poop. He makes me chuckle during the chaos. The other day I set him down to walk through the doorway of his parents day out classroom. He demanded I put his backpack on. I told him it was too heavy. He insisted. I put the straps on his shoulders and let go. He took one and a half steps forward and the backpack pulled him backwards to the floor. He dropped like a load of bricks. The teacher smiled. I laughed out loud and felt like the parent of the year.

3. My toddler reminds me why language is such an amazing thing. Reading children’s books with him has renewed my appreciation for the sound of language. For myself, listening to him repeat sounds and combine syllables into words is the most interesting part of early development. When I’m away from him I still find myself listening to the sounds of words. And don’t tell anybody this part:  I’ve started reading poetry because I love the sounds of children’s books so much.

2. He is teaching me patience. Oh boy, is he teaching me patience. I thought I was a patient person before his birth, but now I see how much room I had to grow. Leaving the house, getting in the carseat, shopping at the grocery store, attending church, and traveling to see family feels like mobilizing an army. And I just have one child. Much respect for families with multiple kids. I don’t know how you do it.

1.  Most importantly, he gives me perspective when I need it most. He causes me to remember what makes life rich and worth living. Relationships. People. Connection. Just when I think I need other things to make me happy, he reminds me the essentials are usually simple and free and natural. Sharing a meal. Bedtime hugs. Reading a book together on the floor. He seems to never forget these things because he isn’t weighed down by any other expectations. I’m grateful to be his father. He is teaching me important lessons.

READ MORE:  Loving Your Spouse When They Get On Your Last Nerve

Helicopter Parents, Tiger Moms, and Free Range Dads, Oh My!

img_2410Last weekend, my wife and I took my son to the playground. As we arrived, an older girl was climbing a curved, metal ladder that extended to a platform about five feet high. After studying her, I could tell my son was eager to climb. He shuffled his hands on the metal rails and lifted his feet to the first rung. His two-year-old motor skills were developed just enough to maintain balance. I kept my distance, a few feet away.

As he climbed, he was looking around at kids darting across a bridge. His legs wobbled. Keep your distance, Billy, keep your distance. After regaining focus, he climbed three-quarters of the way up the ladder but a boy screamed on the slide causing him to turn his head and he completely missed a rung, his leg dangled in the air, torso pressed against the ladder. Keep your distance, Billy, keep your distance. He regrouped and kept climbing and reached the top and stepped on the platform. He stood with raised hands and a mile-wide smile. “I do it all by myself,” he said, before running to the slide. I released a deep breath.

I’m learning to navigate the tension of parenting, knowing when to intervene and when to make room for my child to take risks. It’s tough. I didn’t want my toddler son to smash his head into the ground. But if I intervened I would have removed the risk that allowed him to accomplish a steep climb. I would have robbed him of newfound self-confidence. It was awesome to watch him smile on top of the platform and I wish I could say I am the trusting parent who always errs on the side of stepping away and managing my own anxiety. But that would be a big fat lie.

I am an anxious daddy. And here is what I hate to admit:  I am at risk of becoming a helicopter parent. Maybe I already am one. Ugh. I don’t want to swarm my child with anxiety, undermining his ability to make decisions and care for himself. I don’t want to be THAT parent. Nor do I want to be a tiger mom (always pushing my child.) And I don’t think I will ever be a free-range daddy, even though I like the ideas associated with this parenting style. So, where do I stand?

I’ve not spent significant time discerning whether or not I am a helicopter parent or tiger mom or free-range dad. I wasn’t interested in the debate until I read last Sunday about Mike Lanza’s Playborhood in The New York Times Magazine. His radical parenting philosophy, the polar opposite of a helicopter parent, jarred me. It left me with much to ponder. The gist of the article is that Lanza created a Playborhood (a creative and inviting playground) in the backyard of his suburban, San Francisco neighborhood. It is a space for his children and neighborhood kids to engage in unsupervised, free play and take risks which he considers a key ingredient to growth.

After reading it, his parenting ideas caused my head to spin. Lanza is talking about more than benign wrestling matches in the backyard; he allows his kids access to the attic of their home, which contains a door to the roof (a two story home) where they can hang out. Also, they climb to the roof of a backyard playhouse and jump off onto a large trampoline.

His ideas are extreme and make me uncomfortable. Yet, I have to admit they are compelling and I believe he has put his finger on a real problem, the toxic anxiety of modern parenting. His free play philosophy is so striking because it runs counter to conventional parenting norms.

To be clear, I really don’t think we can label parents and shove them into rigid boxes on different ends of the spectrum. But for the sake of thoughtfulness, I think it is helpful to use the categories to help you think through your parenting style.

I resist these labels because I don’t think rigid parenting philosophies are what children need. Parenting is a relationship. It involves two unique human beings. Two complicated people. And to make a parent-child relationship work flexibility is needed and one must always be adjusting to the needs of the other. I would never seek out a marriage philosophy or a philosophy to relate to my parents or grandparents or other family members. So, it seems a bit silly to think we can formulate parenting philosophies as if parenting is a one way relationship that is not changing every day. It seems subscribing to a parneting philosophy takes your eyes off the kid in front of you and their particular needs and places it on your self and the needs of your ego.

I want to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and wave my own flag. I want to be the fluid parent that looks at my child and their stage in development and draws the resources I need based on where they are at. I am not interested in rigid philosophies and adhereing to them at all costs. I need more flexibility. I’m not a tiger mom or a free range dad or a helicopter parent. I am me.

There are parts I admire about both ends of the spectrum. I want to blend the attentiveness of the helipcopter parent with the trust of the free range parent. I want to be present to address my kid’s needs but I also want to respect his boundaries and make sure he has room to take risks and do what he needs to learn and grow.

One of the parents I admire most in our social circle is one that I consider resourceful. She doesn’t strike me as an anxious, hovering parent nor does she strike me as the parent who embraces any extremes of free play. She seems to stand somewhere in the middle. I would argue what makes her so skillful is her knack to find the resources her child needs to deal with whatever problem is present. She knows how to be aware of what is going on in her kid’s life and then turn and find the help needed.

She is a self-aware parent, which I think is a critical skill for parents to hone and develop more so than developing a specific parenting philosophy. Its often our own crap, our own unresolved issues, that impact our kids the most. Sure, there are plenty of real dangers in the world but are we aware of the issues we force our kids to deal with under our roof everyday. These are the things more likely to derail them–addiction, abuse, neglect, uncontrolled anger. The things we must turn away from the world to see and look inward.

I know this idea does not sound as interesting or exciting as a tiger mom or free range dad. Maybe it sounds kinda boring. Maybe a bit obvious or old fashioned. I think people like Mike Lanza are in the headlines because their extreme views invite discussion and prove interesting. That is fine and I think he offers exciting ideas. But I don’t think our kids need newspapers headlines or extreme ideas. They need stable, reliable, and resourceful parents who can problem solve when physical and emotional issues arise. And also know when to leave kids alone.