A photo of a dad doing his daughter’s hair while carrying his second child in a baby carrier recently went, as they say, VIRAL and has garnered a lot of different responses.  Most are extremely positive and acknowledge the sweetness which obviously exists between this man and his children.  Some sadly are downright dreadful, racist and as far as I’m concerned, unacceptable in that they suggest this man must have hired these children to pose with him – or obviously doesn’t want to work for a living and is content with letting his wife be out of the home so he can be “lazy” with his kids.  I am not a stay-at-home parent.  First because I can’t be and second, I don’t want to be.  I have been working since 16 and can say that I love to work.  I don’t like my job every single day, but I love being in this environment and feel that this is what works best for both me and Sam.  I feel that working actually allows me to be a better mother to him because working offers me personal fulfillment.  In saying that, we are all different people who want different things and the truth is – none of these things are wrong.

But I digress… this is not about me being a working mom.  This is about dads.  This is about a guy who innocently sent his wife a picture while doing his daughter’s hair and saw it explode into a bunch of responses that he probably wasn’t prepared for.  It unleashed an amazing flood of feelings about how the world views fathers.

I love my dad.  He has been my hero for as long as I can remember.  I am always happy when I do something that pleases him and still at 33, cower in a corner if he seems disappointed in me in any way.  I was terrified to tell him more than anyone else that I was pregnant.  I thought he would be ashamed of me, but he was loving and even remarked that he really wasn’t all that surprised… my dad is the guy I call about my car, about sports or about money.  I call and tease him every snow day (he’s the head of a private school) and I like to hear about the next trip he has planned. He is without a doubt an amazing dad.  But there are SO many different definitions of what a good dad is and I’ve learned that more since Sam was born.  To me, this is what makes you a good dad:

  1. Show interest in your child.  Take note dads… this is easier than ever because of texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, Skype, etc. (If you’re not physically with them daily, that is.)
  2. Express love.  With words, with smiles, with hugs, with kisses.  It is not un-sexy to express love for your children.  On the contrary, it’s plenty attractive.
  3. Support your child.  This is not about money.  Support is so much more than a payment that is sent to the mother of your child if you are not with her.  I can’t speak for all mothers in a situation like mine, but the financial support is secondary to being able to call if I have a parenting question or am concerned about something regarding our child.
  4. Respect the mother of your child.  Not “when” she’s being nice to you.  Not “if” she’s doing what you want.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that to GET love (respect), you have to GIVE it.
  5. Be available.  No, I don’t want you to give up on the things that interest you and make you the man you are.  But if your child needs you, try as hard as you can to be there.

Maybe my picture or view will change as Sam grows.  I hope not too much because I like where I am with this right now.  I like that I can take Sam to be with his dad this weekend for his first birthday and know that I’m not only doing this for my son and his sister, but for his dad.  And honestly, for me.  And not because I have to.  Not because the papers told me to.  But because I want to.  I want Sam to look back at pictures one day and be thrilled that this time was shared with his dad.  I know that today, I already am.

The Power Of Unplugging

Unplugging can mean different things to different people.  For some, it means leaving the TV off at night and reading a book or praying instead of getting sucked into Season Four of “Breaking Bad.”  For others, it means actually walking around the house and making sure they unplugged the flatiron, coffee maker or Christmas tree lights.  For me, it was about six days without checking Facebook and limiting the checking of texts to once (okay…sometimes it was twice) a day.  I was inspired after reading a Huffington Post article before the holidays where the author and other staffers were committing themselves to an almost week of no texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc., and wondered to myself, “Could I do this?”  I was intrigued when I read “[P]eople have a
pathological relationship with their devices… People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”
  The word “trapped” spoke – no YELLED – to me and said, “THIS IS YOU!”  I get home around 5:00 every day, say hello to Sam and Gannon, say goodbye to Jordyn or Meg, and immediately plug my phone in.  I feed Gannon, I feed Sam… sometimes, there are inevitable “Ping Pings” that occur.  Oooh… who is texting me?  Who needs me right this minute?  Who can’t remember that great restaurant we had dinner at last month?  Who wants to know what size clothes Sam is wearing these days?  Who is asking if I’ve tried that new Christmas Ale that everyone is talking about?

So we’ve got the phone open… why stop there?  Let’s check Facebook!  I can’t believe she would actually post that about her neighbor… Goodness, if you hate your job THAT much, why don’t you quit?  Awww… what a cute baby!  So I scroll and I scroll and as I’m scrolling, MY cute baby is happily sitting in his high chair trying some pasta and chicken.  But who has time to pay attention to that when you may have gotten an email in the hour and a half since you left the office??  Yes, don’t worry… I’ll make sure that contract is reviewed before the end of the day tomorrow.  Absolutely… I’ll meet with you to make sure you understand HIPAA.  Now, about 15 minutes has gone by and Sam is slamming his sippy cup on the tray and Gannon is drooling over the thought of what may be left over under Sam’s little butt in the high chair.  And I’ve missed every single minute of it.  And I tell myself over and over that I’ll get better about this.  In a text conversation with Sam’s dad about taking pictures, he said something to the effect that this generation’s kids are going to have these vivid memories of their parents constantly looking down at devices.  He’s right… and what scares me most is not how this may impact Sam down the road, but WHAT I MAY BE MISSING.  I may miss a hysterical fit of his laughter, his first step, him throwing a ball to me.  Worse, I may miss a slip or fall, a tumble in the bathtub, a misstep on the stairs.  Regardless, will any of these outcomes lead me to believe that looking at my iPhone in its cute, new Neapolitan case is more important than these moments I can’t get back? The texts will be there.  So will the Facebook posts, the Instagram photos and the work emails.  They aren’t going anywhere.  Sam at 11 months and 354 days will be gone tomorrow.

After the last day of my self-imposed exile from the phone, I turned it back on and I looked at it again.  I’m not going to tell you I didn’t.  I’m also not going to tell you that I haven’t already in some ways fallen back into some of those patterns.  But I’m not giving up on this just yet… after all, tomorrow is another chance and another opportunity to start over, make new and revise an approach, a way of thinking and doing, and determining and owning up to what really matters.  And I have a feeling it’s nowhere to be found in something you plug into a wall…