Please Don’t Share That

This post first appeared on Urban Parent Halifax on Tuesday August 19th which is a great source for all things parenting here in Halifax NS

Without fail every week if not more often I will check my normal social networks and I will come across a post, meme, video or blog dragging out the tired image or the poor bumbling helpless dad. Most times I just roll my eyes and keep on scrolling. But sometimes I really have to shake my head as I wonder why the person shared what they did.

Often times they are calling out their own spouse in a very public manner for trying to do something that was unfamiliar to them. I rarely see the humour in the faceflogging that takes place with person after person chiming in to say how funny this failure is. It’s like my whole social network channels their inner Nelson Muntz.

nelson_muntz102611

If you are considering posting something about how your silly, well meaning, but ultimately failure of a spouse messed up I would like you to consider 3 questions;

  1.  Was it one of their normal responsibilities?

In my house I am the primary cook and I am the primary grocery shopper. We do this because I enjoy cooking more than my wife does and I normally have Fridays off work to do the shopping.

My wife is a smart and capable person. We got married while we were both still in university. Because of that she never had to get used to cooking and grocery shopping for anything beyond college living.

Once shortly after we were married she did the grocery shopping for a change. To my surprise she bought a rather large package of ground pork. When I asked why she legitimately had no idea that she hadn’t bought the ground beef I asked for. To me the products look completely different. But since she didn’t normally do the grocery shopping and never handles raw meat she simply saw a package of ground meat and tossed it into the cart.

It is easy to make simple mistakes when doing something unfamiliar.

  1. How much experience do they have? 

When we get good at something it is easy to forget how hard it was at first, sort of like driving. Think back to those first few times behind the wheel. It was so nerve wracking! It took so much focus and attention. But now you jump in the car and barely give what you are doing any thought at all.

One of the things I think you should never make fun of a dad for trying to do is putting their daughter’s hair in a ponytail. Of course some of us as asking for it.

Dad getting hair ready

Mom’s I don’t think you take time to consider how much more experience you have compared to the average dad. Before you had a daughter that needed her hair put up how many ponytails did you make in your own hair? How about in someone else’s hair, like for someone you used to babysit?

I don’t know about you, but before I had a daughter that needed her hair put up I know exactly how many ponytails I tried before, zero, zip, zilch. Don’t even get me started about braids. I am still not great at putting in a ponytail, but I am learning. It takes skill to figure out how to gather up all the hair, hold it properly in one hand and twirl elastic with another.

It is easy to forget how hard something is when you get used to doing it.

  1. Do you want them to try again?

Do you remember the time when you were learning to ride your bike and you fell off, and your parents laughed and laughed at you? Than they called over all their friends to point and laugh at the poor crumpled heap you were on the ground. No? That’s probably because they wanted you to succeed and they realized ridiculing your failure wasn’t likely a great motivator.

The same people I see making fun of their partners for trying tend to be the ones that complain that their partners don’t help out around the house/in the kitchen/with the kids enough. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t make fun of them every time they try and expect them to be ready to jump up to help.

You can make fun of the failures or you can encourage their effort. You likely can’t do both.

I don’t want to sound like a kill joy. It is a good thing to be able to laugh at our mistakes. But it isn’t funny to be laughed at because of them. Maybe instead of making fun for dads who are trying you could consider posting a picture of a grumpy cat. That guy always cracks me up.

grumpy cat mornings

Why I Dislike Father’s Day

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and I am not looking forward to it. To be clear I am looking forward to the breakfest in the morning (hint hint), the happy Father’s day wishes from my kids, and the gourmet burger I will get when we go out for lunch (hint, hint, hint). What I am not really looking forward to is the church service.

Father’s Day isn’t exactly a Christian holiday but most churches pause to make mention of the day. If you happen to find yourself in a church this Sunday allow me to sum up what you will likely hear the minister say;

‘Happy Father’s Day! Some fathers are pretty crappy. Some fathers have died. You might be sad because of this. Some fathers are doing ok, good job fella’s. Whether your dad sucked or was ok God is the best dad ever, you should spend more time with him.’ 

I will probably say something like this. I will take longer to say it, and I will likely use more poetic and polite terms, but this will more or less be my Father’s Day sermon. It always is.

Father's Day 1

Happy first day of being a dad. Please be prepared to be reminded constantly how most dad’s suck.

I always give this sermon because Father’s Day (like Mother’s Day) can be very emotional for people. Some people really did have fathers that ranged from mildly lousy to absolutely terrible. On Father’s day they struggle to know how to process these feelings. Likewise some people deeply feel the pings of grief as they miss their fathers on this day.

In that sense I stand here as one of the lucky ones. My father who is very much alive went to great lengths to ensure he had a good relationship with me and my sister. He made that very deliberate choice because he didn’t have that kind of relationship with his own father growing up. And I am fortunate enough to have been blessed with children of my own, that I am also trying to care for as best as I can.

As I care for my children I know  I am standing on the legacy my father started. And I am not alone in this. I know many remarkable dad’s that are doing as much as they can for their families.

Father’s Day is meant to be a day to celebrate the good things that good fathers do. Yet Father’s Day more often becomes a time when we commiserate the lousy things that lousy fathers do; and I hate it.

Me and Ariella Baby

Oh look a dad, I bet he actually sucks like ‘all the rest’

Studies continue to show that good father’s play vital roles in their children’s emotional and social development. I want to take the time to celebrate the people who are trying to do this right. I want to encourage them, and to remind them that we see what they are doing and appreciate their work.

I know that Father’s Day can be a hard day, and that elevating those fathers who are doing well can cause pain for the people who never had the relationship they wanted with their father. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take time and make the effort to celebrate all the good dads out there.

It means we also need to take time, on a different Sunday, to really address the very real hurts we can feel when we mourn the loss of our fathers, or mourn the relationship that we never got to have.

Call me crazy, call me selfish, call me insensitive, but as a father when I leave church on Father’s Day to go enjoy my gourmet burger (hint, hint, hint, hint) I want to leave feeling uplifted for trying my best, not dejected because others haven’t.

There needs to be a time to mourn with those who mourn. But can’t we also have a time to rejoice with those who rejoice?

Gaming: Power Ups, Winning, And Children

We bought a Wii U at Christmas and have been loving it. I know as an 8th generation console is lacks the power and function of either the PS4 or the Xbox One. Truthfully for years Nintendo’s strategy made no sense to me at all. Then I got married and had children. We were only going to have one console for the foreseeable future and Nintendo because it was more affordable, and more kid friendly became the obvious choice.

Wii U Mario Kart 8

Game On!

The two games that are currently dominating our living room are Super Mario 3D World (Kitty Cat Mario in our house) and Mario Kart 8 (Driving Mario 8 in our house). As we have been playing these games two wonderful characteristics about my kids have become readily apparent to me. Characteristics that I hope to preserve in them, and perhaps even rekindle in me.

Accepting Help Is Not A SIgn Of Weakness

Mario has always been full of power ups. Leaves, flowers, stars, feathers, mushrooms and more all bestowed new powers that help you on your quest to save the ever kidnappable Princess Peach. For the record the leaf that gave you the ability to fly via your new racoon tail in Super Mario 3, and revived in New Super Mario Brothers 2 is my favourite.

Simeon’s favourite power up is also a magical leaf. He likes the Invincibility Leaf. This power up pops up whenever you die too many times on the same level. Once you hit a certain number of failed attempts suddenly there glowing in the corner is a magical block that gives you this leaf which lets you jump further, jump higher, and makes you impervious to all damage.

Penny Arcade captures my feelings about getting this power up pretty clearly.

Penny Arcade
Simeon doesn’t see the leaf this way at all. He is happy to get the help. It occurs to me as I watch him play a level happy in his new ability he has not yet learned the lesson that many adults take to heart, getting help is for failures.

I know I rarely like asking for help or admitting I am not sure of something. This has caused me more than my fair share of headaches and right now that is not a problem for Simeon. He gladly takes help me from, from Meghan, from friends, and from magical leaf dispensers. Perhaps I should as well.

Winning Is A State Of Mind 

Playing Mario Kart is a family affair. For the first few go arounds Meghan, Simeon, Ariella, and myself all played. Neither Meghan or I showed any mercy to the children as we vied for first place.

Simeon had gotten pretty good at the Mario Kart 7 for our 3DS’ so we wrongly assumed he wouldn’t have any issue with Mario Kart 8. But he had a hard time making the jump from the analog controls of the 3DS to the motion controls of the Wii U. He would finish the race eventually, but he wouldn’t beat anyone. Well he would beat once person, Ariella.

Poor Ariella wanted to play so badly. And she was so excited to do so. But while all of the other cars whirled around the track tossing turtle shells at each other Ariella puttered along more often wedged against the wall then anywhere else. Time and time again after the three of us finished the race we would turn to see Ariella twisting and turning her wheel still working on lap 1/3.

Winning!

Winning!

At this point Meghan or I would sit with Ariella and we would drive together. We’d zip along the already finished race so the game would continue. The funnest thing happened every time Ariella crossed the finish line in last place, lapped 3 times by everyone. She would happily declare ‘I Won!’

Despite always coming in 12th Ariella never lost a race.

I wish I saw life the same way. I am always comparing myself to others. My looks/body shape, my parenting abilities, my cooking abilities, my pastoral abilities, and on and on I could go. I am always wondering if I am in first, second, last or lapped. But is that really the best way to live my life? Should I always be worrying about how I compare to other people? I don’t think so. If I know myself, and if I know what I want to achieve the only person I should compare myself to is me.

Video games often get  bad press about their effects on children. There are real concerns to address with screen time. But I also think games can be a fun tool for learning, and playing. In this case they helped to give me a glimpse into the inner workings of my children. I hope they will forever accept help when needed, and declare ‘I won’ whenever they cross a finish line.