The Ferris Bueller Approach to Parenting

The daily grind of parenting is absolutely crushing.

Wake them up.

Get them dressed.

Get them fed.

Check their homework is done.

Pack their bags.

Repack their bags because you packed the boy’s stuff in the girl’s bag.

Brush their teeth as they run out the door (hopefully).

Drive them to school or walk them to the bus stop.

Then work all day.

Pick them up from school, a bus stop, or an aftercare program.

Unpack their bags.

Take those muddy shoes off!

Wash hands.

Get a snack.

Work on homework.

Make dinner.

Eat dinner.

Clean up dinner.

Wash lunchboxes.

Fill lunchboxes with dinner leftovers.

Finish homework.

Bath night? Maybe tomorrow?

Brush teeth.

Wipe a tushy or two.

Read a bedtime story.

Tuck them in.

Pretend you aren’t falling asleep on the couch with your laptop open to work and Netflix on the TV.

Crawl to bed.

Lather, rinse, repeat (when was the last time they were bathed!?!?!)

Toss in an extracurricular like a sports practice or a Girl Scout meeting or a school event at least once a week. Oh, and laundry. And folding last week’s laundry that’s still in the basket. And grocery store runs. And maybe a haircut every few months?

I find myself chained to the schedule of getting everything done — because there is JUST. SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

When do we get to enjoy our kids as kids? When can we squeeze fun into that insane schedule?

The answer, as many do, comes from one of the greatest coming-of-age movies ever, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The story revolves around a high school senior playing hookie from classes and having pretty much the best day ever.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – John Hughes, written for Ferris Bueller

Appreciate the now, because if you don’t, those days are over.

35329506_10101823612373119_3928292279944478720_nEach of our three kids, as babies and toddlers, loved when I let them lay down on my shoulder while swaying and singing “Rainbow Connection.” Over and over and over again.

The baby, for months – months – would only go to bed if I carried him to his crib from across the house while beatboxing the baseline to “Tom’s Diner.” And all of them had periods of time where they made me lay down on the uncomfortable floor next to the crib so they could hold my hand while they fell asleep.

It took time – and some nights I hadn’t had dinner or changed out of my work clothes. Others nights, I had a mountain of work to finish and had to race sleep to get it done. Every minute counted!

“One day,” my wife said, “you will miss this.”

And now I do.

And there have been so many other segments of our parenting journey that are just…over. Moving from Washington, DC, to California a few months ago caused a lot of changes to accelerate, too.

I find myself playing that quote from Ferris Bueller in my head when I spend too much time trying to make too much happen with the kids.

Why not be silly outside for a minute before going inside after school; dinner can wait a bit.

Why not have a dance party after dinner? Bath night can be tomorrow.

Why not give the kindergartner all of the snuggles he wants? Pretty soon, he won’t want to even be near us.

Why not get froyo on the way home from school every now and then? Add some extra veggies into a snack.

Why not let the kids wear what they want (within reason) to school? Take a picture that could be blackmail down the road and send them on their way.

These years are brutal. But they can also be so happy.

Take the advice of Ferris Bueller. Don’t miss it.

[Your Turn: How do you slow down and enjoy your kids?]

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Dad carrying baby

On Wearing Babies

You may have seen the story about TV personality Piers Morgan questioning the manhood of actor Daniel Craig (007, himself!) for wearing his infant daughter using a baby carrier. Morgan referred to Craig as “emasculated” in a Tweet.

After seeing the story, I have two main reactions to unpack a bit:

Reaction #1 – There is nothing more human than taking care of your children.

Dad carrying baby
Me in 2011 making three fashion statements at the mall – those sideburns, those shades, my daughter

Parents leave the house…and take their kids with them. [If you leave the kids home alone, they come and take the kids away from you. It’s in the handbook.]

Thinking that being responsible for children is a mothers-only job is beyond antiquated to the point of being offensive to literally everyone. The gender stereotypes of the past are, in many corners of the world, dissipating. Thankfully.

One of my favorite times in life was carrying my firstborn around in a MOBY Wrap everywhere we went. That sense of closeness and love is irreplaceable. Kids become more and more independent everyday, so the time they rest their head on your chest because they literally can’t do anything else is fleeting.

If a dad doesn’t want to take care of his kids, that’s between him and momma bear – and maybe a judge. So I really don’t care if Piers Morgan carried his kids or not. None of my concern.

But him criticizing a parent for spending time with his child? That’s insulting.

Reaction #2 – Why in the world is anyone questioning anyone else’s masculinity?

This is toxic.

Questioning the manhood of another man is more than just poisonous, it’s pointless.

I know men who are straight and men who are gay. Men who hunt and men who are vegans. Men who drive electric cars and men who drive monster trucks. Men who cook and men who are best served making reservations. Men who have tattoos and men who wear jewelry. Men who find serenity in Time Square and men who find peace in the wilderness. Men who love sports and men who don’t. Artists. Blacksmiths. Journalists. Business Owners. Executives. Interns. Contractors. Yoga masters. Broadcasters. Bankers. Lawyers. Chefs. Athletes. Teachers. Home brewers. Consultants. Conservatives. Liberals.

Some are more like Jeremiah Johnson and some are more like RuPaul. All of them are men.

This is not a man-power point. It’s that men come in all shapes, sizes, and any other criteria you could consider. And that’s awesome.

Let’s leave comparing someone to a one-dimensional definition of masculinity in the past. We are better than that.


Wear your baby. Or don’t.

That is between you and your family.

I’m glad Piers Morgan called attention to the picture of Daniel Craig with his daughter. Now all dads – and moms – can see an on-screen hero playing his coolest and most important role ever: Dad.

 

 

 

The Unspoken Truth About Parents

There is a universal unspoken truth about parents. We are all just barely keeping it together. And “It” is “our shit.”

Our lives are governed by unreliable, unstable, wholly-reliant third-parties that are learning to be people.

We are buried by the minute-by-minute decisions and the overwhelming responsibility of guiding them to be – at worst – decent human beings.

We are conflicted about if our choices put them – or keep them – on the right path to being successful, well-adjusted, healthy adults.

black and white person feeling smiling
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

[And sometimes this manifests with us breaking down at the grocery store because we can’t decided the acceptable percentage of fat in ground turkey meat. Not that I’ve done that before…]

We obsess over which TV shows are good for them to watch while we cook dinner in the other room. And then second-guess if we got too-much or too-little fat in the turkey meat. And do the kids like their pasta al dente? Will they eat it if it’s too soft? Did they get the flu shot?

Plus, we can’t (but sometimes do) forget homework, play-dates, school events, class fundraisers, sports, youth groups.

And behavior. Are the kids playing well together? Or do they tease and taunt and terrorize each other the second you turn your back?

On top of that full-time job, we juggle our own personal and professional aspirations here, too. Work, hobbies, friends, travel.

And cleaning, cooking, shopping for clothes, deciding on Halloween costumes, decorating for the holidays, trying to find the pencil sharpener…the list goes on.

Then we have our own health and wellness – sleep, diet, exercise.

Maybe we want to watch a TV show or two. Maybe we don’t want to fall asleep sitting upright on the couch while watching.

Parents are like web browsers with 100 tabs open at once. 

Our shared reality is that we are all fighting the fight. We are all juggling countless decisions – some big, some small – that compound on each other.

And somehow, even though we are all living the same ridiculousness, we do everything we can to project to everyone how easy our life is.

Honestly, some days, it’s easy…and some days, we’re “Travelling Shitstorm, party of five!”

The trick is to laugh through the ridiculousness. And when you see other parents deep in the muck in public – screaming baby, stinky diaper, kids running off in different directions, didn’t bring the right snacks – go easy on them, because that could be you dealing with that mess.

And it probably will be.

Sorry.

Stay strong.

 

One Day…

One day…

My last kid won’t let me pick him up.

(And one day, I won’t be able to even if I tried.) leg

My son won’t physically stop me from dialing into a work conference call.

He will let us get a good night’s sleep.

He will eat roasted chicken breast and not dinosaur chicken nuggets.

He will learn to use the potty. And wipe himself.

My third kid will talk in complete sentences without animal sounds in between every word.

He will run off to explore his world and I won’t instinctively panic.

He will realize not every color is “green.”

He will NOT tear the house apart looking for an imaginary dragon he dreamed about at naptime.

He will stop eating squeezie baby food.

He will think kale is delicious AND nutritious. And value both things equally.

He will get his own drink at Starbucks and stop beginning to share ours.

He will move from the crib that once belonged to his brother and sister to the toddler bed that once belonged to…his brother and sister. With a fresh coat of paint, of course.

He will stop using the plastic kiddie utensils for his Cheerios.

He will stop cuddling and snuggling and noseying.

One day he will grow up. And then the next day, a little bit more.

Those days will be bittersweet days.

More bitter than sweet.

And that’s OK.

That day, thankfully, is not today.

 

Boyce Avenue Concert

Goodnight, Boyce Avenue

People ask me all the time the bedtime routine in our house.

[Just kidding, literally nobody has ever asked me about that outside of babysitters.]

The goal of any bedtime process is to transition the kids from the insanity of their days at school and on the playground towards a state where they may consider the possibility of relaxing for +/- 10 hours.

For us, that begins with chasing the monsters all over the house.

“If you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get holes in them!”

That usually leads to giggles, the opposite of the intended reaction.

“If you don’t brush your teeth, you won’t get cookies in your lunch tomorrow!”

There, much better.

Teeth brushing, trip to the potty, get in pajamas – accomplishing any one of these with three kids 7-and-under is enough to get me ready to hit the hay.

After allllllllll of that is done, a maybe a book or three is read, it’s my favorite time.

Time for quiet snuggles.

The kids get under the covers, and I lay down beside them and scroll to the bedtime playlist on my phone. Note, “bedtime,” not “lullaby.”

It’s a long playlist, with soothing selections from Elton John, Loggins and Messina, Amos Lee, Ryan Adams, Tracy Chapman, Willie Nelson, and others.

The band with the largest representation on the list: Boyce Avenue.

Boyce Avenue Concert
By Andy Rennie [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most successful “Internet Bands” ever, the Manzano brothers (Alejandro, Daniel, and Fabian) have – as of the time of writing – over 10 million subscribers on YouTube and over 3.4 BILLION total video views on the platform.

[EDIT: Make that 11.6 million YouTube subscribers and 4.2 BILLION views!]

I first discovered them almost 10 years ago on iTunes – and vividly remember seeing a MySpace-sponsored interview with them while we were on our honeymoon in Thailand.

A few years later, my wife was shocked when their show at the iconic 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, was sold out. She thought I was their only fan!

But why are they so prominently featured on this bedtime mix? [Especially when they can ROCK HARD live?]

Because they transform pop and rock and R&B hits into beautiful acoustic masterpieces, overflowing with unplugged soul.

It’s important to me to raise my kids with REAL music in addition to kid songs, like, y’know, Baby Shark. My daughter was walking around the house humming “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and I just about fell over. She also has started writing songs, churning out 10 or so ballads in the past few weeks. The plan is working!

So every night, my kids and I have our quiet little time, lights dimmed, sometimes singing along quietly to iconic songs made a bit more accessible for the go-to-bed crowd.

And I watch them unsuccessfully fight against sleep once again, yawning big, eyes closing shut, starting to dream, thanks, in part, to Boyce Avenue.


Never heard of Boyce Avenue before? Here is your six-pack starter kit:

Umbrella (Rihanna)

Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)

Lights (Ellie Goulding)

One / Let It Be (mash-up) (U2/The Beatles)

Hemorrhage (Fuel)

Rolling In The Deep (Adele)

This *Almost* Makes “Baby Shark” Worth It

Try this.

See a parent sitting on a bench at a park, watching their kids climb up a slide (after giving up trying to remind them for the billionth time that people go DOWN slides not UP them…just me? Too personal?)

Tap this person on the shoulder and whisper “Bay…bee…SHARK”

There are three potential reactions:

  1. They ignore you, ya weirdo.
  2. They punch you in the face, ya creep.
  3. They respond “doo doo, doo doo da doo” (ya creepy weirdo!)

The Baby Shark song captivated toddlers who steal their parents’ phone while they are on a professional conference call and somehow figure out how to navigate YouTube without even knowing how to read! (Again…too personal?)

First released in 2015 by Pinkfong, it won’t leave. It stays with you forever, the definition of an earworm.

My two-year-old loves it – and the rest of the Pinkfong library, too. No joke, the content works in helping with language and learning.

On a recent episode of the Late Late Show with James Corden, we were blessed with the greatest version of the song yet, complete with Josh Groban and Sophie Turner.

How great was it? It almost makes having the song stuck in my head all day worth it.

Enjoy?!


 

Note: Image is a screen-grab from the Baby Shark YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZsoesa55w

Video: “If Dad Jokes Were Funny”

As both a dad and a fan of stand-up comedy, this video speaks to me both positively and negatively.

Here’s the thing: “Dad Jokes,” which I use every day, are funny to five-year-olds.

The issue is when you try to keep telling those jokes to teenagers. That’s a problem. A big one.

Shout-out to the “So True, Ya’ll” and “It’s A Southern Thing” team that is crushing it with hilarious Facebook Watch videos lately!