Raising Kids in a #MeToo Era

Before we begin, click here to learn more about Tarana Burke’s “me too.” movement. and everything they are doing to support survivors and end sexual violence.

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We, as a society, have had a heightened awareness of sexual harassment and abuse since 2017.

art awareness campaign concrete
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

A series of investigative journalism pieces brought to the surface a range of allegations against prominent celebrities and personalities that ranged from inappropriate to criminal.

For example, Ronan Farrow‘s award-winning piece in The New Yorker shined a light on the illicit behavior of media producer Harvey Weinstein. Several months later, Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape and other crimes.

The dominoes kept falling, with Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and other prominent men falling from favor due to allegations of sexual abuse, ranging from walking around naked to sexual assault.

The series of allegations and reports saw the rise of the #MeToo hashtag on social media, where other victims shared their stories or lent their support. People who once felt silenced became confident in shedding light on mistreatment and crimes.

You can look at some of these situations and say, “that’s how men acted around the office in their day.” OK. But it was never right. “Permitted because their subordinates and employees had no agency to speak up and ask them to stop” is vastly different from “the right thing to do.”

As a parent, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to raise kids in this #MeToo environment. How does this change how we talk to our kids?

My conclusion: This landscape actually makes parenting easier.

Let me unpack this.

  1. People that do bad things, no matter who they are, get punished. The actions of some of the most famous people in the world catch up to them. Their money and connections and resources can’t help them escape justice.
  2. There are no more double-standards for men and women in their conduct. Everyone is held to the same scale of accountability and appropriateness.
  3. Your voice matters. People will believe you.

Each of these are important lessons for kids to hear. Victims are to be heard. Allegations are to be investigated fully. You are accountable for your actions.

As parents, we have to arm our kids with a zero-tolerance policy for someone violating their space. We need to equip them with the insight to protect themselves from potentially harmful situations.

Most importantly, we have to impress upon them how to treat all people with respect.

And that starts now. When they are little. Because the things we teach them as kids inform how they will act as adults.

The line of acceptable behavior is no longer blurry; we can make sure our kids always stay on the right side of it.

It’s simple for my kids: Everyone is given dignity, kindness, empathy, esteem. And if someone crosses that line with them, they need to know how to stay safe, find help, and call for justice.

 

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The Force Is Strong In My Family

Star Wars is a big thing in our family. IMG_2855.jpg

We watch the movies. Read the books. Dress up in a family themed costume for Halloween (true story!).

I even have a few toy lightsabers in my office, hidden from the kids so they don’t destroy the house. (There is a pretty good chance I shadow-spar and make the iconic sounds on the regular.)

Our kids look at the lead characters as role models. Princess Leia. Luke Skywalker. Rey. Finn.

Generations of youth raging against the machine to make the world a better place. I dig it.

From Han Solo, Chewbacca, and R2D2 to Poe Dameron, Maz Kanata, and BB-8, from Darth Vader and the Emperor to Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, these characters are part of our kids’ childhood.

I absolutely love sharing a pop culture universe with my children. I love that characters and stories that resonated with me also resonate with them. I love that the evolution of the series gives them “their” Star Wars that we can discover, discuss, and enjoy together. (I still believe that Rey is a Kenobi.)

Much like Luke, Leia, Rey, and Finn, our kids will have a choice about what kind of impact they want to have on the world. Rebellion or Empire. Light or Dark. Good or Evil.

And hopefully the messages of empowerment, hope, and love will guide them in the right direction.

Paraphrasing Luke in Return of the Jedi, the Force is strong in our family. I have it. My wife has it. Our kids have it.

 

 

 

The Flu Shot and the Crossface Chicken Wing

I took my daughter to get her flu shot last week.

She hates needles and is big enough to run away from them.

The nurse and I looked each other in the eye and I knew I had to do SOMETHING.


Like many kids of my generation, I was (am) a massive professional wrestling fan.

Real life superherodownload-8es and villains competing in the center of a jam-packed arena…and broadcast into my home on Saturdays…and Sundays…and eventually Mondays, Thursdays…and…well, now you can fresh wrestling content on TV just about every day of the week.

I vividly remember in 1994 when Bob Backlund returned to the then-WWF to face Bret Hart. Before my time, Backlund was a champion and superstar. (I didn’t remember a time before Hulk Hogan)

In their bout, Backlund was the aged golden boy…doing the same schtick he apparently did in the 1970s that earned him prominence and fame. However, the 1990s fan was a different fan and his goodie-two-shoes persona agitated fans.

Then, when he couldn’t beat Hart…Backlund snapped!

He locked Hart in a devastating hold I’d never seen before – the crossface chickenwing!

Backlund wrapped one arm around Hart’s neck and used his other arm to wrench his shoulder.

And to REALLY sell it, Backlund screamed like a banshee, with veins bulging from his neck and beady eyes wide open.

I thought Hart was going to die at the hands of this crazy old man!


As Beanie screamed at the sight of the flu shot needle being prepared and the nurse asked for her shoulder, I had the eureka moment.

The crossface chickenwing will keep her shoulder stable long enough to get the shot.

Finding inspiration from Bob Backlund’s hold, I pulled Beanie’s arm back to expose her shoulder. I then gently restrained her flailing neck with my other arm then wrapped a leg around her to prevent her from running mid-shot.

It wasn’t pretty (and it did NOT hurt her, only restrained her for safety), but it held for the five seconds needed to complete the shot.

When it was all over, I expected my daughter to spew venom at me like never before.

Instead, she smiled and said it wasn’t that bad. Then asked for a sticker.

And that’s how watching professional wrestling helped ensure my daughter got her flu shot. See, Mom and Dad, I told you it would come in handy one day.

[Note: Please do not use wrestling holds on children. This was for medical purposes only to help a nurse to give my scared kindergartner an important shot. Thank you.]

dad daughter school

Back to School: Hours Away From Kindergarten

dad daughter school
Outside Beanie’s kindergarten class

As I sit here writing this late on a Sunday night/early on a Monday morning, we’re on the brink of a major life moment.

That’s probably why I’m having trouble sleeping.

In just a few hours, Beanie will start kindergarten.

How in the world did five full years fly by so quickly? How are The Best Mom and I parents of a kindergartner?

Look…your kids are your kids for your entire life. I get that.

But there is only a finite amount of time before they go out into the world, the product of their parents.

And while the REAL venture into the world is still approximately 13 or 17 years away, depending on when you stop counting, this is a big effing milestone on the journey. And one where our Beanie begins to peel away from us.

Sure, she’s been in daycare since she was nine weeks old. But the daycare was in my wife’s office building. And she was surrounded by teachers, friends, and parents she had known since she had been there. Basically, in her entire conscious life, she has never faced a restart like she is going to face by the time you read this.

I remember every single moment of the day she was born – which is a great story for another time. But there are two particular moments from that day that I think about often.

  1. Beanie was being examined on the warming table. I tried to check on The Best Mom who was still in the bed and Beanie reached her hand out to stop me from leaving her side. Just minutes old, she squeezed my finger at the sound of my voice.
  2. Later, when the doctors and nurses cleared out of the room, I shared a quiet moment with my daughter. I left her up and touched our noses. We still do that today.

Now, a heartbeat later, our little Bean is starting a new chapter in her life. New adventures await. New things to explore.

And for parents, kindergarten brings new challenges, too. New school. New teachers. New routines. New letting go.

My first baby is going to kindergarten. And every time I look at her, I want to cradle her like I did that first night, give her a nosy, and rock her to sleep on my shoulder.

But I can’t. It’s time to let her go. And come home after school to tell me about all things she learned and all the friends she made. I may sneak in a nosy.

Dad’s Rules for Dressing Girls

Every family divides responsibilities differently.

Nearly every weekday morning, I get the kids dressed before heading to school.

Naturally, I HIGHLY value speed. Mornings are like assembly lines – things are programmed to the second, and any deviation causes, well, a disturbance in the Force.

Bug really doesn’t care what he wears; he’s easy. Sometimes he wants a different shirt than what I pick out. Easy peasy.

Beanie, on the other hand, is much more…opinionated. In everything. Especially what she wears. And she wants to select her outfit every morning. By herself. With no input. In fact, if I suggest an outfit, she usually disqualifies it from consideration.

To help expedite the process, I have created two rules to guide decision-making. (Hers and Mine)

  1. Is it seasonally appropriate? Does it cover all the parts that need to be covered that time of year? (Example: a wool sweater when it’s 90 degrees is a no-go.)
  2. Does it make her happy?

That’s it.

13516714_10154271890320148_6896755290109556117_nNaturally, the clothes that are in her closet and dresser have been vetted by me and The Best Mom. (Well…more like JUST by The Best Mom).

So nothing in there is offensive. Although picking an outfit a size or two too small could create some consternation.

But Rule #2 is the big one for me. If she likes what she’s wearing – it makes her FEEL good and confident. Even if the colors don’t match. Even if there is a little hole in her pants. Even if she wears some of the same outfits twice a week for a year. None of the arguments against doing that hold water for me.

Yes, we get some pretty amazing, Punky Brewster-style outfits. Beanie gets to express her creativity through her clothes safely and effectively.

And just two rules get it done.

playground ladder

“Daddy, I Don’t Need Your Help Anymore”

playground ladderNot too long ago, we took the entire family on a long walk on a sunny Sunday.

The whole crew came along – The Best Mom, Beanie, Bug, Squish, and even our dog, Balki.

We wound our way through forest paths, talking about the sounds, smells, and sights of the woods the day after a rainstorm. We ventured close enough to a creek that the dog ran in to cool off a bit.

And then we arrived at our destination: the playground!

As public playgrounds go, this one is pretty awesome, with slides, a rock-climbing wall, and even a mountain that was clearly inspired by the Aggro Crag! (I want a glowing piece of that, by the way. Starting the holiday wish list early.)

One of the coolest features of this particular playground is a long slide, which starts about 12 feet off the ground.

The only way to get there? Climb a ladder to a platform, and then go a bit higher.

For an adult? Easy.

For four-year-old Beanie? It may have been Mt. Everest.

But, dangit, she wanted to go down that slide, and nothing, not even fear, was going to stop her.

So, I climbed up the ladder first, to show her it was safe. And then came back down and helped guide her up the ladder.

“I made it up top, Mommy!” she yelled to The Best Mom, before screaming in delight down the slide.

This continued for the next 10 minutes. I would go first and help her up the ladder. Each time up, she gained confidence in her ability to make it up the ladder.

“#DadWin,” I smiled to myself. But it was getting a bit repetitive. When would she be able to do this herself? I think we brought some animal crackers. Yum…animal crackers…

And then Beanie dropped the bomb on her next run up the ladder.

“Daddy, I don’t need your help anymore. I can do it by myself.”

At once there was a sense of immense pride in my little girl. She was conquering her fears and having the time of her life.

“MOMMY! LOOK AT ME! I CLIMBED UP THE LADDER ALL BY MYSELF!” She had never been more proud of herself.

But, man, each fear she overcomes, each adventure she completes, is one less thing she needs me for. Little Beanie is growing up, a little bit, every day.

Nobody tells you that letting go of being needed is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Especially when all you think you want is to be needed less.

 

The Passive Aggressive Calendar

As parents, we take inventory of our kids’ favorite things.

Sure, it’s good to know what they like.

But the real reason is much more practical.

We give them things they like…and when they act poorly, we know exactly which things to take away.

It’s the evil part of parenting, but critical.

“If you don’t clean your room, we’ll take away toy X!” has zero impact if the kid doesn’t like top X, right?

Our daughter, Beanie, has a Disney Princess calendar that hangs on the door to to closet. Each night, she crosses off that day as part of her bedtime ritual.

One recent evening, she was acting horrible. Why? We had no idea. I’m guessing she was over-tired, with a teenage-size tantrum coming out of our four-year-old.

We tried to calm her down, but nothing worked. Not hugging. Not talking. Nothing.

So then we went for the jugular and threatened to take away her calendar.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Bingo. Or so we thought.

Instead of calming down at the prospect of losing her beloved calendar, it only perpetuated the tantrum.

Which left us one option: take the calendar.

So we did. And it wasn’t pretty. Even though we told her she could get it back tomorrow if she was good, the tantrum continued for 20 agonizing minutes before Beanie fell asleep.

In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, she was a different child. Happy. Loving. Not crying or screaming. And apologetic for her behavior the night before.

As I drove her to daycare, I thought about ways to give her calendar back to her that re-enforced the positive behavior.

“#ParentingWin,” I thought to myself.

That evening, when I picked her up, she could not have been more proud of herself.

“#EPICParentingWin!” I thought to myself.

Then she grabbed my wrist and excitedly dragged me over to her cubby.

With the biggest smile on her face, she showed me, with tremendous pride, her latest creation.

“You took my princess calendar away from me, so I made a new calendar all by myself!”

Hanging on the wall was a hand-drawn calendar that looked something like an Escher piece, but, overall, very calendar-ish.

calendar

Bean had created something to replace what we had taken from her. She had passively-aggressively shoved our punishment back in our face.

My instinct was to be REALLY mad. But I took a deep breath and then all I felt…pride.

Instead of crying about her situation, she did something productive and creative about it.

#EpicKidWin