Can You Separate “Art” From “Artist?”

Not too long ago, I wrote about the challenges in raising kids in a #MeToo era.

Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com

But those waters are not the only choppy seas kids today have to navigate.

Another example is something most of us are wrestling with at some level: How do you separate art from an artist?

The rise of easily-accessible information and social media have given us new visibility into the personal lives, political views, and questionable (or downright criminal) behavior of actors, musicians, and other entertainers – past and present.

Not that long ago, most people knew that Ted Nugent was pretty conservative while Eddie Vedder was quite liberal, and life went on just fine. Most people had heard rumors that, say, Michael Jackson, had some eyebrow-raising relationships with young children and that their favorite actor may not be as wonderful off-camera.

But today, we are inundated with information.

A documentary at the Sundance Film Festival produced by now-adults that claim Jackson abused them made headlines.

A TV series discussing allegations surrounding R. Kelly’s personal life stunned viewers.

Heck, even an infamous Playboy interview from the 1970s with long-since-passed actor John Wayne was trending on Twitter recently as if it was new material.

Actors like Alyssa Milano and James Woods rally opposite sides of the political spectrum on Twitter, while Kanye West has never been afraid to voice his views.

The question we all face is – how negatively do we have to feel about an artist to avoid their art? And how do we guide our kids to address that complex decision? Do we even attempt to shape their perceptions or just let them gravitate to entertainment that they like?

Artists are people and people are flawed. Which can certainly shape our habits – which can sometimes be inconsistent.

I still can’t watch new Mel Gibson movies after his drunken anti-Semetic rant years ago. But if the original Mad Max is on, I probably won’t change the channel.

Chris Benoit was my favorite professional wrestler – but after he killed himself and his wife and son in a murder-suicide, I haven’t been able to re-watch any of his classics.

After recent news about his alleged abusive behavior, I’ve debated whether or note to remove Ryan Adams from my iTunes playlists. I haven’t yet.

Does it matter? If the song or the movie or the album or the show resonates with you, should the personal life of the creators be a consideration on if you continue to consume it or be inspired by it?

Thus, parents, who ostensibly control media consumption habits of their kids, have to make some tough decisions here.

For example, my kindergartner had a recent school assignment to do a short presentation on a famous American. Since five-year-olds don’t know too many famous people’s names, he asked to research one he knows, Michael Jackson. I decided that it wasn’t a good idea, even though we play Jackson’s music in the house and car regularly.

I drew a line between celebrating the music and the artist in this situation, but I don’t feel great about that decision. I’ve second-and-third-guessed it.

How can parents help their kids sort through these situations when we are struggling with them ourselves?

I think it comes down to guiding them to control the things they can: how they act and how they treat other people. Fostering compassion, empathy, kindness, cultural and media literacy – these are hard things to do and there is no road map.

My son is really confused on why I said no to his Michael Jackson presentation. And I don’t blame him. We have regular dance parties – and Thriller is a favorite. I doubt that will change.

One day, maybe 10 years from now, we can have a tough conversation about this. Maybe we’ll have more facts. Maybe we’ll have more perspective. But, thanks to The Best Mom, he’ll be doing his “Famous American” presentation on Jonas Salk, who created the cure for polio and gave it away for the good of public health when he could have sold it.

Which brings us back to the original question – can you separate art from artist?

For me, the answer is, like so many things in life, it’s complicated.

Advertisements

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?]

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.