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.

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My Favorite Unexpected Kid-Friendly Dinner Ingredient

Dinner time with kids is a special time, right?

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Ask a person making dinner for three kids under 8 years old and you may get a more frenetic answer.

Take me, for instance. Making dinners when our three kids refuse to eat the same food is…certainly special.

“But just make them eat,” you say. “Let them go hungry,” you say.

  1. Not easy with extra-willful little humans.
  2. I have a soft spot for my children. Deal with it

And their differences are pretty maddening – one is flirting with vegetarianism (except for bacon), one LOVES all cheese, one HATES all cheese (except for when he loves it), and none of them can decide if they want food hot or cold.

So I find myself in a constant battle over dinner – I need them all to eat and making three different meals is not an option.

Then mini-naan bread came into my life. It hits all the high notes for families with lots and lots and lots of kids:

Base for a pizza? Check.

Base for a flatbread (one kid hates melted cheese)? Check.

Decent side item? Check.

Delicious when smothered in butter or jelly? Check.

Fits in most kid lunch boxes? Check.

Freezer-friendly? Check.

Available in bulk at Costco? Check.

And because each naan is contained, I can customize options for each kid based on their cheese (presence, color, meltiness), sauce, vegetable, spice, and topping preferences.

Naan bread. Saved my dinner-time sanity.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

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!


 

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.

 

3 Steps to Winning Soccer Practice Snacks

It’s a rite of passage.

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…and sometimes you let them wear pirate hats to soccer because it’s just easier that way.

You signed your kiddo up to play soccer. (Yay!)

And then you signed up to bring snack next Sunday. (Ugh!)

Here’s the reality of the soccer-snack relationship, the order of importance KIDS place on the weekly gathering:

  1. Seeing Friends
  2. Snack
  3. Running & Screaming
  4. Wearing Gear
  5. Getting There On Time
  6. Playing Soccer

So, snack is pretty effing important, mom and dad.

Thankfully, we can make it super easy for you with this step-by-step guide.

  • Bring two options. Seedless oranges/clementines plus a modular bag/squeezie. This should be easy for kids and parents to grab and open/peel. If possible, let your player help pick it out.
    • Pro-Tip: Leave the chocolate at home. It may melt during the practice and no parent wants chocolate-covered hands in their car.
  • Make sure you have enough. At least 25% of the kids will bring a sibling. Look at the list above – if you are dragged there by a parent and aren’t playing soccer or even wearing some gear, snack is pretty much all you can look forward to.
    • Pro-Tip: You can ask a bored sibling (or one of your own bored kids you brought along!) to help you distribute snack.
  • Bring a trash bag. A grocery bag will do, and this is something other parents notice – and your kid can help with! Ask them to go bring the trash bag around to collect trash and even a 3-year-old can feel like they contributed.
    • Pro-Tip: Throw a roll of paper towels in your bag. You won’t regret it.

Follow these steps and you can spend the hour rooting on your kid, sipping your hot beverage, socializing with other parents – confident you will win snack time.

 

Water Balloon Fight!

When a four-year-old lefty and an eight-year-old dog corner you during a backyard water balloon fight, you back off.

Two big reasons:

  1. The dog will eat the balloon. #Bad
  2. Your daughter will cry when you hit her with the balloon. #Bad

The only option? RUN or get wet. I did both.

We used Bunch O Balloons – REALLY easy to fill a lot of balloons at once with a garden hose. They tie themselves! And playing with four kids, 100 balloons lasted an acceptable amount of time, before everyone was ready for snacks.

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