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.

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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.

 

 

 

“Nobody Knows My Name Here”

Change is hard.

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It’s hard to move to a new house.

It’s hard to move to a new city.

It’s hard to move away from your friends.

It’s hard to transition from preschool to kindergarten.

And our 5-year-old did all four of these in literally a few days.

Thursday, he left the only house he has ever lived in. Friday, he was at camp with some of his best pals. Saturday, he spent the day with grandparents. Sunday he flew across the country. Monday, he settled into his new house. Tuesday, he started kindergarten.

That’s head-spinning, especially for a kid.

It has not been surprising that he has had some meltdowns and tantrums the past few nights as he processes all of these changes.

After one recent fit, he calmed down and snuggled quietly next to me.

“Daddy. Nobody knows my name here. The teachers keep asking me what my name is. I miss my friends.”

#Heartbreak

He spent the past two preschool years with the same kids and even the same teachers. His new school has lots of enrichment specialists – and even the best teachers need a few days to learn everyone’s name, especially teachers he may only see one a week.

As crushing as this was to hear, I was so proud of him. He could articulate the biggest change in his life – he went from someplace where everyone knew him to a totally new environment where they…don’t.

Familiarity is replaced with opportunity.

It will feel like home soon.

But it doesn’t yet.

And that’s scary.

 

 

Our Home Becomes A House

As I write these words, I’m sitting on the carpeted floor of my living room – the furniture removed – surrounded by filled boxes and empty walls.

We lived here. And our life was here.

That life is going to continue, but just in a different city.

We can talk more about that adventure later. But tonight all I can think about is what happened between these walls.

Our home has returned to being a house. Just as it was when we moved in over seven years ago – totally empty, but filled with the hope and promise of the future.

Back then, we had no kids; our first was on the way and would be born five days after we arrived here.

We took possession of a house and made it our home.

I’m sitting here looking around and smiling at the memories popping from every corner. I remember a kid’s birthday party where all the guests decorated cookies on a tablecloth spread around the kitchen floor. I remember my daughter’s first words (“Hi, Dada!”). I remember the Star Wars trilogy marathon with all our kids (and how we fast-forwarded most of the movie because it was a biiiiiiiiiit too scary). I remember all the times grilling my signature meal (turkey burgers, corn, sweet potato chips) while holding a strong cocktail. I remember dragging the kids on sleds around the backyard. I (mostly) remember all of our adults-only bounce-house parties. I remember walking to the subway station and I remember all the daycare pickups and I remember the sick kids and I remember the tears and the laughs and the joy.

Our family happened within these walls. We moved in as a married couple with

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a dog. We leave with three kids – and the dog. Everything else was here.

And now we are leaving.

But our home goes with us. The house stays behind for someone else to have a turn. And make memories. And host parties. And maybe raise a family if they want.

It’s a good house. It made for a great home.

To Red-eye or Not to Red-eye?

Everyone that travels across time zones is familiar with the scourge that is the red-eye flight.

The one that leaves late at night, flies east and arrives early in the morning.

The one that ostensibly allows you to sleep while you fly. 587px-Tired_(381649345)

The one that makes you feel like roadkill after you land.

That one.

But the sleep is never good. Everyone dreams of falling asleep like the ThunderCats in medically-induced sleep pods flying through space from Thundera to Third Earth (awesome show!). But you really end up feeling like Chris Pratt in Passengers (neat premise but underwhelming movie!).

You land and feel gross, especially if you fly in your business clothes. You start calculating how long you’ve had on the same pair of socks and underwear. And when you start asking yourself that question, the answer is never, ever, ever appealing.

You feel off for at least a day, since, at best, you can take a discombobulating power nap. Let’s be honest with ourselves, though…those naps are band-aids on a broken bone. (Or, as Chris Rock said, it is way past Robitussin.)

But what’s the alternative? Kill a day on an eastbound flight? Sounds delightful…until you have kids.

There are tons of downsides to red-eye flights in business travel. But there is one huge, massive, game-changing positive for me: I get to see my kids off to school once I land.

It may sound silly to non-parents, but getting to see my little monsters for even 15 minutes in the morning – to surprise them with a toy or treat from my trip, to eat breakfast with them, even wipe a tushy – is worth hopping a midnight transcontinental flight and powering through the toll it takes on me.

I love travelling for work, but the last thing I want is my kids to think I was always on the road. If there is any way I can get home faster following whatever reason I need to be on the road, I’m going to take it.

But…one of those ThunderCat sleeping pods would be awesome…

Photo Credit: By Dwight Sipler from Stow, MA, USA – TiredUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25221748

 

Jimmy Kimmel, I Have Tetralogy of Fallot, Too

On last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel revealed that his newborn son, Billy, had surgery days after being born with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot.

Here is his story:

His story is heartbreaking. A little baby born with a broken heart. JimmyKimmelHWOFJan2013

I’m fighting back tears writing this because I was that baby, too. Not Jimmy Kimmel’s baby. But a baby born with Tetralogy of Fallot.

I don’t really talk about my surgery much. It’s not something I hide, but congenital heart conditions don’t frequently come up in casual conversation, right? I’ve never particularly felt like a survivor or part of a cardiology community.

My parents made sure I never felt like a patient as a kid and that carried over into adulthood. But with Kimmel’s revelation, I’m happy to share a little bit of my story.

I was a lucky one – my Tetralogy of Fallot was diagnosed when I was six months old and fully repaired in a single surgery in 1982 performed by Dr. Bruce Reitz when he was at Johns Hopkins.

My parents often talk about a mysterious woman who kept them company in the waiting room, which made the hours feel like minutes, before disappearing.

The ongoing impact after the surgery has been, thankfully, mostly limited, with a few exceptions.

A cardiologist visit every year or so. Antibiotics before going to the dentist. And a ban on playing football or wrestling. [That last one was the hardest for me as a kid who just wanted to play, despite having zero athletic bones in my body.]

But now, nearly 35 years later, I have a family of my own, including three perfectly healthy kids.

The one caveat there is that because of my condition, each of our kids had a fetal echo-cardiogram, where a cardiologist examined them before they were born, just to make sure their hearts were developing properly. We had to prepare for the possibility that each of our kids could have the same condition as me – which brought me to tears every time. [I discussed this here.]

Thankfully, their hearts are all perfect. Their behavior may not always be, but we can deal with that. I think.

And outside of my doctor telling me to lose a few pounds (if only Nutella wasn’t so delicious…), I’m in good health, especially from a cardiovascular standpoint. I fully expect to live a long, long life annoying and loving my wife and kids.

Not every Tetralogy of Fallot patient is as fortunate. This is a serious condition that can’t always be fixed. It can be repaired but is always the first line of your medical history.

I’m so glad Kimmel used his monologue to advocate for a healthcare system that protects people with pre-existing conditions. This is a critical non-partisan issue that I can’t believe we have to fight for.

If Jimmy Kimmel is listening, my message to him and his family is to stay strong and not let this condition define Baby Billy. This will certainly be a part of who he is – something that literally impacted him on Day One and will continue to be a constant reminder every day.

He was broken. Now he’s fixed.

This was his beginning. Not his end.

 

 

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.