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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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.

 

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)

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.

 

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

 

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 baby nap

Parenting and Punctuality

Punctuality is an interesting concept.

Being somewhere EXACTLY when you are expected to be there is a mix between science and art. You have to know yourself and the situation around you and plan for the unexpected, all for the chance to be there perfectly on-time, no questions asked.

Before kids, I was on-time, every time, like we all wish airplanes would be.

Now, as a parent, I have dual perceptions of what punctuality means in my personal life. [Note: professionally, punctuality is the rule, without exception.]

  • Sympathy

My family is three kids, two adults, one dog.

For us to get the entire brood up, fed, dressed, pottied, packed, and in the car to go anywhere at any time takes a Herculean effort.

Kids are messy – literally and figuratively. Let’s focus on the figuratively. They provide unexpected challenges at every turn, from clothes that fit YESTERDAY not fitting today, to hating what was their favorite food last week, to nap time lasting blessedly longer than expected, to having a meltdown because you put on Paw Patrol and not Sesame Street.

It’s nearly impossible to crack the code and figure out what combination of timing, food, clothing, packing and everything else aligns to get us where we need to be.

Feel for us parents. Excuse us. Don’t judge us for tardiness when we have kids in tow.

  • Anger

On the flip side, parents know how valuable every second of every day is.

If we are expected somewhere and we get there when we should get there…and someone is late…that does not go over well.

We didn’t do everything we had to do to get somewhere on-time to wait for anyone else. That’s wasted time and we don’t have time for that.


dad baby napIs this a double standard? I’m pretty sure it is.

But do know this: All things being equal, staying home to watch movies, play in the backyard, and bake cookies sounds like a fulfilling day to me.

So if parents go through the trouble to get the family out of the house – be it one kid, three kids, or even more, it means we REALLY want to see you and spend time with you.

If your parent friends are going to see you today, you are better than pajamas and cookies.

Which means you are amazing and incredible and valued and loved. You are the party parents want to be at.

We’ll do our best to get to that party on time. Feel free to get started without us, though. The baby is napping.