Boosting fatherhood with a blog
We’ve all had these moments of discovery. You’re looking for a particular photograph or group of photos and unintentionally come across the one that makes you smile, laugh, or wince in pain. In any case, you probably replied with “oh yeah, I forgot about that”.
I just had one of those moments. While trying to find a photo from my wedding, I also discovered some photos from the day my son was born. Among those precious images was something that started me laughing and I finally said, “oh yeah, I forgot about that”.
I took a picture of my son’s first poop.
(No, I will not be including it in this blog.)
You see, I take a lot of pride in all of the wonderful firsts I’ve experienced with my son. I was there for his first breath, cut the cord, gave him his first bath, cleaned his first poop, drove him on his first car ride, and many others. For reasons of whimsy, pride, and goofiness, I made sure to capture his first poop for posterity.
Will this eventually end up in front of his future fiancé? Perhaps. Will it be something I treasure despite its contents? Absolutely. Homeruns, science fairs, or poops, I relish the wonderful and unique moments I will share with my son.
I could probably be more precise with the title by including the word “movie” at the end, but that doesn’t really sound quite as captivating. Some of you were probably wondering how I might get my son a dragon in the first place. But that shouldn’t be your question. Your actual question should be pondering what dragon eggs taste like when they’re cooked over-easy and flavored with a medium salsa. So let me just tell you – delicious!
My young lad has had a real craving for dragon stories lately. A few months ago he asked my wife and I to tell him stories and we both -independently- made up stories about dragons. A couple weeks ago he saw the Angry Birds Seasons 2012 trailer on YouTube and was fascinated to see a dragon as part of the story.
So, naturally, I thought he might enjoy seeing Dreamworks’ animated picture “How to Train Your Dragon”. I heard great reviews and thought it could be a fun family film for the three of us to enjoy.
Thankfully I noticed it was rated PG so my wife and I previewed the film before showing it to him. Despite the fun story line, great comedy, and beautiful artwork, the film contains quite a few dramatic and scary images…far too scary for an impressionable three year old.
My review of the “How to Train Your Dragon” is that it is extremely well done. Unfortunately, its too intense for my son. So we’ll wait a while until he can enjoy the film rather than conjure nightmares from it.
Too often the dad blogger community is sidelined and ridiculed as a fad, a reaction to the success of mom blogging, or just something for crazy guys who aren’t masculine enough. ProActiveDads was not only built as a response to those inaccurate criticisms, but also because we collectively understand the importance of media and stereotyping on today’s culture and society.
With all of that in mind, we are extremely grateful to see the fruits of dad bloggers (and, indeed, all involved fathers) finally seeing some incredible dividends in today’s media environment!
TIME Magazine recently compiled their “Top 10 of Everything” lists and one of the categories was “TV Ads”. Great dad portrayals not only made the list twice, but they were the top two ads of the year!
Google’s ad for their relatively new Chrome internet browser shows how a new father documents the life of his young daughter through the power of Google’s tools on the internet, especially GMail. Its a heartwarming piece and an accurate portrayal of how dads don’t have to do everything like moms. We have our own ways of being involved that are just as precious as scrapbooking.
The second best TV ad of the year was the first-rated ad from this year’s Super Bowl: The Force – Volkswagen. Dads have awesome ways to be cool and make tremendous impacts in the lives of their children and Volkswagen USA captured that beautifully.
If you don’t think a revolution in parenting is occurring, clearly you aren’t seeing some of the positive changes in the media around you!
“When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s…” a mess that will definitely stain your shirt. It is also descriptive of a recent social media failure executed by Ragu.
Beginning in March of 2011 Ragu began creating videos to target the mom blogging community and get opinions about dinner time. The goal was to tap into the conversation about dinner, cooking, and healthy choices. And in the last couple of months they began to reach beyond their target mom audience and began spamming dad bloggers on Twitter hoping they would join the conversation. Unfortunately for Ragu, they sent links to a video that played on an old and offensive stereotype: the hapless dad!
As you might imagine, dads joined the conversation. Ragu was publicly flogged for their inept usage of social media, their offensive video, and their long period of time without any response to the dad blogging community. Overall, I don’t think Ragu won over any dads to their side of the aisle. If anything, guys like me -who cook and do grocery shopping- will be buying Prego or making more homemade sauces in the future.
My wife and I both cook for the family. We’re both good at it and we put a lot of effort into giving our son a variety of healthy and flavorful options. So yes, on behalf of all awesome dads who cook, I found the video offensive and such tired use of inaccurate stereotypes is one of the reasons I founded ProActiveDads. I’ve got no issue with Ragu targeting and praising moms. But don’t do it at the expense of dads. Our kids deserve better representations of respect and parenting.
Fatherhood Fact: According to a 2011 study of 2,400 men in the United States, more than 50% of men ages 18-64 identify themselves as the primary grocery shopper in their household.
Raising children is a balancing act. The minute they are born they become the most important thing in your life. You are transformed – but you don’t disappear. Your own hopes, dreams, ambitions, desires don’t vanish into thin air and you will be a better parent if you manage to maintain your own individuality and follow your own passions while also nurturing theirs. Children will thrive with happy, fulfilled parents and they don’t need the pressure of carrying all your hopes and dreams.
It is a bit easier to maintain the juggle now that my children are a little older -aged 7, 10 and 13- and are all in school full time. I’ve been asked time and again how I’ve managed to balance childcare duties with my own writing and music career. There is no simple answer beyond being fully committed to doing so, and having a wife who has always understood my need to keep writing and keep playing guitar – keep being myself.
I’m writing this post right now on a computer precariously perched on my lap, sitting in a park in a fold-up chair as my 7-year-old daughter practices soccer on a field in front of me. I’m struggling to finish because when her practice ends in 10 minutes, we’ll go home, where my sons are hopefully finishing up their homework, and I’ll make dinner for them all. After we eat, I’ll leave the kids with a sitter and rush across town to discuss my book, Big in China, at some friends’ book club. When I get home, hopefully my wife – herself exhausted from a long day at work – will still be awake, so we might have a glass of wine and some time to talk.
It’s a hectic schedule and there are times when I toss so many balls in the air I fear they will all will come crashing down. But I don’t want to give anything up, so I’ve grown accustomed to living with a certain amount of insanity and have adopted a simple motto: Embrace the Chaos! I suggest you do the same.
Alan Paul is the author Big In China (Harper) a memoir about raising three American children in Beijing and forming Woodie Alan, an award-winning blues band with three Chinese musicians. Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures has optioned the film rights. He also penned the “Panda Dad” blog essay on WSJ.com. His book has been added to the exclusive ProActiveDads “Dad Books” list and is available for purchase at Amazon.com or any major bookstore.
No matter how many pictures I peruse or memories I revisit I can’t seem to figure out where the time has gone. Two and a half years ago I became the proud dad of a beautiful baby girl. This past autumn, she started going to preschool and took to it like a fish to water. She started out going two days a week and we soon added a third.
As surprising as the monthly and even daily changes can be, perhaps there’s something to be said for looking back on how we got where we are – something I can share with other parents who are learning how to be a parent, too. There isn’t any manual or guidebook that can tell you how to be a Pro-Active Dad, of course. It will be different for every dad and for every child. Still, I hope my thoughts on selecting a preschool will help others direct their searches.
My wife and I were very lucky in our search. Our synagogue runs a semi-autonomous preschool program that starts for children as young as 12 months at the start of the school year. Returning students and siblings get first priority on the spots, followed by synagogue members, and finally the rest of the community. However, there are almost always a few open spaces so entrance isn’t competitive.
A few of the factors we considered in our search were price, program, schedule, facilities, and student to teacher ratio.
Preschool can be very pricey, as with almost everything related to child rearing these days. Our synagogue’s price point was only about a third of comparable programs in our area. After a bit of investigation, it wasn’t really clear why there was such a cost difference aside from the fact that the preschool shares the same facility with the synagogue and religious school. Likely building and maintenance costs are thus lower. If you can find a preschool that’s part of a larger institution, you may find the same price difference.
The program consists of mostly creative time (artwork, song, etc.) and playtime, though they do include some religiously themed material. For example, in the first couple of weeks alone our daughter brought home a paper shofar (a ram’s horn trumpet used in Jewish religious ceremony) decorated with stickers and a handkerchief challah cover decorated with paint stamps. We get at least two new creations every week and often more. This has let us share plenty of her work with grandparents who, of course, love it. The school also brings in several outside organizations to provide special activities throughout the year, such as the city library, representatives from a local museum, and a real fire truck to climb on and explore. This variety creates an interesting environment that keeps children involved and interested.
The schedule is quite flexible, with 2, 3, and 5 day options with extended care available for the older children. Although the standard 2 day week is Tuesday/Thursday, one of our friends was able to work out a Monday/Wednesday 2 day schedule due to prior commitments and our daughter goes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This also speaks to the flexibility of the school to work with individual families’ needs so all children can get the most out of the experience.
Since we’re members of the synagogue and my wife had taught at the religious school, we were already familiar with what the facility had to offer. From a well-maintained playground with several structures to clean classrooms we knew that the building was in good repair and well looked after. The teachers and administrators show very evident interest in maintaining a healthy and safe environment for the students. In the youngest class, there are two teachers for up to eight students. Our daughter’s class started with only six students and now has seven on the highest attendance day, so we know she’s in very good hands and receives plenty of personal attention without being the only focus.
Selecting a preschool can certainly be daunting given all we hear about how prepared children do better in school. It’s important to remember that children will learn at their own pace no matter what we as parents do for them. Give them a safe, welcoming environment with plenty of opportunity for stimulation and they’ll come up with games you never even considered. Hopefully they’re already teaching you almost as much as you teach them. In the meantime, I hope my experience is helpful as you think about what may work for your child.
Stay at home dad decides to support his wife’s career and uproot their family from New Jersey so she can accept a promotion in Beijing. He eventually settles into expat life, makes time for himself, gains worldwide acclaim for authoring a website column, and becomes a famous frontman for a Chinese blues band.
Boy, if we had a nickel for every time we’ve heard that story!
Alan Paul, author of Big in China, masterfully shares his story of uncertainty, life as an American expatriate, self-exploration, Chinese discoveries, and musical freedom. You will find yourself anxiously turning pages to read more about his adventures and how he transformed his reality of trepidation in a new country to ensuring that his entire family experiences as much as they can with the opportunities they are presented in the Far East.
This novel from one dad will ring bells with millions of others as Paul embraces his family role at home while understanding that he must find his own fulfillment and achieve his dreams. Yet you get the sensation that he isn’t sure what those dreams are until they are pounding away at his ear drums through a conflux of fortunate events. Big in China is a fascinating narrative that shouldn’t be missed.
To purchase this title, please click here to go to Amazon.com!
For more information about the book and author:
Truth Be Told is a fun family movie premiering Saturday on FOX. Candace Cameron Bure and David James Elliot make up our adorable couple, except, they aren’t a couple. The premise of the movie is a fairly simple one: a guy and girl need to lie in the hopes of realizing great business opportunities. Unfortunately, the people they’re lying to have a zero tolerance policy towards such behavior and this is where the drama lies. (Sorry, couldn’t avoid the pun!)
From the old college friends pretending to be husband and wife, to the kids stuck in the middle of the lies, all of the characters are likeable and make for an entertaining story. Perhaps the most enjoyable was the eccentric radio station cowboy played by Ronny Cox. His fun but hardworking character added a great dynamic to the plot and enabled some wonderful family moments. It should go without saying that Cox’s acting was superb. We are constantly reminded how lies often compound themselves and become harder to unravel. Important lessons about family, lying, and doing what’s right instead of what’s easy can be found in this film from start to finish.
But the film was not without disappointment in the realm of fatherhood portrayal. As we’ve mentioned before, there were more than 20 major motion pictures in the 1990’s that shared one common theme: if dad is the primary caregiver, mom must be dead. Sadly, Truth Be Told utilized this inaccurate and negative stereotype of single fatherhood. Luckily, this was the only negative side of Elliot’s character. He was an otherwise loving and capable father who cared about kids and was working to help his community.
Spend a couple hours with your family this Saturday watching this wonderful story. I was fortunate enough to have candy and popcorn provided by the nice folks at Dad Central Consulting, but you’ll no doubt have your own favorite movie-watching snacks handy.
For more information on the movie you can visit their official website http://www.familymovienight.com/truth-be-told/ or the Family Movie Night program presented by Walmart and Proctor & Gamble Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/familymovienight.
“Truth Be Told” premiering Saturday, April 16th at 8pm/7ct on FOX.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of P&G and received a movie kit to facilitate my review and a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate.