Like you, I lie awake at night and in the morning and have so many questions about COVID-19 and its effect on the world and on my kids.
For starters – did I just make CV-19 a thing? It’s very “2CV” (see below). Please say I did that. Will you join me? Heaven forbid I put in more effort.
Is this the end? Or the beginning?
Will my children see this as a fun, adventurous time where inept fathers masquerading as teaching assistants just yelled at them about doing their homework?
Will my kids learn ANY more in math since March 9th when they were last in school? Or will their math knowledge honestly end where I took over?
Will this be a generation of children who just have a gap in their collective and universal knowledge? Like when my kid is applying to college, will schools just wave the need to know division as a CV19 deficiency?
Will children forever be labeled as “dumb” by future generations because they just missed out on 4 months of formal training?
Will my children’s children forever refer to their parents with pity and condescension as being:
CV19 Generation. You know them…
hoard toilet paper
carpal tunnel in their thumbs
can’t do math.
Do we have to pay mortgages, now, or do we all collectively default? And if we do so, what will mortgage lenders do? Lay off all their employees…who have mortgages and need to pay their mortgages to mortgage lenders?
If we all just stop paying stuff…like – everyone…and chill out for a few weeks, could someone with economic clout (like Suze Orman) just be able to say “Okay. No touch-backs and let’s all just re-set. Together,” and then just go forward from there?
Will I be forced to eat that can of sardines inexplicably shoved in the back of my cabinet?
Will this the moment in my kids’ life that will define them forever onward? Please, Dear Gaia, don’t let anything worse happen in their lives.
All wars are about money. Oh, Jesus – what if the insecure, over-compensating white men who manage 90% of world government sand businesses find a way to parlay this into a war…for the economic stimulus alone?
Will Broadway come back? Sports heroes will be fine. But will billionaires with their overhead of mansions, boats and DisneyPlus subscriptions – will they be as equally fucked as the rest of us?
Who’s gonna pay the price for all of this? It’s never the rich and powerful, that’s for sure.
Will narcissistic influencers ever stop posting about their outfits and hair?
Why do I have to google “narcissistic” every time I use it? I won the spelling bee in 6th grade. What’s my problem?
Is EVERYONE on social media starting a relief fund and living room concert except for me? I’ve never felt so left out as I watch their highly-productive virtual lives.
Are we all in our own echo chambers of social media quarantine?
Why has no one challenged me to this push up thing? (Too late. I’ve absolved myself.)
So many questions about covid-19. Will you add to my list of worries?
Last February I learned that child-less travel is the best kind of travel. But before realizing so, I frantically brain-stormed a last-minute timeshare getaway to warmer climes with the family. It would include our 2-year-old and 10-month-old.
My stress over rising airline tickets and dwindling hotel availability prompted my partner to say, “You could just go on your own.”
(Disclaimer #1: Getting away for an adult vacation wasn’t feasible. We don’t have family nearby on whom to foist two kids under 2 and we can’t afford 4 days of round-the-clock baby-sitting.)
“What?” I sputtered.
“Yeah, I mean it’s so much work to take the kids. It’s expensive, it’s a headache, and it’s not relaxing. I’m all about taking my own solo mini-vacation, later. You want to get away more than I do, right now, anyway. Seems to me child-less travel is the best kind of travel.”
(Disclaimer #2 True. I’d been very full-time daddy for the past couple months…along with titles of “actor“, “writer” and “entrepreneur“.)
“So you just go for a couple days.”
“But, but, but…” I sputtered, “No! We need to go somewhere exotic and force ourselves to have a fantastic time and take the perfect family-of-four picture that’ll serve as our Christmas card that shows how insanely happy we all are on our vacation that’s really been a total pain-in-the-ass, unrelaxing, sleep-deprived getaway from our convenient snack cabinet”.
Even I couldn’t even finish that run-on sentence without laughing at my own absurdity. I knew such a trip would be 70% headache, 25% mildly fun, 3% relaxing and 2% exhilarating.
After talking to some friends with kids who all said, “YES! GO! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I’D LOVE TO GO AWAY ON MY OWN FOR A FEW DAYS?” I realized I was being given an incredible opportunity.
So I did.
Here are the reasons I’m a complete convert:
Saving money. Lots of it: food, airplane, drinks for one instead of four, fewer chintzy souvenirs. (I looked up how to spell “chintzy”. You’re welcome.)
Saving my smart phone. I don’t have to worry about getting sand in it, recharging the batteries because Toca Boca games drained it, or capturing limitless pictures of the fifteen minutes that the kids actually entertain themselves and act cute. Instead, I Instagram my beer and my book and then run the battery down, myself, playing my own inane games.
Pitying the exhausted parents around me. I got real sleep. Or I slept in. Or I lost sleep by my own volition. But I didn’t wake to a screaming child or a child demanding, “I want milk! I want milk!”
Speaking of demanding: there are none. But mine. And I want them NOW!!!
Anxiety-free meals. Let’s start with where and what to eat: my only dilemma was choosing the right meal for myself. No worries about whether the kids will eat or that I have to wolf down my food as fast as possible before post-dinner attention meltdown begins.
Read a book. Or not. The point is, I don’t have to worry about drowning children or sun-burnt children or fighting children or napping children. Just me. Read. Or not.
No more pressure to take the perfect family vacation photo. Nobody but parents want to see vacation pictures, anyway. Now I don’t need to get frustrated trying to stage the perfect vacation photo-op. Those pictures create more angst in myself than pleasure for others. I’ll take more candids at home. On vacation, I’ll just Instagram my beer and my beach read.
I get to miss my children and be excited to come home. Even a mere 5 days (two of them were travel days, so do they even count?) away made me homesick for my kids. What a wonderful way to end…excited to come home. Plus, I got excited to dream about vacations that will be much less hassle-free and much more appreciated by my kids WHEN THEY’RE A BIT OLDER. In the meantime…daddy solo time. Me likey.
Any others? What justifications can you add to save future guilt-ridden parents the agony of indecision and realize child-less travel is the best!
During our pregnancy with my first kid, I was on a quest for breast milk and researched tons of sources. Doctor friends told us it would be the greatest gift we could give our newborn.
We were lucky that a friend had twenty pounds of frozen milk in Denver just after Big E was born in Colorado Springs. We packed it on dry ice and overnight’d it to New York.
There had to be another way. This was unsustainable.
I’d already learned that milk banks weren’t the way for us.
For starters, I figured there was a milk bank in every major city in the country. At the time of this writing, there are twenty two. A few years ago, the closest location was in Massachusetts which would have shipped 4 oz of milk at $7/ounce plus shipping.
So…already this was tremendously cost-prohibitive.
Further, the milk banks pasteurize. This might be a good process for sick, fragile newborns, in which case, that’s awesome. They kill bacteria and cleanse the milk. However, these bacteria are what strengthen the baby in its growth and are a natural part of the child’s intestinal development. I mean – it’s not like they’re licking a subway pole.
Plus, milk banks often refuse milk from mothers who have colds or aren’t in perfect health. But sick mom milk is the best kind for growing babies…full of antibodies.
I asked doctor friends what needed to be avoided, and obviously I couldn’t feed my baby milk from a woman who was HIV positive and it would be smart to just avoid hepatitis.
But further, breast milk is absolutely magical, especially between the breast-feeding baby and the mother. (So in this case, it wouldn’t help me, but still…the science is fascinating.)
A doctor friend of mine in New York City would actually lick her newborn’s hands after being out in the city because it’s believed her body would receive signals about the germs the baby was exposed to, thereby triggering certain antibodies to be developed in the breast milk. LOL. And amazing.
But for us, the quest for breast milk at milk banks wasn’t worth the price of shipping sterilized milk. There had to be another way.
Posting locally in New York City, I quickly found generous women willing to give me their frozen supply.
When meeting them, I awkwardly asked, “Um, I don’t mean to offend, but I’d be remiss in not asking if you’re a meth addict or HIV positive or if you flavor your milk with Nestle Quik?”
In each case, the women laughed and said, “No. But you’re smart to ask.”
I trusted them. Who would go to the trouble of pumping, freezing and the rigamarole of posting of FB if they were Hep B positive meth addicts?
One woman, a yoga teacher, had a completely full freezer. I stuffed two Trader Joe’s bags and my backpack with frozen milk. Plus, Big E hung on my chest in the Bjorn. I swear they doubled my own weight. After walking innumerable blocks and taking a subway, I questioned whether my shoulder pain was worthwhile.
But my kid drank breast milk for two straight weeks. Because this donor was a yoga teacher, we called hers “soy milk.”
Another time, I carried Big E into outer Brooklyn for a pick-up. As I stepped onto the outdoor subway platform, I called the donor, as planned.
“Hi! I see you!” she answered.
I looked around and, twenty feet away, saw a woman waving to me.
When I reached her I asked, “How did you know it was me?”
“Because you’re the only white guy, here.”
I looked at the people around me. I hadn’t realized that every person in the subway was Asian.
Ah, the fabulosity of New York.
So…HM4HB fed both our children with a great variety of milks (and a great variety of nicknames). It’s an organization built on generosity and need and collective good.
My second born son, Colton, gives me tremendous experience in dealing with whiny kids. He is a magnificent study in extremes. He is adorable. He could charm the wallpaper off the walls. His seductive grin makes mincemeat of the hardest of child-hating hearts.
And at the opposite extreme, what I call: #tearlesscrying.
Not tantrums. It’s worse. He whines incessantly.
Seriously, y’all. It’s soul-sucking. Dealing with whiny kids is, well…parenting. I know. But this is another level.
Believe me, Colton does not lack for coddling. Remember the whole ‘He’s so cute” bit? He’ll snuggle for hours. (Well, 15 minutes). It’s heaven to hold him in my lap after a nap. (Though his nap mainly consisted of 30 minutes of silence and 20 minutes of what? You guessed it: #tearlesscrying.)
You won’t love it. Kids will basically like it. Conversation starters: Exploitation of indigenous people. The importance of spirituality.
Rating: 3 bears (out of a possible 5)
Disney is not known for making kids more woke. Sure, they are often on trend for cultural movements like being super queer friendly and paying lip-service to environmentalism (Pocahontas, Moana). But with Frozen 2, Disney has blown up princess tropes and jumped feet-first into seriously complex themes of world society.
We saw Frozen 2, this weekend. We spent a lot of time time with Arendelle Royalty several years ago. There was no way not to catch up with the Norwegian gang.
Frozen 2 blew my expectations to smithereens by (making kids more woke).
(And I was out for blood.)
Don’t get me wrong: over all, it’s fine.Frozen 2 is often ridiculous (a fire-creating chameleon? WTF?), perennially frustrating – seriously with the Barbie doll figures and ginormous eyes?), and occasionally touching (here’s looking at you: Olaf animators.)
But my main takeaway was the dense story. Frozen 2 dives into pagan nature worship and the betrayal of indigenous peoples by Western society. It’s utterly over the kids’ heads, I’d say. But down the line, the movie is making kids more woke. And I am HERE for it!
Frozen 2 has a through-line celebrating the nature-worship of the Northuldra, an indigenous tribe based on the Scandinavian Sámi peoples. (It was this culture that inspired the opening song in the first movie.) The Frozen 2 writers and directors signed a contract with the Sámi to avoid appropriation and respectfully celebrate their indigenous culture.
Throughout Europe before the continental subversion of the Catholic church, pagan societies worshiped nature. They turned with the seasons, lived as one with flora and fauna, and shared a spirituality with the energy flowing throughout the world. These people worshiped five elements of nature: water, fire, wind, earth and then that “fifth element” nebulously defined as love/humanity/spirituality. (Yes, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is about this spirituality albeit set in the future.)
It is these five elements of pagan worship that drive the plot points of Frozen 2. There’s never been a Disney movie that dives so deep into environmental spirituality.
But then, with the growth of the Catholic church across the continent, competition and domination were the operating forms of societal organization. A symbiotic relationship with nature was replaced by fear and avoidance of the natural world. (Don’t stray from the path, avoid the wolves, “be good, don’t be wild”, state all of our nursery rhymes and fairy tales from Western “civilization”…and further developed by earlier Disney movies.)
Anyway. Back to the five elements.
We come to find that Elsa’s frozen magic has come from the marriage of her Arendelle father to her mother who was part of the Northuldra tribe. And her magic came from this environmental worship of the four elements. She is, in fact, the fifth element, placing her next to Milla Jovovich’s character in Baz Luhrman’s Fifth Element.
Betrayal of indigenous populations.
Further, Frozen II allegorically addresses the betrayal of indigenous populations by Western conquerors. It turns out that Arendelle society harnessed and limited the magic in nature when the “old white patriarch” literally stabs the indigenous leader in the back.
Modern world civilization has been built on the backs of Native American genocide, African enslavement, and Asian colonization. Western societies have profited from the stabbing in the back of indigenous peoples throughout the world. All of these societies had symbiotic relationships with nature. (Meanwhile, Western/European society has always tried to harness nature.)
The themes of the five elements and subjugation of indigenous peoples is not fully fleshed out in Frozen 2. It’s a movie with complex themes shoved between tongue-in-cheek 80’s power ballads and whatever tangent Olaf follows. But I appreciate that I will be able to point my kids to Frozen 2 for a simple jumping off point for deeper exploration of life’s complex themes.
For that, I thank you, Disney. You done good.
We’re trying on different pronouns in our household.
Before school started, my partner and I asked the big kid, “What would you like to say, this year? ‘He’ or ‘she’?”
Kiddo answered sheepishly, “She.”
Oh. Okay. So there we are.
An hour later, we were discussing my show, Head Over Heels,in
which a trans actress plays a non-binary character. My older kid is
officially obsessed with this gender-bending character (played by
Peppermint, the drag queenfamous for her stellar turn on RuPaul’s Drag Raceas well as for being the first contestant who was outwardly trans beforecompeting on RuPaul.)
In the conversation with my kiddo, I had to backtrack withhersaying, “But wait. You know Peppermint is a trans woman playing a non-binary role?”
“Yeah! A ‘they’. Like me! I’m ‘they’!”
Oh. Okay. So there we are.
An hour later, I sat with her/theyand said, “Now, sweetie, do you want me to say something to your teachers about how you want to be addressed?”
“Daddy,” she/they said, “can we stop talking about this? I’ll handle it.”
Oh. Okay. So there we are.
The first day of school passed uneventfully.
On the second day, while walking back from school, I had both kids
with me and inadvertently referred to she/they as ‘he’, at which point I
turned to she/they, again, to ask, “Wait, honey, where are we, now?
‘She?’ ‘They?’ ‘He’?”
The more time passes, the more I feel like I’m betraying her by ever calling her him. “Her” feels more right.
Which leads me to our milestone: we alerted the teachers via email
about my kid’s fluid self-expression and let them know, “We’re just
rolling with it. Hopefully you can too?”
There are times it’s cool to be flexible. And then I realize (as much
as I’d like to live in a world without definition) that people need
labels and definitions so we’re all speaking the same language.
Yesterday, my kid was benevolently outed by an old friend in class to
one of the new friends. The old friend said, “But he’s a boy. He just
likes to wear dresses.”
The new friend said, “But she talks like a girl and dresses like a girl.”
Which then led to a cavalcade of questions for the teachers, which
freaked them out (understandably) because we were all just “going with
Suddenly, my agenda became very clear.
I want my child to be proud of who she is. I want her to celebrate
her differences and never feel defensive or shamed. I want her to be
able to speak about who she is and inspire the truth in others.
I don’t think she needs to be locked in a box of hyper-definition. In
fact, I don’t think my kid can really be defined, right now, except as
gender-fluid. Nor need she be.
So my partner and I put our heads together and strategized how to let
our precious first-born write her own narrative, be in charge of her
story, and define herself for others.
The worst thing would be to pretendshe never was a boy. I
don’t want her peers, teachers, friends or acquaintances to think she’s
keeping secrets or making things up. We have old friends at school who
know from whence we’ve come. There’s no reason to shun/deny/erase that
part of her history.
What she isis what she’s choosing to be, right now; and we get to celebrate it and show how badass she is for choosing to be her.
Suddenly, in discussing this with her (which is taking time) I’m this
over-aggressive tiger dad suffocating my child in inspirational sayings
like “you’re all the morespecial for being so brave and
special!, for choosing your own path which isn’t always clear or easy.
But you’re doing it! That makes you so awesome!”
She is FULLY giving me the rolled eyes and begging me to “stop talking about this.”
Sorry, kiddo. Can’t stop; won’t stop. Because I’m doing my best to armor you for a tough world – and it’s tough for allof
us. So you might as well suit up, now. Because you’re way ahead most of
the rest of us in terms of knowing yourself and speaking your truth.