It seems to me that society is slowly making room for women – and thank goodness for that.
I’m late to the #MeToo conversation surrounding sexual harassment, but I’ve encountered fewer men weighing in than I’d expect. I know this is a time when men should often just shut up and listen. (Bad timing for some man-splaining?)
But I also think dads and sons and brothers should be part of the conversation.
This isn’t the time for anyone to ask, “but this all happened so long ago. Why bring it up, now?” (Because it still matters. Even you, Keillor.)
This isn’t the time for postulating, “Yeah, it was bad, but should it really ruin someone’s life?” (Well, Spacey, maybe you should’ve thought about that before thinking with your groin. You weren’t 13; you were in your 20’s. You knew better.)
Women: I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth wading into this delicate issue. So maybe I should just be speaking to the menfolk.
But I have to say: I’m loving this time, this space, this conversation, this movement.
I love this zero-tolerance-for-douche-baggery moment we’re witnessing. And I hope it changes our culture for the good.
Several female friends of mine have voiced their cynicism that “nothing’s gonna change. We have so far to go.”
I’m so pissed at the people I admire – Franken and Keillor. Do I think their transgressions are as serious as Weinstein or Lauer? Not really. There’s a difference between stupidity and sickness.
But it’s all under the same umbrella of objectification, crossing lines, and exploitation.
Being part of the non-douche-bag club, (of which I think a majority of my fellow men are card-carrying members), I’m glad pigs are going down.
I’m happy that the shit that riseth to the top masquerading as cream is being scooped out and exposed.
So I hope there’s more women come forward, because that’ll open up corporate positions thus making room for women (and some men who aren’t entitled douche-bags.)
And it’ll teach our sons they can’t be creeps and our daughters that they don’t have to tolerate creepiness.
If a few people (beloved or not) have to take the fall to make society an egalitarian place where women do not feel objectified or exploited or belittled or unsafe, then that’s ok.
NO MATTER THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO GO DOWN. It’ll never be enough to rectify the harm done.
Because a systemic cultural sickness that has allowed sexual harassment to be excused for (thousands of) years is worth changing; no matter the sacrifices made or how many supposed role models are scandalized in the process.
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!
But our 3-day holidays merit reflection and comprehension in my book, too. My kids don’t JUST get to have a day off for Veteran’s Day or Labor Day or Martin Luther King Day or Presidents Day. No matter how abstract or morbid the holidays might be, we WILL be talking about them.
As a slight departure, recently, my kid streamed Newsies (the Broadway musical) at school. And she told me at dinner, “The kids were struck.”
That she even had the vaguest concept of the word, “strike” impressed me. Love it when Broadway introduces complexities into our kids’ lives without us having to step on our lecturing soap boxes.
Anyway – filing that away for Labor Day when I get to say “worker’s rights – you know – like in Newsies!”
So, anyway: back to asking my kids “What’s the reason for Presidents Day?”
This one is pretty straight-forward: honor our national leaders who bring us freedom, leadership, respectability, honor, progress, and protection.
Except at a time in life when we all question our leaders, look back on the dichotomy of goodness in our revered forefathers who were tyrants (Andrew Jackson) slave-owners (two-thirds of of them before 1865), philanderers (a vast majority, no doubt), and liars (all of them except Obama.)
Just the other day, my older kid said to me, “You know Donald Trump wasn’t the first President to be impeached, right?”
I responded (completely missing the point of her proclamation), “I didn’t even know you knew that word.”
“Bill Clinton was also impeached,” she said.
“I didn’t even know you knew who Bill Clinton was,” I responded, again: completely missing the point of her thoughts.
At a time when the presidency has been besmirched and degraded by unfathomable measures, I wonder if it might be time to alter the meaning (and name) of this holiday.
President’s Day began as a celebration of Washington’s birthday and was made an official national holiday in 1879. By the late 1960’s, congress changed the holiday (and Labor Day and Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr Day) to a “Uniform Monday holiday” providing for predictable Monday holidays. This law, signed by Nixon in 1971, served multiple purposes:
But given our current lack of Presidential nobility, along with endless re-discovery of our leaders, perhaps it’s time we made President’s Day about “Great American Leaders” day?
We don’t need birthday anniversary holidays for every single American of note, be they white, male, indigenous, female, of color or whatever. What if we had a holiday devoted to a value? (I know. I’m sounding dangerously conservative, here.) But like – a “Values Day” – a day where we think about things like the Scout’s Law or basic tenets of honesty, loyalty, or kindness.
Or hell, to be thoroughly American, maybe it’s “Liberty Day”. (Although, how would that differ from the 4th of July?)
I’d even be more inclined to have “Founding Fathers’ Day”. Aside from that itsy-bitsy awkward historical factoid of slavery (and their wealth, position, misogyny and snobbery) at least they didn’t start wars, assassinate Latin American leaders, or exploit foreign workers.
Scratch that. We’d be splicing hairs. Of course they did all that.
But at LEAST they happened to be in the right place at the right time to construct the world’s first democratic constitution.
Which was, objectively, a good thing.
At any rate, we currently have a holiday that most people think of as an extra day of skiing that’s devoted to 230 years of men who frequently did horrible things.
Maybe it’s time to update? What’s the point and not just the reason for Presidents Day?
Regardless, given all the mental gymnastics it takes me to discuss (with myself) the meaning behind President’s Day, we can all recognize there’s a lot to ponder and question around a dinner table on a Monday night with our children.
No matter which way you look at it (or which political side of the aisle from whence you hail) any discussion of context, history, ideas and values means parenting for good.
We’re all obsessed with finding the moment and savoring the now – and that’s certainly my greatest subconscious block in fully devoting myself to social media. Besides worrying I have nothing to say, I don’t want to walk through life in a double-tasked, obsessive fog constantly crafting the wittiest facebook posting, the dreamiest Instagram picture, or the most re-tweetable tweet.
I’m already busy with a triple-tasking mentality. My endless conveyor belt of to-do lists exhausts me. But I don’t need social networking to invade my thoughts and make me a quadruple-tasker.
As it is, I’m terrible about taking moments just to be. Sometimes I think I should take up smoking because it might force me to step out of a situation to breathe deeply. But I’m sure I would double-task my smoke trolling my phone for some absent, but obviously life-changing, email I’m not expecting.
I suppose lung cancer isn’t the answer.
So won’t hyper-scheduled and spreadsheet blogging/posting/tweeting/choosing-the-perfect-Instagram-filter-er disconnect me all the more from living “in the moment”?
Yet, to my great surprise, in my cultivation of social media events, I think I’ve been a better about the moments.
Sure, I snap even more pictures of my kids. But I also actively look for things to remember and document. It’s helping me in finding the moment to relish.
“Mindfulness” is almost a joke of a term, in 2020, isn’t it? The meaning is vague. And I think so much of us stumble around thinking, “I want to be more mindful. But how do I do it?”
To me, “mindful” is a westernized, 2020 translation of being.
And I mean “being” in the Zen paradigm of awareness, calm, being present, and just…being.
So mindfulness is a super-American translation of being from a state into an action.
We’ve altered a state of being into a state of action.
That might just be semantics, but I think there’s a profound cultural distinction, therein.
Just like the essence of yoga should be a physical practice of being in the moment (rather than checking exercise off a list and moving with our day), mindfulness should be a state of being, not an action.
It was our “Day Out With Thomas”, when a rail-riding, full-size
“Thomas the Train” visits sleepy train stations with operable train
In our case, the Essex, CT, train station attaches some coaches to a
locomotive, followed by Thomas, and makes a 20-minute trip to the local
dump, and then back to the station.
Last year, our trip was idyllic. Ellison bounced along to the songs
during the ride, thrilled at hugging a dressed-up “Sir Topham Hat” and
riding a jankety fair rides dotting the parking lot.
This year’s day out started out euphorically. For the entirety of our
fifteen minute drive, Ellison chanted, “I want to ride Thomas!” The
cuteness drove me crazy.
At the station entrance, he skipped and chanted, “I’m so excited to see Thomas! Hooray!”
I love it when he talks like he’s reading a “Dick and Jane” book.
Colton was equal parts confused and excited.
We cheered Thomas’ arrival from the previous trip to the dump.
As we proceeded toward the boarding area, Ellison noticed a table
sponsored by PBS displaying swag and a gift basket of Thomas toys.
Ellison walked up and asked, “Can I have that?”
The PBS woman said, “It’s not for sale, sweetie, but your daddy can register to win it. Would you like a PBS pen, instead?”
“No, thank you,” he politely responded…sneeringly.
I gave my spam email and a fake address to the PBS rep woman.
As we turned to board Thomas, I saw tears streaming down Ellison’s face.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” I ask.
“I wanted the Thomas basket.”
You must be kidding. I didn’t expect to be one of those parents with one of those kids crying during this supposedly idyllic day.
Also, Ellison didn’t usually begin tantrum tears silently. Usually his hands go to his wide-open mouth and his cry is deafening.
I knelt down and said, “Buddy, that basket wasn’t for sale. I’m going
to try to win it for you. But now is the exciting part. We’re gonna
Ellison whimpered and walked with fogged glasses (which adorably happens every time he cries).
We rode on Thomas for the 20 minutes in each direction to and from
the dump. The first five minutes are deafening: kids screaming and
parents frantically shouting to smile for pictures. It’s mayhem.
And then the passengers just stare at swamps and the back of
dilapidated houses located near the railroad tracks. The return ride is
Ellison sulked the entire time.
After disembarking from the train, I suggested we visit Sir Topham
Hat (some poor sot forced to dress in a stifling plush costume.)
I forgot that meant walking through a massive Thomas pop-up toy store.
Ellison’s head almost exploded as we entered the store. He sprinted
frantically around the displays grabbing and pointing. None of this
happened last year when he had no concept of acquisition.
Apparently capitalism ruined my son over the last year.
I was suddenly re-living my childhood with my mom. During our summer
road trips, my number one destination was gift shops. I’d beg her to buy
absolutely anything: toys, books, doilies, figurines, ashtrays. Didn’t
matter what. Acquisition was the name of my game. I’d hurry us through
museums, memorials and monuments to GET TO THE GIFT STORE. I’d present
crap as “educational” to help my case. Usually I came up empty-handed.
Mom was no impulse buyer.
Eighty-seven years later, I’m watching my son act like the Tasmanian Devil and asking myself, “What would Mom do?”
During the next few hours of bartering with Ellison, I looked around:
were ANY of the other parents having fun? Was I the only adult
infuriated with Thomas? Why have I become so bitter?
And then Ellison peed his pants. Again.
More tears, more internal rage.
Gavin: he’s 3. Give him a break. You need to be better about stopping to make him pee every 30 minutes.
Thomas soured me on any fairs. They’re chock-full of ways to make kids cry.
I should have managed expectations better. Do I say, “You can buy one
treat?” I suppose so. But why must I feel obligated to buy something,
anyway? Must I check asceticism at the door?
My mom never bought me shit from things like Thomas or county fairs
or street fairs or Disneyland. Because of that, I loathed festivals like
“Taste of Colorado”
or “Lakewood on Parade”. I was a diabetic in a candy store. But I
didn’t throw tantrums, cuz I expected nothing. I just wondered why we
bothered attending. Mom liked the free concerts. But Julio Iglesias was
not interesting to me as a 9-year-old (nor is he now.)
Back to my kids: how on EARTH do you manage DisneyWorld/Land/Hell? Seriously…tell me your secrets.
The day would have been more fun if we’d just gone to a lake and thrown sticks in the water.
We did exactly that later in the afternoon. And it was bliss.
When we sat down for dinner, Ellison was starving and shoveled kale
salad and asparagus into his mouth. (I know. Roll your eyes, now.) I
asked, “Has it been a good day, Buddy?”