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Setting Expectations to Manage a Pandemic

Setting Expectations to Manage a Pandemic

Day 1 of 25 Home-Schooling and I’m barely surviving – but definitely setting expectations to manage our sanity.

I mean – talk about interesting times we live in. Not sure it’s a full on Hamilton-ian “How Lucky We Are to be Alive, Right Now”, but hopefully soon we will look back in appreciation for all we learned – especially about human fragility in an instant-gratification era in which we all feel entitled and impenetrable.


We’ve begun day 1 of home-schooling. We will have more direction from our teachers after they’ve got through an intensive training later in the week about remote-learning from the NYC DOE.

But for now, it’s all about setting expectations to manage our lives.


As I constantly harp on and rely upon in my own parenting, everything is about setting expectations.


And the best way to do so is have the kids’ input.


This morning, we sat down and had a “morning meeting” in which we set daily expectations with a to-do list that the kids helped craft.

  1. Set a daily routine schedule
    Set some goals for what kids would like to accomplish on a weekly basis – culling through old toys, learning a new skill
  2. Find a reward system for sticking with the program – incentivize (fine: call it a bribe) with screen time, sweet treats. But also – this is just life, kids. Rewards come from exceptional behavior. They don’t need a reward for every tiny thing they do.
  3. Make a check-list chart so kids can gauge their progress.
  4. Set lots of timers.
  5. Keep your own expectations low so you don’t get too frustrated.
  6. Be kind to yourself and the kids – it’s a strange time. Space everything out with snacks and breaks.

And at the end of the day, give up, have a drink, and hand over the iPad. You done good setting expectations to manage the kids’ enrichment. hell, they’re going to learn a ton during this pandemic and be touched for the rest of their lives.

Make a calendar to chart progress and check off your to-do list

Making Room for Women #metoo & Douchebaggery

Making Room for Women #metoo & Douchebaggery

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.”

But that was before Lauer and Keillor. That was also before the Weinstein verdict and The Morning Show.

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.

For all the Louis C.K.’s and Roy Moore’s that go down (please may Moore go down, Alabama voters, pleaseupdate for 2020: he did…and he also spectacularly lost a second primary attempt at the US Senate), someone more talented and less likely to have sexually harassed someone else will replace them.

Making room for women makes the world a better place.

It may be lots and lots of women filling those shoes.

And that’s a good thing.

All you have to do is not be a douchebag. It’s simple.

The Reason for the Season

The Reason for the Season

I loathe the culture war centered around “putting the ‘Christ’ back into ‘Christmas'”. However, I want my children to know the reason behind every season. Despite them rolling their eyes, I always discuss with my kids the significance of cultural events and holidays.

It’s worth the eye rolls for my kids to understand why of cultural markers and holidays.

This applies most especially to holidays as “abstract” as Veteran’s Day. Yesterday, my older kid jumped with joy as she celebrated having THREE DAYS OF MORNING TELEVISION this weekend. Uncharacteristically, I held my tongue so as not to deflate her joy. I’ll save the posturing about Veteran’s Day for the actual day.

I’ve always been (morbidly) fascinated by WWI, which came to an end 101 years ago, today, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. This was the first war in which men were able to massacre acres of men without catching sight of each other. The wide-scale use of machine guns, tanks, airplanes and trench warfare that wasted a generation rooted in agreements and misunderstandings between insecure, rich white men trying to keep their place in the upper-class mastering the universe.

Talk about toxic masculinity.

WWI was the end of an era (for the Western, Caucasian paradigm) in which impersonal savagery replaced, well…personal savagery.

In contrast to WWII which created the greatest generation of stoic, productive veterans, the survivors of WWI fostered a culture of tremendous self-reflection. Poets, artists and writers emerged from the trench horror facing a world without meaning. Battlefield savagery created direct artistic movements of nihilism, abstraction and darkness; because after all they had expereinced, how could artistic expression ever again just be “beauty and expression for escapist enjoyment” anymore? WWI created modernism, and everything changed.

Today, Veteran’s Day is known as Remembrance Day in Canada and Armistice Day in Europe. Poppies are worn on the lapel as a symbol of remembrance (“lest we forget”) to commemorate the vast fields of poppies that sprung up across the mass graves in Belgium and France. The poppies were the inspiration for John McCrae’s poem, “Fields of Flanders.”

Last year, in France, French President Emmanuel Macron declared at the ceremony marking the end of WWI, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

I couldn’t agree more – patriotism is the opposite of nationalism. And nationalism led to WWI.

Because nationalism (setting national gain over international citizenship) is what caused WWI. And nationalism could easily cause another unimaginable world conflagration. This is what most scares me about Trump and what most scares me about my kids’ generation not having a grasp of history. I pray neither of my children ever has to endure a generational war (although let’s not forget that American forces are waging battles around the world, today).

In order to raise “good” kids, I’m constantly preoccupied with their sense of gratitude and appreciation. So, yeah: I’ll always lecture them on history and teach the significance of world citizenship. They’ll be good kids if they grasp “world citizenship” and that patriotism means NOT allowing insecure, rich men to repeat history and take us down the path of selfish nationalism, again.

We’re all in this together…the entire world.

I don’t exactly know how to talk with my kids about such disturbing issues as massive loss of life in the name of freedom (and on behalf of European royals and leaders). But I’ll lecture my kids and will embrace the eye rolls in the interest of world citizenship and patriotism. I’ll recite “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, even though it’ll mean nothing to my kids.

For now.

And I’ll keep doing so…to protect them and their future.

Santa With a Side of Jesus

Santa With a Side of Jesus

I know – I’m exhausting: I just can’t abide y kids NOT undersatnding the reason behind any celebration, and so even at Christmas (even though we aren’t regular church-goers), I need my kids to have Santa with a side of Jesus. Or vice-versa. But let’s be honest: our culture focuses MUCH more on Santa than Jesus.

Like yours, my kids are obsessed with receiving presents. It always makes me nervous they’ll become unappreciative, acquisitive kids lacking any appreciation for the reason for the season. I fretted about it. So I quizzed them:

“Why do we celebrate Christmas?”

“To get presents!”

“Right, but beyond that, people believe someone named Jesus was born.”

And my innocent child blandly responded, “Jesus Fucking Christ?”

We were actually decorating the Christmas tree in this moment and my partner and I could absolutely not look at each other for fear of guffawing uncontrollably.

After we both bit the inside of our cheeks til we tasted blood, I responded, “Well, we usually don’t use his middle name.”

Anyway.

This year, we’re reading diverse books about Rudolph and Santa with a side of Jesus.

As I’ve alluded, I’m a believer in a higher power, a worldly energy, a united human spirit. But I don’t think there’s a grandfatherly figure with a white beard deciding whether or not we get into pearly gates. And Biblical stories?, word-for-word?…not so much.

Of course we embrace the spirit of Christmas, spreading joy and good tidings and all that jazz. But (as with appreciating Veterans’ sacrifices on Veteran’s Day – and that it’s not just a day off from school, and that Labor Day celebrates sacrifices made by people once working in deplorable factory conditions – and that’s it’s not just a day off from school), the birth of a baby named Jesus is the reason for Christmas – not just getting presents from Santa.

That’s the origin of this holiday; the why. I want my sons to know why we celebrate Christmas and why we give gifts in the same spirit of the wise men and kings bringing gifts to Jesus.

I won’t allow my kids to go through life not understanding the why – of pretty much everything.

No need to lump me in with people who get freaky-outy about keeping the “Christ” in Christmas. I really don’t think Jesus would (is?) insulted by secular shopping mall decorations or red Starbucks cups lacking snowflakes. If He weren’t so full of forgiveness, I’m sure he would be rolling his eyes at us…like incessantly.

The “war on Christmas” just sells more advertising on FOX. Christians are not the victims. And if you’re really that pure a religious observer, you should be able to separate your authentic & personal celebration from consumer frenzy.

Sorry. Stepping off my soap box.

Anyway.

Recently, I read an interesting tidbit in the NY Times about how Washington Irving (he of Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame) crafted a Christmas tradition for America and helped invent Santa Claus. (So much to unpack, here…not the least of which is we crafted our own consumer Christmas frenzy. How…American.)

Until the early 1800’s, there was no national Christmas holiday, like…anywhere; let alone the United States. They didn’t even have Santa with a side of Jesus. Christmas was even approached differently by Episcopalians and Unitarians and every other Christian denomination. (Some saw it as blasphemy. WTF?) But in a book parodying the history of NYC, Washington Irving made the Turkish St. Nicholas the patron saint of NYC. Then Irving’s neighbor wrote a poem for his daughters describing St. Nicholas as a “Ripe jolly old elf.”

Up to that time, Alexander Hamilton and Mayflower refugees weren’t dreaming of sugar plums or fretting over any war on Christmas.

It was a religious holiday celebrated by some, not by all.

Isn’t that fascinating? (I love our current culture of revisiting history with different lenses.)

I’m excited to pass this history on to my kids and help them understand the why, plus the crafting of traditions from mistletoe to crèches and mangers to Coca-Cola Santa Claus.

For this year, my kids still see Santa and say presents presents presents. But when I nag, “Why do we celebrate Christmas and give gifts?” they parrot, “Because Jesus was born.”

“And what do we do besides get presents?”

Give presents.”

So they regurgitate my words. I’m okay with that, for now.

Next year we will work on generosity, world peace with a side of virgin births.