Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The lost art of the disciplined laughing smack

Happy Fatherhood Friday!

Listen, when I was growing up I had my mouth washed out with soap, my bare bottom spanked with a belt and a fly swatter, the indignant pubescent smirk smacked off my face – all in the name of love and discipline.

I never thought of these incidents as abuse and never will. I’m not making light of it either in the context of today's reality; I wrote yet another post about my efforts to help prevent domestic violence and child abuse and my participation in the Human Race.

But what’s with the link between the baby shaker app pulled from iTunes and encouraging child abuse?

The app encouraged users to shake a virtual baby to quiet its cries. One parent,

whose own son suffered brain damage after being shaken by his biological father, worried that "Baby Shaker" not only was in bad taste but might encourage child abuse.

I empathize with that parent; that’s nothing but blatant child abuse and I hope that father was prosecuted. Apple since apologized and rightly so, but I still don’t buy it would’ve encouraged child abuse. I give people more credit than that and responsible parents wouldn’t be wasting their time with that crap anyway. (I downloaded the iFart and Cylon Detector apps – what a frickin’ waste.)

But the lady who lost it and told her girls to get out of the car and then drove away? C’mon. What the hell?

I’m not a mom (I’m a dad) and I have yet to experience the joy of Bea driving me absolutely bonkers, but I would never tell her to get out of the car and drive away. Mama A doesn’t subscribe to physical discipline, but I’d argue a swat now and again would have a positive impact, not a negative one. Time outs are for woosies (just kidding - no hate mail please).

When my sister and I were 7 and 9 we went with my mom on an errand spree. We were maybe into errand number 2 and we were done.

Done. Whiny done. Sniveling, slobbery, crying done.

Mom warned us multiple times to stop it, but we escalated to whiny shriek, bouncing and rocking all over the backseat (long before the seat belt law). After the third errand we were inconsolable.

Mom said, “That’s it. When we get home you’re both getting a spanking.

Immediately we shifted to begging and bartering mode. I would’ve sold my soul at that point. Mom kept quiet all the way home while we plead with her.

As soon as we pulled into the driveway, she started laughing. A really honest forgiveness laugh.

We sighed with relief. We were redeemed. There was a God.

“You’re not going to spank us now?” I asked.

Mom laughed even harder.

“Yes, I am. Now get in the house.

I don’t think I ever whined on errands again. I’m just sayin’…

Remember, Fatherhood Friday is hip place at Dad-Blogs.com for dads and moms to share stories, ideas, photos and movies with one topic in mind – fatherhood.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Be part of the Human Race. Help prevent domestic violence.

For you are fearfully and wonderfully made…

Psalms 139

That’s one of the first things you read in the uplifting children’s book On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, which is currently in our Bea reading rotation.

I think about that day a lot and the months and years leading up to the birth of Beatrice.

The other morning I held my daughter close while we looked out into the backyard together. A hummingbird flitted then floated above our blooming flowers. We both watched in wonder while the sun cast light on spring’s life renewal. The Japanese maple that Amy had bought for me after we met almost 12 years ago grows strong and vibrant, a tribute to our family’s love.

I’m one of the good guys, I whispered in her ear. You and Mama are too.

Later, after returning to work, my Google Alerts “child abuse” and “domestic violence” stopped me cold.

Everyday they come in – one vile example after another of broken people doing horrible things.

Why don’t I stop them? Because it’s my growing cause TO stop them. Literally. I’ve never been motivated to help on such a specific cause, even though I’ve lived it, but now that I’m a father, everything’s changed.

And keeps changing. Now that I’m a father. We’re the good guys, Bea.

There are examples of hope in those news alerts – various organizations that educate and help make a difference.

One of those is local Santa Cruz County non-profit, Women's Crisis Support ~ Defensa de Mujeres, whose mission is to end domestic violence and sexual assault by providing intervention and prevention services in a culturally-sensitive way.

On May 9, 2009 I will be participating in the 2009 Human Race in Santa Cruz, CA, supporting this organization.

The Human Race is a nationwide community fundraising event for nonprofit organizations, schools, and faith based organizations. This race is the Central Coast's largest collaborative community fundraiser, and features a fun run and walk beginning at Natural Bridges State Park and winding along one of our most beautiful natural resources West Cliff Drive. Organizations and businesses recruit walkers/runners/pledge-gatherers to raise funds. Participating nonprofit organizations receive at least 75% of monies collected and the Volunteer Center receives the remaining percentage to coordinate and stage the event.

To make this fundraising event a success I am asking others to partner with me in raising $1,000 to benefit Women's Crisis Support (in honor of my mother, a survivor of domestic violence).

I’ve only raised $210 to date, of which I thank my friends and family. And that’s okay, because I’m raising awareness as well and will not stop talking about the issues of domestic violence and child abuse.

Whether you help me directly and Follow This Link to visit my personal Human Race web page, or donate/volunteer in your own communities, I commend you – especially you fathers out there taking responsibility for yourselves and your families. It’s even National Volunteer Week this week.

If you know of anyone who’s in an abusive relationship – physically and/or psychologically – adult and/or child – please get them help.

Be part of the Human Race. Help prevent domestic violence.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Monitoring the Bea-Hand-Foot-To-Mouth Action

Argh. The week got away and my grand aspirations of posting a variety of posts were usurped by work and then sucked into my baby’s mouth.

Why? Because Bea’s at that oral exploration stage where everything she get’s her hands on – including her own fists and feet – go into her mouth.

When Bea is happy – mouth opens wide – fists fly into the mouth. And when Bea wants to learn about a new object – and everything is new to a baby – she puts it in her mouth. We have dozens of drool rags around the house for these moments.

No teeth have broken the gum line yet, but we know that’s coming soon now that she’s on her way to 7 months next week.

Ah, from the mouths of babes…and into the mouths of babes...

So a little levity on Fatherhood Friday is in order after a busy week. The hip cats at FF at least get me motivated to share some fatherhood fun!

Here’s a list of items we don’t allow within the vicinity Bea-hand-foot-to-mouth action:
  • Very small toys she could choke on
  • Toys with removable or breakable parts she could choke on
  • Toys we haven’t boiled in a pot of water yet
  • Toys with lead content (which we bought a kit to check for this)
  • Peeling paint (which thankfully we don’t have)
  • Push pins
  • Writing pens
  • Power tools
  • Spackle
  • Motor oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Household cleaners
  • Other people’s feet
  • Fresh diapers
  • Not-so-fresh diapers
  • Letter openers
  • Scalpels
  • Japanese throwing stars
  • Chinese throwing stars
  • Indian arrowheads
  • Chicken bones
  • 300-year-old cats (ours is named Chelsea)
  • Remote controls (keep yelling at Mama about this one)
  • The California state legislature
  • Toxic bank assets
  • The seceding of Texas
  • And lastly Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter (remember, hydrochloric acid burns)
Have a great weekend and be safe with the little ones!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vaccinations; wellness elves!

2, 4, 6, 12 -
Vaccinations; wellness elves!

I worked on that one for a while this morning, and it’s still a forced metaphor. Sigh.

This week was Beatrice’s six-month wellness tune-up and she be a big girl: 27 inches long and 17 lbs, 2 oz.

When it came to giving Bea her immunizations, we did our due diligence and researched and read and debated and decided.

The evidence against vaccinating just wasn’t substantive enough. In fact, the mysterious link between autism and a common vaccine given to children to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella was found to be unfounded.

Bea’s not old enough for that shot yet, but still immunizing your child with those vaccines listed below is enough to make any parent shudder with fear and discomfort.

Many of these are live viruses for God’s sake and the side effects can and do vary from child to child. Thankfully Bea’s have been mild if not nil, but still…

The evidence just wasn’t there to convince us otherwise. It actually convinced us to immunize.

I listened to a This American Life podcast last December titled Ruining It for the Rest of Us, and one of the stories was about the San Diego parents who didn't vaccinate their child for measles. When their seven-year-old caught the disease on an overseas trip, this decision became a whole community's problem. The outbreak infected 11 children and endangered many others.

That story convinced me to immunize, although the hardest thing for me as a new father is to wait and watch. (Mama can’t even watch.)

We’re in the waiting room, waiting and waiting and waiting after our pediatrician baby wellness check-up. Beatrice is fine at first with the waiting-playing game, but you know how baby attention spans flitter and flutter and sputter like a flames in the rain. Finally the nurse arrives (why does it take a frickin’ half hour between doctor and nurse?).

Polio is administered first. It’s easy. It’s a liquid that baby ingests. Then the shots.

I lean over and coo at Bea, hold her hands on her chest while Mama looks away and the nurse stabs the first shot in Bea’s thigh.

Wait for it. One second, two – face red, mouth wide, silent void – then BABY SHRIEK.

Second shot – Wait for it. One second, two – face red, mouth wide, silent void – then BABY SHRIEK.

(Missed the third shot this time; they were out of Hib.)

Ah, but Beatrice recovers quickly these days, and soon we were all home snuggling like little Easter Bunnies.

Public Service Announcement: Please immunize your children but don’t buy them bunnies or baby chicks this Easter.

Really. The wellness elves thank you.

Happy Easter.

***

These immunizations are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
  • DTaP, to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Hepatitis A, to protect against hepatitis A, which can cause the liver disease hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis B (HBV), to protect against hepatitis B, which can cause the liver disease hepatitis:
  • Hib, to protect against Haemophilus influenza type B, which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and epiglottitis:
  • HPV, to protect against human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and a cause of cervical cancer.
  • Influenza (the flu shot), to protect against influenza (the "flu").
  • Meningococcal, to protect against meningococcal disease. Before the vaccine came along, meningococcal disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children in the United States.
  • MMR, to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).
  • Pneumococcal (PCV), to protect against pneumococcal disease, which can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.
  • Polio (IPV), to protect against polio.
  • Rotavirus, to protect against rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and dehydration. This vaccine is given orally, not as an injection.
  • Varicella, to protect against chicken pox.
***

It's time once again for Fatherhood Friday. Fatherhood Friday is hip place at Dad-Blogs.com for dads and moms to share stories, ideas, photos and movies with one topic in mind – fatherhood.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Brief Tale of Blue Genes

It's time once again for Fatherhood Friday. Fatherhood Friday is hip place at Dad-Blogs.com for dads and moms to share stories, ideas, photos and movies with one topic in mind – fatherhood.

***

It’s four in the morning and as I lay in bed tossing and turning over a million different things, one of those being that someday Bea will ask me what happened with my father.

Not the man I call Dad today but the man I share genes with, my birth father. She’ll come across something I’ve written, an old photograph, and then she’ll ask questions about him, why I don’t talk about him, where he lives now, what happened to him, to us.

She’ll ask and I’ll tell her a brief tale of blue genes.

***

The last time I saw my birth father I was 13 years old, my sister 11. It was visitation day; I don’t remember what time of the year together. I only know it wasn’t hot or cold. He came to our front door dressed in a faded flannel shirt and blue jeans. He might have worn a cowboy hat. I’m not exactly sure, but I see it on his head. He held a grocery bag full of dirty carrots pulled from his garden.

Eternity. My sister stood slightly behind me, one hand on my shirt. I don’t remember what I said, if anything.

Then he said, “So, you don’t want to see me anymore?”

I nodded slowly. My sister pulled on my shirt. I must have said something to prompt his question, but I was too scared to even think.

He pushed his cowboy hat back, set the bag of carrots down and said:

“Goodbye kids.”

And then he left. I haven’t seen or heard from him since.

***

My childhood memories of my father aren’t pleasant. He drank a lot. Smoked a lot. Beat my mother a lot. Fooled around with other women a lot. Ignored my sister and I a lot.

Although he never touched us, we feared his violence; my sister and I would hide in my room while he ranted, boozed and abused my mother. Twelve years my mother lived that hell, nine of it with us in tow.

I raged quietly, impotent, nothing I could do to stop it. I only had the fantasy of heroic intervention – the skinny, asthmatic, bookworm, introverted nine-year-old boy beating his dad to a pulp.

There were less than a handful of quintessential father-son moments: the building of my tree house, the actual building I only recall through photographs; the watching him build his alcohol-powered planes, constructed with balsa wood, tissue paper and the paint sealer called dope; the day I took my training wheels off my sweet purple bike with the banana seat and he pushed me up and down the street.

There were also the fleeting moments of forgiveness when he’d apologize to us all and say he would change, but never did. Alcoholism became the disease that justified the abuse.

Even after we left him, he did have visitation rights for a few years and those were almost as unbearable as living with him. Those visits always felt forced, as if he were doing someone he didn’t like a favor of watching us for a few hours, sometimes for the night. We had nothing to talk about, nothing to share, nothing in common.

Except for blue genes.

***

(The following segment is from a previous post last year titled Daddy K takes the long road home)

The road to fatherhood began abysmally for me – from abusive biological father, to abusive first step-father, to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive teenager (me), to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive young adult (again, yours truly), to self-abusive anxiety-ridden depressive angry resentful deceptive longed to be liked poor excuse for a contradictive man and husband (marriage #1), to brooding on the brink of finally mastering control of my life with a pre-Mama A saying stand up and get it together or get out.

Stand up and get it together. Get off the ground. Let go the legacy of anger and fear. Have hope. Have faith.

(No worries, I've always had a good heart, there were good times along the way, and I had good father I'll talk about in one of my next postings).

Which is why The Road by Cormac McCarthy had such a profound effect on me last year when we listened to the audio book during our Southwest trip (and I just found out it's going to be a move this year). It was one of those defining moments that filled our hearts with choice.

WARNING - For those of you who haven't read it and plan to, do not read on because I've got a spoiler coming.

The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and young son trying to survive a horrific world gone mad while traveling on a road to the coast, a road of hope. Sadly when they reach the coast and can't find any civilized civilization to speak of, hope is all but lost. The father is very ill and dies, leaving the boy alone.

Then, out of the darkness, a man offers his help to the boy. The man tells the boy he needs to come with them, because they can help him. The boy is resistant; he doesn't want to leave his dead father and he's unsure of the man's motives.

"Are you one of the good guys?" The boy asks.

"Yes, I'm one of the good guys," the man answers.

The boy takes his hand and they walk off.

Stand up and get it together. Get off the ground. Let go the legacy of anger and fear. Have hope. Have faith.

Be one of the good guys.

***

Three decades have gone by. A week ago I learned my birth father has lung cancer. He’s in treatment but his prognosis isn’t good.

Apathy, contrasted with my ghostly childhood memories, filled me with a contradictory sense of inaction and empathy.

It’s a surreal feeling – not really caring or motivated to do anything but understanding the shadow world you share with your father – the blue genes.

Unconditional forgiveness portends remorseful reciprocity. In other words, you have to own it and own up to it in order to find redemption and solace with those you’ve wronged.

My birth father didn’t do that with me, and although I didn’t have to do that with him, my conditional forgiveness was given.

That was enough for me to heal and live my life and finally become the father he never was.

Jesus washed the feet of his betrayers, but I will not wash the feet of my father.

He should make peace with his.

Bea may never understand why I feel this way, but if we bring her up her as well as we plan on doing, then that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Maybe tonight I'll sleep better.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fixing a Hero Sandwich: Caring for Both Children and Parents

This is a Guest Post for Who’s in da DAMN House Wednesday?

I was honored when Kristy Nuttall from Where’s My Damn Answer asked me to be a guest blogger. I’ve known Kristy since high school and when we recently reconnected I was introduced to WMDA, which is high up on Google Reader list.

I was also a guest on their radio show Today’s Woman last month and the topic was on Facebook and Twitter - two of my favorites for business or pleasure! Although the host Karena, a pilates expert, and the other ladies of WMDA, started off on a kegel tangent that rocked my boat a bit.

Girls, girls, girls -- that's what it's all about for Daddy K!

Mama A, Baby Bea and Chelsea the 300-year-old cat -- I am a chick magnet (wink).

Now on to my serious post...

***

Two weeks ago one of my firm’s new marketing/PR verticals, SeniorCareMarketer.com, exhibited at the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging 2009 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Besides being in Vegas - the most fun I’ll ever have losing $20 in less than three minutes while staying up way past my bedtime of 9:00 p.m. to watch others blow thousands - the conference was very informative for me personally as well as professionally.

Read the entire post at WMDA...