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.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mad at Dad

I knew I should've just driven around for 5 more minutes to find an open spot on the street. But I didn't. I wasn't even that impatient this time, at least not the way I used to be when looking for parking, and yet I still didn't keep looking. Instead, I parked where it was clearly marked I shouldn't park without a permit, thinking in my head I'd get away with it.

I did not get away with it.

I wouldn't find out for hours, though. I was taking my daughters and one of their friends to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for the afternoon. We parked up the small hill from the Boardwalk because when it's really busy, it's tough to drive close to it and park. Plus, being a local, I didn't want to pay for parking, and a little walk never hurt anyone.

This was the dad weekend, since my wife, Amy, the mom, was away at her high school reunion. We had wanted to go together, but since it was the first week of school for the girls, we wanted them to stay close to home. Mom was having a blast, and the night before had sent me a cute video of her "mom" dancing with her friends at 11:30 pm, way past our usual bedtime. On the other hand, I stayed up late myself, watching Avengers: End Game after I put the girls to bed.

We know how to rock and roll.

The next day, after I parked the car, the kids and I walked down to the Boardwalk. The fog burned off and it was a lovely day. We rode some rides, got yummy snacks, and overall had a great time.

Until Bryce got hangry. This is a pretty common condition for those of you with kids who, when they get hungry, they get grumpy and angry. This isn't just specific to kids; adults can get hangry, too. Amy used to get hangry when we were first dating.

First, it started with a request to ride one of the rides that we had already walked a ways away from, coming close to the end of our visit.

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"Bryce, I said no, we've got to get back soon. We're still going to ride the bumper cars and the carousel again."

"No, I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"Do you want another snack, Bryce? Are you hungry?"

There's a point where hangry combines with being tired for a truly special meltdown, where no food will help. Bryce refused any new snacks, so Beatrice and their friend tried to help console Bryce and distract her, but the meltdown continued. She tugged on me and hit me with her hat annoyingly.

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

"I want to go on Ghost Blasters!"

In the past, I'd always try to fight fire with fire, threatening punitive measures if she didn't stop with the tantrum. Which, by the way, isn't easy for a 9-year-old. Or, any of us for that matter when we're tired and hungry. I lit the battle fires in my head and hands, battled for a bit, and then extinguished them. There was no point. It wouldn't make any difference. I texted Amy that Bryce was "Mad at Dad" and she texted back "Sorry". I hugged Bryce, told her I loved her and that I was sorry she was upset, and as soon as the bumper cars were over we were going home. Then I just let her burn herself out. She softened after the ride and as we walked back to the car, she held my hand and stayed quiet.

When we got to the car, Beatrice said, "Looks like you didn't get a ticket, Dad."

I saw the parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper. "No, it's there."

"Oh, right," Beatrice said, pulling the ticket out and handing it to me. "Sorry."

Later that night before bed, I told Bryce that I loved her and was sorry I had gotten mad.

"I'm sorry you got mad at dad," I said.

"It's okay, Daddy. I know I get hangry." She giggled when she said it. "I'm sorry."

"I love you, Bryce."

"I love you, Daddy," she said, and gave me a kiss.

Damn, that was one expensive parking spot, I thought.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The #MeToo Guys

"I said if love has these conditions
I don't understand those songs you love
She said this is not a love song
This isn't fantasy-land
Don't go too far..."

–Rush, Cold Fire

In that moment, all I could think about were the times I pushed myself on another woman. Not physically, thank goodness, but emotionally, yes. Plus, the pining that followed when I was left with nothing consensual; when I was left with nothing but rejection. Every single time a memory of a little self-inflicted cut that healed still left its scar. The scar of how I dealt with it and her, more than being told no. The difference between fantasy and reality.

"I remember every time I went too far," I said aloud.

"Me too," one of my friends said.

"So, both of you tell me," I asked two of my friends. "You both have daughters. Have you talked with them about consent? Especially when they were teenagers?"

Both friends nodded and said yes they had.

"Thank you," I said, thinking of my own daughters, almost 9 and 11. "No means no. And yes when changed to no means no."

"That's why I'm never running for office," one friend said.

We just nodded. The hormonal rage of teenage angst doesn't stop when we hit 18. Sometimes we keep making the same mistakes as adults, with too much emotional subjectivity in our decision making.

Our discussion then devolved into a circular argument about when we grew up, it was a different time, and these things happened. But every generation grows up in a different time, and these things still always happen.

The last time I got together with my friend of 40+ years, we'd had discussions about the #MeToo movement, patriarchy and the damage that too many men, especially white men of privilege, have wrought on society, women, children and other men of varying backgrounds and ethnicities.

And yet, it's still been hard for us to unravel from the rationale that "we just can't do or say anything anymore," that we'll be next on the empowered female super bullet train out to the boonies to be ostracized and left for dead.

But that's not really true. We can do better by our children, though, both girls and boys, because girls can and do make ill-fated emotional decisions as well, consensual or not. There are guidelines for us all to teach and to follow. We're in this together, to be better together.

There's a simple Kidpower message that states:

Each of us has the right to be treated with safety and respect and the responsibility to act safely and respectfully towards ourselves and others.

My wife works at Kidpower, teaching kids, teens and adults safety skills. I'm also a Kidpower padded instructor who teaches self-defense skills.

In a previous post, I shared that one of the many Kidpower instructors I admire (besides my wife, of course) inspired me with this analogy:

When we're literally on fire, we're taught to -- Stop, Drop and Roll -- to extinguish the fire.

But why are we on fire in the first place? What happened to cause the fire? What things can we do to prevent these fires in the future? To make ourselves safer? To make our families safer? To make our communities safer?

Self-defense skills are important, but consent even more so and so important to teach our children. And our teens and even us as adults, but we should definitely start with our children.

According to Kidpower, children can start to learn the following boundaries and safety rules to ensure positive consent for touch, games, and affection as soon as they can talk, and these rules stay relevant throughout their lives:

Touch or games for play, teasing, and affection should be:

  1. Safe so that no one gets hurt
  2. OK with Each Person so that each person says “yes” (people who are scared, sick, drunk, or otherwise impaired cannot say yes; people who say yes without enthusiasm, or while turning away are not saying yes…)
  3. Allowed by the adults in charge
  4. Not a secret so Others Can Know, because abusive behavior thrives in secrecy

Having skills for protecting and respecting healthy boundaries in daily activities starting as a child is essential to preventing sexual abuse and assault, and ensuring consent in sexual activities as adults.

I had such a good time with my friends. We only see each other once or twice a year, and the fact that we've known each other for decades, and even through all our mistakes, we all want to do better, to be better men, husbands and fathers. And especially for those of us with children, we have and want to instill the values of personal responsibility and consent. We are the #MeToo guys, and I want my daughters to know that there are men young and old who can, will and are doing better when it comes to consent, safety and respect.

Other past posts about these friends of mine:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Love and the Levity

"Too many broken hearts have fallen in the river
Too many lonely souls have drifted out to sea
You lay your bets and then you pay the price
The things we do for love, the things we do for love..."

–10cc, The Things We Do For Love

I saw them laugh together. Then they kissed and hugged and laughed again. Their cute dog running around their feet and barking. I couldn’t help but smile myself – a big one that went from ear to ear.

They were taking pictures. Dozens of pictures. Maybe hundreds. It was their wedding, for goodness sake, and as it should be. The groom, who's name is Ron and is my global program manager for Talent Board the organization I run, had married his sweetheart Carly and I couldn’t be happier. All of us there couldn’t be happier – family and friends all around.

My wife Amy was supposed to be with me, but our childcare for the girls didn’t work out, and so I went solo. Missed her terribly, especially because of the very sentimental moment of being at this wedding. Before I had even arrived to the wedding, somewhere 2.5 hours outside of Minneapolis, on a beautiful lake off a dirt and rock-filled road, I had been reminiscing about our wedding with Amy back in October of 2003.

And so, I pulled up an old picture from our wedding and posted it on Instagram and Facebook. One of the artsy ones that our photographer took, a dear family friend, and it had a soft, grainy, 1970’s feel to it. We stood cheek to cheek, the sun setting behind us into the sea. We put the wedding together ourselves and had lots of help from family and friends.

While at my team member's wedding, the small white lights that hung throughout the reception dinner tent lit up against the dimming light of dusk. It reminded me of the lights we had hung at our wedding all those years one point I was the only one in the room hanging the little white lights.

Or trying to hang them. There was a point where I stood at the top of a ladder holding an extension cord in one hand and a string of lights in another, trying to plug them into each other, and I felt like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I'm lucky I didn't fall and break my neck.

Here's more of that story (the video quality is poor since we waited a long time to convert from VHS to digital):

Ah, the laughter. It was great seeing Ron, his wife and all their friends and family laughing with each other as well. And then later that evening, when I checked Facebook, my friends were all poking fun at the wedding picture I posted. Teasing me more about what I wore than my lovely wife. All is fair in love and Facebook.

And yet, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It all started with the picture in the beginning of this post, which then led to a dear friend posting a funny picture of the Grateful Dead in white suits.

Which led to Earth, Wind and Fire; ABBA; the Bee Gees and so many more. Check out the thread here.

Some of you may not know who are all in these pictures, but they're pretty darn funny to me considering the context. The love and the levity of what they posted warmed my heart. Every time I look at them I'm crying. So funny.

A little laughter goes a long way in life, in relationships, in marriage. It keeps the endorphins popping in our heads and love and empathy expanding in our hearts. Along with plenty of laughter, other recommendations I would give to Ron and his wife -- compromise when possible especially when you don't see eye to eye; don't hide things from each other no matter what they are; don't judge or shame each other and definitely don't go to bed mad if you can help it (I haven't always done my best here, but am better in my elder age), always be grateful for each other and respect each other in all facets of life; fall in love every single day (that is possible, trust me) and again, laugh as much as you can.

Amen. Mercy me, so funny.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Why These Fires Start

"I'm trying, I'm trying to sleep
I'm trying, I'm trying to sleep
But I can't, but I can't when you all have
Guns for hands..."

–twenty one pilots, Guns for Hands

I almost brought the nearest to me to the ground; the two pops were loud and unmistakable. I flinched and knew in my periphery my oldest daughter was on my right and my niece and her baby daughter where slightly behind me on my left. And my wife was with our youngest daughter at the other end of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. How was I going to help them all?

I couldn't. And then I thought of part of my Kidpower self-defense training: when someone has a gun, you run. You run for safety as best as you can and get help as soon as you can. That most shooters aren't very accurate when people are running away from them, and police departments concur. That doesn't mean you won't get shot, but falling to the ground where you are can make you more of a target. And trying to fight someone with a gun pointing at you, which should be a last resort for those even with a modicum of training, could mean a quick loss of life. 

All these things went through my mind seconds after the two loud pops. But they weren't gun shots – they were just balloons popping in one of the boardwalk games. Just balloons. I sighed and then we were on our way enjoying the day. I can't imagine what it's been like for real victims of shootings and their families.

The immediate fear was palatable, though. Especially considering that only a few days earlier there was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. And for the first time we discussed shootings with our children, and what to do if it happens and how to stay safe. No surprise, it scared them, but it was still a necessary conversation. 

That's now already 32 mass shootings in the U.S. this year (defined as three or more killings in a single episode).

There have been many arguments as to why this keeps happening in America, but one clear fact documented over and over again is that there are too many guns in this country with relatively unregulated gun ownership compared to the rest of the developed world. In fact, Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. Combine that now with growing civil unrest, resurgent racism, simmering hate and fear being stoked by some of the very leaders who are supposed to call foul and unify us, and we have perpetual societal bonfires jeopardizing the lives of our families. 

I say that because one of the many Kidpower instructors I admire (besides my wife, of course) inspired me with this analogy:

When we're literally on fire, we're taught to -- Stop, Drop and Roll -- to extinguish the fire.

But why are we on fire in the first place? What happened to cause the fire? What things can we do to prevent these fires in the future? To make ourselves safer? To make our families safer? To make our communities safer?

In light of these horrific mass shootings of late, we need to keep our fears in check and work hard to be aware and prevent these societal fires from starting in the first place, including:

  • Practice skills for taking charge of your safety and your family's everyday
  • Learn and practice the safety plan at your school/business
  • Practice speaking up about safety to those with power to act
  • Practice overcoming the “Bystander Effect" and empowering yourself and others to take action
  • Help strengthen a positive social climate in your community

These being just a few of the Kidpower Safety tips for individuals and families

And as American citizens, speaking truth to power about why these fires start in the first place and what we can do to prevent them through legislation and law enforcement is also our responsibility. We can and should be shouting from the rooftops about reducing the number of guns in our country and addressing the racist hate and destructive anger that's driving these mass shootings of late.

Speak up and be safe.