Monday, May 31, 2010

The Adventures of Iron Man (shoes)

My four year old son got his first pair of shoes with laces the other day. It had less to do with wanting laces and more to do with wanting Iron Man shoes that light up when you run. I was somewhat hesitant, fearing countless painful scenarios of trying to rush out the door while facing the inevitable, “No! Let me do it!” I also thought his preschool would be a little less than thrilled, seeing as the kids are going in and out of the building about 400 times a day.

Sure enough, each time we headed out the door he would want to try and tie his shoes. I usually gave him three tries and then did it myself. I hated to curb his independence and desire to learn a new skill, but as usual, we didn’t have the time to practice for a half an hour when we were already five minutes late for swimming lessons. I would kick myself because I kept intending to find a non-rushed time to encourage him to practice, but it always slipped my mind.

The other day my son and I were at the YMCA. I had been having “one of those days”—which for me usually devolves into a pathetic self pity. I was having a bad work day, my bad back was causing me grief and my wife and I had engaged in one of those stupid fights that only married couples can have. I had just finished a workout and had fished Connor out of the swimming pool. I got him showered and dressed and was about to begin putting my clothes on, when I actually remembered.

“Hey, Connor. Why don’t you practice tying your shoes while I get dressed?”

“Ok, Daddy.”

I finished toweling off and put my clothes on. As I was pulling my sweater over my head, Connor said, “Daddy, Look!”

I looked down to see my beautiful boy beaming and a perfect little bow on his shoes.

“Connor, you did it!” I gave him a huge hug. “Great work!”

“Let’s go home and tell mommy.” He said.

He raced out of the change room and down the hall. He was telling every stranger he passed the huge news.

“I just tied my shoes!” he boasted. Some people got it an offered an enthusiastic, "Way to Go!" Others just shrugged and grunted something inaudible. The front desk staff all gave him high fives.

Talk about living vicariously through your children! I was filled with such joy watching him. Not so much at the impressive feat of learning to tie his shoes, but because he was brimming with pride in himself and was giving in to unabashed elation.

Needless to say, my wallowing dissolved. Once again, my son had given me a gift without even knowing it.

How can you feel sorry for yourself when your little boy is over the moon?

Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Evolution of Dad" -- A Review

If I were reviewing “The Evolution of Dad” as a fictitious film rather than a documentary, I’d say this film has all the makings of a great movie. There is drama and conflict, triumph and tragic storylines, poignancy and laugh-out-loud humour. And there are enough love stories in the first five minutes of this film alone to make Casablanca look like a war flick.

Like any great film, there are great players. We meet heroes like Kevin Knussman, a Maryland State Trooper who is forced to take on his employer when they refuse to grant him a leave to tend to his ailing pregnant wife. “Do I abandon my family?” asks Knussman, “or do I abandon the job that feeds my family?”

We have our corporate villain who, when told that America keeps company with four third world countries as the only ones on the planet without paid parental leave, responds cold heartedly with, “Well, I guess someone who really wants it should consider moving.”

We have the unconventional and unwitting champion, Ralph Benitez (seen above), whose bravery and self-sacrifice would shame any glossy father of the year candidate. Not only do we discover his once downward-spiraling life is saved by the birth of his own child, but we witness his selfless devotion to his fatherless granddaughter.

Having said all of that, The Evolution of Dad isn’t fiction—it’s fact. And that makes this movie all the more compelling.

Some of you know I run a business which attempts to help companies realize the work life balance challenges faced by dads. Frankly, I should show this movie to all my potential clients, because this movie does a brilliant job of portraying the numerous and unique challenges faced by men who want to be nothing less than a full and positive presence in the life of their children. From working dads who are confined by archaic workplace culture to at home dads who have to fight antiquated attitudes, the men in this movie are trailblazers and heroes.

This film is also a celebration which goes far beyond heroic dads and heart rending stories. And while this documentary tells us the facts about involved fathers and what benefits they bring to their children, more importantly, it demonstrates a greater truth: involved fathers are good for fathers themselves. They are good for all of us.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Evolution of Dad- Men's Work Life Balance

I'll be giving you my review of the new film "The Evolution of Dad" in the next day or so.  In the meantime, I have a clip from the movie about something that is near and dear to my heart: men's work life balance.

I don't know how many of you know, but my burgeoning business, Bettermen Solutions, is dedicated to help businesses thrive by helping their male employees with better work life balance skills.  I am also the Work Life Balance editor over at The Father Life. You can google "work life balance" and you'll find a billion posts on "moms and work life balance"--these are important and it's essential that they be written.  However, statistically speaking, it is men who represent the fastest growing group of people complaining about a lack of work life balance.  You just never hear us complain about it--men aren't allowed to whine, remember? (unless we have a tiny cold, then we have free licence!)

At any rate, I hope you'll watch the short three minute video below. You have to enter the password, "workingdad."

Dads & Work/Life Balance from Evolution of Dad on Vimeo.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Happy Mother's day?" redux --or "Why I am boycotting Pampers"

There is an interesting little “dad-centric” event happening going on over at Brian Reid’s Rebel Dad web site.

For those of you who don’t know Brian, he is a pioneer in the dad-blogosphere and a staunch advocate for dads to be recognized as equal parents. To boot, he is a very funny guy.

At any rate, Brian has started an impromptu boycott campaign of Pampers. The reason? Four consecutive years of  letters like this:

Hello BRIAN,
Happy Mothers Day!
Thanks, Mom for all that you do.
On this special day, check out the tribute that Pampers has for you! Come join us and other moms on Facebook and YouTube, and take a moment to share what you love best about being a mother.

Pampers had got Brian’s email address in the first place from their points collecting program. As Brian is an at home dad, he was the one buying the diapers, changing the diapers and subsequently entering the ‘code’ into the on-line points collector.

At any rate, four years of stupidity was enough for Brian so he decided to write Pampers and let them know he’s boycotting until they wake up to the fact that there are involved dads out there, too. Before you know it, people were tweeting things like this:

I'm joining @rebeldad and boycotting Pampers until they recognize that dads do diapers, too. #pampersboycott

Now, nearly 10,000 people on twitter have been made aware of the boycott.

A few days later, Brian thought he was getting a peace offering when he saw something from Proctor & Gamble (the makers of Pampers) in the mailbox. However, what he got was this:

I don’t know if you picked it out at first glance, but while mom is playing happily with her two kids, dad is SLEEPING ON THE COUCH!

In my business, I do a lot of talking about the forces at play which make it hard for men to break away from the restraints of the old paradigm when it comes to their relationship with their kids. I argue that society still keeps men at an arms length by reinforcing that mom is the superior, go-to parent, and dad is better serving his family by being at the office. A lot of people scoff at me when I say that. Intellectually the overwhelming majority of us have moved beyond those antiquated stereotypes. However, these sorts of images, subtle though this one may be, serve to do nothing but help keep dad on the couch.

If you are a proud, involved father, speak out. Let people know that you aren’t a lie-on-the-couch dad. And let Pampers know that sort of advertising does nothing but reinforce old gender lines that hurt everybody.

Brian’s boycott on twitter is #pampersboycott and Brian’s twitter address is @rebeldad

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day?

To all my mom readers out there, I wish you a belated, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

And I hope I’m not the first man to wish that to you.

I was alarmed to discover from my wife yesterday that five of her friends/acquaintances got nothing—I repeat—nothing from their husbands (or their kids via their husbands) on Mother’s day. I know of one dad who didn’t even let his wife sleep in; he snoozed while his wife got up with the kids! And lest these dads want to use the lame excuse, “Well, you’re not my mother” their kids are either in pre-school or diapers and not likely to come up with a mother’s day present without a little help.

I’ve met all of the dads in question, and think they are all good guys and great dads. I am beyond wordless that these men would be so utterly unconscious as to do nothing for the mother of their children on her special day.

I am far from the perfect husband. I forget things, I’m easily preoccupied, I can be selfish and I’m not as good at acknowledging everything my wife does to keep our family together as I should be. My wife is patient with my shortcomings as I try to be with hers. That said, if I didn’t do anything for her on mother’s day, I might as well walk into the nearest open sewer and die.

The point, as much as I want to, is not to berate these fathers for their utter cluelessness. The point is to express what has to be fathering (if not parenting) tip number one: be good to your spouse and put your marriage first.

A healthy marriage will benefit your kids in countless ways. You are modeling a strong adult relationship; you are demonstrating to your son how he should behave to his future wife; you are setting a positive example for your daughter of what she should seek in a husband. A healthy marriage will result in a happier home where your children will have an opportunity to thrive. Take your spouse for granted too many times, however, and it is a recipe for disaster.

I sure hope these guys aren’t expecting anything for Father’s Day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Evolution of Dad

I just wanted to give a heads up. The groundbreaking documentary “The Evolution of Dad” is now available for order.  I’m not just saying this because the above photo of my oldest son and me appears in the first five minutes, I’m saying this because it is a very important film and one which I can’t wait to see.

It has also been a labour of love for the film maker, Dana Glazer, and I hope it will be as monetarily fruitful for him as I’m sure it was emotionally.

You can check out the first five minutes of the film here.