Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dads on TV Part 1. (Top 5 sitcom Dads)

The idea for this blog posting came to me one night as I watched rap videos and thought about the negative stereotypes that women face in mainstream/hip hop culture. I asked myself, "What are the stereotypes of males in our media?" If young women are being taught to be sexualized at such a young age, what are our young male counterparts being told? For the purpose of this blog, I will be writing about the dad characters on TV and in the media. As I began to think about the male characters that I had grown up watching I realized that there were not to many positive role models for us guys either.

Heres a quick trip down memory lane and a list of my 5+ least favorite sitcom dads......

Homer Simpson - Does he even need an introduction? Homer is the epitome of the american male sterotype. Beer drinking, bowling, overweight and the main bread winner are some of the common cliches present.

Peter Griffin - Homer Simpson, but with an exponent value. Peter Griffin is like homer squared. I stopped watching family guy for the same reason I stopped watching Russel Peters. Both characters perpetuate negative racial stereotypes. I don't stand for that type of thing.

Ross Gellar - This dad character was interesting to me. Ross didn't have any of the regular cliches except the fact that he had no game whatsoever and could not talk to women. He was the only dad on a TV sitcom to get divorced and was practically pushed out of his child's life by his newly out of the closet babies momma. Looking back I can reflect on how little we ever saw Ross' son on the show and how typical that is for lots of single dads across the states. (fathers for families.org) And then Rachel had to go and have his baby and tell him to F off. (I need to take a break before I get riled up over some fictional characters......)

Alan Harper - For several seasons, Alan Harpers neurotic, divorced and broke dad character has remained those things. This is the most painful for me to watch. Here is a single dad, who is constantly under moral attack from his holier (and "cooler") than thou brother, and always under attack from his ex-wife. Look around single dads, this cliche is always closer than you think.

Jim Orenthall, Ray Barone, Paul Hennessey - Back to happily wed dad characters. This is the most common dad cliche around. A coupe of kids, wife and life in the suburbs in a big house where the bedrooms are always upstairs and out of camera view. The parents-in-law were always around to help with the kids and life is generally peachy. None of these dads really compel me to watch their shows or anything.

After looking at a bunch of different dads on TV, the most common characteristics I noticed were

  1. Fat / Overwieght
  2. Main Income Earners - Not the stay at home parents
  3. Bad with words, communicating with partner
  4. Hot Wife
  5. Mortgage (and Financial Pressure, see #2)
There are obviously dads on T.V. who break this mold and these are the dads that we really felt we could actually learn something from. 

Dan Connor - Dan was THE all american blue collar dad. This was the tv dad I related to the most. Dan Connor didn't really take any shit from anybody. He worked lots of different jobs, tried to open his own garage, and beat up women abusers. He was always around for his kids and made an effort to really address the issues and help them with life. He smoked a little weed (and got paranoid and hid in the shower!! hahaha) but was most definiteyl the most REAL dad I ever saw in a sitcom.

Cliff Huxtable - I enjoyed watching the Huxtables as a kid becuase Bill Cosby was a damn good tv father. You couldn't get away with anything in that household with out getting a talking to by either Cliff or Claire. The Cosby Show was produced by the same company as Roseanne and I have a feeling was supposed to be the white equivilant. I did notice at a young age that these two race sterotypes at the time were completely backwards. Rich black family vs. poor white family and it lead me to watch Roseanne a lot more because I could relate to it easier.  

Phillip Banks - Judge Banks was a great TV father, taking in his "delinquent" nephew in the rich town of Bel Air. Maybe I was too young to notice any topics of racism on the Cosby show but I do remember the "Being Black while Driving" episode of Fresh Prince!! It was that episode that made me realize a lot of things about America and also put Philip Banks into my top 5 TV dads category.

Tony Micelli - Tony was another all around blue collar single dad trying to raise a daughter. I think we all know why I liked this Dad. Because he had a hot Daughter!! I would of done anything for a date with young Sam, and based on how she looks now, I probably still would. But Tony was a perfect example of a stay at home dad, who ended up looking after his employers son as well as his own daughter. It also challenged cliches and sterotypes as Tony was the live in maid/caregiver which was usually defined as a womens role.

Hawkeye Pierce  (not pictured)- I know that Hawkeye wasnt really a father in the usual sense per se. He was also a crazy womanizer. But as a male role model and lead surgeon, Hawkeye really had the eyes of the #4077 on him. And on numerous occasions, (even in the first season) he was raising money or support for different people on the army base and trying to help and play a father figure to whomever he met.

In part 2 of this blog, I will be looking at the stereotypes of dad's on TV, the nature vs. nurture arguement and race relations in the media.

 Now this is more just my opinion than anything, but I really feel like prime time TV is trying to encourage and suggest how we live our lives. By watching a TV show about something you can relate to on TV, we will feel comfortable doing the same activities, wearing the same clothes, and using the same brands as the people on TV. During prime time hours, a typical family will have just had dinner and be winding down trying to relax and rest up for tomorrows long day of work/school. Anybody who has ever meditated knows that a relaxed brain is a brain that is open to suggestion. So as we watch our favorite programs, we are being suggested to consume products and act certain ways. Here are some of those suggestions that I would like to bring some light to.

Here are some other TV dad lists/information you might find interesting.

And don't forget to come back and join me next week for the exciting of conclusion of.....(whats that, this is our last episode? Mid season cancellation what?!?!?!!?) just kidding. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kids on Leashes

Every now and then I see parents walking around the mall or some shopping centre with their child(ren) on a leash. I can't really say I'm for putting a leash on your child, (I'll explain why later) but I would like to explore both sides of the argument and present my own way of dealing with this issue.

Lets first take a look at the Pro's and Con's of the issue.
Allows parents to take a mental break from watching their kid (Is this a pro?)
Assists in control of the child
Allows child a certain amount of freedom(Does it?)
Prevents abduction
Provides security/safety

Huge negative stigma (People pointing and staring and whispering)
Lack of intimacy between parents and children
Allows parents attention to stray from child
Can trip up other parents

Here is an in depth look at some of the arguments for leashing your kids.
Parents feel they need a break from attending to their child. This reason to me is lame excuse to not watch your kids. Did you miss the spot in the “your going to be parent workshop” that stated there are no breaks ever? I guess so. Please don't tie your kid up to the safety rail.

Another reason for keeping your kids on a leash safety and preventing things like climbing on things or fall over ledges etc. Who doesn't want to keep their kid safe and uninjured? My whole argument to any of these reasons is basically the same. We should be able to teach our kids how to behave and act accordingly. I don't wish an injury on any poor child or the worry that parents go through for their injured children.

Parents argue the fact that you can't keep an eye on your kid all the time. I can relate to this issue because my son managed to get away from both his mom and I after we had miscommunicated about who was supposed to be watching him while we bagged groceries. Had it not been for a random lady paying attention outside the store, my son would have wandered right into traffic on Hastings and Nanaimo. Rather than leashing my child, I vowed to pay more attention and not let him out my sight.

Parents enjoy the security of being able to look away from their child knowing that some random stranger isn't going to scoop them up in that split second. I also feel that this is a pretty valid reason for leashing your child. I don't think I've ever really worried about this much because I know if somebody snatched my kid and ran off, I'm quick enough to catch him and beat the snot out of him. For a mother who may not feel comfortable running after and fighting a random stranger I can see how this would be an issue.

Here is a few personal anecdotes from my own life pertaining to security and safety with out a leash and how I addressed the issue with my son.

When my son was about 5, the two of us were walking down Commercial Drive headed to Britannia Pool. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a friend running up behind us (east van always look over your shoulder techniques) who was clearly trying to sneak up on Isaiah and scare him. As my friend ran up to him she picked him up and began to run off with him. As soon as Isaiah was more than a foot of off the ground, he panicked and began to squirm so much that my friend had to put him down before she tripped and fell over with him. He was pretty shook up and rightfully so. I felt bad, and it gave us the opportunity to discuss abductions and how to get help etc. Since not long after that day, he has memorized my phone number and knows how to get a hold of me by phone and what kind of people to talk to in case of an emergency (generally - people in uniforms).

The other thing I have taught my son is to keep an eye on dad. One night after coming out of the local Safeway, Isaiah decided it would be a good idea to hide on Dad. He was about 5 or 6 and was about to learn the hard way about inappropriate humour. I turned around to look for Isaiah and he was GONE. This was the first time something like this had ever happened to me. I was shocked and immediately panicked. After an eternal 45 seconds he popped out with a smile on his face and said, “Hahahahaha dad – I scared you!” I remember feeling so many emotions at once I was overwhelmed. Relief, anger and humour were the most obvious emotions. Rather than getting mad at him, I explained to him how worried I was and why it is important to always stay close to dad. I also related it to how scared he was in the previous paragraph's situation. I'm not sure he totally got it so I formulated a better plan.

On the way home from school one day, I noticed he was off in his own little world and not paying any attention to dad. So, I double backed around him and just watched him as he continued to “follow” me. After a about a minute and a half he looked up to really find me. Even from the back I could see the tension in his body as he began to realize, “I don't know where dad is.” As the panic began to sink in he began to look all over for me so I stepped in before he got really scared. Apparently I was a little too late. My poor son was crying in the fear that he had lost his dad. I explained to him why it was important for BOTH of us to always keep a good eye on each other to prevent becoming separated.

Now, an in depth look at some of the con's of leashes.

There is an incredibly bad stigma attached to leashing your kids. People do it, nobody talks to them about it and at the present time, none of the parents I know that leash their kids have responded to any of my posts, messages or comments. According to twitter, it is something black people seem to hold against white people. Google search “kids on leashes” and there is a plethora of negative opinion and equal amounts of positive marketing but no defensive statements from parents who do it. I do understand I'm painting a kind of nasty picture so I'm going to leave this one here and let people make their own conclusions.

Some child psychiatrists believe that holding a child's hand and staying close to a child is better for its development. I can actually defend this on behalf of parents who leash their kids because I have a special kid in my life (although somewhat far away from me) who is developing amazingly quick with spoken word, social skills and basics like sharing. I would agree that holding a child's hand during their infant years would be beneficial but that intimacy with your offspring can be achieved in other ways. Not all parents keep their children on leashes 24/7.

Putting your kid on a leash while you window shop and pre occupy yourself is not one of the aforementioned ways though. This example is the poison of leashing your children. This action is what perpetuates the stereotype of lazy parent and I don't doubt that laziness is the premier reason for leashing your child. But some parents work extremely hard at parenting and deserve a couple of minutes here and there to themselves at the mall or grocery store or where ever.

This has actually happened to me and it really pisses me off. Not so much when it happens with Dogs but if I'm trying to walk and your kid darts out in front of me and your looking at some jewelry and the leash cuts of my path, you might get cursed out. Please don't let your short comings as a parent impede my path to where ever I'm going. Pay attention to your kid. It might sound trivial but dammit, it pisses me off.

Feel free to make your own decisions on this one. And make sure if you have a friend or relative that puts a leash on thier child, make sure it's for the right reasons (good parents need a break) and not the wrong reasons.

And here is a bonus link to a great picture gallery of kids on leashes because I'm not biased.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to stop your kids from lying!

White Lies

Today I would like to offer some single parent advice to you east van single parents out there (and the rest of the world too!) and answer the question, “Why are my children lying?” Lying always seems like the easy way out. Most of us do it instinctively to avoid getting into perceived trouble or drama. Being a great parent takes remembering what it felt like to be a great kid and that unfortunately rings true for negative character traits as well though. If we are assholes, our kids will turn out to be assholes. And lying to yourself about it doesn't help either.
Well, yesterday I caught my son in a “harmless” white lie. At the age of eight however, one could argue the harmless point, hence the quotations. While sitting on the couch, I notice that the 3.5 floppy disks I had dragged out of the closet,were sitting conspicuously on the chair, outside of their natural habitat. It reminded me of a Bernie Mac joke from the Kings of Comedy about how there are only two people in the house and if shit gets broke, he knows who the fuck did it.
Check out about 1:20 - 1:47 for the reference material.

Im kinda thinking the same thing, “I didn't leave those there, how did they get there? I didn't even take the disks out!”

So I asked my son, “Did you take those disks out?” The answer was quick and obvious. “No.” was the reply with the regular “why are you accusing me of shit” tone.
Now I know enough to head this behaviour off at the pass. So with my "quick goat thinking" i decide to explain to my boy about the significance of white lies.

I sat him down and told him point blank – Lies of any kind are not acceptable in my house. I went on to explain how lies that might seem insignificant really breed mistrust. Once you tell one lie, you usually have to tell more lies to cover up the first lie. So a little lie can turn into a bunch of little lies and thats more little lies than we can handle.

A big part of my parenting talks with Isaiah are about resolve and how to correct our problems. For this lesson, I wanted him to feel safe telling me that he had lied so that we can try harder to correct the problem and as always, I would help him work on it if he was willing to do his part. I also had him practice saying, “Dad, I just lied about something. Can we fix it?” directly to my face with 100% eye contact. This helps build a scenario/situation in which he feels comfortable telling me things he might not otherwise say.

I really like to reinforce the moment in my sons memory by asking him to take an emotional photo of how he feels right now. This is to help him index the feelings of relief and happiness knowing that Dad is NOT angry. Now my son can be confident knowing that if he makes a mistake by lying instinctively to me he can tell me that it has happened and really get to identify and change the behaviour and make our home a happier place to live.

To sum up my points here:
1.Don't get angry with your kids for doing something wrong. Instead make sure they know how to do something right first.
2.Create an environment where correct and fix is the attitude rather than punish. (This is harder for those of us who caught cans of whoop ass on the backside as kids!!)
3.Ask yourself – is my child learning these behaviours from me?

Because I'm just an East Van single dad trying to relate through experience, here are some bonus links to other articles about children and lying that may prove useful.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

This article has excellent advice on dealing with lying.

Audrey Marlene, a well known life coach, also has some advice for parents on the subject.

This advice over at naturalchild.com is similar.

And remember, being a great parent takes remembering what it takes to be a great kid!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dad, whats that smell

SO me and my son are on the way to school the other day and for some reason I have had some pretty bad gas. Before we leave, I ripped a stank fart in the kitchen and my son says,"Dad, whats that smell?"

"I don't know, kiddo. Now let's get going and get to school."

We got about four blocks away and I ripped another one. As were walking, Isaiah turns to me with a sour face and says, "I think that smell from the kitchen is following us. I hope it doesn't follow me to school."

I told him what it was and he burst out laughing and complimented me on the grossness of my fart.

ahhhhhhhhhh good times good times.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Your opinion Matters

      As most single dads do when going to court, I have been second guessing myself a lot lately. So I've decided to be democratic about things and put my thoughts to the test. Basically, in my battle, I have to go back to court to prove that I need more QUALITY time with my son.
     So this blog posting is going to be more of a poll. It doesn't take much to understand how much of a shitty deal im getting. So here is the custody arrangement that I agreed to uner extreme pressure from my (now fired) lawyer.
      During the school year, I get my son Monday after school to Friday before school. I also get him one weekend a month. So every month during the school year I get to have my boy 19 days. I also get my son for two weeks out of the summer which is another 14 days.
      My ex gets our son three weekends out of the month, every stat holiday and every Pro D Day. She also gets Isaiah from July 1st to August 31st inclusively with the exception of my two weeks.
We alternate Christmas and holidays and try to make that work the best we can.

So who do you think gets more quality time with our son? (Please feel free to leave a comment!)

Who gets more quality time with the Child

pollcode.com free polls

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Going to Court thinking about everything else

Court for single dads.

What better way to start my blog than quoting Genesis? Against all Odds baby. Bet you were thinking the Bible weren't you? The Bible doesn't tell us how to deal with angry ex-wives or complicated court cases but Phil Collins certainly sums it up. Men have to overcome amazing odds when we want to see our children. The system doesn't take into account that women can be just as abusive as men in many more ways than just physical. And society has stereotypes and prejudices every step of the way.

I am currently involved in my own custody case as well as a close personal friends case. We have similar parenting styles and our kids are roughly 4 years apart. He has a girl, I have a boy. We both have modest incomes (under 30g's ), were raised in East Van and had parents that were separated. Going in and out of court for our kids has been an upward battle and we have both decided to do what we can for single dads who want to spend time with their daughters. This blog will chronicle our battles and how they have affected our life.

In my personal life, I have been learning to deal with stress and how to overcome depression without prescription drugs (More on that later). Being able to meditate and be thankful for the opportunity to be in front of a judge pleading my case really helped my nerves. I found a table, sat down and closed my eyes than prayed. I realize why I'm in court and what I could of done to prevent it. As I dissected my situation in my head and thought about why I'm in court I found no anger in my answer. I was in court so that I could spend as much time with my son as his mom does. This was not a bad thing, I was not doing this as an act of revenge. I honestly want what is best for my son. I know he needs his mom and his dad regardless of how I feel about his mom or the things she teaches him.

Being honest with our kids is so important. It's also really easy to get caught up in white lies or trying to simplify truth for kids or mislead them in the name of good. If your child sees you cry when your upset do you tell them you had something in your eye or tell them to go away? Or do you ask for a hug? In being honest with my son, I have really learned to be more honest with myself. It's hard to live truthfully and honestly when people around do the OPPOSITE. But every now and then I pass a poster of some famous person who has held a high standard of living like Malcom X and I'm proud of myself. And I don't need any body but me to be proud at that moment.

I would love to scold the system, blame people and be miserable but my body can't handle the anxiety. Stress makes me physically ill and id bet my bottom dollar that your body cant handle it either. The answer is not prescription drugs neighbours. It is the Truth. And the truth is Love. If my decision of wanting to spend as much time with my son as his mom does was a decision based not on truth but the opposite, fear, I would have wanted that Bitch to have nothing to do with him and she doesn't deserve to see him. But that isn't my sons reality and thus not the truth. So I would like to encourage all you single dads out there to get yourself healthy, and pursue your own personal truths. Find out if what you perceive AS real IS real. Is there an opinion that you have, based on something from your past that might not reign true in the present? Rewrite your own book of truths and become the person you always wanted to be – a great Dad.

I'm not a writer by trade so I hope this all makes sense. As always, if it doesn't, feel free to reply or comment or send me an email.

I would also like to include some links in the future for resources for us men. Stay tuned for that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Parents Approval

Parenting Blog

I wanted to mostly write about my parenting experiences with this blog but I though of another equally parenting topic this week, trying for a parents approval. It seems to be that with me, my mom was never happy with me. I know a lot of kids that feel this way from ages 9 – 39! Quite often it seems like mom and dad have a completely preconceived notion of what you should be doing with your life regardless of what you think or feel.
Although I'm sure my mom is happy with me, that happiness is on her own terms and isn't really felt by me. I often get the feeling that because I didn't become an architect like I had said in Grade 2 or something ridiculous, I have let her down. Unless my success fits into her plan somewhere, it just isn't valid. And feeling invalid in the eyes of a parent hurts deep.
As our parents pass on life wisdom and experience they are also passing on expectations of what they would like to achieve or like us to achieve. Our success is then defined by our parents and if our successes in life as we have defined them do not align with our parents vision, it can be extremely hard to get their approval. But that does not mean that we cannot have our own successes. And we should be mindful of the expectations we put on our own children. Sure we want our kids to succeed, but at what cost? And is the definition of success for your children something you will define, or will you help define it with your children?
There are a few recurring themes in my parenting methods and one of them is communication. I like to talk openly about success with my son and define it with him. In Grade 2 our success have had definitions such as getting our work done with no extra help, remembering all of our homework and making sure to answer reading questions in the proper format. Our goal was to accomplish these things regularly by June and we have gotten all of them pretty good. And now my son and I can celebrate because we are SUCCESSFUL in our goals. And we both feel excellent.
Am I ever going to get my mothers approval? Who knows. But I am proud to share successes with my own child and make sure that I am very lucky to have such an awesome son, who can focus on his goals and work towards them. I don't think he pays any attention when I tell him my goals, hes probably thinking about playing LEGO Indiana Jones and getting some of his goals in the video game, but I know when I am successful, it is a WIN for the both of us and we will celebrate together as we take one more step towards our daily, monthly and yearly goals.
I encourage young parents to celebrate not just your successes in life, but those of your child. Any goal they accomplish is a pat on your back for the job your doing. And when my child succeeds, that is the only approval I need to know I am doing the job properly.

Please feel free to leave comments

Harley Rose