Raising a Respectable Son

A couple things have happened over the past few weeks that caused me to reflect on how I should raise my son to treat women. Inherently I know that he will develop a lot of thoughts, actions, and attitudes based on my words and examples, but it dawned on me that I will not be the only source of influence that shapes his behavior. I’m really interested in feedback from other parents of boys, so please feel free to comment.

One: Photoshop Advertising
We were at the mall a few weeks back and I was holding T. as we waited for the rest of our party to finish up in the restroom. On the wall behind me was a large advertisement for women’s make up that featured a very pretty woman with big eyes staring out at the world. T. was absolutely transfixed by the poster, grinning from ear to ear. This came as no surprise to me since he’s a huge flirt with all the ladies, but I realized that he was staring at a digitally-altered image that represented some marketing firm’s perception of what natural beauty looks like to the most popular audience. Even at this age what he sees is shaping his views of the world. Of course he liked the image, but I don’t want him to limit his scope of beauty to what the advertisers are feeding him. (NOTE: This digitally altered perception of beauty also applies to advertisements of men, so if T. happens to be gay I believe this still applies.)

Despite our best efforts, he is going to be bombarded with the highest concentration of marketing and advertising of any generation – and this is coming from someone from someone who lived through MTV, the advent of the Internet, Myspace, Facebook, Nickelodeon, and Saturday Morning Cartoons. Looking back I know my generation was a marketing cash cow, but my son’s generation will be a marketing wet dream! I want him to be able to differentiate what is real from what isn’t, and the lines are so blurred now that it’s difficult for even me to tell. At the very least I want to teach him that true beauty lies on the inside. Oy.

Two: The “Sexy X-ies”
I “follow” our local commercial rock radio station on Facebook. Just like every other corporate rock station in America they have local women in the 18-25 age range that dress up in skimpy outfits and appear at promoted events with the sole purpose of increasing participation from their target audience – males between the ages of 18 and 29. Now to this station’s credit, they do a decent job at selecting a wide variety of women instead of pulling an Abercrombie & Fitch and trying to sell a particular “image”. But that certainly didn’t stop the haters on Facebook from coming out full force. The radio station posted an image of their latest group of “Sexy X-ies” and some of the comments were jaw-dropping. Some verbatim examples:

“Looks like a bunch of butter faces.”
“They look like the [local strip club] rejects lol.”
“2 outta 5 ain’t bad.”
“Ugly ass girls lol.”
“Man this is all false advertising.”

I could go on and on with the vitriol but you get my point. Most of these comments were made by the radio station’s target audience – again males age 18 to 29 – and they certainly didn’t mind their names being out on display in a public forum such as Facebook. What kind of boys are we raising if this is their level of judgment against women, and let’s remember that these women are someone’s daughters? More disturbingly, what kind of men will these boys turn into if we deem this acceptable? This has all sorts of implications for the self-esteem and self-image of these women, rape culture, and chauvinism, yet the voices who spoke up against it were batted down and rendered irrelevant. This is NOT how I want my son to behave towards ANYONE.

Such are the challenges that await me and my wife as he develops. I can’t help but feel this world is very, very different from the one we grew up in, the one in which our parents raised us. And while I passionately look forward to raising him right and teaching him about love, beauty, and respect, the fact remains that it will be an uphill battle against the fabric of society. Oy indeed.

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6 Months – A Bright and Shining Star

My Baby Boy,

It’s getting much harder to call you that now that you’re six months old. Every time I look at you and think “this can’t possibly get any better”, you gladly prove me wrong. To see you gain awareness of the world around you and want to explore it with the fearlessness and confidence everyone wishes they had, this brings me an unspeakable amount of joy. Your personality is on full display as this bright and happy baby who wants to be a part of everything that’s going on around you. And I hope your mom and I can foster that confidence and curiosity for your entire life as it’s one of the rarest and most valuable traits in today’s world.

We’re about to embark on one of the wildest rides of our journey together as a family. In the next few months you will start eating solid foods, cutting teeth, and crawling around the house. While I honestly cannot wait for all these developments, I’m already starting to wax nostalgic about the early months. You used to be so little that I could engulf you completely in my arms for hours on end. That’s proving to be much more difficult now that you’re so big, and while this makes me sad, this sadness is replaced tenfold by the abundant joy of seeing you explore this world.

So let’s explore this world together, my son. You have so much to learn about it and I have a feeling I do too.

I love you.

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Parenting – 6 Month Edition

Following the success of my Newborn Edition of Top 10s, I figured I’ve learned enough to write another one. Here’s a basic summary of my last 6 months; hopefully it helps you out in some way or at least makes you laugh. Cheers!

1) You won’t care what you look like in public anymore.
Bags under your eyes? So what? Dried spit-up on your shirt as you walk in the door at work? No biggie. Hair all askew from the rushed 30-second shower with no dry time? Pffft, you should get credit just for showing up. Wear it all as badges of pride. To quote the great Patton Oswalt, “I want to apologize to anybody that I ever made fun of for wearing sweatpants in public. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, they’re a miracle. I thought that the pinnacle of mankind would be a Mars colony or teleportation. Nope. Sweatpants!

2) Jet lag is no big deal after you’ve had a child.
Staying up for an extra 4 hours to adjust your clock to the opposite end of the world seems like peanuts after you’ve stayed awake 6 extra hours for 3 straight days tending to a sore and frightened infant who’s going through a growth spurt.

3) The reason time flies is because your child changes literally Every. Single. Day.
Just when you’re done adapting to one skill, mannerism, or habit your child completely switches directions. Time as you know it becomes completely relative to your child’s daily development and activities. That’s why 6 months feels like 6 weeks but 30 seconds of solid crying feels like 30 years.

4) You’ll never know how much disposable diapers suck until you use cloth.
Full disclosure: I’m not a shill for the cloth diaper industry but we use cloth diapers 100% of the time at home and 85% of the time when we travel. I don’t care how you diaper your children. Seriously, you do what’s best for your family. But it is an irrefutable fact that no disposable diaper will ever hold a candle to the quality of a cloth one. Absorbency, containment, softness, ease of use, everything and anything you need a diaper to do, cloth does it better. I completely understand why people use disposables – the upfront cost of cloth can be daunting. BUT, if you are fortunate enough to have a baby shower, the total amount of money people will spend on disposable diaper “cakes” or “towers” and all the required accouterment (diaper “genies”, rash cream, etc.) is roughly the same as they’ll spend on a complete set of cloth diapers for an infant. And the water bill from doing laundry every day? Mine has increased a whole $5 per month. Watch out now! Sarcasm aside, if you want any info or tips on cloth diapers just send me an email or check out some of the links under “Merch” on the right side of the main page.

5) Core strength is underrated.
Hauling a 15-pound 4-month old is no joke. You’ll wish you didn’t go soft on all those ab crunches and twists at the gym before you had a kid when you weren’t feeling motivated because you only got 7 hours of sleep. Seriously, lift with your legs. Speaking of……

6) Leg strength is underrated too.
We have TWO sets of 16 stairs each in our house. Needless to say I see a ranch or a retirement home with an elevator in our future. Bend deep to maximize the power from those quads and calves.

7) You’ll gain the “First Child 15”.
Unless you’re Tiger Mom (and why would you want to be?) or you hire your own personal chef, you’ll gain the weight. Why? Motivation, or lack thereof. Now, before you panic, remember that it’s okay. It’s only temporary, and as you figure out how to adjust your life to get your eating and exercise habits to compliment your new addition, things will eventually drift back to normal. Or they won’t, and that’s probably okay too. Just stay focused on the fact that you are doing the most important job on earth. Period.

8) It still takes two.
Again, a HUGE shoutout to the single parents because I still have no idea how you pull it off. Having a second parent there to share the load is the best thing for everyone’s sanity and for the health of the child. 2 mommies, 2 daddies, or 1 of each, it doesn’t matter. Two is always better than one.

9) Going out in public is like being in the mafia.
Whenever you enter a room you quickly scan for hazards, identify all possible exits and escape routes, and always sit facing the door. When your meal is finished you ask for the check as quick as possible and tip big for any “inconvenience” you’ve caused the staff. Then after you clip the kid in the car seat and close your car door you breathe a sigh of relief, just grateful you’ve survived the night.

10) It’s all still worth it.
Every single moment. I wouldn’t trade any of this for the life I had before my son. It’s everything I wanted it to be and then some.