Tagged: fatherhood

Modifying a Child’s Behavior Without Resorting to Bribes – This Life – NYTimes.com

Guilty as charged, and you know what, it is really hard to break this habit because what the author doesn’t get at is that not only is there a short term reward for the child, but for us parents as well. Look, I appreciate not having to wait two hours for Singing Biscuit to finish his chores and holding us hostage from getting on with our day when I promise him a $5 bill for his efforts. That said, I also cringe when he asks if he will get his “allowance” for doing some other task in the middle of the week. Those cringes are far and few in between these days because I’ve disassociated his allowance from completing his chores, but I still haven’t given up on the bribing habit.

I find the issue of bribing children — or to be more precise, the giving of blunt, uncreative rewards for desired behavior “If you just stop kicking that seat in front of you on the plane, I’ll give you 10 minutes of iPad time”; “Clean your room this weekend, I’ll give you 10 bucks”; “If you use good manners at Grandma’s house, I’ll let you have an extra brownie” — to be one of the more nagging challenges of being a parent.

via Modifying a Child’s Behavior Without Resorting to Bribes – This Life – NYTimes.com.

A Father’s Place Is in the School – NY Times

The NYT recently ran two pieces about increased involvement by men in PTAs.  First appearing in the Sunday edition with a supplement in Monday’s School Book, these articles explored how what’s happening in New York’s public schools is part of a nationwide trend:

A 2009 study by the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit educational organization, found that 590 of 1,000 fathers surveyed nationwide said they attended school parent meetings. That is up from 470 out of 1,000 a decade earlier.

via A Father’s Place Is in the School – SchoolBook.

While I have not joined the PTA, I’ve gradually become more active/present in the school-lives of both boys over the last two years.  In Teen Khalifa’s case, I was simply another  “Football Dad,” that army of men that for the love of the gridiron does everyone from 6am drop-offs to cooking breakfasts for the team.  Sports have long been the one place where you are guaranteed to find paternal engagement.

With Singing Biscuit it’s a bit more complex.  He now attends school where I work, so not only have I had to acclimate myself to this environment as a teacher/employee, I am also having to do so as a parent.  This is no easy task, and one that I am just now starting to get the groove of.  Singing Biscuit’s teachers are both my peers and his teachers so I have to remember to keep the same distance as I would with one of Teen Khalifa’s teachers when approaching them.

These NYT articles really resonated because in some ways I am where many of the men mentioned in the article were 5-6years prior and its interesting reading about their evolutions at their children’s schools.

Home Alone: Children Are Selfish

Prior to becoming a father if you asked me to define a selfish child, I’d say a kid who doesn’t like sharing.  The prime example that I’d give is a kid who doesn’t share his toys with other children or siblings.  Now after cutting my teeth as a parent, I’m realizing that children are inherently selfish.  The degree to which they remain selfish, or rather how this manifests as they mature over time is what distinguishes each child.  Moreover, being selfish is not a bad thing.  In other words, being selfish is not the same as being greedy or lacking empathy.

What brought this to mind is something that took place last night. Snuggle biscuit and I had to make a late run to the store to pick up some household stuff.  We left Teen Biscuit in charge with the mandate to take a shower and have Singing Biscuit in bed by 10:30pm.  When we left the house it was about 9:45, so we informed him this was going to be a quick trip because we wanted to get to sleep ourselves.  Had Turtle Biscuit not run out of diapers, we wouldn’t have even made this trip…

When we returned home at 10:52, not only was Singing Biscuit still up, but Teen Biscuit had not taken a shower, lights were on all over the house, and tvs were on in both the living room and in the basement.  Thus instead of coming home to a calm environment, we returned to a homemade version of Dave & Busters.

Teen Biscuit was not being malicious in not fulfilling his charge, he simply wanted to hang out with his little brother some more (plus he’s afraid of the dark which is why he always lights up the house when he’s alone).  But, by not heeding our wishes, he now put us in a position to have to calm down a now hyper Singing Biscuit, a problem that would doubled the following morning when we had to drag his sleepy-Singing-Biscuit self out of bed for baseball camp the next morning.  And at 8-years old, the only thing that Singing Biscuit could think about when we told him to get right to bed is that whatever show he was watching wasn’t over and that he wanted a snack–preferably something loaded with sugar.

When these two boys turn into grown men and they’re calling their Mama every weekend, tending to their respective nieces and nephews they’ll argue tooth and nail to any assertion that they were once selfish little biscuits. How do I know, well because I’ve done it myself.

What we as adults fail to realize at times is that being a selfish child is not a bad thing–it’s an evolutionary phase.  Had Snuggle Biscuit and I tried reprimanding Teen Biscuit last night it would have been a losing effort on our part.  It would’ve taken too much analysis to get him to understand why he did what he did.  And once he did understand, the takeaway would’ve been its understandable that children are selfish.

Its in moments like these where I almost wish I wasn’t such a self-reflective parent.  I feel as if I would have more fun if I came in like my parents screaming, belt or shoe waving and forcing the kids to scurry like mice.

But I can’t.  I’m not my parents.  Plus, that would be just plain selfish…

Home Alone: There’s A Reason They Don’t Make “Greatest Deadbeat Dad T-shirts”

While putting away Turtle Biscuit’s laundry last week I couldn’t help but notice how many tops she had that were emblazoned with some variation of “I Love My Dad” or “My Dad Rocks.”  Most, if any, of these tops weren’t purchased by me.  They were all gifts from Turtle Biscuit’s various aunties.

As I looked at these shirts in her drawer I couldn’t help but wonder, “what do deadbeat dads do?”

It’s a strange and admittedly awkward question but one that I couldn’t let go for the rest of that afternoon.

When I look back at these past four months I can’t ever recall being praised, encouraged and received so much support for something that seems so natural.  Friends, family members, even the guys at the gym have an utmost respect for the sanctity of fatherhood.  If a guy is leaving the basketball courts to go to work, church or even tend to his wife, the rest of the guys will not pass up an opportunity to crack a joke at his expense, especially if he’s leaving to go hang out with his wife.  But when I say I’m going to take the boys to school or to take care of Turtle Biscuit, not a peep.  There are never any jokes.

Think about all the teasing we give people who work hard, or that high achieving students get in schools.  Shoot, if I had a dollar for every time I was called a nerd, or defended myself against such allegations, Turtle Biscuit would have a fully-endowed college fund.

But now I simply change a diaper and it’s as if I’ve made a medical breakthrough.  For sure part of this are the low expectations that many have of a man’s potential to be a caregiver.  That said, the fact is we simply live in a society that adores fathers and fatherhood.

Which goes back to my question, what do deadbeat dads do?

It’s one thing to be a poor student because retailers aren’t pumping out “I got straight A’s” t-shirts.  But if you’re a deadbeat dad you’re living in a world that dotes and showers with love and appreciation everything that you are not.  How does a person exist within that setting.

Thinking about this question brought me back to this Chris Rock skit where he lambasts men who say “I take care of my kids”.  I always thought that Rock was spot on this bit, but four months into this fatherhood project, I’m learning exactly how right he was. (oh, and since I have to do this now: there’s cussing in the vid)

Home Alone: Dads of the World UNITE!

My Teenage Boys Are the Anti-Christ post sparked a nice twitter exchange between me, DanTresOmi and Bill Campbell. Toward the end, Bill concluded we needed to develop a unique parenting army to tame those nefarious teenage boys TEENAGERS.  Maybe there’s a dash of hyperbole in that paraphrase but I’m sure you get the drift.  Bill’s comment reminded me of a conversation Snuggle Biscuit and I had two weeks ago after I returned home from dropping off Teen Biscuit at a party.

Earlier in the day Teen Biscuit had voiced some dismay about this party saying it was going to be a “sausage fest.”  In spite of this dismal forecast for that evening, Teen Biscuit still decided he wanted to go.  Cool.

You could imagine my terror when I showed up to drop him off and saw scores of teenage boys waiting outside to get into the party and countless others posting up next to their cars.

As I drove back to the house I felt bad for all the dads whose daughters were likely to attend this party.  Did these men (and moms) know the horrors that await?

Immediately, I thought wouldn’t it be great if we parents (Dads in particular) had our own CB radio system that we could use for moments like this.  Rather than driving away helplessly as someone else’s child was affronted by more Axe cologne, body spray & deodorant than any human should endure, what if there was a way to give other parents a heads up.

But, if the Dad CB Network was up and running I could’ve just sent out an APB to all the dad’s (and moms) in the area to abort operation drop off.  The number of sleepless nights that such a network could avoid led me to shout out the car window as I drove back home “DADS OF THE WORLD UNITE”

Home Alone: Teenage Boys Are the Anti-Christ

Of all fatherhood cliches the one that I thought that I’d surely be immune from was animosity felt toward teenage boys. After all, I’m co-parenting a teenage boy and worked with countless others as a teacher and mentor. But as soon as the nurse let me hold Turtle Biscuit for the first time that fateful day in December an anti-teenage-boy hormone seemed to start mutating within me. I realized that this had fully taken over my brain when while Snuggle Biscuit and I were at the local diner one night getting some dessert and I spotted a teenage couple having (a too-damn late for my tastes) dinner in the booth across from us.

At first the boy seemed like a very nice young man–dare I say–someone I might even be proud to call a son.  Then, he did something that I will never forget, and right then and there I realized that Teenage Boys were indeed the Anti-Christ, and I in effect became a stereotypical dad with a daughter.  What sin did this young man commit you ask?  I shudder to relive the horror, but for you dear reader I will.  The young man looked her straight in the eye and said something that made the young lady smile.

Yes, I know.  The horror…..

This realization about teenage boys is only one of many things that I thought I’d never do as a parent that are starting to come to bear.  Here is an abbreviated top-3 because this list is growing by the day:

  1. Never thought I would become my parents.  But in short order my parenting style is rapidly developing into a zany blend of Claudette and Francy Lafargue tastes, habits, and sayings.  All of which I vowed as a kid to never torment my own children with…well that was a short-lived vow.
  2. I say “when I was your age.”  I still can’t believe that I do this…
  3. Stockpile snacks/Hide snacks.  It always confused me as a child why my mother would keep a stockpile of snacks while simultaneously proceeding as if these snacks were hidden and out of my reach.  Yet, whenever Snuggle Biscuit and I come back from grocery shopping, what’s the first thing that I do? I put half of them out and the other half in secret spots throughout the kitchen.  You could imagine my embarrassment a few weeks back when I noticed 7-year old biscuit pulling over a chair so he could retrieve some oreos in one of the hiding spots in the cabinets above the sink.