The misadventures of a first time father

Wordless Wednesday – Scribbling on the little guy’s Magna-doodle

Scribbling on the little guy's Magna-doodle

A cat! A hat! A kaboodle! Nope! It’s just me…scribbling…on my son’s Magna-doodle!

To shave, or not to shave – that is the question

I’ve been sporting a somewhat new look lately.

Some have told me they like it, that “it looks good on ya'”

Others have asked “that your winter look?”

It’s a beard that I’ve had hanging around my face as of late, and I’m not quite sure whether or not to let it remain. It all started unintentionally. Over the course of the summer, I had gotten a cut of some sort on my face that the doctors thought had become infected. As it was healing, I was told by the doctors not to shave, for fear of cutting it open and starting the process all over again.

So I didn’t. And the hair grew, and grew and grew.

Now, I look a bit like I’m going to go in our backyard and chop wood. It’s a look and (sometimes itchy) feel I’ve not quite grown accustomed to over the years. With the exception of a ‘van dyke(don’t mistakenly call it a goatee, I’m told) during some time in college, I’ve pretty much been a clean-shaven guy all my life. So now that all has healed and I can shave if I like, I’m not sure if I should.

Before and After.

Before and After.

Yes, I’ve gotten ‘good reviews’ so far from friends and family. But, this week, I got an opinion from my most brutally honest fan of all – our two year old son.

“No beard, dada! No beard!” he told me, firmly, then proceeding to try and wipe it or brush it off of my face.

“Me cut, dada! Me cut!”

If there’s one thing you can always count on amid the unpredictability of kids, it is that they will almost always speak the truth of what’s on their mind, what they think, in the most clear form possible.

If only we adults could do that.

Apparently, he does not approve, so we’ll have to see how long it sticks around.

“Mining our nostalgia” OR “Disney, what is wrong with you?! Get on the ball!”

Maybe you’ve seen the following video making the rounds on the web this week, as Disney recreated the opening theme song to DuckTales using real ducks.

It’s the latest in what I’ve seen as a growing trend by the Big Mouse company in mining the nostalgia of my generation, which grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, watching shows like DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin, and many others in their “Disney Afternoon” lineup, for use in their social media campaigns.

And it works.

The likes, retweets, shares, etc. across social media spread like a wildfire. And Disney knows this. It keeps these brands relevant, and it keeps their social media booming.

A few of many examples of this.

DT example

One post – More than 22,000 comments!

dwd example

350 likes in under ten minutes!

So I ask this, both to the public, and openly to the Walt Disney Company – your constant use of these shows and the time put in to mine our love and nostalgia for them has yielded you not only envious engagement, reach and love on your social media, but it has shown that there is still an audience for these shows. You must see this, otherwise you wouldn’t continue to use them in your social media strategies.

So why is it, seeing the blatant love, affection and craving for these shows, that Disney still has not released these full series on DVD? Darkwing Duck got a few volumes, then stopped without completion of the series. DuckTales the same thing. Tale Spin even less, I believe.

And let’s take it one step further, even down the pipe-dream route.

Because, let’s face it, Disney. There was time and resources that goes into something like re-creating the DuckTales theme song with real ducks so our generation can get a chuckle as we remember a time when these shows were on the air.

That generation, Disney, that grew up watching your shows and obviously still loves them, as your viral campaigns and social media posts show, are now grown-ups, with kids of our own!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to sit down with our OWN kids (a whole new generation of potential fans) and watch the shows that we loved when WE were kids?

Wouldn’t that open the doors to whole new customers, Disney?

Why not finally take advantage of all that popularity and finally release the “Disney Afternoon Classics” (see, I even just branded the line for you) in their entirety on DVD?

And as we’ve seen from shows you make like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or those Mickey Christmas Specials, you’ve got character designs already for Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie, and even Scrooge, be they traditional or CGI. Why not take advantage of your built-in audience for these shows, which could now encompass multiple generations, and crank out some new shows?

You wouldn’t even need to commit to a full-on new DuckTales Show, or TaleSpin show. Create some half hour format that offers a rotating cast. One week it’s a new DuckTales adventure, the following week it’s Rescue Rangers, another week its Baloo and the gang, another week Darkwing Duck. You can hit every show’s audience with one, diversified effort. A little something for everyone.

Take advantage of the fact that Alan Young, Jim Cummings, Terry McGovern and others of the original voice casts are still with us and send us and our kids on new adventures with Scrooge, Darkwing, Launchpad and the gang.

You’ve put the resources into mining our nostalgia and affection for these shows and characters. Why not put those resources to work on something we’ll really love you for.

It’s a window of opportunity that won’t be open forever, Disney. But it’s one that has a lot of positives if you climb on through.

The Ducks in comic form

The return of the ducks proved a hit in comics in 2011.

A moment of play, a moment of reflection

Building BlocksTonight I sat on the couch and stared. Just stared down at the scene in front of me as though I was witnessing the miraculous. And in my mind I was.

There, on the floor, humming a little song to himself, was our son, now two and in full-on toddler mode, playing. Just playing. With a combination of toy animals, Fisher Price Little People and equally little Sesame Street characters, they were being placed in and out of a barn, a hay loft, or into a tractor, all against the carefree humming of a song I’ll never know, but makes me so glad to hear.

A plastic crate of apples (from the Little People farm stand set he got for his birthday), was placed inside his Little People plane.

“Who’s going on the plane, buddy?”

“Apples!”

“Where are they going?”

“Home!”

“Where’s home for the apples?”

“Barn!”

Little Ernie, in a construction worker outfit, was bounced along the roof of the barn along with a Little Boy Farmer toy. Were they hitting each other, I wondered, as he pushed them together.

“What are they doing, buddy?”

“They’re hugging, dada! Hugging!”

I couldn’t but help but smile at the delight and laughter that followed. His toys knew the power of a hug, because he does. It made me feel wonderful.

This time goes by quick. I realize I’ve been lax in keeping up to date on the standard childhood milestone – something you’d think I would be better at as a fatherhood blogger. A lot’s happened in recent months and I’ve sort of glossed over it in terms of chronicling.

We consider ourselves very very lucky that he’s shown an interest in the potty since he got one for Christmas back in December. He’s fortunately kept that interest and while still in diapers, he lets us know (most of the time, but admittedly not all) when he has to go, with a pat to his bottom and a “Dada! Mama! Potty!” giving us the cue that it’s time to take action and get him onto the pot!

Letters and numbers started cropping up on a regular basis in the winter and spring and once we noticed it, have tried to keep it up every day in some form or another. He took it upon himself to take letter magnets off the fridge and tell us which letters were in his hand. Within months, it’s only gotten better, and we sing our ABCs together as a family, and sometimes stop to let him fill in a gap and try his hand at what letter comes next. When we heard him mumbling in the winter as he’d go up and down the stairs, we weren’t quite sure what he was saying – until we listened closer and realized he was counting the steps as he went. Now, we count everything and anything. Sometimes we go straight through, and sometimes there’s a 7-8-9-10-9-7 based on his mood at the time.

Regardless, he’s interested. He’s curious. He wants to know and I love it.

He climbs into his car seat on his own now, which only in this past week, I turned around to face the same way I do when I drive him to and from each morning. We talk about what we see out the window.

He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy.

As all these things were going on, I wasn’t writing them down because I now realize I was far too busy enjoying every single minute of it as it was happening.

How could I not?

He just turned two this summer. It’s flown by, and if I don’t savor every moment I can (taking a few moments here and there for reflection), well, I’ll let an old favorite of mine, Ferris Bueller sum it up:

 

Three steps back

Carpted stepsWe were headed up the stairs last night, as is pretty much the course at that time of night, on our way to bathtime, when my son suddenly stopped several steps up.

“No!” he said to me, his brow furrowed.

“What is it, buddy?” I ask.

“Dada, move!”

What do you mean, move?”

“Move, dada!” he said, fiercely, waiting for me to move several steps behind him as opposed to the usual ‘right behind him to spot him’ we’ve done since he started walking up those stairs on his own.

“You don’t want me behind you, buddy?”

“No!”

I obliged and went three steps back. And wouldn’t you know it, every few steps, he would stop and turn around to make sure I was giving him that space.

And up-up-up he went.

How quickly the urge to declare one’s independence comes.

 

You don’t need to be Sam Wainwright to matter

It has taken me many years to fully come to terms with this, and it is something I often have to remind myself of to this day. But it’s important. And, as I have since childhood, I’m going to frame it in the context of something that is easier for me to understand and explain – film.

Successful big-wig Sam Wainright

Sam Wainwright – taking care of ‘business’

You don’t need to be Sam Wainwright to matter.

In the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey’s friend Sam is a successful businessman who has gone out into the world and made a lot of money while George has stayed in Bedford Falls and reluctantly carried on the family business of the Savings and Loan.

George Bailey had big plans for his life. He was going to see the world. He was going to have adventures across the globe. But he didn’t. He stayed in his hometown, married, fixed up a drafty old house, had a few kids, and did what he could to help his friends. There were times, though, when life got tough, overwhelming, and it drove George to really question his place in the world amid his friends who went off and did big things.

When I was younger, I used to think I was so important to the universe. That I was meant for great things, which led to massive bouts of sadness, frustration and disappointment when I would feel that I wasn’t living up to those expectations, especially as I got older and life changed, took off in various directions, etc.

But what I’ve come to realize is that we all are important to this universe, for different reasons. Sometimes those great things are on a smaller scale and not as grandiose as you may think.

I’ve sat and wallowed in disappointment that I’m not doing the big things. Not writing the great American novel. Not writing sought-after screenplays, television shows, mainstream comic books and cartoons. Not making big budget movies and kidding around with stars.

And that is all okay. You know why?

Because none of it matters.

eehaw-1The people I spend my time with, be they my wife, my son, or our friends and family, are genuinely invested in us and our lives, as we are theirs.

Someone famous or well-known may follow you on Twitter and hey, that’s cool. But unless they’re coming over to the house for dinner or helping you out when that flat tire comes on your car, the real-life relationships on your journey are what will matter in the bigger picture.

I’m not bashing those who get excited because someone with a blue check mark on social media gave them a shout out or a follow. What I’m saying is, don’t make it your world. Make those around you, really around you, physically and emotionally your world. That will count for more than any number of online followers, fans or likes. Trust me.

I’ll say it again because I can’t say it enough. Because I have to remind myself of it on those days when I wonder what happened, how did I get here, and wonder about my place in the world – You don’t have to be Sam Wainwright.

Judge your success by the lives you can touch.

Judge your success by the lives you can touch.

You don’t have to be the major success of your town, of your work, of your friends. Just be a George Bailey. Be a good friend. Be a good person.

Be the person who has been intertwined in people’s lives in a way that has hopefully made them for the better. Maybe it was introducing them to new people they would have never met without you who went on to become even better friends, maybe it was being the person who writes that great recommendation letter that helps get someone else a job, or maybe it’s just being a source of support when someone asks if you’ve got the time to talk or have a cup of coffee.

Judge yourself not on how many people know your name, or the names you can drop, but by the kind of person you are.

Looking back on my life, I was constantly looking to be a Sam Wainwright when I was younger. And yes, sometimes it still hits me and I wonder ‘did I head down the wrong path?’ ‘was there more to my destiny than this?’

And then I realize that being a George Bailey is pretty damn good. Because the quality of the life lived and the lives touched, will mean so much more in the end than any award on the wall, social media brag, or product sold.

“I’m sorry” – stopping the bad habit of apologizing too much

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation“I’m sorry” – two little words, often used by most people to apologize when they’ve done something wrong.

I need to emphasize that – when they’ve done something wrong.

However, I have had a very bad habit for a very long part of my life and that is apologizing for things that are not my fault and needlessly saying ‘sorry’ when something goes wrong that I have nothing to do with.

Someone spills something. “Oh! Sorry.”

Something breaks. “Sorry.”

You get the picture. Somewhere in my life I picked up the terrible habit of apologizing for things that I had nothing to do with! I’ve tried to break it without much luck at various points in my life but now it has caused a very big problem.

My son has picked it up.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationAt the age of two, he gets very emotionally bothered when someone else gets upset and has begun apologizing, even if he has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Meg spilled an entire cup of tea on the kitchen counter the other day. It went everywhere – on the counter, under the microwave. She lost her temper, and with that cue, the little guy immediately started apologizing and saying he was sorry, even though he wasn’t the cause of it. She didn’t blame him. He just knew she was upset and immediately started saying he was sorry and getting sad about it.

Because he learned it from me.

I went online to see if I could find others who’ve gone through something similar. What I found astounded me. Yes, there were articles online about constantly saying you’re sorry and its bad effects, but everything I found was aimed at women and talked about how women apologize too much and need to stop. I could find nothing about us men who apologize too much.

I’m here to tell you, it’s not just women who do this. Guys do it too.

So why can’t I find anything online that corresponds with that? I know I can’t be the only one.

Come on, guys. Is it a fear that admitting it makes you less manly, more weak? Get over it and let’s talk about it because I know I’m not alone here.

I have done it for years, as anyone who knows me can attest. And whether you are a male or female, it is a habit that you do not want to pass down to future generations.

© Copyright 2011 CorbisCorporationSaying sorry all the time immediately puts you below those around you. It makes you subservient, whether you realize it or not. It makes you seem unfit to lead. It leaves you disrespected.

I think of the culture of the newsroom when I was in journalism. My personality of apologizing all the time when something would go wrong (justified in my mind as a way of showing sympathy and empathy toward those who had something go wrong) turned me into a pushover – easy to target and uber-easy to yell at, criticize, bark at, and tear down. My frustrations in the field often came from the personalities I was up against – big personalities who had no problem removing the word ‘sorry’ from their vocabulary. In an interesting twist which is contrary to the general findings and articles I came across online, a lot of those big personalities in my experiences were not men, but women.

And I did it long before I went into news. I did it in college, I did in high school.

Somewhere along the line I just started taking on the guilt for everything that was going wrong around me, and verbally accepting that. It’s imprisoning.

I often just wrote it off as one of the many flaws in my personality, but now that I see my son, at two years old, an age of discovery, wonder, wild abandon, having these moments, hearing one of us get upset about something unrelated to him and become an emotional puddle of apology, I realize how much this has to change.

And the only way for it to change, is for me to change.

According to an article in the London Standard, a study has suggested that refusing to apologize might actually be good for us. Researchers in Australia found that refusing to apologize led to feelings of power and control which, in turn, led to greater self-esteem. But that study is talking about apologizing when you HAVE done something wrong. And it showed that those who apologized lessened their feelings of guilt and increased their feelings of self-worth, but those who didn’t apologize still had higher self-esteem.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationThe study goes on to say that people who apologize tend to value harmony and relationships. Okay. Well, that’s true. I do value those things above many others. The gender divide comes up in the study again, noting:

“Men see apologizing as an admission of weakness. They are more alert to  words that weaken their status, while women often see apologies as tokens of consideration,” says gender and language expert Jennifer Coates, emeritus professor at the University of Roehampton. “Women are also more prone to apologizing frequently — even when there is no need for them to do so.”

Well that certainly fits the description of what I’ve been doing for the better part of my life. I’ve used those words as ‘tokens of consideration’ as the professor notes.

So what can I do to break this habit and not raise a doormat kid who takes on the guilt of the world himself?

As Meg has pointed out, it’s not something that will change overnight. It will take time and a deliberate concentration and self-awareness of when I’m doing this and why.

Perhaps I can choose to substitute another word or just stay silent, I have to start wiping that word from my vocabulary when I am not at fault. I put the issue out on Facebook among personal friends to see what kind of responses or suggestions I might get and the bag was mixed, but interesting.

Some of those responses included:

“I do it too! You’re not alone!”

“I used to. Then I stopped caring.”

“Are you secretly Canadian?”

“It’s the stain of original sin.”

“I do this as well. I’m trying to replace it with the more southern “well, bless your heart.”

So how do we accomplish this? Or should I say, how does one accomplish this while still showing empathy for others while taking on false guilt? How do you not say ‘sorry’ but don’t come off as, well let’s be blunt, a douchebag?

I was about to end this here, but then came across an article in the San Jose Mercury News that suddenly made me go “uh-huh,” “yup,” “that’s me,” okay,” causing immediate identification with the person they were interviewing as an example subject.

Titled “Do You Apologize Too Much?”I actually found it to be the most well-rounded and understanding of the issue compared to anything else I came across online.

From the interview subject:

“I hate myself when I apologize so much,” Kuchinskas said. “It happens in the grocery store all the time. People walk around like zombies and bump into you, and I’ll say I’m sorry. I mean, maybe I was in the way, so it was partly my fault anyway. And I’m just sorry that it happened.”

She said she’s not using “I’m sorry” to avoid conflict. It’s more about being polite. “And in this uncivilized, angry society, I’d rather err on the side of politeness.”

Because, sorry-face cat.

Because, sorry-face cat.

It acknowledged that yes, more women tend to do it than men, but men certainly do it. It noted that those who over-apologize tend to do so out of attempts to be polite, like when you interrupt someone for the time, or feel you might be in someone’s way.

And, as theorized earlier, it confirms that “…those in the fields of psychotherapy and communication skills say issuing a steady stream of “I’m sorry” is mere social lubrication, just to smooth things over and go on with your day. When it becomes a habit, it can undermine one’s self-esteem and credibility in the eyes of others.”

The article comes to a close with some good ideas on trying to overcome that bad habit. I thought I’d share them as well as I move forward to try and put them to use and start teaching my son by example – teaching him that ‘sorry’ is great when we do something wrong, but not what we say when we haven’t. Their tips are as followed.

  • Become aware of how often you say you’re sorry.
  • Find a friend or two who will help you to become more aware.
  • Think about why you are saying it. Are you really sorry or just trying to keep the peace?
  • If you’re saying it because of low self-esteem, replace those thoughts with positive affirmations of being worthy and confident.
  • Recognize that you have a right to be heard and that your opinions and feelings really do count.

I’ll let you know how we do.

 

 


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