Studies confirm that overprotective parents are doing a disservice by sheltering their children from life. Recently, a number of animated films have been attempting to get this message across to parents, most notably, Coco and Moana. Moana’s father lost his best friend to the sea, so he warns Moana: “No one goes beyond the reef.” In “Coco,” Miguel’s great great grandma became a single mother after her guitar-playing husband abandoned the family… henceforward, music was forever banned from the home. In my own home growing up, the “danger” was horses. My dad’s compulsive gambling put our family into a perpetual state of poverty. In particular, he loved horse-racing and betting at the racetrack. My mom was so traumatized by this that she forbid having anything to do with horses in our home. If I was just surfing the channels and happened to pause on a horse, my mom would shout “turn that crap off,” even if it was Mr. Ed. Parents put a lot of effort into trying to shield their children from *their* mistakes, which typically does more harm than good. Continue reading “No Music!” Coco, Moana, and the Dangers of Overprotective Parenting
For men who use violence against women, their train of thought goes something like this:
“She just gets me SO jealous. I keep telling her, look, don’t speak to these other men. You know they are only trying to fuck you. Do you think she listens? No!”
“My girlfriend loves to go out dancing with her friends. Dressed like a slut, of course. It’s embarrassing. I think she’s doing it deliberately to get at me.”
“My wife wants me to stay home with the kids. She wants me to act the wife. No way! That’s not my thing. It’s unnatural.”
As a former attorney for victims of domestic violence turned stay-at-home dad for twin girls, I worry about their future. Before becoming a father, I represented hundreds of women in cases of domestic violence and stalking. While the facts differed, nearly every case involved men who were insecure about sex and/or money. A particular case involving a couple I encountered in Ohio is emblematic. Let’s call them Lisa & Brian. Brian was not particularly strong or imposing in a traditionally masculine way, but he was the breadwinner — that is, until he lost his job. While struggling to find new employment, Brian offered to drop Lisa off at work and pick her up at the end of the day. “How sweet of him,” Lisa thought, at first. “He really wants to spend time with me.” Brian then started showing up at her office for lunch — every day. While Brian was still unemployed, Lisa got a promotion. Occasionally she would tell him that she was too busy for lunch. “Too busy?” he responded. “I’m your boyfriend for shits sake! You’re lucky to have a guy who actually wants to spend time with you. I guess you’d rather fuck your way to the top.” Shortly thereafter, Brian’s drinking increased, along with baseless accusations of infidelity. One night, Brian came home particularly drunk and knocked Lisa to the ground. While assaulting her, Brian repeatedly yelled “You’re hurting me, so I’ll hurt you.” Lisa left him the next day and filed for a protection order. Prior to the abuse, Lisa had no intention of leaving Brian, job or not. However, Brian’s entire self-worth was tied to being the breadwinner. Fearing that Lisa was plotting to leave him, Brian took measures to control her access to men. So long as he had a girlfriend, Brian could still feel like a man. When all else failed, the only way for Brian to assert his masculinity was by physical dominance. I don’t believe he took pleasure in the control or abuse — he was desperately trying to maintain his self-worth. Continue reading Raising Boys Who Don’t Abuse Women: A Blueprint For Liberals, Conservatives, and Everyone in Between
This past weekend, the “annual drunken shit-show” formally known as SantaCon swept through New York City. SantaCon started in San Francisco in the 90s as a piece of “anti-consumerism performance art.” This early incarnation was an opportunity to comment on the fact that you cannot consume your way to happiness. Notwithstanding its noble beginnings, SantaCon has since devolved into a reason for millennials to dress like Santa Claus, get hammered, brawl, piss and vomit on the sidewalks.
With this knowledge in mind, my wife and I embarked on a holiday stroll with our 6-month-old twin girls. The coups de grâce of the evening featured a 20-something Santa adorned with what is commonly known as a “dick-in-a-box.” As we crossed paths with this Yuletide-themed casanova, he began projectile vomiting — all over his gifted junk. Had our girls been anywhere near the age of reason, we would’ve stayed home like many of our childrearing contemporaries.
If you’re a parent trying to foster a belief in the Santa myth in the 21st century, you’re facing an ever-increasing uphill battle. By comparison, my parents had it easy. As a child whose formative years spanned the 1980s, the potential spoilers I faced came in the form of TV, older children, and visits with the mall Santa. When I was in first grade, an older kid broke the news to me during an intense snowball fight — possibly as retaliation for a perfectly placed ice rocket to his midsection. That night, when I confronted my mom with my recess revelation, she didn’t feel right about continuing the lie. According to my mom, I took the news in stride, even claiming that I had doubted the story all along.
Nowadays, parents also have to deal with potential spoilers on the internet, social media, and the aforementioned SantaCon. Much like a child’s first exposure to a mall Santa, a young child exposed to the chaos of SantaCon will, at a minimum, be compelled to question Santa’s authenticity. Moreover, with SantaCon, not only do parents have to account for the existence of countless Santa clones, they also have to rationalize their abhorrent behavior.
“Mommy, why is Santa peeing in the street?”
“Mommy why did Santa raise his fist to Mrs. Claus?”
“Mommy, why is Santa in handcuffs?”
This past Sunday, as the Santa clones around the world were awaking to unfamiliar beds and partners, an Evangelical pastor was stirring the Christmas pot at a mall in Texas. That morning, he took it upon himself to announce to a line of children anxiously waiting to meet Kris Kringle that Santa Claus isn’t real. “The man you’re going to see today is just a man in a suit, dressed up like Santa, but Santa does not exist,” said Pastor Grisham.
Eventually several parents lost their cool and got out of line to confront him. “I’ve got my kids over there, we don’t need you coming over here blabbing whatever it is you’re blabbing,” one upset man told him. Ultimately, the pastor was asked to leave the premises for violating the mall’s code of conduct, which prohibits any kind of behavior that disturbs the peace, including annoying others.
You would be hard pressed to find even a single person who would side with Pastor Grisham — even amongst Evangelicals. Yet, for some reason we’re willing to put up with hoards of belligerent Santas spoiling the magic of Christmas. Just to clarify, I believe that Pastor Grisham and dick-in-a-box Santa stand on equally dubious moral footing. I actually have more respect for the likes of Pastor Grisham: If you’re going to spoil a child’s innocence, you should at least have some skin in the game.
SantaCon made its first appearance in NYC in 1998, “when 200 Santas went caroling up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,” to the delight of passersby. While the original SantaCon still required parents to explain the existence of throngs of Santas, it also provided an opportunity to discuss the true spirit of Christmas. These days, however, parents are well-advised to stay indoors during SantaCon — unless they have a strong desire to introduce their impressionable young children to the high-art of Christmas-themed date rape.
Highway in Pennsylvania: While on the road to Cleveland with my wife and twin girls, a nefarious odor fills the cabin of our rented Dodge minivan. A quick scan via the rear view mirror reveals that I’m the only conscious soul in the vehicle. Nonetheless, it’s evident that someone has suffered a massive diaper blow-out. A mere seconds later, Penny erupts with a demonic cry. I consider rousing my wife for damage control, but rest is paramount. There is a moment of sheer panic; then, off in the distance, I see the welcoming logo of a Flying-J, and I think: “Everything’s going to be O.K.” I burst through the sliding doors of the Flying-J like a paramedic ushering a gunshot victim. As I brush past the cashier, a friendly voice attempts to deliver a trite greeting. I avoid eye contact, and march directly to the men’s room. A mere seconds later, I reemerge with beads of sweat partially masking my vision. I take a moment to wipe my glasses and calm myself. Joan happens to be the daytime manager. “Yes, we have a changing table in the women’s restroom,” replies Joan. “Can I go in there? It’s an emergency,” I plead. As Joan ponders how to resolve this modern dilemma, a drop of liquid poop oozes down Penny’s leg. Without another word, Joan grabs a “closed for cleaning” sign and clears the women’s restroom. A loan middle-aged woman exits in distress. Joan shouts “all clear” before giving me the green light. I hurriedly cross the threshold into foreign territory, but still mindful of the historic moment. The women’s room has a familiar feel but with subtle differences— like an alternate reality. As I pull down the changing table, I hear Joan apologizing “for the inconvenience.” I place Penny on the board like a slab of meat, and focus on the task at hand. Instinct takes over. “This is why you practice,” I think to myself. I triumphantly bound from restroom a few minutes later. To my surprise, a line of women has already formed. I can feel the tension in the air. I want to run and hide, but my path is obstructed. As I hesitantly step forward, the women part like the red sea. A collective swoon fills the gap as they fawn over my happy blue-eyed angel. I think to myself, “The lack of changing stations is a struggle for dads, but the lack of bathroom access for women is a powerful reminder of the oppression in which all women are perpetual victims — kept in a subordinate position by the iron fist of patriarchy.
[WARNING: Some content in this episode may disturb some listeners.] In this episode, my wife and I open up about miscarriages, wellness checks, and alarmist pediatricians. I also chat with Professor Ann Burgess on the subject of “fetal abduction”. Ann is an internationally recognized pioneer in the assessment and treatment of victims of trauma and abuse. The phenomenon known as fetal abduction seems to defy all logic and challenges us to confront an unthinkable crime. Fetal abduction refers to the crime of child abduction by murder of an at term pregnant mother and extraction of her fetus through a crude cesarean section. Ann & I discussed criminal profiles, gender (women commit roughly 20% of violent crimes, but 95% of fetal abductions), motive (“it’s more about drawing attention and cementing relationships than obtaining a baby.”, the influence of culture and social media, and legal insanity.
I welcome comedian Brad Hagen, and discuss having children in the era of climate change, and how Brad is the real life version of Seth Rogan in Knocked Up. Brad’s a granola eating, pot smoking, standup comedian from New Hampshire. Against all odds, he wooed Lisa… a voluptuous Ph.D candidate who historically dated professional athletes. Their relationship culminated with one last alcohol-fueled hookup — a few months later brad got “the call” — Lisa was three months pregnant and Brad was the father. Brad initially responded by sending Lisa articles about overpopulation and climate change.
I welcome fellow comedians/parents Katherine Williams & Steve Leventhal. Steve & Katherine first met at an open-mic as aspiring comedians: “Steve approached me and said, you look like you’ve seen one too many dick jokes? No, that’s just what I look like now.” As entertainers, Steve and Katherine initially gave no thought to posting photos of their one-year-old daughter on social media. They’re now having second thoughts… and for good reason! “Sharenting” can lead to identity theft, embarrassment, bullying, digital kidnapping, and even end up on child-porn sites.
I welcome stand-up comic/fellow Ohioan, James Myers. James is phenomenal comedian, but he’s willing to risk it all in support of Donald J. Trump. In fact, he’s the only known Trump supporter in comedy scene, and his girlfriend is a liberal feminist. As a parent, I’ve been wanting to have a frank discussion with a Trump supporter, and James was the perfect candidate. In the end, we both made concessions and came to an understanding on Trump: “I don’t trust people who don’t drink.”
I welcome comedian, Julie Kottakis (AKA Madge the Vag)— and we discuss co-sleeping, leaving her child home alone, and trusting her pit-bull (Stella) around her baby. “I’m in the bathroom and I hear crying… and then it just stops. And my first thought was, Stella ate the baby!”
Woke Dad done got himself a podcast! In this inaugural episode, I welcome my wife/renowned psychologist, Dr. Michelle Sheets, Ph.D. We open with a frank discussion about our insecurities as a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. We go on to discuss corporal punishment (spanking), developmental milestones, pet euthanasia, and breadwinner moms.
Spanking: Michelle was surprised to learn that a close friend spanks his toddler, which prompted Dean to review the laws on corporal punishment. “You can legally hit your kids in all 50 states!” Continue reading Introducing: The Woke Dad Podcast (Ep. 1)
I’ve officially been a stay-at-home dad for a full year! Although I occasionally feel insecure about money, and Michelle deals with the creeping guilt of a working mom, we clearly made the right decision. When I first took over as primary caregiver, the girls were helpless invalids, seemingly incapable of locomotion. Under my care, they’ve made huge strides physically, intellectually and emotionally. Penny started walking at 10 months, and has now blossomed into a world class dancer. She may not be the most technically sound but she’s an undeniably bold, innovative, and creative artist. Clemmy may not be as physically gifted as Penny, but Clemmy fake reads at a 6th grade level — admissions officers from the top Ivy League schools are clamoring for her attention.
To be honest, I’ve never been more exhausted in my life, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Also, I’m treated like a superhero in my neighborhood. Wherever I go with the girls, I’m showered with glowing praise: “Look at daddy with the girls!” “You’re doing that all by yourself?!” “My husband could never take care of one baby, let alone two.” “Your wife’s a lucky lady.” A local school teacher was so impressed she said that I should be on a poster. Continue reading “Stay-At-Home Dads are a Cancer”
A STUNNING REVELATION: As a stay-at-home dad in NYC, I spend a lot of time interacting with Caribbean nannies. Unlike most people, they don’t give me a free pass just because I’m a dad. They constantly criticize my parenting skills, and I love them for it. In fact, they’ve pushed me to become a better parent. However, I’ve come to realize that my presence makes their job more difficult. Yesterday, Penny was running around with a stick in her hand, which was fine by me because
she wasn’t putting it in her mouth. However, one of my Caribbean mentors pointed out that Penny could fall and poke her eye. I wasn’t really worried but I followed her advice for the sake of the group. If I let Penny run around with a stick, the other kids might think it’s ok for them to run around with a stick. If Penny gets hurt, I don’t have to answer to anyone. If a nanny’s kid gets hurt, the nanny has to deal with his entitled parents, and suffer the consequences. Continue reading Parenting Like a Nanny
Congrats! It’s you’re first birthday! The path to adulthood is marked by ages that signify responsibility: 16, you can get your driver’s license; 18 you can vote, join the Army, and enter into legally binding contracts; 21, you can numb your pain with alcohol, and 25 you can finally rent a car. These are certainly landmark birthdays that arrive with serious significance; but starting at age one (1), every year brings about new and exciting privileges and responsibilities.
Age 1: You can play with unvaccinated kids.
Dads Honored Nationally – Woke Dad, in partnership with the World Association of Dads (WAD), is now accepting submissions for this year’s “Dad of the Year” (DOTY) award. Now entering its 75th year, this award recognizes dads throughout the United States for the outstanding strength, commitment and love they exhibit as dads. This year, we encourage you to tell us about a dad you believe deserves consideration by nominating him at WokeDad.com. Taking a few minutes of your time to share their story with us could propel them to worldwide recognition!
Although most DOTY submissions are from close relatives, you don’t have to personally know the individual you nominate. Joan Robins, for example, had only had a fleeting exchange with Brian Jones when she nominated him in 2013. Joan happened to be the daytime manager of the Flying-J where Brian made history. “I saw this mountain of a man storm into the station with beads of sweat running down his face,” she said. Brian marched directly to the restrooms with his 2-year-old-daughter Wendy and then reappeared only seconds later inquiring about changing stations. “Yes, we have one in the women’s restroom,” replied Joan. “I need to change my daughter’s diaper. Can I go in there?” he asked with a note of desperation in his voice. As Joan considered the absurdity of Brian’s request, Brian simply marched into the women’s restroom. Joan saw nominating Brian as a way to help draw attention to a national issue. “The lack of changing stations is a struggle for moms as well, but I’m here to share the dad’s side of the story,” Joan emphatically concluded. Continue reading 75th Annual “Dad Of The Year” Awards – Submissions Open
We all hope we’ll never be put in the position of having to save our baby’s life, but it could happen to anyone. It happened to me last week. While feeding Cheerios to my 11-month-old twin girls, Clementine started choking. Thankfully, I had taken an infant CPR class before the girls were born, and remembered the basic steps for a choking baby: If it’s a partial obstruction (coughing and/or breathing), let them work it out. However, if the airway is completely obstructed, immediately start alternating between back slaps and chest thrusts. This was clearly a total obstruction — Clemmy wasn’t coughing or breathing. As I jumped into action, Clemmy attempted to stick her little hand into her mouth. My technique wasn’t textbook, but after a few solid back blows, a cereal cluster flew out of Clemmy’s mouth. In the aftermath, we were both in tears.
Even though I was able to save her life, I found myself consumed with guilt. If she had gone unconscious, I would not have been prepared to perform CPR, which is way more technical than back slaps. The CPR instructor had advised us to review the outline every fews months, but I hadn’t looked at it since the girls were born. I could blame my neglect on any number of reasons: I was overwhelmed, it felt like homework, I lost the paperwork, etc. To be honest, I didn’t want to think about my babies dying. No one does — it’s paralyzing. On the other hand, CPR training greatly increases infant survival rates. If Clementine had needed CPR, and I was unprepared, I’d never be able to forgive myself.
To find a class in your area, visit the Red Cross website or call 800-733-2767 (800-RED-CROSS).
When our twin girls were two months old, we traveled overnight from New York City to Cleveland on an Amtrak. We rented a small sleeper cabin — equipped with a sink, table, bunk beds, storage space, and a toilet (which I would not recommend using). Although the cabin was out of our budget, it was worth splurging on for our first time traveling with babies. A few hours into our 13 hour journey, we ventured out of our private quarters to the dining car. To our surprise, the train was filled with empty-nesters traveling across the country — and desperate to hold our babies. They passed our girls around like popcorn while we enjoyed our first stress-free meal in weeks. When we got back to NYC, we started looking for bars and restaurants where grandparents hang out. This past year has been exhausting, but we got through it thanks to the kindness of strangers. (Below, in no particular order, are ten of those special people) Continue reading It Takes a World: A Tribute to the Strangers Who Held Our Babies for a Moment and Touched Our Hearts Forever…
Cleveland, OH — The neighborhood Dairy Queen, traditionally reputed as a cool place to hang, was recently the site of a bizarre hostage standoff between a mother and a self-proclaimed “baby whisperer.” The victim was 35-year-old Kathy McDonald, who herself has felt like a hostage since her three-month-old son, Linus, was born. “I was already on the verge of a breakdown this week, said Kathy while struggling to light a cigarette. “Linus has been inconsolable for weeks — I’ve tried every trick in the book.” After a particularly stressful night, Kathy suddenly found herself craving a Blizzard. As soon as she entered the DQ, Linus passed out. “I knew it wouldn’t last long — I was just hoping to savor my Blizzard in peace. Of course, as soon as I sat down the little shit woke up crying bloody murder.” Continue reading Baby Whisperer Gently Holds Baby Hostage at Local Dairy Queen
“I feel sorry for people that don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning, that’s the best they’re going to feel all day.” I love this quote by the late great Frank Sinatra, but it’s a mantra that most adults can’t swing, especially parents of young children. Yet, it’s perfectly normal for parents to unwind with a drink or two — some would say, essential. It’s been months since my last hangover, but I’ve still been feeling rundown in the morning. Our 10-month-old girls usually wake up bright and chipper at 6:00am; now that they’re crawling, I really have to be at the top of my game. As much as I crave a hoppy IPA at the end of a long day, I decided to take a break from drinking — with limited exceptions for holidays and celebrations. In the mean time, Penny has taken on the role of resident teetotaler.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“What are you drinking!?”
“It’s called a Negroni — equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari.”
“An alcoholic beverage?!”
“Oh, you betcha!” Continue reading Minimally Buzzed Parenting
“I can’t look anymore — I’ve seen too much!” This classic line from the iconic TV show Seinfeld, was Jerry’s response to observing his girlfriend struggle to open a jar of pickles in the nude. As is often the case, Jerry was tapping into a universally relatable situation. When Jerry shares his experience with his friend George, George gleefully responds, “It’s like you’re living in the Playboy Mansion!” Jerry then sets his naive friend straight: “Coughing? Naked? It’s a turnoff, man. When you cough there are 1,000s of unseen muscles that suddenly spring into action. It’s like watching that fat guy catch a cannonball in the stomach in slow motion. The thing you don’t realize is there’s good naked and bad naked.” Continue reading Good Naked, Bad Naked, and Naked Parenting
A year ago, everyone in the family had health insurance. As of this writing, our dog is the only creature in the household with coverage. Without notice, Empire BlueCross recently canceled our policy. We’re in the process of appealing the cancellation; in the mean time, our baby girls are left without coverage during the most vulnerable stage of their life. At 10-months old, they also just started crawling and climbing, increasing the odds of accidental injury. I’m trying to keep a cool head, but Penny quickly noticed a change in my demeanor.
“Daddy, can you swing me around?
“Not now, sweetie.”
“How about just toss me in the air?”