Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The HUSBAND Job Description

Ok, I think today I'm going to do a little off-shoot of yesterday's post, and touch on something I haven't quite  hit yet. This blog is definitely about being a daddy a lot of the time. But it's main purpose was to be about family as well.

I am of course, a daddy. But I'm also a husband. And I have to say that it's definitely tied with fatherhood as the best job in the world. But I can say from experience, it's definitely NOT the easiest. As a father, for at least the first few years, your biggest purposes are to teach, guide, nurture and protect your child. The requirements are a little different for your spouse. You're not dealing with a child, you're dealing with another adult, with an already developed mind, and sense of self. They're not in the relationship to be shaped or molded. And when you throw a child into it, they're also your teammate.

Let me first say, that I love my wife more than I could ever love another woman. We have had our fights, our disagreements, and our meltdowns, but through it all, I know that she loves me in return. That is the key to any marriage; loving each other. We don't live in a society that deals in arranged marriages anymore, not exclusively anyway. Therefore, you marry someone you're in love with. That's the important part. I am of the mindset that as long as you love your spouse, you can overcome whatever gets in the way of the mundane aspects of a marriage.

But what else is involved in being a good husband? What is your part? Well, men and women are drastically different creatures, so I don't know if there is a general formula that applies to the question. But here are some things I have learned in my 3 and a half years of marriage. Please note: These are not all things that I excel at by any means!! I am quite sure that I am far from the perfect husband, but I still know a few things that are important in making another person happy. These are not in any specific order, as they're all equally important.

1.) Support her. Plain and simple, it speaks for itself. As a headstrong, opinionated fellow, I have had problems with this one more than I'd care to admit. Sometimes you just don't agree with your wife's choices, it's inevitable. But either way, sometimes you just have to go with the flow, because she's entitled to live her life just as you are, and she's definitely supported you on something she wasn't thrilled about.

2.) Listen to her. Your wife has a voice, just like you do. More often than not, in my marriage, my wife is the voice of reason when my impetuous, STUPID side takes over and I'm about to do or say something stupid. In addition to having a voice, she also has an opinion, and it's worth half of the decision. That opinion could save you money, or it could just save your evening, or maybe your life. You don't know until you listen to it.

3.) Respect her. She's a human being, and unless you're living in the stone age, she's your equal. Get used to that concept. Sometimes we as men can do things that are (to her) clearly NOT respectful. Do your best to see those things BEFORE you commit the act. We've all slipped, and more than likely, we've all been forgiven for those slips, just try not to repeat them too many times.

4.) SHUT UP! Yes, that's right, just shut up. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is close your mouth and refer to item # 1. You may have the greatest idea in history, but at this very moment, it doesn't mean anything, and it won't help. Just let her talk, or rant, or yell, or cry, or whatever she has to do... just let her get it out. At this point, your mouth needs to take a break, and give your shoulder a turn. This has probably been one of my biggest shortcomings. In trying to help, my mouth gets going, and by the end of my thought, I've made the situation worse than it was before. My advice: SHUT. UP.

5.) Help her. With anything. With the things she asks for help with, and with the things she doesn't. Don't always make her ask for help. There are times where I feel pretty dumb at home. My wife stays home all day, and cleans the house, does the dishes, the laundry, and wrangles our daughter. I go to work. Sometimes when I get home, I'm not feeling in the mood to fold laundry. Ultimately, I need to do it anyway. Do I always? No. The point: Just help her, and do your best to do it before she has to ask you.

6.) Apologize to her. Now guys, this is for you: DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A CURE-ALL FOR YOUR STUPIDITY. We will always make mistakes, some more drastic than others, but either way, when we do it is our responsibility as humans to sincerely apologize for those mistakes. Don't grumble "Sorry..." as you're walking away, because every time you do that, it whittles away at the worth of your future apologies. Say it for the things that honestly deserve an apology (which in my case is far from zero).

7.) Take her side. This is pretty easy guys. She's your teammate, your ally, your sidekick and your number one fan. Give her the same courtesy. Doesn't matter who it's against, you're always on her side, like she's always on yours.

8.) Last, but certainly not least... Love her. No matter what. She will probably say something rude to you, maybe even hurtful. She might bleach your favorite pair of jeans by accident. She might drag you to the most girly store in the mall. She might buy the most horrid flower-print comforter to put on your bed. But fellas: Love her anyway. Because she does the same for you. I can honestly say that this is probably the only point on this small list that I haven't completely blown. My wife and I have been through some hard times together, and we've had our fair share of some really bad fights. But no matter what we fight about, or what she says to me, I will always love her, and I always have.

Fellas, we aren't perfect. We could never hope to be. In many cases, we are miles below the leagues of our wives, and even if you aren't, think that way anyway, and let her know it. Our wives help and love is in more ways than we could possibly imagine, and we need to do our best to repay them for that. This may not be a big list, but these are definitely the things I view as the most important, and definitely the ones that are the hardest to maintain sometimes. Take them and use them guys, you won't be sorry. See you next time!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Parental Job Description

Today's post is actually inspired by a question I found today on Facebook. It was posted by the Facebook page, Great Parenting Practices. Please follow the link to check out this page, as they post some of the most interesting, helpful and insightful things I've found on the web. Anyway, the question that was asked was this:

"What do you think is your most important job as a parent? Do you see some things that parents do that are not even necessary?"

Man, what a stumper right? In ways yes, but if it's looked at just a bit further below the surface, you can see it's not such an easy question to answer. I'm willing to bet that when you read the question through the first time, your immediate response to the first half of the question was, "That's easy, love my kids!", which is true. However, I myself consider that to be a statement that goes without saying, and wouldn't necessarily consider that a job, anymore than I would consider the act of waking up every morning a job. It's something you can't help but do. Therefore, I elected not to count that as the most important job.

Let's break it down into two parts, as it's a two-part question. Ok, "What do you think is your most important job as a parent?" Well, let me offer my opinion to you, and then you can make up your mind for yourself. Please feel free to share, just because it's my opinion doesn't mean it's the ONLY opinion.

Now, one thing I posted on Facebook in response to this question (paraphrased) was that I viewed my and my wife's roles as parents much the same as I viewed God's role in our lives. Rather than being the omnipotent, controlling, merciless authority figure (as parents and God often get generalized as), I'd much rather be the teacher, the mentor, the source of wisdom, and ultimately the one person my daughter can always turn to when she needs trust and compassion. My daughter will inevitably make mistakes, I'll never be able to stop her from doing that. But what I CAN do is prepare her for some of those mistakes, and teach her how to overcome them when she does encounter them. I can teach her about simple things that will apply to every aspect of her life. She will probably wind up with a less than favorable boyfriend at some point, but she will have been taught about self-respect, and how a man is supposed to treat her, so I can trust that she won't end up with an alcoholic who abuses her whenever he comes around. She might encounter a person who simply doesn't like her for no good reason, and will try to make her life a living hell, but she will have been taught about patience, forgiveness and focus and I can trust that she won't let her anger get the better of her and make her do something she'll regret. Simple things. Can I guarantee those results? No, but I've certainly given her the tools she needs to recognize the mistakes before she makes them, and hope that she uses those tools wisely. And if they fail her, Mommy and Daddy are right behind her.

Which brings us to the second part of the question: "
Do you see some things that parents do that are not even necessary?". Absolutely. While I respect the parental need to protect your child, I frequently see children being OVER protected. Children MUST be allowed to make some mistakes, or they'll never learn to recover from them without you, and let's face it, we don't live forever. The things we teach them will stick with them forever, even when we can't. That is not to say that you shouldn't do all you can to protect your child from things that will hurt them. Obviously if they're heading for a big disaster, don't let them just run into it. This is also not a recommendation to hand your little girl the latest issue of Cosmopolitan when she turns 13 and say, "Ok, good luck." What I'm saying is that it's much like the first time they ride a bike with no training wheels. Show them how to ride, give them a helmet, and when they fall and skin their knees, pick them up, clean them off, kiss their boo-boos, and let them try again. 

Over-sheltering your children will only make them think of the world as a dirty, evil, dangerous place and nothing else. Is the world dirty? Yes. Is it evil? Sometimes. Is it dangerous? Absolutely. To the unprepared. As parents, it's our job to equip them properly so they can navigate the dangers, the evils and the messes. Basically, teach your kids to be grown ups! Don't teach them to simply GROW UP. As parents, the majority of us have lived long enough to see at least a few things. For a younger parent like myself, those experiences may be fewer than someone in their 30's, 40's and so on. But those experiences taught us all something didn't they? Pass that knowledge on. You don't  have irrelevant knowledge, it will all count for something sometime.

Now, as you may know, my daughter is 3 years old. So have I sat down and had these deep discussions with her? Have I shared my opinion about the meaning of life with my daughter? Maybe we were sitting down having coffee together discussing it? Of course not. The lessons are all the same, they simply need to be translated, broken down, or diluted. These lessons are obviously pretty intense for a 3 year old, and I certainly know my daughter wouldn't catch on to the point of it all. Even a teenager would probably not understand this right away. Your children understand ACTIONS.

Let me give you an example. My daughter was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, "helping" me load up the dishwasher. She was sitting up there having a cup of milk and a snack. I told her "Ok baby, be careful, don't spill your milk." You can guess what happened... she wasn't paying attention, reached for something else, and FWOOP, milk all over the floor. Well, she instantly burst into tears, because she felt bad for making a mess. She figured she'd be in trouble. So I got down by her face, gave her a hug, and said, "Baby, it's alright, it was an accident, I know you didn't do it on purpose. We can clean it up, and get you some more, not a big deal. Just be more careful ok?" She shook her head "yes", I gave her a hug, told her "I love you", made sure she said it back, wiped up the milk, filled her cup back up, and went about the business at hand. She went on like nothing had happened. So what did she learn? Mistakes happen, accidents happen, and mommy and daddy will forgive her. Is it a huge, philosophical breakthrough for her? Maybe not, but she's getting the basics: Mommy and Daddy love her, forgive her, and help her. Always. 

It's what you teach your kids. Teach them something every day. Make a point to. One day, they'll thank you... at least I'm hoping so, haha. Take care, and see you next time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sorry... No Refunds.

Ok, well, I've decided that as a little precursor to what is hopefully a good weekend for all of you, I'd leave you with a little pearl about something that I feel pretty strongly about.

To preface the possible debate that may come from this post, I'll fill you in a little on my and my wife's background with our daughter. We were engaged when we decided to have children, my wife was 5 months pregnant at our wedding. Obviously there were some naysayers in the bunch, but that's not the point of this topic. The point of this topic is the CHOICE. My wife and I DECIDED to have children.

That being said, here's my point, and please feel free to share on this. I have seen more than a few people (be it from a distance, or through channels), who have become pregnant by accident. Well, it's 2012, it's bound to happen. 15 and 16 year old girls and boys are bound to get too curious for their own goods, and that's just what happens. I'd like to omit these teenage cases from this immediate discussion, the innumerable debatable "situations" are just ridiculous, and the arguments never end...

Anyway, back on track here. People get pregnant by "accident", and I completely understand that. People will make their own choices, and they will be landed with the "consequences". Therein lies my discomfort for this whole thing. Whether or not the child was conceived by accident, or on purpose, I don't like that these children become viewed as the consequences. To me, the word consequence is almost synonymous with punishment. This is how I see a lot of people who end up with accidental pregnancies responding. This disappoints me to no end. While I realize that these people, be they 19 year old party animals with aspirations of being the manager at their local McDonald's, or 20-something college students with their eye on a doctorate in Astrophysics, did not ASK for children, they were still given a gift. And not the same kind of gift as the cheap, ugly reindeer sweater their grandmother gave them at Christmas last year. It's nonreturnable, and it's the gift that will keep giving as long as you nurture it.

I guess the basic point of this discussion is that children are not burdens, punishments, mishaps, or the end of a person's life. I absolutely HATE hearing about couples, or two individuals brought together by the pregnancy, where one, or even both of the parents, don't appreciate the gift, and want nothing to do with it. In worse cases, one parent, typically the mother, is excited, and is welcoming the challenge and the joy equally, while the father insists that he didn't ask for it, and therefore he doesn't want it. This attitude leaves the mother in a horrible, stressful situation. In turn, after the pregnancy, if he continues with this attitude, we have yet another child who is growing up without their father. As a father myself, it breaks my heart to think of my daughter not having me there to lift her up when she's too short, read her a story at night, take her back to bed when she wakes up scared... all the little things these ungrateful individuals have no comprehension of.

In short, they don't know what they're missing. I'll leave you all with that thought. I hope that any of you reading this who know somebody like this, will share this with them. Let them read it. Appreciate the gift you were given when your child comes into this world...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Than Meets The Eye

Alright, now that introductions are over, let's get this show on the road! I'm going to start this off with something that I find exceptionally important.

As a parent, you want your kid to feel good about themselves. In every possible way right? Every parent sees their child as the most beautiful thing they've ever seen, from the moment they're born. But is it possible that the parents get stuck in that mindset and then never get out of it? As parents, we will always feel that our daughter is beautiful. And we tell her quite often that she's "Soooo pretty". But for every time we say that to her, we can find three things that day that she's done that make us say, "You're so smart!" Of course I want my daughter to be comfortable with her appearance, and even to think that she's beautiful, because that's important. My big hope is that she can do that without RELYING on her looks to get her through life. I want my daughter to have some real substance to her, and have a personality that shines more brightly than any amount of makeup could ever hope to. I want her to get through life by her actions, her morals and her knowledge, not because she was "Too pretty to work".

I get very irritated by this subject when I pop onto Yahoo or some other news site, and see whatever Kardashian brat is currently being praised for her latest hairstyle change, or which star of Toddlers & Tiara's is being featured in an outfit that would be too skimpy for a grown woman. It scares me to see a person's image and appearance become so tightly connected to their level of success. I really get the feeling that our little girls are being taught that as long as your pretty, you're set. I want more than that for my little girl, and I would hope you all do as well. This reliance on physical appearance ONLY is all part of a vicious cycle that contains other topics like self respect vs. arrogance, a sense of entitlement vs. appreciation for what she's given, etc... the list goes on and on. I honestly hope she has a strong sense of self esteem about her appearance too, because both her mother and I had issues with that as children, and we still find ourselves a bit hindered by those issues today.

To put all this together into something tangible, I'll give you our generic perspective on the subject. We always make sure that our daughter is receiving equal amounts of praise for doing something smart, or helpful, or creative, as she is for being a cutey-patooty, haha. When she comes and grabs my glass after I'm finished drinking something, and just takes it to the sink all on her own, she gets a big thank you, and then we say something like, "Oh, thank you baby, that was very nice of you, you're so smart!" To me, it helps her to attribute coming up with the thought on her own, and being kind or helpful, with intelligence. Package deal, gotta love it. The key that  we have found to be super successful, is telling her she's smart, by telling her that what she did was smart. "Did you put those dishes in the sink all by yourself?? You're so smart". Then she knows what she did, how we perceived it, and that we perceived it in a positive way. The goal is that she'll receive tons of praise for doing things we see as intelligent, and so she'll spend more time trying to do those things. At three years old, grabbing dishes by herself is a pretty big accomplishment. As time goes on the things she will do will get more elaborate, and she'll get a better, more mature grasp on what we mean by "smart", and hopefully she'll spend more time focusing on being known for her achievements. Considering how proud I am of who she is as a THREE YEAR OLD, I can't wait to see who she becomes in the years to follow and I can't wait to see the things she accomplishes in her life. 

Ultimately, my direct advice to you: Love your kids, and tell them you do. Respect your kids, and show them you do. Listen to your kids, because when you give them the chance to do something good, they'll keep trying until they do it. Emphasize to your children the importance of being more than just a work of beauty, and that it is their achievements, ideals, and decisions that carry them through life.

Well then, I think that about does it for today, I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope you were able to get something out of it. Until next time!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Beginnings... Allow me to introduce... ME!

Well, with 2012 in what you could call "Full Swing", I think it's time to start living up to the resolutions I've put upon myself. 2011 was not the best year for us as a family, though we did have some very high points as well. With everything that happened, I had to take a long hard look at the negative things that happened to us, as well as the positive things that happened to us. The point of life is to learn, to evolve and to implement changes that will improve the quality of life for yourself, and for those around you, and hopefully, for the world around you. The changes all start with oneself though, no matter what.

And now for the relevant part of this post, haha. 2011 hit us pretty hard in a lot of ways. Heather was laid off from the job we both worked at, which took our income to half of what it was. We then, in turn, had to move from the house we really loved, into a smaller place. That whole series of events pretty much set into motion wave after wave of further difficulties. Long story short, it was not a good year. Hard times like that are often a crossroads for a lot of people, and so it was for us. I took a good look at the way I was living my life, and where my priorities were, and where they NEEDED to be. For years, I had been chasing what I can only describe as "immortality", by playing in bands, making music, and basically seeking renown from an entire subculture of people in hopes of making an impact on the world. Well, needless to say, "immortality" doesn't come cheap or easy, and certainly not without a price. Well, I kept paying the price to achieve it, without getting anything back for it. At this point is where I ultimately had a quite sudden, profound epiphany about where my energy was being spent. After witnessing two separate funerals, and seeing how each of the families responded to the loss of their loved ones, I realized what I had to do, and what I had to change.

Life is very short. Depressingly short. Most of us don't get the chance to impact the lives of very many people. But there are still those very FEW people that we do. My two crowning achievements in life have been marrying my wife, and having our daughter. That being said, at a bare minimum, there are two peoples' lives I'm being given the chance to touch. My wife is my partner, my best friend, my unconditional supporter, and the ONE person who has stuck by me through all my struggles. My daughter is an amazing little girl, who's growing up faster than I'd care to admit. It scares the crap out of me sometimes. There are so many influences that affect a child. The things I teach my daughter now, and the things I share with her, are going to be the things she teaches someone else, and shares with them. Do I want that to be hatred, or anger, or contempt, or wickedness? Absolutely not. I want her to be a woman of peace, who cares for those who need it, who respects herself and everyone else. And that is where new beginnings are born; when the need for change is found, and then implemented.

Therefore, this blog isn't going to be a tutorial, or a sermon, or a lecture. It's going to be more of a documentary of my personal journey. Just an account of my life, my perspectives, the things I learn from my experiences, and the lessons, values and morals I'll be teaching my daughter, and maybe some other people hopefully. I am not limiting this blog to any particular subject matter, it's all going to be based off my experiences, so that could include absolutely anything I come into contact with or see or hear. This first post is more of a detailed summary of the how's, why's and what's. I hope you enjoy the coming posts, and I hope you can learn a little from them, and be able to benefit from the things that have helped me make positive changes in my life. Be sure to "Check The Male" next time, for some (hopefully) enlightening male perspectives.