Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Superheroes and Super Kids

This image is from Tiny Superheroes, an awesome nonprofit that you should support. Go here to do that: www.tinysuperheroes.com.

I need to update my blog roll. Since our kiddo was diagnosed with Asperger's, I'm reading a whole new crop of blogs.  In the meantime, here are a couple of articles that restored my faith in humanity.

Gandhi Vs. Wolverine: The Adamantium of Peace

I presented the litany of usual suspects: the Joker, Lex Luthor, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, etc. Then she asked who Wolverine’s enemy was. And that’s when the conversation shifted.
“We are.”
That wasn’t the answer my daughter expected, nor was it what I expected to say, frankly.
It was just a conversation about comic book heroes, but any good parent knows to seize an opportunity to impart a message about acceptance and diversity. So we spent a few minutes talking about the fact that in the X-Men mythos, other average people tend to be the ones who can’t accept that there are people different than they are. Then again, I confessed, it might take me a few minutes to get used to someone who absorbs my energy through skin-to-skin contact.
Then she asked about Iron Man’s villain.
My answer was simple: “Actually, I think he is the enemy.”
And then there's this:

"Time to Listen":  Autism and the simplicity of relationships
...he calls out, “Mom – What is Mary Poppins about…?” 
I respond from the kitchen, “It is a story about two kids who are really struggling. They don’t behave very well and they are unhappy. Their parents are too busy and no one wants to be their nanny. Then Mary Poppins comes along and she teaches the children to find joy in being children, and she shows the parents how to notice and listen to and pay attention to their kids. Then her work is done… and they become a connected family …and Mary Poppins goes to help another family.” 
H concurs, “That is what I thought – the parents didn’t have time for their kids…” 
My curiosity kicks in, “Why do you ask?” 
“I was just thinking about it – and I wanted to know if I was right. I was! That is what I thought: the parents didn’t have time for their kids – and then they learned what was important.” 
“Do you think your dad and I spend enough time with you?”
The best way for any parent to learn how to do their job is to see how other parents are doing it.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, blogs give us a window into the living rooms of other parents and other kiddos. We're all struggling, but we're all doing okay.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day - Signs of Hope

Father's Day is often a dreadful day in popular media.  I wrote a bitter and frustrated post about it a few years ago, after reading a particularly infuriating post in a national magazine.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this commercial, depicting a dad doing ... well, doing what dads do. He was swaddling his kid. 

His wife called to check on him, and he responded that he had matters well in hand. He was a dad. Dads didn't need help - they managed. So she hung up, and then he pulled up a YouTube video to see how to do a better job of swaddling his kid. 

I probably could have helped him with his swaddle technique, if he'd only asked.

And lo and behold, a dad swaddled his kid on national television. And it was a beautiful moment. It was a real moment. He wasn't perfect, but he was trying his hardest and he wasn't intimidated. He was doing what dads do. (The commercial is called "Swaddle Master. I know a thing or two about swaddling, so I loved it.)

Another commercial, this one for toothbrushes. (Yeah, I know.) But holy cow, this commercial slayed me. Dads holding their kids, and playing with them, and teaching them stuff. It's so simple and just so perfect.

I wish I had a third commercial, so it would be a trend piece. But whatever. Two is good.

Oh, wait, here's a third. It's not a commercial, but it still works. It's a new piece by Louis CK that ran on CBS Sunday Morning for Father's Day.

And this one is great because it adds a lot of elements that are also true to life. Louis is full of doubt and self-loathing and that fiery, angry defiance that defines him. "No, screw you, I'm going to do it THIS WAY!!"

Fathers are doubtful. We are consumed by doubt. We're not sure we're doing it right. The problem with dads having taken such a backseat role in parenting for so long is that now, we're not sure we know how to do it.

Here's the secret. Moms don't know what they're doing either. No, really, they don't. They DON'T. There is no magic innate motherhood gene. We all just learn by trying it and screwing up and waking up the next day anyway.

But we're not hopeless. Lots of dads are doing just what they're supposed to do. They change diapers and hold their kids and kiss their boo-boos and look at report cards and fix lunches. They strap in car seats and make dinners and wipe tears away and make their stuffed animals talk in ridiculous voices.

We do what we're supposed to do. We're not boobs. We're not idiots. We're people, and there are some great ones, and some really lousy ones. But in between, there's a hell of a lot of us who are just doing the job, day after day after day. I saw a great quote today, one that I'd never seen before. "Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow." It's from someone named Reed Markham.

We don't want medals. Just treat us like human beings. When you see a dad taking his kid for a walk, don't think "oh look, daddy's babysitting." That father is being a parent. It's not special anymore to see fathers doing the parenting thing. The world is changing. This year, for once, I'm a little more hopeful that the change is being noticed.