Monthly Archives: March 2013

Shop At Your Own Risk!

It is my 100th post and what better way to celebrate than with a progress report. A couple of previous posts focused on the subject of dads shopping for clothes with daughters. It is, in skiing terms, the double black diamond slope of parenthood. I barely made it down my first time, but by the grace of God managed to make it to the lodge without any bruised egos or broken dreams.caution-double-black-diamond

My daughter and I have hit the retail slopes a number of times the past year or two and we’ve made a lot of progress. We still hit our share of moguls, but have managed to avoid any major wipeouts. In hindsight, we probably should have considered starting out on a shopping bunny hill, like, going to CVS for some gum and then worked our way up. Because, like most things, it takes practice to grow accustomed to the environment and find your rhythm. And the reality is, as is the case with most parenting adventures, regardless of where you start, you’ll have your spills and avalanches and may even need a brace or sling after an excursion here or there.

Our own first time out was anything but smooth. I didn’t like her choices, she didn’t like that I was in the same mall. It was awkward to say the least. But over time, we learned to compromise (a LOT) and to focus more on the fact that we were out together having one on one time than the fact that we were shopping for clothes. And oddly enough, now we end up doing both. I had to give on a couple of things and in turn she backed off on others. We’ve worked our way up through green circles and blue squares and are pretty good at navigating the black diamond shopping trails now.

If you’re a dad, single or married, don’t wait until your daughter is sixteen to decide you want to spend time with
her on her turf. Start training now. Today. This very second. I’ve heard too many friends tell me, “and just like that they’re going to shopatownriskcollege and I don’t even know them.” That thought scares the hell out of me. When they’ve had a bad day in high school, I want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me and saying, “dad, today sucked, wanna hit the mall?” Maybe I’m reaching for the unattainable, but I’m going to give it my best shot. And I believe it starts with stopping once in a while and making an attempt to create those moments now when they’re still young and frankly, need me to drive.

Listen, having your daughter grab a pair of jeans out of your hands and tell you, “no way dad, you’re not wearing that” is a gift. (btw, if you’re reading this daughter, thank you for not letting me buy that shorts / sweater combo. I owe you one) Having her share with you why she considers one blouse better than another, is a gift. Talking about her dreams over lunch in the food court, a gift.  And believe me, having her eyes light up over the perfect dress after trying on seventeen at five different stores; all of it, is a gift.

So I just wanted to encourage you to put down the remote, turn off the game, log out of facebook and ask your daughter if she wants to go to the mall. Or, maybe just suggest a trip to Walgreens for a Snickers bar. Thenshoppingsigns work your way up to Claire’s for earrings, and when you’re ready, Target for an “outfit.” The point is to make the effort now before she has friends with cars. And don’t feel like the point is to spend money. This can be a great chance to slip in discussions about budgets, value, needs versus wants etc. Now my daughter is the one telling me she’ll wait until she finds exactly what she wants.

So ask her. She may balk at first, but find a way to convince her to go. You may be a little wobbly at first, but at some point you’ll reach the base and look back at the mountain you just navigated. And what a thrill it’ll be when she’s the one who suggests you get back on the t-bar and head your way back to the top for another go.


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Cowsill Life: No Walk in the Park

In today’s post you’re going to learn a little more about who I am and what I do. I typically shy away from this aspect of my life with the blog, but it has relevance this week and there is something specific I wanted to share with you.

I am a film / video director and editor by trade. My focus is primarily the music industry and documenting its stories. A couple of years ago a friend asked me to help her put together a film about a family singing group from the 1960’s known as the Cowsills. Working on the film would become a great focus of my time for two to three years and would change my views on life, parenthood, fatherhood and families in general. 285720_551273038239291_93305052_n

Getting right to the point, despite his ability to recognize and encourage so much of the talent that oozed from his home, Bud Cowsill was an abusive father. He was incredulously manipulative and selfish. And his children, in turn, feared him to the point that they never spoke to each other about what went on within their household. Truth be told, they didn’t live their childhoods, in many ways they survived them. In building the story of “Family Band: The Cowsills Story” Louise and I both wanted people to see the whole story, not just the success and the ride to the top, but the crippling affect that Bud’s controlling and abusive nature would have on both their careers and their lives as adults. With the support of Bob Cowsill and the rest of the family, we were able to to do just that. Along with demonstrating the affects of abuse on a family, our goal was for the film to help families recognize the power of sibling bonds and that no matter how dark the past, a brighter future can be found through love, communication and forgiveness.

The story of the Cowsills, I’ve learned, is not an unfamiliar one. And all too often the story is shared long after the affects of abuse have become rooted in the minds and hearts of the abused. It is a stark reminder that people often project one persona for themselves and their family, when in truth their world is nothing like what people see. For many kids, they really have no idea that their life is any different from others and that the abuse they’re engaged in is normal. It’s not until they’re older that they realize, “hey, you mean most dads don’t assault their kids?”

For me personally, the story of the Cowsills is a wake up call to any father. Louise worked much closer with the family over the eight to nine years it took to capture all of the footage, and has a much broader appreciation for the relationships between the family members. But in the short time I got to work on the film the shear impact of the role that abuse played in the development of each kid is still deeply ingrained in my own head. It speaks volumes to the impact a dad can have on his children both good and bad. Whether or not you’re abusive to your children, how you interact with them and how you approach them over something as simple as putting their shoes away, can create a pattern that will define your relationship with them throughout their lives.

We as fathers have opportunities to provide our children with so many amazing gifts. How we decide to do that will greatly affect their hearts, minds and Cowsills_gold_record_1967souls as they grow into adulthood. As I watch the finished film now and reflect on my own childhood as well as the first several years of my time as a father, it’s obvious to me that working on the film changed my life and how I view my fatherhood. It’s why I wanted to invite you to watch the film. While you do, ask yourself, “how will my kids view me ten, twenty, thirty or forty years from now?” If you’re like me, it may cause you to take a step back and adjust a few things and to see your children as even more fragile than you already do. It may cause you to recognize that we’re not just here to protect their bodies, but their minds as well.

I’ve said this before and it bares repeating. We are building our children’s memories, today. Each experience has the potential to be one that they look back on as a defining moment. It’s up to us to be aware of ourselves, our actions and our reactions knowing that one day our children will reflect and react in life based on those specific times and how we handled ourselves. What our children remember about their childhood is not 100% up to us. But as dads (and moms) we are held accountable for a great deal of it. I believe that regardless of the type of father you are today, there is always room for improvement. Working on the Cowsills film did two things for me. It told me overall I’m probably a better dad than I gave myself credit or. At the same time it showed me that every day I have an opportunity to improve.

“Family Band: The Cowsills Story” is currently airing on Showtime through the month of March and into April and is also available on If you happen to watch it, I’d love to hear what you think so be sure to share your comments.



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Oh Romeo Romeo!

I’m not a girl. Never dreamed of being a princess. Never imagined finding my prince charming and living a fairytale life. But I do have two young daughters. And from conversations we’ve had, I know they’re already starting to plan their weddings and I’m sure there’s a prince in the equation. Yet even at their tender ages, I can see they’re beginning to question the reality of ‘boys’ and whether Disney is basically full of #%@&.

Our kids today deal with social hurt on a level I don’t think we can comprehend. It was hard when WE were sixteen. I can only imagine what it’s like to be nine or ten in today’s world. But as a dad, and I’ve written about images-21this before, I believe we fathers have an opportunity and an obligation to be our daughters’ first knight in shining armor. We have a chance to set the bar that our daughters will look to as a measuring stick as they begin discovering romantic relationships.

It’s a tough balance, especially when you’re a single dad. You’re the disciplinarian, coach, chef, housekeeper, tutor and yes, you set the rules and uphold them. I personally think that it’s important that your kids see that everything you’re doing for them is for the purpose of keeping them safe. That you’re there to protect them above all things. To do that I also think it’s crucial that you continually work to maintain an open line of communication with your kids. Because one day, someone is going to hurt your little girl. God forbid it be physically, but even a broken heart is inevitable and the last thing you want is for your daughter to feel all alone, that she deserved it or like no one cares about her.

On some level, I’m a firm believer that every little girl wants to know that dad is there to protect them. I think it’s even more important that along with all of the reprimands we tend to hand out during the week, that they continually here us say how much they’re worth protecting. If we don’t believe they’re special, why should they? Let’s face it, it’s easy to get lost in being “dad.” In pointing out all of the things our kids do wrong and the poor choices they tend to make as kids. We harp on them about cleaning up. About being nice to each other. Keeping up with their things. We’re the first to point out that doing summersaults off the couch and into the beanbag chair is not a good idea or that using your little brother as a bike ramp may not be the best choice.

I’m sure they get plenty of messages from us about how they’re doing things wrong. We forget sometimes that they’re sensitive little egos get bombarded with reminders of how imperfect they are on a daily basis. Not just from us, but from the world outside as well. Which is all the more chivalryreason we need to stop once in a while and remind them of how amazing they are. How smart we think they are. How pretty they are. How brilliant they are and how special they are. And that no matter what the current state of our relationship with them is, if they ever need us to “just be there,” they only need ask.

I’m not saying we should be demonstrating that women need men. Or that girls can’t defend themselves. That’s not it at all. To me it’s all about respect and letting them know that above all, we’ve got their back. This isn’t necessarily about boys and girls. Because let’s be honest, one day your little girl may bring home another little girl to meet mom and dad. For now, I think what’s important is to let them know that they’re important and that anyone, boy or girl, who makes them feel anything less than special, isn’t worth their time. To teach them to focus on being around people who lift them up and treat them the way they deserve to be treated.

Being a single dad (or mom) means being a lot of different things to your kids. I’m finding that as my kids begin to get a little older and start to get to the age where the idea of romantic relationships are coming into play; I’m already starting to get very protective. I’m not going to apologize for that. And honestly I don’t think my daughters would want me to. I think as they mature and start to hang out with boys, they need (and want) to know that there is at least one boy on this planet who thinks their honor is worth defending. Because if they can find chivalry at home, perhaps they’ll believe they can find it again in another kingdom.



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Sick of It!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a single parent, is the fact that you are not allowed to get sick. It’s actually in the bi-laws. Chapter VII, Section IV, Paragraph III, Line II clearly states, “a temperature of 102, severe chills, cold sweats and vomiting, shall not relieve said parent of the duty of making school lunches,
sick-guyfeeding and dressing the children, ensuring teeth and hair are brushed, school field trip permission slips are
signed and everybody is out the door in time to ride the school bus.”

Forget the fact that there’s no one around to take care of you either. And as a guy, I loath doctors. Part of it is the fact that I just love paying $100 to $200 out of my pocket to have someone tell me, “you really should get some rest.”

When you’re basically the sole proprietor of your family, there’s rarely room for even a “day” of stopping. Work, kids, soccer practices, laundry, shopping, meals, all keep coming up on the schedule. E-mails keep coming, phones keep ringing, clients keep asking, bills keep arriving, kids keep needing. You were overwhelmed when you were healthy. Now what? All problems and challenges appear 15 times larger when you’re sick and have no energy.

If you’re like me, your tendency is to fight through it. As my ex used to say, “you can be miserable at home or
miserable at work.” And typically it works. I take some DayQuil, eat an orange, hydrate, get a run or two in to images-13sweat it out, and in a couple of days I’m good to go. OK, and maybe I throw some donuts and coffee in there. But as much as I try to fight it, if after a week I’m still wheezing and dragging my ass, I’ll bee line it for the Kroger clinic in hopes of getting a z-pack. It’s the only way to ensure you’re going to have the energy and the ability to forge through long term.

As a single parent you’ve grown accustomed to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But obviously; if after a week you’re still sick, your body is telling you it just isn’t able to recoup on its own and needs some help. Try to recognize when you need to stop and shut down for a day and act accordingly. If you have a kid free day coming up. Cancel your plans that you’ve been waiting two weeks for and take care of yourself. If you have the kids, get them on the bus and take a day off – from everything! When they get home, let them make you tea and tuck you in on the couch. They’ll love it and usually their behavior improves at the same time. You’ll be amazed at how just 24 hours of rest and taking care of yourself can turn things around for you. Your boss will thank you, you’ll thank you and your kids will thank you.

So: single parents who are sick and goin’ it alone: High Five! I feel ya. You’re doing great and your family is better for your efforts. I’m personally cyberly patting you on the back. Hopefully it’ll help break up that cough.


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