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Too Young To Date?

Sing it with me, “She is 13 going on 29.” Honestly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be an eleven-year-old in today’s society. The peer expectations and influences are mind blowing. The idea of dating has actually come up in our households. It’s also coming up in our daughter’s friends households and I’m sure there are different opinions in every home if not more than one. Couple that with the fact that our kids are inundated with messages on television and on-line that are down right scary; and you’ve got quite a challenge. As parents it can be difficult to stick to your guns on the topic. So I started putting some thoughts on paper and came up with 10 tips that may (or may not) help.

1. You know as well as anyone that our kids are great at making it sound like everyone else’s parents are “OK with it.” Well, trust me, they’re not. Just call and ask them. They’re likely in the same boat as you are. A goodyes relationship with your kid’s friends’ parents is golden. Support each other as much as you can. Or if nothing else, let them know the rules in YOUR house so that they’re aware because I guarantee you your daughter’s friend has said “Her dad said it’s OK.”

2. It’s OK to make your ten-year-old delete their “Vine” and “SnapChat” apps. I’m sorry, but they’re not appropriate for a nine or eleven-year-old. I don’t care who else has them. Some of the videos and images shared on these platforms are down right offensive. And I can’t think of any reason a ten-year-old would need to ensure an image is gone after a few minutes. Why go there?

3. I’m a firm believer that every kid, as much as they argue and battle, like knowing that you’re all up in their “stuff” when it comes to their personal lives. That doesn’t mean you have to be hateful about it. Just a part of it. They want to know you care enough to stick your nose in their business. I also believe whole hardily that they need and “want” us to help them say no, because on their own they feel pressured and overwhelmed. Knowing they can use us as an excuse to say no is not a bad thing. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to be mean or a jerk about it. Just subtly let them know you’re watching and involved.

4. Trust your gut, but be open to giving a little. It’s important for your eleven-year-old to learn how to interact with the opposite sex appropriately. If we can encourage boy/girl friendships and give them opportunities to learn to respect and appreciate each other as more than just the opposite sex at an early age I think it’s a win / win. Because in a couple of years their bodies and hormones are going to take over and they’re not going to be thinking straight.

5. Now more than ever you need to put aside your differences and work out a mutually agreed upon plan of
action with your ex in terms of how you’re going to approach dating and your pre-teen. If your kid knows their mom and dad are unified and that both are going to be communicating and sharing, it’s a huge coup. the-delicates-too-young-to-date-londonConversely, if they feel left to themselves to figure it out or learn that they can play mom and dad against each other, I can’t imagine it working out well.

6. It’s going to mean giving up your free time and off-nights, but be open to being there as a parental chaperone for group get togethers perhaps even along with your ex. It’ll drive your daughter crazy but as a dad (and mom), this is a great compromise; “Sure, you can go as a group to the movie, as long as I’m there too.” And if you go, don’t make a big deal about it or be an ass. Just be there.

7. Listen. Just listen. Don’t wait until it’s a big discussion or argument. Make a point of opening the floor to your kids at an early age over tea before bedtime, or at the dinner table. And just listen. You’ll be surprised at what they’re willing to share once they get rolling.

8. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t believe for a second that if you ignore it it’ll go away. Your kids are being exposed to things we didn’t see until we were much older. And I’m sorry, but you can’t protect them from what their friends are sharing and talking about. Don’t think for a second that just because you’re not talking about it that they’re not aware of it. And if you stick your heals (and head) in the sand and wait until they’re sixteen to talk about it, brother you’re going to be in for a big surprise.

9. Educate yourself. Do your best to keep up with the latest apps and what kids are talking about. Your kids find things on-line. So can you. Learn what’s influencing them. Don’t just send them off into the world without fully understanding to the best of your ability what they (and you) are up against.

10. Baby steps work best. So start now. Don’t wait until she (or he) is fifteen.

Remember, the underlying tone here is, this shouldn’t be about sex. This should be about learning how to be social on expanded fronts. That said, as a dad I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start talking to your daughter about how stupid boys get when they’re thirteen and around girls and why they get stupid. Give your daughter some perspective and teach her that she too should have as much control over a situation as anyone. It’s good to be trusting, but in some situations having your guard up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And please, PLEASE, teach your sons to respect girls. Don’t let them be stupid or ignorant just because they’re boys. That’s not an excuse. Educate them. It’s your job. Above all, don’t be stupid yourself believing that your boys and girls are perfect angels. Because they’re not. No matter how smart or good they are, they’re still going to be dealing with hormones, peer pressure and ignorance. Don’t be afraid to be the adult. And remember, every kid has a different capacity for understanding. You should know best what your child can handle.

This is a touchy subject I know. And everyone has their own opinions of what’s appropriate at what ages. But I think the more open we can be about it and the more we can stand up as parents and guide our children appropriately starting at an early age, the more chance we have of getting our kids into adulthood with an appreciation for each other. Lord knows the internet can at times send the wrong messages. We need to be there to help them decipher those messages and understand self control, boundaries and rules can be a good thing.

Good luck! We’re rootin’ for you!

 

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Aside

So, how’re you holding up? Keeping it all together?

Sometimes I have a difficult time coming up with a topic to write about. Today is one of those days. And yet I feel compelled to write to you and encourage you to keep moving forward; to keep the faith and to fight throughhow_you_doin whatever negativity you might be dealing with. Some days we simply need someone to tell us we’re amazing. That what we’re doing is epic. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

Just the fact that you’re there for your kids is something to be both proud of and thankful for. Some dads leave a divorce and put it all behind them, including their kids. I wish there was something I could say to those dads, but chances are those dads probably aren’t reading this blog. I feel bad for those fathers because they’re really missing out on one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Keep in mind I’m not talking about dads who want to be there, but have limited access to the kids due to the courts. I’m talking about the dads who just don’t care. Because they would if they knew what they were missing.

But it’s not easy and it doesn’t come without an effort as you well know. It doesn’t come without battles, compromises and standing up for yourself AND your kids. There is a reason why you get up every morning, idadjpg-85702c75c414f9a9make school lunches, stay up late washing a special pair of jeans your daughter wants to wear to school in the morning, coach a soccer team or teach your kid how to make the perfect pancake. There’s a reason you stop what you’re doing when you tuck your kids in at night to spend 30 minutes talking to them about their day. It’s because once you see your kids smile due to your efforts it becomes infectious. When you sense the impact you’re having on your kids you become astutely aware of your true purpose.

It doesn’t happen right off the bat necessarily. And I think that’s where some dads struggle. You can’t just wake up one day and expect your twelve year old kid to be your best pal. It takes time for both you and your kids to find your groove and to respect each other. It takes time to accept certain aspects of being a dad and get comfortable with others. And even when you do, there are going to be days when you struggle to keep the focus where it needs to be. Because along with your kids, there are a thousand other people pulling at you, needing you, expecting things from you. You get lost in a project, or invariably everything lands on the same day between 10 am and noon. That’s when the school calls to let you know your daughter has a temperature. Or your ex texts you to see if there’s any chance you can best_job_ive_ever_had_being_a_dad_mousepad-p144662381049604604eng3t_400meet the kids at the bus stop today because of an emergency.

It’s a balance that takes time to master and even then it’s not always easy when you’re getting it from all sides. So I’m here to tell you you’re doing great. You’re a great dad and your kids need you, typically when they seem to need you the least. But they need you because of the amazing things you bring to their lives. They need you because you’re the only dad they have and over time they’ve learned to appreciate everything you do, even when they tell you you’re the worst dad ever because you made them turn off an inappropriate program or made them clean their room or turn off the computer. They need the boundaries you set, the hugs you offer, the reassurances you give them that they’re awesome and not a freak like so many of their school mates make them feel like sometimes.

They need you dad and they need you because you’ve set the bar. And now that you’ve set it to not maintain it would be letting them down. And the fact that you’ve set the bar is the strongest indication that you’re doing a great job.

How YOU Doin’?

 

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Tea Time!

As parents, it’s easy to get lost in our day, our obligations, our deadlines and just assume the kids will entertain themselves and each other. In the process we often miss golden opportunities to maintain a dialogue with our kids that no doubt we’ll be wishing we had 8-10 years from now when they’re older.

So never underestimate the power of turning off the computer or television about half an hour before your kid’s bedtime and sitting down with them to share a cup of tea or hot chocolate. And if you’re smart, you’ll eventually learn to just sit there, shut up, sip your tea and listen for twenty nine of the thirty minuteskhashayar20101010152119700

Mind you, I’m not an expert by any means. Just a dad trying to learn how to raise three kids and maintain a positive relationship with all three of them. In doing so I typically notice something just about every day that I can do better. One of those things is listening. I’ve sucked at it for as long as I can remember and have to continually be aware of when I’m failing to give someone their proper minutes. And to a child of 7 or 10 or 14 or 45, I think sometimes that’s all they’re asking for. For someone to listen and to take their thoughts and opinions seriously.

About a year ago my daughters and I started having “tea time with dad” just before bedtime. It wasn’t anything extraordinary. Just a chance to end the day together and share a moment where the rest of the world was shut out. From time to time it now includes my son as well, although it’s usually hot cocoa not tea. Over time it’s turned into one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s especially special when it turns into a simple one on one sipping.

There are times I just sit and listen in amazement at the amount of “stuff” my kids have absorbed, even at
tv_turnoff_week_image-copysuch a tender age, and just how much is racing around up there. I can’t help but smile and even laugh out loud at times as I witness how they process all of the information they’re capturing throughout the day. Their perspectives are truly amazing and eye opening as they provide insights into what’s important to them and how they view the world, their mom, their school, their neighbors, their bus driver, their friends and me.

My kids have a lot to say and there are times I ask them to keep their thoughts to themselves, especially when
those thoughts are hateful or demeaning. So providing them with a safe environment to open up, knowing
they’re not going to get a lecture or a rebuttal in response has proven to be a win / win on several levels.

As you’ve probably noticed if you read this blog on a regular basis, I would never divulge details about anything my kids share with me. But the content of our tea time discussions isn’t what’s important here. It’s the simple concept of shutting out the world for 30 minutes so that it’s just two or three minds connected and sharing thoughts, concerns, fears, dreams and opinions about music, clothes, pets, or whatever comes to mind. What you hear may not even make sense to you all the time. But I’m sure we don’t make sense to them all the time either. The point is maintaining a connection, letting them know they’re loved and appreciated and teaching them the power of sharing and listening. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn that and then some yourself.

Peace!

 

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SongPop Butt Whoopin’

I’m one of those guys who typically avoids the facebook games. You know Farmburbia or Badazallamamamam, or whatever the devil they’re called. I had little if any interest and eventually started to “unsubscribe” to friends whose updates kept letting me know every time they milked a cow or rescued a kitten.

Then the angels got together and decided to create a dream game come true. SongPop came along and everything changed. They literally had me at “Hello.” But for more reasons than just the interactive joy of trying to school my nephews on 70’s rock. Despite having to put my house up for sale out of shame from the can of whoop ass handed to me by a neighbor, I had found my new guilty pleasure.

Yes I loved the game, but the highlight for me was when my ten-year-old daughter downloaded the app on her i-touch. It quickly evolved into the first legitimate competition between us. It also became a unique way for us to connect on an unprecedented level. It started with her beboppin’ around the house after beating me on her first “Today’s Top Hits” challenge. Then her tween-cussing (crap, shoot, etc) upon losing to me in “60’s Collection.”

Aside from the competition aspect of the game, there were two amazing things happening here. First there was the bonding taking place through the simple interaction. Then there was the invitation into each other’s musical universes through which we both grew to understand a little bit more about each other. Probably small in the large scheme of things, but a cool prospect none the less. Now, even when she’s at her mom’s we’ll have a way of connecting and making each other laugh or hang our head in shame. Either way, we’re staying connected and learning to appreciate each other. I think in any relationship, there’s an amazing thing that happens any time you recognize that someone has taken the time to understand you a little better.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s been painful listening to some of the music she likes, but she’s opening up to me about what she knows and listens to. In turn, I’m taking the opportunity to delve a little deeper in-between
rounds to listen a little closer to what her little ears are hearing on a regular basis. I don’t like a lot of it, but at least now I’m aware and can discuss it with her in a non confrontational manner.

I’ve written before about, what I consider to be, the importance of teaching our kids an appreciation for music and the hundreds of genres, styles and countless options there are for new discovery. To me this is such a cool opportunity to have fun with it and share something important to both of us. I may not like all of it, but now when she asks me to turn on Radio Disney or I put on the 60’s on 6, we’ll both have a reason to listen rather than go “I hate this music!” And perhaps it’ll open up other doors down the road when she’s a little older. Could this help lay the ground work for a broader more open communication? Who knows and maybe I’m reaching a bit, but it’s worth a shot don’t you think?

The first time she beat me on the Classic Rock category I couldn’t help but smile underneath my “WHAT!!!” Probably a little more than she did when I beat her on “Modern Rap.” But just to hear her yell through the house, “I GOT JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH!” was a proud moment for me. And, maybe I was imagining things, but the hug I got at the end of the day seemed a little tighter than usual as well.

Win or lose though seems more like a win / win.

 

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Gosh Darn Lyrics!

As we were listening to Disney Radio on Sirius / XM the other day, I had a revelation. The music featured on the station, in many cases, is also featured on many of the “Current Hit” stations both on satellite radio and your  traditional local radio stations. The challenge this creates as a parent is differentiating between what is appropriate music for your 8-12 year old and what isn’t as the lines have become somewhat blurred. The songs featured on Disney now emulate and are often part of the mix with what can be some of the more adult themed music on your traditional pop stations leaving kids to think it’s all fair game which, for some parents, may be problematic.

OK OK. So at this point you’re probably saying, “whoa there fella, you’re starting to sound an awful lot like one of them snobbish, judgmental, overprotective, ultra-conservative parents we’ve all come to love making fun of.” First, I have a point which I’ll get to in a moment and second; I grew up yelling “My Dingaling,” singing “Little Willy” and blasting “The Telephone Man.” I’m sure even my grandparents sang “It’s really killin’ that he’s so willin’ to make whoopee” along with Sinatra (that heathen).

I also listened to my sister’s psychedelic rock vinyl from the 60’s that emitted some INSANE messages. By age nine I was dreaming of blowing off class to explore Itchycoo Park where I could be eight miles high in a purple haze. I was later introduced to the blues through amazing bands like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin who enjoyed loving people on an elevator and offering up every inch of that love. Really had no idea what it all meant to be honest with you. At that age I just thought the music was cool. But looking back, I would consider it a crime if I hadn’t had all that great music to explore.

More recently, I’ve begun introducing my kids to all kinds of great music from all genres and eras. Admittedly, from time to time I’ve had to do my best to avoid explaining what it means to have someone squeeze my lemons, kiss you all over, or push push in the bush. And for now a magic carpet ride is something Aladdin took from time to time. But I think it’s important to expose kids to all different styles of music and talk to them about the history and meaning behind a song as much as is appropriate for their ages. And to be clear, as you read this, know that my ex-wife and I continually communicate about the music our own kids are listening to and monitor it to ensure explicit lyrics, foul language and certain topics are avoided and banned from i-pods all together. We’re open, but let’s be real here. There are limits.

Anyway; I was 12 when David Naughton came out with the song “Makin’ It.” I remember sitting in the car with my mom. We were driving through a plaza in West Seneca, NY listening to the radio when it came on. I started singing along and she turned the station. “Why’d you do that?” I inquired. “That song is inappropriate for you!” she explained. “Why?” I asked. “Nevermind,” she implored. “You don’t know what it means.” I did actually. The song was the theme to a sitcom by the same name and was about overcoming the odds and being successful despite your short comings. My mom obviously thought it meant something completely different but didn’t bother to ask.

But we’re getting off track a bit. This isn’t an essay on the pros / cons of rock music. (Well maybe just a little). But I’ve never believed there to be a danger in listening to any kind of music. I actually think the real danger is not listening to enough. Music is magic. The more you listen to the more it broadens your creative senses and ability to paint mental pictures.The music your kids are listening to is something they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives. But it probably won’t influence them the way you think it will. I myself still have my “Itchycoo Park” 45, but despite listening to it 1,423,334 times, I never ‘got high.’ That just wasn’t my scene man.

But back to the point of the whole Disney / Today’s hit music issue and what our kids are listening to. The more I thought about it the more I realized it wasn’t necessarily about the lyrics themselves. For me personally, being aware of what your kids are listening to is more about opportunities to demonstrate to your kids that you’re paying attention and that you care about how the world affects them. With i-tunes, mp3 players, Pandora, Spotify, etc. all so easily accessible to kids in a more intimate and private way, it’s all that more difficult to know what your children are being exposed to. When it comes to music, let’s be honest, like us 20 or 30 years ago, half the time they have no idea what the lyric really means. I had no idea why Alice was small. Sure sounded like fun though. Almost as much as it would be to join Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

As I’ve mentioned, I think I’ve come to the point where I believe this is less about the lyric and more about the opportunities they present for a dad (or mom). Whether your kids and their friends are currently singing about the joys of being  “Higher Than A Mother f-!#% r” or trying to get boys to show them their “Peacock Cock Cock,” as a parent you have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to your kid that you’re paying attention. If there’s any question, have them go on line and print out the lyrics to a song that may be a concern. Talk about it, discuss the potential issues with them. Explain to them why something may or may not be appropriate. If they hear a song that has lyrics that are degrading to women, it’s a great opportunity to explain why it’s offensive. And find out what THEY think it means. Some valuable insights to be mined are just waiting for you. Build some boundries if you want or don’t. It’s really up to you not the Harper Valley PTA. But the bottom line is, what better way to let them know that A. you’re listening and B. you care.

 

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