Leaving Her Home Alone?

 

My daughter was very angry at me this morning, quite cross. This in itself isn’t surprising, she’s often angry at me in the morning, usually because I won’t let her wear mittens as shoes or order Chinese take out for breakfast, things of that nature proving how completely unreasonable I can be as a parent. Obviously I just enjoy being mean.

The source of her discontent this morning was easier to understand. She simply didn’t want to get up and get out of bed, a feeling that I am very familiar with. Truth be told, I really didn’t want to be up and about yet either. I had several hours before I needed to be anywhere, nobody was poking me in the forehead to tell me they wanted breakfast, and a wiser man than me would have been in bed earlier than I was the night before.

There was nothing that could be done, however. The teenager needed driving to summer school, my wife was already gone for the day, and even though it was only a twenty minute round trip, six years old was still too young to be left alone.

 

home alone?
practicing her “teenager face”

 

Or was it?

According to her argument, she would have been fine.  She’d watched me check the smoke and CO2 detectors the previous week, her room is uniquely positioned to have two different points of exit, and she’d learned in Girl Scouts all about handling different emergency situations. She told me all about how she’d check the door handle for heat before opening it if the alarm was sounding, how she’d dial 911 to ask for help, and the two houses she’d go to in order to ask to use the phone if it became necessary. She said that she promised to wait for “the chief” to show up and that she’d do whatever he said to stay safe until I got back.

She made a convincing argument and I’ll admit to being more than a little impressed. I also didn’t leave her, so if there is a gathering mob of internet do-gooders, you can all put down your pitchforks and torches and go home.  I simply told her that it was against the law for me to leave her home alone at her age and that I didn’t want to get in trouble. This was logic that she couldn’t argue with. I’m not sure exactly who she thinks “the chief” is, but she doesn’t want me on his bad side. She started using the term after the brush fire behind our house several summers ago but whoever it first described seems to have evolved into a Judge Dredd type enforcer of law and order.

 

home alone?
I Am The Law!

 

Curious, I did a bit of research and found that this can be added to the long list of lies that I’ve told her. It turns out that in New Mexico it is illegal to leave a child under ten alone, but every other state just has “suggestions” and ages that could potentially trigger investigations if complaints are filed. The Connecticut Attorney General’s office states that “A child’s maturity should be considered. Also a child’s ability to handle urgent situations should be reviewed. A parent should also take into account the environment in which the child will be alone and the child’s feelings about being alone.”

I found this surprising, multiple stories of small children found alone and neglected immediately coming to mind. Tragedies and near misses leading to prosecuted parents. A tendency towards over reaction and regulation, particularly if there seems to be child welfare issues involved. The trials and tribulations of eight year old Kevin McCallister still resonate over two decades later.

 

home alone
narrowly averted disaster

 

The truth is that every child is different, the stories we hear only the ones when things go terribly wrong. Its estimated that over three million children under the age of fifteen are left alone for up to several hours at a time at least once a week in this country, often by single parents unable to afford to pay for care while they are at work.

Common sense needs to be used, but it can’t be regulated. I don’t remember what age I was when first left unsupervised indoors, but was roaming the neighborhood on bicycle much younger than my daughter will be allowed to. To be honest, I don’t even remember when we first started leaving the teenager by herself, though I’d guess it was older than she would have liked, just like it will be for her little sister.

I don’t want to get in trouble with “the chief.”

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

JENerally Informed

 

Beaten For Helping

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before : misunderstanding leads to a guy being falsely accused of something, his picture gets spread all over social media, and his life is ruined.

Chances are you’ve heard it several times. There was the guy in British Columbia that forgot his glasses and was holding his phone at arm’s length to try and read something. Several girls thought he was taking their picture, snapped his, and shared it all over the internet with warnings about the town pervert.

There was the guy in Melbourne that stopped to take a selfie with a Darth Vader cutout in Target and was accused of the same, a Frozen display and several young girls somewhere in the vicinity. Both men spending months subjected to harassment and death threats while trying to clear their names and reputations.

Add to that list a Lakeland, Florida man who’s name, picture, phone number, place of employment, and family have been going viral this week, warnings made to watch out for him and to keep him away from children all over the internet.

His crime was to pick up a two year old girl, lost and upset in the crowd of a busy sports complex, calm her down, and begin asking people in the vicinity if anybody knew who her parent’s were. Before finding them however, the girl’s father and two of his buddies found them. Besides having his name and reputation smeared to the point where he moved his family into hiding, the Good Samaritan, a father himself,  got a tooth knocked out, his face split open, and a half dozen punches to the head for his trouble.

The girl’s family and friends, originators of not only the physical assault but the online one, are not only ungrateful but unrepentant, still convinced there was foul play intended despite the overwhelming number of witnesses that dispute that claim. As much as I can relate to their original panic and join everybody else that is happy the girl was returned to them unharmed, I have issue with their claim that this end result is “all that really matters.”

Its not all that matters. The man’s face and reputation matter. The continual sharing of things seen on-line with no effort put into determining the truth matters. The fact that this would have never happened if it had been a woman helping the little girl matters. The insane idea that any man talking to a little girl he doesn’t know must have nefarious purposes matters. The fear that next time it might be my little girl that goes un-helped because male bystanders are afraid to get involved matters to me quite a bit.

We already feel it. A little girl asks for a push on the swing or a lift up a ladder at the park and we freeze, looking around frantically for the kid’s parents. My daughter is old enough to not really care all that much where I am at the park, but every so often I make sure to talk to her, not to reassure her, but to make sure others are aware that I have a child present.

I’ve said before that parenting is a terrifying experience, the world a very scary place. Vigilance is necessary.

Paranoia is not.  I will do everything in  my power to make sure that I am there every time that my little girl needs me, but I know that for all my good intentions this may not always be the case. If she is ever lost, scared or hurt, please guys. Help her.

 

 

The Loneliness of the Modern Father

 

Parents often joke about our kids having much better social lives than we do. My daughter is involved in dance, Daisy Scouts, soccer or softball depending on the season. There are afternoons at the park, play dates, birthday parties. In the past ten days she has had sleepovers at two different houses and has two more scheduled in the next ten. Last night one of her friends slept over at ours. She’s seemingly surrounded by friends at all times.

We joke but I think that a lot of us do it somewhat enviously. Unless you are lucky enough to have friends with children of similar ages or involved in the same activities it can be almost impossible to keep in touch. New friendships are possible, small talk at kids’ practice or in the school pick up line leading to more, but the whole process is awkward and reminiscent of the pre-Tinder days of singles bars and blind dating. If somebody wants to make a quick fortune, develop an app that allows people to browse the interests of the other parents in our children’s classrooms.

 

dad friends
actual picture of me making dad friends

 

We joke about it but it’s a problem. Multiple studies have shown that loneliness and lack of social interaction lead to increased instances of cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as Alzheimer’s progression. Ex Surgeon General of the United States Vivek Murphy called isolation the most prevalent preventable health issue in the country.

It seems to be worse for men, particularly middle aged dads that are determined to spend as much time with our children as we can, to dispel the myth of the happy hour father, stopping for a few pints with the boys as mom prepares dinner and helps with the homework. We aren’t playing beer league softball or golfing on the weekends, we are playing catch, having tea parties. We are at the park, watching our children play and wondering if that other dad on the opposite bench, the one who’s kid seems to really like ours, would think it was weird if we invited them over to cookout some time. We wonder but we never ask.

I’m not sure why that is. Pride perhaps? To reach out invites rejection but it’s also an admission of need. We joke about not having friends to avoid facing the truth. Nobody wants to be the one sitting at a table by themselves in the cafeteria, but even more so I think we are afraid of others seeing us that way.

There’s also a guilt factor. Besides our constant feeling of never having enough time with our children, time spent with our spouses is equally important and hard to find. It feels selfish to be sitting at a sports bar, eating wings, joking with the guys, when I know that my wife is sitting home alone, watching that same ball game on our living room television.

Its something that needs to be given higher priority. I looked at several different studies and the average seems to be that one in four men over the age of thirty five admit to having few or no social connections with one in twenty saying that they had no friends at all. These results seem backed up by a recent conversation in a Facebook Dad Bloggers group where nearly every guy that responded admitted to having at least occasional feelings of isolation, particularly among those that were stay at home dads. There were a lot of positives that came out of the conversation, several meet ups planned, but most important I think was the relief and amazement most felt upon realization that they weren’t alone in feeling this way.

 

I don’t go often but every now and then I will leave work on a Thursday night and stop by the Wolf Den, a live music venue at a nearby casino with free admission and an impressive variety of acts. I’ve seen ’80s rockers Ratt and Slaughter, nineties groups Soul Asylum and Fuel, blues legend Robert Cray and metal band All That Remains.

Typically I go to these shows alone, partly due to a desire to leave immediately after, the Friday morning school run never far from my mind, but also due to a lack of people to call. There are a few, some possibly reading this right now and hopefully not feeling insulted, but I don’t call. For whatever reason, I don’t make the effort. I stand alone, tapping my feet and nursing my beer.

This past Thursday was different. I’d never heard of the band playing, Tim Montana and the Shrednecks, but their bio said that they’d opened for Brantley Gilbert, ZZ Top and Kid Rock so after watching a few of their You Tube videos I headed over. They were really good, outlaw country that I’d describe as a cross between….well, Brantley Gilbert, ZZ Top and Kid Rock.

 

Dad Date
Tim Montana and The Shrednecks

 

It was also different because this time I took the time to call a friend, a co worker that I thought would also enjoy their sound.  It was nothing revolutionary, we’d attended each others weddings, gone to concerts, wasted endless hours of our employer’s time talking about our kids. It was noteworthy only for the effort made, his and my own, effort that was extremely easy but all too often not made.

We need to do better at making it guys. Another survey I came across said that half of all men, of all ages and backgrounds, said that they very rarely talk about deep, personal issues with their friends, a number that isn’t surprising. Also not surprising is that one in three wish that they were able to open up more but were afraid.

We’re doing great things, crushing stereotypes and changing the perception of what it means to be called dad, but somewhere among all of these sacrifices we also lost track of each other. This needs to change.

 

 

Birthdays, Graduations And Mixed Emotions

 

There are few times that can trigger such contradictory emotions in a parent as birthdays and graduation ceremonies. They are proud, happy moments, celebrations of accomplishments and another year passed that we have managed to keep them alive. They can also be pensive times, reminders of the rapidity of time’s passing and future inevitabilities.

This past month we celebrated the little’s sixth birthday, a number that makes her little only in comparison to her older sister. Every one of these early birthdays seems a big deal, the changes to them so pronounced since their last, but for some reason six seems a bigger deal than the transition from three to four or four to five. She’s now closer to double digits than she is to birth, a realization that I didn’t much care to make.

 

birthdays
Turning six

 

Another big day was graduation from kindergarten, an achievement that I’ll admit I may not have placed as much importance on as some of the other parents in attendance who came bearing signs and flowers.

In retrospect I guess I should have. Full days and no nap times make kindergarten a lot different than when I was a kid, but there is still a lot of time spent singing and making arts and crafts. I’m impressed with the math that she’s learned, amazed by her reading  progress, but cognizant that next year things will be different. I’ve heard good things about her new teacher but first grade will mark the beginning of school as a place not for play but for learning.

 

graduations
officially a 1st grader

 

We had another graduation to attend this week, one that I wish we could have celebrated more.  After four tumultuous years the teenage is now officially…almost done, several papers on British Literature still needing to be finished to meet the requirements necessary for receiving her diploma.

It was a disappointing ending to her high school years, an anticlimactic mailing of certificate sometime this summer, but in the end the desired outcome will be reached. The truth is that the past four years have been hard, hard for her and for us. As much as I would have liked more than twenty minutes notice that she had changed her mind about attending, I’m glad that in the end she decided to attend the ceremony. Goodbyes were said to classmates and teachers, tears were shed, and even if her ledger is temporarily still open, there was at least some measure of closure obtained.

 

mixed emotions
almost there…

 

Where she goes from here remains to be seen. In a few short months she will be eighteen, recognized by the law and society as an adult, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that conveys.

One of those responsibilities is employment, a search that starts with an interview tomorrow. Finishing off her last remaining graduation requirements will be the emphasis of the next month but stagnation will not be an option. Change is a part of life, something that we all will be dealing with a lot over the coming year. Being able to deal with these changes, to adapt and to overcome, to continue down the path to personal success and happiness is one of the most important lessons that a person needs to learn on the journey to adulthood. It isn’t one that is always learned in school.

 

 

 

Unconditional Love

 

From time to time I’m fortunate enough to be invited to join sponsored campaigns, brands offering goods and/or compensation for help in spreading their message, often about a new product or service they are providing. By far my favorite one that I have worked on was last Father’s Day, partnering with Pampers and Life of Dad on something called #ThanksBaby, a post all about that incredible feeling that our children bring into our lives, thanking them for making us feel exceptionally special and empowering us to discover new roles in life through fatherhood.

It was my favorite because I love the idea of turning Father’s Day around. I don’t need cards or ties or pats on the back for being a good dad, I’m just muddling through, doing the best that I can, for better or worse. It’s all any of us are doing. I don’t need a day of appreciation for that but I like the idea of taking time to appreciate my kids, to thank them for making me continually strive to be a better person, a better father.

 

ThanksBaby
I cant decide if this feels like yesterday, or a lifetime ago

 

It was my favorite last year, and may be my favorite again this year, as I’ve been asked once again to contribute my thoughts. This Father’s Day and everyday, Pampers is celebrating that incredible feeling little ones bring to the hearts of dads through unconditional love.

Unconditional love.

It’s a concept that has been on my mind a lot lately. We live in a dark world, a scary time. It’s hard to watch the news anymore, to browse online or to check your phone. It’s a time dominated by headlines of bombings, shootings, wars, nonstop bickering about who’s to blame, what needs to be done. Maybe it’s always been this way, maybe I’ve just never noticed, never paid attention, but it feels like a time of such unmitigated hate. It’s easy to feel down, to question where we are as a society, to wonder why we bother.

It’s hard until I come downstairs on a Saturday morning and see this. It’s a simple picture, nothing more than a little girl watching cartoons. Yes, she’s sitting too close, television is bad for kids, blah, blah, blah. What I see when I look at this picture is innocence. I see a little girl who wants nothing more than to love and to be loved in return. My heart swells.

 

thanks baby
the innocence of childhood

 

Eventually her sister will make her way downstairs and they’ll hug, they’ll laugh, they’ll play. For a brief period in time the teenager will forget about school, forget about boys and friends and drama. Forget about the world. She’ll forget about everything but the unconditional love that one sister feels for another. I’ll watch from afar and I’ll smile, enjoying just watching.

 

thanks baby
a picture of love

 

I want to thank my children for loving each other, for loving me.  For being a constant reminder of all that is good, sweet and innocent in this world.

Enjoy Father’s Day. Spend it with your family, the ones you love, the ones that make you who you are. Take a minute and reflect. Think about that first time you held them, the first time they smiled, the first time they told you that they loved you. Tell them how much you love them and thank them for the unconditional love that they give in return.

 

thanks baby
#ThanksBaby

 

Share your story with us. Instagram a picture of the ones that you love, tweet out a short story. Tell us about how Father’s Day makes you thankful for the unconditional love of your children using the #ThanksBaby.

Pampers has released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a baby is born and the beautiful journey of fatherhood begins.

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers on this post.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms