Category Archives: Fathers

Morningside Dad: Thoughts from a Liberal Father

I am guessing that by now you are fairly familiar with my perspective as a liberal mom. Well, how about a father’s perspective? What is it like to be a liberal father raising children today? Wouldn’t you know it, my husband just happens to be a liberal father. So I sat him down tonight and asked him what his thoughts were on freedom of speech, equality, stereotypes about white men and the future of the Supreme Court. Come see what he has to say, his answers may surprise you.
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Now to give you some background about my husband, he is a 6 ft, 4” white college athletics coach. He grew up in a privileged town in Connecticut; he just completed his MBA and might be one of the smartest people I know. We’ll call him B. for the sake of this interview.

Caroline: As a liberal father, what issues are most important to you?

B: I am pretty straightforward about my values. I believe in civil rights, civil liberties, freedom of speech and every citizen having an equal opportunity to succeed.

C: And what about how your values relate to raising our children?

B: Well, our sons are part of a privileged class as two white males. I just hope I can raise them to have the same values I do.

C: So what about being a white male? What are your thoughts on affirmative action and our son’s future’s as white males?

B: It’s a topic I struggle with. I mean, why am I the bad guy? I know my race and gender give me a certain privilege but I wrestle with legislated equality sometimes. I realize sometimes we have to manufacture equal opportunity – and I get it – but I’ll admit that I struggle with this issue.

C: What have been some challenges for you as a liberal father?

B: I think I am most frustrated with the assumptions people make about me. I am a white, male coach – stereotypes are immediately drawn up. I mean, come on, even on the most progressive college campus, the Athletic department is assumed to be the last conservative bastion. As a result, comments are made around me since folks may presume I may have a certain value system which I don’t.

C: So how do you deal with that?

B: If I am at work and someone says something that I disagree with, I usually walk away or say nothing. I’ve got work to do and I am not going to start something then, but my silence usually clues them in. If I am outside of a work environment though, I do usually say something or try to start a constructive conversation about the topic. I make no apologies for my politics, take them or leave them.

C: With the new administration, what is the most important issue for you as a liberal father?

B: Apart from the obvious issues of establishing economic and global security for this country (and in turn, for our family), the appointment of the next Supreme Court justices is an extremely important issue for me. The current liberal appointments are not getting any younger. Whoever Obama chooses will leave a lasting impression on this country – probably longer than his own administration will. Do you know what kind of Supreme Court justices I want in there next?

C (smiling because I already know – and love – this answer): Tell me.

B: I want a purple haired, pierced nosed, extremely bright, straight talking lesbian from Northampton, Massachusetts appointed next. In fact, I want three of them in there!

I paused here to give him a big ol’ kiss. I love this guy.

C: Ok well gay adoption is illegal here in Florida. And you’ve heard all the threats about how legalizing gay marriage would ruin our marriage. What are your thoughts as a liberal father?

B: What in the world does my marriage have to do with two gay individuals who decide to be married? The success or failure of our marriage is strictly our responsibility. I have yet to hear one good cognizant argument against gay marriage. It is an equal rights issue that needs to be granted finally. If my sons grow up and decide that they want to love and marry another man, that is their right and I think it should be recognized, supported and protected.

C: Any final thoughts about being a liberal dad?

B: Florida is an interesting place. As far as I can tell in our area, I would say that being a liberal father is not particularly common. One morning a few days after the election, I was sitting at a red light. I mean, here I am, a white guy, with my kid in his car seat, on the way to kindergarten drop off with an HRC and Obama sticker on my bumper. I just don’t see that too often around here. All of the sudden, a guy in the car next to me (with his own collection of Obama stickers) started waving and honking at me, giving me the thumbs up. I saw that he too had kids in car seats in his backseat. I think it was a unique moment to see another guy like me so fired about this election. It was an interesting moment for me.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

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Filed under Boys, Equal Rights, Fathers, Florida, Marriage, parental fear, Parenting, Politics, Presidency, Racism, Raising Awareness, sons, Teaching kids

Everyone Poops: A Father’s Example

If you have small children and you are potty training, perhaps even trying to explain the normalcy of bowel movements, it’s likely then that you have the book “Everyone Poops”. While it guarantees gales of giggles with every read, it also teaches children that everyone and every living thing, well, poops.

It’s really no big deal, right?

Of course with two boys it is no surprise that “Everyone Poops” is a bedtime favorite around here. However. My husband has brought this book to life a bit, and I am sure he is not the only husband who has. My husband likes to add certain sound effects while reading “Everyone Poops”. I have never made said sound effects while reading it myself (yeah, I’m such a lady) but thats ok. My boys will make the sounds for me. With sprays of spit and rattling raspberries, all three of them have become very talented at poop sounds while hopefully learning that yes, in fact, everyone poops. Maybe the youngest will finally be inspired enough to someday put his poop in the potty. Maybe.

In the meantime, here is a quick video I made of my husband and the example he has set for our children with the book “Everyone Poops”. Never underestimate what complexities a father can pass on to his children.

Enjoy. 

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Filed under Boys, Children, Fathers, Growing up, Parenting, Potty Training, Silliness, Teaching kids

Be a Better Parent without Forgeting about Yourself

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This is a post for parents. For mothers and fathers whose lives have done an entire 180 and have landed *splat* face down on the sidewalk since they have had children. After five years of parenting, I consider myself entirely too enlightened about one key factor: the you, the “you” you knew before your kids were left in a bundle on your doorstep, will become a scarce, mythical beast, read only about in fairy tales, lest you corner that old “you”, wrastle it to the ground and trap it in a place you can access on a daily basis.

What am I on about? Parents know. Its the days of wearing old t-shirts because your breasts are leaking constantly. Its cutting your hair because you are tired of having it yanked out a strand at a time. Its crushed crackers in a diaper bag, while all the cute bags slowly fade out of style in your closet. Its Friday nights asleep on the couch while a well intentioned DVD plays in the background. Its the groundhog days filled with time outs, thrown applesauce, nails down the chalk board screams, flushed toys and poopy diaper wrestling. It’s considering your annual trip to your OBGYN “a day out”. It’s never having a private moment in the bathroom. Ever.

Please. To all my brothers and sisters in the trenches of parenthood. Take a look around. When was the last time you went on a date with your partner? When was the last time you wore something “dry clean only”? When was the last time you left the house without diapers, snacks, sippy cups, and an outift change? When was the last time you slept somewhere away from your children and then – gasp – allowed yourself to sleep in past 7am?

It is so very important to remember what makes you happy. Yes, yes. Your happy child makes you happy. So does 8pm when they are (God willing) in bed finally. But what makes YOU tick? Before kids. Did you like to read? (And I don’t mean board books.) Did you have a hobby? Did you see friends often? Did you exercise? Did you have actual leisure time?

Did you?

Do you have any of that stuff now? No??? Go find it. Quick. Hire a sitter, even if it costs money. Figure out a girls night out. Have a friend take the kids for an afternoon. Check the guilt at the door and do something for YOURSELF.

Because if you don’t, you will truly lose yourself and your mind. You will forget who you are. You will actually forget what you truly LIKE to do. All of the sudden, ALL that you know about yourself is being… well… a parent. Take away the kids, and suddenly there is nothing left. Your identity is simply… a mom. Or a dad.

And it can happen so quickly. You’re there and then *POOF*, suddenly, you’re gone.

No disrespect of course. Being a parent is an incredible and, yes, noble job. It is an honorable identity to assume, and every parent should claim that title with pride. As my aunt always reminds me, parenting it the hardest job there is. Yeah, you bet your animal crackers it is. And THAT’S exactly why its so easy to loose yourself. There is so much to do while parenting that when you forget about the “you” stuff, the “kid” stuff seeps in and fills in all the cracks. There is always a sippy cup to fill, a puzzle to make, and a nose – or bum – to wipe. Just let someone else do it once in awhile, that’s all. It will still be there when you get back. No one will take the title of “mom” or “dad” away from you. Just be your first name, the name you had before “mom” or “dad”, once and awhile.

Have you still not shaken your parental guilt to consider more time for yourself? Don’t forget that when you are happier, you are a happier – and therefore better – parent. And then theres the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. When you take some time away, you do miss your kids. And upon your return, you and your partner will actually fight for the chance to change a poopy diaper. Seriously, it happens.

And I know the tough times of parenting are fleeting. I am betting my wiser readers who have been parents longer than I have are pleading to me “Oh but enjoy these tough days. Enjoy your child before he grows up. They will be gone in an instant!”

Sadly, I know that. And I fear that. Everyday I bring my 5 year old home from school and I hold him tight tight tight because I can literally feel his mind and body growing in my arms. But that is also my point. They DO grow up so damn fast. And then in an instant, they are off to college. Where does that leave you? If your child went to college today (forget that he or she is a 2 year old toddler) – who would you be right now? How would you identify yourself? What kind of fun would you have with your spouse? Do you know? You need to know. Think about it.

Now please do not assume I actually have this figured out. (Snort.) Honestly? I am writing this post while deeply in the trenches of an extraordinarily all consuming phase of parenting. My husband is just about to begin his season and that will require him to work six days a week, working as late as 10pm. But in the midst of this time, while I raise these wonderful but tough kids of mine and my husband works so that I can take care of these wonderful but tough kids of ours, I am trying to keep track of myself. For instance, I write when I have any time, from my home, with the kids here next to me. While multi-tasking this mommy stuff, I am hoping to piece together some clue so I can be a better (potentially paid) writer “when I grow up”. And I have started running. Insane, right? But I’m into it (I’ll even go before my husband leaves for work) and now dream of finding some way to have my kids watched so I can run a 5K.

Granted, I keep reminding myself to keep my expectations reasonable. Diaper changing, referreeing the rules of sharing and helping with homework is just what I do for now. But dreaming, and clinging stubbornly onto what truly makes me tick, does allow me to be more than just “Mom” – but “Caroline” too.

The picture posted above is of me with my boys. It was taken about a year and a half ago and might be titled “Me as Mommy”. It is one of my favorites as I am caught in a very typical, absolutely wonderful, however all consuming parenting moment.

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Filed under Aging, Boys, Children, Deep thoughts, Family, Fathers, Growing up, Guilt and motherhood, Identity crisis, Marriage, Mothers, Parenting, Reality check

Morningside Mom’s 2009 Resolutions for Barack Obama

The December holidays are finally winding down. Decorations are to be packed up, our homes are being put back into order and left over holiday goodies are being cleaned out of refrigerators. So naturally, as we are fed up with our past week of excess, what comes to mind during the December wind down? Resolutions. And lots of them. But I am a realistic person and I know that my personal resolution lists rarely pan out. So this year, I am doing it a little differently. I would like to consider what sort of resolutions Obama might want to make for 2009. Perhaps you may have a few to add to his list as well.

On the eve of a hope-filled New Year and his first inauguration, Barack Obama’s resolution list has got to be about a mile long. Although, I’m not sure how he can discriminate his resolution list from the endlessly unfurling to-do list draped over his desk right now.

In the midst of all that is to be taken seriously in the New Year, The Red Stapler Chronicles had some resolutions for Obama that gave me a good laugh. For example:

  • Fix the leaking faucet in the Oval Office to immediately save tax payer’s money
  • Make sure new puppy gets along with Biden’s new dog to avoid dog fighting scandal.

Now it’s my turn. Here are a few suggested resolutions this liberal minded mom might add to President-elect Obama’s list:

  • Prepare that pedestal.

    With so much work ahead of him, folks may shove him right off that pedestal if he doesn’t change things on day one. Or, it could go the other way. Any difference he makes at all could officially establish his superhero status and permanence on that pedestal. Either way, he needs to ready his pedestal and be prepared for anything.

  • Keep that ego in check.

    With all the inauguration fanfare and Obama mania ringing in the streets, he needs to keep a grounded perspective. I am expecting Michelle to see right through it all and remind him who Barack really is.

  • Keep it real.

    President or not, he must remember his roots, his family, his heritage and the real reasons he got into politics in the first place.

  • Don’t forget the moms.

    With his wife and mother-in-law dropping everything to raise his children, he better recognize the kind of work mothers actually do and that women nationwide are expecting more focus on rights for working mothers during his presidency.

  • Keep a sense of humor.

    President-elect Obama is a funny guy. There is not much to laugh at right now but his sense of humor will serve him and this White House well in the midst of it all.

  • Stay squeaky clean.

    After our last democratic president, I shudder to think about what sort of damage one stupid, selfish decision could do right now.

  • Keep those promises.

    As any politician does during an election, Obama has made a lot of them. The difference is that this time if he doesn’t keep those promises and we don’t see change happen, a recession will be the least of our problems.

  • Play with your kids.

    There is no better way to keep perspective and maintain sanity than to play with your children after a long day at the office solving the world’s problems.

And finally, I would like to wish the President-elect, his family and this entire country a very happy and hopeful New Year indeed.

And here’s a hand, my trusty friend And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne
-Robert Burns, 1788

 Cross posted at Type A Moms.

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Filed under Equal Rights, Family, Fathers, Feminist tendancies, Holidays, Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Mothers, Obama, Presidency, Reccomendations, Women, Working moms

Michelle Obama as First Lady, Feminist and Mom in Chief

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I can’t help but empathize with Michelle Obama right now. As a mother of two small children myself, I keep trying to imagine what she is going through as she prepares her family for life in the White House. I think about her little girls growing up in Washington DC as I did, attending a school right down the road from where I grew up. And as I empathise with our future first lady, my ears perk up when I read both about the support and criticism she is receiving as an accomplished woman who has decided to make her role in the White House “mom-in-chief”.

There can be no more daunting task than trying to raise the First Children. Can you imagine? Your daughters must live in a virtual museum with some of the tightest security world wide. There is no spontaneously running over to a neighbor’s house to play.  They will be isolated and protected from the world and yet they will have the most public lives of any child.

And so Michelle Obama has chosen to make parenting these children her priority. However, within days of learning about her future in the White House, Michelle had already received her fair share of advice. Hillary has jumped in to say her piece. Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, had a few things to say. And even FDR’s grandson offered some words of wisdom. While Michelle did not formally ask for Laura Bush’s advice, the current first lady did share her suggestions with the press later.

I wonder what comfort she has taken from all of this advice, if any. I wonder how much more advice is coming down the pike from other celebrity parents or those with political agendas or even advice from your average “Jane Parent” who always thinks she knows better anyway.

However, while Michelle prepares her girls and faces all of this advice, she must deal with those who already criticize her decision to put her girls first. Michelle is certainly an accomplished woman. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she continued on to work as an associate at a law firm and hold six board of director positions. She founded programs, she lead community outreach – she made “change” happen long before it was cool for an Obama to do so. But now, as her husband has been elected to be President, she has chosen to bring her career to a screeching halt and just be… well… a mom.

In a fascinating article written by Rebecca Traister at Salon.com, Michelle’s choices to focus on the traditional worries of a First Lady leave the author concerned. 

“…some of the most extraordinary [qualities of Michelle Obama] — the ones that set her apart from many of her predecessors in the East Wing — are already falling victim to a nostalgic complacency about familial roles, and to an apparent commitment to re-creating Camelot with an African-American cast, but little modern tweaking of the role of wife and mother.”

She argues Michelle could push the envelope and bring a more career minded feminist into the role of a first lady. She seems disappointed she has chosen to put her role as a mother and wife first and foremost, while leaving all the rest behind.

Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post discusses the ever present question that arises between married parents such as the Obamas: who will work and who will raise the children?

“The brutal reality is that, like our president-elect, most men do not wrestle quite so strenuously with these competing desires [to work or raise your family]. So when the needs of our families collide with the demands of our jobs, it is usually the woman’s career that yields.”

She implies that Michelle was not given much of a choice in this matter. When Obama was elected President, her career had to end. And there was no other choice but to make her children a priority.

But has Michelle truly failed as a feminist by focusing on her children? Is her career an utter failure because she is stepping aside from it for the meantime? Has she lost all credibility as a potentially new, modern, variety of First Lady?

According to Geraldine Brooks at The Daily Beast, she can make parenting her priority while still representing women as a powerful example.

“She is smart enough and subtle enough to have worked out that so-called Mom issues can make for meaty public policy.”

And then explains that her position as a mother in the White House will in fact bring much needed attention to women who struggle daily as they balance their careers and family.

“Work-family balance? What is that, really, but a polite way of putting the feminist agenda of equal pay and decent childcare back on the table after so many years of neglect?”

Meghan O’Rourke at Slate.com sympathises that, once again, no matter if a woman chooses either work or parenting as the priority, they will be criticized for their choice. And most of often a woman’s biggest critic is herself. She then goes on to make this final point.

“The best way Michelle Obama can act as a role model for women right now is not by making the decision any one of us would make (because we’d all make different decisions), but by reminding us that life is fleeting, and we ought to immerse ourselves in the opportunities and joys of our own life as it exists. Not as it might exist.”

And so my identification with Michelle Obama remains true. With two small children, and a mountain of advice, she must trust her instincts and raise her girls the best way she knows how.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will change the role and perceptions of the First Lady. And however she shakes things up, she has already made it unapologetically clear that she will make her girls her priority. In my mind’s eye, as a mother and brilliant leader able to remain fluid in her many roles as a woman, Michelle will make an excellent “First Feminist” indeed.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

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Filed under daughters, Election, Equal Rights, Family, Fathers, Feminist tendancies, Guilt and motherhood, Hillary Clinton, Inspiring people, Marriage, Michelle Obama, Mothers, Obama, Parenting, Politics, Women, Working moms

Tim Russert, the father.

I know that it’s the day after father’s day but I feel the need to recognize another exceptional father we have actually all been mourning over the past few days: Tim Russert.

There is no doubt in all of our minds, Tim Russert was an exceptional journalist; he was whom so many of us turned to during an election or political event to thoroughly boil down the important issues. He used to exude such passion for politics; like a fired up sportscaster, he got me psyched for every debate or primary return night. I feel as if we have lost our voice of reason – as his son Luke noted, he considered himself “the questioner of the American people”. He made sure that we regular folk had a clear explanation of the issues so that we could then become informed voters. He saw his work as his calling: Tim Russert pushed hard as a journalist for the sake of OUR understanding, not for the sake of television ratings or a sound-byte. How will this election go on without him? He will be missed. He will be missed. He will be missed.

But I think what has really resonated with me while watching the coverage of his passing over the past few days, is the man I knew less about. Tim Russert – the father. It is quite clear to me now that he was an extraordinary father. There was no limit to the immense love and pride he had for his son Luke.

This morning, I watched an interview with Luke Russert and Matt Lauer. It was a wonderful interview and, selfishly, it helped my mourning process to see his son getting through this difficult time and also to “see” some Tim Russert live on in him. 

But this is what I was truly left with: Luke Russert is an exceptional young man. And it is quite apparent that Luke Russert is the man he is today because of the father he had. The lesson to be learned here is that you can truly see the “stuff” of a man through the eyes of his own child. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but Tim Russert showed no shame in unabashedly, pile it on thick, completely, 100% adoring his son – and what a son he has left the world with. I have found even more respect for Tim Russert, the father, after watching this interview. Please watch it for yourself here.

As Matt Lauer pointed out, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Cheers to the memory of Tim Russert, the father, who gave so very much to his son Luke. Happy Father’s Day to the late Tim Russert.

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Filed under Family, Fathers, Inspiring people, Parenting, Politics, TV