Technology Rules

Life is about prioritizing. Many times, prioritization is forced upon us. Like when you have to travel for business – that moves to the top of the list and everything else either temporarily disappears or moves to distant second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. If it’s bad timing, that can hurt.

This is especially true when you travel to Chicago in March for a trade show at the same time a blizzard decides to travel to Chicago, resulting in a longer – and colder and wetter – stay than you anticipated. This happened to me recently. Unfortunately, my extended day overlapped with my son’s parent-teacher conference. One that I had scheduled and never told his mother about…ouch.

Being away for work can be tough, even for work. It seems like in today’s world (I know I sound old when I say that) there’s an equation for how long it takes to catch up. In the old days (yeah, sounding old again) if you were out for a week, it took a day or two to catch up. I think the equation today is more like one day out of the office = two days to catch up. If you’re good.

This little rant touches on the question that drives me crazy, which is, Isn’t the purpose of technology to make us more efficient and our lives easier? Am I crazy, or has technology only made our lives more complicated, more hectic, more expensive and busier. The obvious examples: technical snafus/meltdowns with our devices, non-stop email that you can never catch up on, endlessly keeping up on “the latest” and, of course, the pressure to buy all of this crap.

When I started out in advertising, I had a desk, a phone and there were shared computers we used when we needed them. You had to pay attention in meetings (no sneaking peaks at your smartphone), you worked all day (no Facebooking), and clients didn’t expect things by the end of they day – it was by the end of the week. And I’m not even that old!

I know there are tremendous benefits from technology in health and science that truly benefit mankind. The flipside, however, is that it encroaches into every other aspect of our lives. This is especially apparent by the fact that I am learning to recognize my kids by the top of their heads as they are constantly face down in their i-devices.

Well, I am going on vacation in a few weeks and am trying to figure out what the “technology rules” will be. I know my daughter will want to be Instagramming the entire time. But I am thinking, at the end of the vacation do I want her to have memories or Likes?

I love you. I hate you.

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Mother-Daughter Wars, Round One

Everyone said when your daughter hits 12 things are gonna change. My daughter has always been a daddy’s girl and that hasn’t changed. I get a bit of ‘tude now that I never used to, but with all the hormones flooding her body now I don’t take offense. I never was a girl, but I understand that girls go through a lot more changes than boys do. After all, their bodies are getting ready to make humans. At puberty all we do is get some hair and perpetual hard-ons.

The biggest difference, however, occurs in the relationship between daughter and mother. As you know by now, I am divorced, which probably complicates things a bit, but doesn’t change the main premise. For some reason girls get really weird toward their moms at this age. A dad always get pulled into any problems between a daughter and mother – that’s just the way women are. Problems are discussed – they are a group activity. For men, problem-solving is a solo job. I usually try to stay out of it, but when the “big change” happens there ain’t no staying out of it.

Recently, my daughter has decided she pretty much just wants to live with me. It started slowly by asking for an extra night with me here and there (which of course thrilled me). Then there started to be a pattern. A pretty strong pattern. This puts me in a funny position, because I divorced her mom. Meaning, quite literally, I didn’t want to live with her any more. My daughter has pointed that out. Now, 12-year olds say a lot of things they probably don’t mean. And I know she loves her mama, but it’s a hard spot.

To be honest, I’ve enjoyed the extra time with my daughter. I know she’s gonna grow up and move away, get married, etc. But the extra time I have with her comes at her mom’s expense. It’s a classic zero sum game. I know it’s killing her mom to hear her daughter say she wants to be with her dad tonight (again), and I try to leave it up to them to decide. No manipulation or taking advantage of the situation by me – I’m not an ass and hold no grudge against my ex. She made the best babies in the world. Perhaps, it’s just a bit of karma at work. In my favor, for once.

12-Year Old Female Visual Mood Map

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The Homework Conundrum

I grew up always hearing my father say “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” I never really appreciated that until I started having to help my kids with their homework. I tweeted the other day, out of frustration, “Homework is cruel and unusual punishment….for parents.”

The problem with homework is either it’s painfully simple and boring, or far beyond your ability to recall arcane crap you learned over 30 years ago. So for the first kind, say your 8 year old son has about 40 multiplication problems for homework and you have to sit with him while he spends 5 minutes on each problem and gets every two out of three wrong. How long before you start just giving him the answers? 9, 12, 15? Painful right? Because it’s so easy to just say “Eight times seven is 56. Now remember that.” #baddad

And the next one….My daughter actually asked me other day what is the second layer of earth beneath the topsoil? Is she fucking kidding me? This made me realize that either she really is still young enough not to understand the world at all or thinks I’m a fucking genius. I’ll go with the former. Or lots of questions about rock…igneous, metamorhpic. See, I know this crap now because I had to “test” her on it. Apparently there is no way anymore to test yourself. It probably has something to do with every kid getting a trophy.

I don’t think I EVER (that’s for emphasis) asked my parents for help on homework past elementary school. I was on my own. If I had trouble I called a friend. A smarter friend. Why is it that every parent spends so much time on homework now? Are our kids all dumber than we were? Is there more homework? Were we just bored, because we didn’t have iPhones, so we didn’t mind? I don’t know what’s going on, but it sucks.

If I were president, I would outlaw homework.

Four Hours of my life I will never get back

Four Hours of my life I will never get back

Question: Dad or Referee? Answer: Both

As my kids have grown up – they are now almost 9 (boy) and 12 (girl) – there’s a whole lot less cuteness between them and a whole lot more fighting. Instead of enjoying those innocent afternoons pushing them on the swings next to each other (great work out, by the way) I now feel like I am refereeing a 1,113 round prize fight. Funny thing is, like married couples, usually they are not fighting about anything important (he splashed me when he spit his toothpaste), they are just fighting because of how they feel – about themselves, about each other, about anything.

I got a lot of insight from my older sister over Thanksgiving when she, somewhat insultingly, said younger brothers are the most useless things on earth….for most of the time you are forced to live with them, they can’t protect you, you don’t want to date their friends, they can’t help you with homework, and in general, they’re just pretty stupid, immature and embarassing. I can’t say I had a comeback – check, check, check and check.

So, the question is what is my role now? It’s similar to when you see your kid getting into it with another kid on the playground and you don’t know whether to intervene or let them work it out – except in this case, they are BOTH your kids. In the playground scenario, you kind of want your kid to assert him or herself – ya know, come out on top. When they are both your kids that approach could turn into an arms race of sorts.

To be honest, my response is often dictated by my mood. Has one of them already pissed me off today? Do I feel like getting up off my ass to deal with it? Do I have a headache? I try to take a consistent approach to these situations, but how many of us are really consistent in our parenting in any way. We react to situations based on what is happening in THAT moment, and only later can we reflect on how we handled it. In hindsight I am sure we all would have handled many, many situations differently.

So, now that my kids are past the “age of innocence” and into the “age of aggression” (and hormones) my job becomes more divided between being referee and being just plain old dad. I guess it’s just one more division.

Getting Along

Getting Along

Friday Nights – Then and Now

When my ex and I split up, my kids were four and one-and-a-half. Our arrangement was I had them every Friday night and she had them Saturday nights. Let’s just say every Friday afternoon I started looking forward to busting out of work and getting home for some real quality time with my babies. Those nights were sweet – lots of Disney movies in bed, princess nightgowns, feety pajamas, bottles of milk, sucking on pacifier sounds, falling asleep in my arms – you know the deal.

My kids are now 12 and 8, so Friday nights are a lot different. Sleepovers, meeting friends at the movies, iPhones behind closed doors, hours of Minecraft, etc. All things that don’t involve me. But every once in a while the stars align and the three of us are home, and actually together. God, I love those nights (unfortunately, this isn’t one of them).

This started me thinking what will Friday nights be like in 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years? Will anything ever replace those early Friday nights? I have asked my parents, but geezus, things were so different back then. Like most of you, my dad never fed me, changed my diaper, put me to bed or any of the things I do (or used to do) on a daily basis. They can’t relate. I’m still single and date a bit, but it’s not a focus for me now and I don’t think any women can ever replace the love and joy I feel for my kids. Or those Friday nights.

.Bedmates

Now

Being a divided dad

I am a divided dad. I assume we are all divided at least one way or another – either internally or pulled by external forces. And often we are unknowingly torn between right and wrong. Only because we just don’t know any better. Ya know, being a dad is more art than science.

And why am I a divided dad and not a divided person, or a divided man? The answer is simple. I am a dad. And when you are a dad, that is what you are. And being a dad is way different than being a father. Being a father is a physical thing. Being a dad is emotional, mental, spiritual and any other “al” you can think of.

My own external divisions come from being divorced, employed full-time and occasionally being a boyfriend. They all affect being a dad. Being a dad is 24/7. It doesn’t end when your ex picks up the kids, or when you enter your office, or when you are out on a date (especially if you don’t turn off your cell phone!). So, everything you do affects being a dad. Some weigh heavier than others. Trust me, having my kids meet my first girlfriend was way heavier than bringing them to the office. But I do try to do things for me. Painfully so, often. I do so considering how it affects them, but I don’t make myself a non-issue. I wasn’t like that at first. I erred quite a bit to one side of the equation.

I am not starting this blog so I can tell other dads how to be a dad. I am here to share the joys, experiences, thoughts, insights and feelings about being a dad. I just got back from Dad 2.0 and was incredibly inspired by those I met and heard speak. So thanks to @dadscribe, @robcandy, @jeffpulver, @homeanduncool, @blackhockeyjesus, @whithonea, @brenebrown, @canadiandad, @dadscribe, @busydadblog, @thedaddycomplex, @cc_chapman, @playgroundlords, and @howtobeadad