Friday, February 15, 2013

Jesus Was The Ultimate Scout

During Lent, people give up things. I hope for all our sake that the BSA gives up this ban on gay leaders and scouts. As a current den leader to my son's pack here in Pennsylvania, I personally disagree with the BSA's stance to ban LGBT leaders and scouts. Unfortunately, because most packs are sponsored by churches this is a harsh reality. The BSA closely align themselves to Christian beliefs and stress the importance of godliness and bringing honor to God and your country. It's disgusting that the BSA would deny access for these individuals based on their archaic beliefs. Reverend Patrick Heery is an Eagle Scout. He is also gay. This is what he recently said about lifting the ban in the article "Presbyterian Clergy Call for an End to Ban on Gay Scouts" You can read more about his experiences as a scout and what scouts did for him when he was bullied and lost as a person trying to discover who he was. Sign his petition or visit The People of Faith for Gay Scouts and Scout Leaders on Facebook.

So please understand this: WE are Eagle Scouts. We are Christians. We are ministers ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And we support the full inclusion of gay, bisexual, and transgender boys in the Boy Scouts of America. For us, there is no contradiction. There is no way for us to be true to our oath as Eagle Scouts without affirming the dignity and inclusion of all God’s children. We do not set aside our morality in making this decision; we embrace it. This is a moral choice.

This allowance goes largely ignored unless you attend a more liberal church like The More Light Presbyterians. More Light Presbyterian's mission from their website states "Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church" Before moving to Pennsylvania, I attended a More Light Presbyterian church in Rochester, NY. It was a great experience to see people from all walks of life accepted for who they were and accepted by a community of Christian believers. If the scouts align themselves with the values of religion, we only have to look in
Romans 10: 11-13 to see what God thinks about including all people. As the scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference...the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
There have been gay scouts in the BSA for many years and unfortunately for these young men they had to conceal who they were if they wanted to stay in scouts. The BSA has seen a rapid decline in membership in recent years so if they made the right choice by accepting LGBT into scouts openly it would change scouting forever. What is it that has the BSA so scared? Pat Robertson believes that opening up this ban will allow predators and pedophiles into the organization. It is this fear that creates bigotry and hatred in an organization that is supposed to be about the development of young men. Were we not told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Did Jesus not accept all people from all walks of life? Jesus was the ultimate scout.

What is interesting about this issue is that the Girl Scouts of America already uphold an anti-discrimination policy, so why not Boy Scouts? The Girl Scouts of America clearly state "Regarding sexual orientation, Girl Scouts of the USA holds fast to a commitment to embrace diversity and has in place a policy that prohibits discriminatory treatment of any kind, including on the basis of one's sexual orientation." It is this hate towards gays and lesbians that foster a fear in our society that anything different from what is perceived as "normal" is bad for us.

Why deny these young people a chance to excel in the opportunities that scouts can offer? Personally, I hope my son grows up understanding that no matter who he is he will be accepted by me. When we attended the More Light Church in Rochester there was a transgender man who attended church at the same time as us. She was engaging and liked to talk to the kids. Once my son asked me "Dad, is that a man dressed like a woman?" I told him yes, that some people were born a certain way and that to truly be himself, he probably needed to dress the way he felt inside. I asked him what he thought of that. He said "He must be very brave" I said that yes, he probably was, and that it was probably hard to do it, but that he had to be true to himself.

I can't stand by and call for equal rights in the workplace, want the use of Mr. Mom to be banned, and idly stand by and not be offended that an institution that bases itself on the ideals of helping others without being offended that they discriminate against gay scouts and leaders. Wouldn't having gay scouts and leaders there as mentors be important to these young boys who feel lost and need guidance? Brent Almond of Designer Daddy believes so, he is gay and was a boy scout. "I think that gay leaders would have a lot to offer and gay kids would have a lot to learn.." He recently wrote a post called "What could a gay kid learn from the Boy Scouts anyway?"

Because of the ban and the flip-flopping on the decision to lift the ban, many dads feel reluctant to allow their boys to be a part of such an institution. Phil Corless is an Eagle Scout. He left the scouts 30 years ago and never looked back because of their policies. When asked if he had an opinion on the ban he said "My mind changed when I had a son who needed something to help him come out of his shell, gain more confidence in himself, and learn better social skills. He found that with the Scouts. However, he found that with a tolerant, progressive troop." Scouting does have benefits for young boys who need something to believe in, and get involved in that is not sports related. Scouts was the perfect thing for my son. We had recently moved away from all his friends to a new city. We didn't know anyone and he had a hard time making friends at his new school. Scouts opened up a new world of friendships for him and made it easier for him to adjust to the move. He has gained so much confidence in fact, that my son decided on his own that he was going to sing a song to fifty scouts and parents on his own, in front of everyone. I couldn't have been more proud.

It is time for a change Boy Scouts of America. John Kinnear agrees. In his post I Really Hope My Son Gets to be a Boy Scout he drives home the importance of what he learned as a youth becoming a man. Teaching hate towards another boy or man because they are gay shouldn't be taught in any organization. I pray that you allow every boy and girl the opportunity to be a scout. A scout is supposed to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent but without tolerant, none of those mean anything. I hope for Lent, the BSA decides to give up on this ban forever. If not, then this the the salute you deserve.

Image by Designer Daddy

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines That Are Cool

Sure those store bought Valentines with Spiderman and Tinkerbell are a lot easier but they are also a whole lot more lame. There is no thought in it so here is an idea to make those other kids jealous that your dad is so crafty. He's crafty and he's just my type. Can't say that word without singing the Beasties Boys at least once.

Supplies you will need:

Googly eyes
craft foam 5X7 size (if you don't know what this is, ask at Michaels or Hobby Lobby etc)
Heart shaped cookie cutters (variety of sizes is better, you may be able to buy them as a set) They also have these at the craft stores too.
Sharpies (I use black and red mostly)
Colored paper (this can be construction paper etc.)

Fold paper in half
Take cookie cutters and trace Heart shapes on craft foam
Have your kid cut out the shapes.
Glue the heart to the front of the folded paper, this is the front of your card.
Glue googly eyes to the hearts. There are no rules. Your heart can be a cyclops, it can have an eye patch, have your kid think about what that person likes and personalize it.
Using sharpies, draw mouths, eyebrows, noses, arms, legs and other details to your heart people. This potato heads only heart shaped.
Write Happy Valentine's Day inside the card with your kid's classmate's names.
You can even come up with clever sayings for the inside based on the front.
Have your kid sign their names.
Embellish with stickers, glitter etc.

Get crafty!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mom or Dad, it's all just parenting

I live in a particularly affluent suburb of Philadelphia. In fact, if you live anywhere on the Main Line you often hear from people that there is a Main Line markup on prices. Things are definitely more expensive than let's say Rochester, NY where we used to live. While my wife is the primary breadwinner this is not the case in my community. As a result, I live in an area that predominantly filled with Stay At Home Moms and not Stay At Home Dads. This can be particularly challenging for SAHDs like me because I am constantly around women and the guys that do watch the kids are not full time like me. Not that being around women is a bad thing; in fact, when we lived in Rochester I regularly hung out with the women that were the parents of the kids in my daughter's preschool. It would just be nice to hang out with other Stay At Home Dads.

Today was my first venture out to the local mom's group at the church we are attending now. I wasn't worried that they wouldn't accept me. Most women and especially moms understand how staying at home is difficult. Of course, I was the only dad that was there and at 6'7" and 245 lbs I am not exactly going to shrink back into a crowd. I stand out. As expected, they were awesome. Very nice and interested in things I had to say. I didn't think that they were going to be mean or standoffish but I have had bad experiences in the past with play dates and playgrounds where moms have asked me when my wife was going to show up.

There was no talk about breastfeeding, at least not this time. Breastfeeding talk doesn't scare me though. I like to talk about breasts. There was no husband bashing either which is always nice. Sometimes moms would complain about their husbands in front of me and say "No offense" None taken, I am not your douchey husband so fire away. I also was able to tell them from a man's side how we look at things which I think is helpful for them. Clearly, there are lots of things that we don't agree on with women but when it came to discussing our kids, that part was easy.

When we were talking, we were all talking about challenges that we face day in and out. We talked about how it can be difficult to get dinner on the table at a decent time. About how our spouses have to work late and how we want to eat together but sometimes can't. We talked about getting up in the middle of the night to attend to our kids' various needs. We talked about registering our preschool kids for kindergarten and how scary that was that they are growing so fast. We talked about why the dining room floor looks like a disaster area after every meal...did they get ANY into their mouths?

When it all comes down to it we are all parents. Whether we are moms of dads, it's all just parenting. This is why it is so important to get rid of the Mr. Mom label. We are all just parents trying to do what is best for our kids and that is what is important. Whether you are a stay at home dad or mom, we are all going through the same things. Just replace the "he" in your story moms with a "she" and I am right there with you.

Friday, February 1, 2013

In Praise of Moms

Seriously? Seriously. How in the hell did my mom do this shit? I have been staying at home for almost four years now and I can honestly say any parent that stays home is a warrior whether it be man or woman. I understand now why there are so many posts about drinking bottles of wine at book club. I get why once your little dragons are put to bed that the Good Knight just passes out after a beer. So thanks to my mom and all the moms that are staying at home. We hear you and we, as dads, are glad to be with you. So here's my post celebrating moms and it's not even Mother's Day!

I have talked a lot on my blog about my dad but now I need to give much credit to my mom for shaping me into the stay at home dad I have become. All that training she gave my brother and I with "To Do" lists except for painting the inside of the garage door, which was clearly a time killer to keep me out of trouble. My kids are wonderful but it has been a lot of hard work. Good thing I have a lot of patience. Thanks Mom, I must have gotten that from you. No offense Dad, but Mom just has this magical way she can keep my kids engaged in an activity for hours. I guess I learned from the best. So, when I think about all the things that drive me a little bananas about staying at home I felt like I needed to revisit how I annoyed you.

It's a thankless job sometimes. You literally get shit on. Your employees are often disgruntled. I spend a lot of time cajoling and barking orders. To my mom, I have to say I am sorry. I remember running away from you when you were supposed to be taking me to swim practice. I am sorry I made you chase me around the dining room table but swimming wasn't fun. I still don't like to get my face wet.

The teenagers "teaching" us to swim were much more interested in hooking up with the girls that were there and I can remember on a few occasions "Should I really trust this 18 year old douche taking his eyes off me while he tried to score some tail?" Wasn't someone supposed to be life guarding? Dear YMCA instructors for my kids, people in my family naturally sink, so let's keep your peepers on the pool. This is the reason I watch swim lessons like a peregrine falcon. I am prepared to jump in with my clothes on if necessary even if I don't have my scuba mask. I never did learn how to breathe through my nose, open my eyes underwater, or dive. What the heck did we pay for anyway?

Thanks again Mom for not killing me when I drew an entire mural all over your hallway and overlooking my tags of V.I.C. all over the house. I have cleaned up a variety of things, many of them unidentifiable; some of which I had to put my nose down to fairly close to confirm my suspicions. Crayon is not easy to clean up, at least before the invention of Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser which I am guessing is some sort of napalm which has been sufficiently stabilized for human use. Thanks to Mrs. Cote who kept my mom's rage in check. I DID become an artist so it happened for a reason, but you saved my ass.

Thank you for making me take those art lessons in the summer when all my other friends were outside playing. I really do remember them fondly even if I didn't at the time. Once again, you were right. I am a good artist because of it and that's why I became an art teacher.

Mom, sorry for the loud music. I apologize for the Guns N Roses "Lies" tape that you confiscated from me. It was awesome in my Walkman but when you took it from me and played it in our conversion van for everyone to hear, "I Used to Love Her, But I Had to Kill Her" was probably the worst possible song to be queued up. I realize it wasn't appropriate so thanks for teaching me a lesson. I also apologize for playing Killing In The Name by RATM when you asked me to do a chore, that was uncalled for.

Mom, thanks for taking me to all those cool places when I was a kid. Your adventures with my brother and I have left a lasting impression. Except for the Circus Museum. That clown really freaked me out and to this day, I am terrified of clowns.

Thanks for taking me on awesome vacations. Travelling with kids sucks. Once they go to bed there is nothing to do and you are stuck staring at each other so thanks. As much as I probably barfed from being carsick it was fun sitting in the back of the station wagon with my little bro playing electronic football and doing those puzzles with the yellow pens that you buy at the rest stops.

Thanks for cleaning the house and teaching me how to do it too. Blasting the Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers on a Saturday morning might have annoyed me then but it taught me that everyone pitches in and my kids have learned this too. I still hate cleaning the bathroom and can only imagine that with four sons, the toilets must have regularly looked like a Porta Potty. Sorry.

Thanks for always having food in the house and on the table for dinner. There is nothing more stressful than answering "What's for dinner?" every single day. My kids are only little so I can only imagine what it was like to feed four hungry boys who could pack it away. I mean, when I was going through my husky phase, I don't know how you kept the pantry stocked, but you are a freaking genius. Sarah and Heidi polished off 18 hot dogs in one week. I maybe had two. And, that's when they like something. I apologize for making a sour face when you fed us meat. I get it now, it's delicious and I learned that you just have to serve it anyway because you can't eat SOS every day and although Dad survived on Grilled Breaders, that's just not going to cut it with my cheese eating monsters.

Let's not forget who got us where we are today. Thanks to my mom for putting up with my crap. Thanks to all the stay at home parents putting up with your kid's crap. Maybe someday you will get a letter from them letting you know how they felt. For now, keep your head down, the kids in line, and the minivan running because it's going to continue to be a wild ride.