Monday, January 26, 2015

Similac Welcomes Dads to the Sisterhood of Motherhood

If you're confused by the title of this blog, you aren't alone. In advertising there are brands that clearly value dads and see the importance of including them in all things related to parenthood.  Brands like Dove Men + Care, Toyota, and NyQuil have seen the light and have produced such great ads that my wife will yell from the other room "Chris! There's a dadvertisement on TV!"

Some brands recognize just how important this is with Super Bowl XLIX ads set to star dads as the prominent role for a least three brands.  There is no greater feeling as a dad to see advertisements that include us in the way we exist in the world, being the best fathers we can to our children. Modern fathers are tired of the bumbling dad stereotype. Ads that showcase men who care for their children and are actively engaged in their lives are real representatives of modern fatherhood.

Unilever's Dove Men+ Care gets that saying in their recent "Real Strength" campaign,  "This inspired us to share a film that shows what strength truly looks like today. Especially at a time when fans are overwhelmingly hearing about physical feats on the football field, we wanted men (and women) to hear at least one voice saying, 'Care Makes a Man Stronger." I'm here to tell you Similac, that I care.

It's true that Similac laid some important groundwork with their latest video about accepting all parenting styles and choices and not being judgemental of others. The video is an amazing collection of different parenting styles and choices we make as caregivers from babywearers, breastfeeders, working moms, stay at home moms, and even stay at home dads!

I was ecstatic that all were represented and was surprised when the moms called out the stay at home dads saying "Oh, it must be Mommy's day off", a phrase we hear all too often when we are out with our kids. We have never seen a collection of stereotypes all going after each other in this manner.

You had me Similac. I was excited. I thought "I dont know what this is but I want to be a part of it!" I wanted to see where this was going and well, if you haven't seen it, you should watch it now:

You had me until you asked me to become a part of the Sisterhood of Motherhood. I am not a sister or a mother, I am a dad so now I am wondering how do I fit in? Similac's campaign is about accepting all different parenting styles and not judging but then excludes men altogether by asking us to join sisterhood and motherhood?

It just doesn't make sense considering they had input from at least one father. I can just imagine someone at the advertising agency saying "But Sisterhood of Motherhood sounds SOOO good! Who cares if the dads get offended?" So why make a big deal out of it? Because it's not authentic to say one thing but then totally mean another.

For me, Similac represents that the time that I was able to bond with my children. Our first child wouldn't latch properly and we had to finger feed him. When we determined that he wasn't getting enough nutrition that way, we supplemented with formula. For lots of other dads, using formula like Similac may be the first time dad gets to feed the baby. Dads of all different kinds of families have fond memories of that bonding time so why use a tagline that precludes dads altogether?

Dads aren't part of the sisterhood of motherhood. The sisterhood of motherhood sounds like an exclusive club for anyone without a penis. As a stay at home dad it is hard enough to find other parents who accept you in social circles. Ask any dad if they would like to join the sisterhood of motherhood as an honorary member and I am sure they would question what that means.

I commented on Similac's Facebook page as many other dads did that using that slogan alienates 50% of the audience to which someone said "I don't think men are their target audience" Huh? So why were men included? Because Similac knows that men are parents too. Dads want to be included so why not end a wonderful video with "Welcome to Parenthood, we are all in this together" You can use that Similac, for the good of all dads, I hope you do.

Want to weigh in with your opinion? Visit the DadNCharge Facebook page and leave a comment

Monday, January 19, 2015

Of Dreams and Jellybeans

Back when I was an art teacher I devised a lesson plan for my Studio Art class. I wanted them to pick a speech, lyrics, or words that meant something to them. Then, we were going to transform those words into art. My example, was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his I Have A Dream speech. I honestly couldn't think of a more powerful collection of words. The result, was the above drawing, done by me painstakingly hand written out using Sharpie markers of variant colors to express the magnitude of those words.

I have a dream. Those four words put together can inspire so much raw emotion in us all. We can think back to the injustices that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up against and all of the people who fought against inequality. I can't imagine my kids growing up in a school that isn't as diverse as it is, benefitting from the culture that each race and ethnicity brings to the forefront in education. A multicultural classroom helps our children grow in so many ways not only academically but socially and emotionally.

My four year old daughter Heidi asked me "Why does my friend Aaliyah have darker skin?" I've said this to my older two before but couldn't remember how I phrased it. I said "Because there are all kinds of people all over the world that are different that come from different places. What makes them different, makes them unique and that is what makes them special" I glanced in the rearview mirror hoping what I had said made some sense.

She was still hung up on the differences in their skin not because of ignorance but because she is four. At four you are just starting to realize that there are other people in the room that you may be playing in. They are learning what it means to share and cooperate and that can be hard. What I wanted to tell her was that there really is no difference between her and Aaliyah and that it was the content of their character that mattered but how do you explain that to a threenager? Candy. Kids understand candy.

What's your favorite flavor of jellybean? I asked.
Cherry! She shouted.
Then you are Cherry.
What is another flavor that you like?
Then Aaliyah is like Lemon.
All of your friends are like all different flavors. Each one is good but for different reasons. Put them all together and they make everything even more wonderful.
They are like a rainbow! she yelled.
Yes, exactly. A beautiful rainbow.

Of course, we'll revisit that someday when school can reinforce what we are trying to teach. We will be sure by seven, like my daughter Sarah displays that "No person has the right to rain on your dreams" I love this. Our dreams, our aspirations locked in a singular moment of marker against paper, solidifying that this marker is here to stay and so are my dreams.

I love to see that Sarah is going to be a peacemaker at home by sharing with her little sister. I will be sure to remind her to "Be like Doctor King" the next time she doesn't want to let Heidi play with Ballerina Barbie

 I am buoyed by this quality in her that really seeks to help others and that her aspirations include planting a garden that can sustain people that have no food. Dreams are wonderful. Dreams keep the hope alive. Those dreams are backed by words. Powerful, magical words that when written by a child just makes you stop and remember that you too have dreams and remind you how much you believe in jellybeans.

A photo taken by my mom in Miami Beach after meeting Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Just Say No

I probably say it a thousand times a day and honestly, it feels good to say it.

"Daddy, can I have a popsicle for lunch?" asks my daughter.
"No. A popsicle is not lunch. Eat your lunch and then we can talk popsicles."  I say.

"Daddy, can I play on the iPad?" asks my son.
"No. You already had your screen time today.  Did you pick up your room?" I say.

 "Daddy, can I...." ask my children... "No." I say.

When shopping with my children, I avoid the toy aisle like a the plague because I know even getting near it will result in a barrage of No's that will crescendo into a giant NO that makes people's heads turn.  This kind of trip has me grabbing the items I need frantically only to be faced with the tempting last ditch effort by marketing gurus at the checkout counter to buy their toys - like a consolation prize to your children for surviving the trip to the store.  Where's my consolation prize?  It my shred of dignity because I was strong enough to face my children's momentary disappointment by saying "No."?

I am not alone with my frequent use of "No."

"Daughter, will you eat these peas?" I ask.  "No." she says. "Can you just try one pea?" I ask.  "No." she says.

"Do you have to go pee?" I ask.  "No." she says.  "You must try to pee before we leave." I say."NO, NO, NO!" she screams.

(10 minutes later she is using the portable potty in the back of my minivan on the side of the road.)

Many kids learn "No" before any other word. Why? Because it is so easy to say!  Yet for some reason, many parents have such a hard time saying it because they feel like saying it is hurting their children. For instance take the parents who pamper their children at day spas.

Adult spas are cashing in on your inability to say No to your children. One woman from this article, Ms. Ehresman, who paid $400 for spa treatments for two 8 year old girls, was quoted saying “I don’t want them to feel that my saying ‘no’ means that I don’t love them,” 

Why in the world does a child need to go to a spa to get a massage and facial? Tough day on the playground? Was preschool that arduous?  Saying "No" doesn't mean you don't love your children.

Saying "No" means that you do love them. It means that you love them enough to set limitations on what is appropriate for them and helping to demonstrate the difference between needs and wants. This parent is setting a precedent for the future. At some point, she will have to say "No." or it will get our of control. What sort of young adults will these children become when massages and facials are the expectation they have at the age of three?

You can still pamper your children without giving into their demands to show them that this is the way they are loved.  I am not against showing your children that you love them by doing something special. However, you can teach them that being feminine doesn't have to be rooted in activities that are just plain inappropriate for their age.

My wife regularly pampers our daughters without taking them to a spa. She creates moments where they can bond and be pampered by their own loving mother. They take baths and showers, get into tiny robes, paint their nails together and do their hair and watch a musical. It's a bonding event that won't cost you a cent.  Even dads can create this experience by letting their daughters paint their nails and brush their hair.

Pampering children at a spa this early in life is setting a dangerous expectation which is based solely on their outward appearance. Let's give these girls something to look forward to when they are older and stop ushering them into adulthood before their childhood has even begun to wane.

Our kids are growing up too fast. We want them to slow down and stay children while we scoot them into experiences and roles that they just aren't ready for. There is a time and place for pampering when it comes to our children. Some parents just need to be stronger when it comes to the choice between Yes and No.

There are just certain things my children don't need to have or experience. Distinguishing the difference between needs and wants will help you make better decisions when your children ask you for something. Spoil your kids with your love and attention, not spa packages that build on a narcissistic attitude. Learn to say "No" because you love them, not because you fear they won't love you because you say it.

Would you take your child to a spa to get this full treatment or would you say no? Join the discussion on my Facebook page.