Fatherly Stuff

May 13, 2019

An Open Letter to My Sons

5/9/19- Since this was written, there have been so many senseless killings of black citizens that it's easy to almost become desensitized to it (Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Philando Castle, Tamir Rice, to name a few). However, I as a father I don't have to luxury to go numb. I have 3 children who are still blissfully naive to the current state of the world. Unfortunately, this poem is more relevant than ever. 

The following is a poem to my sons that was inspired by the reactions to the death of Treyvon Martin and the subsequent trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman:
Before I continue, I want to establish a few things:
1)      I personally do not believe that the Zimmerman verdict was a result of racism. I believe it was due to the defense doing a better job proving their case than the prosecution- that to me is such a shame, because justice was not served that day
2)        While it is not clear exactly what happened on that fateful night,  I do think that the root of those events stemmed one person’s ill-fated judgment of another based on the color of their skin and the clothes on their back
3)        The wildly polarized reactions of this case across the span of social media, shows the issue of race is not only alive, but it is a growing pressure cooker that has once again come to a peak
My Sons,
Let me tell you a story…
One day when I was a young man, I met your mom.
She was smart, beautiful and most importantly, she thought my jokes were funny.

And so, I asked her to be mine. She said yes.
And our love grew.
It grew so much that it made God smile. He smiled so much that he decided to give us two very special gifts.
And those gifts were you.
HE made you in our image
HE gave one of you my nose, the other her smile
And he  gave something very unique to the both of you: Our color
Oh yes, that’s right;
 I should probably mention:
That I’m what they call Black
Your Mother, she’s something that they call White
We never mentioned this to you because it doesn’t matter
And besides
That’s not how we teach you to see the world
And that’s not how we saw each other
The only thing we saw when we looked at each other was Love
We never noticed silly things like that
Unfortunately, there are people in this world who don’t see Love
They only see color
And those same people think that it’s wrong for me and your mom to be together
Those same people will look at you, my sons
And not see you as precious gifts from God
They will only see you as color
And so, to no fault of your own

Before they even get a chance to get to know you
They will try to disrespect you
Try to define you
Try to deprive you
Try to demoralize you
And try to defeat you
They will try
And Try
And Try
But they will fail.
Because you both are stronger than that
And not only will you persevere
But will triumph!
Because Love transcends color
And ignorance
And prejudice
So go forth, my sons
The torch has been passed
And show the world
The Love is the future
That Love is an unstoppable force
That the Love within you will one day change the world
Love Always,

May 9, 2019

Pink: How a Color Taught me a Priceless Lesson about Gender Bias and Fatherhood

This is a republished post. 

I’ve always considered myself a pretty progressive dad, riding the wave of modernity in the 21st century. In our household, the lines of the past that steadfastly identified what was considered “man” and “woman” responsibilities were more opaque and everything from diaper changing, feeding, paying bills and getting up late at night to tend to a sleeping baby is divided based on whoever’s hand is on deck at any given time. It’s not the easiest job in the world, but to be honest I felt pretty good about being what most people would label a “modern dad” and I wore that title like a badge of honor.

My title was put to the test however the day my wife brought this home for my son:

The first thing I said to my wife was: “Um that can’t be for my son. That thing is wearing a skirt”
“Well, skirts are for girls, and he’s a boy so we have to return it for a monkey with a pair of jeans or something”

My wife rolls her eyes, calmly asserts that I am being silly and eventually the toy is given to my son. That little hula monkey ends up being one of his favorite toys as an infant and I realized that I indeed was making a big deal out of nothing.

Fast forward to his toddler stage:
My son is asked what his favorite color was and he emphatically replies that it is pink. Deep down his answer made me a bit uncomfortable, but I didn't show it: I gave him a hug and told let him know how awesome his selection was.
 But why did I have that reaction? What hell was I afraid of?
Well for starters, pink is a girl color. It’s not just “a” girl color, but the international spokescolor (yes, a made up word) for the female gender. You see it on every dress, tutu and Barbie convertible that is marketed towards little girls. So how could it be that my son, who loves to collect bugs, do karate and play with race cars would actually like something that is so obviously... "girly"? When I was a kid, if you we're a boy who admitted you were a fan of pink, you’d instantly be labeled a sissy and be the object of ridicule of every bully in a three classroom radius. I suppose my fear stemmed from a misguided desire to protect him from that kind of scrutiny. (I also believe that it is more frowned upon for little boys to explore activities outside the perceived gender role, than it is for girls to do the same. But this is subject matter for another post!)
After some reflection however, I began to understand that the issue was not with him liking this color, but with the fact that I had a problem with it at all. I then realized that maybe I’m not as much of a forward-thinking father as I had thought. Maybe I'm just as guilty of the same male chauvinistic stereotypes that were the norm during my father’s generation and the generation before his.
After I accepted this reality, I then decided to explore these feelings in order to understand, then overcome them.

And so began my journey...
So, who decided that pink was a “girl” color anyway? After doing a little research, it turns out that the practice of associating colors with gender is a fairly recent concept.
Photo Credit

When you look at the above picture, what do you see?

If you said girl, you would be wrong. Not only is this frilly young lad a boy, he is none other than Franklin D Roosevelt, one of the greatest US presidents who ever lived.  This picture, which was taken in 1884 is a reflection of the views of that time period. It was actually a normal practice for parents to have both boys and girls wear gender-neutral white dresses throughout their early childhood. By age 7, boys would finally start wearing pants and would get their first haircut. If I had to guess, I would suspect that this was done as more of a cost saving measure by the parents.
 According to an article posted on the Smithsonian Magazine’swebsite, there was a time as early as 1918 when pink was considered the primary color for boys and blue for girls. The public perception began to change around the time accurate prenatal testing had become standard practice. Child and infant clothing retailers, looking to make money, capitalized on this trend began to shift their products and advertising campaigns toward gender specific colors.
Then the cycle is perpetuated: as these gender specific colors become more defined, as parents and as a society, we tend to push these values onto our children and an earlier and earlier. I’m almost certain that my perceptions were directly influenced based on this trend.

So basically, the wool was systematically pulled over my eyes to believe the pink is a color exclusively for the female sex from the moment I arrived on this earth.

Despite this however, there's already evidence of the tide beginning to change.
Photo Credit
This picture of a mother and son with pink panted toenails, was taken for the 2011 J. Crew spring catalog and caused quite the controversy, but it is also an indicator that the mainstream is once again evolving and pushing boundaries.

For me, the picture didn't bother me at all. I figured, whatever that little boy's parents choose to do with their child is their business. Little did I know that my son would once again unknowingly push my personal boundaries.

I came home from a long day's work to a giggling wife. Perplexed, I asked her what was up. She sheepishly opens up her phone and shows me this picture:

Apparently, he saw mommy painting her nails and thought it would be cool to do copy her. He then grabbed his marker and proceeded to color his toes. My wife thought it was hilarious. I'm ashamed to say that I blew it out of proportion and was pretty upset. I considered scolding him or at least explaining why what he did was wrong. Thankfully my wife brought me back down to earth, just like with the hula monkey situation and reminded me that I was being ridiculous. He was only a toddler and if I did end up confronting him with negative reinforcement, it would have likely done more harm than good. It has been about a year since that ordeal; he has never brought it up nor attempted to do such a thing again.

So going through all of this, what lessons have i learned?

 I've learned by understanding the false stereotypes that were taught to me in my youth, I am able accept the past without compromising my future. All that matters is the fact that I love my son and as his father, it is my job to ensue he is raised in an environment where he feel safe to express himself. And that includes him deciding to like pink, purple, blue or any other color he so wishes. Or if he ever wanted to try on his mommy's shoes. Or any other thing that someone might consider "girly". I will almost bet you that in the eyes of a child, most activities that we as adults tend to categorize with a gender are completely neutral to them.

Plus, who knows? Maybe in 50 years, pink will be the "it" color for boys once again.

Question: Have you ever been confronted with your own gender biases with your child(ren)? How did you react?

Aug 11, 2015

Battle Dadbod with EAS Myoplex!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PowerInProtein #CollectiveBias

Before I became a parent, I was in pretty good shape, but it wasn’t because I was health conscious. During college, I was certainly no stranger to a late night pepperoni pizza or two, or the occasional Dixie cup filled with Bud-Light tapped from a keg.  But between being on the football team for a time and joining the school’s martial arts club, I led such an active life style that my high metabolism incinerated all of the bad calories that I took in.  
Fast forward to the present; Now that I’m a full time parent, my priorities have shifted. The time that I used to spend training is now dedicated to caring for my two boys.  Unfortunately, the habit that I carried over from college for sure was my poor eating. The beautiful 6 pack that I so foolishly took for granted was slowly being replaced with an industrial sized keg. I knew I needed a change, but I would often use the kids as an excuse and convince myself that I simply didn’t have the time to work out anymore.
The wakeup call for me happened one morning when I was late for work. I was rushing through the house trying to get ready. I put on my pants and noticed that they were a little snug, but I didn’t pay it any mind. That is, until I bent over to tie my shoes and heard a ripping sound. I looked behind me in a mirror and saw a huge split all the way down the back of my pants. I couldn’t deny it anymore: I had “dadbod”. While the whole dadbod movement is primarily about self-love and acceptance, I didn’t like the flabby figure that I saw in the mirror. It was right then and there that I decided to take control of my life (and my waistline).
One of the first things I did was head down to my nearest Walmart to the Sports Nutrition aisle. It was there that I picked up a couple of EAS Myoplex ready to drink shakes. Since I’ve been on such a haiatus, I knew that my body was going to be depleted after going through my exercise routines. The protein and complete nutrition in EAS Myoplex gives me the boost that I need to help my body recover and rebuild to its best.  
Since my free time is scarce, I’ve been making more of an effort to be as efficient with my time as possible. I’ve worked out my schedule with my wife so I can have at least two gym days per week.  Even though, there are things that come up that might prevent me from going to the gym, on the days that I can’t, I try to incorporate my kids into my workouts by taking them out on walks, bicycle rides and playing tag in the backyard.

I’ve even decided to get back into a little bit of martial arts training!
In the workplace, even the seemingly minor changes have made a huge difference. For example, there are five floors in my office building. Instead of taking the elevator every time, I’ve been using the stairs. Also, if I wanted a coffee, I could always go to the cafeteria that is located in the building. As opposed to doing that, I’ve been walking the half mile downtown to the nearest coffee shop for my fix. 
After going through all of this, I’ve come to a realization. Sure, I want to look good, but I’m no longer concerned with results. Adopting the healthy, active lifestyle has given me more confidence and the sense of satisfaction I get from accomplishing the goals I sent for myself has me feeling better than ever!

Now, I want to hear from you: What kind of workout routines are you guys into? Comment below!