Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Wackiest Father’s Day Cards!

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With another Father’s Day come and gone (the one day we can get away with just about anything!) I scoured the Internet to find some of the funniest cards families gifted their fathers to say thanks. And boy, did some of them get creative!

“Dad, I thought I’d give you this card in lieu of an awkward hug. You’re welcome.”

awkward-hug

“As far as Dad’s go, I could’ve done a lot worse.”

Card

“Dad, without me today is just another day. You’re welcome.”

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“Happy Father’s Day! I got you a present, but if you want to get technical…technically you bought you a present. By the way, can I borrow $20?”

Card2

“Dad (crossed out Mom), you’ve always been my favorite.”

always-been-my-favorite-fathers-day-card

Did you get a funny Father’s Day card or gift this year? Let me know in the comments below!

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Fathers, You Don’t Play a Role in Your Child’s Life: You Play Many

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Parenting

For much of our history, the roles of a father and mother were clearly defined. The father earns income, provides stability, is the protector of the home and people in it. The mother is the caretaker, the loving parent with a home to run. But those roles have been changing for quite a few years now, and we are now at a pivotal point where both fathers and mothers can choose the kind of roles they feel best suits them as parents, and fathers can be much more involved in the raising of their children than they were expected to be in years passed.

In fact, studies have revealed they should be much more involved with their children. A review of multiple studies found that kids who grew up spending time with their fathers were less likely to have behavioral and psychological problems. They were also more likely to be independent, intelligent and have improved social awareness.

So fathers, being in your child’s life as more than a provider and protector, but also as a loving parent can actually improve their life all around! An LA Times article also concluded that “researchers found that the chances of teen pregnancy and other early sexual experiences were lower for daughters who spent more quality time with their dads.” Dads, I think we can all agree that is good news.

This is all good news, actually, considering the fact that more than 200,000 homes in the US have stay-at-home dads, and there are 1.9 million single fathers in the country. Often, it is a concern that a father won’t be able to fulfill a mother’s role, but these studies show that there really is no such thing as a “role” that either parent plays, and children will benefit from having the role filled, regardless of whether a mother or father is filling it.

So what can we do as parents? We can figure out our strengths. We can spend time playing and loving our children as they grow up. We can fill every role there is, and we can fill them whether or not our partner already is filling them. Both partners can be providers. Both can be caretakers.

Be open-minded toward your approach to parenting, and your child will reap the benefits.

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Parenting 101: Ground Rules

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I’m not someone who has been much of a believer in “ground rules” for parenting, or one right and one wrong way to raise a child. Every family is different, has different beliefs as to how their kids should be brought up, and determines what kind of values should be instilled in them. However, after this past week where one child was left in the woods in Japan as punishment, while another somehow was able to get into a gorilla’s exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, people are starting to question if maybe there are some “taken for granted” parenting rules worth spelling out.

For one, keeping an eye on your kids in a public place. When you lose track of a young kid, they could end up anywhere—kidnapped, lost, or, you got it, in a gorilla’s exhibit. People have raised the question of keeping all toddlers on leashes or in strollers, while others think that may be heading into “extreme” territory.

I think it might just be worth mentioning that you should keep an eye on all of your kids every couple of minutes—even when another one is needing your attention. Yes, parents aren’t super humans with eyes in the back of their heads. No, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of keeping tabs on their kids, making sure they stay in one spot while your attention is needed elsewhere.

And if you see someone else’s kid getting into trouble they shouldn’t be in, let’s collectively parent that kid and say, “Stay away from there kid!”

As for the parents in Japan, all I can say is, every parent has been in a car with a kid driving them nuts. But one too many, “Are we there yet?”’s rarely has them pulling to the side of the road and dumping them out—especially not for more than a minute, and then driving away without them.

My solution? I can’t say I know what needs to be done about child protection laws, or criminalizing parents for their lack of good judgment.

But I do know that these bizarre parenting stories are great inspiration for children’s authors everywhere! (“That Time My Parents Left Me in the Woods”…anyone else see the bestseller potential?)

What are your thoughts on this week’s bizarre news stories? Let me know in the comments!

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Theology of Parenting: Is There a Religious Take on the Work of Raising Children?

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A recent article on the Atlantic explored the idea that there could be a theological take on the work of parenting that has been largely ignored or pushed aside in the male tradition many religions have been formed by. As a father, taking on an active parenting role that was traditionally held by women throughout history, it was interesting to read two female theologians discuss how their religions (Judaism and Christianity) impacted their work as mothers.

One woman, Danya Ruttenberg, said, “I figured out that my tradition actually had a lot to teach me about love and the holy and navigating hard feelings, and finding more patience when your patience is used up,” which directly correlated to lessons she needed when raising her young children.

On the other hand, Bromleigh McCleneghan recognized the disconnect in what religious scriptures taught versus what real life consisted of as a mother. “Women’s work with bodies and fluids is not just ‘not holy,’ but profane. Not just ‘soft,’ but really not a part of spiritual life,” she claimed. Ruttenberg agreed.

What I find to be most interesting about their conversation is the disconnect between what many religious people practice, which is building strong family lives (meaning have children and raise them well) and the lack of instruction or discussion in theology when it comes to doing just that. For instance, Ruttenberg brought up the fact that a certain Jewish prayer is meant to be said while standing and silent—but how is a mother supposed to react when her child is crying, disrupting the silence the prayer requires?

After much research, because the majority of texts were silent on that subject, she “finally found one text that says you should indicate to your child without speaking that they should stop, and if that does not work, you just walk away from the crying child.”

I think most parents would agree with me in saying that is not what would be considered the best way to handle their child’s (especially a very young child’s) crying.

What the article ultimately comes to is the idea that gender roles, especially when it comes to parenting roles, need to be looked at in a broader scope when it comes to theology. “Holiness” and children don’t need to be lived in different rooms, and the sooner we can come to accept the two to be intertwined, the more we open up space for women (or men taking on parenting roles) to be involved in theology and religion as more than caretakers who stand by while men (or non-parents) do the deep religious work.

What do you think about Ruttenberg’s and McCleneghan’s take on theology and parenting? Do you believe the two works are able to be lived out simultaneously? Let me know in the comments!

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Are Parenting and Creativity At Odds With One Another?

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Recently I came across an article from the Parenting Herald which explored the idea that being a parent and doing creative work are somehow at odds with one another. As a single father and author, the fact that there are studies and articles going around saying that my two identities should be at odds with one another intrigued me.

The one quote I found to be the substantiation of this particular article’s argument can be summed up in this quote:

“The point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.”

What I wonder, though, is why a person would need to apply the rules of their art to their parenting?

For as long as art has existed, we have thrown around the idea that an artist must be someone who suffers, a tortured soul of sorts, who can only make sense of this world by making art to ease their suffering—but only until another work of art needs to be made, of course. And while a number of suicides, a chopped ear, and other instances have validated this image of an artist for a long time, I know many writers, painters, musicians, and other artists who are very happy in their life, and make art for the enjoyment of making something beautiful.

These people also tend to be very happy in their home lives, and make excellent parents.

The way one parents and the way they make their art are separated, in the same way that a parent who works in finance doesn’t use those same skills and the “work” mindset into their parenting life.

One argument that I did believe worked in the article by the Parenting Herald was that there is a lack of energy in a parent to be able to produce art. Parents minds are often so utterly consumed by their children and their “day jobs,” that they struggle to find the time and energy required to create a work of art—which in itself is a time-consuming and energy-draining activity.

But I would also argue that those who aren’t parents struggle in this way; not having enough time is the most commonly used excuse to not make one’s art. The amount of truth behind that excuse varies from person to person, but the fact is, any artist needs to make their art a priority in order for it to get done. No matter your day job, if you have a sick parent or if you have five kids, if art is important enough to you—if it is a vital aspect of your identity—you will need to find time in your schedule, even if it is no more than five minutes, to make it.

As a father and an author, I can say that the struggle to find said balance is difficult. But I came out the other side with three published books, and a son who lived a happy childhood, and I never once found my two identities to be at odds with one another.

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Tough Talk Tuesday: How to Talk to Your Children about Terrorism

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Following last week’s devastating attacks in Brussels, I began to realize that in today’s world, terrorism is no longer a topic we can avoid talking about—even with our children, who we long to protect from such atrocity. Likely they know bits and pieces of what has been going on, from learning about 9/11 in their history classes and seeing news of ISIS all over the media, but how do we approach these topics in a more personal way?

Of course, the conversation you have with your child will depend on their age, but seeing as I focus on writing for children around the age of 9, this article is going to focus on that particular age range. Here are some ways I thought of to best handle such a far-reaching and emotional topic of conversation.

Start by asking what they’ve heard. Many times, information will be spread around their school by other kids who may have overheard their parents discussing the attacks, seeing their parents watch the news, or from posts on social media. The problem with this is that often times the information will be scattered, unclear, and maybe exaggerated to a point where your child could feel more scared than they need to about the situation. A good way to start your conversation would be to come to a clear point about what they know about an attack, and about terrorism in general, and then set the story straight if any of their information is incorrect.

Don’t diminish their feelings about the situation. Whether they know an exaggerated story or the full truth, likely your child is going to feel scared about what they know. Don’t tell them not to worry about it or that their fear is misplaced—it is better to be honest with them in saying that other people are scared by what’s happening too, and that their feelings are understood.

Show them the “good side.” Much of what your child knows at this point in life is that there is bad, and there is good. This has been emphasized in the TV shows and movies they watch, the books they read, and the stories they’ve been told; there are bad people, but the good people win. After they know that feeling fear is normal, let them know that there are police, community leaders, military, and a government working to protect all of us. Show them pictures of people lighting candles, laying out flowers, and coming together after a tragic event. Remind them that there is good in the world, and that the stories they know about good winning are true.

Finally, be an open book (only about the necessary facts). Answer their questions. Why does this happen? Is it going to happen to us? Be honest—give them the information they need, and only that. Don’t go into detail about all the bad things terrorist groups do, don’t show them any gruesome pictures, and don’t scare them into believing that an attack can happen at any moment. End every one of your answers by reminding them about the good side, and the good people working to keep them safe. This is an uncertain area of life, but your children need to be certain that they are loved and protected.

When I think about what children need to know about terrorism, I think of the video below:

There are bad guys everywhere, but the flowers and candles are here to protect us.

 

Have you had a conversation with your child about terrorism? Let me know how you would handle it in the comments below.

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Does Being a Good Parent Poorly Affect Your Physical Health?

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mom-sick

Recently, Quartz released an article citing a study that proved being an empathetic parent actually wreaks havoc on physical health. Specifically,

“Researchers surveyed 247 pairs of parents and their adolescent children on how often and to what degree parents could understand their children’s feelings and respond with appropriate concern. They also took blood samples. Empathetic parents and their children were both better off psychologically. Children of empathetic parents also showed lower levels of inflammatory markers. Their parents were just the opposite. Their samples revealed this low-grade systemic inflammation.”

So basically, empathetic parents enjoy the pleasure of a job well done, while reaping a host of physical challenges that come with working hard. And who says parenting isn’t a real job? The study went further to analyze children with depression and their parents to conclude that empathetic parents (or caregivers in general) develop chronic inflammation and elevated stress hormones over time.

What does this mean for parenting? Is there such a thing as being too empathetic as parents? Should parents hold back from giving their entire self to their children to avoid risking such physical damage?

I’m going to say no—and I think most would be in agreement with this stance. As parents, the best things we can do for our children is to give our all, whether that puts extra stress on our bodies or not. HOWEVER, that isn’t to say our children don’t need us to be healthy, as well.

Before we all turn into Cinderella’s evil stepmom to keep inflammation and elevated stress levels at bay, how about just taking a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed? Take a bath when your children are at a friend’s house for a sleepover, indulge in a glass of wine after their bedtime, or pick up a habit such as meditation, exercise, maybe even writing, to let off some steam.

When it comes down to it, parenting is a difficult job, but the benefits to your children of being an empathetic, involved parent far exceed the risk of the physical health drawbacks outlined in this study.

What are some ways you practice self-care as a parent? Do you think it’s important in helping you be an effective, empathetic parent? Let me know!

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Is There a Way to Parent…Without Having Children?

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Colin Beavan

Writer Colin Beavan and family in NYC

In his new book, “How to be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World,” Colin Beavan (otherwise known as the No-Impact Man), defines what he calls “social parenting,” which means that taking on a position of mentorship over children is a form of parenting them—and it doesn’t require the tax on our planet that comes with bringing more people on the earth to populate it.

Beavan writes that “How we choose to parent may impact the world more than any other choice, because it determines so much of what we leave behind.” And I couldn’t agree with him more. There are millions of children who lack any form of parenting, whether from their parents our adults outside of their bloodline, and those children suffer because of it.

The idea of social parenting is about opening up the strict idea that only parents, or grandparents, or stepparents should be allowed to offer guidance and support to the children of this world. Volunteering to help at-risk youth, teaching swim lessons, coaching sports teams, or even stepping in to babysit the children who live next door when it seems their parents are busy is a way to be a social parent, and hopefully impact the lives of children in a positive way.

“When you open up to the fact that all the world’s children are each of our children, saying it is selfish not to have a child makes no sense, because you already have children,” Beavan says.

Some people can’t have children. Some people choose not to have children. But this doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the reward of nurturing a child, and it doesn’t mean that the children we already have in this world who need support shouldn’t benefit from being nurtured.

Overall, I don’t see many gaps in Beavan’s thought process—but should we call this “parenting”?

Being a parent is a day-in, day-out, 24/7 job. They don’t have children for just a few hours, or just a few years of their lives. They don’t just get to do the job of coaching them and lifting them up—they also have the responsibility of providing for them, punishing them when they’re wrong, picking up after them, and loving them unconditionally. Being a parent is not something to be taken lightly, and I wonder if the concept of “social parenting” is dedicated enough to earn that title.

Certainly, it takes more than just a set of parents to raise a child. Even children with two loving, supportive parents can also benefit from adults stepping in to mentor them in different areas. A child can have both parents and Beavan’s idea of “social parents”—in fact, I think they should have both.

I can’t argue with any of what Beavan writes, about the benefit social parenting has on children and adults alike. But let us not take away from the enormous amount of work and responsibility that comes with raising a child full-time. The job of parenting deserves to not be taken lightly.

What are your thoughts on Beavan’s “social parenting”? Let me know in the comments!

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The Benefits of Growing Up with a Dog

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My son John with dog, Henry.

My son John with dog, Henry.

It happens the second you pass by the window of that pet shop, you’re holding your kid’s hand, rushing them ahead before they can look into the eyes of the puppy barking at you to stop, but before you can do anything they’re looking up at you with bright, sad eyes.

“Dad, can we get a puppy?”

Before you say no, thinking about the vet visits, dog food prices, holes being dug in your backyard, I want you to take some time to consider the benefits to you and your child if you say yes, and let that puppy steal your family’s hearts. As someone who has bred St. Bernard’s, and someone who raised my son with a puppy sibling, I truly believe that these benefits could be worth your while.

Dogs can teach your children responsibility. I know, I know. Your child offers to take care of the dog, but you know the majority of the responsibility is going to be on you. But this doesn’t have to be the case. While you will have to be responsible for taking the dog to the vet, and double-checking that it is fed, groomed, and walked regularly, these tasks can be assigned as chores to your child as an agreement upon getting the dog. Your child will learn responsibility in taking care of another life, and will teach them the importance of keeping their word. Whenever they want to skip out on a walk or are going to be late to their friends house if they have to pick up after the dog, you can remind them of the agreement they made.

Dogs can be loyal companions to only children, children with disabilities, or any child struggling with loneliness or fitting in. Petting and interacting with dogs has been proven as a stress-reliever, and will provide comfort to children no matter their circumstances.

John & Henry2

Owning a dog can lead to a more active, healthier lifestyle for your child. Dogs require getting out of the house for walks every day, running around playing ball, and overall getting up and outside rather than sitting and playing video games all afternoon. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne even claims that owning a pet leads to lower levels of obesity, lower risks for cardiovascular diseases, and fewer minor illnesses and complaints than those without pets.

Overall, owning a dog will lead to general happiness in your child’s life. They’ll always have a happy animal to cheer them up when they’re in a bad mood, give them the feeling of being needed and wanted, and for the rest of their lives they will have memories of the furriest member of their family. I know my son will forever cherish his memories with our St. Bernard, and I will always cherish my memories of the two of them together.

So my recommendation, take a moment to look into the shop window. Go visit your local animal shelter. Maybe just do a trial run with taking care of a friend’s dog for the day. However you go about it, don’t say no to the idea of owning a dog just yet.

Did you grow up with a dog when you were a child? Is it something you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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Is Stress Getting in the Way of You Being the Best Parent You Can Be? Not With These Tips!

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I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to say this, but I think any of us who have gone through the extremely rewarding process of growing our children into happy adults can be very, very difficult. Whether you’re going through it with a partner or you’re raising your children on your own, parenting is a taxing occupation that reaps the greatest rewards.

But despite the challenges you might face—stressful days, nanny’s who cancel at the wrong times, tantrums, you name it—there are some ways to turn a difficult parenting day into a happy one. Here are some tips I’ve found that work:

Make time to connect with your child. Often, when our children are acting out, they are doing so to attract your attention. An easy way to avoid this is to give them enough attention in the first place. Wake yourself and them up a little earlier to have a sit-down breakfast together. Eat around a table at night instead of in front of a TV. Keep up a conversation with them during carpool. The more your child feels content with your attention on them, the less they’ll feel the need to stress you out by acting out for it.

Stop yourself from yelling. Yes, there are times when it feels like the only way to get through to your children. Yes, you have days when you’re just really frustrated and stressed. No, yelling will not solve the problem. By finding other ways to communicate your disapproval with your child, you’ll not only have a calmer environment in your home, but you’ll also teach your children more appropriate ways to handle their emotions with others.

Prioritize your commitments. You are not Super-Parent. Nobody is Super-Parent. While you might want to volunteer in your child’s class, bake cupcakes for the bake sale, be the carpool every day, and coach their sports team, you can only do so much. It is important to spend time with your children, not to smother them with your presence. It is important to spend time with your children, not to the extent of burning yourself out.

Take care of yourself—without the guilt. Sometimes you need to go for that massage, go out to dinner, see your friends, or go on that date night. It does not make you a bad or neglectful parent to need some time to invest in and rejuvenate yourself. In fact, it’s going to make you a better parent to your children overall. When you’re not stressed out and you’re taken care of, you’ll be in a better position to take care of them.

What do you do when stress gets the best of you? Do you have any tips to add for not letting stress affect the happiness of your children? Let me know in the comments!

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