On Wanting Praise

Editor’s Note: I’ve been super lame lately… but these guys have stuck with me. This week we have a great dad and a great writer and a great e-friend… Jeff from Out With the Kids. This week, Jeff brings to us a story of his brother… wait… no.. not really. It’s a story of music… well… no… I guess it’s not really about music either. Just read. It’s great. Thanks for sharing Jeff! xo- Kelly

When my middle brother was about 14 or so he played an acoustic guitar in front of some folks from the neighborhood.  One guy, the father of a boyhood friend of his, laughed and ridiculed his ability on the instrument.  To my knowledge, my bro hasn’t picked up a guitar (or any instrument for that matter) since.  Could my brother have had a bit more of a backbone?  Yeah, probably.  Could my parents have handled the situation in a different way to get him back in the rock-n-roll saddle?  Likely.  Could that guy from the ‘hood not have been such an ass to a young kid putting himself on the line in public?  Absolutely.


But this post isn’t exactly about my brother.


I am deeply connected to the kid’s music scene.  Some would even say I’m the glue that binds the scene together.  Okay, no one would ever say that.  But I am involved a little bit and happily so.


The Grammy Award nominations were announced this week and, in case you weren’t hip to it, kid’s music has a category.  Used to be two, but that’s another story.  You may also not be aware that the kid’s music world is ripe with creativity, diversity and innovation right now.  Long gone are the days of choosing only between a singing purple dinosaur and 4 Australian guys in primary colored t-shirts.  We are currently living in the Golden Age of Family Music.  Yet the 2012 Grammy nominees for Best Children’s Album are not representative of the current vibrancy in the genre.


This news had me, and some of my peers, in a tizzy at the slap in the face given to the great ones creating great media for families.  But to be honest, I think it was us non-musicians on the fringe of the scene that took the surprising nominee list harder than the actual music-makers.  We felt slighted because the artists that we champion, the entire genre that we prop up for all to see and respect, were in a way disrespected on the biggest stage with all the bight lights of Hollywood shining down.  We were all ready to tell our story on a national stage, to parlay the annual Award season to convert a few more families and national music critics.  Instead, we are kind of back to square one fighting for attention and for the respect of those who continue to put down children’s music as a viable art form.


But this post isn’t exactly about music.


Being judged can suck.  And this coming from one who gets paid to do it, to essentially say: this is better than that.


We adults, for the most part, can process rejection.  Sometimes alcohol is involved.  Kids, though, they are still figuring out their place in the world, what they can and cannot do well, and are still building their self-esteem and protective wall.  Intentional, nasty blows can take a toll – just ask a child actor.  All children take being judged hard.  When a young person exposes his or her vulnerability by performing for others – be it acting, dancing, or playing acoustic guitar – it can crush them to feel negativity.  Some, like my brother, retreat for good.  This is not to say that a constant praise fest is the answer, not at all, but we must help our children develop a level of confidence from within, to not need so much the admiration of “the public”.  Doing so isn’t easy, and I don’t exactly have the guidebook for this one, because we all want to be loved some for what is it we can do, but to temper that desire for praise with a self-assuredness can go a long way to raising a mentally healthy young person and eventually a stable adult without a drinking problem.


I’m no longer a vulnerable tween, but as a passionate kid’s music fan and children’s media critic I too, rightly or wrongly, feel the sting of the hurtful, ignorant “kid’s music sucks” phrase so easily uttered by adults not familiar with the music that would so easily change their mind on the subject.  Short of every single music-loving family giving a few of the great kid’s bands a real chance in their iPods, I don’t know what will ever help me get over it.   I only know that, unlike my brother and his acoustic guitar 35 years ago, I will not quit trying to convince you of its merits.

Find out more about great kid’s music on Jeff’s site http://www.owtk.com


Real Men Wear Pink

Editor’s Note: This week we have Jeff, from Out With the Kids, joining us. Below he shares his thoughts on the “think pink” campaigns surrounding October. What are your feelings on it? Give us a shout in the comments and follow Jeff on Twitter @OWTK for more. Thanks for reading on this Dad Stalking Friday!

November will be here in a flash and many women will still be diagnosed with, fight like hell to beat, and unfortunately succumb to breast cancer. That thousands of burly men will spend their October weekends with pink towels tucked into their skin-tight pants and pink tape wrapped around their tender ankles isn’t going to change any of that.

In a culture that simultaneously fears and demonizes homosexuality, and use the color pink to denote all things feminine, the statement being made this month by the players, coaches, and staff of the National Football League is worth noting even if it will not directly lead to the eradication of the disease it is intended to raise awareness of or make the men involved any less homophobic.

There are countless problems facing our world. Whether or not we “think pink,” sign an email petition to help local farmers, or #occupywallstreet, we’re likely not going to shift the balance of power in the direction of the good side, but I’ve come to believe that it’s the aggregate that matters; that tiny things on top of more tiny things over the course of time can and will lead to a better you, a better life, and a better world.

So as we watch the physically gifted lads of the gridiron battle it out this month in stadiums across the country with shades of pink swirling about, let’s take stock of the fact that some good will come from their pink apparel, that the gesture matters because all things matter. It might just lead to an enlightening conversation at home with your child as you cheer on your hometown team together about what it means to support someone or something that is bigger than any of us as individuals. It may very well lead to a young boy seeing firsthand that men needn’t be afraid of the color pink and all the negative stereotypes that come with it.

It may take a long while, but know that someday we’ll have a cure for breast cancer, and for the other things that plague us. In the meantime, hug your mom, grandmother, aunt, sister and daughter a little tighter the next time you see them.

The Sneaky Carrot & Good Conversation

*Editor’s Note: It’s Friday again and time for some words of wisdom from our dad of the week, Jeff @OWTK! He brings up a good point about raising your children with a broad taste for food by creating an open dialogue. We used a similar approach in our home. How about you? Check out what Jeff has to say about those sneaky carrots!

I’ve never once had to sneak a vegetable onto my oldest daughter’s plate. And never once have I needed to lie and say “its chicken, honey” when it was (wink, wink) cod or halibut or something else decidedly not-chicken on her fork. I kid you not. She tried, and continues to try, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Some foods she liked after 1st taste – braised beef short rib, lentil soup, and asparagus (only sautéed, never grilled). Some not so much – hello mushrooms! Her willingness – oh screw it, let’s just call it enthusiasm (!) to broaden her palette has been aided by her handsome devil of a papa.

If it were still socially and politically necessary to do so, I’d plant my flag square in the middle of the kitchen. That’s my domain. There, and maybe only there, I am King. I conjure up and cook most every meal for this family, usually from scratch (thank you very much). And you know what? I love doing it. I’ve shared this crazy joy for food preparation with my eldest girl from a very young age. Yeah, she helps with certain non-dangerous tasks in the kitchen – things like measuring, pouring, and cracking eggs – but more important are the open-ended conversations we have about food. Maybe that sounds massively boring. If so, this next sentence probably won’t help with that. The two of us will chat about flavor combinations and sources of food, the proper way one cuts an onion to avoid tears and the key differences between cooking vs. baking. It’s this dialogue, even more so than the hands-on work, that’s taught her a lot about me and instilled in her the desire to keep her options open where food is concerned. This might just be my proudest accomplishment as a parent.

Her sister on the other hand doesn’t enter into new culinary experiences so freely. She’s not a picky eater, per se, not by conventional kid standards. That’s just not acceptable ‘round these parts anyway, but compared to my first-born the little one is more than a handful. Here’s where I’m at with her as she approaches her 4th birthday: I’ve taken to sneaking peas & carrots – veggies she admits to enjoying, although won’t always eat without a treaty of some sort – into her macaroni and cheese. I know, right? And I was thisclose to adding paper-thin sliced carrots to an egg sandwich recently, trying to pass it off as fancy orange ketchup. Stop judging me!

As much responsibility as I take for the Bear’s openness, I must take an equal share of the blame for the Mouse’s reluctance to allow new flavors and textures to pass through her lips. Those fascinating discussions between my oldest and I… yeah those don’t always happen with the younger one. And when they do, she’s often too busy chasing the cat around the dining room for her father’s culinary wisdom to fully sink in. But it’s not all nurture with that one. Somehow, and it still baffles me how she did it, as an early-eater she’d identify every single foreign substance in her mouth – a microscopic roasted red pepper buried inside a bite of meatloaf, for example – find it amidst all the other food in there, then fish it out with her finger. As amazing as it was gross.

But I digress. My goal isn’t to produce the next Julia Child. Instead, what I’m really trying to do is share with my daughters an important part of myself; a passion I possessed long before anyone had the audacity to call me Daddy.
Success in parenting is awfully difficult to measure, especially early on in the process. What’s easier to see the impact of, and what I think matters a whole awful lot, are the moments spent with your child around a Kitchen-Aid mixer, under the hood of a car, on the driving range, or wherever you’re most comfortable – wherever and whenever you are the most you.

Allowing our children to share in, or at the very least witness, the activities that round us out as individuals will provide more possible points of connection between us and our kids as they age. They’ll see that our lives don’t actually evolve around making them brush their teeth; that we are, you know, a tad more complex than that. And maybe, along the way, they’ll learn to whip up some chocolate chip cookie dough, change the oil in the family car, keep their drives in the fairway, and eat a carrot or two.

A Dad’s View on Commitment

I’d like to introduce you all to Jeff. He’s a guy. A husband. A dad. And I really dig his writing. I hope you do too. Follow Jeff on Twitter @OWTK and on his own blog, Out With the Kids.

Waaaaay back in the late 1990’s when the Mrs. and I began to date, pretty much the minute we became an item actually, we both knew that we two were forever material.  Yeah, it was all kinds of dreamy.  Had our early scenes been in a movie the vomit-inducing terms “romantic comedy” and “chick flick” would definitely have been tossed around with reckless abandon.  I’m not British nor am I bumbling fool, but Hugh Grant likely would have been involved.  Come to think of it, if our early weeks and months were a real film, I’d have avoided it like the plague. One ticket for the oddball, subtitled one please!

Still, there is knowing that you are with ‘the one’ and then there’s cementing it.  Locking it down.  Signing the papers.  Sealing the deal.  Okay, you probably understand my point by now.  By cementing it, of course, I mean purchasing silverware and a set of cereal bowls.  What were you expecting? A ring? Bleh.

It wasn’t the money.  Our commitment bowls were on clearance at some department store that we’ve outlasted (suckers!) and cost us no more than $10 for all four of them.  The symbolism though, yeah that was worth WAY more.  This was our first purchase together that didn’t involve tipping a waitress – meaning we got to take the utensils home with us instead of leaving them for the busboy.   We were the joint owners of forks, spoons and bowls.  It was official – we were going to be together for a while.
Did you puke?  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Fast-forward a dozen years; Hugh Grant has been replaced by John C. Reilly – still funny but a darker, more complex character.  We’ve got a pair of cars (foreign) and daughters (domestic), one real job, a tabby cat, and a modest home.  It was inevitable, I guess, that the life of a married couple would get more complicated when you add to the mix homeownership and a couple of tiny people that resemble you physically and emotionally, their crumbs, and all of their clothes.

The struggle then has been keeping our movie as sappy and unwatchable as possible in the face of real-life challenges that can’t be gleefully wrapped up in a 90-minute PG-13 motion picture.  The old head of hair thankfully isn’t, but my patience is thinning rapidly and petty things I let pass as a younger man now aggravate me.  The result is a husband and daddy too often preoccupied with straightening up, then being annoyed about it, and finally being too tired from it to soak up the giggles and goodness of family life.

I want my daughters to think of love as bliss – the fairy tale version children are allowed to dream – and to view romance as it existed more than a decade ago for their mom and dad (okay I don’t want them to see all of that, I said PG-13 ya know what I mean?).  Yet, despite a sign reading “don’t forget to kiss each other goodnight” hanging by my side of the bed I still fail in doing so at 10pm and at other points throughout the day.   The crumbs though, they’ve been vacuumed, the laundry’s folded and put away, and those bowls are always clean and ready to be used.  I often think my priorities are more than a little bit off-kilter.

Twelve years removed from our first kiss, I do still fancy seeing those heavy blue and orange bowls filled with cereal in the morning and I still adore spying my wife’s lovely figure under the covers, happily dreaming the one that came true.  Fortunately our script is still being written.  I’ve got time to ensure that the ending of this flick is as dreamy as it began for my wife and for our daughters, even if that means dusting off my British accent and letting a bowl and spoon sit dirty in the sink all day.

About Jeff:

Jeff Bogle is a stay-at-home dad who writes about kid’s music, books, toys, kid culture and parenting at www.OutWithTheKids.com.  He also can be read in the pages of Time Out New York Kids, North State Parent, and Curious Parents Magazines as well as on numerous websites, including iVillage.com, MomsLikeMe.com and StopBuyingCrap.com

He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies, ages 7 (The Bear) and nearly-4 (The Mouse), who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to hear, see and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine.

He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world, although he needs to be reminded of this fact from time to time.