Simple notes to my younger self.

Just dropped my son off for a few days away from home. I have no idea what adventures he will encounter or who he will befriend along the way, but I really want him to know the things I know now that I wish I knew when I was younger.

In no particular order:

No one is so important that they’re more important than you.

No one is so smart that your opinion doesn’t matter.

No one is so popular that they don’t have to earn your friendship.

No one is so pretty, handsome or hot that you should compromise your values.

No one is so ugly, unpopular or irrelevant that it’s okay to treat them poorly.

No one is so wise that they can predict your potential to succeed or fail.

No one is so rich that the rules don’t apply.

No one is so privileged that they can ignore science.

Thank the people who stop to help. They had a choice.

The only thing that is gone forever is time. Don’t let anyone steal it. Share yours with people who want to share theirs.

Ask that girl on a date. The worst she can do is say no.

Posted in Adventures, Cool dad in action, Culture, Diary, Friendships, Inspirations, milestones, Rules, Values | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Lifeguard on Duty

Nothing is more tragic than a preventable accident made worse by lazy, apathetic parents.

If you take on the awesome responsibility of caring for a child—even for a day or an hour—I believe there are four skills you should absolutely know how to do well, and without panic.

You should know how to swim. Children should never be out of sight near a pool, a lake or an ocean. Not for a second.

Obviously being in the water with them is the best option, but if you are only standing on the deck or shore watching, don’t you think it would be helpful if you—the person who will helping them when they get into trouble—is confident in the water? That means you know how to keep yourself afloat, move through the water, and drag someone along to safety. It’s a lot to ask, but if you can’t do it, you are absolutely useless to the child who is swimming.

If you don’t know how to swim, keep your kids away from water until you find someone who does, and they are willing to be responsible for your children. Tragedy only takes a second. Read this great blog post on the realities of drowning.

(And while we’re talking about it, a reminder that babies and toddlers need your full, undivided attention around tubs, buckets and puddles, too.)

You should know how to put out a fire. Learn how to use a fire extinguisher. There are different types of fires, and you should know the difference between them and how they react. Small fires become big fires very, very quickly. Freaking out isn’t going to help, and doing the wrong thing can have tragic consequences. Learn to respect fire—campfires, candles, gas stoves, torches, etc…—and how to extinguish them properly. If you get scared or flustered around fire, an incident while looking after children is a bad time to be forced to learn.

Note: Your first instinct must be to get everyone out and call 911 (or your local emergency number). Don’t hesitate.

You should know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver. Choking is common. Children regularly eat too fast, put weird things in their mouths, or simply make a mistake which can block their airway. Clearing a blocked airway is the first step in lifesaving. It’s a simple procedure and, done correctly, takes only a few seconds. Which is good, because when someone can’t breathe, you only have a moment to help.

You should know how to do CPR. Of all of these skills, this is the truly lifesaving skill. All the others are minimizing risk. If you’re required to perform CPR, you are sustaining the most basic life function, and keeping them alive until medical attention is available. Learn how to perform CPR on both adults and children (they’re different). It’s not hard, but you have to know what you’re doing. There are good classes available almost everywhere.

I am strong advocate of everyone learning (and practicing the skills of) basic First Aid. When someone is hurt, managing injuries is critical. Sometimes, just understanding simple care can mean the difference between a painful lesson and a horrible outcome. Beyond cuts and bruises, take the time to learn about managing trauma, or helping when someone is terribly sick. Confidence and composure in an intense situation—and just a little knowledge—will only improve the outcome.

Unfortunately, in life there is rarely a lifeguard on duty.

Posted in Culture, Education, Rules, Safety | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Father’s Day Twitter Chat, #MomsOfBoysChat

This is going to be fun. I get to co-host the Father’s Day Twitter chat (Friday, June 14th) with Marie and the #momsofboyschat community. I hope you’ll join in at 10pm EST (7pm PST).

I often feel like I’m crashing a party when I join the #momsofboyschat. After all, I am clearly not a mom. But the premise of the community is to raise boys to be good men, so I assume that having the perspective of a dad (presumably a good one—or at least a really cool one) makes for interesting conversations. I am happy to see that a father’s perspective is clearly welcome among the moms.

In each conversation, it’s obvious that plenty of moms want nothing more than to raise their boys to be decent, honourable men. I am often encouraged by what I read from those who take part in the chat. It’s also obvious that there are still a lot of challenges for many people when it comes to dads and families. We’re working on it.

For this Father’s Day chat, lets focus on the things that we love about the dads who are in our lives. Here are some of the starter questions—let’s see where the conversation takes us.

Q1 Do you have any Father’s Day traditions?

Q2 What are some of the best things about the dad in your life?

Q3 What are some of the important ways a dad is different from a mom to your kids?

Q4 If you don’t have a father in your kid’s life, who helps you create a positive male role model?

Q5 As a mom, what is the one thing you wish dads understood about motherhood? (Dads, what have you learned about motherhood since becoming a dad?)

Q6 As a mom, what is the one thing you wish dads understood about fatherhood? (Dads, what has surprised you about fatherhood since becoming a dad?)
That’s all. Let’s have some fun.

Posted in Current News, Diary, Inspirations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

One step forward.

The announcement that Facebook will start to block or remove posts that include hateful content is significant. As a dad, as a man, as a human being—it’s a welcome change to a disturbing side effect of social media. Images that promote or celebrate hate and violence—notably when directed at women or teens—will not be allowed.

Yes, this is absolutely the right thing to do. Yes, this is an important first step in curbing social acceptance of the twisted humour that underlies rape culture. And yes, Facebook is a benchmark that affects a large part of social media communities. Without a doubt, this announcement is a victory.

But it’s a hollow victory.

I’m not convinced it’s a victory worth celebrating so cheerfully. How we got here—the real catalyst for change—is sad. Almost a step backwards.

It’s disturbing that it was only the threat of financial loss that prompted Facebook to take action. And while any action is a step in the right direction, it’s disappointing that a corporations that have the attention of almost a billion people still answer only to the greed of shareholders. The organizations themselves have no social value system that we can trust to do the right thing—a good thing—not just the financially rewarding thing.

None of the men or women or parents—or anyone with a speck of conscience—who hold any power, choice or influence at Facebook saw any need to look at the social destruction running amok within their product until it latched on to their bank accounts. Not Amanda Todd. Not Rehteah Parsons. Not any of the thousands of kids who face torment and bullying. None of these incidents was enough to say “Stop, we should better enforce the rules already in place.”

But 11 companies pulling their ads triggered action. And, if we’re being honest, it took consumers pushing advertisers—a petition—before advertisers noticed and decided the consequences were important. Money trumps morality.

This move won’t stop the hate masquerading as jokes; it will show up on a different site. This move didn’t create consequence for the perpetrators of the twisted memes or hate-filled taunting; they can continue to spread their venom to anyone willing or apathetic enough to accept it. This didn’t address the issue or change perspective or improve understanding; it just pushed it away.

At best it shows what is possible, and that some people—enough people—are starting to care. The next step is important.

The idea that morality has a price but not a cost must change; we need to be citizens first, not just consumers. The idea that a company can pay merely lip service to it’s own terms and conditions without actually enforcing them must stop; we need to hold leaders accountable to promises and their impact on society. The idea that shareholder value and profitability trumps everything else must stop; we need a social cost to be just as important and measurable as a financial cost.

I don’t know how we take this next step.

I don’t know how we move the needle so that we expose and stop the trend of hate & torment that parallels all the positive aspects of social media. I don’t know how we help the perpetrators understand the real danger and damage, and make sure authorities call it out for what it is—a crime. I don’t know how we instill empathy and understanding for others within those who seem to lack any.

But as a dad, a man and a human being, I continue to try. One step—maybe a leap—at a time.

UPDATE: Mere hours after writing this article, I saw this post about the possibility of the Italian government considering legal action for Facebook’s failure to prevent hate on it’s site. Another step forward, perhaps.

Posted in Bullying, Cool dad in action, Culture, Current News, Inspirations, Rules, Values | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments