Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Straight-Talk for Fathers of Teenage Daughters

It's not funny.

If you’re a single father of daughters, more than once you’ve gotten the call or text, “Dad, will you pick up a box of tampons while you’re out?” It didn’t take me long before I stopped noticing sideways look from the pejorative counter clerk. If that condescending, millennial brat who wore a nose ring, a tattoo sleeve that probably cost more than a year’s wages, and a smirk while waving bar codes over a scanner had an infinitesimal inkling of the shit I’ve dealt with, well, ze/Zir would probably would run, screaming hysterically, home to his room in his mother’s basement.

Anyway, buying feminine product for his daughter is perhaps among the least difficult of a father’s responsibilities when it comes to parenting in the time of menarche. I equate the experience to the girl depicted in The Exorcist. It was as if my daughter was possessed by a demon and, in many ways, didn’t even seem to be my daughter. Then, after about two years, it was suddenly as if the demon had been expelled. When my daughter had “returned,” almost literally, she said to me, “Oh. Hi, Dad. I didn’t see you there. How have you been?”

It's not funny.

Of course, as soon as the demon was exorcised from my first daughter, it possessed my second daughter. Two years later, my second daughter returned much in the same manner her sister did. For me, it was four years very long years of carefully planning what I said and did, not that it mattered much. So, listen, I relate these personal experiences for no other reason than to help you, my fellow single father brothers. Learn from me. If I knew then what I know now, this is what I’d tell myself about dealing with hormonal daughters:

Surrogate Adult Female Role-Model
Regular readers of The Single Father’s Guide Blog already know the term, “platonic female friend (PFF).” (See What is a Platonic Female Friend?) If you’re a father of children whose mother is not in the picture, there is no better time to enlist the help of a PFF. Like some men, I’m long on theory. Like all men, I’m short on practice. If your girls’ grandmother or aunts are in close proximity, then you’re ahead of the game. In the case there is no close female relative who can help, a trusted PFF can provide the specific information and instructions on, um, how to address the monthly visit from Aunt Flo.

Unreasonable Behavior (as Defined by Any Man)
You have no idea what you’re in for, Dads. You might be skipping merrily along some sunny Sunday morning and, “BLAM!” You get smacked in the face with a figurative 2 X 4 by a wrathful tween who knows exactly where her Daddy’s buttons are and how to push them. I can’t really tell you where these traps are laid or, really, how to avoid them. Rather, just be ready for them all the time and do your best not to let your daughter's behavior raise your ire. If your ire does get raised, try to remember the context and lower it . . . if you’re able.

Understanding, but Firm
While your lovely daughter is dealing with this new experience, she may also be in the process of forming her identity as a woman. A father’s presence and example is critical in helping little girls develop self-esteem. (See Dad, You're a Role Model, So Date With Care.) Menarche and establishing a sense of self aren’t always mutually exclusive on the timeline of life. In fact, I think it rarely is. So, remember that your little girl may becoming a woman physically as well as emotionally. Your daughter would be jousting with you in any case. Do your best to be understanding while making sound parenting decisions.

Remember, Your Daughter Loves You
Whether you’re divorced, a widower, or some other permutation of single father, your daughter has also had to endure some difficult times in the context of her mother and father not being together. So, between the new hormones, normal process of identity development, and potential feelings of grief and resentment, your little girl may find you the most convenient person to blame for, well, anything or everything whether you're at fault or not. She’s the hardest on you because she loves you and she feels the safest with you. It may be years, literally, before she sees the world clearly enough to understand all the ways you have had her back all along.

Avoid the Call; Buy Online
To avoid those emergency calls while your out to "pick up some (feminine product)," go online and add some to your monthly grocery store or Amazon.com shopping cart. That way, you'll never run out. Hopefully.

As a widower single father, one of my biggest laments has been that my daughters’ mother was not here to support them, well, just about the whole damned time, but especially during their early teen years. Frankly, that lament is about as selfish as it can be. In my experience, you see, it’s the mother with whom a little girl spars to establish her identity. Parenting is supposed to be a team sport. While Mommy jousts, Daddy is supposed to ride in on a white horse and save the day. Yet, it’s happened more than once that I’ve been reduced to a blithering emotional shell on the precipice of breakdown as a result of parenting without a partner.

It's not funny.

So, I won’t apologize for this bit of misogyny, especially in this context. Here it is. As difficult as it gets as a single father, consider the plight of one of my oldest and best friends. He is married and has a really terrific tween daughter whose menarche recently started. He’s also married to a wonderful woman, but his wife is little or no help. She’s in the throes of menopause.

Oh, and to that smirking, condescending, millennial brat who wears a nose ring, a tattoo sleeve that probably cost more than a year’s wages, and a smirk as he/she waves the tampon box’s bar code over a scanner, “Fuck you.” You have no idea.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Lucy Cliché, Hornswoggling, Assholes, and Good Men

I hate being a cliché, but I remembered one that had something to do with some decent, cow-eyed guy getting hornswaggled by a sexy, manipulative, gold-digging divorcee. The whole thing reminded me of this great song by Eric Clapton, Watch Out for Lucy.

"Excuse me, Lucy. Darlin', don't you use me.
I don't want to end up in jail."
- Watch Out For Lucy by Eric Clapton

Yes, I’ve dated a few divorced ladies. No, I don’t think I’ve been hornswoggled by any of them. Still, I wondered whether I was the mark for one of these “Lucy’s” and a cliché to boot.

The story that is widely circulated is that the phrase was first spoken by the English
 evangelical preacher and martyr, John Bradford (circa 1510–1555). He is said to
have uttered the variant of the expression - "There but for the grace of God,
goes John Bradford", when seeing criminals being led to the scaffold.
(Google Search: There but for the grace of God. 10/10/17)
So, I decided to do a little research and Googled, “nice guy falling for divorcee cliché.” I didn’t find much about the “Lucy Cliché,” I was surprised see the search results. Almost exclusively, the results included information and advice for women seeking advice about how to date good men. Women wanted to learn how to date a nice guy because, you know, they didn’t know how to behave with a nice guy.

So, I was off the whole Lucy Cliché and delved into this new vein of information.

Apparently, some gals have to learn how to treat a guy who doesn't treat them like garbage. Lauren Evans asks, “How does one treat the nice guy? The nice guy that texts you the morning after the first date? The nice guy that stays round to make out til 3 in the morning?[i]” In The Good Men Project’s 5 Things I Had to Learn In Order to Love My Nice Guy, Joanna Schroeder offers women who are dating a good man advice “You need to stop being a jerk, even when you’re in a bad mood.[ii]” Schroeder continues, “If you’ve lived in chaos most of your life, or if you’ve had abuse or a lot of drama in past relationships, you’re probably going to be really uncomfortable with the sense of ease that comes from being in a healthy relationship with a nice guy.[iii]” 

Nice guys may finish last only
because they put their women first.

So, look. As a younger man, I was quite a bit more reckless than I am now. Sure, there have probably been a few activities listed in the penal code, I’m sure, which, had I been at the wrong place at the wrong time, well, “There, but by the grace of God, go I.” I'm no angel, but was I a "bad boy?" I don't know. Never have I maliciously or purposely injured anyone except in the cases when I had to defend myself, my family, or someone who wasn’t able to defend himself or herself. However, if the definition of a good man today world is a man who has worked diligently for his family, respects others, and takes responsibility for his actions, well, of that I am and many of my single father readers are guilty. I’ve never believed a guy has to be an asshole to be an alpha male.

Schroeder observes her audience, women who date nice guys, needs the advice to refrain from “being a jerk” and may “be really uncomfortable with a sense the sense of ease” that results from dating a good man. That’s mind-boggling to me.

How have so many women become so bitterly jaded that they need to be told to be a decent human being? Well, yes, some have and, yes, some men are assholes.

I think woman who is attracted to a “bad boy” mistakenly sees him as an alpha male when, in fact, he’s just an asshole. She may eventually realize he is an asshole, but believes she can change him. Of course, she can’t. She marries him and, then, is mystified when he doesn’t mature, treats her badly or, perhaps, even physically or psychologically abuses her. A decade or two later, the woman has a bunch of little asshole kids who sustain the cycle of asshole men and wonders, “Why all men are assholes?”

Is having married or having a relationship with an asshole justification for treating a good man, a nice guy, like garbage? Um, no. As Joanna Schroeder advises, “Because you’re an adult now, and you have control over your choices.[iv]

Here, my dear lady readers who don't know how to treat decent people decently, is a little advice from me. If you find a man who is straight-up crazy about you, who lets you know that you’re the first person he thinks of in the morning and the last person he thinks of before he goes to bed, who respects you, loves you for your quirks and not in spite of them, who makes you squirm with excitement when you’re with him, who invests his time in you, who wants time from you, who listens to you and talks with you, and who’d not only bury the body, but also give you an alibi for the crime, leave him alone. If you don’t know how to love, respect, and honor the good man he is, regardless of the reason, just leave him alone.

For the good men out there, don't be hornswoggled. Accept nothing less.

[i] “This Is What Happens When You Accept Love From A Nice Guy. Catalog. Lauren Evans. March 5, 2016.
[ii] “5 Things I Had to Learn In Order to Love My Nice Guy.” Joanna Schroeder. The Good Men Project. November 30, 2014.
[iv] “5 Things I Had to Learn In Order to Love My Nice Guy.” Joanna Schroeder. The Good Men Project. November 30, 2014.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Calling-Out Bad Single Father Behavior (LANGUAGE WARNING)

Single fathers, I’ve got you’re back. I really do. When I see or hear about an ex-wife who is preventing you from seeing your children, I support you any way I can. If you have questions about “getting back out there” to start dating again after a tumultuous divorce, brother, I’m your wingman. Need suggestions for a healthy meal or someone to listen to a parenting issue, I'm with you.

It's okay to seek happiness, single dads,
but not at the expense of your kids.
However, when one of you dumb sons-of-bitches does something so fucking stupid that it damages one of your children and makes the rest of us responsible single fathers look bad, well, you can bet your ass I’m going to call you on it.

So, I know a single father who, well, contributed significantly to the end of his marriage. While his now ex-wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child, she was involved in a life-threatening accident. What was this guy doing when she had the accident and when she was in the hospital? Well, he was fucking some other woman. Class act, huh?

The things that happen between a man and a woman prior to the infidelity are the business of that man and woman and not mine. Maybe, the guy’s wife was a horrible person. Maybe, she was a manipulative, narcissistic, unsupportive, psychopathic witch of a partner. Not my business. However, “banging the babysitter” is not the way a gentleman handles ending a relationship with the pregnant mother of his children while she lay in a hospital bed.

Recently, he bought a house where his two children, now teenagers, would stay during the times the shared custody agreement provided for it. His son was so excited about his new room that he picked a paint color and rolled the paint on the walls himself.

Subsequently, during the last few months, in fact, our single father brother began a relationship with a woman who was very freshly separated and who also has two children. Foolishly, in my humble opinion, our subject asked his new girlfriend to move in to his house. Due to limited space and to accommodate his new girlfriend and her children, he gave one of her children his own son’s room. Now, when he has visitation with his children, our boy's children sleep on the sofa while his girlfriend’s children sleep in the bedrooms.

Dude. What? The. Fuck.

Your behavior, single dad, has a direct impact on your child's behavior.
Not surprisingly, our single father brother’s children are angry at him for giving their rooms to his girlfriend's kids. His daughter will no longer talk to him. The other child still wants to have a relationship with his father, but has begun act out in a number of unproductive and potentially dangerous ways including drug use and behavioral issues at school. Is the drug use and behavior at school directly related to his dad's girlfriend's family moving in to his dad's house? Who the hell knows? I'd bet good money, though, it's related.

Considering there are more than two million single fathers and the number of page views of the blog is only a few thousand each month, it’s unlikely that this guy will ever see this post. However, for those who are readers, put your kids first. It’s fine if you want to spend time with your buddies. It’s okay of you want to enjoy the company of a lovely lady. For most of us, we have to work for the money we need to pay the bills. Heck, you may even want to remarry and your partner may have children. (I almost did.)

Your children may not always understand the reasons you do the things you do to be the best parent you can be. Sometimes, you will make a mistake. That's all right. Make time for your kids and let them know by your actions and words that your children are the reason you make the decisions you make. However, don't be a douche-hole. Regardless of what you do to keep yourself physically and emotionally healthy, do those things while keeping your children the priority. Literally.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Want a Healthier Life? Turn OFF Television

Strong association: food and television.
Interesting observation I’ve recently made after the start of the kids' new school year.

I have made a point not to have the television on during the week, even after The Favorite Son (TFS) has gone to bed. (To be honest, there are a few exceptions like October baseball.) For my part, I’ve noticed that three things have happened. First, I go to sleep earlier, wake up earlier, and am better rested. Second, I’m not hungry later after dinner, so I don’t eat. Finally, I’d often have an adult beverage while noshing and watching game or a show.

Screen time, whether phone, computer, other handheld device, gaming system, or television, has always been an item of contention for me with TFS. While I have occasionally tested permitting TFS some screen time in the past, I’ve come to the conclusion screen time and homework, home responsibilities, and participation in family activities are almost completely mutually exclusive.

TFS has not only been more focused on completing his homework, but he is also finding other activities to occupy his time. He’s also getting more sleep, which makes both his life and my life easier.

Maybe it’s been the repetitive advertising dating back more than five decades of young, healthy, bright-eyed actors at the drive-in eating popcorn and drinking Coca-Cola or families parked in front of the television sitting behind TV trays and TV dinners, but screen time is very much associated with eating. Pavlov’s dog speaking, take away the association and the undesirable behavior is no longer top-of-mind.

Eating and watching is sooooooo much fun.

For me, not watching television on weekdays has begun to show some tangible benefits. In addition to getting better rest, I take in fewer (empty) calories and, often, find activities that burn a few. Recently, I undertook a somewhat involved and physically demanding repair project at my house when I would have otherwise eating tortilla chips and salsa and sipping a Glenlivet on the rocks.

Yeah, chips, salsa, and single malt scotch is how I roll, although not quite as often now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some push-back from TFS. He wants to watch television or have other screen time. Still, the resistance from TFS hasn’t been too bad. Yes, he asks. I just suggest other activities. Then, TFS often goes outside to shoot hoops, into the back yard and throws a baseball at the rebound net and shags the ground balls, or to his room to sort his sports cards.

TFS: dated, but relevant.

There’s always the weekend when TFS and I can watch the shows he’s recorded like The Walking Dead. Of course, considering the state of University of Missouri football, it isn't easy to get too excited about Tigers' kick-off on Saturday afternoon. We're not fair-weather fans, though. We still watch.