Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Fly on the Wall


Among the many benefits of having genuine, platonic female friends (PFF) is the ability to be, almost literally, a fly on the wall. Well, if not exactly a fly, I do occasionally get insights from the fairer gender I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. (You should have heard some of the sh*t that I've heard. Wow.) I like to think it’s a two-way street. My PFF’s can also get it straight from me about what’s really happening from the guy’s perspective.

Recently, one of my PFFs, an accomplished and attractive professional woman, started using an on-line dating service. She told me she’d met a guy and he’d asked her for a date. She accepted.


You can learn a lot about a person when you listen.


The day after the date, my PFF told me about her evening. Her date took her to one of the nicer local restaurants, which she appreciated. She described him as a very interesting guy who works a fascinating job and millions of people regularly see his work.

“That’s pretty cool,” I said.

“Yeah, sort of cool, I guess. The guy could not stop talking about himself. He talked about his talked about his Harley-Davidson. He talked about his house and swimming pool. He talked about his BMW. He talked about Bayliner. He did 80% of the talking!”

I’ve always believed people who have to boast about the brands they’ve bought are often not comfortable with their own personal brand, but I digress.

Guys, WTF?

If you haven’t learned this by now, this is as good a time as any; women like to communicate. According to the author of the book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building of an Affair Proof Marriage, Willard Harley suggests, for most women, communication is the most important part of a romantic relationship. Ladies like to be heard. It’s difficult to hear, gentlemen, if your mouth is moving. Always, but particularly on a first date, listen to the lady sitting across the table from you. Look into her eyes. Acknowledge that you hear her and understand. Often, she doesn’t want your opinion or your "fix." If she knows you care and knows you hear her, that’s enough for her. Instead of doing 80% of the talking, you should be listening 80% of the time.


. . . people who have to boast about the brands they’ve bought are often not comfortable with their own personal brand . . .


Of course, she’ll want to know about you. She may ask. Then, obviously, respond, but she’ll welcome and value the fact that you listen to her. There is another motive; it’s a great time to learn about her and whether she might be right for you. You can learn a lot about a person when you listen.


Then, there’s the other thing. You know, about all that crowing about your bike or zip code or your car or your boat. Two observations. First, if these are the things that impress her, then you’re probably with the wrong gal. If a new BMW is what she’s looking for, she’ll probably want a new one every year and she doesn’t care a rat’s ass about the man buying it. Or, second, she’ll wonder, “He has to brag about his stuff? What is he compensating for?” Either way, brother, you lose.

So, guys, you know about empty barrels, right? STFU and listen. Even a fly knows that much.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gozer the Gozerian & Aunt Flo

What really possessed Regan MacNeil?
As a young husband, I would be shocked every 28 days or so by the demonic possession of my beautiful bride by cantankerous imp who I came to know as Aunt Flo.

In spite of having grown up in a home with three younger sisters, the vituperous arrival of my late wife’s monthly visitor never ceased to surprise me. I’d walk through the door wearing a hopeful smile after a long a day at the First National Frank & Crust and say in a Ward Cleavian fashion, “Honey, I’m home.” On those ever unforeseen 28th days, I’d be greeted with Regan MacNeil. (You know, the Linda Blair's character who was possessed in The Excorcist.)


. . . she was Gozer the Gozerian and I’m no Ghostbuster.


If the cycle of the Moon wasn’t enough, like a maniacal comet on a 180-day orbit, Aunt Flo’s every sixth visit was exponentially even more extreme. Twice a year, she was Gozer the Gozerian and I’m no Ghostbuster. It caught me nappin’ every time. BLAMMO!


I wished that I could somehow have a little notice for these “events.” After all, a guy’s partner probably isn’t going say, “Honey, just a head’s up. There’s a really great chance that I’m going all praying mantis on your ass tomorrow. Steer clear.”

Since then, I have experienced more of life, matured, become more understanding, and, I like to think, a little smarter. (Perhaps, not.) So, yeah, you might think I’m a little crazy, but I came up with something to remind me when my partner might not be herself.

My solution to the “notice” issue is “Flo.” Yes. That’s right. “Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker” is a smartphone app which a lot of women use to track their cycle by logging specific information during the month. Here’s a secret. Guys can use it too.

After charting this information over time, Flo makes fairly accurate predictions of, well, how your lady will feel on a particular day. As more accurate information is recorded, Flo will even adapt to a woman’s irregular cycle.


Knowledge is power, gentlemen, and that’s a fact.


Flo
There are a few other benefits to using Flo. For instance, Flo will let you know the days your partner is more likely and the days your partner less likely to become pregnant. That may be helpful for some couples depending on the objective. Also, considering the level emotional intimacy and candidness in a relationship, taking interest in this stuff may even facilitate more communication and improve the overall quality of a relationship. On the other hand, some gals probably would feel uncomfortable knowing their partner knows so much about something so personal. The decision to talk with your partner about this is your call.

So, look. I don’t care how someone would view tracking my lady’s cycle using an app like Flo. Knowledge is power, gentlemen, and that’s a fact. Anything that can provide me some assistance in dealing with a difficult relationship issue with which a lot of couples struggle, well, I’m all over it.

After all, I love my partner and I’d go to great lengths to help our relationship be successful. Yes, I’d even become familiar with her cycle than I ever wanted to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

You Pooped While You Said That






The best birthday card ever.



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Powerful: The Wrestler


Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram Robinson
When I first watched The Wrestler ten years ago, I was truly moved. I wanted to write about it, but I just couldn’t find a way to put onto paper the intricate plot and the complex emotions it elicited in me. I’m not sure that I can do such a good job now. After I DVR’d it and watched it again recently, though, I thought I’d have another go.

Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a lonely, aging wrestler and single dad in Darren Aranofsky’s The Wrestler (2008) is haunting.

In his prime, The Ram was on a par with Hulk Hogan or “Nature Boy” Rick Flair, but the opening scene shows Randy in a kindergarten classroom recovering after a match held in an elementary school gym. The promoter gives Randy his meager cut of the gate and, after signing a couple of autographs as he walks back through the gym, Randy returns home to find his trailer locked for delinquent rent. That would have seemed to be the ultimate humiliation. However, when he returns to his day job as a stocker in a grocery store and asks his supervisor for more hours, he hears, “What's the matter, they raise the price of tights?”

The talented Marisa Tomei as Cassidy in The Wrestler.
Other than the cheering weekend crowds on the minor league professional wrestling circuit, Randy takes his only solace from a stripper, Cassidy, portrayed by Marisa Tomei whose career parallels Randy’s.

After another “main-event” match, the promoter reminds Randy that the twentieth anniversary of The Ram’s tussle with “The Ayatollah” at Madison Square Garden is only a few months away. A rematch would bring big money for everyone involved. After Randy suffers a heart attack, the rematch looms over the remainder of the film like a funnel cloud over a mobile home park.

The dozens of small battles Randy fights every day to hold onto the shreds of his self-respect pales in comparison to the battle he must fight to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie, who is played by Evan Rachel Wood. Stephanie’s response to Randy’s first attempt to reconnect is, “This is so fuckin' you. You only come around when you need something from somebody, when they can do something for you. Selfish fuck. Good. Be alone.”



At the moment it seems Randy is on the verge of pulling his life and priorities together, he makes another poor choice and all the good things that he’d begun to build tumble down again like a house of cards. Yet, Fate gives him another chance. In the end, Randy is faced with two paths to vindication, but only one leads to happiness.

Mickey Rourke’s performance yielded a Best Actor Award from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild and an Oscar nomination for a Best Actor and was clearly Rourke’s opus. As far has Rourke’s romantic foil in the film, it seems that every role that Marisa Tomei is just flawless. Her portrayal of Cassidy’s overcompensating vulnerability leaves the viewer no choice but to fall in love with both the performance and the character. Tomei was nominated for just about every Best Supporting Actress award including one from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

All tolled, The Wrestler is an amazing film that will appeal to anyone who appreciates amazing films. There is no question, though, Randy Robinson’s story is an agonizing metaphor with which nearly all men can at relate on some level. For some, it may hit even closer to home.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dating: Facebook's New App for . . . Singles?


"Dating" may have both intended and unintended consequences.
If you haven’t yet heard, Mark Zuckerberg announced in May that Facebook would release a dating app for members. Reportedly, the name of the new app will be called, “Dating at F8,” or just, “Dating.” There are still a lot of questions about the way Dating at F8 will work, like whether there will be a fee and the actual launch date of the service, but there are some things we already know.


Download my short story, Second Person.

According to Zuckerberg, "Your friends aren't going to see your profile, and you're only going to be suggested to people who are not your friends."[i]

Mark Zuckerberg
“As described on stage, Facebook Dating will allow you to create a separate profile for dating. When you and another person using the service like one another’s profiles, you’ll be allowed to contact them. The company also described a feature that would let you make your dating profile visible for people attending the same event as you, in hopes of generating more offline connections. “This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships — not just for hookups,” Mark Zuckerberg said in his announcement.”[ii]

“Users who feel like sharing even more of their personal information with Facebook will be able to set up separate “Dating" profiles on the site where, instead of updates from people you know, you'll be able to swipe through "potential matches."”[iii]

Whether you happen to be part of the market for Facebook’s new Dating app, there may be a couple of other things about which we can be pretty sure. Event planners (for weddings) and divorce lawyers will likely see their businesses boom.



[i] “Facebook plans to launch a new dating feature for 'meaningful, long-term relationships'.” Daniel Arkin. NBC News. www.NBCNews.com. May 1, 2018. 
[ii]Facebook has started internal testing of its dating app: Let the poking begin.” Casey Netwon. The Verge. www.TheVerge.com. Aug 3, 2018. 
[iii] “Facebook Is Launching Its Own Dating App: It's called Dating, because what else?” Cosmopolitan. www.Cosmopolitan.com. Hannah Smothers. May 1, 2018.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Well, I Guess I've Grown Up

I have a little perspective.

I've now been a single father for more than 13 1/2 years, a year longer than I was married. That is mind-boggling to me.  I've grieved the loss of my beautiful, loving wife, Lori. I haven't shared this before now, but I was lucky enough to be with Lori, holding her hand, in her last moments. I've raised our two, beautiful and intelligent daughters who are studying in college and my now 14-year old "Favorite Son" since he was seven-months old. I fell in love with an extraordinary woman, the second great love of my life. She and I were engaged, un-engaged, lived a lifetime in 6 1/2 years, and ended our relationship last springI've taken responsibility and I've forgiven. I've experienced a thousand successes and as many disappointments. I've tried to handle it all with grace, but I haven't always been able to. I'm getting better at it, though.

Before we can grow up, we fall in love three times.
First, we fall in love with our best friend who teaches us about true friendship.
One time, we fall in love with a person who we believe is perfect.
This love teaches us that no one is perfect and
that we should never allow ourselves be treated as any less than we deserve.
Finally, we fall in love with someone just like we are.
We discover the person we are and the person we want to become.

Well, I guess I've grown up.

This is the first new post I’ve done in a while and I haven’t done much recently to promote older posts either. I think I've been on what some people might call a bit of a Sabbatical, although I didn't travel far from home. While I was "away," I've appreciated the readers who’ve continued to visit The Single Fathers Guide Blog for support, advice, and insights to help single dads raise successful, independent children while creating a fulfilling life for themselves. Our single father community has a pretty strong foundation for which I am thankful.

Me and my business partner, former While
You Were Out
cast member Ali Barone.
So, I’ve been out there, trying my best to practice what I’ve preached, I'm undertaking a couple of new business endeavors including a shared work space my business partner, Alison Barone, and I call Dream Worx where remote workers, small business, owners, and creatives can work together for greater individual and collective success.


Kappa Delta Jordan.
My little girls aren’t really little girls anymore. They are young women. Jordan and Katie, who are 21 and 18-years-old, respectively, are home from school. Jordan will be a senior at the University of Missouri and in about a year, will graduate, with honors, having earned a B.S. in Biology. Having finished her first year as a biomedical engineering major, Katie is back in New York after her first year in New Orleans at Tulane University. She crushed the School of Engineering “weed-out” classes achieving a grade point average north of 3.7. Both girls are working as nannies this summer and, sadly, I don’t get to see them very much. Such is parenting. They’ll both be back in school soon.


TFS at TPS.
The Favorite Son finished his first year at a new school a few weeks back and adjusted swimmingly. He made an impact both on the athletic fields, having scored a hat trick in his first soccer game, and in the classroom, achieving, for the first time ever, the honor roll in a rigorous academic environment.

Laissez les bon temps roulez, Kate.
I continue to write The Single Father’s Guide Blog because I am, in fact, still single. I'm putting the finishing touches on my next non-fiction title, Getting to First Base: The Single Father’s Guide to Dating, which I expect to be available before Father’s Day 2019. I’m also writing a new novel and a very unique memoir. Both should be interesting.

The long and short is, starting today, I’ll post new blogs (almost) every Tuesday. Brimming with momentum and ample material from which to draw, I hope you continue to find The Single Father’s Guide Blog informative, helpful, and entertaining.

- - -

Pre-order Eric Clapton's Christmas Album/CD, Happy Xmas.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

There Comes a Time In Every Man's Life

My "WTF? Expression." Photo credit: Jordan Mattingly
An excerpt from Dating,Getting to First Base: Dating, Sex, and Relationships The Second Time Around

--

As autumn turned to winter in 2008, my children were still pretty young. My oldest was on the verge of young womanhood at 11-years old, while her sister was a precocious eight-years old. The Blue-Eyed Devil (aka The Favorite Son), just four, had just started his second year of preschool, the three day a week version. As for me, I’d been a single father on his own who’d been responsible for his three children and dating, learning about myself, other people, and the singles scene, for almost four years. It was into this environment I introduced Sonia.

After a few dates with Sonia, there was nothing that I discovered that would give me pause about involving her more in my life. Candidly, if we “wanted to find out where this will go, or if there is even anything we can call a this,” then we needed to spend more time together. Because I didn’t want to reduce the parenting time I had with my children or their time with me, I introduced Sonia.

Photo Credit: Wendy Neidich
Sonia and the kids took to one another like a flower to sunshine. While Sonia had surely experienced a wide range of emotions in her work with pediatric cancer patients, she radiated love and tenderness onto my daughters and son who soaked it up and blossomed. Simultaneously, Sonia reflected their energy and bloomed in her own way.

Sonia worked a rigorous four-day a week schedule at her hospital, starting early and working very long hours. For her, Friday was the first day of the weekend. After catching up on her sleep and working out, she often started her weekend by making the drive from her metro New York City apartment to the lower Hudson Valley. That schedule worked well for me, too, because I worked for a couple of hours in the morning while my son was in school. After my trip to the preschool for pick-up and then home for lunch, Sonia was on her way and usually not far from my house.

Depending on the time in the afternoon she pulled in to the driveway, we’d go to the park with my son. If it was later and my daughters had also gotten home from school, we might cook dinner, once in a while go out to eat. For dessert, we’d have the cookies or granola that Sonia always brought with her. Depending on the weather, stay in for a movie night or visit the local drive-in. In no time, it seemed the energy that Sonia and I had created was comfortable and very nice.

For months, Sonia and I adhered to what an old friend of mine called a “beautiful rut.” One week in four or five, I’d make the trip to New Jersey to her place, but Sonia understood the logistics of the kids’ schedules, sitters, and so forth, and made things easy for me. Through the fall and winter holidays and into the spring, we maintained our beautiful rut, during which she and I balanced time between spending time together alone on dates and interacting together with my daughters and son. Frankly, that balance was probably tilted a little toward the latter considering the strong chemistry that existed naturally between Sonia and my children.

I really don’t understand the variables that constitute the “It,” or that magical, exciting, romantic chemistry that one person feels toward another person. I don’t know if it’s the “pheromones, those elusive, odorless chemicals given off in response to sexual stimulation or even romantic fantasy[i],” facial or body symmetry, which “shows that an individual has the genetic goods to survive development, is healthy, and is a good and fertile choice for mating[ii],” or if it’s something else entirely that creates that It.

I’d gotten to know Sonia after previously dating, having become friends who occasionally talked on the telephone and corresponded via email, and then, finally, getting to know her in the framework of my family life. She couldn’t have been more perfect. She was attractive. She was intelligent. She had a heart of gold. She was good to me. Practically, she had absolutely nothing tying her to one place, neither her children because she didn’t have any, nor mine because they’d connected so well, nor even necessarily her job considering her skill was in such a high demand. So, I was completely baffled when, after several months, the It didn’t happen for me.

"There comes a time in every man's life, and I've had plenty of them.”
-Casey Stengel

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[i] “Love Is All in Your Head – Or Is It in Your Genes?” Laura Barclay, MD. WebMD Health News. February 14, 2001.
[ii]“Rules of Attraction in the Game of Love.” Bjorn Carey. LiveScience.com. February 13, 2006.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Favorite Son Saga: Only One Green Jacket

Master's champion Patrick Reed receiving his green jacket.
The weekend before last, The Favorite Son (TFS) and I watched on television the final round of the Master's Tournament. TFS's favorite golfer is Tiger Woods, but we didn't get to see much of him during the last round.

As final rounds go, the final 18 holes at August National this year was fairly entertaining. Patrick Reed finished at -15, holding off Rickie Fowler (-14) and Jordan Spieth (-13), who tied a Master's Tournament record with a final round of nine under par.

With Fowler in the clubhouse at -14, Reed continued to make great shots and clutch putts as he came in. TFS asked, "What happens if two players tie?"

I answered, "The golfers who finish 72 holes, tied, play sudden-death holes until one player scores better than the other or others."

TFS thought for a moment and, finally, said, "Well, there's only one green jacket."

Ain't it the truth?


Monday, April 9, 2018

Harmful to Children? Introducing Dad's Girlfriend

The Perfect Woman may not be so perfect.

True story.

A widower of three years, the father of a middle-school age daughter, and an all-around solid-citizen and good man uses an on-line dating app. After many starts and stops, the widower single father (WSF) finally meets a woman, who seems too good to be true. She’s educated. She’s unusually attractive. She lives only one town away from the WSF. She enjoys the same kinds of recreation and hobbies that he enjoys. She has children of her own. She appears to be as attracted to him as he is to her. She’s the whole package. WSF wonders, “Could I be so lucky to find a second true love in one lifetime?”

Within a couple of weeks and after a flurry of wondrous honeymoon-phase dates, the woman and WSF are physically intimate. WSF is even more astounded; the woman beautiful and generous and patient. A few more days pass, and WSF introduces the woman to his daughter. WSF introduces the woman to his family. WSF introduces her to his late wife’s family.

The woman begins to stay the night with WSF’s his house. Rather than sleeping in his bed, however, the woman stays in in the bedroom with WSF’s daughter so as not to suggest any inappropriate behavior between WSF and her. WSF’s little girl who experienced the most heartbreaking loss that she could possibly imagine, the death of her mother just three years earlier, quickly begins to connect in a very profound way with the woman. Within two weeks, WSF has introduced his daughter to the woman’s children. WSF includes the woman in a family holiday celebration. WSF’s daughter begins to refer to woman as, “Mommy.”

Literally, within a month, WSF has what he believes is a life partner. Moreover, his daughter not only has a new mother, but almost instantly, he and his daughter have an ostensibly big, spirited family including the woman's children. “Although it may be a little soon,” WSF thinks to himself, “I know what I want. I want to make this woman my wife.”

WSF buys an engagement ring and, at Christmas, plans to ask the woman to marry him. Then, three weeks before the special day and only about two months after WSF’s first date with her, the woman abruptly ends the relationship to pursue a relationship with another man.

Uh, no. If you're wondering, I'm not the WSF in this case.

--

Not only did the woman devastate WSF and break his fragile heart, she also, very literally, traumatized the man’s daughter who developed a very profound connection with the woman.

As single fathers, our first responsibility is to our children.
Is the woman at fault for creating additional suffering in the widower’s life and in the life of WSF’s innocent daughter? Well, yeah. What were the woman's intentions with WSF and his daughter? Frankly, it doesn't really matter.

As adults, we should know that there are people in the world who don’t have our best interests at heart and may even intend to do us harm. Heck, we have locks and security systems at our homes and businesses to prevent those who want to injure us or steal from us from doing so. Should we as single men, whether divorced or widowers, be any less cautious when it comes to protecting our hearts and the well-being of our children?

The answer is, obviously, “Of course, not.”

When should we as single fathers introduce our children to a woman with whom we have a relationship?

In The Single Father’s Guide to Life,Cooking, and Baseball, I included among my “Single Father Golden Rules, “It should be an exception that you introduce your children to your romantic interest, and do so only if you are reasonably certain there is potential for a relatively long-term relationship.” While true, what does that actually mean? In my estimation, there are two, perhaps three factors a single father should consider when introducing his children to his romantic interest.

Before a single father even considers dating, much less introducing his children to his romantic interest, the single father should first make sure he’s ready to date. The single dad has had a meaningful relationship with his wife or committed partner end through divorce or death. When something as important as a marriage or committed relationship ends, we tend to feel loss and must grieve. One important step for a man to become “ready” to have another relationship is to fully grieve the loss. If there was a behavior that directly contributed to the end of that relationship, perhaps an addiction or other detrimental habit, the single father should resolve those behaviors before starting a new relationship. Otherwise, that new relationship will also be doomed to fail. Why even considering involving children in a relationship that will not last?

Next, in terms of the example of our widower with the middle school-age daughter, a single dad should really know something or, more accurately, quite a bit about the woman he’s dating before he introduces his child or children to her. At the very least, WSF should have waited several weeks, if not several months, before he introduced his daughter to the woman. While a woman may not have malicious intent, she may have. Maybe, she was just ignorant about her own behavior, desires, or intent. She may not have been emotionally healthy. A single dad may be infatuated; he may be lonely. Still, the single father has a responsibility to protect his children. 

Perhaps a third determinant is a child’s age. A single father may make one decision about introducing a romantic interest to a child who is 17-years old and a different decision if child who is seven-years old. Obviously, the older the child, the more likely the child is to have realistic expectations about his dad's girlfriend. In general, a single father should take more time with his romantic interest if he has younger children. Had WSF taken just three months, for example, the woman he dated would never even met WSF's daughter. While WSF may still have had his heart broken, he would have spared his daughter the pain of enduring another devastating and, perhaps, life-altering loss in her life.

Considering all of the people in the world who carry relationship baggage, emotional scars, and unreasonable expectations, dating is tedious and exasperating . . . on a good day. When you combine parenting and dating, well, I’m not sure if it’s like mixing oil and water – they don’t, or if it’s like mixing nitric acid and glycerol – they become volatile.

If in doubt, the best course of action is to first consider a child's welfare. Of course, a single father can’t make a mistake if he waits until his kids are in college before he introduces a romantic interest. By then, kids will probably think that Dad waited too long to introduce them to his romantic partner, but what do they know?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

GUEST BLOGGER Alisa Pittaluga: Boyhood Is Not a Disease


The Favorite Son: competing and being a boy.
Why we are failing our sons and what we need to do about it?

The current ages of my three sons span from toddler to teen, and so my world is now consumed with everything boy. My oldest child who recently left for college, is not only a beautiful young woman, but also a convenient model for comparison in my now boy-centered world. I am worried about my boys. I believe boys in this country are in trouble. How many boys, compared to the number of girls do you know who have been diagnosed with a learning disability? How about prescribed psychiatric medication? Diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder? Diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Autism?   

A lot more boys, right?

Our education system, our culture, and our medical professionals have been waging war on boys. Elementary schools today are staffed mostly by women. Anyone who has ever worked in a female dominated workplace knows that the atmosphere is much different than in a male dominant work place. Young boys are brimming with energy, which is not appreciated in elementary schools today. Assignments, topics, rules, and expectations are all geared toward female students. From the time they start kindergarten, boys get that message that their activity level and interests are wrong. Add Common Core to the equation and now you have over-stressed teachers trying to cram developmentally inappropriate curriculum into too small a time span. Truncated recess and physical education to make more time for classroom instruction confound the traditional male learning style.

Expectations for kindergarten students today are equivalent to the expectations for a second-grader just a generation ago There is little socialization play and significant book learning and computer time. This approach is a disservice to young children who are multi-sensory, learn through movement, touch, sound and vision. A one-dimensional medium, i.e. looking at a screen, does not produce learning. By contrast countries with the best education systems, such as Japan and Finland, incorporate much more play and movement into the early years. And no testing. Other countries know and acknowledge the basics about boys: boys are less able to sit than girls, boys require more physical activity.

Now in the United States, kindergarteners come home and, rather than being able to play after their long day of sitting in school, regularly have an hour of homework. Five-year old boys are routinely diagnosed with ADHD because they can’t sit through kindergarten (or their homework) and are medicated. These medications have short term and long-term side effects. And, medicating gives the message to boys that they are not okay the way they are and a pill is the solution to all problems. Is this really a message we want to give our young boys when drug addiction is an out-of-control problem in this country already?

Our culture has become outrageously and ridiculously hyper-sensitive. Any form of aggression is not okay. Anything even resembling a weapon is not okay. Competition is not okay. Standing up for yourself is not okay. Killing animals for food is not okay. Being too loud is not okay. Even looking at a woman in the “wrong way” is not okay. Men and boys are in a precarious position.

A seven-year old student in Maryland was suspended from school for
using his imagination and making his Pop-Tart look like a gun.
The natural instinct of the human male is to protect, to fight when threatened, and to compete for power. Men are driven by their desire for respect. A man who does not protect his family and stand up against a threat cannot gain respect. Yet, the feminization of our culture communicates boys from the earliest age that all of their instincts are wrong. Let’s face it, if you watch two eight-year old boys playing there is a lot of noise and a lot of aggression. There is usually some type of made up weapon, wrestling, screaming and shoving and . . . they love it. This play, common among many mammals and, in particular, most primates, develops skills in boys that will make them develop into strong men. However, these behaviors are no longer permitted in our schools.

Recently, my son told me that he was playing football at recess. He had the ball and elbowed his friend out of the way while running. The lunch monitor pulled him out and screamed over and over “Why would you do that?” My other son pushed another boy at recess because the boy told him he was a better football player. The boy pushed back and they moved on. I received a call from the school from the principal who said to me, “I’m not sure why they would do that.” I responded, “They’re boys. That’s the reason.”

At home, we are a firearm responsible family and have guns and a gun safe where the firearms are securely stored. My husband hunts and teaches my boys to hunt. I believe if we eat meat, my sons may as well know where it meat comes from. There are people that won’t let their kids near a house with a gun. And believe it or not, many boys want to hunt. Hunting was the basis of society and was rite of passage for boys throughout history. Yet, boys are unable to talk about hunting in school. At Thanksgiving years ago, my preschool age son drew a picture of a turkey and told the teacher we chopped the head off and then cooked it. Not surprisingly, his teacher asked for a special conference to discuss the “situation”. 

As an Occupational Therapist (OT), my job is to evaluate and improve the child’s level of functioning. I have learned in my 18 years of being a therapist that the there is always a reason for a behavior. OTs are put in a unique position. Because OTs do not diagnose conditions or prescribe medication, many have become master sleuths to answer the question, “Why does this child behave the way she (he) does?” We have to look beyond the most likely causes and consider the less than obvious- like sleep, lights, sounds, touch, and reflexes. Did the child start the behavior after a certain food? After a vaccine? After being in a crowded loud room? Behavior is a symptom. Even nonverbal kids give clues. A ten-month old who repeatedly bangs his head on the floor is suffering from brain swelling from a vaccine reaction and is trying to relieve the pressure in his head. The autistic child who becomes aggressive after lunch just ate gluten and now has severe stomach pain.

Health management organizations and socialized medicine encourages quantity and not quality. As such, doctors now spend less than five minutes with patients. There is absolutely no way they can get to the root of the problem in that amount of time. A parent goes to the pediatrician and says her son won’t sit still in school. Rather than an answer and a course of treatment, the parent leaves with a prescription. Unfortunately, medicating the symptom without resolving the problem only exacerbates the problem and long-term side-effects from the medication can be profound. 

So, how can we save our boys?

Do your homework. Question everything that is injected, prescribed, or fed to your son. Do your research. The number of vaccines given to children has quadrupled since the mid 80's. Kids eat more sugar and processed food than real food. Children take more medications than ever before. Still, diagnoses of childhood diseases including autism, ADHD, and obesity among others have never in our history been more prevalent. And, research suggest the biological make-up of boys is such that they react more severely to toxins in food, medications and vaccines. Hence, this may contribute to the increase in diagnoses among boys.
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There are many health professionals who can get your son on the right track such as chiropractors, naturopaths, functional medicine doctors and craniosacral practitioners, to name a few. Consider how your son spends the majority of his school day. The environment where he spends his time is crucial to his self-esteem and well-being. The academic success of a five-year old is not the are not the most important thing. Consider his emotional health first or he will be less likely to be successful in the long run.

There are alternatives to public school including home-school and private school. A parent can put all the boy-friendly activity and boy-friendly curriculum you want into the day. There are many great private schools out there that offer more hands on and outdoor activities for boys.  And many of them will work with you on finances. If circumstances preclude home schooling or private schools, there is still much a parent can do within the constraints of the local public schools. Remember, generally, teachers are not the enemies. They, too, are trying to survive under immense pressure. Have and open dialogue with your son’s teachers about movement and sensory breaks throughout the day. Many teachers may be more than willing to bring these things into the classroom. Say no to homework in the early grades and opt out of standardized testing to relieve the stress on your son. Most teachers will accept your limits on homework if you explain up front that your child is having trouble with the amount assigned. Help your son select boy-friendly research topics and boy-friendly books. Introduce these to the teacher if they are not already used. There are even books on finding boy-friendly books.

Alisa Pittaluga
And lastly, let your boy be a boy. Restrict screen time. Let him play in the dirt, wrestle, fight, run, and yell. Let him take risks. Question everything. Resist the culture and teach your sons that being a boy is not wrong.

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Having earned an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from New York University, Alisa Pittaluga has worked in pediatric occupational therapy with infants through teenagers for nearly two decades. She is the mother of three boys, ages 2, 10 and 14, and a 19-year old daughter. Alisa lives with her husband of 20 years and her children in Orange County, New York.