Let me set the scene for the last time my son ever saw my penis...
It was between the second and third period of a junior hockey Rockets game. There were not enough toilets to accommodate the ‘beer-bladdered’ home town hockey fans. So there we were, father and son, hand in hand, waiting patiently for an open stall (as the urinals were way too high up for my four year old and the thought of ANYTHING from that urinal touching my son was revolting)! A drunk, red faced fan turned out to be a hero as he somehow, through blurred vision, spotted my son and I waiting and gave up his spot in line for the toilets – oh the nobility!
My son urgently and proudly went first while I waited and read the bathroom wall. After he was done, I decided I had better go while I had the chance (and he was preoccupied with the bathroom lock). I guess the lock became less interesting as the sound of urine hit the bowl. Unbeknownst to me, I now had an audience of one, who loudly declared to a suddenly quiet bathroom, “Wow Daddy, your penis is huge!”
While I received a few high-fives and some hilarious comments from other dudes, that was the last time my son (or any of my children) ever saw my privates. Fun family baths became a cherished memory. While my wife still occasionally showers with our young daughter, I don’t think my nudity and/or my privates being visible serves any purpose, so I am never naked around our kids. I should make clear that I am comfortable with my body. I don’t mind being naked around the hockey dressing room or with my partner (I actually look for opportunities to be naked with her), but it is a choice to never be naked around the kids.
Am I an uptight prude about nudity or simply practical and sensible?
As a conscientious parent, I want my children to have a healthy understanding of their body and a positive body image. Real bodies are not like the magazine covers. Real bodies are wonderful machines and can do many amazing things. I do want my children to be comfortable with their own bodies and so we talk openly and matter-of-factly about body parts. “Yep, it’s a penis. I have one, you have one, grandpa has one, the prime minister has one, etc.” I actually believe my choice to be ‘not nude’ serves to begin teaching modesty and privacy (because who really likes the ‘ripped-6-pack-shirt-off guy at the corporate family picnic).
Our western culture tends to be pretty uptight about nudity. If you were to travel the globe, while you might find some cultures even more uptight about nudity (Hello UK), you will easily find many cultures that embrace and celebrate the human body. At an upscale wellness centre/spa near our home, there is a “European hour” from 8-9pm in the saunas and steam rooms. Sadly, I am too shy, self-conscious, and essentially fearful of shrinkage (there is a cold pool) to participate. On our last trip, we met an entire naked Austrian family in a hot wooden sauna, and I felt bashful and ashamed of my conservatism. Part of me yearned for the total freedom they seemed to enjoy because to that family and many other naturalists, a body was just a body, used to move dem’ bones around.
A friend of mine confided in me that his wife is naked all the time around the house. That didn’t sound like a problem to me, until he clarified that their young children were always around to witness her natural state while vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning. While she didn’t seem to care, but her constant nakedness really bothered him. Should it have bothered him? Is that a conversation that you need to have with your partner about boundaries and limits of your bare living? Why are my friend, myself, and most of our society so uptight about nudity?
A key point to remember: a naked body doesn’t equal sexuality. There is nothing wrong, dirty, or shameful about nudity. So maybe we all need to relax! Now if our kids happen to walk in while we are changing, we don’t shriek and slam the door, but we just get dressed as casually as possible and continue on. No big deal.
At what age should you stop being naked in front of your kids? There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule anywhere. Most of my research led me to a simple conclusion: do what feels right for your family and your values.
If we are preaching that nudity has nothing to do with sexuality, should we have different rules for opposite gendered children? Or are bodies just bodies?
The maturity of your kids may dictate when to start promoting privacy and modesty. Your kids will likely give clues that it’s time for privacy – for both you and them. If your nudity is a big snickering deal to your kids, where they laugh and point, then you probably can start the conversation of bodies being private and respecting other people’s privacy. All things considered, I think six years of age is when parents should stop being naked in front of their kids.
As I am writing this, I distinctly remember seeing the Hay family jewels for the first time, early one Sunday morning, through my dad’s damn billowy three quarter length robe. I was around seven and I was not shocked or scarred by the sight (many parents fear their nudity may inflict permanent scarring which is extremely unlikely), however, the fact that I still remember the colour of the bathrobe is interesting.
Let’s talk nudity at your house. When was the last time your kids saw your privates? Yesterday? Last year? Never? Have you had those naked conversations with your kids or partner?
Where do you fall on the “Naked in front of the kids” continuum? Never? Sometimes? Occasionally? Or all the time?
Until next time...
Late last week, we took our Spousal Resentment Meter (SRM) from a volatile 6 back down to a calm 0.
Psychologist Dr. Alison Poulsen has a great definition of resentment; “... is the feeling of bitterness, anger, or hatred resulting from a real or imagined wrong. The key difference between resentment, anger and contempt stems from how a person perceives the status of the wrong-doer. Resentment is directed at people with perceived higher status; anger is directed at people with perceived equal status; contempt is directed at people with perceived lower status."
Therefore in order to resent your partner, you have to feel an inequality or injustice in your relationship. Have you ever experienced that? For example, a stay-at-home parent may begin to harbour resentment toward their working partner because of the perception that he/she is more successful, has more social outlets, and more purpose to his/her days.
Resentment often masquerades as many other emotions; anger, jealousy, passive aggression, and contempt. Resentment tends to start off small but can grow quickly if unmanaged, with the resentment replaying day after day and even mutating into other issues. Some experts believe that resentment is the number one killer of relationships, the primary destroyer of respect and love and I agree.
Think of your Spousal Resentment Meter (or SRM) as a giant rubber band, wound between you and your partner with a range of tension from a loose zero to killer tight 10. If the stressors of daily life begin to impact the dynamics of your relationship, couples may find that the rubber band between them begins to tighten with anger, hurt, and resentment. The band will continue to get tighter and tighter until something or someone snaps. Permanent tension, like some couples that choose to live at a constant 6, will eventually stretch and break the band too...
Ideally, in a perfect world, your relationship should be free of resentment. But have you felt moments of being used, taken advantage of, or being unrecognized for your hard work? Do you say little and internalize the negative feelings? If you do not address these feelings with yourself and your partner, resentment will prevent you from seeing anything positive in that person or be happy for their successes.
Remember, resentment is a choice and has little effect on the person it is directed at. It's often said that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Yet the one who suffers is the person who harbors resentment.
Dr. Bob Navarra, a Gottman trained therapist, has categorized Resentment into three categories. This is my quick summary of his interesting theory and thoughts.
Category 1 – Cloudy day - The small irritating stuff which you can let go of when your relationship is largely in a good place – “I could have used more help at our party but I know you were talking with an old friend...”
Category 2 – Thunderstorm - These resentments carry more negative feelings, and can blow up quickly if left unattended or unmanaged. While not threatening the security of a relationship, these resentments can lead to irritation, anger, or contempt (a definite winding of the SRM rubber band). Put on your MacGyver vest and disarm the ticking time bombs – “The kids see you as the fun parent, while I am stuck always being the heavy...”
Category 3 – Hurricane - These resentments cause great distress and pain in a relationship – often perceived as a ‘fundamental flaw’ in your partner by triggering deep feelings or shaking core beliefs. These major storms, which often need the intervention of professional help, can cause a lot damage often leading to withdrawal or feelings of gridlock, hopelessness, and confusion – “You have always been lazy because your family had money and you don’t know what a hard day of work looks like!”
Like Gremlins and food after midnight, resentment feeds on our negative feelings, and becomes stronger the longer it is ignored. So how do we stop it?
Five quick ways to decrease your Spousal Resentment
1. Recognize and identify what is triggering resentment in you. (Identifying feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, or lack of power).
2. Talk about it with your partner. When you don’t talk about it, the bitterness and anger will only grow and fester, creating more distance and space between you. When your partner, in an attempt to repair, asks “What’s wrong?", stop saying “Nothing!” Be courageous and vulnerable, and share your thoughts... you are the one holding the burning hot ember of resentment in your hand, the faster you let go, the better.
3. Pick a time when you are both calm. Without attacking each other, you must tell your partner what you need using “I” statements. “When you spend more time with your friends, I feel rejected or unimportant. I need time with me to be a priority in our weekly plans...”
4. Remain solution focused and ready to forgive.
5. Take care of yourself and your needs. Exercise, eating healthy, and sleep are great resentment barriers.
It takes huge strength and courage to express and share our pain to the people that are hurting us. That is vulnerability at its core. We constantly need to be aware of the tension in our relationship because we all strive for harmony and intimacy. True intimacy occurs when we can express our deepest feelings to our partner and we feel heard and respected.
Take-away point: If you feel resentment building in your relationship, and your spousal resentment meter is nearing a 7 or an 8, don’t wait to let it explode. Pick a calm time and share your true authentic feelings – disarm the time bomb that is inside you.
American Journalist Joan Lunden claims “Holding onto anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.”
Have you experienced resentment in your relationship? Please share – I bet your feelings and experiences are shared by many... How did you handle your burning ember of resentment? Or perhaps you have been resented?
Until next time...
There are no handcuffs or blindfolds in this movie...
No retakes, no clever editing, no body doubles; it’s you, raw and uncut....
This is the movie of your life... the movie your kids watch everyday.
You and your partner are the stars of the movie, but also the director, producer and even the key grip (whatever that is...). The dynamics of your relationship are played out daily to a very captive audience. They are watching and studying EVERYTHING: how you interact, how you show affection, how you problem solve, how you fight or disagree, and possibly how you make up.
The movie starts in the morning at the breakfast table; often a joyful place but sometimes an icy chill can linger and casts a cold shadow over the cereal bowls and juice. What movie do your kids see? It is a horror movie or a romantic comedy? With front row seats to the greatest show on earth, your children are constantly forming their ideas of what a relationship looks like – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As a father and partner, here are some of the things I try (and often fail) to keep in mind as our movie plays out...
- My tone of voice and body language say more than my words ever could.
- Eye contact is essential in showing respect and attention (not on my phone).
- Mom’s voice and opinion are just as important as mine (my children need that message, especially my daughter; her female voice and ideas are just as important as the boys).
- We are equal in making household decisions.
- Stop interrupting! We constantly remind our kids not to interrupt yet we model awesome interrupting every day.
- I need to listen, really listen and stop cutting Mom off. Sometimes I am just waiting for her to finish whatever she is saying, so I can drop in my awesome zinger comeback (and win).
Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience either! While they might not understand all the acerbic sarcasm and adult talk, they will easily detect tones, body language, and a funky/different vibe in the room. What is said and what is unsaid never goes undetected, so lose the clenched teeth and arms akimbo.
As a divorced dad, I am proud and lucky to be a blended family; a glorious second chance at happiness. Just like Godfather 2, Terminator 2, and the Empire Strikes Back, the sequel can be much better than the original. I have taken the lessons and epic fails from the first movie to improve in the sequel. This sequel (and final installment – no trilogy here) is a much better production and positive role model for my children to see. Still far from perfect, I am more aware now.
My partner and I often joke about wishing we had video cameras installed so we could tell who said what and who was right (not that it ever really matters), but I am glad sometimes that we have no record of the low points in our relationship. Every day, we get a chance to rewrite another chapter in our love story.
So let’s talk about your movie. If we were searching for your movie on NetFlix or a long lost retro video store, in what category would we find your movie? Drama? Romantic Comedy? Action adventure? Suspense Thriller?
And if your movie was nominated to win an Oscar, in what category could you win? Best Original Screenplay? Best Director? Best Costume Design? Or the coveted Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role?
With a heightened awareness of the “50 Shades” your kids see, try to make the best movie possible. Your children are listening, experiencing, and watching you every day with no makeup or rehearsals. The true power lies in realizing that you are not only the actors, but also the director. Award winning directors guide and inspire their stars to give the best performances of their careers.
Sadly, you can’t pick the stories your kids will remember. They will pick and choose from all your movies. Your children may not remember much from the $10,000 family trip to Disneyland, but the time you comforted your partner during a tough time may loom large in their memory. These are the ordinary stories that will shape their expectations for future relationships. Your movie is going to set the stage for the movie they will show their children. It’s the best reality show of all time and you are the star.
Lights, Camera, ACTION!
Let’s get creative, what movie title best describes your love story? “Dirty Dancing?”, “Some Kind of Wonderful?”, “Pretty Woman?”, “Die Hard?” Please share!
Until next time....
You avoid them at work.
You get stuck talking to them at parties.
They dated your best friend’s roommate.
These are the adults that no one likes. How did they become so self-centered, obnoxious, and plain awful?
What happened in their formative years that created these “unlikeables”? What could their parents have done differently to help mold a more likeable human?
Here are 6 excellent ways to raise a kid no one likes:
- Always let you child interrupt your adult conversations. They are the most important person in the room – ALWAYS!
- Always give your child whatever they want as soon as they demand it!
- Always say “Yes” to your children (stop being a big meanie!)
- Always do everything for your child – that’s your job as a parent! Science fair projects are hard!! Make life easy for your kids!
- Always let your children off with their poor manners – they will learn those when they are adults.
- Always let your kids play – hard work and chores are for adults!
STOP THE INSANITY!
While an argument could definitely be made that doing the above ‘Sins of Parenting” is a form of child abuse, it will definitely help create an adult that no one likes.
Here are some better tips to raise polite, hard working, confident, kids that people will like and respect.
Do not let your child interrupt conversation (unless Timmy is trapped in a well or on fire).
When you let your child interrupt, the message sent is that they really are the most important person in the room and what they want is more important than anything else.
Unfortunately, some parents were raised in a “children should be seen not heard” household and want to do the exact opposite, so the world comes to a complete stop, and we all hang on whatever little self-centered Jenny Diva wants to say. Kids need to learn that they are important, but not always the most important person; you are unique – just like everybody else.
RESULT – Help your children learn to read social cues, assess body language, and basically recognize two people that are in a conversation, and then WAIT! No one likes to be interrupted...
Teaching kids to wait and be patient is critical. Kids constantly ask for things – toys, water, more bread.... Sadly, we help create impulsive, now-now-now-‘Me-First’-instant-gratification junkies by jumping when they say jump. “You want that toy? Let’s think about over night, and maybe if you still want it a week from now, perhaps save your birthday money for it...”
RESULT – Patient kids are able to wait their turn and also look past the short term.
Saying ‘NO’ is a good thing.
As parents, our job is to set healthy boundaries and encourage kids to think critically. Kids come up with cockamamie ideas all the time - that’s their job, to explore and push boundaries in order to learn. Our job is to say NO to a large percentage of those ridiculous ideas or ask why? Remember, they are the playground, we are the fence, keeping them safe. Parents often complain that they are always saying “No” to their kids – GOOD! You are not a big meanie – you are a parent. Spineless, jellyfish parents can unwittingly create a chaotic world for their kids with no limits or expectations.
RESULT - By saying ‘no’, we are creating boundaries and expectations for our children’s behaviour. A 70/30 split of No/Yes will make them appreciate the “Yes” even more!
Never do for a child what they can do for themselves.
It’s one of the Golden Rules of parenting... “May I please have a drink of water daddy?”
“Yes, get it yourself – you know where the glasses are and where the tap is.”
In the kid’s hockey dressing room, I don’t dress my nine and seven year old, they can do that themselves. While it might be slower than the other kids (whose irritated parents are dressing them), it’s teaching them to be responsible – they will only forget their jock once (natural consequences are awesome). I will continue to tie skates until they are strong enough to do it themselves. If you are doing everything for your child, the message sent it that they are not competent at anything and other people will need to take care of them. Many men leave the comfy confines of momma’s house only to search for another woman to look after them... is that what you want for your kids?
RESULT - Empower your children to solve kid sized problems.
Good manners never go out of style.
“May I please...”
“Thank you so much for the...”
Parents often feel like we are constantly on our kids about their manners, but you have to be, until it becomes a wonderful habit.
RESULT - Learning simple human life skills early is critical to being a likeable adult: achieving and maintaining eye contact, asking good questions, learning how to meet people and shake hands, practicing two-way conversations. These are all skills we can help model and teach our children.
Teach the kids what hard work looks like.
Finally, a common complaint about today’s young people is that they are lazy and have a huge sense of entitlement. While that might be true, how do you change that now? Kids need to understand that life is not a free ride and that you pitch in around the house. We don’t pay kids for doing house chores -- ‘EFF’ that (forget that). You live here, you do your share. Make beds, take out garbage, pick up dog poop, - many hands make for light work. No one pays me for cutting the grass or folding laundry (that’s why I hate it).
We had our kids ‘picking rocks and weeds’ all summer. As soon as any bickering session would start between them, out came the weeds. The complaints of “I’m bored” and “Why is my iPod not on the charger?” ended quickly. Who will be there to pat them on the back for completed their daily occupational tasks at work? Best answer – no one – they can do it themselves...
RESULT – Starting kids early with good work habits can turn into a strong work ethic for adulthood. Focus on the effort that brings results.
*a Bonus point*
Eat what’s on your plate, we ain’t running a restaurant here.
Parents make picky eaters – that comes first. Make one healthy meal, not chicken stir-fry for the adults and then hotdogs for the kids. You are not raising a prince, a princess, or Kardashian. Clean off your plate and then clean up your plate. We, as your parents, are not your personal servants or waiters. These food divas grow up to be picky about everything and are always the ones to order off the menu and change the chef’s specials (and you know what chef’s do to ALL of your orders when you dine with a diva...)
Obviously, no parent ever wants to raise a child to become an unlikeable adult, but it happens. There can be hundreds of reasons why an adult behaves the way they do, but I’m guessing somewhere in their life experience, lives a wounded child that perhaps needed some additional guidance, better examples or some tough love.
Are we unintentionally enabling our kids to self-centered? Being self-centered can be a life stage, it is just that – a stage – you enter and then you leave. Kids that never develop empathy, patience, or compassion will have a tough time as adults. The harsh reality is that adults that have ambition and drive, and are also likeable adults are the ones getting promoted and generally living a happier, more fulfilling life.
This article is the tip of the tip of the iceberg on how to raise a happy kid, but by avoiding the pitfalls listed above, our kids will have a much better shot at a great life!
If we are truly raising someone else's husband or wife, then we don't want to have to apologize to those poor unfortunate souls 20 years from now. If only we had done things differently, "Pat" wouldn't be such an unsociable narcissistic jerk... Pat would think about other people and consider their feeling or points of view.
As parents ourselves, we are constantly struggling between wanting to help our children but also letting them sprout their wings (and fail sometimes). We can make their lives easier, not by doing everything for them, but by supporting and letting them live it - experience the highs and lows together. We are the golf caddy, they are the star golfer...
Until next time...
Read more The Dad Vibe articles
- Daddy's gone? Where? Jan 16
- My step-dad struggles Dec 5
- I know why you two fight: Part 2 Nov 21
- I know why you two fight Nov 7
- Dads do it differently! Oct 24
- The day I lost my daughter Sep 12
- Talk to your kids for 7 Minutes? Aug 15
- A stranger touched my child... Jul 25
- Bottles, breasts and erections Jul 11
- What Dads really want on Father's Day... Jun 13
- Meet our baby boy Clarence... May 16
- Daddy on a Pedestal, for now May 2
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