On Your Father's Side  

Gillette cutting deep

Is your masculinity so fragile that you feel threatened by a television commercial?

Is your sense of manhood so attached to some bygone notion that you threaten retaliation against a one minute 49 second video?

It’s where we’ve come, apparently, after Gillette released its Super Bowl ad online this week.

It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking and marketing all rolled into one.

If you haven’t seen it by now, you can click this link.

“Bullying. Harassment. Is this the best a man can get? It's only by challenging ourselves to do more, that we can get closer to our best,” Gillette says in the video’s description.

“To say the right thing, to act the right way. We are taking action at thebestmencanbe.org. Join us.”

The video was released on Sunday. By 9 p.m. on Tuesday, it had been viewed more than nine million times and generated 150,000 comments.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t -- or won’t -- watch the video, then know it’s in support of the #metoo movement.

A narrator challenges men watching to break stereotypes. It shows images of men bullying each other, talking down to female colleagues and objectifying women.

It seems the “men behaving badly” scenes are what have so many burying their Mach 3s next to their Nike Air Jordans.

Inside a corporate office tower, men dominate a boardroom meeting.

The chairman speaks, and puts his hand on the shoulder of the only woman in view.

“What I actually think she means,” he says, and her face crumples.

I like the video. It was entertaining and it made me think.

No, we don’t want to be painted with the same brush. But, yes, we have some difficult questions to ask ourselves as men.

What the thousands of critics are missing, in my view, is the advice in this video.

As much as it displays men at their stereotypical worst -- a group of “cool” kids chasing down a “nerd” -- it spends as much offering examples of what men can do instead.

A voluptuous young woman walks down a crowded street past a muscle-bound man. His eyes light up and he moves to walk behind her.

“Ooh…” he says, lust in his voice.

Another man intercepts him.

“Bro, not cool. Not cool,” the other man says.

A father figure breaks up two boys fighting at a backyard barbecue. Another intercepts bullies chasing their bookish victim.

All the while, young boys are watching their fathers stand up for what’s right.

The video’s detractors are slamming the commercial in droves. They’ve swamped it with thousands of negative comments.

“They don’t even bother to hide their contempt for straight whites,” a viewer named “daq t” wrote. “Done with Gillette here!”

Really? Where in this video is there any mention of race or sexuality?

Someone named “Nevermore Antiques” wrote a comment that was supported by thousands of other viewers: “I am a man, I am not broken, I am not wrong because I am a male, because I am white, or because I am a strong conservative. I will not be told that I am toxic...”

Funny, the video doesn’t say anything about only “straight whites” being toxic or broken.

The video is simply saying the pendulum is swinging the other way, and men need to start paying attention.

When I look into the eyes of my three daughters, I can’t help wonder if God -- or the producers of my own version of “The Truman Show” -- have it in for me.

I was an asshole growing up. Not always, mind you, but I didn’t go through life without stepping on more than a few relationships.

For a while, it was bad.

Biology was always my defence. I was a man, and I acted that way because of testosterone.

It’s not my fault, it’s my Y chromosome. It’s society. It’s the media. It’s just the way things are.

Being a father and husband has taught me that’s total BS.

Go ahead, call me a snowflake, whipped or -- the newest insult floating around cyberspace -- a “soyboy.”

I don’t care. Living with four women, and seeing the world through their eyes, has absolutely shown me men can make choices.

You can think for yourselves. You can forge a new path. You can ignore and understand the urges in your groin. You can make the right choice. You can watch a Super Bowl ad and not think the world is coming for you.

Being a man, as Gillette has suggested, is as much about stepping between two thugs fighting in the street as it is about cheering on from the sidelines.

You are better than that, and you shouldn’t need a cosmetics’ company to tell you how to behave.


Teaching kids about money

Our seven-year-old daughter has been a madwoman lately around the house: La-la is cooking, cleaning and helping with her sisters.

She ran upstairs yesterday and grabbed ballet gear for our middle-baby Betty.

This just doesn’t happen in our house.

Her sudden change of heart can be traced back to one thing, however: change.

Specifically allowance. Pocket change.

We hadn’t been consistent with the idea. I’ve slipped the kids a loonie or toonie if they’d been especially helpful around the house.

When La-La asked if she could have an allowance just after Christmas, and we didn’t immediately say no, she leaped into action.

When we started to outline how it would work, she went into overdrive.

Now it’s up to my wife and I to finalize our plan and put it into action.

Erin wants few strings attached, but I thought it’d be great if we paid our kids, but also docked money for rent, groceries and bills.

“Sweetie! It’s allowance time. Who wants a shiny new loonie for her piggy bank?”

“Yeah, I do! I do!”

“Ok, here you are, 60 cents for my best girl.”

“Wait, what? Where’s my loonie?”

“Well, you need to pay for rent, dear. And then there’s CPP.”

“CPP? What’s that, Daddy?”

“Children’s Pension Plan, where I take some of your money for my pension.”

If that’s not a life lesson, I don’t know what is.

My wife isn’t convinced. She suggested that if I could find research to prove my plan, she’d consider it.

To the Google machine!

Well, it turns out the prevailing wisdom these days is to pay your kids, and insist they divide their money into three categories: Save, spend and share.

It’s the same concept as the Toonie Parties where kids, instead of gifts, give the birthday girl three toonies.

Ron Lieber popularized the “save-spend-share” method in his book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.


He suggests by dividing their money, you’re instilling the values you want them to display as adults.

Lieber is also adamant you don’t tie money to household chores. You want them to help the family because it’s the right thing to do, not because they get paid.

After all, parents don’t get paid to do the dishes, so kids shouldn’t either.

There might come a time, too, when kids don’t want your crappy toonies and refuse to fold the laundry for $2.

Instead, he says, zap their screen time, take away the car keys or cancel the sleepovers to “encourage” proper behaviours.

It’s a good foundation, but I’m completely adverse to the payscale Liber suggests: $1 per week, per years old (until age 10).

For La-La, that would be $7 a week.

Yikes! That’s a sweet plum for a kid in Grade 2. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if someone had given me $7 at that age.

Every 7/11 store owner in Saskatoon would’ve been a millionaire if my friends and I had $7 a week each to spend on Slurpees and hockey cards.

The wisdom here, though, is you don’t buy them anything. If they want a new LOL Doll, they’ll have to buy it themselves.

Then, when they’ve ditched the doll and they have no money left, they get to wallow in a pool of buyer’s remorse hopefully never to waste money on junk again.

Ha! Hopefully they didn’t inherit their father’s short memory.

Again, though, I’m happy with this suggestion, but I’m certain it needs more real-world applications.

It’s why I ripped off a wheel to my kids’ Barbie Dream Camper and opened up my own Barbie Dream Garage.

For a buck, some guy named “Ken” fixed the wheel. He also suggested some routine screw tightening every three months or 500 clicks (Like, actual clicks. The damn camper clicks when it rolls).

When my kids get home later today, they just might find the water pump on Barbie’s hot tub has burst, and it needs some new hoses, too.

Such is life.

My wife, though, had said I need to tone it down, and if I don’t take it easy on the kids, she’s going to dock my allowance.

Christmas building blocks

For three days, Jingles the Elf needed a sabbatical from our three daughters.

Whining, complaining and fighting were how we prepared for the holidays—and the kids were grumpy, too.

It got so bad in the week leading up to Christmas Day, that I grabbed two garlands and our Elf on the Shelf (sure not to touch her with my bare hands, because she might lose her magic that way) and stuffed them into a box in the garage.

It was dramatic. It was therapeutic. It was mostly successful.

The girls, ages four to seven—and in the prime of their Christmas frenzied lives—settled down after that.

They’d wake in the morning, and ask if Jingles had come back from the North Pole.

My wife and I would suggest they needed still more sisterly love to prove they were worthy of more Elf on the Shelf displays.

They would try harder, and eventually Jingles magically re-appeared on our about Dec. 22—with a note.

In her best elf-inspired calligraphy, my wife suggested our girls needed to prove to Santa and the powers that be in the North Pole they were worthy of Christmas presents from the man above (the Arctic Circle).

They promised to try.

It’s not something you’re proud of as a parent, to withhold holiday traditions from your kids.

Especially when you’re convinced kids are just a reflection of their parents.

But it’s completely necessary when those kids spend their days:

— complaining about the colour of their plates

— wondering why her sister has two Advent calendar chocolates, and she only got one

— refusing to help clean the playroom

— screaming at us to “go away”

— kicking and swinging wildly with a chubby fist

— refusing to walk home from preschool

It immediately has my wife and I, and our friends, scrutinizing our pasts.

Were we that bad as kids? Did our parents threaten us more? Did they ignore us, and leave us to our own devices?

Were there fewer expectations three decades ago?

Ah, yes, expectations.

Admit it, expectations are entirely avoidable.

Our kids would not suffer if we didn’t have Elf on the Shelf antics to entertain them.

They would not notice if we gave them one Christmas present instead of three, or only attended one Christmas Light-Up festival instead of two.

They would be just as happy reading more books with us, going on more walks to the sledding hill, or baking cookies—for the neighbours.

Yet, with days to go before the big day, my wife and I chatted nervously about if we reduced too much this year.

We agree with the idea that Santa’s gifts should be modest, because it’s confusing to a five-year-old who learns Santa gave their best friend a Playstation 4, while she got wooden blocks.

The kids’ “big presents” came from mom and dad, not Saint Nick.

Did we do the right thing? Should we switch the tags at the last minute?

After all, we want our kids to have wonderful memories of Christmas.

Yeah, there are those expectations again.

In the end, we held to our original plan and let Santa’s modest gifts speak for themselves.

The kids reacted beautifully.

They had no problem with Santa’s choice of gifts: Lego, those wooden blocks and a kid-sized snow shovel (for helping clear the driveway).

“Oh, another shovel,” my middlest daughter, Betty, said. “We needed one of those.”

They love the blocks, too. The watch that helps my oldest tell time, takes pictures and plays games is fun. But sitting on the floor with mom and building castles is something they’ll likely remember long past that watches final seconds.

Hopefully they remember Christmas 2018 as they year they built castles on the living room floor, and not as they year Jingles the Elf went on strike.



Be an angel this Christmas

Jessica walked into our meeting much how a mother bear might have.

She seemed to stay close to the wall and near the exit, surveying the small room at the Central Okanagan Food Bank’s offices last December.

With her was her seven-year-old son, Dillon.

It was clear she was protective of him, and wary of speaking to a reporter about her life.

Jessica (who asked that their names be changed for privacy concerns) answered all the questions posed to her about why she uses the food bank.

She told me about splitting with her husband, and about their shared custody arrangements. Jessica talked about travelling regularly to Vernon so her children could see their father, who relocated to the valley from Alberta.

It was an emotional and personal conversation that not everyone is comfortable having with a stranger, especially one who is going to share it with thousands of other strangers.

Jessica didn’t shy away, however, and it’s people like her who — in their own intimate way — are helping the food bank continue the work they do.

Jessica was one of about 50 stories I’ve written over the past couple of years about the Central Okanagan Food Bank. Each December since 2016, the food bank has hired me to write its Be an Angel stories.

Each story is about a food bank client. The story is then published in the local newspaper in hopes readers will then donate when they get an inside look at who is using the food bank’s services.

Last year, newspaper readers, businesses and service clubs donated nearly $150,000 throughout December.

There are no “typical” food bank clients, but there are similarities.

Many of the people I have spoken with are women, usually with children in elementary school or younger.

Far too many of these kids have special needs, especially autism.

Many of the women are unable to work due to child rearing, and often they are married or living with men who can’t work due to workplace injuries or other medical issues. Some have been caught in the opioid crisis.

But that’s far from the only stories I’ve heard.

There are those who simply got caught in a housing crash or an oil downturn.

Some never expected to turn to the food bank, but were faced with critical choices between mortgages or rent, bills or food.

There are stories of unspeakable tragedy, like Laila and her two sons.

Laila and Max fell in love at work. They had a child early in their relationship, but were told that would be it for them.

A decade later, Laila found out she was pregnant again, but within weeks doctors discovered Max had brain cancer. He had just months to live.

It came from nowhere.

He survived long enough to see his son born, but couldn’t make it through Christmas.

It’s inconceivable the pain that woman was feeling when she spoke about how the food bank had helped her.

She worried about her oldest son being “too quiet.” No 10-year-old boy should have to watch his father’s life end like that.

Yet, through all that, Laila had a small piece of good news to share.

The food bank staff found a minor hockey team to sponsor Laila’s family as part of the Christmas sharing program.

Laila said she returned home one night to find her fridge full of food and gifts under the tree.

It’s wrong to say that’s what Christmas is about, because Laila would suggest she needed a miracle cure for her husband’s cancer.

But let’s hope those who read her story, and the boys on that hockey team, will — like me — remember Laila’s story will happen again, and that we should all be there to catch them if they fall.

That’s why it would be wonderful if, this holiday season, you’ve decided to donate money to charity. I’d strongly encourage you to consider a food bank wherever you live.

It’s not all heartbreak, either.

Jessica was working on becoming self-reliant, going to school so she could support her two kids on her own.

Like I said, she was a mama bear.

Her boy wasn’t succeeding in public school, so she campaigned at a private school in Kelowna to give him a scholarship.

It worked.

I was so impressed by her tenacity — she was just a slip of a girl, maybe 25 or 26 years old — that I dropped hints my brother-in-law should start volunteering at the food bank in hopes of meeting her.

Alas, my matchmaking skills need work and the connection never happened.

Let’s hope my fundraising skills are sharper, and you’ve decided to visit the food bank’s website, cofoodbank.com, and make a donation.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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