On Your Father's Side  

Digital-age and DJ dads

The first person who came to mind when I was asked to write about “modern dads” was Jeff Hay.

Most of you know him better as DJ Haymaker.

My wife and I took our kids to one of Hay’s “Family Dances” at Parkinson Rec Centre.

Hay also hosts Daddy-Daughter Dances, which is something I’ll no doubt become intimately acquainted with as the father of three girls under seven years old.

Anyone who organizes a daddy-daughter day must know a thing or two about parenting.

My hunch was correct.

“I could talk for hours about this,” he said during our interview.

It’s a fascinating topic, too, and something that appears to be gaining attention given Kelowna’s changing demographics and economy.

We all know about the challenges Okanagan families face when it comes to cost of living.

At the school our kids attend, you’ll meet parents who have changed their schedules because it’s nearly impossible for one breadwinner to pay for a mortgage, child care and other necessities.

It’s meant parents are working from home (or trying to work). Others take night shifts and tag off when dad comes home and mom goes to work.

Many of us are sacrificing annual holidays, second cars, cable TV or salon appointments to make ends meet.

Our family does all of that and more.

Hay says embrace it all, because you’re getting more in return.

His career path “allowed a great freedom to go on field trips. To volunteer at the school, especially when the kids were younger.”

Other than 110 DJ’ing events a year, he’s also completed a master’s degree in counselling psychology working with clients at Third Space Mind in the Landmark 2 building.

Hay’s favourite space, however, might be alongside his kids on school field trips.

With a flexible schedule, and a wife who works full-time as a high school teacher, Hay is free to spend more time with his kids than most might.

“I see the kids off every morning,” he says. “I’m here most of the time after school for them. … In terms of work-life balance, it’s a different role.”

But it’s a role that has increased steadily in Canada for the past 40 years.

It’s not just mom who sacrifices her career to raise the children anymore.

According to Statistics Canada, stay-at-home fathers accounted for 1 in 70 families in 1976.

Today, that number is closer to 1 in 10.

Yes, there are a lot of us dads out there faced with a new reality.

When I lost a job, we had serious decisions to make.

Then, when our third child arrived, it made more sense for me to stay home with the kids and have my wife work full-time.

The change has presented its challenges. I know the two years after my job loss I battled depression.

I tried to do everything: cook, clean, raise kids, work…

While that’s nothing new to generations of mothers, it’s something new for dads. Friends who find themselves in similar situations happily admit it’s about time men faced those problems.

Joe Fries is a Penticton father of two, and said his mom “carried the mail, and everything else” when he was growing up.

“The parenting expectations placed on dads are much higher now than they used to be, and rightfully so,” he said.

Still, with that added responsibility, how are men maintaining their sense of self?

My friend Sanj Juneja is a successful entrepreneur who lives in Atlanta. He suggested you don’t change who you are because you have kids.

And, he added with emphasis, don’t listen to people who tell you it’s impossible.

“Do everything that you used to do prior to kids,” he said, through a Facebook message. “If you can incorporate your kids into your daily lives, they truly become a part of one's self. If you enjoyed traveling to remote destinations, then continue to do so with your kids. You don't ‘have to go on a Disney cruise’ because that is what society deems a kid-appropriate vacation.”

Still, are we as men different after kids?

My friend Sean Dawson says that while he notices vast differences between the Sean Dawson before kids, he doesn’t miss him.

“I miss the things Sean-before-kids had time to do,” he said. “But, no, he was an inferior version to this rock of a provider you see before you today. I’m more patient than I was. Kids think we dads can do anything, and sometimes we believe it, too, which is nice.”

If only there was someplace men could talk about being a 21st-century dad.

Wait ... what? There is? But it’s in San Antonio, Texas?

Hay urged me to attend Dad 2.0, a three-day conference that talks about all things fatherly. It’s aimed at bloggers, artists, and entrepreneurs – and the brands and businesses eager to reach them.

This year it’s in Texas, but it travels across the United States.

“It talks about the changing roles of fathers,” Hay said. “Our dad’s dad, to be father of the year back then, you just had to show up, throw a ball once in a while and make sure there was food on the table. Whereas now, that’s the bare minimum. You’ve got to be involved.”

Really, it wasn’t that long ago men were roaming the halls outside the delivery room. That’s unheard of today.

We’re better for it, Hay said. Eventually, we will drop the gender references attached to parenting altogether.

Moms will be free to pursue their careers; dads won’t feel like they’re “not manly enough” because they can braid hair and bake muffins.

It’ll just be “parents” raising kids.

“For a lot of dads, they do want to be a more central figure,” he said. “It’s not mom stuff anymore.”



Warning: trigger warnings

More American theatre companies are offering “trigger warnings,” and I understand why after attending Opera Kelowna’s presentation of Carmen earlier this year.

About 15 minutes into the play, the audience was blasted by a blood-curdling scream through the speakers.

I just about jumped out of my seat.

I wanted to jump out of my seat.

It scared the bejeezus out of me, and from that point forward I was on edge, expecting more theatrics (sorry, I could not resist).

None came, at least not at that level.

Sure, there was simulated gun and sword play, plenty of sexual innuendo (and threats of sexual violence) but not once did the Kelowna production cheapen itself for shock value (my worst-case scenario).

You couldn’t have told my body that.

My heart was racing, my blood pressure dropping, and my head swimming for ways to get out of my centre-aisle, middle-row seat.

I was stuck in a sea of humanity.

The thought of disturbing people as I stood to get some air made me anxious. The thought of passing out after standing too quickly made me anxious. The thought of staying where I was made me anxious.

Such is life with anxiety.

It doesn’t hit me often, but when it does, it feels like a Mac truck.

I explain it for those who don't know me as "claustrophobia," but it's more than that.

I hate the idea of looking bad in front of other people. It first hit me at 13 years old when I vomited in Grade 9 health class.

It was during a discussion about blood flow, human tissue and child birth.

Since then, any time I'm in a crowd and someone starts to talk about a grisly injury or gruesome film, I look to flee.

It happens more than I'd like it to.

That’s why I was so curious to read about these “trigger warnings.”

The Denver Theater Company listed the following on a sign outside a play called Vietgone, about the Vietnam War:

  • “This production contains: Strobe lighting effects. Sudden loud noises. Theatrical fog/haze. Scenes of violence. Adult language. Sexual situations. Adult humor and content.”

Apparently, there were exact times of sudden, loud noises on the company's website so you could prepare yourself.

As you might guess, the online comments on a New York Times story about it were lopsided and incredulous (sometimes I have to remember: don't click the comments, even on the NYT!).

“Is this what we have become? A nation filled with psyches so fragile that the mass of people have to be warned that a play or movie will frighten them?”

I say bring on the warnings.

It seems likely that those opposed don’t suffer from anxiety, depression or other health concerns that might keep them from live theatre, the movie theatre or other public events.

Consider yourself fortunate. I’d be much happier if I could attend movies without seeking out an aisle seat near an exit.

I’d love to watch surgery shows and not faint or throw up. (Really? Would I? OK, I'm bluffing.)

I’d love to sit front row of your favourite circus freak show and watch people put nails through their lips or swallow swords (OK, so I’d probably still skip that even if I had a cast-iron constitution).

Trigger warnings — displayed for those who need them — are a welcome addition in my world, and likely welcome to a great number of people.

It would have made our theatre outing happier for my wife.

I squirmed and suffered until intermission, when I asked the ushers for a seat near the back door on the aisle.

The Kelowna Community Theatre staff graciously accommodated my request.

My wife wasn’t so happy about giving up our prime seats.

It’s why she’s “strongly” encouraged us to attend tonight’s screening of the short film “Shadows: A conversation about men’s mental health.”

I will readily admit my phobia about getting stuck in a crowd isn’t healthy, and I’m anxious (there’s that word again) to resolve it.

Maybe I never will, but I’m hoping hearing other men in my community speak about their struggles and experiences will help me.

“We talk about everything else in life, but we don’t really talk about how we feel,” one man says in the film.

Part of writing this column came in the hopes I could do just that.

If you can’t attend tonight, you can still watch the nine-minute documentary online.

If you can attend, I’ll be the guy sitting in the back near the aisle.

Screen time Jeopardy

Who would’ve guessed I’d be binge watching Jeopardy reruns on Netflix, but here we are.

I’ve watched the quiz show since Alex Trebek’s version hit the airwaves in 1984.

Not consistently, mind you, but enough that I recognize half the contestants appearing on these reruns.

The streaming service is featuring two different Tournament of Champions events and the $1-million Battle of the Decades.

After the kids started arriving, we cut cable, so I haven’t watched much in nearly a decade.

Nostalgia and challenging my brain are the reasons I’ve already blown through half the episodes in less than a week.

For a while, before kids, I thought of myself as a pretty good player. Heck, I seriously considered trying out (I signed up for email alerts about upcoming auditions).

But something’s happened since I last watched.

The questions (or answers, if you’re a stickler) are suddenly much more difficult.

Here’s a good example of a cupcake question that I whiffed on recently. In the category “Carson, daily” about The Tonight Show, the answer was:

  • “After this Tonight Show guest host was given her own late-night show, Carson refused to speak with her ever again.”

The answer, formed as a question, is …?

Yeah, of course, “Who is Joan Rivers?”

But do you think I could get that? I practically spit out my Doritos in frustration, thinking the answer was covered in nacho cheese on the tip of my tongue.

That’s not the only example, either. There’s been more than I care to admit.

Dang it, but my brain isn’t working.

Now, in my defence, I’ll say the Jeopardy brain needs regular workouts.

Like the crossword brain, the more you watch or play, the better you get. Eventually you learn the Trebek cadence and little clues that help solve the puzzles.

What I can’t help thinking about, however, is I’m just dumber a decade later.

That shouldn’t happen, though, should it? I’ve got all this extra, useless information now.

It had me wondering, is my brain at 45 years old, like my eyes, thickening?

To Google.

I picked up my phone to ask the great god Google, and its first-born, Siri.

Ooh, an email just came in. Oh, an alert from the New York Times: Trump just said what?

Facebook wants to know how my day went, I should tell it. There are new missions available on Marvel: Puzzle Quest.

Forty-five minutes later, I had a new muffin recipe saved to bake for the kids, and my missions were all completed, but I wasn’t any closer to actually answering my question about old brains.

Then it hit me, my phone is killing my brain power.

I have the stats to prove it. With the latest update to Apple’s software, my phone now tells me how many hours of screen time I’m averaging, per day.

Last week, it was six hours.

Gawsh, I’m embarrassed to admit that. Sure, some of that was watching Monday Night Football (the heart wants what the heart wants), but there’s no excuse for that kind of use.

I’m addicted, and I know it.

The New York Times has been exploring this issue as it relates to kids. Because, let’s face it, it’s too late for us old timers.

The newspaper is talking a lot about parents eliminating screens from their homes and how some schools are pulling out tablets and smartboards.

You know it’s bad when the people who build the apps and tech are banning them at home.

Chris Anderson is a former editor of tech magazine Wired. He’s now CEO of a robotics company. He has five children, and he enforces 12 tech commandments on his family.

“We thought we could control it,” Anderson told the Times.

“And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centres of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”

The Times also writes of Silicon Valley nannies signing “no-tech” contracts so kids don’t see screens at all.

“The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home,” Lynn Perkins, the CEO of UrbanSitter, told the Times.

I’m amazed these parents can find anyone willing to work for them at all.

I met a family recently that just hired a nanny because mom is headed back to work.

The first question this new nanny asked? “What’s your wi-fi password?”

Our kids (and our oldest is just seven) are already battling us for more access to TV and our phones.

I'm a terrible role model. I need a flip phone, something that looks like it might cause brain cancer.

Thankfully, I won’t be in danger because nobody uses their phones to make calls anymore.

Maybe I’ll get cable again, too.

The 2020 Tournament of Champions is calling my name.

Let’s hope I still have my hearing by then.

Vegas going to pot

How hilarious is it? I flew all the way to Las Vegas to buy legal cannabis for the first time?

I mean, I didn’t fly to Las Vegas just to buy weed. We were in Vegas on holiday, and there just happened to be a dispensary between our hotel and the gift shop down the street.

With the entire world’s “eyes on Canada” because of our decision to legalize marijuana, it’s entirely ironic it wasn’t until I spent $800 on airfare and hotel accommodations that I could buy a few edibles.

Actually, it was the first time I purchased pot of any kind, legal or not, and I was curious to see what the fuss is about.

Besides, I can’t buy edibles in B.C., and I can’t speak to anyone unless I drive two hours to Kamloops.

I’ve been writing a lot about legalization for my good friend’s new website, and I really wanted to experience it firsthand.

Yes, I could have just driven to Kamloops, but my wife would have not been thrilled to spend a weekend in Kamloops celebrating our 10th anniversary.

Nevada legalized last July, so while Canada is getting all the attention, Nevada is raking in the cash. No surprise there, eh?

Walking into Essence on the Las Vegas strip was an intimidating experience.

There were no windows to see inside. It’s on the corner of a busy, six-lane intersection on the “other end” of Las Vegas Boulevard. Heck, even the door was hard to find, with the entire exterior of the building an eerie, Martian-green colour.

It wasn’t much better inside. Bare concrete walls and a security guard funneled you toward the actual dispensary and made it feel like some kind of prison. There was a line for medical users and one for recreational users.

Velvety ropes that ushered customers into the line of their choice were of little comfort. Music blared and all eyes find you as you walk into the place.

But the welcoming Essence staff compensated for the lobby’s stark, grey walls.

Once my eyes adjusted, I realized the security guard — a wisp of a girl no more than 25 years old — was dancing to that music.

The employees behind the security glass checking my ID were downright chatty.

“This is pretty intense,” my wife said.

A happy young man smiled and nodded.

“Yeah, we’ve heard other places aren’t as secure, but better safe than sorry,” he said in a voice that sounded theatre-trained.

He spotted our Canadian ID.

“Oh, congratulations!”

Americans now know at least one thing about Canada.

Once I was inside the actual dispensary, there was more to absorb.

“No cellphone use,” the doorman shouted to the steady lineup of customers. “Do not take product out of the bags.”

On our left, a row of salespeople sat behind desks waiting for medical customers.

Recreational users stood and viewed pipes, papers and product through glass cases on the right.

Nevada’s first year of pot sales (the state legalized July 1, 2017) have exceeded expectations.

Customers have spent $530 million on pot and generated $70 million in tax revenue.

It was 40 per cent more than expected.

With almost no medical users in Essence — seven of 10 Nevada customers in Year 1 were recreational — another staffer waded into the middle of the room and shouted, “Next!”

Nobody moved.

“Next! Who wants to go next?”

We raised our hands, “We’ll go next.”

“Great, come on!”

She slammed down a chair for us at an open desk, and we were welcomed again by middle-aged “Carole.”

We explained that we were curious about oils and edibles, but we are infrequent users.

I was keen to try CBD oil to help manage chronic back pain and lift my mood.

Once Carole had a handle on what she thought would interest us, we were offered an array of products to choose from.

Two staff members spent at least 15 minutes with us going over our options — and they seem unlimited.

She offered us a nifty cartridge vape system. They were sleek and easy to use, but because you can’t buy replacement cartridges in Canada, we had to pass.

We choose $24 CBD Gummiez and a $51 disposable vape pen from Experience Premium Cannabis.

With tax, it was about $80. Prices are steep, but everything in Vegas is overpriced.

We couldn’t spend much more since we were only in Vegas for a long weekend.

We would never attempt to bring it back across the border, because that would just be wrong (at least we think it would’ve been).

With our purchases in hand — and it’s cash only, by the way — Carole wished us well, and a safe return trip to Canada.

“Congratulations on legalization,” she says.

One day, maybe we’ll even have a store in Kelowna to celebrate.

More On Your Father's Side articles

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.

Previous Stories