There’s More Than One Way To Draw A Person

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A recent piece of artwork from Pterodactyl (4)

On my first day of art class in elementary school, I died a little inside.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect, but at the time it was soul-crushing.

I was sitting at the long wooden table with my classmates, filled with excitement.  I already enjoyed drawing, coloring, and creating, so I figured this would be my favorite class.  Our first assignment was to fold a sheet of paper in half and draw a person on it.  No other directives or instructions, just draw a person.  Great.  I got this.  I took my time, paying attention to every detail.  Face.  Clothing.  Appendages.  Hair.  Yes!  What a work of art.  I sat in awe of my creation.

For the next half of the assignment, we were told to flip our papers over, and the teacher would now show us the correct way to draw a person.  Circles.  Rectangles.  Ovals.  Measuring.  Erasing.  Re-drawing.  Erasing.  Erasing.  (for some reason I could never get those blasted erasers to work, they just left gray smudges all over my paper).  We then opened up the paper, so we could see both drawings at the same time, and the teacher explained to us why and how our first drawing was rubbish, and the second drawing was phenomenal.

What would possess a person to make a career out of crushing children’s creativity?  And how boring would this planet be if we took these people seriously?  All four of my children love drawing, and each have their own unique style (and yes their own way of drawing a person!).  They also enjoy exploring new techniques, and learning different methods.  But I couldn’t imagine telling them that there is a right and wrong way of creatively expressing themselves.

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11 Reasons You Should Stop Reading Clickbait Articles (Number 3 will make you shit your pants)

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Clickbait is still a thing.  So many blogs and news websites I visit have that hideous column that re-uses the same photo-shopped pictures and ridiculous headlines.  And do you know what that tells me?  It works.  People are clicking on that crap and these websites are somehow making money off of it.  There are so many people putting their heart and soul into adding valuable content to the internet, and you would rather look at the worst the internet has to offer.  Shame on you.

1.  The content rarely lives up to the title.

2.  It’s all crap you’ve seen before

3.  They make empty promises (Notice the lack of feces in your pants)

4.  The lists are often repetitive

5.  If the article had a normal title you probably wouldn’t read it

6.  A lot of times there are identical items listed twice

7.   If you keep clicking on it, they’ll keep making it, and the madness will never stop

8.  You would be embarrassed if your boss walked in and saw you reading that tripe

9.  They are often redundant

10.  I asked you nicely.  That should be enough

11.  You seriously don’t have anything better to do?  What is wrong with you?

My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.

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Replacing Your Unfounded Parenting Fears With Empathy for Your Child

If I had to sum up what is wrong with our society in one sentence it would be this:  “Too much fear, and not enough empathy.”  This is especially true in our dealings with children.  I struggled for far to long (and still do at times) with the misguided and unfounded fears of parenting.

What if someone yells at my child?
What if he turns out to be ungrateful?
What if people think I am a bad parent?

All these concerns are not centered around the well being of my child, but my own personal fears, prejudices, and desire for comfort.

I strive now to replace these with more important questions.

What is best for my child?
How must my child be feeling in this situation?
What might she be thinking?
How would I feel if it was me?

Being empathetic toward your children not only allows you to care for and protect our societies most vulnerable individuals, but also shows your child the importance of being compassionate.  It empowers them, and helps them to realize that it is okay to have feelings and emotions, and they are not something to be afraid of, hidden, bottled up, or dismissed.  It creates a healthy environment where burdens are shared collectively, and conflicts are resolved respectfully.

Conversely, hitting, time-outs, yelling, control, bribery and artificial rewards (which in my experience are almost always rooted in fear) let children know that their feelings are unimportant and insignificant.  Children learn to keep their emotions, desires, and thoughts to themselves.  Either out of fear of being labeled a whiner (or worse), or simply because they don’t think anyone cares.

Daddy, Why Aren’t You Helping Me?

When I was a new father my wife and I lived quite far from our families.  We made a trip to our home town when our first child was about a year old.  Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were excited to see her.  So when someone reached to take her, I gave her up right away.  She grabbed onto my shirt and started to cry, but was pulled away into the arms of someone who to her was a stranger.  She looked at me, confused at first, then her eyes filled with terror as she continued to cry and reach out to me.  My family assured me that this is just what kids do, and you have to let them cry sometimes.  But she wasn’t “just crying,” She was telling me something.  She was trying to communicate.  “I’m scared, daddy,”  “I don’t know what’s going on,” “I’m not sure who these people are,” “Daddy, why aren’t you helping me?”  But her pleas fell on deaf ears.  I did not want to make waves or upset my family.  What would they think of me or say about me if I wouldn’t allow them to hold my child?  I figured it wouldn’t do much harm, so I did my best to ignore her crying.  My wife, however, did not share this sentiment.  She put our daughters needs before her own fears, and refused to ignore her desperate cries.

The Result?  I severely damaged the relationship I had been building with my daughter, and she learned that she couldn’t trust me.  She didn’t feel safe with me anymore.  For some time after if I was holding her, and something made her feel uncomfortable, she would seek out my wife, someone she knew would listen and understand.  Someone she could trust.

Even though a lot has changed since then, we still don’t live in a perfect house where it’s all daisy chains and unicorns.  We are haunted by the ghosts and scars of fear and control.  But every day we increase the love, the compassion, the respect, and the empathy, and every day we grow a little closer.

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BREAKING NEWS: Portland Diner Owner Comforts Toddler

Breakfast PancakesA few days ago the owner of a diner in Portland Maine took it upon herself to yell at a one year old who was crying too loudly.  She admits, however, that the biggest issue was the parents ordering the child (who she refers to as “it”) “3 fucking pancakes.”  It took forty minutes for the pancakes to be served, and when they finally did arrive, the owner suggested that they take the pancakes to go.  When they didn’t take her suggestion, she began to yell at the child.

The mother left a bad review on the restaurant’s Facebook page (for obvious reasons), to which the owner responded with a psychotic rant. (You can check out the full story, as well as screen shots of the Facebook review and response here)

In the wake of this nonsense, there has been an outpouring of support.  Not for the family, or the child, but for the owner of the diner.  Her Facebook page has gone from a little over 1000 likes to over 40, 000 in a matter of days.  They have also received 11,000 5 star reviews from people across the country and the globe.

I was shocked that the vast majority of the comments were  bashing the parents and praising the owner, and I didn’t know what to make of it.  My friend Josh Spicer at DaddyEngine summed it up quite nicely, “What the past few months online have taught me is that hate sells.”  It makes me wonder what would have happened had the story played out differently.

I don’t think, “Portland Diner Owner Comforts Toddler” is a headline you will ever read.  Had the owner made an effort to connect with the parents, or comfort the toddler, given her some crayons, or offered something else to eat while she waited for the pancakes, we never would have heard anything about it.  On the off chance that someone did decide to write about it, no one would care.  There would be no outpouring of “likes” there would be no avalanche of reviews, there would be no one calling the woman a hero, or making plans for a visit to Portland.

How sad it is that in our society hatred is idolized and encouraged, and kindness is ignored.

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UPDATE:  The Washington Post has now posted an article written by the mother, giving her side of the story.  You can read it here.  After it was published, the pendulum started swinging the other way in the review section of the Marcy’s Diner Facebook page.  There are still far more “5-stars” than “1-stars” but there is not nearly as much as a disparity as there had been.