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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.

Want more Dadosaurus Rex? Check out my facebook page www.fb.com/thedadosaur

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.

Bones in Common

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“When I see people stopped in traffic, in the check-out lane at the store, or walking down the street, I like to visualize their bones.  It helps me remember that, no matter how different we are, deep down we are all the same.”  ~My Chiropractor

No one wants to fail.  No one wants to be miserable.  No one wants to be depressed.  No one wants to have acidic relationships.  Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have been given.  We all have dreams.  We all have vision.  We all have aspirations.  We all have a past, and we all have made decisions we regret.  We all have a spark of greatness, we all have passion, and we all have hate.  We all have secrets.  We all have scars.  Each of us is different, but we are all the same.

Thanks For Adding Your Piece to the Puzzle

scan0002Whoever you are, whatever you are doing, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  For your successes, for your failures, for your imperfections.  For keeping your cool, for losing your temper, thank you.  Everything you have ever done has helped to bring the world to where it is today.  Everything so far has led up to this moment.  Your joy and your tears.  Your victories and defeats.  Your honesty, your deception, your cold silence, and your mindless chatter.

We all have regrets from the past.  We all have situations that we wish we would have handled differently.  Many of us have grievances we cannot forgive, hurts that will not heal, and events that we wish we could wipe from our memories.  Looking through the history books, we may not ever agree on who was right, and who was wrong, or which pages we would be better off without.  But can we agree that life is precious?  That existence is unspeakably astounding, and that this moment, this very moment, is beautiful?  All of those events and situations, no matter what we think of them, are a part of life.  They all had a hand in bringing about this beautiful moment, and I think they at least deserve our acceptance, if not our appreciation.  Thank you.

Those People

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I have seen a lot of blog posts and articles lately about “Those People” who don’t believe science, who avoid gluten, or who don’t get the flu shot, who use herbs instead of medicine. People who might believe in God or in gods, people who may be “Naturalists,” but they all have one thing in common: They just don’t believe in science. You know the people, they ignore irrefutable facts, and proven science. How could the hold such irrational beliefs? how could they spit in the face of science when we have all these studies with double blind control groups performed by people who have an education? How could they be so willfully ignorant?

Well I’ve got some news for you, we all have irrational beliefs. And if you think you don’t, you’re delusional. And something else, we may find out down the road (As we often do) that the logic was flawed, that the studies were bogus, that the science was misguided, and that the experts were just ordinary people who hadn’t a clue what they were talking about. We are human, we make mistakes, and none of us has all the answers. We try our hardest to examine the evidence without bias, and with an open mind, but all of us have preconceived notions, and sometimes (heaven forbid) We go with our gut, we follow our instincts, and we make a decision that may seem odd to the rest of the world.

So, as far as I am concerned, you are free to believe what you want, say what you want, eat what you want, smoke what you want, and inject yourself with what you want. But don’t expect me to be quiet when you start calling me dangerous for wanting to eat a non-gmo, organic vegetable. There is nothing scary about it, it won’t hurt you, and if it hurts me, or costs me more money, that’s my own damned business.