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Parenting With Depression: The Longest Season

I am depressed.

It’s 2017 and mental health is not supposed to be taboo anymore, yet for some reason, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still carry some shame even admitting that. I know that scientifically it’s a chemical imbalance, and I can’t just snap out of it at will. I’ve known that since I was first diagnosed around age 14 or 15. I wish that gave me some relief, but it doesn’t. I still become extremely frustrated and even angry when I don’t have full control over my feelings.

Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean I am always sad. It also doesn’t mean I can’t see all the good in my life, and that I am not appreciative of that good. Depression is like a voice whispering in your ear constantly. It tells you all the mistakes you are making, the people who are mad at you, all the ways you are useless, and all the reasons that you shouldn’t even bother. After a while it just wears you down and then on the real bad days, you believe that voice.

As I said, it’s not new for me, I have battled with depression for basically as long as I can remember in one form or another. I was diagnosed in my teen years, but the feelings didn’t start then. I always have struggled with a feeling of worthlessness or an idea that nobody actually likes me. This tends to be how my depression manifests itself, just absolutely brutal and constant self-doubt. The incessant idea that I am a burden on everyone, and they are just putting up with me out of a sense of obligation.

Luckily in recent years, my depression has been kind enough to regulate itself to mostly the winter months. This year has been more intense than I can remember in a while, but hopefully with the weather changing I will be able to get back to my more functional state. If not, I will probably have to seek out other forms of help.  I actually typed and deleted the last sentence no less than 10 times, because I didn’t want to admit in writing I might actually need help.

I have been fighting this for 20 years, and it’s still almost impossible for me to admit I can’t always do it alone. Like suffering alone is some masculine badge of honor. Yet, I still get caught in the “I don’t need any help, and it won’t help me anyway…” loop. Still, rather hypocritically, I implore anyone who needs help to go get it, it makes you a stronger person, not a weaker one.

One of the reasons I hate talking about depression is that it feels like I’m begging for reassurance. I’m not looking for that at all. In fact, when I’m at my worst, I just assume it’s all not real anyway and people are just saying nice things to me because they have to. It’s absurd, I know you don’t all hate me, and I know that I’m not totally worthless. I logically know that, but unfortunately the logic isn’t always enough.

So why am I discussing my depression now?

Well, there are a few reasons. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and hopefully this will help a little. That’s the selfish reason. I am extremely bad at actual conversations about feelings and my own mental health, so writing is the best way for me to work through these things.

More importantly, I’m a father now, and I want to talk about parenting with depression. I’m sure other fathers have gone through this, and it’s not a topic we talk about a lot. Postpartum depression has gotten a lot of press in recent years (as it should), but depression impacts dads also. As men, we tend to avoid these kinds of topics by and large; which is foolish, but that doesn’t make it any less the case.

I don’t have all the answers about parenting when you are depressed. To be frank, I don’t have a lot of answers at all. I just know that I want to be the best dad I can, even if I’m not at my best. I don’t want my daughter to see what I am going through when I’m struggling.

So, I do what I am very accustomed to doing. When my little girl is around, I block out how I am feeling and concentrate on being Dad. I force myself to go out, play, be social, and do all the normal things that anyone who has fought depression knows can become overwhelming tasks. The nice part of this story is that in turn, I tend to feel better while I am with her. She helps me be my best just by being around and being the pure embodiment of joy that she is.

The flip side of this is when I am done with these activities, I am just exhausted. Physically and mentally drained, and I don’t mean the normal way you feel after a day with your kids. I use all my energy to be my best around her, to keep up that facade. She deserves that. When I am not actively struggling with depression I have the energy to be Dad, and then also clean the house, exercise, shave, cook, and perform the other day to day tasks of adult life.

Now, I know there is another side to this. She needs to see that mental health is important, and it’s not always pleasant. As she gets older, and if she starts asking questions about depression or other mental health issues, I intend on being honest with her. I also am terrified that she will one day have to deal with this, and I hope that my experiences (and my wife’s expertise as a therapist) will allow us to spot things early and get her any help she needs. I just don’t need her seeing me at my worst at 5 years old.

I can’t do it this way forever. I know that. It’s too draining, and it’s not healthy. I owe my daughter, my wife, and even myself more than just getting by on a day to day basis. So I will do what I need to do if this doesn’t fade with the season as it tends to, and in the meantime I will do my best to be the best father I can be.

 

Kids Are Natural Protesters: Show Them How

My daughter tells a lot of stories that involve ants doing things. She just really thinks ants are cool. So yesterday, my wife finally asked her why she likes ants so much. Her response was simply “Ants are little, but when they work together they can lift really big things!” Her explanation made me smile because this is the view we need to have of our communities. We need to understand that although we are one, we are not alone.

Yesterday, millions of Americans participated in protests throughout the country to stand up for women’s rights, and the rights of all groups who fear marginalization under our new president, his cabinet, and congress. My wife and daughter were amongst the protesters, and I am proud of them both for standing up for what they believe in. I am going to try and make this politically charged topic as apolitical as possible. Instead, I will talk about why this is important for our children to see.

Kids are natural protesters. They have no qualms telling you exactly how they feel at any given time. They will protest bedtimes, meals, the color orange, etc. There is no social stigma attached to their views, and nobody to impress. They will just tell you the things they will not stand for. This gets lost on our path to adulthood.

Now I am not advocating that you get out there and protest every small thing you don’t agree with. It’s overall a good thing that sometime during our childhood that most of us learn we cannot fight everything, and the anti-broccoli movement should probably be relegated to our younger years. Selecting our points of outrage is extremely important.

What I am advocating, is not letting them lose that passion entirely. Don’t get into a place of acceptance because “That’s just the way it is…” Teach your kids that with focused energy, and some good old sweat equity, things can change. Sometimes that change is relatively easy, and they can tackle it in ways that don’t involve large scale protesting. Still, every once in a while some issues will be so egregious that you have to get out, rally, and make yourself heard.

Even if you don’t agree with the reason people are protesting, it is important that our kids understand that complacency is not the answer. We do not just accept the narrative and move on with our day to day. This isn’t just relegated to Trump and the current movements. Throughout American history, protests have been paramount to change. The Boston Tea Party,  Women’s Sufferage, Selma, etc. are predecessors to turning points in American History. People will tell you that your protests and marches don’t matter, but history tells us otherwise.

Not every battle is worth fighting, and we can’t even win all the ones that are. That being said, I still believe that if so

mething is inherently wrong enough it will change. However, it will not change without people fighting for that change. So teach your kids to stand up for what they believe in, and how to do it in a constructive manner. These causes will come up in every generation, and our kids need to know that they are not powerless, and they don’t have to sit in silence. In fact, sometimes it is their responsibility to do the opposite.

 

Five Lessons To Teach Our Kids At Home

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As parents, we are the beginning point of our child’s education. They look up to us, mimic us, and shape their worldview through our lens. Obviously, there are many other influences, and as they grow they will develop their own opinions. However, those opinions will be heavily based on the lessons and behaviors they learn from us. As a father, there are many things I cannot teach my daughter (math being a pretty big one… counting to 20 with shoes on is still pretty tough), but these are some important lessons that I want to make sure she learns at home.

5 Lessons To Teach Our Kids

 

5) Learn When to Bend… And When Not To.

As our kids grow they will start to make personal choices of what is right, what is wrong, and what is worth fighting for. With that needs to come an understanding that they will not always get their way. Compromise and discussion are going to be necessary constantly throughout their lives. As adults, we need to model that disagreement is not a bad thing. We don’t have to agree with everyone, and some people we will never agree with. Some disagreements may be insurmountable, but most are not. To make this all work, we need to show our peers the common courtesy of not starting a conversation with the idea that our wants are more important than someone else’s wants. Starting from this base level of equality makes compromise and understanding easier.

The ability to compromise has another benefit. There are certain things in this world, that cannot be compromised on. Certain places not to bend at all. If people know that we are willing to meet in the middle on most topics, then it lends a natural power to standing firm. Teach your kids when to bend, and when not to.

4) Ignorance is Never an Excuse

We live in a world of infinite information at our fingertips. Gone are the days of having to go to the library and flipping through the card catalog for answers. There is no excuse anymore for a lack of education.  I don’t mean school education (although that is extremely important), I mean the aggressive search for knowledge. We should never appear satiated, or comfortable with what we know. The most brilliant people on earth still only know the smallest fractions of what is out there.

Our kids need to see us reading, researching, and trying to understand complex problems on a wide spectrum of topics. Exploration and discovery should be encouraged constantly, and learning should be conveyed as a reward within itself. This is especially important in a world where easy answers are everywhere. Our kids will have no trouble finding someone who is willing to give them information, what they will need to do is learn how to decide which information is legitimate.

3) People are Defined by Their Actions, Everything Else is Details

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ere is a song in the play Avenue Q called “Everyone is a Little Bit Racist”. Although it is a comedic song in an over the top play, there is some truth to it. We all have our prejudices, and part of that is just being human. What is important, is how we portray these prejudices and that we are very aware of them.


Our kids are sponges, and you can be absolutely sure that they hear every comment you make within your home. More than that, they pick up on tone. If every time you talk about a certain group of people it comes with a negative connotation, that will shape them. If you group people based on race, sexuality, religion, etc. even in the most passive of ways (“Oh, well that’s how “they” behave…”) your kids will start to latch onto that as well. So be aware of yourself, and make sure your kids know the only things that define people are their words and actions. Everything else is details.

2) Be Progress

Change is not a spectator sport. There are times in everyone’s life where they see something they disagree with. These can be minor or major issues, usually they fall somewhere in between. No matter what these issues are, it is up to us to work toward the changes we want to see. Some things take small actions, and some causes are lifelong work.

The important thing is that they get involved. Let them see you volunteering your time, donating money, creating awareness, etc. Whatever the things you do in your home to create change, make sure they are part of it. That way, as they get older, progress won’t feel like something that other people do. It will be the living, breathing creature that it is. An organism fueled by people who do not sit on the sidelines.

1) Know Your Worth

I am a pretty big optimist, and I hope that comes through in my posts here. That being said, the world can be a tough place. I don’t even mean the truly horrible things. I just mean the day to day difficulties in life. Between family, friendships, relationships, money, work, etc. we all balance a huge range of responsibilities. In order to handle these aspects of life properly, we need to be confident in our decisions.

My daughter needs to know her worth so she can build this confidence in herself. Whether it is negotiating a raise at work, or deciding how she will let others treat her in personal relationships, it all comes back to a confidence in knowing you are important. She needs to be confident enough to weather her mistakes, and realize that failures do not define her… they are motivation to do better in the future.

It’s important to show your kids they are special to you, and I think most of us as parents have no issue doing that. In fact, I’m sure some non-parents would wish we took a break for a few moments from gushing about our wonderful, amazing kids (we probably won’t). The harder part is making sure they understand their worth internally. Make them see that they have power, they can stand up for themselves, and telling people that you require a certain level of respect is not selfish.

She’s worth it.

What Do We Do When The Grown Ups Are Behaving Badly?

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It’s been a while since I’ve wrote something. I’ve been feeling a little drained lately, and I’m sure it’s a combination of many things. However, I would be lying if I didn’t blame a little piece of it on the current political climate. Especially the election that is looming over our heads.

Don’t worry, this isn’t really a political post. Anyone who knows me, follows me on any social media, or basically stands within earshot of me knows where I stand. This blog isn’t a forum for that, so I will try to be as unbiased as I can.  There are plenty of well written (and less well written) articles from strong political minds on the election already. I’m more concerned about another side effect of this election. It’s how we are treating each other, and the behavior we are modeling for our kids.

For the most part, we are all behaving horribly. Obviously this does not really include everyone, but it definitely encompasses at sizable portion. I’m not claiming innocence on this either. I have said things, posted things, and spoken about people in extremely negative ways based on their political views. The fact is this election has made us act in ways we would normally never act to each other. More so than I have seen in past elections… and our kids are watching.

They may not hear every comment you make, but kids pick up a lot more than we tend to give them credit for. If they can’t understand everything you say, they can still pick out parts of it. They can also sense a tone in the house, and a constant negativity is dangerous. There are several problems with kids only hearing this mean spirited, and generally one-sided dialogue (since let’s face it, most houses are pretty one-sided in this election… there isn’t a ton of middle ground).

First, it shapes our kids views in a very lopsided way. Now, our kids are generally going to pick up our values, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, we don’t want to push them so far in one direction that they can’t consider any other point of view (this goes for most topics, sometimes a concrete answer is the only reasonable one). If we portray all other views as unequivocally false, we are doing them a disservice. This may mean there are certain topics in the future you disagree on, but that is far preferable to raising kids who will not question anything.

Second, and more importantly, we need to set an example for our kids on how to deal with people you don’t agree with. Disagreements with others can be minor, or extreme, but they will occur frequently in life. Furthermore, not only will they happen, you won’t be able to just ignore or shut out all the people you disagree with. You will have to work with them, exist with them, and many times they will be your friends.

Our kids need to know that discussion and compromise are what drives this world. This current circus is not a reasonable reflection of day to day life, and we need to be able to disagree like adults. This doesn’t mean not to stand our ground on important issues, or that our kids shouldn’t know what we think. It does mean we should at least be self aware of how we present those views, and how we portray others with conflicting views in front of our kids.

So as this election season winds down (and I promise, it will wind down), lets try to keep our actions in mind. At the very least, try and direct the outrage toward the candidates and not each other. Because just remember, when you wake up on November 9th, you will still know the same people you knew on November 8th. You will see them in the halls at work, family events, and some might even be your friends. So let’s try not to behave too badly.  I’ll see if I can take my own advice.

 

The 5 Same Conversations Every Parent is Having With Their Kids…

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My wife and I took our daughter to a kids theme park last weekend. She had a lot of fun, and apparently cannot get enough roller-coasters or thrill rides in her little four year old life, granted they were kiddo sized rides, but those spinning turtles were more intense than I expected…

As we were wandering around the park, I realized something that amused me. Most of the kids were between about 3 and 8 years old, and many times throughout the weekend I could hear the conversations between them and their parents. After hearing two days of these back and forths, I realized every parent is having the same conversations with their kids… all the time.

There are basically five different conversations, and every parent seems to be having one of these all the time. So from my detailed field research (AKA a weekend at Storyland), I present…

The 5 Same Conversations Every Parent is Having With Their Kids…

1) “You have to eat something”

I have heard of these mythical children who eat without prompting. I am sure that somewhere out there this unicorn of a child exists, and my greatest jealousy extends to this child’s parents. However, for the rest of us, there is a constant conversation around eating. There are variations on the topic, I’m sure, but in my house it tends to go something like this…

Me: “It’s lunch time what do you want to eat?”

Child: “I don’ttttt knoowwwww…”

Wife (having totally given up hope of raising this kid on all organic brussel sprouts): “You can have mac and cheese or chicken nuggets”

Child: “A hotdog!”

Me: “That’s not a thing we have today… you can have that tomorrow”

Child: “Fine… Chicken nuggets!”

Wife: “Will you actually EAT them?”

Child: “Yep!”

(Fast forward what feels like 17 hours)

Me: “You have eaten one bite… I need you to eat more.”

Child: “How many more bites?”

Wife: “Eat three nuggets, PLEASE”

Child: “Okkkkk, three bites!”

Me: “Noooooooo… mommy said three nuggets”

Child: “Onnnnnnnnne nugget?”

Me: “Just eat child…”

Child: “I need something to dip them in… and some chocolate milk.”

(Continue on repeat until child finishes several nuggets, or we have to leave for her to start college. Whichever comes first…)

2) “Please Hurry Up!”

Nobody procrastinates like kids do. They are absolutely amazing at drawing a simple task out as long as humanly possible. They will talk about the task, sing about the task, ask for help with the task they have done themselves no less than 273 times this month already. It is truly a wonder to behold.

Parent: “Will you please (insert random task here)?”

Child: “OK, I need to do just one more thing first”

Parent: “Fine, do your last thing”

*Child proceeds picks up some random thing they haven’t played with since the Jurassic Era*

Parent: “Ok, now please go (random task)”

*Child proceeds to move in the slowest method possible in the vague direction of the task*

Parent: “Please hurry, we have to be at (irrelevent event to the child) soon.”

Child (while ceasing all motion): “Are we going to see my cousin today?”

Parent: “What? No, now go do (random task you wish you never brought up in the first place, but now totally have to follow through on, because that highly recommended  parenting book you bought two years ago made a strong point about making sure if you ask your kid to do something that it really needs to get done).”

*Child resumes crab walking backwards at .7 mph on the way to the task.*

3) “Do you need to go to the bathroom?”

As any parent knows, no child will go to the bathroom until the least opportune moment. Usually as far from a rest stop as possible on a long car ride. So what do we have to do as parents? We end up having conversations about the bathroom basically non-stop all day, so that we can plant the idea of the next bathroom break in their little heads.

Parent: “Do you need the bathroom?

Child: “No! I just went!”

Parent: “You went before lunch, it’s 3:45… Do you need to go?

Child: “No, I am fine.”

Parent: “Can you please try?”

Child: “Noooo! I’m fine.”

Parent: “You are absolutely sure?”

Child (disgusted that parent would think for a second that THEY of all people would need the bathroom): “YES! I’M FINE!”

*Parent gives up, and foolishly believes child*

Parent: “OK, it’s a short car ride, when we get there it’s the first thing you need to do”

Child: “okkkkkkkk….”

(6 Minutes later, exactly halfway through the car ride)

Child: “I HAVE TO GO POTTY!”

4) “I need you to try it.”

With rare exception, kids view all new things as evil. Food, activities, tv shows/movies, etc. They want to have or do the thing they have done a million times before. As parents we need them to try new things, for several reasons. The largest being the constant cycle of the same three foods and shows will drive even the most patient of parents completely nuts.

Parent: “I need you to try this new (noun), you’ll like it.”

Child: “I don’t like (noun), I want (usual noun)!”

Parent: “Just try it, you can’t know you don’t like things if you haven’t tried them.”

Child (Dodging this logic like Muhammad Ali dodging jabs): “BUT I DON’T LIKE IT!”

Parent: “Please try it, if you don’t like it, you can have the old (noun).”

Child: “FINE… I will TRY it!”

*Child proceeds to enjoy all of new (noun)*

Parent (Totally looking for an “I told you so” moment): “So, did you like it?”

Child: “I liked it… a littttlllleee.”

5) “Stop it”

Parent: “I need you to stop it.”

Child: “But I want to…”

Parent: “No, just stop it, you can’t (Pick all that apply: Lick the ground, Hang on my arm, kick your sister, ask the same question 28 times in a row, run near the pool, paint the cat, start a campfire in the dining room, sell military secrets to the enemy, do jumping jacks on the stairs, juggle knives, etc.)”

Child: “FINE!”

*Child proceeds to do another activity, that is somehow even less reasonable than the first*

Parent: “Stop doing that too!”

Child: “UGHHHH! WHAT CAN I DO?”

3 Frustrating Views of Dads and Fatherhood

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There have been a lot of articles that talk about gender roles, mom’s role, dad’s role, dinner rolls, etc. A lot of positive change has come from these discussions, and men have benefited a lot from it as well. Dad’s no longer have to be the stoic, hard as a rock figure of the mid 1900’s. We can have a softer side as well… although my wife would still probably tell you I’m about as good at talking about feelings as I am at figure skating. With that in mind I just wanted to address a few persistent views and ideas about dads that can be very frustrating.

3 Frustrating Views of Dads and Fatherhood

3) Doing Menial Things Does Not Make Me a Great Dad

Like most people, I like a compliment. I certainly like to be told I’m doing a good job raising my daughter if the situation warrants it. However, I don’t need to be complimented for the day to day things that simply make me a dad. Not a great dad, just a dad. I have been called a great dad for taking my daughter to the mall, taking her for dinner, going to the playground, and a myriad of other day to day activities. When she was a baby I got complimented for changing her diaper… what was I going to do just leave her filthy until we got back to mom?

Look, I understand this comes from a good place, but the reason I took my  kid to the mall is probably because I couldn’t take another episode of Team Umizoomi, and if I took her out to eat it might be because the idea of making dinner was simply too much for me to handle after a day of work. I love spending time with my daughter, but achieving the basic level of fatherhood of “leaving the house with my kid” is not a measurement of greatness. Also, you only get these compliments when mom isn’t around, like people are shocked dad can handle the kids without her.

So thank you for the compliment, but really, I’m not great for not being terrible.

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“OH GOD… NOT AGAIN, GET IN THE CAR.”

2) You Cannot Babysit Your Own Kids

Babysit: (verb): to take care of a child while the child’s parents are away.

That is the Merriam-Webster definition of babysitting. It is actually impossible for a father to babysit their own kids. Yet, I hear it all the time. I admit this one is just a personal pet peeve, and maybe I overreact to it, but it conveys this weird idea that dad watching the kids is some sort of chore. Sometimes I hear dad’s say this and it makes me cringe, but more often it’s directed at them from other people.

I cannot babysit my own daughter any more than I can steal my own car. I am watching my daughter, or I am spending time with my daughter, or I am just being dad. I am not babysitting my own daughter. Please stop calling it this.

1) We’re Inept or We Don’t Care

I blame this significantly on the trope of the TV Dad who never gets anything right. However, dad’s are constantly portrayed as bumbling idiots who can barely put their pants on let alone raise kids. If mom leaves the kids will get fed (it might be a Dad Lunch… see what I did there?), they will get to bed, and they will probably have no more than 3-4 colors of paint in their hair.

We love our kids. We do the best we can, and although in most families, mom is a bit more put together, leaving the kids with dad isn’t some massive disaster waiting to happen. They might just end up watching Star Wars and eating ice cream for dinner.

Good News is No News

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The last few days have been tough. The shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police and the subsequent killing of five police officers in Dallas is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed and sick. We are only a few weeks removed from the Orlando massacre, and terrorist attacks and bombings from all over the world are a constant reminder of the terrible capabilities of people to hurt and destroy each other.

In the wake of all this I’ve seen a lot of people offer sentiments of helplessness for themselves, their friends, their children, and their future children. I understand why people feel this way, and I understand the sadness. These events are absolutely horrible. However, we need to remember something important while being constantly bombarded by these awful stories.

Good news is no news. There is a lot of good in this world, in our immediate lives, and on a more global scale. However, the stories of good people, doing good things will never be the headline. If we’re lucky, positive human accomplishment gets a footnote on a blood splattered front page full of atrocities and monstrous acts.  Good news won’t be what fills your Facebook or Twitter pages. Because with the current state of social media and the 24 hour news cycle, “If it bleeds it leads…” has really mutated into “If it bleeds it feeds…”

Don’t let this be your definition of humanity. While we are all mourning those lost in these horrific events of the last few months, just try to keep in mind the stories that nobody writes. Nobody writes a news story about the teacher staying after school to help a kid learn, the doctor doing pro-bono work for the needy, the person volunteering their weekend day to help at the local animal shelter, or the next generation running around on the playground without even the slightest concern for their peers race, religion, or who they will date in the future.  There is good in every community in ever nook and cranny of this world.

With all this being said, we have an obligation. We owe this world and the people in it kindness, decency, a helping hand, and whatever else we can do to create a little more beauty in the wake of the ugliness. You cannot fix the world. Terrible people will do terrible things until the end of time. However, you can try to fix your world. We can all make the day to day a little better for those around us.  If the macro is overwhelming and paralyzing, focus on the micro.

The world is beautiful, people are beautiful. The ugly doesn’t get to win.

DadLunch Goes To The Movies: A “Finding Dory” Review

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I am a pretty big fan of Pixar. They have a knack for combining good stories with amazing animation. Some of their movies are more kid oriented than others, and “Finding Dory” absolutely falls into that camp. There are none of the gut wrenching scenes from “Up” here, nor is there any real underlying message about our world like in “Wall-E”. Instead we get a kids movie that goes on a little too long, and didn’t quite capture me like a lot of Pixar films. It’s not unpleasant, or bad, but it does almost drift into unnecessary. For those that somehow cannot guess how this movie ends, there are spoilers ahead.

The movie starts with a quick recap of “Finding Nemo”, but quickly gets us up to speed. The movie takes place one year after the prior movies events, but really that doesn’t matter at all. I guess a year in the life of a few fish is largely nondescript. The story starts when Dory quickly realizes she had a family, and decides she needs to go find them. This epiphany is told mostly via flashback of little Dory playing with her parents, and learning to deal with her short term memory loss. Instead of a being a minor part of the first movie, her memory is basically a non-stop plot point. Frankly by the end, I felt like this is what would happen if Memento took place in the ocean.

Once Dory figures out she was born in California she quickly, and I mean very quickly, travels across the ocean. We get to see the surfer turtles from the first movie briefly, which was fun fan service, and before we know it she is going back to Cali (pretty sure all kids movie reviews require LL Cool J references). Once Dory arrives, she finds out she was born in an exhibit of a sea life preserve. I’m not sure why they went this route, but it worked, and there is a pretty funny voice over cameo that I won’t spoil.

The story kinda splits here, one half follows Dory’s adventures with a surly Octopus trying to get to Cleveland (even an invertebrate should know better), and the other half follows Marlin and Nemo trying to find Dory. We get introduced to an odd bird named Becky… mostly funny because it’s my sister’s name, some sea lions, and various other characters.

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Thank you Pixar from the bottom of my heart, for naming this bird Becky.

My main issue is that none of these characters are very memorable. They more function as deus ex machina devices to move our characters from one situation to the next. Even Dory’s octopus companion falls a little flat as far as sidekicks go. He just never really made much impact to me. Nothing is wrong with him, and there’s a laugh or two, but he never quite connected. To be honest, I can’t even remember his name.

In the end Dory believes in herself (over and over again… and again… and again… and you get the point), and finds her parents who are overjoyed to see her. Obviously, she remembers something in order to do this, and the reunion is a nice uplifting kid movie moment. This leads into a completely absurd ending sequence involving an octopus stealing a truck, and crashing it back into the ocean complete with Louie Armstrong singing. It works about as well as it reads, and feels like the writers kinda ran out of story to tell.

If it comes off like I am trashing the film, it’s not really my intent. It’s a fun and light romp through a beautifully animated ocean world, but I just hold Pixar to a pretty high standard (Cars franchise excluded, sometimes you just have to sell a billion dollars in merchandise… I get it). Finding Dory just never quite got there for me. My daughter enjoyed it, but I don’t think she was enamored, and even remarked she like Nemo better.

All in all, if you need to occupy the kids for a few hours on a rainy day, by all means go see the movie. You won’t be mad you did. I just don’t really think you’ll be thrilled you did either.

Overall DadLunch Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Please Teach Your Son, So I Don’t Have to Warn My Daughter

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Note: I know there are victims of both genders, and I’m not discounting that. This article was written based on the more common situations that occur. Also, I was told this should have a trigger warning, so continue with that in mind. I promise to go back to writing about something lighter next time like vomit and screaming four year olds…

As a dad, there are a lot of lessons I look forward to teaching my daughter. Lessons in being kind, lessons in the importance of education, lessons on how to improve the world around us, and many more along life’s path. However, there is one thing I will never teach my daughter. I will not teach my daughter how to avoid being raped.

I cannot teach her this lesson for a simple reason. My daughter cannot avoid being raped, because being raped is not something the victim holds any control over. To teach her that she can avoid being raped, makes a fraction of the responsibility of being raped owned by her. My daughter owns none of this risk. One person is responsible for any rape, the rapist.

Instead, I will warn my daughter. I will warn her of some dangerous situations, and some actions of others to be leary of. I will warn her that some people will take advantage of people unable to defend themselves, and that some people are capable of terrible things. The problem is she cannot stop these people… all she can do is be aware.

For now, I can be aware for her. It’s heartbreaking that I even have to even at her age. However, as my daughter gets older, she has to be aware. I will not be there all the time to protect her. She will have to be aware at every party she goes to. She will have to be aware on long walks home, especially if she is alone. Sometimes she even will even have be aware in the places she will feel most comfortable, and she will have to be aware of people she thinks are friends, but are really looking for opportunities to betray her trust.

So I have a request to the other parents out there. Since I cannot teach my daughter, please teach your son. Teach your son one simple concept. Teach him that my daughter is his equal. She is a person with her own goals, dreams, desires, feelings, likes, and dislikes. Teach him that she doesn’t owe him anything other than a common politeness we should all have for each other. Teach him to be a man that can be counted on if someone needs help. Not a vulture looking to feed off the temporarily helpless. Teach him that women are going to be his friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, and in some situations more than that.

Finally, please teach him that “no” means “no” and furthermore the absence of “yes”, is a “no”. That “no” is not a negotiation or a game. That “no” could hurt his feelings, and it could damage his pride. I promise that he will recover. However, that “no” is my daughter’s right. It’s a barrier that she can put up whenever she needs to. Please teach him that barrier is never to be crossed under any circumstances.

Please teach your son, so in the future, some father somewhere won’t have to warn his daughter.

Breastfeeding in Public: When Did We Lose Our Minds?

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We, as a nation, have lost our minds about breastfeeding. Specifically the act of breastfeeding in public. I don’t remember when a mother breastfeeding their child in public became an issue. Maybe I wasn’t as sensitive to it before I was a father, or maybe it’s just been pushed to the forefront lately by our obsession with outrage for the sake of outrage in this country. I’m not sure which of these is the case (likely it’s a combination of both), but I figured I’d give one dad’s view on breastfeeding in public.

So, what do I know about breastfeeding? I know my wife did it for two years, and as far as I’m concerned it was an important part of my daughter’s development. I believe a kid can be raised perfectly healthy without breastfeeding, but it’s what worked best in my little family. I also know that she breastfed basically everywhere on the planet (my personal favorite being while actually standing in line at the Boston Aquarium… that was impressive). Lastly, I know that it was really difficult both physically and mentally.

She would be sore if my daughter had not eaten recently, or she would be sore if she ate too much. Sometimes my daughter would only eat from one side, and my wife would almost be in tears until she could pump the other side. It was a never ending, and impossible balancing act. Especially during the first 6 months or so.

Mentally it would be taxing as well.  She never thought she had done enough, or she would be upset if my daughter had not eaten well. Since my daughter was so little, my wife would be constantly on edge about how much milk she actually got. Furthermore, if pumped milk was wasted or went bad she would be extremely upset (her running quote was “Anyone who says you can’t cry over spilled milk, has never pumped”).

The point of the above paragraphs  isn’t just to glow about how strong and amazing my wife was (and is). It’s to provide context to the breastfeeding in public discussion. The point is that breastfeeding is hard enough without women worrying about being lashed out against in the event they need to feed their child outside of their home.

The main arguments I see against public breastfeeding all seem to come back to the idea that exposed breasts in public for the purpose of breastfeeding are in some way obscene. This obscenity can offend people, or possibly distract others. These arguments are crafted in slightly different variations, but it all comes down to the idea that there is some sexual connotation to breast feeding.

I want to be clear on this, because it is so ridiculous to me. There is nothing sexual about breastfeeding. It is not a sexual act in anyway, the nudity associated with it is not sexual, and it’s not a woman’s fault if you cannot handle something less revealing than a Calvin Klein ad. I’m not saying somebody somewhere doesn’t have a thing for seeing women do this, but if we are going to base societal norms off of corner case scenarios and fractions of a fraction of our population; then we are going to have a major problem.

I have also seen arguments that it is gross, entitled, a liberal agenda, etc. These arguments range from misinformed to absurd. Breastfeeding is not dirty, and breastfeeding mom’s are not, in any significant number, taking some kind of political stand. That last part I can guarantee, because as new parents they are way to tired to fight causes.

All joking aside, the bottom line is this, of all the things to rally against, a mother feeding a hungry baby is such a non-issue. It’s a foolish stance, and wreaks of the outrage obsessed society we have found ourselves in today. I encourage anyone who has made this their hill to die on to really reconsider where they are placing their energy. Still, the nice thing is that if someone is breastfeeding in public and it offends you, there is a really simple way to avoid it… Don’t look.

With all this in mind, I thought that as a handy reference sheet I would compile a list of places it is appropriate for a mother to breastfeed in public and all the places it is not. Feel free to consult it later if you are confused as to what is acceptable behavior.

SOME PLACES A MOTHER CAN REASONABLY BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC:

Park Bench, Clothing Store, Restaurant, Playground, Front Porch, Sporting Event, Parked Car, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Church/Temple, Supermarket, Space Station, Library, Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, Etc.

PLACES IT IS TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR A MOTHER TO BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC:

Your lap.