Uffda: Interjection signifying exhaustion, weariness, resignation, or overwhelm, especially used by those of Norwegian descent; see 'oofda'. (The Norwegian-American slang equivalent of the Yiddish term oy.) Black: Me
This is my son’s doll. He is very protective of her and demands that she is in bed with him at night. I don’t care that he has a doll, I am just glad he has a sensitive side.
The ladies love a sensitive man.
This post from four years ago set off a friendly debate amongst people who read my social media post.
A little background:
Before my son was born, both of my daughters had an American Girl doll. They promised anything and everything to have one, and when they received it, my wife and I were the best parents ever. But soon after, as with all toys, they lost interest. Sure, they took it to bed with them at night, but months after purchase, it was not cared for with the same love that they once had.
Enter my son. He found the discarded doll and really took to her. He named her after a newborn who attended his same daycare. He took care of her and demanded that she be in bed with him at night.
I am not going to get deep into the whole men vs. women, boys vs. girls, gender roles arguments, but I did have some takeaways from witnessing this experience:
It brought him closer to his mother: Every night when she would tuck him into bed. He would talk to her about his doll. She would talk to him about what his doll would like to do when they both woke up in the morning. She would talk to him about treating that doll with respect, often asking if that doll would appreciate him acting in a negative way.
It prepared him for any future younger siblings/younger playmates at daycare: We were not sure if we were going to have any other kids (we did), but we did know that there were younger children at daycare. So, we used the doll as a tool to show him how to care for a baby. Many times, he would gently rock the doll to sleep, exclaiming, “It’s okay,” only to drop the doll on its head when he felt his job was complete minutes later. We were able to show him that a baby is something to be continuously cared for.
It made him soft: Yes, I said soft. But really, what in the hell is wrong with that? There are definitely worse things that could happen to a young boy. I highly doubt that having a soft spot for a favorited doll is one of them.
You are the kid that does not have to newest gadgets.
You are the kid that has to check in all of the time.
Sorry, Kid, but your Dad is an asshole.
It is not that I am trying to be mean to you, really it isn’t. It is the fact that I believe that everything should come in its own time. You do not have to grow up too fast, you do not have to get everything quickly, and you do not have to make the right decisions all of the time. And that is the thing, you are not equipped to handle a society that will hold you accountable for your actions. You are not equipped for a society that will record you, store the video, and bring it out to use against you thirty years later when you are being considered for a career. The world is not that same as it was 10 or 20 years ago – the level of personal accountability has been heightened.
You want to be out a few more hours past curfew? No!
You want to host a sleepover? Uh-uh.
You want the newest cell phone? HELL NO!
I am sorry that you have to be asked, “What’s with your dad?” or “Why is he so mean?” On second thought, screw that – I am not sorry. I am not their parent!
You have parents who are highly involved in your life, you Lucky Duck. I cannot control what you do when you leave the nest; but, I hopefully have some sort of influence on how you choose to live your life after you leave it. I am your parent and I take that role seriously because I have a sole duty to society to place a responsible, resilient, and reliable person who carries my last name amongst the community.
It may seem like I am doing this to punish you; but, believe it or not, I am doing this our of love.
And some fear. Lots of fear.
Fear of you being in the headlines. Fear of being a part of a scandal. And I’ll admit — fear of someone saying, “Where were the parents?”
Think of your mother’s heart.
Now, go play outside and have your ass in here before the street lights come on.
Prerequisite: Watch the Blackish Episode “Chop Shop”
Today, my kids experienced something that took them out of their comfort zone. Something that is their birthright. Something that I got to experience as a child and hold dear to me to this day. Today, I took the kids to The Barber Shop.
We are not talking to any barber shop. No. We are talking about Thee Barber Shop. A place that is a staple in the community. A place where people congregate to talk about a plethora of topics that may have nothing to do with hair – regardless of education (or actual knowledgebase of any particular subject). A place that is the center of fashion, social status, and well-being. A place where it is okay to own your individual style (especially if you are able to take some shit from everyone because of that style).
What my kids walked into that day was a venue like no other. They had no idea of the type of culture that existed in front of them. Laughter, loudness, languages, and hair. Braids, tapers, edges, fades, and braids. Hair lotions, spritzes, sprays, and gold chains. The smell of burnt African ancestral hair everywhere. They stood there, looking around – astonished and wide-eyed. And I, well I stood there like a proud father who had just walked his kids into Disneyland.
A taste of my childhood.
As per custom, simply walking into The Shop initiated the rituals of salutations – Acknowledging everyone in the building. There were enough pounds, head nods, daps, points in the direction of, and “wassups” to go around. As I turned around, I noticed the look on my kids’ faces, they now saw me as some type of celebrity.
“Do you even know these people?”
“Some. But that doesn’t matter when you are in The Shop. Everyone gets some sort of acknowledgement.”
We managed to find a place to sit down. As usual the place was damn-near standing room only.
“Walk in, or appointment?”
You damn right appointment. I sure-as-shit know better than to walk in an establishment such as this without an appointment unless I had half of the day to wait for an open seat. Don’t get me wrong, if you got the time, the barbershop is the place to sit and bullshit and/or catch the game, whether you need a haircut that day or not was of no importance. The wait was well worth it if you had a favorite barber. Plus, that kind of wait speaks to the quality of the shop. Longer wait = better haircuts.
“Dad, why do you have a winter cap on your head?”
I believe that this would be the perfect time for us to discuss barber shop etiquette. When at the shop, you:
do not switch barbers within the same shop. You must stick with the barber that cuts your hair. If you decide to switch to a different barber, know that your actions are giving a clear sign that you think that he or she sucks. This will diminish your loyalty in the entire shop. Now, every barber within the shop will look at you with a side eye.
always tip your barber. If you don’t have time to sit, make an appointment. But, if you tip your barber well, he or she will have your back when you are in a bind.
never, ever, ever (ever, ever, ever) come inside the shop with a fucked-up hairline. At 38, my hairline runs faster than I do, so I save the money and shave it bald myself. I wore a winter cap because I wasn’t about to be the subject of ridicule on that day, or any other.
“It’s because your hairline is messed up, isn’t it?”
She got me.
I was not going to honor that with an answer. She knew what the problem was. The asshole smirk she gave me — my asshole smirk that I give out regularly — was very telling.
My son was called up to his seat. Having had his hair cut before at this shop, he was somewhat of a veteran.
He was still clearly out of his element. Every time he would look up, he would give me a nervous half-smile as if he were saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I can do this…” But it seemed too much for his anxiety.
“Why is he making that face?”
Twenty minutes later – a quick cut by any means, being that hairline perfection and presentation is key, and conversations are to be had both by barber and those in the vicinity – my son hopped off from the chair with a fresh cut that made him look much older, and much cuter.
A couple of events happened to me this month that made me think twice about parenting in the age of technology:
First, I have noticed that three out of four of my children are entranced with their electronic devices. My son has found himself needing to check the status of his eggs and/or fight other creatures on a dragon game that he is playing. He is absolutely hooked. As soon as he gets home from school, he disappears. To where? Some corner of the house to be left alone until, hours later, he realizes that he has not eaten anything.
Daughter #1 is kicked back in her room watching stupid (so, so stupid) Youtube videos that challenge viewers not to laugh (I laugh) on her Ipod (Yes, an Ipod. She is the only one in her class that does not have a cell phone – and believe me, she is pissed; but that is for a different post). Meanwhile, Daughter #2 has watched every kid Netflix movie and/or show that ever created and has now started to re-watch them.
They are totally different people when those devices are in their hands. Heaven forbid their dear, loving parents ask them to do any chores. Those requests are met with tears, eyerolls, and under-breath mumbles as they begrudgingly fulfill their duties that are their only requirement to be granted sustenance, safety, and sustainability by us. I understand that there are stages of child development, but this seems like something more.
So, as a trained researcher, I take to the computer to do discover a fix. I know, How ironic — I use technology to fix the technology problem in my home. Save it. Anyway, I came across a multitude of research about both the positives and negatives of technology on children’s brains.1
So, what are you going to do about it, you ask?
I am going to take all of their devices away, at least for now. I’ll take charge of my household. I’ll show them.
Genius! On its face…
What ensues is both interesting and sad. My kids, as multi-talented as they come, had no idea what to do with themselves. Seriously! They either walked around the house like lost puppies trying to find their owner; or, they stared at us parents with those big, sad eyes that screamed, “Help us!” I did not know whether to feel sorry for them or send them to bed. Each suggestion we gave was met with wailing and the gnashing of teeth.
Luckily, by the end of the night, the drama subsided and they found marker and paper and started drawing, not well by any means, but drawing nonetheless.
The second event involved me stopping by the local hobby shop to look for a possible Christmas present for my son (Afro #3). When I walked in the store, I immediately knew that I was going to blow a lot of money. I was totally overtaken by nostalgia – remote control cars, boats, planes, slot cars, and model sets – all things that I grew up with. Things that defined my childhood!
THE THINGS THAT MADE ME THE NERD THAT I AM TODAY!
But, as I was reliving my childhood and contemplating my future credit card bill, I notice something – there were not many people in the store. In fact, for the thirty-or-so minutes that I was in the store, I had notice 3 other people (not counting me and the two employees) in the entire store. One of them, I am sure, walked in by mistake but pretended to look interested out of pity.
“Slow day?” I asked.
“This is how it has been since the ‘beep, boop, beep, craze.” (gyrating his thumbs in a Gameboy motion).
“Wow, that is sad. There is really a lot of cool stuff in here.”
“Yeah, these things are just not as popular as they used to be.”
It then hit me… My children have no hobbies for themselves. They don’t have that one thing that they depend on to keep them busy when they have nothing else to do and are bored.
If you are reading this article, you are most likely old enough to remember a time when your parents told you to “Go away and find something to do.” Full disclosure, I have not researched this thoroughly, but It seems as though our parents were giving us the gift of finding our inner nerd when they would tell us to “get out of their hair.”
Don’t act like I was the only one!
When my parents were too busy to entertain me, I built Legos, played with my action figures, delved into my collection of comic books, or played with my remote control/slot cars. All things that are not as popular now as they once were. But why? Where did all of the nerds go?
Did technology kill imagination? I mean… I don’t think so, but I do think that technology cannot survive without discipline. It seems that it is way more than a coincidence that my kids were hooked on technology and once that was taken from them, they were in a state of confusion.
Here is the conundrum:
Hobbies help kids learn by doing, test the limits of their success, and provide an remedy for boredom.
Electronic devices help kids research, provide instant answers to questions/issues kids may have while also combating boredom.
“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling
A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.
Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.
I honestly hope you don’t make the team.
Bear with me…
Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.
That being said…
If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…
Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.
Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.
Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.
So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.
For the record:
Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…
“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team. We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision.
We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.