Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dad vs Parent??

So I'm really good at being a dad, but I'm horrible at being a parent. What am I talking about? Well I'm glad you asked.

Being a dad.
I think being a dad includes taking care of Ben. Feeding him, changing his diaper, playing with him. Basically keeping him alive and safe. Keeping him clean and also making him happy while teaching him things. Direct interaction with Ben. I'm awesome at that.

Being a parent.
I think being a parent is how I interact with other children/parents when I'm with Ben. Basically interactions with others that have an effect on Ben. I'm finding out that I am really really bad at this.

Here are two examples, my defense of my actions and my realization of what I should have done in the situation. If you have any advice, I'm all ears. Seriously. I need to get better at this parenting stuff.

Example 1:
Location: Disney World - Waiting in line for the monorail.
Time: Very late after 11:PM
Ben: Sleeping in his stroller.

A little girl 5-8 years old was fighting with her brother 10-12 years old over a Nintendo DS. The little girl was standing directly next to Ben's stroller. I saw the two kids fighting over the Nintendo DS. They were pulling it back and forth, one of them was going to get that DS.

I played out the scenarios in my head. 1) The little girl will win the DS, but she'll have to pull so hard that she wont be able to control the DS. It will go flying and hit Ben in the head. 2) The little girl will lose the DS. She'll go flying and crash into Ben's stroller. Maybe hitting Ben in the head, definitely waking him up.

I was not OK with either of these scenarios. So I politely tapped the little girl on the shoulder. When I say tapped, I mean I used 2 fingers and gently tapped, like you would pet a baby bunny or stroke a baby human's head. I wasn't hitting a buzzer on Family Feud!! The little girl and her brother stopped fighting over the DS. Disaster averted.

Allison yelled at me. She said "Just say excuse me" My defense 1) They didn't speak English. 2) "Excuse me" would not have worked while the kids were in the middle of a DS battle.

Allison told me that I got a lot of dirty looks. My reply, pardon my French, "Who gives a shit about dirty looks? I'm protecting Ben. They can give me dirty looks all night, but they should be controlling their kids" I said it loud enough for the family to hear, but like I said, I don't think they spoke English. After the fact, after I calmed down, I realized I should not have touched the little girl at all. I should have somehow moved the stroller.

Allison response: "How would you react if someone touched Ben?" I can't tell you how I would really react. That would take my PG-13 blog post and make it R rated. But it wouldn't be pretty.

Example 2:
Location: Beach - 4th of July
Time: Around 8:15PM
Ben: Playing on a blanket on the beach.

We were on the beach waiting for fireworks to start. There were lots of families on the beach lighting off fireworks, but they were 1) small fountains and 2) far away from us.

A family of 5 or 6 people came onto the beach followed by 5 kids 10-13 years old. They all had huge rockets and lighters. The adults kept walking down the beach, but the kids stopped directly even with us (but 10-15 feet back) and started trying to light the rocket.

I was OK with the fountains, but I was not OK with 5 kids, trying to light one rocket 10 feet away from my family. Call me crazy, but it left me feeling very uneasy. I went up to them and very nicely asked if they would move a little further down the beach.

They moved down the beach then one of the adults walked up to the kids and I read his lips. He asked the kids "what did that guy say to you?" They kids said "asked us to move down" The guy made a face like WTF, what's the big deal and looked over at me. I looked right at him and nodded my head as if to say "what's up?" Nothing happened, but I was waiting for that guy to do something stupid. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy the fireworks on the beach and I had to have a few beers to calm down when we got back to the room.

I felt like I was playing Missile Command in real life. I had my head on a swivel looking for stray fireworks and also seeing if the dude in the Adidas sweat suite was gonna start something. It was a rough evening.

Allison said that I probably should have gone over to the adults and asked them to have their kids move down. My defense 1) By the time that happened, the kids would have gotten the rocket lit. 2) He's a douchebag in an Adidas sweat suite, is he really gonna do anything?

Allison's response: How would you react if someone went up to Ben and said something? You would get very defensive wouldn't you? My reply, I can actually share with you this time. I would go up to the guy and say "what's up? you have something to say?" I would be very defensive of Ben.

Then Allison said I need to calm down. That I'm being too protective and it's gonna get me into trouble one day. She's probably right.

She said when I'm out with Ben, I'm not a happy guy. I put on a mean face and if anyone comes close to us, they get the look of death. She also said I do not speak nicely to people when Ben is around, that I'm kind of a dick. (more French, I'm very international today)

Well, I don't know how to change that. My job as a dad is to protect my son. If I have to piss off a few people to do it, no sweat off my back. As long as my boy is safe. I'd rather have a family give me nasty looks then Ben get a DS to the head and I'd rather have a DB stare me down all night then Ben get burned by a stray rocket.

Seriously, if you have gone through this, I'll take tips. I'm a quick study.


Dr Shawn said...

I loved this. I have blogrolled you on my site:


lee said...

sorry no helpful advice. I struggle with this too. In fact my wife calls me the world police because she thinks i make it my job to make sure everyone plays by the rules or doesn't do anything rude or stupid. I have to agree with her. But i'm like you in that i don't care if i made someone mad...my kids' safety comes before their kid's convenience, fun, wild behavior etc...And thankfully I haven't had anyone pick a fight yet! My advice, maybe we should both work out until we're so muscular that no one would give us dirty looks (just kidding)

twistedxtian said...

Regarding example 1:
People getting excited about touching someone else is getting out of hand. You weren't molesting her, it was a polite indication to pay attention to what was going on around her, a valuable life skill that not enough people know as it is. If it was my child and I didn't notice he was in a position to potentially smack a baby, I would appreciate it if someone let them know in as polite a manner as you did. Much more so than yelling at him.

Regarding example 2:
I would have done the same thing. There is nothing wrong with letting some kids know that you think they are a little too close to you. Respect for other peoples space, another valuable lesson that more in our society could learn. (There are a lot of these lessons. I should write a book.)

But then again, while I'm protective, I'm not overly defensive, and would have no problem if someone asked my kid to move b/c he was uneasy. Again, it is all about approach, and you weren't a giant douche, so as a parent, I wouldn't have minded.

Now my son is a month younger than yours so I'm not talking from experience here. :) Just my thoughts as a pretty laid back dad, and parent.

Chris (@tessasdad) said...

I struggle with this as well though I agree with @twistedxtian that your approach in both these situations was reasonable.

Like you and Lee, my attitude is pretty similar as well. I don't care if I would make someone mad, my daughter's safety takes precedence and I make no apologies for that.

Anthony C said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I knew I wasn't the only one going through this, but it's good to hear other dads stories about it.

Anonymous said...

This is Anthony's wife and I would like to give a different perspective on such stories. Most of the details Anthony describes here are pretty accurate except a few.

In example #1, he did not just take two fingers. It was his whole hand on the girls shoulder and he had "the face". You have never seen "the face" but believe me you would not want "the face" putting his hand on your kids shoulder :).

In example #2, he probably didn't ask them as nicely as he describes. I cannot say for sure because I was out of ear shot, but similar to "the face" there is "the voice" which is equally as unpleasant. :) I just think that if he had just asked the parents of the teenagers NICELY for them to move, the father would have completely understood and asked the kids to move. No dirty looks would have been passed.

Both situations ended OK with no incidents, but it could have gone a different way. I know he needs to protect Ben, but he also needs to remember that while there are a lot of dangers out there, the whole world is not out to get Ben.

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