Thanks For Mom

In a movie every character is important. Every line has meaning towards developing a character or moving the story forward. If one character doesn’t play the part correctly then the story will fall apart. Next weekend is Mother’s Day.

Mothers are the main characters in most life stories.

Since I was little I knew different aspects of my mother. Everyone always let me know how smart she was in school. I could see myself her being beautiful and compassionate. The one thing I have never really known is her backstory or the difficulties she faced before I was born. I’ve pressed her to tell me histories and fill in the blanks but she has always been hesitant to share. Last week she sent me an email with a personal story from her past. I found it interesting, emotional, and reflective. She made me think about how our stories are woven with other people. How endings are beginnings in disguise. And of course, I wanted to share it.

Here is what she wrote:

For every damn thing I went through in my youth and as a young adult, I’m talking stressful or traumatic events, I just had to suck it up. Truthfully, I never realized there was an option. That’s why I have a difficult time relating to the younger generation who feel the need to cuddle and drink hot chocolate when things don’t go their way. I don’t think cuddling and hot cocoa are necessarily bad things. As a matter of fact, had I been able to cuddle and drink cocoa I’m sure my behavior would have been much better. That’s all I have to say about that.

                There are things that have been erased from my memory. I’m sure that is a self-preservation quality of my brain. Other things I have absolute clarity about. Moments I can replay in my head in slow motion; smell scents, see sights, and experience emotions. These moments are often turning points. One in particular is an event that put me on a path to hope. You may not have realized it had you been around then, it took some time for hope to grow into something more. This is the event I wish to share today.

                A series of events led up to this moment. There were incidences that made it impossible for me to continue to live in the circumstances I found myself in. I knew something had to change, I could no longer cope. I was smart enough to know if I simply left home, I would be retrieved and returned. I was a minor, the law would be on the side of the adults. So, I turned myself in to DCS (Department of Children Services). I was picked up shortly after I made my call by two men in suits who transported me to a juvenile facility. I don’t remember the name of it, but I recall some of the residents. I remember the facility’s van taking me to school, quite an embarrassing circumstance for a 15 year old. I stayed in this facility while my situation was being investigated. I waited for the court date that would determine my fate.

                I can’t remember how long it took for the day to arrive. Memory block. I do recall several people testifying including my case worker who recommended I not be sent home. When my turn came I was, thankfully, escorted to judge’s chambers to testify in private. I didn’t have to speak in front of dissenting adults. The judge started by commending me for my good grades and positive teacher recommendations. We talked a minute about plans for the future, etc. Then he asked the question “What do you think will happen if I send you home?”


                I have no idea how my face appeared or what my heart looked like as it lay there on the floor. I do remember turning my head to look out the window. It seemed to turn very, very slowly. The view was not great, merely a red brick wall. Looking back now it seems symbolic.

                I couldn’t find my words. My mind was trying to focus but all I could think about was how sure I was I would take my own life before I went back. The only time I was seriously, dangerously, considering suicide. I’ve never told anyone about my thoughts. I can’t explain it but for that moment I was absolutely sure of the answer. However, the only words I could squeeze out were “I don’t know.” The conversation basically ended there.

                I was returned to the courtroom to hear my fate along with everyone else involved. Judge WBH saved my life that day. In truth, he and my brother and sister-in-law saved my life. You see, my brother had offered me a home and the judge saw fit to accept his offer on my behalf. The rest of the day was a blur but I was thankful not to have to return to the unnamed facility. Some of those residents were certifiable!

                I’m sorry to say, even though this was a life altering day, it didn’t change the bad behavior I had indulged in for some time. I’ve never asked my brother if, not having told him this story, he regrets bringing me into his home. It cost him something. At times, it cost him lots. I was too young to appreciate him. There is no way to repay someone for saving your life. You pay it forward and hope that is enough.

                There have been a series of wonderful people in my life. People willing to help with no consideration for the cost to themselves. I shall tell their stories one day. There would be no other stories to tell had my slow motion panic gone unnoticed by a judge who cared and who had an alternative. The one day I didn’t have the ability to suck it up, I didn’t have to.


All I could think as I teared up at the thought of the whole story was this… It is hard to thank someone for saving you. For being a link in your safety chain. There is usually a thread of guilt or shame woven into the situation. Nothing you say seems to be enough. That is okay. Love is an investment and it doesn’t always pay back right away.

On Easter weekend we went with my mother to my uncle’s house for our annual hunting of the eggs. My cousins and their children were there. Together, with my wrecking crew, there was a yard full of laughter and fun. We played whiffle ball and hunted eggs that were stuffed exclusively with loose change. We sat around telling funny stories and relating to each other’s parenting woes. As always, it was a beautiful time with people we love. Now I know the story could have been completely different.

So, to who it may concern, thank you for my mother.

Oh and Happy Mother’s Day!

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Dadinism: The New Feminism?

There is a rising movement in the parenting world. The redefinition of Dad. The modern father. I support it but in ways I don’t feel I am allowed to be part of it. I am the polar opposite symbolically because my wife is a stay-at-home mom and I am the working dad. Part of me wants to be in the club. To live an example of an ideal and be passionate. To advocate. Instead I try to stand in others shoes and end up pissing everyone off by trying to find the common ground. But every story has three side; yours, theirs, and the truth. Do the modern dads have a point? Are they on the soap box for a valid cause?

Sometimes when I am trying to wrap my head around an issue or a viewpoint I do a little thought exercise of assigning alternate terms or reversed roles. This is fairly normal and political parties do it with news stories all the time. They take an issue that is “hot-button” like ISIS or Michael Brown and find cases or articles where the roles are reversed and the “victims” have done the same thing that they are outraged over. Boom! Hypocrisy and discredit. I don’t think that kind of comparison helps anyone really. At best it makes everyone look equally shitty as human beings.

What may be more helpful is taking more socially settled issues like racism or sexism and switching roles totally around to give an analogy to good guys and bad guys. The recent Super Bowl commercials put a lot of emphasis on dads. Dads were included in the battling mommy episode as the Stay-At-Home Dad group. Rightfully so because there are a lot of dads who are doing a really good job of raising their kids and supporting their family in all types of roles. (I’m not sure Nationwide needed to kill anyone to make their point but it got people talking.) This shift in interest is good news. Modern families really are changing. Reshaping social perception or at least leaving the door open for different roles is important. But men playing the role of the social minority is new territory. A territory that was most recently dominated by women.

I discovered an article that took an advocate viewpoint on a sexism issue and I replaced some of the titles with Dad and Mom. The idea of the article was that there are ten things that create the overall problem of this particular social difference. If you agree with the ten things, then you agree that this “thing” exists. At first I was just having a little fun with words but it pretty accurately sums up some of the personal struggles that lots of families have outside of traditional roles. Take a read through the list below and then the original list is referenced for comparison.

Things Dadinism Got Right 

1. There is a gender system.

Males and females are socialized into Dad and Mom. Dad and Mom behavior is not simply determined by biology. (For the most part but obviously women carry pregnancy so maybe shaky on this point)


2. The gender system is damaging.

Dad and Mom stereotypes can be damaging and dehumanizing to both males and females. (Dads are less likely to play girls games and vice versa? Kids have gender determined toys.)


3. Dads are oppressed.

Dads have suffered various types of systematic mistreatment throughout dad history, and continue to do so in the present. This mistreatment is unjust. If it can be called “oppression,” then dads suffer gender oppression. (Stay-at-home dads aren’t welcomed to mommy’s day out activities. If dads are in public with all of the kids people assume that you are outmanned without a mother nearby. Daddy can’t provide nurture.)


4. Sexism exists

Sexism—hateful, contemptuous, bigoted, or discriminatory attitudes based on sex—is real. Sexism can be institutionalized socially and politically. The stay-at-home dads (SAHDs) identification and critique of mom-ogyny has mitigated it to a degree, though institutionalized mom-ogyny still exists. (Not really comparing moms to misogyny but had to put something in there to make it make sense.)


5. Moms have unjust advantages

Moms have some systematic advantages over dads that they do not have a right to. (More likely to have changing stations in bathrooms, mommys-day-out, maternity leave, etc.)


6. Marginalization of the experience of dads.

Prior to SAHDs, the experience of dad was marginalized in academic and scientific disciplines, and in public discourse. (Dads who resign themselves to the lonely act of stay-at-home dadding are cautionary tales and in need of our pity. Dads should bring home the bacon not cook it in an apron.)


7. Sexuality involves power dynamics

Under the gender system at least, sexuality is intertwined with power dynamics. E.g. mom-dominant, dad-submissive, and mom-active, dad-passive. These power dynamics are not limited to heterosexuality. The link between power dynamics and sexuality can be damaging to people. (Are dads expected to be more passive in the home environment?)


8. There is something wrong with pornography

Pornography can be dehumanizing toward both its users and towards its participants. Even if pornography can be defended on legal grounds, these liberal arguments doesn’t protect it from moral critique. (Okay so they don’t all translate. Hopefully pornos and parenting don’t intersect much. Note to self: move the box under the bed.)


9. There is intersectionality of oppression.

Gender oppression and oppression based on race, sexual orientation, or class, can combine multiplicatively (and sometime supramultiplicatively) into oppression that is more than the sum of its parts. (Definitely true of dads)


10. Beauty standards can be damaging

Beauty standards and objectification can be damaging to dad self-esteem. It would be both practical and moral to change images of beautiful dads in the media in certain ways. (Chiseled and well-groomed dads are making the rest of us feel like assholes. We can’t all be some unicorn combination of Christian Grey and Daddy Daycare.)

  The original list was for “What Feminism Got Right”. Feel free to go and check that one out.

 Interesting to me, was the fact that the arguments work when I replace the female role with dad and the male role with mom. Is the expected societal role in the home opposite of the role expected in the world? Is that the by-product of sexism? I could see some cases where this would create an unpleasant cycle. Moms shouldn’t fear dads as the stay home parent.

The other side of that what-if coin: Are dads trying to steal the last domain where moms feel dominant? I don’t think so but someone will have that thought so I might as well throw it out there. For the moms that may want to latch on to this last idea as a way to defend the last safe haven of women, keep in mind, supporting a difference here is supporting a difference everywhere. Free up parenting for the dads and it is more defensible for women to choose family+career too. 

I work and my wife stays at home. Sounds like the current dynamic supports our decisions pretty straight away so why should we care?   I have four reasons and I tell them all the time about learning all they can and following their dreams. Question everything and set your goals high. No one is born naturally good at anything except pooping in their pants so don’t ever think you can’t learn something that you want to know. I would like to believe that I can back up the talk, live the example, and one day it may require being proud of them for pursuing a career while a husband raises their children. Or maybe they don’t get married. Or maybe they stay at home. The point is that they should have an equal shake at all of those options.

Dads should too.

-Underdaddy to the rescue

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