Questions

The Fear Questions

“What would you do if your daughter got pregnant as a teenager?” This was the question I got in some religio-political debate that I probably should have strayed away from. Debates over strongly held beliefs are usually arguments at best and no one is really looking for honest debate, only an edge to prove they have the best opinion. But the question is very similar to a lot of questions I get as a father of four girls. The intent is for me to consider what I want for my children but something is off. I struggle to wrap my mind around what really bugs me about those types of questions but I think it is this:

A quote from Jim Carey that I am sure he borrowed from somewhere else, “Everything we do is motivated by one of two things; fear or love. We run because we are afraid. We stand and fight because we love.” How relevant is that? For me it resonated.

We are breaking our society down through doctrines of fear, legislation of fear, and trying to control our children through fear. I try to make fear/love my filter. When I give my opinions away to my children, I try to choose love.
They ask questions that seem scary at first. “What makes girls different from boys?” “Where do babies come from?” “What does being gay mean?”

Holy shit. I didn’t want a philosophy debate I just wanted a kid who looks like me and does fun stuff. How do you answer these questions?

Let’s take the easy one first. How are boys different from girls? Easy answer: boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. Raise your hand if that was uncomfortable to read. Fear makes us not want to say those words aloud and especially not around children or, God forbid, directly to a child. What kind of sick puppy talks about penis’ to his five year old girl? But they need to know those things exist. They need to know proper names at some point. Honey Boo Boo called hers a “biscuit” on national TV and I’m pretty sure that makes for an awkward breakfast order at McDonald’s. I would make a joke about biscuits and gravy but the thought of Mama June just ruins it for me.

What about where babies come from? Fear tells us that the sooner children learn about sex the sooner they will do it. We avoid any uncomfortable sexual references for a direct fear that it will fast-track our children straight to a greasy brass pole in a seedy club. But they need to know sex has a purpose because it will be sold as enjoyment and pure carnal pleasure at every corner. Even kids shows have a sexual undertone these days. I’m surprised my box of Frosted Flakes doesn’t show Tony mounting a hot female tiger while enjoying a big ol’ spoonful of yummy goodness. Her tail in one hand and a spoon in the other. “They’re grrrrreat!” (Note to Kellogg’s: If you decide to go with this idea then just email me to arrange royalty payments, thanks!)

What about the other fun questions? Sexual orientation, gender confusion, gender bias, race, religion, creed, deciding on Ford vs Chevy when we all know that Honda Odyssey wins the day. What type of jelly should go on a PB&J? I prefer grape and my wife chooses strawberry. Never mind that some companies make premixed PB&J in a squeeze bottle and they obviously use grape, that debate is still ongoing in our household.

Fear has a lot to say on these subjects and the best way to spot fear is to listen to how a question is presented.

“How would you feel if your daughter was _______?”
“What would you do if your daughter dated ________?”
“What will you do if your daughter decides to ________?”

I’m glad these people are worried about my wellbeing and mental status but the questions are weird if you think about it. Someone is asking you how you feel about something that is ultimately going to be none of your business. I am not my children. They do not represent me. They are independent people capable of thought. People who ask these questions are trying to bring emotion to a logic party. If you make it your business it will only speed up the process. If my daughter is straight or gay, that is her business, not mine. I didn’t hand out pamphlets either way. I want them to be happy.

If my daughter dates a little green Martian, that is her choice to make. I’m not moving to Mars and I hope they don’t either but I’m not going to be provider/protector forever so they need to find someone who will love and support them in life. Dad’s get the role of protecting the innocence of their children which is good to a point. Where it gets creepy for me is when it feels like dads are trying to be pimps for their children, deciding who is worthy for potential procreation. We have to let that idea go. If they can find genuine, hardworking, and respectful I can support that. My job is to show what that looks like.
The most interesting thing about the fear based questions is that the person who asks them is showing their own fears. They feel vulnerable and maybe even question their own opinions. We get beaten down with opinions all our life and when it comes time to pass them along we try to maintain opinions from our parents and grandparents. To get that validation that we are good at parenting too and we have passed the torch. We fear being judged otherwise. What we should really fear is withholding the truth from children who learn it faster and faster every day. Because one day they will need a straight answer and they will need to know you answer out of love. Fear can only hold off truth for a little while but love is undeniable.

So if you don’t let your little boy play with a doll because someone might make fun of him, you need to hit pause and think. You are the first in the judgment line by telling him he is wrong for feeling that way. No doll ever made a kid anything except better at communication. The person who is supposed to be the protector is the first attack and the deepest wound. For people who insist on telling your daughter to find a man with a good paying job, you are telling her that she isn’t worth much on her own and she better find a life raft because you are scared she can’t swim. This post is for you. We all need to work a little harder to choose love. In life or online, it will make us happier in the long run. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Daddy Am I Pretty?

What do you say when one of the girls puts a flower in her hair, leans her head to the side and beams a smile while saying, “Daddy, am I pretty?”

For a moment I think to myself, “What an awful question.” After all, someone only asks questions like that when they have doubts about the answer. I’m sure the questions start innocent enough but someday they will ask it in earnest and they will sincerely not know the answer. On that day I hope they will think for just a minute on what beauty means.

I started exploring this idea with their mother.
Supermom puts on an outfit and asks, “How does this make me look?”
“Beautiful.”
“You would tell me that if I wore a brown paper bag.”
“Because it is true.”
“Ugggh, you are not helping.”
“You aren’t asking a good question. You make things pretty not the other way around.”

I probably spent more time than I should thinking about “pretty” and what makes someone pretty or attractive. But I’m not the first to ponder at length. Leonardo Da Vinci studied beauty by looking at the grotesque. Legend has it that he would find ugly and misshapen people and invite them to supper in exchange for the chance to draw them in detail. He found beauty in proportion and curves. Ugly was created by being out of balance. Most modern studies agree that beauty is perceived when there is symmetry. When eyes line up and noses are even and straight. What about other preferences? Do they affect beauty? Height, weight, skin color, eye color, hair style, personality, interests, attitude.

For me it is becoming a collective idea. There are parts of “pretty” that I can’t exactly describe but I know that my definition is built with the traits from people I love. Children are a great reminder of how that works.

Jane has a love for animals. She currently aspires to be a vet and I see no reason why she shouldn’t. Her love for horses borders insanity and I recognize it from my mother and sister. She has a heart for the underdog and makes friends where others might not try. Those are the friendships that mean something. She has to be recognized as the top performer but has a motherly streak as well. There is a caring and love for life on the move that is definitely beautiful.

Pretty_3

Prima is my free spirit child. She doesn’t sit still but instead swirls in currents and waves like a playful river. She looks the most like her mother which in some odd way makes me feel closer to them both. Prima is the closest to showing pure altruism. She is happy when other people are happy and is confident enough with herself to take life on at full steam. Her emotional side is highly developed and I don’t think she meets a stranger. She lives through social interaction with others and can appreciate beauty. I think that is beautiful.

Pretty_1

Don Threeto. This spritely blonde gangster is a ball of knees, elbows, and energy. She doesn’t have a low gear. If she is awake, she is running in circles and talking about something. She loves to wrestle and play all day long. For all her rough and tumble behavior she is very affectionate too. Threeto is upbeat and gets excited at a level I wish I could still experience. She is headstrong like several of her relatives before her and that is a beautiful thing.

Pretty_2

Lady Bug is the baby of the family and seems like my last chance to enjoy all the nuance of growing up. She smiles a lot while she pushes her wispy bangs out of her eyes and doesn’t say many clear words. Like Jane, Lady Bug enjoys life on the go. If she thinks someone is going somewhere she will find the closest two shoes (doesn’t have to be a matching pair or even hers) and then she stands guard by the front door, determined to not be left. Her favorite thing to do is watch a movie and snuggle in your lap. She has given us highs and lows; from the experience of my wife and I delivering her at home to the panic of dealing with seizures. She smiles so big that her shoulders get involved. That is beautiful.

Beauty is made of the characteristics we learn to appreciate. We learn those characteristics from the people that we love. Our children seek those things out when they look for a partner. The best way to ensure that you are considered beautiful is to accept who you are and know, for someone, you are already pretty.

So when my girls ask me, “Daddy, Am I pretty?” I think of all these things and fight that little lump in my throat. I keep down the anger that the world might convince them otherwise. I want to tell them that they are my baseline. They are the definition and the ruler that I use to measure the rest of the world. My girls are beauty. Asking me is as silly as asking, “Does fire burn?” or “Is water wet?”. My actual response is usually a big hug and a kiss and I tell them, “You couldn’t be not-beautiful if you tried.”

So if you aren’t feeling particularly beautiful just remember that you were born into the world as a ruler and somewhere along the way you have been convinced that you are the thing to be measured. This post is for you. Stop that shit. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Threeto Wisdom

No matter how many times my children remind me, I am always in awe of just how fundamentally different each child can be. I am also somewhat frightened by some of the personality traits that I don’t have control over. I asked the girls a few questions just to see what types of responses I would get from a seven, five, and four year old.

First question is “What makes you happy?”

Jane answers, “Horses. Oh oh! Riding Horses! My happiest was sitting on Prince (a horse that has since died) when I was a baby.”

Prima answers, “Unicorns! Dancing in ballet class makes me happy. My happiest day was signing up for ballet class. I like funny jokes!”

Don Threeto still has a tendency towards baby talk but she answers with enthusiasm, “Wombat!” I ask her, “Did you really say Wombat? Do you know what a wombat is?” Her reply, “No no no, Combat!”

Even better.

I thought it made sense for a kid who may lead a crime syndicate one day.

She wasn’t done with the question and then told me, “Long Necks!” Which I hope is a dinosaur and not glass bottles of beer.

Second question is “What makes you sad?”

Jane gives a heartfelt response, “When Mamaw’s old horse named Magic died. Then a boy in my class said he was happy magic died. I hate him.”

I told her that “hate” is a strong word but anyone who delights in someone losing a pet may qualify for a strong word. I assured her that he may be trying to pick at her because he likes her and doesn’t understand how much she loves animals. I also told her that he might actually be an asshole and that one day she may have no choice but to kick his ass and to use her discretion. Jane isn’t an aggressor but one of her sisters make take up that slack.

Prima may not be much help because her answer to the sad question was, “If I don’t get to play music or if someone beats me up.” She is about two grade levels above her size so I think the getting beat up has to be empathy and not actual experience. She is a gentle giant type of personality and wants everyone to be happy.

Don Threeto tackled the question with the same aggressive randomness that I have started to expect.

“What makes you sad Threeto?”

“Reindeer.”

“Reindeer make you sad?”

“Yeah and dead ones too.”

“So pretty much all Reindeer are just depressing for you?”

“Yeah. And puppies.”

“Good to know.”

So just some side notes. Two of the children are loving and compassionate. One is not yet forming sentences and the family gangster is pleased by combat and beer bottles while being depressed by puppies and reindeer. I love that kid, we honestly broke the mold when she popped out.

These question and answer sessions are always interesting. Over the weekend Prima came running into the kitchen laughing and trying to tell me what Threeto said. Once she calmed down and I could pick out the words inside the laughter I figured out two things:

1) Don Threeto says she named two of her turds (Larry and Bob).

2) These magical turds are alive and Don Threeto can text them with an iPad.

I wonder if the app is named iPood.

Lady Bug has a full understanding of what is said to her but her responses are limited to words that only a few people understand. She is the baby of the family and in true cute-as-a-button fashion she tugged at my heart strings.

“What makes you happy Lady Bug?”

“Da Da.”

“Daddy makes you happy?”

She grins and then gives a coy sideways glance, “No. Hahahaha”

Little rat.

Some families form pop bands like Hanson or the Partridge Family. Mine can’t sing or perform but they will be the perfect team. Focus, compassion, enforcement, and deceptive cuteness. A deadly wolf pack.

So if you expected to shape and mold your children into caring citizens of the world only to find out that your attempts are useless, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.