dad

Continuing Education: The Romantic Nature of Learning

 

"Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind."

-Louise Nevelson

 

There is artistry in education. The appreciation of its design depends largely on one’s ability to contemplate the beauty of its magnificent impact with moral imagination.  If you take the time to step back and deconstruct the material world, educational lessons are revealed in its design. This is the cornerstone of Montessori . Facilitating an understanding of the world by developing a core of knowledge based on experiencing its physical properties (AKA: Tactile Learning). The more comprehensive these experiences are... the deeper one's understanding of the world may become.

Lasting impressions of the physical world create reference points for not only our creativity and imagination but for the development of our vocabulary and the most basic means of communication as well.

In the book "Thought In The Act", Erin Manning + Brian Massumi describe life experience as: "...the intangible." I interpret this to mean that one can only imagine the intangible and our imaginations are the creative applications of mental associations we make with our physical understandings of the world. The breadth of one's learning can therefore directly impact the extent to which one experiences life and can imagine. This is the mindset from which we attempt to re-discover and re-define the world with, and for, our daughter.

"I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it."
-Henri Matisse

My wife and I are driven to give our daughter a life filled with as much joy as possible (without being detrimental) while empowering her to make a positive contribution to the world and leave it in a better condition than the one in which it is presented to her. Whether or not she elects to take on such a noble pursuit will be up to her…but we at least want her to be possessed with the requisite awareness in order to give her a better shot at it if she tries. We believe that the attainment of this awareness is made easier if we adopt a Montessorial approach to our introduction to the world (meaning: deconstructing everything to its most basic physical components, qualities and relationships in order to promote an appreciation of both individual components and their relationships within various contexts as well). Employing this method of modeling (and thus parenting) has been very much like arranging a marriage between Socratic Questioning and the slow motion filming techniques that transform amazing feats of wildlife like the flight mechanics of a bird's wing, into what the BBC calls "...full scale events, and simple action into incredibly detailed video sequences." The results are impossible to imagine let alone perceive with the naked eye. When a sequence filmed at a high frame rate (fps) is played back in normal time (24fps), the action appears to slow down. As camera technology improves, ultra high-speed footage of over 1,000fps produces ever more astonishing images. Hidden secrets are revealed, new science is discovered and tiny subtleties in animal behaviour become perceptible.".

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
-Edgar Degas

On Grocery Shopping:
As parents we often worry more about our children's happiness than our own...and some of us can imagine the smallest amount of potential suffering (even boredom) having lasting detrimental effects to their overall emotional well-being. It sounds crazy... and that's mostly because, well...it is.

After being blessed with a seemingly perpetual sidekick, I suddenly began viewing one of my favorite things in the world: grocery shopping, as a boring chore for our little one and more of a "necessary evil" than anything. I went to great lengths in order to minimize our time in any market and thus mitigate, what I had perceived to be, my daughters suffering.

My weekly mission was to make grocery shopping as fast and as painless as possible. To enter and to leave with military precision. I was a Supermarket S.E.A.L.  and the strike zone encompassed every square inch from the parking lot to the pastry case. As such, it required utilizing my strategic operations experience to develop shopping lists that would direct our travel path from paper products and laundry supplies to dairy and frozen foods (which...to me, is still the most efficient travel path through a grocery store.)

Once I considered the fact that my general stress level was likely being transmitted at some level to my daughter, I took a step back and looked at this mundane chore of gathering stuff with my Montessorial monocle. After doing so, I was able to recognize educational opportunities existing everywhere! It didn't take long to start enjoying the lessons that every isle and every purchase offered.  I think I, like so many other people, shop as they drive. One with the cart. Operating it with a sort of tunnel vision. Half-blind to the other people in the store in that- I saw them mostly as slow moving obstacles in my path to hunting, gathering and surgically extracting a list of items amid a course made from thousands of bar coded goods. The fact that there are so many different products & foodstuffs in a myriad of: colors, textures, shapes and sizes alone...combined with the wide range of pricing makes for an exceptional environment full of physical stimulus there for the taking!  Add to this the potential multitude of non-verbal lessons in social psychology once one begins navigating with others as opposed to through them. Explaining that pictures don't necessarily match what's in the box or naming an animal that eats a particular food...even the act of writing then reading a shopping list together and checking off the items holds a wealth of practical modeling applications.

New and exciting games emerge when a scale is viewed as an educational toy instead of a tool for commerce. Guessing how many units or "pounds" of bananas we want and then showing my three year old just how many bananas her guess of 7 pounds actually equates to…and feels in her arms....can be hilarious! And physically comprehending the difference between a 1lb bag of rice in her lap vs. a 10lb pound bag in her lap is just one of the countless physical comparisons that make long lasting impressions while eliciting a heart-warming amount of laughter.

This is enjoyable education. It's fun. it's free. And it forms the basis of enjoying physical connections with the world and learning from them. The food market has now become not only less stressful for me... but actually much more enjoyable than it ever was.  Seeing how much five of something costs compared to how much ten of the same thing costs can be a real lesson in both mathematics as well as economics.

There is no single word, equivalent to literacy or numeracy, that expresses wrighting and wroughting (that is the ability to make – as in wheelwright, shipwright, cartwright). In late 18th and early 19th century the role of schools in preparing children to work in manufacturing industry would have been seen to have had a greater vocational and economic relevance than it would today.

-Brian Stevens: The Three Rs and The Education Journal #307


We never refer to “shopping” as math or economics or physics or psychology... just as we don't refer to other skill sets such as addition or penmanship in the Montessori classroom as such. We focus on the romantic nature of letters and numbers and what they physically mean so that we can draw them, hold them, trace them, count and separate them, etc... This sensual connection between touch and concept is what I view as romantic. Using the traditional names for foundations of basic skill-oriented educational programs may more readily prepare children for the references they will encounter in later years but it takes all the fun out of learning today. It makes these experiences seem more like work and less like play. It takes the romance, the magic and the imagination out of her world.

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
-Aristotle

Viewing the world from a Montessorial perspective is making every place and every thing seem more meaningful than its obvious context. More valuable than the sum of its parts. More...interconnected.
In my earlier post "Circle Back" I discussed the interconnections that exist between the business world and the natural world. These are the kinds of relationships I am now just seeing for the first time and the vision of the world I want to impart to my child. Seeing the inter-connectedness of all things may sound like a spiritual or religious pursuit for us but it is not. For my wife and me... it is much simpler than that. Our hope is that by embracing the romantic nature of learning she will derive immense fulfillment from discovery and understand more about the world and herself than traditional extrinsic "teaching" alone can impart.  

Right now, my wife and I only want to develop a polite and gentle person who is socially adept and enjoys learning. We have no interest in rushing to amass within her any specific quantity or mass of knowledge nor do we want her to achieve any prescribed level of learning above or beyond what she naturally achieves through self-interest and gentle guidance.  This is why we made the choice to send her to a Montessori School and why, every day, we are grateful for discovering Baan Dek Montessori in Sioux Falls. There are so many stresses that we face as adults in life. Right now we want her to be a child and enjoy her childhood. The artisan educators at Baan Dek seem to direct their students with an understanding that there is greater value in mitigating pressure for children than preparing them to handle it...and we like that.

"Play is The Work of The Child" - Maria Montessori

For the last three years, I have walked with our daughter to the top of at least a dozen water slides...and every climb resulted in uncertainty and fear. Although I would consistently assure her that it would be "ok" and "so much fun!" (While pointing out the other children her age and those younger who we're enjoying it) She always decided to walk back down instead...until this past week at a resort in Phoenix Arizona. When she decided she was "going to be brave” and “ought to give it a try." As a result, I witnessed a mirth of her own accord. Unmistakably derived not only from the thrill of the ride, but also from the pride in realizing that her own hunger for joy was the motivation that elicited courage.

Children develop at different rates... but when placed in healthy environments with exposure to diversity of company and a myriad of disciplines, all children eventually reach their intellectual potential with or without our constant intervention.The difference between racing to that potential vs. allowing a child to arrive at it at their own pace and through a romantic discovery is that the later seems to breed a deeper joy and self-confidence through an appreciation of the journey as well as the destination.

Circle Back: Valuable Lessons in Getting Back to Nature

A Montessorial approach to nature, in which the interconnectedness of simple structures is considered, can deepen an understanding and appreciation of many more seemingly complex principles and/or operations within a multitude of fields from business to medicine.

I saw a program on NOVA the other night, the topic of which was "Nanoarchitecture" and it was fascinating to learn that when you reduced the size of a gold particle (to the size of nanometers) you get completely different optical properties. Gold is no longer "gold" in color when taken to the 13 nanometer size. It's ruby red in color. 

 

"...when a particle of gold is made very small...below 100 nanometers, the smaller the particle, the more it begins to absorb shorter wavelengths of light. Toward the blue end of the spectrum..and the redder it appears. When light rays hit a colored material some rays are absorbed and some are reflected."

-Chad Merkin and David  Pogue Nova Series "Making Things Smaller"

The series also discussed "Structural Color...(as found in the iridescence of butterfly wings, beetle shells and peacock feathers). "Once you discover those new properties of nanoparticles, it almost always leads to new applications." Once such application is a new process of sequencing DNA / testing for genetic variations which is capable of being completed in less than 2hrs. One of the experiments which led to this DNA testing breakthough was one in which equal amounts but different shapes of silver nanoparticles were dissolved in vials of water. Different colored liquids were created based solely on the shape of those silver particles. Silver rods turned the water yellow, silver triangles turned the water green and silver prisms turned the water blue. These newly discovered reactions of nanoparticles were used to help develop the test that enables chromosomal abnormalities to be highlighted upon addition of similarly altered nanoparticles to a DNA sample.

There is tremendous value when a parent or business owner is reminded, through a Montessorial observation of the natural world, that visually observed characteristics of things (or people) can be variables depending on applied forces and independent perspectives...and that those observed characteristics don't necessarily dictate substance. Not only does this promote a wider-view perspective but it also reinforces the value in seeking possible factors outside of one's initial consideration. 

If you pause long enough to take a much broader view of your child's development or of your business' operations, you may be fortunate enough to recognize that the natural world and the business world are inexorably bound due to the fact that we ourselves, regardless of how technical our tools or how complex our lives, are merely components born of and operating within the same kingdom as the elephant and the honeybee.

 

After a small amount of research, I quickly learned that applying holistic and systemic approaches to business, social or educational organizations based on principles in nature is not, by any stretch, new thinking... but has certainly been gaining more traction over the last few years.

Business Reinvention with Nancy Lin discusses the fact that scientists and technologists are uncovering innovative ideas and borrow efficient designs from nature. She answers the question: “Does nature offer leadership lessons that can help us manage the increasing level of uncertainty, speed of change and limited resources to achieve such business transformation?" in her January 6th interview with the Denise DeLuca, co-founder and director of BCI, Biomimicry for Creative Innovation.

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Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines discusses the fact that a non-linear world is one in which we embrace the power and potential of complexity rather than trying to break it down into unconnected bits and that we see the world systemically. A non-linear world is where we have the capacity and the tools (which already exist) to transform our organizations commercially and non-commercially to work with the grain of human nature not against it that run leaner, more efficiently, and are greener. 

Giles Hutchins’ blog, The Nature of Business (one of my newest favorites) is exploring similar understandings of the interconnectedness of all things in nature and writes:

"Knowledge of the core principles of how life works becomes a critical skill for business leaders and change agents wishing to successfully transform their organizations in these volatile times.  It is what  BCI (Biomimicry for Creative Innovation) calls ‘ecological thinking for radical transformation'."

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Most people in business subscribe to an outdated worldview, a perception of reality inadequate for dealing with the volatile and globally interconnected business world.  What is required for the health and vitality of our businesses and economies is a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking and our business behavior.  We are witnessing a change in the business paradigm from one suited for the industrial era to one suited for the interconnected era.

At the core of this paradigm shift is a perception shift from ‘seperatedness’ to ‘interconnectedness’.

Just as in science we have discovered that no longer can the universe be viewed as a machine composed of elementary building blocks, so too must we avoid the propensity to view organizations as atomized, silo’ed and tightly managed machines more then we need view them as vibrant, living organisms interacting within emergent, self-regulating and self-organizing business ecosystems."

 

  "Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as a ‘cooperative dance in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces"

-Fritjof Capra / Founding Director / The Centre for Ecoliteracy.

 

Ditto for business evolution and so business people need to shift perceptions from "...seeing isolated, competing aspects of the business environment to seeing the interconnected and emergent nature of the business reality ahead.”

And finally, Fortune Magazine’s Jennifer Alserver significantly contributed to this concept back in her March 2013 article titled “8 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees”:

“The burgeoning field of biomimicry, in which scientists copy nature to solve human problems, has drawn interest across industries -- from energy to consumer goods. 'There is a whole pipeline of people inventing by looking to the natural world', says Janine Benyus, founder of Biomimicry 3.8, a consultancy that has helped Colgate-Palmolive (CLFortune 500), Levis, Nike (NKEFortune 500) and Boeing (BAFortune 500) reformulate products using biomimicry  “.

 

Nicholas Sykes' TED X talk: - Biomimicry 2.0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKQvr-RJQeg&noredirect=1


I continue to discover new and exciting aspects of my business since adopting a more Montessorial perspective on any business venture. 



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Focus: Learning to Tune Out The Noise

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99% of the time I'm totally in love with the privilege and awe of just watching my daughter grow up....then there's the other 1% of the time I feel as though I'm a half-step away from being that strangely numbed Lieutenant who is walking through a battlefield of scorched earth with men screaming, machine guns firing, grenades being launched and mortars exploding all around him... while he has a relaxed conversation, with someone completely distracted by all the chaos, about what they might have for lunch later in the day.  

An interesting article I dug up in the Harvard Business Review blog on: Awareness, Focus & Judgement....applicable in any walk of life:

http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2009/01/pay-attention-an-interview-wit.html

Future Value: Real Expectations for New Dads

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My Letter to a few Magazine Editors:

After letting our nanny go, I took on the seemingly easily managed task of staying home with our 2 yr old daughter. She wasn’t sufficiently potty trained  to attend a local Montessori yet... so the plan was to save money while contributing more significantly to the development of our daughter Catherine. Everything I read portrayed today's stay-at-home dads as an in vogue and growing sub-culture of creative elites and the affluent who placed family above leisure. After watching my umteenth diaper commercial featuring only dad's, I figured that I would be in good company…that there would be dad groups to join… and bonding over play dates....but what I found was quite the opposite.  You see, I don't live in Tribecca or L.A....so I was the only at-home dad in my neighborhood. And in suburban Philadelphia, most working dads are about as accepting of stay-at-home dad's as they are of drag queens.

Upon embarking on what has become a life-altering sabbatical transitioning from working dad to at-home dad, I decided to keep a journal as a form of therapy… since there was no-one with whom to commiserate. I now post those journal entries on my blog: www.dbadaddy.com

As I share the experience of taking on this, at times, overwhelming role I also share the resulting new perspectives on fatherhood. Most mainstream media continues to print articles that discuss the increasing popularity of women being the breadwinners and  fathers taking over the domestic responsibilities… but no-one seems to be addressing the incredible hurtle men face of overcoming the generations-long conditioning of gender identity. Not to say that successful professional women have it any easier...they are still very much a minority, but they do seem to share more company.

Please consider exposing the social and psychological  challenges men with successful professional wives face, when they make the decision to “stay home” with their children who aren't yet spending 5 or 6 hours a day at school.

I believe if more men knew more what to expect, they would be better prepared caregivers and not waste as much of what precious little time there is trying to figure it out. If there’s one thing I have learned…it’s the importance of understanding early-on that attempting to balance work and the full-time care of a two year old ensures that both will suffer. The benefit of staving off professional atrophy comes at the cost of a child and father both being robbed of as much joy and growth as this advantage can afford. "Leaning In" to both Mom and  Dad's career requires outsourcing... not commitment and balance.  

Face Time: Being 100% Present

I'm learning to enjoy what originally brought me into the restaurant business. My family, my love of food and my appreciation of interesting company. When you are the one serving all the time... as opposed to the one being served, it's a lot like being a deaf musician.

I realize that my life is so much better now and that I’m so blessed to have everything I've ever wanted...everything that's important to me...and yet I still need to learn to relax and enjoy it. It's a strange feeling.

I’m getting better at not feeling as though there is something else I could be doing. Those feelings used to be a great source of stress regardless of how I channeled it or hid it. Not being able to complete a sentence. Not being able to make a phone call or finish a simple task like feeding the dog, folding the laundry or sending an email without this little person demanding my attention. It’s non-stop and as much as I love her, I can now understand the principles behind Chinese water torture. The constant repetition of something so innocuous (like light Bossa Nova or Yani or "Daddy!") over time can drive anyone nuts.

Being valuable meant being productive for so long….now I’m coming to terms with the beauty of things left undone. And in return, I’m able to catch one more of her smiles or share another laugh or just take one extra moment to remind her of how much she’s loved. This little girl wants my attention and should get it (most of the time). She deserves it. She’s already learned that she has me wrapped around her little finger and senses my stress when I’m not able to rush to her upon request but I’m curbing that now and practicing benign neglect (for her benefit more than mine). And as I watch her grow before my eyes, I’m struck with the seasonal nature of life and the fleeting of time. Before I know it, she’ll be 15 and telling me she hates me.

Sources & Uses: Non-Traditional Outlets for Kid Stuff

Being a parent shopping for children's “necessities” like miniature shopping carts or  doll houses can make one feel a bit like an unwitting tourist falling victim to a rapidly changing foreign exchange market. I mean, come on... does miniature plastic fruit really warrant a $69.95 price tag? I recently purchased a build-it-yourself dollhouse. The dolls and miniature furniture to fill it cost almost as much as our real life-sized dining room set.

I ’ve now been finding it very useful to source child-oriented products from non-traditionally child-themed stores.  The impetus for this was my original qualm with paying $8 for what felt like a notebook's-worth of paper that was so narrow, my daughter and her friends couldn’t avoid drawing and painting on the craft table it was intended to cover... and the quality was akin to that of the roll of tissue-paper masquerading as an impenetrable germ barrier protecting our children's naked bodies on doctors' examination tables.

This is a copy of an email I sent to my play-date posse:

FYI for those of you with easels or craft tables: 

HP 24"x150 print rolls are approx 3xs the paper, wider, better quality and

less expensive (even with taking shipping into consideration) per sqft than the Melissa&Doug or ALEX-like brands out there…and require less frequent roll changes.

See below.

Regards,

Josh

Keep Calm

and

Carry On


Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry

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Bottom Line: Committing to Being the Primary Care Giver... and Savoring It

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“Researchers have found that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not. Those with a status of identity diffusion tend to feel out of place in the world and don't pursue a sense of identity.”

Kendra Cherry,

Identity Crisis - Theory and Research

Throughout all of this, I have had several moments of clarity…perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the latest as my great epiphany…not my discovery that industrial rolls of HP print paper are cheaper by the foot than the ALEX or Crayola brands that also fit the Potterybarn Kids Craft Table…it is rather my realization that, although I may continue to rely heavily on the skill sets I learned and honed in my previous jobs; I am really missing out on a tremendous amount of joy and closeness with my daughter by selfishly treating the responsibility of being her full-time father like a professional pursuit or project that could be mastered. I am realizing the necessity of committing to my new identity half-way through my year “sabbatical” of being a stay-at-home dad. Although I am grateful for this break-through, I can’t help but think of how short a window you have to assume a completely new identity …and by the time you figure things out, you may just miss it all.  I gave everything I had but confident that I missed-out on a lot in the beginning.  Sometimes I wonder if my learning curve would have been shortened if I had a father (as many women have mothers) to turn to…or any other man, similarly engaged, who was able to share their wisdom derived from a similar experience.  I spoke to my mom yesterday who told me, once again, that “…it goes by in the blink of an eye.” Only this time I understood. My mom continues to comfort me with her ability to commiserate, understand, laugh with, support and encourage me. I will tell her, today, that she is the reason I have so much to give my daughter and motivates me to share this diary in hope that I can shorten the learning curve for at least one other like-minded former working dad.

The following is an edited excerpt taken from: http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/identitycrisis.htm

According to Erik Erikson, an identity crisis is a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself… His studies of cultural life among the Yurok of northern California and the Sioux of South Dakota helped formalize Erikson's ideas about identity development and identity crisis.

Erikson described identity as "a subjective sense as well as an observable quality of personal sameness and continuity, paired with some belief in the sameness and continuity of some shared world image. But it was James Marcia (1966, 1976, 1980) who expanded upon Erikson's initial theory. According to Marcia and his colleagues, the balance between identity and confusion lies in making a commitment to an identity. Marcia also developed an interview method to measure identity as well as four different identity statuses. This methods looks at three different areas of functioning: occupational role, beliefs and values and sexuality.

Identity Statuses

Identity achievement occurs when an individual has gone through an exploration of different identities and made a commitment to one.

Moratorium is the status of a person who is actively involved in exploring different identities, but has not made a commitment.

Foreclosure status is when a person has made a commitment without attempting identity exploration.

Identity diffusion occurs when there is neither an identity crisis or commitment.

Researchers have found that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not. Those with a status of identity diffusion tend to feel out of place in the world and don't pursue a sense of identity.

In today's rapidly changing world, identity crises are more common today than in Erikson's day. Exploring different aspects of yourself in the different areas of life, including your role at work, within the family, and in romantic relationships, can help strengthen your personal identity.

Due Dilligence: Taking Great Activity Ideas Home

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Although I’m a big fan of spending time at the local pet store (AKA: The Free Zoo) and going on “Playground Tour 2012”…There are a lot of other things to do in the area.

This week, one of my best friends Jeff (who is also a professional Daddy) re-introduced me to Longwood Gardens. Like many other places I’ve visited as a childless-man, I was surprised to learn that there was a “children’s section”.

Longwood has an exhibit in the Indoor Children’s Garden “…filled with intricate water features, handcrafted artisan elements and engaging horticultural displays that invite children into an imaginative world all their own.” - www.longwoodgardens.org

Located in the center of these awe inspiring displays is a large stone fountain adorned with hand-carved dragons and surrounded by slate-tiled walls. A collection of buckets and small wooden-handled paintbrushes are made available for children for them to “paint” everything from the fountain itself to the cement floor beneath it…with water as the "paint" that temporarily darkens the surfaces.

As someone with large rocks lining their driveway and approximately 60’ of flagstone along their front walk, I immediately recognized the beauty of this interactive exhibit. The quick-drying “paint” motivates the children to continually create new designs or re-do patterns that have just faded… until you have to drag them away.

Needless to say… I bought 3 cheap paintbrushes at Sherwin Williams yesterday and am looking forward to Catherine’s reaction when I break them out this weekend.

So much easier to steal GREAT ideas from someone else than to think of them yourself. Whenever I’m at a loss for fun things to do, I guess I just need to get out with the openness to re-discover places and things I thought I knew.

Reminds me of the classic cure for “writer's block”.

Buy-In: Taking Our Parenting Seriously

We signed up for weekend classes at The Little Gym (a local children’s gym) when Catherine was about 20 mos old. The whole idea seemed like a giant play date with activities planned by a gymnast. What could be better than building coordination and friendships at the same time? 

After our first few introductory classes with an incredible instructor, we spent the ride home fantasizing about meeting other parents and our daughter’s early graduation from independent play to interaction “Norman Rockwell-style” with other children. 

The first thing we learned at the Little Gym was that very few people marry in their late thirties and have children in their early forties. We were surrounded by young moms and dads with whom we didn’t seem to have anything in common…most notably their seeing this venue as a “great opportunity for children to burn off as much energy as possible”…presumably without the risk breaking something (or someone) at home.

We thought it was a “class”… or at least supposed to be. They called it a “class”. Very few people seemed to mind that their children weren’t listening to the introductions at circle time or were off wandering around and playing on equipment while the instructor was explaining the next activity.

We were often in the minority of  parents (and some children) straining to hear over the children who were screaming. I guess some parents can ignore screaming and carrying on in public...as if it was just white noise to everyone.  These unaffected and inconsiderate parents accept it as normal and chat away with the other parents who are too cool and laid-back to care that their children might be acting like rabid orangutans.

The initial thought was that maybe we were just over-concerned micro managers. It just didn’t seem o.k. to us that no one seemed to reprimand or at least attempt to correct the behavior of children that didn’t wait their turn or worse... push our daughter out of the way.

Watching the little boy who hoarded all the bouncy balls or hula hoops while his father laughed it off, with what seemed like a touch of pride instead of embarrassment, was enough "scope creep" to dissolve my tolerance. I felt like we were getting an early glimpse of a future jerk that someone, someday, would have to work for…and the person clearly responsible for cultivating that personality.

Of course there was a small number of like-minded parents who seemed to share our view that most social situations are great coaching opportunities. They would correct impolite behavior and praise good manners. Although we would thank them for their courtesy, and try to parlay our appreciation into a comfortable ice-breaker, those opportunities felt to be few and far between.

We kept asking ourselves “Are we really uptight or just more mature?” Of course the latter was more pleasant to believe but irrelevant to the fact that we just didn’t fit in. So we bailed on The Little Gym.

We’ve since been to a few birthday parties since then and encountered, on average, at least one other parent that elects to stay in the same room with their children and monitor their play instead of blissfully hob-knobbing with other parents over Bloody Marys and Stella Artois… It’s nice knowing we’re not alone in our commitment to manage the development of a future adult.

Dress Code: An Unspoken Message to My Daughter

Appearance Counts.jpg

Although there wasn’t any shame or awkwardness initially upon making the sensible decision to stay home (like 650,000 other men in America),  not getting dressed for work has me in a funk lately….kind of like being sick.

If I wasn't showered, shaved and dressed it used to be because I had nothing to do or because I was sick….or worse depressed. Even if I had been working around the clock on a project or new restaurant opening, I would produce a fresh exterior on an un-showered body with hair that was at least washed in the sink…but there was some degree of effort there due to the fact that colleagues, clients, customers and superiors expected to see me looking presentable….and not being able to manage one's appearance would mean not being able to handle one's job. Now I keep catching myself completely un-kept due to simply not being able to pick up any semblance of a schedule in my new job...and it's been a bit overwhelming to say the least. 

It’s been well-documented that our external appearance has a direct correlation to how we feel internally. Whether or not one causes the other is debatable but unimportant. I'm no longer just working from home and handling the brunt of the domestic workload. I've been given a promotion.  I now have a new position and my new boss notices everything.

I am her primary reference for what it means to be an adult. It has just occurred to me that, not only are my spoken words and physical examples important, but so too is my perceptible level of confidence, self-respect and self-awareness…and the body language that accompanies.

If a dog can sense fear then I’m sure this smart little girl can detect my being mentally and physically organized. Starting tomorrow, I am going to wake up yet another hour earlier to look as good for my daughter as I would for any client.