Deleted for the Day

5:30 Saturday morning. I sat in the bathroom liking, loving and sharing anything that triggered anything that felt like something new. Any argument I hadn’t yet seen, any inspirational meme or rage hidden plea from folks struggling with the same crisis I was trying to engage with. Suddenly, alone on the toilet in the dark I went to the home screen, found the facebook icon, held it long enough to cause all the icons to shimmy. I looked at it shaking there, tiny ‘x’ in the corner and I couldn’t. I needed it. So my cooler head prevailed, I stabilized my apps and immediately opened facebook again. That was when I knew. I went back and deleted the app. Here I am, 18 hours later and I could use some validation. Likes are good I guess. Loves are great. And laughs. They really do bounce around a lot longer in the synapses, feeding the need as it were. Comments. That’s what I’m talking about. Even the pissy ones. I could deal without the ones of people who clearly don’t read the whole update. Granted, mine can get long and I admit freely, I have tone problems. Shares. God do I love a good share.

But none at all today. That’s not totally true. I opened this here computer to write this piece and it was on FB and I had 25 notifications. So I scrolled them. I’ll say this and this alone about one notification. I don’t care who is racist, whether they ¬†are republican or democrat. I don’t like them. I’m anything if not clear on this I feel, but apparently it must be said.

I’m going on a day without facebook everpresent and I feel like it’s probably good for me. I had a great day with the kids. We went to the park across the street on this unseasonably warm day and played our extremely modified version of wiffle ball, which includes long stretches of Teddy walking like a sea crab and Charlie wanting to bat, field, be in the bleachers and search for treasure. Whatever, there was a bat, a ball, a few hits and some very passive fielding. I’m counting it.

When we were done we made it over to the other side of the school across the street, to the playground. It was good, there was another dad and son there. He was right between Teddy and Charlie in age and as suits their personalities Teddy went about digging holes on his own in the woods surrounding the playground and Charlie went about making a best friend. Everyone he meets is his best friend.

The dad was a nice guy and we got to chatting. It really was nice. He was cool, easy to talk to. He made a joke about the Mets shirt I had on and I let him know that the Mets were my winners as the Bills were my football team. He said it was good to see a man raising boys of character, kids who will have to endure pain. It was funnier when he said it. It was a good laugh line. I’d have been happy to call it at that. But we kept chatting and it was fine. By the end he asked for my number in case the kids wanted to get together. Sure. So who knows. Maybe I made a friend. It’s weird. Maybe its just me, but I kinda think that part of my life is over. I’ve never been very good at socializing without getting blind drunk and ghosting. It’s my signature move.

Once home I took apart a full bed to move it to T’s room, took apart his toddler bed and reassembled the full size and finally got done a job this poor, giant four year old has needed doing for some time. After showing him and his brother his cool, new big boy bed, one that matches his big brothers I made dinner. Rice and beans, corn on the cob, corn muffins and chicken tenders (the boys don’t really dig on my rice and beans, but there gonna regret that someday). After a nice meal at the table I had some quality TV time with the boys and then T came up and helped me shave my head. I do it every two weeks and his big brother likes helping, but this was Teddy’s first time. It was cool.

Capper, I got them both to bed. This is normally a two parent, two room job. I did it in under an hour. Whatever you think about that, you have to know, I’m bragging. In this house that’s bragworthy.

I almost forgot. I listened to the new Tribe album while I cooked. It’s good.

Here’s the thing. I’m bad at community. I’m good at dad, but I’m bad at making and maintaining friends. Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty good at making them but really bad at maintaining them. I can strike up the conversation in the park easy. I can initiate or respond. I’m equally effective. But I know me, and despite everything I should do I’ll never respond if this guy texts. I’ll stay away from the park for a good long time, too. I know. It’s terrible. It’s where I fail.

I say all this firstly to brag. I got a ton of shit done this weekend. That’s not even counting the full day of painting I did yesterday. but secondly I say it because I think there might be something instructive for me in it. I’ll engage all day long on Facebook. I’m sure I’d do the same on other social media platforms but I’m old and FB is where it’s at for me. Anyway I’ll spout opinions, engage in give and take and generally be an open book there. Meanwhile I can’t fathom the idea of having to talk to someone regularly without a structure to it. I love face to face at work but I don’t think we’ve ever had a neighbor in the house. Like ever. A good part of that can be blamed on it being very small, us being very full time employed, both of us, and it being a mess most of the time due to these factors and the two small tornado’s I put to bed this evening.

We’ve lost our political connectedness and I think it might be because we’ve lost almost all of our connectedness. Online I can disengage if you frustrate me or if I think your argument is stupid or if I just get caught up in a show. My grandparents were 1950’s style entertainers. After work other couples from the neighborhood swung around for cocktails. They would perform in community theater and go out with friends. My parents who had six kids, or nine if you looked at it right, even managed to be better than me. My mom is the social glue of her world and made a friend every time she met anyone. They had groups they would go to on Friday nights when I was young. Other moms were always over at the house for coffee, neighbor kids coming and going. It was a hub of activity and they were key players.

We don’t do that. We aren’t like that. It seems fewer and fewer people are. And so when something comes along, like a decision for who to vote for, we have no context to put it in. Honestly, I’m worried this guy, who seemed nice as hell (and looked remarkably like Tom Brady) might have had a Trump sign in his yard. This is a TERRIBLE way to think. And something that I think was avoided by my predecessors because they bowled with friends who’d vote for the other guy. Or they were in a play with them or they sang in the church with them. Maybe they just drank with them, whatever. They knew each other. They had a context for the whole person while nowadays we know nothing of our neighbors. Meanwhile we fill in all the worst.

I should note here that I’m projecting all of this and this might just be an issue for me. If it is, I can tell you, it ain’t healthy. It makes me blind to what people really are. It makes me see people unfairly and inaccurately. It makes me scared of a world of people and surely some of those people can be feared even or especially after getting to know them. But in that mix would be many more who could and should and would help us understand each other better. Maybe if the Trump guy down the street got to know me over pickup hoops and dinner with our wives on a date night for parents before we ever even broached the topic of politics we wouldn’t be so angry all the time. Maybe I’d see sooner how messed up and alienated some have felt whom we’ve never considered as liberals and perhaps he’d understand and see some of the inequalities I’m so upset about. In fact we might come to find we’re voting different folks for the same reasons and that we are both furious at the rising racist tide. Even if that didn’t happen, at least that’s a jumping off point.

Well, Its not been a full day yet and I’m already a little less tense for being away from FB for a bit. The arguments, often not tied to anything but our respective abilities to google facts that support our unbending opinions leaves us feeling like we’ve engaged when all we’ve done is harass. For my rather substantial part in that transaction lately, I do apologize.

I won’t go away. I love facebook and likely will as long as it houses y life of relationships. Just yesterday, in the midst of painting the upstairs landing and smack in the middle of my several day meltdown on FB one very kind, and genuine and thoughtful thing happened as a result of my community there. A friend from college, Bryan reached out to me. We hadn’t talked a ton in college and hardly at all since. But he had a context for who I was and he could see I was unraveling. He sent me a sincere and kind private message letting me know that if I ever wanted to hear a someone’s opinion who voted for the other side he’d be happy to talk. It was genuinely thoughtful, I know because I know him and he knows me, however long ago it was, ours was was a real relationship. Where you sat in the same room and talked. Had beeers. Watched games. All of it. We had a good back and forth about the issues that irked us. I know his information genuinely made me think. Than we talked about fatherhood. How much he loved it and how he enjoyed reading about my experience. It was nice. It was genuine. I wish I had more of that in my life. Disagreement without being disagreeable.

The Golden Age of Pre-Facebook Parenthood on The Good Men Project

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Don’t get me wrong. I love all the connections I’ve maintained via Facebook. Not to mention those that were born there. Still, I can’t help but think that something has been lost…

The Golden Age of Pre-Facebook Parenthood is on The Good Men Project. Please head over and give it a look and let me know what you think!

 

 

#TBT is a Lifeline, Parents. There’s Hope!

 

A funny thing has happened to Facebook since you’ve been blessed with your babies. All those invisible friends who were having kids and obsessing over kids and posting pictures of their kids who were white noise to you before, they are now the people you notice and stop on as you scroll. The others with their pictures of drunken nights and play-house dinner parties in urban settings, dressed fashionably and looking for all the world like they are at a photo shoot are now cruelly taunting you as you hide on your toilet check in on the world through the window of your phone. It can feel awful. Look how much better everyone is doing then you. How fit and trim these other parents are and how interested they are in how their food is made and how much they can exercise. Which is strange because you are kind of, well, not totally, but yeah actually totally fat. Like fat in the face fat. Not just a little tight in the crotch fat, but all new pants and a new strategy at Kohl’s kind of fat.

Smartest In the World. And Robert.
I was positively lanky back in the day!
You aren’t really aware that it’s happened until you see a picture. But once you do see it, you know. You have crossed the line. It’s gonna be a long journey to fitness. You subsist largely on the three C’s of early parenthood; candy, coffee and catnaps. Crying can be substituted for candy or catnaps. Coffee is untouchable. You are both dehydrated and bloated which seems impossible, but isn’t. You are tired and sleepless and tasked with more than you knew you could do. So your glands seek sugar for the short bursts of energy you need. In this early phase with peeks of happiness driven by loving something more than you ever thought possible and lows of madness for exactly the same reason, you turn fat, grey and blobbish.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. That light is hashtagged. #TBT. Thats right. The mockable, thoroughly pleasurable social media phenomena of Throwback Thursday is your saving grace.

First, find all your friends who’s kids are older then 8 and younger than college. Then, really wind yourself up by looking through their family photo albums. Look for albums with titles like, ‘Fun Run 2013’ or ‘A Day at the Beach’ or simply ‘Mom Runs Two Marathons in One Week’. This should really get you to pull the trigger on those Donuts. Maybe even make you down a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s just before bed. You’re not really searching the short energy burst at this point. Your just eating your feelings. It’s a complicated emotional maneuver. Your recent trip through your closet, your truly fucked digestive system and your coworkers catching you wearing the only 2 pants you fit in anymore has led you to think there might be something to it.

Then do it. Find all those same friends with their grown kids and look at there various TBT photos of them with their babies at their first birthdays or first anythings, really. If they don’t participate in TBT, no problem. Just scroll through their photo’s. You’ll get there. You’ll see the now dated photos of those parents, those marathoning sunbathers bundled in formless clothing, dressed perpetually for fall, playing with their babies, sprawled on couches and covered in kids. You’ll see it. In addition to their beaming happiness and pride (they are after all curating these pics and they can only go so far in there unwitting role as caregiver to your broken psyche) you’ll see the familiar pallor. The grey ghoul expression on their double chinned faces. Their general dishevelledness. You will see their wholly recognizable unwellness, and you will smile. They too were like you. They too lost all sense of self. There is hope that you may process food effectively again. You too may sleep and exercise and know the names of the movies, maybe even see a few, that were nominated this decade. Their is a chance that you will once again order the flat fronts and not worry that your underbelly will be too evident.

There is hope.

Facebook, Parenthood and the Bursting of the Bubble

There was something nice about a world where we simply retreated to build a safe bubble for our kids to grow up in and ourselves to grow unselfconscious in. Where the world was not dominated by competitive parenting. Where we befriended other families at the park and on the street and they became our family friends. Where our only advice came from our own parents and siblings and not the ‘new parent industrial complex’ out to capitalize on our natural feelings of inadequacy, out to exacerbate and exploit them so we’d buy and buy again their book, their foods, their methods and anything else they can charge us for.

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Parenting is isolating. Kids make you a recluse. Many of us find our way to Facebook. From what I’m told Facebook has gone the way of the dinosaur insofar as social media is concerned. Which is fine with me. Gets rid of all the youthful riff-raff and their unintelligible slang. Seriously. I’m far more comfortable with outdated technology as long as I’m rarely asked to change and can avoid being constantly reminded of my impending irrelevancy. Anyway, Facebook is where grown ups, people of a certain age can see and be seen. It’s a place to brag and to bitch. And to bitch and to bitch and to bitch. It’s a place where, if you construct your network right, you can find endless support and understanding from peers in the same boat not to mention a good deal of criticism and snark. Some warranted, mostly just the rantings of similarly frustrated people enjoying the most wonderful, treacherous days of their lives, looking to act out.

As one ages and creeps toward ultimate decrepitude one becomes wistful for times past. Times that our psyches have ably transformed from the real life reality they were into a magical utopia of proper thinking and moral rightness. I find myself judging things that are new (in this case meaning things my parents didn’t do or have, be they normative parenting expectations or technological doodads) to be lacking in a certain moral fiber that allows me to judge them righteously rather than responsibly. This is the ‘young whippersnapper’ maneuver, and I’m growing quite enamored of it.

We have lost something valuable by not ever losing touch with our peer groups. Their used to be a natural incubation period after having kids that we’ve lost due to constant interconnectedness. Someday we’ll evolve to intuitively know how to handle being in front of everyone we know and having a front row seat while they stand before us. We’ll know how to consume the media in an intelligent way that allows us to know the tricks that both our friends and our minds are playing on us. But that won’t be me. For now, for me, there’s something lost by not becoming a hermit for a decade or so after you have kids. It’s the way nature and my environment trained me to navigate such a traumatic and magical transformation.

In the past we all had kids. Over time the acceptable ages for this (attention-seeking) behavior has crept ever upward. Until now, when I’m engaged in the absurd task of caring for toddlers in my 40’s. Seriously. This is where I have failed nature. This isn’t the way this is supposed to be done. One by one, or occasionally two by two, we all split from our various friend/social groups. Facebook is a help this way as I can remain a voyeur on my former mates, but the truth is I don’t stay in touch. Its an aspect of my character. I used to think it a flaw, but its not. Just who I am. Having this window into my former lives is hugely valuable. It’s also somewhat detrimental. You see, I was meant to go into a bubble, hermetically sealed from the eyes of others, for years. I was meant to do so in order to fully allow me the time to transform into a standard issue dad, delighting in the originality of my bad puns and relishing the comfort of my ever diminishing fashionability. A sense that in my case was formed in the era of skater/grunge/B-Boy styles that has thankfully left my formerly clownishly oversized clothing nearly perfectly fitted now that I’ve ‘grown’ into manhood. Further more the bubble is a place populated by your parents and siblings and neighbors with similarly aged kids and it was here where you learned what you were supposed to be like. But not anymore. Now we hide from our neighbors, hang on desperately to our classmates and original peer groups and never allow ourselves the period where we are supposed to fully forget how we are viewed by anyone other than our kids and our spouses and our larger family. That blessed bubble has been burst.

In the bubble your non-parent friends took on the same feeling of irrelevancy to you as you did to them. You knew something they didn’t and you knew you couldn’t ‘tell’ them anything you’d learned. They had to find it for themselves. And you went about grocery shopping and eating dinners at home and raising kids and building a foundation and ensuring healthcare and playing chauffeur and doing laundry, good god the laundry, and midnight feedings and 4AM cuddles and reading books a thousand times and living like children yourselves eating recooled leftover chicken nuggets and half apple sauces 4 nights a week and turning every available floor into a play area and generally living in a home too messy, though thoroughly sterilized, to ever host friends and barely passable to host family. You know, doing the day to day stuff that would allow your kids to go out and one day have the same disregard for their friends once they had kids because its the circle of life.

In the process you grew to care less and less about what others thought and started to anchor your life around your couch, kitchen and your place of employment. You lost touch with culture and one day realized you hadn’t seen any of the movies nominated in five years, but you know every word to every Pixar or even Pixar-ish film that’s ever been made and you like it that way. Whole presidential campaigns and fashion trends would pass without your notice and you’d find yourself thinking of a night out to The Macaroni Grille as a treat. It would go like this. For years. Decades even.

You’d also get to navigate boyhood again, making many of the same mistakes, but fixing some and taking pride in the fact that those things you avoided the second time around were out of the lineage and wouldn’t even be issues for your grandkids. And in the process, the person you were helming this seemingly out of control ship with was that beautiful girl you couldn’t believe liked you all those years ago and you are now family with her, the only immediate family you’ll ever have who was totally chosen, picked out special, and you are in more than love with her. You’re in LIFE with her. With her alone. She’s the only one that gets it. Gets it the exact same way as you do. And you are in love again, but a better kind. A more complete kind. You’ve done all the work together and you’ve beaten out any of the doubt or concern and are fully yourself and made to feel great about yourself, your fatter, less relevant, but fully realized self.

There was something nice about a world where we simply retreated to build a safe bubble for our kids to grow up in and ourselves to grow unselfconscious in. Where the world was not dominated by competitive parenting. Where we befriended other families at the park and on the street and they became our family friends. Where our only advice came from our own parents and siblings and not the ‘new parent industrial complex’ out to capitalize on our natural feelings of inadequacy, out to exacerbate and exploit them so we’d buy and buy again their book, their foods, their methods and anything else they can charge us for. A place you could emerge from culturally irrelevant and personally powerful. Clad in polyester pants with a too high waist looking the embarrassment you are to your now prepubescent kids, proudly out of fashion and unfit. Providing them a model of the ‘truly cool’ person who cares not what the world wants them to be but rather places value on that which is truly important in seeking and finding lasting happiness. Forget having good self esteem. You were past that. You knew who you were and what that meant. You were a parent.

But you whippersnappers with your fancy ‘thinking machines’ and the facebook have gone and ruined it.

Bah..