Thursday, July 19, 2012

Douchebloggery, and Worse: Overwrought Confessions of a Hypocrite Dad Blogger

I finished writing a column for my local parenting magazine at about midnight on Sunday.  I could have gone to bed at a decent(ish) hour for a change.

But there had been a blogging controversy heating up for a couple weeks--one that I was involved in pretty deeply.  I figured I had better weigh in while there was still interest in the story.

I wasn't particularly fired up.  I could have gone to bed and it wouldn't have bothered me that I didn't get my two cents in.  But I had an idea: just a simple question, really, and I suspected that it would generate some discussion.  It wasn't lost on me that some of the bloggers who had been following the kerfuffle would read and share the post.  It would be easy to write, and it could get me some attention and pageviews.

The controversy I felt obliged to comment on was about a fellow dad blogger who, with the help of my mudslinging, had become something of a pariah in the community because of his pathological pursuit of attention and pageviews.

So I wrote the post.  It wasn't complicated or anything; but I kept getting distracted, and I ended up not getting to bed until after 4:00 a.m.

A few hours later, I zombie-shuffled through the morning routine of breakfast and preparations for getting the hell out of the house so we didn't all drive each other crazy.

We could have done any number of fun activities involving just the kids and me.  That's how we usually roll, because making arrangements and trying to stick to those arrangements is difficult with two willful, capricious kids and a scatterbrained dad.

But that morning, we were meeting up with some of the guys from my stay-at-home dad group.  We don't meet  up all that often, and I have rarely been the one to suggest activities (although after the meetups, I'm always glad I went).  This day's activity was my idea though.  Nothing special--just a bunch of guys hanging out with their kids at the playground.

The girls were fussing over everything, and soon it was past the time we were supposed to have been there.  They kept saying that they wanted to stay home.  I could have bailed (it happens in the playdating world), but instead we persevered.  It was very important that we show up.  Because I needed footage of the Dad Group and kids frolicking about for a "Day in the Life of a Stay-At-Home Dad" video that may or may not be my ticket to an appearance on a national TV show.

I would somewhat sheepishly explain to the guys what the deal was with the show, and what kind of footage I was hoping to get.  They would make fun of me a little, but play along, passing the camera around so I could collect clips of us being zany-but-involved dads from different angles.  But first I had to be an asshole to my kid.


Twin A, aka "Cobra," is the one that people say looks like me.  She's also a very sensitive kid with some anxiety issues that must be closely related to my own (especially the ones I had as a child), because when she becomes inconsolable over an improperly served cookie, or doors opened in the wrong sequence, I feel her anguish as if it were my own and realize that it has nothing to do with cookies or doors but is just a million festering, niggling buzzes of angst coming to a head.  This connection-by-emotional-disorder makes me feel like we are more similar to one another than are myself and Twin B, aka "Butterbean."  It makes me more likely to be sympathetic to her utterly irrational meltdowns than to those of Butterbean.

Butterbean has a problem controlling her impulses.  Which is perfectly appropriate for a three-year-old.  Unfortunately, her impulses include lashing out at her sister with hits, kicks and shoves, for the smallest offenses.  When I catch her manhandling her sister, my fragile little doppelganger whose only reaction, despite her greater physical size and strength, is tears,  I get angry.  I grab the aggressor by the arms to protect her victim from further abuse, and I pull her away for a hissed reminder about the rules regarding violence, before depositing her in time-out.  In the moment that the child still has her war-face on, before she breaks down into tears of her own--tears of protest, mainly--and I am nose-to-nose with her, I realize that I'm looking into a mirror.  Our eyes are wide and our jaws jutted out, teeth visible in menacing underbites.  Our identical anger shocks me every time.  But it doesn't necessarily make me sympathetic.

I say hi to the one other dad who has beat me to the playground (the other guys had their own fires to put out), and try to get my sullen children to play.  They want to go home.  I share their mood a bit.  I have my own niggling angst buzzing around.  I'm tired, I'm feeling like half a cheeseball for having written something strategically controversial, and more than half a cheeseball for having strategically convened a playdate around the possibility that I could be on a TV show that I would never watch, just so--what--I can get some more clicks on my blog that equal fractions of pennies each in ad revenue?  Just like the dude my derision of whom has brought me more clicks than anything else I've written about?  So I can get on the road to being a pseudo-celebrity, and then parlay that somehow into being a real writer?  My stomach has a dozen complaints and I'm thirsty.

Finally the kids start playing, tentatively.  They get on what passes for a merry-go-round these days: a vertical axis with a disc on the bottom, just big enough for two kids to stand on while they hold onto the handles at the top of the axis.

"I wanna go really fast!" says Butterbean.  It's the first sign of enthusiasm all day.

"N-o!" Cobra stretches the word into two syllables.  "Go slo-ow."

The contraption makes two revolutions before the bickering turns to shoving.

I grab Butterbean and we grimace at one another before I set her aside to remove her sister from the idling piece of equipment.

"This one has problems with impulse-control lately," I say to my friend.  He nods like he knows all about that.

Cobra, frozen, gathers her breath, pauses.  Lets out a howl that lasts forever.  There's a half-inch cut under her eye from Butterbean's poorly-manicured fingernail. 

Meanwhile her sister's war-face has dissolved and she has climbed back on the the merry-go-round.

"Go really fast!" she demands over her sister's wailing.

"You want to go fast?"  My underbite is still engaged.  I give the axis two quick spins. 

It goes fast.  Really fast.

Butterbean loses her grip and sails off of the merry-go-round, landing on the rubberized ground, first on her feet, but then toppling dizzily over.

"Speaking of impulse-control..." my friend says.  It sounds light-hearted, but he has to be horrified.  And, of course, he's dead right.  I want to disappear.

But now I have two wailing three-year-olds clinging to me.  All of us miserable and hanging onto each other because there's nothing else we can think to do.

Then the other two guys and their kids arrive.  The show must go on.

As kids sometimes do, the girls recover quickly.  Soon they're running around with their little friends, chattering, laughing, apparently not hating my guts.

We get some footage.  The kids are cute and the guys are funny.  I edit out the parts where my jaw is clenching and I look a little sick to my stomach.             


45 comments:

  1. I think the angst over the potential hypocrisy is proof that maybe, just maybe there's hope for you yet!

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  2. Posts like this make me wish (more than usual) that our families lived in the same area, dude. We'd totally come to your playdates. :-)
    Seriously, this was beautiful. Painful, truthful, and beautiful.

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    1. That would be great. You guys should move down here! You would dig my dad group.

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  3. The Ego is one tricky master. Part of dealing with it is knowing how it gets to you. Writing and reading and discussing help us do that. My own heart went back and forth on that discussion, and I'm nowhere near pseudo-fame. I mean, my dad is one of my main commenters.

    Thanks for making us think, even at the cost of your Ego. It's what real writers do.

    And also? Twins will eff with you dude. It's their job.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, and your comments on the "bullshit" post. I've been lucky with the twins so far. But that luck seems to be changing a little. Maybe it's a phase.

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    2. You're very welcome.

      I do like to tell the crazy parts of twin parenting because it's funnier. The truth is my twins are great, and I wouldn't have them any other way. It only gets cooler as they get older and the bond intensifies. You'll love it!

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  4. As so often is the case, the show must go on. Even if none of the actors desire.

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  5. Telling the truth sucks. And it is the only thing worth doing. Good writing.

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    1. What a great aphorism! I'm going to tell everyone I made it up.

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    2. As usual, I have nothing left to say after Suebob has spoken.

      Love the post. I come here for this, not for the controversy. Feel free to resume anything else at any time. Then again, you just have.

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  6. It's not necessarily "pageview bait" if a post actually advances the conversation, is it? I mean, maybe you only wrote it for pageviews. If so, I guess it worked. I got me riled up, anyway. But weren't you curious about the answers you'd get to the question? If so, no reason NOT to write it, even if you knew it would stir things up (again).

    But THIS post is why I read dad and mom blogs. Brutal, rip-off-your-face, completely self-aware honesty. Well-written and real stuff that makes me think, Damn, I wish I'd written that. (Got a name for the show? Real SAHD of SoCal?)

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    1. I really was interested in the potential conversation when I wrote that post, and I was not disappointed. But lately, whenever I write anything controversial, I have to question my own motives.

      Thanks for the kind words. I'm going to put "brutal, rip-off your face, completely self-aware honesty" on my banner.

      (I should have been more specific--it's a talk show. I already got rejected for the reality show. For reals. There's a post about it somewhere around here.)

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  7. What is impulse control? I'm not familiar.

    Great stuff.

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    1. It's just something I heard about on TV. Don't know if it really exists.

      Thanks.

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  8. The fact that you knew it would generate pageviews doesn't mean you wrote it IN ORDER TO GET pageviews. Your intention is the difference. I, for one, love those posts and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I found your blog by googling something like "I hate _____", and have been a fan of your writing ever since, no matter the topic.

    And yeh, impulse control sucks. It also tends to plummet with the addition of every child. Dealing with two has turned me into a raging beast who can't even pronounce the word kuhnnnnntro-- wait, what was I saying?

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    1. It's hard to know what your own intentions are. That said, I don't have any regret for writing that post. I think, in the end, it was pretty productive.

      Nobody knows how to push your buttons like your own kids. I'm just learning that.

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  9. Ahhh...it never fails to amaze me how our emotions run like electric current when it comes to our kids and while sometimes that current is powering a lightbulb, sometimes it's blowing a breaker. You will all recover.

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    1. Excellent analogy! As usual I am going to steal it and claim that I made it up.

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  10. That miserable feeling sticks with me for days. If only I could feel the opposite emotion (be it triumph or pride or even just satisfaction) when I do exercise impulse control. Instead, it's like, "Well, of course you did the right thing - you're the grownup here," when I still feel like I'm anything but.

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    1. I actually DO feel proud when I show more self-control than my kids. I guess I have pretty low expectations for myself. But noting my own improvement motivates me to do better. So there's that.

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  11. I like the cut of your jib here, sir. Good one.

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  12. I totally get where you're coming from. I was a hair shy of taking my three-year-old in the bathroom and spanking her because she was being ridiculous and horribly behaved at her sister's art show. An art show that was weeks in the making and I just wanted the quiet, well-behaved kid to have the spotlight for once. It's hard to protect your child's feelings when the one who is hurting her is that other kid who you really love too. Anyway, no bathroom spanking took place, but it still sucks to want to. WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE.

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  14. What the fuck is your problem, dude?

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    1. Know who had anger issues? Darth Vader.

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    2. And now I would like to know what was said.

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  15. The mark of a great writer is the ability to communicate so much of what I'm thinking, but could never do as well as you do.. You rock BetaDad..

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  16. I think it, You type it! You rock, BetaDad.

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  17. This crap is hard. All of it. Honesty makes it beautiful.

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  18. You're honest, even with all the jumping and screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" crap that we're all guilty of at times, you're still honest. It's humbling to witness.

    When it comes to our children, they are all like us but some are like us in ways that we find sympathetic and relatable and others are like us in ways that make us uncomfortable enough to want to deny. It's just reality...honest.

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  19. Distraction is a beast. So are 3 year old twins. But love the raw honesty.

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  20. I think all of us go through that. It's not just bloggers, it's anyone who's ever been conflicted between being the best parent on the one hand and taking a break to make something out of himself on the other. It's easy to say parenting is the most important job in the world, but we shouldn't leave ourselves out of the equation. Just like I would look down at a mom who would willingly lose herself to her Mommy identity, I should feel the same about myself as a stay-at-home-dad who has had a chance to be almost many different great things, and still hopes to do stuff other than being a good dad. Not that it's not the most important and rewarding job in the world.

    Maybe what you need (which is true for me too, don't get me wrong) is focus. It's easy to dismiss the HLN appearance, but if you take it as part of a bigger plan for your future, it's a pretty big stepping stone. Now you just need to find that plan (and maybe "Writing for a living" should change to something more specific? I don't know... I'm not good at these things. You need an agent, dammit!)

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  21. Aww, big guy.

    You're doing a good job.

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  22. Been there. I believe patience as a parent comes when their old enough to understand Santa.

    Some days are hard. Odds are it was just going to be one of this days anyway. My youngest was a particularly trying infant thru kindergartner. She never slept through the night' was prone to random fits of frustration or prissiness and yet now? I remember that she was that way, but the details of those moments are vague. Kind of.

    Point is, every parent has moments they aren't proud of. As terrible as you feel about that moment, she won't remember it. But she's growing up knowing how much you love her.

    That's the part that she'll hold onto.

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  23. Sorry, I was going to start a website called Douchebloggery and my search led me here.

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  24. You shouldn't beat yourself up too much about the situation. Granted, being aware of the consequences of acting on impulse is far more than most people even bother to consider. However, we all fail at some point, the trick is learning from that failure to mitigate the next one.

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  25. Everyone learns more from failure than they do from success. Your blog speaks of true emotions that few of us would admit in public we feel. You help all of us realize that we're not bad parents.

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  26. I think the fact that you feel compelled to examine and be critical of your motivations says a lot about your character. As for your parenting, we all have moments and days like that and frankly, you did a lot better than I did recently (see my blog post from early June for details).

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  27. Nah. It was lighthearted. I wasn't the least bit horrified.

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Don't hold back.

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