This post is from Torrey Maldonado. Torrey is a teacher and author with a passion for Young Adult & Middle Grade literature. His debut novel is based on his and his students’ struggles with masculinity, their dads, and has inspired Fatherhood series by bloggers, book clubs and in schools. Visit him online at TorreyMaldonado.com. Follow Torrey on Twitter @torreymaldonado. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
My upbringing was similar to my dad’s.
As boys and tweens, we both were drowning, socially, academically—you name it. We both were on-course to becoming our dads. We both didn’t want that, but felt it was inevitable.
My father became his dad. I didn’t.
Today, I’m different than them, and my father told me before he died that he was proud of who I became.
Throughout my life, my father regularly disappeared. He routinely “disappeared” into jail. When he returned, he lived with us but “disappeared” into the streets, returned and “disappeared” into his bedroom. From daycare to my first gray hair, he consistently “disappeared” from doing fatherly things with my sisters and me.
One song reminds me of him: Poppa was a Rolling Stone. He also was what people call a “hard rock”, usually tough-as-nails. Those are two more prominent memories of him: he either wasn’t around enough or came on too strong.
I’m describing my father, his father, and a lot of my friends’ fathers. If we toured my old neighborhood, you’d see the number of dads who “disappear” and who are “hard rocks” is so huge that if they sat on each other’s shoulders, a guy-ladder would tower into space.
Is this way of being guys’ faults? Across the U.S. a stereotype of macho manliness is celebrated that puts down guys as effeminate if they’re open and affectionate. It’s not a current phenomenon; in 1963 Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had a hit, Walk Like a Man. That song made “hard rock” manliness as stylish as it is today. Before that, music and other media stylized macho-manliness—cowboys in black-and-white movies, knights in fairy tales, and so on. For maybe centuries now, men have embraced a popularized masculinity while leaving women to be emotional caregivers.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook projects. A timeless rule there and in other tough neighborhoods is that the strong survive. Being a “hard rock” and projecting strength isn’t just stylish—it’s a survival tactic. In the 1980s, males felt they needed hard bravados as a flood of drug-activity made Life magazine call us “The Crack Capital of America.” Our neighborhood still has a major drug problem, which means males still need to project strength to avoid surrounding violence.
On one hand, the ethos “Walk Like a Man” helps guys survive; on the other hand, that prompts us to shelve being emotional caregivers. That motto helps continue what I call “The Boy Crisis” (the widespread retarding of male development—socially, academically, and professionally—by discouraging males from being affectionate and showing all sides of ourselves).
I survived "The Boy Crisis"; my father didn’t.
My dad didn’t marry women he impregnated; I married one woman, then we planned our parenthood.
My father disappeared—physically and emotionally—on his children; I have one child for whom I am very present.
My dad was a “hard rock” 24/7; I work hard to show my daughter my soft-side, scared-side, and all-sides.
I love my father despite the conscious and unconscious hurt that came from his absence and stoniness. His few good sides show in things I do.
One factor that helped me steer in a different direction was “Uncles.”
My mom introduced me to men who weren’t blood-related, but helped me weather storms of limiting messages about manhood.
These “Uncles” were unlike my dad.
They didn’t disappear. They let me sit with them for as long as I wanted, and I did—sometimes just to watch them interact with each other and the world.
On the corner, my Puerto Rican Uncle Danny had only four fingers on one hand from a Vietnam-injury. He had the strongest handshake and the gentlest heart. (My mom hoped I would pick up his gentleness.)
At a local garage, my African American Uncles—Archie and Joe—modeled routines, wearing their work-uniforms even afterhours. (My mom hoped I would embrace their solid work ethic).
At the cleaners, my mobster-sounding Italian Uncle Carmine described females with complete respect (My mom hoped I would absorb his pro-feminism.).
These “Uncles” were different from each other, yet similar.
They shared a common belief about fathering: Dads shouldn’t withdraw from their children, even if they leave their child’s mother. They said to admire males on TV or from the street, but to ultimately be you. They gave me “change”—probably fifty cents one day, one dollar another—but, wow, the comics, candies, and things I bought!
It all added up. Despite my dad disappearing, my community in crisis, and societal pressures to conform, each man gave me more than “change”—they gave me safe spaces and guidance for me to change.
They presented different sides of manhood and added the best of themselves to the best my father could model and I eventually created a mosaic of masculinity from their examples. These “Uncles” helped me transform from an academically and socially drowning boy to becoming a celebrated teacher, a published novelist, and a present husband and father.
As a boy, I once told my mom that I wanted to be like my uncles—all of them—White, Black, and Latino. She said I could. I wondered how.
In time, I learned a man doesn’t have to be one-sided. That idea drives my fathering and threads through my novel, Secret Saturdays. That idea is what made my upbringing similar to my father’s, but not my outcome. Our boys could benefit from fathers but if their dads disappear or model what ultimately stifles their growth, then positive “Uncles” are a great tool to ensure boys become men and fathers with many good sides to show.
The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Trying to have your first child or another one? Think twice before you eat that juicy bacon cheeseburger.
Recent research reveals that what men eat affects their ability to conceive.
Researchers found that men with higher levels of saturated fat had a lower concentration of sperm and lower total sperm count in their semen.
The more saturated fat in the diet, the lower the concentration and count. A higher intake of saturated fat can lead to obesity, which can also lower sperm count.
Want a beer with that burger? Think about that one, too. Alcohol use has been linked to lower sperm count. Not the occasional beer, glass of wine, or cocktail, but regular consumption (e.g., daily).
Want to know what else affects the little guys? Check out these 10 proven "sperm killers".
Most of the posts in our blog focus on tips and advice on how to be a great dad. But what if you never get the chance to apply this guidance? What if you never get the chance to become a father?
The following is a post from Kristin Hackler. Kristin is a mother, author and journalist. She is also a regular contributor to eBay on home decoration, DIY and parenting-related topcis. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Even if you loved the style and color of your home when you first moved in, the most neutral of rooms can become eyesores over time. But with all the expenses of food, family and day-to-day living, it's hard enough to scraping together money for a new welcome mat, let alone remaking an entire living space. But, renovating a room doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can do quite a lot for less than $100.
Consider some of the following room renovation ideas, some of which cost nothing and others that will only lighten your wallet by a few bucks. You'll be surprised at what just a few simple changes can do.
Painting Outside of the Bucket
Painting is the number one change you can make for the least amount of money, but have you considered going a step further and adding some interest to that new coat of Fisherman's Wharf blue? For a solid matte wall paint, consider adding texture by rolling stripes in a clear glaze or layering crinkled tissue paper between coats of paint for an old world look.
- Paint a small section of wall, then crumple a sheet of tissue paper, unfold it and press it against the wet paint, spreading it out with your fingers.
- Paint over the tissue paper and repeat with the next section.
- For added dimension, finish with an antiquing glaze.
What is that Accent?
Add interest around the room with repurposed accent pieces. It not only costs much less to use items picked up used at the thrift store or online, or even found around the home, it also impresses guests to see your creativity at work.
Some interesting repurposing ideas include:
- an old crib railing attached to the wall for hanging pictures
- an old louvered shutter attached to the wall as a letter holder
- an old wooden ladder attached to the wall as a shelf
- a wooden ladder as a long shelf by attaching shelving boards across the rungs
- an antique wooden ironing board as a side table
- spoons bent into hooks and screwed into to a 1 x 4 board attached to the wall for holding kitchen items
- thin bookcases turned on their sides for instant benches with cubby space—cover with a strip of foam and decorative fabric for added comfort
From restoring old hardware to adding a touch of color here and there, a couple of small changes can make a big difference in a room. If you have a lot of hardware around your home such as door, cabinet and drawer knobs, hinges, light switches and socket panels, a layer of paint can clean them up quickly with little to no cost. But start with a fresh surface (and you may even prefer the bare look).
All you need to remove old paint is:
- An old crock pot
- Liquid laundry detergent
If you don't have a crock pot sitting around that you don't use anymore, you can usually find one for close to nothing at a thrift store. To remove the paint from your small hardware items, turn the crock pot on low, add water and a few tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent, and allow the hardware to sit in the solution overnight. In the morning, the paint will slip right off.
If your brasses are too bright, you could also use a matte black spray paint designed to work specifically with metal to turn your door knobs from bright brass to faux iron, or a brass darkening solution to give them an antique look.
Splashes of Color
Wall murals are another way to add a creative touch. Not only can you find free-form nature images that can add interest to a bare corner or wall, you can also use them to create temporary drawing stations for the kids. Removable chalkboards and whiteboards can be added to kids' rooms, kitchens and even the living room without worrying about how to cover it up when you have guests over.
Wallpaper can also add new life and character to a room, but enough to cover even one wall can get pretty pricey. Instead, you can add interest with small segments of wallpaper in eye-catching areas such as the back panels of bookshelves, the backsplash of a kitchen or framed and placed around the room in repurposed or upcycled frames.
Renovating a room doesn't have to mean shelling out big bucks for a few small changes. Instead, consider what you have and what you can repurpose to make a big difference with small changes.
What are some ways you've found to renovate a room at little to no cost?
We get a lot of inquiries here at NFI about “trends in fatherhood.” One of the most common “trends” people want to know about is the rising number of single fathers in the country. I hear this inquiry so often that I started to believe it was true, until I actually looked at the data.
According to the US Census Bureau, 4.2 percent of children lived in “father only” homes in 2000. In 2012, that number dropped, yes dropped, to 3.96 percent. Not a huge drop, but a drop nonetheless.
To put these numbers in even broader context, the percent of children who live with neither parent stands at 3.6 percent, virtually the same as those living with single dads. It’s interesting that I have never received an inquiry about the “huge” numbers of children living without their parents.
As most people can probably guess, the number of single-mother homes still dwarfs the number of single-father homes—24.3 percent of children live in mother-only homes. The percent in 2000 was 22.4 percent. Yes, it is single-mother homes that have become more common in the last decade, not single-father homes.
Why am I pointing this out? Because it is critical that discussions about the family are based on facts, not impressions. We don’t have to guess about most of this stuff; we have good, free, abundant data at our fingertips.
We often see the same thing happen when people are thinking about the impact of father absence. Does it make a difference? How can we really know for sure? Based on at least 30 years of research, father absence does make a difference. Take a look at this small sample of very persuasive data to get an idea of the great scholarship available on this topic.
Moreover, it can indeed be dangerous if the media (or whoever) is creating news by manufacturing impressions that are not based on facts. Even I, someone who works in this field, was under the (false) impression that there has been a rise in single fatherhood. I mean, everyone is writing about it, right?! The fact that the real story is actually the opposite—that more children are living in single-mother homes, which are of course father-absent homes—is critical. We (NFI, our culture, you and I!) need to be focused on reducing father absence, not weaving fantastical tales about single dads.
So, the next time I get a call asking me about the rise in single fatherhood, I'm going to burst someone’s bubble and tell him he should write about the rise in single motherhood (read: father absence) instead. I would then be happy to give him more facts, if he doesn't hang up on me.
The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
Bullying continues to receive a lot of attention in schools and the media, and for a good reason.
It takes many forms ranging from traditional, physical bullying to the more recent and harder-to-spot form called “cyberbullying”. Regardless of form or medium, it can devastate its victims and has led some children to kill themselves. It might surprise you to learn, however, that children who bully aren’t necessarily the mean kids who tower in height over everyone else and lie in wait for your child to walk by and steal his or her lunch money through sheer intimidation.
According to Child Trends’ 5 Things to Know about Kids Who Bully, bullies:
- Don’t fit a specific profile.
- Are sometimes bullied themselves.
- Play a wide range of roles in bullying (e.g. they might actively or passively assist or encourage or a bully rather than do the bullying themselves).
- Need help, too.
- Can be reinforced (and, alternately, discouraged) in their bullying by parents, peers, and schools.
The latter point is particularly relevant to our work at National Fatherhood Initiative.
According to Child Trends:
"Children who have less-involved parents are more likely to bully others, as are those who have siblings or parents who model or endorse aggressive behavior. Parenting styles linked to social bullying include those lacking nurturing or that rely on psychological control of children; children with parents who manipulate relationships to assert power or gain attention are also more likely to engage in social bullying.”
If you’re wondering whether your child is a victim of bullying or know that your child is a victim and need some guidance in how to help your child, check out these four great resources that provide definitions of and data on bullying, as well as, advice on how to deal with bullies.
- KidsHealth (Parents Helping Kids)
- KidsHealth (Teens Helping Themselves)
- Violence Prevention Works
- Bullying Statistics
When was the last time you talked with your child about bullying?