Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Eviction of Eloise

Okay, I know this isn't about writing about Darfur or what's going on in Iraq or New Orleans, but I have to let it out.

Every morning I read to my boys while they drink their milks. It's a gift, really, to be able to do this. The experience has made me a sort of connoisseur of children's literature. One of Charlie's favorite books (and mine as well) is Eloise by Kay Thompson. For those not acquainted, Eloise is the story about a precocious, fast talking six-year-old girl who lives with her nanny at the Plaza Hotel in New York. The story was written in the Fifties and has sparked several subsequent Eloise books as well as movie and cartoon adaptations. The drawings are as fantastic as the writing.

Anyway, I recently had the brainstorm of bringing Charlie to The Plaza, where we'd sit in the hotel lobby and I would read the story to him where it theoretically all takes place. You have no idea how excited my little four-year-old son was at the prospect of this literary adventure. In the numbing December air we trekked all the way to the hotel only to learn that the Plaza Hotel, that mainstay of New York opulence and the setting for so many different movies, had become, aside for a small sliver that's still being renovated, condominium-ized.

The doorman who stopped us at the revolving doors into Eloise's Mecca had the forlorn look of a man whose children had been snatched from him. He explained in somber terms the endless parade of other parents with their excited young Eloise fans that he had been turning away. Why couldn't the lobby at least have been left for people to come see, even if the rest of the place could be private? Why couldn't a child be allowed a few happy moments to fulfill his or her fantasy of standing in the lobby where this beloved character had played? There was no use in complaining to him as he was just a self-described 'door pusher' and not the one in charge.

All we could do was peer past this pathetic gate keeper at the empty, lifeless, gold-adorned lobby, where never an entranced child would be able to linger, unless he or she lived there. The life had been sucked from the place. It was as if Eloise and all that is vivacious about her character, had been tossed out.

My son was bewildered from that point on all the way to tucking him into bed tonight. He kept asking the same question over and over.

"But why can't we go there, daddy?"

I can't tell you how many different ways that I tried to explain it to him: that things sometimes change. That sometimes the special things in this world can come undone even if we don't want them. That there are people out there who want things all for themselves.

"But why, daddy? Why?"

After a certain point I realized there was no way his four-year-old mind could understand why he couldn't go into this place and I just acquiesced, telling him I just didn't know. And honestly, emotionally, I don't either.

I know that some of you reading this are thinking that this particular blog is a bit sentimental and perhaps even a nary trite - and you're probably right. But to me at this moment, the idea of children not being allowed into the Plaza lobby is indicative of all that is wrong with our American culture, where money is always more important than people, where greed is king. My film focuses on how dads suffer in this culture, but truly, it impacts nearly everything, from the pesticide-laden food we eat, to the environment that we are destroying to the lead-covered toys our kids play with....

"But why, daddy? Why?"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

To War or Not To War

There’s been some activity recently in the media revolving around the ‘Daddy Wars’ term and I’ve been hesitant to support it, but the tide for me seems to be turning in my mind.

My hesitancy stems from the whole bloated ‘Mommy Wars’ thing which from my vantage point is a trumped-up concept by the media to rile women up and further cloud what the real picture is in terms of family/work balance. Every time I hear that phrase, I just shake my head in disgust. Frankly, it’s comparable to the ‘Stay-At-Home Dad as a growing movement’ articles and segments that keep cropping up. These are media pieces that focus on the wrong things with the (intended or not) effect of maintaining the status quo of people finding themselves torn between jobs that demand complete commitments and spending time with their families.

So, now the ‘Daddy Wars’ concept is starting to appear more and more in print and my initial reaction was to discourage the phrase as it seemed a thankless sequel to ‘Mommy Wars.’

However, something altogether more interesting seems to be occurring with the ‘Daddy Wars’ concept. The conflict isn’t being perceived between Traditional Dads and the Stay-At-Home Dads (which would be obvious manufactured companion to the ‘Mommy Wars’) but between dads who desire to have more of a work/family balance and their bosses, who are more typically dads themselves at a slightly older age and bred more on being more of a dedicated breadwinner. This idea was most recently written about in USA Today; and for a deeper analysis, please check out a commentary blog about it by Brian Reid, aka Rebel Dad. I’ve argued with Brian in the past against the ‘Daddy Wars’ idea but he seems to be winning me over on it. Thank you, Brian.

What this speaks of are two things: first, that the generation after mine (Gen Y) is gearing up for settling down and they seem to be wanting more family/work balance than any generation previously. This is caused mainly by changes in technology and more women in the workforce and with higher paying jobs; and I think these trends are only going to be intensifying as the years unfold. Second, as sociologist Michael Kimmel said to me quite succinctly in a filmed interview, “The ones who are holding back men from being more involved with their families are primarily other men and that the only way dads are going to be making more headway is by men being more supportive of each other at work when it comes to demanding flex time, a shortened work week and other creative work proposals to cause more family/work balance.

Let the first cannons be heard. The war has begun.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seasons Greetings From The Evolution of Dad Project!

This morning my elder son, Charlie, asked out of the blue if we could "make another movie of us on the couch." I wasn't even sure what he was talking about until he blurted out as he'd been trained, "Happy Father's Day!" And then it hit me that this would be another good opportunity to pull out the video equipment and create another couch message. So, here it is. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

An interview with Dr. Michael Kimmel

A couple of days back I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Michael Kimmel at his fantastic home in Brooklyn and film him in his private office. Dr. Kimmel is one of the leading experts on masculinity and having him in the film is absolutely essential. Dr. Kimmel is as engaging on film as he is insightful. Here's a brief snippet on how he sees fatherhood and parenting shaping up in the next thirty years. Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2007

EvoDads Align with MomsRising.org!

Hey there! Sorry for the lag in entries over the past few weeks - due mostly to pushing the film forward in every other conceivable way.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Joan Blades, who is best known for being the co-founder of MoveOn.org. Joan is determined to change the world and my hat goes off to her. If anyone can do it, she can! Last year she founded MomsRising.org as the springboard for change in terms of how moms (and families) are treated by the country. Hillary and Obama have both mentioned the site subsequently and membership is growing at a ridiculous rate. My guess is the site will become as influential as MoveOn.org in no time, so be sure to check out their site and get The Mother Manifesto DVD/Book. When it comes down to it, all this relates to dads just as much as moms.

With all this in mind, it seemed a no-brainer to align the project with Joan and her growing force in the war for the family. Joan was gracious enough to allow room on her mom site for an EvoDad blog and it couldn't be more of a privilege to be on her site. Thanks, Joan!