Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charlie And The Playground Part 2

Well, my wife and I met with Charlie's teacher and the head of his nursery school a few days ago. It was good to see that they had their hearts in the right place and my perspective has changed a bit since then.

After talking to the folks running Charlie's school I have a better appreciation for their intentions: which is to prep our son as best as possible for his entrance into next year's public school. Certainly, these teachers care and want our son to succeed in life. Their Montesoori-style school is designed to teach kids as much as possible so that they have a leg up in grade school.

That, by the way, was why Charlie missed the playground that day. Since there are two teachers to a class, one could take care of the others while the other spent some 'extra time' helping Charlie with his work. While I strongly believe that kids need to have his time in the playground as much as in-class work, the extra attention afforded to my son is appreciated. (Perhaps if it had been presented this way, I may not have felt as strongly as I had.)

While I wish our culture wasn't so results-oriented, I do see the value in this training. Charlie is able to write his own name - something he previously couldn't do. That's a good thing. What's still troubling, I suppose, is that kids these days just allowed to be kids enough or themselves enough, frankly.

"We understand that your son is never going to be your typical kid," the head of the nursery school said at a certain point, "and we're certainly not trying to make everyone into sheep, but we do want Charlie to be able to fit into society as best as he can."

The worry is that Charlie will become 'labeled' badly by the other kids and the greater concern by the school is that if Charlie doesn't bend a bit more to the rules of this school and be less 'high maintenance', he'll basically be ejected within a couple of months - a hard pill to swallow for any parent.

My wife wants to have Charlie tested and evaluated - not so much that there is something direly wrong with him -- there certainly isn't -- but if there's anything we can do in terms of giving him better tools to get along better with others, we should do it. I'm willing to go along with this within reason.

The deeper truth is that when it comes down to it, Charlie is very, very much like me. Of course, he's not exactly me and there plenty of differences between us but his thought processes certainly mirror myself in more ways than one. For example, this weekend, Charlie and I went apple picking with his great aunts and it was a special time. It was also interesting how many times my two wonderful aunts looked to each other and commented about how uncanny it was being around Charlie because he reminded them so much of me when I was his age.

Charlie is more often than not caught up in his own imagination. On Sunday night, my son wanted to shoot some fireworks into the air. This was his solution: he took a pump rocket toy and taped some thin lightsticks to its side. Then, my mom, Charlie and I went out to the field of my elementary school and shot them into the sky. This is the kind of stuff my son does with his time.

Does he sometimes miss social cues because he gets caught up in his own thoughts or have a hard time controlling his impulses? Definitely. Is he easily distractable at times when not focused? Certainly, but so what? Does he have a hard time listening to instructions, especially when he is bored or not getting enough physical activity? Absolutely!

Is there something wrong with this kid? Of course not!

I look at myself and all the trials and tribulations I had with schooling. I was kicked out of a nursery school. I was suspended for three days from Kindergarten. My visits to the principal's office by Third Grade became almost daily. In Fifth Grade my Hebrew School teacher would have told you that I would eventually go to prison for all the shennigans I put her through. I also struggled with making good friends and felt for most of my schooling that I was completely alone, whether it was riding alone on the bus to school field trips to being the last kid picked for a team in gym class. Fitting in, being accepted, these are things I still struggle with to this day.

It pains me that my elder son is showing signs of the same kind of struggles that I have had in my life; but then again, I know that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person with a loving family, good friends and know deep in my heart that my son is going to be okay as well. We'll do all that we can, as my family has done for me, to make sure he'll be okay. My God, I love my son so much. I love both boys so. I really am so lucky to have them. Thank you, God. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Playground For Charlie

A few days ago I was picking up my elder son, Charlie, from his new nursery school. I asked the teacher, as I'm custom to do, how the day went with my son.

"It went okay. But just so you know, Charlie didn't get to go out to the playground today," she informed me.

"Why was that?" I asked, expecting that it had something to do with Charlie acting out in some manner, as he's sometimes want to do.

"Charlie didn't finish his work in time."

I have to admit that it took me a few minutes for what she said to sink in. Perhaps it was for the best because if I'd reacted immediately, I may have torn the poor woman's head straight off. What kind of a pre-school program for 4-5 year-olds penalizes their kids for not finishing their work on time??? How can you keep a very active boy inside while the rest of his peers are allowed out? Don't they understand how important playground time is for kids?

This preschool was highly recommended to us. It's a Montesoori school, so we know that the philosophy is different than the pre-school Charlie had attended in Hoboken, but if this type of Machievellian policy were presented to us up front, I don't think we would have signed our son up.

There's a point in all of us, I think, beyond mere personal anecdote. This type of belief system, that even small children must be groomed to be as productive and efficient as possible, that in some places nursery school selection is treated like applying for college, speaks once again about the cultural beliefs of our society.

Now, I'm not saying that children shouldn't be taught a degree of discipline, manners, values and given opportunities to explore and excel, but there needs to be a balance in all of this; and that's what I'm ultimately saying: our society is out of whack in its treatment of people and people suffer as a result. Whether it's children who are pushed too hard (or sometimes too little) or dads who are pushed too hard at work (or too little when it comes to family) or who feel that their only real worth is the amount of money they make, there's a real problem in all of this.

My wife and I are going to meet with our son's teacher and hash it out and we'll ultimately do what we think is best for our son, but it just saddens me how this type of societal attitude leaves no one unscathed, not even four-year-olds.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cartoonist/Children's Author Mo Willems joins The Evolution!

We're proud to announce that Mo Willems, one of the best contemporary authors of children's books, has been filmed for inclusion in the project. Among his many titles, Mo wrote "The Knuffle Bunny" and its sequel, which were inspired by his relationship with his own daughter. Mo is also a 'work-at-home' dad and his own father worked at home as well. We're really excited to have Mo in the film and look forward to sharing more details in the future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seven Years

I can't quite believe that tomorrow will mark the 7th anniversary of 9-11. Time just keeps moving on and yet, that day remains firmly planted in my mind as if it had happened last month. My wife and I were living in the city at the time and watching the towers fall. It is something that will always remain with us. To this day, I continue to look at that empty skyline, still unable to accept what had happened.

I'm sure many of you feel the same.

While this project is certainly not about 9-11, I know that it was a catalyst for change in a lot of people's lives. If that day directly impacted your relationship with your father or your own children, if it caused you to see the greater value of spending more time with family and better balancing your life, I'd love to hear about it and possibly include it in the film.

As I've written in the past, the project is about inspiring dads to get more involved with their kids. Healing stories like these would do a lot to help the cause. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

To Hell With At-Home Dads

This Palin story only gets more interesting as it goes along. A major McCain spokesperson on MSNBC shared that Todd Palin is in fact a Stay-At-Home Dad. Well, glad to hear someone is minding the kids. Of course, to me it's really not a big deal. But then, on the other side of the spectrum is John Hagee, a prominent McCain endorser and his opinion on dads-at-home. Enjoy his fair and balanced view below.

Makes you wonder what Hagee and others of his ilk are thinking of Sarah and Todd Palin at this point:)

SAHD Music Video That Rocks!

Rebel Dad posted these a few days back and I couldn't resist plugging it here as well. It's always great to come across this kind of creative dad work online. (Thanks, Brian)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I don't usually infuse this blog with political opinion but what I'm reading about Sarah Palin is certainly making my head spin - and it's more about what isn't being said than what is, specifically regarding fatherhood.

There's a lot of commentary this week about what kind of mom Sarah Palin is given that she a) went back to work three days after her downs syndrome - inflicted infant son was born and b) has a 17 year old daughter who is pregnant.

But what I'm wondering, reading about this candidate is: what's the deal with her husband? What's their idea of family/work balance? Aside from hers, what's his involvement with the family? The interesting thing (and doesn't this say so much about our culture) is that no one really gives a sh-t what he's up to. If you read anything in the media, the only thing mentioned of Todd Palin is that he's a four-time champ in some famous snowmobile race. What's his involvement with the family? How are these parents, who decided to bring a child with down's syndrome into the world, taking care of this kid?

I did some further research online and the info on him is scant. The most you can find is at Wikipedia. Todd evidently works full time as a manager at BP oil. There's no mention of his fatherly duties. So, if Sarah is the governor and Todd is full time at work, who's minding the kids - and what does this say about their true family values?

The point I'm trying to make is not about how I really feel about this particular family that is currently roasting in the spotlight; it is about how it's just another reflection of how our culture once again deemphasizes the family, the role of fatherhood and any notion of gender equity.

The sad truth is that Sarah Palin will likely be voted into office because, while her family seems to reside in complete dysfunction, it is a dysfunction that so many other families can relate to - but does that make her a healthy choice? Well, I think you know my opinion.