It has been a long time since I posted. In this time I have ushered my kids off to college and I have re-started my Architecture
practice. It has been a difficult and yet rewarding transition. But that is not really what this post is about, or maybe it is.
We live in privileged times for many of us and not so privileged for many more. Social media, the internet, 24 hour news, heads of households working full time, and an overabundance of children's activities have nearly collapsed our sense of community. And by community, I mean the secular public forum. The place were a variety of backgrounds meet, discuss, work and come together in a voluntary effort of good that illuminates our common humanity and grace.
In this environment it is even more important to teach our children how to sit and listen to others, respect other's philosophies, and speak up in a respectful manner when you believe there is injustice. Educationally, we need to pass along these skills to our children:
- critical thinking
- life long learning
- analysis and reasoning
- alternate ways of thinking
- community engagement
- speaking skills
- group dynamics
- respectful communication
- desire for knowledge
It is not too early to model and teach these skills. I started with my children when they first came home from the hospital. Communication knowledge and style are the first skills. I never spoke "baby talk" to them. I modeled appropriate verbal communication speaking as an adult using not only introductory language words and concepts, but higher levels that I repeated over and over for years. I believe this process strengthens a child's understanding of language and complex concepts. With a strong basis for language it is much easier to each all of these other concepts.
My take is that we underestimate our children. They go through a rough process of maturation and should be respected like any other being. If we are patient, accepting, respectful, and understand that they deserve a mature approach, they will evolve with a strong desire to sit well with and advocate for others.
By Russell PetersonDayParentDad
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
For from that day I ceased to be
The Master of my destiny,
While she with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.
Today I killed our cat. Well, I didn't actually. Our veterinarian did. Afterwards I spent nearly 20 minutes in the vet's parking lot balling my head off. How in the universe's name did I get here?
Two days ago we came home from a trip to the West Coast. We rarely get vacations, but the Trophy Wife had a convention and Stiletto #2 needed to look at colleges. So we combined the two into one big adventure. Unfortunately, the girl and I both got sick the week before and we had been playing catch up ever since. We barely got on the plane. The first day or so was a little iffy, but we got our legs after that.
While we were gone, our very gracious neighbors agreed to feed and let out our dogs (we have two) and check on our cats (we have two) food and water. They did a superb job.
After our trip we walked in the door and went to the kitchen. Our black and brown 7 year old cat Flicka stumbled off the bottom of our carpeted steps and swayed her hips like she was thoroughly intoxicated. She crept over to the kitchen bistro table and mournfully looked up wanting to jump on top as she had done so frequently. It was obvious that she couldn't. I picked her up and placed her on the counter top, proceeded to give her some water, and watched her precariously traverse the sink edge which she fell into twice. Not the nimble cat we had come to love.
It was 8:30 at night. What was I going to do? My girl was beside her self with emotion over how sick Flicka seemed to be. I decided to take her to our regular veterinarian the next morning over the objections of my daughter who wanted her taken in right away which would have meant an hour drive and probably a thousand dollars in off hours emergency veterinary expenses. I felt she seemed good enough to get through the night and I'd prefer her to be seen by the clinic staff who usually treat her.
That night Flicka slept in the guest room with the Trophy Wife. We pulled in a litter box and some food and water so she wouldn't have to go far.
I fell asleep trying to figure out what had gone wrong. She was a shelter rescue kitten. My oldest daughter had done a spreadsheet analysis in middle school of all the available local shelter kittens to convince me of getting a new cat. I admired her industriousness and had to acquiesce to checking them out. But the cats she had selected were getting purchased when we arrived. So Flicka and our other cat, Winnie, were larks that were saved at that moment. I initially thought that Flicka had a bit of an odd look to her face, but she grew into a beautiful, athletic cat and the most loving of our animals. She was an inside cat with an escape artist stealthiness to her. She had just bolted outside two weeks ago. Did something happen out there? What had I missed?
After tests the next morning it was clear that she was beyond any hope of survival. She had severe kidney failure that was not treatable. Most likely a genetic condition she had suffered for quite some time. I now remember that she hadn't eaten well, or jumped much last week. I probably didn't notice because the rest of us were sick and trying to get ready for this trip. Flicka was also really good at hiding when she was ill. She was clearly in major discomfort now, but I decided to wait to euthanize her until after Stiletto #2 could come home from college and get some time with "her" cat and Stiletto #1 could snuggle and say goodbye.
My children wanted to know that Flicka was safe and comfortable. So, I spent most of the day laying next to and nurturning our dying cat so my children wouldn't be sad that she had no one to comfort her. Honestly, I had come to love that cat and still felt guilty that she had been home alone getting sicker and sicker while we were gone. At one point in the day while she was sleeping I went to the garage to do some work. That very ill kitty climbed off the bed and down the stairs to the garage door and whined for me to come inside. I picked her up and took her back upstairs and laid down with her for the remainder of the day. That night, the girls both got significant time with Flicka and Stiletto #1 slept with her in the guest bedroom. The next morning everyone said their goodbyes and I drove Flicka to the veterinarian. Signed the forms. Paid the bill. Said my goodbye. And watched her expire. I've been a basket case ever since.
I got here by choosing to be a stay at home dad. This is what at home dads do.(Goodbye my friend Flicka.)
By Russell PetersonDayParentDadCopyright 2015 All Rights Reserved
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Excited to say that I, Russell Peterson aka DayParentDad, was featured today in the Financial Times of London as an at home dad who has successfully returned to work.
According to Emma Jacobs, the author of When stay-at-home fathers rejoin the work force
, “Architect Russell Peterson used to say that waiting at tables and cleaning a combine harvester were the hardest jobs he had ever done. Then he became a stay-at-home dad. ‘It far outstrips those,’ he laughs. ‘It’s a tough job.’”
In the article, Mr. Peterson goes on to say that after selling his successful architecture firm and staying home for 16 years with his children, it was almost impossible to get an interview at a firm. He said, “One of the biggest areas of discrimination,” he says, “is towards dads coming back to work.”
Ms. Jacobs concludes the article with, “Despite the difficulties, Mr. Peterson maintains that the experience of being a stay-at-home dad was valuable not just to his family but also his work, improving his understanding of how people relate to the built environment.”
Being an at home dad has made me a better architect.
Unethical behavior, disrespect, and possible plagiarizing in competition dance. Surprise!
This week in Minnesota, several teams at the state dance competition accused one of the top winning teams of plagiarism. The winning team had copied costumes, music and a bit of choreography. They claim they were "inspired" by the other team. Many people believe they plagiarized with a few changes around the margins. Instead of filing a complaint, other competition teams stood on the sidelines and held hands in objection. Those teams were disqualified. Seems to me neither behavior was appropriate.
I entered my daughters into dance programs when they were in preschool. I remember going to my first competition dance as an at home dad and seeing little girls with almost nothing on running around wearing huge hats filled with fruit. Carmen Miranda wore way more clothing than these first graders. After hours of watching thousands of dancers and hundreds of moms push and pull and cajole and scream, I called my wife in disbelief. Who would do this to children?
Why would anybody pay thousands of dollars to a studio with a damaged floor where kids got injured year after year in over training on a bad surface just to win a trophy? Why would a parent spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to an out of town dance organization to come in for a few "rock star" hours and try to teach thousands of kids on a dirty, carpeted ballroom floor? Why is hazing with ropes, kitty litter, and assorted other shaming techniques allowed in any environment - especially a so called education one?
These things arise, because the system is pervaded by back stabbing and gossip and cheating and lying and child abuse and theft. The world of crazy dance moms and unethical dance instructors does not just exist on television. It is real. Leaders in the industry need to name it, take decisive action, and stop it. Which is exactly what the state high school league needs to do in this instance.
We eventually found a couple of good schools with quality, ethical environments. My advice if you chose to participate is the following: keep your head tall, smile and wave at others no matter the drama, be respectful, walk away from the bad behavior, and role model healthy attitudes for your kids. I did the best I could at protecting my children. I hope you can do the same.
Photo Russell Peterson | The Great Minnesota Get Together | Pay attention. Re respectful. Live your true life.
After 16 years of being an at home dad and the primary caregiver, I've come to the conclusion that there are three basic lessons every child needs to learn: 1. Pay attention to the world around you.
My children will tell you that they have heard enough of this phrase. I'm glad. Because I see this as the biggest problem in our world today. We walk around talking on our phones while hands are attached to a 2,000 pound vehicle's steering column not even knowing that the semi truck next to us is merging. We walk down the street eating our lunch or listening on the headphones without acknowledgement of the kindness and beauty around us. We fail to maintain our built environment, so that it decays and must be discarded. People starve in the streets, die from preventable diseases, and suffer needlessly because the end game at times seems to be take as many green backs with you to the grave as you can.
I say, there is another way. Be conscious of where other people are and what they are doing. Look at mother nature and revel in the smallest detail. Celebrate the creations that we have made together. See others in a new light as they walk down the street. Be the one who basks in the sunlight and stops to not only see the roses, but appreciate the gardener behind them. Close the door and turn off the lights because a house is not a barn and conserving energy keeps the planet for our children's children. The smallest detail that we notice is the celebration of what makes us unique and powerful. See the world. Really see the world. 2. Respect the (potential) inherent worth and dignity of every person, but be smart.
The first part of this lesson is a modification of the first belief and principal of the Unitarian Universalist association of churches. Regarding this principal they say, “Reverence and respect for human nature is at the core...We celebrate the gifts of being human: our intelligence and capacity for observation and reason, our senses and ability to appreciate beauty, our creativity, our feelings and emotions...We can use our gifts to offer love, to work for justice, to heal injury, to create pleasure for ourselves and others." To me, the first part of this statement means be nice by being careful with your words and actions. But it is so much more than just a surface existence. Dig deeper. Help others. Think about another's situation before responding or complaining. Be proactive and help those in need and those who are suffering. This is about compassion, love and generosity on the most basic level. The (potential) part is my modification. I do believe that loving each other, at some basic unconditional level is a very good thing. But we know that not all people act on this potential. In fact, many do just the opposite out of selfishness, greed, hatred, mental illness or a host of other maladies. Thus, the slightly skeptical side of me says: Put yourself out there. Love those around you. Respect their capacity to be good. But pay attention to the signs around you. If this person is taking advantage or demonstrates behavior that is not worthy or dignified. Be smart. Walk away. In cases where people are being abused or taken advantage of by someone who has lost their worth and dignity, advocate for those people. This is the only way the world gets better. 3. Live your true self.
Being true to your own being is the best way a parent can demonstrate that their children must be true to themselves. We must give our progeny wide latitude in exploration while establishing boundaries with consequences and at the same time be patient with developmental stages. We must throw aside stereotypes and traditions that discriminate. It will not always be easy for our kids and we cannot protect them from every harm. But if we nurture, support and instill the belief that our kids should be true to their own heart and true to the passion for living their unique life, they have the potential to live an exceptional life.
Live an exceptional life. Coda
These lessons start before our children are born. It is a way of thinking and living that we and our spouse practice on a regular basis. It begins with the loving way we treat each other. It continues by speaking to our children with respect and not talking down to them. It extends in the love, compassion, and boundaries we establish for our children as they grow. It reveals itself as they encounter the world and mature to adults through our loving and supportive guidance. We have the power to create a fantastic next generation.
Pay attention, respect their worth, and be true to oneself. By Russell Peterson | Copyright DayParentDad.com All Rights Reserved | 11 February 2015
Photo Russell Peterson | My Girls And Their Pediatrician
Today, after reading numerous posts for the past week about a so called "vaccine debate" I decided I had enough. I don't care if you are a mother earth feminist or a home schooling anti government Libertarian. This has got to stop. There is no debate. There are only loud noises shouting in the margins hoping to become the next fear sensation to drive our political and social discourse.
This is a picture of my children and their pediatrician, Dr. Bess Gold, upon her retirement. She cared for my children for 15 years. I trust her implicitly. She is a scientist and a nurturer. She wouldn't do anything to harm my girls and I know it with every bone in my body. She cannot be bought by big pharma or by trendy gossip and popularity. She will always look at the numbers, give us options, and make a recommendation. I have never not taken her recommendation. Why? Because I want my children to survive.
Because survival against diseases is important, I am currently a volunteer subject in a trial on a new drug that could save millions in the fight against heart disease. I inject myself every other week. I keep a diary. I visit the research center. They monitor me exhaustively. It is a triple blind study but there is a safety committee and numerous safety protocols. I've done my scientific research. I get paid nothing except for parking validation. The system is not perfect, but I trust the research staff, my doctors, and the scientific community to keep everything in check.
People, citing internet sources, are screaming at the margins about corruption, and marketing, and money making. Will we make mistakes? Yes. Will there be instances of corruption? Yes. Are companies making money off of drugs? Yes. We are human and prone to human error and temptation. Our society is predicated on the successful making money. Neither of those things is going away. But I believe the scientific and medical community by and large is working hard at monitoring, testing, and saving lives. The internet is not.
In the history of science, way more good has ever been done by vaccinations than hasn't. It isn't even close. I'm not going to cite the studies. Do your own investigation. And I don't just mean getting on the internet and doing a Google search. That is dangerous and leads to falsehoods, diverting attention and putting lives in jeopardy. Things Dr. Gold would never do. By Russell Peterson | © DayParentDad.com All Rights Reserved | 10 February 2015
PHOTO | Preus Musum Norway
Both of my children have worked since they were very young. I tried to teach them lessons of hard work, value and respect. They have been babysitters, models and dance teachers. As things go not everything turns out well, but there are lessons in that too.
One of my children had been working for the same company for nearly a decade. She was always available and we never turned down a request to work. As a contract employee she learned many skills, trials, labor laws and responsibilities. The "patience lesson" was probably the biggest struggle, but she gained numerous insights into human behavior and working conditions.
She discovered no job is perfect - this one in particular. Her employer and supervising staff were always behind schedule, late with schedule notices, lacking clarity in instructions and asking for last minute favors. We thought it was just part of the business and it was an opportunity for our child to learn decision making, deal with ever changing employment situations and to demonstrate loyalty. So we indulged the inconsistencies and chalked it up to new lessons learned.
PHOTO | Unknown
Then a year ago they asked us to reserve the winter break for some work. So we cancelled vacation plans and waited for them to contact us. They never did. When we mentioned it, the work started to trail off in frequency and amount. This past summer they sent us a new contract only a day and a half prior to her first day of this season's work. It asked for a year and a half of exclusivity, a lower salary prediction and no guarantee of compensation to cover any potential work loss due to the exclusivity. So I contacted a friend in the business, did some research and decided to call them and ask a few questions. They immediately dumped her as an employee.
This employer continues to do work under these conditions and continues to hire children to work for them. Many stay because they believe it is prestigious or they have attained status or fame. Neither is true. That is an illusion perpetrated by adults to take advantage of children (and other adults).
The lesson learned for the children here is: Don't devalue yourself.
No matter where you are on the employee ladder, you deserve to be:
- compensated fairly for your work without undue restrictions
- treated with respect
- valued appropriately
If you find yourself in a situation where your employer is taking advantage of you in any of these areas, find other employment. You, my child, have value. By Russell W. Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10 October 14
There is no rational argument to hit a child. There is no rational argument to keep a player who admits to hitting a child so hard that he breaks the skin in multiple places.
The recent NFL domestic violence incidents and past history reveal a terrible culture within your organization. You need help and I hope you find it quickly.
A Fading Fan
Now is the time to strike back with arguments because I'm tired of those who believe it is okay to strike a child. Or those who believe there is a difference between a smack on the butt to a whipping with a belt. Or a difference between a whack with a wooden spoon or a lashing with a tree branch. Or the difference between a slap on the face and a punch to the mouth. There is no difference. Hitting another human being is wrong, especially one who is smaller than you, weaker than you, and has a less developed brain. You, the adult, are smarter than that.
This week it was revealed that Adrian Peterson, NFL football player with the Minnesota Vikings, struck his four year old child so hard with a tree branch that he left bleeding lashes on his legs and hands
. The online pictures are gruesome. He was indicted in Texas at the end of last week and as I understand has confessed. He was suspended for a game by the Vikings, and then reinstated two days later to practice and play with the team. He released a statement
In the statement he talks about how he was raised, clearly thinking this was normal behavior. I just don't understand why anyone in the 21st century can believe that physical violence against a child is acceptable, no matter the degree or personal history. We should all understand there are discipline alternatives proven by science
. Maybe he has good intentions, but I think this statement is in big part a cover to make the mea culpa look good. It reads as though it was very carefully crafted by a talented public relations team that is working hard to help save the Vikings season and Mr. Peterson's career. I find it almost more repugnant that there are people more interested in helping others save their financial investment than they are helping to educate the public about eliminating corporal child abuse as a discipline methodology.
If Mr. Peterson were a teacher, he would be suspended until the outcome of his trial and/or punishment. At which point, I'm sure his contract as a teacher would be terminated due to a morality clause. Unfortunately, Mr. Peterson is a teacher. Every week he is on that television demonstrating how a quality football player should work and behave in front of millions of children. The NFL is an education organization. Ethics, morality, and citizenship should be a part of their program.
If I were running the NFL here's what I would do:
- Fire those who continue to perpetrate and tolerate domestic violence.
- Hire a team of foremost experts to begin training programs within the organization.
- Start a media wide outreach educational program to combat domestic violence.
- Make large contributions to organizations that actively work to reduce domestic violence and child abuse.
As for Mr. Peterson, he needs to do more than issue a statement and run a good game. Let's hope he understands the consequences fully and chooses wisely.
Child Abuse Resources
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
| | Once in high school a girl shoved me in the hallway near the gym. I think I was in her way. It was a small hallway and I was used to getting pushed around and called names. I just let it go. A guy next to me said, "Man, why didn't you smack her one?" To which I answered, "My parents taught me that violence was not the answer and a man NEVER hits a woman." The guy said I was crazy and my parents were stupid. I walked away.
This week we learned that Ray Rice punched his then fiance now wife so hard that he knocked her out in an elevator
. Many people seem to care what he does for a living. I do not. There is no rational argument that says it is ever okay for a man to hit a woman in an elevator because they are having an argument. If an employee of mine did that. I would fire them. If I were a prosecutor, I'd put him on trial for abuse and send him to jail.
Let me be very clear to my daughters and all the other young women and men out there. There is no argument ever that says it is okay for another person to physically abuse you in any way. If it happens, you go straight to the police and file charges. Period. By Russell Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 8 September 14
Additional Help Abuser Tricks Guide
Abusers can be quite manipulative. Click on the link above to find a quick guide to test your situation.
Protect your children by teaching them well.
National Domestic Violence Hotline | TheHotline.org
The last bag to leave the house.
Winnie, one of our two cats, came sitting at the corner once the last bag was gone.
Siskel, one of our two Aussies, the moment after she left.
I'm not sure when the animals knew. I think Siskel realized first. He is the only other male in the house. Leave it to the two guys to be the emotional wrecks. He walks around with his head down knowing things have changed. Our other Australian Shepherd, Hooray, has taken to begging as though every piece of food in the house is part of her Last Supper. Perhaps that's why I've eaten half a cake in the last two days.
Winnie, the fluffy cat, will not really leave my other daughter's side or at least her bedroom. She comes out for occasional snacks and a peak around the kitchen cabinet corner to peer at the back door. She expects her to walk through any moment. I do too.
Right now a depressed black cat is sitting on the window ledge next to my table. Her tail draped long down the wall and her head stretched out in sadness over one paw on the wood sill. Her existence consists of either the depressed ledge, sitting at the bistro table waiting for her return, or pooping in front of the family room fireplace. She is kitty messaging. I hear you Flicka. I just can't change it.
When my two daughters were very young, I would walk them out to the bus stop helping them to carry either their 700 pound back packs filled with state mandated educational materials or their brown paper artwork lunch bags I had carefully crafted into the next Matisse. Sometimes both. We would stand at the end of the cul-de-sac and chat or be present in silence until the bus stopped a block away. Then I would lift their heavy burdens onto their shoulders and give them my impressive fatherly guidance: "Have fun. Do good work. And Pinch Your Teacher."
No matter what you do, you should enjoy it. That goes for college. It won't be easy. The best things never are. But have fun. Not too much. Just enough. (That was a joke.) I am positive you will do good work. You always do, especially for the things you love to do. Isn't that true for most of us? Pinching your teacher is a no-no. We all know it, but challenging them is something a student should do just as a child teaches a parent. Hearing, really deep hearing is essential.
As you drive
Fly my little one.
Be true self
Paint broad depth
Nature shines on sleeve.
Close and alluring.
Distance no trespass.
I sit here on this first day of my baby's college classes sipping my coffee; enjoying it a little less and yet a little more...bye.