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.
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 | 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
By Russell W. Peterson | DayParentDad.com
Some dude blogger and stay at home dad at DadNCharge wants to "Banish The Playdate". He argues it is hampering spontaneous, imagination-filled free play. Hogwash. It is about returning to traditional childhood values where barefoot women stayed at home and never really watched the kids. Men were men, protected the family and went to work. As it should be. Children played unsupervised most of the day. We all had a star spangled youth and grew up just fine.
My dad went to work in the dawn's early light before most of us were up. We didn't usually see him until dinner. Sometimes not even then if there was an emergency incident. Occasionally he would show up on the weekend and pull us around on the lawn tractor perusing his land or take us out for gun shooting practice. The protector/soldier role is best for dads.
I remember my mom's perilous fight with the laundry and mixing up frozen slushies by the gallons for her girlfriends. They never planned anything. They'd just show up, open the freezer and go to town with those cool beverages from the ice cream pail. No need to schedule a play date and select some fancy schmancy wine with the correct stemware. Who needs lunch anyway?
All the while, my friends and I played gallantly. We had a red, white and blue rusty metal swing set that bounced off the ground every time we swung very high catching and cutting our hands on the unprotected metal chains. No protective covering. No bandaids needed. We flew off those swings and landed on the hard dirt ground not that soft rubbery stuff the pansy kids play on nowadays. We scuffed our knees and broke arms. No urgent care. A sturdy, straight stick and some gauze did the trick. That metal slide was brutal on hot days scorching our hands and our behinds. I hit my head on that monkey bar so many times, I’m sure I had more concussions than an NFL player. It is what made us men and why we are supposed to be working and not playing house with the kids.
Once in a while we "had" to play with the girls. They were obsessed with dolls and playing house. We reluctantly assumed the role of father, went off to work and never returned. The tree house fort we escaped to was way too much fun anyway with our bottle rockets and swords. The dozen or so boards we had swiped from the dump across the street made great floors and walls. I'm sure there was no chemical contamination. A few rusty nails pounded into the flimsy tree branches and every building code was properly met. We inspected it ourselves. Eating our white bread salami sandwiches filled with fat and salt on those floor boards built up our immunity. I'm sure of it! The candy cigarettes with real smoke were a plus.
What I'm saying through these illustrations, is that I agree with DadNCharge dude
on some level. Banishing the playdate would help us return to these free form, imaginative play times and restore America to her rightful heritage waving the banner of traditional roles. The cry across our parentingdom should be "Land of the play date free and home of the childhood brave!"*PLEASE NOTE: This post is entirely nonfiction and contains absolutely no sarcasm.
As the dad of two daughters, I've never understood the fathers who rarely show up or don't attend their daughters activities: not one soccer game, dance recital, or swim practice. Why have a child? It might not be your interest, but it is theirs which makes it yours. Just because you are male and she is female, doesn't mean you should use historical social norms to excuse your participation in the raising of your child. Three years ago I had a heart attack. I missed my daughters' dance show. Even though I had attended 90% of their activities, I decided I was never going to miss another performance or game. After all, I didn't know how much time I had left. None of us really do. Upon further reflection, I decided it was more than that. So, I came up with a list of positive things a dad should do with his daughter before she leaves the nest or in my case goes to college.
- Hug your daughter and tell her you love her. Multiple times. Daily.
- Attend every open observation, practice, game, recital, etc. Give her flowers. When appropriate.
- Let your daughter paint her bedroom when she is older. Buy her good brushes. Throw them away. Don't cry.
- Ride with her while she drives the car. Don't criticize her driving. Compliment her at least once.
- Create a painting together. Hang it in the living room. No matter what it looks like.
- Find a sport to do together once in a while such as fishing, soccer, hiking, etc. Give her some tips. Then just be.
- Buy her a cell phone. Program your number in it. Title it "24/7 Availability".
- Bake her a birthday cake. Frost it. Looks don't matter.
- Buy her a puppy or a kitty. You won't regret it.
- Have a tea party with the dolls or the stuffed animals. At the small table. In costume.
- Go swimming with her. No matter your body image.
- Paint your toenails with her. At least once. When she is young.
- Go to a double feature. Romance movie followed by a science fiction flick. Cry at one of them.
- Share hot cocoa and toast with her late at night. Dunk the buttered toast. Listen.
- Take pictures of her doing things. Before she is too old to say no.
- Go shopping with your daughter and buy her a dress. Don't look bored. Treat her to lunch.
- Take her to the daddy daughter dance. Get a corsage. Buy the campy photo.
- Tell her you are proud of her. Be specific. Several times a week.
I'm sure there are others, but this list works for me. It covers art, sports, shopping, creativity, conversation, love, food, admiration, security and empowerment. We have so little time on this planet that dads shouldn't let history, established social behavior or society dictate what they can or cannot do with their daughters. Live a little. You may want them to fly home to the nest some day.
Shared painting with my daughter. Yes it is in my living room. Copyright 2014 BartzPeterson LLC DayParentDad.com.
| | By Russell W. Peterson
Journalist Mark Simpson coined the word "metrosexual
" in 1994. He claims these guys are clothing and grooming obsessed. They live in metropolitan areas and spend their money on image shopping. Now he now says metrosexuals are a dime a dozen and there has been an evolution to a new man: spornosexual
- a mash up of sports and porn. These dudes are obsessed with their body, fitness, abs and selfies. They spend their money on physical training and have no need for shirts.
But there is another branch to the male evolutionary tree. It has taken longer to evolve; its numbers have grown dramatically in the past several years. I'm talking about the stadosexual: a mashup of stay and dad in stay at home dad. They spend their money on their families and wear gifted t-shirts. Although according to the National At Home Dad Network there are nearly seven million dads who stay at home at least one day per week and two million who do on a weekly basis, this breed is a bit more elusive to spot.
I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed about their clothes, but that wouldn't be true. They are doing the family laundry nearly 24/7. There is always a pile of Mount Neverend clothing on the sofa needing to be washed or folded. Concern for their family's attire is only overshadowed by the stadosexuals need to wear the most advanced graphic designed t-shirts they've been given for father's day, Christmas and birthdays.
I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed about grooming, but I know many of these men spend countless hours changing diapers, washing babies, wiping up their muddy sons, brushing their daughters' hair, and painting their own toenails while playing with their girls. I'm sure they get to shower a few times a week.
I could say that stadosexuals don't live in metropolitan areas, but many of them do. Yet, many do not. They are a bit elusive. They are generally disguised as a babysitter pushing a stroller or camouflaged by a child they are carrying in their arms. The next time you see one make sure you tell them that their baby sitting disguise is working.
I could say that stadosexuls don't shop often, but we all know that isn't true. Children eat hordes of food, so weekly stints at the local market or warehouse store are very important to them. Typically you will find them in the fresh produce aisle during a week day with one or more children testing vegetable freshness or crying or screaming or behaving. Sometimes it is hard to tell.
I could say that stadosexuals aren't obsessed with their bodies, fitness or abs, but they are. The messages men are getting in media and advertising are as bad as what society has been selling to women for decades: thinner and leaner with more definition through shredding, eating less carbs, consuming more protein, training like a rock star and running a daily marathon. If a stadosexual does these things he will definitely have the muscle-defined super hero body of the comic book movie era. This is most definitely what a spouse and child wants from the stay at home male.
As mystifying as many of these traits are, there is one common trait I've witnessed in all stadosexuals: the ability to nurture their children and provide a loving home environment for their family. Not really a new breed of man, just one that is one the rise. (Russell Peterson is a stay at home dad, architect, entrepreneur and some times lifestyle blogger. He lives in Minnesota with the trophy wife, two smart stiletto wearing daughters, three territorial cats and two escape artist dogs.) Photography assumed in the public domain unless otherwise notified.
The metrosexual poses in his natural environment.
The spornosexual displays shirtless as usual.
The stadosexual blending with family camouflage.