Shredding the “Man Card”

The phrase “man card” has been around for quite a while, but of late it seems to be popping up with more frequency in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. ;Usually it is in reference to a guy doing something “girly” and giving permission to take his card away.

I am over this phrase. ;Why? Because according to the rules I don’t get to have one, even though the last time I looked down I saw the necessary equipment.

I don’t qualify as the stereotypical man for the following reasons:

1. I don’t like sports. ;They just don’t do it for me. ;Sometimes I will watch a game with my wife (she likes to watch college football) but most of the time I end up falling asleep or grabbing a book to occupy myself while it’s on.

2. I like “chick flicks.” Give me a GOOD romance any day of the week over a testosterone fueled action flick with lots of explosions and little plot or character. (Note the use of the word GOOD…anything by Nicholas Sparks is swill in my not-so-humble opinion). ;I like a movie that tells a story, that draws the audience into the emotional content, that I can relate to. ;I’ve never saved the world from a speed-racing drug cartel, but I have been in love so I can connect with that. ;Which leads me to the next point…

3. I cry during movies. ;And TV shows. ;And books. ;And church services and news stories and when something emotional happens to someone I don’t even know. ;One time I was sobbing so loudly at a movie that my wife actually felt embarrassed and, had the theater not been packed, would have tried to move away from me. ;What can I say, I’m a sensitive soul (and the movie was REALLY heart-wrenching). ;I like to cry. ;When I’m feeling particularly disconnected I will purposely seek out a tear-jerker just so I can really let loose.

4. I’m more interested in a woman’s brain than her body. ;My wife is a sexy fox, but even if she weren’t she has an amazing mind and soul that would have drawn me to her anyway. ;I can’t imagine being attracted to a woman just because she has big bazoombas, a sweet a$$, or a pretty face. ;Those are all nice perks but if she’s dumb or dull then there is absolutely no attraction. Not even a gut physical attraction. ;I never tried to date any girl who was just attractive. ;I always got to know them first and then the attraction would begin.

5. I enjoy doing household tasks. ;Well, very few people actually ;like ;to clean, but I enjoy dividing domestic duties up with my wife and doing my fair share. ;I do the dishes, I clean the counters, I bathe the kids and put them to bed most nights. ;I am more skilled with a vacuum cleaner and a mop than my wife is. ;We divide our domestic tasks ;not by who has what genetalia, but rather who is better at completing the job and/or who hates it less.

The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop it there for now. ;The point is I am no less of a man for these reasons. ;I’m just a guy with personal tastes. ;Plenty of guys dedicate their lives to sports and drool over women with big fake ta-tas and that is totally fine as well. ;That’s just who they are. ;Where I get caught up is in the idea that a “real man” or a “manly man” has to be a certain way. ;I’ve been called whipped. ;I’ve been called weak. ;I’ve been called gay. ;All because I would rather watch My Best Friend’s Wedding than Sports Center.

It used to really hurt my feelings that people (men AND women) would make these assumptions about me until I stopped and realized just how ridiculous it all was. ;People are just people, shaped by their influences, genetics, and choices. ;My unique cocktail of life experiences has shaped me into the person that I am, and I have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. ;I like who I am. ;I like my life. ;I have an intelligent, beautiful wife who makes me happy and allows me to make her happy. ;I have wonderfully weird kids who are growing up to be proud of their uniqueness. ;My life is full of laughter and tears and I feel well-rounded and connected to all the parts of myself. ;So if all of that means that I don’t get to have a “man card” then so be it. ;The things that I do have are so much more fulfilling anyway.

This Date Sucks…And Rules.

Checking my Twitter feed on our date.

Wifey and I love food. Or to be more accurate, we love good food. We consider ourselves to be “foodies” and so our nicest dates take us to restaurants with Michelin stars and James Beard Award winning chefs. Unfortunately, budget constraints don’t allow Wifey and I to go out very often, certainly not to such high-priced locales. And with four kids under 8, the cost of a babysitter who is brave enough to take the job pretty much zaps our entire date budget. So, despite our yearning for fancy food, most of our dates end up taking us to places that totally suck.

Take last night for example. My parents graciously agreed to keep our offspring for us and we decided to go out for something slightly fancy. We received our tax return this week and decided to use a small portion of it to treat ourselves before spending the rest on things we actually need. We tried to get reservations at two of our favorite restaurants but both were completely booked up. I did manage to score us a reservation at a well-reviewed restaurant but could only get in at 9:00 and we were both too hungry to wait that long and needed to get back by 11 to relieve my parents anyway, so we cancelled and decided on a popular, if slightly less fancy, dinner option.

It was awful. Absolutely disgusting. And expensive to boot. I kept looking around at the other patrons who all seemed to be having the dining experience of their lives and judging them for their lack of sophistication and taste (rude, I know, but it’s true). The restaurant was one of those Brazilian meat-on-a-spear places where they have a salad bar of sides and then constantly bring around a variety of proteins in unholy amounts for you to enjoy. What were we thinking? As people who eat very limited amounts of meat as it is, and as complete and total food snobs, we should have known better. Not only were we disgusted by the clearly canned and ill-prepared veggies, but all of the meats were tough, flavorless, and unevenly prepared. There was hardly anything that I enjoyed about it. And to add insult to injury, both Wifey and I got sick afterward from bad-meat overload. By all accounts, this should have been one of the worst dates ever.

Except that it was awesome. Instead of having our evening ruined by a series of unfortunate events, we relished the opportunity to laugh about it. As we sampled each revolting new addition to our plates, we talked about all of the really GOOD food that we have had, and about how and why this fell short. We discussed, and in some cases mocked (I never claimed to be nice), the people who surrounded us: the manager who clearly loathed her job and was on a mission to make everyone hate their lives just as much as she did; the family sitting next to us who ate without stopping from before we came in until after we left; the man who kept falling asleep at his table, only to wake when a new meat-on-a-stick appeared before him. We took pictures of ourselves eating the disgusting fare, flirted both in person and via Twitter (nauseating our followers, I’m sure), talked about the ways that we are awesome, talked about the ways we want to change and improve, laughed, laughed, and laughed some more.

Maybe our date wasn’t the most romantic one that we’ve ever shared; maybe it didn’t go exactly according to plan; but we managed to make it into just what we needed: some time alone that allowed us to reconnect and remember all of the reasons that we fell in love to begin with (cue the violins). If we had managed to get in to one of the fancy restaurants, we would have spent the evening oohing and aahing over the food and the dining experience itself would have dominated our evening. Instead, we were able to focus on each other.

So the next time your romantic evening doesn’t go exactly as planned, shake it off and relish spending time with your wonderful partner. Because that’s really the point anyway, isn’t it?

Do you have a great “bad date” story? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments section. Praise (and criticism) is also welcome. Have a great week!

The Balancing Act

Since I decided to try to post at least once per day, naturally I have gotten completely distracted by other things.  I have never been one to spend a great deal of time online, especially since my Blackberry allows me to check my Facebook from my phone.  But starting this blog made me curious about other dad blogs, which led me to other blogs and websites in general.  This coupled with a recent decision to integrate more technology into my classroom and a newfound obsession with Twitter has led to me spending an unhealthy amount of time cruising the net trying to connect with other educators and trying to find Web 2.o tools that can impact my instruction in a meaningful way.

Let me interject here that I am a full-throttle type of person, meaning when I decide to start something new I tend to jump in with both feet and take it to an extreme.  The downside to this personality trait is that I also tend to crash HARD.  If plans don’t work out in the way that I imagined they would or if too many roadblocks get in my way I lose hope and steam and often abandon the effort altogether.

This trait also has other repercussions, most notably that it drives my wife crazy because my tunnel vision detracts from my involvement in the lives of my family.  I will spend every spare moment engaged in whatever project I am working on and it will take a force of nature (or my wife’s exasperated scolding) to snap me out of it.

I want to be awesome at all things that I do.  I think that working hard to do the best that you can do is an important lesson to instill in our children.  It is important for my kids to see that I am a lifelong learner and that I am always striving to improve.  It is important to my marriage that I feel successful in my professional life so that I am happier overall and am bringing positivity and internal peace to the table.  But how can I manage my time so that neither my personal nor professional life suffer for the other?  To be the best I can be at work I have to dedicate personal time to improving my teaching practices and connecting with other professionals.  To be the best husband and father I need to be able to dedicate my time at home to my family.  And I can’t keep staying up until the wee hours of the morn to try to squeeze both in because then I am too tired to function successfully in both areas.

The solution isn’t as simple as “just prioritize” because both sides feed each other.  I can’t put off all of my professional planning until summer break because I must be consistently evaluating and improving or face having wasted an entire school year.  And I can’t just settle on mediocrity in both areas because that would make me miserable and would set a terrible example for my children.

If I had more time in my day or only had to work 4 days a week I would be more able to fit everything in (or maybe not), but as both are highly unlikely I don’t know how to find the balance.  So, what’s the answer?  Is there a solution?  Are my personal standards naïve?  Or am I just missing something that will make everything fall into place?

Enlighten me dear readers!  How do you find balance?

Babies Kinda Suck Sometimes

The gestational period of our fourth child was by far the most difficult. My wife was incredibly sick the entire 9 months, which was true of all of our pregnancies, but having three other children in tow this time (one of whom is only 18 months) seemed to make the whole experience 3 times as difficult. So during the final stretch, my wife had to rest and go to bed early in order to survive.

Night time is married time. After the kids go to bed, we will frequently have a glass of wine or two and just hang out together discussing topics ranging from religion, politics, and kids to judging other couples parenting styles and the poor fashion choices of our friends and loved ones. It is an important time for us, and one of the ways we maintain our sanity and commitment to this life we have created together.

Pregnancy, and now newborn baby, has robbed us of this ritual, and it has certainly started to take its toll on us. We’re often edgy and disconnected, operating in parent survival mode while letting our marital health fall by the wayside. This only adds to the exhaustion and tension in our household which fuels the kids to act out even more and wipes out our tolerance for them and each other. In other words, it’s a self-perpetuating disaster.

Tonight, we made the choice to put the baby down, even though that meant letting her cry for awhile, and we took some time to just hang out and reconnect. We drank some wine and tried to reassemble a few of the areas of our life.

And we psychoanalyzed a few of our friends. ‘Cuz why are they like that?

It was nice.