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Friday, December 24, 2010

Dads and Teenage Pregnancy

Teenage moms are responsible for nearly 10 percent of all births in the United States. Considering that, according to the Center for Disease Control, there were 4.1 million babies born in the US in 2009, that means that approximately 410,000 babies were born to teenage moms, whom the CDC classifies as girls between the ages of 15-19. So we're talking about girls between ninth grade and freshmen in college.

Dads, heads up here. This shouldn't be happening. I know this is a complex dilemma and solutions aren't simple. But, I can guarantee you that if Dads are more active in their daughters' lives, more vocal, more involved (in a positive way, Dads) we can put a big dent in this number.

Some other alarming observations from this report : The teen birth rate in America continues to be higher than the rate of 16 other developed countries. Experts have no answers, only speculation about whether teens are having the same amount of sex, whether their use of contraception has changed or whether they are getting pregnant at the same rate as they used to but are obtaining more abortions.

The interesting aspect of this report by the CDC is that the Associated Press article was crafted to "celebrate" the fact that the teen birth rate in America has declined since last it was reported.

I don't know about you, but the fact that more than 400,000 teenagers had babies last year is nothing to celebrate. Which leads a Dad to think about another question...What percentage of teenage girls are having sex but not getting pregnant? And, 'how can I scare the crap out of my daughter's boyfriend?'

It's been well-documented that teenage pregnancy can be a prescription for derailing a young girl's life. It no only makes it difficult to complete high school, the bare minimum for being able to have modest professional success. But it almost eliminates the opportunity to pursue a college degree, a better opportunity for professional success.

Add to the educational challenges the physical impact of having a baby. If any Dads can recall the physical trauma your wife went through to have your daughter, imagine your teenage daughter enduring that ordeal. What impact will that have on a 15-year old's body? What long-term negative consequences could that spell for those girls?

Not to mention the high risk for the survival of the babies born to teenage girls. Teenage girls' bodies are not physically mature enough to give birth, let alone nourish a healthy fetus.

I'm not attempting to portray my version of "scared straight," but the reality can be harsh. The logical question is what's a Father to do? After all, you can't go on your daughter's dates with her, can you? Probably not, although I've thought about it, and plotted in my mind how I could do that without being detected.  There's lots of little things we can do to make an impression.

I have two daughters of dating age. I am almost terrified when they go on dates. Even if I know the teenage boy, and even if I approve (grudgingly) of him. I've told my girls that even when they get married and are truly in love, I'll never fully embrace the men in their lives.

One of the things I've instituted, and my wife supports this... House rule is no boyfriends till senior high. Even at that, I discourage boyfriend-girlfriend stuff until at least 10th grade. Research shows that the earlier girls get into formal relationships with boys, the sooner they are likely to have physical relationships with boys. Why start that clock ticking any earlier than necessary?  Few things turn my stomach than watching girls in my daughter's eighth grade class swapping spit with boys, in broad daylight, in front of strangers, as if no one were around. Anyway, I digress. This is just one thing I've tried to do to prevent my daughters from getting into situations that they aren't ready for.

We'll talk more about this subject in future posts. Leave me a comment, better yet, join as a follower so you receive regular updates.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Tell your daughter you love her

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Night

I had two good offers from which to choose. One was clearly better than the other. But neither was a loser.

A bunch of my buddies were planning on attending the high school football game on Friday night. It would be a competitive game, and our school's team was in the running for a birth in the district playoffs.

The alternative was an in-home movie night with my daughter. At her invitation. I'm a big Harry Potter fan, and I've read all the books, some of them twice, and I'd seen all the movies except the sixth installment. With the first installment of the final movie soon to be released,  my daughter suggested she and I watch Potter #6 before we went to see number seven, part one.

My middle daughter is a high school senior and already has selected and been accepted to the college of her choice. She quietly wishes her senior year were almost over because she's ready for the next phase of her life to begin. And although I have a good relationship with her, she's a teenager, and she's a female, so things aren't always as smooth as I'd like for them to be.

I've also been feeling a bit guilty of late as well. I had similar feelings before my first daughter went to college. Like I haven't told them all they need to know before they go off the college. Like I haven't shown them enough, taught them enough.

Needless to say, I chose movie night in with my daughter over Friday night football out with the boys. I'm not saint. I just want to make sure I can capture as many moments with my daughter as I can before she packs up and moves 3.5 hours away for much of the next four years.

Later that evening, I got a text message from one of my buddies, who was at the football game. They were expecting me, and, when I didnt' show up, he wanted to see why. His text was simple. "Thought your were coming. Want to make sure everything is all right."

I texted him back and told him about my other offer. I was feeling a little guilty because we don't get to see our friends as often as we'd like to. But my buddy's return message made me smile.

His reply simply said, "Great decision."

P.S. Tell your daughter you love her.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Plastic Surgery...Really!?

Maybe it's the spirit of the Holiday season and the accompanying spirit of giving that has me thinking about this topic. I can't get my brain to release the news articles that are telling me that one of the more popular gifts that parents (most likely mothers) are giving their teenage daughters as a graduation present is plastic surgery. No more senior week at the beach. No trip abroad. Nope, in addition to the sheepskin she received from the high school, she's also getting to alter her own courtesy of parental stupidity.

I know, I know, how do I make the leap from Christmas to graduation gifts. It must be the whole gift-giving continuum.

Anyway, according to news reports and statistics from national plastic surgeon associations, approximately 250,000 teenage girls (13-19 years old) had some form of a nip or tuck last year, courtesy of mom and dad (guessing most likely mom). Most, but not all of these procedures, 99.9% were elective surgery, meaning they were NOT medically necessary.

Nose jobs and boob jobs and booty lifts were some of the more popular  procedures performed on teenage girls. What!?!?

Listen, I'll say this a thousand times...I am not a perfect parent. Never will be. But I can't fathom the lunacy of a parent who would encourage and foot the bill for his/her teenage daughter to have plastic surgery.

Medial doctors who aren't looking for the fast payoff will detail the dangers of young people undergoing such invasive procedures. There's been a number of deaths, in the states and abroad, because of this lunacy.

Doctors will also admit that there can be long-term effects as well, such as difficulty with breast feeding after giving birth.

Despite the medical risks, however, I'm actually more concerned with the negative message that is sent to daughters by parents who endorse and financially support these plastic procedures.

Whatever happened to explaining to our daughters (and sons) that their true worth and who they are comes from their soul? Whatever happened to teaching our kids that you don't judge a book by its cover? Whatever happened to explaining to our kids that their physical appearance does not determine their intelligence, their compassion, their charity, their capacity to be a great friend and have great friends?

I get it that it's important for kids, teenagers, how they look and how they fit in with their peers. I understand it. But, I still feel like fathers (and mothers) are shirking a very basic teaching point that we should teach our daughters at a young age.

I also, intellectually, understand the undo influence that pop culture holds over our daughters. If they erroneously believe that Kim Kardashian or Heidi Montag are "all that," then you can understand wanting to look like that. If we explain that those women have the IQ of a fire hydrant and the personality of a garden slug in search of its next meal, maybe, we could chip away at that aura.

I'd also admit that fathers have some guilt in this charade. Dads need to value their wives and daughters for who they are, not for what they look like (although both wives and daughters appreciate positive comments about their appearance). Dads, we need to explain and enforce it. Throw away the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue before even looking at it. Don't make suggestive comments about the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders. And wash your brains clean of the Miller Lite commercial featuring the two glamazons arguing whether it's less filling or tastes great before falling into a nearby water fountain.

Our daughters need to know that self-esteem doesn't come in a silicon implant. And fixing your lips, boobs, nose or butt won't fix the person inside.

P.S. Tell your daughter you love her

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not So Macho Man

Do you ever wonder if being married and being the father of daughters has stolen some, most, or all of your masculinity? Being a macho man sometimes might not go over too well with with daughters. Our wives can ignore our macho traits, as our spouses are experts at ignoring most of what we do and say. Unless she wants the gutters cleaned out, the oil changed in the minivan or the grass mowed and the flower beds weeded.

But daughters are often too young and too inexperienced to distinguish between our macho bluster and the real you.

That's why I've been purchasing feminine products for all four women under my roof for the past six years. First of all, I do the grocery shopping and have don so for my entire marriage. The women I bump into in the grocery store want to induct me into sainthood and they implore me to 'please' speak to their husbands about the grocery shopping or doing laundry. My wife would prefer that I knew how to rewire every electrical circuit in the house or be able to build an edition onto the house with my own two hands. Which is why I do the grocery shopping. I actually chose to do the grocery shopping, and there are two important reasons: One, I stick to the budget. If my wife shopped for groceries, we'd end up spending a couple hundred dollars more per trip and have less food to show for it. The second reason is that I enjoy cooking, and I pack my girls' lunches for schools, so I have a vested interest in what's in the grocery cart. But I digress, slightly.

When I was purchasing feminine products for just my wife, I could bury the stuff in the grocery cart under the frozen vegetables and between cans of soup. The girl or lady at the register would barely notice as she was ringing items through the scanner with everything else.

Now, if I'm obligated to purchase feminine products for four different females, you can imagine the looks I get. You just can't hide that much stuff in one shopping cart. Because guess what? If you have multiple females in your house, they ALL want something different. They all use different stuff. You can't get away with buying one jumbo box or package of one thing that works for all of them. No! You have to buy one product for before, one for during, one for nighttime, and one for when it's over but not quite. Then multiply that by four! No way to hide it all in the cart. But since I do the shopping, that's a fate with which I'm stuck.

But the masculinity thing continues to bother me. I mean, a couple of weeks ago, one daughters had an immediate need for a particular feminine product. She was out of this particular item and had an urgent need. Does Mom get the request to go to the store for the emergency? No. Dad fields the request, and this one's bad. Because it's not a regular grocery shopping trip where I can hide the stuff in the shopping cart.

It's one item, in CVS. At least the checkout person was a female. Can't imagine what a moronic teenage boy would have thought or what lame joke he might've attempted to share with me.

So, I still don't know if this make me a renaissance man or a wimp. I don't know if it's good that that I've blurred the boundaries, in my daughters' eyes, of what a father and a mother are responsible for, or if they don't quite get it. One thing's for sure. I may have gotten the future males in their lives into something they never imagined doing. "Honey, can you run down to Rite Aid and get me some 'overnights'?" Poor guys, they'll never see it coming.

Thank goodness I've got the Steelers on Sunday afternoon, cold beer for one hand and a channel changer for the other. And no grocery shopping to do.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Both Feet in Mouth

How do Dads know what is the right thing to say? In all circumstances and situations? It's virtually impossible, no matter how hard we try or how well intentioned we might be.

I still haven't figured out why my daughter hasn't spoken to me in a week. She was dating a boy for about five or six months (it might've been longer but I kept convincing myself it wasn't going to last very long). She came to me one evening, not long after the school year started in tears and sobs. She told me she had broken up with her boyfriend. So as my daughter cried on my shoulder, I silently whooped it up in my brain, as if my beloved Steelers had just won another Super Bowl. The breakup was totally unexpected by all in the family. I later heard rumors that he was cheating on my daughter and bragging about it. When I heard these rumors, I said to myself, "good for my daughter," because too often ladies will hang on to a guy for all the wrong reasons. That's probably a post for another day. Why my daughter was crying when SHE was the one doing the breaking up, is beyond my feeble male brain. Maybe it was the cheating thing. Fortunately I've yet to run into this young man since the separation.

Back to last week. Same daughter came to me to tell me she was dating a new boy. My words were all wrong. I said, "why?" and "you don't need this now. We've got school, basketball season is starting, we're trying to pick a college, etc." She jumped up from the couch and proclaimed, "you wonder why I don't come to you with this stuff." Which was anger talking because of my three daughters, this one probably talks to me the most about important stuff.

What I was thinking didn't match up with the words that came out of my mouth. Which happens more frequently than I'd like to admit.

What I was thinking was, "you're a great kid and I don't want you to think you NEED to have a boyfriend." What I was thinking was, "I saw how hurt you were just a few months ago and I don't like to see you hurt and don't want it to happen again." What I was thinking was, "sometimes you should wait a while before you get into a relationship after getting out of one because sometimes you're vulnerable and you might not be thinking clearly."

Too bad my mouth and my brain weren't in sync. My daughter might still be talking to me.

Now, back to the ex-boyfriend. It's probably a good thing I haven't seen him since my daughter dumped him. He's a scrawny little thing and although I might be past my prime when it comes to my physical conditioning, never put it past an angry father to seriously consider inflicting physical harm on a teenage boy who's wronged his daughter. I know it's illegal, but I'm sure there's some sort of 'angry father insanity defense.' Which is why I closed my last post with the thought that when a teenage boy or young man comes calling on your precious daughter, you should answer the door with a flyswatter, a staple gun and anything that could be perceived to be a weapon.

My one daughter once congratulated me on being "cool" around her boyfriend. Several months later she told me he was afraid of me. That's a good thing.  But since we're not all tall, tough and cool like Trace Adkins, we need some tools at the door.

The flyswatter is to flap those backward-facing baseball hats off of young boys. The only way to describe this 'fashion statement' is moronic. Just plain stupidity. If the kid can't wear his baseball hat the way it was meant to be worn, he doesn't deserve to wear it. Besides, proper manners would dictate that he remove his hat upon approaching your front door anyway.

The staple gun is for the young man's pants. Inevitably he arrives at your front door with his jeans halfway down his butt. The staple gun is to make certain that his pants don't fall off while he's on his date with your daughter.

Now, if you hunt or fish, you already have some items in the house that you can take to answer the door. But if you don't have anything like that, a baseball bat, a flashlight, a pipe wrench, a tire iron all will work. And of course, you can make an excuse for answering the door with any one of those items. Like "I was watching the Phillies, and I always hold Masher while I'm watching the ballgame. Masher is the name of my bat." Or, "I was fixing the sink in the bathroom and I have to get a bigger wrench. By the way, did you know that the nickname for a pipe wrench is a knuckle-buster?"

I'll check with my attorney about the 'crazed, angered father' insanity defense.

P.S. Don't forget to tell your daughter you love her.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fathers and Daughters are Complicated

There are lots of blogs and websites that are geared toward parenting, even ones niched in areas like breastfeeding, toddlers, pre-school and teenagers. That's great. Sometimes, however, the advice or recommendations aren't applicable to everyday life. You might say to yourself, "Gee, I can see how that might work in Pollyanna, but that's not going to work for me here in Average Dad-ville.

It's like when I used to get student interns in my department, and my colleagues and I would sit an intern down and lay out for him or her the manner in which we wanted that student to undertake a particular project. Inevitably, the student would gaze at us with a puzzled stare and (say it with me) "but that's not how the Textbook says to do it." Or, the other predictable reply, "But that's not how Professor Smith taught us to do it." At which point my colleagues and I would state: a) your textbook was written by a desk jockey with lots of letters after his name and it's ten years old, b) your professor hasn't held a job in the real world and couldn't find his butt with both hands if he had to get one, c) we've actually been doing this stuff that you're trying to learn, and we have a clue about some things that might work.

I was at an AAU basketball tournament with my daughters (all three play basketball) and I was wearing a T-shirt that my daughters had bought for me that screamed in big white capital letters (against a black shirt) D.A.D.D., and in smaller print below, Dads Against Daughters Dating. I lost count of how many comments I received, from both men and women. but one father said to me, "you should start a support group." So here I am.

I am NOT a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor or a therapist. I'm just an average Dad who wakes up every morning with four women fighting for the bathroom, the one good hair dryer, the flat iron and the hair gel. I do not profess to be an expert on parenting, nor am I the perfect parent.

What I do pride myself on is trying really hard everyday to be the best Dad I can be. Some days that's not as good as others. There's a lot of days that I go to bed and think about something I might've said or done that day, and I knock myself in the head and say, "man, that was really stupid." More often than not, I have a decent day, or as I try to remind myself, "I don't think I scarred anyone for life today."

So I'm going to make you a deal. I'm going to share some stuff, warts and all. I'm going to attempt to bring some common sense to the challenging relationship between fathers and daughters. On occasion I will try to obtain some expert commentary on a particular issue that's important but of which I have no background or experience.

In return, I only ask that you feel free to share and/or comment. We Dads only have one another. One of the things that really honks me off is a female author who writes a parenting book about fathers and daughters. What the heck would she know about it?

And although my three daughters are all teenagers, (yes I've lost my hair, my money and my sanity), I remember when they were smaller and younger. And I have nieces between 2-years old and 12-years old. What I'm saying is, I don't have a script for what I'm going to write about each post. Some days it might be dating, others it might be about changing a loaded diaper.

I'm also not a big fan of criticizing people, and I'd appreciate it if that sentiment carries over to this community. Although I would say that celebrities who put themselves "out there" are fair game. I mean, would any average dad really want Kelly Osborne for his daughter? It's probably a good thing that Ozzie killed most of his brain cells in his younger days.

So welcome aboard. I can't foresee where this path will lead, but I do know as is the relationship between fathers and daughters, it will be humorous, challenging and unpredictable.

Fathers' dating tip for the week: When you answer the door for a young man coming to pick up your daughter for a date, make certain that when you open the door, you have a staple gun, a flyswatter, and anything that can be perceived as a weapon. I'll tell you why next time.

P.S. Don't forget to tell your daughter you love her.