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GreatDad Blog

Paul Banas

Missing the important events in your child’s life

Paul Banas
Submitted : 09.19.13

Image 3I screwed up on Saturday. My son told me that he would be awarded his blue belt in aikido. Because he often makes declarative announcements, I checked with one of the organizers of the class who told me that the kids were not ready and that he could not imagine there would be a ceremony this week. So we did carpool as usual, picking my son up right as the class was supposed to be ending. Unfortunately, instead of finishing the class as usual, they ended with a test and the awarding of new belts.

My son was crestfallen that we weren’t there to see him reach what is actually the second the last belt he can achieve in aikido. He whimpered all the way home, with a “nobody loves me,” sadness that made us all feel very guilty. It didn’t really matter that we had been told that we didn’t need to come. All he knew is that he had told us to be there and we had failed him. All the other events we’ve attended over the years; the plays, the class performances, the soccer industrial games, none of it made a difference. He could only feel about the thing that he didn’t have. I told him I thought he was right to be mad, but that we do our best to be there for him as often as we can but that sometimes we fail.

As parents often do, I wondered what memories he will take with him into adulthood. Will he remember this all as “the good times?” Or will he remember the few times we weren’t there for him? I’m hopeful it will be the former, though I know there are events that are insignificant to us now that will imprint on his young brain and that he will take with them into the future. There’s not a lot I can do about that. But I do and agonize over how many there are and how to avoid them.

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Paul Banas

The kids are at camp at mid-Summer

Paul Banas
Submitted : 07.19.13

We’re mid-summer and the kids are at camp. It makes for an abbreviated day since they start later and end earlier, though many of the other routines are the same. Same lunches filled with carrots and half-eaten sandwiches, same drives in the morning, and same harangues when we get home to practice piano and do their daily exercises in their math workbooks to try to stay a little in the game before school starts. What a difference than when I was a kid when we would just lie around pulling grass out of the lawn and staring a the clouds. At least, that’s the way I remember it; filled with the smell of freshly mowed grass and the sound of grass being mowed. Hot tar that would melt into your kickstand and lots of trips to the 7-11 to get cans of Coke. Rides around the neighborhood on my Sting Ray and its banana seat (another thing I wish I had kept). Driving to the Dairy Queen at dusk after dinner.

For our kids in San Francisco, it’s a lot different. There is very little down time even though they are still on fairly rigid diets of TV and computer screen time. The afternoon fog rolls in before they are even out of camp, so no one is lying in the cold grass for long in urban SF (inland 10 miles and it’s very different). No one leaves the house without being accounted for and with their phone ON. Frozen yogurt is an option, but we’re all cutting back on our sugar and desserts so that might only happen tonight for a Friday night treat.

Still, summer is special and a lot of it still yawns open for us to fill. It’s not too late to consider some big project, though I may be a little tardy to start a vegetable garden. Finally digitizing the kids’ baby movies and pictures still might happen though.

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Paul Banas

PTA’s new courageous statement on gun control

Paul Banas
Submitted : 01.11.13

I was ready to be disappointed when I saw the email heading on yet another statement on a school shooting. I was expecting the usual call to discuss violence in our schools and in our culture. However, the National PTA really stood up this time, making very black and white statements that clearly support what Joe Biden has been suggesting over the past few days after his meetings with civic leaders. In the National PTA press release on the Taft Union High School shooting, the PTA lists their top three priorities:

  • Universal background checks for the sale and possession of firearms;
  • A ban on non-sporting ammunition in high-capacity magazines; and
  • The reenactment and expansion of an effective federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons

Thankfully absent were any hollow statements about addressing our culture. The priorities of the National PTA are just common sense steps that all Americans should support, whether gun rights advocates or not. The most recent killings have nothing to do with Second Amendment or sportsman’s freedom. They are however, directly related to a gun industry that feeds on people’s fears while actively denying rules that would save thousands of very innocent lives every year.

The one thing I don’t understand is why they decided to release this statement on a Friday, rather than the start of the news week.

For what it”s worth, take a second to tweet this news and LIKE it on Facebook.

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Paul Banas

Puzzles are great for kids

Paul Banas
Submitted : 01.2.13

I’m loving the puzzle I got for Christmas. It’s a 1000-piece version of the New Yorker cover Maira Kalman did shortly after 9/11 called “Newyorkistan.” She translates the city of New York and it’s five boroughs into an exotic land filled with exotic names and a camel named Stan. My son and I have been working on it diligently, with the (sometimes) help of my wife and daughter. I love the way puzzles allow for parallel work and idle conversation. My son is 8, so a lot of his questions are just random things he thinks of during the day, or his pronouncements on Star Wars or Skylander Giants lore. He asks me a lot about vocabulary he discovers in Minecraft, but we mostly just marvel at the magic of finding the “right” piece and how it so satisfactorily fits into the open spaces. This is the same feeling we get when we do LEGOs together, recognizing the common memes, finding the right pieces, feeling that wonderful click that LEGO is famous for (and which Megablocks just can’t seem to get).

The puzzle is about a 1/3 finished with a lot of play value left, though I sense I’m the only one using it to avoid work, rather than as a fun activity that brings the family together on a long winter evening when dad has forbade iPad and TV.

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Paul Banas

World’s Greatest Dad video hot on YouTube

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.31.12

This video is making it’s way around the internets with some proclaiming Missouri resident Emio Tomeoni, as the world’s greatest dad, ostensibly since he looks to be having fun with his son during his wife’s 110 minute absence. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a cute video, and hats off to Emio for making video memories he’ll treasure as his boy gets big. But let’s not lionize a man, or woman, beyond reason for spending some time with his kids. Until we get over this dichotomy of man hero versus absent dad, we won’t make any progress on convincing the millions of uninvolved dads that what Emio is doing is what every dad should be doing when he has a few hours with his baby son.

Fun video to watch. It brings back memories.

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Paul Banas

Enough with the holiday email blasts!

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.21.12

I’ve had it up to my spam filter with bright holiday graphics telling me to have a great holiday. I appreciate the sentiment and I’m an ordinarily cheery holiday person, not at all a bah humbug type. But do I really need 50-75 emails from companies wishing me a joyful holiday. I’d even take this to the next level, even if you’re a person, rather than a corporate entity, you’re not making a good impression by sending an impersonal greeting, especially at this time of year. The only people who get a pass on that type of group greeting are the ones looking out for a holiday tip from their hundreds of customers, like the paper boy (girl, man, woman). Okay, that said, I can go back to deleting all the holiday greetings from this morning. Only 4 more days to go and then we can start the gratuitous happy new year wishes.

Have a wonderful holiday.

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Paul Banas

Ann Romney speech a turn-off for dads?

Paul Banas
Submitted : 08.29.12

Politics aside, was I the only one a shocked at the Ann Romney rah-rah speech about the supremacy of moms. Don’t get me wrong, I believe moms are great. I also love strong women, including my own mother and my wife. I found Ms. Romney’s speech reaching a little too hard to bring women back into the fold after Democratic “war on women” charges. Does one sex really have to own hardship, caring, homework chores, “sighing just a little louder” about the worries of the day. I was kind of hoping we were starting to get beyond the old stereotype of the big lunk who goes to work to bring home the bacon, leaving his in-charge wife to manage the checkbook, household values, and child-rearin’ to the kids.

And then next up was Chris Christie. Within 60 seconds of his opener, he tossed his own father (in the hall) under the metaphorical bus, saying “in the automobile of life, my father was definitely just a passenger.” He then went on to say that everything he is, direct and forceful, came from his mother, and that he was his “mother’s son” whenever he did anything new and bold. I couldn’t help wince a bit for his old dad wondering if we was also just a “sperm donor in the fertility clinic of life.”

Each family is different and maybe these were the realities of these two households in the fading light of the 20th century when expectations were different and breaking out of molds was harder. There were no, or few, same sex parents, far fewer single parent households (and virtually none headed by dads), and everything was a lot more black and white. But then was then, and as much as some might wish for a more golden past, moms and many, many dads are nurturing, caring, opinionated, homework helping, loud sighers across the country. Had I been sitting on the fence about Romney, the performance last night would not have endeared me to him, his wife, or his cause, if for no other reason than that he and his wife are locked in that past paradigm of what an “American family” should be and likely will never be again.

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Paul Banas

Fading signs of early childhood for my youngest

Paul Banas
Submitted : 07.11.12

Today my son goes to what he calls the “Bodanical” Gardens here in San Francisco. He’s taken a lot of heat for this pronunciation this week, which he now says is how his friends say it. At 8, however, he is at the end of the hilarious mispronunciations of common words. He has corrected “webbins” for weapons and “sahl” for saw and all the rest, sadly. He is still yelling for mom to help him tie his shoes, but now its more a way to get mommy-attention than it is a real babyish need for help.

Even as they are running and yelling through the house and you think you yourself will scream if you can’t get a break, you get reminders at how quickly they grow up. Luckily, most of them want to stay kids for a long time, willing to snuggle in bed or let you help them get dressed. But soon, the noise will be tamed by better manners, self-awareness, or maybe just earphones, and too soon, will be gone entirely.

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Paul Banas

Summer projects

Paul Banas
Submitted : 06.21.12

My kids are now 8 and 12. Their summer interests are as varied as they are. They mostly want to spend the summer enjoying a break from the modern pressures of school and harried carpool structure. But like many or most of us, with the summer spread out before them, they have big dreams for what can be accomplished in the next three months. My son wants to build as many Legos as he possibly can, while playing as much Wii as I will allow him to experience during long playdates with his pals.

His older sister has started off with grander dreams, with written out schedules down to the quarter hour. She has bargained with us to motivate her with $10 if she completes a math review workbook during the summer. She plans to memorize one poem a week since we give her a dollar for every poem over 20 lines she memorizes (So far, she has memorized “The Road Less Traveled.”). She does brain exercises and yoga. She has elaborate plans for balloon fights, lemonade stands, and a project involving clothespins, glue and magnets. She keeps up with her hour-a-day piano lessons and finds time to read voraciously on her Kindle.


We Didn’t’ Start the Fire

The project, however, that I love the best is her “We didn’t start the fire” deconstruction. After hearing the old Billy Joel song a dozen times during car trips and using it to fuel discussions on American and world history, my wife and I challenged our daughter to figure out what every line and reference means. My daughter loves learning, but she loves money as well, and promptly said, “How much will you give me?” I did rough calculations in my mind: there must be at least a hundred or more references in that song, each requiring at least a sentence or two to explain its context. I offered $50 which seems puny in comparison to the size of the task. At 12, I had barely the motivation to put on my shorts during long, hot Minnesota summers. She wants to take on understanding the latter half of the twentieth century as a break from school. I’ve already warned her that “Suez Canal” can’t be just “canal at Suez.” Each description has to long enough so that someone who doesn’t know could also understand what the name or term means and why it’s important. This exhausts me just thinking about it.

If there’s a lesson in all of this it’s in letting kids set their summer agendas and finding things that motivate them. I couldn’t have imagined how full and varied her summer would be until she wrote out a list of the 30 things she wants to accomplish. If she does even half of them, it will be impressive, though she has to finish the workbook, the poems, and the long, long Billy Joel project if she wants to score the cash.

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Paul Banas

Levi Johnston to be a Dad Again

Paul Banas
Submitted : 04.4.12

I won’t say anything more than that I hope he can be as good and present a father as he can be to both of his kids.

Round two of diaper duty for Levi Johnston!

After fathering son Tripp, 3, with ex-fiance Bristol Palin, the news-making Alaskan, 21, is going to be a dad again, his rep confirmed to Us Weekly on Tuesday.

[From Levi Johnston: Yes, I’m Going to be a Dad Again – UsMagazine.com]

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