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GreatDad Blog

Paul Banas

Why I’ve been away

Paul Banas
Submitted : 03.26.12

The GreatDad blog has been a wasteland for the last few months and I apologize for the lack of interaction. Family life goes on, the kids keep growing up, and I keep having reactions to things, but haven’t had time to blog. Instead, we’ve moved and relaunched a magazine (the venerable Pregnancy magazine lives again!). And still, there have been doctor and dentist appointment, parent teacher conferences, as well as 7 colds (2 for kids and me, and one for my wife) and one 4 day long bout with the the norovirus, a noxious vomiting virus that affects some 20 million people each year I’ve come to learn.

I also attended Dad 2.0, the first successful attempt to bring a lot of blogging and media dads together to discuss the cultural and commercial role of dads in the internet age. And what a time that was, meeting and catching up with friends from Dadlabs.com, MrDad.com, Howtobeadad.com, TheSpohrsareMultiplying.com and many others. We drank too much but enjoyed being around a bunch of guys who all share the same belief in the importance of fathers.

I’m back, with no less pressure in my day job, but a desire to keep on writing about things that matter to me as a dad, especially since my editors won’t let me write about anything on pregnancy.

See you around.

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Paul Banas

The Hunger Games: Will you let your kids see it?

Paul Banas
Submitted : 03.25.12

The Hunger Games is out this weekend, and the only other media property getting as much buzz is the premiere of the long-awaited Mad Men (see the GreatDad review of the Hunger Games).

While every 11-year old has read this book, along with many way-over 11 year olds, the graphic violence in the book is disturbing to protective dads like yours truly. The book, after all, is the story of a fight to the death put on annually by the leaders of a dystopian society. The players in the “game” are all just kids and do succeed in killing each others with arrows, spears, and old fashioned sticks and stones.

It’s one thing to read a book like Lord of the Flies, and another all-together to see Piggy wandering half-blind as he stalked by his classmates. That’s my memory from my adolescent viewing of the movie of that title, the images of which haunt me if I think about them. And that’s what I’m worried about for my just-turned 12 daughter.

The Hunger Games is getting a “Pause 13” rating from Commonsense Media for quite brutal scenes of violence: children being speared to death or having their heads smashed in.   As this article mentions, it’s one thing to read about these things and another to see them happen on screen. From what I can tell, this sounds a lot more violent than Harry Potter and I’m tempted to say that my daughter shouldn’t see it at her age.

In canvassing other families, however, I get different reactions. Some applaud how involved and protective I am of my children. Some barely hold back a snigger for my prudish and unrealistic parenting in the face of modern media. Still others refuse to take a stand, believing that their kids can just what is and isn’t too much for them.

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Paul Banas

New Year’s resolutions 2012

Paul Banas
Submitted : 01.2.12

The kids are getting older and I can start to think beyond what will keep them alive, fed and clothed day to day. So, for the first time in a several years, I actually have a few resolutions for the new year:

1. Stop yelling at the kids. I actually don’t yell at them very often at all, but my son feels that we yell at him all the time. He’s the slowpoke in the family and he needs constant prodding to stay on track and get out the door on the family timeline rather than his own. Let everyone else yell, though. I will try to contain the stress and “gently” pry the LEGOs out of this hand and point him toward putting on his shoes rather than raising my voice. There really is nothing other than danger that should make you raise your voice to the people you love. That’s of course, easier to say than to practice, but maybe if I write it on a post-it on my computer screen and say it as a mantra, I’ll be able to keep it top of mind.

2. Compliment everyone I see. I read this somewhere a day or two ago, but can’t remember when, but will steal the idea outright. The writer was suggesting that most resolutions are set up to fail since they are about giving up stuff you like (smoking, eating, drinking) or about doing something you hate (going to the gym). Saying one nice thing to everyone you meet is easy and painless and often creates immediate rewards. It’s so obviously a good resolution, I resolve to adopt it every year!

3. Get back to playing piano. I took up piano at age 48 to motivate my daughter to learn to play at the same time. Now both kids play and practice 30-60 minutes a day, while my playing has dwindled to nothing. Their persistence should and will be a motivator to me.

4. Develop a real social media plan and stick to it. Even if it’s only the “10 minutes a day” approach, GreatDad.com need more consistency in social media. GreatDad has 5600 followers and only 4400 followees. I’ll work to reduce that delta. Apologies to my Triberr buddies as well. I’ll do more retweeting in 2012.

That’s it and enough. I have a few other personal projects that are goals for 2012. It promises to be a big year, especially since we will relaunch Pregnancy Magazine as digital publication in February!

Happy New Year!

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Paul Banas

France approves soda tax and I agree

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.29.11

I hate taxes as much as the next dad, but taxes are sometimes good. They raise prices and change behavior, such as smoking. And often, legislators best efforts to tie taxes to consumer education (anti-smoking campaigns) or health effects (cancer research) are reversed when new legislatures need the cash to fund other pet projects (remember when lotteries were only to be used to fund education?) Often too, they are regressive, affecting poor people disproportionately. Price elasticity is real however, and anything that gets people off the sugar drink habit has to be good. People are still free to drink a Coke now and then, but are de-motivated to drink Coke for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is sometimes the case.

PARIS — France’s top constitutional body on Wednesday approved a new tax on sugary drinks that aims to fight obesity while giving a boost to state coffers.

The Constitutional Council approved the new soda tax, announced in August as part of the government’s fight against obesity and within the framework of a broader austerity programme, after it was passed in parliament last week.

The tax, which works out to one euro cent per can of drink, is expected to bring in 120 million euros ($156 million) in state revenues.

[From AFP: France approves soda tax]

Disagree? Let me know!

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Paul Banas

Seven worst pet gifts and two good ones

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.23.11

It’s December 23rd and still time to answer a Craiglist ad for a new horse, pet pig, or used rabbit cage. Here’s our advice on six pets not to get:

1. Tarantula – Sure, they are cute, furry, and cuddly when you take them home, but wait until your son lays one on your face while you’re taking a post-football Sunday nap. Your heart attack won’t be as embarrassing as what you’ll do in your pants.

2. Snake – Yes, they also look great in the pet store when you’re thinking of how your ex-wife will react. But, trust me, they are a lot less fun when the wily creatures find a way out of the snake cage, free to wander through the walls and heating ducts of your house, ready to jump out at you.

3. Baby Croc – Ever hear of the alligators in the New York sewer system, some of which managed to crawl backwards up the pipes to take bites out of the rears of people sitting on the toilet. Even if it’s the goofiest urban myth imaginable, I still don’t like the image or increasing the probability of it happening.

3. Pony – Unless you have a driver to take your child to the stable a few times a week and a trust fund to cover the stable bills, this is not a gift any sane parent should consider.

4. Cat – Cats are the devil’s embodiment on earth, here to tease us while planting deep, dark thoughts in our brains, while they aren’t plotting to suffocate us while we sleep. Invite one into your home at your own peril.

5. Eboli Virus – It’s alive, active, and hard to kill. Sounds like a perfect pet for young kids then? Think again.

6. Dog – We love dogs. They are smart, loyal, and wonderful burglar alarms. But if you ever want to take another vacation, without a dog strapped to the roof a la Mitt Romney, think again. Even if you never vacation anywhere beyond car range, spending all your free time out walking a dog with a plastic bag of warm feces in your hand is no way to spend middle age.

7. Gerbil – Mess to clean with constant odor. They enjoy drawing blood from fingers just trying to pet them. Worse: a ferret.

Two suggestions:

1. Ant Farm – Ants make no noise and just eat through the jelly included in the ant farm. When they die, no one cries.

2. Miniature frogs – These frogs, like the ones from Wild Creations,

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Paul Banas

Count to ten – holiday stress

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.22.11

The kids are at home this week and next, and it is hard. As much as I’d like to believe in it, there are no “great dads” or even good dads. There are moms and dads who try every day to manage their own demons and stresses to be the best parents they can be. My wife often says I get too preachy about being a good parent, and she is somewhat correct. Because I have a work at home job, and can spend a lot of time with my kids, I do have the moral high ground in helping with homework, forcing them to eat daily carrots (their only vegetable) and keeping them at piano practice way longer than they want to. And I don’t have to do all that after 9 hours of working with a boss I can’t stand. Even so, on long holidays, even I can get testy with them, especially my younger boy who everyday is asking for more GoGo dolls or another LEGO because he’s bored (and this 4 days before he’s zooming in on the big Christmas score).

The big challenge for me is to keep reminding myself that a 7 year old isn’t the same as an 11 year old and neither are the same as an adult. Each person, toddler, child, teen, mom and dad are seeing the holidays through their own prism, expectations and rose-colored glasses. I have to kick myself several times a day to not yell, not get impatient, not be empathetic since they are not all Zen Buddhist monks with no worldly cares or wants.

But some days, all you can do it count to ten and try not to be the least mature of the bunch. That’s my personal goal for today, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. Then I can go back to trying to be supremely patient and understanding once the stresses or Christmas are over and all that is left is the glow, and the wrapping paper to toss out.

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Paul Banas

Worst Dads: Dad charged with binding girl with tape

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.22.11

Maybe at this point, it’s just piling on, but sometimes things people do with or to kids, supposedly thinking it’s all in good fun, are just too much. Here a single dad saw his daughter playing with packing tape and decided it would be funny to wrap it around her legs and hands and over her mouth and post a picture on Facebook. To make matters worse, he labeled the photo “Here’s wut (sic) happens when my baby hits me back. ; )”

And, now of course, he is clogging the courts with an aggravated assault charge. He can’t have contact with his daughter or any child under 18 while the case is pending. He is also not allowed on the Internet.

Amazingly stupid and lacking any humor for a dad whose mom says her son is a “big jokester.”

[From Dad charged with binding girl with tape ‘feels awful’ – Chicago Sun-Times]

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Paul Banas

Signs of the inevitable separation

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.13.11

This week, as I do every year, I am putting together the 30 page iPhoto book recapping our year as a family. I add highlights and special pages for each of our kids detailing their adventures and triumphs. Most of the pages, though, are family shots of me or my wife hugging our kids desperately, while they still smile brightly in the embrace. I give the book to both grandmas as well as my wife. For years, it’s come in their stocking and my kids still always impressed that Santa knows so much about our family. My mother just sent me an email saying she often pulls the books down and pages through them, marveling at how the kids grow and change.

However, for our own kids, the value of the books is quite a bit different. Of course, on Christmas day, they want to see what is in the book and if Santa has chosen flattering photos of them or has embarrassed them in some way. But that is mostly where their reading ends. The books sit on the bookcase shelf, unread unless my wife or I pull them down to remember what was happening when.

What the kids do pull down, and here is the rub, is their annual elementary school yearbooks. Already, they prefer to relive the intense school time with their friends and ponder their relationships with their buddies. It’s inevitable, but yet another painful reminder that they are slowly pulling away from us, still happy to be in the photos, but not needing to relive the happy family memories as much as their time with their pals.

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Paul Banas

What is fair? Preparing kids for the cruel world.

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.6.11

I just had to pull the kids apart during an argument over lunch. “It’s not fair,” complained my son, now 7 years old.

Where did they get this idea of fairness in life and how and when do we disabuse them of the notion that some omniscient justice will always be available to them?

I now realize that nursery school is all about instilling this idea of fairness in little kids. In our attempts to socialize them, we constantly affirm the idea of each person having “their turn.” To keep control of the pre-school masses, it’s important for them to see some structure in the way things work, and that there is hope for their own satisfaction if they just wait their turn.

When they get to elementary school, however, perhaps by first grade, they quickly see on the playground, away from the scrutiny of the all beneficent adults, that fairness doesn’t always rule the day. But at home, they cling to this idea for longer, perhaps because moms and dads are usually acutely aware of special treatment between siblings. King Solomon-like, we’re often put in the role of the final decision-maker.

At some point though, along with the hard truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, parents have to tell kids about the noble ideal of justice. We try to believe in it, we strive for it, but we can’t survive without some doubt about it. Without turning our kids into cynical little ten year olds, we have to slowly introduce the real facts: cheaters often win, bad things some times happen to good people, and that the “rules of the game” are a bit different than the ones we see while wearing rose-colored glasses.

The trick for us dads is to model positive behavior on our fundamental ideals such as honesty, fairness, peace, and equality, while preparing our kids to someday read the front page of the newspaper and not be shocked when they learn of the external world. Like most dads, I parse out information on a need to know basis to my 7 and 11 year olds, trying to avoid exposure to things they don’t need to see before their time.

I’m interested in how other dads see this challenge? Do you blurt out “There is NO Santa,” to expose them to hard truths? How do you prepare them for white lies, road rage, or discrimination? Let us know in the comments below.

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Paul Banas

Movember comes to an end!

Paul Banas
Submitted : 12.1.11

So tonight, my kids helped me cut off my mustache and they are glad to have their dad back again. I just turned 54, so the facial hair that gets you into bars when you’re 19, is not what you want to make you look older when you are, in fact, older.

But the family had fun with the process since they can’t remember the last time I grew my beard out, which about 2004. A friend of mind didn’t’ recognize me at my local coffee store, so I guess I know what to do if I ever need to really go incognito. I might opt for Groucho glasses instead though since the scratch/itchy thing is for the bird.

Bald faced plug: the Dad 2.0 team has already reached over $17,000, but it’s not too late if you want to help out the cause. 33,000 men will die of prostate cancer and the nearly 8,300 men who will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year. Several important men in my life have died of cancer in the last few years, at least one because he didn’t go for an exam when he had serious symptoms. I’m doing this to raise awareness of men’s health.

If you can, take a moment to support the cause at  http://mobro.co/GreatDad. Even $5 is helpful!

Philips Norelco is matching $15,000 for our team so they deserve some thanks and credit. They sent me the shaver you’ll see in the video I’ll post tomorrow (gotta do that whole YouTube uploading thing). They did ask us to let everyone know that there is currently a $30 holiday rebate underway for the
SensoTouch shaver: http://www.upgradeyourshave.com/?origin=|mckv|sIL5aiqBI&pcrid=8513465214|plid

It’s usually $199, so that’s a nice saving if you have another Movember sufferer in the house who is keeping the ‘stash until 12/25.

GreatDad.com Review Policy: The featured product for this review was provided to us, at no cost, by the manufacturer or representing PR agency for the sole purpose of product testing. We do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. We only review products that we have personally tested and used in our own homes, and all opinions expressed are our own.

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