No One is Required To Share

So my daughter brought her dinosaurs to the park, and you didn’t. You want to play with her dinosaurs, and she says no, tough luck, kid. She’s not obligated to give you a dinosaur and if you run to me to tattle on her I’m gonna say, ‘so? Get your own dinosaurs.’

Forcing your child to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, including sharing with a stranger who rudely interrupts her play session thinking they have a right to her toys, is not going to help your child develop into a well-rounded adult. Likely, your child will grow into a pushover, someone who gets used and abused by the adults who were once kids tattling on other children who wouldn’t share with them.

She loves being forced to share her hand

 

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but teaching my daughter to not melt like a snowflake is not one of them.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

Do You Share As An Adult?

No, you don’t. If you’re at the park, ‘watching’ your kids by falling face first into your phone, I doubt very much you’re going to let me watch a few YouTube videos, no matter how politely I ask. That’s because you’re setting boundaries for yourself, and that’s okay. You don’t even have to ask for forgiveness, because non-snowflake adults will understand just fine, and the snowflakes will melt no matter what.

So when my daughter says ‘no’ to your little snowflake about her dinosaurs, teach your kid to suck it up and find something else to do instead of coddling them and suggesting to them that my daughter is the rude one.

Sharing too much can drive us crazy

Boundaries Are Healthy

Teaching my child that it’s okay to set boundaries, and that it’s equally okay to be refused something because someone else set a boundary, is part of learning to be a good person. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she has to be a super kid, to do everything that someone asks of her (like I did), or else think of herself as rude, or an incomplete person. Why? Because doing so lead me to saying yes to peer pressure throughout my young life, doing things I didn’t want to do when I was emotionally or physically exhausted, or losing time for myself because I didn’t want to appear to be rude.

Setting boundaries for yourself is what will keep you sane and healthy, and helps you avoid overexerting yourself. And if there’s one thing you should be doing, Kamal Ravikant described it well, love yourself first.

Share When You Can, Not When You’re Asked To

If you have an abundance, you should share it. If you don’t think you have an abundance to share, you’re likely lying to yourself. Unless you are on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society, then you have an abundance in someone’s eyes. And if you’re reading this post, then you’re not on the absolute, most bottom-rung of your society. You have access to the internet with hands to type, you have food in your belly with fingers to pick meat from bone, you have fresh water to drink with lips to hold it in your mouth, you likely have a roof to sleep under and eyelids to close. Believe me, these are excesses that not everyone has. Let me share a story with you.

The Woman On The Street Of Hong Kong, After I Fattened Myself Up

I don’t even much like fastfood because I know how it destroys my gut’s biome, adds an inordinate amount of fat, sodium, and calories to my diet, and makes my love handles wiggle like Kim’s or Kylie’s ass. I don’t really know who they are, I just know they are over-indulgent celebrities who are known for not much more than their asses, so I’m taking an unnecessary cheap shot there to make a stupid point.

That point is that I indulge in excess without even wanting to. So when I was walking home down some streets I had never taken before in Mongkok, I heard a soft and lovely voice singing in Chinese, amplified by a small speaker. This isn’t uncommon for Mongkok, there’s plenty of street performers, hawkers, and political activists making noise in this area. But this one was different.

Beauty is where you choose to find it

As the crowd parted near the corner, choosing one road or the other to cross, I saw a woman sitting on an unfolded cardboard box, clutching a microphone between her forearm and bicep, because she had no hands. Boils were rolling over her stump of a wrist. Her ear was bulging, her eyes bloodshot and twisted. Her nose and lips weren’t even shadows on her face, they just weren’t there. Now, I can’t read Chinese well enough to understand what her story was, but if I had to guess, she had been a victim of an acid attack (obviously I can’t be sure of this, but that’s what it looked like to me).

For me, it’s automatic to avoid beggars, not because I don’t feel compassion for them, but because I generally feel that if I’m going to donate my money and time, it is going to a cause that I believe in, or a program I trust. So I walked past her and crossed the street. I could still hear her singing into her microphone, occasionally saying ‘xie xie’ (thank you in Mandarin) to people who dropped money into the box in front of her. As I made it half-way down the next block I began to realize what I had just done.

They shared balloons, and their worlds were amazing

I had just obscenely filled my belly with disgusting, tortured, chicken meat, washed it down it a bubbly cup of fat juice known as 7-up, then absent-mindedly walked past a person who has obviously had a terrible life, without a second look. I was devastated with myself. So I stopped, walked back across the street, dropped a $50 HKD bill into her box and told her what I should have been feeling from the moment I saw her, ‘Wo ai ni.’ (I love you, in Mandarin).

She didn’t pay me any extra attention than anyone else who gave her money, but she held my gaze for a moment as I told I her I loved her, and uttered in her best, broken English, ‘thank you.’ I doubt very much that it had as much of an impact on her that it had on me, but I hope she goes home tonight believing it and feeling it and knowing that her looks aren’t what make her loved or unloved. Nor is it her soft, lovely singing voice. It’s that she is a person and we should all love each other.

The only language her Chinese Grandma and my daughter currently share, is love

I walked away, tears filling up my eyes, crushed, as I thought about whatever had happened to her in her life, knowing I’m probably wrong, but accepting the fact that I’m a privileged, entitled American, with a ridiculous excess in my life. When I can, I share, but not because someone told me to, or asked me to. I shared with her because I love her, because she made me connect with my own heart and take responsibility for myself. She gave me insight into the person I am, just by being there, being strong, and being human.

Do What’s Right For you

Don’t share because you have to with everyone you see, don’t force your kids to share with snowflake kids at the park, and don’t expect anyone to have to share either their time or their money with you. Just be human, love everyone you can, and then you’ll see sharing and receiving becomes a part of your life, like breathing in and breathing out. That’s what being an adult is, that’s what it means to a raise a well-rounded child into a peaceful and loving global citizen, cognizant of the world around them. So quit melting snowflakes, and little snowflakes, realize your life is already amazing, carry on, and share what you can, when you can, and don’t melt when someone sets a boundary for themselves they don’t want you to cross.

Super People, Super Problems

In this era of super kids, it’s easy to want to your child to be superstar, a famous athlete, musical prodigy, or whatever kind of top-level person you want them to be. Our news feeds are flooded with examples of three-year-old skateboarders, 5-year-old piano masters, or 9-year-olds with the pipes of Aretha Franklin, and this gives us the idea that our own children should be up to that level. What is being forgotten is that most of us are average, our children included, and being average is exactly what our children should be. We all make mistakes and have a chance at forgiveness, but driving our kids to be outliers shouldn’t be their inherited mistake.

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Average kids do average things, like paint their nails with watercolor

With the massive increase in levels of depression and anxiety in American adults since 2010, is it possible we are priming our children for the same? Social media has driven us all to believe that being an exception is normal. That having millions of followers, or making six figures on Instagram and Youtube, is thought of as realistic is downright insane. There is a reason that these people are the exception to the rule: being average is the best that most of us will attain. If it wasn’t, then the average would be exceptional and the exceptional would be average. Can you see why this causes problems? The current idea is that if you aren’t special, then you aren’t loved.

Comparing Ourselves to Outliers

We’ve already set the goal posts for ourselves in relation to the freaks we see on social media. We think that we aren’t good enough, don’t have enough friends or enough likes, or that we always must be happy and prove it by posting pictures of us having an amazing day, every day. Please, hold my beer while I vomit.

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An average yoga session, with below average posture

Be honest with yourself, most of your days are average. You get up, you commute for hours to work, you work, you commute back, then maybe you get to have a pleasant Saturday where your child gets you full-time (pending your face isn’t buried into your phone). So why are you expecting your child to be a professional baseball player when they have the exact same child-care schedule as every other kid on your block?

The Ugliness of American Ideals

I’m a lucky S.O.B. and have spent the last four years since graduating college traveling and working on three different continents. This is partly because I love to travel, but also because I completely reject the American ideals of getting a ‘good’ job, working your life away, and having no time to yourself and your family while burying yourself in debt to fill your life with material. Instead, my 3-year-old daughter has gone to school and made friends in 5 different countries and has picked up at least a few words in as many languages. She isn’t going to be a superstar or high-earning athlete, as much as I’d like her to be, because she, like me, is average. And frankly, that’s when she is at her best.

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She didn’t find a single egg this Easter, but her below-average performance didn’t affect her fun at all

I’ve been teaching her to swim and snorkel recently because it’s something I enjoy. One of her most recent challenges is floating on her back and it’s been a true pain in the ass to get her to keep her ears in the water for longer than a few seconds. I push, she resists. I see 2-year-olds on Youtube diving and snorkeling easily, and I get frustrated that Auburn isn’t progressing more rapidly. We’re all prone to this type of behavior because American ideals tell us we are all special. Again, hold my beer, more vomit coming up.

Toddlers Are Excellent Teachers

So why am I ranting about this? Because my daughter recently taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve been showing her videos of other kids snorkeling and swimming, tempting her to try it more and more, and even getting angry at myself when we go a whole session without her dipping her head in the water. So what lesson did she teach me? To just let her float.

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Just your average chocolate cake-eater

I had given up. We were headed to the pool and I had zero intention of trying to get her to do anything with her snorkel or mask on. I just wanted to swim, let her swim, and enjoy the sunshine in one of our last days in Thailand. A few minutes into the pool and I was floating on my back, staring up at a half-moon in a blue sky circled by palm trees. I could hear the muffled sounds of people chatting and others splashing. After a few minutes, I picked my head up out of the water and saw my daughter doing exactly the same thing I was. Floating on her back, ears in the water. I hadn’t once asked her, pushed her, or even insinuated that she needs to practice any skills that day.

Let Them Float

Instead of pushing your children to learn how to swing a bat or sing like Aretha or float on their back, I’ve discovered the best thing you can do is just let them float. Show them what they can do, then let them do it. Drilling and repeating can have a positive impact on your child’s physical abilities, but take a moment to consider what telling a 3-year-old that they will be a professional athlete will do to their psyche. What happens to that psyche when they don’t become a professional athlete? Unfortunately, this type of social media-driven behavior hasn’t been around long enough to give us a clear indication of what happens, but we can look at what is happening to us adults as a clue.

If you’ve ever felt pressured that you have to post something that gets your opinion across in a flashy way, or that an Instagram photo with the perfect filter must be shown each day, imagine what that mentality does to a toddler’s brain. Imagine what kind of influence your toddler is undergoing when you are propping them up as a ‘future Chicago Bulls’ star’ in your Facebook feed. Imagine having the standards set so high for you that you constantly feel inadequate. I’m sure you don’t need to imagine, all you have to do is see how you feel when you look at all the social media icons and compare yourself to them. You’re average. Just floating.

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My average little Easter bunny

But there isn’t anything wrong with just floating, just being average. My daughter is at her best when I let her do what she can do on her own. I can show her a few times how to do it, but no amount of pressure from her father is going to make her love to snorkel with me or want to improve her off-foot striking skills in soccer.

Letting her be average, letting her float on her own, is the best thing I can do for her. It’s when she improves her quickest and enjoys her activities the most. My daughter likely won’t grow up to be a pro soccer player and possibly won’t ever enjoy snorkeling with me, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to raise a healthy, well-rounded, competent individual who knows that she can do her best, fail, and still be loved. I can’t see a reason to have any other goals than that.

 

single parent blog, parenting blog, single parent travel

Two Healing Words

After a day of rain drumming on the bungalow’s tin roof, my 3-year-old would say two words that would help me in forgiving myself. The strength, the clarity, the confidence that she showed me through those two words helped me understand that the strongest amongst us are missing something when we punish ourselves for making mistakes. We focus on the wrong like it’s a stain on our only shirt, thinking everyone will see only that and judge us accordingly. My daughter’s two words help me realize something we all need to understand, ‘it’s okay.’ Failing isn’t nearly as important as what we do after we fail.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

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Auburn doesn’t care if she fails, the first time she did this the seat knocked her forehead

Why Do We hurt?

In today’s social media atmosphere where we are constantly bombarded with images of the exceptional, it’s easy to feel inferior. The companies who advertise on social media know I am a traveling Dad, so the advertisements I see are about top-notch parents who never fail, travelers who make five figures a month working just 2 hours a week, and images of people working on hilltops, swinging in a hammock, or (most unbelievably) working right on the beach! What a bunch of crap.

 

Even if everything I am seeing is real, those images are denoting the .01% of people who are actually involved in any of those activities. Every parent repeatedly fails, travelers travel because it’s cheaper than staying in one place, and digital nomads like myself work at a desk. Can you imagine having your computer out at the beach for 8 hours? If you can, then you should also imagine the next computer you’re going to need because the sand, water, light, and elements are going to destroy your gear.

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This is not a work place, Nang Yuan Island, Thailand

So It’s all BS?

Marketing is all BS. They show the outliers, the freaks-of-nature, the rare runes. When you see these outstanding people every day, all the time, how can you not compare yourself to them? Your average life, your average job, your average face. This isn’t crap you can easily change, so when you can’t be extraordinary, you feel like shit, because you’re just average, and you’re a failure. Mark Manson touches extensively on this in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Those Two Words

When my daughter stirred that night, at first just uncomfortable because her blanket was off her, I heard her whimper in the darkness. Once, then twice, a soft, third time. ‘What’s wrong honey?’ I asked her. Her little voice sniffled out, ‘I miss Mommy.’ I was instantly back to hating myself again, forgetting how hard I’m trying to love myself. My mind jumps to all my mistakes, what I’ve done to put Auburn in this position, a series of events leading up to her waking up and crying at 11 pm because she doesn’t have a ‘Mom.’

She crawls over to me and falls into my arm, I feel her tears drip onto the inside of my bicep. I squeeze her lightly, ‘I know sweetie, you got your Daddy here.’ A tear of mine drips unnoticed on her hair, ‘You’ve got lots of people who love you, Aubi,’ a few more whimpers from her. Her hand moves up across my neck, she stops crying, smiles, kisses me on the curve between my nose and cheek, ‘I know Daddy, it’s okay.’

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Sometimes she sleep with undies on her head

It’s Okay

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the outlier, the extreme example, the super-parent, the model, or the charming one. Like Mark Manson says in his book, ‘What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how your come to see the situation.’ I’m an average parent and person, I constantly fail. But my little girl looks at me with the strength of a General, smiles, and says ‘it’s okay.’ It’s okay to be normal, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to occasionally hate yourself for the things you’ve done. Failing, and feeling like a failure are a part of what makes us strong people.

If our minds couldn’t adapt to failure, we wouldn’t have evolved and spread across the world battling Smilodon, direwolves, and eating giant furry elephants. You think our ancestors had an easy time dealing with seeing their children shredded by a 400 pound cat? Or having dental work done with rocks? Or living only to the ripe old age of 36? No, we were all bred to be strong. Our strength runs in our DNA, that is our average. Our average is a lineage of survivors who failed all the time, and succeeded because of it. It’s okay to be average, to fail repeatedly, as long as you learn from it. That’s the best lesson our diseased and ill-fated ancestors can teach us. It’s okay to be human, to fail, and love yourself regardless. Sometimes it just takes a 3-year-old whispering it to you at night to understand that.

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3-year-olds know it will be okay

*You’ll see some affiliate links in here to the books I mention, I only link up to things I find truly valuable to the reader.

Single Dad Nomad

Accepting Responsibility To Set An Example For My Daughter

 

I had to read a few books, talk to several loved ones, and spend a few moments in a restaurant or coffee shop crying as I realized how awful my values were. Midway through a cappuccino, and typing this post, I had to remind myself again that I’m still working to improve  and forgive myself. Mark Manson talks about the layers you have to peel off in order to find your true values. It’s a lot harder than people think, and it’s a bit like picking at scabs. It hurts, you’ll bleed, but the relief of letting that wound breathe is all worth it in the end. Taking responsibility for my mistakes has been critical in getting me to reevaluate who I am as a person and parent.


It’s easy to pretend like we know what our true values are: be a good person, have good relationships, be charitable. But the ambiguity in such vaguely set values is a representation of our lack of true understanding of our value systems. I thought my value was ‘be a good person’, but if that was my true value, I wouldn’t have cheated. Instead, I realize my value was ‘protect your ego.’ What my value should have been was ‘treat people with respect.’

The difference in these values is astronomical. If I wanted to ‘be a good person’, I could have justified cheating because I could say to myself something like this: our relationship wasn’t working, it’s better that I do this now and just end it this way than continue to have all of us be unhappy. With the value system ‘be a good person’, I could’ve easily adjusted my thought process to protect that value and continue being a shitty person whose real value was ‘protect your ego.’
The important thing we can do with our value systems, I believe, is accepting responsibility for them. I could easily continue to delude myself into thinking I’m a good person when I actually possess a horrible set of values. That isn’t hard to do and it’s why so many of us are so good at it and probably don’t even realize it.

Think of it this way, is it easier to continue what you’ve been doing for 30 years, or admit you’ve been a piece of shit for three decades and take responsibility for your actions? Now you don’t have to come out publicly like this and possibly cause more problems for yourself down the road by confessing to any future mate that you previously cheated on your best friend.

But owning up to what I’ve done has helped me better understand who I am, who I want to be. As I walked down the beach yesterday, kicking rocks, and I looked up to see my daughter in front me, kicking shells, I wondered what kind of example I want to set for her.


Us Millennials are frequently described by the media as lazy, whiney, and entitled. I whole-heartedly disagree for a plethora of reasons. The one part I might agree with? We are entitled. But it’s not just Millennials, it’s generation X, Y, Z, the whole alphabet. Americans are entitled. I grew up in an America that encourages you to always be happy, always be outgoing and smiling and clean and friendly and be grateful that you get to grow up in the greatest country in the world!

Besides the annoying, nationalistic propaganda you cannot escape, what a bunch of crap it is to pretend like we should always be happy! If you spend your whole life pretending you’re happy and comparing your happiness to others’ in a consumer society, it becomes exceedingly simple to ignore your value system and rely on those vague, stock-photo values. If you can’t accept that sometimes life sucks, and that sometimes you are wrong because you are convinced you always have to be happy, then what chance do you have of asking yourself serious, introspective questions of what is driving your happiness and character?
We all write our own stories, as the narrator and main character. So, it becomes difficult to truly dissect our story. This is why taking responsibility is so important. I could have brushed off what I did and narrated my story in way that would’ve kept me from admitting I did a crappy thing. Instead, I’ve taken responsibility, and just by doing that I’ve been able to see that I put my ego before compassion and deeply hurt someone who I cared about greatly, something I am terribly ashamed of. But I’ve picked that scab, it’s bled a lot, and now it’s breathing. It’s healing. And if it scabs up again, the scab will be smaller, and easier to pick. I might end up scarring myself, but at the end of my life, I’d rather be covered by 30 deep scars than a 1,000 bleeding scabs.


Auburn is such a good person and little explorer. I’ve thought a lot to myself: how is she going to view me as a person? Would I be proud if she did the same things I’ve done? What will her value system look like due to the impression I leave? And these thoughts have terrified me. Maybe this is why people get more conservative as they grow up because we remember what we were like as kids, how many scabs we opened up, and we want to try to protect the next generation from those mistakes. However, I think this is a mistake in itself.

I find myself wondering, will my daughter be a better person if I act more conservatively and protect her from the liberalism of my upbringing? My answer is no. She will become who she will become, and the best thing I can do is show her how to take responsibility for that person. In this way, I think my scars can teach her more than my scabs. So here I am, picking at them, ripping back the dead flesh of my shitty values. Reading Mark Manson and taking time process myself helped me understand that I was giving too many f*cks about my own ego, and not enough about finding inner happiness through living by better values.
The critical thing here is that my values are going to wear off on my daughter. Not all of them, maybe not even half of them, but if any of them do, I want them to be the ones I respect about myself. So I’m taking responsibility for the awful things I’ve done, accepting that I haven’t always been the good person I lead myself to believe, and working to change that, which isn’t easy. My goal isn’t to have an easy life, or to constantly pretend I’m happy, it’s to set a good example for this laughing face right here, the one that finds happiness in a dead piece of wood.

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