Is there shame in being a shit parent? Yes. And guilt. And regret. And self-loathing. But it’s not the end of the story.

Parenting isn’t easy is fucking hard. There’s no sleeping in if you stay up late, you occasionally get another person’s poop on your fingers, and half your ice cream always gets stolen by someone a third your size.

how to be a better parent
Snarfing ice cream.

But those are the easy struggles.

Sometimes you have a 4-year-old, virile monster who won’t settle down, refuses to relax during their bedtime stories, and keeps yelling for food and water when they literally just filled their bellies with both. And half my ice cream.

How I Know I’m Shit

It’s right about 45 minutes into that situation that I lose my shit.

As negative reinforcement for her already scrambled emotional-state (exhausted and playful at the same time) I take away a book each time she gets rowdy, then a stuffed animal, then they’re all gone, and she loses her back tickle.


Her emotional state deteriorates because I’ve just removed her bedtime routine entirely as a punishment for not following her bedtime routine. Great idea, Dad.

So she starts yelling and screaming in frustration, as toddlers sometimes do. So I threaten to put her things in the garbage. She doesn’t stop. Garbage bin: book. She screams.

Garbage book. Screams. Garbage book. Yells. Garbage stuffed pig. Screams. Garbage stuffed elephant. Wails. Garbage stuffed panda.

how to be a better parent
All the things I threw away.

It doesn’t stop until we’re both mentally and physically exhausted and pass out upset with each other.

Then comes the morning. The wake-up routine goes perfectly well, and I take her to school.

On the public bus ride back to my home it hits me like a baseball bat: I’m a shit dad. I handled the previous night like a rookie.

Where do I go from here? I asked myself a question, “how to be a better parent?”

I took myself on a three-step process to right where I had wronged.

If you’re how to be a better parent, do what I did.

Take These Three Steps to Know How to Be a Better Parent

be a better parent
Me, being a good parent.

Step 1: Recognize It and Admit It.

Say it with me: “I did something shitty. I can do better.”

This is probably the hardest part because you have to own it. But taking that ownership and letting go of the idea that you’re a great parent is freeing up yourself to committing to better. You’ll set your goals higher for yourself because you know you can improve.

Once your goals have been refocused, step two is a bit easier.

Step 2: Act Sorry.

When learning how to be a better parent, it takes effort. When I got Auburn home from school, I had her books and her stuffed animals laid out on her bed.

She’s very perceptive, “I thought you threw these out!”

“I did. And that was wrong,” I put my hands on her cheeks so she would look me in the eyes. “I overreacted yesterday, and I’m sorry about that.”

be a better parent
We usually get along 🙂

I’m not sure exactly what was going through her mind at that moment, but I hope it was understanding. Understanding that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay, even though my reaction wasn’t. Understanding that I’m trying my best and I can admit when I’m wrong. Understanding that I love her, even if I don’t always show it.

The important thing here is that I’m not just saying I’m sorry, I’m acting sorry. Her books and animals were cleaned and placed nicely on her bed. I made eye contact with her while I sincerely apologized.

It goes a long way, and if you’ve set your new goals to reach that standard of recognizing and reconciling your mistakes, you’re already on the path to becoming a better parent.

That brings us to step three.

Step 3: Do better.

I’m not going to be using my negative reinforcement tactic of throwing away books and toys anymore. It’s counter-productive and only escalates the situation. I want to honestly know how to be a better parent.

how to be a better parent
She’s generally a happy kid and makes it easy to be a parent.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that my next tactic is going to be a useful and effective one, but I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about using fewer words and remaining nonchalant in times of stress; enacting those behaviors have been a different story, but I like to think I’m improving.

And that’s what step three is all about: doing better. It’s about making an effort by reading, exploring, and experimenting with what works for you.

All you have to do now is repeat steps 1-3 for the rest of your parenting life, and you should eventually be a substantial parental figure.

how to be a better parent
Is your kid this cool? Mine is, duh.

Parenting is a wild ride–are you in control?

If you liked this article, please subscribe to my email list below! It encourages me to keep sharing the madness.

how do you beat alcoholism

This isn’t a flattering story to share; it’s actually quite embarrassing, but here it goes.

Until the middle of last week, I always thought that I drank a lot in college. My sophomore year I lived in an apartment that threw two parties every weekend, for example. The place got destroyed. Even then, I never had to question, how do you beat alcoholism?

Drinking in College

We (by we I mean a particular friend of mine) kicked the thermostat off the wall twice (you know who you are!). We broke a few doors, blasted 20-odd holes in the wall, snapped the hinges on the fridge, changed the color of the carpet from soy-latte brown to black-coffee black, used one closet to hide the empty beer cans which eventually became a breeding ground for tiny flying somethings, and on Homecoming morning a kegs-and-eggs pre-game party became an excuse to have an egg fight. The yellow stains never left the wall.

Did I mention the place got destroyed?

how do you beat alcoholism
Our apartment at the end of my sophomore year. JK, but seriously probably close to this.

Our end of the year bill was just shy of $1,200 for repairs. Yikes. We were drunkards.

Or so I thought.

Getting smashed a few times a week in college isn’t uncommon. Not throwing any shade on anyone who does that, because I did that. That’s not alcoholism, even though we should take the concept of binge drinking very seriously and it’s not something to joke with.

That being said, I thought I was an alcoholic in college.

But, I was wrong.

I wasn’t depending on alcohol daily, I wasn’t using it to battle my stress. I was using it to not be such an awkward dork in a group of outgoing cool kids. Oh, well.

Drinking for Stress Relief

Last week, however, I realized that I had crossed over a line, and I Googled a question: how do you beat alcoholism?

I’ve been living in Hong Kong since September, and I could have told you before I moved here that living in Hong Kong is stressful for me (I’ve lived here before). But I’m not living here for me, I’m living here for my daughter. For those of who aren’t aware, she’s half-Chinese, and her Chinese family is from Hong Kong. So, she’s here to learn their language and get to know her loving Chinese family.

Unfortunately for me, that means I’m also living in an environment that stresses me out every day. Don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong isn’t necessarily an awful city to live in, it’s because I spent my entire life living in the woods. I grew up surrounded by trees, fresh air, and falling asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs outside my window, then waking up to deer or turkeys waddling through my backyard. When you drive down the road where I grew up, you generally wave at everyone you pass by.

how do you beat alcoholism
Auburn enjoying where I grew up: my mom’s property in Michigan.

Hong Kong is nothing like that, it’s a big city with a big city environment. There are tall buildings, cars and buses honking, people shoving past each other on the street and throwing their litter on the ground, sirens blaring, helicopters chopping the air, rats dashing between alleyways, upside-down cockroaches on the sidewalks, and shops and people making a general nuisance for a mind like mine that developed on the sound of leaves in the wind.

how do you beat alcoholism
Hong Kong, in a beautiful nutshell

Even now, as I write this post, someone is hammering away in a nearby room in my apartment building, and I want nothing more than to beat them to death with that hammer.

But I’m not a murderer. I’m stressed out.

how do you beat alcoholism
How I handled stress in Hong Kong

How Alcoholism Begins

How have I been handling my stress the past two months? With alcohol.

It started off with a beer at lunch to get me through the day, maybe another beer with dinner to help me relax before I put my daughter to sleep.

Then it became a beer with lunch, one with dinner, and another afterward to put my mind at ease from the city life.

Then, slowly, it built up.

On Thursday last week, I drank 2.5 liters of 5.0% ABV beer over the course of the day. Not partying, not enjoying it with anyone. Just doing my writing at home, drinking, all day.

I woke up on Friday and asked myself, why the fuck am I drinking so much? But, I knew the answer, it’s the stress of the city. However, it’s no excuse. So I decided I needed to quit drinking. I needed to ask another question, how do you beat alcoholism?

beating alcholism
How we should all regulate our stress. Namaste, motherfucker.

Why? I know the long-term effects that alcohol can have on your brain and body. I could tell I put on some weight over the past two months. And I just don’t want to drink that much. I knew I was using it as a crutch, and I don’t even like drinking that much anymore, so I was just generally grossed out with myself.

How do You Beat Alcoholism?

Firstly, you Google it and find a method that works for you Continue reading “The Drunken Dad: How I Beat Alocholism in 3 Shitty Days”

Good Parenting and How to Shut Up About It

Everyone who is not a parent assumes that everyone who is a parent sucks at it. Everyone who is a parent doesn’t give a f*ck about what other people think. I’m in the latter group. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant. That is, except for one: my daughter’s.

The most important thing I can distinguish that makes me a good parent? I know how to shut the f*ck up. Blah, blah, blah I hear people say to their kids, including myself. The best thing I’ve learned, however, is how to cease the blah, blah, blahs.

“Don’t do [this or that].” “Be careful.” “Quiet!” I’m not sure how many times I repeated these futile remarks until I realized one day: they are all a waste of time. Now? I don’t want to waste my time, nor pretend like talking a lesson is going to teach my daughter anything.

Certainly, it didn’t stop her from dropping the wooden swing on her own head.

A Story of a Falling Child, Good parenting Idea #1

The other day, after I’ve warned her many times, “be careful,” she was not being careful. Auburn climbed into a circular monkey bar set, selected the highest pole and decided to hang from it. I knew what was coming, her grip would hold for maybe 10 seconds, and she was going to fall. Before I learned to shut the f*ck up, I would’ve rushed to her, possibly scolded her, and warned her again and again as she repeated this dangerous move.

good parenting
Let them smash their fingers, they’re tough!

So what’s my key to good parenting in this situation? Now that I’ve adapted my ‘shut up,’ approach. I watched and waited in anticipation as she was about to fall. Her fingers slowly slipped once, then twice, then her grip gave out. Down, down, down she fell. Feet, then butt, then her whole body, kerplunk! She looked up, searching for me, saw me watching and waited for my reaction: a neutral face. She smiled, laughed, and climbed again. “You okay?” I asked. “Yup!” She shouted back.

The moral? What a waste of time warning her (or worrying about her) again would’ve been, you know, ‘good parenting.’ She’s tough, she proves it over and over again, she doesn’t need my warnings, spoken lessons, nor vocalized concerns. If she had broken a bone, scraped up her face, or twisted an ankle, I would’ve immediately taken her to the appropriate facilities, of course. But instead she learned a lesson, “I can fall and get back up.”

A Story of Breaking Bedtime Routines

Another quick example of learning to shut up as a parent: last night before bed. We usually lie down, I’ll read her 3-5 books depending on how tired I am, and she’ll usually be asleep by the time I’m done reading them, or at least close enough to sleep I can give her a goodnight kiss and exit the room quietly.

good parenting
Sleeping, with her underwear on her head. Champion.

Last night, however, we were watching a movie during dinner, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and it was almost finished by the time it was bedtime, but not quite. She requested demanded that she be allowed to finish the movie. So, I gave her a choice: watch the movie before bed, or have your bedtime stories read to you. She chose the movie, which meant no stories (Lion Lessons, The Snowy Day, The First Strawberries (Picture Puffins)) from me.

So we watched until it was over, then she wanted to watch the credits and listen to the song, so we did. Then it was bedtime. “Stories?” She asked. “No,” I said, “you chose the movie.” She replied, “I’ll read them to my animals.” I gave her a goodnight kiss and left her room.

good parenting
Auburn playing Minecraft before bed, because I don’t always expect her to read books, no, just 95% of the time.

From my room, I could hear her reading repeating the stories I’ve read to her over and over again. Her stumbles, her stutters, her reading one of the Spanish books is especially hilarious because her speaking ability in Spanish is quite poor, it was all very touching and I just laid in bed listening to her from the other room. When she was done, she asked for two more minutes of snuggles, which I allowed, and she slept as well as she’s ever slept. Which, if you’ve been following our story, her sleep schedule has been one of the most difficult parts of my experience.

The moral of this one? Just because it might not be what’s considered ideal, break the conventional wisdom your own rules, shut the f*ck up, and let your child explore themselves and their routines on their own once in a while. You’ll be happier and calmer like I am. And my daughter’s opinion (the only one that matters)?

Well, not to brag, but, she says she wants to marry me one day.

Do you think allowing children to occasionally break their bedtime routine is okay? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve failed repeatedly, disappointed family, pissed off and lost best friends, broken the law, stolen, cheated, lied, and hurt people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve murdered innocent animals, propagated torture, condoned the killing of humans, threatened, punched, cussed at, and made fun of other people. I’m a huge loser and probably always will be, not even seeking forgiveness.

Quit judging fool!

If you’re already looking down on me, you might as well be looking in a mirror. If you haven’t done the awful things I’ve done, or similarly awful things, then you must be Jesus or Mohammed or the Dalai Lama or whatever other person who you think is the holiest of the holy.

dalai-lama-2244829_1920.jpg
Not a picture of you, so you’re a loser

But you aren’t, so guess what, you’re a loser, too.


At least that’s what society would make us believe, if you aren’t a winner, you’re a loser. I grew up in the golden era of the American feel-goodery machine. “You’re special.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “I’ll love you no matter what.” “Here’s a trophy for showing up.” I literally got a trophy in the 7th grade for being the basketball team’s ‘Assist Leader’ for the season and was super proud of it. Forget the crazy number of turnovers, the low shooting percentage, and average assists per game being less than 3. I deserved a trophy damnit and I got one! And I’m not sharing it!

Trash Trophies and Other Places Self-validation Should Go

Fast forward a pair of decades and that trophy is likely buried underneath a mound of other people’s garbage they didn’t want, or simply no longer needed. Not only was that trophy a waste of physical product, its wastefulness extended to its intrinsic value. Sure, it made me feel good at the time. But it also made me think I was good at basketball. So, a big smack in the face came when the 8th grade team cut me and I had to resort to wrestling for a season, which I would eventually quit because, well, wrestling sucks. And quitting made me feel like a loser, which I was, even before that.

cup-1010909_1920.jpg
You’re the best at being the best, what to go, you amazing, best person

Before I was 14, I had already committed at least half of the transgressions I confessed at the beginning of this post. Now that I’m 30, I realize it doesn’t matter. Mostly because we are all losers, but also because we can’t escape being losers. Sure, we can do these things personally that make us more of a loser, but we’re trapped in a system that demands we be losers. You don’t want to condone murder and torture of innocent humans? Too bad, you pay your taxes that are used to bomb civilians. Don’t want to lie, cheat, or steal? Better not become part of any American system of wealth building, because that’s the only way to grow. Your making money always comes at the expense of another, or at the growth of something worse than yourself. Don’t want to be responsible for the extinction of species, or the crushing of humans under unsecure buildings? Better not buy any new clothes, ever. Every major brand in the US employs people to work for a penance with tactics that damage the environment. You’re a loser, maybe you just didn’t know it.

Just Figuring Out You’re a Loser? Erm, this is awkward.

You didn’t know it because the American system constantly tells you to feel good about yourself. “Forget about the mass extinction event we’re undergoing and buy more stuff!” Your monstrous carbon footprint due solely to your lifestyle of using American transportation, eating an American diet, and consuming American media is destroying the world. You can’t avoid it, sorry. You’re a loser, just like me.

boy-732495_1920.jpg
Nope, you’re still a loser.

This is partly why I find it so important to take my daughter traveling around the world, and no, it’s not because it’s inherently healthier for the planet (it’s not, airplane travel is a killer, too). It’s to relatively shield her from the outlandish and image-obsessed culture of the USA, but also to show her that there are different ways to live and that people across the world actually exist, not just Americans and their worldly desires and ignorance of people around the world. So, if you’re one of the Brian Williams types (look how beautiful our bombs are!), remember that bombs killing people is terrorism. You can’t beat terrorists with terrorism. I digress.

We’re all losers, hooray!

Back to it: I’m a loser, you’re a loser, let’s all scream for being losers. But traveling helps. It teaches you to be comfortable with ignorance, impatience, discomfort, and different. It helps you notice that the shoes you wear aren’t nearly as important as the words you say. That the $300 or $3,000 watch on your wrist might tell you the time, but it doesn’t tell you the story of the child who put it together in Bangladesh for mere pennies. Your clothes might accurately represent who you want to be as a person, but they don’t post the number of river habitats that were destroyed making that shirt on the tag. But the dye by-product has to go somewhere, and if it’s a bird’s nesting grounds, or a crocodile’s favorite hunting spot, they’re going to ingest it. So guess what? Your shirt? Makes you a loser. Your watch? Makes you a loser. Your taxes? Makes you a murderer and a torturer. Now you might say, ‘that’s not fair my taxes also go to blablabla…’ That’s true. But if a man had a $1000 and he gave half of it to subsidize the death of a random person, and the other half to save a random person. Is he a good person? Or is he still, like all of us, a loser?

_DSC1237
My daughters playing with some underprivileged children in Ho Tram, Vietnam

Traveling helps me teach my daughter what is important. Our food choices, how we interact with people, the environment and we treat it, these are just some of them. And I don’t have time for that in the States. I’m too busy working 2-3 jobs, spending an hour at least commuting, then buying fast food or eating something upsetting because I don’t have to time to take life seriously. It’s buy, buy, buy, earn, earn, earn, then die, die, die. I don’t mean to make you feel bad for being as much of a loser as me. It actually feels good to know it and let it out. Doing so helps me remember that my choices matter. So join me, fellow losers, travel, see things that change your perspective. It doesn’t matter who you voted for this time around, how much money you make, or how many people you can sleep with because you’re a Tinder master. What matters is what you leave behind.

But can we be winners?

_DSC1057
Oranges are for winners, however. They’re just so juicy and delicious. Sairee Beach, Thailand

What I hope to leave behind is an intelligent daughter who takes time to consider her actions, thinks holistically in her approach, and challenges the status quo. Because the status quo, like me, is a loser.

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.

f