Saturday, April 30, 2011


"Oh give me a break..." My son says in a low, nervous voice to himself. Mumbling and giggles are heard as the video being played on the big screen contains a cartoon image of a preteen girl becoming a young woman. My son tilts his head into my shoulder as the same video is now presenting a boy growing (all over I might add) through his teen years. The kids break out into an unsettling laughter as the screen is filled with tales of pubic hair, sweat glands and reproductive organs. Yes this is a bonding moment for fathers and their sons as we witness "Changing Bodies" a film providing helpful, accurate, age-appropiate information regarding the physical and psychological changes of puberty. 

Two days before this night, I and a few other parents were invited to watch the short film in a way to pre-shock the parents into realizing that sooner or later someone is going to have to tell our kids where they came from. The health teacher conducting the lecture is straight forward and direct while talking about the sensitivities of the subject and seems up to the task. I sit there confident in the presentation and with the format of father and sons watching it in one room and the mothers and daughters watching it separately will soften the blow. The teacher also wants to make sure that the kids sit with their parents instead of the kids gathered together while the dads huddle in the back staring at their phones. "This is an important opportunity for sons to foster and encourage comfortable and open communication between themselves and their parents." The teacher explains.

As I walk into the school's multi-purpose room with my son, we have already discussed the evening and what to expect in the movie. We sat in the forth row towards the center aisle for optimal viewing. Before the movie portion starts, the teacher introduces himself, outlines the evenings agenda and proceeds to pass around a hand-out containing about thirty-four questions, each one with either a True, False, or Not Sure answer. I let my son glance at the questionaire, and as I watch his eyes move down the page, I see a series of smiles, then eyebrow scrunches ending with a drop jaw response. The teaches goes through each question and the boys respond out loud. I scan the room to see the dad's reactions upon reading the questions, some are smiling, some are squirming and some also react with the drop jaw. A sample of some of the questions:

1. If a boy has pimples during puberty he will probably have them all his life.
7. Most boys stop growing at the age of fourteen ("I hope not!" someone screams)
9. Penis size had nothing to do with height, muscle build of sexual abilities.
10. Wet dreams are common for most boys. (this is where my son turns to me and asks, "Did I have any yet?")
13 Erections can occur for no apparent reason at all. (Gasp from the crowd)
23. Voice changes are caused by the growth of the larynx or voice box. (A boy then asks if there is also a laugh box?)
25. Most women have a period every 28 days. 
31. Boys should pay extra attention to their nutritional balance when they enter puberty.

Now we are set to watch the movie. The movie covers the body changes in girls as well as the boys in an effort to teach respect, and privacy, "After all there will be moments for boys and for girls to be in situations where discretion is needed." the teacher continues, "What would be an awkward time for a boy to get an erection" resulting in a boy in the front row to respond "Right now?", easing the uneasiness in the room. The movie concludes with the child actors playing soccer and feeling good about themselves, while our kids are fidgety and tense. 

The teacher turns off the projector and approaches a few more topics with both kids and parents participating in the discussion, allowing the apprehension to subside and by the end of the evening everyone is relaxed and feeling positive. 

The teacher recalls a time when his oldest of three daughters asked him "Where did I come from?" and after gingerly detailing the attributes of men and women, the genetics of reproduction and scientifically laying out the steps to how babies are made, his daughter interrupts him and says, "Geez dad!, I just wanted to know what hospital I was born in!" 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tips: Talking about healthy relationships with your young teen

Here's an article from  keeping a strong relationship with your kids through the preteen to teen transition:


  1. Encourage open, honest, and thoughtful reflection. Talk openly with your young teen about healthy relationships. Allow your child to articulate his or her values and expectations for healthy relationships. Rather than dismissing ideas as “wrong”, encourage debate — this helps your child come to his or her own understanding.
  2. Be sensitive and firm. Parenting a young teen is not easy—especially when it comes to helping him or her navigate their way through relationships. To be effective, you will need to find the balance between being sensitive and firm. Try to adapt to the changes faced by your child. Be willing to talk openly and respect differences of opinion. And, realize that the decisions you make will sometimes be unpopular with your young teen.
  3. Understand your teen’s development. Adolescence is all about experimentation. From mood swings to risk taking, “normal teenage behavior” can appear anything-but-normal. New research, however, reveals that brain development during these formative years play a significant role in shaping your preteen/young teen’s personality and actions.  Knowing what’s “normal” is critical to helping you better understand and guide your child.

Read More:
Tips: Talking About Healthy Relationships with your Young Teen | Start Strong

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Imaginative Displacement

"Have you seen a kid, he is wearing a blue golf shirt and a red hat?" I ask the locker room attendant. "No." giving me a shaky reply, "No one has been in here."  My son was supposed to have a golf lesson at three and we are already late. "You find the instructor and I will go back to the house to get your golf shoes.", was the last thing I said before leaving my son in the locker room after realizing the shoes were not in the locker. "Ok, and I will get my clubs." He replied back. While walking back to the house it starts to drizzle. I find the bag holding the white Addidas golf shoes, close the garage door and start my trek back, down the street (the rain has picked up now), up the side path, through the locked gate, pass the parking lot, enter the side entrance of the club complex, through the restaurant and push through the double doors of the men's locker room and now standing here in the quiet empty room, and no son. I check the pro shop, closed, I check outside by the putting green, I check the bathroom, card room and lounge, nothing. I double back into the locker room. "No, no one has been in here." replies the locker room attendant. Where did he go? I think back to the last time I missplaced my son.

Four years ago, soon after moving out of The City to Westchester, we decide to take our first walk along the river that runs through our town and extends north. There are a series of paved walking paths and woodsy areas which allows you to take many detours along the river. My son, being only seven, took his orange and silver bicycle and my wife and I walked. Adjacent to the river is a compact four lane parkway which at times, intersects with the path, using the local streets for entering and exiting the parkway. "Now when you get to a street, please wait for us to catch up, do not cross." We instruct our son, since he will no doubt ride ahead. The walk was relaxing and peaceful and very different from walking the avenues of Manhattan. Every time we reach a break in the path, our son is eagerly waiting for us to signal that he is clear to continue. After about a three quarters of an hour, we decide to turn around and head back.

When my wife and I reach the intersection, there is no sign of our son, and we figured he crossed with other people. Upon reaching the next intersection and again seeing no sign of a boy on a orange and silver bike, we begin to worry. How far could he had gone? There are a lot of twists and turns, small hills and valleys along the path so it is hard to see far down in the distance. We jog a little to reach the next intersection and still no boy. My wife proceeds to run ahead while I double back thinking maybe we passed him. As I run back, I check the edges of the path, maybe he fell off and slid down an embankment. After arriving at the last stop we saw him, I take out my phone and call the police. I give them my location and a description and they tell me to stay where I was and withing a few minutes a squad car zooms up and I get in. While driving around, I hear the radio broadcast the description and the policeman gives further details he takes from me while sitting in the back of the car. My phone rings and its my wife, she reached the start of the path and while asking people along the way if they noticed a boy on an orange and silver bike, nobody recalls a sighting. We are both in a panic. As we reach the edge of town, I hear the helicopter race overhead. We stop to pick up my wife and a voice comes over the radio but it is hard to make out what they are saying as the policeman turns quickly and races down the road. We stop next to another cruiser and as I look through the window, I see my son and his bike leaning against the wooden railing talking to two men in blue. We rush out of the car and run over, and give him a hug. We thank the police numerous times and we start to walk home. We question our son about where he went and reiterate sternly that he was supposed to wait for us. He explains that he looked both ways at each intersection and just continued on his way until he reached our building, then decided to go back to find us. Even though he knew what he was doing and we felt silly for worrying, I am glad that I called the police right away, its better to be a little embarrassed later, time is important when it comes to a misplaced child.

It is starting to rain steadily now as I retrace my steps all the way back to the house, thinking that the lesson is canceled and he decided to walk back. I arrive at the house and go though it yelling his name and getting no response. I decide to return to the club, this time taking the bicycle so I can cover more ground swiftly. I arrive back at the club, rest the bike on the side of the building and proceed to check every room, the two restaurants, the bar, the sitting areas, and all the bathrooms in the entire place, thinking to myself, "He is not following my instructions, he wandered off or took a different way back, whatever the case, he should have waited for me." I finish my sweep, and am out of ideas. I go back to the bike in a plan to cover the grounds where I glance over to the garage where they park the golf carts. I again rest the bike up against the wall and slowly walk into the garage area. I hear the faint sound of voices and continue to walk past the golf carts and enter a large room where the club inventories all the golf clubs. As I enter, I see a young guy in a club golf shirt with a name tag chatting and joking it up with my son. "I told you I was getting my clubs." my son jovially replies and I ask him where he was. I hilariously tell them both the tale of me running all over the place looking for him and that I have never been there before and both kids are looking at me like I have two heads. "Do you want to hang here is bit?" I ask. "Yes, but will need the key to get back through the gate." he informs me. I give him my set and quietly exit the room, feeling silly that I worked myself up and that I embarrassed my son. This incident taught me to listen more closely and trust myself to trust him, and I did not need the police this time to understand that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Unurban Outfitters

I entered the room thinking to myself, "Oh my, this is wild." The multipurpose conference in the hotel has been transformed into a makeshift warehouse, a camp warehouse. The windows are lined with six foot high tents with racks of t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweat pants. In front of the tents are rows of identical folding tables, each one containing a laptop, three chairs on one side and a representative on the other. Along the back wall are columns of black metal showroom racks stacked with samples of water bottles, monogramed laundry bags, flashlights and backpacks. We have just entered the summer camp roadshow, a prerequisite when outfitting your kids with the required summer camp gear. 

"Hello, may I help you?" Someone yells from the closest table. "Yes we are hear to order the camp clothes." I reply with a slight hesitation. I never went to sleep away camp so I was not sure what I was in for. The woman notices the brochure dangling from my left hand and directs us to the last table in the room. "We outfit most camps in the northeast so each table represents a different camp." She informs me as we walk past the other tables. I did not realize how big this camp stuff I think to myself as we finally reach the last table and we sit down. "Hi, welcome to camp outfitters, let me pull up your camp list and see what we need." The woman starts typing on the laptop, jots down a few notes, pulls out a plastic storage bin from under the table and proceeds to rattle off the "required list". "Ok, you need six camp shirts, three camp shorts, a sweatshirt, a basketball shirt, a swim shirt, and a hat." The woman then gets up are starts running around the room, grabbing a shirt from one rack, puling out a few shorts from another and comes back with an assortment of sizes and styles to choose from. After my son picks out his favorites, he heads into one of the tents to see how things fit. One by one we inspect the sizes, forecasting what will everything fit like in three months and deciding on the appropriate styles. After securing the required gear and adding a couple of laundry bags, we finalize the order adding two oversized canvas trunks to haul all of it to Maine.

"One last thing, do you want to order any additional stuff?" The woman asks. "Like what?" I reply. "Does you son need a lacrosse shirt, a soccer shirt, boots, mess kit, first aide kit, a sleeping bag, sheets, towels, pillows, a chair, flashlights, a shower caddy or a shoe rack?" "Is this stuff mandatory to get with the camp logo on it?" I ask "No" She replies. Thinking about all the stuff my son already has and the fact he is only going to be there for three weeks, My wife and I both say, "No, we are good." 

The woman confirms the order and I hand her my credit card. A few painless minutes later we are walking out of the conference room, a few hundred lighter but geared up for a great summer...
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Friday, April 15, 2011


"Have a good time and I will see you tomorrow!" I yell from the car as my wife drops my son off at a friends house for a birthday sleepover. "See ya!" he yells without even turning to look in my direction. A birthday party sleepover is the ultimate in kid party fun, and when I say fun, I mean fun for the parents of the invitees! After pulling out of the driveway, we headed home, parked the car and walked over to the local movie house to watch "The Lincoln Lawyer", a new courtroom drama film with a classic 70's feel. The movie was mildly gripping but not boring and kept us entertained throughout. The fact that we got to see a Friday evening movie without forking over baby sitting money is a nice treat. 

As I push open the double glass doors and we step outside into the dark evening, I glance at my watch, thinking that at 9:00pm the sleepover is in full swing, maybe they're watching a movie or playing a game, laughing and giggling and having a great time. Walking home with my wife, I think to myself that I am also having a great time, and I am not even in my pj's yet...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tired Tracks

"What's the matter?" I watch my son sluggishly climb the four steps, and stand next to me while we wait for the building elevator to pick us up. "I'm very tired." He replies. "Well, its 8:00pm, take a shower and go to bed." I respond. "I am not that kind of tired." He returns. 

Is there new kind of tired I am not aware of?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Up Stream

Come on, it's time to go. We both get our shoes on and grab our backpacks. After locking the door, we all enter the elevator for the ride down to one. We exit the elevator, and step out of the building from the side door. My wife, my son and I uncharacteristically walk away from the school and head towards the train. My wife  departs our company at the deli to get a coffee , which leave my son and I heading into the morning rush. As a result of a three hour school day, we decided that my son will spend the day in my office. 

The train ride is uneventful, comprising of some video game play and father- son conversation. I notice my son is engrossed with a game where the goal is to prevent car accidents my changing the speed of vehicles as they enter an intersection. "Looks easier than it is..." my son whines as he sighs every time there is a miscalculation and a crash occurs. The train pulls into Grand Central Station and as we depart I hold my son's hand as we surgically enter the flow of platform traffic. We approach the main concourse of GCP and we try to estimate the amount of people in the cavernous station. "Remember the game you were playing?" I mention. "Lets pretend we are in the game and we have to make it from one end of the concourse to the other without getting bumped". "You're on!" my son exclaims and we start our game. We weave, adjust our cadence and swerve through the thousands of rushing commuters, strolling tourists, speedy workers and even a few wobbly vagrants, and are just about at the other end when my son yelps "Oh, someone skimmed my shoulder!", and I say, "Oh I just got bumped!" as we cannot maintain adequate spacing. We slide through the unforgiving cross traffic and slip into the stream heading up the ramp and exit the south west side. The outside stream is just as treacherous but just like a school of fish, we are in the west bound current on our way through Bryant Park and out the Sixth Avenue side.
We leave the current and stop for a much needed coffee and a drinkable yogurt, and end up in front of my building, already exhausted but ready for the work day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Modern classic

It's 11:05 pm on Tuesday. I am sitting here in the dark, watching the credits roll on the season finale (and it turns out the last show ever) of "Lights Out". The show is about a fighter who quit boxing in his prime and because of risky investments finds himself in financial troubles. These troubles lead to some illegal activity, so much that he has no choice but to re-enter the ring to dig himself out and save his family from ruin. 

It's the classic man story; man is hero to his family, man puts the family in harms way, then man seeks redemption to save his family.   

I started The Dad Trade a year ago, and its been a place for me to share stories, and my thoughts as a father in today's world. There have been all sorts of highs, lows and everything in between. In the last couple of years, stingy finances, learning struggles at school, health, and finding time for romance are weighing heavy on our family, but working as a team we are now shining the light towards recovery. Pushing and supporting each other has re-energized our family's focus. My wife is finishing graduate school, my son is working hard and recognizing his success, and I am taking classes, as well as finding the time for personal health. In the modern family, the classic man needs more to find redemption. The modern man needs to talk to the pediatrician and insurance companies. The modern man needs to not only learn their kid's teachers but learn the school. The modern man needs to put down the spreadsheet and review the math worksheet. The modern man needs to know that working out is just as vital to the family as working. The most important thing I have realized this past year, is that the modern family is more powerful than the classic man. 
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