I’m Featured in A “Today Parents” Article Re Parental Pressure & Mental Illness

Please check out this terrific article for which I was interviewed by Alice Gomstyn, contributor to Babble, ABCNews.com, and Babyzone, etc., that explores the correlation between societal parental pressures (such as seeing all those “perfect” pictures on Pintrest) and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I’m always playing the comparison game and things like Pintrest & Facebook, all of the social media on which people post pics of the various activities they’re doing w/ their kids and meals they’ve cooked too often have me feeling like I’m failing my daughter. And I’m not the only one. Also interviewed were Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress, and Jennifer Marshall, the woman behind Bi-Polar Mom Life. I’m honored to be included.

You can find the article here.

Thanks for reading!

Sienna and “The Breakfast Club” in 2027

Sienna’s 2 year, 4 months old. She’s never step foot in a pre-school classroom. And yet last night I lay awake until 3 am thinking about Sienna’s high school experience because I had the great fortune to attend a 30th anniversary screening of what I consider to be arguably the most honest and accurate portrayals of HS life ever to grace the silver screen – The Breakfast Club – and I can’t wait to share it with my toddler daughter.


No I’m not gonna sit her down in front of the TV and show her an R-rated film filled with cursing and frank sexual conversations, but in 13 years when she’s entering the heightened social world of HS, you can bet I will because the late John Hughes’ brilliant dialogue and character development, his ability to capture and destroy these 5 HS archetypes was uncanny and stands the test of time.

Each iconic character – Molly Ringwald’s popular, “conceited” Claire; Judd Nelson’s brash, “anarchic” John; Emilio Estevez’s athletic, “strong” Andy; Anthony Michael Hall’s anxious, “nerdy” Brian; and Ally Sheedy’s silent, “screwed-up” Allison – proves to be unhappily lumped into a category by both adults and school life. Each feels better than at least one other club member because that’s how they’re supposed to feel. And each learns that they can break out of their prisons, that their comrades all share disdain for their sometimes bullying, sometimes ignorant parents and authority figures. Each learns they have flaws. Each learns they have strengths. Each learns the other is a real person and not a cardboard cutout.

Even the adults come off flawed as imperfect. Brian and Andy’s respective parents pressure their kids into being things they don’t want to be. Via his stories, John’s household is rife with abuse. Allison’s parents appear as shadows in car and completely ignore their daughter. Claire’s father equates money with love. Paul Gleason’s Principal Vernon tries to come off as all-powerful, but he’s jaded and frightened of where his world is leading. Only John Kapelas’ Carl the janitor feels sure of his position as unknowingly to the Club and Vernon, he’s the eyes and ears of the school, collecting and keeping all its secrets, sometimes for a price, yet being a custodian is not what he wanted to be.

I want Sienna to see this, to know that she doesn’t need to fit into HS cliques to be a person, to see that parents make mistakes and to understand that although I’ll have my own flaws, I’ll never an abusive father, I’ll never apply extreme pressure, I’ll always want to be in her life and help her feel safe in unsafe world. I want her to know that she can be herself, especially in high school, and that those that do succumb to stereotypes might have things going on in their lives that she doesn’t know about.

This applies to me as well. I have so much trouble remembering that I too often take things at face value. I see people with houses, fancy cars, and huge job statuses and immediately think they’re rich and happy. I see Facebook pictures and think people lead perfect lives. It’s just one terrible aspect of depression, your brain creating false worlds based on the smallest details.

So in 12-13 years I plan to sit down with Sienna and show her one of my favorite films. She’ll probably roll her eyes at watching a movie that will by then be over 40 years old, but if I do right by her, if I’m still the parent I strive to be, she’ll be receptive. And then she’ll watch the magic on the screen, fake realities shattered.

And she’ll know.

High school hasn’t changed all that much in 40 years.

Dad’s experienced the insane world that is high school. He’s a person – just like her – but with his own imperfections.

And no matter what, he’ll never forget about Sienna.

What other high school genre films do you feel fit the fold standard of The Breakfast Club?

“When I First Held You” – Book Review


Have you bought a Father’s Day gift for that special dad in your life yet? No? Good. Because I have a great suggestion. When I First Held You, an anthology of 22 personal essays from contemporary male writers such as Dennis Lehane and Andre Dubus III is a triumphant collection that digs deep into what it means to be a father.

Edited by Brian Gresko, the book shakes you with incredibly honest accounts of fatherhood guilt and frustration, child health crises, horrifying feelings of failure (something I especially relate to), renewed faith in a higher power, the effect of divorce on a child, etc. And there’s humor, of course. Lots of vomit. Lots of poop. Lots of crying. It’s a book that as Gresko writes, helps “inspire you to be the best parents you’re capable of being, knowing that you’ll never be as good as you want to be.” And it sure does.

I’m a full-time stay-at-home father batting depression and anxiety and as much as I love my 2-year-old daughter, I too often succumb to panic attacks and oppressive pits of despair because I didn’t do something right for my child, because I got angry and yelled, because I have trouble believing that I’m providing my daughter with life filled with learning and wonder and joy. I beat myself up. I call myself a failure. This book filled with wonderful narratives help you see that the struggles and beauty that come with parenting are universal. I’m not the only one feeling these things. I need to forgive myself for my parenting mistakes and appreciate my daughter’s utter glee at seeing bubbles. Because that’s special and it won’t last forever.

Some of my favorite passages:

“When you watch your kids begin to grow up, you cannot help but feel your impermanence more acutely; you cannot help but see how you are one link in a very long chain of parents and children, and that the best thing you have ever done and ever will do is to extend that chain, to be a part of something greater than yourself. That’s really what it means to be a father.” – Anthony Doerr

“In the stillness I move between the two beds…The silence of the room is like the silence of a photograph. Here the girls are fixed, they lie quietly outside of time…The girls might stir or murmur, but they don’t say a word. Not one word. I lean down toward each girl in turn to listen to what she does not say. How conspicuous, how marvelous is their silence! Because during the daylight hours, while awake and in our house or cars or backyard, these extraordinary girls, these two sources of wonder and light, almost never shut their mouths.” – Chris Bachelder (emphasis not added)

“My father loved to play. He still loves to play. How lucky are the children whose fathers genuinely love playing with them! I have been one of those children, and so it saddens me greatly that I have never been, and likely will never be, one of those fathers.” – Bruce Marchart (emphasis not added)

What a wonderful compendium of darkness and light, sadness and jubilation, and all around gorgeous writing is When I First Held You. Delve into these stories. Soak them in. Learn from them. Feel them. Because as a father, they represent you. They might not exactly mirror your personal tale, but the reflection is true and real and gorgeous.

And while When I First Held You is about the trials, tribulations and discoveries of fatherhood, it’s a book that any parent can enjoy, especially one that is a fan of great writing. Included in the book are the following writers:

Andre Aciman, Chris Bachelder, David Bezmogis, Justin Cronin, Peter Ho Davies, Anthony Doerr ,Andre Dubus III, Steve Edwards, Karl Taro Greenfriend, Ben Greenman, Lev Grossman, Dennis Lehane, Bruce Machart, Rick Moody, Stephen O’Connor, Benjamin Percy, Bob Smith, Frederick Reiken, Marco Roth, Matthew Specktor, Garth Stein, Alexi Zentne

When I First Held You is a terrific book that tackles some tough topics, teaches us what it means to be a father in today’s ever-changing world, and delves into the mysteries of parenthood in different writing styles all of which are captivating.

So this Father’s Day, pick up When I First Held You for a dad – any dad. Or actually, just pick one up for yourself or anyone who loves a magical read.

Note: I greatly appreciate Brian Gresko providing me with a review copy of this book


7 Unintentionally Dirty Things I’ve Said to My Kid

The best thing about Easter for us non-Easter-celebrating folk is when it’s over and drugstores slash prices on holiday-related things. Yesterday I stopped by CVS, went through their 75% items, and came home with something I thought my 2-year-old daughter would go bananas over – a yellow plastic cylinder like the base of a flashlight with clear egg-shaped top made to look like a bee. When you press a button, the insides of the egg spin causing lights to flash and the whole thing to buzz and quiver. The toy cost 62 cents or approximately what it cost to make. Sienna squealed with glee and I smiled because I’d made my daughter happy.

Ear!” she shouted, eyes gleaming with fascination at this new sensation tickling her skin. She pressed the buzzing bee to her earlobe. “Nose! Arm! Elbow! Head!”

“Wait until your bedroom’s dark,” I said excitedly. “It’ll light up blue and green and yellow and red! Do you like how it vibrates?” And then my innocently meant words hit me in an entirely differently context. I looked at the shape of the thing. The bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sound echoed in my ears. Face-palm.

Sienna's Vibrator

Sienna with her new “toy”

To all you new or soon-to-be parents out there, this isn’t an abnormal thing. You’re all going to say something really simple only to do a double take with your partner as it sinks in that you’ve said a simple phrase you’ve happened to associate with Skinemaxian entertainment for the past decade or two. At first you’ll blush. Then you’ll giggle. Soon you and your partner will race to say, “That’s what she/he said!” And finally, as your child gets older and you and your partner try not to laugh at what one of you just said, you’re just going to do the old face-palm. So I present to you the 7 funniest phrases (plus one bonus Q&A that had my wife and I on the floor) I’ve said to of about my daughter that when taken out of context, means something entirely different in the bedroom.:

1) “Do you like how it vibrates?”

See above

2) “Please swallow!” and “Don’t spit! Swallow!”

The first time I said this I literally cringed until I caught my wife’s eye and saw her trying so hard not to laugh. Then I just laughed along and went with it.

3) “The girl was so wet, she was dripping.”

Ah those fluctuating pre-air conditioner spring days when you put your kid down for a nap and discover her all sweaty and disgusting because her room was about 80 degrees.

4) “You need to suck harder.”

Teaching my daughter how to use a straw. My wife beat me to “That’s what he said!”

5) “She’s so cute, I just want to eat her.”

Can’t remember when or why I said it, but does it matter? When those words come out of your mouth, translate into adult connotations, and you realize you’re talking about your daughter? *shiver*

6) “Did you just put that whole thing in your mouth?!”

After Sienna gobbled an entire string cheese without chewing forcing her cheeks to look like she’d been gathering nuts for the winter

7) “Stop playing with your balls!”

Doesn’t really apply to a girl, but it still generated a sideways look between my wife and I. You parents of boys are sure to love saying that one for the first time!


One thing you new and soon-to-be parents might not know is that kids sometimes take time to learn how to use their tongues correctly (face-palm) meaning that the letter L often gives them trouble. Hence, I bring you the following interaction that had my wife and I doubled over with laughter as our daughter stood with such gloriously and proud and pure look on her face:

Me: “Sienna, what do you want for dinner?”

Sienna, pointing at the wall clock: “C*ck”

What can us parents do but cackle?