dad from day one: We’re Moving to Alabama… Next Weekend!

Week 1 of Jack’s life.

In the Season One finale of dad from day one, I promised an interesting plot twist.  So here in this premier of Season Two, I’m letting everyone know my own meaning of the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama”.

As I explained in due date, a common trait of ‘80’s sitcoms was that a family was introduced to an outsider who suddenly moved in their home, therefore creating a new sense of “normal”.  An exception was Just the Ten of Us, where the Lubbock family moved from the state of New York (the setting of Growing Pains, which it was a spin-off from) to California.  Dad from day one will be combining both of those plot devices: the newcomer and the new setting.  Next Saturday morning, December 4th (on the 4th day of Hanukkah- for any Jewish readers out there) we will pack up our PT Cruiser and Element for the 2 ½ trip (not counting baby delays) from Nashville, TN to the small mountain/valley town of Fort Payne, AL (pop. 14,000 not including illegal immigrants) where I was raised.

Something that makes this really interesting is when I am asked: “So do you have a job lined up?”  Nope.  That’s part of the reason we are so briskly making the Hometown Migration– so I can search full time for a new job during the whole month of December while living off leftover paychecks and savings.  Despite having nearly five years of career experience involving sales, doing trade shows, hiring, and training, I am not naïve to think that a new job will magically appear the week we move to Alabama.

However, I have this belief that as a follower of Jesus Christ, God knows I will make a lot of noise and commotion honoring Him before and after He answers my prayer.  And since I believe that glorifying God in all things is the ultimate meaning of life, I am confident that at the right time, God will provide for me so that I can provide for my family.  As Jesus put it, when a child asks his father for bread or fish to eat, his father doesn’t give him a stone or a serpent instead.  I love that example.

In Fort Payne, we will be living less than three miles from not only my parents but also my sister and her husband.  We know that this quiet town will not only be the right place for Baby Jack to grow up, but also the most practical place for my wife and I to care for him- to be able to watch him grow up slowly, as compared to seeing him only a couple of hours a day in a big city life.  There is no mall in Fort Payne; only a Super Wal-Mart.  There are oddly no Italian restaurants, which will be difficult for Baby Jack, my wife, and myself who all happen to be a quarter Italian and need marinara sauce and garlic bread in order to function properly.  And sadly, for my wife, there is no Starbucks: I think the nearest one is about an hour away.

A lifestyle without malls, Italian restaurants, and Starbucks is precisely what the three of us need.  Because despite leaving all those so-called conveniences behind, we will be able to slow down the pace of life to the speed it needs to be.  My wife and I are extremely happy about the move.  In a sitcom it’s pretty normal for each new season to bring about new characters on the show.  New characters, new city, new plotlines, here we come.


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How “Farmers’ Marketing” Leads to the Microtrend of “Hometown Migration”

It’s never been cooler to live a simple yet authentic life.  Let me introduce you to the new American Dream.

*New words I made up for this post, which you will want to become familiar with:

Farmers’ Marketing noun: Not the actual gathering of a community in a central location in order to buy, sell, and trade their local produce and goods, but instead a subculture or lifestyle which reflects a mindset of minimal personal possessions, busyness, and stress; therefore rejecting the traditional mainstream idea of the American Dream.

Hometown Migration noun: A movement of late twentysomethings and early thirtysomethings actually moving back their own hometown several years after establishing a career and beginning a family in a big city; therefore refreshing the town they grew up in with new ideas and in essence, “new blood”.

There was a time when bigger and flashier was better.  And while there are still people out there driving Hummers (though it’s common knowledge that people who drive them tend to be obnoxious, unlike people who drive Jeeps) and who still refuse to buy store brand products, even down to their hand soap and kitchen table condiments (like it matters that your bottle of mustard says “Kroger” instead of “Hunt’s”), I think it’s safe to say that the modern cultural movement is towards simplicity.  We as a nation are learning the meaning of “living within our means” and not consuming more than we actually need; that credit cards are the devil and that food buffets are Diabetes factories.  We get it now that money isn’t everything- and more importantly, that it in theory it’s a waste of time to chase more money our whole lives only to find by the time we retire there may be nothing left for our own social security.  Money is simply a necessary evil, as far as I’m concerned.

This shift towards simplicity also translates to the people we allow to become celebrities through our favorite reality shows.  Celebrating mediocrity mixed with absurdity has obviously become a successful formula.  We no longer need to see beautiful people living in melodramatic plotlines.  Okay, so maybe The Bachelor is an exception. But it’s pretty refreshing to see normal people any hour of the day on HGTV.

Even though it’s not actually a reality show (but instead a fake reality show), I don’t see The Office being as good if everyone in the cast were exceptionally good-looking like the cast of Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, or any other “provocative” show that repulses me equally.  Interestingly, The Office is more believable as a mockumentary because the plain-looking actors seem more like people we actually know in real life, instead of stereotypical stock characters we’ve already seen before in every other TV show.

It’s no coincidence that the Age of the Reality TV Show we are currently living in kicked into gear around the same time that the Internet became a standard for most middle class households (around the year 2000).  The Internet allows unqualified and unspectacular people to be seen and heard by anyone else in the world who is willing to look and listen.  We are able to, in a sense, peer into the lives of other regular people just like us.  And it’s evidently fascinating.  Simplicity translates as authenticity; and the idea of authenticity sells.

By far, the most popular and most recognizable thing I write here on Scenic Route Snapshots is my <a href="dad from day one series.  Noted, I am not the least bit famous (that means I don’t have a Wikipedia entry).  And while having a baby is absolutely a miracle, I can’t say that my story is drastically unique compared to most people who have gone through the experience of having their first child.  So why do people love to read about the pregnancy experience, being that it’s so common and familiar? Good narration from a male perspective is a part of it, which I can thank The Wonder Years, Scrubs, and Dexter for help with that. But really, there’s a certain comfort in feeling like you’re listening to someone you personally know, even if you don’t actually personally know them.

Though I would consider myself to be a “real writer”, being that my college degree is in English and that I have been writing original web content for over 5 years now, I can’t consider myself to be a “professional writer” because writing is not literally my profession- I have yet to make one penny off of anything I’ve written here on Scenic Route Snapshots.  As a recent commenter cleverly worded it after reading “healthnutshell: What Exactly is Food These Days?”, he labeled what I do as “guerilla-style publishing”.  I am clearly not doing this for money- I am doing it for art, for entertainment, for social commentary, for experience, and for my own sanity’s sake.  And therefore what I do is “organic”.  In other words, I haven’t “sold out”.

I was talking to one of my brothers-in-law today (my wife has 7 brothers) about the farmers’ market-minded, used-car-driving, old-school-is-king culture of hipster cities like Portland, Oregon where he lived for several years.  It appears that there is a Farmers’ Marketing of current American society, especially from those in my generation.  Inevitably mimicking the frugalness of those who grew up during The Great Depression, we are finding ourselves repeating history.  We no longer impress each other with classic status symbols like expensive cars: I always think it’s hilarious when someone I know gets a brand new car (as opposed to a dependable used one) and everyone says to them: “Oh, congratulations!  I like your new ride!”

Humorously, the brand new car owner is being congratulated on incurring a huge new debt.  Dave Ramsey explains that a paid off mortgage is the new financial status symbol. As much as I have a hard time admitting it, the Eighties are over.  Just like a familiar voice is welcomed or a worn-in pair of sneakers are so comfortable, allowing myself to become Farmers’ Marketed feels, so natural, so organic, so average, yet so right.

So it only makes sense why I’ve noticed the migration of so many of my high school and college friends back to their hometown, now that they’ve had several years to establish some career experience in a large city, get married, and possibly start a family.  Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, they’re taking their big city experience back to a town with a much lower cost of living; where the word traffic is simply defined by when the train comes through twice a day, barricading cars from crossing over to the other side of town for ten minutes.  It’s not simply that these people are moving back because they are now ready to settle down; it’s also has a lot to do with Farmers’ Marketing.  In order to truly simplify one’s life, it makes more sense to strive for peace-and-quiet than hustle-and-bustle.

Can you put a price tag on “peace of mind”?  I say you can.  The cost is giving up a higher salary, but adopting a lower overhead.  And people are doing this: Renting out their town houses in the big city and moving back to their hometown.  They realize that true retirement may not be a viable option and that if they can find a less stressful job they enjoy, it’s not really “work”.  From Farmers’ Marketing to Hometown Migration, there is an undeniable movement towards simplicity that will ultimately become a common characteristic of those of us who grew up watching Transformers… back when they were simply a cartoon show and had nothing to do with Shia LaBeouf.

Here’s to authenticity.

“There’s a message in the skies and in the streets: ‘Opportunity, the American Dream’.  It’s in the radio; it’s superstars- the veins and arteries that feed your heart.  From the Dairy Queen to the head of the parade, in a blink your life could change.”

-Guster, “This Could All Be Yours”



What Makes a Person “a Bad Parent”? (Being Your Child’s Friend Instead of Their Parent, Setting No Expectations, Not Being Consistent)

We all recognize the phrase; so now I’m going to talk about it.

One of my favorite TV shows to zone out to is Wife Swap.  Yes, it’s extremely over-the-top, it’s purposely corny, and the families they find to be on the show are never the least bit normal.  But I guess what intrigues me most about the reality show is that typically by the end of the episode, there are mutual accusations from the parents to each other to the effect of: “You’re a horrible parent!”  Of course, the word “horrible” can be replaced by “lazy”, “tyrannical”, “unfit”, or any word that I can not quite make out because the censors have bleeped it out.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what makes a bad parent, whether it’s on the news, on a blog, or as a facebook comment.  It seems that in the likeness of someone “pulling the race card”, a trendy low-blow is for people to call each other a bad parent, sometimes finding a minor exception in another person’s otherwise “good parenting” record.  But sometimes it really is true- the person actually is a bad parent. So for the next venture for my accidental series What Makes a Person? , I asked for feedback from my facebook friends to try to help pinpoint what truly makes a person a bad parent. The actual feedback can be found underneath the picture of the Super Nanny at the very bottom of this post, but ultimately if I were to summarize it all, it amounts to this: “A bad parent is someone  who is not positively present in their child’s life, nor do they set expectations or follow through with discipline.”

Interestingly, most people didn’t bother mentioning child abuse, since that has nothing to do with parenting, but instead refers to a person who has psychological issues that need to be dealt with.  Obviously, abusing is not parenting. For most people I asked, it appears that when they think of “bad parenting”, what comes to mind is naturally “the lack of parenting”.  And a major part of defining the word “parenting” is discipline. So in order to explore the topic of bad parenting, it’s important for me to explore the evidently common occurrence of the lack of discipline in modern day parenting.

Recently I made a $10 bet with someone about how I will discipline my son when he is old enough to need it.  The bet is that I don’t have in it me to spank him, especially when he looks up at me with sad eyes and a quivering lip, knowing he deliberately disobeyed me.  But I do have it in me.  Call me old fashioned.  I take it as a compliment.

I have a large amount of experience in dealing with kids: I worked two summers as a camp counselor, two summers teaching English overseas in Thailand, and two years working in an after school program.  As much as I enjoyed it and found that I had a natural ability to mentor and teach children, when it came to disciplining students, this is what often went through my head, “Man, if that was my kid being disrespectful and acting out like that, they would be getting spanked by now.”

It’s becoming politically incorrect to spank your children; because of the extreme of actually abusing a child.  Super Nanny tries to lead by example in teaching us the new, trendy “time out” method.   So maybe I wasn’t raised politically correct because I was definitely spanked when I disobeyed as a kid; though not many times, because I got the point pretty quickly.  I’m old fashioned, so I take this verse in the Bible very seriously: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).

I would imagine there are people out there who would say I am a bad parent for endorsing spanking instead of the much cooler “time out” method.  So to some people, I am a bad parent.  To others, I am being a good and responsible parent by carrying out discipline in the home.  And this divide of opinion shows how truly complicated the term “bad parent” is.

Children crave structure; no doubt about it.  They want to know what is expected of them.  They need to see discipline (whether it’s spanking, time-out, being grounded, etc.) actually carried out, not just simply used as a threat.  I am a good communicator.  Therefore, I will clearly communicate behavioral expectations I have for my kids; just as I will also clearly communicate my love for them and encourage their creativity, hobbies, and playtime.  I definitely understand the difference between being a kid’s parent, not their friend.

The way my parents raised me was very effective.  They were, and still are, ideal parents.  I want to duplicate the way they raised me.  And though they may have thought they didn’t know what they were doing at the time, they did indeed know what they were doing; they just didn’t know that they knew.

When I am at restaurants and grocery stores, I am always extremely observant of families with children.  These days it’s quite normal for kids to make a scene by having a temper tantrum when they don’t get exactly what they want, yet I still find well-mannered families in public that appear to be having fun.  So there are still kids who can behave in public. That’s what I want.  I look forward to doing what it takes to lead a happy, old-fashioned family.

Ultimately, this isn’t about whether or not parents should spank their children or even about discipline; because personally I truly don’t care about the issue unless it involves my own kids.  (So I sure hope that doesn’t become the distracting focus here, with people having a blog comment war on the topic of spanking.) The question I am seeking to answer is simply “What makes a person ‘a bad parent’?  Here’s what I came up with, based on observation, common sense, and help from my facebook friends:

Rules in Being a Bad Parent

1. Do not set expectations for your child.

2. Do not follow through with discipline nor be consistent with your words and actions.

3. Do not praise your child, pay attention to them, or spend time with them.

4. Let them decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong; Don’t force your own religious beliefs on them or live your life consistent to your religion.

5. Don’t worry about embarrassing your kid, speaking condescendingly to them, or calling them names, especially in public.  Because they will get over it.

6. Make sure they always like you, because most importantly, your job is to be your child’s best friend.

I think that I’ve always been a dad, I just didn’t have a kid until now.  I crave to raise well-mannered kids that are cool.  And though I have technically zero experience in that field so far, I can’t wait to prove it can be done.  So, Super Nanny, I will not be needing your help.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Nick Shell It’s time to help me with another future website post. Answer me this: What makes a person “a bad parent”?

Wednesday at 6:52pm ·  ·  

    •  

      Jessica Y:  being irresponsible in front of your child. such as drinking, doing drugs, cussing out other people. basically setting a bad example fro your child. we all want our children to grow up better than we did so as a parent we should show them how to be better. 

      Wednesday at 7:02pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Lee Ann L: I am more strict, so I think letting your child run wild is one. In the store or wherever. Keep an eye AND a hand on your child when they are little. Maybe that is just annoying to me, but letting a wee one walk yards ahead of you were they could easily get into traffic is life threatening. Personally, I do not think Marc or his ex OR her husband were good parents. I don’t really want to get into it here, but being too lax is part of it. UGH! I can feel my stomach acids flowing. 

      Wednesday at 7:08pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Cyn Z:  Putting yourself before your kid(s). 

      Wednesday at 7:12pm ·  ·  2 people
    •  

      Hjordis C:  Child abuse and neglect! 

      Wednesday at 7:13pm · 
    •  

      Diana T: Just not accepting them for who they are. They’ll do things in their own time and on their own terms and love means accepting that no matter. 

      Wednesday at 7:15pm · 
    •  

      Crystal A:  I agree with Cyn and Hjordis. The two biggest things to me is putting yourself before your kids. Neglecting them and abusing them. They are a gift from God. We will raise our children to be the future. So we must take great care of them. 

      Wednesday at 7:16pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Ferne E: I think a “good parent” is a person that takes an active role in their child’s life. They celebrate their successes, but bolster their confidence when they fail. A good parent encourages their child to explore their strengths, but to work even harder to overcome their weaknesses. They teach their child to love others and love themselves. A good parent puts their child’s safety first above being their friend. I’d say a “bad” parent would do the exact opposite. 

      Wednesday at 7:17pm ·  ·  3 people
    •  

      Crystal A: I love Bens answer. We must take an active role!!! 

      Wednesday at 7:18pm · 
    •  

      Bethany S:  I agree with Jessica that being irresponsible is something that makes you a bad parent. I think that there are many other things also that can make you a bad parent. Abusing or neglecting your child can make you a bad parent. Allowing someone else to abuse a child can make you a bad parent. Not raising a child to know God should be considered in the “bad parent” role according to the Bible. We should be an example of God that shows them how to be more like Him. 

      Wednesday at 7:19pm · 
    •  

      Alissa K:  being selfish with time, money, anything. 

      Wednesday at 7:21pm · 
    •  

      Krystin P: I agree with everything above. Another “bad parenting” habit is not being consistent. When your child doesn’t know where their boundaries are, they will be one of those out-of-control, trantrum-throwing, self-centered brats. And there is no one else to blame but the parent that did not train up the child right. 

      Wednesday at 7:22pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Laura K: i teach mine to NEVER judge others and they wont be judged. to love unconditionally and to put others first. i do admit that they get their way sometimes but they know when i mean business… its my way! 

      Wednesday at 7:44pm · 
    •  

      Steven H:  Some one who isnt willing to sacrifice everything for the better of their children. i.e. — “since we had little jane i NEVER get to go out clubbing with my girls and i hate it. oh i only got 10 dollars and i need cigarettes and baby formula…. maybe her bottle will last her till tomorrow i need my smokes.” honest things i heard people say when i bagged at foodland. 

      Wednesday at 7:49pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Sara H: Selfishness. You have to have a life and a relationship with your spouse outside of parenthood BUT you must always make sure your children are aware of how utterly important their happiness and sucess is to you. *dislaimer* I’m not a parent yet but I had great parents! 

      Wednesday at 8:00pm · 
    •  

      Laura T:  A bad parent is someone who is not there for the child either physically/mentally and emotionally……a parent who does not discipline their child or hold them accountable for their actions….a parent who does not have time for their child or puts their needs ahead of the child’s….you have to be a parent first and friend second…you ever watch “The Nanny”? OMG I can’t believe that parents let their kids get so out of control and they are ruling the roost. 

      Wednesday at 8:16pm · 
    •  

      Michelle C:
       

      Now, I can only speculate as I don’t have any children of my own yet, but my husband and I have decided that we are both too selfish with our own spare time that we are not ready for children. 

      This is actually kind of tricky because you do…See More

      Wednesday at 8:58pm · 
    •  

      Felisha H: A bad parent to me, which I don’t have children yet, but as I see it a bad parent is someone who is too much of a friend to their child instead of a leader. A good parent guides their children through life and brings them up to be good adults. 

      Wednesday at 9:16pm · 
    •  

      Jeremy D: A bad parent is one that dosen’t live a Godly life before their children and instruct them in the Word. Lord, help us all not to cause a child to stumble or be led astray. 

      Wednesday at 10:28pm ·  ·  1 person
    •  

      Sarah I:  Since I am at the same place in parenthood as you, Nick, I can’t really say much from a parents point of view yet, but as a teacher I would say that a parent who fights all their kids’ battles for them rather than equipping them with the skills to deal with things on their own is not good. A parent who spends all of his or her time trying to shelter children from consequences is not incredibly healthy. 

      Thursday at 3:45am ·  ·  1 person


The Replay Value of People

People will come and go, but which ones are worth bringing back out of the archives?

There are some movies I watch nearly once a month like I Love You, Man and they never get old, and they’re just as funny as the last time I watched them.  There are other movies like Deliverance, for which I got all I needed with just one viewing.  The same could be said about TV shows: Seinfeld and Friends reruns are much easier to watch for the 6th and 7th time; as for American Idol, for obvious reasons, not so much.  When it comes to “replay value”, people are the same way.

We live and work and play and hang out with some people for years, then, all of the sudden, they are no longer a part of our lives- we graduate high school or college, they decide to work somewhere else, etc.  And after they leave, when we randomly think of them, we are left with an aftertaste of what they meant to us, as a whole.  Generally positive or generally negative.  Either worth the time and effort to catch back up with, or not.

Out of the dozens of contacts in my cell phone, I only regularly talk to a handful or so.  Out of the nearly 800 facebook friends I’ve collected since March 2005, I only regularly talk to a few dozen.  Out of the people I used to work with, there is only one or two that I still keep in contact with.  By subconscious default, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have enough significance in my life to bother with talking to again, past just the ‘hi, how are you’ line?”

We make time for the people we care about, not excuses.  And I know that just as I have left certain people of my past, in the past, I am aware that there are those who view me as “non-replayable” as well.  Like when an old college friend announces that they’re coming to Nashville next weekend on their facebook status, then I send them a private message inviting them to lunch or dinner over the weekend, they ignore my message, spend the weekend in Nashville, then once they return to their hometown, announce as their facebook status, “Had a great weekend in Nashville!”

And then I say to myself, “I get it.  I’m not replayable in their life.  Noted.”  I don’t take it personally.  I may not be worth their time or effort, but I have confidence that I am worth other people’s.

Figuring out who is at all replayable in your life is kind of like going through your closet to decide which clothes you should keep and which ones you should give away.  If you won’t wear that shirt in the next year at least once, you probably won’t ever wear it.  Same thing with people in your life.  If you wouldn’t answer or return their call, or if you would never make an effort to contact them again in the future, if you don’t even find their facebook statuses to be amusing, it’s safe to say you’re just not that into them: They don’t have replay value in your life.