I get called “a good dad” a lot

Standard

Context: I’m a man, a husband and a father living in Monterrey, Mexico.

I get called “a good dad” a lot. Stating this is by no means, an intention of bragging.

HiRes-1024x661I get called a good dad when we’re at an airport, I notice my toddler needs a diaper change and I tell my wife “we’ll be right back, this one needs to go to the bathroom.” I get called a good dad when I take my kids out to breakfast on Sunday so that Mommy can get a much-deserved extra hour of sleep. People call me a good dad when I take my kids to a birthday party and endure the loud screaming, running around and ordinal chaos that occurs in such events. I get called a good dad when I calm my son down after a fall with a scraped knee, when I play tag with my daughters in the park or when I’m able to get them to an afternoon class on time. I get called a good dad by other mothers when I go to parent-teacher conferences at our kids’ school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for any recognition I get. I am very conscious of my responsibility and role as a father to try to be the best paternal figure I can be toward my kids. I work on this every day and every way that I can. But consider the following:

  1. My wife does these and many other similar things as a parent to our children. She does them ALL the time and quite frankly, most of the time she does them better than I do (not because of her gender, just due to her personal talents). Does she get called a good mom? Sure… but not nearly as often and not nearly with the level of appraisal and amazement as the “good dad” comments I receive from random people in the street. My wife, as a woman and a mother, is socially EXPECTED to be a good mom. Apparently, being a good mom is considered normalcy, which raises several questions: does society think that good moms are good effortlessly? Do we really think that each and every challenge that drives other people crazy about dealing with kids has zero effect on mothers? If so, without any surgical operations, is there a way to turn me into a mother? Now? Please?

Sarcasm aside, being a mom is damn hard. It’s not something that happens magically or naturally. Even when you factor in your belief of the power “maternal instinct” may have, that only accounts for a mother’s intention to love and protect her children, not her talents to do so effectively.

  1. Apparently, society has very low expectations of what my duties as a father are. If what I am doing generates amazement and reasons for praise, what are average dads doing? Should we be worried about that? Why are we being way too complacent toward fathers? Even if you believe that traditional (old) roles where a mother stays at home and a dad goes to work apply (and trust me, even if you wanted them to, in this economy they don’t), that arrangement should not give men a pass at being fathers. What happened to the women’s liberation movement and why did it not tackle societal gender and paternal/maternal roles? We should be diligently working on reassessing society’s demands on dads. How can we get the ball rolling on that? Now? Please?

If we never expect fathers to be good fathers, they never will be. If we don’t demand fatherly figures to step up their game, we will continue raising children with less than adequate paternal examples who grow up to be less than adequate fathers themselves… in a downward spiral.

  1. People are very strange. As mentioned above, we apparently underappreciate good mothers and overvalue good fathers… But when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day come along, we tend to be way more festive on May 10th than on the third Sunday of June. Is that our guilt trip acting up on us? Do we know that we suck at valuing moms all year and hence try to overcompensate this in one measly day? I propose the following: let’s recognize good moms AND dads all year long and when deserved, equate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations. Meaning? If you suck at being a mom or a dad, you should not get a cool gift for it. And if you truly are a good mom or dad, congratulations and know that I applaud your efforts and admire you immensely. That is the best gift I know to give.

Sincerely,

A guy trying to be a good dad, but not always achieving it.

Advertisements

My 2016 BDAY Project

Standard

image1For some years now, I’ve made it a point to use my birthday as a day to effect positive change, highlight the work of organizations I am fond of, and raise awareness in order to promote action among my friends and family. This year is no exception.

As always, I’m VERY thankful for every one of you who has taken the time to call and/or write to me in order to share your good wishes… but since I’ve already caught your attention, hopefully I can keep you here for a couple of more minutes and invite you to donate or participate with one of these worthy causes and organizations:

Kiva – Loans that change lives: Microfinancing to people all over the world. Lend as little as $25 dollars to the project of your choosing (Women, Agriculture, Single Parents, Social enterprises, etc).

Atlas Corps – Change your perspective. Change the World: “The peace corps in reverse.” An organization that provides fellowship opportunities in the U.S. to young leaders from across the world. Global capacity-building enabling leaders to detonate change in their communities.

Global Majority: Non-violent conflict resolution. Founded under the premise that the global majority wants to live in peace. Education, training, networking and international advocacy.

Globe Aware – Have Fun. Help People: Voluntourism in an international environment helping impoverished communities in developing nations.

Enseña Por México: Volunteer Project focused on providing better education systems and programs to children in Mexico. Affiliated to the Teach for All network.

Hagámoslo Bien: Promoting a culture of lawfulness in Monterrey, México. Building a network of committed individuals and organizations willing to adhere to a culture of lawfulness and strengthening the rule of law.

Please take a minute to learn about their great work. Click on these links and if you can, it would mean the world to me if you would donate to them today.

MANY, MANY, MANY THANKS.

Arjan

QEPD Renato López y Omar Girón

Standard

Anoche recibí la noticia: De la manera más cobarde y vil nos arrebataron las vidas de dos personas hermosas.

Nos robaron del gusto, la alegría y la fortuna de volver a ver sus sonrisas, de la suerte de volver a tener felices momentos con ellos. De reír, de abrazarlos, de compartir.

Nos robaron como muchas veces lo han hecho… y me llena de cólera.

A las familias de ambos, a su familia en CMX, a sus amigos y a los compañeros de Omar y de Renato, no hay forma ni palabras de consuelo por esta irracional pérdida. Lo único que nos queda es decirles que emocionalmente compartimos con ustedes en este difícil momento. Lo único que nos queda es mandarles mucho amor.

Y nos quedan las memorias. Porque esas nunca nadie nos las podrá robar. Y en esas memorias, sus sonrisas estarán para siempre.

Descanse en paz Omar Girón.

Descanse en paz Renato López.

Today’s anti-gay marriage march in Mexico

Standard

IMG_2608Fueled by ignorance and intolerance, today the recently-created, wrongfully-named group Frente Nacional por la Familia (National Pro-family Front) will initiate a series of marches in Mexico’s main cities, denouncing a law initiatives package geared towards combating homophobia and discrimination, promoting inclusion and the legal recognition of all family units and marriages.

Among other things, they claim that the proposed law initiatives are “a threat against our children, our marriages and our families.” Members of the Catholic Church promoting this movement, have stated that the marches are not anti-gay “because gays are to be accepted and accompanied in order to heal them, just like prostitutes and drugdealers” (I shit you not).

While other modern societies are proud to show their progressiveness embracing diversity and inclusion, the FNxF’s emergence is proof of how backwards a relevant portion of Mexican society continues to be.

I was happy to see that in my social media networks, practically 100% of my contacts were denouncing today’s marches. One dear friend of mine very eloquently stated “nothing has generated more support for equal marriage rights than this march against them” because the absurdness of the FNxF movement has made many of us come out and state that this so-called national march does not represent us or our families.

Unfortunately, my list of contacts in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not representative of society as a whole. Just driving around my neighborhood this morning, I could see a number of houses proudly displaying signs in favor of the discriminatory march. I guess the new saying goes, you can choose your Facebook friends but not your neighbors.

Another very creative friend with a very acid sense of humor posted a series of pictures portraying the KKK and said “To those of you going to the FNxF march today, remember the dress code is all-white.” The use of imagery was funny, the unfortunate closeness to the real thoughts and motivations behind the march, certainly is not.

How is the acceptance of the right of other individuals to love each other and establish a legal bond in their relationship “a threat to your children and to your families”? Regardless of the fact that we should all be recognized as equals, just as a universal truth, I think anybody who is a parent and has a sound mind should naturally consider the fact that they hold a responsibility in teaching their children love and not hate.

I was born in a homophobic society, in a homophobic time. I laughed at and made homophobic jokes as I grew up. I simply did not know better. Luckily, as I grew and developed critical thought, I quickly and very logically understood how ridiculous homophobia is. It was an easy and logical transition and I believe most of my generation and the generations to come, naturally fall into this development route in Mexico. It will continue to be this way as long as homophobic humor is part of our mainstream media and culture, but at least there are natural breakpoints and people can evolve. One of those breakpoints, ironically in the FNxF’s view, is when you become a parent and you realize your responsibility in teaching your children the right path. During this time, you also come to realize that your child could as he grows up, identify his/her sexual orientation as a homosexual. When you realize that this is a possibility, it becomes so natural, based on the love you have for your child, to develop an inclusive attitude of coexistence. You would never want your child to be hated just for the fact that they were born of a specific sexual orientation… you would never want your child to be hated at all!

While most arguments in favor of this march are based on religious misinterpretations of the catholic faith (the Pope himself has expressed that this type of gender discrimination is an abomination), there is one particular argument I read that I want to tackle: Somebody in my timeline said that just like we allow gays to march during Pride, we should not criticize the FNxF’s right to manifest their beliefs. So here goes:

  1. Intolerant thought should not be tolerated. Different points of view should be celebrated, but a movement that states that the sexual orientation of people wanting to establish a legal bond between them based on the love they have for each other is a threat to society, cannot be compared with a plight for respect and inclusion. I’m sorry, but no, you don’t get to be tolerated if your ideological framework is based on hate. The whole idea of established codes of conduct in organized society and generally-accepted behavior is an attempt for us to get along as a group. You’re not helping. Leave your hate at the door.
  2. You don’t have a just cause. If you try to compare your right to spread hate with the plight of PRIDE parades, you are either ignorant of history of simply blunt-headed. PRIDE was born as a cry for equal rights and non-discrimination. It was a brave movement geared toward letting gay people know that it was ok to be gay, that they should not fear the fact that they were gay. As society progressed, the parades have become more and more a celebration of the fact that global society has become and is becoming more inclusive. If your march is supposedly a defense mechanism in order to preserve your understanding of family and how your family is composed, how is gay marriage a threat to you? How does the possibility of two men or women getting married directly affect you? You have no just cause… Quite frankly, I think you only have way too much time on your hands and way too much hate in your soul.

Exactly forty-five years ago this month, John Lennon wrote and released the song Imagine. Forty-five years later, more and more of us still imagine all the people living life in peace. And yes, you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. If you’re planning to march promoting hate today, I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.

We CAN rise again

Standard

Thirty years ago today an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City. 1985 would mark Mexico’s history forever. The trying days that followed the earthquake would challenge our nation’s ability to regroup and recover. A level of nationwide solidarity that I haven’t seen since, helped us get back on our feet and rise from the rubble. We CAN rise again. #1985 #september #sept19 #mexico #mexicocity #earthquake #richterscale #terremoto #solidarity #society #solidaridad  

 

La mejor manera de pasar un cumpleaños

Standard

Hoy ha sido un día de grandes satisfacciones. Empecé el día al lado de mi bebé que me regalaba sonrisas al tiempo que se tomaba su biberón. Un poco después se nos unió mi esposa que me dio dos excelentes regalos… de esos que se nota que fueron pensados específicamente en ti. Durante el día he recibido una infinidad de muestras de cariño de familiares, compañeros y amigos que se tomaron el tiempo para mandarme un mensaje o llamarme. También tuve una mañana muy productiva en la oficina sacando pendientes importantes antes de cerrar el año. De verdad, un gran GRAN día.

Pero les quiero platicar muy brevemente de otra cosa que hice el día de hoy… y se los platico no con las intenciones de proyectarme magnánimo ni mucho menos. Si les comento de esta experiencia, es sólo porque obtuve de ella TANTO, que me parece egoísta no compartirla invitando a que ustedes consideren hacer algo similar en su cumpleaños. Por lo pronto, yo pretendo hacerlo una tradición en el mío.

Anoche reflexionaba acerca del hecho de que en este año he recibido mucho de muchas personas y del tiempo que he podido pasar alrededor de la gente que quiero y haciendo las cosas que me gustan. Ha sido un año sumamente gratificante en todos los sentidos. Guardar tanta gratitud en una sola persona es muy difícil así que anoche decidí que dedicaría una parte de mi cumpleaños a dar, aunque fuese un mínimo detalle y en poco tiempo.

Después de comer con compañeros de la oficina y de sacar algunos pendientes, fui a una pastelería y compré un montón de bolsas de pequeñas hojarascas. Un poco antes de las 3:30 de la tarde llegué al Hospital San José (lugar en donde varios familiares y amigos han sido atendidos) y me dirigí a la sala de espera de la Unidad de Cuidados Intensivos. Ahí, en distintos y pequeños grupos, había alrededor de 25 personas, en espera por obtener noticias de sus seres queridos que estaban siendo atendidos.

De manera respetuosa y tratando de ser lo menos intrusivo posible, fui visitando a cada una de estas personas, a quienes ofrecí las galletas como regalo y les di palabras de aliento, deseando la próxima recuperación de sus pacientes. Pasé tan sólo alrededor de una hora con ellos, pero quiero decirles que fue un momento INCREÍBLE. Todas las personas ahí me mostraron enorme gratitud por lo que no era más que un pequeño detalle… algunas estaban confundidas y me veían inicialmente de manera incrédula. Otras me preguntaban por mis familiares y me deseaban que ellos también mejoraran, sorprendiéndose aún más al aprender que afortunadamente ningún familiar mío estaba internado. Recibí bendiciones, palabras de agradecimiento y una señora mayor, con la que estuve platicando un rato más que con los demás, me felicitó y me dijo que hacía mucho que no veía una acción desinteresada de una persona a otra. Realmente me llegó al corazón y me hizo reflexionar BASTANTE sobre la necesidad que tenemos de rescatar el sentido cívico en nuestra comunidad. Me preguntó por qué lo hacía y al explicarle que era algo que había querido hacer para festejar mi cumpleaños, la señora (a pesar de lo que a su edad esto significaba en esfuerzo) se paró de su lugar y me regaló un abrazo.

Es evidente que nuestras acciones individuales no necesariamente resuelven los grandes problemas que aquejan a nuestra sociedad pero es muy fácil olvidar que la gente que nos rodea, a veces no necesita que les resolvamos esos problemas. A veces una sonrisa, un abrazo o un pequeño detalle son suficientes para volver a depositar la esperanza en aquellos que pueden haberla momentáneamente extraviado. A veces la gente sólo necesita una mirada empática… y eso, no cuesta nada.

Mis mejores deseos a todos ustedes. Que tengan un 2015 lleno de satisfacción, de grandes logros y de muchas razones para sentirse orgullosos y agradecidos. Que sea un año en que avancemos como sociedad y nos acerquemos de nuevo a lo que debería de ser una comunidad.

Con cariño y respeto,

Arjan

P.S. En este blog y a través de mis redes sociales el día de hoy compartí una serie de ligas a organizaciones cuyo trabajo considero valioso. Muchas gracias a quieres se sumaron al proyecto y las han apoyado el día de hoy. Si todavía no lo hacen, por favor consideren la información contenida aquí.