The Army? You Want to Join the Army?

Dear Mr. Dad: My 18-year old son wants to join the Army, but neither my wife nor I want him to enlist. How do we communicate that without sounding like we want to control his life? Is it wrong to tell him we think he’s making a big mistake?

A: First, my congratulations to your son: wanting to join the military shows courage, responsibility, and a desire to do good and protect others (although, as someone who enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17, I’d have to question his choice of the Army). Second, understand that at 18, your son is a legal adult. If he’d have wanted to, he could have signed on the dotted line, packed his bags, and asked you for a ride to the airport. The fact that he raised the issue at all is huge. It means he’s really thinking things through and that he respects your opinion.

Before you say anything to your son one way or the other, consider these two things: 1) Why he wants to join in the first place, and 2) Why you’re against it.

People join the military for a variety of reasons, including the enlistment and reenlistment bonuses (which can be in the 10s of thousands), getting a job, getting an education, having a chance to travel the world, and the amazing benefits available to veterans. You can familiarize yourself with some of these benefits at military.com/benefits.

The best way to find out your son’s motivations is to ask. So sit down with him and talk about the issues. And by “talk,” I really mean “listen.” Don’t hog the conversation and don’t try to force your viewpoint on him. If you come across as judgmental, you’ll be giving him yet another reason to enlist: to get away from his controlling parents.

Since your son hasn’t made his final decision, I suggest that you, your wife, and your son go visit a local recruiter. They’re generally very open to including parents in the process. At the very least, this will show your son that you respect his decisions and that you’re concerned that he make the best choices. If he hasn’t already seen a recruiter, this meeting will give all of you a chance to find out what positions (called MOS—military occupation specialty) your son is qualified for. Not everyone has to be a grunt (an infantryman). Speaking with a recruiter can also help your son clarify his goals and give you some insight into what’s driving his desires.

Now, to your issues. As parents, we all want to protect our children from danger, and there aren’t many jobs in the world where your son could be more in harm’s way than the service, particularly these days. In addition, you may have some strong issues with the military. But your natural instinct to protect your son (or to express your political views) isn’t a good enough reason to try to change his mind.. Again, he’s an adult and harsh criticism could very well drive him even further away than boot camp.

If at all possible, find some support for yourself. Talk with family members or friends whose children have served. Try to get both sides of the story—some parents who were unhappy about the decision and some who supported their child’s choice.

But at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is support your son. Sure, tell him you’re afraid for his safety—he is too. But also tell him how proud you are.

Is there a perfect time to have kids?

21 years ago, when I was a young, first-time dad I thought it was a perfect time to be a parent. A few years later, when my second was born, I thought that was a perfect time. And then 10 years after number two, that was perfect too. I was right all three times. And wrong.

First time ’round I may have had better knees and backs and can bowl their kids on the slip-n-slide faster and farther than older dads. But I was preoccupied with career, scraping together down payment money in the insane Bay Area housing market. As I got older, my relationships with the kids changed. By the time my youngest was born I wasn’t as worried about career and money and could actually take time to just watch all the amazing things she did. We still do plenty of physical things together, but we also spend a lot of time just playing–board games, Barbie–yes, I admit it, I have actually brushed Barbie’s hair and slipped her out of her tennis togs and into an elegant evening gown).

Still, a new study from UCSF found that overall, parents think the 30s are the ideal time. What do you think?

Interesting piece on the study here: http://news.yahoo.com/best-age-raise-kids-older-parents-30s-161601262.html

Why Men in Female-Centric Professions Spend More Time on ‘Guy’ Chores

Fascinating new study of men and women seems to show that guys who work in “gender atypical” occupations — jobs that are dominated by women (nurses, for example), tend to spend a lot more time doing guy stuff around the house.That means tinkering with the plumbing, working on the car, painting, mowing the lawn, etc. Seems that they have to reestablish their masculinity.

Women who work in male-dominated professions tend to do the same–taking on a lot of traditionally female tasks after work. But they don’t do it quite as much as men. Apparently, working in a male-dominated profession isn’t as threatening to women’s femininity as the masculinity threats that guys feel when they work in female-dominated jobs.

full article here:  http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/02/why-men-in-female-centric-professions-spend-more-time-on-guy-chores/#ixzz1oabK6Uip

Houston, We Have a Problem…

Dear Mr. Dad: How do you handle a 21-year-old male who’ dropped out of college, has no job, and has been living in our house for the past six months? My husband and I provide our son with a car, insurance, gas, clothes, and cover all his healthcare. But whenever we ask him to do anything around the house, he flat out refuses or does it poorly. And whenever we bring up the issue of his finding work and moving out, he gets angry and accuses us of not supporting him. What can we do?

A: My first reaction is to suggest that the next time your son leaves the house you call a locksmith and have all your locks changed. However, that would only work (to the extent that it would at all) if your son was responsible for the entire problem. He’s not. In fact, I’d say that you and your husband are making an already difficult situation even worse.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone in having an adult child move back in with you. Some studies have found that as many as a third of all young adults under 35 are living with ma and pa. The situation is so common that there’s actually a term for these adult children: “boomerang kids.” The bad news is that these arrangements are often extremely stressful on everyone involved, but especially on parents who had planned to downsize during their retirement years.

Okay, back to you. By providing your son with free room and board, transportation, and insurance, you’re undercutting any incentive he might have had to learn how to grow up and survive on his own. I’d actually go a step further and say that you’re encouraging your son to be a slacker—and the only way the situation is going to improve is if you change your behavior. Here’s what you’ll have to do:

  1. You and your husband need to get on the same page. Having one of you push for independence while the other slips your son wads of cash under the table will guarantee the status quo. What do you want to have happen, and over what period of time?
  2. Once you’ve come up with a plan, call a family meeting. Ask your son how he sees the current situation. Does he plan to finish college? Look for work? How long does he expect to be living with you? It’s possible that he’s feeling guilty and maybe even ashamed.
  3. Start charging. The value he places on his living arrangements is directly proportional to how much he has to pay. In other words, the less he pays—for rent, car, insurance, food, clothes—the more he’ll take them for granted. If he has income, put a dollar value on household chores and have him work off his debts.
  4. Get out your calendar. Your goal is to get your son ready to live in the real world. But it’s not going to happen overnight. So come up with a timetable that includes reasonable targets (enroll in college for the next semester, find a job within 12 weeks, move to your own place within six months, etc).
  5. Create rules and enforce them. Can he bring dates home to spend the night? Do you expect him to call if he’ll be spending the night elsewhere?

As the economy continues to stagnate, this is a bigger and bigger issue. We’ll go into more details in future columns.

Do Pipers Actually Get Paid?

Dear Mr. Dad: Help! Our son is a high school junior, but instead of planning for college, he says he wants to make a career out of playing drums in a band! He’s a talented musician, and he and his buddies play gigs at community events, but he can’t understand that he won’t make a living out of it. How do we persuade him to give college a chance?

A: There are really two issues here: First, can your son succeed as a musician? Second, should he skip going to college? Keep in mind that, at 16, he’s quite literally trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up and his desire to forgo college and play in a band may be just a flash in the pan.

Who says he won’t make a living playing music? Some people, either through hard work, sheer luck (or a combination of both), actually do make it, and some colleges do offer music scholarships. But in general, you’re right: most musicians—or artists in general—don’t. Far more creative people are unemployed or working as waiters or scooping gelato than those who are making a good living at it.
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Being a Stay-At-Home Dad Is a Manly Job

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I decided that we want one parent at home with our child full time—at least until he starts preschool. Since she earns more than I do, it looks like I’ll be a stay-at-home dad. What am I in for?

A: Deciding to be a stay-at-home dad is a big decision, one that will affect everyone in your family. There are wonderful benefits to you and your child. But before you pull the trigger, you and your wife need to consider the following questions:

  • Can you take the career hit? This is big, since earning power and masculinity are inextricably linked in so many people’s minds. (If I’m not making money, I’m not a good man/father, the thinking goes.) You may be able to keep a finger in the work world by consulting or starting a home-based business. But if you return to the workforce later, the gap on your résumé could cause problems with potential employers.
  • Can you handle the pressure? Some people will come right out and tell you that you really should be out there bringing in some money. After all, that’s what guys are supposed to do, right? But even if you don’t hear the actual words, you may feel the need to demonstrate that even though you’ve chosen not to earn money, you could if you really wanted to. Some of that pressure is external, some comes from within. Traditional sex roles do a real number on us, don’t they?
  • Do you have a job description? What are your responsibilities? Will you be doing all the laundry, shopping, and cooking? Some of it?
  • Can you handle the isolation and the workload? Staying home with a child can be a tough, lonely job. It can also be a little mind-numbing (I say this from experience). Sometimes, no matter how much fun you’ve had with the kids, you’ll crave some adult conversation at the end of the day.
  • Are you selfless enough? Say goodbye to personal time, and get used to putting your children’s needs above yours. Always.
  • Is your skin thick enough? Women—whether they’re moms, nannies, baby-sitters—tend not to welcome men into their groups wherever it is that people take their kids during the day. You’ll have to get used to the funny looks and stupid comments from people when you’re out with your. (“Hey, are you baby-sitting today?” is one that always bugs me. “No, bozo, I’m not baby-sitting, I’m a dad and I’m taking care of my children.”) And you’ll have to deal with people’s criticisms and critiques of your parenting—the kinds of “advice” and comments no one would ever make to a woman.
  • How thick is your wife’s skin? When you’re the primary parent, your child will run to you when he wants a hug or has a skinned knee. If mom tries to provide that hug or apply a BandAid, he may push her away. I’ve been on both sides of this, and can tell you that it hurts. A lot.
  • Do you have a reentry plan? It’s good to have a plan for how long your at-home stint will last, and what you’ll do afterwards.

In reality, you won’t be as alone out there as it might seem. At least two million stay-at-home dads are doing it every day, and the number is rising all the time. You may have to dig, but there are a lot of great resources out there, including athomedad.net and slowlane.com.