My First (and best) Scar #thinkkit

Public Service Announcement: this is a warm-up post for SmallBox's annual Think Kit project every December where anyone who wants to blog can sign up for a daily prompt and write as many or as few posts as they want during the month. You can join now or anytime via thinkkit.org!

Here is my first scar from when I was 5 or 6 years old:

Isn't skin weird? Anyway, here's how I got that little beauty. I was doing normal kid stuff, collecting bugs and spiders, and decided I needed a home for them to live. So I found a glass jar with a metal lid. I knew enough to know that my new pets would need some air to live so I grabbed a steak knife and proceeded to begin punching holes in the metal lid- something I had done before so I didn't think much of it. I got a few holes in...

...and then I missed, the knife went into my hand and I pulled out the knife and ran out of the kitchen screaming and crying. You can see from the depth of the cut that the knife went pretty far in. My mother was outside working in the garden and quickly stopped the bleeding and got me patched up. I was moving the lawn by the afternoon so I guess I wasn't too traumatized.

This first scar remains my favorite because it reminds me of my happy, free range childhood- something I have tried to preserve and bring to my children. 

Confessions Of A Reluctant Father

I kinda fell into fatherhood. Everything was backwards- baby, house then marriage. Our first was a surprise. We weren’t even engaged at the time. When I found out I proposed but my future wife wisely punted- let’s just focus on one thing at a time. It was the right call. When we did get married a couple years later it was the right time. It was also great fun to have our daughter as a flower girl. 

I know some people just click with parenthood right away. Birth is a transformative moment for them- everything is reset around the child. But that wasn’t my experience. I was more in shock and it took years to really embrace being a dad- which is much different than being a father. This wasn’t because I didn’t have a great role model growing up- my father was warm, loving, playful and very present- but I just wasn’t ready. Or something. I just didn't feel it.

To be honest, it wasn’t until we had all three of our girls did it start to really click for me. I began to truly fall in love in with each of them and appreciate their distinct personalities. I became fascinated by them. I became truly invested.  I imagine the feelings I have for my girls now are much like some fathers have on day one. But, for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen that way for me.

That’s why I’m writing this. I know I’m not alone. This topic is weirdly taboo, no-one says at a dinner party “ah man, my life sucks, I don’t know what I was thinking having a kid!" There is so much pressure to paint a picture of bliss to the outside world. 

But the reality is that the first year of having a child is often really, really hard. And so can be the second or third as well. It can be truly disruptive and traumatizing. Heck, pregnancy alone can be rough on a relationship! Although I now see how much joy and fun those years had, I can’t lie and say I didn’t often feel a little trapped. My freedom replaced with dirty diapers.

Now I enjoy the parent role. I’ve discovered and embraced my nurturing side. All the stuff going on out there in the world without me doesn’t echo so loud anymore. I am well on the other side. But I remember how hard and long I struggled to really own being a dad. So if you are going through this I hope you don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t feel intense joy the first time you see your child, don’t worry, it’ll come in time if you put in the time. 

Brain Zappers, Phantom Texting & The Death of Empathy

"The future looks like a screen"- Nada Surf "The Future"

I've never had a new idea while looking at a screen. Have you? It's like screens are brain zappers. They seem to dampen not induce the creative spark. My experience has been more like:

Take a walk, get an idea, flesh it out then go to a screen- research, write, etc. 

How do we co-habitat with all of these screens? They drain our attention like water in a tub. We forget why we even went to them in the first place- a knee jerk reaction to open a browser, turn on the TV or pull our phone out of our pockets. Then we are gone, our reason for opening the screen lost and our minds feeding on whatever looks most interesting...right...now. 

We are simply not wired for screens. To our animal minds they are bright shiny objects in a cave. And let's be honest, we are still mostly ruled by our animal minds. 

I was having breakfast with some business friends recently including George Evans from Brandwidth. He told us about interviewing 3 recent college grads. When he asked them questions their thumbs began to make texting movement. Phantom texting! Their communication pathways had been rewired through their hands. Yikes! 

Some people think the next generation will, essentially, be a different species from the ones that came before. They will be wired early on to interact via screens and devices not people and faces. This is very concerning. I'm concerned we are losing our ability to feel empathy for each other.

Current and future generations may really struggle with empathy.  They will have spent most of their lives staring at screens more than faces. We already see this, kids that rarely look up from their screens.

Adults, that's the rest of us, aren't setting a very good example. We should know better since we grew up in the (mostly) analog world and know its joys- a beautiful Fall day, leaves crunching underfoot, being completely immersed in a conversation with a close friend, no technology to be found. 

Technology has become a third wheel in our lives. It has a valid and important role but increasingly it's just getting in the way. It's interrupting meetings, conversations, dinner and even sex. It is a threat to human intimacy. 

Empathy is, in many ways, what sets us apart from other animals. As we lose our ability to empathize the suffering of others will feel more and more remote. Even those in our lives our "loved ones". This is how really bad things happen. When people stop caring about other people. 

What's the solution? I'm not entirely sure. But I think we need to create limits on technology in our lives. This is hard to do, in part, because so much basic communication (texts, emails and calls) flows through our phones.

So here's an idea: what about an app or setting for phones that turns them into...phones. Just phones, nothing else. Like airplane mode, "phone-only" mode. Surely this is possible. But I've searched and can't find it.

And getting back to where we started- that "phone-only" idea actually came to me walking to and from the bathroom while writing this post. Damn brain zapping screens!