Fathers and Daughters

March Dadness

By | Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Uncategorized | No Comments

Many Dads find themselves fervently following the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament this time of year. There are buzzer beaters, busted brackets, and usually a “Cinderella” who makes it all the way to the dance. (See: Loyola Chicago)

You’ll want that same passion and attention to become a PTP’er (that’s Prime Time Parent).

For example, if you can reel off the names of the starting lineup of your favorite team but can’t name your daughter’s favorite food, teacher, singer, best friend’s name, and proudest accomplishment…you may want to call a timeout and make a new game plan.

From the time she could remember, you have been her coach. And like any great coach, you should know your “team member’s” personality, quirks, and what motivates her. Don’t wait until you have to heave a half court shot her way. Do it today. Take 5 minutes of one-on-one time to talk… and more importantly to listen. Soon you’ll see that being an active and involved Dad is as easy as a layup. #DadUp

Looking for something to do together? Check out our EVENTS page and come join us at our next event!

Daddy Daughter Time: Candle Making

By | Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Uncategorized | No Comments

Looking for something different to do with your daughter(s)? You might want to give candlemaking a try. Before you Google “how to get soy wax out of dog fur or carpeting,” take a breath. There’s a new place you can go to in Grand Rapids called Wax Poetic Candle Bar that does the heavy lifting for you.

I recently took my 7-year-old daughter there and she had a blast. The process is simple…but don’t go if you have a stuffy nose. You’re going to need all of the olfactory tools your schnoz has to offer at the ready.  Read More

How To Wipe…(and 4 More Tips For Potty Training a Daughter)

By | Bedtime, Daddy, Daughter, Development, education, Growing Up, Health, Parenting, Potty Training, Relationships, Rewards, Tips, Toddlers, Toilet Training | No Comments

potty-trainingIf you are pulling your weight as a Dad, you already know that your little princess can push out some pretty serious poo.

It’s called potty training and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Plus, when you’re teaching a young child with different “plumbing” than your own, you may feel a bit lost at times.

That’s why we spoke to Dr. Heather Wittenberg. She knows her (stuff).

Dr. Wittenberg specializes in the development of babies, toddlers, young children… and their parents. She offers no-hype, practical advice that is rooted in science and road-tested in her own home. She speaks on behalf of the Pull-Ups® brand. The doctor dropped some knowledge so you can point your little one in the right direction the next time she wants to drop a deuce.

1. Normal is what normal is…

“A lot of parents get caught up in thinking that potty training is something to accomplish or to check off of a list,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “They start putting expectations on their kids and think at certain ages they should be at X, Y, or Z.”

“Toddlerhood is when individual differences really make their first major appearance and you start to see a ton of divergences in the ‘normal’ range. There is a huge range of ‘normal’ for potty training. But you typically start seeing interest around 18 months and if your toddler isn’t well on her way to being comfortably toilet trained by four, you’d want to call in expert help.”

Whether your girl is eager to learn or afraid to go near the toilet, just don’t push to the point of resistance. It’s a process and a chance to celebrate each tiny step. Don’t wait until they have mastered it to celebrate with them.

2. Avoid this like the plague…


Some kids have a resistance to bowel movements. “There’s a cycle of withholding in some toddlers and that includes withholding their poops,” she said.

“They’ll do this for a lot of odd and uniquely toddler-ish reasons. They may imagine that poop is a part of their own body and if they get it out they are giving up part of themselves. Others might have had a bout of constipation and it hurt so bad that just the thought of going again scares them. They don’t have the logic to think ‘This may hurt but I have to get it out’ and trying to use that rationale will not work with a toddler.”

If you see any signs of constipation, you need to go full bore on any type of dietary stuff is ok with your child and pediatrician (prunes, fiber, water). “The typical American diet is terrible for this,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “Toddlers are getting to the point where they’ll only eat chicken nuggets and buttered pasta. They aren’t eating nutritionally.”

Keeping an eye on this is important. You don’t want to enter the world of suppositories and enemas. “Toddlers understandably are terrified of those things and feel are invasive. So you need to do everything you can to avoid getting to that point.”

3. What to call her genitalia…

It’s about being natural.

“What’s important to your daughter isn’t the specific language that you choose,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “What’s important is that you feel comfortable using it. Being natural and comfortable with whatever names and conversation you have developed over the course of your relationship will allow her to feel your comfort.”

“You’ve been changing diapers all this time,” Dr. Wittenberg explained. “You’re involved with her physical body and emotional health. The transition from changing diapers to using the potty is just a natural evolution of what you’re already doing. Her language is evolving. She can obviously understand more and put words to body parts. What it comes down to is your family’s culture, personalities, and what kind of Dad you already are. Some are technical and clinical in their body part naming – others are silly with the names.”

Dr. Wittenberg stressed, “Just because Dads are a different gender than their daughter they do not need to somehow feel inadequate or incapable of having a perfectly comfortable, relaxed conversation about all manners of the potty.”

4. Clean up

(This is a tricky one for many dads who don’t have working knowledge of the parts. So pay attention…)

“I see many Moms make the same mistakes when it comes to wiping,” Wittenberg said. “Young girls are more vulnerable to a urinary tract infection because they are taking the toilet paper, reaching under to wipe their vulva and are going too far back. She’s reaching her bum and she’s pulling forward some bacteria.”

“Just have your daughter blot, in place, a couple of times right where the pee comes out when she’s done,” Wittenberg said. “She doesn’t have to get any more aggressive than that. No vigorous wiping is needed. A couple of blots with a few squares of toilet paper is plenty for pee.”

If you’re worried about seeing “white buildup” in her privates, don’t be.

“Some parents worry about vaginal discharge (white buildup) that is normally present and healthy,” she said. “That is the vagina’s ‘self cleaning’ mode and it is something to just ignore. It isn’t something that has to be cleaned out. In fact there’s a bit of a protective function there. Dads don’t have to help her get in there and try to make it visually clean. Regular bath time helps do that.”

On the back end of things, it’s just like the boys. She should wipe back and up from the rear after poops. Your role? Spot checker to make sure it’s all clear. They didn’t tell you you’d be doing that when you became a father did they?

5. Last call!

So she’s doing great during the day but is still wet at night? You might have read some advice to cut off all liquids for a certain period of time before bed. Obviously it stands to reason that you don’t want to drink a full-sized juice a couple of hours before bed but

“It’s actually a physical maturity issue,” Dr. Wittenberg said. “There is a hormone that is secreted in the brain that shuts off urine production. That hormone sometimes doesn’t develop in a child until 2 or 4 or even 7. It doesn’t matter what you do. Without that hormone, their body is not going to turn down urine production at night and you are going to have a wet bed or diaper. Once your child is ready to stay dry at night, the amount of liquid you give them before bed won’t be the main factor. And putting pressure on a child to stay dry at night doesn’t help.”

There you have it. For my daughter and me, there is an evening ritual of her grabbing her Pull-Ups® out of the drawer and holding it behind her back so I can guess which Disney character is on them. My best streak? 4 in a row. No cheating. It’s all part of the process.

Whatever it takes for you to become more comfortable as your girl’s caregiver, do it. Just make sure to enjoy the ride…even if it stinks from time to time.

Dr. Wittenberg is a Pull-Ups® Potty Training Partner She believes there is no “one size fits all” answer to most challenging parenting questions, and she is committed to help find individualized, workable solutions that help make parenting easier – and more fun! She can be found via her website ( or Twitter (@BabyShrink). She is the author of the “Let’s Get This Potty Started” book.


The Film ‘Self/Less’ Could Make you a Better Dad?

By | Fathers and Daughters, Movie Review | No Comments

I cayajEiron’t remember the last time I sat in a movie theater watching a film without seeing the trailer first.

But there I was, unadulterated and munching on popcorn, as the sci-fi action film “Self/Less” began.

What I saw was pretty entertaining (the reviewers haven’t been as kind). But even through the rough parts, the movie as a whole has a pretty simple message that matches what DaddyDaughterTime is all about.  So while it won’t be winning any Oscars, it’s still worth a rental.

Warning: If you continue reading, there are a few spoilers here.

“Self/Less” offers an answer to this question: Is it a blessing that time is finite or should immortality and a chance at all the “do-overs” we’d like to get be our goal?

Ben Kingsley plays the role of Damien, an uber-wealthy and ruthless businessman (think gold-plated everything) who is facing his own mortality with a cancer diagnosis of six-months to live. He is introduced to a shady process of “shedding” which promises to take his consciousness and place it in a younger, healthy body that has been “grown in a lab.”

The process only costs $250,000,000. So Damien takes some time to contemplate the decision while overlooking the city skyline in his penthouse (sitting next to his indoor marble fountain, of course).

We don’t know much about Damien’s character but we have learned that he prioritized his professional life over family. His estranged daughter, played well by Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” fame, looks like she’d rather vomit than speak to her father. As much as Damien wants to make amends, the relationship looks irreparable.

So Damien decides to take the Faustian deal and the transition into a new body is represented very well. It’s as if he never died. He goes through a bit of rehab, teaches himself his new backstory, and then hungrily relishes his new found youth (in the form of Ryan Reynolds) with wine, women, and…more women.

But the procedure has side effects. If young Damien doesn’t take his magic red pills, he experiences “hallucinations” that turn out to actually be the memories of the body he inhabits.

What?! It wasn’t grown in a lab?! The indignation he shows when realizing that fact is quickly glossed over as his thirst to continue living wouldn’t have altered his decision and we all know it.

But the inner conflict between his dual personalities drives him to learn more about the history of the body he is in. That’s where we learn that Damien has taken up mental residency in an American soldier, loving husband, and father that sacrificed his life by donating his body to science to pay for his daughter’s desperately needed operation. (Cue the awesome Daddy Daughter Time montage starring Reynolds.)

Old Damien (mind) and Young Damien (body) work together to track down the soldier’s family and try to find a way to fight the mad scientists using them as lab rats. It’s as if the elder tenant sees it as a chance to make amends for being and absent father to his own daughter.

Cue the car chases, gunfights, and a most-excellent villain death scene including a flamethrower and the movie tries to fulfill the typical Hollywood punch list it assumes audiences need to be entertained.

In the end, the mind inhabiting the body makes the call and stops taking the pills –  committing cerebral suicide to allow the younger man (and younger mind) to return to his family. Ok, there are a few plot holes there, but sometimes you’ve got to suspend your disbelief for the sake of entertainment.

Old Damien records a video message informing the younger man of what has happened and the father who wasted his efforts on wealth gives up his dream of immortality so a father focused on family can return to them.

While it may not be an Oscar contender, “Self/Less” does seem to offer one poignant message – no matter how much money one makes, investing in family is more important.

This film may actually be a decent representation of a recent study in The Shriver Report that showed that 60% of American men now equate personal achievement at home as the marker of success with financial wealth and independence coming in a distant second at only 24%. Today’s men say being present to be a good father, husband, son or friend, is more important than financial independence, professional success, or leaving a legacy.

It also reminded me of the book “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom which speaks to why time being finite is a blessing and not a curse.

One of my favorite phrases when talking with other fathers and encouraging them to spend more time with their daughters is this: “They can always print more money but nobody is printing more time.”

Overall, it’s a decent flick (rent it) and some of the cinematography is quite good. Might be a fun date night (I know my wife didn’t mind looking at Ryan Reynolds for two hours).



‘The Columbo’ and The Missing Wallet

By | Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Memories, Parenting | No Comments

I have this thing I’ve been doing I call “The Columbo” whenever I leave the house. If you’ve ever seen the retro show starring Peter Falk (or saw him as the grandfather in “The Princess Bride,”) you’re familiar with it.

It’s basically a pocket/mental check to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. You get the idea.

Last week, the morning routine was different than usual as I had extra things to remember to bring to G’s preschool for her birthday celebration. So it wasn’t until after I dropped her off and pulled into a coffee shop for a cup when the panic hit me.

Where’s my wallet?

You know that feeling. Everything is in there – ID, credit cards, that special picture of Grace, your life.

I scoured my work bag and car… no luck.

So I drove back home hoping to find it on my dresser. Nope.  I searched the house top to bottom without finding it.

Extra stress as this was the day I was to pick (and pay for) her new bike and I only had a small amount of time to do that and my work before picking her up.  Was I going to have to cancel all the cards, get a new ID, call my wife and ask her for some cash to get it all done? The day wasn’t looking good.

The jacket I was wearing had notoriously shallow pockets. Things had fallen out before.

I decided to retrace my steps and drove back to Grace’s school to see if it was where I’d parked…praying the whole way there.

When it didn’t turn up there, I started walking the path up to the school which led me by the playground. Grace’s class was outside playing and she was standing next to the short chain linked fence curiously looking at my unannounced reappearance.

What are you doing here Daddy?” she asked.

“Oh, I just think something dropped out of my pocket and I can’t find it so I’m here looking to see if it fell out here,” I said with a smile.

She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “Do you mean your wallet?”

Two strong emotions hit me immediately – relief and wariness. I didn’t want to fully believe my search was over until I was sure.

“Do you mean that little black thing with the cards in it?” I said.

She nodded.

“Why would you say that?” I asked.

Because I hid it,” she said with a grin. “It’s behind the big princesses in my room.”

I only had one more question for her (and the teachers standing next to her).

“Is it okay if I come in there and give you a big kiss?” I asked.

The teachers nodded and even though it was just too uncool for me to do it according to her expression, I came in anyway, kissed her, and thanked her for letting me know where it was. Of course, that was immediately followed with a discussion of what things were ok to hide and what things weren’t and when.

That conversation was repeated again after school just to make sure she understood. Better safe than sorry. If only I’d remembered to “Columbo”…



Saying I’m Sorry…

By | Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Development, Discipline, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships, Rules, Toddlers | No Comments

n-SAD-GIRL-628x314I raised my voice to my four-year old daughter.

I even “stopped the car” to turn around and tell her that her behavior wasn’t going to win her any Miss Congeniality sashes any time soon. Ok, I’m paraphrasing, but I was stern with her and the look on her face showed me that the message got through.

I had lost my patience. I immediately regretted it.

While some of you may be thinking “no big deal” or “sometimes you’ve got to be the bad guy,” that’s just not me. You may think it’s a mountain out of a molehill, but strong words have a lasting effect. I still remember things that were said to me decades ago that affected who I was and grew into. One of the goals of purposeful parenting is to grow and learn from the past.

It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard as hell. Kids can test your limits.

But I made her a promise when she was about two hours old. I told her I would do everything I could to show her what it was to be a good man. So as impossible as it may become (See: teenager), I’m going to hold myself to my word.

That’s why when we got home we had another of our “hands and eyes” talks. It’s just something we do to make sure we are listening to each other when it’s really important. She held my hands, we made eye contact, and I told her I was sorry for raising my voice at her. I explained that even though her actions were wrong, it was just as wrong for me to get upset.

She consoled me and told me that it “was OK, you’re my Daddy” which made me sad to think of how many parents might actually think that is true. Big people don’t get a pass just because they made the little people. I told her that it wasn’t OK and that I would do my best to never do it again.

I believe you can get the desired result without taking shortcuts. To me, losing your patience and raising your voice to intimidate a smaller human is not only a shortcut, it’s detrimental to your future relationship with her.

I have no idea whether I’m in the minority/majority when it comes to this parenting technique. Some of my closest friends have no qualms over using “Dadtimidation.”  I have no frame of reference as Grace is my first and only child. I suppose it doesn’t work for everyone. It may not even end up working for me.

But if I want to have a meaningful conversation with her when she’s 14, I’ll start when she’s 4 and try to exemplify how we should communicate with each other.

Actions speak louder than words? I’d change that to “actions should replace your louder words.” In other words, back up what you say instead of raising your voice.

Don’t confuse calm with weakness. While I adore my daughter and cherish every second we share, she still has to follow the rules. There are toys to be picked up, messes to be cleaned, and teeth to be brushed. Those things get done. Disobeying has consequences and she understands discipline. I’m lucky. I’ve seen some other children and how they behave. In comparison, I won the kiddo lotto with Grace.

But I’m the grownup. If it gets to the point where I feel the need to raise my voice, I try and reevaluate what I am doing so it doesn’t get to that point. Most adults have the mental capacity to approach a problem from different angles to find a solution. Most kids don’t.

I’m far from an expert. I’m just parenting by my gut and trying every day to do what I feel is right. So you can take this advice or leave it. But be kind to one another…even when she’s naughty. It will take more time and effort on your part, but that’s fatherhood.

Oh, and if you mess up, say you’re sorry.


The Evil Stepmother

By | Daughter, Divorce, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Stepmom | One Comment

Being a step-mother isn’t all that easy…

…especially if you look to Disney. The words “evil” or “wicked” usually precede your title and you’re more often the problem than the solution. That’s strange when you consider society’s (inaccurate) stereotype  of women possessing the greater ability to nurture or be an active caregiver. You’d think, as women, these ladies would get a break.

The challenge of a stepmother is arguably greater than that of the children’s mother or father. They not only have to navigate the relationship waters with their spouse (which comes with built-in emotional baggage – the kind that doesn’t fly for free) but they also take part in the children’s education, religion, discipline, and a myriad of other parental prospects without ever having the option to fall back on the “it’s my kid, that’s why” safety net.

Then there’s the children’s biological parent.

Sometimes an ideal situation of cooperation arises as is the case between this mother and stepmom. It’s something to which we should all aspire. But all too often the relationship is caustic and combative with petty jealousy and insecurities overriding the parental purpose of putting the child’s needs first. Alienation through words or actions do nothing but satisfy adult egos and often end up harming the child. Stepmoms can be unfairly viewed and treated as competition instead of co-parents.

If you are part of a family dynamic that includes a spouse that has vowed to not only love you but your children as much as they do (or would) their own, take an extra moment to appreciate what they have decided to do. Could you do the same? Do you do the same?

Purposeful parenting is a lifelong hill to climb with many tough, life-altering choices to be made. The women who decide to help make those choices for children that aren’t biologically their own should be honored. It takes a special kind of person to be that type of stepmom.

While the official National Stepmothers’ Day isn’t until May of this year, I hope you’ll join me in paying respect where it is due.


Fatherhood Half-Life

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Divorce, Fathers and Daughters, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships | No Comments

While the term half-life is normally used when talking about nuclear physics or nuclear chemistry (not to mention a pretty sweet video game), it can also be used in a different way when applied to the nuclear family, especially when it comes to fatherhood.

Imagine this.

At a random point in your young adult life someone hands you an envelope with some shocking information.

The message is simple. Starting today you will only receive half of the life you would have normally lived.

That would probably change your life.

What you consider most important may become doubly so. Your priorities would suddenly stand out in stark contrast to time spent on less important things.

So it is for many divorced Dads. Their “fatherhood half life” begins with a divorce and a custody battle. And with most, half is an all too rare “best case” scenario.

From the moment she was born, I placed time with my daughter as a top priority. I like to think the D in my DNA stands for Daddy.  I was lucky enough to be self-employed from home the first year of her life and then to land an extremely flexible job that let me keep my priorities and promises intact. Then, divorce…and those promises got a lot harder.

I’m no time management wizard. There are numerous examples of how I’ve wasted time on things that held no real value. But fatherhood isn’t one of those things. It never will be.

My situation has my daughter living hundreds of miles away. I’m not afforded the same conveniences of many divorced parents. It’s high conflict but it has taught me many things about myself and my faith.

So when I hear about parents wanting to “take a break” from the kids, I wince.  You don’t know what you have. Dad up and recognize the benefits of your sacrifices.

Every time a new theater or dance camp opportunity comes up that we have to take a pass on because she won’t be here, I grimace. Someone else’s decisions are affecting her opportunities.

Would I act differently if she was with me every day? I don’t see why. Why wouldn’t I want to spend as much time as possible with the one of the most important people in my life?

Promotions, money, more stuff…keep ‘em. I’ll take time. You should do the same.

The fading (but not fast enough) standard of a divorced father being awarded every other weekend and half the summer is an insult, not just to the involved Dads but to the decades of studies that have shown how important a his relationship with his kids is. Those aren’t my words, it is scientific fact.

If you find yourself in a situation like mine, don’t give up. Fight for your rights as a father. Stay true to her.  If you get to see your girl every day, make it count.  It’s more important than you may know.

My girl and I have done a whole lot of living in our four short years together, whether it was on a daily basis or just half. One thing is certain. Our “half-life” is still very full of love.

If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites? It’s OK to Say Goodbye to Saturday Morning Cartoons, My Guppy,  My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series


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It’s OK to Say Goodbye to Saturday Morning Cartoons

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Technology, Toddlers | No Comments

bugs bunnyLike other kids of my generation, Saturday morning was Shangri-La. We had a respite from the crazed world of learning math or doing chores. We had our Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was incredible.

Bugs and his Looney Tunes pals rocked.

Rocky and Bullwinkle rocked.

Schoolhouse Rock …well, you know.

(The Tick ‘Spoooooooned’)

With the roof of my mouth barely healed from last week’s shredding from sugary cereal, I would bravely refill my bowl and the Cap’n and I would head off for some quality time.

But earlier this week I learned that the cable channel CW was the last ship to set sail on the showing of the animated awesomeness that was our kids’ God-given right to punch out from reality.

And that’s ok.

You may think it strange for me to say I’m glad my daughter lives in an “on demand” world but in some ways I completely am. I’m rooting for it.

When I have her, my “Saturday mornings” (and hopefully this is how she’ll recall them, too) consist of going all out for breakfast with Daddy’s cinnamon pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit. We find crafts to do or practice reading and writing. If it’s summer, maybe we get some pool time in. How much can we do together? What cool memories are going to be made today? How much more can I love you?

Why would I want her to check out? Screen time is a last resort in our house.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want her to know who Mickey Mouse is. For the record, there’s a Mickey Mouse short about Minnie putting on too much perfume that is reigning supreme in the iPad’s replay numbers.

I just don’t mind the fact that we can decide when and for how long that time is.

I do the same thing with my “House of Cards” or “Walking Dead” fixes. I watch them at a time we don’t spend together or she’s in bed. Thank you, Netflix and DVR. I can be a present parent and still get to watch my favorite shows. Win/win.

So why shouldn’t she get the same entitlement to convenience? I don’t think being able to watch her shows at a whim will turn her into an entitled citizen, expecting the same treatment from everything in her life. We figured it out pretty quickly, she will too.

Plus it frees up time for her to “be” in the room. You remember that blank stare we all had as kids. Our folks had to say our name 4 times before we snapped away from the boob tube.

So, goodbye Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was fun. It really was.

You’ve gone the way of the VCR and Atari.

Parting is somewhat-sweet sorrow…maybe more than I care to admit.

That’s your cue, Porky.

If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites? My Guppy,  My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series

If you like what you’re reading, please SUBSCRIBE on the front page and we’ll send you an email when a new blog goes up. Plus you can LIKE us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram too.