What “Bruce Wayne” Taught Me About Generosity

Some people in this world make insane amounts of money, but billionaire industrialist and Gotham City playboy Bruce Wayne takes personal income to unimaginable levels of insane. Wayne is filthy rich, to be sure, but there is a side of Mr. Wayne and his globally-dominant Wayne Industries that many people do not see: The Wayne Foundation, his generous philanthropy organization. I got to tour the Phoenix offices of Wayne Industries this week, and I am going to leak a few very interesting secrets about the legendary Bruce Wayne (SPOLIER: Bruce Wayne is merely a secret identity for a well-known superhero).

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How Do You Avoid Becoming a Workaholic?

Some of the jobs I have held over the years have been downright awful. I remember working one summer during college at a factory that manufactured those hard-shelled briefcases (like the ones James Bond would carry). Every day I woke up early, drove downtown, did 8 hours of manual labor at minimum wage, bought my lunch from a dirty taco truck, and listened to my supervisor try to fit as many vulgar terms for female body parts into one sentence as he could — and he was proficient, let me tell you.

Menial jobs like that one suffocated me because I never felt a passion for hauling briefcase parts from one part of the factory to another for weeks on end. I wanted a job I loved — one that I was passionate about. Oddly enough, I have learned that having a job I love can be even more draining than any of the jobs I hated.

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Thoughts on Getting Married Young

I have often thought about how drastically the process of getting married has changed from when my grandparents were young. For one thing, the time between boy-and-girl-meet and boy-and-girl-marry was much shorter than it is today. Back then, it was relatively common for a courtship to last only a few months. Now it seems commonplace for couples to be engaged for years on end. Many people would say that delaying marriage is a good thing, but I am convinced otherwise.

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There’s Been ANOTHER Change of Plan

If you are familiar with the story behind our adoption of Harrison, you will remember that the recurring theme of the entire process was “there has been a change of plan”. Nothing went the way we planned with Harrison’s adoption, and as we set out again on the path of adding to the family, we were taken on another journey that we could never have imagined.

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A Thank You to Foster Parents

Today I saw a Facebook post of some friends of mine who have been foster parents for a sibling group of three little kids over the last few years. The post included a cute, professional family photo of them smiling with their foster kids and their new baby. The caption below it read, “Took a family picture before my oldest daughter has to go live with her bio dad.” The photo and the caption broke my heart.

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Raising Confidence

We all want our kids to be successful, to be people who make an impact in the world. No good parent looks at his kid and says, “I just want him to be average,” or “If she could be a follower, I’d be so proud.” Still, the world is full of average people, and society is filled with folks who are followers. At what point do parental desires fail to boost our kids past the
reality that more people are average than are great, and what can we do to make sure our kids don’t fizzle into the haze of averageness?

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One Disneyland Map, Two 10 Year-Olds, No Parents

One of the most challenging books I have read on parenting is Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-reliant Children, by Lenore Skenazy. Modern-day parents live in a world where worrying is billed as one of the most essential character traits of good parenting. Skenazy argues in her book that this obsession with overprotecting our kids is a relatively new development in child rearing — and she challenges parents to take a reasoned look at whether our safety-crazed culture is actually beneficial to our kids.

As I read this book, I began to think about how I might apply the ideas/challenges within it to Harrison as he grows. The central story in Free-Range Kids is one where Skenazy allows her nine year-old son to travel from Bloomingdale’s in New York City all the way home (using busses and the subway system) by himself. As in all alone — with no parents or other adult chaperones. He was nine, and he was flying solo.

This was something that her son had asked to do for some time, so it’s not like she just dropped him off and wished him luck. He knew how to ride the subway, he knew how to read public transportation route maps, and he wanted to do it on his own. People called her the “Worst Mom in America” for allowing her son to do this. Her book is an explanation of the worldview behind her choice to allow her son so much freedom — and it’s very compelling.

Since reading this book, I have been looking for ways to allow my son to experience age-appropriate levels of independence, and you’d be amazed at how hard it has been to fight against the prevailing winds of culture. I recently began to wonder what it would be like to have been in Skenazy’s shoes, how it would feel to actually allow my nine year-old to do something at that level of independence and self-reliance. Then I began to wonder what — specifically — that would look like in our lives. We don’t live in New York, so allowing my son to do what Skenazy’s son experienced would be irresponsible of me. But what would be our New York subway excursion?

Well, I think I’ve found it.

Heidi and I have talked this over and we have resolved that, when Harrison is about 10 years-old, we will take a trip to Disneyland with him and a friend; we will enter the park together, take family pictures at the Mickey-head flower bed, and then we’ll send the two of them off with a Disneyland map and $20 each (adjusted for inflation, of course). They will be free to explore the place that Walt Disney built for kids, as kids.

I’m sure many people will think this is crazy. To be quite honest, I’m not even sure if Disneyland would allow it. But every time I see the picture below of children running through the archway of Sleeping Beauty Castle for the very first time in 1955, I can’t help but hope that Disney still encourages the mixture of wonder and adventure that these kids had on opening day:

Talk about free-range kids. I can only see one adult, and I’m pretty sure he’s a Cast Member, dressed as one of the Knights of Camelot. How many of these kids do you think were abducted, injured, or otherwise harmed?

All we have to do now is wait until Harrison is 10, then we’ll get the chance to put our money where our mouth is. If you are a Disney Executive and would like to offer us a few practice runs over the next few years, we’d be happy to accept. Actually, if you do work for one of the Disney parks, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Does Disney allow self-relient, well-behaved children to explore the park unsupervised like they did in Walt’s day?

As for the rest of you, I’d love your feedback as well:

What are your thoughts on this idea? Would you take this challenge with your kid?

I’m not going to lie, this plan gives my stomach equal amounts of excitement and nervousness. This time we live in as parents is a very untrusting, skeptical era — one that wants parents to control and supervise children at all times. But Mom and I want to push past our worries and allow you to live your own adventure. If we try to make sure that nothing ever happens to you, then nothing will ever happen to you. Live your adventure, we promise to try not to stifle the independent spirit that lives in you as it does in each of us.

Pixar Parenting Tips: Brave

Pixar stepped into the spotlight in 1995 when it released its first full-length animated movie, “Toy Story”. Since then, Pixar has grown to be one of the most powerful movie studios in the world and has produced three of the highest grossing animated movies of all time. While their animation has always been cutting-edge and visually stunning, I think the biggest reason for their box office success is their ability to tell a great story, and I have found that many of their films touch on salient lessons for parents.

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I Hate That Word

This evening, Heidi and I walked to our community park to let Harrison play around a bit (his new favorite thing is going down slides). We also wanted to take an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy some of this beautiful Phoenix weather. Unfortunately for us, our trip of fun and family time was contaminated by a particular behavior that I believe has gotten out of hand in America: public cursing.

This is a repost of something I wrote a few years ago, so if you’re wondering why I’m referring to Harrison like he’s a one-year-old, it’s because he was at the time. This is an issue I still feel strongly about, so I decided to bring it back to the surface.

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Is Spanking Child Abuse?

Recently, Charlie over at HowToBeADad.com wrote a post that dealt with spanking children. He spoke up when he saw another dad who was too cavalier in hitting his own kid at the park. While Charlie didn’t specifically comment either way on corporal punishment as a whole, many of the commenters on that post had no problem letting their feelings on that issue be known. And to many of them, spanking in any form is on par with full-fledged child abuse.

I have some thoughts on that.

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