Flannery Correspondence

May 1, 2010

Men Are From Mars: Discipline

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:24

November 12, 2009

In the good old days, loving parents corrected their children’s behavior with immediate and thorough whoopings. The grateful children smiled up through their tears of learning and thanked their benevolent, strong and generous fathers for caring so much about their moral development.

But somehow, between now and those rose-colored days of who-knows-how-long ago, two ideas ruined this utopia of corrective corporal feedback. I don’t know which happened first but (1) a few people started beating children dangerously and out of spite rather than love — and (2) a few people started making rules against the brutal mistreatment of children.

Now you can hardly frown sideways at a mischievous child without one type of person clicking their tongue and complaining about what the new psychology fad has to say about “negative feedback.” The other type shrugs and says, “Is that all, you wimp? I love my children enough to spank them like the Bible says to.” Spanking is the last permissible physical punishment available to modern parents — and even its legal status may come into question depending on the local interpretation of child abuse laws and the zeal of social services.

As fathers, it’s easy to say we love our kids when they are sweet and quiet and prematurely brilliant. But when they fight and fuss and bite and mess and kick you during diaper changes or harm their younger siblings — then, as men, the impulse is to devour the offending family member and hope for better conduct from the witnesses.

We may choose to love our offspring whether or not they provoke our rage. Then we must decide how to reinforce the good behavior and correct the bad. We want them to grow up healthy and confident rather than whiny and spoiled or timid and traumatized.

It’s not easy and it’s never free from controversy but we must man up to the challenge. The answer is probably somewhere between savage beatings and letting them walk all over you.

Men Are From Mars: Boys Are the Best

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:22

October 16, 2009

by Brian Flannery

I grew up the oldest of three boys. Boys are the best. I remember running in church when I was a kid and I loved it. All the church ladies told me not to run because it was the house of God. When my parents heard that, they took me aside and said, “nevermind them; find a place to run where they can’t see you.” It became a game.

After church the stuffy perfume ladies took up positions blocking all the exits to make sure the Sunday morning boredom went unbroken. But we found ways around them and around the boredom. There they stood like stern guardians of sacred somberness, slightly crouched in anticipation of tackling children half their size and one tenth their age. Then from the ventilation ducts came the quick, light thumping of free feet.

I was looking forward to that creative mischief in my own children. Sneaking around the house with the kids when mom would have a bad day. Exploring forests that aren’t really there in the garage. Making fortresses out of couch cushions and launching rolled socks as snow balls. Inventing impossible technologies and disassembling household appliances.

Then the Good Lord blessed me with four girls.

It took an hour yesterday to convince my daughter to wear a pair of tennis shoes to play in the front yard. She kept turning her ankle in her high-heeled sandals. She is terribly fashion conscious, insists on wearing dresses every day and refuses pants. I gave her the choice: To bed with her precious heels or outside to play in the tennis shoes.

She cried in bed for a half hour, then came down to renegotiate: She would play outside if I let her pick the ballerina slippers. She cried in bed for another half hour. Then I held her down and forced tennis shoes over her curled toes and kicking feet. Just in time for her neighbor friends to go home for dinner and the sun to set.

Boys don’t care what they wear as long as it’s not pink. Boys don’t have dolls or tea sets. Boys don’t do crafts. They draw helicopters or spaceships. Boys have trucks and wooden swords and dangerous sharp things they find before the trash man arrives. All they want is to play with matches by the natural gas main or throw rocks at the neighbor dogs.

I played catch the other day for the first time since sixth grade. Another family invited us to a park that had a baseball diamond. They have two boys. At last! A chance to return to boyhood — before you know it, we should be reenacting The Sandlot.

Instead, the other father and I ended up playing catch together. The kids were a lost cause. My daughter hit the tee-ball and ran towards first base… but ended up doing circle eights in the outfield.

The boys were more coordinated but unprepared to stop on any one base (which made me proud by proxy for heterosexuals everywhere). Instead of running with the bat like the girls, they threw it recklessly. That was cool.

Oh well. We will all be pros in no time. Everything takes practice. Even fashion and tea parties.

Men Are From Mars: A Night without Mom

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 14:33

October 1, 2009

by Brian Flannery

My wife left me yesterday. She says she’s coming back today but we’ll just see. We have four kids. Getting four kids fed and in bed is a nightmare.

Before she left she asked me if I could handle it. “Of course.” Failure is not an option. But there’s a difference between five-star service and, oh, one star (half star?).

We survived the meal thanks to a neighbor woman who brought over her kids and a pizza. We even survived that twilight zone between dinner and bed time. It’s too early to put them straight to bed, so I’m told. If you can’t put them in their cribs yet, next best thing is to exhaust them. After letting them climb all over our yard and play set, we let them run around the neighbor’s.

Throw them in the bath to wash off the sand. Nothing’s better for the pipes than some playground sand. Diaper them up and they’re almost ready for bed.

Mommy left a stack of pajamas. Who needs pajamas? I learned recently that these things are not one size fits all.

I finally send them to bed; each outfit almost fits its wearer. Now I’m exhausted and they’re not happy either. Perfect: crying is great. The adrenalin released in a typical crying fit is mild. After Dad has tried to push you into three or four outfits, the crying fit is fierce. A deliciously quiet adrenalin crash follows a few minutes of sincere wailing.

Father secret #1: Cry them to sleep. Work them into a sad frenzy then shut the door, turn the TV up loud and wear ear plugs if you have to.

Now all I have to worry about is breakfast. Or midnight fits.

Men Are From Mars: POPS says to MOPS

Filed under: POPS! — Tags: , , , , — BrianOFlan @ 14:30

September 17, 2009

Dear MOPS,

Sometimes it seems like we parent differently than you. We know this gets on your nerves but that’s not why we do it. You would like it even less if we were exactly the same as you.

We have to be the strong, dangerous ones who jiggle the kids and wrestle them to tears. We’re quick to apologize when the little guys get hurt but we’re not sorry we play rough.

Believe it or not, we love these kids. That’s why we do it. This is how we show them attention: directly by fighting with them and indirectly by working to provide for them. If we seem like we never have time for the kids or you, please understand we’re trying to make sure you don’t starve.

When we work late, we are loving the kids. When we toss them around the yard on Saturdays, we are loving the kids. When we come home and nap with everyone climbing on top of us, we are loving the kids.

We’re not wimps and we’re not raising wimps. We don’t parent softly; we would disappoint them if we did. You can baby them. We’ll make them strong. Help us with our job and we’ll help you with yours.

Deal? (Truce?)

“Fathers are just as essential to healthy child development as mothers.” – Glenn T. Stanton

“Fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children.” – Psychology Today

Men Are From Mars Intro

Filed under: MOPS, POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 14:27

September 17, 2009

The “Men Are From Mars” column by Christa and Brian Flannery:

So, here we are “Together on Planet Mom”. Have you ever thought to yourself “where in the world (or out of it) is dad?” In light of the fact that this year’s MOPS theme focuses on community, and one of the most important communities we have is right at home, we thought we’d let the men share a little insight from their perspective.


Filed under: MOPS, POPS! — Tags: , , , , — BrianOFlan @ 14:23

Brian and Christa team-wrote the MOPS newsletter this year (2009-2010, MOPS follows the school year).

Christa was in charge of publication so she had to cultivate advertisements and fire up Corel Draw to lay out two or three articles with small useful information on the side or a featured MOPS bio.

Brian’s job was to fire up the men-folk.  Behind Christa’s group of 80 MOPS women are about 80 men who are equally exasperated with their babies and toddlers.  But we’re just not into crafts and motivational warm-fuzzies.

Thus began POPS!, the male counter-positive to MOPS.  While MOPS stands for Mothers Of PreSchoolers, POPS! is not an acronym.  It’s an explosion.

For anyone out there who is a father or has been a father or will be a father or knows little kids that drive him nuts, here are some selected excerpts highlighting the brief and glorious debut of POPS!

Christa’s introduction to the POPS! concept and the Men Are from Mars series.

For the next few weeks, Christa and I will cross-post some of our favorite articles from there to here.  We are that vain.

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