BY Justin Mannato | Wednesday, May 08, 2013 8:00am |
Use this please.
Picture this: You walk into an eating establishment. You look to your left. And there is a woman in the seating area—where people eat—changing a baby’s diaper. Kind of makes you lose your appetite a little, does it not? This is the scene my family and I walked into when we went out for frozen yogurt last Sunday evening. I’ve been debating myself as to whether this is in fact as outrageous as I thought it was. Then I consider the immediate reaction my wife, always the cooler head of the two us and rarely one to instantly judge. She had the same initial reaction as I did. That is, “What the bleep is she doing?!”
I think this is unacceptable. There are societal norms that we have to adhere to even in cases of child-care emergency. Human feces and frozen yogurt do not mix. Ever. It’s gross. Not to mention unsanitary and just plain dirty. Just because we have children, it does not excuse us from thinking of other people when we are in public with our children. Sure, there are times when we need to let our child have the tantrum in the store. But there are also times when we need to give them a Snickers bar to avoid the meltdown in the checkout lane. Same theory applies to diaper changing. Use the bathroom. If there is no changing table in there, shame on the establishment. But we certainly can’t expect every place of business with a public restroom to be equipped with a changing station in the restroom. It would be nice, but that not realistic.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 8:00am |
So, you want to send your child to a Montclair public elementary school? You’re touring the schools this week. Perhaps you’re just like me and my wife and you moved here for the public schools. Yet, choosing one is more difficult than choosing which frozen yogurt shop in town to patronize. (And there are as nearly just as many of each.) Funny thing is we asked for this whole school tour song and dance by choosing Montclair to begin with. So I, veteran of my one and only school tour of duty just last year, am here to help you.
First, prepare for five months of unmitigated angst. It’s unavoidable. Why we get ourselves so worked up over something we can’t control is a question I am not trained to answer. But you’ll sweat the Montclair School tours. You’ll find something to love and not to love about each school. You’ll sweat over your top three, and where to place them. You’ll then stop sweating for a month or so, until you run into a parent from daycare over the summer and inevitably and involuntarily you both start sweating again together. But at least you’ll have each other. The angst will most definitely come… and stay. All the way up to when the Board of Ed letters get sent out. Then you’ll get mail angst because half the town will get their letters the day before the other half.
I know it’s difficult, but try to relax. Take a deep breath, and keep a few things in mind…
BY Justin Mannato | Sunday, Mar 17, 2013 1:00pm |
Len Bias was a star and everyone knew it. Some say his talent rivaled Michael Jordan’s. The Boston Celtics drafted him with the second pick in 1986. He was going to be huge. Then he made a bad decision. Two days after the Celtics drafted him, he used a large amount of cocaine and it killed him. I remember Len Bias. I remember hearing about his death, and him being the first athlete I ever heard of who died. I remember wondering why, then hearing why, then thinking I’m never going to do that.
That’s where the Born Ready Project comes in. It teaches teens and young adults how one bad decision could change, even end, your life. This generation may be too young to have ever heard of Len Bias. Now, author Dave Ungrady is keeping his legacy alive and spreading the word through the Born Ready Project and his book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias. The Born Ready Project teaches life skills to teenagers and young adults. Crucial skills needed to avoid that one potentially fatal mistake. Ungrady will be speaking at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center tomorrow, Monday March 18th.
BY Justin Mannato | Tuesday, Mar 05, 2013 9:30am |
A couple of football players engaged in an anything-you-can-do Twitter war of words last week. They were arguing over which player was superior at the position they both play. Typical trash talking between testosterone-filled macho athletes, each of whom thinks he is better. I will not bore you with the details of their respective arguments, except to point out one of the so-called insults that one of the players—Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets—hurled at the other. He called Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks a “little girl.” This hurt Sherman’s pride so much he later defended his perpetuating the social-media back-and-forth by saying, “I’m not gonna let (him) call me a little girl.”
Perish the thought.
Someone needs to explain to me why this is used so often as an insult. And why it’s acceptable.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 11:00am |
Kids these days are a lot more coddled than when I was growing up. I say that at the risk of sounding like my parents and grandparents, something we as parents try to avoid one way or another despite its inevitability. As far as coddled children go, my daughter is no exception. We cheer her every success, no matter how insignificant. Whether she reads a sentence in a new book or writes her capital letters neatly, I’m right there saying, “Good job.” I’m giving her a high-five and telling her how proud I am of her.
I’m not sure why we do this. Why we applaud and reward the ordinary. Maybe it’s because our parents—my parents—were tough on us when all we wanted was the occasional pat on the back. It is with my and my wife’s over-abundance of pats on the back in mind that I read about a recent study that shows college-aged kids consider themselves more special than ever before. They have a record level of self worth. But with that feeling of accomplishment, even though they’ve accomplished very little if anything, comes a feeling of entitlement.
That’s because growing up, they got spoiled. They received trophies and ribbons for just showing up. They received over-stuffed goody bags for attending overly-elaborate birthday parties. They never learned how to lose. They rarely if ever felt what it’s like to work hard and still lose.
BY Justin Mannato | Friday, Jan 11, 2013 8:00am |
On Saturday, the Ray Lewis farewell tour travels to Denver to play the Broncos in an NFL playoff. Lewis is the linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, arguably the best at his position ever to play the game. He has received a lot of fanfare since recently announcing that this season would be his last. There has been no shortage of bouquets thrown his way, including a victory lap around the stadium at his final home game last weekend. A victory lap that was replayed ad nauseam the next day. Lost in the celebration of a football career in our sports-crazed society, many forget or choose to forget that Lewis was accused of murder not too long ago.
Lewis pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and avoided jail time. The murder for which he was charged was never solved. His “image” has undergone such a meteoric rehabilitation that he now endorses several products and will serve as a football analyst on ESPN upon retirement. Lewis even cited that it’s, “time to be a daddy” to his children as his reason for retiring. Excuse me for not being overjoyed with his newfound commitment to fatherhood. No one is arguing that Lewis is an outstanding football player. As a football fan, a dad, and a human being I just have a hard time with the celebrating and hero worship.
I wince when I see kids wearing jerseys of athletes who are not even close to being role models, and in some cases are criminals. I was one of those kids. One of my childhood heroes was Mark Gastineau, the defensive lineman for the New York Jets. Gastineau once held the single-season record for quarterback sacks. He was known for doing an obnoxious dance after tackling the quarterback that I loved and often emulated. Gastineau, however, was not a good guy off the field: domestic violence, drug possession, jail time, and a deadbeat no-show dad. He’s no hero.
BY Justin Mannato | Tuesday, Jan 01, 2013 10:00am |
For a while, my wife and I had been looking to take our five year old daughter to her first Broadway show. Given the cost, however, we were in no hurry. As luck would have it, we found an offer for discounted tickets to Mary Poppins on Broadway, and thought it would be a perfect Christmas gift for my daughter and my mom. (We had introduced the movie to our daughter over the summer and she loved it.)
We were not disappointed.
Mary Poppins is two and a half hours of pure joy. It has all of the familiar songs you love and characters you remember, plus some new ones. Of course, the show’s plot does stray from the film. (A lot, actually.) But I think that’s to be expected. If you go into it with an open mind, it won’t bother you. The good thing for kids my daughter’s age, and a little younger, is there are no scary parts. There is, however, a mean nanny who replaces Mary right after intermission. She’s so over-the-top mean it’s funny, though.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Dec 20, 2012 8:00am |
Words can injure. We all know this. Like me, I am sure you’ve been on both the giving and receiving ends of nasty language, spoken or written. In light of recent events, perhaps an examination of how we talk to each other, and how we teach our children to talk to others, is in order. Small steps.
Something that happened with my daughter prompted me to examine the words she chooses, but more important, the words I choose. She came home from school with a note from her teacher one day this week. Apparently, she had used some inappropriate language towards another student, then lied about it. A big double no. So her teacher let us know. Always one to assume the best of my otherwise angel of a child, I immediately imagined the possibility that the other kid deserved it. As I snapped back into reality, I knew what she said wasn’t right. But I was conflicted about how big of a deal we needed to make of it. (It sparked quite a conversation with plenty of strong opinions on my blog’s Facebook page.)
She told a boy in her Kindergarten class to “Shut up.” This was the second such instance in the past few months. Making it worse, when her teacher asked her if she had said it, she denied it. “Shut up” isn’t nice. We don’t condone it. We don’t say it. Or do we? As we sat at the dinner table, I asked her where she heard that from. You can imagine my surprise when she pointed at me. I felt like the dad in the old anti-drug PSA from the 1980′s. “I learned it from watching you, dad.” I was a little horrified. Turns out, she’s right. I do say it. So does my wife. We say it in jest, as a colloquial replacement for, “Get out of here.”
BY Justin Mannato | Sunday, Dec 16, 2012 8:00am |
We keep hearing one word perhaps more than any other to describe the horrific events that came out of Newtown, CT on Friday: unimaginable. We assign words like this during times like these because it’s true: No one can imagine such a cold, senseless murder of innocents. In watching the news coverage, I came upon an interview with a psychologist who said the problem with “unimaginable” is we keep crossing the line of what horrors we can’t imagine. Society keeps redefining it. And now, as disgusting as it may seem, unimaginable is now defined by something WORSE than this. Hard to believe.
So I forced myself to imagine. I sat there at my desk at work and I imagined the terrifying scene. But I didn’t imagine it Newtown. I imagined it here. In my daughter’s Kindergarten classroom. Because, no longer unimaginably, that parallel now exists. I imagined her classroom, cheery and bright. A place that’s warm, inviting, nurturing. A place meant to ease fears. I imagined her sweet little face, ready to tackle the day like any other, and those of her classmates, unaware of the terror about to consume them. I imagined her two wonderful teachers who have been so patient and kind in helping her grow so much over the past few months. Women who have decided to make it their life’s work to help produce smart, kind, engaged, members of society, knowing it doesn’t pay nearly as much as it should.
It was as awful as anyone could imagine.
When I was done, I cried. I mourned. I prayed for the victims and their families, and for forgiveness that my mind could be capable of such atrocious thoughts. Yet, I still can’t wrap my head around it.
BY Justin Mannato | Thursday, Nov 29, 2012 1:30pm |
I have to be honest. It doesn’t take much to get me choked up this time of year. What can I say? I’m a big pile of Yuletide mush. Everything from holiday songs and movies to the look of joy on my daughter’s face this time of year can evoke an emotion in me. They all give me that tingly, sniffly, eye-watering, cough-to-hide-the-tears feeling. And that is what I got on the North Pole Express at the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad.
Think Polar Express, but take out the hypnotic animation and replace it with good old-fashioned real people. A man goes from car to car playing Christmas songs on his banjo as you sing along and snack on cookies and hot chocolate in the process. Your children dress in their pajamas just like in the movie. But unlike the movie, Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves are on board. They come around to every child to take a picture, ask what they want for Christmas, and give them each a special little gift.
The whole thing is adorable and takes about an hour and a half as you watch the Bucks County countryside roll by out the window. Just over an hour from Baristaville, this train ride is fun, festive, and memorable. It’s become an annual tradition for us. Tickets are a little pricey and be careful if you’re parking in the lot adjacent to the railroad entrance. That’s pricey too.
But I must say, it’s worth it. For nothing else than to see the look on your child’s face, and maybe even to see a grown man get choked up.