Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An appeal to my readers




I received an email the other day from a representative of Penguin/Random House. I’m self-publishing a book that was made possible through generous donations to a crowd funding campaign. Someone from Lulu (the publisher I am paying to format my book) passed the manuscript on to them, and he just wanted to let me know that I’m close, and that if I had more substantial online following he’d be interested in publishing my book. When I asked him what that meant he said, “North of 50,000 in your kind of genre.”

My heart sank.

But I wasn’t surprised.

In the past two years I have contacted 226 literary agents, and 30 small presses. Most of them have told me something similar. They think I’m talented. They are impressed with my publications in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post… But until I gain a stronger social media following, they are not interested. I suppose this is what it means to be an author in the age of the Internet. So little of it has to do with talent. Everything has to do with Facebook and Twitter likes.

I studied creative writing for almost 10 years. My life goal has always been to publish a book with a major publisher because I feel that I have a good message. I honestly want to help families be stronger. I want to help couples realize that parenting is a challenge and that the frustrations you are feeling are normal. The best way to get my message out is by publishing a book through a major publisher, and every time I get a message like the one above I realize I need your help.

But I’ve always struggled with just how to ask.

But here it goes.

Five days a week I post on my blog, and I am honestly blown away that I have readers. I love your comments. I love your perspectives. I love that you enjoy reading my work. I don’t want to ask anything more of you. But I’m frustrated. I truly feel that I have a worthwhile message that should be seen by more people, and if you are reading this, I assume you feel the same. Please help me increase my following. If you read something that strikes you, share it. If you read my blog each night with your partner (I know that many of you do) tell your friends about me. If I’ve made you laugh about some frustrating part of parenting, share it with your friends. When you visit my Facebook page, click on “invite friends to like this page” and let others know how I’ve touched your life, your marriage, your understanding of family, and how I might be able to touch their lives, too.

If you can’t tell, I’m struggling a bit writing this because I don’t like asking for help. Particularly from people who've been so generous with their time. You sitting down and reading my words means the world to me.

But I don’t know how I am going to get my work to more readers without asking for your help.

Best,

Clint Edwards
No Idea What I’m Doing: a daddy blog.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Explaining my bad example to my 8-year-old



I was drinking a Coke Zero at the kitchen table when my 8-year-old son asked if he could have a soda. I reminded him that he only gets one soda a week, and that he had that soda yesterday.

“But you get like a million sodas a day, Dad,” he said. “That’s not fair.

A million is a high estimate, but it is true. I drink a lot of soda.

I’ve been hearing things like this a lot from him recently. Everything seems to be an example of injustice. I ask him to make is his bed, and he reminds me that my bed was not made this morning. I ask him to take a shower, and he asks if I took a shower. He’s at this age where everything should be about equality, and if I don’t live up to my own standards, then I am seen being unfair.

“Tristan,” I said. “Someday you will be able to decide how many sodas you can have in a week. But right now, that is not the case.”

Tristan was in a t-shirt that read, “Awesome Oregon Dude,” and a pair of blue cargo shorts. He placed his hands on his hips and narrowed his blues eyes, like he always does when I say something like that. His face, his eyes, reminded me a lot of myself when my mother used to tell me things like that.

 “If you get a soda, then I get a soda,” he said.

We argued for a bit. We went back and forth. I reminded him about the rules. I told him that he has rules, and I have rules, and they are different depending on age and position in life. But regardless of what I said, he didn’t like my answer because nothing was leading to him getting to drink more soda.

This is one of my biggest problems with being a parent… being the example. Because the fact is, I’m a bad example. I wouldn’t say that I am a horrible example. I don’t drink or do drugs. I’ve never been in jail, and I do my best to treat my family right. It’s really just the petty stuff. The small things. The things that seem like a big deal to an 8-year-old, but in the grand scheme of life don’t really mean crap. Things like eating chips before dinner, or leaving my clothes on the bedroom floor, or not putting away my cereal bowl after breakfast. The sad thing is, I should have learned all of these things years ago. I should have them down. But I don’t. And I know that I need to teach my son how to do them, so I tell him to do it, but I don’t really want to make those changes myself. Which, at the age of 8, is seen as unfair, and as a teen, he will see me as a hypocrite.

I was the same way with my parents. They enforced rules that they didn’t always follow, and I hated it. Only now, as a parent myself, do I see how little things can lead to big things. I see how I need to give my son structure and rules. However, I am really crappy at following them. This is one of those horrible, vicious, cycles of parenting that proves that I am flawed, and yet, my position as a father has placed me in a position to be seen as superior.

After a few moments of arguing with Tristan, I finally opened up.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. “I have a problem. I drink way too much soda, and I know it. I need to stop, but I’m not doing a very good job. Part of it is your baby sister. She keeps me up in the night. And I work too many hours. I have a hard time staying awake in the day, so I drink soda. I don’t expect you to understand any of this, but I hope that you do. But here is what I want from you. I want you to be better than me. I want you to be stronger and healthier. I want you to not have my bad habits. So that's why Mom and I set this rule. That’s why we set a lot of rules. Because we wish someone would have helped us learn how to not do certain things as kids, so that we wouldn’t do them as adults. Does this make sense?”

Tristan thought about what I said for a moment. His eyes shifted back and forth. I couldn’t tell if he understood, or if he was still trying to find a way to use my bad example as a way to get more soda.

After a few moments of silence I said,” Tristan. I’m not always going to be a great example. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to follow the rules. It means that I gave you the rules so that you will become a better adult than I am.”

Tristan looked at my soda can on the table. Then he let out a breath, curled his lips, and said, “I just don’t think its fair.”

“It’s not, Tristan. I’m sorry. But please realize that I want the best for you. Do you understand that?”

He put his head down and nodded.

“Let’s go to the park,” I said. “And stop worrying about soda.”

“Okay,” he said. “I will get my soccer ball.”

It is in moments like our argument over soda that I worry I am ruining my son. I feel like a contradiction. I feel under qualified. I want to be the example he needs, but I know that I never will be. All I can be is honest.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.   

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What it means to be a decisive husband



It was a Saturday and Mel and I were planning to go out to dinner. We had a babysitter for the kids. Yet, we hadn’t decided where to eat.

Mel was standing in the kitchen wearing blue jean Capri pants and a pink shirt. We hadn’t been out on a date in over a month, so I know she was excited. The kids were watching a movie in the living room. The sitter would arrive in about 20 minutes.

“Where are we going to go?” Mel asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Where do you want to go?”

Mel let out an irritated breath.

“I wish you’d be more decisive,” she said.

I slumped a bit.

“Why do I always have to be decisive?” I asked.

“Because you are the man,” she said. “I just wish you’d plan something. That would be the sweet thing to do.”

We’d been married for over 10 years, and I’d been hearing this from her since we got engaged. As a man, I’m supposed to be the decisive one. The one to make decisions. But I don’t really like the role because I often fail. If I pick the wrong place to eat, then suddenly I am the one to blame. I feel like I screwed up somehow. I hate it, honestly. This goes for big decisions and small decisions. I’m more of a let’s discuss this and figure out something we both like’ kind of guy. Which, I assume, is not sexy. However, I think in a lot of ways it has been really beneficial in our marriage. I don’t throw my weight around. I don’t try to make Mel do what I want, all the time. But in situations like this, it seems to backfire.

“I just don’t get it,” I said. “Why do you always expect me to be the one to make the decision when it comes to dates. I’d rather make sure that we go somewhere that we both agree on. That we will both enjoy. If I just pick a place, most likely it will be wrong, and then I will be to blame. And then I will get to hear all about it.”

Mel thought about what I said, and as her eyes scanned my face, I couldn’t decide if she was frustrated because I still hadn’t yet figured out some simple thing about her and our marriage, or if it was because she was searching for a way to explain some simple truth.

“I just…” she paused for a moment, searching for the words. “I want you to plan something because it means that you were thinking about me. It means that you put effort into us. Into me. I need that sometimes.”

When Mel said this to me, I got irritated. I felt picked on and unappreciated and unnoticed.

“I put effort into us…” I said. I went on, telling her how I was a good husband. I listed how often I said that I loved her. I reminded her about all the times I brought her flowers. I was in the middle of talking myself up when the sitter arrived.

We silently got in the van, and I just drove to a local Mexican place, the same one we always go to.

When we parked I said, “There. I picked a place.”

At dinner, we sat in silence, both of us looking at our phones, trying to look like a normal couple, but looking more like strangers sharing a table. I thought about what Mel said about me picking a place, and how it shows that I think about her. Never in my whole life had I thought about it that way, and honestly, I didn’t want to think of it that way. How could she not know that I think about her? Everything I did was for her and the family. I wanted to stay angry. I wanted to continue to feel unappreciated. But as the meal went on, I thought about it more. I calmed down.

I have always been more worried about making sure that she got what she liked, and the only way I could figure out how to do that was by asking her. I suppose I’d felt burned in the past. When we first got married, I’d suggest that we go here, or there. Or I’d just go out and buy her something, and she says things like, “That sweet, but it isn’t really what I wanted.” I’d get frustrated, and eventually, I just stopped trying to surprise her, and started asking her for the right answer. Ultimately, this has made our marriage very democratic. We discuss everything, from bills, to kids, to where to eat, but when it comes to wooing her, I think she wanted to know that I tried. I suppose that’s where we are in our marriage. We are not in our early 20s anymore, when getting exactly what you want is of prime importance. Now, in our 30s, its about making sure that the person you are with after all this time really understands that you still love them, despite how tired they might look after a long day with kids, or a long day at work. It’s not only about telling or showing, but doing both so that the one you love knows, without a doubt, that after all these years, you still really care.

I was halfway though my burrito before I said, “I’m sorry for getting mad.”

Mel looked up at me and said, “You don’t have to be sorry. I was just being silly, I guess.”

We talked about who was being silly and who wasn’t for a bit. We started to laugh. And then I said, “I will work on this whole planning thing. I just get so wrapped up with work and the kids, I just feel like I can’t seem to focus on much else. But I can, I’m sure. I just want you to know that I love you, and if planning something shows that, then it’s worth it.”

Mel smiled and said, “You’re a sweet guy. And you have cheese on your chin.”

I wiped my face with a napkin, and we both laughed.



Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.   

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stupid advice I get from college students and how I’d like to respond



I work at a university, and I get a lot of unsolicited advice from college students on how I could be healthier and happier as an adult. It all seems so easy to them, and outwardly, I am always gracious. But deep inside, I want to lay into them about what real life in your 30s with three kids is all about. Here are a few examples.

"All that diet soda is killing you. You’d be a lot happier if you quit."

Somewhere between having kids and buying a minivan, 7 a.m. became sleeping in. Want to know why I drink so much diet soda? Because I’m exhausted from getting up in the night with pukey, boogery, thirsty children. They fight going to bed each night, and get up far too early. They wake me up in the night with poop and pee in their pants. Last time we spoke, you bitched because you only got 7 hours of sleep. Boo hoo. I get that much sleep in two days. I. Need. Caffeine.

"An iPhone 4? You need to update yourself."

Kiss my ass! I don’t have money to spend on phone upgrades and I don’t have time to figure out SnapChat. I know that most of your money goes to looking awesome, staying connected with friends, and getting laid. Good for you. Happy for you. My money goes to paying for insurance, a house payment, and baby food. Sometimes we order pizza, but it’s usually the kind you can get for $5. Listen. Someday you will have to lower your standards. Someday you will realize that it’s been almost a decade since you bought a new album, and unless your clothing has holes in it, you just make it last. You will worry more about your kid and bills than making sure you have the newest phone. That’s adult life. That’s what making family sacrifices looks like. But for know, enjoy your latest’s toy. Keep yourself updated. But please, stop judging 30 something’s for not keeping up with your dumb ass priorities.

"If you cared about your body, you’d switched to an all-natural organic diet."

Here are the problems with your advice. My kids have a huge influence on what I eat, and they eat three things: Dinosaur shaped meat, Mac and Cheese, and the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. None of that is natural or organic. I’ve tried everything short of prying open my kids mouths and shoving good food in. Last time I tried to give my son a burrito, he gave it a terrified look, as if the burrito were a long dark cave… And do you know how much organic and natural food costs? I don’t have money for plants that people cared about. I work in education. I have money for GMO’s. I have money for mass produced food. You know what, you are probably right. But honestly, my nutrition isn’t that big of a deal right now. I’m worried about making ends meet and not listening to my kids bitch every single meal because they don’t like the food.

"You always have white stains on your clothes. Don’t you care about the way you look?"

I always start the day in clean, stain free clothing. But then kids puke on me. Or they wipe boogers on my jeans. Deal with it.

"You should spend more time doing things you enjoy. Stop being a slave to your kids."


My kids are my life. I am not a slave to them. This is a labor of love. I want them in my life. I want them to be happy and successful, and for that to happen, I have to put a lot of things aside. I don’t mind, honestly, because they are worth it.

Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sometimes meltdowns make me feel like a parenting failure



My five-year-old Norah was tasked with cleaning the dinner table. Instead she locked herself in the bathroom and played with the faucet. Once I found her in there, she told me she had a cut on her toe, and she needed to look at it.

“Why is the water on and the door locked,” I asked.

She didn’t answer, so I asked again, and she told me to go away.

She’d had her face painted like a pink and green cat earlier that day while at the farmer’s market, and ever since, she’d been crawling around on all fours, pretending to be a cat. I was sure she was in the bathroom looking at herself in the mirror, probably licking water from the sink.

This was her way of avoiding chores. She did shit like this all the time. I tell her to clean her room, and she hides in her toy box, or she tells me how hungry she is, or that she has a tummy ache, or she simply wanders off, into some room with a lock on the door. I feel this deep urgency to teach my daughter how to pitch in. There are a few reasons for this. One being I want her to take responsibility. I want her to know what it means to get work done. However, living in a small house, in a suburb, makes that challenging.

I was raised on a farm. There was always work to do. Work that took long hours in the hot Utah sun. However, that really isn’t the case with my kids. I don’t have cattle to feed, or fences to mend. I have a messy table and a messy living room and pee on my toilet. All of it needs to be taken care of, but it isn’t clearly needed for survival. A cow will not go hungry if my daughter doesn’t clear the table. When I was a farm kid, I could see that if something didn’t get done, the family might suffer. What I’m trying to say is, it’s difficult to teach my daughter work ethic and responsibility by asking her to clean up a few things around the house that probably seem arbitrary. But it’s all I have, so I make a big deal out of really stupid shit… like clearing the table.

Once I finally got Norah out of the bathroom, she took her sweet time cleaning. Then she insisted on having music because it “Makes her work faster,” something I didn’t know was possible. She seems to have two gears. Slow and lost. Once I got her the iPad so she could listen, she spent a significant amount of the time making sure the song playing was “cute.”

After 30 minutes of reminding her to get to work, I set a timer.

“You have 10 minutes to finish that table. If it’s not done by the time this sucker beeps, I am going to take away your play dresses.”

She gave me a blank look that almost seemed comical because of her cat face paint.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” I said. “You don’t seem to be working any faster.”

Norah place on hand on her hip and said, “It bothers me. But I’m not going to show you that because I don’t want you to know.” She raised her eyebrows.

It’s these little glimpses into teen life that makes me realize that my daughter is going to be a huge pain in the ass. I have no idea how to fix that.

“You are going to really show me that you care when that timer goes off and the table isn’t done.”

Once again, a blank stare.

She kept meandering, and part of me wanted to reminder her. I wanted to nag her. I wanted to make sure she got the table done because I hate punishing her. I hate it more than anything. I want her to do the right thing without me having to be the enforcer. I just want to tell me kids what to do, and have them do it. Show up, do your chores, and then play games. It’s not that hard. But that isn’t the case. Kids fight every step of everything for very stupid and petty reasons. Why clean up the table and help out the family, when you can dick around the bathroom sink for no reason? Why do what your parents ask the first time, when you can drag your feet until they are flaming pissed and start yelling? Everything is about testing boundaries.

Punishment has to be one of the crappiest parts of being a parent.

“That’s the timer,” I said.  “You’re not done.”

I walked into Norah’s room, and she chased after me saying, “Just don’t take my night dresses.”

Norah has a lot of dresses. Some of them light up, some of them have sparkles and fluffy curly things that I don’t understand. Those are just for play. Then there are her nightgowns that look like princess play dresses. She sleeps in one almost every night, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, those nightgowns were very important to her. I thought about the snarky thing she said earlier about not wanting me to know that my punishment bothered her. And as petty as it sounds, I wanted to know that my punishment was having an impact, so I took the nightgowns.

And once I had them in my hand, she started to cry. She clung to my leg, tears smearing her painted whiskers, asking me to give her princess nightgowns back.

I looked down at her crying, holding the dresses up and out of her reach, and I felt like an asshole.  There is something about making a little girl cry that is so punishing to a parent. But I stuck to my guns, and once Norah realized that I wasn’t going to budge, she ran into her room and slammed the door.

I sat out in the living room for a while. I told myself it was to make sure Norah calmed down, but it was really to let myself calm down. I took time to think about what I was doing, and wonder if all of this was worth it. I felt like the bad guy. I always do in situations like this. I wonder if I am taking things too far. Was a messy table worth making my daughter cry? I didn’t know. In the long run, I just wanted her to be the kind of person that could do what is asked of her, quickly, and without complaint, because that is a hug part of being successful in life.  I know that. But I struggle with how to teach it to my daughter.

I went into her room, ready to give her a very fatherly and rewarding talk, but once I looked at her smeared face paint, and watery eyes, I didn’t know what to say. So I asked her a question that I hated when I was a child. “Do you know why I sent you to your room?”

“Because I didn’t clean the table,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I sent you to your room for not listening to me. I want you so badly to understand how to do things that are asked of you because it’s a big deal later in life. It’s crazy, Norah. Little things become big things. And something little, like not cleaning the table when you are asked, can lead to not doing big things that your boss asks you when you grow up and get a job. I don’t know if all this means anything to you right now, but it will someday. I want you to become something amazing because I know that you can. Do you get what I’m saying?”

Norah let out a deep breath and said, “Yes, dad! Can I just go to bed now?”

Then she rolled her eyes, so I wiped the paint off her face, and put her to bed.

I went to bed frustrated, knowing that I would have to have this same fight again. And I would struggle to explain this simple rule of life, do what you are asked, to my daughter again. I will struggle with how to say it. And she will probably still not get it. This cycle will continue, because so much of parenting is about repetition. I just hope that someday, she gets it.


Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.