When I picked up my son after school a few days ago, he walked slowly to the door, head down and quiet. He normally bounds over to me when I show up at the end of the day. He got his hat and jacket on without saying much, and we walked out to the car.
When we got home I opened the car door, and he looked like he was about to cry. “I don’t want you to go on another trip,” he said.
That morning we had talked about the fact that I was leaving in a few days for a conference. I had only just returned home from another trip. “I just want some special time with you and me,” he said, reaching out and grabbing my hand. We decided that we’d go out for dinner together that night, and get ice cream afterwards.
An hour later we walked out the front door and he stopped in his tracks, looking up at the night sky. It was a clear, cold winter night, and the stars filled the sky. He smiled as he looked up at in awe. Usually we eat dinner around six, get ready for bed by seven and are reading books by eight. So he hasn’t had that many chances to see the night sky, so dark and deep and full.
I just watched him studying the stars, seeing the world through his eyes, feeling his wonder and thinking about how some goodbyes never become routine. I wanted to hold on to that moment. (more…)
Around Thanksgiving of last year my wife and I rewrote the lyrics to Lorde’s song “Royals” from the perspective of over-tired parents. We called the song “Rested” and posted it here on my blog and on Facebook. Here is the chorus:
We’ll never be rested
Now that we have kids
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We gotta find a different kind of buzz
A few weeks later my friend Lisa Hilary recorded our lyrics, and that is when our parody started to take off.
In the last month the song has been viewed nearly one million times, at one point getting more than 200,000 hits a day for a few days. Our parody started getting played on the radio and we got invited to go on CNN’s Headline News.
The best part however, was the amazing response from other parents who felt like the song validated their struggles and sleeplessness. The comments section on the post quickly filled up with people commiserating about never feeling rested, offering support and lots of advice.
Throughout all of this, people said to me over and over again, “Don’t worry – it get’s better. You’ll sleep again someday.” But here is the thing, while I would love a few more hours of sleep, the truth is I don’t want to be rested. (more…)
I may read most of my news online, but I still get a print newspaper delivered to my doorstep everyday. I have lots of reasons for doing this but mostly I do it support local journalists and to have journalism be a visible presence for my kids.
At any given point we have a few days’ newspapers lying around the house, along with a few magazines we still subscribe to. The kids see an interesting picture or headline that captures their attention. It sparks conversation, makes them curious about their community and the world around us. We’ll often go from discussing an article in the paper, to looking up something on YouTube and reading more about it online. So I’m not opposed to screens in any way, but I do appreciate the serendipity and spontaneity the physical paper provides.
It is also a way for my kids to understand first-hand the work I do every day on press freedom and media policy.
I’m lucky that my kids are voracious readers and are drawn to anything that has words on it. In the piles of children’s books around our house I began noticing that a lot of them depicted newspapers. I decided to document representations of newspapers and journalism in kids’ books we owned.
Lorde’s song “Royals” was everywhere in 2013. But my wife and I wondered, what if instead of a 17 year-old superstar, it was overtired parents of young kids who had written this song. The lyrics below are the result. My friend, singer/songwriter Lisa Hillary recorded our lyrics and it is amazing. Listen to the track and go check out Lisa’s music.
My son pumped his legs against the hard plastic pedals, willing away the late afternoon heat, as he aimed his bike towards the puddle in front of him. He rocked back and forth as the pedals turned, thinking only about how fast he could go. And then, his wheels cut into the water with a hiss that seemed to split the puddle in half, like Moses with training wheels. He laughed as he looked back at the wet tire tracks drawing out behind him. (more…)
NPR used to be a morning ritual for me. Wake up, make coffee, turn on NPR. But for the last few months I have vacated that part of the radio dial, tuning in only occasionally, often when I’m alone in my car.
I was at the Boston Children’s Museum with my family on December 14, when I learned about the Sandy Hook shooting. Checking Twitter absent-mindedly while waiting in line, I saw the first tweets and news reports filling my stream. I looked up from my phone to a cacophony of kids laughing and playing around me, many of whom were the same age as the kids who were killed just minutes earlier.
Image via Flickr user Duane Romanell
On the drive home that day my wife and I were careful not to turn on NPR in the car with our two boys in the back seat. Since then, we’ve listened to a lot less public radio in our house. The Sandy Hook shooting coincided with my son turning four. While I’m sure he’s been aware of the media and discussions around him up to this point, recently he’s been a sponge for everything he hears.
For a lot of us who have children around the age of the Sandy Hook victims, that tragedy shook us to the core. But the endless media coverage of the event created new challenges as we tried to shield our kids from news of the tragedy.
This morning when I woke up, I made coffee and turned on the radio – it was tuned to NPR. My son was already eating his breakfast in the kitchen and before I could reach the dial words like “explosion” and “dead” came tumbling out. The devastation of Boston was brought into our little house so quickly. I changed the channel, I don’t think he noticed, but I don’t know. When I went to get the newspaper on my front steps images of the Boston marathon tragedy filled the front page. I folded it up and hid it from view. (more…)
As a parent, I think a lot about the world we are creating for our children. As an advocate for press freedom and digital rights I think a lot about the web we are creating for our children too.
A lot of my work centers around creating more democratic structures and policies that shape our media, and pushing back on the companies that want to assert more and more control over the Internet. But I also think a lot about how the Internet changes the ways we communicate with each other, and thus the ways we relate to each other. When I get sucked into a Twitter fight, see a particularly ugly comment thread, or hear about bullying and harassment online, I wonder what kind of web my kids will inherit from us.
That’s why I was so struck when I read Jeff Jarvis’ blog post “We get the net—and society—we build.” Jarvis’ post (a response to this post from Amanda Palmer on “Internet hate” – also a must read) puts into words a few things I have been feeling in my gut for sometime. He writes:
“We are building the norms of our new net society. It can go either way; there’s nothing, absolutely nothing to say that technology will lead to a better or worse world. It only provides us choices and the opportunity to show our own nature in what we choose. Will you support the fights, the attacks, the hate? Or will you stand up for the victims and against the bullies and trolls and their cheering mobs who gleefully tweet, ‘Fight! Fight!’?”
Jarvis’s post is a profound reminder that each of us is making the web as we go along. Our tweets, our Facebook posts, our Instagram photos, our Reddit comments are both literally and figuratively the links that hold the web together. Online our actions don’t speak louder than words, our words are our actions, and we should make them count. (more…)
I took advantage of my holiday time off to catch up on my Instapaper read later list. As I read I try to tweet out the best articles, or key ideas I’m grappling with, but some pieces demand more than a tweet (but less than a full blog post). Here are three articles whose ideas I’m still mulling over and that I think deserve more attention.
Washington Post – Stop guessing whether a bill will work. Instead, test it.
Political reporter Dylan Matthews proposes a federal agency dedicated to running experiments on public policy proposals before legislation is adopted. The idea here is to test what will and won’t work in the real world and bring that research to bear on political debates. While I like Matthews’ idea of testing legislation, I also wonder how this might be built into solutions journalism that would be dedicated to helping us address wiked problems. This idea also seems like a powerful way to counteract the trend of hindsight journalism. It may not be an either/or, I’d like to see both governments and news organizations taking up some of these ideas and challenges and adopting a model of creating legislation that looks a bit more like agile development and participatory community planning.
Reporters’ Lab – Creating a newsroom ‘answer machine’
I’ve long been deeply interested in how news organizations can better leverage their archives to help serve the public, add context to current events, and drive new traffic to their site. Tyler Dukes’ proposal for using news organizations’ archives to help create a newsroom “answer machine” is superb, while not without its challenges. He focuses on how this type of project could help improve reporting but I can see wonderful applications of this kind of app in politics and education as well. For another great project focused on better using media archives be sure to check out the recently launched Pop Up Radio Archive.
Designing for Diversity – Designing Creative Technology Playgrounds for Families
I have been thinking about the role of play in my own work as well as in the lives of my two sons. My life has been animated by a healthy tension between my fascination with technology and my affinity for wilderness and the outdoors. Where these two passions intersect is in the realm of play and exploration. Whether it was dismantling kitchen appliances and putting them back together or building wilderness shelters and treehouses, I loved to make things and engage actively in the world – both natural and manmade. I want to nurture that same passion in my sons, regardless of what their interests are – music or machines, art or airplanes, trees or technology – I hope they’ll approach it all with playfulness and a sense of wonder. This post, a summary of a discussion at MozFest in London, touches on some of those themes.
In a Facebook post hours after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the often provocative talk show host wrote, “Sorry but prayers and giving your kids hugs fix nothing: only having the balls to stand up to our insane selfish gun culture will.”
And Maher wasn’t alone. In the hours that followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary I saw that sentiment echoed across the web. “Stop being sentimental and starting fighting,” people seemed to be saying.
I’m a parent of young children, one of which is almost in elementary school himself. My first response when I heard about the shooting was to hold my family close and tight. In that moment I never wanted to let go.
I believe that people have a right to demand better media, a responsibility to fight for better media and the capacity to help create better media.
And I believe this fight is critical to every other issue we care about, from education to the environment, but it is also critical to our democracy. If we believe in a government of the people, for the people and by the people, we need a media that can help make that possible.
For all its joys, parenting can be painful. After the birth of my two sons, who are three and a half years apart, I went through very different kinds of pain. The pain that accompanied my first son was very physical, whereas the experience of my second son has been much more emotionally challenging. Even now, after a few months of being a family of four, I’m still struck by the dynamic between these two types of pain. (more…)
Not long after my son was born, a friend and fellow parent said that in parenting the only constant is change. At the time, I took her comment to mean something akin to “Oh they grow up so quick.” But as the years go on, I realize that she was saying something much more profound and important.
As a parent, the persistence of change cuts both ways. It can inspire great relief and great regret. It can help you let go on a rough day, and can make you want to hold on with all your might on a good day. It dulls the aching of long toddler tantrums, and amplifies the strength of big bear hugs. There is nothing like parenting to remind us that all of this is fleeting.
The notion of ever-present change comes at least in part from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who is said to have written, “You can not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing over you.” These fleeting moments, this constant flow, should somehow make us feel hopeless, and sometimes it does. But most parents I talk to don’t feel that way. Instead, change just becomes a part of who we are and how we move through the world. Like a sailboat, tacking against the wind, back and forth, cutting across the current and moving steadily upstream. (more…)
We probably read between five and ten books a day with my son. A few when he wakes up, a few before dinner or nap time, a few before bed. He is rarely happier than when he is curled up with a book, even if he’s just looking at the pictures.
Recently he’s started telling us his own stories. Sometimes he’ll pick up a book as if to read it and make up a story, other times he’ll be playing with his trains or dolls and enacting some drama, sometimes he just asks if we want to hear a story and makes something up off the top of his head.
Here is one of this recent stories: “Once upon a time there was a muscle man an a rhinoceros swimming in the water. They saw something fly over their heads. It was a soccer ball. They wanted to fly on it – so they climbed a ladder and got on. And the soccer ball went like this: zoom!” (more…)
Our back yard slopes down and away from the house. It is a former river bed, and has been carved gently over time. Decades ago, the town of Easthampton rerouted the river, bending it dramatically away from our property. What remains behind my house is a little stream, a minor tributary, a ribbon of still water winding through a young forest and a think tangle of wetlands.
From our kitchen window, which faces southwest, we have seen wild turkeys wading through three feet of snow, young deer with their white spots shining in the morning light and rabbits that bolt almost as soon as you set eyes on them. We’ve had a mother bear and cubs walk alongside our house and down through the yard, and at night we often hear coyotes, the young cubs’ howls sound like screams. Squirrels leave husks from our walnut tree around the yard and moles twist long tunnels beneath the grass. Birds fill the morning thick with song. Sparrows, bluejays, and crows tumble through the air, chasing each other from branch to branch, while herons sail with slow grace through the trees and huge hawks circle above watching it all.
My wife and I lift our young son up onto the kitchen counter, where he kneels with his hands pressed against the window, looking out across our wild backyard. Sometimes he responds with bright glee bubbling up, pointing and babbling with excitement. Other times he just stares in quiet awe, studying the animals as they move across our yard and disappear into the shadowy forest. Holding him there, my hands on his knees, his small back pressed up against my chest, I feel his heart beat and his deep breaths expand and contract. Through his eyes I see the world anew and share in the wonder of those moments. (more…)
In college there was a gang of about ten of my friends who taught each other to solve the Rubik’s Cube. At our most competitive, we’d race each other to see who could solve the puzzle the fastest. Some of us went as far as to spray WD-40 in the cracks to make it spin faster. Other time, when we were feeling more philosophical, we’d sit around twisting the cube into complex patterns and talk about the satisfaction of picking up a mixed up cube and solving it. It was an opportunity to fix something, to create order out of chaos.
These days, my house is a Rubik’s Cube – everyday, creating order out of chaos. (more…)