Identity theft is real. Share this with your loved ones.

If you care for your privacy or your families identity then you’re going to want to take a few moments to learn of my personal battle with Instagram. Whether you are a parent or not, this equally applies. If you know what catfish is, then you’ll have an inkling about how this story is going to unfold…

Becoming a dad was an unbelievably exciting moment for me (almost 2 1/2 years ago now) and it triggered my dad-brain. For those of you unaware of a dad-brain – it’s a clinically-real phenomenon that involves a hormonal change in a man’s brain when he actively engages as a hands-on dad. It involves an increased release of oestrogen – you can read the full details in The Boy Crisis book.

Anyways, I pondered for many months about sharing photos of my son online and in fact refrained from sharing any photos of Finn until after his first birthday. A large part of my motivation was to protect him from identity theft and online creeps but after reading The Happiest kids in the World I decided that parenting was more about risk assessment rather than risk avoidance. After all, what are the chances of someone actually cyber stalking me and my family?

And so – the Modern Dad IG account became a place where I shared my dad-journey with my followers. Within six months I had over 10,000 followers and wanted to use my channel as a place to connect with other parents, empower men to be hands-on dads and raise awareness of issues that were important to me. It all appeared to go great and I enjoyed the online parent community. However, I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks and I’ve started the process of removing all photos of Finn’s face. Why!? You might ask. Well, I was contacted by a woman around six weeks ago via Instagram direct message – she wasn’t a follower and so the message went into Instagram‘s version of Junkmail. She said we needed to talk as someone was impersonating me and blackmailing people. After a few more messages from her by email and Facebook I wrote back but was vigilant as I couldn’t be sure of her motives or if she was legitimate.

After several messages back and forth it appears that this lady and other women have been contacted via Instagram by a man using my images of Finn and I. These women subsequently fell in love with this “person” and this then lead to a digital relationship involving written exchanges of affection and nude photos.

The guy, known as Barry Woods, from Toronto would claim that his wife left him and the toddler, and took all of their money. He then sought financial support. If the woman refused to send money he would then blackmail her and in some cases he actually sent the woman’s naked photos to her friends or family via social media. This whole situation left me feeling sick. I just couldn’t imagine someone stealing photos of my son and using them to blackmail people. I started investigating and discovered a number of accounts using Finn and I as a guise. I reported them to Instagram and they shut the accounts down. I also contacted NetSafe, which is New Zealand’s place to go for online safety. Other concerns started to arise as this lady who claimed to be a lawyer from London spoke of the mans ties to Turkey, and his his possible sympathising with particular ideologies. It is now very clear to me that there are gangs or groups of people who earn millions of dollars through identity theft and fraud. They do not care who gets hurt along the way and they operate from behind a computer screen.

A lot of my recent reading has revolved around father-involvement in a child’s life and how critical a male role model can be in a child’s upbringing – particularly for boys. Boys who are unfortunate enough to lack a positive hands-on dad every single day (or at least 50-50 shared custody with mum) are far more likely to be delinquent, end up in prison, struggle at school, suffer emotionally and struggle in relationships. In fact, boys are six times more likely than girls to commit suicide from adolescence onwards. Read more on this in Warren Farrell’s amazing book.

Initially I felt angry that a man or a group of men (although some women obviously do this too) would steal my identity and use my sons face as a method to blackmail others. But as time has passed it has led me to transform my thinking. I am grateful for the incredible community around my family, genuine love and support from real, caring people. Community, is an essential element of well-being, a key ingredient to a purposeful and meaningful life here on earth. I feel sadness and pity for the individuals who sit behind screens and steal peoples identities. These people have not experienced the love of a father that I have. These people have no experience of boundary enforcement from their fathers like I did. They did not experience honest criticism and feedback from their father when they messed up like I did. I am imperfect and I strive to learn more, improve my contribution to society and admit my inadequacies. These keyboard warriors and criminals are drawn to gangs and crime because they are so desperate for a father figure, someone to lead them. Sadly they perceive their membership in a gang as worthy, giving them meaning. But as you and I know, nothing replaces being genuine and living in an ethical way. When you are wrong, admit it. When you make a mistake, learn from it. We all make mistakes. But these followers will never become leaders to their families or communities. Instead they will continue the negative spiral of fatherhood and pass down their moral compass to their sons and grandson‘s.

I have learned from this incident and I still don’t know what shape Modern Dad is going to take moving forward. I just know that my responsibility is to take care of my family. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s to showing gratitude to our communities. Be thankful for those whom you spend real in-person time with. Stay safe online. Stay vigilant. And applaud those dads whom you see doing a great job. For it is the greatest and most rewarding part of a man’s life.

James

Check out this article on staying safe online.

Parents need a little bit of the green stuff.

So, being a parent can be an absolute rollercoaster. Lots of highs, and some lows, and most certainly lots of sleepless nights. It can be draining on the body – so wouldn’t it be only fair if we dabbled in a bit of the green stuff to keep us on track?

Now, you hippie – parents, I’m not talking about the Jamaican green – I’m talking about ultimate nutrition. We need to try and ensure we get the essential nutrients in our bodies so that we can function in a healthy state. How many of you feel knackered at 6 PM and struggle to whip up a healthy, nutritious meal? How many of you know what basic vitamins and minerals you are missing? Well please don’t reach for your vitamin capsules, they really don’t offer you what you need. Yes, they are convenient but so is McDonald’s. Recently, I discovered Nutrient Rescue. It really piqued my interest.

1) It’s New Zealand made/grown

2) It’s a whole food

3) It’s largely organic

4) The science behind it passed my test

I decided to buy a one month starter Pack of the green and red shots. It arrived the next day, along with a shot glass and a mixing container. Some of you may think you’ve ordered a margarita park when it arrives – but trust me – this is way more exciting. Lisa and I are taking one green and one red shot every morning. The ‘shot’ – it’s plain and simple. You take 1 teaspoon of powder and a shot of water – shake it up, gulp it down and away you go. The ‘powder’ is golden – full of wholefood plant and fruit product – the taste is honest. No artificial sweetness. So the green one tastes like veggies and the red one like tangy currants. No bullshit – just honest, raw goodness.

After a week of consuming the Nutrient Rescue shots – I’m actually feeling a difference. It’s just a small shift, but noticeable – and Lisa has reported similar feelings. I’m feeling more energetic – instead of feeling drained at 8:30 PM and reaching for a cuppa, I’m motivated to read, write and be more productive. Instead – reaching for water and thus having a better sleep. I totally forgot to take my shot yesterday morning, and at 2 PM started to feel absolutely drained. I then recalled that I had forgot my nutrient rescue, so instead of reaching for a coffee, I grabbed my shot glass and it kept me going throughout the day. I have chatted to people here in my local community and several have spoken of their teenage children clearing up acne simply by implementing the green shot into their daily routine. No antibiotics, or expensive creams – just raw, natural, whole foods. Groundbreaking and positive for our bodies.

I’m excited to continue on the journey and share my experiences with you. In the meantime – please check out the science – and jump over to the nutrient rescue site. (please note – this link is not an affiliate link where I make a cut if you buy – it’s a plain old simple URL. I’m sharing this information about nutrient rescue because I think nutrition is important and it is what humanity needs and deserves. This is not a promotional advert, I have bought the product myself and enjoy it immensely).

Enjoy your green stuff!

Don’t read this if you’re a helicopter parent.

So if you’re a helicopter, hyper-politically-correct, perfect parent – don’t read this. This is for all you normal folks out there

I love my son to the moon and back, 20 times over. He is just amazing. My wife and I are totally in love with him. But we also realise that for this to work for Finn – we need to first and foremost have a healthy, loving relationship. And just to be clear, I am not suggesting we are the perfect couple, because I don’t believe anyone is. If we end up spending every waking moment committed to Finn then we won’t have the time needed to devote to each other. ‘Couple time’ is a real thing, and an essential ingredient for a functional relationship. Divorce is ugly, trust me, no kid wants to experience that. And yes, some couples are better not together, but I think every relationship needs work. It needs input. It requires good old-fashioned time and effort.

From about five or six months old, Lisa and I decided to take the leap of faith and let Finn have a sleep over with auntie Donna and uncle Jason – and it was the best decision for Finn, but also for us. Now, hand on heart, I will be honest – the first time he was sleeping over I cried. Yep, you heard me right. I missed the little dude! But I saw him the next day and he wasn’t phased – he had an amazing night and didn’t miss us one bit. He also developed a wonderful bond with people other than us. We feel this is such a valuable part of Finns upbringing. The world is populated by humans. A vital part of living a happy life is being able to love other humans, interact with others and respect others. We know some parents who have 12-year-olds who have not had a night away from them. And yes, a small percentage of these people might not have an option – but a large percentage of these people just don’t want to let go. They want their little darlings to stay in the nest for the first 30 years of their lives. But let’s get real – giving your child the opportunity to be independent of you from the earliest possible time is a positive thing. Don’t you want to give them the opportunity sooner rather than later? Some studies show children who don’t have parent-free time with family/friends on a regular basis before the age of 10 show higher signs of anxiety, dependence and are more likely to struggle with forming long-term friendships or relationships. Interesting, right?! You can come to your own conclusion, but for me – Finn deserves to have his independence from us.

Now, to look at it from a parent angle. We need our independence from our kids too. I see too many parents who are dependent on their kids. Yep, for real. Give your head a good shake if you’re one of these parents.

Lisa and I decided to go to the next level… For her birthday last December we booked a romantic trip to the South Pacific island of Vanuatu. Just the two of us. Little Finn – he had a grand old time with auntie Donna and uncle Jason. We FaceTimed every day, and the little dude was having so much fun he couldn’t care less that we were not there. We had the greatest time at the beautiful Coco Beach resort (thanks to Brenda Ogilvie at Mondo travel for arranging it all) – sipping cocktails, reading books, watching sunsets and generally reconnecting. It was pure magic. Variety is the spice of life – and as couples – we need to keep our relationships the number one priority. If we have a solid foundation, our kids will have a much better platform upon which to build positive relationships with others. How often do you hear of a girl marrying or dating a guy who is chauvinist, aggressive and selfish only to find out that her dad was the same type of guy. Whether you like it or not – the relationship you have with your partner will be a model for your children and their future relationships. Being that clingy, smothering, overprotective helicopter parent will not give your child an opportunity to build resilience and character. Balance is the key – make sure you find that balance. We are all different, and that’s what keeps our world interesting. Please let our world continue to be diverse – start by letting your children use their noses to sniff out the exciting things in life. Encourage them to take risks. Be their parent – not their master. Now, go pour yourself a brewski and catch up with your partner.

Dad’s don’t need to make New Year’s resolutions.

Do Dads really have to commit to resolutions each January like millions of others? Hell no. We really don’t want to do something silly like that. We all know the facts – reality kicks in, on or before, the second week in February and the new diet, attitude, idea, gym plan goes right out the window. Unless you are a one percenter, and if you are, you won’t need resolutions you will be one high achiever, wealthy, fit, billionaire. Now, before you get your keyboard-warrior pants on, and start firing at me with your life lessons and passionate diatribe, hear me out.

As a dad, what is our role? Think about it. For each of us it’s probably slightly different. For me, it’s being present. I am highly focused on being present as much as I can – all of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect – far from it. Just ask the wife! But for me, there are no quick fixes as a dad. Or as a mum for that matter. I believe for me to be better, I need to know and understand what my principles are as a Dad. What are my core beliefs? What will leave a positive lasting impact on my child and my family? These things cost very little money, none in fact. Time is thee most valuable commodity on the planet. If we could buy more time, would we not? I certainly would. Finn is growing up at a ridiculous rate – too fast! But each day I try to be present – savouring tiny precious little moments and relishing in them. My biggest pain-in-the-arseism is my phone. It’s like a nagging little leprechaun on my shoulder begging me to play with it. Since Finn joined us in 2016, one of my biggest focuses has been phone-use reduction. I want more time with Finn and less time with social media. I made some rules for myself. Like only checking email twice each day for a maximum of 15 minutes, letting more calls go to voicemail and bulk deleting them and returning calls 1st to family and friends, second to customers and everyone else after that.

This kind of shift is gradual but it ends up showing your child that you are present with them, they shouldn’t be fighting for attention with your phone for goodness sake! My wife’s cousin was at a game watching her child play. She decided to put her phone down, savour the game and count how many times her child looked up to see her. Her kid looked up 20 times to see if her mum was watching her. What if she had been glued to her phone instead? What kind of message would that have sent her child?

What do our kids need from us? New years resolutions? Lots of Christmas presents? No no and 20 more No’s!!

They need consistent love and attention. Be that Dad. Don’t be the deadbeat, self centred, ego-driven maniac dad. There is already about 3 billion of those guys. Why shoot for mediocrity? Aim higher. Our kids need that.

The Magic of My Name

Kids more often than not get a bazillion books in their younger years. There’s no such thing as too many books – just one read through “Malala” will make you appreciate how lucky our kids are in the Western world to be allowed access to education. It’s quite a different story in some parts of the World. 

The digital age has brought with it millions of eBooks. I think they are fantastic but certain books work better as paperback. Children’s books are the type of books that should be held. Kids need to be able to touch the pages, flip the pages, rip the pages and smell the pages. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a crisp new book. We aren’t planning to get Finn into the digital books – in fact we don’t own a kindle – and don’t plan to. 

I came across a really cool book creator that puts together a personalised book which tells your child the story behind their name. It’s really quite cool. You can input their name, and choose the gender and hair colour. The end product is a beautifully written book all about the magic behind the kids name. We know Finn has no clue what we are reading him right now, but in a few years this book will be pretty special to him. After all, it’s a book all about HIM!

They deliver worldwide, but for you kiwis you can go straight to their website (it’s not an affiliate link so I’m not plugging them insincerely!) – 

https://www.themagicofmyname.co.nz/en
Happy reading!!

Education – where do I begin?

There are so many differing opinions in regards to how we should educate our kids. As parents – it falls on us to decide what’s best for our little whippersnappers. I grew up in Northern Ireland and went to good old public schools and Lisa did the same in Canada. We feel like we got a pretty rounded education and don’t have a feeling that we got short changed academically. However, we work at a private school here in New Zealand so we get to see it from a whole new perspective. I feel that private schools have much better resources. Yes the teachers were trained the same as the public school teachers, but the resources seem to make the difference. 

Now .. we are told so many different things on what we should do with Finn. “Put him in private school education once he reaches high school as it’s a waste of money in primary school.” “It’s all about what school you went to in Christchurch, so pick carefully.” “Put him in private school for primary school and not high school as it instills good habits and academic skills from an earlier stage before they become teens.” 

The list goes on. But to be honest – there are so many factors we have to consider. Firstly of course is the financial commitment – private school is a little more expensive than a public school, actually a lot more. But can you really put a price on excellent education for your child? Next there’s the Finn factor. Where does he want to go to school? That has to be a huge deciding factor on where we enrol him. For primary he won’t have much inkling as to where he will want to go but for high school he will feel much more strongly about where he sees himself fitting in. We absolutely love the school we work at and think that Finn would LOVE it but I guess at the end of the day it will be up to him and what he wants for his life. 

The Happiest Kids in the World book reminds me that I shouldn’t put pressure on Finn to be successful at everything he does – it’s ok to not be the best at everything. And honestly, I see first hand, some students whose parents openly put pressure on them to be the best at everything they do. All too often these are the same kids who, in their teens, suffer from mental health issues, anxiety and some even rebel against their families. I’m a rookie at this Dad business, but I feel that teaching kids for 11 years has given me plenty of knowledge in terms of what not to do as a parent. The pushy, helicopter parent is not what I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I want Finn to live a full life with lots of rich experiences but not at the cost of his happiness or our relationship. 

I’d be keen to hear from you parents and educators out there!

James

The Happiest Kids in the World

We all want our kids to be happy, right? Generally we always reflect back to those fond memories – the fun-filled ones with siblings, parents and grandparents. But is it just those fun family times that shape a child’s happiness?

The new book from Penquin publishing “The Happiest Kids in the World” has opened my mind to a whole new side of parenting. I’ll admit, I haven’t finished the book yet. For good reason – 1) I’m a parent so I’m rather busy from time to time and 2) I’m taking to time to process the amazing ideas presented in the book. 

The book focuses on two mums who have moved to the Netherlands. They are married to Dutch men and the idea of bringing up children in this beautiful country is somewhat different to that in other Western cultures. 

So far I have gathered that Dutch children are encouraged to be incredibly independent from a young age. They are permitted to go to the park for hours, unsupervised. They seem to get into sleep routines much quicker than their American counterparts. Schooling is not a deal breaker. People don’t push their kids to get the best grades, instead they encourage them to be good enough. They don’t make their kids start reading and writing until they are good and ready – often that can be at 6 or 7 years old. But … The Netherlands has some of the most intelligent adults, it creates some of the most incredible technologies AND they are ranked the happiest kids in the World.

If you are a parent and you aren’t now rushing out to buy this book … you’re an idiot. It was the best $30 I’ve spent this month. I’m certainly not the best parent in the world – but if I can do a few little things to help make Finn happier in his childhood then I will damn sure do it. I’ll keep you posted as I discover more awesomeness in the book. 

James 

P.S. Thanks to Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison for co-authoring the book. You guys rock.

Who wants to be the perfect parent anyways?

There are modern day expectations placed on all of us, most of all, us parents. There has been a very definite box that we have all been thrown in to – and how dare we step out of it. Well, you know me well enough that I don’t do boxes and I’m not a follower. I like to define my own course, make my own mistakes and have fun along the way. 

As a new parent I have always tried to be the best dad and husband in every way. It’s the most rewarding experience but also the most draining. I see so many couples who have kids and fast forward 5 years, they are miserable and unhappy. Why? Because they have lost track of who they are as an individual. You might be a parent to your child and a partner to your spouse. But you are also still an individual. We all need our own space, our own time and an opportunity to let our hair down. 

This last month has presented itself with a few opportunities. Opportunities to get some extra sleep. However, I’ve used those opportunities to head out to the city and rub shoulders with fellow adults and consume copious amounts of yummy food and a fair lashing of alcohol. I’m not talking white girl wasted here, just a few cheeky brewskis. Lisa and I felt a bit guilty at first that we were heading out for a night whilst Finn was having a sleepover. But honestly – it was the best thing we did. 

If you are constantly on “mum” or “dad” mode then you aren’t going to be at your best. You will likely burn out. Whether it’s a night out on the town, a workout at the Gym, a day at the spa or a weekend away … do whatever tickles your pickle. 

Being a parent in the modern era ain’t easy. Try being good parent rather than a perfect parent. You will be happier and so will your family. In life, shit happens. Let it be. Let people judge, and care not what they think. Bottoms up!

Thanks for helping me reach 7K followers on Instagram!!

Finn’s New Abode

It’s been a day or two since I put pen to paper (or whatever the digital equivalent is!), but for good reason. We’ve uplifted our lives and shifted them over the last few weeks. And yes, my Instagram account has suffered … but I’m committed to reaching 7K followers within the next 7 days. Lol. I can’t have my followers thinking I’ve checked out. 

It’s been an epic few weeks, moving from our family home into our school boarding house. Lisa is loving her new position as Assistant House Manager. It happens to be at the same school where I’m teaching drums – major bonus for my commute! I was wondering how Finn would handle the transition. The first week was rough, really rough. We had a trip to the after hours, 5 trips to the GP and a bazillion millilitres of babymeds. It was torturous and Finn was not his usual self. But this past week has been epic. He’s back to his usual cheeky self. 

Reflecting on the past few weeks has forced me to consider what impact this new life might have on Finn in his early years. I have to highlight that Lisa nor I have any blood-family here in New Zealand. We are so lucky to have a few amazing friends though, and they have adopted Finn as one of their own. But thinking about the boarding scenario … it’s awesome. I’m struggling to pinpoint any negatives. Finn is now surrounded by a huge amount of older brothers and sisters. His new living room is the Common Room and his new backyard is several acres of playing fields and sports grounds. He’s already made a few BFFs at the dining room. Dinner for Finn is one huge social occasion. His most favourite people are Aunty Alice, Didi and Molly. I blogged a few months back about the old one-liner “It takes a village to raise a child”. And I’m truly seeing the truth in that right now. These new people in Finn’s life are going to have a profound impact on his childhood. I’m so grateful that Finn gets this amazing opportunity. 

I have no doubt that there will be many hilarious stories to be told of Finn’s upbringing at the Boarding House. Stay posted!

James

New invention for parents!

It totally baffles me, how we can send humans to space, explore the deep sea and fly in the sky but we cannot keep runny poos in a nappy!
As a new dad I have become very skilled at discovering singlets covered in runny poo and doing my best to remedy the situation. To all of the budding entrepreneurs out there and the Delboy Trotters – I challenge you. I challenge you to create the indestructible diaper. You can even use the “indestructible diaper” brand name if you wish, thank me later. If someone could create a diaper that does not explode every time a runny poo hits it, they would be a multi billionaire overnight.
I ask you to find one parent who will disagree with me. I promise you won’t find that parent . There is nothing worse than changing your babies nappy, washing clothes and adorning some new garments. Only to discover 30 seconds later that the same thing just happened. Repeat this four times within a 30 minute time frame and you have a little glimpse of what it’s like to be the parent of a toddler.
If you are excited to become a parent, please don’t let this put you off. It is simply the most epic journey of all time but it can be challenging. Here’s to the next solid poop.
James