Introducing Dad TALKS & Episode 1 | Thanksgiving?
Dad TALKS is a new podcast series hosted by Millennial dad, Andrew Amundson. Each week, Andrew and Co-Host Tina will break down the woe and wonder of young parenting in our digitally fraught age. At the end of each episode, Andrew will have a fireside chat (no actual fire) with his daughter, Char, and get her whimsical take on what the grown-ups have just discussed.
Thanksgiving? | How the holiday that brought us the turducken is not particularly kid-friendly, and why that might be okay.
Andrew and executive producer Tina discuss why Thanksgiving has infamously been one of the least kid-friendly holidays, yet how the long weekend is a prime opportunity to drop the tech and fully engage with loved ones. Also, Andrew and his daughter Charlotte break down why Thanksgiving can be the worst, but how we can improve it, e.g., turn the kids’ table into an art table, candy cornucopias and turkey piñatas. Now that’s something to be grateful for.
To get to know Andrew better, check out our Q&A with him below. He talks about generational differences when it comes to tech and parenting, what it was like to be a stay-at-home dad, and the potential for Millennial parents to redefine what parenting means.
Since our listeners will be getting an intimate look into your life with your partner, Tina, and daughter, Charlotte, could you please provide us with a brief bio for the three of you?
I’m known by my five-year-old daughter as a “talky one.” I’ve carved myself a niche demographic as a former stay-at-home dad and divorced Millennial. I believe in civil co-parenting, am always conscious of tech/life balance, and forbid toy videos from YouTube Kids.
Char comes from a far-off planet inhabited mostly by charming unicorns (and alicorns). She’s an expert at knock-knock jokes and coloring in the lines.
Tina is sworn to secrecy but excellent at everything she does.
Dad TALKS is your exclusive show for BOLDFISH, but you have your own show “Millennial Dad, MD.” Could you please let us know what was the inspiration behind it?
Beyond the obviousness of me having a daughter, I have very few male peers (older Millennials) that are also fathers. So, the MD Pod was a bit of Bat Signal for all the other MD’s out there. We’re not as cool as unicorns, but I promise you we’re more real. It was initially the brainchild of my awesome producer (and girlfriend), Tina.
Millennials are typically thought of as self-centered, unaware, and entitled individuals. Where do those stereotypes come from and why do they exist?
Let it first be said that many of the “lazy, entitled” tags for Millennials have been applied to every generation of teenagers and 20-somethings for time immemorial. Baby Boomers’ parents bemoaned their hair, hallucinogens, and hippie-dom and Gen X’s only real claim is that of the “slacker” generation, all shoegazing and apathy. So a lot of this complaining about Millennials is simply a classic old vs. young tale — though there are some Millennial-specific traits that make us seem uniquely horrible.
Many of us are children of the 90s, where we were told that we were infallible, gorgeous bits of stardust — this subliminal chorus severely warped our expectations of reality as we approached adulthood, which again is delayed for a lot of us as many Millennials have shiftings morays and logistical concerns regarding when, why and how to start a family (if at all). Many of us also entered the job market or graduated college around the time of ‘08/The Great Recession, and that economic scar tissue of that cosmically doomed timing has stayed with a lot of us (particularly the men). But I know that when people are openly hating on Millennials, they’re generally referring to our perceived tech indulgence.
Though this can’t be denied, it should be noted that the same way a lot of the best music of the 60s (Beatles, Dylan, et al) actually came from the Greatest Generation, not the Boomers, much of the tech bandied about these days came from the minds of Gen X programmers and coders. We Millennials mostly didn’t come up with the tech you abhor, we simply consume it. So again, nearly everyone in their 20s is a sociopath (no matter the generation) and if you think Millennials are egregious with their tech, you just wait for the PM’s (post-Millennials).
When you’re not being an awesome dad to Char, you’re shaping the young minds of other kids as a teacher. Could you share with us your personal journey on why you decided to become a public educator?
It’s always been about writing for me (which is why I’m geeking out about Char in the nascent stages of literacy) — like generations of struggling writers before me, the default fallback before the big publishing deal or blog going viral or screenplay option has always been … teaching English. But much of being a teacher is more about managing the classroom, dealing with parents and admin and devoting the last few months of every school year to “teaching” to the state-issued standardized tests. My point being, there’s very little teaching in teaching – the public school system in America is a broken one, particularly in DC, and I am getting out of the teaching game after the holidays. I much prefer one-on-one tutoring than a classroom, as it’s a chance to actually connect with a student and deconstruct the content. And to be frank, the Dad TALKS or MD Pod have the potential to be more far-reaching and educational than anything that transpires in a public school classroom.
Why did you decide to become a stay-at-home dad? What are some perks besides being able to tell Char you love her 128 times a day?
Char was born in June of 2013 — after my former wife’s maternity leave, she returned to work and so commenced my stay-at-home dad career for the next three years. The decision was initially a pragmatic, fiscal one — she made more money than I did, I was at a sales job I loathed anyway and I loved the idea of spending that much time with my daughter. There are long stretches of Siberian-level boredom, horror-movie screams, and tantrums (from both of you) but also… the most perfect, lovely moments you wouldn’t be privy to otherwise if you weren’t there. Despite being a Millennial, there’s still a condescending stigma around being a stay-at-home dad in 2018, as we’re never as progressive as we think. Being a stay-at-home dad is literally just as it sounds — primary caregiver to your small child for their first few years. My tenure ended officially when Char went off to Pre-K two years ago, but she refers to Daddy as “special” because of this hallowed time we shared.
As both a father and a teacher to Gen-Z, what are the major generational differences you see between them (Gen-Z), us (Millennials), Gen-X, and your parents (Baby Boomers)? What sort of impact do you think those differences have on everyday life?
Firstly, I don’t go with the “Gen Z” moniker, mostly because we Millennials were supposed to be “Gen Y” (because we followed Gen X and … the alphabet) — and “Gen Y” never took off. So I, until the media comes to a cutesy consensus on what to call them in a decade, will be calling them PM’s (post-Millennials) for now.
Here’s my allegorical breakdown of each of the aforementioned generations relationship with tech (for starters): Boomers view tech as a tool that they know is necessary, even though they don’t quite understand it and will never be fully comfortable with it. Gen X views tech with the same ‘necessary evil’ lens as Boomers do, but they’re more comfortable with it. We Millennials view tech like it’s literally an appendage of our body; when we lose our phones it’s akin to us losing an arm or leg (or worse). PM’s view tech like it’s literally part of them (they’re part cyborg) — so when they lose their phones it’s tantamount to losing a vital organ, or air itself.
Also, Boomers and Gen X like to wax poetic about how “dangerous and untethered” their childhoods were: “We’d just be out all day, our parents never checked on us, or talked to us, or paid us any attention … it was great.” While we Millennials were over-parented (and PM’s are getting parental suffocation), it’s clear that many Boomers and Gen X were just under-parented, or not parented at all. So yes, talk all the smack you want about participation trophies of the ’90s, but romanticizing parental neglect decades ago is just as warped. Clearly the answer is somewhere in the middle, but we are classically terrible at finding a middle ground (regarding anything) in this country.
Even though I love breaking down generational differences, it should be remembered that turning someone into an ambassador of their generation is limiting — the same way that if you’re just focused on their race, class, gender, etc., you would miss the whole person. So Millennials, PM’s, Gen X, Boomers, Greatest Generation (I didn’t forget about you), try to look past someone’s mere age and try to see the whole person, not just part of them. And we can all celebrate how tech can bring us all together (before it tears us all apart).
Do you think there are any advantages to being a Millennial parent? How about the disadvantages?
As a Millennial parent, you’re very aware to try not to repeat the worst parts of the past. You’re wary of how you got raised, i.e. *Gold Star Everything!* and you also know you’re not going to ignore/beat your kids a la Boomers/Gen X. This is our potential frontier to redefine parenting for the better, and to reach this ideal middle ground I keep babbling about. The main disadvantage of being a Millennial parent is that there’s not that many of us — you often feel like a lonely Polar bear on an ice float, and it’s only getting warmer.
What’s the most challenging aspect of raising a kid in the digital age?
I think Gen X and Boomer parents would have killed to throw their kid a tablet at a restaurant — we’re in a time of insane automated inconvenience, and my worry is again, as entitled and impatient you think Millennials are, take that and jack it up exponentially for the PM’s (of which Char is a part). How we interact with tech is shaping how we interact with the analog world — and when you’re ubiquitously surrounded by tech (PM’s), you’re going to be even more futile when forced to interact in an analog capacity (or until we all become AI/Black Mirror bits of digital consciousness funded by Elon Musk).
Are you worried about your daughter growing up in a world of social media influencers, fake news, information overload, etc.? If so, what do you do about it?
Privacy and access are my concerns. It’s less an issue now, as she’s five, but when she gets her own phone, I’ll clearly have to creep on it. For her own good (and the good of the world).
Do you have any advice to new parents?
You’re never ready.
What’s the best way for people to get updates about you and Char?
Shameless Plugs: The original Millennial Dad, MD Podcast wherever you pod, the MD blog and obviously the Dad TALKS podcast right here on BOLDFISH. Tech/life balance is important, but when you are tech’ing, give them a listen/read.