Ashley: I am very excited today. I have dad, husband and writer behind parenting and lifestyle blog behind the rhetoric. Michael Kwan joining me today.
Michael: Hey Ashley.
WRITING ON THE INTERNET
A: Can you tell me how long have you had your blog now?
M: Well, I’ve been writing in some form or another on the internet since 1999. At the time it started as like a email distribution type thing and then I migrated to geo cities at some point. I don’t know if you remember geo cities
A: A little bit.
M: But like the blog Beyond The Rhetoric as it exists today under the name that it is today I started in 2006. It’s always reflected kind of what’s going on in my life at the time. So like, when I started I wasn’t a dad yet, I wasn’t married, any of that kind of stuff. So there was a lot of like movies and video games and stuff like that. But you know, as parenthood became such a huge part of my life, like every other parent, it just kind of takes over your life.
A: It definitely does.
M: In the last seven, eight years. It has definitely shift shifted toward that having much more of a focus on the blog.
A: It’s really fantastic that it’s been one of those things that’s been able to grow with you. Sometimes if we get so focused on a certain niche or we get, so like you said, focused on whatever is going on in our life sometimes it isn’t as easy of a transition to what it is today.
M: Yeah, I find that’s true with like a lot of the other parenting bloggers that I talk to. We tend to come from, I guess you could say like two different directions or two different camps about how you went about doing it. So there are those of us that have always been writing on the internet in some form or another about some topic. And then as we became parents, we just started writing more about that kind of stuff I also see a lot of people that became moms and dads, and then they felt compelled to talk about their experiences. So they didn’t previously write on the internet, but now that they’re parent, they felt they wanted to tell their stories and that’s fair enough too. So it’s very interesting seeing people coming from the two different directions.
A: Well, and it’s so funny in thinking about the second point that you made, were about the similar age, that we really were the first ones that maybe started having kids and posting their pictures on Facebook or having this digital outlet to be able to voice the goods and the bads and the everything in between that our kids are doing.
M: Mm-hmm yeah.
FATHER OF TWO
A: How old are your kids now?
M: Seven and a half and one and a half. Well, I guess they’re almost eight and almost two now they’re, they’re both one in September.
A: Oh, that’s kind of nice being able to have like a birthday month.
M: My wife’s birthday’s in September too, so I guess all three of them are in as span of like two weeks.
A: I guess that’s kind of nice, but would make September and back to school and all of the things a little bit extra stressful.
M: Yeah, absolutely.
A: You had your second baby. I don’t know how you feel about it, but like the term pandemic baby.
M: I’ve heard that term thrown around a lot and like I know that we’re probably gonna talk about this later on too like the transition from one to two, but just like the circumstances that he grew up around and the level of parenting experience or whatever you wanna call it that me and my wife had with the second time around like his first couple of years of life have been different. Like he hasn’t been around as many people. We’re not at story time at the library and that sort of thing. I don’t know how I feel necessarily about the term pandemic baby, but like it’s descriptive, I guess.
A: It is one of those things that it really does have a big change in the fact that maybe as parents. You know, seven, eight years ago where it was doing like the story time at the libraries or more of the different family friendly activities, where now it’s kids are used to seeing parents behind masks I would imagine there’d be a little bit more stranger danger.
M: Yeah, I guess so he’s a lot better about it now, but I remember for a while it took him a long time to warm up around strangers because he’d only see the three or four of us in a house. Those are the only actual faces that he saw. Whenever he’s in public, you don’t actually see the faces. It’s funny because even during the early part of the pandemic and we still saw my brother, like now and then for like dinner or whatever. We didn’t see him as often as we did before, but we did see him relatively regularly. But my son would cry when he saw him, like from across the room. So my brother felt horrible cause he’s like oh right. But now they’re best of friends and they can play but it took my son a while to be able to make that shift. I think he’s a lot more in that place now.
A: More comfortable. That must be hard as a parent being like it’s okay trying to explain it to them because it’s like you obviously can’t have a conversation and be like well this person’s safe and this person’s not safe. I couldn’t imagine say people going into kindergarten and sort of adjusting theirs where at least as a baby, there is still time to sort of adapt to the new normal or what we had perceived as normal prior.
M: My daughter she was in kindergarten when the pandemic hit a couple years ago. So things shut down, like right after spring break. So she had like six months of like quote unquote normal school. During the last three months of the school year, like no one really knew what was gonna happen. No one really knew how long that was gonna last. We’re gonna kind of do the remote thing, but not really because then there in kindergarten so there’s only so much you can do with zoom. She got to see her teacher, like once a week for like a half hour zoom call and they didn’t really like teach anything. When grade one started, she was able to go back and have like in classroom stuff, but all the protocols and the masks and the hand sanitizer and all that kind of stuff too. It was a challenge, but I think she’s acclimated to school now and things are more or less normal at school now. I’m hopeful that things are gonna be reasonably normal moving forward.
A: For sure. I think back to when my daughter was in kindergarten, she’s in grade nine now, and I just don’t even know how you would necessarily keep them apart or even the social distancing. They were just in the same toys or hugs and like all of that kind of stuff all of the time. Separate from COVID or the pandemic, just even them getting sick and cold, like germs go so fast throughout the whole entire classroom that I just in some ways I just don’t know how we avoided in certain ways.
M: So I know that in grade one for her, like normally classrooms have common supplies and common toys and things like that but what they ended up doing was they created like smaller sets of things and it’s in a zip block bag and it’s like okay this is your set for today. They sanitize it afterwards or whatever. There wasn’t as much like playing with the other kids, like here’s your set of blocks or here’s your letter game that you’re playing with that kind of thing.
A: Which makes sense.
M: Yeah but like the social distancing aspect and like the masking and stuff, it was definitely hard because they’re at an age where if they have a mask on their face, they’re gonna keep touching their face. Kids keep touching their face, whether they’re wearing a mask or not. So then it’s difficult to communicate to them. It’s like okay try not to touch your mask, make sure you wash your hands and we all know how five and six year old’s are about what washing their hands. They’re not doing the best of job with that kind of stuff either.
A: They’re gross, but not in a bad way. You know what I mean? Kids will be kids that way.
M: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
GOING FROM ONE KID TO TWO
A: Did you find that it was a hard transition to go from having one to having-
M: Yes and no. I think it introduced different challenges, but like at the same time taking care of my son has been easier than taking care of my daughter, insofar that like we know what we’re doing now. Like, to some as best we can. I remember with my daughter, like me and my wife, we were freaking out like the first time we had to give her an emergency bath because the diaper and all that. We don’t know what we’re doing. Are we supposed to do this first? Are we supposed to do with this soap? It’s like we gotta make sure the little like details.
A: Oh, it’s terrifying.
M: Like it’s terrifying. I didn’t have any experience with any of that prior to my own kid. I didn’t do any babysitting. I didn’t take care of any like younger cousins or anything.
A: I feel like even if you do, it’s just completely different when it’s your own and you are the one responsible cause even if you’re babysitting or spending a lot of time with other kids, there’s always that safety net of I can give you back to this person and that person really has to be responsible.
M: The second time around, we were definitely much more comfortable and I notice it’s cliché to say but like with each successive child, especially with people who have three, four and more children, like you become more and more lax about what is and isn’t okay. It’s like the Cheerio fell on the ground. It’s like, okay, you can’t eat that but by the time you get to like the third, fourth, or fifth, child’s like, eh, that’s not too bad. Just eat it. All these little things that you realize they don’t really matter. So you let a lot more things slide. So it’s less stressful in that way I think. For me the age gap worked out quite well. So they’re six years apart. I know families that have kids that are, like two years apart or whatever, and it would’ve been very different if my daughter was only two or three years old having to wrangle like a two or three old while at the same time, dealing with a newborn, by the time my son arrived, my daughter was old enough that she could be reasonably self-sufficient if I leave her with a book or leave her with an activity or heaven forbid I turned on the TV and let her watch cartoons. She’s able to kind of occupy herself. I don’t really have to worry about her hurting yourself too badly. So that made the transition easier for sure.
SIBLING AGE GAPS
A: Was there any jealousy when the new baby came?
M: She never really voiced it but even to this day I still see some of that jealousy coming through. When I talk to her about it, she says that she’s not. She says that like she understands the baby is the baby and baby needs more attention because he’s gonna hurt himself. He needs to be bathed and he needs to be fed all this kind of stuff. So I think like intellectually she understands that, but I still see some of that behavior coming through now. Like if she sees me or my wife cuddling with her brother she’ll wanna come in for a snuggle too. She’s like, oh, me too, me too kind of thing. I understand that but I think for the most part, like at least on an intellectual level, like she understands that and like I said, I think that age gap makes a much bigger difference. I see in other families, like with my my wife’s brother’s kids, like they’re only two or three years apart and the older sister displayed a lot more jealousy because she was only two or three at the time so she didn’t really understand.
A: I think the regression when they’re closer together that the toddler sees the baby, then they wanna more likely be the baby where with a bigger age gap it’s more I don’t wanna be fed mushy food or I don’t want the earlier bedtime. So it does make it a little bit easier. Not that there’s ever a perfect gap or perfect time to have different ones but every step of the way or every child can make it easier and harder in their own way.
M: Yeah. I actually have a post on my blog somewhere in the last little while when I was talking about like the difference having different age gap, cause me and my brother about five and a half, six years apart too. So like I can see the relationship dynamics are similar as with my kids. But I did ask other mom and dad bloggers, what has their experience been with age gaps. I was looking primarily at families with two kids because as soon as you introduce a third, fourth, fifth kid, like the dynamics are totally different then.
A: I would imagine granted, I only have one, but I would imagine one to two, at least they would have a little buddy regardless of the age gap, but I would imagine three you would almost just wanna have four because I feel like three, then you create that kind of triangle of somebody’s already left out or I personally would just think that there would be more fighting.
M: One maybe more fighting, but two just by pure virtue of like if we’re talking typical nuclear family type dynamic, like when you have two kids, you’re still playing man to man defense. I’ll take this one and you take that one. But as soon as you have three you are outnumbered. At least one of you is gonna have to take two at the same time that kind of thing.
A: If you do the outnumbered thing but then do four then it’s like at least one person can hold each kid’s hand.
BEING A DAD BLOGGER IN A SEA OF MOM BLOGGERS
A: As a dad blogger, did you find that there was any like stigma or that you were maybe taken less seriously than the traditional mom blogger in your field?
M: I’m not sure if like stigma is the right kind of word but I often did feel and I still do feel to some degree kinda like a square peg kind of fitting in a round hole kind of thing. So then like stereotypes are stereotypes. If you look at like the stereotypical mom blogger she’s on Pinterest and she’s making pretty things and that kind of thing. That’s not my jam like at all. I don’t really consider myself to be like the typical macho guy that has my power tools and my sports either. But it is like a different kind of space and like the experience that moms and dads have with raising kids is gonna be different biologically and like the relationship they have with their kids and stuff like that. I never really felt like any of the mom bloggers were like intentionally leaving me out per se but the conversations they would be about things that either I couldn’t relate to or there are things that I’m not very interested in. They might be talking about baby fashion and things like that. I’m not interested in that so it’s just a matter of like the kind of interest in things that people have. I know that among parenting bloggers the vast majority are moms just because broadly speaking as a society like mom is still for better or for worse like the primary caretaker and like dad goes out and make the money. I know that like I’m actively working to try to break that narrative. We don’t need to have like the mommy martyr and like the hapless dad like that whole thing. There aren’t nearly as many dad bloggers but there is a very strong dad blogger community that I belong to on Facebook. We talk about these kind of things and we’re all I guess to some degree like there’s obviously some self selection bias there. The dads that gravitate towards being dad bloggers or a certain subset of dads. I don’t anticipate these things are gonna change overnight, but it is something that we’re hoping to change over the next generation or two or whatever it might be.
A: I think it’s unfair that there is sort of that running joke, like you said, the moms are martyers and it’s like the idea that dads are babysitters. We both have our different ways of doing things and it’s not bad, it’s just different. Dads can be caregivers and dads do have the same ability to have the range of topics and ability to communicate on all of these different issues that I know just even at different media events that we’ve both been to it just seems like it’s 90% moms and maybe like 10% of the dad bloggers. I think that there probably is a wide variety of dad bloggers that just maybe don’t get the ability to get the invites or enough of the ability to right equally share the spotlight in that capacity.
THERE SHOULD BE CHANGING TABLES IN THE MEN’S ROOM
M: I think that’s just reflective of a greater societal narrative in terms of like stereotypes and expectations and things like that. So as an example, like if we’re at a restaurant and I need to change a diaper, if there is a change table chances are it’s gonna be in the women’s room and not the men’s room. There are events that are put on by the mall that has like story time and it’ll be like mommy and me time, but it’s not, parent and me time or whatever. I’ve seen events where it’s like mommy and me and then like way at the bottom, like a tiny little foot was like, oh dads are welcome too. It’s like we’re such like an afterthought when it comes to things like that. I don’t expect any of this to change overnight, but it is a greater societal kind of narrative to like expect more of dads to be parents and to cut poor mom a little bit more of a slack in terms of like you have to uphold this standard of being like the perfect super mom, which is just not realistic, especially as we move more as a society towards more working moms and all the responsibility of the home, all the responsibility of the children and a full time job and all this other stuff and you’re expected to maintain all of that. That’s not fair either. So it’s just adjusting the standards.
A: It’s so funny how something like that can hold so much weight. The idea of like yeah there should be family bathrooms, both men and women’s bathrooms should have changing tables it’s like such a simple idea. It’s so silly that it isn’t the common practice now or that it isn’t shift to parents or caregivers because there are so many different types of families, even if we aren’t just thinking in a standard, nuclear family aspect out there that it really should be less involved in our titles and more in just parents in general.
M: Yeah, absolutely. It’s all these like little changes that we can make as a society whether we’re as bloggers or just like out and about in the real world, all these little changes, even in the words that we choose. So like, for example, when my daughter gets dismissed from school, cause COVID, we’re not allowed to go inside the school, they get dismissed at the door. The teachers have made it a habit like when they’re supposed to try to find the person that’s picking up the child they made it a habit now to stop saying do you see mom or do you see dad? Instead of saying that they said do you see your grown up?
A: I love that.
M: I think that’s that it’s such a small tweak in like how they go about dismissing the kids at the end of the day, but it makes such a big difference. There are aunts, uncles and family, friends, and grandparents that are coming to pick up the kids too. Not just mom and not just dad. My mom goes to pick up my daughter all the time and when they say do you see your grown up that just is so much more in inclusive.
A: I love that too. I think a lot of the schools in the same sort of mindset are making a shift for father’s day and mother’s day that it’s really you’re grown up or your caregiver or the person that you want to. I know, for example, for my daughter she always gave her father’s day present to my grandmother or to her great-grandmother. That it was something that she was sort of always isolated for. She basically told them that that’s what she was gonna do. They never kind of gave her a different option. She just felt awkward about it afterwards for other people’s opinions. I think even that shift collectively would help a lot of families too. In the fact that maybe they aren’t being raised by mom and dad, or maybe it is grandparents or foster parents or whichever that looks like for your family. That some of these changes can really have a major impact.
M: Especially as we see more and more families that take on different forms, right? There’s a lot of dad bloggers I know that are gay and they’re in gay relationships. So like they have two dads and that’s great. So then like when it comes time to, like, you’re saying like, if at school on everyone else is making like a mother’s day thing now, this kid feels kind of left out and isolated, cause it’s like well I’m not in that kind of situation. It’s about being mindful and careful about like having situations where no one really feels left out for no real reason in particular.
A: Do you think that there is other myths as far as being a dad blogger versus mom blogger that you would like us to consider in mom bloggers following dad bloggers or people reading a parenting blog that isn’t necessarily a mom blog?
M: I think the main thing is just like understanding, we can apply these labels but at the end of the day, it’s still just individuals talking about their individual experiences and we don’t all fit into these neat little buckets. It’s important for me in terms of like event organizers and brands and things like that as they seek you I know some people think that like an influencer is like a dirty word or whatever but like content creators when they’re considering them for campaigns and things like that to apply a broader scope to how they approach that kind of thing. We touched on this briefly again already, but like the whole, like narrative of like the hapless useless husband, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing and ha ha ha like there’s so many of those kinds of jokes that get pushed around. I don’t want to name the publications, but there are certain publications and that’s their whole stick right. I hate saying this, but it is the whole thing look how great mom is and look how useless and dumb my husband is. He doesn’t know how to put away the dishes or he doesn’t know how to change a diaper. Well, how come I have to keep telling? I understand that there are a lot of men out there that absolutely can and should do better, but if we continue to perpetuate those kind of narratives, all you’re doing is kind of rewarding them with this like weaponized incompetence. So it’s like well if you’re just gonna keep putting me down, then why should I even try?
M: I think that’s a message that should come across, regardless of gender or like the relationship that you have or what kind of co-parenting relationship you have. At the end of the day, we’re doing the best we can for our kids in as best we can. Everybody has their own way. As long as the kids end up reasonably happy and healthy at the end of the day, I think that’s fine.
A: I think that is a really important point that the focus really should be on happy, healthy kids and respecting both partners in their ability to do that. I think too many of the times it is sort of the eye roll of like dad blog or it isn’t equally welcomed in this space that dads can be fantastic parents, whether the mom is involved in a marriage situation, a co-parenting situation, or like you said, if there is two dads or dad and grandma, or dad and grandpa, whatever that looks like, I do think that we need to have equal ability to be respected in the same space. There’s one publication in Vancouver where we both reside that rewards mom bloggers, there’s like a top, whatever mom blogger every year, instead of it being a, top 30 parenting blogs. I do feel like we need to create more inclusion and more welcoming of everybody in that space.
M: Yeah. I realize it’s specific to the niche. I don’t expect like a tech blogger or like an entertainment blogger to end up in that kind of space. But if we’re all talking about some aspect of raising children and being parents, then it shouldn’t matter.
CREATING A DAD BLOGGER COMMUNITY
A: You had touched on the fact that you do have a core group of dad bloggers that you lean on. Did you guys all meet online or did you have a relationship just through growing up in the same area?
M: Little bit of both. It depends on who you’re talking about. There are some people that I’ve been friends with for years and years back in the days of like car forums and stuff on the internet. I’ve met other people in the context of writing about tech and like talking about making money as a blogger and all that kind of stuff. I’ve also made friends through the lens of being a parent and talking about blogging. So this core group of dad bloggers like we’ve kind of come from different places but we’ve all come from a place where we are sharing our stories, whatever those stories may be on the internet in some form.
A: Sometimes the internet gets a bad rep of it being this toxic dark place but it really can form those really strong bonds regardless of gender of continuing on that relationship, whether you’ve met the person in real life or whether it’s somebody that you specifically just support behind the computer.
M: I think that’s a very important point in so far that the core group of dad bloggers that I actually hang out with, like in real life, obviously they’re local to here, but I have several internet friends that I’ve never seen in person. I have a friend that lives in Florida, another one lives in California. We’ve never actually seen each other face to face. We’ve never done video calls or anything. It’s all just Facebook comments and stuff but I do consider them to be friends because we’ve shared so much about our families, through messenger and whatever over the years that I do consider them just as much a friend as someone that I would’ve met in real life.
A: Which is the really fantastic thing about the growth of technology in that sense that we would’ve never had the opportunity had it not existed to have some of those core friendships even though they are technically people we haven’t met.
A: How long have you guys been doing the 5 Dads Go Wild now?
M: 2019 or 2018, I think was the first one. I can’t remember. It’s been, like three or four years.
A: For anybody who doesn’t know. Can you explain what I’m talking about?
M: So a bit of backstory, so James Smith from Social Dad met Stacy Robin Smith from a Dad in the Burbs a few years ago. They were at a media event at Filson, which is like a local clothing outdoorsy type brand. They’re like, oh you like this outdoorsy stuff. It’s like, oh yeah, I like this outdoorsy stuff too. Oh, you’re a dad too. Oh, you’re a dad too. Like that, kind of thing. We were all already part of a couple of Facebook groups of dad bloggers. There’s a smaller group that’s like just Canadian dad bloggers and then James and Stacy came up with this idea if some of us dad got together, got off the grid and went camping in the middle and nowhere away from our kids and we can just be honest and open with ourselves and complain about our spouses or whatever.
A: Which dads definitely need that outlet. Just the same as we would accept it for moms having mom’s night out dads definitely need the same.
M: So then it started with that. I’m not at all an outdoorsy person but like I also recognize there was definitely a lot of value in that idea of dads getting off the grid. Even though, what we do on the internet we also understand how much value there is in unplugging and like unplugging for two or three days at a time. So long story short, like five dads go wild is once a year for three nights or so. We’ll go into the middle of the woods somewhere to camp, basically. We’ve stayed at Manning Park primarily, but we’ve also stayed at Skagit. This September we’ll be heading down to Oregon to change things up a bit.
A: That’s awesome.
M: But the idea is that we go on a short road trip, Oregon’s a little bit further, but like the other ones were like two hours away from town. So it’s like a short get away from town, get away from the family, get away from the kids, get away from like everyday responsibility for a couple of days. We’ve usually partnered up with like-minded brands that kind of understand where dads are coming from and like our unique perspectives on dealing with life and dealing with kids and dealing with all the responsibilities that we have. We’ve partnered with brands, like House of Knives and Filson and Altitude Sports, Ford Canada things like that. Brands that really wanted to partner with us because they appreciate and understand the kind of stories that we want to tell. It’s worked out quite well. We call it five dads go wild because there is five of us, but like there’s nothing really stopping us from expanding that. We have talked about expanding it at some point having like a dad’s getaway for like 30 people and we’ll book like a big campsite, but like when and if that will ever happen, I don’t know.
A: Well it’s nice to have the ability to grow. I think a lot of dads, whether they’re in the realm of dad blogging or they’re just dads, I think that would really benefit for them. I think and again, I could be totally wrong, but I feel like we also don’t have a lot of focus on men’s mental health or men needing a break or men having a timeout because it’s like we just don’t for whatever reason seem to have those conversations. So I think it is really important whether it’s five or 30 of you to take that time and go decompress.
OUR WORDS MATTER
M: I think there is a lot to be said there about making it okay for men to be vulnerable. That’s something that’s been really hard in a culture where I love the Rock. I think he’s great but like the big muscular burly guy is like the stereotypical ideal of a man. We’re not all that and it’s okay for men to cry and all that kind of stuff. We’re not as a society we’re not there yet. When you see men portrayed as having some weakness or vulnerability it can be perceived as emasculating. I don’t think that’s fair either, but like, to your point in terms of like men getting together and forming those kind of relationships in support of our respective mental health, I know this is gonna be, 20, 30 years down the line, 30, 40 years before I start down the line now too but I know for a fact that men in retirement tend to have a much harder time forming social groups and like getting together regularly, things like that because so much of their social relationships are around work. So they’re the work friends and if you’re no longer at the work site, you’re unlikely to hang out with these guys after work too. Whereas, women broadly speaking have stronger support networks outside of work post-retirement and so that’s something that with five dads go wild again, like none of us are anywhere near retirement yet, but it’s like thinking about that, moving forward, that like it’s important to have those kind of support networks that are outside of work outside of family like you have, friends that you can turn to men or women.
A: I think that’s a really important factor and I think our emotional intelligence is lacking. I think that with the next generation, I do think it is a little bit better, but that idea that really men can have anger. That’s really the only emotion that we kind allow them or justify them to have. It’s like anything else and we really try to shove it under the rug where women are pretty much allowed to have any emotion except for anger. It really isn’t this where we both should be treated equally in the fact that we can be upset, we can cry, we can talk about things openly and honestly, and not be judged for did you see this person’s reaction to this or this person reacted to that, obviously there’s different caveats to that, but for the most part, just being able to have those real deep, emotional bonding connections, it really is unfair that men are basically told to shut down that side of themselves and to not be able to form a human connection outside of their wives, which is much as your partner is so important they are not the end all be all I be all. We do have to have some sort of safe network to go complain about the wife and kids or the husband and the kids, and, be able to create those safe spaces.
M: You see this kind of narrative, all the time guys being told like, oh man up, suck it up. That whole thing’s but we feel weakness and we feel threatened and we feel vulnerable just as much as anybody else, but like it’s not socially acceptable to express that. Just as you were saying, like on the flip side, women aren’t allowed to be angry. It’s the whole meme of like the angry women or whatever. Right. So like when, women express certain opinions or they portray themselves in a certain way, if that. Person did exactly the same thing, but they happened to be male. Then that’s something to be applauded. And that makes no sense to me.
A: I really do hope that there is that shift coming that we’re more conscious about how we’re describing things. Even if we were to take two executives in a workplace and they have the same education, same criteria, everything. But when they’re explaining it’s usually oh you know Susie’s so warm and inviting and she makes great cookies and she’s a great note taker. Bob has such great management skills but it’s like they’re the same, but we just don’t necessarily think about the messaging that we’re giving when we’re describing people. That messaging sometimes even if the intent isn’t bad behind we’ve just been so conditioned to speak or think about things in a certain way that messaging can be so damaging because we’re really creating that narrative forward for people.
M: I think that, for the most part, like obviously there’s there’s exceptions, but like for the most part people that say things like that, they’re not saying them out of malice. They’re not saying that because they are intentionally trying to put this person down, but it’s just like this whole cultural narrative. It’s been so ingrained in what we see on TV and movies and all this other stuff that’s just what you just expect it.
A: I hope people realize that we have to be more consciously aware of how we’re saying things and what we’re saying so that we aren’t perpetuating that message going forward or when we kind of hear ourselves maybe repeating the same messaging asking why would I phrase it that way? Is it that this is the upbringing? Is it the society or is it this really how I feel?
M: There’s definitely a certain level of privilege to that ignorance. So like me as a man, like I’ve clearly experienced my fair share of male privilege. Like there’s a lot of things that I didn’t really think about, like I would know about, but I didn’t give a second thought to in terms of like women’s issues and things like that until I had a daughter. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of gender inequality. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware that, oh look at the girls toys that are all about, you know, vacuuming and cleaning up the house and the boys get to have play with their RV trucks. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of that but I didn’t give it much thought until I had a daughter and then I can see how much that was impacting her and will continue to impact her through the rest of her life. It’s the same thing with any other form of privilege, white privilege, whatever that like when you’re blind to the things that you don’t have to think about. It’s like I don’t have to think about this so I won’t. But for the people that are living through that it’s a lived experience for them. It does make a big difference to them. It is something that they think about.
A: I agree with that a hundred percent. It’s not that we’re necessarily trying to be ignorant in the moment, but it’s like really, it does take unfortunately impacting ourselves and even like you had said with the white privilege as a white straight woman, there’s so many different things that has been brought up I think in the last two years that have really forced us to be like, why am I supporting the patriarchy or supporting different things. Is that because I feel that way or is it really that I’ve been so ingrained that this is the normal and switching your collective thoughts so that you aren’t creating the same situations for our kids’ generations and future generations.
M: That’s exactly why I’m cautiously optimistic about the future in terms of like our kids’ generation stuff, because like now they are being raised in a culture that is moving in that direction where it is more open and inclusive in terms of the topics that are fair game and the things that they want to talk about. Whereas like when I was a kid like, oh we don’t want to talk, talk about that. That’s not something that concerns you, right?
A: As somebody born in the eighties and raised in the nineties, we didn’t talk about anything. It was really shoved under the rug all the time, I feel like as like little kids and with cartoons, whether it’s like Disney’s Inside Out or that new one Something Red.
M: Turning Red.
A: Thank you. That like those kind of conversations, I feel like are happening younger and younger and are being more normalized for our kids so that we aren’t hopefully anyways, repeating the same things over and over again.
M: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
CAMPING AT MANNING PARK
A: Now going back a teensy bit, thinking about your camping trip, you said that you were not an outdoorsy person. Once you actually got to Manning park, were you like oh shit what am I gonna do here?
M: Pretty much, the only camping experience I had prior to that was in high school, but like that camping experience involved a cabin with electricity and like running water and like adult supervision, so if things went sideways we could run to the teacher and be like I need help.
M: Yeah. It was totally that. They were organized activities and they were gonna cook our meals for us so I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t consider myself to be any kind of like rugged outdoorsy guy now, but I am more comfortable in terms of like setting up my tent and let’s get the campfire going. All these survivalist type things I got more comfortable with that, but like no I don’t consider myself an outdoorsy person at all. I’m a city boy through and through.
A: Was there anything funny happened on your first camping trip when it came to trying to set things up or were you guys really good about helping each other do it so that you weren’t like the lone man out still trying to figure out how to Google how do I set up a tent?
M: Except we couldn’t Google because we had no cell phone coverage. No we were totally there to support one another and those of us that had a little bit more experience we all helped each other out with things, but in terms of like funny stories, so it wasn’t the first time, but it was the second time that we went, it was toward the end of September, early October so it was starting to get cold and then it started snowing. When I woke up in the morning, my tent actually collapsed under the weight of the snow. I didn’t realize it collapsed because the tent it’s like gently resting up against my sleeping bag. One of the other dads came over and he touched on the tent and he’s like hey Michael, are you still alive in there? I’m like, yeah, I’m fine. He goes did you know that your tent collapsed? I’m like no and so I opened my eyes and I realized like the whole thing has collapsed. He’s like let me do your solid and he shook the snow off, but yeah so I survived. Something to remember.
A: I guess it’s really good that you remembered or packed enough things that you were nice and warm and that you didn’t wake up like freezing with the snow on you.
M: Yeah. It was definitely cold. I think it got to like minus 10 overnight. Something like that.
A: I’m such a city person I probably would’ve been like okay I’m gonna go now. I’ll see you later. Has anybody ever left early or you guys have all managed to stick through the three days?
M: We’ve generally stuck through the whole time. I think the first time that we were there, there’s this warming hut at the campsite where we have, so it doesn’t actually have heat, but it has like a fireplace thing. I think like that night several of us decided to go in there to sleep. Instead of in our tents we just kept the fireplace going. There was like a physical structure for us to like run away to.
A: It is nice to kind of have that backup safety feature.
FAMILY ACTIVITIES TO DO IN THE SUMMER
A: In thinking about the fact that we’re back to quote unquote normal times is there anywhere in Metro Vancouver that you’re excited to go as a family this summer? Any places that you’d recommend?
M: We don’t have any summer plans at the moment, but we went over to Parksville over Christmas and then again over spring break for a couple days. Now that my daughter has kind of seen what Parkville looks like in the winter and in the spring now she says we should come visit it for all four seasons so she can see what the same spot looks like. We might go back at some point this summer to show her what looks because during the summer, the beach is a lot bigger in Parksville than during the winter because the tide comes out all the way up. In terms of activities around Vancouver I don’t have any specific plans, but we’ve always enjoyed going to a lot of the typical places like the Aquarium Science World. We go to Maplewood farm in North Vancouver fairly regularly, but realistically it’s just as the weather starts to get better, I can see that it’s kind of dark and overcast right now. But like as the weather starts to get better, I wanna be able to spend more time outside. So even at the local park and playgrounds and outdoor barbecue and that sort of thing,
A: We’re really spoiled in the sense in Vancouver that we do have so much variety for family friendly activities or just places to go as a family.
M: Being born and raised in Vancouver, I really take a lot of this kind of stuff for granted. So I’m not a skier, snowboarder, anything like that but it’s remarkable how you can go skiing and to the beach on the same day in Vancouver. That’s just not possible in most other places in the world, like you can drive half a half hour outta the city and you’re lost in the middle of the woods. There’s so many different experiences and different environments that you can explore within an hour of Vancouver.
A: Oh yeah. We definitely have it all whether it’s like forest, whether it’s desert, whether it’s ocean. I’m not a big winter person so like even Whistler, we’ve only ever gone to Whistler in the summertime and a lot of people think skiing and snowboarding and things like that. There’s so much to do whether it’s hiking, ziplining, all of those kind of things.
M: Yeah. As a city boy, I just tend to hang out in the village and which restaurant should I go to? I’m big on food.
A: Power to people that love winter. I’m very fortunate that we are in British Columbia where we get it for maybe a month out of the year. It’s generally like January, February. Versus other provinces or other places in the world that get it maybe half of the year. I know we lived in Alberta for nine months and it snowed in May and I was the only one freaking out and everybody else was like, what it’s no big deal. We literally lasted one winter there and we were back to BC.
M: I’ve done the Alberta thing in the winter too when it’s like minus 45 with windshield. It’s like your nose hair freeze. It’s all gross, right? As soon as it start snowing in like September, October, like you never see the ground again until June, that’s a thing.
A: And it’s like frozen. There’s not like even a speck of grass that’s poking out. It’s just like you’re in a winter Wonderland for nine months out of the year.
M: I think that it’s very much a matter of like personal preference and also where you were born and where you were raised in that sort of thing. I’ve talked to people that grew up in Alberta. When they come to Vancouver they’re like it’s rainy and cloudy and gray all the time. But if you go to Alberta, it might be snowing cold, but it’s sunny a lot of the time. So that’s the trade off, right? So you get the sun, it just happens to be minus 30 outside.
A: That is a really important factor too because it is sunny and gorgeous. Even now it is June 7th and although it is actually sunny where I am, but for the most part it’s been rainy all week. So you really do have to find ways to not get sucked into the feeling depressed or having the rainy day blues or whatever you wanna call it.
M: Mm. Cause yeah it is gray most of the time.
A: Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Michael for anybody looking for you online, can you tell them where they can find you?