Gender Roles and Bad Hair Days

By: Matthew Koehler.


A couple of weeks ago, I ran into an epic hair tangle. My wife, who tirelessly takes on most of the hair brushing with tanglethe toddler, had to leave early. Or “on time”, as it’s usually known. Maybe she was late… I can’t remember but it doesn’t matter. Either way, I was left with an unholy mess on top of my daughter’s head.

This unholy mess was the indirect result of a week of sickness, which meant that she’d been staying home, not needing to go out in public. Getting cleaned up and dressed for her regular playgroup fell to the wayside.

While taking a bath the night or two before her return, however, I noticed how like a bird’s nest her hair looked. I privately hoped my wife would do something about that before she went back to “school”.

Back to the morning when we were all running late… Well, the toddler wasn’t running late because toddler aren’t responsible for being on time.

My wife ran out the door with a barely audible apology for needing to hurry. Whatever. Super “regular dad’s got this shit.

Staring at the back of her head, I thought you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Not one strand of hair was left free and untangled from any other hair. It was like someone had rubbed their hands into her hair for hours, aiming for the poodle effect.

If only I could shave it off…

I started spraying some hair stuff in and teasing out the tangles, occasionally yanking on her hair and earning an “Ow, you’re hurting me!” from the toddler. After furiously working on tiny section for almost 15 minutes (hours in toddler time) and barely making any progress, I started sweating profusely.

I picked up a hat and tried that. Yes, it looked acceptable to me but society would probably disapprove. Then I wondered what the other parents at the group would think when she inevitably took off the hat. She’s 3, right? All the kids are 3ish… Does it matter how a 3 year old’s hair looks? Would people balk if I shaved her head? Would CPS come for me for not properly caring for my child’s hair? It’s not like she was filthy or anything.

Thinking back on my own life, I was never one to just follow the rules. I had a Rainbow Bright doll when I was 5 or 6. I wore different colored socks to school because, in my mind, before socks were dyed they were the same color, so underneath they all matched. I even went through a period of going commando. And, pertinent to my current predicament, as a elementary/ junior high school student, I didn’t brush my hair (I did wash it). It was just hair, right? No one would think ill of me for having perpetually messy hair.

That was until I heard that several parents and maybe one or two of the teachers at my school thought I was a slacker and probably a drinker (true story).

Still no one really said anything to me and I was allowed to get away with my disheveled appearance for years on end. Most of us boys were. We rarely got criticized for looking un-presentable. Even when teachers did take notice, it was usually a half-hearted admonishing, perfunctory. Our friends never really gave a shit. Girls would give us a pass, depending on our social status, or just completely ignore us.

We could openly fart, too.

As boys, we were allowed a certain level of grossness, but woe to the girl who came to school looking less than immaculate and un-presentable (whatever the hell that means). Shit would most definitely be talked about her. Shit would be talked about her even if she came to school looking presentable, but said presentation wasn’t the status quo.

Boys didn’t have much of a status quo to live up to when it came to dress. From jocks to preppies, to Goths to wannabe thugs, jeans and t-shirt have always been acceptable for most casual occasions. You could even wear the same thing a few days in a row, so long as it wasn’t too dirty.

Once again staring down at the back of my daughter’s head, I contemplated the inequity of old-fashioned and current gender roles. A few glaring realities immediately became obvious to me: neatly brushing out her hair wasn’t gonna happen but neither was it my time to make a stand against sexist ideologies via my daughter’s tangled hair. Compromise was the only way.

I pulled that shit into a sloppy ponytail, threw some jeans and an ugly t-shirt on her.

Hurray to me- the lazy and frustrated, social justice warrior dad.


“I am Matthew (DC Daddy) and I blog as a coping mechanism for dealing with chronically irrational beings. It’s also about the absurd sublimity of raising children. While raising my child at home has been an unexpected personal boon, both intellectually and developmentally, my antiquated instincts of fatherly roles stupidly rail against my current profession. So writing my experiences and thoughts on parenting, especially as a stay at home parent, makes me feel like I’m contributing something as an active member of society. And, it keeps me sane.”
Follow him on Twitter @dcdaddysWT

Posted on April 29, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment

The Day the Music Came Back was the Day I Stopped Grieving the Loss of my Mother

The moment I heard my mom’s favorite song on the radio and didn’t change the channel, I knew something had fridgechanged. It had been over ten years, and until that day, any time I heard her song, I either vacated the room, turned the TV off, or switched stations. It was the one she forced me to learn on the piano. The one she sang horribly off-key every single day of her life. The song we played at her funeral. The one that I absolutely refused to listen to because it brought up feelings so painful that I just couldn’t deal. And then, one day, those negative feelings were gone.

I sat in my car and for the first time in over a decade, listened the entire way through. I didn’t cringe, or cry, or want to run away. For the first time, I heard her song as a tribute, instead of a curse or a painful reminder. It was still a reminder, but one I wanted. In that moment, I finally felt free.

Life without my mother has not been easy, and even as the years passed by, it never seemed to get any easier like people swore to me it would. It never hurt less. It never faded away. I held on to the sadness surrounding her death because she was supposed to get better. Because I was so young when she left me. Because I had so many questions that would never be answered. Because she’d never get to see me get married, or meet her grandchildren, or be there for a 3am phone call from me when I needed her for any reason or no reason at all. She was just gone. I was angry about all that I had to miss out on that everyone else got and took for granted. I was angry about all that she had to miss out on that everyone took for granted. I was angry at myself for taking her for granted, and not taking her for granted all at the same time. Mothers Days were miserable, even once I had my own kids, because I had no mother. Her birthdays and holidays nearly killed me because I had to watch everyone else celebrate while I was left with nothing.

But I didn’t have nothing. I had everything. I had her. I just didn’t know it. And sitting there, in the car, listening to her song without changing the channel. Without feeling the pain of her loss. Without thinking of all the things we’d never get to do, I realized I wasn’t angry anymore. I didn’t need to be. The grief I constantly felt over losing her had finally given way to the love I felt over the time we did have, and all the memories we shared.

It wasn’t some magical flip of a switch. It wasn’t because a certain amount of time had passed. Losing my mother will never be something I am okay with. I’m not. It’s not okay. It didn’t get easier with time. It wasn’t because the pain faded away. It was because I realized that, although I lost my mom, I didn’t lose her at all. Although she isn’t here with me, I always have her. I feel her here all the time, and not just through a song.

Being angry over losing her was consuming. Of my mind, my heart, my spirit. It may have been because I missed her, but it caused me to miss out on so much more. It wasn’t doing her justice, and it certainly wasn’t doing my life justice, and it wasn’t what she would have wanted for me.

Losing a parent, a family member, a love–someone so close to you that they are a part of you– it never gets easier. Not with time. Not with acceptance. Not through tears or anger. People will try to comfort you to tell you that it will, that you’ll “get over it”–and they mean well, but it’s not true. You won’t get over it. I’ll never get over it. But I realize now that I don’t have to. There is no getting over loss, and that’s okay. THAT is the realization that changed my life. That helped me let my grief go, and let the love without pain back in. Even if I’m sad. Even if I’m angry. Even if I think it’s unfair- I’m not punishing myself over it anymore, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I was hanging on to the grief because I thought that was what I was supposed to feel, forever. It seemed wrong not to- but I was wrong. The advice was wrong. my brain was wrong.

I listen to her song now, and I don’t feel pain anymore. I feel HER. It used to be something I went out of my way to avoid, but now, I turn the radio up, sit back, and for those few minutes, feel her sitting beside me, singing offkey at the top of her lungs, yelling at me to play along on the piano. I still feel sad, I still miss her, but more than anything, I feel love. Love always wins.


Grab a copy of my new book- KIDS ARE TURDS– on Amazon or in your local bookstore today!

Posted on April 25, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 5 Comments

25 Reasons Why Raising a 2 Year Old is Like Having a Drunk College Roommate All Over Again

By: Jay Armstrong.


The late nights, the loudness, the curious smells, the paralyzing headaches. No I’m not reminiscing  about my wild college days. I’m talking about this ordeal known as parenthood.

My son, Dylan is currently in the throes of the dreaded “Terrible 2’s”. The cantankerous stage of childhood development that convinces parents that they are feeding, bathing and padding a college fund for Satan’s seed.

The other night, Dylan is refusing to take a bath and when I say refusing , he doesn’t politely protest, ” Oh Father, I’ll pass on cleansing myself tonight. However, I do appreciate your attempts to rid me of this dumpster-like odor.” No, he is sprinting about the house, naked, screaming in foreign tongues as snot and tears puddle on his face and chest.

Amidst this madness, which in our house is known as Tuesday Night-Bath Night, I realized I had been here before. dcThe crying, the gibberish, the yelling transported me back to absurdity of college life. Now my college roommate was a bit of a challenge. He was often drunk. Which meant he was loud, demanding and  unpredictable. Which often required me to assume an authoritative parenting role in our dorm room — scolding him, threatening him, and forcing him to go to bed. Which in retrospect was great preparation for parenthood.

So, like a good parent,  I spent the last few days watching Dylan and noting is behavior and I was astounded to learn how similar raising a 2 year old was to living with a drunken college roommate. Here are my observations…

1. They have no respect for grammar. They say things like “Me hungry.” and “Car go fast now.”
2. They are always right– about EVERYTHING.
3. They make outrageous demands like “I want a dinosaur!”
4. They eat without decorum, utensils or a fear of diabetes.
5. They cry for no reason.
6. They laugh for no reason.
7. They say curious things like” I think I pooped myself.”
8. They secretly pee themselves.
9. In public places–the library, the mall, KFC–they often throw themselves to the floor and refuse to get up.
10. They get angry at you for not understanding their babbling gibberish.
11. Their clothes are often mismatched, disheveled and stained.
12. You have to repeat yourself over and over and over again and even then– they refuse to listen to you.
13. They adamantly disagree with logic and denounce proven theories like gravity.
14.  If you really want to enjoy yourself you need to find them a babysitter.
15. Their hair is often curiously sticky.
16.  They scream at you for no reason.
17. They refuse to go to bed, claim they’re not tired and yet once in bed they fall asleep faster then you can say Sealy Posturepedic.
18. When they puke, they leave it and expect you to clean it up.
19. They break your stuff and do not apologize.
20. On days that are clearly not your birthday they will sing “Happy Birthday” to you.
21.  They like to hold incoherent conversations with strangers.
22. A car ride will undoubtedly induce sleep.
23. They leave trails of crumbs and food wrappers.
24. They stain carpets.
25. And mercifully, when the night is over, you have to carry them off to bed.

So Kevin, wherever you are, thank you.  Your ridiculousness and tomfoolery prepared me well for the tribulations of parenthood.



Jay Armstrong is a high school English teacher and writer who lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife Cindy and their three children Haley, Chase and Dylan. In 2013, Jay was diagnosed with cerebellar degeneration. In 2015, Jay was diagnosed with sarcoidosis- an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation that affects organs, lymph nodes, muscles and joints. After being diagnosed with sarcoidosis, Jay dropped out of grad school and

On his website Jay shares personal stories that mix humor with insight. His stories range from his battles with his diseases, music, literature, parenthood and the awkward art of adulthood.
Write on Fight on also serves a community outreach program that hosts write-a-thons to raise money for charities and community programs. Along with writing and reading, Jay enjoys traveling with his wife and kids and having his heart broken by every Philadelphia sports team. 
Here’s where you can find Jay
Posted on April 22, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment

Why I Married My Best Friend

Over the weekend, Parker was invited to his first birthday party. I mean, he’s been invited before, but he’s always failed to even show us the invitation until weeks after the party has ended. This time was different. It was for a female classmate of his and he really, really wanted to go.

Holden, however, did not. And I didn’t expect him to. Not only was he not invited, the thought of spending hours surrounded by 6 year olds was enough to make him crawl out of his skin.  Thomas and I had settled on spending the evening with Holden, giving him some much needed time without his clingy little brother. He’d get to pick the activity, where we went for dinner, the works.

That changed the second we arrived at the party. Turns out, Parker’s classmate’s older brother is a classmate of Holden’s, and he’d been waiting for Holden to arrive all day. Our party of 3 quickly turned into a party of two, and we haven’t been a party of two since we became a party of 3 (minus very few failed outings that would make any sane person never want to go out again).

We don’t do coupley things, and we’ve always been okay with that. We don’t have date nights- we actually really like arriaedoing family stuff (I know, so obnoxious). We’re not lovey-dovey, send each other flowers, gifts of Valentine’s Day types. We’ve never been that way. We started as friends, and fell in love but it never worked out for us. Not for YEARS, and a couple of falling outs. When we reconnected, we started as friends again, and built on from there. Our relationship has always been based around that. There was no whirlwind romance, sweeping off of the feet, epic love-story behind our relationships. Just two people who were the best of friends who couldn’t make it work beyond that until they grew up a lot. A romantic night out would be…. weird and out of character for us, so what were we going to do with ourselves now? The last time we dropped the kids off on a playdate for an hour or so, we ended up at the grocery store. Not kidding. We wanted to make the best of the evening, so we decided on the typical- dinner out. Why the hell not?

We sat down, ordered our food and drinks, and proceeded to just have a good time for the entirety of our meal, joking with our waitress and each other. We weren’t overly affectionate, and didn’t act any different than we normally would around one another- even with the kids present. We’d ordered a pizza to share, so of course, when we were done eating, we had leftovers and requested a box.
When our waitress came back to our table, she handed us each a box, saying she wasn’t sure if we wanted to split it for when we went our separate ways.

Wait. Hold up. Does she not think we’re together? Mom and pop?

I laughed and informed her that we would, in fact, be leaving the restaurant to go pick up our two children and then going home together, like the old married couple we are.
She gave us a strange (but happy) look and laughed, and said “You know, I usually have my customers pegged by the end of the meal, and I totally had you two all wrong. You were having such a good time together that I really thought you were just a few dates in, still really enjoying each other’s company, not married for a long time.”

Me and Thomas looked at each other, both equally confused. How could that be? What were we doing that threw her off? That made her think we hadn’t been married a long time? Though we were perplexed, we were flattered.

This story isn’t meant to be a sad statement on how younger people view marriage (boring, stagnant)- but why I think it’s so important to marry someone who, above all else, outside of being in love, outside of romance, or holding hands, or public displays of affection, you consider a friend.

Take away everything else from my relationship. Away the falling in love, away the years of marriage- and what do we have? Friendship. We still, always have friendship. Friendship is the absolute best relationship you could ever have. It’s one that doesn’t so easily break apart. Being “in love” is strange, and sometimes fragile. It can be exhilarating, and amazing, and intoxicating, but without a solid foundation, it’s weak. I know that’s not what most people tell you, but without it, I don’t think my relationship would have lasted this long, because it hasn’t always been easy, or beautiful, or romantic, or even good. We’ve been through the lowest of lows- moments I swore we wouldn’t be able to come back from, but we did.

I married my best friend, and while we might fight, bicker, want to scream at each other, not even want to see each other or speak to one another- we won’t break in half, because at the end of the day, we are best friends. We have the kind of solid foundation where even if we don’t feel so much like lovers,  we just enjoy being around each other no matter what we’re doing. I’m not a relationship expert, but LIKING each other is sometimes so much more important than feeling the butterflies of being “in love”. I know, all the advice websites and experts might say differently, but friendship has kept my marriage strong, and alive, and we wouldn’t be the same without it.

Posted on April 19, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment

The Most HORRIFIC Moment of My Life- and Why Having Kids Was a Mistake

There comes a moment in every parent’s life where they regret having children. In my 8+ years of child-rearing, I’ve had plenty of moments where I wanted to sell the kids to the gypsies or list them on Craigslist, but I’ve never actually REGRETTED bringing them into this world. Until yesterday.
Before you go all CPS-Calling Sanctimommy on me, read on. I think you’ll agree, children were a bad choice.

This past week has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I had high-highs (Yay! My book came out!) and some low-lows (my lady parts decided to be a real peach–no pun intended– and start my period days early, causing busted can of biscuit level bloating and volcanic eruptions on my face the likes of which teenage me was lucky enough to never know.)

My girl dog is kind of an asshole. She’s got this nasty habit of rooting through trashcans and leaving a trail of tissue-crumbs leading back to her kennel. Not a very sneaky asshole. Though she’d never gone after my “sanitary” products before, I wasn’t about to take any chances. All tampon paraphernalia went into the can in my upstairs bathroom with a lid that couldn’t be opened without stepping on a floor pedal. My kids can’t even figure that shit out.
I spent the whole week smiling and wanting to throw things, and picking up pieces of booger tissue and ripped up toilet paper rolls off of the floor on both levels of the house. It was fun times, I tell ya.

Yesterday, as my uterus decided it had had enough fun and games for one month and I was finally feeling less stabby–yet still wanty of all things salty–I  found myself rooting through the pantry when Holden came walking up behind me.

“Hey Mommy, what’s this?” he says, holding something just out of my line of sight. I turn around, and inches from my face am greeted by an empty USED plastic tampon cartridge. tamp
“WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?” I yell, immediately snatching it from his hand. He looks surprised, taken aback, even.
“I found it in my room.”

Reality hits me. That fucking dog! She somehow managed to get her enormous blocky head into the trashcan with the lid and dragged my used tampon cartridge into my 8 year old son’s room and left it there for him to find.

“The damn dog is going through the trash again! If you ever find one of these, don’t touch it, just call for me!”
Holden still looks puzzled. “But why? What is it?”
“It’s a tampon, and it’s dirty, so just don’t touch it, okay?”
“Okay,” he shrugs, “Well, it looks like a whistle to me.”

I swear to the sweet baby Jesus the world stopped spinning at that moment. Did he just say what I think he said?

“Oh my God….” The words just kind of tumble from my lips, as I’m now in a state of shock.

Holden starts walking away, and just when I think the mortification is over, that it can’t possibly get any worse, he calls over his shoulder- “At least I didn’t blow into it!”

I’m dead. My face is on fire. I’ve never been so horrified and mortified and disgusted in my ENTIRE LIFE. At this point, I’m standing in the doorway to the pantry screaming “OH MY GOD” over and over again so loudly that it causes Holden to come back into the room and ask me what’s wrong because he’s pretty sure I’m having a mental breakdown (which I am), and then I think about having to explain that I’m thinking about the possibility of my child putting a used tampon cartridge in his mouth, and I’m pretty sure at that very moment my uterus shriveled up and died, and I’ll never have another period again–thereby preventing me from any further children or tampon whistles.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that I’m the type of person who isn’t going to teach my sons about women’s bodies leading them to go into adulthood as weirdos who believe women poop and give birth from the same hole (yes, those actually exist), I just know that once they learn about menstrual cycles there’s no turning back and I’m not ready for that kind of commitment yet. Judge me if you’d like- perhaps if I’d told him about tampons in the first place, he wouldn’t have touched the damn thing– or maybe he would have and when he touched it and brought it to me and I re-informed him of what exactly he had his hands on it would have scarred him for life- but how about you just don’t have kids at all and avoid this situation altogether. Problem solved.

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Holdin' Holden 5 Comments