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On politics and potty training

Play-dates, political views and Pull Ups

Since this Ask A Dad column coincides with the birthday of my wife, Sweetest of Annettes (sorry, all other Annettes), I am asking her nicely to please ask me the monthly question. Take it away, sweetest of hearts!

Q: Will you take out the garbage? It’s starting to stink.

A: Done.

That was certainly anti-climactic. I should probably take another question from the stack.

Q: Should I let my daughter go over to her friend’s house if they have a yard sign for a political candidate/measure that I don’t support?


OK, so this piece will probably be “hitting the streets” (as the kids these days say about print media) in early November, and the election will be nearly or completely in the past. This means that I am writing to you, People of the Future, in a time when everyone isn’t at everyone else’s throats, from the near past, when everyone is yelling a lot.

I envy you, Future People. As an aside, do you have rocket cars yet?

I don’t even know your politics, anonymous question-asker, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ve got to stop this. Political divisions are one thing when it’s contained to adults squabbling on Facebook. When we start to bring our kids into this pettiness, that’s cause for alarm.

Yes. Let the children play together. I believe that they are our future and, as such, we should treat them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, you know?

Can we get out of politics now? I’m going back to my lovely wi-fi Annette, who will surely reward me with a thought-provoking, studious question for the ages.

Q: Potty-training your kids: How did that happen?

Aw, crap. Not like that.

Potty-training a child is a delicate subject. And messy one, too, so I might rather talk about politics. But no one ever said that the answering-parenting-questions game was going to be easy. Here are some tips!

  1. Allow them to learn at their own pace. My daughter, First One (not her real name), basically potty-trained herself overnight, while very young. I will one day reward her generously for this in my will. My son, Last One (not his real name), turned four recently, and only just recently started wearing underpants instead of pull-ups. We let him decide when he was ready, and he chose to make me wonder if I was going to need to pack a supply of diapers for his dorm room.
  2. Allow them to fail. They’re going to have accidents. And there’s no sense in shaming them for it. Just prepare yourself to see some horrors you can’t un-see. And don’t be afraid to just throw the entire pair of underpants away. Yes, I know, waste not and want not, and a pair of underpants saved is a pair of underpants earned. But, come on. Your sanity is worth more than that.
  3. Reward successes. You know what my son doesn’t like all that much? Sugar. Or inexpensive trinkets. What we found out, though, is that he really likes letters. So, use the toilet, and here’s a bowl of Alpha Bits cereal. Or an unopened can of alphabet Spaghetti-O’s. Or, here, I just ripped this swatch of toilet paper into the shape of the letter “I.” Congratulations, bud. You’ve earned it!

No more questions. I’ve got to go now. Not like that.

Written by Kelly Hagen

Kelly Hagen

Kelly is the Director of Communications at North Dakota United. He has been with NDU since merger in 2013, and worked previously with the North Dakota Public Employees Association since 2011. Kelly is in charge of coordinating and distributing print and electronic communications between members and with the public, is the editor for United Voices magazine, administrates the website and social media properties, and works directly with local leaders to build their own communications infrastructure. Kelly is originally from Wilton, ND. He received an Associate of Arts degree in journalism from Bismarck State College and a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Prior to his employment with NDU, he worked for the N.D. Department of Health, the Fargo Forum and the Bismarck Tribune. He lives in Bismarck with his wife, Annette, and their two children.

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