TIME Family

10 Things My Father Was Right About

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Stop worrying

My father spent his youth as a crossing guard, a Boy Scout, and a designated driver. I, on the other hand, squandered mine cutting gym class and hanging out at the mall. Back then, my father would deliver themed, Mike Brady–style lectures (one recurring favorite was the Importance of Being Honest), which I grudgingly tolerated and later dismissed. But as I’ve gotten older, a funny thing has come to pass: I’ve often found myself doing exactly what he told me to do, following even his most questionable advice—like renting the movie Pink Cadillac. Herewith, his greatest hits. (Caution: Some of these lessons may trigger flashbacks to your own father’s finest moments.)

1. Hold hands while you hash it out. My folks have been married for 47 years. One of my father’s rules for a happy marriage is that if a nasty argument erupts, hold hands as you fight. You’ll feel goofy doing this, but here’s the thing: It works. Recently my husband, Tom, forgot to pay a few bills that were buried under a pile of clutter. I was incandescent with rage. So we interlaced our fingers while we talked it out, and I felt my blood pressure plummet and my endorphins flow in spite of myself. It’s impossible to scream at someone who is giving your hand a gentle squeeze. It just is.

2. Pay attention to anyone who wears a tool belt… My father is practical, thrifty (or, put more accurately, cheap), and savvy about home improvements. He calls a repairman only as a last resort—and when he does, he hovers around the guy and asks tons of questions. “Carefully observe anyone with a skill that you don’t have,” my father often said, “and then you can take care of the fill-in-the-blank yourself.” He was right: After shadowing a handyman for an hour, I later fixed my own dishwasher, to the perpetual amazement of friends who call their super to change a lightbulb.

3. …Or a uniform. It has always annoyed my dad that a waiter gets a 20 percent tip for serving a crème brûlée, while a hotel maid who disposes of used dental floss often winds up with bubkes. My father routinely told our sanitation men and the crew who cleaned his office that they were doing a good job and made sure to compensate them at holidays. As a child, I used to writhe with embarrassment when he did this. Now I do the same for the sanitation workers in my neighborhood. One guy once told me, with a catch in his voice, that in 10 years, it was the first time he had ever been thanked.

4. You can never have enough baggies. Anything can be stored in a resealable plastic bag, according to my father. Shoelaces, maps, socks, meat. I used to mock his habit of bagging everything, but since then I’ve seen the light. They’re miracle workers—easy to stash, and you can spot their contents at a glance. Now, just like Dad, I have a special drawer just for these bags, which range from giant (for sweaters) to tiny (to squirrel away nuts in my purse). When I’m missing a size in my lineup, I get tense.

5. You can’t go wrong with Clint. Dad says if you are unable to decide what movie to rent, get a Clint Eastwood film. Even the bad ones, he contends, are superior to most other films. Even Every Which Way but Loose. Even The Gauntlet (look it up). Now, when I’m overwhelmed by the options, I simply look for Clint’s scowling face.

6. Don’t belittle the annual sack race. When my sisters and I hit adolescence, my father doggedly upheld our many family traditions, despite a tsunami of scorn. “They don’t mean anything to you kids now,” he’d tell us, “but one day you’ll invest in them yourselves.” Have we ever. Every Fourth of July, we have a sack race, and I just introduced a new tradition last Christmas. After dinner, I passed out lottery tickets and coins. Soon, all you could hear was an industrious scritch-scratch. And my father was beaming.

7. For Pete’s sake, stop worrying. Dad, like many guys of his generation, is a doer, not a talker. Just “fix it,” he tells himself, no matter how intractable the problem seems. His swift and decisive action used to strike me, a champion ditherer, as impulsive, but I’ve come to realize that consulting your gut leads to better decisions than exhaustive (and exhausting) deliberation. Now when I’m stymied, I say this phrase, and the answer comes.

8. Carry a hankie. Years ago, my parents and I were visiting a museum. I had a cold. My father handed me a fresh hankie and told me to keep it in my purse. And so I have. Tissues disintegrate, but not this sturdy cloth. Restroom dryer on the fritz? Handkerchief! Want to wrap a cookie to go? Handkerchief!

9. No one’s smarter than you. Long ago, if I was in a group and the conversation strayed to an unfamiliar topic, I’d keep silent. Dad urged me to say, “I don’t understand. Can you explain what you’re talking about?” Asking questions makes you sound smart, he said, and confident to boot. At a recent gathering, somebody mentioned the Mauritius Continental Shelf. Silence. Then I asked, “What’s that?” And all the former Ivy Leaguers around me exhaled and admitted they didn’t know what the hell it was, either.

10. You will want kids. My father always encouraged me to have a baby. I used to tell him that it wasn’t for everyone, but he shot back, “I know you, and you would love it.” True enough: Tom and I became parents recently, and that little girl is the joy of my life. I cannot wait to impart my own pearls of wisdom to her, such as the infinite uses for twist ties or the Importance of Being Honest (sound familiar?). And since she’s a lot like me, she’ll probably roll her eyes and grumble—and listen to every word.

This article originally appeared on Real Simple.

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MONEY Shopping

The One Big Problem With Father’s Day Gift Guides

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An actual real-live dad was consulted for this story. Imagine that!

We’ve all heard about how hard it is to pick out Father’s Day gifts. “Finding a Father’s Day gift ranks right up there on the difficulty scale with rocket science (at worst) and holding a plank for more than a minute (at best),” states a Glamour post accompanied by the prerequisite list of fashionable Father’s Day gift ideas. “Dads never seem to want anything until something breaks or gets lost.”

How awful. Doesn’t Dad know that his stubborn contentedness with what he has is getting in the way of your desire to spend an afternoon at Nordstrom and buy him something?

Certainly, Father’s Day gift-buying guides proliferate because selecting dad presents is such a pain. But that’s not the only reason. Father’s Day gift guides are also everywhere because children and spouses want to show their genuine appreciation for all that dads do (which is really nice), and the fact that retailers and advertisers love the opportunity to prod shoppers into buying supposedly manly merchandise that men wouldn’t buy for themselves (which is less nice).

Wanting nothing on Father’s Day is more or less considered a crime. More importantly, due to a mixture of obligation, guilt, and sincere affection, givers want to get something for the men in their lives. Hence the need for gift guides that theoretically help givers find the perfect “must-have” for a guy who, remember, doesn’t want anything. (Side note: Dads don’t use the phrase “must-have.”)

The big problem about Father’s Day gift guides, then, is that they are created much more with the giver rather than the recipient in mind. What’s more, these lists of Father’s Day gifts often seem to be compiled without any input whatsoever from actual, honest-to-goodness fathers.

This explains why Father’s Day gift guides are overloaded with cutting-edge gadgets, grooming products, luxury watches, stylish clothing, artisanal bourbon marshmallows, and what have you. These items are not necessarily about what dads want, but about what the givers want the dads in their lives to be like. They want dads to be hipper, smell and look better, and generally be trendier and less clueless.

Let’s think about this for a second. On the one day of the year devoted to fathers, the message accompanying many gifts is not simple appreciation for who dads truly are and all they do but nudges that say: Man, you need to get your act together. There would be upheaval if similarly passive-aggressive Mother’s Day gifts were handed out to implicitly tell Mom: You have awful taste and your appearance hasn’t been up to snuff lately.

Dads could be insulted by being force-fed these kinds of gifts. More often, they are received with a forced smile and a sense a puzzlement as to how much of a mismatch the item is with the kinds of things he truly likes. Detroit News finance editor (and genuine-article dad) Brian J. O’Connor recently pointed out many dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts) for Father’s Day gifts, in order to help givers avoid “having to slink back to Bed, Bath & Beyond or to waste your money shipping a return to that twee, ‘personally curated’ hippie store on the Web.” Among the many don’ts are items relating to Dad’s hobbies (if he wanted it, he’d have it), almost any kind of clothing, and anything personalized (coasters, tools, grilling sets, etc.).

To this, I’ll add the advice that if you must consult a Father’s Day gift guide, at least go to a source that the dad in your life knows and respects and therefore has a prayer of jibing with his sensibility. If your dad is a regular on Pinterest or etsy, or if he’s a big reader of Glamour, Seventeen, or Real Simple, or if he shops all the time at Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, or Bed, Bath & Beyond, that’s great. By all means check out their Father’s Day gift suggestions.

On the other hand, there’s a problem if you’re getting a Father’s Day gift based mostly on what you like—or perhaps what you want your dad or husband to be like. This is how dads wind up with scented candles on Father’s Day. They may be “manly” scented candles that look and smell like charcoal, but they’re scented candles nonetheless. And if your dad isn’t a scented candle kind of guy, what in the world are you doing buying him scented candles?

Likewise, if your father never looks at Esquire, InStyle, Details (or MONEY for that matter!), and would chuckle at the thought of dressing like any of the slick, trendy hipsters on the pages inside, then these resources should be dismissed, or at least their recommendations should be considered with extreme skepticism. These kinds of Father’s Day lists swear that your dad really does want a vintage $400 camera, a drone, $1,300 penny loafers, men’s makeup products, and perhaps a fancy wireless digital thermometer with Bluetooth connectivity for grilling meat.

If you truly know your dad, you should know whether these are the kinds of things he’ll like or be annoyed or mystified by. And if he says he really doesn’t want you to buy him anything, maybe, just maybe, you should believe him.

MORE: This Father’s Day, Your Dad Actually Needs a Tie
The Worst Father’s Day Gifts — And What to Buy Instead
What You Wish You Could Give Dad on Father’s Day, But Shouldn’t

TIME Family

This Dove Commercial Will Make You Cry Happy Tears

The spot is made from real-life footage of men getting happy news

To mark this Father’s Day on June 21, Dove is releasing an ad that wouldn’t have been possible without the foresight of some clever females.

The company cobbled together footage of men finding out that they were going to become fathers, news that their baby mamas (and one baby daddy) surprised them with in gift boxes and cards—with the camera rolling. All the footage was posted on public sites that Dove employees trawled through, contacting the parents to ask them to be part of the campaign.

Dove, whose “real beauty” campaign turned 10 years old in 2014, brought a similar approach to their men’s line, attempting to reflect dads as they are rather than as unrealistic archetypes. Jen Bremner, U.S. marketing director for Dove Men+Care, a line the company has been aligning with dads since it debuted in 2010, said that when the company was researching how to position the brand, they found that fathers felt falsely depicted in advertising, as either bumbling dolts or super-hot supermen.

“Actually becoming a dad is a very significant and transformative experience,” Bremner said. “It redefines their masculinity.” It also makes for some very good television.

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MONEY Careers

Is Work-Life Balance Even Possible?

We asked people on the streets of New York City how they manage to keep their home lives and work lives separate, if at all.

Balancing your time and energy between work and home is difficult; you’ve got that report due on Wednesday and your kids need help with their homework. We went to Times Square to ask people how they prioritize between their careers and their family. Some people said they clock out right at 5p.m. every day while some said they take work home with them every night. How do you manage your work-life balance?

TIME Family

Why My Sister Allowed Her Death to Be Filmed for TV

Renee Heidtman wanted to leave her mark on the world—which includes what her dying taught me

At 32 years old, my older sister, Renee, had to choose how she wanted to die from terminal cancer. While her choice didn’t make financial sense, and it made life harder for her family members, it was the only choice she could live with. She chose to die at home in San Francisco. I am forever grateful for her choice.

My sister was given two options when she was put on hospice. With no guarantee of how long she would live, she knew that she wanted the most comfortable death possible. She could choose to die in a facility, with strangers caring for her, or she could choose to die in a familiar setting, surrounded by people who loved her.

It was a difficult decision. Financial burdens loomed over us like dark clouds that just wouldn’t go away. And I was carrying a lot of the weight. But with a lot of luck and a network of amazing friends, we were able to make it happen. We made GoFundMe accounts and reached out to close friends to help us. Organizations like The Shanti Project helped us with experienced and compassionate volunteers. Her friends gave everything they could to make sure she had a peaceful death.

In the midst of it all, we were contacted about being the subject for National Geographic’s I Am Dying. My sister was immediately interested. She knew that she wanted to tell her story and leave her mark on the world. She accomplished so much in her life, even after her diagnosis. She wanted people to know about the positive impact she had on the world. I was more hesitant about the filming. I had to be able to trust the filmmakers to make sure that they wouldn’t sensationalize her illness.

So I met with filmmakers Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin, who told me about the piece they wanted to make. They assured me that it would be a portrait of Renee’s life and her final days, and that it wouldn’t be provocative. After seeing how compassionate both of them were, we both agreed to be filmed.

As her death grew near, and as I was forced to leave my job to take care of her full-time, they followed our journey. Everything was uncertain, but I knew that being by her side was far more important than making money.

During those final weeks, I was able to feed her, clothe her, bathe her, administer her medication and change her diapers. We were able to laugh, share memories and eat pancakes every day for breakfast. I was able to reach out to her closest friends to make sure they could spend as much time as they wanted with her.

I slowly learned her language and read her facial expressions. She would squeeze my hand if the answer was yes, nothing if it was no. Her dedicated nurses talked with me late at night as I tried to change her soiled sheets while she was still lying in the hospital bed. I was able to master it and found great satisfaction in caring for her the way a nurse would.

Together, we faced our fears of using the walker and the wheelchair – two elephants in the room that I only knew for a short time. I learned how to give her methadone after she was unresponsive, how to make sure her mouth was moist when she couldn’t swallow, and ultimately, how to say goodbye.

By being able to take care of her in her apartment, I learned a patience that I had never known before. As she slowly lost her mind, I let her take her time with simple tasks and tried to give her as much freedom as possible. Other caregivers could never give the same amount of love and affection.

When I found her breathless on April 11, 2013, I knew there would be no more reaching out to her close friends. There would be no more late-night calls to Sutter Care. And worst of all, there would be no more memories to share with her.

After the hospital bed was taken away, my mind and body were still in caregiver mode. I desperately wanted the care to continue. I ached for that special bond. As my grief took over me in a profound way, I knew that my education should continue.

Now, I strive to be the best hospice volunteer I can be. My goal is to touch the lives of others the way I was able to touch my sister’s. Whether I am able to work as a caregiver every day or not, I know that inside, a caregiver is who I am. I simply want the compassion to continue.

Before your death, you’ll be given choices. No matter what you choose, it will be difficult for your family members. My sister made the right choice for her. You can make the right choice for you, because your death should be the most beautiful experience of your life. I Am Dying shows just one example of how beautiful life and death can be. While there is sadness within its contents, there is a lust for life that lives on.

 

I Am Dying, directed by Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin and produced by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix, premieres Saturday, June 13.

TIME Parenting

How I Explained Caitlyn Jenner’s Transition to My 7-Year-Old Daughter

“A man can become a woman?”

Last evening after dinner, my husband and I were comparing notes from our social-media news streams while our 7-year-old daughter was doodling. My husband was reading aloud from a statement that a personality (who shall remain nameless) we follow had posted on Facebook about Caitlyn Jenner. A conservative with deeply rooted religious beliefs — very different from our own — this person expressed that in his mind it would never be acceptable for a man to choose to become a woman.

Suddenly, our daughter’s ears perked up. “A man can become a woman?” “Yes,” I replied, “if he wants to.” My husband’s eyes widen and he lightly shook head his to signal “let’s not go there.”

“How can a person do that?” she asked, clearly intrigued. I looked at my husband, gave him my “we’re going there” smile and continued.

“Sometimes, when people are born, they may look like boys and girls on the outside, but on the inside, they know something is not right. For example, there are people who may look like boys, but know that they are really girls, and would be much happier if they could look like the way they feel on the inside. And, there are people who look like girls, but feel like they are boys on the inside. They would be much happier if the world saw them as boys. We are lucky enough to live at time where doctors and science can help people like that be who they are really meant to be.”

She got up from her seat and walked over to me and crawled onto my lap. She knew this was something serious. My husband, watching the exchange, laughed as if to say, “I warned you.”

“Mom,” she asked softly in my ear, “do the boys that become girls still have, you know, their things?” She nodded her head toward her own lap. “If they want to keep them, yes,” I replied. “They can decide.”

She gave me a kiss, walked back to her seat, picked up her colored pencil, and started doodling again. That was enough … for now.

Our girl has not yet encountered the Vanity Fair images of Caitlyn Jenner that were released last week. If she did, we’d have talked a bit about Caitlyn’s journey, and also about ideas of beauty and how magazine cover images get made. Luckily, she’s still in a childhood phase that is not affected by pop culture and media. I am hoping we can stay there a bit longer.

Want to know more about talking to your children about transgender issues? Here are a few sources you may find useful.

Angela Matusik is the executive digital editor at InStyle, and she is not afraid to talk to kids about the tough stuff. You can follow her on Twitter @angelamatusik

Read next: Watch Kids Share Eloquent, Empathetic Reactions to Caitlyn Jenner

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TIME Family

Meet the Father of Paternity Leave

Gary Ackerman
Bassem Tellawi—AP Congressman Gary Ackerman, D-NY, on Nov. 9, 2004.

Before Richard Branson, there was Gary Ackerman

Correction appended, June 11, 2015

This week, the man most celebrated for his impact on paternity leave policies is Richard Branson: the Virgin founder made news by announcing that some employees at Virgin Management would be eligible for a full year of paid new-dad time off.

Almost exactly 45 years ago, a very different man—a teacher, not an executive—was the one making strides for paternity leave. His name was Gary Ackerman, and he was a teacher in New York City who had a daughter in late 1969. When his daughter was about 10 months old, he applied for a leave (without pay) for childcare purposes. As a resulting lawsuit laid out, the principal did not recommend to the district that Ackerman’s application be approved; unsurprisingly, the superintendent followed suit by not approving the leave. Ackerman tried to appeal the decision several ways, and was told by many people that the childcare leave policies of the Board of Education only applied to female teachers.

As TIME later reported, “[t]urned down, he went AWOL from his job, [and] with his wife Rita filed a complaint of discrimination with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sued the board in U.S. district court. Their argument: granting child-care leaves only to women is an invasion of privacy because it forces mothers to be housekeepers and child rearers and prevents husbands and wives from dividing up family responsibilities as they see fit.”

In 1973, the EEOC, TIME continued, “found that the mothers-only rule ‘discriminates against male teachers as a class.’ As a result, the board says it will reword its bylaws to ensure equal rights for fathers.” That autumn, the relevant section of the Board of Ed bylaws was amended so that it no longer referred to an affected teacher as “her” or relied on the timing of the teacher’s pregnancy, thus expanding its relevancy to fathers and to adoptive parents. The determination is widely regarded as the groundbreaking first step toward paternity leave’s existence.

Just how groundbreaking was it? Ackerman’s motion to have a lawsuit he filed against the Board of Ed (separate from the EEOC case) considered as a class-action suit was denied because, though 40% of the Board of Ed’s teachers were men, he was the first male teacher ever—and one of two in total—to apply for childcare leave before that 1973 change. According to a New York Times article about the EEOC’s decision, at the time about 2,000 to 3,000 female teachers took a maternity leave in the city each year.

Ackerman was eventually denied compensation in his suit, because he had already stopped teaching and the relevant bylaw had already been changed, but that doesn’t mean his story came to an end. Though his first job after leaving teaching was at a local newspaper, he soon transitioned to a life in politics. Elected to the state senate in 1979, he went on to serve in Congress for three decades, until January of 2013.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated how long Gary Ackerman served in Congress. He served for three decades.

TIME Family

This 92-Year-Old Just Adopted a 76-Year-Old Daughter

"I have worked jigsaw puzzles, and my life had been a beautiful picture. But one piece was missing"

A 92-year-old Dallas woman adopted her 76-year-old cousin after a relationship that has spanned more than six decades, WFAA in Dallas reported.

Muriel Clayton began to care for Mary Smith, her younger cousin, after Smith’s father died decades ago. Smith’s mother was still living, but illness prevented her from caring for her daughter. Though Clayton wanted to ask Smith to formalize their relationship earlier, she waited until her biological mother had died.

On Tuesday, the pair went to Dallas County Court and legally became mother and daughter.

“I have worked jigsaw puzzles, and my life had been a beautiful picture. But one piece was missing, and that was Mary,” Clayton said. “And now I’ve got that piece in place. Officially!”

[WFAA]

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TIME women

Why I Don’t Want to Have Children

Pacifier
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I’ve spent years carefully crafting the most amazing life I can

What I want is to be happy.

I’m often told that I’d make a good mother. Depending on my relationship with the person making this wildly incorrect statement, I have one of two reactions: either a small, insincere smile and a “mmmm” response that does not invite further discussion or a hearty laugh followed by a firm “No.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love kids. They’re hilarious, they’re adorable, and I (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. But without a doubt, I do not want them. And here’s why.

I don’t want to worry about diaper rash and “tummy time” and I don’t want to know what colic is.

I don’t want to put a kid on a kindergarten waiting list and I don’t want to decide between public and private education. I don’t want to coordinate basketball practice drop-off with ballet lessons pick-up, I don’t want to help with trigonometry and darling, I will not deal with your teenage angst because you best believe I invented that. I’d rather have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than try to figure out how to pay for my child’s college while I still owe roughly twelve kajillion dollars for my own degree. I’ve more than once done something “just to tell the grandkids about it,” but I never actually planned on there being any grandkids.

It amuses me to tell people I don’t want children because no one ever quite knows how to respond. I’ve gotten “Well, when you meet the right guy, you’ll change your mind,” which is basically suggesting I’m incapable of making decisions regarding my own life without consulting a nameless, faceless FutureMan and is, by the way, astonishingly offensive. Others immediately ask what I do for a living, as though my employer holds the key to my womb and has locked it up until I retire. I don’t really consider myself a career-minded kind of girl; I’ve always worked to live, not lived to work.

Two mothers have actually said to me, “I didn’t know what love was before having a baby. You should reconsider.” I’m happy they’re happy now but “not knowing love before kids” is one of the most acutely sad things I’ve ever heard. Occasionally, I get a hearty “yeah!” from like-minded women, some of whom will eventually become mothers and some of whom will not. I appreciate the support.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter how much anyone tries to change my mind because the decision’s been made — permanently.

Last October, I spent a wonderful morning with my doctor, during which he performed a tubal ligation on me.

Yep, I got my tubes tied at 28.

I admit that once my doctor agreed to perform the surgery, I had a moment of panic. It immediately crossed my mind that maybe everyone was right and I was wrong and I would wake up at 30 and want a baby more than anything in the world or that maybe my “hard pass” on kids was a rebellion against expectations simply for the sake of a rebellion.

Maybe I would love the complete upheaval of my priorities and schedule and life in general. Shortly after these hysterical thoughts raced through my mind, though, I regained my sanity. I picked a date for the surgery. Done. Tubes tied.

Here’s the thing: I’ve spent years carefully crafting the most amazing life I can.

I’m surrounded by people I love very much, who love me in return. I’m well-educated and well-traveled. I have endless time to learn about things that interest me and to see wonderful things and to meet the greatest people on earth. I leave piles of library books all over my bedroom and plan fabulous trips all over the world. I stay up until 6 a.m. watching Sons of Anarchy because I know no small person is relying on me to feed them in a few short hours. I occasionally eat chips and salsa for breakfast and drink beer for dinner and feel no guilt that I’m teaching anyone horrific eating habits. I spend my days finding my bliss, like all the inspirational posters beg of me.

All this being said, I can’t wait to be an auntie. Whenever my friends start popping out kids, I’ll be there with inappropriately loud and expensive presents. I’ll be the aunt who slips them a vodka martini on their 16th birthday and I’ll rant and rail with the best of them whenever they feel slighted by other kids.

And when I’m off for six months teaching scuba in Venezuela, I promise to send lovely postcards.

I get the reasons people want kids. I do. I’m not such a heartless, selfish monster that I’m incapable of understanding the appeal of a small person who loves you unconditionally and relies on you to guide them safely through a scary world. Parents are brave and strong and incredible people. But so are astronauts and brain surgeons and I don’t want to be those things, either.

What I want is to be happy.

And I’m doing that. I’m there, I’m living that dream. I’m happiest not being a mom, but hey… Call me if you need a babysitter. I’m great in a pinch.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Sports

5 Sports Struggling to Reach Kids

It goes without saying, but if you ever have to launch a campaign to convince people that something is cool, it's probably not.

Kids today! They’re overscheduled with activities, and they’ve got no attention spans thanks to social media, video games, smartphones, and assorted other screens. That’s the gist of how today’s younger generations have been routinely portrayed. And these factors are among the reasons cited for waning interest and participation in sports that once captured the attention—and dollars—of the masses, but are now considered too old-fashioned, too time-consuming, too unexciting, or just too uncool by kids today.

These struggling sports aren’t simply conceding defeat, however. They’re introducing marketing initiatives and new business models to win over younger consumers as if the future of these sports depends on them—which is pretty much the case.

  • Bowling

    Bowling alley with neon lights
    iStock

    The number of bowling alleys in America has been on a steady decline for years, dropping roughly 25% from 1998 (5,400 alleys) to 2013 (just under 4,000). Bowling alleys once thrived thanks to active bowling leagues around the country, but participation has dwindled, perhaps as part of the broader trend of Americans detaching from society and their local communities, as explained in the groundbreaking 2000 book Bowling Alone.

    That might not be the only reason interest in bowling has faded. “People’s social tastes change, too,” Wayne State University assistant sociology professor David Merolla told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s also possible bowling isn’t what people do anymore.”

    In recent years, emerging entertainment brands like Pinstack and Latitude 360 have aimed to reinvent the faded old bowling alley concept and attract more young people by adding all sorts of bells and whistles—or rather, ropes courses, laser tag, rock climbing walls, bumper cars, restaurants, and concert and comedy venues, all under one roof. Latitude 360, which plans on opening a location in lower Manhattan in late 2015, bills itself as a “cruise ship on land.” An ongoing Kids Bowl Free summertime promotion encourages children (and their families) to bowl too.

  • Golf

    Jordan Spieth of the U.S. grins as he wears his Champion's green jacket on the putting green after winning the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015.
    Brian Snyder—Reuters Jordan Spieth of the U.S. grins as he wears his Champion's green jacket on the putting green after winning the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2015.

    Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy are among the young golf champions who have been heralded as the sport’s potential saviors. And why might the sport need saving? The reasons include that it’s too snobby, too hard, too expensive, or just not cool or too time-consuming for our fast-moving culture.

    Perhaps the most obvious sign of golf’s struggles is that the number of courses in America is expected to plummet for years to come. To boost participation and interest in the sport, golf associations and country clubs have tried everything from pushing the idea of playing nine holes rather than the full 18, to using oversized holes on courses to make the game less frustrating—and perhaps even fun.

  • Boxing

    Boxing: Mayweather vs Pacquiao
    Mark J. Rebilas—USA TODAY Sports/Reuters Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao box during their world welterweight championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena, May 2, 2015.

    The big Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao match in Las Vegas was a huge money maker, but it didn’t help endear the sport to casual fans. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by spectators who want their money back because the match was so boring (and because Pacquiao didn’t disclose an injury to prior to the fight).

    The heightened attention given to boxing with the “Fight of the Century” was also an anomaly. Interest in boxing among fans has been described as struggling, dead, or “undead” at least since the rise of mixed martial arts into the mainstream. Prior to the most recent “Fight of the Century,” many boxing pay-per-view events have drawn disappointing viewer numbers, and some have argued that PPV format is to blame as the reason so many casual fans stopped keeping up with the sport.

    “What’s hurting boxing is they’re not putting it on free television,” boxing great Evander Holyfield theorized in 2011. In March, boxing returned to prime time network television for the first time in three decades, with Saturday broadcasts of Premier Boxing Champions on NBC. Thus far, boxing on network TV has proved to be the equal of UFC in terms of viewer numbers.

    Interestingly, while the consensus is that fan interest in boxing has dwindled, participation in boxing has been on the upswing over the past decade, as it’s become a trendy fitness activity among men and women alike. Still, the American Association of Pediatricians vigorously opposes youths being involved in amateur boxing because of the serious risk of brain injury. On a related note, fewer kids are playing football across the U.S., though the trend may come as a result of children increasingly specializing in one sport for most of the year, rather than just concerns about head injuries.

  • Fishing

    150604_EM_Sports_Fishing
    Alex Wong—Getty Images Local students of Septima Clark Public Charter School participate during a fishing event at the Constitution Gardens Pond of the National Mall in Washington, DC.

    According to a 2014 report, there was a net loss of 1.2 million fishing participants in the previous year: Overall, 9.9 million people gave up fishing, while only 8.7 participants picked up the sport, representing a decrease of 21%. The poll shows that households with kids are more likely to fish: 17.5%, versus 12% of households without young children. But teenagers are the group least likely to be interested in fishing: Only 6.6% of people ages 13 to 17 who don’t fish said they were considering taking up the sport, compared to 43% of those 45 or over.

    Unsurprisingly, the outdoors seems to be deemed less cool the older a child gets. Among kids ages 6 to 12, 44% say outdoor recreation is “cool,” compared to 34% of 13- to 17-year-olds. Nearly half (47%) of first-time adult fishing participants said they perceived the sport as “exciting,” but significant numbers also described the sport as “time consuming” (25%), uninteresting (16.5%), and “not for someone like me” (12%). The poll doesn’t reveal such perceptions with regard to children or teenagers specifically, but presumably an above-average portion of easily distracted, smartphone-addicted teens think fishing is too boring.

    The insights of an outdoors recreation analyst quoted in 2007—when a study showed the number of fishing participants had dropped 16% over the previous 10 years—seems to hold up well: “Thirty years ago, people would get up and go fishing,” he said. “Now you get up and you have a soccer game at 9, a baseball game at 11, a team picnic at 1 — it’s much more structured time. Video games also are part of it.”

    It’s understandable why the fishing industry is so eager to encourage kids to give the sport a try: 84% of adult participants say they were introduced to fishing by the time they turned 12. Of course, it helps if you actually catch a fish: 40% of men said the most enjoyable thing about fishing was (what else?) catching a fish, and 37% said the worse thing about fishing was (what else?) not catching a fish. Yet 19% of survey participants who fish said they caught nothing on their most recent fishing trip.

    National Fishing & Boating Week, held the first week of June each year (June 6-14 in 2015), provides families a good excuse to give fishing a try. On one or more days during this week, most states allow fishing on public bodies of water without the requirement (or fee) of a permit.

  • Baseball

    As part of a season-long program titled "Calling All Kids", the players of the Boston Red Sox were accompanied by children during pre-game introductions.
    Jim Davis—Boston Globe via Getty Images As part of a season-long program titled "Calling All Kids", the players of the Boston Red Sox were accompanied by children during pre-game introductions.

    Studies have shown participation and interest in baseball has fallen year after year among children. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of children who played baseball dropped 41%. Polls indicate that teens identifying themselves as “avid” baseball fans are on the decline, while the fan base in professional soccer and basketball have been rising. (The NFL has the highest percentage of avid teen fans, overall.)

    Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has been on a mission to win over younger fans, which seems like an essential move because the future of baseball as a business relies on it. “Our research shows the two biggest determinants of fan avidity are did you play as a kid? And how old were you when your parents took you to the ballpark for the first time?” Manfred said at the start of this season.

    Hence the proliferation of family ticket deals and kids clubs offered by virtually every MLB team. The promotions include free tickets and team swag, with the hope that playing up to kids now pays off down the road.

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