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2 years ago, I had the spotlight for being a good dad. My message would be different now.

Does becoming famous for fatherhood actually help fatherhood?

2 years ago, I had the spotlight for being a good dad. My message would be different now.

In late 2013, a simple fatherhood moment changed my life forever.

I was working in corporate America and took paternity leave to bond with my three-month-old daughter (my second child). One morning, my wife was worried about being late for work while she was in the middle of wrangling my older daughter's wild hair.

While changing my baby's diaper in the other room, I simply told her, "Go ahead, I got this."


Skeptical that I would be able to keep the baby happy while simultaneously playing the role of hairstylist, my wife looked at me and said, "I'll believe it when I see it," and she went off to work.

After she left, I set my camera on its timer, took this photo, and emailed it to her.

A simple photo ended up being not so simple after all.

We both got a good chuckle out of the photo, but once I shared it with the public a few hours later, everything changed.

Once I put the photo on social media, people lost their minds — and the reactions were predictable.

Some thought I was the sexiest dad alive, some threw racial slurs my way, some thought I was cool for demonstrating what fatherhood looks like, and some wondered why a guy who takes care of his kids is trending on their news feeds.

Sure, it was a cute photo, but was it really that big of a deal? I received my answer when mainstream media found it a few weeks later, in January 2014.

Before I could blink, the heavy hitters contacted me to discuss "the photo."

The "Today" show.

Giving Al Roker a shoulder rub on national television was, um, interesting. GIF from the "Today" show.

"Good Morning America."

I'm not a fan of the "Mr. Mom" label at all. Image from "Good Morning America."

HLN.

Fist bumps to the dads of the world who take their jobs seriously. GIF from HLN.

Katie Couric.

Being interviewed by Katie Couric was great, but did it really help? Photo from "Katie."

And dozens more.

It was quite a whirlwind. But it was a conversation I had with a female college student on a flight home from one of those interviews that really made me think.

"I'm sure you had a message to share while you experienced all of the viral stuff," she said. "Do you think it was heard?"

Good question.

Any idiot can be interviewed on national television, but few can use that opportunity to make a lasting, positive difference.

Was I one of those idiots? Or did I move the conversation forward about what it means to be a modern dad in America?

I still don't have the answer two years later, but I realized it's more important to focus on the future instead.

So here are three simple things I want for fatherhood in 2016 and beyond.

1. We have to raise the bar for what it means to be a good dad.

Men expecting props for handling rudimentary child-rearing tasks are no different than men expecting props for staying out of jail. Because as Chris Rock once said, we're supposed to stay out jail, and we're supposed to take care of our kids.

That's right, Chris. GIF from the HBO special "Bring the Pain."

Most moms aren't asking for statues to be erected in their honor for taking their kids to the park, giving their babies baths, or waking up in the middle of the night to comfort their children. And neither should any dad.

It's very simple. If we see a dad doing something adorable with his children, we should pause and ask ourselves this important question: "Would I offer praise to a mom for doing the same thing?" If the answer is yes, then fire away. If the answer is no, then it's probably a good idea to keep it to ourselves.

Any idiot can be interviewed on national television, but few can use that opportunity to make a lasting, positive difference. Was I one of those idiots? Or did I move the conversation forward about what it means to be a modern dad in America?

2. Let good dads be good dads.

In my experiences, the one thing that new dads complain about the most is being unable to interact with their kids in their own unique way.

Maybe he is provided pointers on how to brush his daughter's teeth when he really doesn't need them.

Because sometimes personal hygiene takes teamwork. Photo from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed, used with permission.

Or maybe his Neanderthal buddies poke fun at him for choosing to open his "daddy nail salon" for his daughter instead of opening a few beers at the local sports bar.

That is one happy customer. Photo from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed, used with permission.

Either way, it isn't OK.

These guys are doing their best to navigate through challenges of fatherhood and shouldn't be demotivated. Just because the way we (dads) do things isn't the way others may choose to do them doesn't make it wrong. It makes it different.

3. I want people to look at my photo and think it's not a big deal.

Right now, there are thousands of dads across the globe doing something infinitely more difficult, cooler, or heartwarming than what I did that morning. We change diapers, we can braid our daughters' hair, and we are always there physically, emotionally, and spiritually for our children.

But here's more good news: If a photo similar to mine made the rounds on social media today, I doubt it would create such a stir. That's because it's not only cool to be a good dad, but it's expected to be one.

Gone are the days when a dude can get away with believing his fatherhood responsibilities begin and end with bringing home a nice paycheck. Fatherhood is evolving because we're finally demanding more of the men who are responsible for raising our kids — and that's the way it should be.

Now when we discuss viral fatherhood experiences, it will mean dealing with the flu bug that our kids shared with us.

And I highly doubt that will trend on social media.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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