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WHY WE LOVE HIM: He’s taken his abusive father as inspiration to be a fantastic dad himself, and he uses both his day job and his Youtube stardom to lead other dads to awesomeness.

It’s not easy being a Youtube celebrity – while raising two girls as a single dad and holding down a day job. “I feel like I am going a hundred miles an hour,” says Jorge Narvaez, whose December 2010 video has surpassed 28.5 million views on Youtube.

Jorge, 28, and his older daughter Alexa, now 10, became celebrities after he posted their cover of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ single, “Home.” Since then they’ve eclipsed themselves with a 2011 cover of Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep,” which garnered more than 35 million views. And their cover of the original song from Disney’s Cinderella, just posted last week, has already racked up more than 344.5k views on Youtube. (Our favorite Narvaez video just might be “Sh*t Single Fathers Say,” though.)

When Singlewith spoke to the San Diego native a few weeks ago, he was on his lunch break, back at work after a hectic weekend. “I had a film crew of about 20 people at my house. The ‘Got Milk?’ people are doing a documentary,” Jorge explained. “They’re going to connect my story to the power of milk.” It’s not entirely far-fetched: Turns out that the secret ingredient in his mom’s rice and beans is none other than: milk. “It makes them softer,” Jorge explains.

On being a celebrity: “I still have to get home and tell my kids to clean their room!”

Mom, aka Esther Alvarez, has been living with Jorge and his girls (and cooking for them!) since their joyful reunion last May. With the help of his 550,000-plus fans, Jorge and his brother successfully fought to bring Esther back home to San Diego after her 7 years of being denied re-entry from Mexico due to her immigration status. In doing so, Jorge has also helped others in the same situation by putting a personal face on the need for immigration reform.

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Eliana, Jorge and Alexa hit the beach.

After catching up at work, Jorge was off to Miami on February 25 to meet President Obama, as an invited participant in a Town Hall meeting on immigration. Pretty heady stuff for a kid who came over the border from Mexico illegally at age 1. Then to Los Angeles March 1 for the red-carpet premiere of Cinderella, complete with Disney-sponsored makeovers for Alexa and younger sister Eliana, 6. (The movie hits theaters this Friday, March 13.) And next week, Jorge is off to Miami again for the Hispanicize conference, which he describes as “South by Southwest for Hispanics.” He’ll be a judge for the Tecla digital media excellence awards.

“I don’t drink coffee,” he says, when asked the inevitable “where do you get the energy?” question. “I try to exercise when I can. I have a really good girlfriend who pushes me.” (Sorry, ladies.) And, naturally, “My kids are a big inspiration.” He takes the celebrity one day at a time, he says. “I still have to get home and tell my kids to clean their room!”

Jorge and his ex, Nancy, were teen parents – Alexa arrived between high school and college – but that’s where their connection to any depressing statistics ends. Jorge went to college, the first in his family to do so, graduating from University of California, San Diego with a degree in Ethnic Studies. Their young romance didn’t make it, especially with the pressure of his mom being barred from returning home, but Jorge and Nancy transitioned to 50/50 coparents. Jorge, who has the girls 3-1/2 days a week, was thinking about law school when Youtube fame hit, and he decided to use the platform while he had it.

On parenting: “Our nation is not focused on fatherhood. But if you strengthen the father, you strengthen the family.”

Jorge’s passion is fatherhood. Both personally and professionally, he wants to be part of a national movement to support and encourage men to be better parents. When he’s not jetting off to glamorous events, Jorge works full-time as an intake specialist at San Diego Dads Corps, which offers classes and support groups for fathers. His motivation for the work runs deep. Jorge’s dad was a hardworking guy who “loved us and everything,” he says. But Dad was also a drug addict, an alcoholic and had trouble communicating his emotions – which translated into serious abuse of his mother. “My dad’s father was worse,” Jorge says. “I was expected to do the same.”

Instead, Jorge managed to break the chain of abuse – and he makes it his mission to help other dads succeed, as well. “Some of the dads we work with, they want to do the right thing but they just don’t have the tools,” he says. San Diego Dads Corps coaches fathers on how to be better partners, dads and providers. Jorge says he wishes his father had had these sorts of resources. “I guarantee you my mom and dad would still be together.”

While Jorge can’t turn back the clock for his family, helping other men break the cycle of abuse or poverty or plain bad parenting is immensely gratifying. “You’re making the next generation stronger,” he says. “That father’s going to teach his kid what he learned, and that little kid’s going to be a better father.” Jorge says he goes home every night knowing he’s made a difference in a guy’s life. He wishes that there were more programs like San Diego Dads Corps around the country. “Our nation is not focused on fatherhood,” he says. “But if you strengthen the father, you strengthen the family.”

That belief is a big part of why, when he goes home after a full day of work, and after he puts the kids to bed, he starts his second shift, a 30-hour-a-week job on Youtube. “It’s exhausting, putting videos up all the time,” he admits. But worth it. “I get a lot of messages like, ‘You made my day today; you made me want to be a better father.’” By singing with his daughters and making little videos about their daily lives, Jorge aims to show what fatherhood can look like.

On what kids really need: “You don’t have to take ’em to Disneyland. Take ’em to the park.”

His message: “It’s OK to be a dad. It’s OK to sit down and fold a piece of paper and make a paper airplane for your daughter. You don’t have to take ’em to Disneyland. Take ’em to the park.” In fact, he says, when he did take Alexa and Eliana to Disneyland, their favorite part wasn’t any of the special attractions. It was playing with their dad in the pool at the hotel.

Sharing custody isn’t easy, Jorge concedes. Half a week is barely enough time with the girls, and there was a reason he and their mom broke up. “We clash at moments,” he says, “but when it comes to the kids, we set aside all our differences.”

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Eliana, left, and Alexa, right, playing Minecraft with Dad.

As for Alexa, Eliana and their dad, they’re on to a new chapter, these days (though they’re unlikely to give up singing): “The three of us are literally obsessed with Minecraft.” They’re playing it together, though Jorge laughs at himself, noting that he’s even compelled to be Dad in the game, calling the shots: “Alexa, you cut the wood, I’ll make the swords, and Eliana, you go and build a fort.”

Next up on Reality Changers, Jorge’s Youtube channel, will be videos of the family playing Minecraft, he promises. Last year, they all met Joseph Garrett, aka Stampy Longnose – Youtube’s Minecraft king, who has more than 5 million subscribers – and Stampy inspired them to do it. Jorge bought his daughters a computer so they could play the game together. “You should have seen my daughter’s face,” Jorge says. “She’s more excited about me playing Minecraft with her than about the computer.”

While some parents moan about their kids’ Minecraft addictions, Jorge is glad for the chance to play with them in their world. “I want to be that father that’s able to evolve with them,” he says.

It was Howard Stern, of all people, who perhaps most perfectly summed up the secret to Jorge’s tremendous popularity, in our culture of too-often distant or absent fathers. After Jorge and Alexa first performed on American Idol, Stern said:

“Wow, Jorge, I wish you were my dad.”

UPDATE: On March 12, Jorge posted an announcement that he is leaving his full-time job to focus on his Youtube work – and on being an even better, more well-rested father.

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!
 All photos courtesy Jorge Narvaez.

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Perez’s children’s book, Celebrity Big Brother, but at Singlewith, he’s a dad we love. That’s because, regardless of what he does in his public persona, he’s clearly a loving, hands-on father and family man. Check out the video he make exclusively for Singlewith, posted below, in which he absolutely gushes about how much he adores being a dad. The celebrity gossip king also exposes himself as a big teddy bear in an Instagram feed full of Daddy-son photos so relentlessly sweet they could induce a sugar coma.

Boy with Pink Hair
Dressing up as the Boy with Pink Hair for the literary Halloween celebration at school.

Perhaps even more important, we love Perez because his charming children’s book, “>Hair,” has been out in the world since 2011, helping kids feel good about being different – and doubtless swaying a bully or two over to more positive behavior, as happens with the bully in the book. (The Boy with Pink Hair saves the day and the Boy with the Bad Attitude becomes the Boy with the Slightly Better Attitude. Yay!)

Shortly after my son dressed up as Perez’s “Boy With Pink Hair” character for his school’s “dress as your favorite book character” Halloween event, we got an invitation to have a “play date” with Perez and his son Mario (who recently turned 2) in their Manhattan apartment. At home, Perez was low-key and friendly, and clearly enamored and hands-on with his little boy. His mom popped in from her apartment in the same building – Perez may have made enemies along the way but he sure keeps his family close.

Here’s the celeb single dad himself, talking about why he loves fatherhood and family:

 

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!

The only time everyone in my school was happy on Valentine’s Day was in 3rd grade, because in 3rd grade Mrs. Chatterton made sure that either everybody got a valentine, or damn well nobody got a valentine. By middle school we’d all matriculated into that fickle world where unconditional love is no longer supervised, and you’re just as likely to get left behind. Candygrams and paper hearts stuffed in shoeboxes and lockers – they make and break our adolescent dreams.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, 2015, and if you’re a single parent like me, you’re ambivalent about the empty shoebox. You love your kids, but you’re not quite sure about being home with them tonight. All those googly-eyed celebrations are getting on your nerves.

You could just write a check to Amnesty International and write off the whole thing as some kind of political protest – after all, chocolate, roses, diamonds and gold are all blood-stained commodities. Or, because this is the Internet, we can make a list. Herewith, ten reasons to celebrate that you’re not on a Valentine’s date:

1. Drink practically as much red wine as you like—at least after the kids go to bed—and lie to yourself about the health benefits. So many lies will be told tonight that yours won’t even move the needle.

2. Rediscover the literal Total Eclipse of the Heart. Enjoy the full measure of sarcasm without suffering a hint of deflating irony.

3. Revel in the fact that you have time to read more Mallory Ortberg. (Good chance she’s way more entertaining than that date would have been.)

4. Think of how much time and grammatical angst you saved by not re-reading those endlessly over-sharing and under-achieving online dating profiles. And you didn’t have to fake your own death to get out of a date. (Though your wrist could be a bit sore after all of those swipe-lefts. Put an ice pack on that.)

5. Do some Taylor Swift karaoke! Perform her entire catalog and really revel in the teen angst. (You too, menfolk. If you have a daughter of any age and haven’t opened yourself to the preening pop power of T-Swizzle, you owe her a family sing-along. She’ll never forget it.) Follow with a goat chaser.

6. Sock away the cash you saved. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, the average Valentine’s celebrant is expected to drop $142.31 this year; 1 in 5 intend to include the family pet in the festivities. With children and no sweetheart, you’re already in the black. Or, hey, splurge a little: get nickel rolls from the bank, one for each family member, and spend V-Day teaching your kids blackjack and poker. If none of them show promise as card counting savants, that still leaves $120 and change for the college fund.

7. Stay safe. Valentine’s Day is the bully of holidays. It has to be true—HBO said so!

8. Watch When Harry Met Sally with your kids and devise, on the fly, an age-appropriate explanation for your child about the deli/orgasm scene. However old they are you’ll be laying a fine foundation for the healthy discussion of human sexuality. And however old you are the mental gymnastics should be enough to forge new pathways in your brain.  (A double feature with Frozen is not recommended; Sally’s special moment would truly melt poor Olaf. )

9. Rejoice that nobody, anywhere, even thought of giving you a 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear.

10. Celebrate with your kids. Make comfort food and heart-shaped sugar cookies and tell them stories about all the best and worst things that love has ever wrought. While you’re at it, tell them that you’re not out there this weekend because never, ever, will you settle.

Bonus: if the next morning you awaken with that hollow, didn’t-have-a-date feeling, you can always send your enemies glitter. Careful — that link is Australian, and we suspect the import tariff on glitter is hefty. Since you’ve got kids you can easily subcontract and save yourself some bank. Which is important, because there is a lot of chocolate on sale today.

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single parents. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). Join us!

Photo by  Jamie Street on Unsplash

ASK LINDA, PSYCHOTHERAPIST & CHOICE MOM:

My daughter is 10 years old and many of her friends are getting their periods. I’m terrified of speaking with her about it. I have no idea what to say. No idea where to start. How does a father speak to his daughter about something he’s never experienced? Please help.

Linda answers:

it's.perfectly.normal
A comprehensive sex-ed book for preteens

Dads and periods may not seem to mix, but this is a fantastic opportunity for you to create open dialogue with your daughter, and possibly to make it easier for her to talk to a male partner about important sexual issues in the future. You’ve got this!

Ideally, you have been speaking to your daughter about her body since she was a baby, teaching her that her body is beautiful, including her vulva and vagina. Using accurate terminology, instead of referring to her vagina/vulva as “down there,” “lady bits,” “flower'” or any other euphemism, can be an important way to make sure that she does not become ashamed of her genitals.

“Vulva,” by the way, is the word for the whole female genitalia “package” — labia, clitoris, vagina, and the opening to the urethra (the hole where you urinate out of). Many people use “vagina” to mean “vulva,” but that can create confusion since the vagina is a much more specific area – it is the internal passageway that connects the vulva with the cervix and uterus (womb) inside the body. The vagina is where tampons go, and it’s the body part that’s often renamed “the birth canal” when a baby’s on the way.

If you haven’t started this conversation with your daughter yet, it’s not too late! You can help her understand her body and reproductive system through age-appropriate books and discussions. We’ll list some useful books below.

Your daughter might be frightened by the idea that she will be bleeding from her vagina. She may believe she is somehow wounded. Explain to her what is going to happen. Use diagrams.

whatshappeningbook
A best-selling puberty book for girls

Explain that she was born with hundreds of thousands of eggs in her ovaries. Her body is going through a cycle of getting ready to become pregnant. An egg comes down the fallopian tubes into the uterus and if sperm is present, it might fertilize the egg. During this time, the uterus  walls thicken to get ready for implantation of the fertilized egg. If there is no fertilized egg, the uterine wall sheds and this is the tissue and blood that come out of a woman’s vagina during her period. The amount will vary and depends on the individual and can change from month to month. Her period will last from 3-7 days. The normal cycle between periods can range from 25-30 days.

Points to discuss with your daughter:

Pads or tampons?  Your daughter’s choice. But if your daughter is active in sports, she might want to consider tampons, and if she is a swimmer this will be necessary. You can go through the instructions with her that are on the box for the tampons (the link below has more information). Make sure you get the smallest size at first. Tampons should not be painful to use the first time, or ever. Let your daughter try to insert it herself, but if she can’t get the hang of it, ask a trusted female friend, doctor or school nurse to discuss it with your daughter or help her if needed.

Am I dirty?  No, sweetheart, you are not dirty; however you will need to be aware that you should change your tampon or pad as soon as saturated or after 6 hours because you can get a disease called toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Also the pad needs to be changed and kept fresh so it does not start to smell.

Will my period hurt?  Some girls and women don’t have cramps, but many do. Ibuprofren is an excellent remedy. Also be aware that mood swings are common, though again, that does not happen to all girls.

Pregnancy and sexual health. It is important to let your daughter know that she can become pregnant when she begins to get her period. You may also want to discuss safer sex. It may seem odd to you to have a safe-sex conversation with a 10 year-old, and you can certainly choose to address this topic a bit later, but the reality is that some kids are having sex at an early age and most are talking about it with friends. Better she knows to use condoms, ideally paired with a backup birth control method, than to contract a sexually transmitted disease or get pregnant. And better to have the information come from you than from the schoolyard! Let your daughter know that she is wonderful, and that if she already has not started to feel sexual attraction at some point it will happen, and that you are here to guide her and talk to her when she is ready. Tell her that her body is special and should be shared only when she wants to share it, not because of peer pressure or anything else. And point her to accurate resources like Planned Parenthood and the books listed below.

Books to help you start the conversation

For preteens

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris is a comprehensive, illustrated guide to adolescence and sexuality for ages 10 and up. Some parents blush, but the book has been applauded by child development experts like T. Berry Brazelton MD and Penelope Leach, Ph.D. for its sensitive but honest approach.

The “What’s Happening to My Body?” Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras, with daughter Area Madaras, is more specifically about female adolescence and menstruation, featuring straight talk about everything from periods to pimples, body hair to boys. It was selected as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.  (And there’s one for boys, as well.)

For tweens and younger

It’s Not the Stork by Robie H. Harris is a lighthearted, informative guide for 4- to 8-year olds about where babies come from as told by – who else? – a bird and a bee. A kid-friendly mix of cartoons, text and comic-strip word balloons explains everything from body parts to conception to birth and also explores the different configurations of today’s families.

It’s So Amazing by Robie H. Harris also features the enthusiastic bird and reluctant bee, this time covering a wider range of topics – puberty, sex, reproduction, touching very lightly on masturbation, STDs and homosexuality (presented again in terms of different sorts of families) –  for boys and girls ages 7 and up. Read it together!

For all ages

Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children About Sex and Character by Pepper Schwartz and Dominic Cappello outlines how to structure your talks about sex and character, starting with outlining your own family’s values and covering safety, ethics, the internet and more.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR LINDA? Sent it to info [at] singlewith.com, and put ASK LINDA in the subject heading. She may use your question for an upcoming post!

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!

Photo by  Caleb Woods on Unsplash