Sunday, June 25, 2006

Doggie Stories

"What are you laughing at?" my wife asked, as I was reading the children the story of Balto the hero dog. Balto led a team of sled dogs carrying emergency medicine for children in Nome, Alaska through a blizzard.

"I just am."

"Daddy, there is nothing funny about sick children," my son scolded.

My son is right. But I didn't want them to know I was all choked up. Balto was a good dog.

Friday, June 23, 2006

One Man's Trash...

Thursday night is a night of anticipation. After our traditional pizza dinner, the children go to bed a bit early - because they can't wait for morning to come. (I don't know, but I am guessing that this is a bit like what Christmas must be like - Jewish holidays actually start the night before.)

Then, they wake up bright and early, get dressed quickly, and stand with bated breath, staring out the window - waiting...

With a rumble and a squeal it arrives in front of our house and my daughter yells, "Trash truck Daddy! Trash truck!"

Here is the best part - we have three different recycle trucks that service our neighborhood (one each for plastic & metal, paper, and yard waste.) I don't know how that can possibly be good for the environment, but my children's awe and wonder at it is unjaded - they could watch trash trucks all day.

My tax dollars at work - peace is worth every penny.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Special Father's Day Gift

My little girl is, of course, a Princess. So I was telling her about the
exotic pets a princess should have, like a leopard or a polar bear.

This is a set-up. I tell her how she will need to ask mommy if we can have
this pet. She then runs to mommy yelling, "Mommy, have tiger?! Tiger!"

My wife cries back at me despairingly, "Why? Why do you do this to me?"

My son at five has already outgrown this game. Whenever I ask him about an
interesting pet, he just responds, "Daddy, they make too much poopy."

Yesterday, when I told my little girl we could get a zebra if mommy said
yes, she looked at me and said, "No, Daddy!"

I was so proud, only two years old and she is learning that sometimes people
are full of it. You can't teach them healthy skepticism too young. That is
the best gift of all, seeing your children growing and learning. It was a
magical Father's Day.

On the other hand, maybe my wife got to her, it wouldn't be the first

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day Treat

Today I treated myself to a new Starbucks Banana Mocha Frappuccino.

It is a profoundly disgusting beverage. A sickly-sweet blend of incongruent

I had a Venti.

Father's Day and Today's Dad

We need Father’s Day more than our Dads did. They had it easy, reigning as constitutional monarchs, like the English royals (or in the case of my dad Tonga’s King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV). Dads performed ceremonial functions like carving the Thanksgiving turkey and frowning at the gutters every April. Every day was Father’s Day.

Today’s Dads are equal partners in childrearing. But we’ve been blindsided by the complexity of modern parenthood. It isn’t the big things, like the coarsening of American culture or our need for even toddlers to be over-achievers that make it harder. It is all the little improvements we have undertaken on behalf of health, safety, and education that complicate childrearing and sap the will of parents.

Things like:

Peanut butter allergy awareness
The primary sustenance of my childhood, is now a WMD (did we find some in Iraq, was it creamy or chunky?) Even the dust can be deadly and it is banned both from schools and under the Geneva Convention. Losing this fallback meal costs at least an extra hour a week trying to figure out what to give the children for lunch (add that up over ten years, it’s a fiscal quarter.)

Also, a little mouth full of peanut butter is a little mouth that is not singing the Teletubbies song or explaining the internecine power struggles at the sandbox. Hummus would work, but it gives kids garlic breath and contains deadly allergens like sesame oil. (Whatever happened to survival of the fittest?)

Quality Children’s Television
As a kid I watched “Bugs Bunny” and “Tom & Jerry.” These shows taught me an important lesson - the world is a violent random place and if I was out of line I could be flattened by an anvil. Then I would have to wait for Dad to get home and re-inflate me with a bicycle pump, and that wouldn’t happen till after dinner and I’d miss dessert.

Now children watch high-quality education shows like Franklin that teach valuable conflict resolution and problem solving skills. Children apply these skills frequently, when confronted with cauliflower, or clean-up time, or a bath. In his nightly bedtime filibusters my son has protested the unfair bedtime standard that is applied unequally in our house and pointed out that this may reflect my inadequacies as a parent. Maybe not in exactly those words, but that’s the gist of it.

Sometimes I imagine cartoon anvils smiting my little Senator.

Today’s children are never allowed out of sight
My mom would take us to the park and, pointing vaguely in the distance, command, “Go! Play!” She could also leave us in the car while running into stores. We can only dream of such ease.

This close proximity standard prevents creative discipline. As a pre-schooler I wouldn’t get dressed for school. After a week of threats, rewards, and brute force, mom let me miss the carpool and then got in the car and drove off. I was left alone, in my Gilligan underoos. When mom returned (she says she just drove around the block – I think she went to a matinee) I was dressed. I dressed promptly every morning afterwards (till college.) Of course if I tried that with my kids I would have to answer to child welfare authorities. (Ironically, my mom was a child welfare authority.)

Car Seats
Car seats save lives. They have also redefined parenthood. Just as dogs meet and sniff each other, parents meet and discuss car seats: which model, which safety features, and was there a deal (the other parents always got a deal, they will tell you about it in excruciating detail – that is how they establish that they are the Alpha couple.)

Putting children in carseats inappropriate to their weight and height can result in Federal prison time. But there are unwritten conventions that car seats also match the child’s somatotype (can a three year old be a mesomorph?), astrological sign, and aura. Failing to meet these transport needs will result in shunning.

Carseats turn carpooling into a complex logistics chain of transferring not only the children, but also the carseats. Moving children becomes one of those horrible math problems with 11 villagers and two canoes and getting them all across the river in the fewest trips.

These are only a few of the thousand cuts. I didn’t mention the awesome power of the Internet to instantaneously provide hundreds of terrifying anecdotes about horrible diseases your children could have or allow your wife to engage in vitriolic debates over baby formula with complete strangers.

We need Father’s Day. Let it be the one day a year where we celebrate the ancien regime, and live as our fathers did, ruling magnanimously from the barcalounger with a stiff drink in hand.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Diaper Diaries I: Good Euphemism/Bad Euphemism

There are a lot of possible ways to describe a full diaper. A bad one would be, "Rick James is in the house." The problem here is that people will ask for an explanation (Rick James was very funky) and in the process of giving it your older child will learn the word "funk." When he says it, it will sound like something else.

On the other hand, an odd but fitting description is, "She's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes."

My daughter has a distinctive waddle after loosening her load. Maybe you have to be there.

Children's TV that Moms can Love

My wife has made it a point to occasionally watch TV with our kids, to know what they are seeing and how they are understanding it - she says.  But somehow, the show she always makes time for is LazyTown.  

It seemed odd that my wife would be such a fan of this particular show, until I joined them and quickly discovered why the show appeals to moms:

It gets worse.

When not in his Sportacus outfit, Magnus Scheving, the show's creator and star, is a world class athlete and entrepreneur who promotes health and fitness for children and looks like this:

Father Goof hates him.

But in fairness, Father Goof has some favorites as well. The kids always call me when a Laurie Berkner music video comes on.  

Cute songs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Proud Papa and the Principal's Office

My two year old daughter was sent to the office at her pre-school. She refused to eat her lunch before her cookie. I am so proud. I had to wait until I was eight to be sent to the Principal's office. I guess I can kiss Harvard good-bye because this goes on her permanent record.

But it is more important to stand up for yourself.

(So I tell myself. As a parent you have to tell yourself all sorts of bizarre things about your children. Like that parenthood gets easier.)

Fight the power sweetheart! Stick it to the man!