Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day III: The Take

I guess my T-shirt says it all.

It was all the joy of a Denny's heap o'egg, meat, and French Toast, but without leaving the house. Actually it was better, since I require fake veggie sausage, the pleasure of which Denny's denies (yet another reason to prefer dining at home to dining at Denny's - as though further reasons were necessary.)

Actually, come to think of it, there's more. You can't see what's in my coffee cup. My wife thoughtfully bought me this:

Yet again, recommended by The Wall Street Journal, this little device froths milk - an easy way to turn a coffee into a latte!

I've long feared a Starbucks might open in my living room (not a bad business move for them since I work at home much of the time and often need little pick-me-ups - the fear is my eyes would explode from over-caffeination). Now, I've pre-empted them and this morning I enjoyed the best of Denny's and the best of Starbucks rolled into one - a DennyBucks morning.

The best feature of the aerolatte is that it is small and portable. I'll be adding it to my utility belt - along with my celphone, my bottle opener corkscrew, my laser pointer, and my awl. It may get its own holster.

Later in the day, I took it to a Starbucks, ordered a regular coffee and frothed it myself. The barristas hated that. Then I asked for a cup of water and frothed it - to clean the aerolatte - just to pour salt in the wound.

OW! My Back! Get off!

Father's Day II: License to Wrestle

The Wall Street Journal's Work & Family column by Sue Shellenbarger reports on studies showing:
...fathers have an additional impact, over and above that of mothers. Also, men have a tendency to behave differently with children. After defining good parenting for decades as what warm, nurturing mothers typically do, researchers now are also beginning to see how behaviors characteristic of fathers can shape children too.

Fathers tend to engage kids in more rough-and-tumble play, for example. Researchers say this can have a powerful positive impact on children, fostering curiosity and teaching them to regulate emotion and enjoy surprises.*
Cut through the jargon: wrestling and goofing off are good for kids! YES!!!

These are the areas were dads excel. I always viewed it as a practical matter. It seems counter-intuitive, but wrestling is less exhausting than most other father-child activities. "Candyland" is not physically demanding, but after Game 2 of the "Candyland" World Series I am ready to slash and burn the candy cane forest. But wrestling is easy. You usually don't get off the floor, you just toss them around a bit. When you get tired, you just lie down and they jump on you a little. Mine are still small enough that they don't do much harm (when the get close to 100 lbs. the physics change.) But don't let on. You can use the "hurt back excuse" to get out of mowing the lawn for a couple days.

Mom always frowns on this - it makes the kids wild and encourages aggressive behavior. Now, a renown source tells us this is exactly what we should be doing. We are fulfilling our biological and social mandates as teachers. We are preparing our children to interact with an exciting world. So, in that vein, I'll spend the afternoon teaching my children. My daughter has a drop kick with real potential (to annoy my wife.)

Another pointless goof-off game at our house is "bump heads". Pretty much like it sounds, mom hates it (especially when she hears the disturbing thump of my children and I bashing our skulls together.) But it is just goofing off, and it will serve them well come rutting season.

Random tickle attacks, pouncing, running around the house yelling, "La la la!" and just severe cases of what my son calls, "Goofing out" are now recognized as healthy, development activities. What could be a better Father's Day Gift than an endorsement of what dads do best?

* This is echoed by this report on CNN.

Father's Day I: Revelations from the Muck

Many dads remember the first time they gazed upon or held their child as a transformative moment.

For me, changing my son's diaper was that moment. I suddenly understood my own father. My father fancies himself a leftist radical (although his day job is as a real estate attorney – small practice specializing in condominiums – and he gets twitchy about increased regulation of the homebuilding industry).* I have moved away – nay fled – his worldview. He took my heated arguments with a placid magnanimity. Now that I’ve changed my son’s diapers I see why. No matter what I do or say, he will always remember picking poop out of my tuchus. Whatever I say or accomplish, my father sees it as just more of the same.

When my children decide to reject everything I believe (perhaps by becoming evangelical Christians who belong to PETA) I will remember changing their diapers and think of their fads of the moment as more of the same.

*Also, he never had radical hair. That may have been prudence, but I believe it was really genetics.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Downtime with Dad

There have been a bunch school breaks lately which means more time with the kids for yours truly. This in turn means more time for the kids in front of the tube. Their recent favorite has been Scooby Doo. I consider this educational TV, since it teaches children to be skeptical of the supernatural and that unexplained phenomenon are usually just the machinations of greedy real estate developers. Also, it shows them that a bunch of kids can in fact make a difference, and they see Scooby and Shaggy face their fears (primarily by eating.)*

The other day they saw an episode where the Mystery Van went to Mexico, so they got to learn a little bit about their mother's heritage. Now my daughter, like so many other Mexican children, is deathly afraid of the chupacabra (literally - "goat sucker.")

So after a long day of day of daddy and Scooby Doo re-runs, when mom got home the kids couldn't wait to tell her about it (and be in the presence of a rational adult).

"Mommy, mommy, the doctor witch! He scary," my daughter began, happily (children are often confused between fear and joy). My wife looked at her quizzically. My son filled in the details, "On Scooby Doo there was a witch doctor. He was really a man who wanted to build condominiums. Pop helps work on condominiums. Daddy says that sometimes pop disguises himself as a witch doctor..."

My wife glared at me, "Why do you tell your children bizarre stories about your father?+ Forget it, why are you letting the children watch shows that scare them?"

She pulled the children close to comfort them, "What did the witch doctor do that was so scary?"

My children leapt up and chanted:
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang
My wife glared at me. My son announced, "Daddy taught us that!"

My wife, her voice filled with menace, asked, "Did he now?"

"Yeah, and I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!"

* My theory about Scooby Doo is that there were no monsters. It was just a bunch of kids driving cross-country. But Shaggy was in the back baking, this would explain their constant hunger.

+ My father is a real estate attorney. However, when I was little he was an engineer and he worked for a railroad. I thought that he drove trains. When I learned that he was a different kind of engineer, that primarily sat in offices and used sliderules (this was the 1890s) I was devastated and I've always held this against him. Nonetheless, my creative descriptions of his work have only made him an exotic hero to his grandchildren. Now, my son hopes to go into real estate development and wear monster suits to scare off other bidders, environmentalists, and other obstructionists. Sure - you can use eminent domain - but it just isn't as fun. (Plus, I think he hopes to meet Daphne.)

Star Wars Spinoffs

Tired of just re-hashing scenes from the Star Wars movies, my son and I developed some spin-offs to play. One games is: No Padawan, about the dumbest apprentice in the Jedi Order. I play the bumbling apprentice, always moving objects inappropriately with the Force, not properly securing my light-sabre (and cutting off my toes), and talking too much. My son plays the wise, but frustrated master who has to admonish me for my failing. When I really mess up (like the time I told the Boba Fett where the Jedi attack team was hiding) he chases me around, sounding like the Skipper yelling, "Padawan" and trying to bonk me on the head with the foam sword we use as a light sabre. If there were national tournaments for Alan Hale impressions my son would definitely win the kindergarten division (and probably the entire elementary school league.)

My son likes this game because of the role reversal. It prepares me for his teenage years when I will, invariably, do everything wrong. When he whines at me, "Daaaad!" I hope he'll use the Alan Hale voice.

The other Star Wars based game we play is Jedi Chef. This is about a Jedi who uses his light sabre to cook things. He can slice and cook a turkey at the same time. Give him a loaf of bread and it will arrive sliced and toasted. (He's working on an attachment to dispense butter.) Also, instant French Fries. You'd think they would make vegetables dry and unpalatable, but at the right setting - veggie crisps!

It's a pretty cool show. We use the Force to throw food in the air, slice it with our light sabres and land it on the plates - which are then telekinetically sent to diners. Unfortunately, we never get past appetizers - the show is always interrupted by a battle droid attack.