Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Inevitable Top Ten List

In honor of Leap Day I put together a little Top Ten list of my favorite posts since I started this back in 2005(!) These are my favorites and the choices are entirely subjective. Are these the funniest? Cleverest? Sappiest? Most insightful?

In a word, “Yes.”

If I have any readers with strong feelings about slighted posts, let me know – I’d love the feedback (hell, I’d just be happy to know I have reader!)

Top Ten Father Goof Posts of All Time – So Far

10. I consider my duty to teach the little Goofs comedy classics, and sometimes the set-up is just too perfect, such as here where the morning paper helped me riff on “Who’s on First.

9. Telling kids old jokes is nice, but it is really satisfying when they can turn them around on you.

8. Here is my Nobel nominated plan to re-start the economy, centered on mandatory show & tell..

7. This post is a short guide to a crucial subject all parents must understand, the economics of babysitting.

6. GoofGirl gave me a a report card on my fathering.

5. Caffeine is the fuel of parenting, but it is not always an ally – more like a frenemy.

4. A mommy-blogger extraordinaire asked my thoughts on first days at a new school.

3. You won’t believe what I find to be the biggest single surprise of parenthood.

2. This entry tells the story of How I met Mama Goof, the kids thought it was gross.

1. This is a letter I wrote my brother on his first Fathers Day as a dad, where – for once – I told him the real truth about fatherhood.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gross Gift from Grandpa Goof

I don't know what has happened to my father in his dotage. He actually paid money for this sculpture - loves it. He says it makes him think of coral.

I think it looks like something else (use a bit of imagination), and I kind of don't like being in the same room with it. So I did what any sensible son would do. I casually mentioned to my parents how much my brother liked it.

"You should definitely leave it to him in the will," I tell them, frequently.

"Funny," my dad responded, "Just the other day, your brother was telling me how much he liked it but that you liked it even more and I should definitely leave it to you in the will."

"I don't know what to say." I didn't know what to say.

"Isn't it great, how all three of us appreciate the same sculpture. You know, I have an idea?"

"Bury it deep underground so it doesn't become a point of contention between your children?"

"No, I'll get in touch with the artist and commission one for each of you. I plan to be around for awhile, and I hate to deprive you both of sculptures you like."


"And you know what else is neat," my father continued, oblivous, "When you own a sculpture you can touch it, you can appreciate its feel. Come, feel this part, it's like coral..."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ten Days as a Single Dad

MamaGoof is in LA, minding her aging parents (we lost her beloved aunt a year and a half ago). She had to extend the trip, which means things are not good. That leaves me single dadding for the time being. No problem, I’ve got this down – for the most part. I am not saying I am superdad, by any means – I’m not! But I’m probably at least a journeyman. I know all the tricks – playdates, judiciously deployed TV (you don’t want to use it too often it leaves them hyper and listless – like feeding them candy), and of course adventures. I keep them fed (I can’t cook – but I can prepare food so we do eat things besides pizza.)

Still, it gets wearing. In downtown DC on Presidents Day visiting the memorials the little Goofs got whiney and I snapped at them. GoofBoy observed, “I wish mommy were here, she is nicer.”

I replied, “That’s not true – I am pretty nice. I’ve seen plenty of times when mommy got really mad with you too. The difference is when I’m mad, mommy takes you and when mommy gets frustrated I can take over. But now it is just me, so after a while you can see why I might get a little irritated?”

But we had a snack, which perked up GoofGirl and then I found out that GoofBoy had a homework crisis. It was a crisis I could have resolved anytime over the extended weekend but GoofBoy had to wait until late Monday afternoon. Still, a couple phone calls and emails (smartphones are an important parenting tool) and it was resolved and GoofBoy’s mood also improved.

But it isn’t all me. The little Goofs have stepped up to the plate. GoofGirl combines the wonderful virtues of being extremely picky about food and being hungry all the time. I admit my Shabbat dinners leave much to be desired compared to the wonderful steaks MamaGoof usually grills – but I have very little patience for food-oriented complaints. (In fairness, MamaGoof had made most of this stuff – I was just re-heating it.) I also don’t really care if the little Goofs eat. I believe there are two types of parents – those who are worried if the children are getting enough to eat and those who don’t. I am of the latter camp; MamaGoof is of the former (I would bet that a statistically valid study could be done that finds those categories overlap perfectly with parents who worry that the children will be cold or not.) My logic is that in our house food is plentiful. If kids won’t eat it, they can suffer the consequences.

GoofGirl’s attitude at dinner was perturbing me. But GoofBoy stepped in and talked to his sister. Calming her, telling her if she would just eat a little of the meat he would finish it. I walked away and GoofGirl ate.

GoofGirl has also tried to be helpful. She has begged to do laundry, as clothes piled up. MamaGoof won’t let me touch the dirty clothes, although I finally had to. No one tell her – fortunately she doesn’t read my blog! She gets up early and makes her own breakfast and this morning as I was rushing she easily stepped in – without being asked – and made lunch for herself and her brother. Packing school lunches is my parental Achilles heel.

Love my kids and I don’t know how I could be a dad without them!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Meet the Nieces

Over the long weekend the little Goofs and I drove up to Philadelphia to visit my brother, his wife and my two nieces. I am on good terms with the older one, but hadn’t met the newest one quite yet.

GoofBoy was happy to talk sports with his beloved uncle while GoofGirl wanted to hone her baby-sitting skills on her cousins. GoofGirl takes impending adulthood very seriously. She begs me to make playdates with much younger kids so she can practice her baby-sitting. She has been known to sneak downstairs early in the morning, make her own lunch and try to do laundry because, “It’s fun!”

A not quite three year old could easily be overwhelmed by a pack of semi-strangers trying to play with her –but not my niece. She loved it. After a few minutes she was grabbing her big cousin and ordering her to come with her to play. When I lay down on the floor, she immediately demanded horseback rides (this is a dad thing that I own!) We even played a little peekaboo, although I think she’s grown out of it.

She took me up to her room and we talked about the letters of the alphabet, she had to help me because I kept getting them wrong. It was a delightful half-hour, and it made me miss when mine were toddlers. Of course, when mine were toddlers the delightful half-hours stretched into incredibly dull afternoons.

My brother and I found a few minutes for brotherly one-upmanship. The new niece is a serious napper (she gets that from me, I’m sure.) But, towards the end of the day she woke up, and, as babies are wont within an hour she was cranky and crying again. So I took her, sang to her gently and she settled down. My brother scowled, “Great, another thing you do better then me!”

This is an ironic statement, since my brother is a fully functional and employed adult whereas I am, well, Father Goof. But his wife chimed in, making me so very, very glad that he married her, “Plus he’s taller then you!”

And I am, a whole half inch!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Soon to Teach Evil?

GoofBoy really loves comic books. I am ambivalent towards the form myself. But I resolved to read more comic books this year. Always make a resolution that you can keep – a few years ago I resolved to drink more wine, I have kept it admirably.
Anyway, I have accumulated a few comic books here and there – artsy graphic novel type stuff. GoofBoy is intensely curious – since he runs through any comics he gets very fast. But most of my stuff is going to be too mature, and there are things he doesn’t need to be exposed to quite yet.
However, I do have a few by the artistic giant Will Eisner, including his last work The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and GoofBoy kept asking about it. He assumed it was about super-heroes.
So I read it and decided it was fine – in fact better than fine – it might do him some good. I worry a bit about how my kids are surrounded by love and trust. It is an odd thing to worry about, but I see the Bully-Free Zone signs around the school and wonder, “Are we really doing these kids any favors – there are bullies in the world and figuring out how to deal with them is part of life.”
Maybe I’m just jealous, since I encountered many bullies and never really figured out how to deal with them. While super-sweet, GoofBoy is no wimp – I’ve seen him stand up for himself. (As a boy I was just the opposite – not sweet at all and a total wimp.) But maybe he needs to know the world has some very rough edges. The Plot is the story of how the czar’s secret agents created a series of vicious lies to slander the Jewish people all because the czar wanted to deflect blame for his own corrupt rule and how that lie has acquired a life of its own and inspires terrible things. Maybe that would be an antidote to the gentle world GoofBoy inhabits. He needs to understand, people have done and do awful, terrible things.
He read it. He didn’t react much. When I questioned him, he seemed to get the basic story. The artwork of course grabbed him. The import of it probably went right over his head and that’s probably for the best – for now.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Political Economy of the Tooth Fairy

GoofGirl tends to wake up very early. This complicates Tooth Fairy visits a bit, since the Tooth Fairy isn’t exactly a morning spirit (at least in our house). Finding her tooth still present and no bills or coins, GoofGirl came to our room – furious.

So I did what any sensible parent would do, I offered to buy her tooth and plant it in the backyard so it would sprout a tooth three and she could get lots of money.

“That won’t work in our backyard!” GoofGirl exclaimed, frustrated.

“It might work someplace else?” I asked, sheepishly.

“That’s what the Tooth Fairies do with the teeth. They take them back to their own world and plant them. Then it sprouts tooth trees.”

“Where do they get the money?”

“Daddy, they can make money.”

“Then why don’t they just make money and buy whatever they need.”

“Because they only need the fruit of the tooth trees. They don’t need anything money can buy, so they just make enough to buy the teeth,” she explained patiently. “Anyway, they have to be careful and not pay too much money or people might start to wonder what was going on. They don’t want people to find out about them because then we would start visiting their world and messing it up.”

I hadn’t even had coffee and I was discussing monetary policy with a seven year old.

“So what do they do with our teeth again?”

“They plant our teeth and they sprout tooth trees. They have everything the Tooth Fairies need. They eat the fruit. They make clothes from the leaves, which are all different colors. They use the wood for their houses.”

“Don’t they get bored eating tooth fruit all the time.”

“No, different teeth make different fruit and they are all succulent.”

“Can’t they just take the seeds from the fruit and plant their own trees?”

“No, it doesn’t work like that. They need teeth from little kids.”

“Why can’t they plant their own teeth?”

“Daddy,” she rolled her eyes at me, “That’s just dumb. Fairies don’t lose their teeth. Their teeth are perfect.”

“What else do the Tooth Fairies do, besides sit around wearing multi-colored leaves and eating tooth fruit?”

“Everything, just like us – except they all have to work to gather teeth from children. Everyone pitches in.”

The economic and sociological implications of a tooth-based society were a bit more then I could take pre-caffeination. But, for the moment GoofGirl’s wrath had been assuaged. Still, I knew the Tooth Fairy had better not forget two nights in a row – the world depended on it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

GoofBoy's Risky Strategy

GoofBoy has long been my master at Risk, a friendly game of world domination. But for some reason he insisted on playing me this weekend. As it happens, I had been thinking about it for a while and had a new strategy I wanted to try.

The first player in a two-person game usually has an almost insurmountable advantage. But I tried a new strategy, limited conquest along with building up defenses. It was working pretty well. I was slowly expanding my territory. Plus, for once, the dice seemed to be going my way. GoofBoy was getting frustrated, throwing the die and moaning, “You are going to win, I should just give up.”

I controlled Africa and Europe and was slowly, but steadily extending my dominions. Seeing GoofBoy upset, I backed off a bit – but I admit, I still wanted to win. He couldn’t understand why I stopped when I still had more armies.

In Risk every turn a player conquers a territory the player can take a card. Certain combinations of three cards get the player bonus armies. I hadn’t been paying attention. GoofBoy had hoarded his cards. He put down six entitling him to 22 new armies. With his massive forces he proceeded to reconquer half of Europe and Africa – along with all of North America. The next turn would be my last.

Now, strictly speaking, GoofBoy’s gambit was illegal. A player cannot turn in two sets of three cards in one turn. But since neither of us knew that rule until he actually played the cards it seemed unfair to invoke the rule and shut down what was otherwise a brilliant strategy.

He carefully schemed to hold on, lulling me into a false confidence both with his manner and his board position. He had planned his deathblow several moves ahead. I can’t say I wasn’t impressed. Clear and simple, he out-thunk me.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

No TV for GoofBoy

GoofBoy gave us some guff about whether or not he had done his homework. MamaGoof was not pleased so, no TV for the rest of the week. The penalty was announced Tuesday night, which meant he missed American Idol. Somehow the little Goofs and MamaGoof have developed a tradition of watching this together – GoofBoy has been watching since pre-school. This may not have been for the best, he was terrified of a little boy in his class named Simon because, “He was too critical.”

Tonight we went out to dinner. GoofGirl noticed that gymnastics were playing on the TV at the bar so she wandered over there to watch.

We told GoofBoy to go with her. Frequently at restaurants the little Goofs head over to the bar while the adult Goofs sit and eat. GoofBoy usually chats with the bartender about whatever sport is being broadcast (he’s been doing this since he was six). I have no idea what this says about my parenting.

Today, he was reticent about going, but we really didn’t think GoofGirl alone at the bar was a good thing. Finally, we convinced him to go. A few minutes later when I went over to check on him and get his dessert order he was sitting nicely, next to his sister, staring at the floor. (Of course, that’s why he didn’t want to leave the table. He wanted to abide by the conditions of his punishment. When he was little he used to give himself time-outs.)

“Mommy said no TV.”

“For right now, while you are keeping you sister company you can watch a little TV. We are giving you an exemption.”

GoofGirl chimed in, “This isn’t bad TV like Spongebob, this is TV that is good for you. You learn about gymnastics. Same thing with American Idol it isn’t a cartoon – it is good to watch. So it shouldn’t be part of my brother’s punishment.”

“Nice try, did your brother put you up to this?”

GoofBoy shook his head, “No.”

“You are a good little sister and will be a fine attorney one day. But the answer is no.”