Thursday, December 30, 2010

Disnified and Explaining Trash to Someone Else's Children

Yesterday, I managed to take the kids that I sit for sledding.  Boy was that a trip!  The little girl was crying because it was too cold and too fast while the older boy was having a blast.  I don’t know how many times I will have to explain to both of them that there are times when they just have to deal with it.  There are two of them so it isn’t right that we always do what the little one wants just because she is littler or do what the older wants because he is eldest.  What ever happened to taking turns and not throwing fits when it wasn't your turn?  Apparently, those days went extinct.

Damn, it is so frustrating feeling like I have to parent other people’s children.  I am never quite sure where the boundaries are.  I am constantly telling the five year old to ask her mom the questions that she asks me constantly.  Questions like, “What happens when you die?” or “Where do babies really come from?”  or “How do I know if a boy really loves me?”  Where is she coming up with this stuff?   She has asked me that last question five or six times so far and the only thing I can come up with is that she has watched too many Disney movies, while refusing to have that discussion with a five year old.  I haven’t really noticed it before, but there seems to be a standard theme in those dreadful Disney flicks that states that girls and young women need a boy or a man to take care of them and do things like save them or whatever.  Bull honky!!!  Why can’t they save themselves?  There is no reason that they can’t, and we all know it.  So, why do they insist on perpetuating such a lame stereotype? 

Quite frankly, I am sick of explaining to this little girl that she can be just as tough as a boy and she can do anything that a little boy can do.  It is so weird.  One moment she will be rough housing with me or her brother and then a song will play on the radio or she’ll see a picture of something and that will ruin everything.  She’ll start acting all prim and proper and try to order me around because she is now a princess who neds to be saved from something odd.  Yesterday she needed to be saved from the evil shop vac.  Every time she gets on one of these kicks I tell her that she needs to save herself because in reality no one is ever going to save her, and, without fail, that will start a crying fit.  Sure I feel mean and dastardly for making a little girl cry like that, but I hate the idea that at five years old she can’t play the one doing the rescuing.  I ask her why she can’t save me and she says, “Because I am a girl silly!”  Oh yeah, silly me I forgot.  No I won’t rescue you from the evil vacuum cleaner.  I guess that she could have worse foibles.      

Anyway, so we went sledding and the little girl was absolutely miserable the entire time, but when we start to pack up to go home she all of a sudden starts begging me to take her sledding there again.  I love it.  For 45 minutes she hates it, and then, suddenly, she is having the time of her life.  So, I promised to take her there again tomorrow.  I am guessing it will go much the same as yesterday, but who knows.

I am just hoping that the trashy people that were there yesterday don’t show up again.  I realize that I swear a lot, but these redneck wannabe’s made it an obvious life choice to use grotesque and vulgar language in every sentence.  It got to the point that I asked them to stop speaking like that because the kiddos could hear them.  In a way they apologized, but I am not entirely sure how sincere it was because the one said, “Dude, I’m really **%^ing sorry.”  Yeah that got a smirk out of me too.  After that they did tone it down a little bit until a scad of children starting yelling for one of them. 

I swear the air turned blue with profanity.  I would never even think of speaking like that to most people let alone my own children.  At about the time the guy marched over and started smacking his kids my two kids and myself took off.  They don’t need to see that or hear that.   It is bad enough that he was swearing as he was staring blankly at an old ratty van he was trying to hook a tow chain up to while he stank of alcohol and cigarettes, but does he really need to act like a jerk to his kids too?  If he didn’t want them he should have used a condom or something.  I know, I know god forbid anyone ever use their heads when they start the lovemaking train rolling, but seriously.  Why have kids you obviously detest?   From the look of that guy, as his train was leaving the station his tracks were probably thoroughly lubricated with Milwaukee’s Best or whatever cheap beer he could find at the time, making him unable to think through all the alcohol induced haze. 

Well, after we got into the van and started driving home the little girl said, “Why was that man angry about his kids for?”  I told her I didn’t know and was thinking of a way to explain that some people weren’t always nice to their children when she said, “Maybe I should go and rescue them.”  

I didn’t know what to say.  Finally, this loveable little girl decides that she can be a hero and it didn’t matter that she was a girl.  How was I going to explain to her that there wasn’t anything she could do to help them because it would just make it worse or be too dangerous?  Believe me, I wanted to stop it too, but I was torn.  I have seen shit like this go down before.  If I would have stepped in he would have stopped then, but he would have been twice as bad when I left.  If I had called protective services they wouldn’t have been able to do much and the bastard would just be smarter about beating his kids next time.  So I did the only thing I could have done really.  I took the children I was with away from the situation, while trying desperately to find a way of explaining that trash to them.  I am almost positive that that was the first time either one of them has witnessed anything like that and it just had to happen on my watch.  How lucky am I right?

So lamely, I told the little girl to ask her momma daddy about it and talk to them about what happened.  I asked the older boy if he was ok.  Then I thought about it for a while and told themr that not everyone is as lucky as they are and had nice parents who loved them and wouldn’t ever hurt them.  It was all I could say.  How else do I explain that trashy people exist?      

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Easy Does it! Let's not Overwhelm the Poor Kid Because, Believe it or not, Doing so Might Start a Lifetime of Ungratefulness.

Well, Christmas is finally over!  I hope we all had a great time  too.  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I hope you had a nice holiday of your choice.  I truly do.  

Anyway, for my family this year was all about the little boy.  What a trip!  I can’t even tell you how many presents he had to unwrap in all, but I do know it took him three days to do it..  I guess we went overboard  a little bit, but being first time parents we couldn’t help it.  The anticipation of my baby boy waking up Saturday morning and seeing all the wrapped boxes and toys laid out just perfectly for him to find was just as exciting to me as the memories of Christmas morning I have of when I was little.  It was just great, a little tiring, but great nonetheless. 

My wife and I stayed up half the night preparing for the morning.  She loaded the presents under the tree then came to bed.  Then I got up and built a few of the larger gifts and arranged them in the order that I saw fit.  It was going to be awesome.  I envisioned him going nuts and ripping open all the wrapped boxes like I would have when I was little.  I smiled and sang to myself for two hours while I built the train table his Grandparents bought him, thinking all the while that the little man would be so excited.  

You see, I forgot that he is only ten months old and that this Christmas was primarily for us and not for him.  What really happened was close to what I had imagined then, kind of, because, realistically, what I had imagined was totally unattainable.                   

Well, when we awoke Christmas morning the first thing the little man did was stare wide eyed and open mouthed at all the fancily wrapped boxes and the train set that was built and laying perfectly on the train table.  Then he took his morning crap.  After that, all he wanted to play with was the new train set and table.  

Apparently, when we organized the Christmas gifts to look pretty we also arranged them is such a way that made them appear to be a perfect step ladder for a little guy too.  So, as you can probably guess, he quickly found his way up the gift ladder and onto the train table. 

The Ascent:

The Conquering of the gift Mountain:

The Glorious Destination:

Honestly, we did try to keep him off of the train table, but we failed ultimately.  We did manage to move the mountain of gifts to under the table so he wouldn’t attempt to climb down it.  Safety first right? 

As you can see, he truly enjoyed the train table and set that came with it the best out of all his gifts, but we just couldn’t allow him to stop there.  No, we had to try and make him open everything we got him.  That didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.  He started getting cranky.  Then he got hungry too.

Well, with all kidding aside my wife and I truly did learn an important lesson this Christmas.  We should have realized that the insane number of presents that we bought for the little man would stop being awesome and start being overwhelming for him awfully quickly.  Unfortunately, I do not have any cute pictures of him being really cranky, but I do have one of him pooping. 

This is what we call a PoopSplosion because it rocketed outside of the diaper.
Anyway, you are just going to have to trust me that there was a point where the little man was completely cranky and foul.  I never would have thought it possible, but my son received too many presents this Christmas, and I am vowing to never let that happen again.  I wanted this to be the perfect Christmas not a scary or overwhelming one for him.  There was just too much stuff going on for a little guy of ten months old.  Eventually, my wife and I figured that out and slowed down on the present opening, but I think I waited too long to do that even though the gift opening lasted two days or so.  

The problem was I was thinking of it like a race, so the poor kid didn't have enough time to enjoy anything that he opened before something else was thrown at him.  It was so selfish of me because I didn't bother to stop and think that he might want to play with what he had just opened.  I was too busy taking photos and getting joy from watching him open his presents to notice that he wasn't enjoying it as much as I was.  I feel like such a jerk.

My son would have been perfectly content with just a few gifts.  Hell, he is only ten months old.  Christmas didn't have to be complicated this year or expensive.  But, no, I couldn't allow it not be.  I wanted it to be the best ever, which in my mind meant that there had to be a whole shitload of gifts under the tree, or in our case in his pack and play.  As it turns out he didn't want all of that stuff.  We didn't need to buy three different train sets or twenty different trains or whatever else he received.  He was perfectly happy to sit around and play with us all day and gnaw on the Christmas ham until we all passed out.

With this in mind I began to wonder who I bought all the toys for him or me?  You all of course already know the answer to this.  I bought the toys for me.  Do you really think that he gave a shit if he had any Christmas presents?  No of course he didn't.  He is only ten months old.  He didn't even really know what Christmas is all about.  Now, thanks to me, he might believe that Christmas is all about buying stuff and getting a bunch of junk that you didn't need or even really know that you wanted.  What a terrible message to send to a child on his first Christmas ever.  So, it looks like I will have to work twice as hard next year to show him what it is truly about.  It is about being with your family and friends and celebrating each others companionship.  It isn't about getting a bunch of presents from people.  It isn't about spending a fortune.  All that does is display your greed and flaunt your supposed wealth, which cheapens the holiday.  

With this kind of attitude it is no small wonder that there are children who grow up being completely selfish and ungrateful.  This year I watched a kid throw a fit because some one dared to give them a gift that didn't have the right brand name or logo or whatever.  What a joke!  As I watched this child act like this I wondered what the hell is he thinking. How does someone as old as him, he might have been 13, act like that and not feel utterly ashamed of himself?  Then, I realized something.  Without knowing it, I am grooming my son to turn out exactly like that by buying him things he doesn't really need or want and giving them to him constantly.  Before too long he will start expecting it from me and then other people as well.  This is a problem.  Luckily, I noticed it before it went too far.  

I am afraid that my wanting to give him everything he looks at is teaching my son the wrong message.  I don't want him to feel like he deserves everything in the world while never having to earn anything.  I don't want him to expect to be given anything because in the "real" world it doesn't happen like that.  You have to bust your ass to get what you want, and, even then you aren't assured of receiving what you expect. I also don't want my boy to become so spoiled that he throws fits well into his teenage years when he doesn't get the right brand of mp3 player or gamestation or television or what have you.   I want him to have to work and earn things that he really wants.  I truly believe that that is the only way to ensure that my son will be appreciative of other people.  Hopefully.  

This consumerism mentality is just getting to be ridiculous!  Why does the accumulation of junk have to be some sort of "keeping up with the Jones's" type of competition?  it just seems like there are so few people that are satisfied with what they have anymore. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's OK to Take Time for Yourself. Just Don't Forget that You're a Parent!

Well, I am feeling especially guilty today.  I am having one of my bad days again in terms of being sick.  Unfortunately, that means that  good ole’ mr. TV is going to be playing a lot today in order to distract the little man.  I just don’t have the energy to chase after him and play with him like I usually do.  I am hoping that as he naps I will get over it, so when he wakes up we will be able to shut down the idiot box and play like usual.  It is kind of pathetic really.  As I am typing this I am sprawled out on the couch semi-watching “Harry and the Hendersons.”  I have it on mainly because it is providing some background noise so that the erratic traffic noises don’t wake up the baby.   I feel like such a bum.   Here I am hoping that my baby sleeps for a few more hours while I type a stupid blog post and try to recuperate, when I should be playing with him right now so he will sleep better during his afternoon nap.  What else can I do?

It is times like this that I could really take some solace in the fact that I am doing the best that I can.  Like every other parent in the world I too need to take care of myself in order to care for my child.  Yeah right!  We have all heard that before and it sounds like complete bull shit every time because, of course, no parent ever quite sees it like that and, chances are we never will.  Therefore, we just have to deal with the fact that we are doing our best.  Sure, we all know that there are times when our best just isn’t good enough, but we must also remember that there are times when it is.  We can’t be spectacular all the time can we?  Well, maybe you can, but I know I can’t.  Truthfully, I don’t know if I have ever been spectacular as a parent, but I am trying.  That is all we can really ask of ourselves isn’t it.  I am going to have my ups and downs, and so are you.  Our kids will still love us until the time when they start hating everything and everyone anyway.   So, let’s face it, we could use a little down time once in a while.  So what?  That doesn’t mean you are a crappy parent or person.  It just means that every once in a while you need to recover from an illness, lack of sleep, your sanity, or whatever.  Trust me, every other parent will understand so don’t beat yourself up about it.  Just don’t neglect your children or whine about it when you do need a little time to relax.  I hate whining.  It sets such a bad example.

Anyway, whether or not you will remember that it is ok to take a little breather here and there doesn’t matter to me because I am going to do it now and then anyway.   Don’t misunderstand me and think that means I planning on “checking out” as a dad.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  All taking a little time to recover means to me is that I am going to sit and snuggle the little man on the couch while we watch movies and eat tuna fish or chicken soup or whatever.  I don’t mean to say that it is alright to ignore your kids.  I mean to say that it is ok to be lazy once in a while because realistically you probably already are anyway so there is no reason to feel worse about it than you already do. So, that is what I mean when I say that it is ok to take time for yourself.  It is great and probably a good idea, but it is by no means an excuse to forget that you are somebody's parent and that somebody still needs you to take care of them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Go Ahead Love 'em up! They'll Need it Later!

I am a firm believer that you can never tell your child how much you love them and how important they are to you especially when they are little.  My wife and I think of it as fortifying them for later on in life when they truly need to feel loved.  Therefore, I don’t care how many people tell me that I am holding my son too much or hugging and kissing him too much.  I realize that a lot of other people don’t do this to their kids, but what if they had and do?  Would it be so terrible?  No, of course not.  What is the worst that could possibly happen?  Are you worried that your kids would feel loved and respected?  Oh my god, how terrible would that be?  Come on, give me a break!  As humans we all have a lifetime of disappointments and heartache, and I think that many of us would be better able to deal with this if we all had a stronger basis of love when we were little.  That is when it is most important isn’t it?  Aren’t our younger years the building blocks to the rest of our lives?  Then why not make these first few blocks the strongest?

Most of us know that it is easier to build something than it is to rebuild, and it is always easier to rebuild something that already has a strong foundation than one whose foundation crumbles easily.  This holds true for people too doesn’t it?  I don’t know how many times I have spoken to my friends when they are having problems and feel broken as adults.  I am sure you have had this opportunity too because there are times when we all feel broken.  Well, in your experience, which of your friends bounce back the quickest?  I am willing to bet that it is the friend who had the happiest and most loving childhood because they are more likely to have a strong sense of self-confidence due to feeling and knowing that they were loved as a child.  They will probably feel like they have a strong support network too, which will back their confidence even further.  So, why wouldn’t we want to help our kids out later in life by showing them how much we care now, when they are young and easily molded? 

Oh, and, believe it or not, your sons can benefit from this too.  I am just saying that’s all.

Now please don’t take this the wrong way.  I am not saying that your parents didn’t love you or that you didn’t know that you were loved as a child if it takes you awhile to bounce back from feeling like you are in the crapper.  I am only saying that society doesn’t make it easy for us to feel good about ourselves most of the time.  I think that this is especially true for our menfolk.  In fact, I am thinking that little boys could benefit from a little extra love and affection the most because there is a long standing tradition in our culture that expects our males to hide most of their feelings and emotions.  Well, let’s face it, for most of us anger and aggression is the only acceptable emotion for males to have and share.  No, I am not saying that this is true for everybody.  It’s just true for the majority.  Well, I think it is about time we changed this truth because I have heard that it is just not healthy, and I believe it.  I don’t want my son to feel limited on how he feels.  I want him to feel comfortable discussing his feelings.  There is just no reason why he shouldn’t.  It will be healthier for him.  So, I am going to love him and show him how much I love him as much as I possibly can now and as long as he will let me with the hopes that it will mitigate the expectations that society places on him later on in his life.  Yeah, I know that loving him is no guarantee that he will be confident and accepting of his feelings, but I have to try don’t I?  I don’t want him to turn out like me or all other guys I know.  If something is bothering him, I want him to feel comfortable talking about it with someone before it overwhelms him.  In fact, I wish I could do the same, but I can’t.  I don’t know how to.  All I know is that when something bothers me I try my best to ignore it or make a joke out of it right up until the point where I throw a complete and utter shit fit.  Then the process repeats itself eternally.  That is just no way to live and there is no good reason why it has to be like that.

Therefore, I am going to try and stop the cycle from repeating itself with my son.  I am going to show him how much his momma and I care about him as often as I can.  Hugs and snuggles are awesome, and a simple “I love you” is just so easy that I don’t understand why it was ever considered a faux pas for men to say it.  Is it because it made people feel good?  God forbid anyone should feel good about themselves.  What was I thinking?!  Well, whatever it was that made it uncouth doesn’t matter to me because I want my kid to feel loved and supported here at home regardless of how shitty society is going to make him feel later when he is a little older.  Hopefully, this will help him get through all the hard times he is sure to face throughout his life.   

P.s. I know that I focused primarily on our sons today, but, believe me, our daughters could benefit from a little more love, compassion, and affection as youngsters too.  Let's break this cultural belief right here and now, and let's do it together.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bullies and the Entertainment Industry

I have recently had the opportunity to listen to a Keri Hilson song, which I believe is entitled, “Pretty Girl Rock.”  The tag line on this obnoxious song is “don’t   hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful.”  I think she sings this phrase maybe one hundred times throughout the song or something.  Anyway, I found this song completely abhorrent, not because it was asinine, but because it reminded me of a book I am reading called “Odd Girl Out” written by Rachel Simmons.  Now, I really like this book because it is one of those few books that is rather informative and I find it beneficial to read.  In this book Ms. Simmons writes about the various ways that young girls bully each other and how their aggressiveness is so much different than boys.  Let me tell you this, although I am only a few chapters into the book, I am finding it pretty disturbing and informative nonetheless because it just never occurred to me that young girls had the power to make each other feel so isolated from the world by just using words and what not.

When I was little, the kids that bullied me just made me feel stupid and beat the crap out of me.  Yeah I felt all alone in the world, but there was always the idea way in the back in my head that my friends would get my back, which we did for each other, because I thought that that was what friends did for each other.  Apparently, that is not the case for girls because most of the time it is their “friends” that bully them, and these girls are using their looks, popularity, sexuality or whatever they can as tools to accomplish it.  I don’t completely understand how it all works, but I am sure that it does, which brings me back to this stupid song I listened too.

What kind of message do you think the refrain “don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful” sends to the little girls that listen to this song?  Do you think it is negative?  I think so.  I think that the song places too much emphasis on looks and sexuality.  In fact I think that the majority of modern television and music places too much emphasis on aspects of life that should be frivolous.  I mean how are we supposed to teach our children that looks don’t matter or that it isn’t ok to treat people poorly because they are different or that drugs and alcohol aren’t necessarily a good thing when they see their favorite characters on television and millions of commercials everyday sending exactly the opposite message millions of times a day?  Children don’t need to see this shit!  I don’t need to see this shit either, but we all do.  

I have read so many articles and books that show the average amount of time that a family sits in front of the boob-tube and it embarrasses me.  It is almost like the television is a member of the family to a lot of people.  This is precisely the reason that my wife and I do not pay for cable television.  I don’t want my son to be corrupted by it.  I want him to be able to talk about other things than last night’s episode of “American Idol” or the season finale of “Lost.”  There are just so many other things that should be more important.  I know that I am setting him up to be an odd ball when he does finally go to school, but I am hoping that if he doesn’t get exposed to the crap on TV non-stop for hours a day that he may be a better person for it.  I don’t want him growing up thinking that certain aspects of life that the t.v. portrays are socially acceptable or even positive cultural mores.  

The simple truth is that most of these messages aren’t and we all know it.  Take sex as an example. If you take what a lot of the TV programs show to heart, then you would believe that sex is no big deal and there is never any sense of commitment to the person that you’re banging at the time.  Therefore, it Is perfectly fine to have sex with someone other than your partner because it is meaningless.  Bullshit!  It is bad enough that as a society we all have to confront this as adults and young adults, either directly or indirectly, we don’t need to see it as children too on the afternoon sitcoms our parents subject us to do we?  No.  We don’t.  We need to learn that it is not ok to hurt the people we supposedly love like that.  Anyway, I digress.  

What I am firmly convinced of and what really peeves me is that it seems like we have all become too lackadaisical as parents and as people.  No, I am not blaming television for this.  After all, television only plays what is popular.  If we as a whole didn’t want to watch a television program then it wouldn’t play.  Therefore, we have no one to blame but us when it does.  Probably the turn that society has taken in regards to the entertainment that we all seem to enjoy hasn’t made the bullying of our children and of each other any worse, but it surely hasn’t made it any better either. I honestly don’t think that the way bullies bully others has changed all that much for centuries, but what has changed is what we continue to expose ourselves and our children too.

To tell the truth, I take a certain amount in solace in this because it means that my son will more than likely go through something similar to what I went through as a kid, and since we won’t pay for TV he won’t really be exposed to a lot of the crap that I abhor so much too.  So, his bullying problem is going to be relatively easy to deal with or perhaps easier to deal with than what the alternatives are for girls. I’ll just advise him to fight back like I did.  Sure he’ll get a few bumps and bruises but that is a small price to pay for being left alone right?  I don’t know what I would do if my son was a daughter.  I guess I would just have to rely on my wife to help get her through school.  I know that I would be virtually useless.  I can’t even help the five year old little girl I watch when she is having problems with other kids at school.  She just won’t talk to me about it, and I don’t know if she even talks to her mom or dad about it either.  We all know that something is wrong.  I can see the other kids laughing and pushing her when she gets off the bus, but I am helpless to do anything about it.  The poor little kid used to be so happy when she first started school.  Now she just looks so miserable.  It is terrible.  

So, I do what I know best.  I teach her to defend herself physically.  Nothing serious just a few tosses and submission holds, but that won’t work and I know it.  It seems like her self-confidence is totally shot.  I don’t know what else to do.  Like I said, I am useless in this kind of situation. I automatically turn to violence as an answer, which doesn’t work for girls.  As boys we are taught from a really young age to confront our problems face to face and getting physical just seems so normal to us or to me anyway, that it is almost comforting.  I guess girls aren’t taught to be like that, and, anyway, how do you confront a psychological attack or ostracism?  You can’t beat it up, so what else do you do?  I for one don’t know.  I guess she'll just have to wait it out or learn that she can talk to some about it and hopefully that will make things better for her.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Office Parties Can be Hard on Your Spouse. Trust me, I Know!

Well, I feel pretty lucky today.  My wife had a kind of office get together last night, and I opted not to go because I always feel out of place at those damn things.  So, I sent the boy in my stead.  Yeah that probably wasn’t too fair, but people aren’t going to ask him a bunch of silly questions about being a stay at home parent and try to make small talk with him about random things only to move on to the next person before you have time to respond.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really like my wife’s friends and co-workers, but when there is a whole group of them together I feel so out of place.  That is why I think office parties should just be for office personnel.  I appreciate that most offices and companies try to include everyone’s families, but it is just awkward and uncomfortable for a lot of spouses to have to go to these parties and festivities.  I guess it could just be me, but I doubt it.

Like I said, on an individual basis I really enjoy my wife’s co-workers and friends.  It is fun to chit chat with them and actually have time talk about something with them.  On an individual basis they are all great people, but in a large herd talking to them can be quite a daunting task for me.  What the hell do I say?  Where the hell is someone I recognize, and how do I find him or her?  It would be different if it was just my wife’s immediate office, but that is never the case.  You never know who the hell is going to show up.  I am sure my wife felt the same way when I used to drag her to my office parties way back when I had full time job.  I am relatively sure that she felt out of place then too.  It is just hard to interact with people who all have a shared interest, their jobs.  I relate going to a spouse’s office party to going speed dating.   You only have a few moments to talk to any one person, and when you finally get comfortable speaking with him/her they have already moved on.  Then the system repeats itself over and over again.  Nothing makes you feel more out of place than being in a group of people who have nothing to talk about other than their work and you don’t work with any of them. 

As many times as I have dragged my wife to my company picnics or Christmas parties, I still think that she had it easier than I do now with her.  That might not be a fair assumption, but that’s how I see it damnit!  I don’t care what you say.  You see, I never worked in an academic office or in a college university at all besides being a student worker in a dining hall.  She works in an office, and I cannot even tell you which office because I don’t know.  I just know how to get there and make small talk with her co-workers, whom I like very much, until she is ready to leave or go and do whatever she is making me do at the time, more than likely it is going shopping.  Anyway, her co-workers aren’t the people that pose the problems for me at their office gatherings.  Finding them in the middle of all the rigmarole is the problem.  Ok, maybe rigmarole is probably not the right word, but I bet you catch my meaning anyhow.  It is those pesky academics that insist on showing up who make me feel the most uncomfortable.  No it is not all of them.  Quite a few of them I rather enjoy being around, but these people rarely ever attend such gatherings, and if they do it is because they got roped into hosting it somehow or otherwise feel obligated to make an appearance.  You may be thinking that I am uncomfortable because I am afraid of the other academic's  superior intellect or something.  No, you would be wrong there.  That is not the case at all.  I don’t like being around a lot of those other academics because I think that they are shitty people.  Well, that is not fair.  I am sure they are all good people in their own way even if they are socially awkward, but that doesn't stop me from abhorring their very presence. 

Some of you may already know this, but there are a lot of people in academia that like to pat themselves on the back.  A lot!  Holy cow is it horrible.  It is like they don’t know how not to stop posturing and positioning themselves in order to exhaust every possible avenue that could make themselves look better, smarter, and more important than everybody else somehow.  Yes, I am interested in their work, but there is a point where it gets ridiculous.  I stopped being impressed hours ago man!  You see, silly me didn’t realize that a party in the academic world is in actuality a contest where all the academics vie for the title of being “most important and smartest.”  This is something I quickly learned at the very first party/contest I was dragged along to.  Since then my strategy has been to stay off to the side and let them tell each other how important they are and how great their work is and how it will change the world or whatever.  I don’t want to be involved in the inevitable flaccid, academic style fight that will soon ensue.  You know what I’m talking about, the fights that involve the drunken quoting of other academics that no one else cares about or has ever heard of before.  Sure it gets amusing, but it definitely is not a situation where you can yell out “OH SNAP! He got you din’t he?!”

Every once in a while there will be another spouse off to the side that I can chat with, but most of them have learned to stay the hell home years ago.  That will be my strategy from now on too because sometimes being in the corner is just not good enough.  I think they can smell the distaste on me or something and mistake it for awe every once in a while because there has been a few times where I felt like the only “Hot Girl” in a lame Townie bar.  I soon find myself boxed deeper into the corner with a bunch of drunkards trying to impress me with their scholarly drivel.  Sorry, I am not impressed, and you don’t really need my praise do you?  Don’t you have grad students to do that for you?  You’re not a grad student are you?  Damn, sorry about that. I guess you really don’t have anyone then.  Alright then, tell me about Foucault one more time.

So, I hope that you take all this into consideration before you drag your unwilling spouse to your next office party because chances are they don’t really want to be there, and if they really do want to go I would have them evaluated by a psychologist or something because that just ain’t right.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Not Really That Bad is it?

Well, it looks as if all of my glorious plans for this holiday season are going to be thwarted by the Unites States Postal service.  Now it isn’t exactly their fault and not all of my plans are going bust, but all of the really fun plans are probably going to be.  You see, I ordered a nice shiny new suit the other day after we visited the big man in red, but I don’t think it will arrive in time for me to use it this year.  If you are wondering what I am talking about, just know that this suit happens to be red.  I won’t say any more about it in this venue.  

Anyway, I ordered this suit that probably won’t arrive in time, and I also ordered some hair whitener for my beard, but apparently I clicked on the wrong color and a weird platinum blonde hairy spray arrived.  So, I can either re-order the right color or I can say screw it and wait until next year to screw it all up again.  I won’t lie.  I am more than a little disappointed.  I think I, like many other parents, continually set myself up for disappointment by having extraordinarily high expectations of how things should turn out but never actually do.  I am sure that this will be a re-occurring theme throughout my son’s childhood.

It is not like I am going to constantly be disappointed in my son.  Au contraire, that won’t be the problem at all.  I can’t see myself ever being disappointed in him.  Well, at least not until he becomes a teenager.  We all know that teens are difficult to deal with, but even then I am not sure if disappointed will be the right descriptive word for it.  However, as for now, I feel a little let down because I had such high hopes for this Christmas, and it looks like I am probably going to be disappointed because I waited until the last minute to do any real planning.  Don't get me wrong I know it is still going to be a kick ass Christmas, but there are a few things that I really wanted to do this year that I am not sure are possible because I waited so long.  I guess all the cool plans and pictures I had planned on taking were all for naught.  But, does that really matter?  

Of course my baby is young enough that we could stage some photos after Christmas and he would never know the difference, but that seems wrong to me somehow.  Actually, I was probably going to do that regardless of the time when the suit arrived.  You know, if we had never visited Santa the other day I wouldn't be in this predicament.  Yeah, that's right I am blaming Santa.  That bastard!  It's all his fault goddamnit!  It wasn’t until after we visited him that I started to realize why Santa does it year after year.  So, of course, then I wanted to participate in that kind of festive behavior as well.  It was really cool to see all those smiling faces.  Even if you have to deal with a few screamers and drunks I bet it is still worth it.  I mean really, who couldn't do with a little more joy in their life?  So, that is why I ordered the damn suit. All so I could bring a little more cheer into my house and my friend’s houses this Christmas.  Gabnabbit Santa, and your putting these foreign notions in my head!  What am I going to do now?! 

Well, I am going to use this experience as a lesson to myself.  You see, I am learning more about being a dad and what that truly means every day, and there are thousands of little lessons to be learned if you are willing learn them.  I am firmly convinced that this is the only way to go.  Otherwise, you'd go crazy.  There just aren't any other options in my book.  I get befuddled sometimes because there are just so many things that I never even considered before I became a father.  

I have said a number of times before in many different posts that parents seem to bend over backwards to make their kids happy, but I never really realized just how true that is.  Parents are fanatical people, and I am no exception.  What's more, we even help bring out the crazy in each other.  I don’t know how many of our friends have children that plan on waiting up to spy on Santa this year.  So, I thought that it would be cool to facilitate a few late night Santa siting’s this year.  I was really excited about it too, but, again, my plans were thwarted unless a miracle happens.  We will just have to wait and see.   That will teach me to wait until the last minute to make plans, but, hey, there is always next year right?  That will surely give me tons of time to plan things out.  Yeah right!  We all know that will never happen.  Planning is not my strong point.

Anyway, what makes me feel better is the realization that the only person that is going to be disappointed is me, and then even I won't be that disappointed.  It won’t matter to my son or any of the other children that things aren’t going as I had planned.  They don’t even know that anything was planned, so what do they care?   I guarantee you that come Christmas morning they will all be as happy as ever with the people that mean the most to them in the world, and, of course, they’ll have all those shiny packages to open up too.   What else can you ask for?  And please don't feed me that whole peace on earth bullshit either!  I don't want to hear it unless you are willing to start acting on that wish.  Until then keep it to yourself. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa and Fighting off Your Kids Horrible Behavior.

Well, we had some excitement last night.  My son met Santa for the first time and it was awesome!  He was a lot braver then some of the older kids and not as bratty as any of the other kids, which was cool too.  But honestly, I am not sure how he could have possibly been all that naughty when he arrived and immediately did this.

Yep that’s right.  He fell asleep very soon after arrival.  I honestly don’t know how he possibly could have stayed asleep because it was a little chilly last night.  Then there was the problem of all the screaming kids.  We specifically decided to go last night because we wanted to avoid other children, but you know how that goes.  I know that you all know what I am talking about too.  If you are anything like me you probably can’t stand other people’s children.  Yes some of them are quite enjoyable to be around, but these children are few and far between and hard to find.  With your own child it is way different.  It doesn’t matter how bad they are acting because you still love them and want to hang out with them.  It’s those other little assholes that you can’t stand.   You know, the ones the leave you wondering what the hell the parents are doing to stop it.  I just hope that when my little man gets older he doesn’t want to have sleep overs or have friends over to our house at all.  I think that would drive me nuts.

Anyway, back to the big man in red.  This guy was so awesome.  He even gave out toys to the kids to tide them over until Christmas.  How cool is that?  Here is what he looked like. 

You can’t tell through the beard, but I am sure he was still smiling after having countless numbers of children and drunken college students sit on his lap shrieking and screaming about what they wanted for Christmas and, boy, he better bring it.  I guess Santa is a special breed of person.  I don’t think I could have done that, but then again I am not Jolly old Saint Nick either.  But, looking at the man in person it kind of makes me wonder how he can possibly stay so jolly and round.  First of all, wouldn’t the extra-long moustache make it hard for him to eat, and wouldn’t dealing with all those kids and drunken people kill his soul like working at a retail store did to mine?   Oh well, I guess that is beside the point really.  The real point is that Santa is a wonderful guy who doesn’t mind your bratty good for nothing kids.  Not that your kids are bratty and good for nothing, of course I am referring to other people’s children.  You know the people that let their kids run wild in the store and throw tantrums when they aren’t allowed to have a candy bar or whatever.  I am talking about the parents that let their kids swear and accost perfect strangers or the teenagers that smoke in the parking lot because they think it makes them look cool or older or whatever.  I am sure that you have all seen it, and I am sure that your kids would never dream of doing something like that.  Yeah right, just like we never acted that poorly when we were kids either.  Don’t worry about it as long as you do something to stop them from becoming atrocious adults, because both you and I know that it isn’t really the kid’s fault that they act like that.  It’s their parents’ fault.  But come on, there has got to be a point where the offspring have to take responsibility for themselves.  That is part of growing up too right?

I have a hard time remembering that sometimes.  There really isn’t much a parent can do once their kids reach a certain age to stem their poor behavior.  That is why I am starting with my kid now.  Sure he is only ten months old, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be shown how to behave properly and told no once in a while.  Of course I am not strict or harsh or anything.  I did say he was only ten months old didn’t I?  I just don’t want to get into the habit of caving into all his little whims and tantrums later on when he is really capable of being a jerk.  I know these things are going to happen whether or not I start modeling proper behavior or disciplining poor behavior now, but it doesn’t hurt to start when he is young to try and mitigate the inevitable lapse of good behavior later on. 

I am aware that a lot of other parents think that it isn’t possible to teach their kids proper behavior skills at such a young age, and to them I say, “Nuts to you.”  Yeah he is an infant, but that doesn’t mean he is stupid.  He is perfectly capable of learning.  He is already learning to use the potty.  Sure he doesn’t use it every time, but he knows to show me when he needs to go.  He runs up to it and slaps it and that’s how I know to strip him down quick and sit him on his froggy potty.  It’s my fault if I don’t get there quick enough.   Of course he doesn’t hold it while he sleeps, but I don’t think he really can yet.  Anyway, the point is he is learning.  That’s the important thing.  What else can he learn to do at this age?  Probably everything I want to take the time to teach him.  We have all heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” right?  Well, I think that applies to children as well.  Learning to use the toilet, like learning to be a decent person, takes time.  Sometimes, it takes a long time too.

Therefore, it is important to model proper behavior to your children or anyone’s children at a young age and to keep modeling that behavior for the rest of your life to reinforce it.  Sure, I have heard that once your kid hits the teenage years it is all done for.  They will stop looking to you as a role model and start to see you as more as an idiot, but before the teenage years children look up to their parents immensely.  So, when your little one starts swearing and calling people names in the supermarket chances are they learned it from you.  Think of it like this.  If you’re an asshole your kid will probably be an asshole too just shorter that’s all.  Here is a quick anecdote for you to think about.  Hopefully, you don’t act like this guy or at the very least try not to.

About a year ago when I was still working in a retail store, I was an electronics associate and hated it, I noticed that there was a child riding a bicycle up and down the aisles in the store.  Well, I didn’t really care that she was doing that, but I had to ask her to stop anyway because it was store policy.  It is pretty easy to understand why the store wouldn’t want you to do that, but apparently, the kid’s father didn’t.  To make a long story short the guy got pissed at me for asking her not to ride her bike in the store and threatened to “Kick (my) crippled ass!”  What do you think the little girl said then?  She yelled out, “Yeah dad.  Kick that f***ots crippled ass!”  I wonder where she learned to speak like that.  Certainly not from her mom and dad I bet.  I would be mortified if my kid ever said anything like that, but, apparently, this guy thought it was something to praise.  Great parenting dad!

I often think back to that occasion when I am out in public and want to talk down to some asshole who just did something asinine.  Remembering that event always stops me in my tracks because I don’t want to be the impetus that perpetuates that kind of behavior or thinking in a youth or adult.  I think of it as leading by example, but of course there are times when I can’t help myself.  But, overall I am pretty good because I don’t want my kid to grow up thinking it is alright to treat people like garbage and neither should you.  Unfortunately, that means that we can’t do it either no matter how much the jerks are asking for it.  I have heard that children are excellent mimics.  So why not have them mimic good behavior?  I bet you’d be amazed at how well children can behave if you expect it of them.          

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Little Bit About my Ma and a few of the Lessons She Taught Me Because it is her Birthday

Well, this morning as I watched my baby boy attempt to totally annihilate his car seat, I remembered that today is my mother’s birthday.  Man she is getting old.  For her sake I will not tell you how old she is, but I may embarrass her in other ways because, let’s face it, that is what I do.  Anyway, her birthday has gotten me to thinking about my childhood and all the shit she had to put up with and all the little life lessons that she taught me along the way.  Lessons like, it’s not cool to poop and eat simultaneously or if you break something you should never own up to it because you’re going to get yelled at either way or it is always better to eat shit than nothing at all, but the most important lesson she taught me was the all-important double flush technique when you are brewing up a real stinker.  Of course, I am only kidding about the above life lessons.  These were by no means the most important lessons that I have learned over the years.  The real lessons that I believe to be the most important are less straight forward, and, more than likely, my mom didn’t even know she was teaching me anything when she, in fact, was.  I can only hope to teach my son these same lessons half as well.

I guess if you know my ma, then you know that she was a librarian for an elementary school for around a century before she finally retired.  Don’t ask me why she chose that profession.  I think she was crazy to waste a perfectly good degree on something like that, but she’s not me and I am not her.  Thank god!  I guess what really bothered me about ma working for the elementary school as a librarian was the fact that most of the other faculty members she worked with were wankers who gave her shit about not being a “real” teacher.  I believe the phrase, "You’re just a baby sitter," came up numerous times.  What the crap is that all about?!  This might be hard to believe, but they were all just babysitters too.  But, of course my ma, being who she is, rarely ever stood up for herself.  I wish she would have though.  

Whether she knows it or not the fact that she didn’t stand up to the other jerk-ass teachers taught me one of the most valuable lessons she could have ever taught me knowingly or not.  That lesson was, “If you let people treat you like shit, they will continue to do so forever.”  If you want people to respect you, you have to demand it or earn it somehow.  So, I decided at a young age that I will not put up with the kind of shenanigans my ma put up with, not from anybody.  I will not be anyone’s stepping stool, lackey, or punching bag.  I probably would have turned out the same if my ma was the confrontational sort, but somehow this lesson is more poignant when you observe someone you love being shat on repeatedly by people who would be lost without their little books with all the answers in them.  It would be inhumane to expect them to learn the material before they taught it I guess.  It isn't like it changes all that much from year to year.  Please don’t get me wrong here.  I am not judging my ma on not standing up for herself.  I know that she probably really couldn’t at the time.  What I am really trying to say, is that I am grateful that she was able to guide me into being the man I became while using that experience as a teacher/librarian as a pivot point gently nudging me in the right direction.  

Anyway, it really would have been nice to see her put those other jokers in their place, but for that to happen they would have had to say or do something to the family.  That surely would have sown the seeds of rage in my ma.  I am sure that would have been about the only thing she ever really could have gotten pissed enough about to fight someone.  You know what?  No matter what I said back in my childhood, I always knew that my ma would have my back when I needed her to.  That is one of the main things I hope to carry on with my family too.  Now that I have a child I want to become the one that my son can fall back on when a little more support is needed.  My mom and dad did it for me.  It’s my turn to have someone else’s back now, and I am ready for it.     

Remembering all this has made me realize what a little shit I was most of the time when I was growing up.  Man my parents put up with a lot of crap from me.  I don’t think I ever listened to what my ma and dad said.  In truth, I still don’t no matter how much sense they make.  They shouldn’t feel bad though because I don’t listen to hardly anybody until after I already screwed something up bad, and even then I am reluctant to.  I guess I am just one of those people who are hell bent on making their own mistakes before they learn anything.   Take this for example. When I was probably around 12 or 13 I was playing with some firecrackers with a couple of friends.  Well, one of the dumbasses decided to see if it would hurt if he held on to one until it exploded is his freakin’ hand.  Of course it burned him.  I watched it happen, but was determined that he was holding it wrong.  He had it in his fist.  I thought that if he had the firecracker just lying on his hand it wouldn’t have hurt him at all.  So, my other friend tried it that way, and, newsflash, he got burned too.  So, what did I do?  I tried to show them both up by pinching the firecracker between two fingers thinking that the pressure would send the heat above and below my hand leaving me unharmed.  It didn’t work.  All three of us got burned and had it been a larger firecracker I might have blown off two of my fingers because I was an idiot and couldn’t learn by watching someone else screw up.  So there you have it, evidence that even at a young age I had to do things my own way and make my own mistakes.  Even though I was relatively positive that the outcome would be the same, I had to try it myself even after I saw the same stupid experiment twice before. 

I think that that event was around the start of my problematic years.  Well, not a problem for me, but for my ma and dad.  Probably more problematic for my ma though.  She was fun to get all riled up.  I used to tell her some whoppers and pull some pretty asinine stunts just to see how she would react.  As it turns out, when I told her I hurt my hand while holding onto a lit firecracker, she didn’t believe me.  I believe she said something along the lines of this.  “Nice try buddy.  I know that you’re not dumb enough to do something that stupid.”  Well ma you were wrong!  Ha!  Take that.  Well, we have all read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” right? Well, yeah telling extraordinarily elaborate lies backfired on me too.  Surprise, surprise!  You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to make my ma and dad believe me when I actually did manage to get myself into a real jam.  Well, that’s all in the past.  I already learned that lesson because once you lie to someone they can never believe you again.  So, I can only prepare for the future now and make sure that my little man learns it too.  

Oh,I was just recalling all my shitty behavior and it reminded me of the “Mothers Curse” my ma invoked upon me before my wife and I had our son or even met really.  Geez, I hope my ma wouldn’t wish that on my wife.  Anyway, I don’t know how many times my ma said, “I hope you have one just like you!”, but it was a lot.  You see that didn’t bother me then, but now I am starting to wonder if her curse will take hold.  It is not like I am worried if my boy will come out alright.  I think I kind of did.  What really worries me is that, if her curse succeeds, he is going to try really hard to drive me crazy or get himself hurt by doing some asinine stunt like I did when I was little and less safety conscience.  How am I going to be able to deal with that?  How am I going to prepare for that?  I would ask my ma and dad, but we all know I won’t listen to them anyway.  That’s a given.  I just hope I can survive his childhood with my sanity intact.  God knows my mother didn’t survive mine with hers intact.

P.s. Happy birthday Ma.  I hope it is a good one, and I hope you realize how loved you are. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

You're Just Going to Have to Roll With it.

Well, as some of you may already know, my baby boy hit a major milestone a few weeks ago.  He started to walk.  Of the few people that knew about this major achievement, almost all of you issued my wife and I some sort of advice or warning.  Of course, being who I am, I ignored absolutely all of you then.   I couldn’t help it.  I was so amazed at his tiny little steps and his big wide grin as he walked towards me that first time that I couldn’t believe he could possibly get into any sort of trouble.  Well, I was wrong.  It isn’t like he got into any real trouble, but soon after those first few new steps a lot of other worries appeared to me.  

I started thinking that if he could walk to me he could also walk away from me.  Eventually, he’ll be able to walk away from me faster than I can catch up to with him.  Yep.  This has already happened.  We were sitting on the floor reading a book entitled, “I Udderly Love You” when the little man decided to jump up to a standing position and bolt away from me rather quickly.  Normally this is not a problem because his balance isn’t quite what it could be, meaning he falls before he gets too far way, but this time he managed to run all the way into the kitchen.  As it turns out, the little man has a major stopping problem.  When I say problem I really mean that he can’t predictably stop.  He mostly just jumps whenever he wants to stop, which results in him tumbling to the floor.  Anyway, during this instance he ended up running head first into our kitchen cabinets.  That didn’t make him happy at all.  I think he thought that it was my fault because he started trying to smack me and kick me when I scooped him up to soothe him.  Note to self, my baby boy does not like to be soothed after having a walking accident.  It seems to enrage him. 

Anyway, I don’t blame him for being mad because he spent the first eight or nine months getting caught by me or my wife before he could hurt himself. (Yes I do know how many months old he is and how old he was when he first started walking. He is one day shy of being ten months old, and he was 8 months old when he took his first steps and really started walking at nine months and nine days old.)  Then all of a sudden I couldn’t catch up to him and he hurt himself.  I felt awful.  

Apparently, he didn’t hurt himself that badly because he stopped fussing and crying the moment I put him back on the floor to play.  Maybe he was insulted that I hurried over to him to make sure he was all right.  I don’t know.  I only know that he didn’t want anything to do with me at that moment.  To emphasize this point, the little tyke grabbed hold of his Winnie the Pooh choo choo train and tried to run me over with it.   Let me tell you something, when he pushes that train up to speed it kind of stings a bit when it hits you.   However, the falling down and getting bumps and bruises weren't what most people warned me of.  I fully expected these incidents as the natural problems that occur for first time walkers.  In essence, this wasn't the type of problem I worried about. 

This was.

You see, at about the time that my son started toddling around the house I imagined all the messes that were bound to happen sooner or later.  Let’s face it, kids are all messy from the start, but there is something special about toddlers.  They seem to be able to make a mess from anything.  Trust me, if there is anything for a little one to get into a toddler will find it, and that is nerve rattling. 

Take the above picture for an example.  The toilet paper roll is affixed at a high enough level that he would have had to have jumped to reach it.  In reality, I have no idea how he really managed to reach it and unroll a new roll of pooper paper.  Yes, it was a brand new roll of pooper paper that had the end still attached to the rest of the roll, so you can imagine why I found the feat so amazing.  Well, however he did it, he found a way to reach it and unroll it.  That left me in a predicament.  At this point do I reprimand him or do I grab a camera and take a picture of the aftermath?  I think it is fairly obvious what option I chose.

So, as I watched my son unroll 100 feet of toilet paper, I immediately remembered all the warnings that our friends had issued my wife and I while I snapped off a few pictures.  Then I tried to recall any advice that was remotely useful.  At first I couldn’t think of anything, but then I remembered something that someone said to us.  She said, “You’re just going to have to roll with it.”  I think that seemed pretty fitting considering the circumstances, and that is exactly my advice to everyone else no matter the circumstances.  Whether you have kids or not no matter what happens “You’re just going to have to roll with it.”  I guess you could decide not to, but I am sincerely hoping that you do decide to.