The Greatest Heroes in American History – Parents of the Oregon Trail

There is perhaps no more dreaded part of a parent’s life than spending an extended period of time in a car with your kids. Even if you tailor the entire experience around their enjoyment, the best you can hope for is that it isn’t terrible. Don’t you dare hope for actual enjoyment. If you plan your drive time around naps, meals, and bathrooms breaks, pack plenty of books, toys, and snacks, and even if you let them pick what to listen to on the radio – the odds of reaching your destination without issue are not great.

On a recent trip to my in-laws (a normal 2.5 hour drive across Michigan), the drive became a mix of closed lanes, bathroom breaks, and tears, many tears, that stretched to over 3 hours. My three kids each took their turn, tagging in and out along the way to make sure there was at least one kid crying at all times. It was easily the worst care ride we’ve ever had with them. I should say that for the most part my kids do very well in the car, and hopefully this trip will prove to be an abnormality and not a new trend. I credit part of their car ride track record to the fact that I’ve refused to let them watch anything. They get no screens in the car. I have no great reason for this other than the fact that I didn’t have anything like that when I was a kid, and I did just fine. Kids today have it so easy, amiright? While modern convenience has made travel easier for kids, the biggest beneficiaries have been the parents.

When I was little, we loaded up the Dodge Caravan and drove to Florida. It look 3 days. Our only source of entertainment was a box of books and games my Mom packed and whatever was going on outside my window. Spoilers – trees! God have mercy on my parents.

Every advancement in child’s mobile entertainment and comfort has also advanced the sanity of parents. We’ve never had it so good. Which got me thinking about parents of olde, and the fact that the greatest heroes in the history of America are the parents of the Oregon Trail. I mean, sure, the men who stormed the beach at Normandy are up there. But how many times did somebody ask them for a snack, but not that snack, something else?

There was an estimated 40,000 kids who made the great trip West. There was an estimated 7,543,345,123 utterances of “We’ll get there when we get there.” The average trek took 5-6 months. That’s over 150 days. As entertaining as ball-on-a-string-on-a-cup and stick and hoop are, those parents never stood a chance.The amount of a times a snack would be asked for and denied boggles the mind. “If you eat all the hard tack now, we won’t have any for later!” How many siblings were poking the other one? Talking to the other one? Heaven forbid, looking at the other one?

Though I suppose the bright side is that they probably didn’t have too much time to be bored with all the walking to do. That’s right. Riding in the wagon was for if you were sick or hurt, otherwise kids walked. The only thing more pleasant than a tired, hungry child is a tired, hungry child with blisters on their feet. I’ve had my kids complain that Crocs made their feet hurt. They never would have made it out Missouri.

So now that the kids are hungry, tired, and cranky, let’s get them to do chores! Common tasks for kids included herding animals, fetching water, gathering firewood, and collecting buffalo chips. I have a hard enough time getting my kids to pick up stuffed animals off of their bedroom floor, and these parents had to get their kids to pick up animal doo-doo.

But hey, it wasn’t all fun, games, and feces for parents. They also had the base line task of just keeping kids alive. If the video game taught me anything, it’s that you will die of dysentery. I mean, with all the buffalo chip collecting kids were doing, it was a matter of when you’d get diarrhea and vomiting, not if. I got super annoyed when we had to get off the highway so my daughter could stop to pee in a Walmart. Can you even imagine the bathroom breaks involved with dysentery. “We just stopped so you could go back at the big pine tree, we’re not stopping again! You’ll just need to hold it until we get to that big rock or we’ll never get to Oregon!”

Not to mention the deadliness of the mundane. About as many people died from being run over by a wagon that died from scurvy or freezing to death. How many blankies do your kids insist on bringing in the car ride? Kids today, with their ample amounts of vitamin C and protection of exposure.

So while 3 hours in a minivan with little people who want more fruit snacks was not the most fun I’ve ever had, nobody got typhoid, and I’m grateful for that.

Western expansion is often overly romanticized, and a great many sins are glossed over in the name of going west young man. However, it did produce the greatest American heroes – parents who managed to get small people from once place to another without the aid of a screen, or juice boxes, or books, or Raffi, or anything. Anything at all. Other than the ever-present threat of death and disease. Maybe on our next car trip I’ll give my kids a ball-on-a-string-on-a-cup and tell them to deal with it. Either that or a super soft and comfy pair of jammies so they fall asleep in their air-conditioned car seat. Could go either way.

What My Daughter Hears Me Say

My little girl was sitting at the table eating her lunch, when she looked at me and said, “Dad, do you know what you say all the time?” I was curious and nervous. In the mind of the three year-old, what it is that I say that sticks in her mind?

Best case would be something adorable like “I love you.” What better to know that I say it enough to her that she knows it. If that is so engrained in her little mind that Daddy says “I love you” that it has become my cliche catch phrase, surely I am at least doing one thing right as a parent. And as far as catch phrases go, it’s no “How you doin’,” but it’s certainly better than “Did I do that?”

Or would it be a term of endearment? Most of the time I call my daughter Peanut, so would she say that? Every kid needs a good nickname, and the best ones carry into adulthood. She may outgrow it at some point. Will I call her Peanut when she’s in her 30’s or has kids of her own? Maybe not. But will I can her Peanut when she’s a teenager and calling her that in front of her friends will embarrass the crap out of her? You bet your ass.

A few worst case scenario words flashed across my mind as well. I really try not to swear in front of my kinds, but they’ve been around me while I’m trying fix things around the house or assemble their toys so I can’t make any promises as to what they’ve heard.

Or would it be some word that I say all the time without even realizing it? Some nervous tick of a word that works its way into my speech. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to not say “um” or “like”, but has something else taken their place? Like, uh, some kind of word like “you see” or “anywho?”

Perhaps it would be some reflection of my habits, either good or bad. Would it be something like “baseball” or “exercise”? There is honestly a higher probability it would be “beer” or “cake”.

“What do I say?” I asked her as she chewed.

I was glad she wasn’t talking with her mouth full, but her delay in response left me hanging. I need to know what lasting impressions I am making on my kids. How have my words shaped their growing minds? Who am I in their eyes? Chew tiny lady, chew!

I hoped for the best yet braced for the worst, fairly certain that either way it would be adorable.

She finished chewing her bite, looked up at me and said –

“Bing.”

Is My Kid a Bad Influence? Yeah, Probably.

Try as we might, we cannot completely shelter our kids from negative outside influence. They will learn bad words, they will pick up bad habids, and God help us they might even listen to Cardi B. It is clear that my daugher has picked things up at pre-school and brought them home.

For the most part the trend has been increased levels of sass and eye rolls. What used to be a simple “yes” has become a “yeeEEs”. And never at an appropriate time to use sass. Its not like she implements this when repeating the same question about whether or not she’s picked up her toys, she hits me with the sass when I ask her if she wants milk with dinner. Clearly, she picked up this new and exciting response at school and can’t wait to use it, context be damned.

She has also said that things that I know she has never seen or heard are her favorite. Yesterday she said to me, “Dad, JoJo Siwa is my favorite person.” After a Google search to find out who the hell JoJo Siwa is, I concluded that, no. No she is not. More likely that she heard somebody at school with an older brother or sister talk about it and decided that she wanted to be able to talk it too. This is the pre-school version of nodding and smiling in a work meeting when people start throwing around acronyms that you don’t know what they mean. Her JoJo Siwa is my JSON. My only understanding of their existence is that the seemingly random collection of letters that make up there name have made their way onto my computer.

It has been said you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If the behavior of five other kids is osmosing into my daughter, I wonder what of my daughter is showing up in them? What odd new thing is being chalked up the influence of Lucy K.? As much as I don’t want it to be, I assume it is taking off their pants when they shouldn’t be taking off their pants.

Twice in the last month my wife has gotten a call from the school letting her know that our daughter was being inappropriate. One was a classic game of showing yours and mine, which my natural dad reaction is that I’m sure it wasn’t my daughter that started it but the other little son of a bitch. The other was her dropping trou to scratch an itch during nap time. Not much I can say about that one. I mean, I am all for comfort when you’re trying to sleep, but c’mon kid.

We are always given an assurance that it is no big deal and normal, but at the end of the day my kid is the kid who showed the class her business. Much like the kid who has to do the same grade twice, every class has one, but you never think it will your kid. I imagine one of her classmates going home and letting it hang out at the dinner table and giving the excuse of “Lucy K. does it.” And word gets around. Just like that, she’s got a bad name. She’s not invited to birthday parties, she’s left out of play dates, she doesn’t get to sit at the kids-who-keep-their-pants-on table lunch. That Lucy K., she’s a bad seed. But I ask you what is worse – influencing other kids to take off their pants, or have an awareness of JoJo Siwa? Taking your pants off and listening to some 90’s Whitney Houston (which is some of my daughter’s favorite music) sounds a lot better than wearing all your pants and listening to some fad garbage that’s YouTube famous. I might just go take my pants off and listen to The Bodyguard soundtrack right now.

I am sure some good of these kids is rubbing off on each other too. There are moments when my kids do something so kind and responsible I am amazed. And I take total credit for it. It could be something they picked up from a friend though. Helping somebody else get their shoes on and when not to display your parts – the two most important lessons of pre-school.

Dad Isn’t Pretty

Evie, my two year-old daughter, dropped some truth on me the other day. She was looking at us the bathroom mirror as we were washing her hands, and she said to me, “Dad, you’re not pretty.”

At first I was insulted. I’ve been called a lot of things, but but “not pretty” has never been one of them. I mean, it’s not like I’m Rob Lowe circa 1986, but to be flat out called not pretty? Ouch.

A very pretty man.

Then I thought it must be because I’m a boy. This is a girl who says that her baby brother can’t be a sweetie because he’s a boy, and sweeties are girls. So I ask “Oh, is it because I’m handsome?” Solid logic. Pretty = girl, handsome = boy, right?

“No.”

Well now she’s just being a dick.

“Because you don’t have a jammie dress.” She justified.

I felt better. It’s not that she thinks I’m ugly, but finds my pajamas unsightly. Which, in her defense, consist of old shirts or sweatshirts two sizes too big and a pair of shorts. So compared to her adorable little night gowns, yes, I am dressed like a hobo. It is very clear that I do not measure up to her young idea of beauty.

Beautiful is pink. Beautiful is sparkly. Beautiful is painted toenails. Dad is a constant state of 5 o’clock shadow. The princess is the epitome of pretty. The prince is some schlub on a horse.

I had taken pandemic hair seriously. I went a year without a haircut, and when I suddenly came home once day with 8 less inches of hair she didn’t take it well. My wife was pleased. My older daughter laughed. My baby boy paid no mind. Evie was disgusted by my shorn appearance. At the time I thought it was just a shock for her. I went more than a third of her life without a haircut, so I was just glad she recognized me. But now I realize that my long hair was the only thing about me that aligned with her concept of beauty. It could go in a ponytail, it could go in a bun, it downright flowed. She says my hair used to be “floppy,” which apparently is what she thinks hair ought to be.

She asks me at least once a week when my hair will grow back, and why is it taking so long. Sadly for her (and me if I’m being honest) my long hair has had its last hurrah. I will never again be pretty in the eyes of my daughter. Although, I suppose I could start wearing a night gown. I could totally pull off that look. Probably would be super comfortable. Breezy in all the right places. She doesn’t have a monopoly on adorable sleepwear. I’ll show her who’s not pretty!

Kids and Cups: A Match Made In Hell

Before you had kids, advice is everywhere. Some of it you search out, and some of it is thrust upon you. Everybody has thoughts on things like breast feeding, the safest car seat, using a pacifier, if/when/how often you should hit your kid. However, there is one area of parenting on which nobody offered me advice, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought to seek out on my own, which has come to rear its ugly head. Plates and cups.

The amount of advice on what kids use to eat and drink greatly decreases as they grow. There are volumes of information on which bottle you should use and why. There are ample product reviews on different kinds of sippy cups. But regular cups? By the time a kid is old enough to drink from a normal cup and eat off of a normal plate, they are all the same, right? Anybody who believes that has clearly never given an orange cup to three year-old who wanted a blue one. Hell hath no fury.

While I don’t intend for this to be a place to come to for advice, I can’t help but provide some of the knowledge I wish I would have been told before I thought “hey, let’s get this Mickey Mouse cup!”

Fiesta Ware Is Not For Kids

When my wife and I picked out our silverware and dishes for our wedding registry, we wanted to go with something that wouldn’t be plain. Who wants to eat a burrito off of a boring white plate? Not us. We opted for the kaleidoscope that is Fiesta. Our table popped with blues, greens, reds, and oranges mixed and matched together to create a treat for the eyes while I got down on treats for my tum tum. As newlyweds, we weren’t considering our hypothetical future children when were chose these. Such fools we were.

Once we had kids and those kids got old enough to eat off plates, setting the table became a guessing game that nobody wins. Give them a green plate, they want a red one. Let them pick their plate, you’ve set yourself off on a slippery slope that leads to two kids crying over the last clean blue plate. God help you if the dishwasher is in the middle of a cycle and both kids want blue plates. A few days ago I made the grievous error of accidentally giving the wrong plate to the wrong kid, and then switching them after they already sat down to eat. One cried because the other had gotten their plate, the other cried because I took the plate they never knew they always wanted and gave it to her sister.

We have now implemented a policy of “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Throw a Fit.” Now instead of riding the rollercoaster of either getting their favorite plate or throwing a fit when they don’t, they now experience a constant state of disappointment. It makes it easier to give them food and it teaches them an important life lesson. Double bonus.

If having kids is something you’re considering on any level, do your future self a favor and pick the plainest plate and the most basic cup you can find, then buy 20 of each. Also, if you get multiple sizes, you’re just asking for it.

You Must Call a Plate a Plate

Watching kids grasp the English language is equal parts fun and frustrating. The broken English of baby talk is adorable. The mispronunciation of words inevitably works its way into your everyday vocabulary and replaces the actual versions of those words. We don’t ask for more in our house, we ask for moy. However, once the language is firmly grasped children become the worst possible versions of high school writing teachers. I fear the day my kids learn whom, but for now their overly strict correction is focused on when you accidentally call their bowl a plate.

“Take your plate to sink,” is said so often in my house I fear my baby son might think it’s his name. At this point it’s a reflex. Its rolls right off the tongue without thought of what actual food vessel they are using. If you ever want to be talked down to buy somebody who can’t be trusted to wipe their own butt, ask them to take their plate to the sink when they were using a bowl. Or ask them to take their bowl to the sink when they’re using a snack cup.

Gonna sass my word choice about your snack cup? It’s actually a ramekin you smart shit how about that?

Kids Can’t See Cups

The supreme irony of a child demanding a specific size, shape, and color of cup is that once it is filled with liquid and set down in front of them it immediately falls into a cup shaped blind spot. If something they want is on the other side of their cup, that cup – and its very likely sticky contents – are getting blasted all over the kitchen like its the end of American Beauty.

Reaching for a napkin? Milk is going down. Grabbing a fork? Water on the floor. Trying to pick up the juice? Goodbye juice. It might not be the best parenting, but I often forget to give my kids something to drink with dinner. But you know what? They don’t notice. For all they know there is a full glass of chocolate milk sitting right in front of them, yet squarely in their blind spot.

Would owning only one kind of plate and one kind of cup be boring? Yes. Would it be the best parental decision you ever made? Absolutely.

The Luigi Complex: A Younger Sibling’s Struggle

Listening to my daughters play pretend, there is an obvious trend – the older one dictates the action. She decides what will be played, who says what, and how they will say it. When roles are handed out, she’s always the lead. Playing school – she’s the teacher. Playing family – she’s the Mom. Which is fine. But I overheard something that was a crystal clear signal that the age-old dynamics between older and younger siblings is alive and well in my kids.

“I’ll be Esmeralda,” my 4 year-old said. “You be Quasimodo,” she told her younger sister.

Classic older sibling. I’ll be the beautiful lady who sings songs and dances. You be the malformed side-show freak. I guess at least she didn’t make herself Frollo, but it still struck a chord that forever rings true in the lives of second-born. They are forever destined to be second-fiddle, or Luigi if you will.

Player Two: Luigi’s Destiny

My oldest was looking over my shoulder as I found this image. “That’s Carter’s favorite!” she said. “Luigi?” I asked. “No, wait. Mario.” she said, perfectly illustrating my point.

While sibling interactions date back to the early pages of the Bible, for people of my generation who grew up in the area of original Nintendo there is no great representation of the struggle of the second born than Luigi. Older siblings were always Player One, which means they were always Mario. Younger siblings, such as myself were Player Two, and by default, Luigi. In the first Super Mario Brothers, this didn’t actually make much of a difference other than the colors of the characters, but as the games evolved and characters were given different attributes Mario was always the best. Older siblings may have tried to make the case that Luigi wasn’t worse, he just had different skills. But we knew what was up. Mario was always the best all-around character. Luigi having slightly better speed was no condolence. Mario was on the cover. It was his game, and we were just playing in it.

The path of Player Two can go two directions – one of rebellion, or one of mastery.

When The Younger Sibling Gets a Bad Name

“If I had my second child first, I wouldn’t have wanted a second.” I bet you’ve heard that. A line of propaganda perpetuated by the Marios of the world.

The second-borns of the world often get a bad rap for being more rebellious, more wild, and generally not as well behaved as the first-borns. This is not some in-born trait of the second-borns, but a natural reaction to being pigeonholed into the role of Luigi.

“You get to be Mario again? How about I just unplug the game?”

“Oh you you want to be the blue guy in Candy Land? How about I flip over the board?”

The little siblings of the world who go the route of rebellion don’t know how to get out of the no-win position of being Player Two. Do they stay Player Two forever? Do they subject themselves to begging to be Player One in hopes the older sibling graces them with the good fortune of allowing it? Nobody wants to be a patronized Mario. So they either lash out – and get blamed for not playing nice. Or they cry, and are reinforce that they are the younger one, cementing even further their Player Two destiny. A rebellious younger sibling is not a bad kid. They just don’t want to be freaking Luigi.

Take Your Mario And Shove It

The other route a younger sibling can go is take Luigi all the way to Princess. If they are going to get a worse character, they must become a better player. They must not only embrace the second-billing they are given, but use their role to entirely steal the show. This is result of the Luigi Complex is what I call the Ribisi Effect. Nobody uses his supporting roles to the steal the scene like Giovanni Ribisi. Don’t know who that is? Exactly. He’s not the star, but he shows them up. Every. Single. Time. You paid to come see Tom Hanks, but you’ll leave remembering Ribisi.

The Ribisi Effect is what drives younger siblings to greatness. Michael Jordan has two older brothers and an older sister. Peyton Manning grew up trying to be better than Cooper. Bill Gates has an older sister. I bet even today, if they played a video game on a system he is responsible for, she wouldn’t let him be Player One.

The Luigi Complex doesn’t end with the second-born. It is also responsible for much of how the baby of the family is treated. After seeing what happened with their second child, parents become more determined not to have their other children by type cast as Player Twos, so the babies of the family grow up being able to be Yoshi, or Toad, or m’lady Peach, or whoever the hell want. Then of course older ones turn around and say “Oh you let the baby do anything,” and another sibling is put in a no-win situation all because Luigi sucks.

We have a Little Tikes basketball hoop that the girls are kind of learning to shoot at. My oldest tries to shoot from all over the room, throws the ball too hard, and usually misses. Her younger sister stands closer, uses both hands, and lofts in a soft, perfect shot. Atta girl, Luigi. Atta girl.

The Scariest Thing for Children Is The Truth

“Daddy, scare me!” My daughter said and she laid face down on the kitchen floor, already balled up in anticipation of the terror to come. She had just “snuck” up on a fully suspecting me and shouted “ROAR” directly in my ear, so now it was my turn to return the favor. But in that moment it struck me how lame this game was.

She says “scare me”, I grab her make some kind of scary grunt, she screams, she giggles, lather, rinse, repeat. Not scary. But what else can I do? Then it occurred to me – tell her everyone she loves will be dead someday.

Too far? Perhaps. Terrifying? Absolutely. And, as far as I know, a completely uncharted parental course. Brutal honesty as a means of frightening your children for fun. Like many great ideas it really toes the line between brilliance and insanity. And maybe in this case child abuse.

Maybe the next time she doesn’t want me to read her a bedtime story but wants one out of my head, I really dig deep and pull out of the recesses. Perhaps a retelling of “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Jaws,” or the electoral college. Absolute nightmare fuel.

Want daddy to sing a song? Let me tell ya about Mack the Knife. I know that song is catchy and always sung by a smoother crooner, but have you ever actually listened to the lyrics? My kids usually ask for “The Rainbow Connection” at bed, but maybe I should switch it up. “Good night sweetie, try not to dream about getting murdered in alley!”

When we are watching movies and somebody dies I always say “oh, they got a boo-boo. I think they might go to heaven.” Maybe I should stop glossing over it. “Yep, Tarzan’s parents were killed and eaten by a wild animal. Same one that ate the gorilla baby don’t ya know. Hey, who wants to go to the zoo?!”

Want to watch a video on daddy’s phone? Hold on while I try to spell Zapruder. Now pay attention kids, it’s back and to the left. Back. And to the left. One shooter? C’mon.

Of course I didn’t do any of those things. I walked up to her all curled up on the floor, paused a moment to build suspense, and tickled her sides and said “ROAR!” She lurched up and then back down, smacked her forehead on the kitchen floor, and started to cry. Next time I’ll just tell her about how they never caught the Zodiac or something.

Bluey’s Dad Is The Best Dad On TV

I try to exercise some level of control over what my kids watch. I’m not so much worried about them watching something wildly inappropriate as I am something wildly crappy. After sitting through a few episodes of The Wiggles, I was determined to never let something like that infiltrate my house again. I first heard of Bluey when my wife mentioned it. She had watched an episode with the kids, and said it was kind of like Peppa Pig – which is poorly animated trash with a British accent, and not even the charming Hugh Grantian kind of British accent. A feeling of dread immediately hit me. Of course my kids would love it and it would be there new favorite, and I’d be forced to sit though hours upon hours of it. When my kids first asked to watch it with me, I braced myself for the worst and took solace in seeing that an episode was only 8 minutes long. As I watched, my mind was blown. It was actually good, nay, great.

One character in particular jumped off the screen, Bluey’s dad. Since the creation of TV, the dad character has always been a dope. He forgets birthdays, he puts too much soap in the dishwasher, his zany scheme backfires, and he ends up with (often literal) pie on his face. Sure, the Danny Tanners or Carl Winslows of the world would have their moments. The violins would start in the background and they’d sit somebody down and teach a heartfelt lesson. It would end with a “thanks Dad” from the kid and an “awwwww” from the studio audience. However, at the core of even these now iconic TV dads was a dope. Their parental abilities existed only when they needed to teach a lesson at the end of a kid-centered story line. Leave it to an animated blue Australian dog to finally come around and provide the televised role model dads have needed for years.

Bluey’s Dad Actually Plays

The majority the interaction we see with Bluey and her dad is when they are playing some kind of pretend. Make no mistake, he ishere to play. He’s not watching her play, he’s as into it as she is. He doesn’t have one eye on the TV and one on the pretend doctor’s office. He is a fully active participant. If that isn’t model behavior for a dad then I don’t know what is. When my kids want me to play with them, I recognize myself saying something like “In a minute, I need to [insert some task that isn’t as important as playing with with my kids] first.” And I’ll feel guilty about that, because that’s not what Bluey’s dad would do. He would immediately stop loading the dishwasher and go work the counter at a pretend fish and chips stand. Dishes can wait, collecting dollar bucks for chippies can’t.

The times when he has mentioned wanting to take a nap or watch cricket instead of doing whatever Bluey wants to do are always quickly dismissed. He’s not there to watch cricket, he’s there to be a good dad. I’m sure he watches cricket on his own time, but never on Bluey’s. A parent’s time is not their own, and Bluey’s dad gets it.

Bluey’s Dad Is Great at Pretend

Bluey’s dad is nothing if not committed. The way he dives into every game of make believe is inspiring. He’s not here to half-ass it. When a magic asparagus turns him into a meerkat, you truly believe he’s a meerkat because he believes he’s a meerkat. Method acting at its finest. Its a shame we’ll never have the opportunity to see him interviewed by James Lipton.

He almost never breaks character. Even as Telemecus is subjected to needle after needle at the pretend doctor, he forces himself to stay in character as much as possible. When he’s baby Didums in the supermarket, he understands the ridiculousness of it, but he doesn’t dismiss the premise. He takes “yes-and” to another level. He accepts the role he is assigned to play, and completely makes it his own. He is the Daniel Day-Lewis of children’s make believe.

Bluey’s Dad Is Actually a Good Parent

Playing with your kids is great, and being good at pretend is fun, but Bluey’s dad actually does quality parenting as well. He’s silly with a purpose. While Daddy Robot seems to be going crazy, he’s actually teaching a valuable lesson – no violin background music needed. His lessons resonate without being heavy handed. Sometimes his pretend is just fun, and sometimes it is teaching, but the approach is the same – he’s relating to his kids in a way they will understand. He’d rather persuade by being Veranda Santa than by saying “because I said so.”

He also doesn’t shy away from the serious teaching moments, including the heaviest of lessons. When Bluey finds a badly injured bird, not only does he not dismiss it with an “ask your mother,” but he takes it to the vet with her and waits with her only to find out that it dies. He is there for Bluey as she process the concept of death without feeling the need to provide the punchline. Something that you definitely don’t get out of other TV dads. I love the character of Phil Dunphy, but even in the episodes where his own parents die, he can’t resist the call to be a doofus. Where others are comic relief first and parents second, Bluey’s dad is a parent at all times.

Despite the fact that he is a cartoon dog, he is completely relatable. If you’d not seen it, I highly recommend the episode “Takeaway.” Take a few minutes to watch it, I’ll wait.

If it is possible to perfectly encapsulate the chaos and joy of parenthood in a few minutes, this accomplishes it. It’s not that he doesn’t get frustrated, but how he handles the frustration that is inspiring. My new guiding philosophy in parenting is “What Would Bluey’s Dad Do?”, and I don’t think it will steer me wrong.

Plus, by all accounts he’s a cool dad. He has the best dance moves in the opening credits. He’s an archeologist. He drives a cool looking SUV. His name is Bandit for God sakes. If I knew nothing else about him, that would be enough to be enough to make him a dad worth paying attention to.

The Three Phases of Shoveling Snow With Kids

No other type of weather produces such mixed emotions as snow. Its beautiful when we watch it fall from the warmth of our homes, but quite terrible to be out in it. I personally feel that outdoor winter sports are for crazy people and Norwegians. If you’re a crazy Norwegian you’re a shoe in to be an Olympic cross country skier. Kids love it when there is enough snow to cancel school, and parents hate it for the very same reason. Shoveling snow is a necessary evil of home ownership, like lawn maintenance or making small talk with your neighbors when you go out to check your mailboxes at the same time.

But where adults see a chore, kids see an opportunity to go out and play in the snow. After you’ve taken a half hour to get a child into their snow clothes, they are ready to come outside and “help”, and will inevitably go through these three phases.

Phase One: This Is Amazing!

Pure excitement. The snow must be ran through, it must be thrown, it must be tasted. Just in case the snow over on the other side of the yard is any different, that snow must be checked out as well. If there’s been enough snow and wind for a drift to form – that must be scaled as if it were Everest. A footprint sighting? Those must be followed, and it certainly doesn’t matter that they are their own.

Watching my kids play around in the snow I am reminded of the pure joy of being a kid. Is it annoying to wait for my daughter while she marvels at the tire tracks in the driveway? Absolutely. But I realized that this is only the second winter she really remembers. It is amazing to her. We’ll see how she feels after thirty or so more, but for now, it is delightful. Except for the fact that she can’t wear flip-flops or jelly shoes. Winter footwear are not really my kid’s style preference. Plus, so much snow to eat.

Phase Two: Actually Helping

You’ll have to pay close attention during this phase, because if you look away for a second you may miss it. Not that I expect a small child to do much of the work of shoveling snow, but it would be nice if they didn’t actually make it harder. Tiny shovel fulls of snow inevitably get flung where I’ve already shoveled or in my face. Occasionally somebody will plop down to play directly in my snow removal path.

Sometimes somebody will want to help get the snow off my truck. Not that I don’t appreciate having the snow cleared off for me, but I’d rather not have my truck bludgeoned by a miniature snow shovel. Just like in the summer when they wanted to wash my truck with the rag they just used to wash away some sidewalk chalk. Thanks so much for the help, but please don’t ever do that.

However, there is a small window of time where at least of few shovels worth of snow will be scooped up and removed. This window closes fast and without warning.

Phase Three: I Want To Go Inside

There is no build up to this final phase. A switch if flipped and they immediately want to go inside. My kids have literally dropped a shovel full of snow right in the middle of the drive way and went back inside. Hey, I get it. If I had the choice between the cold outside with snow and ice and the warm inside with hot chocolate and marshmallows, I would never leave the house. However, a job must be done. Snow must be pushed from here to there in the name of responsible citizenship.

The kids have the luxury of being able to give up and go inside with the excuse of “I’m cold.” My kids aren’t to the age yet where sucking it up is an appropriate strategy for dealing with the elements. That will be a fun developmental milestone for them to reach (for me anyway), but for now the avoidance of discomfort is acceptable. Plus, so much hot chocolate to drink.

But my hot chocolate must wait. The kids can go inside and warm up and I’m left alone outside. Just me and my shovel. The only other sounds the sweep of easy wind and downy flake. The driveway is lovely, steep, and deep, but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep.

Ok well maybe not miles, but we do have a corner lot. So much sidewalk.

Daddy Gets the Boogers

One thing nobody tells you about being a parent before you have kids is how much of the job can be categorized as “removal” – either things from your kids or your kids from things. The idea that I had to intentionally go into my kid’s nose and remove a booger seemed odd at first, it is just something you take for granted as a grown person who can expel their own snot. I was fully prepared for butt wiping, but booger removal not on my radar. Though while it was a foreign concept at first, after having three kids, I’d go so far as to say its become a downright hobby.

The first time I had to suck a booger out of a tiny baby nostril was a pretty stressful experience. I didn’t understand how to properly operate the booker sucker, and my kid was extremely bothered by the the fact I kept jabbing something up her already plugged up nose. Tears were shed and expletives were frustratingly held inside. You can decide which by whom. I was never very good at Operation as a kid, and that was now coming back to bite me in the ass. Why couldn’t Hot Wheels have practical parenting applications?

My Excalibur

Perhaps my wife saw these initial struggles and decided she didn’t want any part of it, or perhaps she just enjoyed watching this poor bastard struggle to extricate crusty snot from an infant’s nostril. Either way, removal of things from kids became my job. And I have to say, I’ve come a long way. Surgical precision with the booger sucker. I’ve never served as a field surgeon, but I have removed a pencil eraser from he nose of a screaming toddler, so, same-same. The bulb style of course. I’ve heard rumors of some silly-ass contraption in which you put a straw up a kid’s nose and literally suck the booger out. What are we cave people?

But boogers and noses are just the entry-level jobs. If the baby has lint between their tiny toes from their footie pajamas, you better believe I’m picking that out of there. Safely putting a Q-Tip in the ear of a squirmy little person to remove globs of wax? Challenge accepted. Splinter? Fetch the tweezers! One time my daughter had a tick start to burrow into her scalp. It was my Super Bowl.

Someday my kids will be all be able to blow their own noses and de-wax their own ears, and I wonder what my removal duties will be then? Have booger, poop, and other general crud removal been prepping me for the ultimate test of teenage boy removal? I’m gonna need bigger tweezers.