An Ice Cream Anti-Social

My daughter started Kindergarten this year, and like any parent I was a little concerend if she would easily make new friends. She had gone to pre-school for the last two years at a different school, and I think she was a little sad that she wouldn’t see her same friends from before at her new school. After two weeks, it is now clear that other kids are making friends with her, but I’m not sure she is making friends with them.

After only a few days, she came home excited and told us about Clare, her new “bestie” that she played with at recess. I was glad she had made a friend, but was a little weird that the first friend she made was not a kid in her own class, but a kid she met on the playground. But it is still early in the year, and the playground is a fun place to make friends, so I get it. Since then, she had come home telling us about two other “besties” that she plays with on the playground. Not only were these also kids not in her class, but when we asked her what their names were, she didn’t know. Hmm…some “besties” these must be.

Then, a few days ago she tells me about how another girl pushed her on the playground, but it was ok, because it was one of her anonymous “besties.” So many thoughts rushed to my mind. First, we’ve really got to teach her what a bestie is. Second, who is this little ass-hole? Third, why doesn’t my daughter still know anybody’s name? Maybe thats why she got pushed.

Other kid greets my kid with a smile: “Hi Lucy!”

My kid greets other kid with side-eye: “Who are you?”

We explained to her that, no, its not OK that she pushed you. And if she did push you, then she is not your friend. This concept was completely lost on her. She could not fathom that this random name-less girl was not her bestie. For being applied so easily and seemingly arbitrarily, apparently this term is ironclad.

So two weeks into the school year, my daughter has made three friends. She knows one of their names, and one of them has assaulted her. She’s off to a great start.

A few days ago her school was sponsoring a night at a local ice cream shoppe, so we went. They had me at ice cream, so the fact that some of the proceeds went to her school was just the figurative cherry atop my literal sundae. We were there for maybe a half hour, and during that time multiple kids either came over and said “Hi Lucy” or said to their parents “That’s Lucy.” Each time I would ask her, “Are they in your class? What’s their name?” For all but one, the answer was the same – “I don’t know.”

What is she doing all day in school? Is she cold-shouldering every kid in class? Does every kid in her class know who she is because she’s the weird kid in class who sits there all alone and doesn’t talk to anybody? Or does she talk to people but is so narcisistic that the fact that other kids have names too hasn’t dawned on her? Or best case scenario (I guess?) is that she has the memory of a goldfish. None of these scenarios are great.

There was a bright spot, however. At one point a parent walked over to us to say hello and let us know that her daughter is in the same class as ours, and they will be on the same soccer team too. It turned out that she was the mom of the one kid whose name my daugher actually knew. That girl didn’t come over to say hi though, because she was too shy. So the one kid that my daughter actually does make the effort to learn her name can’t bring herself to come over and say hi, and the kid my daughter has annointed as her “bestie” is a nameless jerk.

I think we’ll invite shy girl over for play date. Both girls will play at opposite ends of the back yard in silence. If my kid can be entertained and quiet, what more could I ask for? Maybe they’ll end up being best friends for years. I really hope they do, if for no other reason then it seems it may take until the 6th grade for them to talk to eachother. Unless it turns out that that no-name bestie has parents we’d get along with better. Then my kid needs to start learning names pronto.

The PGA Tour Is Easier Than Putt-Putt

Golf is a challenging, frustrating, and humbling game. More difficult mentally than physically, it can flummox even the most experienced player. Of course, I am talking about putt-putt with small children. Compared to a round of mini golf with a five, three, and one-year old, the Masters is a walk in the exceptionally landscaped park. Bryson DeChambeau can hit the ball a mile, but can he putt with only his left hand as he holds a crying toddler in his right? Jordan Spieth might have laser focus in the final round of major, but has he ever putted around a waterfall while making sure a tiny child doesn’t fall into said waterfall? Could Louis Oosthuizen play it as it lies if it lies in the clenched fist of a tear and snot-soaked one year-old? Methinks not.

Before the first hole. The enjoyment of picking their color ball would soon wear off.

Since the start of school, we have decided to have a Family Fun Friday to reward the kids if they have a good week at school and do their chores all week at home. This week we though taking them for their first time playing mini golf would be a fun thing to do. Fools. Right before we are about to play the first hole, my two daughters both suddenly had to go to the bathroom, despite the fact the both said they didn’t have to go right before we left the house. Funny how that happens. On the way back from the bathroom my 3 year-old tripped, fell, and cried. The round of golf would not get any better.

I knew my kids would not be good, but I completely under-estimated the amount of crying that would be involved. To my five year-old’s credit, after showing her the right way to hold the club, she did maintain a mostly proper grip the whole time. However, the concept that you make your way through the course in one consistent direction was lost on her. My three-year old mostly pushed the ball around as if she was playing some sort of golf-curling hybrid for the first half of the course, and then decided she was done playing for the second half. When they weren’t racking up the strokes, they were making their way from tripping hazard to tripping hazard. The thing I never noticed about mini golf courses until I went with kids, is that the whole thing is designed to entice a little person to fall and crack their head open. If the decorative rocks and uneven brick walkways weren’t enough, the holes themselves are designed to be uneven. My kids have literally fallen down standing still, they had no shot walking around a golf course with a club in their hands. I’d like to see Brooks Koepka shoot under par while reminding his caddy not to stand on that every 30 seconds.

His club carrying interest would only last another 30 seconds after this picture was taken.

I don’t know what the right age is to take a kid for their first game of mini golf, but it sure isn’t one. Between his rapidly approaching bed time and his rapidly approaching teeth, he was mess. Every hole went something like this: carry him to the tee, put him down to hit, he cries, hit, pick him up, repeat. His only source of enjoyment came when we would sit him next to the hole and he would pick up everybody’s ball out of it and hand it back to them. It was a little encouraging to see that he may have a bright future as my caddy some day, but he would have so much fun at each hole that he’d cry every time we’d have to take him to the next. Even after 17 holes, he never caught on there there would be another hole just a few feet away.

Hole by hole we trudged on. At first my wife and I kidded ourselves that we’d at least be able to keep score between ourselves. After the first hole the score card went in my pocket and it didn’t come out until it was put in the recycling bin at home. While it slowed down our start while we waited at the first tee, I think it was a blessing that the course was very crowded. It look us roughly 45 minutes to finish each hole (or maybe it just felt like?), but we were always right behind the group of people in front of us, who was right behind the group in front of them. Each of us with children no older than seven or eight. Behind us was a mother and her teenage son. Even if we let them play through, they’d be sandwiched between two groups without any hope of maintaining pace of play. Poor bastards.

Meet us at the 19th hole.

The highlight for the kids was the abnormally blue water. Even though kids four and under were free, I felt I overpaid. When we finally finished the round my 5 year-old looked at me and asked “Is this all we’re doing?”

Yes. Yes it is. Happy Family Fun Friday. Now, let’s go home so Mommy and Daddy can have a drink.

Can You Describe a Kid in Three Words?

How would you describe your kid in three words?

This was a question on a form from my daughter’s pre-school. My first thought was “Does sweetest-little-lady-in-the-world count as one word?” My next thought was that it is an almost impossible task. If I could narrow down just three words to describe any of my kids, it would mostly depend on the day. Or even the time of day. The three words when it is an hour past their bed time and they are still running around their room are very different that the three words when they first wake up and come give me a hug.

The more I think about it, the teacher has to know how hard it is to narrow down a kid into just three words, so I wonder – what are they really getting at? I can’t help but feel they might be doing it more see what kind of answer I give, and not how the answer actually applies to my kid. For example, if I put the word “princess” down, that has to be a big red flag for me. Good luck expecting me to be able to hear anything less than a glowing report on how my kid is doing. Or if I say “smart” does she think I don’t have an accurate sense of my kid’s abilities? I mean, every parent thinks their kid is smart, but the world is full of dumb-dumbs.

Maybe I’m over-thinking it. Maybe she just wants to know what to expect from my kid. Which brings it right back to how hard it is to do that in just three words. I think it would be easier if my daughter was older. I have to believe it is going to be very easy to sum up a teenager in three words. Maybe not even that many. Most people that know me could probably describe me pretty well in three words. But a three year-old? She can be shy, goofy, smart, ditzy, respectful, rude, helpful, and obnoxious all while waiting in line to check out at the store. Throw a sugary treat into the mix and who the hell knows what you’ll get.

We ended up going with sweetheart, silly, and delicate. I think that pretty well covers our bases on however she might act. She goes out of her way to help another kid in the class? What a sweetheart – I told you so! She bursts out into tears because nobody would sit and listen to her reenact a scene from Frozen – well, told you so.

Maybe at the end of the school year I’ll ask her teacher to describe my daughter in three words and see what she says. I bet she’ll want to know if “smartest-little-cutie-face” counts as one word.

Stoic Saturday: Don’t Worry About It

At what point in our lives do we start to become so aware of what other people think? Little kids don’t care. My daughter will break out into full song in the middle of the produce section and not give a second thought as to what the stranger buying avocados thinks about it. But somewhere along the line (probably middle school) we find ourselves doing, or not doing, something based on what somebody else will think about it. Possibly worse, we end up creating unnecessary amounts of mental stress over it as well. Marcus Aurelius says this is a waste of our time. And he’s right.

Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people – unless it affects the common good.

As we’ve talked about before, your time is an extremely limited resource. Of all the things you can spend your time on, concerning yourself with the thoughts of other people should not be at the top of your list. Especially when it comes to parenting.

Ask 50 parents the best way to do something and you’ll probably get 50 answers.

“Go ahead and use a pacifier.”

“Never use a pacifier!”

“Use a pacifier but only at nap time.”

“What about the nipple confusion?!” – As a complete aside, how great is the phrase “nipple confusion”?

Food, discipline, bed time routines, potty training – you name it and there are a wide array of opinions out there to be found. Both expert and otherwise. The best case scenario is you are actually trying to find them. More often than not, parenting opinions are not discovered, but rather thrust upon you in a lobby. Each can have their value at the appropriate time, but each can also drive you absolutely crazy. Either way, don’t waste time on it.

Find a trusted advisor. Find a source of truth. Maybe that is your own parents, maybe that’s your pediatrician, maybe it’s some really cool guy who writes online about being Dad. Ultimately, you need to create filter for outside opinions, and do what you know is right. Let the rest of the noise fall on deaf ears. If you don’t have the same parenting philosophy as your in-laws (shocking, but believe it or not it could happen), don’t spend a second of your time thinking about what they think about how you parent. If you find yourself wondering how you measure up to the parent ahead of you in the pick-up line at school, realize what you’re doing and change your train of thought.

Remember too, that there is a flip side to that coin. If you see a parent doing something you wouldn’t do, so what? Don’t worry about them, and certainly don’t offer your own unsolicited advice. What could you have done for your own children while you were going out of your way to dispense your self-perceived parental wisdom?

While we shouldn’t be constantly concerned with what a social media influencer thinks about parenting, we can’t ignore the caveat that Marcus gives – “unless it affects the common good.” So, should you butt into a situation a parent is having with their kid? No. But if that situation impacts the safety or wellbeing of others, then not only should you, but the case could be made that you have an obligation to.

I know it is a tricky time right now to talk about the common good, but it matters. The heath, safety, and prosperity of the whole matters more than inconveniencing the individual. Doing what’s right as a parent, not just for your kids, but for the whole of society is important. What is good for the whole is good for the individual. So before you spend any time or effort worrying about other people, ask yourself – is what they are saying or what they are doing having a real impact on the common good? If no, then get on with your day and pay them no mind. If yes, you still shouldn’t worry, but act. Remember, Stoics aren’t just thinkers, they are doers.

Today’s takeaway: Don’t worry until you have something to worry about.

Kids Ruin Their Own Good Time

More than ants at a picnic, rain at a parade, or Tom Brady at a Super Bowl, nothing ruins a good time like a kid who’s having a good time. Actually, I take that back. Parades aren’t fun in the first place, so there is no good time to be ruined. Attending a parade at all ruins the fun you would have had doing something else. Anyway, a kid’s good time will inevitably end by their own doing.

What parent hasn’t seen this scenario play out before? Your kid is having a good day – they’ve listened, they’ve shared, maybe they even lasted a whole car ride without crying. Such good behavior deserves a reward, so you decide they should get a treat! Yay, ice cream! A kiddie cone and some sprinkles blows their little mind. And their good day. The excitement of the fun day combined with the sugar of the ice cream is just to much for them, and the next thing you know they are covered in melted ice cream, quickly covering everything they touch in melted ice cream, and not listening to a word you say because they are just having so much fun. The fun day now ends with you demanding they be quiet and listen, and stop touching that, and sit still, and be quiet. Onlookers must look at you and wonder how you could be in such a bad mood while doing something as fun as having ice cream. What kind of wet blanket are you? Are you a bad parent or something? Let me tell you, no, you aren’t a bad parent. You just waited to keep the fun in check.

Much like every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every child’s mood has an equal and opposite mood. Laughs inevitably turn to cries. Being grumpy will turn to being giggly. Being tired will turn to being awake for hours past bedtime. I’ll call it the Third Law of Emotion. I’ll come up with the first two later.

As a parent, you have now moved from being the fun parent who got them ice cream to being the fun police. I get that temperance is a virtue and you need moderation in all things, but it just makes you feel like you’re being the kind of parent you never set out to be. It turns out an under-appreciated part of parenting is the ability to allow your kids to have fun, but not too much fun, and I’m not sure I know how to do that.

Rather than reward them with ice cream, should I give them cottage cheese? I mean, it’s still cold dairy? When they are running around being silly, should I inturrupt their fun to remind them about the shots they’ll get at their next doctor’s appointment? Maybe knock over thier Lego tower for no reason? Where is the line on what is keeping them in check and what is being a dick? Who’s to know? But I do know that letting their good time get too good will end badly.

Which sucks, but is also why the fun parent isn’t always the good parent. A major part of he job is protecting your kids, mostly from themselves. I’ve spent infinatly more time not letting my kids eat as many chocolate chips as they want than I have baby-proofing the house. I’m yet to have a kid try to shove something in an electrical socket, but I have had three kids try to shove a pound of chocolate in their faces. Would it have been fun to see them try to chew fistfulls of ghirardelli, yes. Would the aftermath of wound up kids leaving chocolatey fingerprints all over the house have ended in tears? Without a doubt.

Dad just can’t be that fun. Uncle can be sometimes. Hell, grandpa can see their chocolate chips and raise them gummy bears. Dad needs to keep everything in check. At least until the kids are old enough to keep to the promise of not telling mom.

Bathroom Humor: A Parent’s Conundrum

Kids are funny. Though almost never on purpose – their jokes are terrible and they have essentially no sense of comedic timing. But they say and do all kind of ridiculous things thant make you laugh. On one hand, this makes parenting very entertaining. On the other, there are many times when you can’t laugh at your kids. There are also some topics that you can’t laugh at. These worlds collide in the bathroom.

We have been trying to stop our kids from asking for a thousand different things after we’ve tucked them in for bed with little success. On an average night, my daughters will ask for a drink of water, the fan turned on, the fan turned off, music turned on, lotion put on, a tissue, ask to go to the bathroom. Naturally, these requests never come in combination, and neither child asks for something at the same time as their sister. To put a stop to this, we’ve established that they don’t need to ask to go to the bathroom and we are really encouraging them to take care of everything themselves. We find that they don’t really need help wiping, it just depends on if they are in the mood to do it themselves. It is a big step for a parent when poop removal no longer takes up so much of your day.

Last night my three year-old daugher Evie did it almost perfect. Without saying a word, she got out of bed, went into the bathroom, and started to take care of business all by herself. Then she called for me. For no particular reason, she used what I assume was her interpretation of a southern accent that boarded on a terrible Forrest Gump impression.

Evie: “Da-day”

At first I ignore her. I need to stick to my guns to break these bad habits, and I find that ignoring your children can be a really effective parenting technique in most situations.

Evie: “Da-day. Da-day. Da-day.”

Her repeating this in consistent intervals was enough to get a response, but I sure wasn’t going to get up off the couch.

Me: “What?”

Evie: “Da-day!”

Me: “What?!”

Evie: “I have pewp on my un-days.”

Me: “Why?!” I asked legitimatly scared of the responce.

Evie: “I tooted and some pewp got on my un-days.” She stated very matter of factly in her newly aquired faux southern drawl.

I looked at my wife, she looked at me, and we lost it. I broke like Jimmy Falon in Debbie Downer. I couldn’t go help her while failing to hold back laughter with tears in my eyes. I needed to treat this like a normal, no big deal thing that sometimes can happen. I coudn’t embarrass her, or even worse, give her some kind of signal of encouragment that sharts were funny and should become a normal part of the bedtime routine.

Also, you can’t let kids know that poop actually is quite funny. This is one of the bigger challenges in parenting. You need to treat bodily things very matter-of-factly. You don’t want them to talk about them, but you also don’t want them to feel ashamed to talk about them, but they have to talk about them in the right time and place and with the right people. So even though its funny, it can’t be funny, and even though its ok to talk about it, you better not talk about it dinner. Or breakfast. Or church. Or the grocery story. Or school. But its natural and normal. But don’t do it whenver you feel like it. Who knew poop talk would be such a fine line to walk?

And I wonder, at what point can we inform our kids that poop humor is not only acceptable, but hilarious? Perhaps this would be a good time to point out that I have the sense of humor of a twelve year-old. In the process of my maturity and development my sense of humor stopped while the rest of me kept going. Apparently, after listening to The Goat while I was in the seventh grade my sense of humor was like, “Ya know what, I’m good here. The rest of Pat, you keep going, but don’t wait for me.” For a few years my metabolism stayed behind to keep my sense of humor company, but he came sprining to catch up. So here I am now – poop is funny but the prospect of digesting a Whopper is no laughing matter.

Anyway, I dug deep, I bit my lip, I focused on the task at hand. Much like my daughter just did. (See, poop jokes are funny!). I collected myself to aid my child in her time of need. And like every good story, this one has happy ending – there was nothing on her undies. I assume for a moment my child chose to embody an old gentile southern belle with irratable bowl syndrome. Oh the imagination kids have!

I still don’t know when the right age is for it to be ok for kids to see the humor in poop, but I sure to hope it is before my daughter is old enough to read this.

Daddy loves you, Peanut.

An Important Lesson for Kids: Life Isn’t Fair

My kids are getting to the age where they are questioning why other kids have something they don’t have or get to do something they can’t do. Part of it is the age. They are still too young to do things they see other people doing, like stay up late or get a big piece of cake. Part of it is the choices we make as parents. Like not letting them stay up past their bed time, or keeping the big piece of cake for myself. Which by law is the right of every dad. It’s true. I’ve never looked it up, but I’m pretty sure its one of the amendments. I think Taft was behind it. Anyway, it has brought up an opportunity to teach am important life lesson – life isn’t fair.

While thinking about this, I realized the way we teach the concept of fairness to kids is contradictory. First we tell them to do things because they need to be fair – share toys, take turns, play nicely, follow the rules. Then, once we’ve pounded that into their heads to the point where they can move on from complaining that their sister is being mean to me to their sister isn’t being fair, we introduce them to cold hard reality that life isn’t actually fair. There are adults who have a hard time grasping this concept, so how can we expect a kid to understand?

Are we doing the wrong thing by trying to instill the need for fairness? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t teach kids to share, take turns, and play nicely, but perhaps we shouldn’t be telling them to do it in the name of fairness. I think we’d be better off teaching them to act in the name of doing it because it is the right thing to do. What seems like simply swapping out one word for another may seem minor enough, but it could actually make a big difference in the development of their character.

If I continuously tell my kids that they need to do things because of a need to be fair, they place an importance on the concept of fairness. A concept that will inevitably be torn down. A sports radio host used to say, “Fair is a place to buy a pig.” True words for both the competitive balance of the Big Ten and life in general. I want my kids to understand what is fair and what is unfair, but I’d rather have them act out of a desire to do what they think is right, not what they think is fair. I’d love to have them embrace the perceived unfairness as a means to overcome a challenge and build character, but that is probably asking too much of kids who are still working on such complex concepts as the indoor voice.

Here I am now in the awkward position of simultaneously telling them that one of them will get the orange plate today and the other will get it tomorrow because that’s fair, and also that they don’t get to have the same toys as other kids because things aren’t always fair. So when it becomes a matter of them getting upset because they can’t do or don’t have something that somebody else does, I shift away from fairness to a concept that they already understand – everybody is different.

I know they firmly understand that concept because Daniel Tiger told them that in someways we are different, but in so many ways we are the same. Of course he did it in a tune that is forever drilled into both their brains and mine and we couldn’t forget it if we tried. Well played Daniel Tiger. But they understand it none the less. They already apply this concept to why somebody is taller, shorter, lighter skinned, darker skinned, or anything else they recognize as different from them. Why not apply it to non-physical traits? Somebody else getting an ice cream sundae while you get a kid sized cone isn’t something that is unfair to you, it’s just that that kid is different. You get a scoop, they get a big sundae. You made a healthy choice, they are one step closer to juvenile diabetes.

So I’m going to throw fair out the window and focus on doing what is right and being ok with everybody being different. I assume there will be a flurry of “Why?” headed my way, but with little kids in the house I get a couple hundred of those a day anyway, so what’s a few hundred more?

Stoic Saturday: Achieve Your Freedom

Parents laugh at the the idea of free time. Yes, kids cost money, but the resource they use the most of is time. And that is fine. Spending time with your kids is why you become a parent. However, you still must use time for yourself – to improve yourself, to grow yourself, and, as Marcus Aurelius says, to free yourself.

There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.

Time is our most limited resource, though unlike a bank account, we have not balance sheet. There is no way of knowing if we have an abundance of time left, or if we are down to our last second. So much of this precious resource is wasted, and we don’t even realize it. How then do we use it to free ourselves, and what are we freeing ourselves from?

I think the Stoic would say we need to free ourselves from the distractions that prevent us from pursuing a virtuous life. What uses your time and leaves you with too little time left in the day to pursue wisdom? I find myself trying to set time aside every night to read, but by the time the kids are asleep I watch the last This Is Us, or stay up to see the end of a baseball game, and then I’m too tired to focus and absorb the information. Sure, I enjoyed watching the baseball game, but would that time have been better used on wisdom than entertainment?

What about the time I spend with my kids? Am I using that impart – and gain – wisdom? Do I rush through explaining something because I say I don’t have enough time? I know I have. Have I lost patience with my kids because they are still learning how to do something and it takes them more time. Time that I don’t think I have to lose. Time that I could spend doing something virtuous, like watching baseball. When it comes to kids, I don’t think it is doing the annoying, or the boring, or the difficult things that we need to be free from. Time with our kids is the virtuous thing, it is the things that distract us from our kids that we need to be free from.

Do I want to read the same book for the hundredth time? Not really. Is that time well spent? Absolutely. If I slow down to explain something to my kid rather than rush through it, am I saving time or am I using my time wisely?

My kids are a little young to understand justice. Anything beyond why one of them gets ice cream and another one doesn’t is a bit over their heads, but when they get old enough to understand the need to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing taking the time to explain that to them will be time well spent. Time spent freeing them ignorance that breeds injustice, and time spent freeing my self from worrying if I have prepared them enough for life. For not I’d settle for them doing something because I told them to.

And what about temperance? How much time spent devoted to excess or addiction would be better served else where. Better served freeing you what whatever stops you from whatever keeps you trapped. Do you really need to stick around the bar and have one more round when you could go home and help put your kids to bed? Do you really need to buy your kid every new latest and greatest toy? I am sure your kids would appreciate time spent with you more than they appreciate your commitment to consumerism.

Time is limited, especially time spent with your kids. I think I’d rather use it to free myself than waste it on a treadmill.

Today’s takeaway: Maybe not as easy as it sounds, but figure out what I need to be free from.

Fighting Dad Stereotypes: Dad Can Fix It

In my ongoing effort to address Dad stereotypes, I want to remind you that not all stereotypes are necessarily negative. I know we’ve all heard them – certain groups of people are good at math, certain groups of people are good at sports, guys who write blogs about being a dad are handsome. Heard them a thousand times, and they seem complimentary. However, these set unfair expectations that people often feel pressured to live up to. There is one seemingly positive stereotype for dads as well – dad can fix it.

Many times dad becomes the fixer of things not because he is inherently handy, but by default. Why? Because dad can fix it. Right? Sure, maybe he can, but just because somebody is a dad does not mean that person can fix a toy if it breaks, or assemble a play set, or build a tree house. Much like one’s ability to purchase a home in no way correlates to their ability to complete home repair projects, one’s ability to make a child in no way correlates to their ability to fix something their kid breaks. But the expectation is that they can, and should.

To me this feels straight out of the Eisenhower administration. Mom cooks dinner while dad is out in the garage fixing little Timmy’s bike and tuning up the Oldsmobile. And he got a well-paying job without a college degree or student debt to boot! Well, it’s a brave new millennium. Dads can make quinoa and not like to fix stuff. And – brace yourself – mom can turn a wrench too if she wanted.

I would say that I am moderately handy and can assemble/install/repair a decent amount of things around the house. I am no stranger to some assembly being required, and I have amassed a decent sided collection of tiny Allen wrenches. However, there is a big difference between replacing a ceiling fan and replacing the ceiling. This can be a terrible skill level to have. Because I can fix somethings, should it be assumed I should fix all things? Or even most things? Because I can build something, should it be assumed that I even want to? Yes, I own tools and know how to use them, but on most occasions I’d rather take one of those tools and bash myself on the pinkie toe than waste a Saturday using them to fix something around the house. Projects are a necessarily evil. I love the joy the swing set in our backyard brings our kids, and it wasn’t going to build itself, but that is eight hours of my live I can’t get back.

I think the sweet spot for a dad’s handiness skill level is the area of quick diagnosis. I want to look at the toy that isn’t working and quickly determine if it needs new batteries or is now trash. To spend less than five minutes looking at something to see if it is a matter replacing one part (preferably easy to reach), or calling a professional. And let’s be clear, there is no shame in hiring a professional. Tied up into the dad can fix it stereotype is the idea that fixing stuff should be a matter of pride. You know what’s a matter of pride? Being good enough at your actual profession so that you get paid enough money so you can give some of that money to somebody whose profession is to figure out why the hell the furnace keeps making that sound. Between the job of whatever his actual job is and the job of being a dad, let’s not expect dad to be a licensed HVAC technician in his spare time.

How many hours have been wasted, how much needless anger and frustration have dads imposed on themselves, how many kids were introduced to swear words all in the name of dad trying to fix it? And for what? So we can try to fit a role that was thrust upon us. So we can force ourselves to fit the stereotype rather than admit that we can’t fix it. So we can make good use out of that Home Depot gift card we got. Well they sell grills at Home Depot too, so throw on some burgers, crack a beer, and tell Timmy you aren’t going to fix his bike and that he should have been more careful with it. You’ve gotten out of fixing something and you’ve taught Timmy a lesson in responsibility – look at you being a good dad.

Are there dads out there who can fix anything? Yes, and good for them. Are there dads out there who don’t know a channel lock from a socket? Yes, and good for them too. Their Saturdays are their own, and I’m sure their kids aren’t any less happy. I feel like somewhere in between is where a lot of dads are. Walking the fine line between making one more trip to Lowe’s and just throwing that piece of shit in the trash and getting a new one. A stereotype tells them to fix it, their confused pride tells them not to let their kids down, and the YouTube video they looked up tells them it shouldn’t be that hard – you too can fix that thing in just five easy steps! But we aren’t all Bob the Builders and that’s ok. Can we fix? I don’t know, maybe. Let’s go get ice cream instead.

I Don’t Care If My Kids Learn To Ride a Bike

One of the iconic Dad moments is teaching your kid to ride a bike. You can all picture it clear as day – little kid all wobbly on their little bike, dad running next to them holding on, kid telling dad not to let go, and dad lying to them telling them that he won’t. A classic right of passage for kid and parent alike. A tradition as old as bikes. I imagine sepia toned scene in which a young father with a handlebar mustache running beside his knicker-clad child as they try not to take a header off one of those giant front wheel bikes. Well, this is one tradition I have no interesting in maintaining.

Right now my kids are little and in the tricycle and training wheels phases of bike riding. This means they spend roughly as much time getting their helmets on as they do actually riding their bikes. Most of the times they ride their bikes ends about three houses down the street when they either fall over or just give up because its too hard to ride the bike over a stick, an ant hill, or the crack in the sidewalk. Either way, it ends with me carrying the bike back home while they cry.

For my younger daughter, the one exception to this is when she did manage to ride her tricycle all the way around the block. It took roughly three hours. My older daughter has been able to go multiple blocks, but no ride has ever been successfully completed. At some point she falls, almost falls, or forgets how to stop, panics, and ends up taking a pedal to the shin. Any combination of these end in tears, and me carrying the bike home. I get that they are young and they are just learning, but this also means that they are not yet committed to it. Now would be the time to pull the plug and go bike-free. I am seriously considering it. Here’s why.

Bike Riding Is Not a Valuable Life Skill

Kid’s minds are like little sponges. They can learn pretty much anything, so why waste the time and effort on teaching them to ride a bike. Take the time you would have used waiting for them to skin their knee and come back crying and use it on teaching them another language. Bi-lingual employees can increase their base pay by 20% more per hour than those that only speak one language, even if the person that only speaks one language had a really sweet Mongoose when they were 12. Studies on pay rates compared to whether or not somebody’s bike had pegs are inconclusive.

Or a musical instrument. Kids that play a musical instrument tend to do better academically, and helps them regulate their emotions. No official word on the academic performance or emotional intelligence of kids who took their bikes off sick jumps.

I have wanted to get my kids a Power Wheels Jeep from the minute my first kid was born. At that time my wife’s argument against it was that they can’t even hold their heads up yet. Valid point. Her argument against it now is that she fears they will just want to drive that and won’t want to learn to ride a bike. Which is a valid point for getting the Power Wheels Jeep. Driving a car is a much more important skill to master than riding a bike, why not get a jump on it early? And it is a skill they were use longer too. My oldest daughter is almost five, so even if she masters the bike tomorrow she has about a 10 year window for prime bike riding. She’ll get use of her skills behind the wheel for 50 or 60 years. So yes, I’d rather spend a few hours showing my kid how to drive a plastic car than spend months showing them how to ride a bike. That’s just basic ROI.

Bike Riding Is Not Great Exercise

I know what you’re thinking, kids need to be outside and be active and riding a bike is a great way to do that. I agree with almost all of that. Yes, kids need to be active, I totally agree. However, bike riding is not a great way to do that. If we look at it as purely a means of exercise, it is not as good as running. So I’d rather my kids run around in the yard playing tag or soccer or whatever than ride a bike. Or better yet, go jogging with me. They are a little young now to keep up, but they have already shown an interest in it. When they get older that could be a great time for some father-kid bonding, and a better workout than riding a bike. Also, little to no learning curve. One foot in front of the other and don’t trip, sticks or ant hills or cracks in the sidewalk be damned!

I also understand the counter argument of bike riding being a way to add exercise into transportation. For me, if something is close enough where I want to add exercise to the equation of me getting from point A to point B, just walk. I’ve walked an 8 mile round trip to the brewery. Got my exercise in and didn’t have to worry about operating any machinery under the influence. Win-win. If it is so far that walking isn’t an option, then drive. Time is a limited resource, so if you’ve got some place to get to, don’t waste it pedaling.

Bike Riding Is Not Actually Fun

A family out for a bike ride looks like a pure family fun, right? Or is it a row of people looking at the butt of the person in front of them? No conversions are had on bike rides. No skipping, hopping, or pretending to waddle like a penguin can be done on a bike ride. No stopping to pick flowers or pick up a cool looking rock. That is what kids find fun, that is family bonding. Look at the joy on a kid’s face when they pick up a really big pine cone on a walk. You want to rob them of that? How dare you.

Wouldn’t it be fun to take bikes with us when we go on a trip? In a word, no. Not only more to pack, but this also adds the element of bike rack and trailer hitch to situation. So now you’ve bought bikes for everybody in the family and additional hardware for your car all in the name of getting a sore ass while you’re on vacation. Pass.

Like most things with little kids, I am sure bike riding will get easier. They will learn eventually, and they might even be able to make it around the block a few times without bleeding or crying. But is the frustration for everybody between that point and now worth it? My gut says it absolutely is not, but we’ll do it anyway. All because in 1874 some schmuck with a handlebar mustache ran down the dirt road next to his kid on a ridiculous bike and everybody went “awwwww.” Thanks jerk.