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?
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.
One of the thoughts I’ve consistently had over the last few years has been “at least my kid’s too little to realize what’s going on.” During the pandemic stay at home orders, they knew they weren’t going to school or daycare anymore but didn’t really ask why, or really even care. The reason for the change was “so we don’t get sick”, and they were ok with that. It wasn’t until school was opened back up that our 4 year-old became mildly aware of “the covid” as she calls it. Always with a “the”, very formal, like she’s referring to the pope of sicknesses.
But my kids are satisfied by the simple logic of germs get you sick, and you don’t want to be sick, so don’t get germs. Yep, so simple even a 2 year-old understands the usefulness of social distancing and a mask. Literal child’s play compared to trying to explain what has been happening socially, politically, and governmentally. My hope is that we will be well on the way to solving our national issues by the time my kids are old enough to know what’s going on, and they will learn about recent events in history books. I can’t imagine having teenagers right now who can find their own information and form their own opinions. Not that I don’t want my kids to seek out knowledge and come to their own opinions independently, but I want that process to be part of their education. Not something they are taught.
I believe there is a difference between being taught something and getting an education. Watching the siege of the Capital, I saw a lot of people who were taught a lot of things. Hate is taught. Fear is taught. Though it may seem like an oxymoron, ignorance is taught. For ignorance is not that absence of information, it is the absence of knowledge. The absence of education.
Years from now when my kids hear about this time in history, I want them educated on what happened. I want them to understand the facts. I want them to understand how government – and by that I mean the actual act of governing, not politics – works in the experiment of democracy that is America. I don’t want them taught to believe, I want them educated to know.
Watching the worst America has to offer storm the Capital, I was struck by the thought that these people actually believe in what they are doing and think they are doing the right thing. I used to get mad at these people. I’d get mad when I saw them rally around their perceived “rights”. I’d get mad when something they spewed would show up on my Facebook feed. I got made that they were making things worse for everybody. Then, as kismet would have it, I read something earlier this week that couldn’t be more appropriate.
If others are doing right, you have no call to feel sore; if wrong, it is not willful, but comes of ignorance.
The hate, the fear, the gullibility, the misinformed beliefs that have pushed people to the lunatic fringe and caused them to do wrong, is not willful. Nobody hates on purpose. They are taught to. Nobody suddenly wakes up one day and decides crazy conspiracy theories are real. They are taught to believe it. Ignorance has been taught, and handed down from generation to generation without any real effort at all. Teaching your kids stuff is easy – show them a few times and they’ve got it. Or even worse, do nothing and just see what they absorb. Educating your kids takes work. Unfortunately not every parent is up for the job.
Right now my kids are little, and they don’t have an ounce of hate in their bodies (feelings about naps excluded.) They truly don’t know why anybody would be treated differently because they are a man, woman, white, black, gay, straight, or anything else. They watch Pocahontas and don’t understand why people are mean to Native Americans, or even why people are scared of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. We thought showing them the Sesame Street special on racism would be a good thing to expose them to help educate them, and they could not have been less interested. They didn’t get it. It made no sense to them why they were talking about black people and white people and not just singing about shapes and numbers. The haven’t been taught that anybody is any different. I hope they never do. I will try my best to educate them better than that.
My two year-old daughter is just at the age where she kind of understands the concept of Christmas, is as much as she knows the players involved – Santa, Jesus, Rudolph, Frosty. She also kind of understood that you can ask for something you want, and if you are good you might get it. Naturally, she asked for a unicorn. Very on-brand for a girl who asks to wear her unicorn dress everyday, and is crushed six days out of the week because we tell her she can’t wear it until its out of the laundry. Monday has become unicorn dress day.
I think there is something incredibly honest about what a small child tells you what they want for Christmas. They aren’t yet concerned about what’s cool or what other kids have. They only know what they like, and take advantage of the opportunity to get it. When my oldest was three she asked Santa for cheese – also very on-brand for her. She got a one pound block of cheddar and was thrilled. Christmas shopping will stay that easy when they are teenagers, right? I’ll assume yes.
After asking for “a uni” everyday, my wife and I recognized the opportunity to hit an easy home run. Stuffed unicorn – it will be fluffy, it will be magical, it will be the glittery whimsy that two year-old dreams are made of. My wife found one online, and showed it to me. It has a rainbow mane, big googly eyes, and giant grin on its dopey one-horned face. Perfect. Clicked. Bought. Done. Ah, the convenience of internet shopping. The ability to buy a unicorn in 10 seconds has its advantages, but would also prove to be a contribution to folly.
Like most other good parents who are prepared for Christmas, I waited until the kids fell asleep on Christmas Eve to wrap the presents. My 4 year-old, who has a much more solid understanding of Christmas, was too amped to fall asleep, so I was wrapping presents at 10:30, when they are usually asleep around 8:00. While I was trying my best not to make it look like Santa was drunk and blindfolded when he wrapped the presents, I was dreading the wrapping the unicorn because it came in an odd shaped box. My wrapping skills are about that of a small child, so anything other than a perfect cube presents a challenge, but Santa doesn’t seem like the gift bag type. He’s father Christmas, not your uncle. So I grab the unicorn and examine the box to think about the best way to wrap it, and I notice something on the back of the package. “Puffy lets out cute little unicorn farts.” Sorry, what?
I read it again. And again. I turned the box around to see if this was somewhere more obvious. Somewhere in giant, unmissable letters. Somewhere where somebody who isn’t a terrible parent would see it and decide that it would not be something to get a two year-old. For some reason it was not. Seems to me, if I was selling farting unicorn, I might go ahead and put that on the front somewhere, or maybe in the name. “Puffy the Farting Unicorn” would be a much better name than just “Puffy”. Puffy the unicorn is great gift. Puffy the unicorn is just begging to snuggled by a little lady as she drifts off to sleep. Puffy the Farting Unicorn is for kids who have poop emoji toys. Puffy the Farting Unicorn is bought by parents who give toddlers Mountain Dew.
But there it was on a toy for my child, in three languages none the less. Pedos de unicornio. Pets de licorne. Unicorn farts.
In a mix of curiosity and dread I squeezed its foot where a little heart was, which I guess as an appropriate icon as any to indicate where you need to push to make a unicorn rip ass. It laughed, it wiggled, it farted, it repeated.
My first thought was that I can’t give this to my kid. My second thought was, it’s too late now. It was going on 11:00 pm on Christmas Eve, there was no getting something else now, and I can’t got give her the one thing she asked for. In a hours she would wake up and unwrap her farting unicorn. Which, of course would be her favorite thing in world.
“What did you get for Christmas?”, Grandparents would ask.
“A unicorn that toots with its butt!” my daughter would say overflowing with pure, childish glee.
Years of judging teachers at show and tells flashed before my eyes. She’ll insist on bringing on car trips. Mile after mile of laughs, fart, repeat. This was destined to be her most cherished possession, I just knew it. From now to eternity I will always read product descriptions. I don’t care if I’m buying a wood block. I will find out that the block is in fact a block, and made of wood.
Christmas morning the moment came. She unwrapped it and was full of joy that she got her uni. She didn’t immediately notice the heart icon on the foot. I was relieved. Her sister did. I was nervous. They squeezed the foot. It laughed. They laughed. It farted. They kept laughing. They didn’t seem to immediately notice the farts, and I certainly wasn’t going to point it out to them. When the cycle of laughter and flatulence ended, they put it down and moved on to other presents. As the day went on and more presents were opened, Puffy moved further and further to the periphery. They may have come back and squeezed it again two or three times, much to my surprise and delight.
It is now two days after Christmas, as as of this morning Puffy as already been relegated to under-the-bed status. At some point will my daughter suddenly remember it exists? Yes. Will she realize that its farting? Probably. But it didn’t make me feel like a terrible parent, and if that’s not a Christmas miracle then I don’t know what is.
As I have mentioned before, balancing work life and home life when you work from home poses challenges that didn’t exist when I was working from an office. Last Friday all three of our kids were home – no pre-school and no daycare – and I was home with them for half of the day before my wife got home from work. I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot of work done, but I did need to get some work done. I had a project with a deadline. How cliche of me.
While the baby was napping and the two older were glued to The Little Mermaid I was able to be productive. Fun fact – The Little Mermaid is an hour and twenty-five minutes long. My window of productivity closed much quicker than I hoped, but I wasn’t sure if Dances With Wolves would have held my kids’ attention for all four hours and I didn’t have time to explain the complexities of manifest destiny. Though I suppose there is only one way to find out. Perhaps next time. It was snack time as soon as the movie ended. Shortly after that the baby was up, and the work-life balance shifted all the way to life. But the project deadline still existed.
My girls are old enough where they can entertain eachother if they want to, but can also be incredibly needy. Sometimes they want me for everything, and sometimes they only need me to step in when somebody inevitably starts crying. The baby boy is at an age where he can sit up and play on his own but is not yet crawling. Quite a sweet spot when you need to get things done. You can almost pay no attention to him at all. Just have to hope he doesn’t flop backwards and bonk his head, which he practically almost never does. Solid head on that kid.
I visioned setting up shop in playroom with the girls playing nicely, the boy staying very much upright, and me getting some work done. That lasted about a minute.
As soon as I opended my computer, it became a magnet for tiny fingers. Everything they did needed to be looked at. Everything needed to be helped. Yet work needed to be done. I have always tried not to tell my kids I can’t do something for them, but in this moment I needed to focus, I needed to work. “I can’t right now,” I said, “I have to work.”
I immediatly though of that jerk Harry Chapin.
In December 1974, “Cat’s In The Cradle” topped the Billboard charts and it has been making dads feel sad ever since. It is the sole reason this song exists. I picture Harry sitting there writing songs and thinking “I’d really like to make a song that makes a dad feel like he’s doing a terrible job raising his kids.” He nailed it.
So I picked up my computer and moved it to back to my workspace in the basement. I honeslty don’t remember what my kids were asking for, but I said I would do it after I made a phone call. We’ll get together then. You know we’ll have a good time then.
I try hard not to tell my kids I can’t do something with them. If they ask me come here, or look at this, or pick me up, or tickle me, odds are the answer is yes. My wife thinks I’m spoiling them. I think I’m dadding the crap out of them. Most of my motivation is I love my kids and want to be with them, but I’d be lying if I said the other part isn’t guilt. Pro-active guilt. My kids didn’t learn to walk while I was away and if they’ve asked me to throw I’ve never said not today, but even the consideration gives me guilty feeling in my stomach and Harry freakin Chapin in my head.
I wonder, did dad guilt exist before this song came out? I was neither a dad nor alive in 1974, so I don’t know, but I have a feeling that there weren’t too many songs in Sinatra’s catalog about the struggles of an absentee father. His kid got kidnapped for godsakes and his next album had the classic gutwrencher “Swinging on a Star.” I mean sure, if you had to leave your kid at home while you went on a work trip then moonbeams in a jar would make an excellent souvineer to bring back, but I don’t see dads circa 1964 reexamining their priorities with the Chairman of the Board. But little boy blue and the man in the moon come along and now dads have an anthem devoted to their failure.
I finished my work, the project met its deadline (I’m sure you were very concerned), and the kids went about their day. That night we played, we snuggled, we read books, all the usual stuff. For all I know they won’t remember it or maybe they’ve already forgotten it, but I haven’t. And I’ll try as hard as I can to never tell them “I have to work” as an excuse not to spend time with them. I’ll keep watching this, I’ll keep tickling, and I’ll keep picking up. Because eventually the day will come when I can’t pick them, but the day will also come when they say “I’m gonna be like him. Yeah, you know I’m gonna be like him.”
Throughout the course of a parent’s life, their children surpass them at various things. I knew this was coming. I know at some point my kids will run faster than I can, or play a game better than I can. I am sure that I, like any parent who is not also a teacher, will reach a point were I am unable to help my kids with their homework. I’d like to think I could keep up with them homework wise until they are mostly through high school, but who knows what they’ll change math to by then?
I know these things are coming, but I figured I would be superior to my children in all things at least until middle school. Until my daughter said, “Look daddy, I can whistle.”
My arsenal of skills and abilities does not include whistling. It never has and it never will. I made peace with that long ago. Sure, I still can’t bring myself to watch Bridge on the River Kwai, but whatever, it’s fine. But now my kid, who still needs help wiping her butt mind you, is showing me up. Because it’s not just that she can whistle and I can’t, it’s that she knows she can whistle and I can’t. While demonstrating her whistle to others, she is always sure to point out that daddy can’t whistle, but she can.
Yeah, well, let me know how those shoes without laces are treating you. I’ll just be over here tying all the knots, you little snot.
It’s a little thing, I know. I’d argue that whistling is one of those things that isn’t a learned ability, but something you just can or can’t do. Like throwing a baseball 90 miles per hour, or having visible abs. But I’m just not ready to have my kids not look up to me for everything. Today it’s whistling, but what’s next? Grilling? Lifting heavy things? Hanging pictures perfectly straight? I’ve got to tell you, that one isn’t an incredibly high bar to clear either.
Perhaps it is a good thing that my kids are already excelling at areas that I haven’t. That’s what makes the next generation better than ours, right? My kids will be great whistlers who can spell words correctly. No crippling reliance an spellcheck for my kids, no sir. And as they get older, maybe it will be a fun competition? I can see it now, me and my kids coming down the home stretch of a 5k, jockeying for the lead, giving it all I have and seriously debating if it would be out of line to trip one of them. If they are going to surpass me at something, they’ve got to know they are in for a fight. If I’m not letting them win at Candy Land as toddlers, I’m sure as shit not letting them win at anything once they’re older.
Whistling spelling bee champions with a burning desire to crush their father at Trivial Pursuit. What more could a parent ask for from his children?
When my oldest daughter was a baby, we tried all the things to see what worked to calm her down and get her to fall asleep. Some of them to our own detriment. Though video clips on YouTube calm them down, they are the toddler equivilent of crack. We seriously had to ween her off of Simple Songs vidoes. And God help us if she wanted to watch….*looks over both shoulders to make sure no kids are watching*…baby shark, or the trash that is Cocomelon. If you think all little kid videos are the same, you are sorely mistaken. Simple Songs is to Cocomelon like Oreo is to Hydrox.
Anyway, we tried a few different things but for now at least we’ve found something for each kid that works. The key is music. Perhaps it is a holdover from her various past routines, or maybe she just has a broader musical taste, but my oldest daugher works a variety of music into her bedtime routine. She has a radio in her room, which she will listen to until she falls alseep, or we’ll play her a preselected mix of songs – mostly from Disney movies, some 80’s and 90’s pop. She really likes Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” and Selena’s “I Could Fall In Love.” So far her musical taste is pretty good, and I consider it part of my parental duty to keep her unaware of K-Pop until she’s 32.
My younger two however, appear to be much more set in their musical ways.
My Baby Loves 90’s Country Music
Part of the experince of bonding with a new baby is figuring out what they like, and it turns out me and my baby boy are bonding over a shared appreciation of country music made between 1992 and 1997. It started with him being very whiney and needy while teething. He needed be to soothed completely to sleep and my wife wasn’t having any luck. One of her great joys in life is to have a baby fall asleep on her, but this litte guy doesn’t go for that. He needs to move. He has litterly fallen asleep in his jumper. So I picked him up, walked him around the living room, and sung him the first mellow song that came to my head – the Garth Brooks version of “Night Rider’s Lament” Of course.
Little bugger was out like a light.
It worked then and it has worked over the last month or so, every damn time. He could be beside himself in tears when I pick him up, and sound asleep before I get to the second verse of “Texas Tornado.” Generally I find the more meloncholy the song, the better it works. Sing that little guy a song about a girl that done somebody wrong and he won’t make a peep for the next twelve hours. At first I though if these songs are the right kind of impression I want to give. Should sad bastard drinking songs be absorbed by a spongy little baby brain? Then I sung him “Rockabye Baby” once and realized how terrible that is, and decided that a song about rodeo cowboy whose woman leaves him for another man is way better than a song about a baby plummeting to their death.
I have tried other calm sad music too, but he really does prefer country. Much to my disappointment, Phil Collins only seemed to get him more upset. Under normal circumstances that would be a deal breaker on our friendship, but he’s my son so I guess I’ll let it slide….for now.
“The Rainbow Connection” Is the Ultimate Lullaby
In stark contrast to my oldest daughter, my two year-old daughter has a much more specific musical taste. And not just one genre like the boy, but only one song – “The Rainbow Connection.”
I am in no way exaggerating when I say that she had demanded this song every single night for the last month. Though she hasn’t picked up on the fact that the name of the song is repeated several times, so she calls it “Da-de-da-do.” Apparently the last five seconds of a three minute song are the ones that really resonate. I mean, it works for “Stairway to Heaven” right? Know a couple of words at the begining and couple at the end and you’re all set.
The only thing she has changed, is that she now asks for a back rub while I sing it. If that last sentence doesn’t make it clear, she is something of a princess. She asks for it every night, and it works every night. A few days ago she didn’t specifically ask for it and I thought I’d see what happens if we didn’t do it. About a half hour after I tucked her in, she came out of her room and reminded me that I need to go back in there and sing it to her while I rub her back. I did. She slept.
The song also extends beyond just her. Twice last week my oldest asked me to rock her and sing her a song, which she hasn’t done in at least six months, and do you know what song she asked for? The Rainbow Connection. Though, she couldn’t come up with the name either, but at least she was closer asking for “Songs About Rainbows.” I am tempted to try on the baby boy, but I fear it won’t work as nobody in the songs drinks themself to death. What can I say, he likes what he likes.
I’m not here to give advice, but if you’ve got a kid that has a hard time settling down for bed I suggest you try something by a sad cowboy or a whimsical muppet. I mean, what else do you really need in life anyway?
After our first two kids were girls, my wife and I agreed that when it came to anything related to their anatomy “ask your Mom” would be a totally acceptable answer on my part. I would take the kids when they throw up, she would take them when they had questions about their lady parts. A perfectly fair division of responsibilities. Along those same lines, we decided that if we were giving the kids showers, she would be the one to take a shower with them. They’re all working with the same equipment, it would be easier from a practical standpoint and an avoidance of awkward questions standpoint. So as far as I know, it wasn’t until they help changed their baby brother’s diaper that they saw anything different than what they’ve got.
I was curious to see how they’d react. I assumed at minimum it would be “What’s that?” and probably a good amount of giggling. Worst case scenario, some poking. However, much to my pleasant surprise, they had pretty much no reaction at all. I don’t think they asked any questions the first several times they watched us change his diaper. Eventually they asked what that was, we told them, they moved on, and it’s never come up again. It felt too easy. Should they have more questions? Is it weird that they didn’t? I wasn’t about to bring it up. They asked a question, they learned a thing, and they can file it away in their brains never to be thought of again until biology class. Right?
Yesterday my four-year-old was sitting at the kitchen table drawing a picture. She told me she was drawing me. She held it up to show me. It has all the basic elements – a head, eyes, arms, legs. It lacked a torso, but who am I to critique her creative vision. And while I had no chest, she did accessorize me. I was wearing what looked like a Colonel Sanders style tie. My initial thought was “how the hell does she know who Colonel Sanders is?”
“Do you know what that is?” she asked as she pointed to my tie.
“What?” I asked.
She didn’t say anything, but as a sly grin came across her face she pointed down to betwixt her legs. She had drawn my dangle.
At once my mind was filled with so many thoughts, and yet remained completely blank. I knew I couldn’t over react, but I also didn’t want her to think that including my misters would be the new normal in my portraits.
“No thank you,” I calmly replied. Perfect response. Polite and to the point. How everybody should respond when faced with uninvited genitalia.
She didn’t respond, and I didn’t present any follow up questions. Though I do have questions. Aside from “what the hell?”, I would like to know where that came from? Did she absorb the fact that guys have different parts seven months ago and it has taken her this long to put the pieces together that I’m a boy too? Is this what kids talk about around the preschool playground – “Tag you’re it! By the way, have you seen your Dad’s peeper?” Was it that little son of bitch Isaac?
Perhaps I should ask these questions, but I feel that really starts to blur the established lines of “ask your Mom”. If someday my son draws boobs on a drawing of his Mom, I’ll field that one. But I guess the parts of the human body are now extending beyond head, shoulders, knees, and toes, and I don’t like it. Knees and toes. Maybe I should buy her a Ken doll.
I like to think my kids don’t have the capacity for hate. Surely these sweet little people can’t have a mean still-developing bone in their bodies. I know there are things they dislike – spicy food, baths, sitting still long enough to play a game – but I didn’t think they could hate. However, there is one thing they hate with a passion. When one of them is being bossy.
In the world of kids, there is nothing worse than being bossy. Pee your pants? Fine. Eat Play D’oh? No big deal. Be bossy? I’ll see you in hell you little tyrant.
I don’t understand where they pick this up. I know a lot of what they say and do is absorbed from us as parents, and I know that I’ve never told my wife she’s not the boss. As far as I know she’s never stormed out of the room to complain to the kids that I was being bossy. Unless she has…in which case I’ve got bigger fish to fry than figuring out my kid’s issues with a perceived power structure. Just in case, I’ll demand my wife not give my kids the impression I’m bossy.
At school, I’m fairly certain the teacher didn’t introduce herself by saying “Hello I’m Mrs. Robinson and I run shit here.” I think this must be some organic issue that kids bring up among themselves as soon as they learn the word boss. In which case, maybe let’s not teach kids the word boss. Always had kind of a negative connotation to it anyway. An assertive kid knows what they want. A bossy kid is being a little bitch.
Perhaps there is something in the psychologic make up of children that not only needs boundaries, but people clearly assigned to enforce those boundaries. It’s ok if Mom or Dad is bossy, because that is in the job description. If a brother or sister is bossy, then the only reasonable course of action is to run and tell Mom or Dad immediately. Fun fact – children develop the understanding of what a boss is before they do what a tattle tale is. If they have a hard time with grasping the concept of being told what to do by their peers, I wonder how much they’ll struggle with the concept of snitches getting stitches.
Because, of course I am never actually there to witness said bossiness. It only happens when they are off playing in another room and the giggles turn to screams, then the boss accusations start to fly like it’s the Salem witch trials. “Mine sister doth a boss! J’accuse!”
So one kid is crying because the other kid won’t play with them, and in response to the bossiness, drops the a-bomb of “you’re not my friend anymore.” The other kid is informing me that their sister is, in fact, not the boss. Everyone is crying. And I’m standing there like “Ah-oh, oh-ay, who’s the boss here?” They agree that Mom or Dad is the boss, and forget they were declared not friends anymore. There is peace. For about 45 minutes.
I assume, like most other annoying things kids do, this is a phase and there’s a brand new life around the bend. Maybe if I ignore it, they will get the picture and stop doing it. Like how you’re not supposed to acknowledge it when a kid swears. Then again, if left unchecked, will it get worse? I could see either side. But there’s a path you take and a path not taken, the choice us up to you my friend.
The holiday season is just around the corner, and as I start looking forward to the things I’ll do with and for my kids, it got me thinking about how you approach the holidays differently with kids. Mostly there is less, or at least more discreet, drinking involved. (All manner of booze can be enjoyed out of a coffee mug on Christmas morning.) Gone are the days of “T-Man and Patty’s Christmas Explosion” – an actual annual Christmas party thrown by my college roommate and I – and in are matching family pajamas. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some festive lounge wear, but the times they have changed.
So thinking now about the new joys, and the new pains, that come with being a parent on holidays, I give you the official ranking of holidays to celebrate as a parent.
Still the undisputed champ, no explanation needed. What is understood doesn’t need to be discussed.
Trying to get to multiple to parties in one night has been replaced by trying to get my kids to enough houses trick or treating and get back to my house to pass out candy in one night. Both are fun, but in very different ways. The best costumes used to be a mad libs game of “Sexy [noun]”, now they are seeing what adorable thing I can dress my kids up as. Spoilers – anything you dress a little kid up as is freaking adorable. If you put a tiny person in it, it immediately becomes the cutest skeleton, penguin, bear, monkey, snowman, pumpkin, cupcake, any random inanimate object you’ve ever seen. So between the fun of costumed kids and the parent tax on candy (I’ve got to wet my beak), Halloween is an upgrade after having kids.
This one is also heavily influenced by the adorableness of undersized people dressed in overly elaborate clothes. Fancy little dress and a floppy hat on a girl or a tiny vest and bow tie on a little guy – I’ve never wanted more to live inside of a J. Crew catalog. My family would be best friends with the bi-racial family on the next page wearing cable knit sweaters while sitting out on thier dock, I just know it. Also similar to Halloween, the amount of children’s candy that I eat is substantial. I’m not going to let a two year-old eat enough chocolate to even make a dent in a chocolate bunny, but I sure will let me. And maybe it’s just my kids, but three days after they get the candy, the completely forget it exists. If I purposely move it out of their sight lines, it’s two days and I’m crushing jelly beans like Ronald Reagan on bender.
4. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
This one shoots way up the ranking with kids compared to without. I get a day off of work but the kids are still in school and/or daycare. It’s a holiday that is a day filled with nothing but me time, and isn’t that every parents dream?
5. (Tie) Labor Day and Memorial Day
I have a hard time remembering which is which, and they are pretty interchangeable. You’re going to either stay home, barbecue, and do yard work, or take a little weekend trip somewhere and be amazed at how much you have to pack for your kids when you’re only going to be gone for three days.
This one definitely drops a few spots as a parent. The food is still great, watching the Detroit Lions attempt to play something resembling professional quality football is painful, and it’s still one day too early to start listening to Christmas music. But the major change is your actual enjoyment of the meal. The effort needed to get small people to eat more than a roll and one bite of turkey is truly staggering. I don’t think its tryptophan that makes people sleepy after dinner, we are literally exhausted asking for one more god forsaken bite.
7. Mother’s Day
You’d think a day devoted specifically to honoring a parent would be higher on the list, but it just ain’t so. I assume it will change when my kids get older, but right now they are too little to really do anything other than come “help” me shop for something, so this is really more like Wife’s Day. And when you’re married to me, isn’t that everyday?
8. Father’s Day
Same as Mother’s Day, the celebration of this falls on my wife. Dad has to take a backseat to Mom, so they aren’t tied for 7th. I also find it interesting that Mother’s day usually means a nice brunch somewhere, and Father’s Day means getting something to grill, so I am essentially making myself dinner on my own holiday.
9. Valentines Day
This one also suffers with the addition of small humans who can walk into your bedroom at any moment. And who doesn’t love a nice romantic dinner that you’ll spend the whole time talking about your kids anyway, and then making sure you’re home in time so you don’t have to pay the sitter extra. But hey, more chocolate.
10. St. Patrick’s Day
Not sure if it’s being a parent or just being older, but this one sure is past it’s prime. I’m not though. The holiday is. I’m not too old for this shit, I’ve just got to get the kids off to school in the morning. I could still hang. Are you looking at my hair line? I’m not old, you’re old. Why is the music so damn loud? Get off my lawn.
11. New Year’s Eve
I’m already so tired all the time and now I’ve got to stay up to midnight on purpose? New Year’s used to be one of the best parties of the year, now it makes me understand what Dan Fogelberg was singing about.
12. 4th of July
You mean I get the option of taking my kid to a parade or an overcrowded beach and either way I get to carry them and/or all their crap and sweat through all my clothes? And the added bonus of people in my neighborhood lighting off fireworks all night with complete disregard for the baby I just got to fall asleep? The hardest of passes. Pre-kids this was a top five holiday, with kids it’s last. My daughter’s birthday is close to July 4th, maybe we can just start skipping this one and tell her that everybody is just really excited for her birthday?
That’s the list. Apologies to anybody who celebrates a holiday that isn’t on the list. If I haven’t experienced it I don’t know how to fairly rank it, but I have heard nothing but good things about Hanukkah and Dia De Los Muertos looks cool. Ah, to be a Mexican Jew.
Back when I took my kids places, I think my kids were pretty well behaved. At least as well behaved as toddlers can be. Did I have to walk back into a restaurant to retrieve a shoe? Yes. Did I ever have to drag a screaming kid out of a store? No. Did childless people take pity on us and buy our breakfast for us because, surely, we could use all the help we could get? You Bet. Kids will be kids, and anytime you can take them out in public with out them having a complete meltdown or being a complete embarrassment, that’s a win. But my kids haven’t been to a restaurant in over seven months, and I just recently took them into a store. There was some rust to shake off. For all of us.
Lucy Gets a Donut
I took Lucy, my 4 year-old, to Target to pick out a new outfit for going back to pre-school, and she did fine. She wore a mask no problem, was well behaved, and took my gentle guidance on what outfit she really wanted to get. Pointing out that “ooh this one is so pretty,” really goes a long way in helping a little girl make up her mind. As part of this outing we also stopped at a bakery. Because she was so good in the store, I told her she could pick out whatever she wanted, knowing of course that she’ll pick out a basic donut with sprinkles.
Fact: Sprinkles and bubbles are absolutely irresistible to small children.
We walk up to the case and I start looking for the ones with sprinkles so I can say “ooh this one looks good!” Before I can spot the donut she’ll want, I hear “I want this one!” She has found a donut that is roughly the size of my head. With sprinkles. I guess that’s what I get for saying she can pick out anything. Perhaps I should have known better, but it had been a while since I’ve taken my kids out for food, and even then its not like they could read the menu. As far as they know, every restaurant in the world serves only pancakes and mac and cheese. Comically oversized baked goods was a new development. I got her the humongous donut, and she ate half of it over the course of two days. I also made a mental note not to let her pick whatever she wanted anymore.
Evie Gets a Dress
A few weeks after that I took Evie, my 2 year-old, to pick out a new dress too. While she was also well-behaved, she had clearly forgotten what it was like to go to the store.
For a kid, one of the great joys of going to the store is the shopping cart. It’s fun to ride in, it’s fun to help push, and apparently it’s easy to forget. I carried my daughter from my truck into the store, and as we walked in she asked me, “Daddy, where are you going to put my dress?” She was worried that if I was holding her, how could I also hold a dress.
“We’ll use one of these carts,” I said as I walked up to the row of empty, waiting carts. I folded down the seat and when to put her in, and she clearly had no idea what I was doing. She was like a thawed cave person looking at basic technology for the first time. What is the brightly-colored box? I go inside of it? It has wheels?! It rolls!? What sorcery! Her first instinct was to stand, so I tried lifting her back up and setting her back down at an angle to put her legs through the leg holes. This confused her more.
“You’ve got to sit down,” I told her still re-lifting her up and back down, hoping to jog some muscle memory from shopping trips of days gone by. No such luck, though she did start to sit. Sideways. Lounged across the kiddie seat with her head to the left and her legs stretched out as far as the cart would allow to the right.
“No sweetie, sit facing me.” This time she got the hang of it and sat it in like a normal person, and was very pleased with herself for this accomplishment.
Now that she solved the riddle of sitting down, it was into the store we went. Her goal was to get a new dress with long sleeves that she could pick out all by herself. My goal was to influence that decision so she picked the one I wanted her to. Can’t have her walking around looking like she came out on the wrong end of a fight with a bedazzler.
Side note: what is with girls clothes? At some point they switch from having Minnie Mouse and bunnies on them to being covered with glitter, or sequins, or sparkles, or emojis, or glittery sequined sparkly emojis. Or unicorns. Girls are supposed to love unicorns apparently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for embracing a sense of whimsy in your wardrobe, but why must the unicorn be so dominant? Always in your face, always shimmering, always crapping rainbows. You’ve never seen a shirt with a unicorn on it, but you have a seen a unicorn shirt.
When we get to the kid clothes section of the store, she is overwhelmed. Something with Elsa! Something with Belle! Something that exists outside the four walls of my house! I talk her out of wanting the 12-month sized t-shit with a giant Elsa face on it, and find the dresses her size. I offer several options, each hyped up with an “ooooohhh this one is so pretty!” Each one is chopped down with a cold “No, I want something else.” Still have to remind her not to put a passie in her mouth after it falls on the bathroom floor, but when it comes to fashion apparently she has become quite discerning. After five or six of my suggestions are unceremoniously dismissed, she sees it. It is shiny. It is poofy. It is a unicorn dress. This is what I get for telling her she could pick out whatever one she wanted. I should have seen that coming. Should I really have expected her to pick out a very understated dress with in a nice stripe pattern in first trip to the store in over half a year? Thats like sending a kid into a bakery and expecting them not to come out with a donut that could double as a spare tire.