Kids can go from having a great time to having a terrible time in a split second. Usually it is their own fault. When it’s not their own fault, it is probably their brother or sister’s fault. Sometimes it’s the fault of the color of the cup you gave them. One of the more frustrating things about when kids do melt down is that it can happen any moment, and you never know when that moment will be. With one exception – when you’re in the bathroom.
Without fail, as soon as the bathroom door closes, a tiny mouth opens and out comes a scream. It doesn’t matter if I take 15 minutes to take a shower or 15 seconds to pee, as soon as my kids know I am not immediately available they view that as an open invitation to freak out about something stupid. If anything, their freak outs seem to be proportional to the length of time spent in the bathroom. If I’m just grabbing some floss to get something out of my teeth, one kid will commit the terrible offense of getting a song lyric wrong and the other kid will yell at them. If I got done working out and need a nice long shower, then for sure somebody will end up laying on the floor crying. I sometimes wonder if they remember what I had for dinner the day before and plan the severity of their outbursts accordingly.
What is it about the bathroom? I can leave them alone for periods of time to do other things and they are fine. I’ve never gone to the mailbox and come back with a fist full of political flyers I’ll throw out immediately and a house full of crying kids. When I’m working from home I can sit on Zoom calls for hours and they’ll be fine doing whatever it is they do when I’m in the basement and they are upstairs. While whatever it is they play leaves their room a total mess, it leaves nobody crying. But I go into the bathroom and their bedroom suddenly becomes the island from Lord of the Flies. God forbid I get the stomach flu, somebody would surely get a rock dropped on their head.
What is it about me being behind the bathroom door? They aren’t newborns. They know I continue to exist when I leave the room. At least I think they do. I was average at best when it came to peek-a-boo, so surely they’ve figured it out by now. They know sound can travel through the bathroom door. When they scream for help wiping their butt I come to help them. I don’t pretend I can’t hear them because they are in the bathroom. Though maybe I should. If they think I can’t hear them scream at each other when I’m in there, only fair for me to choose to not hear them.
It’s more likely that they are fully aware I can hear them, but they know that if only for a few seconds there is nothing I can do. In their minds I might as well be on the moon, and when the cat’s away the mice will jump off the bed and land on their little sister. I don’t know if I am more pleased that they’ve learned to respect my privacy when I’m in the bathroom, or more disappointed that they immediately devolve when they think they’re out of my reach. From a young age I trained them to leave me alone when I’m in the bathroom, and they don’t pound on the door when I’m in there and they certainly don’t try to barge in. My wife on the other hand did no such training and is the frequent victim of tiny barging people.
The bright side is that they they learned what I taught them. If only they could apply this beyond bathroom etiquette and into something like cleaning up their toys or staying in their bed at bedtime. Too bad from them neither of those things presents them with the opportunity for unsupervised chaos, then I bet they’d keep the house spotless. Isn’t that really their motivation here? To do whatever they want. They do just enough of what I want them to do to allow themselves the opportunity to do as they please. Then again, isn’t that everybody’s motivation? I mean, why else do adults go to work? Perhaps my kids aren’t out of control, but wise beyond their years? Good for them, but I’d still like to be able to shave without a kid ending up in tears.
So I guess I did this to myself. I made them think that if I am in the bathroom I am totally unreachable, and they’re pushing to see how far that can go. This is why we can’t have nice things. I’ve traded five minutes of privacy for ten minutes of calming down a screaming child. Talk about a shit deal. See what I did there.
When you think of memorable parenting moments, what comes to mind are the firsts. You save first pairs of shoes, sometimes people save locks of hair from first haircuts, the real weirdos save the first teeth kids lose. Baby books are filled with pictures and dates of first steps, smiles, solid foods. First days of school are possibly the most recorded and archived events of a kid’s life. Part of it is because firsts are fun. They are moments of pride, of joy, of major celebration. Also, you can see them coming and can plan accordingly. What you don’t see coming, but are just as important, are the lasts.
My wife and I have decided to take down one of the sides of our two year-old son’s crib and get him used to sleeping in a big boy bed. I think he’ll be fine and it’s the right thing to do for his development, and I am happy for him. But at the same time, I’m a little sad for me. The next time I pick him up out of his crib will be the last.
One of the best parts of my day is getting the little guy out of his crib in the morning. He is always happy to see me (except for the occasions he is specifically asking for his mommy), and unlike other times I pick him up he isn’t fighting it or squirming to get down. In those morning moments all he wants is to get picked up and I am the person he wants to do that for him. From the time he gets up to the time he decides what he wants for breakfast, I am providing everything he needs in his little world. Assuming I get around to taking that crib down tomorrow, that will only happen one more time.
At some point the day will come where I can’t pick him, or any of my kids up at all. My 6 year-old daughter just crossed the 50 pound mark, and while I can still pick her up, I can’t carry her around like I used to. The way I see it I have two options – stop feeding her, or get myself to the gym. I suppose getting myself stronger seems like a more responsible choice than a malnourished child. Also seems like a lot more work. These are the tough parenting choices nobody tells you about before you have kids.
While picking up my kids is a last that I can do my best to delay, it will happen eventually, and I probably won’t know the last time is the last until after it happens. I didn’t know when the last feeding happened, and I won’t know the last adorable mispronunciation when it happens (he calls his sister Evie “wee-wee”), but the last pick up out of the crib is on my timeline now, not his. Maybe I’ll take it down tomorrow, maybe I’ll take it down when he is eleven, who knows.
Now that I know it will be the last time and I”ll be prepared to savor every second of it, of course he’ll have a poopy diaper, or will be screaming, or will want his mommy and not me, or quite possibly all of the above. Makes me think about the hundreds of times I’ve picked him up without even thinking about it. Or any of the other little things throughout the day that are so easy to blow past, or think of as just something you need to do, or maybe even something that feels like an inconvenience. A little thing here and a little thing there as you go about your day, but what is life but a collection of little things with only a few biggies sprinkled in?
There are a handful of holidays to celebrate each year, and only one birthday per kid, but little kids need help wiping their butt every day. One day my daughter will ask for help and I’ll find her in the bathroom waiting patiently with her little butt sticking up in the air for the last time, and I won’t know it until who knows how long goes by. Not as fun or adorable as getting a sleepy-eyed toddler out of a crib, to be sure, but another little moment with my kids that will disappear.
I get it, kids grow up. I was a kid once and I (mostly) grew up. You know going into parenthood that there is impermanence to it, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. But in this case, I’ll look on the bright side of knowing exactly when the last time to get him out of bed will be. So I’ll do three things – savor the moment of getting him out of bed one last time in the morning, take his crib down in the evening, and get to the gym and lift some weights. The kids aren’t getting any smaller, and I’ve still got picking up to do.
UPDATE: I was sitting on the couch when I heard him call out for me this morning. This was it. I told myself to savor the moment, to take it all in. I walked to his room and said good morning. He sat in his crib and pointed to some cars that were sitting on the floor of his room. “Cars,” he said.
“Ready to get up buddy?” I asked.
“Cars!” he responded.
I prepared myself for a good squeeze and bent over and picked him up out of his crib. As soon as I got him up he was squirming to get down. “Cars!” he insisted. I didn’t fight it.
So there you have it. My last time picking up my little guy out of his crib was thwarted by a couple of Matchbox cars on his floor. A cherished memory for dad just can’t compete with a blue Jeep. Little jerk.
A fun part of being a parent is experiencing the first things with your kids – first steps, first words, first time they can get up and get themselves a drink of water. A bad part about being a parent is experiencing the first things with your kids – first teeth, first trip to urgent care, and one I just experienced, first time on an airplane. All things being equal, I think the first trip to urgent care was less painful. For me at least.
Taking your family across the country is as old as the country itself. When the trip was first being planned, my dad assumed we would drive from Michigan to Colorado. He also must have assumed I was crazy. Even if the kids were terrible on the plane, I’d rather put up with a terrible two hours than two days.Actually, the airplane ride itself was not that bad. Given my kids’ ages (Lucy age 6, Evie age 4, and Brooks age 2) they were about as good as they could have been. They were a little loud, a little whiny, and kicked somebody else’s chair a few times, but that is what my wife and I expected out of them and were pretty prepared to handle. Getting off the plane we were probably at a stress level of four. What were were completely unprepared for is the endless hellscape that was the airport.
The airport we departed from in Traverse City, Michigan was tiny – 6 gates in total. We unloaded our bags, checked our car seats, and got through the TSA checks in about 20 minutes. The kids had snacks and were happy, the adults had coffee from the literal only coffee shop in the airport. Everybody was well behaved. Strangers commented on how adorable the kids were. Safe to say we peaked too soon.
As soon as they made the boarding announcement Brooks threw himself on the floor and started crying. We hadn’t even sat down in our close airborne quarters yet and already I could feel every other passenger on the flight beginning to hate my family. I mean, if he cries at the fact that group two is now boarding, what is he going to do when we’re taking off or hit some turbulence? Scream uncontrollably and crap his pants? I mean, he’s still in diapers so the pants crapping is happening one way or another, but hopefully with at least some dignity. Like going off into a corner and grunt and avoid any eye-contact. Not in a fit of rage at 30,000 feet.
Lucky for us, Brooks was fine on the plane. I did have to change his diaper in the airplane bathroom, which had a little fold out changing table that somehow felt more undersized than everything else in the undersized bathroom. Rumor has it that joining Mile High Club is the riskiest thing you can do in an airplane bathroom, but a wrong move there and you’re not getting doodoo all over yourself. At least I hope not. Anyway, we’re all doodoo free when the plane landed in Denver. Little did we know it was about to hit the fan.
Between me, my wife, and the three kids, we had three carry on bags, four personal bags, and because we needed to rent a car while we were there, we checked our three car seats. We’d all wear our own backpacks, my wife and I would take the carry on bags, and after we picked up the car seats we’d get a cart to get them to the car rental. A good plan in theory, but if theories were correct they’d be facts now wouldn’t they. According to research I did just now and definitely not while we were planning the trip, the Denver airport is the largest airport in the U.S. by land area (54 square miles don’t ya know). By my calculations, Brooks walked about fifteen toddler-sized steps worth of that. In our planning, we accounted for how many bags we couldn’t carry on, and who was carrying the bags, but did not plan on carrying kids. Fools.
So we had to carry the 2 year-old, ok, fine. I could carry him, my backpack, and a carry on. The two girls still had their backpacks, my wife could pull the other two wheeled bags. That lasted for about five minutes (or 0.000005% of the distance we needed to cover in this city-sized airport) until we hit our first escalator. I don’t know if it was the weight of her backpack or her complete lack of understanding how an escalator works, but as soon as Evie put her first foot on the first step, she fell down. As I ascended away from her, my first thought was “dear God, I hope she doesn’t get something caught in the steps.” My second thought was “Uuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh c’mon!” My wife scooped her up and got her up the stairs. At this point, both of them were crying (at no point in this journey was there not at least one person crying), and we are not yet a quarter of the way to where we need to be. Safe to say the stress level had maxed.
We pressed on with my wife and I now with a child each, our backpacks, and carry ons. At one point the weight of a person became too much for my wife and I had two kids and a bag scooped up and headed down a concourse walkway like I was Magnus Ver Magnusson doing a stone carry. Lucy was the only kid now pulling her weight, or a carry on bag with wheels as it were. If there was ever an opportune moment for her to ask for a puppy this was it. Couldn’t possibly cost any more than airport food.
Lucy was also the only one keeping her shoes on her feet. The little guy was wearing crocs, which are as easy to fall off a kid’s tiny foot as they are unfashionable. At multiple points he kicked them off on purpose. Not sure if it was for fun or for spite. Travel tip: when you travel with kids only put them in shoes with laces. Who cares how uncomfortable the shoes are if you’re going to carry the kid anyway. They also don’t make kids under 12 take their shoes off at security, so might as well put them in snow boots. Sure, they will be heavier, but you’ll also never have to scoop them up off the airport floor while holding a kid and two bags.
Not only is the Denver airport huge (and quite possibly the 7th circle of hell), it is also under construction and the directions on where things are located are poorly marked. At one point signs for baggage claim were pointing both forward and to the left. After some meandering, we found our baggage claim, and after stopping at two different service desks we found where our car seats actually were. Apparently they count as over-sized luggage and can be picked up at a location several baggage carousels away from the one listed for your flight. This stress level goes to eleven.
After getting the car seats I went to find a baggage cart. I assumed they were like shopping carts, just find where they are and grab one for free. They are actually $6. In that moment they could have cost $100 and it would have been worth it. I piled on the bags and car seats and set off for the rental car. I made it about 50 yards and everything toppled over. I re-stacked, rearranged, and got moving. This time I made it about 15 yards before everything toppled over. Car seats don’t stack well, and despite the fact that all luggage I’ve ever seen has been square or rectangular, somehow, the apparently poorly designed baggage cart narrows at the front making it triangular. $6 piece of crap.
While re-re-stacking the cart, an airport employee took pity on us and asked us if we knew how to get where we were going and pointed us into the right direction of the car rental shuttle. Not the car rentals, but the shuttle to the car rental. Because our half hour trek across the airport wasn’t enough, we need to load our stuff on a bus so we can unload it again so we can load it into our rental car. So whoever designed 54 square miles worth of airport couldn’t squeeze in a couple hundred yards worth of rental car parking lots? In an airport where you need to take an escalator up, another one down, multiple moving walkways, a tram, and an elevator just to get to your gate, why not take a shuttle while we’re at at? Why not find a way to work a boat in there somewhere? Perhaps some kind of luggage barge. Actually, now that I think about it, a gondola would have been super helpful. I would have much rather loaded the kids and bags in a gondola and let the pilot float my family across the airport. I’ve never been to Venice, but I assume that is how their airport is. If it isn’t, did I just have a billion dollar idea?
Without any nautical assistance we got to our shuttle bus and loaded our bags. My wife asked me what we were supposed to do with the baggage cart. “See it in hell,” I replied.
Finally loaded into our rental car and headed into the Rocky Mountains, taking in the scenery of the snow-capped range was absolutely beautiful. Though perhaps not as beautiful as the brewery we stopped at and the foam-capped pint I enjoyed. In the moment, it was really a toss up.
For the flight back home we got to the airport three hours early and prepared to go both painfully slow and slow painfully. Nobody fell and nobody cried. A low bar to be sure, but one I will absolutely consider a win for clearing. The kids were kids on the plane, but this time we were one of three families with little kids. All they had to be was not the most annoying kids on the flight. They were probably the second most annoying. Don’t know if I’ve ever been so proud.
After we got back to Michigan and quickly made our way through the comfortable little 6-gate airport, I realized two things. One, we should have put more effort into preparing for the airport than the airplane. Two, on our next trip, we’re driving.
As much as I’ve tried to avoid it, my four year-old daughter has gravitated to princesses. I made it a point with both of my daughters to never call them “princess.” I didn’t want them to growing up with any kind of sense of entitlement, and I really didn’t want them to grow up to be girly girls. My daughters will know how to change the oil in their car and appreciate the beauty of scoring a run with small-ball. Chicks may dig the long ball, but women dig moving a runner into scoring position.
Anyway, despite my efforts, the appeal of a princess is apparently too strong for a little girl to fight. My girls live in a world of princess toys, clothes, books, movies, and games. I have come to accept this, and am honestly just grateful they aren’t into Barbie. So while making small talk at breakfast with my daughter Evie, I asked her who her favorite princess is. She is generally pretty shallow and says she likes whichever one she thinks is prettiest, so I wasn’t really expecting some profound response, just making chit-chat over a muffin. However, her answer was striking.
“I am”, she said to me.
I asked again to make sure I heard her right, and she confirmed that she was her own favorite princess.I guess you have to appreciate that kind of self-confidence. She’s the star of her own story, even when its fiction.
Personality wise, Evie is about a 60/40 spit between Bingo from Bluey, and Giselle from Enchanted. I’ve always believed that if she told me she wanted to be a princess when she grew up, that she would somehow end up being one. I might be a little biased because she’s my kid, but I think she’d make Grace Kelly look like some kind of hobo.
I was curious to see where her mind was going with this, so I asked her, “Does that make Mommy a queen?”
“Yep,” she replied.
Far be it from me to fish for compliments, but I then asked, “And Daddy is the king?”
“Yes,” she said.
Might as well round out the royal family, so I asked about her sister, “Then what does that make Lucy?” Now, I assumed she would connect the dots and make her a princess too, but apparently she had other plans.
“She’s my helper lady,” she replied.
So Evie makes herself a princess and her sister a lady-in-waiting. Or perhaps servant girl. Either way, definitely not a princess.
As I’ve mentioned before, little siblings love to show up older siblings as a means of overcoming the Luigi Complex. But in the moment, it struck me as going a little too far that fantasizing about being a princess was on equal footing with fantasizing about making your older sister make the fire, fix the breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping. Unless her imagination has so thoroughly created this world and she knew all the roles that needed to be cast. I suppose somebody has to be the princess’ helper, and its not like Grandpa fits the part. I’m sure that’s not it though. She was absolutely using her imaginary royal status to put her older sister in her fanciful place. Taken aback by her sister’s royal assignment, I forgot to ask about where her little brother fit into the scenario, but I assume he’s a stable boy.
I wonder if she lays awake at night imagining that she’s in her castle, she’s getting ready for a lavish ball, she’s in a big fancy dress, and she needs her corset tied and her chamber pot emptied. Her escape from reality not complete without an escape from her domineering older sister as well. I assume that’s healthy. I mean, it has to be more healthy than treating her sister like a servant in reality, right? Her little kiddo brain is doing its best to keep peace in the kingdom, and its working with what it has. Keeping in mind I have done zero research into child psychology, that seems pretty advanced to me. Light years beyond stealing her toys for sure. If escaping to her own little magic kingdom keeps her happy and coping with her sister then more power to her – as long as I still get to be king.
Though maybe the big takeaway isn’t how she sees her sister, but how she sees herself. To a a four year-old, a princess is the epitome of awesome, and if she thinks she is the most awesome person in the realm, then good for her. I guess it would be fine with me if she turns out to be a princess who mows her own lawn and understands that defense wins championships. I still won’t call her “princess” though. Even if she does end up being a real princess someday, I’ll still call her anything I want. Let the commoners call her Princess Evie, the king gets to call her Goosey Pants.
I (and I assume most other parents as well) choose to be selective in what I believe my kids will remember later on. When it comes to any kind of trauma – getting hurt, getting in trouble, getting dropped – I think, “oh they are little, they won’t even remember this later.” But when it comes to things like family vacations and celebrating Christmas, we are creating memories that I know they will cherish forever. Surely, the spongy developing minds of toddlers and pre-schoolers can properly sort out the events that need to get safely locked away in their long-term memory and which ones can disappear forever. Of course it doesn’t work that way. If anything, it is the opposite, and nobody holds on a to a bad memory like my 4 year-old daughter, Evie.
We were out taking a little bike ride around the neighborhood, and while having no kind of conversation to prompt the thought, she said to me, “Alexia isn’t my friend anymore.” For context, Alexia is her older cousin who she sees a handful of times a year and who she has not seen at all in at least three months.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“When we went to get ice cream with Grandpa, she and Lucy (her older sister) just kept talking and interrupting me when I wanted to talk to Alexia.” She explained.
For more context, we live in Michigan and her Grandpa lives in North Dakota most of the year, so I became skeptical of if this actually happened or if this was something that came up in a very elaborate game of pretend she was having with her sister.
“When did that happen?” I asked.
“After your party at the pool when Grandpa took us for ice cream.” she answered.
I knew exactly what she was talking about. We were at a pool party and her Grandpa came and picked up the kids and took them out for ice cream. Ten months ago.
Apparently she had been holding on to that for almost a full year, and to my knowledge had never brought it up before. We have seen her cousin since then, and nothing was said. We have seen her Grandpa since then, and not a word about. She sees her sister every single day, and nothing. But on this pleasant trip around the block, something triggered the memory and she felt so sad about it that she needed to get it off her tiny little chest.
I wonder, was it buried down deep and just now happened to bubble up to the surface? Had it been almost forgotten and then some random occurrence while she rode her bike sparked the memory and re-opened that wound? Where was her train of thought going? “It’s hot out – ice cream would make me not hot – I want ice cream now – I remember getting ice cream with Grandpa – Alexia and Lucy monopolized the conversation – I better tell Dad she’s not my friend anymore.” I guess that isn’t so unreasonable.
But even then, of all the times she has had ice cream there must be some more pleasant frozen treat related memory that she could call to mind. She once ate ice cream shaped like Mickey Mouse, how does that not out rank not being worked into a conversation between other kids? We’ve let the kids build their own sundaes, does that not come more quickly to mind than a hurt feeling? Apparently not.
The other option is that it wasn’t a memory that got shoved down and then popped back up, but that it was rattling around in her mind the whole time. Stewing with each scoop of ice cream. Simmering with every frosty. Boiling up every trip down the frozen food aisle. She clung to that memory and let the burn melt every brain freeze. She wouldn’t let the slightest dessert slight go. She is the Michael Jordan of holding on to ice cream related grudges. Actually, Michael Jordan is probably the Michael Jordan of ice cream related grudges. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has been just waiting for the perfect moment to call out the teenager who was working at Dairy Queen in 1981 who didn’t put enough sprinkles on his cone. Sprinkle related hatred probably fueled the second three-peat. Anyway, you get my point. Unless you’re not a basketball fan, in which case we’ll move on.
So what other minor offenses is my daughter clinging to until she bursts? I now fear that when I’m old and feeble she’ll put me in a home or pull the plug on me because 50-some-odd years ago I said she couldn’t have a cookie. Was making her finish her carrots first signing my death warrant? While possibly detrimental to the health of future me, it is definitely not great for current her. It can’t be healthy for her to be holding on to even the most minor offences for ten months a time. Her personality could be described as “a happy-go-lucky-princess-who-owns-a-unicorn-farm”, but is that just a facade? Is she actually filled with minor hurts that are piling up to create a major problem? Should I make asking her if anything happened last year that she wants to tell me about part of our bedtime routine?
There is a very good chance that some random thing triggered a random thought that called to mind that random memory, but I’ll keep an eye out for other airing of months-old grievances. Might update my will with some kind of clause about how eager she may be to take me off life support too. Just in case.
We’ve all heard the cliche “freedom isn’t free,” and that is true. Every freedom we enjoy in America comes at a price. Freedom of speech comes with the price of having to hear people say things that you disagree with, that are flat out wrong, or that are said on Fox News. Freedoms provided by our judicial system mean that sometimes former professional football players who murder their wives get away with it. Worst of all, freedom to possess weapons of war means that kids get murdered in school.
Over the last twenty or so years, the price of the gun owners’ freedoms has been firmly established as dead kids. A price that society as a whole continues to pay. Where other countries saw this price and decided that it was too steep a price to pay, America has yet to reach that breaking point. So I ask, how many dead kids will be enough? As I see it, there are three options.
We’ve Already Had Enough Dead Kids
For one group of people, the dead kid price tag was too much to ask for long ago. Columbine was enough dead kids. Sandy Hook was more than enough dead kids. Parkland was plenty of dead kids. This group of people looked at the pros and cons and decided that the con of dead kids outweighed the pro of being able to brag to your friends about how big your gun is. A tough choice to be sure, but they ultimately decided to take a bold anti-dead kid stance.
These people understand that freedom isn’t free, but a child’s life is priceless. They decided that a child’s right to attend school safely is more important that somebody’s right to put in less effort to get an assault rifle than a driver’s license. A reasonable stance to be sure, but this group is actually not a landslide majority because for some, the dead kid price is very reasonable.
Not Enough Dead Kids Yet
The next group of people are still willing to pay for the freedom to pretend they are Rambo with the lives of children, at least for now. To be honest, this is probably a pretty small group, but logic tells me they must exist. They are capable of being moved from their pro-dead kid position, but just haven’t seen a convincing enough argument. They understand that an amendment can be changed, but they really like their Don’t Tread on Me bumper sticker. They don’t love it when the kids get murdered at school, but they do love holding their big ol’ gun. Maybe they can be convinced if the dead kids were murdered in their home town, or at their old school, or if one of the dead kids was their own son or daughter.
Maybe they do have dead kid limit, but it just hasn’t been reached yet. A dozen or so dead kids at a time is a fine price to pay for their freedoms, but maybe 30 dead kids would be the tipping point. If the next mass murder is only 29 kids, then they will fly their Come And Take It flag, but if one extra kid bleeds out in the hallway and it hits an even 30 – that would do it.
There Will Never Be Too Many Dead Kids
Of course there is the third group, who will never see too many dead kids. Their freedom isn’t free, but they are wiling to cash in all the dead kids in the country to keep their high powered weaponry. They understand that the constitution gives them the right to compensate with whatever size gun they can get their hands on, but it doesn’t say shit about a kid’s right to not get shot in the head while hiding under their desk in math class. But don’t blame them, the founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing and could totally comprehend modern man’s capacity for high efficiency murder. They have their rights, they have their freedoms, and if that means a bunch of kids every single school year get murdered, then so be it. We just need to issue guns to every kid on their first day of school. After all, the only thing that can prevent a dead kid without a gun is a dead kid with a gun, right?
Seriously Though – How Many Dead Kids Will It Take?
Really, how many dead kids will be enough? Do you have an answer? If your answer isn’t that there has already been too many, then what is your answer? Are you in the camp of just needing a bigger number, and if so, what is that number? Or do you believe there can never be enough? Every person, parent or not, needs to ask themself that question and feel comfortable with the answer.
I get that change is scary, and that the whole reason you get a gun in the first place is because you’re scared, but change needs to happen. The price of American freedom has always been paid for with somebody’s life. From the revolution to the plantation, from Normandy to Wounded Knee – one person’s freedom meant another person’s death. Enough. I hate to break it to anybody, but your individual freedoms just aren’t that important. Lives matter more than your hobby, and the price we all pay just isn’t worth it.
So please, take a minute and find your answer – how many dead kids is enough?
Golf is an interesting hobby. It is technically a physical activity, but to spare yourself from something as physically demanding as walking, you drive yourself from shot to shot. Speaking of shots, unless it is being played at a legitimate competitive level, it is often nothing more than an excuse to drink in the middle of the day. It is a hobby that should bring at least some level of enjoyment, but is guaranteed to make you miserable. For a game that can cost a lot of money to play, the whole point is to be done in as few shots as you can and inherently not get your money’s worth of the time on the course. And yet we play.
I am in a generation that was exposed to playing golf via Tiger Woods. Before Tiger, golf was something your old, male relatives always seemed to have on the TV for some reason. After Tiger, it was something a kid in high school wanted to try. I’ve played with the same relative infrequency for the last twenty years or so (wow that makes me feel old to say that), without really getting much better. And that’s fine, because I definitely fall into group who enjoys the afternoon beers more than I enjoy a well placed chip shot. Perhaps that is because I am much better at drinking beers than I am at chip shots, and I just want to play to my strengths. Regardless, the old cliche is true – a bad day golfing is better than a good day working. But is a bad day golfing better than an average day parenting?
A relaxing day on the golf course for me means a day with all three of our kids to herself for my wife. Factor in drive time to the course, 18 holes of bogey (or worse) play, maybe a stop for lunch thrown in there too, and we are talking about four or more hours of me time. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great. For me. But I honestly have to say that sometimes it makes me feel guilty. Not guilty enough to only play nine, but guilty none the less.
Maybe it would be different if I was actually good, and it was a legit passion of mine and not just an excuse to have a few beers with some friends. Sometimes I want to go golfing alone, so I don’t even have male bonding time to use as an excuse. I just want to be alone. I tell myself that golfing alone gives me the opportunity to work on my game and actually improve, but looking back on old score cards, there is no difference in my game when I am focused and alone, or several beers deep with my friends. So what is my real motivation? Just to be alone? To take advantage of the social acceptability of the opportunity for quiet solitude that golf provides? If I tell my wife that I want to go play a round a golf next Saturday morning, she’ll say yes. If I told my wife that I wanted to go sit in the woods by myself for four hours and drink a six-pack pack of beer, she’d have a few objections to raise.
Yet I play. To celebrate my last birthday, I took a day off from work and went golfing by myself. I had an early morning tee time so the course was still pretty empty, nobody within two holes of me in either direction. On a particularly picturesque hole, I sat in the golf cart with a coffee in my hand, a blueberry muffin riding shotgun, and some instrumental music streaming on my phone. I thought to myself, this is why I am golfing today. I don’t remember what I shot on that hole (probably double bogey), but I will remember that moment for a long time. The beautiful solitude disguised as athletics. Which reminds me of my other hobby that actually requires some degree of athleticism because driving to your destination is frowned upon – running. Most nice days I leave my wife and kids at home and run for an hour or so. No stroller, no phone, not even any music. Just the quiet.
Why seek out hobbies that seem to come with an inherent sense of guilt over their selfish aspects? Sure, I did these things before I had kids, but would being responsible for multiple human lives not be motivation enough to alter my leisure habits? Or is it because kids alter so much of everything else that I feel the need to cling to my solitary leisure habits? Is few hours to myself on a Saturday actually not too much to ask when I spend so much of my other hours making sure they don’t fall off of something, or eat something, or get their own poop on something, or on someone? Perhaps there is something embedded deep in a father’s subconscious that drives us to seek childless solitude? Something that dates back to primitive man’s hunter instincts. Maybe going out hunting for mastodon or woolly mammoth was never about keeping track of the animal’s migratory patterns, but about getting the hell out of that cave?
My ancient ancestors armed themselves with clubs and pointy sticks and set out to the wilderness, and today I arm myself with overpriced clubs and pointy tees and set out to a patch of perfectly manicured grass. Each of us leaving our families behind to prove our abilities. To test our resolve. To get at least two hours without somebody asking for something. Thousands of years of evolution, and how far have we really come? If anything, a woolly mammoth seems like it would be easier to hit solidly than a golf ball. I mean, its huge. Literally mammoth. Right there in the name. If my golf ball is sitting in grass that is just a little too long, I’m screwed.
I am sure that someday when my kids get older I’ll take them with me. Though I don’t see that being a replacement for golfing without them anymore than taking my kids out to a restaurant is equivalent to quiet dinner out with my wife. If I am so worried about preventing my kids from doing something stupid that I don’t get to do something stupid, whats the point? So I’ll golf nine with the kids on Saturday, then 18 by myself on Sunday. It will be wonderful, and I’ll feel terrible.
Despite my belief that I really don’t care if my kids learn to ride a bike, we’ve succumbed to social pressures and gotten our daughters bikes. It really did get embarrassing watching a 4 year-old cram herself onto a tricycle built for a toddler. We got Lucy, our oldest daughter, a bike over a year ago. In that time, she’s ridden it about five times. I’ve asked her if she wants to ride many more times, but I’m not going to pressure her. If she wants to, she wants to. We got Evie, our younger daughter, a bike about a month ago. Evie has already ridden her bike more times that her older sister has ever ridden hers, and she knows it.
The first time Evie tried to ride her bike she sat on it for about ten seconds, pedaled forward about eight inches, and immediately decided she had had enough. Great, I thought, now I have two bikes taking up space in my garage. Should I just resell them now and just assume they won’t notice when they’re gone? Or flat out tell them that since they didn’t ride them, they won’t have them anymore? Luckily for my kids, before I had to take any drastic actions, Evie’s instinct to show up her big sister kicked in.
Both girls said they wanted to ride bikes. Evie got on her bike. Lucy made awkward eye contact with hers. The more comfortable Evie felt on her bike, the more angry Lucy got. Partly at my wife and I for having the nerve to ask her if she actually wanted to ride it, and why she wasn’t riding it. And I think partly at herself for not being able to get over her fear and frustration. Upon seeing her older sister’s frustration overflow, Evie used that as her fuel. Her Luigi Complex was activated. The more Lucy pouted, the faster Evie pedaled. The louder Lucy screamed, the wider Evie smiled. Lucy ended up getting sent to her room, and Evie was free to explore the great outdoors perched atop her little bike. Her face lit with a smile that was an equal mix of pride in herself, joy in her experience, and domination over her sister.
In a classic younger sibling move, Evie was doing something her older sister couldn’t do, and she savored every single second of it. Not to be outdone, even our little boy proudly climbed on his newly inherited tiny tricycle and wobbled his way up and down the sidewalk, content in his own little world. Both of them enjoying their time in the sun. Try as we might to treat all our kids the same, our kids have gone and turned themselves into stereotypical oldest, middle, and youngest kids.
Lucy didn’t want to ride her bike because she was afraid she couldn’t do it perfectly, and seeing that her younger sister could do something she couldn’t – she melted down. Evie saw the opportunity to upstage her older sister and she sunk her teeth into it like a hungry puma. The baby brother needed to do nothing other than play with a toy like a normal boy to get all the attention from his mommy he wanted. Were we even a real family at this point or poorly developed characters in a sitcom? Give us a laugh track and a wacky neighbor and we’re ready for the 8:30 time slot on TGIF.
As much as we try to treat our kids the same, is that even possible? Are the dynamics at play and the developed personality types too strong to overcome? I love the fact that my little girl was able to take to riding her bike so quickly, but I don’t love the fact that her key motivation seemed to be pissing her sister off. I get it. But I don’t love it. Why can’t both kids just ride their bikes, or clean their rooms, or get ready for school in the morning, or do anything they are asked to do at all without a determining factor being how their sister will feel about? On one hand, I appreciate the balance this provides. Whenever one kid is being a little shit, the other is overly good to make herself look even better by contrast. On the other hand, can’t they just be good on their own? No, they can’t. The older sister will forever be motivated by showing her younger sister what she can do that they can’t, and the younger sister will forever be motivated by telling their older sister to cram it. This time was bike riding, God help me when it’s boys.
Patience is a virtue, but can it also be a hindrance to effective parenting? I’ve always tried to be as patient as I can with my kids, and for the most part I think I have been. Sure, sometimes when a kid throws a block at your face point blank you end up giving them a firm Flair Chop to the chest. But something like that is more out of instinct than out of anger. And I really do think that sometimes a kid needs to be yelled at, but always with a purpose behind it and not because I lost my cool. However, lately I’ve been wondering if my patience with my kids has left them devoid of a healthy amount of fear of their parents.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I want my kids to be afraid me. I don’t want them dreading when Dad gets home from work, or being anxious around me for fear that I might snap. But I do want them to feel at least a sense of urgency when I ask them to do something, and maybe even a small quake in their bowels when I use an angry tone. I think that as a perfectly healthy amount of fear a kid should have of their parent.
My kids don’t have that. Years of asking them nicely to clean up the playroom has created the expectation in them that if I have to ask two, or three, or fifteen times that it’s OK. Nothing to worry about, Dad won’t get mad. Until he does. But then it’s weird. It’s foreign. It’s something to be entertained by, not something to light a fire under their little butts. They are yet to realize that despite my patience and this seemingly odd sternness, the hammer will come down nonetheless.
Just yesterday, they made a giant mess of fake Easter basket grass all over the floor. Which by the way is maybe the worst decoration ever. Even under normal circumstances you’re finding random strands of that crap here and there until June. However, their mess was no accident. It was purposely thrown all over, rolled in, tossed in the air, and spread around. I was displeased. They assured me not to worry, they’d clean it up. I stayed calmed and tried to believe them, but I knew that there was no way it was going to happen. I told them that if they didn’t clean it up, they would get nothing – no dessert, bedtime stories, no getting tucked in, no songs, no nightlight, no anything. Despite the fact that they made absolutely no progress in cleaning for over an hour, I stayed patient and reminded them they needed to clean it up before bed. Though because they assumed my patience was endless (and also they can’t tell time yet, so telling them there is 20 minutes to bedtime is as useful as telling them it’s banana o’clock), the time came and they were shocked.
They cried, they yelled, they turned on each other shockingly quickly, but ultimately they still didn’t get it. They asked for help getting their jammies on, and they asked if they could have a light on to read books. When we told them no, they asked why not. They didn’t fear the threat, so they didn’t respect the repercussions. They have been conditioned to expect another patient request, because more often than not, there is one. So where is the line? Definitely somewhere between the second ask and the fifteenth. If three tries is good enough for baseball, probably good enough to apply here. Though the kind of request matters too. Asking for them nicely to not grab each other by the neck feels like two too many chances. Only giving them three tries to ride a big kid bike without whining about being scared feels like not enough. Or maybe not, I mean the bike has training wheels, its really just a glorified tricycle so get your tiny feet on the petals and let’s go kid.
So maybe I should fight against my better nature and try to be less patient. While I’m at it, maybe I should be more greedy to. Those little mooches take a shocking number of “tastes” of what I’m eating, perhaps the hammer should come down there first. Start with denying them the option to lick the spatula when my wife makes cookies, work up to only asking twice to put on their shoes.
Kids will test many things about you. Your patience. Your ability to function without sleep. Your knowledge of dinosaurs. Your ability (or lack thereof) to braid hair. Your knowledge of basic math. These are things you have to expect going into parenthood. To a certain extent, you’ll also expect that kids will test your marriage. Kids bring a whole new kind of stress for people to deal with, and layering that stress on top of all the other everyday stress of life can be tough for a couple to navigate. However, the one thing that will test your marriage the most is something I wouldn’t have ever thought of before it happens – a kid throwing up in bed.
Responding to this regurgitative emergency is an ultimate test of spousal compatibility. I’ve never been on a dating app, but if “Would you be more willing to clean up a vomit splashed child or vomit covered sheets?” isn’t a question on there – it ought to be. Before my wife and I got married we took course and did a work book that talked a lot about habits around the house and money management, but not one mention of if the smell of somebody else’s puke is going to make you want to hurl. What a wasted opportunity. Pizza topping preference, big spoon or little spoon, opinions on Hugh Grant – sure, these things matter in how well two people fit together. But you can change your habits, you can’t change your gag reflex.
The ultimate test for my wife and I came at quite possibly the worst time imaginable – Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t under-cook the turkey, we were all hit by a stomach bug. All the food we could eat, and none of it was successfully digested. From the first time the one-year old threw up in his crib to the first time two days later than some crackers were held down, we were a well oiled puke cleaning machine. My wife gets the kid, I get the sheets. Her calming, motherly nature comforts the sick little kiddo, and my ability to rinse chunks of partially digested sweet potatoes off of a pillow case without blowing chunks allowed us to pass the stress test with flying colors.
Over two nights our three kids probably threw up at least twice each. It could have been more, but once you run out of sheets and have to put beach towels on your their beds, you stop counting. By the third or fourth clean up, we had the kid cleaned up and back in a clean bed in under five minutes. We were like a pit crew. Except we were in our pajamas and not matching jumpsuits. Which, come to think of it is a fantastic idea – parental jumpsuits. Suitable for pukey sheets, poopy diapers, and all manner of spills. Could even cover it on all those sponsor patches too. I’m sure the good people at Huggies wouldn’t mind getting their logo covered in spit up. Anyway, compatibility was on full display.
Last week was Spring Break, and a stomach bug struck again. The kids were home from school and the puke was aplenty. Sure, puke and Spring Break go hand in hand, but its a little different when its on the floor in your kid’s bedroom and not on the floor of Daytona’s finest Motel 6. But we fretted not. We comforted, we cleaned, we were back in bed in ten minutes.
I can’t fathom what it would be like if neither of us could stomach cleaning the bed. If we both insisted on wiping down the kid, would we just throw the sheets away? Suppose that would be a better option than constantly fighting back your own spew in the name of laundry. What if neither one of us wanted to put up with a crying, smelly little person? Hosing them down from a far in the back yard would work in the summer, but that’s not really a sustainable strategy. Plus imagine what the neighbors might think if they see you in the yard spraying the puke off your toddler. First, they’d think “what the hell?” Second, they’d think “Sweet jumpsuit.”