The Foot Lickers

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When you bring your baby home from the hospital after he’s born, your mind is reeling with the possibilities of parenthood. Mostly, you see rainbows, imagining afternoons at the park playing baseball and making macaroni necklaces for Christmas presents. What you can’t imagine is that at some point during your tenure as a parent, you’re going to have to say the phrase, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”

You’re not an idiot. You know there will be ups and downs. There will be tantrums in the Fun Depot. Smoothies spilled in the car. Maybe some light biting. But having to tell one child not to lick the other child’s feet never even crosses your mind.

But it’s going to happen. The first foot-licking incident will be accidental. They’ll be wrestling barefoot and an errant foot will cross in front of someone’s face and that kid will seize the opportunity and stick his/her tongue out and take a lick. It’s an act of curiosity mainly. The other child will giggle and then it’ll be an all out foot lick fest, at which time you’ll have to say, “son, don’t lick your sister’s feet.”

It’s such a weird thing to say, you’ll actually pause and think, “I can’t believe I just had to say that.”

Soon you’ll be saying it so often, you’ll have to write it on the dry erase “rule board” next to other gems like, “don’t put mom’s pearls on the kitty,” and “don’t tell strangers their hair looks funny,” or “glow sticks are not food” or any number of bizarre societal norms that most of us take for granted.

But the foot-licking thing will be the weirdest. At least for a while. Then the kids will come up with something even weirder that makes you long for the simplicity of the foot-licking days. I don’t know what that thing will be yet. I’m just warning you, it’s going to get weird. Then it’s going to get weirder.

 

F#@king Pickles

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This one’s for the new parents out there: At some point during your parenthood, you’ll decide it’s a good idea to try to make your own pickles with your children. Maybe you and the kids planted a little starter garden and you got a bumper crop of cucumbers that you don’t know what to do with. Most likely, you’ll see an article in a glossy parenting magazine that declares making pickles is the easier than making toast and including your children in the process will guarantee hours of quality family time that will spark long-lasting love and admiration from your children. This article will subtly imply that when you’re too old to take care of yourself, your children will recall the day you helped them make their own pickles and be so overwhelmed with joy and love that they’ll build you an in-law suite complete with a Jacuzzi and on-call masseuse.

In this article, there will be a big two-page photo spread photo of a beautifully multi-cultural family laughing and looking gorgeous while making pickles in their brightly lit kitchen. You will hate that family in that picture because their countertops aren’t covered in stacks of art projects (which are actually, accidentally glued to your countertops so why bother trying to sort them?) and three weeks worth of mail that you haven’t gotten a chance to look through yet. But still, you think, “hey, that looks like fun. We should make pickles.”

But listen, it’s a trap. See how that family in the magazine is smiling? There won’t be any smiling when you do your pickle project. One kid will throw a shit fit because you cut the pickles in the wrong shape (“I said trapezoid!”) and the other will refuse to wash her hands and decide she has to lick every cucumber before it goes into the jar.

And then there’s the recipe. The one in the magazine calls for ingredients like dill, or garlic, or saffron. You don’t have dill or saffron because when you go to the grocery store, you can barely make it out of there with milk and eggs before your kids pee on the floor or lick all of the free cheese samples. Saffron is for people who shop without kids. Forget about saffron.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because your kids have their own idea about what sort of ingredients should go in the god damned pickle jar. Shit like sticks and action figures. I’m not kidding. This will happen. One of your kids will try to slip an action figure into the pickle jar. You’ll be so fatigued by the end of the pickle project that you won’t care. You’ll just close the lid on the jar and set the cucumbers and tiny construction man action figure in your fridge to age.

Oh, and your house will smell like fucking pickles for the next six hours.

Consider yourself warned.

 

Are these marshmallows local?

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I phoned it in on dinner tonight. An uninspired mash-up of hot dogs, mac and cheese, and steamed broccoli. It’s a meal that screams, “I’m too tired to give any thought into the nutritional value of food, but too broke to order pizza.” My kids immediately called me on my apathy, refusing to eat a bite. I explained to them that hot dogs and mac and cheese were in fact their favorite foods. That they’d asked for this very meal on a number of occasions, but they were too quick for my logic. My son had the best excuse: “Well, it’s Fall. And when it’s Fall, I change the food I eat. I don’t eat hot dogs in the Fall. Or mac and cheese. Just chocolate. And juice boxes.”

That’s a preschooler’s notion of “eating seasonal.”

And he says this while wearing his sister’s oversized pink sunglasses…and no pants…

How the hell do you respond to that?

I’m stunned, and frankly pleased with his creativity, so I just switch from beer to bourbon and decide to have a fire in the backyard fire pit. Fun fact: if you eat four marshmallows, you’ll ingest one gram of protein. So it’s not a total loss.

Reason Why Hanging with Preschoolers is Awesome #6

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Sometimes, if you push your kids past the brink of exhaustion and keep them up really late, like 9pm, they start to mumble really cute things like, “You know who I love? I love everybody,” and then out of nowhere, they’ll be like, “Daddy, daddy, check this out.” And then they show me how they play piano on their toes.

It’s like hanging out with a couple of stoners. And it’s awesome.

Peeing in the Afterlife

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So the tough questions keep coming from my kids. Again, it always seems to happen when they’re in the jogging stroller, so I’m thinking about giving up running altogether. Yesterday, my boy shot this gem at me:

“Daddy, do ghosts have penises?”

Now, typically, if there’s a hard question that’s science-based like this, I’ll look it up on the internet and discuss the answer with my kids. I don’t really know what dads did before Google. Did they just make the answers to obscure questions up? Probably. But I’m a “modern dad” so I look this shit up. Big mistake here.

When you Google “ghost penis” you get an Urban Dictionary definition (“a clumpy fold in your pants that looks like an erected penis”), a news post about a ghost hunter who catches ghosts with his penis, and a story about a man who tried to convince a woman her vagina was haunted. You can’t make this shit up, people.

Now, what my kid really wanted to know was how ghosts went to the bathroom. If they’re just floating cloud-like figures without much shape and, presumably no penises, are they destined to spend the afterlife holding in a wicked pee?

Alas, this is yet another question that I don’t have a good answer to. I tried the whole make-believe angle:

Me: “Buddy, ghosts are just pretend. Like in movies.”

Him: “Yeah, but in movies, do they have penises?”

I tried the Socratic method:

Me: “What do you think?”

Him: “I don’t know. That’s why I asked you.”

And eventually just got practical and told him that no, ghosts don’t have penises, but they don’t eat or drink anything either, so they don’t really need to go to the bathroom.

Problem solved…until tomorrow, when he asks me another penis related question that I have neither the desire nor know-how to answer.

Parenting is hard.

Reason #5 Why I’m a Shitty Dad

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Yesterday, my kid had to eat a stale cracker he found mushed in the bottom of his cup holder in the mini van. Because I forgot to pack any food on a long excursion to the pool. That’s right. I forgot food.

That’s the second time I’ve forgotten to feed my children. The first time, they were babies and wouldn’t stop crying. I tried peek-a-boo, I tried their favorite monkey toy, I tried putting them down for a nap, I tried hitting myself on the head with a book, I tried holding them, funny faces, sad faces…nothing worked. They just cried and cried.

“Wait,” my wife said. “When was the last time you fed them?”

Right. Food.

It takes a special kind of idiot to forget to feed his kids. Twice.

 

I See Dead People: Really Hard Questions From My Kids

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My kids are at the inquisitive stage when they want to know absolutely everything. This is a problem for me because I know almost nothing. If you have a question about ‘80s sitcoms about kooky butlers, I’m your guy. Want to talk about the mid-90s Atlanta Braves team that climbed from worst to first, I can go on and on. You got a question about nature, birds, cars, trees, electronics, prosthetic legs, tax codes, the sleeping habits of monkeys, or anything else my kids seem to give a shit about, and I’m stumped.

For whatever reason, it’s been an inquisitive week. I guess it’s an encouraging sign of development, but let’s be honest–it just makes my life more difficult. Because do my kids care about Mr. Belvedere or Otis Nixon? No. They don’t. They seem hell bent on only asking me questions that I don’t have an answer to, which only underscores my suspicions that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing as a parent.

So here are the top three questions that stumped me this week.

 

1)   “What’s dirt made out of?”

“Umm…smaller pieces of dirt?”

I don’t fucking know. I don’t have a phd in, um, dirt. Are dad’s really supposed to know everything? Everything!

 

2)   “Daddy, what’s a girlfriend?”

This one I just ignored. The key to avoiding awkward conversations with a four-year-old is shock and awe. They’re persistent little bastards, so you can’t just change the subject. They’ll keep pestering you with the same question over and over unless you present them with something so fantastic, it gives them short-term amnesia. I recommend setting something on fire, or showing them a nice piece of road kill. Be careful though. Using road kill as a distraction to avoid a talk about sexual relations could lead to the following question:

 

3)   “Daddy, what happens when you die?”

Yeah. This one came out of nowhere while I was running. The kids were in the jogging stroller, talking, getting all existential apparently, and my son lobs that grenade at me.

“What do you mean, buddy?” I ask.

“Like, if you get eaten by a giant snake. And die. What happens?”

“Well, uh, your body gets buried into the ground.”

Simple, to the point. Case closed, right? Wrong.

“And then what?” the persistent little bastard asks.

“Then your soul goes to heaven.”

“What’s a soul?” This is my daughter now. Because the conversation isn’t deep enough as it is.

“Well, uh…”

I’m not sure exactly how I explained it. I was running, and tired, and scared I was going to completely fuck up my kids’ perspective on life and death. You get one shot as a parent to have the first life/death discussion. I expected more time to prepare. I expected to have notes. Maybe some scientific or religious tomes to reference. Actually, I expected my wife to handle it. Alas, my wife doesn’t run. So I’m there alone.

Here’s what I did. I made up an analogy on the fly that equated the soul to the Apple TV box and the body to the TV. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m not proud of using television to explain the great mystery of the soul, but you gotta work with what you have. I stand by my decision.

Then they wanted to know more about what happens to the body. Specifically, “Why do we bury dead bodies?” I went into some deep Lion King circle of life shit that I think kind of made sense to my kids. They definitely sunk their teeth into the notion that burying a dead body feeds the earth and makes flowers grow. For the remainder of the run, my daughter kept pointing to flowers and saying, “look daddy, there’s a dead body.”

Someone out there help me out. Tell me I’m not the only one that’s botched the big death question. Better yet, tell me about the questions your kids stumped you with.