Camo Shirts and Tomato Soup

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I like to think I’m a pretty easy-going guy when it comes to how my kids dress. I’ve mentioned before that I have no problem if my son wants to wear a dress, or paint his fingernails or put on a tutu to play soccer. Feel like wearing a skirt today, buddy? Good idea. Me too.

That “open mindedness” was tested today when he woke up before dawn to get himself dressed for picture day and put on a camouflage shirt. He looks like the youngest member of Duck Dynasty.

Crazy princess fairy in a Spiderman mask is fine, but junior NRA member? That’s a bit much. I know, I’m being ridiculous, so I let it go. If he wants to wear camouflage and get his picture taken with a deer carcass, so be it. I’ll send Ted Nugent a wallet sized picture.

But the camo shirt is emblematic of a blossoming trend of independence within my kids that I’m not quite ready for. My son puts on a camo shirt and it hits me: I’m losing my babies.

On the one hand, it’s great that my kids will get themselves dressed (every once in a while, but never when I really need them to). On the other hand, that newfound independence often bites me in the ass. Like the time my son decided to get himself dressed before going to the pediatrician. I didn’t find out he was “free balling” it until we’re sitting in the waiting room and he said, giggling, “daddy, I’m not wearing any underwear.”

And of course, they’re completely incapable of putting their clothes on the correct way. Buttons are askew, zippers are in the back, they only have one sock on…You would think that they would emerge from their room with their shirts right side out or not backwards at least half of the time. Statistically, that seems like a possibility, but apparently statistics are bullshit. I’d say 99% of the time, they have their damned shirts on backwards and apparently, I’m not allowed to say, “hey sweetie, can your turn your shirt around?” because that would kill their independent spirit and squelch their will to live, so we have to walk around all day long like some suburban version of Kris Kross.

It’s like they have the desire to take care of themselves, but not the fine motor skills to pull it off. Don’t get me started on the time they decided to make tomato soup (yesterday) for breakfast on their own. We have to move now because of the mess they made.

I guess my son has always had that independent streak. When he was a toddler, I’d wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of the microwave buttons beeping. I’d sprint out to the kitchen to find him naked, standing on a chair, trying to cook himself breakfast in the microwave.

My daughter had her own drama this morning with Picture Day. She was “too depressed to eat breakfast” because her hair wasn’t quite right. She wanted a bun, but her mom gave her some sort of Mormon-wife up-do (see the girls in Big Love if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here).

Sadly, my wife left for work before my daughter realized her hair was “all wrong.” I was no help because I’m a man and all I can do with my daughter’s hair is put it in a “low pony.”

Do they ever ask me for help with things I know about? Like how to catch a fly ball or strip club etiquette? No. Whenever they need my help, it’s always for fixing fancy hair or baking muffins. I don’t know shit about baking muffins. No wonder they’re ready to start taking care of themselves and seeking comfort in camouflage shirts. Their dad is useless.

And me and Ted Nugent will always have their Pre-School Graduation pictures as a reminder.

 

A World Where Vomit Floats

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The great thing about excessive vomiting is that it gives you the chance to reinforce lessons about gravity. My daughter stayed home sick from preschool recently. We kicked off the day watching The Little Mermaid. She was lying on the couch and asked me to lie down beside her on the floor. I obliged because I’m always looking for an excuse to take a nap, but I told her to let me know if she was going to throw up so I could move.

“I don’t want you throwing up on my face,” I said.

“Okay,” she said. Then she had a light bulb moment. “Hey, throw up doesn’t float because of gravity!”

I was so proud. We went into a five-minute rant about how weird it would be if throw up could float. Like, if the rest of the world was bound by the laws of gravity, but not vomit. You’d have people regurgitating all kinds of things just to make them float. We decided it would be cool. Disgusting, but cool.

Because I’m a dad, I was proud that I had the opportunity to use her sickness as a way to reinforce the basic laws of physics that we’re all bound by. You never want to let a teaching opportunity slip through your fingers. My father knew this better than anyone. At any given moment, he could go all Father Knows Best and break out some sage advice, using our surroundings to teach his kids the importance of never buying cheap batteries, or how the key to frying a proper egg was patience. Those were his two main nuggets of wisdom that he wanted to pass on to his children. Buy good batteries and use low heat when frying an egg. They’re solid pieces of advice, but they didn’t always apply to the situation at hand, like in the dugout during a baseball game, or when I was getting ready for prom.

My daughter also understands the importance of teaching lessons. In the afternoon of her sick day, she started feeling better so she decided we should play school. I’d be the student, she’d be the teacher. She grabbed a ruler, tapped it on the table and said, “every time I do this, you have to listen.”

She tapped the ruler on the table a lot, then dropped nuggets of wisdom like, “if there’s a giant spider crawling over your house, you should tell an adult.” Then we started trading off lessons. She’d say, “When you’re in love, you get married.” And I’d say, “In the United States, you’re not allowed to get married until after you go to college. In some states, you have to go to graduate school first.”

I think we both came out of that sick day a little wiser.

The Twirl Factor (and other things I know nothing about)

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It’s safe to say I had no idea what I was doing as a parent when the kids were born. Changing diapers, burping, feeding them, even holding them was completely foreign to me. I’m happy to say that five years later, I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. You would think that after being a stay at home dad for almost three years, I’d have this parenting thing on auto pilot, but my kids still throw me curveballs on a daily basis.

For instance, at this point in my parenting career, I should know that it’s going to take my daughter 45 minutes to get dressed in the morning because she has to test out the “twirl factor” of each dress in her closet before deciding what to wear. Yeah. “Twirl factor.” Apparently, she has a closet full of dresses that are low on the ITS (International Twirl Scale). “Skinny dresses don’t twirl,” she says. “I don’t have any dresses that twirl,” she says.

And you’d think by now, I’d be prepared for unprompted tantrums of all kind. When one of my kids throws a fit because I won’t let him have marshmallow Peeps for breakfast, I’m prepared for the backlash. But when my kid loses his shit because I tell him that, no, he didn’t invent the game of “punch buggy,” that people have been hitting each other whenever they see Volkswagen Bugs since Biblical Times, I’m caught off guard. Why would he scream his head off and throw his shoes against the window because he didn’t invent Punch Buggy? Why, lord, why?

And why does it surprise me when my kids aren’t perfect 24 hours a day? Am I too much of an optimist? Or too naive? Or just an idiot? Maybe it’s a little of all three.

There are good surprises too. The other night at dinner, my daughter said, “I love chicken nuggets,” and then I said, “then why don’t you marry them,” and they both fell out of their chairs laughing, like it was the first time they heard that joke. Because it was the first time they heard that joke. How amazing is that? I had no idea that being a parent would allow me to recycle tired jokes from my childhood, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

 

 

Welcome to Thunderdome

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I know how the zombie apocalypse is going to start. Well, let me rephrase that. I know where the zombie apocalypse is going to start. At the crappy little indoor playground inside my town’s mall. Picture a half-a-dozen foam/plastic structures in the center of the mall’s food court—a playhouse, a slide, a bridge, a raft, rocks—scattered around a small area with a semi-soft foam floor. The whole thing is encircled by soft benches. There’s only one way in and one way out—an entry way marked by an automatic dispenser of hand sanitizer, like some sort of heavy-handed element of foreshadowing in a bad dystopian sci-fi flick.

Inside this “play circle,” roughly 78 children, all under the age of 5 are running mad while their parents sit on the benches updating their Facebook statuses and drink Diet Cokes from oversized Chik-Fil-A cups.

Basically, this playground is a cacophony of communicable diseases and pre-school angst. It’s not my favorite place to take the kids. In my head, every one of those little bastards running around that playground has pink eye. And the violence is astonishing. It’s like Thunderdome.

The last time we were there, this one little kid, maybe three or four years old, was walking around, systematically slapping other kids. He’d slap one kid, wait for their reaction, then walk to the other side of the play zone and slap another kid, wait for the reaction…like he was performing some sort of sociopathic experiment.

And don’t even get me started on the biting. Lord, there was so much biting (which is exactly how the Zombie apocalypse will begin—playground biters with pink eye).

And the parents, as a whole, were just oblivious to the whole bloody mess. One mother was so preoccupied with knitting or twitter or whatever it is that mothers do to mentally escape, that she didn’t realize her baby had actually escaped Thunderdome. I watched a good Samaritan scoop up the baby as it was crawling past the Asian Express, then walk around the food court for five minutes asking everyone, “is this your baby?” “Is this your baby?” Finally, she found the right disinterested mother, who took the baby back so calmly (and without even a thank you) that it made me think this wasn’t her first time losing a child.

Yeah.

So this is where my kids like to go when it’s 38 degrees and raining outside. I’m conflicted every time they see it’s crappy outside and say, “hey dad, let’s go to the mall!” On the one hand, my kids are gonna get pink eye. It’s only a matter of time. On the other hand, it’s kind of cool to see ground zero for the zombie apocalypse. Plus, watching a bunch of moms lose their kids in public makes me feel like a pretty good dad.

I’m not sure why my kids like it, though. The playground equipment is kind of lame (a foam raft? What are they supposed to do, pretend to row a boat?), and, as I’ve said, the other kids are pretty violent. It’s almost guaranteed that one or both of my children will come out there bleeding a little bit. Maybe my kids are exorcising some sort of suburban angst, like Fight Club for little kids. Their lives are so comfortable and numbing, what with Sheriff Callie and juice boxes and soccer practice, that they need a little raw violence just to feel alive.

I get it. Who doesn’t like to get slapped around by a three-year-old sociopath every once in a while?

 

Dear Over-Achieving Parents

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An open letter to the mom who brings a story book to read her kids at the playground,

Suck it.

Why are you reading to your children in public? You’re trying too hard. Everyone knows that books are to be read as quickly as possible and half-assed during the last 15 minutes before tucking your little monsters in bed for the night.

Parks are supposed to be a book-free sanctuary, a place where parents can go to wear their children out with minimal parental effort and parent/child interaction.

The mom checking Facebook while her kid eats cigarette butts knows this unwritten rule. The circle of moms bragging about their hybrids understand this. You don’t bring books and interactive activities to the park. What’s next? A craft project with glitter glue?

I really don’t even think you should spend too much time pushing your kids on the swing. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. The sooner they learn how to pump their legs.

If you want to be a good parent, you do it in the privacy of your own home.

5 Reasons Why Daddy Drinks Went MIA

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You’ve probably noticed a slight gap in my posting schedule for this blog. Like, a two month gap. There are several reasons why a person who blogs about the shenanigans that ensue when a man-child is put in charge of real children on a daily basis. Here are the Top 5 Reasons Why Daddy Drinks Went MIA.

1)   Coma: After an innocent pillow fight turned tragic, I fell into a coma for the last two months. Don’t feel sorry for me—I spent the time dreaming that I was the seventh cast member of Friends. It was lovely.

2)   Sugar Crash: During the holidays, the kids lived entirely on candy and hot chocolate. Since January 1st, I’ve spent 18 hours a day mitigating the massive withdrawal symptoms that occur when you force two five-year-olds to quit sugar cold turkey. It hasn’t been pretty.

3)   Lego Bender: The kids got so many Lego sets for Christmas, I’ve been hold up in the basement for the last two months putting together multi-colored block cafes, fire trucks, and helicopters. I didn’t even break for the Olympics. I drank protein shakes and wore a catheter. As soon as I’d finish a model, my son would begin deconstructing it. It was like some weird, tragic performance art.

4)   Work: I took a job as the Drink editor for Paste Magazine and liquor and beer started showing up on my doorstep at an alarming rate. At the same time, I put up a zip line in the backyard for the kids. Booze and zip lining don’t mix. See reason 1) Coma, above.

5)   It was ski season.

6)   Bonus Reason: Shit hit the fan after I bought my wife a vacuum for Christmas. At first, she was all like, “oh, honey, I love it!” But then she casually started telling me about all the great gifts her other friends got from their husbands for Christmas (“did you Tim gave Julie a necklace? Isn’t that wild?”) then started vacuuming up various personal items of mine. I just now pulled all my computer keys from the vacuum bag.

You choose the reason for my absence. Believe what you want. The important thing is, Daddy Drinks is back—“Daddier” and “Drinkier” than ever. I’ll catch you up on what’s happened in the last two months in the next post. Hint: there is a zip line involved, and the tooth fairy, and booze.

The Great Christmas Vacuum, Charlie Brown

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Okay, I’m going to ask your advice, Daddy Drinks readers, and I’m hoping you can steer me down the right path like the North Star steered the Three Wise Men so long ago.

I’m on the verge of buying my wife a new vacuum cleaner for Christmas. My question is, will this purchase secure my place on the long list of clueless husbands who got their wives terrible, thoughtless Christmas presents, or will I be celebrated across the land for choosing such a practical gift that puts a premium on household cleanliness?

I can remember my own father’s foray into really thoughtless gifts. Tires for the car. Speakers for the Hi-Fi. I think he gave my mom a chainsaw once. Am I doomed to repeat this terrible gift cycle?

Sidenote: The kids have spent the last week “practicing” for Christmas. They go around the house wrapping random shit up and giving it to each other. Remote controls, forks, pillows. It’s cute as hell. 

Now wait, before you answer, you should know that I do all of the vacuuming, so technically, the vacuum would be for me. So, I guess the real present for my wife here would be well-vacuumed floors, but that’s hard to wrap, so I’ll give her the vacuum and tell her that her that the vacuum represents well-vacuumed floors. No, an entire year of well-vacuumed floors. How about that? Maybe I’ll even write a cute card that puts the notion of clean floors into a sonnet. What rhymes with vacuum?

Does that information make the vacuum a better present for my wife, or a worse present?

I know, it’s a tough call. There’s no easy answer here. Let’s do a quick pro/con list to get to the bottom of this predicament.

Con: The Vacuum is a Bad Present For My Wife and I am an Idiot

1)   It looks nothing like the black boots or jewelry that my wife has asked for.

2)   Let’s be honest, even with a state of the art vacuum, the house will still be a wreck when my wife gets home from work because I have two 4-year-olds who behave like chimpanzees and literally throw banana peels on the floor.

Pro: The Vacuum is a Great Present and I am a Great Husband

1)   It’s a really sexy looking vacuum. It’s really more of a race car than a vacuum. I think it even has Bluetooth. (Scary thought: is this what stay at home dads buy when they suffer from a mid life crisis? Expensive, European vacuums that they don’t need?)

2)   Christmas is suffering from all the commercialism that surrounds it and what we need to give each other is genuine experiences and good will. Giving my wife a floor free of dog hair and banana peels is the closest my we’ll ever come to finding world peace. How can I deny her world peace?

Shit. It’s a tie. Help me Daddy Drinks readers. Help me.