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.

 

 

Road Games

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In Boulder we counted how many Punch Buggies we saw, then we moved on to Mini Coopers. We had epic thumb wars in Moab, and the world’s shortest staring contests outside Canyonlands. (Some new info: my daughter blinks 211 times a minute).

At one point, we tried to teach the kids some Spanish but they just kept making up their own words and teaching us: “chiminobo” “it means lets go to the volcano.”

We had an ice cream eating contest outside of Zion, then Liz tried to see who could stay quiet the longest. That game was over before it started.

At one point, my son tried to see how many Scooby Snacks he could eat without throwing up. Normally, Scooby Snacks are not part of the Averill Recommended Diet, but we let it go. “They’re just graham crackers” we told ourselves. Graham crackers coated in sugar. It’s like meth for 4-year-olds.

Also in Zion, my son tried to see how many tantrums he could throw before I threw him off the side of a cliff. He almost found out.

Now, the kids are watching cartoons in a swank hotel room in Las Vegas and for some reason, my son feels the need to tell me, “daddy, you are not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,” about every 30 seconds. As if I needed a reminder.

All this is to say, “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there. In the words of fine ‘80s television: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. The Facts of Life.”

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Six Signs You’ve Been Spending Too Much Time With Your Kids

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As parents, we consistently struggle to spend quality time with our offspring, but is there such a thing as too much quality time with your kids? With all due respect to the attachment parenting aficionados out there, hell yes. If you’re a stay at home mom or dad, you’re often spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with your kid. I like my kids, but I also like riding bikes and having sex, and I wouldn’t want to do either of those things every single day all the damned time. My God, think of the chafing.

And that’s really what we’re talking about here, “parental chafing”. When you spend hour after hour with your kids, your patience gets thinner, your temper gets shorter, and your outbursts grow more frequent. You’re emotionally and psychologically “chafed,” so every little thing (fixing dinner, giving tubbies, mediating a property dispute between the kids) becomes as annoying as a marathoner’s sore nipples.

The trick, is to catch yourself before you go over the deep end become that mom from Mommy Dearest, or any Dad from the ‘50s. So, here are five signs you’ve been spending too much time with your kids. If you recognize any two of these signs, fly to Vegas without your children immediately.

1)   You have a temporary tattoo on your arm that says “I Heart Ballet,” even though you do not heart ballet. It will last for the next seven days.

2)   Your diet consists solely of tube yogurt and string cheese. Actually, anything shaped like a penis. Mini carrots. Hot dogs. Is anyone else suddenly concerned by the phallic nature of kid-friendly foods?

3)   When you’re in bed with your significant other, and things get heated, you accidentally recite the theme song to Doc McStuffins: “It’s OK if you giggle, this will only tickle a little.”

4)   Taking the trash to the curb while drinking a beer feels like a night out.

5)   You’re covered in glitter, but you have absolutely no recollection of how it got there. Like you’ve been roofied by fairies.

6) You’ve started prescribing “Time Outs” left and right, mostly for incidental infractions like “using too many conjunctions in a single sentence,” because the only peace and quiet you get is when your child is being punished in his/her room.

Frank and Beans

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Something I never thought I’d have say to another person: “Dude, put your pants on. You’re gonna burn your penis.”

Because most nights, my son wants to help me cook dinner. But some nights, he doesn’t want to wear clothes. As if trying to keep all of his fingers off of the hot stove wasn’t enough, now I’ve got another appendage to worry about. I’m not sure why the kid likes to be naked, but from what I can tell from informal surveys, it’s a universal issue with preschool boys. I mean, I get it. Penises are fun, why wouldn’t you want to just hang out with it? But I’m getting a little tired of looking out the window, and seeing my kid with his pants down in the front yard…peeing on the fence…waving at the neighbors.

Sure, he’s young enough now for the little old ladies walking their dogs by our house to laugh it off. But the kid’s getting older. It’ll go from awkwardly cute to awkwardly illegal pretty damn quick.

I blame my wife, who insists that his predilection for nudity is perfectly normal for a boy his age. Maybe. But I’m skeptical; she wasn’t raised with the sexual hang-ups and body guilt that have made the fully-functioning adult that I am today. I had the benefit of being raised in both a traditional Southern household and a Catholic household. In my mind, anything you do naked is a mortal sin. Even taking a shower requires three Hail Mary’s. We thought the Jesus statue at our church was a little risqué. I mean, why can’t he wear a t-shirt?

So I’m doing my best to negate my wife’s well-adjusted approach to innocent nudity and instill the same hang-ups in my children that I enjoyed. I may permanently fuck them up emotionally and psychologically, but at least I’ll avoid having to explain a second-degree burn to my son’s Frank and Beans to the suspicious ER doctor…and subsequent Social Services advocate.

Daddy Drinks Does Britain

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Today, I had the opportunity to take part in a discussion on BBC Radio about parents lying to their children. Apparently a study was recently published that “discovered” the vast majority of parents lie to their children. I put “discovered” in posts because, well, no shit parents lie to their kids.

Anyway, they had me and a couple of other parents on the show as well as the psychologists involved with the report. I’m not really sure how I did—let’s just say I have a face for radio and a voice for silent film—but I was amazed when a couple of parents called in and said they never lie to their children. Ever. About anything. Not about Santa, not about the quality of the art work their children produce in class…they don’t even create fictional monsters that eat children who don’t sit in their seats at dinner! Shocking, I know.

Obviously, I’m not that good of a parent.

Here’s the podcast if you’re interested. After the bit about parents who lie, they switched topics to Beyonce’s inaugural performance. Obviously, I’m honored and humbled that I got to share air-time with people who were even mentioning Beyonce.

Like Cinderella, God Damn It!

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There’s a whole bunch of unreasonable going on in my house right now. Here’s a snippet of a real “conversation” I had with my daughter last night.

“Daddy. Daddy. Daddydaddydaddy. Watch me dance. Daddy, watch me dance. Are you watching me dance? Daddy STOP WATCHING ME DANCE!”

She went from zero to Bat-Shit within a single breath. That has to be some sort of a record.

My daughter will literally eat an entire hotdog while telling me how much she hates hotdogs. And my son is no better. He will only eat food cooked on the grill (not in the oven) and drink from a green cup. Sometimes I give him a blue cup just to watch him lose his shit.

I think there’s a clinical term for what my kids are. I read it in a parenting article once…what’s the phrase…oh yeah, it’s called FUCKING CRAZY!

One night, my daughter threw an unbelievable tantrum as she was going to bed. I kept trying to cover her up with a blanket, but she kept screaming, “No, like Cinderella!” then she’d kick the blanket off the bed and scream as if she was on fire. “Like Cinderella, like Cinderella, like Cinderella…!” After 45 minutes of her thrashing around my wife and I finally figured out that she wanted the blanket to be draped over her slowly by helpful little birds like in Cinderella.

Are you fucking kidding me? She wants me to train wild birds to tuck her in at night! Thanks Walt Disney. It wasn’t pretty when I explained the limitations of domesticating certain animals. She didn’t take it well.

A lot of people compare raising young children to hanging out with drug addicts, or alcoholics, or schizophrenics because of the irrational behavior and wild mood swings. I think those people aren’t giving drug addicts enough credit. Sure, they’ll take money from your purse when you’re not looking and often spread hepatitis, but not even Charlie Sheen on his worst bender would expect you to manipulate woodland creatures into becoming house servants. That’s a special kind of crazy reserved for three-year-olds.

People, please share the most unreasonable thing your child does so that I know I’m not alone in this world.

 

Here’s Something the Other Tour Guides Won’t Tell You

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When you have kids, people tell you a lot of things. Everyone tells you that you’re not going to sleep for at least a year. They tell you that kids are expensive, start saving for braces. They tell you that kids are finicky eaters. They tell you that tuition will cost $100,000 a year by the time your kid will be going to State. They tell you that you can kiss your hobbies goodbye. No more model trains or triathlons or furry porn…whatever you’re into, you won’t have time for it anymore. When you have kids, people tell you all kinds of things about how to get a baby to sleep, or how to transition from training wheels to a big boy bike.

But when you have kids, nobody bothers to tell you that one day, for no reason whatsoever, your kids will decide that they don’t want to look at doors anymore and will cover their eyes when approaching a door of any kind. The front door, the car door, the bathroom door at the mall… It will happen when you’re late for ballet. Or trying to get to church, or the bank before it closes. Maybe it’ll be a Tuesday or a Saturday, I don’t know, but it will happen and it will completely shut you down for 24 hours.

It’s tough enough to get my kids out the door on a good day, throw in “door-a-phobia” and suddenly, I’m operating way above my pay grade. My kids have a 70 percent success rate of walking through a door without suffering head trauma when they’re using all five senses. Take away sight and the success rate drops drastically. I can’t wait to try to explain this to DSS.

And forget trying to reason with your child. They’re three. There’s no reasoning with a three year old. You can bribe, but you can’t reason. And forget trying to ask your child why they suddenly can’t stand to look at a door anymore, because they’ll give an answer that goes something like this: “well, if I don’t want to look at doors anymore, then I don’t want to look at doors anymore.”

When you have kids, nobody tells you that those kids will do strange things, like try to lick you, or only eat orange food, or refuse to flush the toilet because they can’t bare to say goodbye to their poop, or suddenly decide that they don’t want to look at doors anymore.

When you have kids, nobody tells you that those kids will be weird.

Who’s the Boss?

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Like most three year olds, my kids have become rather bossy. They’re getting older, more independent, and more worldly. They’ve seen a thing or two. They know what’s up. They’re pushing four for Christ’s sake, and they know how spaghetti and meatballs should be made! They know how their jacket should be zipped, and they’ve got no problem with telling me I’m not doing it properly.

It would be less annoying of they weren’t usually right.

The other night, I reached into the fridge for my third beer of the evening. My daughter cocked her head and, somehow channeling both my mother and my wife, said, “you’re having another beer, daddy?”

It wasn’t a question, it was an accusation.

Last week, we were headed to the park to meet some friends for soccer. It was one of those rare, warm winter days and everyone in the neighborhood was hell bent on making the most of it. We live less than a mile from the park, on low-traffic roads, so I loaded the kids into the bike trailer. It was a quick trip, so I didn’t think it was necessary for the kids to wear their helmets, but my son refused to leave the yard until I dug his helmet out of the back of the car. “Safety first, daddy.”

Addie has taken her bossiness to a whole new level, appointing herself to the role of my anger management coach. Like all stay at home dads, I’m prone to fits of rage. Someone, please tell me how you keep from seeing red when it takes an hour and fifty seven minutes to get a pair of shoes on a child? By the time I get that second shoe on, the kid has already taken the first shoe off and hidden the sock somewhere in the basement. Even Buddha would lose his shit, right?

Whenever I go into one of my tirades and threaten to melt every single toy the kids own in the chiminea my daughter looks me directly in the eye and says, “daddy, don’t be so angry. When you’re angry, you act like Captain Hook. I don’t like Captain Hook.”

Her logic is completely disarming. Not to mention those cute pigtails.

The whole situation has left me wondering who’s parenting who in my house.

I always thought that if my life was an ‘80s family sitcom, I’d be the unrefined but wise Tony Danza character: Unconventional, but good hearted and with a natural instinct for right and wrong. Tony Danza is the voice of reason in a topsy-turvy world. But it turns out, my kids are Tony Danza, which makes me what, Alyssa Milano? I’m certainly not the ambitious, work-focused mother. Wait, am I the oversexed grandma?

If my kids ever figure out how to turn on the TV by themselves, I’ll be completely out of a job.

 

Drink of the Week: Mother Earth Endless River

Brewed in tiny Kinston, N.C. at Mother Earth Brewing, Endless River is a super light  German kolsch style ale. It’s tasty enough to get excited about, but light enough to drink all day long. Get a small cooler, ice, and a six pack of Endless River and spend your entire Saturday in your front yard, drinking the bottles slowly while you knock out last minute Fall home projects, like painting your brand new fence cliché white. Normally, painting a fence sucks, which is why you’ve put it off so long. But today, you’ve got beer, and more importantly, the kids aren’t your responsibility. Because you’re painting the fence. Getting shit done. You can hear them screaming inside the house (something about wanting the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into circles, not triangles), but that’s not your problem today. Your spouse is on tantrum duty. Because you’re painting the fence. Monotonous tasks never felt so relaxing. It’s like a little vacation. Put the headphones in. Have another Endless River.

Independence Day

How do you work Maxim magazine, public urination, and 3am donut runs into the same essay? You write about toddler independence–that golden period in a kid’s life when she figures out she can do things for herself, but has no idea about the consequences of eating carbs after 7pm…or public nudity.

Check out my latest blog at Breathe Magazine. And before you ask–no, my kids didn’t suddenly become two cute Asian girls. Although I think the new iPhone 5 has an app for that.