My Little Imagineers (For the Record, I Prefer Bennett’s Ride)

TowerOfTerrorBennett: “Daddy, when I grow up, I’m going to build a ride for Disney World.”

Me: “That’s great. What kind of ride?”

Bennett: “It’ll be for babies.”

Me: “Good idea. They don’t have a lot of rides for babies. And what will it be?”

Bennett: “A Tower of Terror.”

Me: “Hmm… OK. Well, what are you going to call it?”

Bennett: “The Baby Tower of Terror.”

Me: “How is it going to be different from the regular Tower of Terror?”

Bennett: “It’s not.”

Me: “It’ll be just as tall?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “And just as dark?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “Don’t you think babies will be scared?”

Bennett: “Nope, because it’s for babies.”

minniemouseSutton: “I’m going to make a ride called Minnie’s Fashion Bow Ride.”

Me: “What happens in your ride?”

Sutton: “You ride in a bow and you see all of Minnie’s bows and beautiful dresses.”

Me: “How long does this ride last?”

Sutton: “15 or 20 hours.”

Our Disney Visit, in Pictures

FamilySelfieThe response to my Disney post has really blown me away. I’ve heard from so many cast members, many of whom have shared my post and all of whom have been astonishingly nice and complimentary. There have even been a few who remember my family from our trip! It’s never fun to come back from vacation, but all of you helped keep the magic going for a few more days, so thanks.

To everyone who read the post, I want to say a couple of things. One, many people wanted to make sure I know that Disney treats everyone as well as they treated my family. It’s their goal to make us all feel special. That couldn’t make me happier. I’d love to think that everyone who goes to Disney World has as wonderful a vacation as we did.

Two, the Fairy Godmother I wrote about is apparently well-known for being extra awesome. That makes me happy, too, because she definitely deserves the recognition. If you go to Orlando, make sure you pay her a visit.

Since people seemed to connect so well with that post, I figured I’d share a few more photos and anecdotes from our trip. Some of them have already appeared on my Facebook page, but I think they’re worth reposting here. Continue reading

5 More Secrets I Keep From My Kids

ShhHey guys. It’s Daddy again. Remember that post I wrote about the 10 biggest secrets I keep from you? Of course not! I only shared that with everyone except you. (Oh, and did we have some good chuckles about it, too!)

Well, it turns out, Daddy’s full of secrets, and since you still can’t read or use the internet, I’m ready to spill a few more. Yes, go on playing Legos. Just grown-ups talking here. Nothing you’d be interested in…

1. None of your friends nap anymore.

naptimeIt’s true. I’ve talked to all their parents, and they’re stunned that Daddy and I are still making you lie down for an hour every day at four years old. Their kids would never do that, they tell me. I usually leave out what a struggle it is to get you to follow through, and how every day I consider putting an end to nap time. But even our constant fighting over the nap is better than a day without naps — and I don’t mean for you.

I always say you have to nap because you get too cranky when you don’t, but the truth is, that doesn’t compare with how cranky it makes me. You may hate your naps, but I really, really like them. You might be ready to give them up, but I’m not. So until you learn the timeless childhood art of pleading, “But Jimmy’s parents don’t make him nap!”, you’re stuck with a daily snooze.

Seriously, kid. Start comparing notes. Jimmy’s got it a lot better than you do. A LOT.

2. Most of your artwork is garbage.

garbageOK, that sounds a bit harsh, but don’t take it too hard. I only mean it literally. As in, that’s where I put most of it. In the trash.

You know that picture you drew just for me, that you worked so hard on, that I swore was a masterpiece I would cherish forever? Well, five seconds after you went to bed, I crumpled it up and buried it deep, deep in the kitchen garbage can so you would never find it.

I know you won’t remember it tomorrow, and frankly, you make me way too many masterpieces, more than I can ever hang on the refrigerator or even store in an archive. I know you were especially proud of that dog dragon you drew me, but frankly, it wasn’t your best work. Sure, I took a picture of it before I dumped old coffee grounds and that half-eaten cup of yogurt on top of it, but don’t expect it to show up as my desktop wallpaper or anything.

Oh, and when we moved, Daddy and I threw away about five garbage bags full of your stuffed animals. You know why you didn’t notice? Because of the ten garbage bags full that we kept. Many of the things you love are garbage to us. I like that you have enough love in your heart to spread out among every crappy plush knickknack you take home from the Everybody Wins booth at the carnival, but the space in your heart is bigger than the space in our house, so some things just have to go.

3. We’re Going to Disney World!!!

You know how you’re constantly asking us if we can go to Disney World, and we respond, “Maybe someday”? Well, guess what, suckers? Someday is coming next February. We made the reservations, booked our flights, requested time off from work, reserved a dinner with Cinderella and even bought those Secret Guide to Disney books so we can make this the most awesome trip of your childhood. If you think we’re telling you about it anytime soon, though, you’re crazy. We planned this trip six months ahead of time.  Do you know how long that is in kid years? Of course not, and that’s the point. But in grown-up years, it’s six months of “Is today the day? Is today the day?”, and Daddy ain’t havin’ that.

Oh, and don’t take this to mean that “maybe someday” is always code for yes. When you ask us for a puppy, “Maybe someday” is our way of ending the conversation. But that one’s a definite no. Not someday, not ever. Sorry.

4. If I ever played a game against you at my full ability, I would whoop your sorry ass.

See anything you need? Oh, come on!

See anything you need? Oh, come on!

You really think you could beat me on a race to the tree and back? I know I’m not Jesse Owens, kid, but seriously, if I ran as fast as I could, I would mop up the front yard with you. The same goes for when we play Zingo, that kiddie version of Bingo you love so much. There are only nine squares on the board, but when Kite comes up, I’ll sit and wait like two whole minutes for you to realize you have Kite in your center square.

Hello! I have two kites on my board, but I’m not going to swipe that tile away from you, because I guess the whole point of this is to get you to learn about image recognition or spatial relationships or something. I don’t know what the point is, but whatever it is, it’s something I already know. I don’t need the validation, so I’m going to let you have it. Let’s just move it along, OK?

Honestly, though, the bigger secret is that sometimes you win fair and square. Want to know how to tell the difference? When I’m smiling, that means I let you win. If you actually earned your victory, you’ll notice me quietly giving you the stink eye.

5. When daddy and I spell things, we’re usually talking about you.

In fact, we’re usually talking about either nap time, Disney World, how I smoked you at Zingo or how soon we can throw something of yours away after you go to bed. I don’t know what we’re going to do when you guys learn to spell, because Daddy and I have really come to rely on our secret code. Maybe we’ll start learning Russian or something.

*****

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Who is Funny, According to Sutton

funnycup“Daddy, some people are funny, and some people are serious. Daddy’s funny.”

“Am I funny?”

“No. You’re serious.”

“Are you funny?”

“Yes.”

“Is Bennett funny?”

“Yes.”

“So I’m the only serious one?”

“Yes.”

“What about your teacher?”

“She’s serious.”

“Oh, good. So it’s not just me.”

“But sometimes she’s funny.”

“Am I funny sometimes?”

“No.”

“Who else is funny?”

“Um… the cup.”

“The cup is funnier than me?!”

“Can I play with the iPad now?”

An Open Letter to the Muppets, From a Little Girl and Her Dad

Rockin'_RobinDear Muppets,

One of the best things about having kids is getting to introduce them to the things you loved when you were young. One of the worst comes when they don’t see those things quite the way you always did.

I was really excited this morning when my 4-year-old son, Bennett, raced up to me to say he’d just seen the greatest YouTube video ever — and it starred the Muppets! I love the Muppets! I’ve even written about them before on this blog! Bennett started describing it to me in his adorably excitable way.

“Daddy, you won’t believe what they were sitting on… BRANCHES! Isn’t that CRAAAAZY? And there were BIRDS! They were going, ‘Tweet, tweet!’”

“Wait a second, dude,” I said, in my older, excitable way. “Was this song called ‘Rockin’ Robin’?”

“YES!!!”

“I REMEMBER THAT!!!”

“WOW!!!”

“LET’S WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!!!”

“OK!!!”

I grabbed Bennett’s twin sister, Sutton, and the three of us ran to the iPad. As the video played, Bennett and I giggled and sang along. Sutton just watched.

“Daddy,” she said, about halfway through, “there aren’t a lot of girl Muppets.”

Cue the record scratch here.

I’m not going to pretend that this was news to me. Sure, everyone knows Miss Piggy, and any true Muppet fan is aware of Janice, who in fact, sings lead vocals on “Rockin’ Robin.” Other than her, though, it was a total sausage factory on those branches, the same way it is in the Muppet Theater, the Muppet movies, the Muppet TV specials and everything else Muppet-related.

camilla

The 3rd most popular “girl Muppet”

Think about it. After Miss Piggy and Janice, what other female Muppets are there? Camilla the chicken?

I don’t want to play up this moment too much. It’s not like my daughter burst into tears or stormed away declaring she didn’t like the Muppets anymore. She was just making an observation. And that is exactly why I’m so upset.

At 4 years old, my daughter has already figured out that sometimes, there just aren’t a lot of girls. Some people create entire realms of characters where women are an afterthought or a token, where one or two females can represent every feminine characteristic they intend to portray. The boys come in endless varieties, each with their own lovable quirks. There’s Kermit, the avuncular optimist, Fozzie, the goofy vaudevillian, Swedish Chef, the, well, Swedish Chef… and then there’s Miss Piggy, the girl.

What really hurts about this is how otherwise inclusive the Muppets are. Muppets come in all shapes and species, all colors of the rainbow, some have different accents or dress in a unique way. The only blind spot the Muppets seem to have is the one that covers, you know, roughly half of the entire world’s population — and 100% of my daughter.

I realize this isn’t a new thing. The Muppets have always been a boys’ club. What’s changed, of course, is that I have a daughter now, and I want her to feel as welcome and included in this fun little fantasy world as I do.

suttonanddolls

Sutton and 1/1,000,000,000th of her stuffed animal collection

I could very easily steer her toward other pop culture choices. Believe me, she knows about princesses and Strawberry Shortcake, properties that were created specifically for her gender and where girl characters typically outnumber boys. But she wants to like the Muppets, and I want to share them with her without her feeling like she needs to sit on the sidelines while her brother and I geek out over their videos.

The Children’s Television Workshop has done a good job of integrating new female characters, like Abby Cadabby, Zoe and Rosita. There’s no reason the Muppets (who are owned by Disney and operate as a separate entity) can’t do the same.

Come on, Disney. This is on you. I know you know how to market things to little girls, so let’s get on this, OK?

I am not wagging a finger at you so much as I am waving dollar bills in your face. My son owns about half a dozen stuffed animals, including Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo. My daughter owns about nine squijillion. Many of them are your characters. If you make some new girl Muppets, we will buy the toys. We will buy the original doll, we will buy the “young” version of the doll, we will buy the Classic Animator edition of the doll, the Barbie version of the doll, the pillow pet of the doll, the miniature figurine of the doll. The last time I counted, I believe Sutton had six Rapunzels, and she’s never even sat all the way through Tangled. Whatever you churn out and squeeze onto the shelves of the Disney Store, we will charge on our Disney credit card and take home with us. You will have us on the hook for years and years, for hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars.

What I am begging you for is the opportunity to make you considerably richer. If that’s not win-win, I don’t know what is.

Look, I realize my timing is terrible. The next Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, comes out in March, and from what I’ve seen, it’s just as testosterone-heavy as all the other Muppet films. No new girl Muppets, although there is Tina Fey — who, by the way, I’m pretty sure will be with me on this.

It's almost like one of those Pictureka pictures, where the goal is to find two women before the time runs out.

It’s almost like one of those Pictureka pictures, where the goal is to find two female characters before the time runs out.

Maybe you can squeeze in a few reshoots or CGI in Beaker’s mom or something. Bring back Skeeter if you want to. I’m not picky. At the very least, you’re probably in development on the next Muppet movie after this one. (I hope so. I hope there are a hundred more Muppet movies on the way, ones both my kids will want to see with me.)

If you’re still in need of ideas, here’s one for you. After we watched the video this morning, I told Sutton she should create her own girl Muppet. Then at preschool, that’s exactly what she did. When I picked her up at the end of the day, she couldn’t wait to show me her drawing. Her name is Rosada.

EPSON MFP image

Rosada, according to Sutton, is nice, quiet and as smart as a bug. She likes Milano cookies, her shoes and her bag that her mother got her. She is not a ladybug.

A four-year-old came up with this. What have you got?

Sincerely,

Jerry Mahoney

The Two Stages of Grief (for Preschoolers)

Sutton and Matilda

Sutton and Matilda

We did a little bit of bargaining in the wake of my daughter’s fish’s death – if that’s what you’d call it when we offered to get her a new fish, and five seconds later she was thinking up names for it. Other than that, my kids skipped right over denial, anger and depression and went straight to acceptance.

This morning, we brought home Sutton’s new fish, Matilda, named after her favorite book, musical and second-favorite movie (behind James and the Giant Peach). Before we’d even transferred Matilda into her permanent tank, Sutton was thinking up names for the next fish she’d get after Matilda died. (The current front-runner for the next fish’s name: Sutton). Then, Bennett started thinking up names for the fish he’d get after his current fish, Sulley, died. (Current front-runner: Bennett).

Drew and I tried to keep the conversation about fish, but it didn’t take long before the kids made the connection that people die, too.

“Someday, I’m going to die,” Bennett announced. He sounded almost happy about it, like he was just pleased to be included in something that had been such a big topic of conversation for us. Little did he know he was uttering my worst fear out loud.

“Not for a long time,” we assured him. “A long, long, long, long, long, long, long [I actually think we're still saying 'long'] time.”

Sutton took it a step further. “Someday, Roald Dahl is going to die,” she said.

“He already did, actually. Quite a few years ago.”

“Oh. Well, I think he left some stories for after he died.”

“Yeah, that’s the nice thing about when people die. They always leave behind wonderful things for us, whether it’s their books or the memories they gave to all the people who loved them.”

There’s something both wonderful and incredibly disturbing about seeing my kids so at peace with death. I know they don’t fully understand what they’re talking about, and that’s part of what makes me so uncomfortable. I’m torn between changing the subject and shaking them violently and screaming, “Death is everywhere, and it’s permanent and horrible and it’s coming for all of us and sometimes, it’s all I think about! Fear death! Fear death!”

But I calm myself down, acknowledge what they say and try to move on, because they’re still processing what happened, and for now at least, I’m the one who has a problem with it, not them. It’s probably the right course to take, but it does require me and Drew to have our guts ripped out over and over from the things they come up with. Like this gem, from Bennett, which I typed down verbatim after he said it:

“The day before I die, I’m going to say goodbye to you guys and I’m going to do a happy dance and then I’m going to die and you’re going to drive me to the cemetery.”

I hear things like that coming from my 4-year-old’s mouth and wonder how I can go on. Then I realize what beautiful and amazing kids I have, and I picture my son doing his happy dance, and once again, I’ve forgotten about death and I’m thinking about life instead.

Not All Fish Die. Right, Daddy?

sullyanddolos2There’s something particularly disturbing about being on vacation with your family, getting a cell phone call and looking down and seeing that it’s coming from your house.

In this case, it was our cleaning lady, and she had some bad news.

“Jerry, Sutton’s fish is dead,” she told me, sadly. We’d left a 7-day gradual-release food pellet in his tank to cover our absence, but either something had gone wrong with it or it was just his time to go. She graciously offered to run out to the pet store and buy a replacement for us. Drew and I talked it over, then decided we’d handle the arrangements when we got home.

Thanks to some advice I got on Facebook, we decided to be honest with the kids. We also decided to wait until vacation was over.

We managed to put it out of our minds for the rest of the week, unsure how our sensitive, loving little girl would handle her first direct experience with death. Tonight, as we pulled into our driveway, I started to feel sick. It was time to face it.

I can’t claim that my fear of death is more intense than anyone else’s. You all think about it pretty much every single second, right? Right?? I’ve written before how worried I am about my kids finding out about it. Death is one thing I can’t protect them from. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t plan to tell them about Heaven or Nirvana or the idea that hey, things are actually even better when you die!

Death happens. It sucks. Everything else is a mystery.

It’s taken me 42 years to achieve that much acceptance of death, and I’m still terrified of it, of all the ways it could strike me, my family or anyone else I love, at any freaking time.

Bennett named his fish Sulley, after the character from Monsters, Inc. Sutton called hers Dolos, because… well, who the hell knows. After her phase of naming all her dolls Sutton, she’d moved onto a stage where she made up the most batshit names her little mind could concoct.

Punaniñas

Popocitas

Aliberias

Gatsos

Aspatilia

I don’t know why so many of them sounded Spanish. I’m sure I’ll find out someday that these are all the names of Dora’s woodland friends or something. Until then, I’m going to keep believing she’s some kind of twisted genius.

We didn’t wait long after we got home before we took her in the room and showed her the fishtank. I really think this was the right thing to do. It was pretty obvious from looking at Dolos’ belly-up body that he’d changed, that he was gone.

“Dolos died, Honey,” we explained.

She started to tear up. Through sniffles, she asked, “Can I still feed him tonight?”

“No. He doesn’t need to eat any more.”

“Do you want to go to the pet store tomorrow, so we can replace him?” Drew asked.

She smiled, instantly happy again. “Yes!” Then, she calmed down and asked, “What does replace mean?”

Bennett got choked up, too. We all moved into the bathroom, where we reenacted the Cosby Show fish funeral scene as well as I could remember it.

“Do you know what a funeral is?” I asked the kids. “When someone dies, we gather to remember them and talk about how much we love them.” I suggested we all say something we loved about Dolos. “I’ll go first. I loved how colorful he was.”

Sutton hung her head. “I loved watching him swim.”

A minute later, we flushed him. I’m not sure anyone was as emotional as I was, because I couldn’t focus much on them. I was too busy thinking of all the other funerals I’d been to, of everyone I’d cared about who’d died and of all the funerals my kids would go to in their lives. Of mine, someday, who knows when.

I gathered the kids for one more memorial. They’ve been really fond of the movie version of “James and the Giant Peach” lately. We’d watched it in the car on our way home from the trip. They knew all the words to all the songs, and through them, I had come to as well. I realized the movie provided a perfect elegy for our departed pet, so I played the song “Family” on my iPhone, and we all sat silently and listened to it.

“Do you kids want to play with the iPad now?” I asked when the song ended.

“Yeah!” they shouted. And that was the end of our funeral.

At dinner, the topic came up again. “Not all fish die, right, Daddy?” Sutton asked.

“No, they all die eventually.”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Only some fish die.”

“Sulley is never going to die!” Bennett said.

“No, Sulley will die, too,” I told him. “But we hope it won’t be for a long time. That’s why it’s important to show him how much we love him while he’s here.”

As we tucked Sutton into bed a few hours later, still unsure how much she understood about death, she got sad again for a moment. “Daddy, do you know who died?” she said. “My fish, Dolos.”

“I know, Honey.”

She thought for a second. “And do you know what’s another word for burp? Belch. Just like you have around your waist.”

“No, Honey, that’s a belt.”

“Oh.”

“Good night, sweetheart. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Daddy.”

(l-r) Awesome, Cool, Hilarious Daddy; Daddy

My Two Daddies… The Awesome, Cool, Hilarious Daddy, and the Other One

(l-r) Awesome, Cool, Hilarious Daddy; Daddy

(l-r) Awesome, Cool, Hilarious Daddy; Daddy

There was nothing I wanted to inherit from my father more than the name “Dad.” I loved my dad, and in my mind, he was indelibly tied to that particular sobriquet. “Dad” was a term of love and respect for me, a part of all my memories of childhood and a crucial element of how I defined my family. The problem, when I actually became a dad, was that my partner Drew wanted to be called “Dad,” too — or, in the early years, “Daddy.”

“You can’t both be Dad,” a million people warned us. “That’ll be so confusing for your kids.”

They suggested we go by “Daddy” and “Papa,” which seem to be the go-to designations for gay dads these days. No matter how much we considered it, though, “Papa” felt like the consolation prize, and neither of us would agree to settle for it. We both grew up with dads whom we loved very much, so that’s what we wanted to be. Finally, we found someone who gave us the answer we were looking for.

“We’ve never had a problem,” a business associate of Drew’s told us one day. He and his partner had an eight-year-old son who called them both “Dad.”

“Is it ever confusing?”

He shrugged. “When it is, he finds ways to differentiate.”

So we went for it. Before they could even understand speech, our twins heard the word “Daddy” thousands of times. To them, “Daddy” came to mean two different men and one common function. They called for Daddy to kiss their boo-boos and to break up their disputes, not knowing for sure whether the tall guy or the short guy would walk through the door. When they didn’t get the Daddy they were hoping for, they made their displeasure known.

My kids will turn 4 this summer, and already, they’re pros at differentiating between their two dads. Their favorite way is to use modifiers like “Silly Daddy” or “Funny Daddy”, and in those cases, we all know instantly who they mean — not me. When they take the extra effort to throw in a compliment like that, they’re always talking about Drew. I’m just plain old “Daddy.” Some days, Papa doesn’t sound so bad to me anymore.

I want to plead my case: “Remember when I sang Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’, but I changed every word to ‘poop’? Didn’t we have a lot of laughs then?” But I don’t want to end up as “Desperate Daddy,” so I keep my hurt feelings to myself.

I’m the stay-home parent, so while the kids and I do have fun together, I’m also the guy who enforces naptime and who makes them take off their dress-up clothes while they eat their healthy dinners. At night, when Silly Daddy is at his most uproarious, I’m groaning and trying to rush them to bed, because I’m exhausted from all the unfunny things I do all day.

… which brings me to the one distinction that hurts more than Silly Daddy vs. Just Daddy. At some point, my kids started calling my partner “The Daddy Who Goes To Work” and I became “The Daddy Who Stays Home”. Was that how they saw things? Drew was defined by his job, but I was defined by my location, by the fact that you could usually find me within 20 feet of the bed where I slept last night?

These kids didn’t know me before I was Daddy. I used to have a career, too, one that I enjoyed, and that allowed me to live a lot more comfortably than I do now. I took vacations. I saved for my retirement. I saw movies in the theater.

I thought I was trading that in for something better, a more interesting and adventurous life path. I was going to be a dad — a professional dad — and a gay dad at that. Take that, status quo!

Instead, I’ve ended up like most stay-home parents, the clichéd unappreciated house-spouse. I’ll find myself cracking privately to friends, “You know what they should be calling me? The Daddy Who Gave Up His Life for Us!”

It turns out that deciding who I would be to my kids wasn’t as simple as choosing what they would call me. I still love being referred to as “Daddy,” but I’ve come to accept that that term doesn’t mean the same to them as it did to me when I was growing up. For my kids, “Daddy” is an ever-evolving designation, one that requires adjustment at times, complete overhaul at others.

Recently, they decided that “The Daddy Who Stays Home” wasn’t quite working for them anymore. Without notice, they gave it a subtle twist, one that probably seemed minor to them but which brought me instantly out of my funk. It materialized as my daughter drew pictures of two men’s faces, which looked very similar except that one had spiky purple hair and one had a red crew cut. “This is the Daddy Who Goes to Work,” she said, pointing to the first one.

“And this,” she said, holding up the other picture proudly, “is the Daddy Who Takes Care of Us.”

"The Daddy Who Takes Care of Us"

“The Daddy Who Takes Care of Us”

*****

OK, you saw the asterisks. You know what that means. This is the part of the post where I shamelessly ask you to share this post (or my blog in general) on your social networks. Facebook me, tweet me, surprise me. If you like something I wrote here, help me out by spreading the word. If you hate it, then you can still share it, because hey, traffic is traffic, and your friends might have better taste than you. Also, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and wherever else you can find me. I’m not the type of guy who plays hard to find.

birthdaycake

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

birthdaycakeYou want to make a 3 1/2-year-old laugh? Tell them you’re turning 42.

My kids are convinced I’m screwing with them.

“How old do you think I am, guys?”

They’ll think for a minute. “4?”

They’ve heard of kids who are 6 or even — gasp — 7, but they can’t imagine an age as big as 42. It wasn’t until very recently that I could imagine turning 42 myself, like in the last few weeks. When I was a kid, I used to imagine myself in high school, or in college… and that was about it. In part, it’s because I was convinced back then that there would be a nuclear war that would, at best, leave me hairlessly wandering a scorched hellscape where age had no relevance. So at least we dodged that bullet.

But today’s the day. I’ve lived 42 years on this planet. Laugh if you must.

In my head, I haven’t changed much from when I was a teenager. I still have a lot of the same insecurities and fears. I still judge myself by the aspirations I had when I was 16, even though I’m nothing like the person I was then. I want to smack that kid, seriously.

And I don’t believe that bullshit that you’re as young as you feel. I’m 42. Check my driver’s license and you’ll see.

I’ve given up on being celebrated for my youth. I was never on anybody’s list of Top 20 Under 20 or Top 30 Under 30, and nobody does a list of the Top 43 Under 43, so screw it all to Hell.

I’m not trying to say that I feel bad about getting older. What do I look like? Some kind of asshole?

Whenever I actually feel bad about getting older, I try to remember two people. One is Future Jerry. Future Jerry is a guy who means a lot to me, and he hates when I call myself “old”, because Future Jerry is always going to be older than I am. “You think you’re old now?” he says to me. “Just wait!”

I’ve been as guilty of prematurely feeling old as everyone else. I think back now on how I felt when I turned 30, with a mixture of disbelief and dread. How could I ever have thought 30 was old? I was so lucky to be 30. Then I realize that someday, I’m going to feel that way about being 42. And by then, maybe we’ll have invented time travel, so I can actually travel back in time and smack myself. 42 is a whippersnapper by many people’s standards. Why wait until it’s gone to appreciate it? I’m 42. Yeehaw!

The other person I try to think of when I fear growing older is Heather O’Rourke. You may not remember her name, but she’s the little girl who said, “They’re heeeeeeeere!” in Poltergeist. Then in Poltergeist 2, she said, “They’re baaaaaaaack!” Then, while she was filming Poltergeist 3, she died.

Bummer, huh? Heather O’Rourke lived to be 12 years old. That’s it. That’s as far as she got, and you know what she says to me from inside my television whenever I complain about turning 42?

heatherorourke“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooou!”

Heather O’Rourke never learned to drive. Never got to waste six years of her life watching Lost. And she never got to whine about turning 42. She has my permission to complain about her age.

Then, if I’m feeling really morbid, I think about the billions of others who never made it as far as she did and never got to meet Steven Spielberg either.

There are places on this planet where the average life expectancy is 12, and here in America, people blush and insist they’re still 29 because they’re embarrassed to say how old they really are. Embarrassed? You should be wearing a freaking badge. “I made it to 50!” You’d be the envy of everyone in Zambia.

Age is a gift. That’s why we don’t count backwards from death. Well, that and the fact that we don’t know when we’re going to die, and that’s another reason to appreciate the time we get. Every birthday I make it to signifies one more year I didn’t get run over by a truck or get cancer, that I wasn’t killed by some asshole’s homemade bomb or didn’t fall victim to depression, drugs or alcohol abuse. It’s one more year I got to play XBox, waste money on sneakers endorsed by professional skateboarders and watch my kids learn to sass me with increasing cleverness.

After they’re done laughing at me, my kids will ask, “Am I going to be 42 someday?”

“Yes,” I say, and then I’ll think to myself, “… if you’re lucky.”

42 years. Happy birthday to me.

*****

Hey, you know what makes a great birthday present? When you like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and/or subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the upper right corner of the page. (No solicitations, I promise. You just get an email every time I post something new. It’s like a birthday gift for YOU!)

Shamelessly yours,

Jerry

5 Ways My Kids Have It Better — and My New Twitter Account!

kidshaveitbetterMy new post at Lifetime Moms was inspired by the last time my kids got sick. It was awful, of course, because it’s always awful when kids are sick. But it wasn’t nearly as awful as it was supposed to be, because their medicine came in delicious candy flavors. (I guess someone at the drug companies finally took Mary Poppins to heart.)

It was a relief to me as a parent, because who wants to deal with giving their kids medicine? But as a former kid, I was kind of pissed off. Lucky little squirts don’t know how good they have it! So I came up with a few other ways my kids are living the sweet life, at the risk of being labeled a grumpy old man. Check the Lifetime Moms site to read the whole thing.

And as always, if you have any of your own to add, leave me a comment over there.

Also, I’ve started a second twitter account, @MommyManBlog. In theory, it’s going to be the place where I post anything specific to the blog, so it’ll be lighter on my personal “jokes” and observations. (I’ll still link my blog posts on both accounts, though. I’m no slacker when it comes to self-promotion.)

If you want to choose one to follow, stick with @WhyJerryWhy. That won’t be changing. The big difference is that I’m going to follow all the @MommyManBlog followers back. I’ve seen enough of these “I follow back!” people to wonder if I’m the douchebag who’s been twittering wrong all this time, because I’ve tried to keep my feed to a level I can actually keep up with.

So now I have one feed I’ll actually keep up with and one where I just follow whoever is nice enough to give me a follow. Hey, I get it. I like getting that “new follower” email notification, too.

I started writing a whole blog post about my impressions of Twitter etiquette, but I decided to scrap it, because trust me, that one really made me sound like a grumpy old man.