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.”

SupremeCourtJustices

How to Talk to Kids About the Supreme Court Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage?

Image

Yes, that’s a question mark at the end of that post title. Anyone have any ideas?

When news broke that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, I’m sure a lot of straight parents were stumped about how to discuss the subject with their kids. In the past, I’ve had a lot of sympathy for straight parents who wanted to explain gay parents like me and my partner to their kids. Well, this is one instance in which I say to straight parents, you’ve got it easy. For you, it’s as simple as, “They decided everyone should be treated equally. Hooray!”

As a gay dad, though, I need to have the exact opposite conversation. Before I can tell my kids how great it is that we’re now considered equal, I first have to explain why we weren’t equal to begin with. Our kids have always known that couples come in all varieties of gender combinations — woman/woman, man/man, man/woman, lady/tramp. What they don’t know — and gratefully, are still too young to understand — is that not all of those groups feel comfortable sharing plates of spaghetti in public.

ImageI wrote in a Lifetime Moms post how I don’t want to tell my daughter she can do anything boys can do, because, y’know, duh. Since I wrote that post, there have been a couple of times she’s heard from other people that girls can’t do something, and I’ve had to let her know that those people are horribly wrong, and also just plain horrible. As a result, my extremely girly little girl swears she’s going to be a construction worker when she grows up. Success.

I’ve always felt pretty much the same way about homophobia that I did about sexism: I’ll wait for the kids to encounter it, and then it’ll seem as bizarre and unfounded to them as it should.

Luckily, that plan has served me well so far, because my kids have yet to experience any direct homophobia. All of my fears about parents refusing to set up playdates with us, schools turning us away or landlords refusing to rent to us have been, so far, unfounded. There are the occasional moments we get some extra attention because we have two dads in our family, so my kids briefly get to feel like celebrities. But no one’s thrown any rocks through our windows or given us any negative attention. For the most part, we get treated exactly the way I want to be treated.

It’s not that I don’t want my kids to know about homophobia. It’s just that I’m not sure they’d believe me.

SupremeCourtJusticesThat may be the best part about being a gay parent, that my kids are the only people I’ve ever known who I didn’t have to come out to, who didn’t know about or assume the shame and fear I grew up with. To them, I’m just “Dad”, and the fact that I love “Other Dad” isn’t just natural and wonderful, it’s a fundamental part of their world view.

So, sure, I want to tell my kids about the Supreme Court’s ruling. I want them to see all the people celebrating and all the couples like their dads who are now getting married. There’s just no way they’d appreciate what a big deal it is and no way to do it without exposing them, just a tiny bit, to exactly the thing I’ve been trying to protect them from. I don’t want my kids to feel like victims, and I don’t want them to think they have to be fighters, either. I just want them to be themselves, and so far, they’re doing an awesome job of that.

This is undoubtedly an historical moment, but I’ve decided this is one bit of history they can wait to learn about until their high school history class, because the world the Supreme Court just brought us one step closer to, is one my kids already live in.

*****

If you made it this far, why not go further… like by leaving me a comment? Or maybe sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Digg or Glakk (c’mon, you know there’s gotta be a Glakk). And you can make me even happier by subscribing to the blog in the box on the upper-right hand corner of the page, liking me on Facebook and/or following me on Twitter. [End of shameless self-promotion. Now seriously, how do I invest in Glakk?]

5 Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day… Minus the Mom

othersdaymugI had a great chat with my kids’ teacher yesterday about how to handle Mother’s Day. (She actually raised the topic with me, so she gets an A+ in my book.) I told her in our family, we celebrate Special Aunts Day, so she’ll be directing our kids’ craft projects toward their surrogate and egg donor and letting the other kids know that there are many different types of families. Have I mentioned how much I love my kids’ school?

Like I said, though, there are many different types of families, so what we’ve chosen to do isn’t going to work for everyone. Therefore, I wrote a new Lifetime Moms post with a few different suggestions for people whose family may not fit the Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) mold but who want some ideas for how they can join in the celebration. I hope it’s helpful.

You can check out the Lifetime Moms post here, and if you have any suggestions of your own, please leave a comment.

My Son is Special

bennettmonalisaI had originally planned to call this post, “Shameless Boasts of a Superdad: My Kids Are Freaking Geniuses,” because any parent knows that their #1 responsibility in raising their children is to brag about them, even when privately the kids are driving them close to a nervous breakdown. Not my kids, of course. Other people’s. So I’ve heard.

My kids really are geniuses, and I was going to lay out all the evidence in this post so you could decide for yourself if I had a couple of Stephen Hawkings on my hands or merely Einsteins. I was going to lead the whole thing off with this picture:

solarbennett

That’s Bennett completing a puzzle of the solar system, for the first time, by himself, without looking at the box. Um, yeah. And he was 3 years, 4 months old when this was taken. Did I mention he had no idea what the solar system even was? (He does now. He’s learned a lot in the last 4 months.)

As I started composing the post in my head, though, I had an “Uh-oh” moment. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Some people might see this a little differently.”

See, a few months ago, I put up a post that showed Bennett doing one of his favorite activities, lining up whatever objects he has handy and imagining them as trains. I thought it showed a pretty creative mind, or at the very least, a snapshot of a little boy who really liked trains.

Most people did see it that way, but there was a minority that wrote with concern. It turns out a nagging attention to detail and repetitive behavior can be red flags in kids this age.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had those fears myself. Who doesn’t? We all know there’s an epidemic, and early intervention is key, so any half-aware parent is going to take note of their kid’s unusual behavior.

The problem is, everything about my kid is unusual.

eyerollWhen Bennett was a baby, he started doing this thing where he would roll his eyes back in his head. It could’ve been a neurological tic, but I swear it seemed more like a sarcastic eye-roll. His timing with deploying it was impeccable. It really seemed like he was mocking me, which I loved. But he was way too young for that… wasn’t he?

Bennett also has a very mechanical mind. He loves toys that turn when you move a crank. He loves to check out all their moving parts. One day, Drew was running on the treadmill, and Bennett got down on the floor to inspect it. “It goes around!” he said, in a eureka moment. “You’re not moving!” At 3, he understands that a constantly rotating belt is what makes a treadmill work. Personally, if you’d asked me, my first guess would’ve been “magic”.

Bennett also likes to wear his sister’s dresses. He was planning to be Thomas the Train for Halloween, but at the last minute, he changed his mind and went as Sleeping Beauty. He’s told me that when he grows up, he plans to marry a boy. Other times, he says he’s going to marry his sister or one of his daddies. (And yes, it stings when he picks the other daddy over me. “Why, Bennett? Don’t you think I can provide for you?”) On a side note, it’s nice living at a time and in a state where my son can tell me he wants to marry a boy someday, and I can respond with a simple, “Okay!”

Again, some people want to put labels on these behaviors, but he’s 3 years old. Do I think he’s confused about his gender? Probably not. He’s always been very clear in labeling himself a boy. I just think in a family with two dads, you have to work extra hard to be subversive. Maybe he senses our family is different than most, and he wears it as a badge of honor. Plus, dresses are fun to twirl around in.

notcornholioBennett’s laugh is the single greatest sound in the world, a high-pitched titter that conveys nothing but pure joy. There’s a smile that goes with it that I won’t even try to describe. You just have to see it, and if you spend five seconds with him, you will. His favorite meal is a grilled cheese sandwich, followed closely by two peanut butter half-sandwiches. His third favorite meal is walking away from the table to play with his trains.

He has a couple of catch phrases. One is, “That can’t be right!” He says it whenever something unexpected happens. While watching Beauty & the Beast, he might say, “A talking candlestick? That can’t be right!” He also says it when he thinks you’re trying to fool him, even if you aren’t. “You mix yellow and blue to make green? That can’t be right!”

His other catch phrase is, “I gotta tell you something.” He says this every single time he begins a conversation, even if he’s not sure what he wants to talk about yet.

“Daddy?”

“Yeah, pal?”

“I gotta tell you something.”

“OK. What?”

(pause) “Hi.”

Speaking of trains, he knows every single friend Thomas the Tank Engine has. All their smushy faces look exactly the same to me, but one quick glance is all he needs to say, “That’s Gordon” or “That’s Skarloey”. He can play trains quietly by himself for half an hour. That may not sound like long, but at this age, it’s an ETERNITY. He can get 7 different engines going at once on the same track. He spaces them out perfectly so they won’t crash into each other. When we got him a kiddie mp3 player, he wanted us to load it up with nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine songs. (There are more than you’d imagine, and some of them aren’t half bad.)

He’s a better athlete than I ever was. A better dancer, too. He loves to invent games with names like “Run With a Balloon” or “Run Around the Trampoline,” or my favorite, which is simply called “Run!”

bennettclimbsHe’s off-the-charts skinny, literally below the first percentile in weight. He’s the only kid I’ve ever known who’ll stop eating dessert when he feels he’s had enough. Seriously, the kid can take two nibbles of an Oreo, shrug and say, “I’m done” and then just walk away. (That’s when his sister and I rush in and fight over the part he left behind.)

One of his favorite pastimes is to walk around with his eyes closed. At first we warned him he was going to get hurt, but then we realized stumbling into things was part of the fun for him. Maybe he just likes experimenting, seeing the world in a different way. He has gotten hurt, of course, but right after that, he’ll close his eyes and stumble into something else.

There are a million things about this kid that some people might see as odd, but whenever that voice in my head says, “Something’s wrong,” it gets shouted down by an even louder voice that tells me, “He’s perfect.” Not one of those million unique things about my kid is bad. So he’s good at math? Great. He has a silly sense of humor? Awesome. He likes machines? Swell.

What matters more to me than anything is that Bennett is the happiest kid I’ve ever known. One of the things he says the most is, “This is the best ____ ever!” You can insert virtually any word into that blank. “day,” “episode of ‘Dora’,” “peanut butter sandwich.” I’ve heard them all.

Quirkiness is a gift. So many people struggle to develop it in their teens and 20s, and my kid was lucky enough to born with it, in spades. Maybe it was growing up gay that made me realize not every idiosyncrasy is a problem to be solved. As a teenager, I always felt the need to hide from who I was. It took me half a lifetime to accept that there was nothing wrong with me. When it comes to my kids, I want to teach them that from the very start.

Sometimes, things Bennett does stand out to me, or to other people. But I’m not concerned. If there’s a technical term for whatever’s made him the way it is, it still won’t bother me, because what he is, is perfect.

My son is special, and I wouldn’t change a thing about him.

10 Quotes From My Son About the New Legoland Discovery Center Near Us

legostatue

“I did not like the spooky hallway.”
“I was so brave.”
“That girl did not share, and I told her, ‘YOU’RE NOT PLAYING NICE!’”

legolandentrance

“I did not want my picture taken.”
“The movie was not good.”
“It’s so far away!” (It’s 20 minutes away.)
“Legoland was not fun.”

legolandmovie

“Daddy’s going to write an angry letter because there are no low sinks in the bathroom.”
“When can we go back to Legoland?”

“I forgive Legoland.”

legopit

Marriage, As My 3-Year-Olds See It

weddingSutton: “Daddy, did you know girls can marry girls?”

Me: “Yes, I did.”

Sutton: “That’s silly!”

Me: “Well, I don’t think so. If they’re in love, then I think it’s really nice.”

Sutton: “I’m going to marry a boy.”

Me: “Great.”

Bennett: “Me, too!”

Me: “Awesome. You both should marry whoever you fall in love with.”

Sutton: “And I’m going to have a daughter, and I’m going to name her Sutton.”

Me: “That’s very sweet.”

Bennett: “And I’m going to have twenty kids!”

Me: “OK…”

Bennett: “They will all be boys, and they will all be named Bennett.”

Me: “Great.”

Bennett: “And I’m going to marry them all!”

Me: “Um… we’ll talk about that, buddy.”

(We’ve actually had many conversations similar to this one. Sometimes, they say they’re going to marry each other, and sometimes, Bennett announces that his 20 Bennetts will have 20 moms, which is also something I hope he’ll reconsider.)

UPDATE:  In the 5 minutes since I posted this, the subject of marriage came up again. First, Bennett said he was going to marry me, then Sutton said he couldn’t because she was going to marry me. Bennett told her she could marry the other daddy, but I belonged to him. They fought over me for a minute. Then Sutton announced that she was going to marry another girl and ran off shouting, “Hooray!”

My point is, we’re all evolving on the subject of marriage.

What Rob Portman Means For Parents

Rob Portman, Will PortmanAs a gay man, I’ve always felt like parents were my enemy — politically, at least.

Whenever someone felt it necessary to identify themselves as a parent in a debate about gay rights, it was almost always as a shield for their homophobia. The gays they talked about were coming to get their kids, convert them to homosexuality, teach them about sodomy in schools. We were boogeymen Karl Rove could use to manipulate paranoid moms and dads into voting his way.

The term “family values” seemed designed specifically to exclude those of us at the wrong end of the Kinsey scale. Our values, it barely needed to be said, were distinctly anti-family.

This is what’s so significant about Rob Portman’s change of heart on gay marriage. A family values conservative, a co-sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, has acknowledged that treating gay people equally is a family value. He did so suddenly and decisively, without “evolving” or obfuscating the way many other politicians do. Why? Because he was able to present his reversal as something deeper than a mere political calculation. It was a gesture of love from a father to his son.

Portman certainly didn’t have to change his position. When his son Will came out to him, he could’ve supported him privately, while publicly pandering to his constituency. He wouldn’t be the first politician to do so.

What Portman’s reversal seems to signify is a broader change in thinking. No longer are gays seen as “others” out to hurt our kids. Now, gays are our kids, and moms and dads are the ones with the potential to hurt them. Gays aren’t the monsters anymore. Parents who turn their backs on their children are.

Portman has taken a lot of criticism for not supporting gay marriage until it affected his own son. It’s a fair point, but it misses the bigger victory in this story, which is that now, fewer people might need a gay son or daughter to change their mind on this issue, because anyone can see their own family in Rob Portman’s. Anyone can imagine their own kid as the next Will Portman. Nobody wants their kid to be the next Tyler Clementi.

Even more importantly, what Portman’s shift signals is that politicians no longer feel beholden to the image of the gay boogeyman. It’s not that family values no longer matter to voters. It’s that more voters than ever acknowledge that gays are part of our families. According to Buzzfeed, representatives from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage spoke to a nearly empty room at CPAC this week, while a panel on increasing tolerance in the GOP was standing room-only.

The message Rob Portman’s action sends couldn’t be clearer: supporting same-sex marriage is good parenting. Increasingly, it’s good politics, too.

Kid Peeves: 5 Perfectly Innocent Things My Toddlers Do That Drive Me F*%#in’ Nuts

Play-Doh, Play-Doh cans

Like anybody’s kids, mine do things that drive me nuts, but most of the time, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They’re hoping that the 5,000th time they ask me for ice cream will be the one where I finally give in because I’m going to have a nervous breakdown if I have to keep saying no. The same goes for when they’re rubbing mashed potatoes in their hair at dinner or belting out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” when they’re supposed to be napping. Even at 3 1/2, they are virtuosos at pushing Daddy’s buttons.

Sometimes, though, they can fill me with unbridled rage without even trying. Kids can drive you nuts just by being kids, doing things that are perfectly developmentally appropriate, even beneficial for them.

What really frustrates me about these things is that I can’t punish the kids for them. All I can do is quietly seethe, ride the behavior out and then write blog posts in the hope that other parents out there might relate. Please, please tell me you do.

These are 5 of my Kid Peeves:

1. Mixing Play-Doh colors.

Cinderella, Play-Doh, Spin & Style Cinderella

(l-r) our Cinderella, the Cinderella on the box

See all those cool things the kids on the box of the Play-Doh Fun Factory are making? The bright yellow bananas and pretty pink ribbons? Well, we can make those in my house for about two minutes. After that, my kids have mushed all the colors together into one messy swirl, which never looks like it’s supposed to when pressed into the molds or wrapped around the ball gown of the Spin and Style Cinderella.

I know, it’s their toy, and I shouldn’t tell them how to play with it. It’s probably good for them to experiment and make a mess with it. But eventually, they get frustrated that all their Play-Doh is the color of puke. “Daddy, where’s orange?” they’ll whimper.

“Where’s orange? Where’s orange?! It’s mushed in with green and purple and that glittery blue so it’s all just one turd-brown mess. Good luck making something out of that!”

Then I sigh and open another can of orange… which stays orange for about 5 seconds before being pressed into the turd with all the other colors.

No wonder our Play-Doh budget is killing us.

2. Questioning my knowledge.

One Direction, The WantedI thought my kids would be teenagers before they decided I was full of crap. But at three years old, they already doubt 90% of what comes out of my mouth, which is really frustrating because their other dad and I are their sources for roughly 100% of the information they seek. It burns the most when it’s something I’m clearly an expert on, like the alphabet (“I swear, kangaroo starts with ‘K’, not ‘C’!”) or One Direction songs.

“Daddy, who sings this song?”

“One Direction.”

“No, it’s the Wanted.”

“No, it’s One Direction!”

“It’s the Wanted!”

“It’s One Direction! It says it right here on my iPod. ‘Last First Kiss’ by One Direction. You can’t read it but I can, and that’s what it says. Hear that? Those are Niall’s harmonies! It’s One Direction! Admit it! Admit it!”

3. Reading the same books over and over.

Little Engine That Could, Watty PiperA few years ago, I read the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, and it was so good that I read it a second time. Then, I moved on with my life. My kids do not understand this concept. We’ll get to the end of one of their favorite books, and they’ll instantly want to read it again. And again.

And again.

I know repetition is good for kids, and so are familiarity and routine. Plus, when you like something a lot, you don’t want it to end. But Daddy’s not getting quite as much enjoyment out of our 1,000th reading of “The Little Engine That Could.” We know he’s getting up the hill, dammit. Do we really need to read ten pages of “I think I can!”?

Sure, for the first few dozen times, I’m sharpening my dramatic reading of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I’m rehearsing the best way to hit all the punchlines in “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” and just where to pause for laughs. (Attention children’s theater companies: if you need someone to play the bus driver, I’ve got the part down cold.)

We don’t even bother to hold the book of “Goodnight Moon” anymore, because we all know it by heart. The pictures are permanently ingrained in our minds, like haunting memories of misspent youth or that chilling napalm photo from the Vietnam War.

4. “Forgetting” how to do things.

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget.” Well, my kids could forget how to ride a bicycle. They forget everything. They forget how to put their coats on, how to get GoGurt out of the tube, how many daddies they have. They forget the dance moves we choreographed to that Ke$ha song, which we’ve practiced like A HUNDRED TIMES. When they’re counting to 20, they sometimes forget the number 17. Or 12. It varies.

They forget how knock-knock jokes are supposed to go. I can’t stand that the most childish form of humor has such a rigid structure that actual children can’t possibly get it right. “Say ‘Boo who?’!” I find myself shouting half the time. “C’mon, the joke only works if you say ‘Boo who?’! Say it!”

And speaking of humor…

5. Not laughing at my hilarious jokes.

"Is this thing on?"

“Is this thing on?”

Like a struggling stand-up, I’m all too used to my punchlines being met with blank stares and the sound of crickets. I bomb daily in front of my kids. Try as I might, I just can’t get them to appreciate my subtle comedy stylings.  Talk about a tough room. What sucks the most is that 90% of the time, they’re the only room I have.

Forget sarcasm, deadpan, word play, insults, Borscht Belt, dirty limericks or references to supporting actors from obscure 80s sitcoms. It all goes right over their head.

Just about the only humor my kids appreciate right now are toot (i.e., “fart”) jokes and physical comedy. Sure, they love when daddy falls down. Only daddy wasn’t trying to be funny. He really fell, and he’s hurt. Stop laughing and get him an ice pack, you monsters!

*****

Have your own kid peeves? I’d love to hear them in the comments section. And if you like mine, please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or whatever. (“whatever” btw is the name of a new social network. All the cool kids are on it.) It also makes me very happy when people like me on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, hey, won’t you please, because my kids would totally never do that for me.

Things That Go Jump in the Night

Spirit Halloween, jumping spiderI’ve written before about how my kids are obsessed with Halloween. Their favorite thing at the Halloween store last year was a spider that jumped out at you when you stepped on a floor pad. It also made this hideous shrieking sound, and its eyes glowed a chilling, sinister red.

The kids were simultaneously fascinated and terrified by it. When we went to the mall, they couldn’t wait to see it, but as soon as we got to the store, they would hide from it and make me promise not to step on the pad.

Of course, even though they couldn’t bear to be near this evil toy, they kept begging us to buy one for our home. Good thing it cost $80, because Daddy knows better than to spend that kind of cash on a cheap piece of plastic that horrifies his children.

If I could get it for $30, though…

So I went online a few days after Halloween looking for a clearance sale. I found a smaller, less scary model at a more attractive price point and decided to make it a Christmas present. That way, if it freaked anyone out, Santa could take the heat.

Bad move, Superdad.

This time there was no fascination, only terror. The kids refused to play with the tabletop jumping spider or even turn it on. It got tossed behind a mountain of other toys, where I assumed they just forgot about it.

… until a couple of weeks ago, when Bennett woke up in the middle of the night screaming. “It’s the jumping spider! He’s coming to get me!”

We told Bennett we were going to throw the spider away, but that only upset him more. I think he didn’t like the feeling that it would be… out there somewhere. He needed closure. I started thinking up a plan. Maybe we could wait for the garbage truck one day, then personally hand it over to the workers and watch them crush it in the back of the truck. Sure, and then my kid would be terrified of the garbage truck.

Drew suggested we lock the spider in our garage. At least then, Bennett would know where it was. Bennett liked that plan, but the nightmares continued.

Finally, I came up with a new idea. We could give the jumping spider away to a friend of ours, an older kid who wouldn’t be afraid of it. He would make sure the spider stayed away from Bennett, and if Bennett ever changed his mind and wanted to visit the spider, we could go to his house.

Jumping spider, Halloween, spider, Halloween toyWe set up the drop-off. Bennett and Sutton were both so excited to give the spider away. They fought over who got to carry it, then finally decided they would carry it together. I was afraid they might change their minds about handing it over, but when the time came, they gave it up and never looked back.

As we drove home, I was looking forward to a peaceful sleep with no nightmares. Then, Bennett called out from the back seat.

“Daddy?” he said.

“Yeah, pal?”

“For Halloween this year, can we get a jumping zombie?”

Spookytown, jumping zombie, Halloween