“I don’t know, Honey. Some people think there was a guy named God who made us.”
“But then who made God?”
“You’re very smart, you know.”
“Hmmm… let’s Google it.”
“Daddy, I know how to spell boo.”
“That’s close, but not quite. Try again.”
“Daddy, I’m right. Boo is B-I-I.”
“No, Honey. Boo is spelled B-O-O.”
* * * * *
Read my Biik.
If you’re one of those people with no kids of your own who’s constantly judging everyone’s parenting skills, then please stop. Trust me, all the other parents and I had a meeting, we put it to a vote, and it was unanimous: we hate you. You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re rude and you should keep your stupid opinions to yourself.
On the other hand, if you are a parent, then judging other parents can be one of the most fun and satisfying ways to spend your time, so have at it! It’s open season for you!
OK, that might still get you in some trouble with the people you’re judging, so I can understand if you want to be careful. But I can’t imagine any of the lamest moms and dads would do something so informative as to read a parenting blog, so just between us, I’m going to let them have it.
Here are 5 types of parents who, in my opinion, it’s perfectly OK for you to judge…
1. The “What’s Bedtime?” and “What’s a Sitter?” Parents.
Look, I’m sure you really needed the six pack of Corona Light, but was it really worth dragging your toddler out to Stop & Shop at 10pm? Some of us call that “bedtime”. We look forward to it as a relaxing break at the end of our hectic day, and what’s more, the kids need it. It’s win-win.
At least Stop & Shop is an age-appropriate activity for young children. We’ve all seen those morons who were so psyched for “World War Z” that they dragged their 2-year-old out to the midnight showing at Mann’s Chinese rather than wait the two months it’d take for that movie to be on DVD. How are they selling these people tickets instead of calling child protective services on them?
It’s insane that some places have laws against gay parents adopting or fostering kids when there are clowns like this raising children. Look, not every gay couple is Ozzy and Harriet, but if you want to root out the truly unfit parents, I suggest starting at the multiplexes.
2. Parents Who Helicopter Other People’s Children.
Say what you will about helicopter parents. At least the only kids they’re messing up are their own… that is, except for this subset of helicopter parents who are determined to overparent everyone’s kids.
When my kids fall down at the playground, I don’t usually make a big deal about it, and because of that, they don’t make a big deal about it either. They get up, limp for a second or two and then run around like maniacs again… unless some other grownup runs over and screams, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY?”
Odds are, my kid was fine until the crazy lady ran up and started screaming hysterically in his face. Now he’s not crying because he’s hurt. It’s because you freaked him the eff out. If not for you, he’d be back swinging upside-down from the jungle gym by now.
Oh, and while you’re at it, spare me your evil eye. When my kid really does get hurt, I will swoop in faster than you could imagine and do all the things that need to be done. I just want him to know that there are some ouchies he’s perfectly capable of handling on his own.
By the way, this is a park. I’m not sure what that green spongy material under our feet is, but I suspect it’s at least 70% marshmallow. No one’s going to get beheaded here. Relax.
3. The Only-Engage-With-The-Kids Parents.
These ones are just weird. I take my kids to the same places over and over, and we see a lot of the same people. Some of them are friendly, some of them are not, and a lot of them fall in this weird middle ground where they’re very friendly… but only to the kids. They talk to them, hand them toys, introduce them to their kids, but even when I’m standing right there, they won’t address me directly or look me in the eye.
Instead, they’ll direct all their questions to my children. “Does your Daddy mind if you play with that?” “What a pretty shirt your Daddy dressed you in!” I imagine they’re just socially intimidated by other adults, but it’s hard not to feel like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense. Her Daddy is standing right here! Talk to him, please! He’s starved for adult conversation!
Seriously, if there are other people out there who can’t see me, please let me know, because I’m starting to worry that I’ve crossed over to another plane of existence or something.
4. The Insufficiently Apologetic.
One day at the kiddie gym, a little boy smacked my daughter in the face because she was on the trampoline he wanted to use. His mother was appropriately horrified, but she didn’t say a word to me or Sutton. No “Sorry”, no “Please don’t sue”, no “Bobby, give that girl a hug.” She just grabbed the kid and ran away to lecture him.
I’d lump into this category any parent who offers their own apology for the kid’s behavior but doesn’t make their kid apologize himself — and worse, doesn’t do anything to reprimand him. One day at a playground, a perfectly polite nanny assured me that her kid didn’t normally pin kids to the ground and pull their hair until they screamed, the way he had just done to Sutton. She even gave him an ultimatum: apologize or they were going home. He didn’t apologize, but half an hour later, they were still there, and he was pulling some other kid’s hair.
I thought we were all in the same boat, trying to teach our kids to own up to their actions and say they’re sorry when they screw up. But now the next time my kid misbehaves, she’s going to whine, “But that kid at the park didn’t apologize!” And suddenly my teachable moment turns into me teaching her that some people are just assholes.
5. The Overly Apologetic.
Look, everyone’s kid throws a fit in public sometimes. It sucks. But you don’t need to run around telling everyone how sorry you are and swearing, “He never does this!” Try to forget about all the annoyed jerks glaring at you and focus on your kid instead. Calm him down, get him out, do whatever your parenting instinct tells you the situation demands. Trust me, no one’s going to hand you a report card on the way out, with an “F” in tantrums. Well, I’m not, at least. I’ll be one of the parents passing you glares of sympathy and encouragement. In almost any case of tantrummy kid vs. beleaguered parent, I take the parent’s side, because I’ve been there myself many times.
Sometimes the best way to handle an outburst is to ignore the behavior, and that can be tough. I know I look like a horrible parent because my kid’s screaming their head off in a shopping cart and I’m trying to decide which brownie mix to buy. But you know what? I’m not going to give into him just to calm him down, and it’s not that I think this is acceptable behavior. I’m just halfway through my shopping, and I’m really in the mood for brownies, so we’re riding this one out together, everybody. You don’t like it? Kindly move to Aisle 6. Thanks.
Besides, don’t be so self-centered. You think everyone’s judging you? Pfft, who would do that?
* * * * *
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* * * * *
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Yesterday was a rough day. Bennett had to have surgery, which means we had our hands full… with Sutton. (Parenting note: the healthy kid is always more trouble than the sick kid. Always.) I understand that, at 4 years old, it’s hard to see your twin getting so much attention, almost as hard as it is being a parent and having to hold back from screaming, “Your brother is about to get cut open! Let him have this moment!”
In a lapse of parenting judgment, I ended up promising her a toy if she could chill out. On the plus side, she chilled out. Mostly. Eh, I’ll buy her a crappy toy. I didn’t promise anything nice.
I’ve been saying for a while now that potty training is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent. Well, after yesterday, I’m going to give the #2 slot to watching my little boy get knocked out by gas in an operating room, assuring him that everything would be fine and that Other Daddy and I would both be there when he woke up.
He handled it like a champ, drifting off to sleep calmly as he stared trustingly into our eyes, with very little idea of what was actually about to happen. It’s always the really hard moments as a parent that also remind me why I love having kids so much. Bennett couldn’t quite understand what was happening, but because his dads were with him, he felt safe.
The surgery went great. He was up and wolfing down ice pops in no time, and by the end of the day, we were out of the hospital, celebrating at McDonald’s, where Bennett ate more food than I’ve ever seen him eat in one sitting in his life.
When we got home, there were balloons and flowers at the door, and a giant cardboard box.
A box full of books.
“Do you guys know what this is?” I asked the kids.
“It’s your book!” Bennett cheered.
It was, in fact, a lot of my books.
It was just like you always dream it will be as a writer. You cut open a box and all you see are copies of your own book staring back at you. I’m not sure exactly how many copies were in there. However many I was contractually obligated to receive, I guess, but I haven’t counted. It feels like a million. Like a bottomless box of books. And all I can think is, “What am I going to do with all these books?” Am I supposed to read them all? Pass them out to strangers? Are they just going to sit in my basement like this, a big box of books, always kept in pristine condition, their bindings never cracked?
Then, I had another thought: I should order more.
At the same time, I started getting emails from friends. Amazon had notified people who preordered that the books arrived early and would be shipped out in the next few days. Soon, lots of people will have my book.
The timing couldn’t have been better. After a long, draining day, we had something else to celebrate.
And of course, as the spotlight shifted to me, Sutton was ridiculously jealous once again.
* * * * *
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?”
Me: “And just as dark?”
Me: “Don’t you think babies will be scared?”
Bennett: “Nope, because it’s for babies.”
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.”
The 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
Hey 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.
It’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.
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.
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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“Am I funny?”
“No. You’re serious.”
“Are you funny?”
“Is Bennett funny?”
“So I’m the only serious one?”
“What about your teacher?”
“Oh, good. So it’s not just me.”
“But sometimes she’s funny.”
“Am I funny sometimes?”
“Who else is funny?”
“Um… the cup.”
“The cup is funnier than me?!”
“Can I play with the iPad now?”
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’?”
“I REMEMBER THAT!!!”
“LET’S WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!!!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.