Monday, June 30, 2008

Today's Post Brought To You By The Letter P

One of the many side effects of having kids is that I know the theme songs to all the major kids shows. Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer. Boots and super cool explorer Dora. You didn't think I was going to back that statement up? From Arthur and Barney to Wonder Pets and Zaboomafoo, my kids like them all. Thankfully, most of them have cd's of their songs so we can take the fun anywhere. I've actually caught myself driving down the road while singing along to the Backyardigans songs coming from my radio. The disturbing part is that the kids weren't in the car with me. Kind of embarrassing when you get out the car at work still singing "A Pirate Says Arr". I'm going to go out and a limb though and assume I'm not the only one who's ever done that.

In watching these shows with my kids I've noticed a few things. For starters, if there's a bear as one of the main characters then the show sucks. Little Bear, the Berenstain Bears, Corduroy Bear, I don't enjoy any of them. It's apparently impossible for a cartoon bear to sing a catchy song. Perhaps this is just my own hidden bear prejudice coming to the surface; in which case I think The Colbert Report has more influence over me than it probably should. Another thing I've noticed is there's a fine line between good examples of using your imagination and what appears to be something some dude came up with while high. Backyardigans, fun and educational example of imagination. Toopy and Binoo, drug induced hallucinations that have been animated. Oh and Pocoyo, some kid in a totally white setting playing with a bunch of animal friends including a pink elephant while some omnipitent voice narrates everything for him. That's obviously some crazy kid in a mental ward having a schizophrenic break from reality. I have to admit when I put it that way it does sound entertaining though.

I am thankful though that there are no commercials on Treehouse. They have the decency not to try and market stuff hardcore to the preschool crowd. I made the mistake of watching a show intended for older kids one day with my oldest. The show wasn't inappropriate but I couldn't believe the toy company propaganda they pass off as commercials. Thirty second of being told how amazing the latest Barbie or remote controlled car was and guess what she wanted? All I could say was "that does look awesome". Took me back to when I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons. Wearing my Spider-Man pj's, I'd get a bowl of Pac-Man cereal and watch the Smurfs with my sister. For quite a while she'd be sitting on an egg from the fridge. She thought she could get it to hatch if she sat on it so that's how she spent her Saturday mornings. It's how she spent a lot of her time actually. She got so excited the day she heard it start to crack. That quickly turned to disappointment when she realised she'd just shifted her weight and broke the egg. Nothing sadder than a heartbroken five year old with yolk all over her butt. In my opinion, there aren't a lot of things funnier than that either.

Anyways, did I have a point to all this? I forget. All I know is I'm far more concerned about the influence commercials have on kids than what they learn from the actual shows. People got all bent out of shape about Sesame Street's examples. Cookie Monster teaches kids bad habits, Bert and Ernie and gay. What a bunch of crap. First off, he's a monster, he's not supposed to set a good example. On top of that, cookies are delicious. As for Bert and Ernie's lifestyle choice, it's a kids show, everyone seems kind of gay. I don't think either of those is nearly as harmful as what they see in toy ads. Maybe that's just me though.

One more thing while I'm on the topic of kids shows. For the record, Mr. Dressup was far superior to Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers kept some weird kingdom of puppets captive in his wall and his constant changing of clothes just scream OCD to me. The only bad thing I can say about Mr. Dressup is that he apparently didn't teach Casey fine motor skills. He had the tickle trunk though so it all evens out.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse?

Any discussion about the greatest movies of all time has to include The Godfather. I'd probably put it on the top of my list. That's something my sisters and I agree on. On top of that, it teaches lots of useful lessons for parents. A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never truly be a man. Never take sides against the family. The importance of family is paramount in the entire movie. That aspect makes me enjoy the movie even more now that I have my own family. That is until I had my own Godfather moment recently.

It was a nice peaceful morning as I slowly woke up. A few hazy moments as I brushed off the sleep. Before long I realised my hand was wet, wet and warm. I looked at my hand to try and figure out what was on it and that's when I rolled over. Right there, staring me in the face, was the naked butt of my little one and a half year old girl. My panicked screams caused birds in nearby trees to take flight as my little nude youngster sat up and smiled at me. Apparently, at some point in the five hours between when I went to bed and was jolted awake she took her diaper off and peed all over my side of the bed. I know she didn't do it on purpose but deep down I imagine her standing there pissing away as she smiles like a kid on a trucker's mudflaps. You may wonder why she was in our bed to start with. Well, when it's two in the morning and she's freaking out, I'll pretty much let her sleep anywhere she wants if it means I get to sleep too. Anyways, to say it was a pissy way to start the day would be pretty accurate. I just wish I could say it's the only time something like that has happened to me.

I knew going in to having kids that I'd be dealing with some gross stuff. I think I underestimated it though. I didn't realise I was going to get covered in so many different disgusting fluids, and some solids. I don't even keep track of the number of times they pee, poop, or throw up on me anymore. It's actually at the point now that if they're about to throw up I'll jump in front of it like some sort of weird secret service agent because it's easier to clean my clothes and wash it off me than it is to get it our of the carpet or bedspread. Before kids, having someone pee on me would probably ruin my whole day. Now if that's the worst that happens I'm actually pretty happy. I guess fatherhood has totally shifted my idea of what constitutes a good day. Somehow, a couple cute little kids just make it better.

I feel I should let you know one important thing. If you email a shampoo company to ask them how well their product is at getting urine out of your hair, you will end up on some really screwed up mailing lists. Seriously, I long for the days my inbox was just littered with emails about the latest developments in "male enhancement". Now that I think about it though, I wonder how I got on that mailing list too. I guess I should proofread my emails more, especially ones with the subject line of the pen is mightier than the sword. Forget to push the space bar once and people start assuming things.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And In This Corner

Having two kids so close in age, less than two years apart, means they always have someone to play with. It's heartwarming to see them sharing their toys as they sit and play. The laughter that echoes down the hall when they're both in a silly mood is one of my favourite sounds. Yeah, the one time that happened was a fun 30 minutes. Actually they get along pretty well but certainly seems like they're always at each other's throats sometimes. And I've noticed something about them when they fight. Children do not fight fair. Their bite, scratch, slap, pull hair, and use emotional blackmail.

"Why did you hit your sister?"

"I hit her because she said she loved you more than I do."

"Fair enough."

I know they love each other. Every night before bedtime they have to give each other a good night kiss. The little one gets pretty offended if that step is skipped. But if they decide they both want to play with the same doll or use the same blanket then it turns into the sort of no holds barred mayhem you usually have to get pay per view to witness. As I watch the playroom turn into the thunderdome I can't help but remember what it was like growing up with a sister only two years younger than me. We had fun but we also had some knock down drag out wars. A problem only further complicated by the fact we were comparable in size. Actually, she was probably a bit bigger than me. Maybe that's why I don't remember winning too many of the fights.

However I do remember having my nose bloodied with a cabbage patch doll. That was a good idea. Let's make a doll that has a nice soft body that's easy to grip and then give it a head made out of rock hard plastic. I like to think of it more along the lines I got smacked in the face by a mace-like club, not that I got knocked loopy by a doll. That wasn't the only time she didn't fight fair though. She once tried to grab my face and in doing so scratched me pretty good. I was left with a long scratch down the centre of my forehead to go along with the little circular one right below it. Have you ever gone to school with an exclamation mark shaped scab on your forehead? I looked like the Riddler's loud cousin. Another scuffle left me with a carpet burned eyelid. I'm just glad I closed my eye when she jumped on my head.

So what have I learned by reliving those childhood traumas? First, if both my girls learn some sort of martial art then the fights should be amazing to watch. "I know I should break it up but come on, it's like a Jet Li movie out there." I learned that no matter how much they love each other, they're going to fight from time to time. I just need to teach them to not bite or hit each other in the face with rock hard dolls. Dealing with each other in a rational non-violent way is their first opportunity to learn socially acceptable ways of dealing with conflict. Finally, I realise that the next time I see my sister I owe her a punch in the back of the head. Honestly, who hits someone in the face with a cabbage patch doll?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rare And Precious

Isn't it nice when kids start being useful? Actually, let me clarify. Kids are useful right from the start. They make it possible for you to get the best parking space at the mall possible without having some sort of disability. "Thanks kiddo, daddy didn't really want to walk that extra thirty feet." They're always getting free cookies at supermarkets and rarely finish them. "Half eaten chocolate chip cookie? Don't mind if I do." And if you have a little kid with you, you can pass gas just about anywhere and blame it on them. "Oh my, smells like someone needs their diaper changed." A word of warning on that last one though, it only works up until they start using full sentences. "You little tattle tale. I hope you enjoy sleeping tonight with that monster I put under your bed."

These little perks are nice but I'm talking about when kids start being actively helpful. The point where they think sweeping looks like fun. The time putting toys away seems cool, provided you sing some sort of clean up song while you do it. When they go and get the remote for you is the exact moment you will realise why you decided to have kids in the first place. "Once you're big enough to make a sandwich or get a drink I'll be set." Makes me want to have a lot more kids. I could have my own tiny workforce. My own little army of Oompa Loompas keeping everything below the three foot level in my house spotless. If they sang a cute little song while they did it, even better. For some reason though I think that could come back to bite me like it did the actual Willy Wonka. I think they lynched him or something; I've never seen the end of the movie or read the biography it was based on.

The point where it all turned on me would probably be when they unionise, led by the oldest one I'm sure. Before long she's going to realise all those fun things that makes her so proud of herself are actually work. Once that dawns on her, she's going to expect something in return. She's going to want to get paid. I only hope she learns about the idea of an allowance before she fully grasps the concept of money. "Ok, here's another one of the super special copper coins that are the rarest in the land. They're so rare and precious that you hardly ever see anyone use them anymore." I can dream I guess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Viewer Discretion Is Advised

As I sit here writing this, three things come to mind. One, I'm getting tired of the weather network constantly forecasting a chance of thundershowers. Two, Doogie Howser was ahead of his time. I downloaded the episode ending journal music so I can have it playing in the background while I type. Third, where the heck are the kids? Just kidding. They're perfectly happy sitting on the couch watching TV. Yes, I'm using TV as a babysitter. Sue me.

I have nothing against TV. In fact, I'm a big fan. Before I had kids though I didn't want to be one of those parents who just sits their kids in front of the TV. Now, if it'll keep them out of my hair for twenty minutes or so I'm all for it. After having a tea party, finding the dolls they just have to play with (not that one, the little one), breaking up a fight they had over the dolls, explaining why we don't bite, checking to make sure the skin wasn't broken by the bite, gotten them both water (not in that cup, one with a top), changed a diaper, found the Cinderella dress, changed another diaper because she wasn't quite done the first time, and played a game I can only assume they call "let's jump on dad and see if anything breaks", they can watch whatever they want as long as it gives me a break. Theoretically, I'd use that time to do something productive but I think we both know that's probably not going to happen. If I did, you wouldn't be reading this.

The big problem with using that magic glowing box to distract those two maniacs while I quietly escape is that I can't turn it on now without hearing "I want to watch Treehouse". Luckily, they think The Simpsons is one of the shows on Treehouse so I get to watch that at least. It's about the only thing close to appropriate we can watch together. Makes me long for the days when I could watch whatever I wanted without worrying about them. I remember the first time I was alone with my oldest. It was shortly after she was born and her mom was sleeping upstairs one evening. With my precious little baby in my arms I went downstairs, got comfortable on the couch, and together we watched ultimate fighting. I still get a little choked up anytime I see someone take a roundhouse kick to the face or get locked in a guillotine choke. Ok, she wasn't watching, she was asleep. Did make things awkward later though when I was watching it another time and my wife insisted I not watch it with our daughter in the room. "Well, I can promise not to do it again." At least we still had video games. All the bright colours and loud noises of Halo really caught her attention. It was kind of like a Baby Einstein video, just with a bit more violence. Plus if you put a spare controller in her tiny hands she seemed to think she was the one play. It was very cute. She got older quick and soon let me know that sort of thing was a bad idea.

For me that happened one day when I was flipping channels and happened across an episode of Family Guy. As the opening song played I could hear my little girl, as she played with her blocks, singing along. Oh crap. That warning at the beginning that says the following may not be suitable for some viewers, parental discretion is advised; they're talking about me. They're kind enough not to single me out by name but deep down I know they want to.

So all I'm left with now is listening to the radio in the car. At least I thought so until l we were driving one day with the music playing. I wasn't paying attention until from the back I heard a little voice, "get low, low, low, low". Oh crap, my little girl is singing along to Flo Rida. Time to throw in the Raffi CD. Guess I'm stuck in their world now. Stupid parental warning labels.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Kid For All Seasons

Have you ever pepper sprayed an 18 month old? It's not as much fun as it sounds but it does keep them in line. Before you call child services on me, I did not pepper spray my 18 month old. I did however make the mistake of leaving a bottle of pepper on the table during snack time. I set the two kids up at the table and went to get some snacks. By the time I got back to the table, the big one had opened up the pepper which apparently wasn't very secure and dumped it all over the table. They were both playing in it as happy as can be when I got back to the table. I was told they were playing with the sand. As I contemplated where I'd gone wrong, the little one splashed the pepper into her own face and all hell broke loose. The little one crying and struggling as I try to flush her eyes out with some cold water while the big one is upset and yelling, "I'm all spicy, I'm all spicy!"

FYI, it takes about 45 minutes for them to calm down after you flush the eyes repeatedly with water. After that though she fell asleep and had a nice little nap so it's not totally devoid of any benefits. That gave me plenty of time to feel guilty about her hurting herself because of something stupid I did. I have no problem if I get hurt doing something stupid. I've got plenty of scars to attest to that. Looking back, even hurting one of my sisters when we were kids didn't elicit as much guilt. And I once pulled out my baby sister's tooth when she was about two. She got it stuck on the pull tab of her coats zipper. I tried to help and in doing so took the whole tooth out. I felt pretty guilty then, after almost fainting. But when it's one of my kids crying it's a different story. I learned that pretty early on. I remember the first day my wife went back to work after having our first little girl. We were in the spare bedroom waving to mommy and watching her pull out of the driveway. Almost the instant she was out of sight my little girl lost her footing, banged her face against the window frame and bloodied her lip. "Are you friggin' kidding me? I've been on the job 48 seconds and you're already bleeding?" On these occasions, I'm left to ponder what chance do these kids have with me looking after them?

Of course, all the dumb things I've done to myself come to mind which doesn't help. There was the time I was cooking some pasta for supper. The very full pot started to boil over so I started scooping water out with a measuring cup. On one of the scoops my hand bumped the pot, which for some reason was super hot, and I jerked it back. In doing so I threw the entire cup of boiling water right in my face. My wife was watching this from behind, didn't see my hand hit the pot, and I can only assume thought I was a complete moron who had just thrown boiling water in his face for no good reason. So I'm standing there, a bit shocked to say the least, when all of a sudden I feel someone grab my head from behind and shove it into the sink. Quick flick of the tap and I've got cold water pouring over my face. Unsure of what's going on, I can only assume she saw an opportunity and is now finishing me off by drowning me. Her attempted drowning though was quite beneficial as it minimised the burn, first and second degree, and prevented any serious long term damage. Still makes me wonder how I can look after two youngsters if I can't even cook for myself without an ER visit?

The truth is no matter how much we try to stop it they're going to get hurt. I could wrap them in bubble wrap and stick them in a room made of Nerf and they'd still hurt themselves. Actually, they'd probably suffocate under the bubble wrap but you already knew that. So I guess all I can do is keep the major dangers away from them and hope their injuries are minor. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a running with scissors footrace to organise.

The Last Supper

From time to time, my wife and I find it necessary to take the kids out into the world. You'd think we know by now that no good can come of this. Some trips like the grocery store or doctor's office can't be avoided. Others are optional such as going out to eat in a restaurant.

I remember a time before children when eating at a restaurant was fun and relaxing. Waiting for a table was a minor inconvenience that usually went unnoticed. I only had to worry about what I was going to eat when ordering and if something spilled on me it was generally because of something I did. Then we had kids and all that changed. Every second we have to wait, for a table or food, is an agonizing temptation of fate. Each tick of the clock counting down to the eventual eruption you know is going to happen. By the way, could restaurants put more crap on the tables? My kids aren't entertained enough by the utensils, salt, pepper, cups, saucers, sugar packets, and desert menus. All of which are far more interesting than any crayons. What should be a nice relaxing meal is like some twisted jack in the box full of monkeys on crack, except without that whimsical song to warn us.

We didn't go into this without warnings though. My parents have always been more than happy to tell the story of getting kicked out of a restaurant because of us kids. As they tell it, my sister and I got into an ice throwing battle. I can't imagine how that would have started. Yeah, I'm looking at you Dad. The big problem was that what we lacked in accuracy we more than made up for in distance. The people sitting at the adjacent tables weren't impressed. Just so you don't think my kids get their meal time misfit genes just from me, my wife's parents had some tales or warning. There was the time as a youngster she felt it necessary to tell the waitress, "you're too fat to be a cooker". While everyone was ordering, she shared this observation with the poor lady with increasing volume since no one was acknowledging what she said. Her father, while still ordering and without looking at her, gracefully reached around his young daughter's back and covered her mouth with his hand. (Have to admit I've been tempted to do the same once or twice) That one was handled well but I still don't think I'd trust any food brought to the table after that.

All this brings me to yesterday. It should have been a nice Sunday out to eat. It quickly went downhill. Upon arriving at the restaurant, a big mascot handing balloons was found to be the greeter. As I've mentioned before, my oldest doesn't respond well to people in big costumes like that. She sprinted to the booth, dove in and curled up in the corner. Once told that was the wrong booth, she repeated he Jackie Chan like display to the right spot. She would not get out of the fetal position no matter what. It was so bad that it required leaving and eating somewhere else. As an aside, she was actually so scared that she barricaded her bedroom door with chairs at bedtime. So once arriving at restaurant number two and assuring her repeatedly that mascots weren't allowed in, the actual mealtime fun started. Over the course of dinner, two drinks were spilled, one landing on their uncle, and the youngest threw up after trying a milkshake. This on top of the required fidgeting, grumbling, and crying. At one point their mom asked the waitress to quiet the crying baby at another table because she couldn't hear her own kids yelling and carrying on. A fun time for all indeed.

Overall, I'd call that trip a success though for several reasons. At no point was anyone asked to leave any eateries. The vomiting was minimal and didn't really land on anyone. No one was insulted. No innocent bystanders got pelted with ice. Most importantly, I was working so I wasn't there for any of it. The difference between pull your hair out frustrating and piss yourself funny: location, location, location.

The Seven Dirty Words

With the passing of George Carlin, we all move up one in the world's ranking of funniest people on the planet. Just glad I got to see him perform live when I had the chance.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Path To The Promised Land

Everybody poops. The part they conveniently leave out of that title is that cleaning it up sucks so very much. As some sort of karmic levelling, those wonderful little bundles of joy subject me to cleaning the sorts of messes that would make a coroner gag. And that's just any average number two. It doesn't even take into consideration diaper failures, bath time mishaps, bouts of diarrhea, or mid-diaper change explosive chest splatterings. That last one is funny as hell when it happens to someone else though. There is hope though.

The light at the end of the tunnel. The dream of dreams. The day you pray for from the first moment you get a whiff of a craptastrophe. The day you have a potty trained youngster. I can't overstate this. The day I there was one less stinky bottom I was going to need to clean was one of the greatest days ever. Imagine all the major holidays all rolled up into one, double it and subtract all the crap you have to clean up. It's that good.

Getting there is a pain in the ass though. Looking at it from a child's point of view I can understand the reluctance to use the potty. Here's some big weird device that looks like it has a mouth (thanks Disney for making kids believe all inanimate objects can come to life, it really helps). Now I'm supposed to expose my bottom to this mysterious monster? I don't think so. Besides, I'm not taking time out of my day to stop and do that. I've got walls to colour and electronic equipment to break. Honestly, if you took away the social stigma and the responsibility for cleaning up, who among us wouldn't be tempted to use a diaper?

Despite battling logic, reason, and those bastards at Disney I'm proud to claim success with my oldest in the world of potties. After finally convincing her the toilet was not going to eat her, I got her to try it. That lead to a period of trial and error. She tried to do business and I made the error of believing her when she said she had none. You have any idea how frustrating it is to have her drop a load in her diaper mere minutes after being on the potty? Good, I'd hate to be alone on that one. Next came minor successes and multiple setbacks. Thank goodness kids are pre-programmed to liking candy otherwise I'm not sure what I'd have used to bribe/positively reinforce her with. That's not true as evidenced by the closets, yep plural, full of princess shoes in my house.

Apparently, another good technique is to read the tell tale signs of when your kid has to go. My daughter's subtle hint was when she'd stand red-faced with her arm outstretched and said, "don't say I poop on the potty. Don't say that word to me." Damn it. Thankfully, this has now evolved into "I need to use the potty". I think the power of those words is an untapped resource. Forget steroid or HGH for Olympic sprinters. Just put their kid at the finish line saying those words. Mark my words, world records would fall. I don't have the data to back it up but I'm pretty sure I've run a sub 10 second 100 m to get to the nearest potty.

So now that I've got one potty trained child, it's time to work on the little one. Having her around during potty time is a big help and gives her a behaviour to model. A little reinforcement on my part and it should be a breeze. "You know your mom and I love you both equally. It doesn't matter to us if your sister uses the potty and you don't. However, I don't think Santa shares our viewpoint. You know he's got those naughty and nice lists so he's obviously pretty judgemental. I can only imagine using the potty is definitely worth a lot of points towards that nice list." Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What To Wear

When it comes to dressing the kids there are several things to take into account. Does this shirt go with those pants? Is it too cold for a skirt? Should I dress them in layers in case it gets warmer later? Does this outfit go well with her sister's? Is what they're wearing appropriate for where we're going today? And how cute do they look? It's enough to drive a dad nuts.

That's why when I dress the kids I ask the same two questions I ask when I dress myself. Is it clean? Does it fit? And just so we're clear, these are not yes and no questions. There's a wide of spectrum of answers that can lead to follow up questions. Questions like, can this stain pass as a pattern, should I cover it up, and it's a bit small but is anyone going to see anything they shouldn't? Using this system, it takes me about 4 minutes to get ready in the morning, 5 if I brush my hair. It hasn't made dressing the girls that efficient yet but it helps.

Generally, when I'm getting them dressed it's because we're in a hurry to go somewhere. The big one is freaking out about what she wants to wear and the little one has decided now is the right time to poop. The dog is jumping around because he thinks he's coming with us while I scramble trying to find their clothes, which I contend have the ability to move about the house under its own power. Heaven forbid they should need socks. Those things are so small there's no way I'm going to find them, let alone two that match. In the middle of this whirlwind I consider the fact they have anything on when we leave the house a victory.

When they're babies it's all so simple. People give you all sorts of baby clothes so there's plenty of choice. Even better is the fact that most of the clothes is one piece, whoever invented the onesy is a friggin' genius. But that doesn't last long because they grow quick. Those blessed onesies become obsolete and you're left trying to find something for them to wear. And heaven forbid you make some bad choices, you'll never hear the end of it. You take the little Velcro strap you used to attach the garland to the banister at Christmas and thread it through the belt loops of your daughter's pants so they won't fall down and you get labelled. Everyone at playgroup thinks they're so smart because they can tell whether I was the one who dressed the kids that morning.

So what's the solution? Personally, I think this is one the Amish have gotten right. You know how an Amish parent dresses their kids in the morning? "Let's see, you have a penis? Nope, ok here's your gingham dress and bonnet. Now we can get on with our day." How beautifully simple is that? If they can just come up with a good video game system I'll seriously think about joining. Until then, I think I'll abdicate the responsibility of dressing them and let them pick out their own clothes. You want to wear a pajama shirt, poofy skirt, rubber boots, cowboy hat and feather boa? Fine with me, let's go pick your mom up from work.

Friday, June 20, 2008

They Don't Like When You Grab Their Tails

I have an 18 month old who has no fear. Well that's not entirely true; she's not quite 18 months old and has very little fear. She's a bit leery of strangers, women more so than men but don't even get me started on that. It certainly doesn't compare to her older sister's irrational fear of mascots or anyone wearing a big costume. Now that I think of it though the existence of a six and a half foot tall monkey or alligator that walks on two legs and gives people hugs is pretty irrational to begin with so maybe she's actually smarter than I'm giving her credit for. Either way, exploiting it works to my advantage. "We can't go to Toys 'R Us today, there's going to be a bunch of mascots there today." Don't judge me, it just makes life easier sometimes.

Back to little miss no fear, her favourite new game is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. She loves to jump off just about anything. And I do mean anything, tables, chairs, couches, stairs, slides, and so on. If she can climb it, she will jump from it. She does so secure in the belief she will be caught. It's very sweet that she has so much faith in me the she interprets any eye contact to mean "go ahead, I'm ready to catch you now". Also nice that she doesn't hold any grudges if I miss. I have no idea how she got that coffee table shaped bruise on her head.
The troubling part is that the bumps and bruises don't deter her. She just seems to think it'll turn out better next time. Couple that with her trying to keep up with her big sister and we've got the recipe for some trouble in the future.

To further fan the flames of my concern I thought back about myself as a kid. There was the time I when I was about 7 and had a great idea after watching Zorro. There was a scene where he swung from a chandelier while fighting the bad guys. Conveniently located right there in the room with me was a remarkably similar one just dangling from the ceiling as if to say you know you have to try. So after moving an armchair over so I could reach I grabbed on and swung from it. I can only assume the folks who installed Zorro's chandelier had a different set of building codes they needed to follow than the ones in place in our neighbourhood. While his had no problem supporting a full grown man, ours responded to my 50 lbs or so by detaching from the ceiling. Luckily, it didn't crash to the floor. The same can't be said for me.

Now you'd think I'd learn from that experience. Not long after though I was watching Wonder Woman, saw her flip over a fence and thought "I can do that". It's not as gay as it sounds, I had on Batman underoos at the time. Some more furniture rearranging to put some cushions on the ground, guess I'd at least learn to take some safety precautions. I got up on the couch leaned forward and flipped. I should say I tried to. I basically jumped in the air and landed on the back of my head. It now occurs to me that if they'd had Jackass when I was a kid I'm not sure I'd be here today. I also wondered after those stories if it's genetics that's at play with my little daredevil. A conversation I had with my dad not long ago didn't help.

My dad lives in Louisiana and has a backyard that borders a swamp. We were just talking and he actually said to me "You know the gators don't like it when you grab their tails". Uh oh. I think most reasonable people operate under the assumption that alligators don't like having their tails grabbed. Thanks to my dad though I can confirm that. I told my sister about this conversation and her response was "Yeah, they got really mad at us". Oh crap, it's worse than I thought. The really sad part is I was kind of jealous I missed out on the fun. I guess deep down I'm still that kid in his underoos with questionable judgement. I know when I see a neighbour kid climbing a tree because he want to "bungee jump" out of it with an extension cord I should be the responsible adult and tell him it's not a good idea. Truth is I'm actually thinking "I really want to see how this turns out".

When it's your own kids though responsibility has to win out, I hope. Whether it's genetics that makes her think jumping is the logical next step after climbing or the environment she's raised in isn't really important. It's just important I do what I can to catch her because despite my best efforts, or maybe because of them, it looks like she's destined to put on her underoos, flip from a chandelier, and grab a gator by the tail. How thrilled do you think her mom is?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why Aren't We Cartoons?

Children are wonderful and amazing. Their bright curious eyes full of wonder about the world around them. Their cheery laughs are the pure personification of joy and innocence. The unconditional love they give you just seems to make everything right. But sometimes, don't you just want to smack them?Now I'm not condoning child abuse, it's one of the most reprehensible things a person can do, but there I times I understand it. In the middle of a giant tantrum full of irrational screaming and crying I don't think I'm the only out there who's been tempted.

Dealing with a child having a tantrum is like dealing with some sort of terrorist group. Their actions seem incredibly extreme and do nothing to further their cause. You know you can't give into them or you'll be totally screwed in the future. And odds are you're going to need some sort of translator because you can't understand a word they're saying.

Few things are quite as frustrating as trying to reason with an irrational little scream machine. The circular arguments, lack of logic, and freak-outs that seem to come out of nowhere would push anyone to the breaking point. To compound matters, as a parent you're only supposed to use diplomatic measures to achieve the desired goal. Timeout is about the most sever weapon in our arsenal. It'd be kind of nice to have another bullet in the chamber. The problem there is if you claim you do by threatening them with corporal punishment eventually they're going to call your bluff and prove that bullet was just a blank.

My solution is there should be a service where you can hire a tiny stuntman to smack around a little. Smack around another "little kid" in their presence and then see how quickly they get in line. "Oh, you think I'm bluffing? Go ask that little bastard if I'm serious. Now put the toy back on the shelf and let's get going." I think that's a market just waiting to be tapped. It's also how I plan to handle dating when my girls become teenagers. I'm going to hire a stuntman to come by so I can beat the crap out of him just as the boy shows up for their date. Fight choreographer, breakaway chair, candy glass window to throw him through; it's going to be awesome. But I digress.

Ultimately, we're left with the knowledge that kids are like some crazy bipolar roller coaster ride. Actually, more like a crazy bipolar roller coaster ride full of monkeys. At least there's some reassurance in the knowledge that as quick they can ruin your day by freaking out and not understanding why they can't wear a sundress outside in winter, they can turn around and brighten it by asking something like "Why aren't we cartoons?" Does raise the larger question, why aren't we cartoons?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Differing Parental Viewpoints

My wife comes home from work one afternoon and is greeted at the door by the kids. Within moments she asks me why I cut the oldest's bangs. I wasn't the one responsible for the haircut. I didn't notice the haircut. I don't usually notice much about her hair to begin with. By the way, did you know that girls need their hair brushed everyday? Apparently, it turns into some giant tangle of Griswoldian Christmas light proportions if left unattended.

Like I was saying though, I told her no one had cut her hair. Not satisfied with that response she turned and asked, "who cut your hair?"

Without hesitation came her answer, "I did."

"Why did you cut it?"

"The hair was in my eyes."

"How did you cut it?"

"I used scissors"

Not wanting to flat out call our three year old a liar I asked her to show us where the scissors were. She didn't want to at first but once assured she wasn't in trouble she led us to table beside the couch. She moved aside a book and underneath were a great big pair of scissors. Thus verifying her story and leaving only two possible reactions to the situation.

I was impressed at the logic she used in creatively solving the problem of her hair getting in her eyes. I marvelled at the fact she possessed the dexterity to work such a large pair of scissor without hurting herself. I was proud she was responsible enough to realise the scissors were dangerous and hid them under a book so her little sister didn't get them. Her level of maturity in so many areas blew me away.

My wife's reaction, "I think the kids need more adult supervision."

I guess it's true what they say. One person's idea of an open-ended opportunity for personal growth through independent problem solving is another person's idea of reckless negligence.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fucks 'N Shakes

So with a title like that you're probably under the impression this is going to be about one of three things.

  1. A discussion about how some with a severe seizure disorder procreates.
  2. A list of rejected named for panda couples at your local zoo.
  3. A summary of the short lived Fox sitcom about two of the lesser known dwarfs, one a sexaholic and the other a recovering heroine addict. I'll pause while you IMDB that one.

All reasonable assumptions but this is actually a cautionary tale about watching what you say around your kids. While parenting the other day, I heard some grumbling coming from the stairs. I went to investigate and as I got closer I thought I heard my cute little three year old saying "Fucks 'n shakes". When I got to her she was struggling to get her shoes off and repeatedly saying "Fucks 'n shakes".

I asked, hoping I was misinterpreting what she'd said, "what are you saying?"

With an expression that can only be described as pride, she answered, "fucks 'n shakes, like you say."

I thought about it for a moment before I realised she must have heard me say "For fuck sakes", on more than one occasion I imagine, and figured that's what you say when you're frustrated. So as a role model I feel a bit deficient. As a parent though, I can take pride in the fact she understood the proper context to use the phrase and that if she keeps going at this pace she'll be cursing at a fourth or fifth grade level by the time she starts school. It's not an actual course in school but a skill we all need to have eventually.