Trying to explain this would be an exercise in futility. Google "GWAR" if you have no idea what's going on here. Revel in the Internet reaching its apotheosis if you do.
Trying to explain this would be an exercise in futility. Google "GWAR" if you have no idea what's going on here. Revel in the Internet reaching its apotheosis if you do.
I've noticed a trend with kids' books that are about Dad: they're either cloying sweet, depicting Dad as Kindly Protector, or they swing the other way, depicting Dad as The Fun-Loving Goofy Parent. Within these two categories, there's another equally disturbing trend: Fun Dad books tend to be aimed at boys ("Hi son! Let's play baseball and fart together!"), Guardian Dad books tend to be aimed at girls ("You are my daughter and I will protect you, teaching you from an early age that henceforth you'll need a man to lord over you.") While I freely admit to occasionally conforming to both archetypes - and practicing the gender bias that goes along with them - I do my best to treat the kids equally, and not reinforce the idea that boys do this, and girls do this, and never the two shall meet.
When I agreed to do a sponsored post (yes, this is a sponsored post: I'm being reimbursed) about Ahmet Zappa's new book for kids Because I'm Your Dad, I didn't want to do a review (the book's great, and yes, Ahmet Zappa is Frank Zappa's son, and from all accounts it sounds like Frank Zappa was a really good dad). Instead, I thought it would be interesting to have Zoe test drive it. The Dad in the book is a goofy AND protective monster (literally - he's a green furry monster), and the book does what most of us do in real life - balance the fun stuff with the actual parenting. But which aspect would she gravitate toward?
Folks, this is my daughter we're talking about. Please. There should be no mystery here.
Apart from advocating rock music and belching, she also appreciated the fact that the book's easy enough for a five-year-old to read (as do I; we're flying to Florida in two weeks, and I need all of the easy-to-read books I can fit into an overhead bin). The book's now one of her favorites - and I will say that she liked the parts about Monster Dad always being there for her. That's a feeling that kids share regardless of gender. As for bathtubs filled with Rocky Road ice cream, she and I will have to have a discussion about that. Rocky Road? Not in my house. A tub full of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia - that's a different story.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. I never know, lately, how the day is going to go. These kids are moody little critters. One morning they'll climb out of their beds, up the stairs, and wake my wife and me with their laughter. The next, they'll resist everything, from getting out of bed to taking off their pajamas to going to school. Their resistance takes the form of screaming and crying, mostly.
They're three. I understand that this is normal behavior, and usually subsides by the time they're in their mid-twenties.
But yesterday was a good one. Cobra woke up a little belligerent, but improved greatly after breakfast, and didn't even have to be bribed to go to the gym with me. They had the childcare lady at the gym all to themselves, and whenever I peeked in, the girls were laughing and running and kicking balls, not trancing out on TV, as they'll do if the Kids Club staff let them.
They ate a great lunch of leftover Vietnamese soup (greens, pork, fish sauce) from when their grandmother visited, mixed with leftover noodles from god-knows-when, and played all afternoon at home with minimal pummeling of one another. Then we heard the rumbling of "Mommy's Loud Car" pulling up in front of the house, and prepared for her arrival.
Mom was home much earlier than usual, just in time for afternoon snack. In fact, it was a little past snacktime, and Cobra was getting ornery. She wanted Goldfish, and she wanted them now. And she wanted to eat them out of the bag, not out of her snacky cup.
"No, boo--you can't eat them out of the bag," Mom said.
"Yes I caaaaan..." said Cobra. "I eat from the bag when Daddy gives them to me!"
"Really?" said Mom, looking at me incredulously.
"Um...yeah?" I said. "I let them eat out of the bag. I didn't...I didn't know that was against regulations."
"I WANT THE BAG OF GOLDFISH!!!" Cobra said.
"No," said Mom. "We don't eat Goldfish out of the bag. That's the rule."
This launched Cobra into full-on freak-out mode. Snotty, gasping, sobs. Eyes wide with horror and spurting hot rage-tears.
Every fiber in my being willed my mouth to say, "Just give her the fucking bag of Goldfish, for fuck's sake!"
Foreword by Beta Dad: So apparently my dad thinks he's a blogger now. First, he steals my thunder on my own blog, and now he's taking over for me on DadCentric. I guess I just wasn't doing it right, so he had to do it himself. Whatever, Dad.
Jim Hinds (my dad) is a ski bum living in Oregon. When there's no snow, he mountain bikes and canoes, and fixes things at our family's cabin in Montana. Before he was doing that, he was busy bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union and patching Europe together in its aftermath.
His experience with fatherhood has been a lot different than mine, as he explains below.
The Cultures of Fatherhood
By Jim Hinds
Fathers’ roles depend partly on customs of place and time, as do celebrations of fathers. For example, in Germany and Austria, where my family and I have spent many years, fathers on Father's Day retreat to secret locations in the forest to drink beer. Their activities have nothing to do with children, except being away from them. Society’s expectations regarding fathers also seem to slip in one way or the other by generations.
The modern father seems to be all in. It starts with birth. I mean the actual, physical birth. The father is expected to be in the know and in the room. At least in appearance, he is supposed to support and assist. In my day, the last person anyone wanted to see near the birth process was the father. The father’s job was to wait until informed that he was the father of a baby girl or boy. No one knew in advance in those days. Accepted norms involved a lot of tobacco. The nervous, helpless father paced the hospital waiting room, chain-smoking filterless cigarettes. Then he was expected to view the baby through a glass display window. He might then be permitted to visit the cleaned-up and relaxed mother. His main function was to hand out appropriately banded cigars to co-workers, friends and the boys at the local bar. After fertilization, the father was essentially useless in the parenting business, other than for bringing home the bacon, appearing wise and calm and taking an occasional delinquent to the woodshed.
My own case was even more remote. My first-born arrived at an army hospital in Germany while I was busy in the field, training to stop the Red Hordes as they poured through the Fulda Gap. Those were the days when a favorite army saying was, “if they had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.” The local medical facility was called the Aid Station, and the only doctor was the Battalion Surgeon. You can imagine the attention dedicated to pre-natal care. When the time came, water broke, cramps started, and so on, the young mother made her way to the Aid Station. Most of the people, including the doctor, were also out pretending to defend the Fulda Gap. Two young draftees set out to get her to the Army hospital in Frankfurt, about 40 miles away. First, the ambulance wouldn’t start so they fired up a field ambulance, a ¾ Ton truck with a box body on the back. On the autobahn, the truck broke down, but one of the soldiers was a farm kid and knew how to repair such things with wire procured from a fence along the road. They did not know the way to the hospital, so the expectant mother sat in the front seat navigating and, as the truck had no turn signals, signaling through the city’s fast, multilane streets. When I arrived straight from the mock war, mother and daughter had been pronounced ready to leave. I think it was the day after the birth. To cap off the experience, we needed groceries and other supplies before going home. I was in field uniform. The Command did not permit the wearing of anything other than dress uniforms in public. The new mother had to go alone to the commissary on the busiest once-per-month payday.
After I got my English degree from University of Virginia, I became a townie for the next 8 years while I waited for a publisher to approach me with an idea (and advance) for the great novel I should write. I had a little construction business where I spent my days hanging siding and building decks with a cast of characters from a mashup of The Andy Griffith Show and Deliverance. But somehow my social life became intertwined with a bunch of egghead PhD candidates from the UVA History Department. One of my buddies from that group is Andy Trees. He has a kid. He claims to be a "writer" (I guess he's written a bunch of those "books" people used to read). I asked him if he wanted to try his hand at dadblogging. He was scared at first, but I walked him through it, saying, "It's just 500-1000 words--how hard can that be?"
Trees lives in Chicago and is the author of Academy X, Club Rules, and Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction, and the ebook A Scientific Guide to Successful Dating.
500 words for Father’s Day—how hard can that be? I’ve written 500 words before, sometimes even consecutively. 500 words is, like, six tweets and a digression. Spencer, my soon-to-be four-year-old, is playing quietly in the other room, so 500 words is clearly no problem.
Loud wails from the next room. I go to check on Spencer, who is inconsolable. The tape that we have used to attach his toy motorcycle to his toy jeep—part of his unholy project to create one ultimate super vehicle—has torn, and the motorcycle is now dangling precariously by one strand. Upgrade from masking tape to duct tape at which point Spencer realizes we should also add an airplane and a train engine to the vehicle. More duct tape. We solemnly christen this juggernaut the Jordka (a combination of the two most powerful sports figures in Chicago history, Michael Jordan and Mike Ditka, for those who have never watched Saturday Night Live).
Back to my computer. Spencer is making happy sounds from the next room. New super vehicle should divert his attention for at least three minutes. That’s plenty of time for an introduction and maybe a rough outline because 500 words is the equivalent of one rambling footnote. I feel a gentle tug on my leg.
“Daddy,” Spencer says, “do you have to go to the bathroom?”
Does Daddy have to go to the bathroom? Of course, Daddy has to go to the bathroom! Because one of our potty training methods was to teach Spencer that going to the bathroom was a fun, social activity like going to a party in your 20s where everyone is crowded into one small room, and there is always a line for the bathroom (I push aside vague worries that this will create future uncomfortable bathroom moments when Spencer meets other children who haven’t learned about the party going on in their bathrooms). And, in fact, Daddy does have to go the bathroom because Daddy has to be ready at a moment’s notice to pee, and so Daddy continuously hydrates as if he is preparing for his final two-and-a-half-mile ascent at the Tour de France.
Slight hiccup when Spencer somehow finds the time to unravel the entire roll of toilet paper in the brief interval between pulling up his pants and “washing” his hands—said activity consisting mainly of Spencer splashing water onto Daddy and laughing uproariously. Second slight hiccup when Spencer reaches out to touch this curious yellow liquid that comes out of Daddy’s body. Not clear if this is a joke he is playing on Daddy or if he is genuinely curious to see what urine feels like. Daddy has to stop—painfully—mid-pee and explain to Spencer that we never, ever do that. This just makes it sound more exciting, so Spencer immediately takes another stab at it. Daddy decides that he can hold it and that there is nothing unhealthy about severe kidney pain that radiates down his right leg.
I traffic in reality. For instance, not more than five minutes ago, the part of my brain that drives my hands to write honestly about being a work-from-home dad noted and stored the following: my adorable four-year-old daughter wandered into my office while I was trying to hammer out a rather complex form I need to do my job. "Daddy, I'm FIRSTY," she said, batting her eyes at me. If this was a TV commercial featuring a Good Dad, I would've stopped what I was doing, swept her up in my arms, given her a big hug, and taken her to the kitchen for some lemonade and then to the park to play on the swings and then to the the Pony Store to buy her a pony and whatever the hell it is that Good TV Commercial Dads do. Or - if this was a TV commercial featuring an Idiot Dad - I would've knocked over my laptop, which in turn would've caused an electrical fire, which in turn would caused my daughter to start crying, which in turn would've prompted Beth to come running down the stairs with the Ronco Mister Extinguisher in hand, she would've saved the, then looked at me, head cocked, hands on hips, shaking her head, while I sat there sheepishly. But as TV commercials are generally completely unrelated to anything that happens in real life, I did the following: told her to go find Mom, because I'm busy and can't help you right this very second, watched as she did so, then went back to work.
There was a kerfluffle with Huggies earlier this month - apparently they made a commercial depicting dads as incompetent, unable to change a diaper, or some shit (pun intended). This upset a few people, namely dads, and when the Huggies people showed up to Dad 2.0 and heard from dads who were upset about their ads, they decided to yank the campaign and try something new. This was heralded as a great victory, by those who care about the opinions of companies who make shit receptacles.
Full disclosure: I no longer purchase diapers, as my kids have outgrown them, but when I did I was usually too tired or busy to give much thought to the socio-political implications of commercials featuring products designed to hold urine/feces. I traffic in reality. For instance, I just got a text message from Beth: Lucas is sobbing over the school project that he spent a few hours building last night. The kids were told to design and construct a Simple Machine; he chose to build an Inclined Plane, figured out the design, found the materials (Legos and a flat slab of cardboard), put the whole thing together himself, and wrote a report about it. Did the whole thing by himself, as per the teacher's instructions. And so of course when he brought his into class, he saw that most of the other kids' parents had constructed elaborate Rube Goldberg devices using wood, handtools, pulleys, wheels, and everything else that these parents could buy for their kids at the local Home Depot. He's devastated. I'm livid. I'm sure that I'll do the right thing - tell him that he did the right thing, and that I could not possibly be more proud of him. I'm sure that won't help. I'm not sure how I'm preventing myself from picking up the phone, calling his teacher, and screaming my lungs out at her. (The afternoon's not over, folks.) Make an ad out of THAT, Sterling Cooper.
This is my world. I suspect that if you're a parent it's probably yours as well, and it's one that's far removed from that of the TV Commercial Idiot Dad and the TV Commercial Uberfather stereotypes. To me, one's as irrelevant as the other. I no longer get upset when I see yet another variation of the Hapless Dad on TV or in the movies; I no longer sing the praises of shows that portray dads as the modern-day incarnation of Atticus Finch. These misrepresentations are just so much white noise, gibberish from some alien planet, broadcasts from a Bizarro Earth. There will never be a TV commercial that accurately portrays what I know to be true about fatherhood; that sometimes we are idiots, sometimes we're not, and most of us muddle through, hoping not to do too much damage along the way. And when the TV starts blaring out the usual myths and lies about dads, I don't get mad - I turn it off.
I never thought it would happen to me; but my kids have arrived at that age.
They used to call it the "Terrible Twos," but I've read a lot of literature (okay, blogs) arguing that three is worse, and four is even...um, more worse. In any case, my formerly angelic 2.5-year-old twins have crossed the threshold. They've always had the capacity to be fussy, of course; but now, with their enhanced cognitive and language skills, they can do so with much greater focus and intention.
Some days are better than others; and even on their worst days, I forgive them by the time they've been asleep for a couple of hours. I even look forward to seeing them conscious the next day.
But some days are pretty bad, and I must say in all fairness, it's their fault, not mine.
Because you need another reminder that you're failing miserably as a parent, the American Association of Pediatrics would like to remind you that your kids are probably watching too much TV, and should be outside doing...outside things. (No, watching TV outside does not count.) And the definition of "watching TV" has been expanded; the group lumps in every category of video screen, including video games and computers. Yes, even so-called "educational games". (No, Gears of War 3 is not educational.)
A report released yesterday warns parents that TV has absolutely no benefit for kids under 2; the report recognizes that the number of viewing screen items in an average household has jumped over the past few years, thanks to the increasing number of homes with multiple TV's, computers, smartphones, and tablets. One concern is that parents often leave their TV sets on, either unwittingly or to provide some background noise, and that children can be distracted by OH WHAT A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT, REF! HE STEPPED OUT OF BOUNDS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Sorry. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. TV. Anyway, you can read an article about it here. On your laptop. That your kid was just using to look at funny cat videos. It's ok. We don't judge.
From 4:00 until around 4:30 every afternoon, it's just my 4-year-old daughter and I in the car. When she removes her thumb from her mouth for long enough, we have some fairly interesting conversations!
Today, however, wasn't so much "interesting" as it was "fucking uncomfortable."
Maddie the preschooler: Daddy, how did I get out of Mommy's tummy when I was just a baby?
Me: Um. Well. You came out through her private...area.
Maddie: You mean her front bottom?
Me: Well. Yes. I guess.
Maddie: That's diss-CUSS-ting!
Me: I was actually looking at her left shoulder, so that I wouldn't pass out.
Maddie: Her shoulder?
Me: Everything below that area was a bit--as you said--disgusting. You should've seen the hospital bedsheets afterward! But people like to say it's beautiful. These people are, in my estimation, full of poop.
Maddie: Did it hurt Mommy when I crawled out of her front bottom?
Me: I think you sort of slid.
Maddie: I guess it wasn't that bad then, was it?
Me: Not too bad. Mommy loves drugs. I mean. Mommy loves babies!
Me: Do you think Arthur will let DW play with his friends today?
Maddie: I can't WAIT to get home and watch Arthur!
Me: Me too.