Tag Archives: parenting

Sprout Tells Me a Story


“Dad, I have to tell you about this guy.”

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“Oh, yeah?”

“His name is Rocker Baddo.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Um, it’s cool, but he’s not a nice guy.”

“No?”

“Well, he’s a mean guy with powers. He catches people with his magics and his powers are being mean to animals, and he makes mean animals like dragons catch him. And he makes dragons catch other people, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re putting this on Facebook?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay, well, you should show someone. Put their name on the website, too.”

“Maybe I’ll do that. What else can you tell me about the guy?”

“Well, he smacks people with bombs. And he sneaks up on people to catch them. And he — you remember what I said about him that he says, when he sneaks up to scare you? He says BRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRR.”

“Wow!”

“Spell that word, too. And do you need me to tell you more?”

“If you like.”

“Okay, well, the worstest part that he does is when his stomach blows up with the little blower, it goes all over the city until everybody gets dooms right in the tower. (It’s just too long for me to sit, daddy.)”

(He gets up and starts monster-stomping around.)

“That’s okay, bud. Anything else?”

“I think there’s a lot more to tell you. Guess what? The other part is when the goats come out. After he does, he gets a lot of mean animals to come out, and after the animals come out, the animals are critters and they walk around like mean monster walkers but they’re robots. And when they blast people, people fall down. And when that happens, they put fire on you and your eyes, and then you don’t wake up anymore.”

(Jesus.)

“That sounds pretty scary.”

“Yeah, very scary.”

(At this point — he was stomping around like a mean monster walker robot, and unplugged the laptop, which distracted him enough to derail the story entirely.)

Oh, to have that amount of creativity, and the total indifference to whether it makes a damned bit of sense.

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I’ll Get Him Sooner or Later


Earlier today, we got my son a Star Wars book for early readers that makes sound effects from the movies as you read through the story. I’ve been trying and trying to get him into it — my own fandom is desperate for my progeny to love this thing that I love — but nothing has really caught fire yet, so when he pointed to it in the store and said “what’s that, Daddy,” naturally I rushed to it. “Here it is look it’s the story of the whole movie and that’s Luke and that’s Obi-Wan and in this picture they’ve got their lightsabers and if you push that button you can hear Darth Vader and isn’t that cool???”

Maybe I laid it on a little too thick, but this time it didn’t scare him off. He thought that was pretty cool, so I couldn’t get to the checkout line fast enough. (Here, please take my money for this thing, and also for anything else that my son might want while he’s giving me this shred of dadservice!)

He kept his nose buried in the book the rest of the way through the store, the whole drive home, and for his entire afternoon “quiet time” (which used to be called “naptime” but due to negative connotations with sprout #2, has been re-branded).

Currently, it’s an hour past bedtime and I can still hear the sounds of laser blasters and lightsaber clashes coming from his bedroom.

I should be angry — he’s supposed to be asleep and all.

But I think I’ll let it slide tonight.


Toddler Life, ch. 68: (Lack of) Sleep Chronicles


My daughter has never been much of a sleeper.

I mean, she’ll do it, in much the same way I eat my vegetables. (I know it’s a thing I have to do, and if I don’t do it for long enough, I start to feel really funky.) But it’s not a thing she’s ever chosen to do, or done willingly. I think it’s safe to say she expends more tears in a week of bedtimes than the average pregnant woman does over the course of her nine-month term.

And that’s at home, where all the routines are firmly ensconced and the deviations from said routines are rare.

But this week, we’re on vacation. Which means: strange beds, strange rooms, strange barometric pressure, the total absence of anything like routine, and her absolute favorite person in the world (grandma!) hanging around to dote on her at any time. Which by extension means that if sleep is usually a struggle, this week it’s more like healthcare (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Tried her pack & play (for the uninitiated, that’s a fancy word for a “quick set up” crib that doubles as a playpen, which has accommodated both of my kids — in either task — for maybe three hours TOTAL) in a couple of quiet rooms in the condo. Nothing doing. Tried the air mattress we packed in case the pack & play didn’t work. Not a chance. So on night one, she slept in my bed with my wife while I slept on the air mattress (which I’m pretty sure is Greek for, oh, you’ve never had back problems in your life? Well, surprise, now you do).

Surprise surprise, the baby who doesn’t sleep very soundly by herself sleeps even less soundly while sharing a bed with an adult. My wife hardly slept a wink with the little princess kicking her, tossing and turning next to her, waking up to scream and falling immediately back to sleep.

So I slept with the baby last night, while my wife — who actually has legitimate back problems — opted willingly to dance the dance of death with the air mattress instead. This doesn’t seem like a terrible call. I’m a sound sleeper in exactly the way my daughter isn’t, so theoretically, we should balance each other out.

Should.

I woke up five times that I can remember in the night.

Every successive wake-up I found myself closer to the edge of the queen bed. Somehow, the little girl 20% of my size and body weight managed to completely box me out of the bed until I was, quite literally, dangling an arm and a leg onto the floor, somehow managing to hold onto my place either by biting the pillow or clinging on with my toes.

When we went to sleep, she was arrayed on the mattress like a normal human. Head on pillow, feet pointed downward toward the edge of the bed.

First wakeup: she’s angled herself away from me slightly, head pointed away and feet pushing firmly against my hip.

Second wakeup: She’s aligned herself like a torpedo aimed at my shoulder blades, the top of her skull driving into my spine and forcing me towards the edge.

Third wakeup: The toddler torpedo has reversed itself and is now pushing its feet into the small of my back while she lays flat on her face, arms at her side, like one of those planking videos from five years ago, except that in a truly remarkable abuse of the laws of physics, she’s leveraging me — 150 pounds her better — off the side of the mattress. At this point, I actually get out of the bed, redistribute her like an actual human in the bed, and reclaim y rightful half.

Fourth wakeup: she’s curled up in the fetal position against the small of my back, which is kind of adorable, except she’s pressing the dagger points of her toenails into the soft tissue behind my knees. I concede an extra quarter of the mattress again to make the pain stop.

Fifth wakeup: it’s now six AM, the time when she ordinarily begins to stir when we’re at home. I open my eyes to find her face inches from mine, eyes wide open and gleeful, teeth bared in what I guess is a smile but what appears to my newly-awakened brain to be the grin of the very angel of death itself. She giggles and swats me with frankly astonishing strength in the ear. This is a fantastic move if you’re ever in a fight as it discombobulates your opponent and bollockses their hearing. It’s a real jerk move to pull on your father who was, moments ago, asleep, as it discombobulates the hell out of him and bollockses his hearing.

In slow motion, I slither out of the bed and collapse to the floor and attempt to sleep just five more minutes while my beautiful, delightful daughter — the apple of my eye, the joy of my life — continues to rain blows upon me.


Pun Without A Cause


If a dad joke gets cracked on a deserted street at five in the morning, does anybody groan?

I’m out for a run this morning. Five AM. Hazy moon floating behind the clouds. Hint of fog hanging in the air. Not a soul in sight.

I round a curve coming around the back of a shopping center, and there, in the middle of the road, a Dark Thing.

Dark Things always give me pause on the morning run — there are coyotes in the area, neighborhood dogs escaped from their backyards. At a distance, in the morning blackness, the shadowy shape could be anything. Usually it turns out to be roadkill, or a sad discarded sweatshirt. Sometimes it’s a stray cat or, in springtime, a rabbit, which bolts for cover long before I get close.

But as I drew closer, this Dark Thing resolved itself first into the suggestion of a shopping cart — which I resolved to move from the middle of the road — and then, when it began to move on its own, into a deer. What’s important is not how I mistook a deer for a shopping cart. What’s important is what I said.

“Oh, dear.”

I couldn’t help it. It just bubbled up and popped out, like a tooth-rattling belch after 76 ounces of diet soda. I was literally helpless.

The dad joke.

How I hated them in my youth. My dad has a bottomless supply of them and would let fly at the slightest provocation:

What time is it? Time to get a watch.

I need to take a shower. Where would you take it?

I’m getting a haircut. Really? Which one?

But in my adulthood, I have assimilated them, Borg-like. They come out as naturally as breathing.

I cringe inwardly when I say them — but I can’t help saying them. Now that I have kids, the part of my brain that would ordinarily stop me from saying these embarrassing, obvious jokes has shut itself down and boarded up the windows like the last man out of a dying mining town.

Why does the dad joke persist? Nobody likes a dad joke, except, perhaps, for the dad saying it. The joke exists, rather, for the sole purpose of irritation. The dad joke’s payoff is not in a delighted shock of laughter, but rather, in the rolling of the eyes, the put-upon sigh, the pained groan, or, best of all, the reflexive facepalm.

And here I am, all alone on the street at five in the morning, saying “oh dear” at the sight of a deer, as if to elicit such a response from the trees. And in the silence that followed? When I realized what I had just done — cracked a dad joke to nobody, apparently for the pure joy of it, for the sake of the joke itself like a truth that MUST be told, the future-seer shouting in the streets about impending calamity even as he knows nobody believes him — when it dawned on me that I have become this thing? That dad jokes are now a part of me?

The groan came after all.

It came from me.

Let the circle be unbroken.


Parents Who Hate Their Kids, Ch. 1


My son has a classmate named Taylor.

But not “Taylor.” It’s pronounced “Taylor,” but it’s spelled “Taeler.” Nothing against the name — I have a new niece named Taylor (and I hope I spelled it right, as I haven’t seen it in print yet, and HOO BOY am I about to make things awkward at Thanksgiving if I guessed wrong) — but this strikes me as a problem. Not because I don’t know whether Taylor is a boy or a girl; there are plenty of those names these days and that’s cool and trendy and whatever. But because poor Taeler’s parents have doomed her (or him) to a lifetime of interactions that begin with “actually, it’s spelled T-A-E-…”

Isn’t life hard enough?

Then there are C’Niyah and Zaniya. Pronounced the same, just starting with an “s” sound or a “z” sound. So is the apostrophe required? Or the “A”? How about the “H” on the end? Or are all of these things just flopping around like vestigial tails? And when it’s time to learn about capitalization, I pity poor C’Niyah — she (or he?) has to do it twice in her own name! How confusing is that?

In my own classes — this year alone! — I’ve got Michaela, Mikayla, Mikayela, McKayla, and Macayla. And maybe Mikaela. All pronounced the same. I’m pretty sure one of them has an “H” on the end as well, but does it even matter at this point? C’s, K’s, Y’s, E’s, H’s … they’re all flying around like cows in a tornado (RIP Bill Paxton), and there’s no telling where they’ll end up, or why. These poor girls (because there are plenty of other Michaelas, Mikaylas, etc enrolled) must ever clarify their identity by adding their last name, and have given up hope of ever having a teacher spell their name correctly — I personally couldn’t properly tell you which spelling goes with which girl with the first degree of confidence. These, too, might as well have the middle name “actually, it’s spelled …”

To say nothing of Caila, Kayla, and Kaela, whom I taught last year. Guess which one was pronounced “Ky-la”. You can’t, because there are no rules when it comes to names.

Here’s a fun one. How do you spell the name that’s pronounced “Jay-len”?

Trick question. I’ve seen it dozens of ways. Jalen, Jaelan, Jaylen, Jaelen, Ja-len, Ja’lin, Jalynn … I could go on. The possibilities are almost endless, because you can apparently capitalize whatever letters you like and throw around punctuation like you’re mixing salad with the SlapChop.

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Point is, none of these spellings for any of these names is “correct”, because there is no “correct” spelling when it comes to names. Which means — wait for it — ALL these spellings are INCORRECT! That’s just logic.

As a teacher, I dread meeting these kids for the first time, because inevitably, my first question will not be something insightful like “how was your summer” or something easygoing like that. No, the first thing I’ll have to say to them is “…spell that, please.”

And I know, I know. We want our kids to be unique, and we want them to stand out from the crowd because they are our delicate little snowflakes. But having been a teacher now for seven years (if that doesn’t make me the grizzled elder waving a yardstick around and get-off-my-lawn-ing), I can tell you that these names don’t uniquely identify a student to us, and certainly not in a positive way. Rather, these students are more likely than others to be frustrated with school, and people in general, because nobody can pronounce or spell their name! (Take it from a guy with a last name that’s vaguely eastern-European. I’ve heard so many different pronunciations I could start my own alphabet.)

If you want your kid to stand out, the way to do it is to bring them up to be a decent human being. One that seeks out learning and opportunities for their own sake. One that treats people with respect as a baseline. One who greets the world with positivity and optimism and effort.

You don’t do that by telling a child that they’re special all the time (and make no mistake, spelling your kid’s name “Taeler” when it’s pronounced “Taylor” only sets her — or him! — up to think that she’s special, that she’s different). That only confuses them when the world doesn’t back up that belief, and then they get mad at the world.

No, you make your child stand out by teaching them humility. Yes, to me you are special, but to the world, you are just another person like everybody else, and you have to earn what you want. In our new, technologic, me-centric world, it’s the person who actually lives in the real world, who pays attention to the people around them, who acts with compassion and good will instead of out of attention-seeking, who really stands out.

This post brought to you by M’ahtT, because apparently I can spell it any way I like.


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