“There’s plenty of funny and relatable stories inside this little book, for both moms and dads and will give you that extra boost of cheer for the day.”
- Parent Magazine
Click here to download a free PDF that (if wikipedia is to be believed) should be compatible with iPAD, Kindle, that goofy Motorola tablet and just about anything else with a screen. Feel free to forward to as many friends as you want to, too.
When it comes to RSVPs, there are typically two choices:
I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend.
Unfortunately, those don’t account for the true range of likely responses, and could easily be expanded:
I/we ___ will attend.
I/we ___ will attend under protest.
I/we ___ will attend but only for a few minutes before going to the party I/we really want to go to.
I/we ___ will attend but be too exhausted to socialize.
I/we ___ will attend if anyone else I/we like will attend.
I/we ___ will attend, but on the wrong night.
I/we ___ wasn’t invited, but will attend anyway.
I/we ___ will not attend.
I/we ___ will not attend unless the two other parties I/we want to go to that night get cancelled.
I/we ___ will not attend unless I/we run into the host at the store and he/she says “Did you get the invitation? So many people have backed out this year I’m really, really counting on you to attend,” in which case I/we will attend.
I/we ___ will not attend ever, so stop inviting us. I/we mean, seriously, WE NEVER ATTEND. Don’t you get the picture?
I/we ___ will not decide to attend or not attend until just after you’ve firmed up your guest list, nor will I/we be the least bit bothered by how much trouble this causes the host.
PARENT: What do you want for Christmas?
CHILD: I dunno. Maybe a bike.
PARENT: A bike? We just got you a bike last year.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: What do you mean? Of course we got you a bike.
CHILD: No you didn’t.
PARENT: I know for a fact we got you a bike because I’m the one who went to three different stores and then spent two hours assembling it in our unheated garage after everyone went to bed.
CHILD: No… you didn’t get me a bike: Santa did.
PARENT: Oh… uh… I must have been thinking of… of… something else.
KID: Santa brings toys to all the good girls and boys, right?
KID: What about bad kids?
PARENT They get coal.
KID: What about kids who are a bad, but not quite as bad as they could be?
PARENT They get clean coal.
Step 1. Look for lights.
Step 2. Find lights in last place you’d ever think they’d be.
Step 3. Spend 45 minutes trying to untangle them.
Step 4. Briefly stop to consider how much energy lights waste each season, but then continue.
Step 5. Climb up on roof.
Step 6. Roll eyes and say “Geez, it’s not like I haven’t climbed a roof before” when spouse/significant other/neighbor says “Be careful!”
Step 7. Almost slip and fall.
Step 8. Hope spouse/significant other/neighbor didn’t notice.
Step 9. Put up lights and revel in sense of satisfaction at how easy it was.
Step 10. Climb down ladder.
Step 11. Plug in cord and check lights.
Step 12. Pour stiff drink.
Step 13. Spend balance of afternoon replacing bulbs, splicing wires, and doing everything you can think of to get the lights to come on before ultimately giving up and deciding to skip the stupid lights this year and go green.
Step 14. Curse Al Gore.
||cook in one kitchen, move to another, then move back to the first kitchen as if nothing happened
||not just to have, but eat, too
|Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie
||Anything as long as it’s served “family style”
||if it burns, just blame the liberal media
||just bake well
|Bethenny Frankel & Jill Zarin
||it may be three years old, but it’s still satisfying
||with pretty much anything on the side
||i.e. “just desserts”
||which isn’t to say it’s not satisfying for those who like jello
|The Tea Party
||Bubble Gum Ice Cream
||it doesn’t matter because it’s all about the presentation
||Pigs in a blanket
||courtesy of the Fed’s $3.3 trillion in loans
1. THE COSTCO AMENDMENT
What do you do with eight gallons of stewed tomatoes? A 4-pack of 120 oz. mustard jars? 50 lbs. of rice?
If you’re like most households, you stick them on a shelf in the back of the pantry and try to ignore the fact that the giddy joy you felt because you saved so much money can’t possibly last long enough to counteract the guilt you’ll feel when you end up throwing half of it out.
This amendment would have legally prohibited club stores from selling bulk items that:
(a) the average consumer can’t possibly consume before the expiration date
(b) the average consumer doesn’t need – i.e. cashew butter, creamed spinach, dried parsley, tapioca pudding, etc.
(c) or that taste so good when sampled in the store nobody can resist their multi-ounce siren call.
2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FOOD HYPOCRISY
This amendment would have made it illegal for anyone to cop a militant attitude about food – holier-than-thou vegans, organic-only food-nazis, food processing plant owners and/or executives who roll their eyes (and mobilize their lawyers) if anyone questions their quality or commitment to cleanliness, etc.
3. SPECIAL PROVISION FOR SPOKESPEOPLE AND OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVES
When it comes to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other types of foodborne illnesses, it takes a special kind of flak to stand at a podium in front of a bunch of reporters and claim the company’s products are “perfectly safe” and that the media is making the situation out to be a lot worse than it really is, or that it’s not really company’s fault but the work of disgruntled employees and/or unscrupulous food activists, and that in either case, the company is “cooperating fully” with authorities to resolve the situation in a safe and timely fashion.
Since spokespeople can’t be sued for lying, this amendment would have made it mandatory for them all to attend a special private banquet where the only food they got would have been the very food they claimed everyone could “trust and continue to consume without any health and safety concerns.”
4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET – OR ELSE
Ever order anything online, or from the back of a magazine because the photos looked so good?
This amendment would have not only banned the use of Photoshop and other means of digital enhancement, but made it illegal for anyone selling direct-to-the-consumer food to hire a photo stylist to, for example, sort through 10,000 bushels of pears to find the one – and only one – in the lot that looked like you’d want to eat it.
It would also have made it illegal to embellish descriptions, meaning that if a wine-of-the-month club promised “world-class” bottles, they had better come from a part of the world that’s actually known for its vineyards and taste really, really good.
5. VEGETABLE JAIL
This amendment would have authorized the FDA to work with state and local law enforcement officials to create “vegetable jail,” so that instead of threatening kids who won’t eat their broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. with no dessert or having to sit at the table until everything – “And I mean everything!” – is finished, parents could just say “Look… it’s either spinach or 18 months hard time.”
(Not that some kids wouldn’t choose jail over spinach, of course, but at least it would have helped.)
TWEEN: Do you think I’m mature for my age?
DAD: I don’t know. Why do you ask?
TWEEN: Because I was just thinking about the way I help take out the trash, put my clothes in the hamper, brush my teeth at night, wash behind my ears when I shower, do my homework most nights without being told, and sometimes even go to bed early the night before I have a big test, and I wanted to know if you thought that was a reflection of how mature I am.
DAD: Uh… well… I guess if you put it that way, then “Yes.”
TWEEN: “Yes” I’m mature?
DAD: Yes, you’re mature.
5 minutes later:
TWEEN: Can you take me to the video game store?
TWEEN: I need to get “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”
MOM: You mean that ultra-violent first-person shooter a lot of parents have been concerned about?
MOM: But isn’t it rated “M” for “Mature?”
TWEEN: It is rated “M,” but Dad just said I’m mature, so it’s okay.
MOM: Uh… No.
Mom and Dad decide to play a game with the kids.
They decide on Monopoly, even though it’s not their first, second or even third choice.
They look for the game.
They find the game hidden away in back of closet and wonder what it’s doing there.
They look for the dice.
They find the dice.
They realize the $5 bills are missing, too, but agree to just round up to the nearest 10.
They roll to see who goes first.
They decide rolling to see who goes first leaves too much to chance and choose to go from youngest to oldest instead.
Dad tells oldest not to pout.
Mom tells youngest not to gloat.
Everybody starts playing.
Mom reminds everyone it’s just a game and the point is to have fun.
Dad remind everyone it’s just a game and the point is to have fun, but he uses “the angry voice.”
Mom starts getting competitive.
Dad starts getting competitive, too, but claims it’s Mom’s fault because she started getting competitive first.
The kids remind Mom and Dad it’s just a game and the point is to have fun.
Mom and Dad tell kids they can quit any time they want to, otherwise shut up and roll.
Mom puts hotels on the yellows.
Dad puts hotels on the purples and the reds.
8:35 pm – 8:43 pm
One after another, the kids land on Mom’s and Dad’s properties, lose all their money, all their property, and are forced out of the game despite their please for compassion, pity, help, another chance, etc.
Mom and Dad ignore them keep playing.
Mom and Dad finally remember why the Monopoly game was hidden away in back of closet.
KID: Mom? MOM!
MOM: What are you doing out of bed?
KID: I woke up.
MOM: Then go back to sleep.
KID: I’m not tired.
MOM: I don’t care if you’re not tired, it’s the middle of the night.
KID: It doesn’t feel like the middle of the night.
MOM: What time does the clock on my nightstand say?
KID: I accidentally tripped over the cord when I was coming over, sorry.
MOM: What does the clock on your father’s nightstand say?
KID: I don’t know. Dad? DAD!
MOM: No! Don’t wake him!
DAD: Too late, I’m already up.
KID: Do you know what time it is?
DAD: I can’t see the clock without my glasses.
MOM: It says 5:45.
DAD: It can’t be 5:45, it’s too dark outside.
MOM: It’s dark because the days are getting shorter.
DAD: But we just went on Daylight Saving Time last night!
KID: What’s Daylight Saving Time?
MOM: It’s when you change the clocks so you get more light during the day.
DAD: Yeah – “Spring forward” and “Fall back,” which means it’s not 5:45, it’s 6:45.
MOM: You mean it’s not 5:45, it’s 4:45.
DAD: That’s what I said.
MOM: No, you said it was 6:45 not 5:45.
DAD: Well… that’s what I meant.
MOM: Except that I remembered to change the clock, so it’s actually 5:45.
KID: Do I still have to go back to bed then?
DAD: No, because I remembered to change the clock, too, so that means it’s…
MOM: No, because your father always gets Daylight Saving Time backwards, so even though I changed the clock back an hour your father probably changed the clock forward, which means if it says 5:45, it’s actually 4:45.
KID: I’m really confused.
DAD: Me, too – and I didn’t get Daylight Saving Time backwards this time, I totally forgot about it.
MOM: Then why did you say you changed the clock?
DAD: Because you always make such a big deal over the fact that you remember and I forget.
MOM: So rather than come clean, you lied?
MOM: You didn’t lie?
DAD: Like you said… I have such a bad memory, I just forgot the truth.
MOM: Don’t get sarcastic.
DAD: You’re the one who started it.
DAD: I was asleep.
MOM: So everything is my fault?
DAD: Not everything.
KID: Excuse me – before you continue, can somebody just tell me what time it really is?
MOM: Why is that good?
KID: Because I think you’re both gonna need the extra hour you have before you need to get up to figure out what you’re really fighting about.
KID: What’s Daylight Savings?
PARENT: It’s when we set our clocks back an hour.
KID: What does that mean?
PARENT: It means what used to be 10:00 is now 9:00, so there’s actually an extra hour in the day.
KID: Which day?
KID: That’s a relief – I was afraid it was gonna be Monday when I’m in school.
KID: Are we gonna watch “Two and a Half Men?”
KID: Why not?
PARENT: Because we never watch “Two and a Half Men.”
KID: But I want to see Charlie Sheen.
PARENT: Why? Because he supposedly trashed a hotel room with a hooker?
KID: What’s a hooker?
PARENT: Never mind. The point is: bad behavior should have consequences.
KID: It does: higher ratings.*
*If half of parenting is threatening kids when they’re about to act inappropriately and the other half is punishing them when they do anyway, what’s a parent to do when the specter of public shame and humiliation not only stops being a deterrent, but is a legitimate pathway to fame and fortune?
4-YEAR-OLD: Is that women fat?
DAD: What woman?
4-YEAR-OLD: That woman over there.
DAD: No, she’s fine. And don’t say that kind of thing so loudly.
4-YEAR-OLD: She looks fat to me.
DAD: She’s not.
4-YEAR-OLD: She’s bigger than Mommy, isn’t she?
4-YEAR-OLD: When Mommy looks in the mirror, she says “I’m fat!” So if that woman is bigger than Mommy, then she’s fat, right?
DAD: Look… nobody is fat. Mommy isn’t fat. That woman isn’t fat.
Nobody is fat. Now… LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS LATER!
4-YEAR-OLD: Because why?
DAD: Because it’s not nice to say that about people in public.
4-YEAR-OLD: Why? Don’t they know they’re fat?
DAD: I’m sure they know, but sometimes people are self-conscious about their weight because they think other people will look down on them.
4-YEAR-OLD: I won’t look down on them. I don’t care if they’re fat.
DAD: That’s good.
4-YEAR-OLD: Do you think I should go over and tell that woman I don’t care if she’s fat?
4-YEAR-OLD: But then she won’t be self-conscious!
DAD: Too late.
DAD: See the way she’s staring at us? I think she heard everything we just said.
4-YEAR-OLD: Hey! Doesn’t she know it’s not polite to stare?
“So… what’s it like having kids?” the would-be parent asks.
“It’s great,” you say, “Having kids is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. They’re a lot of work, but when you see the way they smile and laugh and take in the world, it’s definitely worth it.”
And then maybe you chuckle and offer to let them stay over and take your kids for a weekend “test drive,” knowing they probably won’t but hoping they will so you and your spouse can get away for that “romantic weekend” you’ve been talking about since pretty much your kids were born (with the term “romantic” being parent-code for “getting some sleep and being able to watch pay-per-view movies all the way through, in one sitting, without being interrupted a dozen times because ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I had an accident’ or ‘I spilled jam on the carpet,’ etc.”).
You may suggest these would-be parents pick up a movie or two, too. But while many recommend something like “Parenthood”1 for its funny and touching insights into the ups and downs of, well, parenthood, there’s another movie that gives a fuller and more complete picture: 1970s horror classic “The Exorcist.” Here’s why:
Demonic possession is just another name for a weekday morning.
As every parent knows, at random and unpredictable intervals, your little angel will wake up snarling and nasty like a beast from Hell. Foul-mouthed? Before you even get through the door to say “Good morning, I made you breakfast,” you find yourself assaulted with “GET OUT! Can’t you see I’m sleeping? You always wake me up like this. I hate you. I hate you. I HATE YOU.”
And their appearance? Definitely something unholy (though, to be fair, not because they’re suddenly sporting horns, scales and some grotesque demon pig-nose, but because nobody looks good when they don’t shower for three days – why is personal hygiene such a difficult concept for kids to get, anyway?).
As for being able to crawl across the ceiling? Well… maybe not the ceiling, but when you consider the gravity-defying ways kids flip around in their beds while they sleep, it’s not such a stretch to think they might some- how end up on the ceiling.
Green puke? How about orange puke, yellow puke and blue puke, too?
It’s not called “The Technicolor Yawn” for nothing, something parents usually find out fast. Often, these multi-colored hues can be traced back to two types of foods: foods consumed in excess, like artificially-flavored fruit punch, Halloween candy and birthday cake; and foods consumed under protest such as salad, non-breaded fish, and brussels sprouts (with the eventual volume of puke increasing exponentially if you happen to say something like “I don’t care if you don’t like it. Nobody ever threw up eating brussels sprouts, so finish your plate!” first).
You know a child’s head can’t spin completely around… but a 5-year-old doesn’t.
And no matter how quickly the parent dashes into the other room to get the phone or answer the door or shut the oven off before dinner burns, it’s five seconds more than the 5-year-old needs to twist the 2-year-old’s head around to the point where it’s about to snap. “But we were just playing owl,” the child protests.
You don’t need an exorcist, but a child psychologist might be a good idea.
What parent hasn’t thrown up their hands at some point and said “I can’t do this anymore!” before turning to an expert for help?
Whether it’s the therapist, the math tutor, the reading coach, the college placement counselor or even the pitching specialist, all these experts are trying to do is exactly what Father Merrin was trying to do to Linda Blair’s Regan: make the kid “normal” again.
There can always be a sequel because evil – like parenting – goes on forever.
Which means the moment parents think they’re done and their kids are on their own, they move back home. Or go into therapy. Or just stop calling. This can happen at any time, for any reason (though it’s often financial), and it’s generally a lot worse than the original, just like “Exorcist 2 – The Heretic,” “The Exorcist 3,” and both versions of “Exorcist – The Beginning.”
And if that isn’t scary, nothing is.
From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”
1Is the TV version of this movie a reasonable substitute? Clearly the show has plenty of fans – here, here, here and here, for example – but what if it gets cancelled? Imagine devoting hour after hour to something, getting attached and becoming emotionally invested in its well-being, only to have it suddenly just grow up and move go away? On second thought… maybe that’s even more like parenthood than the movie “Parenthood.”
Ka-blaht ka-blaht ka-blaht.
All kids play, but for boys of a certain age, it’s not enough just to use their imaginations, they have to use their mouths, too, to make sound effects.
How can you repel a mutant robot invasion with a pulse rifle if you can’t create the “peeeehw!” it makes when it’s fired?
Or when a rocket-car banks hard around a turn to escape the sinister band of ninja-commandos who are pursuing it, it has to go “ssssssssssssshhhhhhhwwww” or the whole thing just doesn’t seem real.
As alien as these sounds seem to adult ears – even the sounds of aliens themselves – to boys they are as distinctive as bird calls.
(And for non-boys, just as hard to mimic.)
There’s the rumble of an interstellar battleship positioning itself in orbit around a moon so it can attack a colony of space pirates, the blast of a hundred alien death rays, the slicing whoosh of a samurai master’s sword – an infinite number of sounds to match the infinite number of battles that must be fought to save humanity and the extraterrestrial alliance it’s part of.
Besides, if they don’t do it, who will? Girls? Not typically.
Which explains why boys seem to have no choice but to spend so much of their non-school, non-sleeping, non-chore time facing down foes with their boy-chirps and boy-caws.
It also explains why of all the things that come out of their mouths, these types of sounds are among the most frequent, ranking somewhere between questions that start with “Can I…” and the phrase “But that’s not fair” in terms of overall popularity.
Not that boy sounds should be judged too harshly, however.
In jazz, scat is an art form, and singers who can convincingly communicate without using actual words are thought to be among the very best. To put it another way, who could look down on musical icons like Cab Calloway and Ray Charles who surely owe their adult-success to all those hours they spent as kids bouncing around the house beating back bad-guys with a “ka-posh,” a “zowwwwwwww” and a “kgle-kgle-kgle”?
Or what about that guy from all those “Police Academy” movies: he’s made an entire career out of making sound effects with his mouth.
There are plenty of other real-world implications to consider, too.
Studies often show that girls are more verbal than boys, and therefore better at communicating. But maybe that’s because experts are measuring language, not sounds?
Every parent knows that boys are consistently discouraged from making strange noises in public because most people find them distracting, embarrassing and/or gross. Often, all three. But perhaps if boys were shown ways they could use their boy sounds in more recognizable and constructive ways they’d be revealed to be just as communicative as girls?
Plus, they wouldn’t have to rely as much as they do on shrugs, nods and blank stares, which would be really helpful:
PARENT: How was school?
PARENT: Did you turn your assignment in?
PARENT: Do you have any homework you have to do tonight?
BOY: [BLANK STARE]
On the other hand, if boys did utilize their sounds more effectively, it would put moms at a decided disadvantage because they don’t seem to be anywhere near as fluent as dads:
MOM: What’s that?
DAD: Junior’s downstairs playing “Star Wars.”
MOM: It sounded like he hurt himself.
DAD: No, he just severed Jabba The Hut’s head with a lightsaber so now he’s hungry.
MOM: How can you tell?
DAD: Hear that “beeeeeeee-ghewwww?”
DAD: That’s a light saber being turned on.
DAD: And that “grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”? That’s Jabba gasping for air through a slit in his throat.
DAD: And that deep, prolonged sigh means “I could really use a peanut butter sandwich about now.”
MOM: That’s amazing. Especially since you never seem to understand half of what I say and I’m speaking English.
Eventually, like the desire to play with action figures, wear superhero costumes outside of Halloween and collect Pokemon cards, the need boys have to make their own sounds begins to fade, to the point where they are mostly silent by the time they reach adulthood.
(Except when they’re watching sporting events or playing video games.)
And yet even though the need fades, it never really goes away entirely. Instead, it lays dormant, waiting – sometimes aging, sometimes festering – until it’s reborn as the need old men have to make old man sounds — the “glurps” and “pffts” and “grgle-grgle-grgles” that are as distinctive to them as they are alien and indecipherable to the rest of us.
The bad times may be over, but the good times aren’t going to return any time soon.
For many of us, that’s troubling. But it can also be inspiring – especially when it comes to finding appropriate ways to spend quality time with family.
Kick The Can(didate)
Family members divide up into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Democrats try to prevent Republicans from kicking the can, just like in the classic childhood game, but have to put on blinders and argue among themselves, making it very easy for a lone Republican to come out of nowhere and kick the can.
Alternately, family members don’t divide up into Democrats and Republicans at all, but just play as a single group of Democrats who work against each other to both kick the can and prevent the can from being kicked, turning the whole game into an ugly, shameless, ultimately un-winnable waste of time.
Liar’s Dice, The Wall Street Edition
In the traditional game, players roll a handful of dice and then try to lie about how many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s they have. If one player doesn’t believe another, he or she says “liar.” If the accused is actually lying, he or she loses a die; if the accused is telling the truth, the accuser loses a die.
The game continues until there’s only one player left.
This version is played the exact same way, except that whenever a player lies and loses a die, he or she gets to replace it with one provided by the Treasury Department for as long as the government has adequate dice reserves, or can borrow dice from China.
The point of this game is to pretend to spontaneously gather around an imaginary table drinking imaginary tea from imaginary cups until the media believes it’s real, and then form a grassroots special interest group to force everybody to move to the right.
Duck Duck Goose
Each player pretends to be a homeowner and sits in a circle with the other homeowners. One player – representing a soon-to-reset adjustable rate mortgage, crushing equity line, further decline in housing prices, prolonged period of unemployment or other form of bad luck – walks around and taps each of them on the head, saying “Duck… Duck… Duck…”
This goes on for an inordinately long time, with all the anxious homeowners hoping the bad luck will just go away.
When bad luck finally says “goose,” the player he or she just tapped sits there quietly in a complete state of denial, then wanders off leaving an empty spot in the circle.
This goes on for an inordinately long time, too, until even the remaining homeowners are too depressed to continue.
What’s my party line?
Throw a blanket over your TV set and then randomly tune it to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC and see if you can tell what party’s talking points the supposedly non-partisan/independent/”fair and balanced” experts are secretly touting.
Just like regular “I Spy,” only with the more apropos subjects: “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with F… a foreclosed house.” Or “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with O… a one-term president.”
The Telephony Game
Start with any of the promises Banks made when they needed to be bailed out – to take fewer risks, not put profits first, learn from their mistakes, help homeowners modify bad loans, etc. – and play the telephone game to see if any of these phrases end up making any sense at all.
Pin The Tail (Of Blame) On The Donkey
Much like ‘08s most popular game, “Pin The Tail on The Elephant,” this one substitutes a donkey and uses a much, much bigger tail.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Big, Bad Wolf
Players divide into three teams, and then each team builds a house.
The first uses straw, which represents a “no-doc” loan, the second uses wood, which represents a zero-down, adjustable-rate mortgage, and the third uses brick, which represents a 30-year fixed-mortgage with 20% down that will never, ever cause problems.
They then wait for the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and try to blow their houses down.
How low can President Obama’s approval rating go? Put on “The Limbo Song” and see.
Republican Hokey Pokey
You put your right foot in, and then instead of putting your left foot in, you put your right foot in even farther unless you want the Tea Baggers to knock you over.
Ghost in The Graveyard Shift
Similar to the classic childhood game, except when word gets out you’re playing, 10,000 people show up.
(To see family games from last year, click here.)
WIFE: What’s wrong?
WIFE: You sure?
HUSBAND: Positive. Why do you keep asking me?
WIFE: You look like you’re angry.
HUSBAND: I don’t feel angry.
WIFE: But you look angry.
HUSBAND: But I’m not angry.
WIFE: If you say so.
WIFE: So there’s nothing you’re upset about?
WIFE: Nothing you’re not telling me?
WIFE: Nothing you’re gonna stew about for the next few days and then finally admit to me this weekend has been bothering you all week?
HUSBAND: No. Do you want me to be mad?
HUSBAND: I think you do.
WIFE: I do not.
HUSBAND: Don’t get so defensive.
WIFE: Stop attacking me.
HUSBAND: You’re the one who’s attacking me.
WIFE: Only because you lied.
HUSBAND: About what?
WIFE: About being angry!
HUSBAND: I’m only angry because you made me angry.
WIFE: So you do admit you’re angry?
WIFE: I knew it.
What’s sex? Did you take drugs in college? Why did you vote for George W. Bush* the second time?
Kids ask questions all the time, but there’s a difference between the ones parents can’t answer — “Does God need to shower?” — and the ones (some) parents don’t want to. The solution? Perhaps we can take a cue from politicians, their press secretaries and the so-called “bipartisan” pundits we see on TV and use the same simple strategies for answering without answering.
1. Give a detailed, thoughtful response, just not to the question they ask.
Campaigning politicians are particularly good at this, and the trick is to remember that your answer can be anything, just as long as you can loosely relate it to the original question.
For example, if asked about drugs, begin by saying “I’m glad you asked me about smoking pot in college…,” which makes it sound like you’re going to admit that for most of your sophomore year your best friend was your bong, but then say “…because I think it’s important that we be open and honest with each other, especially now that you’re older and starting to ask hard questions. It seems like only yesterday when the most important thing on your mind was which Power Ranger you wanted to dress up as, or if a certain Pokemon could beat a certain other kind of Pokemon. I have to admit that watching you grow up has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and I look forward to helping you continue on that journey towards adult- hood by providing you with the information and insight I myself have gained over the years…”
If you haven’t lost them by then, just keep talking.
2. Focus on “the larger issue.”
Which can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
3. Ask your kids what they think the answer is.
Also known as the therapist approach.
This works well for things you don’t really know how to explain, but not-so- well for things you’re just not comfortable talking about.
Time was that people who didn’t tell the truth were called liars and they were looked down upon, but thanks to all the CEO’s, athletes, politicians and ce- lebrities who’ve been caught with their pants down (or off, or filled with drugs, etc.) those days seem to be over.
The best thing about this approach is that if your lie is later exposed, you can claim you just “misspoke.” As in “Yes, I can see how my response to the ques- tion ‘Did I vote for George W. Bush?’ might have been confusing, because when I said ‘No,’ I actually misspoke. In point of fact – and because it’s im- portant to me that the record accurately reflect my views – I didn’t mean ‘No’ in the traditional sense of the word, and I can see now how my incorrect use of that word might have been somewhat misleading, because what I, in fact, meant was that I felt that in light of the specific challenges facing the Presi- dent at that time, it was important for me – and really, all of us as a nation – to remain united and strong, and because of that, I did my duty as an American by going to the polls and casting a ballot so my voice could be heard, and even though that ballot was nominally in the affirmative, it was really more a show of support for the country as a whole than a specific endorsement of any one candidate. I voted because it’s the duty of every citizen to vote, and for that I will never apologize.”
5. Use a spokesperson.
Either a hired professional or your spouse, if he or she has the BS skills required.
This has the added benefit of distancing you from your answer, whatever that might be.
Plus, if you are later confronted about the answer your spokesperson gave on your behalf, you can say you didn’t actually mean whatever it was they said and that you must have been “quoted out of context.”
*Or, increasingly for many, Barack Obama the first time.
FROM: YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT
As we kick off the new school year, we thought it necessary to take a few moments to discuss some of the challenges we’re facing this year. As many of you know, the economy is still struggling and we have been hit particularly hard by state budget cuts.
Again — wasn’t Obama supposed to have fixed everything by now?
As a result, we have undertaken a series of steps to deal with this unfortunate situation, and ask for your understanding in this difficult time.
The first and most obvious change is a slight reduction in the total number of days school will be in session this year. In addition to usual holidays, we will also be observing Halloween, All Saints’ Day (in a non-denominational way), Dia De Los Muertos, Guy Fawkes Day, the Winter Solstice, The Great American Smoke Out, Pearl Harbor Day, World Religion Day (again, in a non-denominational way), The Day The Music Died Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Good Samaritan Day, The Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools’ and Arbor Day.
We had planned to observe Cinco De Mayo as well, but since the last day of class will now be April 15th, school will already be closed.
Our vacation schedule is undergoing some adjustments as well: Thanksgiving Break will now go through the end of the November, Winter Break will last until the day after Martin Luther Kind Day, and Spring Break will be March.
We will also be closing the school February 16-20 to give all parents a chance to take part in — depending on your situation — either a “Take Your Child to Work Week” or a series of field trips to The Unemployment Office, Health & Human Services, and various shelters and soup-kitchens.
We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but would like to point out that because these additional closure days will be unpaid, all teachers and administrators will be available for babysitting at the standard rate of $9/hr if your child is well-behaved, $25/hr. if he or she is not.
(If you’re not sure which category your kid falls into, ask the principal or one of the teachers to check the secret “trouble-maker” list in the office, or ask your child directly — though if talking to your child is not something you normally do, just go ahead and assume you’ll be paying the higher rate.)
In addition to schedule changes, we have also been forced to make adjustments to what we call “non-core classes,” or what most students refer to as “fun.”
Where we used to offer music class and after-school guitar, violin, flute and coronet lessons, we will now just have an iPod filled with classical music in the library that students can check out.
Art class will continue, thanks to the generous corporate support of Exxon, but will consist solely of students painting pictures of happy animals frolicking among oil derricks and pipelines in a global-warming-free world. And not with pastels or water-colors, either, but only oils.
The biggest change will be to shop class, which will be mandatory for all students, and will focus exclusively on offering them practical, hands-on experience, beginning with re-tarring the gymnasium roof, which was supposed to be paid for with federal stimulus funds, except the governor rejected them.
In light of all this, we are also revising our official “Back to School” supplies list to include the following:
- Work gloves
- Hard hat
- Safety goggles
- Notarized liability waiver
We have also changed the required quantities of the selected items.
Students will now be required to bring:
- 10 rolls of tape so the old torn-up text books that were pulled from the incinerator just before they were scheduled to be burned can be taped up and used for one more year
Students will now be required to bring:
- 120 oz. bottle of Whiteout to correct any outdated information in the above-mentioned text books such as references to the 48 states, the U.S.S.R., American economic dominance or The Great Depression — not because this type of information is incorrect, but because we don’t want students reading about it and freaking out that it still might happen again
Given increasing concern about Swine Flu, we also recommend each student bring:
- Medical-grade hand sanitizer
- Rubber gloves
- A hospital mask or filtered respirator
And where in past years we have discouraged students from brining an apple for their teacher out of food-safety concerns, we now not only encourage it, but suggest canned goods, cereal, grains and shelf-stable dairy products as well, as their pay has recently been involuntarily de-raised by 20%.
We appreciate your understanding and ask that any parents who are able should join us next Tuesday for a bake sale, where we’ll be offering a wide variety of donated cookies, cakes and pies all starting at $172.50 each.
Your School District
P.S. We are also looking for unpaid volunteers, specifically five parents who just happen to have teaching certificates and can commit to spending five days a week from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm with between 20 and 30 students for the rest of the year.
Everybody says having kids changes everything, but how?
It’s not like you suddenly wake up in some alternate reality (even if it sometimes feels that way) or discover the days of the week have been completely rearranged (which isn’t to say that chronic sleep-deprivation isn’t sometimes disorienting), it’s mostly that everything you did before you had kids gets replaced with some other activity.
Non-parent activity: Hanging out with friends
Parent activity: Hanging out with people you don’t really know – and might not even like – because their kids are friends with your kids
Non-parent activity: Making plans
Parent activity: Canceling plans because somebody threw up
Non-parent activity: Sleeping
Parent activity: Three 24 oz. Lattes, a half-case of Diet Coke and five Red Bulls per day
Non-parent activity: Being on time
Parent activity: Explaining why you’re late (for a while anyway, until everybody stops inviting you to things, or says it’s “adults only”)
Non-parent activity: Going to a 4-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 3-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 2-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 1-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to Chuck E. Cheese, because if you have to go to McDonald’s one more time you’ll go insane
Non-parent activity: Finding the perfect handbag
Parent activity: Finding the perfect babysitter (who is likely to be just as expensive and “sold out”)
Non-parent activity: Working out in the morning
Parent activity: Working out for 15 minutes before everybody gets up, stopping, getting everybody breakfast, going back and working out for 5 more minutes, stopping, getting clean socks and underwear from the dryer, where you accidentally left them last night because you fell asleep before you could fold them, trying to work out for a few more minutes before realizing you’re out of time
Non-parent activity: Working out at night
Parent activity: Laughing at the thought of working out at night, because after a day like this who has the energy?
Non-parent activity: Yoga
Parent activity: Mommy & Me
Non-parent activity: Seeing movies
Parent activity: Seeing movies you hate, over and over again, because kids love repetition
Non-parent activity: Biking
Parent activity: Taking your kids to the emergency room for stitches after they crash
Non-parent activity: Going shopping
Parent activity: Going shopping, not getting a chance to get everything, then having to go shopping again (and sometimes again and again and again, depending on how tired and disoriented you are)
Non-parent activity: Sex
Parent activity: Naps, but not with anywhere near the same frequency
Non-parent activity: Being in a hurry
Parent activity: Being in a hurry but having to stop at a gas station anyway, because somebody forget to pee before they get in the car
Non-parent activity: Organization
Parent activity: Reluctantly embracing the chaos
Non-parent activity: Date night
Parent activity: Prom night – as in the one your kids go to, since that’s how long it will be before you ever get to go out again
Non-parent activity: Vacations
Parent activity: Going to Disneyland (which can be fun but is definitely not a vacation)
Non-parent activity: Relieving stress through exercise, meditation, deep-breathing, etc
Parent activity: Drinking
Non-parent activity: Modesty
Parent activity: Answering the door in a towel because even though you told the kids “Don’t get it!” they did (which is also the reason you sometimes spend 25 minutes talking to telemarketers)
Non-parent activity: Going to a sporting event and booing the ref
Parent activity: Not booing the ref because you now realize being fair and impartial is impossible and that no matter what the call, somebody will throw a fit (and whether it’s a professional athlete or a child, the screaming, yelling, stomping and fist-pounding all looks exactly the same)
Non-parent activity: Buying new furniture
Parent activity: Buying new furniture because — your kids “swear” — the old furniture just fell apart and/or got stained all by itself
Non-parent activity: Turning off the evening news because their coverage of the latest public health “crisis” is ridiculous
Parent activity: Turning off the evening news and taking your kids to the emergency room because now you’re worried they might have been exposed to it
Non-parent activity: Cleanliness, basic hygiene
Parent activity: The five-second rule
Non-parent activity: Wiping your nose with Kleenex
Parent activity: Wiping their nose with your thumb and forefinger, then flinging it on the ground
Non-parent activity: Getting a facial
Parent activity: Getting a facial of vomit
Non-parent activity: Doing things when you want to
Parent activity: Doing things when you have to
Non-parent activity: Deciding you’re ready to have kids
Parent activity: Realizing you were wrong (but trying to make the most of it, anyway)
KID: Can I ask you something?
DAD: What is it?
KID: Promise you won’t get mad?
MOM: What makes you think we’d get mad?
KID: Just promise.
MOM: What’s your question?
KID: What’s “stress?”
DAD: It’s a prolonged state of mental and emotional strain.
MOM: It’s like you’re being pulled in two different directions.
DAD: At the exact same time.
MOM: You’re stuck.
DAD: But you can’t get unstuck.
MOM: Until you feel totally and completely overwhelmed.
DAD: And irritable.
MOM: And short-tempered.
DAD: And impatient.
MOM: And you can’t sleep.
DAD: Or focus.
KID: But it’s not contagious, is it?
KID: Good — ’cause obviously the only thing you can do about it is drink, and I’m not old enough.
Awakened by phone.
Son’s friend’s mother calling to ask about afternoon playdate despite being told many times before do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency, especially on a Saturday because that’s the only day I ever get to sleep in.
Tell her to call back after 8:30 am.
Climb back in bed.
Reluctantly accept fact that chance to sleep-in ruined.
Even more irritated.
Think of other ways to get the do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency point across because, clearly, plain English is not working.
Also think a playdate is not an emergency, and sure as Hell isn’t going to happen today.
Realize this is harsh/unfairly punishes kids for mother’s behavior.
Fantasize about retaliation/payback.
Wonder if I could live with myself if I called every night for a week at 12:01 to remind her do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency.
Accept fact that I could not.
Try to think of other alternatives.
Have one idea.
Go out for extra-large coffee.
Hear phone ring just as door is closing.
Know instantly who it is.
Think disconnecting phone line may be only option.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit. Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
MOM: Did he just say what I think he said?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
MOM: Sweetie, you shouldn’t say that.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Say what?
DAD: That word.
MOM: Especially around Grandma – God knows she thinks I’m a bad enough parent as it is.
PRE-SCHOOLER: What word? Hit? Bit? Fit? Shit?
DAD: That’s enough.
MOM: How are we gonna tell him not to say S-H-I-T without saying S-H-I-T?
DAD: Why don’t you make a different rhyme?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Mass. Class. Bass. Ass.
MOM: I have a better idea. Have a seat and let’s talk about this. See, there are some words you can’t say out loud.
MOM: Because they’re bad words.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are they bad? Did they do something to get in trou- ble, like leave their toys in the hallway?
MOM: No, the words didn’t do anything, they’re just bad.
DAD: And if you say them you’ll get in trouble.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are you using your angry voice?
MOM: Daddy’s not using his angry voice. He’s just trying to tell you there are some words that are bad and good boys don’t say them.
PRE-SCHOOLER: But Daddy says them when he drives us to school, and sometimes after he talks to Grandma.
MOM: Look… Let’s just take a break from rhyming and you and I will go play with your fire truck.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Okay – Truck. Duck. Muck. F –
MOM & DAD: NOOOOO!