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EARTH DAY GUILT

For a lot of parents, Earth Day is a time to feel guilt and shame for driving an SUV and having too many flat-screen TVs. For kids, it’s a time to learn that the psychological problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and treat them are nothing compared to the environmental problems they’ll have later in life because of the way mom and dad treat the planet.

(Assuming, of course, life is still around later.)

KID: Thanks for ruining the earth.
PARENT: It’s not my fault. Blame grandma and grandpa, too — they started it.

The good news is that thanks to most Americans grudging acceptance of climate change, a renewed government-focus on conserving natural resources and developing alternate energy sources, and the fact that it’s cool to drive a Prius, there’s hope for the future.

The bad news is that kids are still kids, which means they can turn just about anything to their advantage, especially environmental tips they come home and claim to have been taught in school:

PARENT: How was school today?
KID: We learned how to help the planet for Earth Day.
PARENT: Great.
KID: They said we should all conserve water and turn off lights when we don’t need them so we don’t waste electricity.
PARENT: That’s right.
KID: Which means I shouldn’t take a bath tonight, or probably even this week.
PARENT: Huh?
KID: And you know how you always bug me about reading in the dark?
PARENT: Yes.
KID: That’s actually good because reading in the dark doesn’t waste electricity.
PARENT: Uh…
KID: We’re supposed to recycle everything, too, so wearing the same shirt, pants and underwear all week isn’t gross, it’s green.
PARENT: I think you’re taking these tips the wrong way.
KID: How could I take them the wrong way?
PARENT: I don’t know but I guess we’ll find out: what else did you learn?
KID: Eat local.
PARENT: And?
KID: Just that: eat local.
PARENT: That seems pretty straight forward.
KID: It is — and since that McDonald’s is just down the street, I was thinking we should go there as much as possible.
PARENT: Are you serious?
KID: We don’t even have to drive. We could walk!
PARENT: I don’t even know how to respond.
KID: I know eating local like that isn’t always practical, so we learned that when we can’t eat local, we should at least eat less.
PARENT: Let me guess: starting with vegetables?
KID: Especially carrots.
PARENT: Right.
KID: We should also try to use less.
PARENT: Which means?
KID: No more boring, stupid trips to Target! Hurray!
PARENT: Anything else?
KID: Americans waste 5.8 billion gallons of water each year flushing their toilets.
PARENT: No.
KID: But you don’t even know what the tip is.
PARENT: I can guess. And I don’t care how good it is for the planet, you have to flush.
KID: Wow. You know, when they said some people didn’t want to help the environment, I never thought they meant you.

Happy Earth Day.

INVITATION DECISION-MAKING TREE

Do you need to go? NO decline
YES
Do you want to go? NO decline
YES
Can you think of anything bad that will happen if you don’t go? NO decline
YES
If you lie and say you can’t go because you already have plans, will anybody find out? NO decline
YES
Will you really care if that happens? NO decline
YES
Will there be an open bar? NO decline
YES
Can you leave early if you are having a terrible time? NO decline
YES
accept

TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS? OH, PLEASE

As a parent, time is precious. So how do you make the most of it? Time management experts offer the following advice:

1. Prioritize.
2. Delegate/outsource.
3. Set time limits for tasks.
4. Establish routines and stick to them.
5. Don’t waste time waiting.

At first glance, these suggestions seem simple and straight-forward, but when you actually try to implement them you quickly realize they are better suited to some kind of parallel “self-help dimension” where the laws of time, space and sibling in-fighting don’t apply.

1. Prioritize.

In theory, yes. In practice – forget it.

Take, say, the tasks of treating an injury versus giving a toddler a bath. Typically, bleeding kids come first, unless they’re bleeding because they did the thing you told them not to do five times, in which case the toddler would get the bath. If the bleeding kid is bleeding on furniture, however, then the furniture needs immediate attention.

On the other hand, if there’s only a little bleeding and it’s not on any furniture, then that might not be as important as preventing the toddler from trying to bathe himself.

2. Delegate/outsource.

Which means what? Parents are supposed to ship their kids off to India to get help with their homework?

3. Set time limits for tasks.

Okay. But what is the appropriate time limit for a temper tantrum? And if getting everybody ready in the morning takes 15 minutes longer than whatever amount of time you set aside – whether it’s 40 minutes or two hours – how are you supposed to limit that? Or if you make reservations for that one night out a year you get a leisurely three hours to eat, what happens when the babysitter is 20 minutes late and the restaurant gives up your table?

4. Establish routines and stick to them.

Most parents already do this, but it doesn’t seem to help. For example, a typical morning routine would be telling the kids to get up, get in the shower, get dressed, get some breakfast and get in the car, then repeating this three or four times over the course of 20 minutes before threatening them with some kind of bodily harm if they don’t do all of the above RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

This is followed by the nagging suspicion that something that was supposed to have been done last night wasn’t, and the sudden realization that this “something” was making lunches for all the kids.

Oops.

As there is now not nearly enough time left to do everything and still get off on time, vows that “This will never happen again!” must be shouted so that all in the house can hear, spouses must be silently cursed for not helping, and God must be asked “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”

5. Don’t waste time waiting.

Clearly this was not written by anyone living in a small house with kids. How else is a parent supposed to get into the bathroom?

From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”

STATISTICS SAY FATHERS BETTER THAN MOTHERS

As this week’s New York Times points out, “Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations.”

Take that, grandparents.

But if “time spent with kids” is an indicator of overall parenting success, it raises the question: who does a better job? Mothers ? Or fathers?

The answer: fathers.

Because when you compare the amount of time spent with kids today to pre-1995 amounts, fathers are up an impressive 102 percent, while mothers are only up 77 percent.

Sorry moms.

(As with all statistics, there is an alternate interpretation. Click here to see how the same statistics indicate mothers are better than fathers.)

STATISTICS SAY MOTHERS BETTER THAN FATHERS

As this week’s New York Times points out, “Working parents perpetually agonize that they don’t see enough of their children. But a surprising new study finds that mothers and fathers alike are doing a better job than they think, spending far more time with their families than did parents of earlier generations.”

Take that, grandparents.

But if “time spent with kids” is an indicator of overall parenting success, it raises the question: who does a better job? Mothers ? Or fathers?

The answer: mothers.

Because when you compare the amount of time spent with kids today to pre-1995 amounts, mothers are up an impressive 9.2 hours per week while fathers are only up 5.1 hours.

Sorry dads.

(As with all statistics, there is an alternate interpretation. Click here to see how the same statistics indicate fathers are better than mothers.)

TIME DOESN'T FLY WHEN YOU'RE FLYING WITH KIDS

How can a two hour and 20 minute flight take five hours?

Electronic check in:

17 17 minutes

Manual check-in after electronic check-in can’t find everyone’s name:

34 34 minutes

Airport security:

37 37 minutes

Pat down, additional questioning after dad was randomly flagged as a potential terrorist (which the kids thought was funny, but the parents couldn’t believe):

11 11 minutes

Flight Delay (cause unknown, but “kid in control tower” incident suspected):

40 40 minutes

Actual flight:

140 2 hours 20 minutes

Wait on tarmac (after pilot announces “We’ll be taxing to the gate in just a few minutes”):

17 17 minutes

Wait at gate:

7 7 minutes

Wait at baggage claim:

34 34 minutes

Wait at baggage claim “lost luggage” department:

19 19 minutes

Time-out for deep, calming breaths:

6 6 minutes

Finding car in long-term parking after losing slip of paper with level and section number:

22 22 minutes

Explaining why there won’t be any more family trips until the memory of this last one has faded away completely:

Forever Weeks

THINGS ONLY PARENTS UNDERSTAND

“Why do my kids always need to tell me things when I’m going to the bathroom?”

- from 140characterparenting.com

WHO'S THE FOOL NOW?

KID: Dad! Dad! You gotta come quick!
DAD: Why? What is it?
KID: Just come with me.
DAD: Wait… is this an April Fools’ prank?
KID: A what?
DAD: An April Fools’ prank — you know, where you play a practical joke on somebody and then when they realized it, you yell “April Fools!”
KID: I’ve never heard of that. Is it new?
DAD: No, April Fools’ Day has been around forever. In fact, it used to be one of my favorite holidays. One time when I was a kid, your uncle and I put black food coloring in the milk, and then when your grandpa poured it on his cereal he screamed. Another time we let the air out of one of his tires and told him he had a flat. And then there was this time we switched the morning newspaper and tricked him into thinking it was still yesterday, so he got dressed and went into work.
KID: Didn’t you get in trouble?
DAD: No way. That’s what’s so great about April Fools’ Day: it’s the one time of year you get to play practical joke on people and not get in trouble.
KID: Not even a little bit?
DAD: Anybody who gets mad at you for an April Fools’ prank is a bad sport.
KID: Cool.
DAD: Hey… where are you going?
KID: To the garage: I need to get a bucket, some duct tape and the hose.
DAD: Why?
KID: If I told you it wouldn’t be an April Fools’ Day prank, would it?

WHEN YOU'RE EXHAUSTED

…the answer is “NO!,” regardless of whether the question was “Are you up- set?” or “Can I go to the potty?”

…you call your kids by the wrong names. Or worse – by the dog’s.

…simple things become infinitely complicated, to the point where microwaving chicken nuggets takes an hour.

…you can’t remember if it’s your day to do the pick-up, and if you think it is, it isn’t, and if you think it isn’t, it is.

…you try to play hide ‘n’ seek but fall asleep in the upstairs hall closet.

…your spouse is “in the mood” and doesn’t understand why you’re not.

…somebody throws up, bleeds on something, or has “an accident.”

…non-parents suggest you just put the kids to bed early and get some sleep, but you’re too tired to tell them what a massively stupid and unrealistic idea that is.

…telemarketers call every few minutes asking you to donate.

…helping your kids with their homework proves so stressful and challenging, it makes you cry, even though it’s just addition.

…you don’t realize you’re yelling at your kids until everybody else in the supermarket aisle starts to stare.

…you push on, because you’re a parent and that’s what parents do.

COFFEE SCRIBBLES

COFFEE SCRIBBLES: THE THREE P'S OF PARENTING

CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MOVIE

BETTER TO BEND THAN (SPRING) BREAK

Time was, Spring Break was a blurry haze of non-stop adventure where the goal was to cram in as much fun as possible before returning to class – usually more tired than before we left.

But now we have kids, which means Spring Break is still a blurry haze of non-stop adventure, but the fun we try to cram is for our kids’, not for ourselves.

And while we still end the week far more tired than we were before it even started – Why is there no absolute limit to sleep deprivation, anyway? – at least we can take comfort in the fact that we’ll actually remember the memories we’re making now, and be able to look back on them forever and smile.

(Except for the ones involving the flight, which was delayed 2 hours.)

A SHORT, INCOMPLETE LIST OF DUMB PLACES TO STAND WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR CHILD TO GET OUT OF SCHOOL

  • Immediately in front of the main doors.
  • Immediately in front of the side doors everybody uses because some idiot is standing immediately in front of the main doors.
  • In the middle of the hallway.
  • In the middle of the hallway with a double-wide baby stroller, dog, or large box of school supplies (even though they are appreciated).
  • In the middle of the hallway with three or four other parents who don’t seem to realize they are blocking the main hallway.
  • At the bottom of the stairs.
  • At the top of the stairs.
  • Anywhere on the stairs, even to the side because everybody still has to go around you.
  • In a semi-circle of other parents directly in front of your child’s classroom door.
  • Just behind the semi-circle of other parents standing directly in front of your child’s classroom door, but in front of some other parent’s child’s classroom door.
  • On the playground next to a bunch of kids playing kickball (especially if your head is down because you’re angrily typing a list of dumb places to stand, because then you don’t see the ball that’s arcing toward your head until it’s too late).

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN ST. PATRICK'S DAY TO A KID?

KID: Why’s Dad throwing up in the bathroom?
MOM: Um… he’s not feeling well.
KID: Is it because of St. Patrick’s Day?
MOM: What do you mean?
KID: Well, when I walked into the kitchen last night, I saw him putting green food coloring in his beer and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
MOM: Um… uh… that’s right – sometimes adults drink green beer to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
KID: And wear green clothes.
MOM: Yes, and they wear green clothes. When I was a little girl, we used to drink green milk, too.
KID: Yuck. You’re kidding right?
MOM: No. Why?
KID: Duh – because obviously green food coloring makes you sick. Why else would Dad be throwing up?

WHAT DOES DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME ACTUALLY SAVE?

GET UP! GET UP! WE OVERSLEPT!

For most families, Daylight Saving Time turns what’s typically a frantic, time-crunched mess of morning activity into a domestic version of roller derby, with everyone throwing elbows and accusations as they scramble to get dressed and get out the door:

RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: You said you were gonna change the clock.
IDIOT: I did.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Then why does it still say 7:40 when it’s really 8:40?
IDIOT: I guess I forgot.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Right — you forgot, so I’m late.
IDIOT: You could have changed it, too.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I changed all the other clocks!
IDIOT: That’s my point: why didn’t you remind me to change this one while you were changing all the others?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: I did!
IDIOT: Well… I guess I didn’t hear you.

According to wikipedia, Daylight Saving Time, which was standardized across most of the United States in 1967, was primarily intended to reduce energy consumption — the “extra” hour of daylight in the afternoon was supposed to mean fewer lights would have to be on at offices, retailers, restaurants etc.

But when you consider how most people react when the Daylight Saving Time-bomb goes off, it’s more likely that any energy savings will be more than off-set by the increased consumption caused by all the stupid things people do when their sleeping patterns get disrupted.

What’s the net-effect of having to make two extra trips to the grocery store — the first because you accidentally left your list at home, and the second because you accidentally left your kid there?

Or what about having to replace a freezer full of food because just after you opened the door to sneak some ice cream for breakfast, you realized the soccer game you thought was next weekend, wasn’t, but that if you left RIGHT NOW! you might still make it?

Or what about having to run an electric air pump off and on all night because otherwise the slightly-leaky inflatable mattress in the den you’ve been banished to because you said one-too-many mean things to your spouse will deflate?

IDIOT: If you reminded me to change the clock, then why didn’t I change it?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Because you’re an idiot!
IDIOT: Me? If anyone’s an idiot, you are — and not just because of the clock.
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: Oh, really?
IDIOT: Yes, really. Do you have any idea how many stupid things you do around here on a daily basis?
RESPONSIBLE SPOUSE: No, but why don’t you tell me.

Net energy savings: probably zero

And what happens when you factor in the cost of dealing with all that stress, ill-will and negativity? Therapists — whether for marriage or anger-management — don’t make house calls (and if they do, they don’t make them on bikes).

There are bars for sulking/hiding/venting, of course, but they generally don’t have windows, meaning light (but not illumination) comes only from energy-sucking neon signs.

The gym? Maybe in the old days when free weights and stationary bikes were the norm, but now it seems like every piece of exercise equipment has to be plugged in or it won’t work.

Net energy savings: definitely zero

All of which raises the question: if Daylight Saving Time doesn’t actually save anything, what’s the point?

Perhaps the one good thing about Daylight Saving Time is that between all the extra caffeine it takes to get through the day and the fact that no matter how late the clock says it is, it’s impossible to sleep, everyone affected by it can spend half the night staring at the ceiling trying to figure that out.

ANOTHER REASON TO HATE H1N1

PARENT: C’mon.
KID: Where are we going?
PARENT: I’ll tell you when we get there.
KID: Uh-oh – you’re taking me to the doctor, aren’t you?
PARENT: Why do you say that?
KID: Because that’s what you always say when you take me to the doctor.
PARENT: I do?
KID: Either that or the dentist.
PARENT: It’s not the dentist.
KID: I knew it! But I’m not even sick!
PARENT: I know, but it’ll be over before you know it. And then we’ll go for cupcakes.
KID: CUPCAKES!
PARENT: I thought you liked cupcakes?
KID: I do like cupcakes, but cupcakes after the doctor mean I have to get a shot.
PARENT: Not always.
KID: Yes always.
PARENT: No, sometimes we go for cupcakes even when you don’t have to get a shot.
KID: So does that mean I don’t have to get a shot?
PARENT: Unfortunately, no – it turns out the H1N1 vaccine you got last year takes two shots.
KID: Two shots!
PARENT: Two shots.
KID: That’s so unfair.
PARENT: I know. But I tell you what – after cupcakes, I’ll let you get one small toy at the toy store.
KID: NOOOOOOOOOOO!
PARENT: What’s wrong with getting a toy!?!?!?!
KID: Getting a toy after the doctor means they’re gonna use a big, huge needle. AHHHHHHHHHHH!

PEE, POOP OR PUKE? PICK ONE.

As every parent knows, that’s actually a trick question because when it comes to being peed on, pooped on or puked on, you don’t have a choice: it’s not a question of if it will happen or even when it will happen – though probably in the middle of the night, right after you’ve put on your last clean shirt, or just as you’re rushing off to an important meeting that you’re already 20 minutes late for, etc. – but how often it will happen.

(Not to mention whether or not all three will happen at the same time, which is the parenting equivalent of hitting the “Trifecta,” even though – sadly – it isn’t nearly as rare.)

While the idea of being splattered in your own child’s pee, poop or puke makes non-parents squirm (and probably resolve to remain non-parents), most of us eventually come to accept it – even welcome it – because no matter how disgusting that is, it’s not nearly as gross as being splattered with some other kid’s pee, poop or puke – something that’s also not a question of if, or when, but how often.

From “Why Chicken Nuggets Are Better Than Prozac,” page. 83

IF SCIENCE COULD MAKE A BETTER PARENT

Should genetic engineering and/or technology ever progress to the point where pretty much anything is possible, the following would be useful augmentations to the standard parent:

  • Extra arms
  • Some kind of emotional fuse that would blow before we did
  • Two mouths – not to clear up the problem of talking out of both sides of the one we have, but so we could have an adult conversation with our spouse while simultaneously telling our kids why it’s a bad idea to see how many pieces of furniture they can stack on the dog
  • A personal thermostat so we could lower our core temperature whenever an infant or exhausted toddler falls asleep on our chest, enabling us to not have to choose between heat-stroke and moving a sleeping child
  • 5-gallon bladder (for same reason as above)
  • No need for sleep
  • Implantable encyclopedia, because who can remember “Why is the sky blue?
  • A safe, legal, side-effect free substance that gives us the energy of a three-year-old – not to keep up with a three-year-old, of course, but so we’d have the energy to get things down when our three-year-old finally goes to sleep
  • A filter that enables us to watch the same animated TV show over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over without getting bored
  • A neuro-plug-in that allows us to enter a zen-like state whenever we have to listen to the kind of long, boring, ultimately pointless stories kids under 10 tend to tell, but that still enables us to back-channel so they can’t tell we’re not really listening
  • A neuro-plug-in that allows the neuro-plug-in listed above to work on spouses, too
  • Memory implants to help us remember the names and attributes of all Transformer, Pokemon, Bella Sara etc. characters
  • A dial that allows us to manipulate our taste buds so that all the awful-tasting foods we make our kids eat (but then have to choke down ourself so we can set a good example) taste like chocolate to us
  • Portable, detachable eyeballs that we can hide on the shelf in our kid’s room so that when that eerie silence falls over the house we can see exactly what trouble they’re causing
  • A tracking device that helps us locate all the jackets, pants, shoes, socks etc. our kid “forgot” to hang up and now can’t find
  • A remote-control bladder override button so that when we’re leaving for a long car trip and our kids swear they don’t have to go pee we can drain their 98% full bladder anyway
  • Anti-bacterial skin so we don’t catch every single cold our kids bring home from daycare
  • The same kind of sonar that bats have, only this would let us know when balls, pillows, toy trucks and other objects are accidentally – and inexplicably – launched at our heads
  • Selective hearing – somewhat like what we have now, only with a much, much greater degree of control, so that instead of figuratively “tuning out” our kids when they whine and cry because we won’t give them another cookie, we would actually be able to shut off whatever part of the audio spectrum they use so we actually wouldn’t hear them
  • The ability to “aim” our voice so only the kid we’re actively yelling at can hear us, enabling us to make threats during church, while standing in the supermarket check-out line, at the movie theater — anywhere decorum prohibits loud, angry outbursts
  • Bite-proof skin
  • Implantable BS detector
  • Spare limbs to replace those inadvertently damaged by jumping toddlers, grade schoolers who underestimate their own strength and teenagers who encourage us to follow them down the hill on a snowboard without realizing we’re not nearly as resilient as they are.

I DUNNO

According to language experts, English includes approximately 250,000 words, which means that if a person were to answer any given question using only three of them, there would be 15,624,812,500,500,000 possibilities.

So why is it kids always seem to ignore the other 15,624,812,500,499,999 and just say “I don’t know?”

PARENT: What are you doing?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Have you seen your brother?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Why is your lip bleeding?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Did he hit you?
KID: I don’t know.
PARENT: Are you even listening to me?
KID: I don’t know.

True, there are occasions when they really, truly don’t know, but these are rare. Which means as parents, we usually have to spend anywhere from five minutes to five hours prodding and probing them for an actual answer – a course of action that results in them being ticked at us for interrogating them like a Guantanamo Bay-detainee, and us being ticked at them for making us interrogate them like some Guantanamo Bay-detainee when they could just as easily have told us what we needed to know in the first place.

But before we attribute “I don’t know” to their being lazy, lethargic, unfocused, inattentive, flip, passive-aggressive, malnourished, narcissistic, ego-centric, spoiled or brain-damaged from spending too much time playing video games and watching TV, keep in mind that developmental psychologists say the adolescent mind is far from fully developed.

So when kids say “I don’t know,” in practical terms, they don’t — because the part of their brain that’s trying to answer our question (a part that’s got to be tucked away somewhere in some insignificant corner of some underused lobe) isn’t communicating with the part of their brain that knows what the answer is, and probably won’t be able to with any kind of speed or reliability until they’re in their 20s.

Which means that just about the time they stop answering every question with “I don’t know,” we’ll be starting to thanks to the debilitating effects of aging and all that extra wear and tear our brains have been subjected to over the years thanks to our kids.

WHY GIVE DIRECTIONS IF KIDS DON'T FOLLOW THEM?

Check out “The Gigglesnort Test” at undercaffeinated mom for a fun approach to dealing with this problem.

WHEN WHAT YOU SAID AS A KID BECOMES INAPPROPRIATE

PARENT: Why are you fighting?
KID #1: He started it.
KID #2: He pushed me first.
KID #1: I did not. He pushed me first.
KID #2: Did not.
KID #1: Did, too.
KID #2: Did not.
KID #1: Did, too.
KID #2: Liar.
KID #1: Butthead.
PARENT: Stop. What happened?
KID #1: I was playing downstairs.
KID #2: With my toys.
KID #1: They’re not your toys. They’re my toys.
KID #2: No they’re not.
KID #1: You gave them to me for my birthday.
KID #2: That’s right: I gave them to you, so they’re mine.
KID #1: That’s not fair. He can’t do that… can he?
PARENT: No, he can’t do that. When I was a kid and somebody did that, we called them an Indi… er… uh…
KID #2: A what?
PARENT: Oops.
KID #1: What’s an “Indi… er …uh?”
PARENT: Forget it.
KID #1: Why?
PARENT: I misspoke. Just forget what I said and go back downstairs and play.
KID #1: We can’t.
PARENT: Why?
KID #1: Because he’s being a – what did you call it? An “Indi… er… uh?
KID #2: I’m not an “Indi… er… uh,” you’re an “Indi… er… uh.”
PARENT: Let’s stop this right now.
KID #1: “Indi… er… uh.”
KID #2: “Indi… er… uh.”
PARENT: Enough! Look… I said something I shouldn’t have, okay? So just forget it. What I said was wrong, so don’t say it.
KID #2: Why? If you called kids “Indi… er… uh” why can’t we?
PARENT: We didn’t call kids an “Indi… er… uh,” we… um… we said something else that’s probably offensive now, but I… uh… I can’t remember what it is, so what I need you to do is play nice or you’re both going to be sent to your rooms for the rest of the day. Understood?
KID #2: Yes.
KID #1: Fine.

15 minutes later

KID #1: That’s mine.
KID #2: Is not.
KID #1: Is too.
KID #2: Is not.
KID #1: You can’t take it back like that.
KID #2: Can too.
KID #1: Mom, he’s being an “Indi… er… uh!”

DON’T MANAGE YOUR ANGER, EXPLOIT IT

When characters in cartoons get angry, smoke comes out of their ears, their heads explode or they undergo instantaneous genetic mutations that turn them into aliens, gigantic, green-skinned freaks, uncontrollable ninja-war- riors, ghost-demons, magical giants, etc.

While young kids believe this kind of thing is possible in real life, older kids eventually learn it’s not.

Or is it?

As bad as it can be for a parent to have a massive, screaming, meltdown – something that happens to everyone eventually, thanks to too little sleep, too much caffeine and a child with bad timing – allowing your offspring to glimpse “the monster inside you” can ultimately be good, because if you play it right they’ll wonder if maybe, just maybe, you might turn into some kind of mutant humanoid if they really, really piss you off.

All you have to do – and this is probably harder than it seems – is let your rage build almost to the breaking-point but then suddenly stop, turn, and walk briskly to the kitchen, hall closet, laundry room, etc. and grab the unlabelled bottle of vodka you keep hidden in there “just in case.” Pour yourself a shot, and then just before you knock it back, check to make sure your kids are close enough to “accidentally” overhear you as you say something like “That was close. Too close. I was able to stop the transformation this time, thanks to the antidote, but if something like that happens again, who knows. When the kids are older I’ll tell them the truth, but for now, it’s got to be my secret.”

If you’re lucky, the next time they decide to have an indoor water fight or shave the dog, they’ll maybe – just maybe – think twice.

(Although probably not.)

THINGS NOT WORTH SWEARING AT

  • Rain.
  • Zippers.
  • Things that won’t fit in suitcases.
  • Politicians
  • Scotch tape.
  • The person in front of you at Starbucks who can’t decide between a mocha frappuccino and a cinnamon dolce latte.
  • A computer – because even though it seems like it knows when you’re having a bad day and chooses that exact moment to crash, it’s just a glorified toaster. (Why doesn’t somebody develop some kind of curse-recognition software to replace online help? – i.e. the way you say “Damn it!” determines what kind of help you get.)
  • Traffic.
  • Stop lights.
  • Delivery vehicles that double-park.
  • Tire jacks.
  • Bus drivers – aside from the fact that they’re encased in a sound-proof – and seemingly sight-proof – cocoon, they don’t care.
  • Maps.
  • Speed bumps.
  • Street signs.
  • Stairs (both the invisible one at the top of the landing and the non-existent one at the bottom).
  • Pants that won’t button.
  • Toys that get left in the driveway.
  • Rakes.
  • Pets (especially hamsters, who are too stupid to understand, dogs, who get their feelings hurt and cats, who get revenge).
  • TV remotes.
  • Automated telephone helplines – the only thing that happens is you get stuck in a loop where you say “Screw you!” and the computer says “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you repeat that please?” and no matter how angry you are you can’t outlast the computer, so you’re the only one who suffers.
  • God (even if you sometimes feel justified).
  • People on TV.
  • Coaches, refs and players on Monday Night Football.
  • Little League Umpires.
  • The cable guy.
  • Anyone who messes up your order at the drive-thru.
  • Anyone in customer service.
  • Anyone with a name tag that says “Asst. Manager.”
  • Tour guides.
  • A fetus that won’t stop kicking in the middle of the night.
  • A spouse that won’t stop kicking in the middle of the night.
  • The Post Office.
  • The DMV.
  • Pre-schoolers – because if they don’t cry, they gasp and say “You said a bad word!” and then repeat it the next day at school.
  • Teachers – imagine having to tell your kid he or she has to repeat 3rd grade because the parent-teacher conference you had last week got really, really ugly?
  • The other cable guy who comes to fix the problem the first cable guy couldn’t fix
  • Anything you stub your toe on.
  • Congress – because unless you’re making a major campaign contribution or have a radio show that reaches 20 million people they can’t hear you.
  • Your boss.
  • Your spouse’s boss – because if you yell at your boss and get fired, you have only yourself to blame, but if you yell at your spouse’s boss and he or she gets fired, you not only have yourself to blame but your spouse has you to blame, too, and if you think it took a long time to be forgiven for, say, denting the car, imagine how long you’ll suffer for this!
  • Your parents.
  • Your irons, putter and sand wedge. (But not, oddly enough, your woods because swearing at them does actually seem to help.)
  • Bills.
  • Yourself.
  • Fate/providence/karma.
  • Life.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good when you do.

POLL: WHAT KIDS EAT

Do you make your kids eat food they don't like?

View Results

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LIVER VS. BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Why do we make kids eat stuff they don’t like?

On some level, it’s got to be an unconscious continuation of the cycle of abuse our own parents inflicted on us with their liver and onions, their Spam® meatloaf, their homemade creamed turnips – all the horrible foods we tried to shove in our pockets or slip under the table to the dog.

And yet knowing this doesn’t help — if you’re like me, you’ve actually uttered the phrase “If I had to finish my plate when I was a kid, so do you!” to your own kids without even realizing you were saying it.

But what if forced feeding isn’t really a bad thing?

Looked at from a historical perspective, isn’t it really just a way of paying homage to our family traditions and the ancestors who worked so hard to establish them? What better way to say “I remember my roots” than by, for example, making everyone at the table choke down a bowl of viscous, foul-smelling oyster stew every now and then?

Or by whipping out a few dollops of artery-clogging Crisco and turning the toughest cut of beef you can find into “great-grandma’s” chicken-fried steak?

There’s a practical reason for subjecting kids to food they don’t like, too, and that’s because it gives them first-hand experience with the human race’s most important survival skill, the one that enabled us to make it through the earliest days of our evolution: the ability to eat anything, no matter how unappetizing.

HUNTER-GATHERER #1: I’m hungry.
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: Me, too.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: Maybe we should eat that gloopy, foul-smelling thing over there?
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: That?!?!?! We don’t even know what that is.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: Yeah, but I’m hungry.
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: Me, too.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: So what do we do?
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: I know, let’s get Hunter-gatherer Mikey to try it — Hey Mikey!

Besides when you compare what we give our kids to what our parents gave us, boy, are they getting off easy. “Tuna Surprise” anyone? At least the stuff we make our kids choke down is healthy, organic, minimally processed and preservative-free.

You know, good.

On the other hand, maybe our parents felt the same way about the stuff they served us? Maybe they were thrilled to be able to provide us with tin-canned vegetables, shelf-stable cheese and frozen TV dinners instead of what they had to force down when they were kids?

All of which means one thing: the cycle will surely continue, virtually guaranteeing that when our kids have kids who complain about what they’re being forced to eat, our kids will tell their kids they’re lucky because as bad as whatever it is mid-21st Century parents will serve, it’s nothing compared to tasteless, organic, whole-kernel flax waffles, tofu and vegetable stir fry, free-range, hormone-nitrate-antibiotic-free uncured turkey bacon*  and everything else Grandma and Grandpa made them eat.

Besides, they’ll say, “If I had to finish my plate when I was a kid, so do you!”

*Which will probably have been proven to be terrible by then.