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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!

OUT-OF-CONTROL TOWER

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding kids in the control tower, but what’s the big deal? What would really happen if the FAA decided to let kids land planes?

Five consequences:

1. New pre-flight procedures:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, Alaska 827 requesting permission to take off.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Permission granted, Alaska 827, just as soon as everyone on board goes potty.

2. Pilots who didn’t follow directions wouldn’t just be grounded, they’d be sent to bed without dinner:

KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Northwest 104, where have you been? Do you know what time it is?
PILOT: Sorry Air Traffic Control, we hit turbulence over Denver and got delayed.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Sorry? It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?
PILOT: But it wasn’t our fault.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I don’t want to hear it.
PILOT: It was the jet stream!
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Then you should have called and told us that. But you didn’t, did you?
PILOT: No.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: You come straight to the gate after you land, no detours or delays.

3. Pilots would be expected to use good manners:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is United 817, request permission to drop to 10,000 feet.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry United 817, request denied – you didn’t say please.

4. No more foreign flights:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202, over… Come in Air Traffic Control, this is Ukrainian Airlines 202… Air Traffic Control? Hello? Is anybody there?
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry, Ukrainian 202, I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.

5. All planes would have to land by 8 pm on a school night, 10 pm on weekends:

PILOT: Air Traffic Control, this is Alaska 111, requesting assistance.
KID AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I’m sorry Alaska 111, it’s past my bed time.

HOW TO EXPLAIN THE ECONOMIC CRISIS TO YOUR KIDS

KID: Are you sick?
PARENT: No.
KID: Then why do you look like you’re gonna throw-up?
PARENT: The President is talking about the economic crisis again.
KID: What’s an economic crisis?
PARENT: Well… Basically, it’s when everybody in the country suddenly realizes they’re fucked.
KID: GASP! You said a bad word.
PARENT: I’m sorry.
KID: You’re not supposed to say bad words.
PARENT: You’re right. Even with a situation as bad as this, I shouldn’t swear.
KID: Why is the situation so bad, anyway?
PARENT: The cost of living is going up. Real wages are going down. People’s houses are worth less than they owe on them. Nobody can get credit any more. We can’t seem to find a way to use less energy. And now the experts are saying the very foundation upon which our entire economy is based is cracked at best, and may actually be broken beyond repair.
KID: Wow. We are fucked.
PARENT: Now you said a bad word.
KID: Sorry. Do I have to wash my mouth out with soap now?
PARENT: No, but only because we can’t afford any.

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

MY BARISTA, MY FRIEND?

On most days, even when I get up too early, I’m already running late. So that by the time I get showered, get dressed, get the kids ready, get in the car, get the kids to school and get to Starbucks, I have used up what little energy I began the day with and what I really want is my venti extra-shot Americano.

Now.

IIn the old days, this was easy because vain, arrogant, intimidating baristas would glare so angrily at anyone who ordered wrong – a “vanilla sugar-free grande triple latte” instead of a “triple grande sugar-free vanilla latte,” for example – the poor soul would have no choice but to take his or her drink and slink away in shame, silently vowing to avoid such humiliation tomorrow by going somewhere else and leaving Starbucks to the caffeine addicts.

Baristaphobia = shorter lines.

But now that McDonald’s has McLattes, Dunkin’ Donuts touts the dunkin’ as much as the donuts, and break rooms everywhere include at least one vending machine that can automatically make any one of a dozen coffee-drinks, Starbucks seems to have realized they have to do more than just serve coffee if they want to make money, they have to serve customers.

Who can blame them? It worked for Burger King back in the ‘70s, so why not?

(Except instead of “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us,” it might be:
“Make it no foam
or sugar free
whatever you want
we’ll serve with glee
our growth has slowed
so we can’t be
snobs anymore.”)

Obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being nice, but the result of this customer-friendly attitude is that all the people who used to stay away from Starbucks because they were afraid of being yelled at are now standing in line right in front of me, asking what the difference between a “misto” and a “macchiato” is or trying to decide if they’d like to try a breakfast sandwich.

Worse, the baristas are not just being polite to them, they’re being chatty, too. Which means that in addition to wanting to know exactly how they can make the customer’s drink exactly the way they’d like it made, they want to know how their day is, what kind of plans they have, how their family is, etc.

And when I finally get to the front of the line, they want to know that about me, too.

Except at 7:43 in the morning, after having been up all night with a vomiting toddler and a dog who wants me to get up every couple of hours and go to the window to look at the neighbor’s cat, I don’t want to be friendly to anyone – not my kids, not my spouse, not my neighbors and certainly not my barista.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to respond to the question “How’s your day going so far?” by saying “It would be a lot better if I didn’t have to wait in line for 25 minutes to get a cup of coffee,” I don’t.

Because whether it’s crack cocaine or caffeine, addicts like me will do anything to get their fix – even smile and pretend to be friendly.

(And while there are still any number of alternatives to Starbucks, places where the lines are short and somber, and the baristas still act like divas, they’re a few blocks out of the way, and the only thing worse than waiting a few extra minutes in line is waiting a few extra minutes in traffic.)

FAT CHANCE

WIFE: Where you going?
HUSBAND: I thought I’d run out and get some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
WIFE: What about our post-holiday diet?
HUSBAND: We finished it.
WIFE: Yeah — yesterday.
HUSBAND: Which means today I can finally eat what I want to.

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.)

SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 7

WIFE: Never mind.
HUSBAND: What?
WIFE: Forget it. It’s not important.
HUSBAND: What’s not important?
WIFE: Nothing.
HUSBAND: Now you’re confusing me: how can I forget about the “nothing” that’s not important if I don’t know what it is?
WIFE: I don’t want to talk about it.
HUSBAND: Then why did you bring it up?
WIFE: Because right after I did I saw our entire argument play out in my head.
HUSBAND: And?
WIFE: You won.
HUSBAND: YES!
WIFE: And then you reacted the same way you’re reacting now: like you couldn’t care less what the argument was all about as long as you won.

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?

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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.

FAMILY DINNER: THEN VS. NOW

  • Dinner was at the same time every night.
  • Nobody called (or texted).
  • If you were late, Mom would just stand on the back porch and call out your name.
  • If you were really, really late, Dad would stand on the back porch and call out your name, and then you were really in trouble.
  • Mom cooked.
  • And if she got home late from the the beauty parlor, post office or grocery store, she could always make a 20-minute casserole out of rice, leftover chicken and whatever can of Campbell’s Soup happened to be in the cupboard.
  • A well-equiped kitchen had a sink, an oven, a fridge, a KitchenAid mixer and sometimes a croc pot, but no dishwasher, pot-filler, microwave, Cuisinart, automatic espresso maker, bread maker, bagel toaster, juicer, George Foreman Grill, rice cooker, TV, second fridge, second dishwasher or computer.
  • The kitchen was only for cooking, too, not entertaining (unless you were a grandmother, second cousin, aunt or female relative helping cook a holiday meal).
  • The Four Food Groups were an important government-sponsored guide that encouraged people to eat meat & poultry, grains, fruits & vegetables and dairy products not because they were healthy or nutritious but because they were important American (or American-controlled) businesses.
  • If you said grace, it was something short, that rhymed, and even though you said it fast you had to be careful not to say it too fast because then your parents would say it “didn’t count” and make you do it over.
  • Kids drank milk then for the same reasons adults drink it now: it’s good for bones.
  • Margarine was superior to butter because margarine had less fat (as opposed to today where butter is superior to margarine because it has less trans-fat).
  • Kids had to eat everything on their plate before they could be done, even if that meant they had to sit at the table until their vegetables got cold and their fried chicken turned soggy.
  • It didn’t matter if kids weren’t hungry.
  • It didn’t matter if kids didn’t like something, either, especially liver and onions.
  • Tang, Minute-Rice and Cheez Whiz were preferable to orange juice, “old-fashioned” rice and real cheese because they were fast, easy and they never, ever spoiled.
  • Take-out pizza was a treat.
  • Organic food wasn’t “organic,” it was just “fresh.”
  • Nobody cared about BPA, which meant plastic cups were better than glass cups because they didn’t shatter when somebody knocked them on the ground.
  • Kids had to ask to be excused from the table.
  • Parents sometimes said “No.”

STAYING NEUTRAL

It seems like there are two kinds of divorces: the ones where the split is amicable, or at least free from a restraining order, and the ones you get caught in the middle of – where the pain, hatred, contempt, frustration, mistrust and loathing go on long after the marriage ends.

Staying neutral can be a challenge for even the most savvy and diplomatic, but usually – eventually – you’re sucked in:

BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Can you believe my ex-wife! She’s such a selfish, spoiled, careless, mean, stupid, cow. Don’t you think?
YOU: Uh… I couldn’t say.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Trust me, she is. I’m sure you’ve seen her act that way. You can admit it, she’s a heartless, bossy, mean-spirited, nitpicking, ego-centric, man-hating shrew.
YOU: I.. uh… I guess I haven’t really seen that side of her, but.. uh… I’m sure you know here better than I do.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: ‘course I know her: I was married to her. And trust me: she’s a first class bitc-
YOU: Hey! Will you look at the time? I really have to go.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: What’s your problem? You’re on her side, aren’t you?
YOU: I’m not on anyone’s side.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: My God, she’s turned you against me, too.
YOU: I barely even know her.
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: Yeah, right – you think she’s a saint and I’m an abusive, controlling, foul-mouthed jerk.
YOU: Uh…
BITTER EX-HUSBAND: That’s the exactly the same thing she’s done to our friends, that clueless therapist she dragged us to go see, her lawyer, the neighbors, even my kids. Well you know what? Screw you.

As ugly as these conversations can be, at least they don’t require you to anything more than walk away. What can be worse is when you’re pressed into service:

BITTER EX-WIFE: Say, I’ve been meaning to ask you: you see my ex-husband when he picks up the kids, right?
YOU: Yeah, at the playground after school.
BITTER EX-WIFE:: Interesting.
YOU: Uh-oh.
BITTER EX-WIFE:: I say “interesting” because I’m hearing some things that are just a little troubling.
YOU: I’m sorry to hear that.
BITTER EX-WIFE: Not troubling because I still secretly want him back, or blame him for ruining my life and am looking for ways to exact revenge, but because I’m concerned the children might be exposed to something inappropriate.
YOU: Uh…
BITTER EX-WIFE: Have you ever seen him with a girl that’s much too young for him?
YOU: I can’t say.
BITTER EX-WIFE: If you did, would you let me know?
YOU: I don’t think it would be right for me to spy on your ex-husband.
BITTER EX-WIFE: Oh, heaven’s no – I’m not asking you to spy: just keep on eye on him and his whore for me. And if you can get video or a picture, that would be even better.

Fortunately, there is one benefit to being caught in the middle of this kind of animosity: it reminds you to treat your own spouse with a little more kindness and compassion, if for no other reason the last thing you want is to put your friends, neighbors or even acquaintances in the position of being the “you” in any of the exchanges above.

THE SCALE DOESN’T LIE, BUT IT SHOULD DO A BETTER JOB EXPLAINING ITSELF

ME: So… how much did I gain?
MY SCALE: You don’t want to know.
ME: C’mon, it can’t be that bad.
MY SCALE: Not if you’re sumo wrestler.
ME: What?!?!?
MY SCALE: Just think of yourself as being “fat but fit.”
ME: I think I’m gonna cry.
MY SCALE: Well… each ounce of tears weigh .0652 pounds, so that’s one way to lose weight.
ME: You make it sound like I’m obese.
MY SCALE: See that mirror?
ME: You mean the one I covered with a towel so I wouldn’t have to look at myself?
MY SCALE: If that’s not a cry for help, what is?
ME: You try losing weight at my age!
MY SCALE: Your age has nothing to do with it — besides the fact that whenever you think about it you get depressed and eat a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s.
ME: I do not.
MY SCALE: You think I’m lying?
ME: It wouldn’t be the first time.
MY SCALE: Please… Scales don’t lie.
ME: How else can you explain my weight?
MY SCALE: Uh… maybe the fact that you’ve been taking in more calories than you burn?
ME: I know for a fact that’s not true. Just look at what I eat? Fruit. Vegetables. Chicken. Fish. Whole grains.
MY SCALE: Plus ice cream and cookies when nobody is looking, half of whatever food you make for your kids but they don’t finish, a piece of cheese before bedtime, wine…
ME: Wine is good for you.
MY SCALE: A glass is good, not a bottle.
ME: Sometimes I just need something to help me relax at night.
MY SCALE: Or on weekends.
ME: That only happens every once in a while. And that doesn’t…
MY SCALE: You were gonna say “count,” weren’t you?
ME: No.
MY SCALE: I’m not judging. I get it. Sometimes you just need a double- chocolate brownie before you go to bed… Or a mocha frappuccino… Or some of that spinach dip from Whole Foods. My point is that all those calories count, even if you don’t count them.
ME: Says you.
MY SCALE: Do you really think that every time you step on the scale I’m secretly adding 20 pounds?
ME: No, not 20 pounds… more like 30 pounds.
MY SCALE: You’re hopeless.
ME: And you’re a liar. So you know what I’m going to do?
MY SCALE: Let me guess: stick me back in the closet until I learn to be more accurate.
ME: Exactly.
MY SCALE: That’s what you said last month.
ME: Right, and clearly you haven’t learned your lesson — because last month you were only off by 20 pounds.