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WHAT DO YOU SAY TO WOULD-BE PARENTS?

“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.”

FAMILY GAMES FOR THE GREAT RECESSION

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.

Tea Party

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.

It doesn’t.

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.

I Spy

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.

Obama Limbo

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.)

WHEN KIDS ASK UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS

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.

4. Lie.

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.

KIDS, TV AND THE S-WORD: TIME TO BRING BACK THE NETWORK CENSOR?

One of the most popular feeds on twitter is “$#*! My Dad Says,” which is a collection of the irreverent, biting, very-funny comments 29-year-old Justin’s 74-year-old dad makes. It has close to 1.4 million followers and is being turned into a sitcom by CBS starring William Shatner.

Maybe.

A national family-advocacy group called the Parents Television Council is threatening an “unrelenting campaign” against the show’s advertisers and CBS’s affiliates if the show airs because they don’t like the idea of a show named “$#*! My Dad Says” being on at 8:30 pm.

(They probably don’t like the idea of the show being on at all, as well — these are the same gate-keepers of morality who don’t recommend the new Shrek movie for kids under seven because it includes “toilet humor, with Shrek’s children belching, farting, pooping their pants and urinating on Shrek,” which, as even the most conservative parents know, is exactly what kids under age seven think is funny1.)

It’s not like CBS is actually going to use the s-word in the title, of course; instead, they plan to substitute the all-purpose curse-word stand-in “$#*!”

Which means the problem is… what exactly?

Because CBS broadcasts its programing over the public airwaves, the FCC insists (more or less, depending on who’s in charge) that it and other broadcasters adhere to a higher standard of decency than, say, every other media outlet in the known universe, because there’s a reasonable (though infinitely small) chance some unsuspecting innocent will accidentally turn on the TV and be offended:

CHILD: I just saw something on TV I don’t understand.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: What was it?
CHILD: It was a promo for a new show called “$#*! My Dad Says.”
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: You saw that on TV!?!?
CHILD: Why? Is that bad?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Of course it’s bad: “$#*!” is a swear word.
CHILD: Really? I’ve never heard of that one before.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT: Well… technically “$#*” isn’t a swear word, it’s a substitute for a swear word, but it’s still offensive.
CHILD: Which swear word is it a substitute for?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:That’s just it: it could be any one of ‘em — though usually if you think about it you can figure it out.
CHILD: Oh.. now I know.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:Exactly. Now you go wash your mouth out with soap while I write a letter to FCC to complain about the way the liberal media is corrupting our youth.

There’s nothing wrong with parents protecting their kids from what they feel are bad influences, but isn’t it kind of silly to make such a big deal out of something like this? If for no other reason than the fact that there probably isn’t a kid left in this country who doesn’t already know the s-word, the a-word and probably the f-word, too.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know my kids know them because (a) they are sometimes in the car with me when I drive and (b) I think it’s important they have a full and complete grasp of the English language, including words that are inappropriate, which is why I sat them down one night and taught them.2)

Besides, when you think about it, television doesn’t need to be censored because televisions come with a remote control and a power button.

Click.

Click.

Click.

Isn’t that easier than a national boycott?

(That said, remotes can be so confusing and complicated it is possible somebody somewhere can’t turn their TV off, change the channel, lower the volume or remove the annoying on-screen overlay because they haven’t managed to crack the secret combination of input/source buttons even this most basic level of functionality can sometimes require. But that’s the fault of the manufacturer, not the media.)

Rather than being bad, in fact, a situation like “$#*! My Dad Says” is actually good because it’s a potential springboard for a family discussion about the the way personal beliefs shape behavior, and how these truths help us decide appropriate from inappropriate, right from wrong and good from bad.

(Though, admittedly, given the time and effort that kind of thing would involve, a national boycott would probably be easier and less time-consuming.)

So what do concerned parents do about “$#*! My Dad Says”?

Just explain in clear and graphic terms exactly “$#*!” is:  punctuation — because if the fear is that exposed kids will suddenly start slinging obscenities willy nilly, nothing will kill that impulse more quickly than a long, drawn-out lesson in grammar:

PARENT: Have you ever wondered why they use “$,: “#,” “*,” “@” and “!” to denote obscenities instead of, say, a semi-colon?
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: No more, please!
PARENT: Sorry, we can’t stop now: we haven’t discussed your reading assignments from The Elements of Style,  Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and The Mother Tongue yet.
WOULD-BE FOUL-MOUTHED CHILD: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

And as for the show itself, the only reason to ban, condemn or make it the focus on an “unrelenting campaign” is if it isn’t funny.3

Stay tuned.

__________________________________________

1 If anyone should be offended by this it’s parents, because they know from first-hand experience there’s nothing funny about pee, poop or puke, especially when it’s just been splattered all over you.

2 Given the current political climate, I’d venture that liberal households aren’t the only ones where kids are getting an education in vulgarities, either:

CHILD: Where are you going?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: There’s a Tea Party Rally at the park.
CHILD: What’s a Tea Party?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: The Tea Party movement is a grass-roots effort whereby patriotic Americans join together to save our country from Obama, Pelosi and the rest of those f-ing liberals.
CHILD: GASP! You said “f-ing.”
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I know, but it’s not my fault — liberals make me so mad I just can’t control myself.
CHILD: You still have to wash your mouth out with soap though, right?
ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE PARENT: I’ll be glad to, too, ’cause everything that’s happening to our country right now leaves such a bad taste in my mouth, soap would be an improvement.

3 If anything should be banned, condemned, or made the focus of an “unrelenting campaign,” it should be ads for erectile dysfunction that air during shows kids probably shouldn’t be watching with their parents but do, because trying to explain that is really, really uncomfortable.

OOPS

MY SON: What’s that sign say?
ME: Leinenkugel’s.
MY SON: What’s Leinenkugel’s?
ME: It’s a kind of beer.
MY SON: Is it new?
ME: No, Leinenkugels has been around forever — that’s the beer we used to drink in high school.
MY SON: Wait… you drank beer in high school? I thought it was against the law to drink beer in high school?
ME: Uh… It is.
MY SON: But you just said “that’s the beer we drank in high school.”
ME: Yes, but what I meant was… uh… um… what I meant was that Leinenkugel’s was popular when I was in high school.
MY SON: You mean that’s what other kids drank?
ME: No, because there was absolutely no beer-drinking in high school. By anyone. Ever. What I meant was that at the time I was in high school, Leinenkugel’s was a popular beer that legally-aged adults consumed in limited quantities in a responsible fashion.
MY SON: Oh. What a funny name for a beer.
ME: Yes.

BLAME MOM

Now that Mother’s Day is over, it’s time to get back to blaming mom.

While this might seem harsh, research indicates it may actually be justified: according to experts, “the way mothers talk to their children at a young age influences their social skills later in childhood.”

In other words, children of mothers who explain things – specifically other people’s feelings, beliefs, wants and intentions – are better off socially than those whose mothers dismiss their budding curiosity with “Because,” “Because I said so!” or “Because if you ask me again you’re going to bed for the rest of the day!”

Not that being more socially advanced is the key to a trouble-free childhood – researchers pointed out that kids who are more comfortable and confident expressing their emotions and opinions are much more likely to actually express their emotions and opinions, usually in complex and sophisticated ways, especially when they are contrary to yours.

But while some authority figures might consider this “bad,” “inappropriate” or a reason for detention and/or counseling, researchers downplayed this implication and pointed out that, in a perverse way, these bile-filled diatribes are actually a good sign. And that when a teenager erupts in rage and frustration and screams “You disgust me!” “You’re the worst parent ever!” or “I have complete and utter contempt for everything you stand for,” it’s not proof he or she is possessed, it’s proof mom created exactly the kind of positive, loving, supportive environment her child needed to feel comfortable acting like an ungrateful little shit.

FATHER: Why are you crying?
MOTHER: Because Junior just told me he hates me.
FATHER: What!
MOTHER: No, it’s fine. I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because now I know I’ve raised him right.
FATHER: Huh?
MOTHER: According to experts, his ability to express himself with confidence and authority proves I’m a good mother.
FATHER: Was there something on Oprah I should know about?
MOTHER: Just hold me.

If mom gets the credit, however, she also gets the blame. Which means that when a child is sullen, moody and silent, it’s probably because mom messed up years or even decades ago, and can now add that to the long list of things she feels guilty about but can never make up for, no matter how hard she tries.

MOTHER: My kids are grown, so what am I supposed to do now? Go back in time and try to explain everything to them more thoroughly?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Is that something you can do?
MOTHER: What?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Go back in time?
MOTHER: Of course not.
PSYCHOLOGIST: So that’s the problem: you need to go back in time to save your children but you can’t.
MOTHER: Exactly.
PSYCHOLOGIST: And who do you need to save them from? A terminator?
MOTHER: Huh?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Or maybe aliens?
MOTHER: I can’t talk to you.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Why? Are the aliens monitoring us?

Before us Dads get all superior and start pointing fingers, we should keep in mind that researches were only able to study the relationship between mothers and their offspring because fathers and their offspring didn’t spend enough time together to make enough of an impact, leading many to conclude that if we’re going to blame anyone because Junior is socially inept, we should probably blame dad, too.

Though not until after Father’s Day.

LOAD OF CRAP?

Rumors are swirling around that Pampers new, reformulated Swaddlers and Cruisers lines of diapers are causing rashes and chemical burns. But is this true? Has anyone come forward with conclusive proof that this is actually happening? Has anyone come forward with conclusive proof it’s not?

According to P&G, these allegations are “completely false.”

This response makes sense because we live in an age where misinformation gets passed off as gospel, and large, multi-national corporations like P&G have to act decisively.

On the other hand, we also live in an age where large, multi-national corporations spin just about everything, so who’s to say that 25 years from now, after some kind of “Jane Doe v. Pampers” class action lawsuit has been filed, all appeals have been exhausted and 150,000+ boxes of research, focus-group results and internal memos have been subpoenaed, cataloged and read in search of a smoking gun, P&G won’t pay a nominal fine and admit that while they didn’t lie, intentionally ignore some data, or make a critical error in judgement, they are sorry their long-since-reformulated product might have caused a limited number of cases of diaper rash all those years ago.

What strikes me as really silly is that P&G didn’t stop at denying the rumors were true, but went on to claim they were actually part of some giant conspiracy.

“These [diaper rash] rumors are being perpetuated by a small number of parents, some of whom are unhappy that we replaced our older Cruisers and Swaddlers products while others support competitive products and the use of cloth diapers,” said Pampers Vice President Jodi Allen in a statement.

A cabal of disgruntled former customers, Huggies families and the cloth diaper mafia?

Seriously?

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that we are Huggies family and have been for 10 years.1 That said, I don’t personally have anything against Pampers, and can’t honestly remember why we chose Huggies over Pampers in the first place, though I suspect it was because the supply of newborn diapers the hospital gave us ran out at 2:40 am some night, and when I went to the nearest all-night drug store to find more, I grabbed the first box of diapers I could find, which happened to be Huggies.)

While it’s possible that P&G is right, and eventually some hidden camera footage of the secret meeting where the plot was first hatched between the aforementioned groups will emerge, but until then, do they really want to handle the concern parents have for the health and well-being of their offspring this way?

CONCERNED PARENT: Your diapers gave my pride and joy a rash.
FICTIONAL P&G SPOKESPERSON: That’s a lie.
CONCERNED PARENT: Then why was my little angel, whose life I care more about than even my own, crying in pain?
FICTIONAL P&G SPOKESPERSON: We don’t know. But let us ask you a question: Are you now, or have you ever been a member of an anti-Pampers organization?
CONCERNED PARENT: No — but I guarantee that I will be in the future.

However this all shakes out, one thing seems clear clear: just because Pampers is in the diaper business doesn’t mean they can handle a big mess.

1Yes, we should be using green diapers, or at least cloth diapers, but we don’t and to the extent we are ruining the planet, we are sorry.

BABIES IN BARS

Is there anything worse than bringing a baby to a bar?

Judging by all the anger that’s being vented online, this seems to be among the most grievous sins any parent can commit.

But why?

To begin with, it’s more than likely the lonely, bitter, child-hating singles who seem to be so put out by this are in the minority, and that the majority of bar-patrons either don’t care, or accept the fact that there’s really no getting around the situation because babies need to be with their parents and their parents need to relax and have a few drinks before they completely lose their minds.

(Though I might be more than a little biased about that.)

On the other hand, if the baby-haters are in the majority, then… well… at least they’re in a bar where they can just order another round to numb their senses, right?

But forget that for the moment.

It seems like the primary objection to babies in bars is that they do a lot of things that ruin it for everyone else.

Maybe that’s true, but is a suckling newborn any more off-putting or “obscene” than two semi-intoxicated singles groping each other in a back corner of the bar that’s not nearly as dim as they think it is?

If spit-up is the problem, it’s important to keep in mind that when babies do that — whether in the car, or in a bar, or in a country called Myanmar  (sorry, too much Dr. Seuss) — they usually do it on themselves, their mom or their mom’s childless, single friend who suggested they meet for a drink in the first place.

The same can’t be said for the just-turned-21 winner of the “Let’s see how many shots of Jack Daniels I can do” contest.

(Though he, too, may spit up on mom’s single, childless friend:

JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: You ever watch “Cougar Town?”
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: I do, actually.
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: Me, too. I… I…
MOM’S CHILDLESS, SINGLE FRIEND: You want to come over and watch it with me some time?
JUST-TURNED-21-YEAR-OLD: No, I think I’m gonna be sick. BLA-AAAAA-A-A-TCH.

Think baby spit-up smells bad? It’s nothing compared to the stench of half-digested bar nuts and bourbon.)

So what about drool?

Any two geezers who’ve spent the entire day knocking back $2 PBRs produce a lot more than an infant.

Ditto for diapers, and the whole Huggies vs. Depends thing, too.

Which leaves what? Crying?

Sure, that can be loud, grating and unstoppable, but even a 5-month-old with a bad case of colic can’t compete with the sobs and wails that ring out when those same two semi-intoxicated singles run into each other a few nights later and one claims to have absolutely no memory of the other, let alone the passionate night they spent together where they pledged their mutual love and promised to be soul mates forever.

Conclusion: Baby-haters 0, Babies 1

In fact, maybe more than “1″ when you consider that to singles, a baby in a bar might not just be a reminder that they should enjoy themselves while they can still get out of the house without hiring a sitter, but that they should be careful, too, lest some intoxicated encounter take an intimate turn and they find themselves having to do that way too soon.

Now… if there’s anywhere babies should be banned, it’s coffee houses, because nothing makes every coo, burp, squeal, shriek or sob more irritating than a whole lot of caffeine.

(Note: to be fair, of course, if we ban babies from coffee houses, we should also ban loud talkers, people who yell into their cell phones like they’re stuck in a hurricane, anyone with an iPod who sings along to whatever’s playing through their earbuds, people who push three or four tables together to have a staff meeting, teenagers who spread their textbooks out across all the tables but then sit there and text their friends instead of studying, anyone trying to sell anything, promote anything, or affect any kind of social change, anyone coming from, or going to yoga, because who needs that kind of guilt, politicians, dog walkers who leave their dogs outside, nannies who leave their strollers outside, and, of course, anyone trying to write anything on a laptop — especially if it’s a post like this.)

Links to the many online articles and rants:

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times Blog

“Babies in Bars”/CNN

“Babies in Bars”/Luke Constantino

“Babies in Bars”/Brownstoner

“Babies in Bars”/New York Blips

“Babies in Bars”/The Nervous Breakdown

“Babies in Bars”/Parent Dish

“Babies in Bars”/Gothamist

“Babies in Bars”/New York Times

THE ANGRY VOICE

KID: Why are you using your angry voice?
PARENT: I’m not using my angry voice.
KID: It sounds like you’re using your angry voice.
PARENT: This is not my angry voice.
KID: Oh. Is it your totally-stressed-out voice?
PARENT: My what?
KID: If it’s not your angry voice, then it must be your totally stressed-out voice.
PARENT: It’s not my totally stressed-out voice, either.
KID: Is grandma coming?
PARENT: Why do you think grandma is coming?
KID: Because if it’s not your angry voice or your totally stressed-out voice, then it’s probably your grandma-is-coming-to-visit voice.
PARENT: I don’t have a grandma-is-coming-to-visit voice.
KID: No, you do – you definitely do.
PARENT: Well… grandma’s not coming to visit so it can’t be my grandma-is-coming-to-visit voice.
KID: Did you get a bad email from somebody?
PARENT: No.
KID: Are you tired?
PARENT: No.
KID: Do you have to wait around the house all day for the cable guy to show up?
PARENT: No.
KID: Hmm… if it’s not your bad-email voice, your I’m-really-really-tired voice or your I-hate-waiting-for-the-cable-guy voice, then what is it?
PARENT: Maybe it’s just my normal voice?
KID: If it’s your normal voice then why haven’t I ever heard it before?
PARENT: What’s that supposed to mean? Are you suggesting the only time I ever say anything to you I’m angry, stressed or irritated?
KID: Uh-oh… I think I know what voice it is.
PARENT: What?
KID: I don’t want to tell you.
PARENT: Why?
KID: Because I think it’s your if-you-say-anything-else-I’ll-get-upset-with-you-and-make-you-do-chores voice.
PARENT: I don’t have an if-you-say-anything-else-I’ll-get-upset-with-you-and-make-you-do-chores voice!
KID: Okay.
PARENT: But go clean up your room anyway.
KID: I knew it.

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.)

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.

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).

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.)

WASHING THEIR MOUTHS OUT WITH VIRTUAL SOAP

PARENT: Hey… why’s your computer off? I thought you were on that internet kid’s club?
KID: I was. But I got kicked out.
PARENT: What?!?!?! Why?
KID: Well… you know how you tell me I shouldn’t say bad words?
PARENT: Yeah.
KID: You never told me I shouldn’t type them, either.
PARENT: Oh.
KID: You’re not gonna wash my mouth out with soap like your mom did, are you?
PARENT: No, that only happened when we saida bad word.
KID: Good, ‘cause that sounds gross.
PARENT: It was. But I am gonna make you get some soap and scrub under your fingernails.
KID: Why? Because I used them to type a bad word?
PARENT: No, because I can see they’re dirty.

WHY KIDS NEED TO BE SUPERVISED AT ALL TIMES (AND WHY THIS WEEK WILL BE TOUGH)

KID: Look at me. I have a beard!
PARENT: Wow. You do have a beard. You look like Grizzly Adams.
KID: I made it myself.
PARENT: I can see that. It looks like… Hold on… Come closer so I can get a better look.
KID: I did a good job, didn’t I?
PARENT: You didn’t use the permanent markers from my drawer, did you?
KID: I did — but it’s okay because when I was done I didn’t leave them out, I put them right back where I found them.

SIMPLE THINGS TODDLERS MAKE DIFFICULT

  • Showering.
  • Getting dressed in the morning.
  • Punctuality.
  • Watching a TV show all the way through in one sitting.
  • Airport security checkpoints.
  • Walking through the house without tripping over a toy (or a toddler).
  • Talking on the phone.
  • Going to the toilet by yourself.
  • Peace and quiet.
  • Driving anywhere more than 15 minutes away.
  • Scheduling.
  • Maintaining order.
  • Arguing with your spouse. (Especially because swear words tend to get re- peated over and over by the little ears that hear them.)
  • Dinner (because they want to help make it and/or because they hate every- thing you suggest).
  • Administering oral medications.
  • Keeping your shoes in order on the floor of your walk-in closet.
  • Logic and reason.
  • Staying in bed all day when you’re sick.
  • Keeping food off your clothes.
  • Keeping make-up in the top drawer of the vanity.
  • Vacuuming.
  • Sex. (Which you’re probably too tired to want, anyway.)
  • Talking to other adults like they’re adults.
  • Working from home.
  • Writing anything longer than a list.

5 SIGNS YOUR PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE WON'T GO WELL

1.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents. You must be… Hey, you don’t look so good!
TEACHER: I just need to sit down.
PARENTS: Are you alright? Should we call the school nurse or something?
TEACHER: No, I just get nauseous whenever I hear your child’s name.

2.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Who?
PARENTS: X?!?!?!
TEACHER: Are you sure he’s in my class?
PARENTS: He sits right here, right in front of you.
TEACHER: I guess he hasn’t made much of an impression on me, but why don’t you have a seat anyway.

3.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Glad you could make it. Now, if you’ll just follow me, the principal wants to talk with you as well.

4.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X’s parents.
TEACHER: Nice to meet you.
PARENTS: And this is our lawyer, Gloria Allred.

5.

PARENTS: Hi, we’re X‘s parents.
TEACHER: Yes, he talks about you a lot.
PARENTS: That’s good.
TEACHER: …with the school psychologist.
PARENTS: Oh.

IF YOU DON'T STOP RIGHT NOW I'LL... I'LL... I'LL...

Everybody draws a blank sometimes, especially tired, distracted, frustrated parents. So what do you do when you need a threat but just can’t think of one? Click the box below to randomly generate a generic threat that should work for just about any occasion.

Threat:
Next one who causes trouble has to do my taxes.

To generate other responses, just click the bold text in the box above.
invisible.layer