KID: Santa brings toys to all the good girls and boys, right?
KID: What about bad kids?
PARENT They get coal.
KID: What about kids who are a bad, but not quite as bad as they could be?
PARENT They get clean coal.
Step 1. Look for lights.
Step 2. Find lights in last place you’d ever think they’d be.
Step 3. Spend 45 minutes trying to untangle them.
Step 4. Briefly stop to consider how much energy lights waste each season, but then continue.
Step 5. Climb up on roof.
Step 6. Roll eyes and say “Geez, it’s not like I haven’t climbed a roof before” when spouse/significant other/neighbor says “Be careful!”
Step 7. Almost slip and fall.
Step 8. Hope spouse/significant other/neighbor didn’t notice.
Step 9. Put up lights and revel in sense of satisfaction at how easy it was.
Step 10. Climb down ladder.
Step 11. Plug in cord and check lights.
Step 12. Pour stiff drink.
Step 13. Spend balance of afternoon replacing bulbs, splicing wires, and doing everything you can think of to get the lights to come on before ultimately giving up and deciding to skip the stupid lights this year and go green.
Step 14. Curse Al Gore.
1. THE COSTCO AMENDMENT
What do you do with eight gallons of stewed tomatoes? A 4-pack of 120 oz. mustard jars? 50 lbs. of rice?
If you’re like most households, you stick them on a shelf in the back of the pantry and try to ignore the fact that the giddy joy you felt because you saved so much money can’t possibly last long enough to counteract the guilt you’ll feel when you end up throwing half of it out.
This amendment would have legally prohibited club stores from selling bulk items that:
(a) the average consumer can’t possibly consume before the expiration date
(b) the average consumer doesn’t need – i.e. cashew butter, creamed spinach, dried parsley, tapioca pudding, etc.
(c) or that taste so good when sampled in the store nobody can resist their multi-ounce siren call.
2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FOOD HYPOCRISY
This amendment would have made it illegal for anyone to cop a militant attitude about food – holier-than-thou vegans, organic-only food-nazis, food processing plant owners and/or executives who roll their eyes (and mobilize their lawyers) if anyone questions their quality or commitment to cleanliness, etc.
3. SPECIAL PROVISION FOR SPOKESPEOPLE AND OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVES
When it comes to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other types of foodborne illnesses, it takes a special kind of flak to stand at a podium in front of a bunch of reporters and claim the company’s products are “perfectly safe” and that the media is making the situation out to be a lot worse than it really is, or that it’s not really company’s fault but the work of disgruntled employees and/or unscrupulous food activists, and that in either case, the company is “cooperating fully” with authorities to resolve the situation in a safe and timely fashion.
Since spokespeople can’t be sued for lying, this amendment would have made it mandatory for them all to attend a special private banquet where the only food they got would have been the very food they claimed everyone could “trust and continue to consume without any health and safety concerns.”
4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET – OR ELSE
Ever order anything online, or from the back of a magazine because the photos looked so good?
This amendment would have not only banned the use of Photoshop and other means of digital enhancement, but made it illegal for anyone selling direct-to-the-consumer food to hire a photo stylist to, for example, sort through 10,000 bushels of pears to find the one – and only one – in the lot that looked like you’d want to eat it.
It would also have made it illegal to embellish descriptions, meaning that if a wine-of-the-month club promised “world-class” bottles, they had better come from a part of the world that’s actually known for its vineyards and taste really, really good.
5. VEGETABLE JAIL
This amendment would have authorized the FDA to work with state and local law enforcement officials to create “vegetable jail,” so that instead of threatening kids who won’t eat their broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. with no dessert or having to sit at the table until everything – “And I mean everything!” – is finished, parents could just say “Look… it’s either spinach or 18 months hard time.”
(Not that some kids wouldn’t choose jail over spinach, of course, but at least it would have helped.)
KID: What’s Daylight Savings?
PARENT: It’s when we set our clocks back an hour.
KID: What does that mean?
PARENT: It means what used to be 10:00 is now 9:00, so there’s actually an extra hour in the day.
KID: Which day?
KID: That’s a relief – I was afraid it was gonna be Monday when I’m in school.
4-YEAR-OLD: Is that women fat?
DAD: What woman?
4-YEAR-OLD: That woman over there.
DAD: No, she’s fine. And don’t say that kind of thing so loudly.
4-YEAR-OLD: She looks fat to me.
DAD: She’s not.
4-YEAR-OLD: She’s bigger than Mommy, isn’t she?
4-YEAR-OLD: When Mommy looks in the mirror, she says “I’m fat!” So if that woman is bigger than Mommy, then she’s fat, right?
DAD: Look… nobody is fat. Mommy isn’t fat. That woman isn’t fat.
Nobody is fat. Now… LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS LATER!
4-YEAR-OLD: Because why?
DAD: Because it’s not nice to say that about people in public.
4-YEAR-OLD: Why? Don’t they know they’re fat?
DAD: I’m sure they know, but sometimes people are self-conscious about their weight because they think other people will look down on them.
4-YEAR-OLD: I won’t look down on them. I don’t care if they’re fat.
DAD: That’s good.
4-YEAR-OLD: Do you think I should go over and tell that woman I don’t care if she’s fat?
4-YEAR-OLD: But then she won’t be self-conscious!
DAD: Too late.
DAD: See the way she’s staring at us? I think she heard everything we just said.
4-YEAR-OLD: Hey! Doesn’t she know it’s not polite to stare?
“So… what’s it like having kids?” the would-be parent asks.
“It’s great,” you say, “Having kids is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. They’re a lot of work, but when you see the way they smile and laugh and take in the world, it’s definitely worth it.”
And then maybe you chuckle and offer to let them stay over and take your kids for a weekend “test drive,” knowing they probably won’t but hoping they will so you and your spouse can get away for that “romantic weekend” you’ve been talking about since pretty much your kids were born (with the term “romantic” being parent-code for “getting some sleep and being able to watch pay-per-view movies all the way through, in one sitting, without being interrupted a dozen times because ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I had an accident’ or ‘I spilled jam on the carpet,’ etc.”).
You may suggest these would-be parents pick up a movie or two, too. But while many recommend something like “Parenthood”1 for its funny and touching insights into the ups and downs of, well, parenthood, there’s another movie that gives a fuller and more complete picture: 1970s horror classic “The Exorcist.” Here’s why:
Demonic possession is just another name for a weekday morning.
As every parent knows, at random and unpredictable intervals, your little angel will wake up snarling and nasty like a beast from Hell. Foul-mouthed? Before you even get through the door to say “Good morning, I made you breakfast,” you find yourself assaulted with “GET OUT! Can’t you see I’m sleeping? You always wake me up like this. I hate you. I hate you. I HATE YOU.”
And their appearance? Definitely something unholy (though, to be fair, not because they’re suddenly sporting horns, scales and some grotesque demon pig-nose, but because nobody looks good when they don’t shower for three days – why is personal hygiene such a difficult concept for kids to get, anyway?).
As for being able to crawl across the ceiling? Well… maybe not the ceiling, but when you consider the gravity-defying ways kids flip around in their beds while they sleep, it’s not such a stretch to think they might some- how end up on the ceiling.
Green puke? How about orange puke, yellow puke and blue puke, too?
It’s not called “The Technicolor Yawn” for nothing, something parents usually find out fast. Often, these multi-colored hues can be traced back to two types of foods: foods consumed in excess, like artificially-flavored fruit punch, Halloween candy and birthday cake; and foods consumed under protest such as salad, non-breaded fish, and brussels sprouts (with the eventual volume of puke increasing exponentially if you happen to say something like “I don’t care if you don’t like it. Nobody ever threw up eating brussels sprouts, so finish your plate!” first).
You know a child’s head can’t spin completely around… but a 5-year-old doesn’t.
And no matter how quickly the parent dashes into the other room to get the phone or answer the door or shut the oven off before dinner burns, it’s five seconds more than the 5-year-old needs to twist the 2-year-old’s head around to the point where it’s about to snap. “But we were just playing owl,” the child protests.
You don’t need an exorcist, but a child psychologist might be a good idea.
What parent hasn’t thrown up their hands at some point and said “I can’t do this anymore!” before turning to an expert for help?
Whether it’s the therapist, the math tutor, the reading coach, the college placement counselor or even the pitching specialist, all these experts are trying to do is exactly what Father Merrin was trying to do to Linda Blair’s Regan: make the kid “normal” again.
There can always be a sequel because evil – like parenting – goes on forever.
Which means the moment parents think they’re done and their kids are on their own, they move back home. Or go into therapy. Or just stop calling. This can happen at any time, for any reason (though it’s often financial), and it’s generally a lot worse than the original, just like “Exorcist 2 – The Heretic,” “The Exorcist 3,” and both versions of “Exorcist – The Beginning.”
And if that isn’t scary, nothing is.
From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”
1Is the TV version of this movie a reasonable substitute? Clearly the show has plenty of fans – here, here, here and here, for example – but what if it gets cancelled? Imagine devoting hour after hour to something, getting attached and becoming emotionally invested in its well-being, only to have it suddenly just grow up and move go away? On second thought… maybe that’s even more like parenthood than the movie “Parenthood.”
Ka-blaht ka-blaht ka-blaht.
All kids play, but for boys of a certain age, it’s not enough just to use their imaginations, they have to use their mouths, too, to make sound effects.
How can you repel a mutant robot invasion with a pulse rifle if you can’t create the “peeeehw!” it makes when it’s fired?
Or when a rocket-car banks hard around a turn to escape the sinister band of ninja-commandos who are pursuing it, it has to go “ssssssssssssshhhhhhhwwww” or the whole thing just doesn’t seem real.
As alien as these sounds seem to adult ears – even the sounds of aliens themselves – to boys they are as distinctive as bird calls.
(And for non-boys, just as hard to mimic.)
There’s the rumble of an interstellar battleship positioning itself in orbit around a moon so it can attack a colony of space pirates, the blast of a hundred alien death rays, the slicing whoosh of a samurai master’s sword – an infinite number of sounds to match the infinite number of battles that must be fought to save humanity and the extraterrestrial alliance it’s part of.
Besides, if they don’t do it, who will? Girls? Not typically.
Which explains why boys seem to have no choice but to spend so much of their non-school, non-sleeping, non-chore time facing down foes with their boy-chirps and boy-caws.
It also explains why of all the things that come out of their mouths, these types of sounds are among the most frequent, ranking somewhere between questions that start with “Can I…” and the phrase “But that’s not fair” in terms of overall popularity.
Not that boy sounds should be judged too harshly, however.
In jazz, scat is an art form, and singers who can convincingly communicate without using actual words are thought to be among the very best. To put it another way, who could look down on musical icons like Cab Calloway and Ray Charles who surely owe their adult-success to all those hours they spent as kids bouncing around the house beating back bad-guys with a “ka-posh,” a “zowwwwwwww” and a “kgle-kgle-kgle”?
Or what about that guy from all those “Police Academy” movies: he’s made an entire career out of making sound effects with his mouth.
There are plenty of other real-world implications to consider, too.
Studies often show that girls are more verbal than boys, and therefore better at communicating. But maybe that’s because experts are measuring language, not sounds?
Every parent knows that boys are consistently discouraged from making strange noises in public because most people find them distracting, embarrassing and/or gross. Often, all three. But perhaps if boys were shown ways they could use their boy sounds in more recognizable and constructive ways they’d be revealed to be just as communicative as girls?
Plus, they wouldn’t have to rely as much as they do on shrugs, nods and blank stares, which would be really helpful:
PARENT: How was school?
PARENT: Did you turn your assignment in?
PARENT: Do you have any homework you have to do tonight?
BOY: [BLANK STARE]
On the other hand, if boys did utilize their sounds more effectively, it would put moms at a decided disadvantage because they don’t seem to be anywhere near as fluent as dads:
MOM: What’s that?
DAD: Junior’s downstairs playing “Star Wars.”
MOM: It sounded like he hurt himself.
DAD: No, he just severed Jabba The Hut’s head with a lightsaber so now he’s hungry.
MOM: How can you tell?
DAD: Hear that “beeeeeeee-ghewwww?”
DAD: That’s a light saber being turned on.
DAD: And that “grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”? That’s Jabba gasping for air through a slit in his throat.
DAD: And that deep, prolonged sigh means “I could really use a peanut butter sandwich about now.”
MOM: That’s amazing. Especially since you never seem to understand half of what I say and I’m speaking English.
Eventually, like the desire to play with action figures, wear superhero costumes outside of Halloween and collect Pokemon cards, the need boys have to make their own sounds begins to fade, to the point where they are mostly silent by the time they reach adulthood.
(Except when they’re watching sporting events or playing video games.)
And yet even though the need fades, it never really goes away entirely. Instead, it lays dormant, waiting – sometimes aging, sometimes festering – until it’s reborn as the need old men have to make old man sounds — the “glurps” and “pffts” and “grgle-grgle-grgles” that are as distinctive to them as they are alien and indecipherable to the rest of us.
The bad times may be over, but the good times aren’t going to return any time soon.
For many of us, that’s troubling. But it can also be inspiring – especially when it comes to finding appropriate ways to spend quality time with family.
Kick The Can(didate)
Family members divide up into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Democrats try to prevent Republicans from kicking the can, just like in the classic childhood game, but have to put on blinders and argue among themselves, making it very easy for a lone Republican to come out of nowhere and kick the can.
Alternately, family members don’t divide up into Democrats and Republicans at all, but just play as a single group of Democrats who work against each other to both kick the can and prevent the can from being kicked, turning the whole game into an ugly, shameless, ultimately un-winnable waste of time.
Liar’s Dice, The Wall Street Edition
In the traditional game, players roll a handful of dice and then try to lie about how many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s they have. If one player doesn’t believe another, he or she says “liar.” If the accused is actually lying, he or she loses a die; if the accused is telling the truth, the accuser loses a die.
The game continues until there’s only one player left.
This version is played the exact same way, except that whenever a player lies and loses a die, he or she gets to replace it with one provided by the Treasury Department for as long as the government has adequate dice reserves, or can borrow dice from China.
The point of this game is to pretend to spontaneously gather around an imaginary table drinking imaginary tea from imaginary cups until the media believes it’s real, and then form a grassroots special interest group to force everybody to move to the right.
Duck Duck Goose
Each player pretends to be a homeowner and sits in a circle with the other homeowners. One player – representing a soon-to-reset adjustable rate mortgage, crushing equity line, further decline in housing prices, prolonged period of unemployment or other form of bad luck – walks around and taps each of them on the head, saying “Duck… Duck… Duck…”
This goes on for an inordinately long time, with all the anxious homeowners hoping the bad luck will just go away.
When bad luck finally says “goose,” the player he or she just tapped sits there quietly in a complete state of denial, then wanders off leaving an empty spot in the circle.
This goes on for an inordinately long time, too, until even the remaining homeowners are too depressed to continue.
What’s my party line?
Throw a blanket over your TV set and then randomly tune it to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC and see if you can tell what party’s talking points the supposedly non-partisan/independent/”fair and balanced” experts are secretly touting.
Just like regular “I Spy,” only with the more apropos subjects: “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with F… a foreclosed house.” Or “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with O… a one-term president.”
The Telephony Game
Start with any of the promises Banks made when they needed to be bailed out – to take fewer risks, not put profits first, learn from their mistakes, help homeowners modify bad loans, etc. – and play the telephone game to see if any of these phrases end up making any sense at all.
Pin The Tail (Of Blame) On The Donkey
Much like ‘08s most popular game, “Pin The Tail on The Elephant,” this one substitutes a donkey and uses a much, much bigger tail.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Big, Bad Wolf
Players divide into three teams, and then each team builds a house.
The first uses straw, which represents a “no-doc” loan, the second uses wood, which represents a zero-down, adjustable-rate mortgage, and the third uses brick, which represents a 30-year fixed-mortgage with 20% down that will never, ever cause problems.
They then wait for the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and try to blow their houses down.
How low can President Obama’s approval rating go? Put on “The Limbo Song” and see.
Republican Hokey Pokey
You put your right foot in, and then instead of putting your left foot in, you put your right foot in even farther unless you want the Tea Baggers to knock you over.
Ghost in The Graveyard Shift
Similar to the classic childhood game, except when word gets out you’re playing, 10,000 people show up.
(To see family games from last year, click here.)
What’s sex? Did you take drugs in college? Why did you vote for George W. Bush* the second time?
Kids ask questions all the time, but there’s a difference between the ones parents can’t answer — “Does God need to shower?” — and the ones (some) parents don’t want to. The solution? Perhaps we can take a cue from politicians, their press secretaries and the so-called “bipartisan” pundits we see on TV and use the same simple strategies for answering without answering.
1. Give a detailed, thoughtful response, just not to the question they ask.
Campaigning politicians are particularly good at this, and the trick is to remember that your answer can be anything, just as long as you can loosely relate it to the original question.
For example, if asked about drugs, begin by saying “I’m glad you asked me about smoking pot in college…,” which makes it sound like you’re going to admit that for most of your sophomore year your best friend was your bong, but then say “…because I think it’s important that we be open and honest with each other, especially now that you’re older and starting to ask hard questions. It seems like only yesterday when the most important thing on your mind was which Power Ranger you wanted to dress up as, or if a certain Pokemon could beat a certain other kind of Pokemon. I have to admit that watching you grow up has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and I look forward to helping you continue on that journey towards adult- hood by providing you with the information and insight I myself have gained over the years…”
If you haven’t lost them by then, just keep talking.
2. Focus on “the larger issue.”
Which can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
3. Ask your kids what they think the answer is.
Also known as the therapist approach.
This works well for things you don’t really know how to explain, but not-so- well for things you’re just not comfortable talking about.
Time was that people who didn’t tell the truth were called liars and they were looked down upon, but thanks to all the CEO’s, athletes, politicians and ce- lebrities who’ve been caught with their pants down (or off, or filled with drugs, etc.) those days seem to be over.
The best thing about this approach is that if your lie is later exposed, you can claim you just “misspoke.” As in “Yes, I can see how my response to the ques- tion ‘Did I vote for George W. Bush?’ might have been confusing, because when I said ‘No,’ I actually misspoke. In point of fact – and because it’s im- portant to me that the record accurately reflect my views – I didn’t mean ‘No’ in the traditional sense of the word, and I can see now how my incorrect use of that word might have been somewhat misleading, because what I, in fact, meant was that I felt that in light of the specific challenges facing the Presi- dent at that time, it was important for me – and really, all of us as a nation – to remain united and strong, and because of that, I did my duty as an American by going to the polls and casting a ballot so my voice could be heard, and even though that ballot was nominally in the affirmative, it was really more a show of support for the country as a whole than a specific endorsement of any one candidate. I voted because it’s the duty of every citizen to vote, and for that I will never apologize.”
5. Use a spokesperson.
Either a hired professional or your spouse, if he or she has the BS skills required.
This has the added benefit of distancing you from your answer, whatever that might be.
Plus, if you are later confronted about the answer your spokesperson gave on your behalf, you can say you didn’t actually mean whatever it was they said and that you must have been “quoted out of context.”
*Or, increasingly for many, Barack Obama the first time.
FROM: YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT
As we kick off the new school year, we thought it necessary to take a few moments to discuss some of the challenges we’re facing this year. As many of you know, the economy is still struggling and we have been hit particularly hard by state budget cuts.
Again — wasn’t Obama supposed to have fixed everything by now?
As a result, we have undertaken a series of steps to deal with this unfortunate situation, and ask for your understanding in this difficult time.
The first and most obvious change is a slight reduction in the total number of days school will be in session this year. In addition to usual holidays, we will also be observing Halloween, All Saints’ Day (in a non-denominational way), Dia De Los Muertos, Guy Fawkes Day, the Winter Solstice, The Great American Smoke Out, Pearl Harbor Day, World Religion Day (again, in a non-denominational way), The Day The Music Died Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Good Samaritan Day, The Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools’ and Arbor Day.
We had planned to observe Cinco De Mayo as well, but since the last day of class will now be April 15th, school will already be closed.
Our vacation schedule is undergoing some adjustments as well: Thanksgiving Break will now go through the end of the November, Winter Break will last until the day after Martin Luther Kind Day, and Spring Break will be March.
We will also be closing the school February 16-20 to give all parents a chance to take part in — depending on your situation — either a “Take Your Child to Work Week” or a series of field trips to The Unemployment Office, Health & Human Services, and various shelters and soup-kitchens.
We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but would like to point out that because these additional closure days will be unpaid, all teachers and administrators will be available for babysitting at the standard rate of $9/hr if your child is well-behaved, $25/hr. if he or she is not.
(If you’re not sure which category your kid falls into, ask the principal or one of the teachers to check the secret “trouble-maker” list in the office, or ask your child directly — though if talking to your child is not something you normally do, just go ahead and assume you’ll be paying the higher rate.)
In addition to schedule changes, we have also been forced to make adjustments to what we call “non-core classes,” or what most students refer to as “fun.”
Where we used to offer music class and after-school guitar, violin, flute and coronet lessons, we will now just have an iPod filled with classical music in the library that students can check out.
Art class will continue, thanks to the generous corporate support of Exxon, but will consist solely of students painting pictures of happy animals frolicking among oil derricks and pipelines in a global-warming-free world. And not with pastels or water-colors, either, but only oils.
The biggest change will be to shop class, which will be mandatory for all students, and will focus exclusively on offering them practical, hands-on experience, beginning with re-tarring the gymnasium roof, which was supposed to be paid for with federal stimulus funds, except the governor rejected them.
In light of all this, we are also revising our official “Back to School” supplies list to include the following:
- Work gloves
- Hard hat
- Safety goggles
- Notarized liability waiver
We have also changed the required quantities of the selected items.
Students will now be required to bring:
- 10 rolls of tape so the old torn-up text books that were pulled from the incinerator just before they were scheduled to be burned can be taped up and used for one more year
Students will now be required to bring:
- 120 oz. bottle of Whiteout to correct any outdated information in the above-mentioned text books such as references to the 48 states, the U.S.S.R., American economic dominance or The Great Depression — not because this type of information is incorrect, but because we don’t want students reading about it and freaking out that it still might happen again
Given increasing concern about Swine Flu, we also recommend each student bring:
- Medical-grade hand sanitizer
- Rubber gloves
- A hospital mask or filtered respirator
And where in past years we have discouraged students from brining an apple for their teacher out of food-safety concerns, we now not only encourage it, but suggest canned goods, cereal, grains and shelf-stable dairy products as well, as their pay has recently been involuntarily de-raised by 20%.
We appreciate your understanding and ask that any parents who are able should join us next Tuesday for a bake sale, where we’ll be offering a wide variety of donated cookies, cakes and pies all starting at $172.50 each.
Your School District
P.S. We are also looking for unpaid volunteers, specifically five parents who just happen to have teaching certificates and can commit to spending five days a week from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm with between 20 and 30 students for the rest of the year.
Everybody says having kids changes everything, but how?
It’s not like you suddenly wake up in some alternate reality (even if it sometimes feels that way) or discover the days of the week have been completely rearranged (which isn’t to say that chronic sleep-deprivation isn’t sometimes disorienting), it’s mostly that everything you did before you had kids gets replaced with some other activity.
Non-parent activity: Hanging out with friends
Parent activity: Hanging out with people you don’t really know – and might not even like – because their kids are friends with your kids
Non-parent activity: Making plans
Parent activity: Canceling plans because somebody threw up
Non-parent activity: Sleeping
Parent activity: Three 24 oz. Lattes, a half-case of Diet Coke and five Red Bulls per day
Non-parent activity: Being on time
Parent activity: Explaining why you’re late (for a while anyway, until everybody stops inviting you to things, or says it’s “adults only”)
Non-parent activity: Going to a 4-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 3-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 2-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to McDonald’s
Non-parent activity: Going to a 1-star restaurant
Parent activity: Going to Chuck E. Cheese, because if you have to go to McDonald’s one more time you’ll go insane
Non-parent activity: Finding the perfect handbag
Parent activity: Finding the perfect babysitter (who is likely to be just as expensive and “sold out”)
Non-parent activity: Working out in the morning
Parent activity: Working out for 15 minutes before everybody gets up, stopping, getting everybody breakfast, going back and working out for 5 more minutes, stopping, getting clean socks and underwear from the dryer, where you accidentally left them last night because you fell asleep before you could fold them, trying to work out for a few more minutes before realizing you’re out of time
Non-parent activity: Working out at night
Parent activity: Laughing at the thought of working out at night, because after a day like this who has the energy?
Non-parent activity: Yoga
Parent activity: Mommy & Me
Non-parent activity: Seeing movies
Parent activity: Seeing movies you hate, over and over again, because kids love repetition
Non-parent activity: Biking
Parent activity: Taking your kids to the emergency room for stitches after they crash
Non-parent activity: Going shopping
Parent activity: Going shopping, not getting a chance to get everything, then having to go shopping again (and sometimes again and again and again, depending on how tired and disoriented you are)
Non-parent activity: Sex
Parent activity: Naps, but not with anywhere near the same frequency
Non-parent activity: Being in a hurry
Parent activity: Being in a hurry but having to stop at a gas station anyway, because somebody forget to pee before they get in the car
Non-parent activity: Organization
Parent activity: Reluctantly embracing the chaos
Non-parent activity: Date night
Parent activity: Prom night – as in the one your kids go to, since that’s how long it will be before you ever get to go out again
Non-parent activity: Vacations
Parent activity: Going to Disneyland (which can be fun but is definitely not a vacation)
Non-parent activity: Relieving stress through exercise, meditation, deep-breathing, etc
Parent activity: Drinking
Non-parent activity: Modesty
Parent activity: Answering the door in a towel because even though you told the kids “Don’t get it!” they did (which is also the reason you sometimes spend 25 minutes talking to telemarketers)
Non-parent activity: Going to a sporting event and booing the ref
Parent activity: Not booing the ref because you now realize being fair and impartial is impossible and that no matter what the call, somebody will throw a fit (and whether it’s a professional athlete or a child, the screaming, yelling, stomping and fist-pounding all looks exactly the same)
Non-parent activity: Buying new furniture
Parent activity: Buying new furniture because — your kids “swear” — the old furniture just fell apart and/or got stained all by itself
Non-parent activity: Turning off the evening news because their coverage of the latest public health “crisis” is ridiculous
Parent activity: Turning off the evening news and taking your kids to the emergency room because now you’re worried they might have been exposed to it
Non-parent activity: Cleanliness, basic hygiene
Parent activity: The five-second rule
Non-parent activity: Wiping your nose with Kleenex
Parent activity: Wiping their nose with your thumb and forefinger, then flinging it on the ground
Non-parent activity: Getting a facial
Parent activity: Getting a facial of vomit
Non-parent activity: Doing things when you want to
Parent activity: Doing things when you have to
Non-parent activity: Deciding you’re ready to have kids
Parent activity: Realizing you were wrong (but trying to make the most of it, anyway)
KID: Can I ask you something?
DAD: What is it?
KID: Promise you won’t get mad?
MOM: What makes you think we’d get mad?
KID: Just promise.
MOM: What’s your question?
KID: What’s “stress?”
DAD: It’s a prolonged state of mental and emotional strain.
MOM: It’s like you’re being pulled in two different directions.
DAD: At the exact same time.
MOM: You’re stuck.
DAD: But you can’t get unstuck.
MOM: Until you feel totally and completely overwhelmed.
DAD: And irritable.
MOM: And short-tempered.
DAD: And impatient.
MOM: And you can’t sleep.
DAD: Or focus.
KID: But it’s not contagious, is it?
KID: Good — ’cause obviously the only thing you can do about it is drink, and I’m not old enough.
Awakened by phone.
Son’s friend’s mother calling to ask about afternoon playdate despite being told many times before do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency, especially on a Saturday because that’s the only day I ever get to sleep in.
Tell her to call back after 8:30 am.
Climb back in bed.
Reluctantly accept fact that chance to sleep-in ruined.
Even more irritated.
Think of other ways to get the do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency point across because, clearly, plain English is not working.
Also think a playdate is not an emergency, and sure as Hell isn’t going to happen today.
Realize this is harsh/unfairly punishes kids for mother’s behavior.
Fantasize about retaliation/payback.
Wonder if I could live with myself if I called every night for a week at 12:01 to remind her do not call before 8:30 am unless it’s an emergency.
Accept fact that I could not.
Try to think of other alternatives.
Have one idea.
Go out for extra-large coffee.
Hear phone ring just as door is closing.
Know instantly who it is.
Think disconnecting phone line may be only option.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit. Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
MOM: Did he just say what I think he said?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Hit. Bit. Fit. Shit.
MOM: Sweetie, you shouldn’t say that.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Say what?
DAD: That word.
MOM: Especially around Grandma – God knows she thinks I’m a bad enough parent as it is.
PRE-SCHOOLER: What word? Hit? Bit? Fit? Shit?
DAD: That’s enough.
MOM: How are we gonna tell him not to say S-H-I-T without saying S-H-I-T?
DAD: Why don’t you make a different rhyme?
PRE-SCHOOLER: Mass. Class. Bass. Ass.
MOM: I have a better idea. Have a seat and let’s talk about this. See, there are some words you can’t say out loud.
MOM: Because they’re bad words.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are they bad? Did they do something to get in trou- ble, like leave their toys in the hallway?
MOM: No, the words didn’t do anything, they’re just bad.
DAD: And if you say them you’ll get in trouble.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Why are you using your angry voice?
MOM: Daddy’s not using his angry voice. He’s just trying to tell you there are some words that are bad and good boys don’t say them.
PRE-SCHOOLER: But Daddy says them when he drives us to school, and sometimes after he talks to Grandma.
MOM: Look… Let’s just take a break from rhyming and you and I will go play with your fire truck.
PRE-SCHOOLER: Okay – Truck. Duck. Muck. F –
MOM & DAD: NOOOOO!
- Nobody wore seatbelts.
- Babies, infants and toddlers sat on mom’s lap in the front seat; the older kids argued over who got to lie on a sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon.
- If you were good, you got to stop at A&W. Otherwise, you ate bologna sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
- Dad spent most of the trip trying to tune in an AM station that was carrying the game. The signal would come in strong for a while then fade. Sometimes there was no signal at all.
- If you were too loud, your mom would say you were distracting your father, and then eventually he would just reach back and smack whoever was closest in the head, even if they were the one kid being quiet.
- This was one of the reasons the middle seat was the worst place to sit.
- Your station wagon got eight miles to the gallon, but you probably didn’t know that because nobody cared.
- If you were lucky enough to have air conditioning, you couldn’t use it on long trips because your dad said the car would overheat.
- If you felt car sick, you were supposed to stick your head out the window.
- “He who smelt it, dealt it.”
- Dad would only stop for gas or Stuckey’s, so mom kept a pee jar under the front seat just in case you couldn’t hold it.
- When you passed a truck, you would raise your fist and gesture for the driver to blow his air horn.
- If your dad had a CB radio, he would listen to it to find out where the speed traps were. If not, he would try to follow a truck.
- When another car passed you, a kid in the back seat would sometimes pull down his pants and stick his butt out at you. When this happened, you would say “Looks like the moon’s out early tonight.”
- Sometimes it was a full-moon, other times it was just a half-moon.
- After driving for six or eight hours, mom and dad would stop at a bar for a drink. They would leave you in the car in the parking lot to wait. After 45 minutes or so, they would come back out, get in the car and then drive for two or three more hours to a Holiday Inn.
- You drove because flying was a luxury.
- You spent 1/3 of your vacation going to your destination, 1/3 at your destination, and 1/3 driving back from the destination.
- If it was Spring Break, the destination was Florida or Arizona. If it was summer, you would go to a cabin in the mountains or by a lake or on the river.
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.
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 “$#*” isn’t a swear word, it’s a substitute for a swear word, but it’s still offensive.
CHILD: Which swear word is it a substitute for?
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:That’s just it: it could be any one of ‘em — though usually if you think about it you can figure it out.
CHILD: Oh.. now I know.
OVER-REACTIVE PARENT:Exactly. Now you go wash your mouth out with soap while I write a letter to FCC to complain about the way the liberal media is corrupting our youth.
There’s nothing wrong with parents protecting their kids from what they feel are bad influences, but isn’t it kind of silly to make such a big deal out of something like this? If for no other reason than the fact that there probably isn’t a kid left in this country who doesn’t already know the s-word, the a-word and probably the f-word, too.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know my kids know them because (a) they are sometimes in the car with me when I drive and (b) I think it’s important they have a full and complete grasp of the English language, including words that are inappropriate, which is why I sat them down one night and taught them.2)
Besides, when you think about it, television doesn’t need to be censored because televisions come with a remote control and a power button.
Isn’t that easier than a national boycott?
(That said, remotes can be so confusing and complicated it is possible somebody somewhere can’t turn their TV off, change the channel, lower the volume or remove the annoying on-screen overlay because they haven’t managed to crack the secret combination of input/source buttons even this most basic level of functionality can sometimes require. But that’s the fault of the manufacturer, not the media.)
Rather than being bad, in fact, a situation like “$#*! 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
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.
Teenager? Or politician? Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell.
- Both want your money.
- Both will do anything to get it.
- Both say you can trust them completely.
- Neither understands why you won’t.
- When caught in a lie, both initially deny the accusation, then claim they “misspoke,” and finally try to blame you, saying it’s really your fault because of something you did.
- Both give out your phone number to fundraisers — with teenagers, it’s to the PTA; with politicians, it’s to the NRA.
- Both can be lobbied.
- Both trade favors.
- Both have ulterior motives.
- Both need you more than you need them.
- Neither sees it that way.
- Neither is very good at keeping a promise, but both always have what they think is a perfectly good excuse for why not.
- When it comes to priorities, both believe the same thing: party first.
- Both would do anything to be more popular.
- No matter how innocent they seem, both are guilty of something that you won’t find out about until later.
KID: Mother’s Day is coming up.
MOM: I know.
KID: Do you want us to get you anything?
MOM: Only if you want to.
KID: Or course we want to, we just don’t know what you want.
MOM: Surprise me.
KID: With what?
MOM: With something I’d like.
KID: A present?
KID: But what kind of present?
MOM: How can you spend so much time with me and not know a single thing I like? Just think about what I do every day.
MOM: Does that give you any ideas?
KID: It does — we could get you some plastic bags.
MOM: Plastic Bags?
KID: For making our lunches.
KID: Okay, what about some dish towels?
KID: Pencils you could use to help us with homework?
KID: A mop?
KID: You already have an SUV you like to drive us around in. How about one of those cool toilet bowl cleaners I saw on TV?
KID: New laundry basket?
MOM: Do you think I do all those things because I like to?
KID: Why else would you do them?
MOM: Because I’m a mom and that’s what mom’s do: stuff they don’t like doing, but needs to be done.
MOM: Yeah, “Oh.”
KID: If that’s the case, then I know exactly what you’d like for Mother’s Day.
MOM: What’s that?
KID: To be like Dad: ‘cause there’s lots of stuff he needs to do, but usually he just watches ESPN instead.
Editor’s Note: While not entirely true, there’s no doubt the sentiment expressed above often feels true.
Just because kids say they’re sick doesn’t mean they actually are sick.
Which means for parents, trying to decide if a child should stay home or go to school can be quite a challenge.
(And even though teachers and principals almost always say keep kids home if there’s any question about how well they feel, that isn’t either practical or fair – for many of us, the fact that our kids learn something at school isn’t nearly as important as the fact that somebody else has to put up with watch them for a few hours each weekday so we can catch our breathes.)
So how do parents figure out if their kids are nauseas because they have the flu or because they have to turn in a 10-page report they completely forget to even start?
While medical electronics can be helpful, they’re not nearly as accurate as consumer electronics: all parents have to do is ask the child who complains about not feeling well “If you stay home sick, what are you going to do all day?”
||% CHANCE SICK
- watch TV1, listen to iPod
- play Nintendo DS, Gameboy, PSP, games on cell phones, check e-mail2
- play XBOX 360, Playstation 3
- play Wii, text friends3, play online multi-player game
- Do any of the above while electronically linked with a friend (or friends) who just happen to be home “sick,” too
1This mostly depends on what they watch — a Cartoon Network Marathon would raise suspicions, CNN’s The Situation Room would not.
2Though given the rate at which most kids check their e-mail, actually checking e-mail might be a sign of some kind of fever-induced delusion.
3With the chance they’re sick dropping one percent for every 5 texts they send and/or receive.
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?
KID: Are you tired?
KID: Do you have to wait around the house all day for the cable guy to show up?
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.
KID: I don’t want to tell you.
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!
PARENT: But go clean up your room anyway.
KID: I knew it.
HOUSEGUEST: Mind if I bring my dog?
HOMEOWNER: To our house?
HOUSEGUEST: He’s not any trouble. You won’t even know he’s there.
HOMEOWNER: Is he housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: Of course.
When it comes to pets, there seem to be two kinds of people: those who believe being housebroken is an either/or proposition — either a dog goes outside when he needs to do his business, or he’s not housebroken — and those who favor a more Zen-like interpretation, where “housebroken” is more journey than destination, a path to potty enlightenment that every dog must travel at its own speed, peeing and pooping along the way as the need arises.
As you would expect, the latter position is most often adopted by those who think of their dogs as their children, and they are usually as unapologetic when their “baby” has “an accident” as a real parent is when the same thing happens to their child.
The problem is that when a child poops or pees, it’s in his pants; when a dog poops or pees, it’s on the bedspread in the bedroom.
HOMEOWNER: I thought you said he was housebroken?
HOUSEGUEST: He is.
HOMEOWNER: Then why didn’t he go outside?
HOUSEGUEST: Everybody has accidents. He probably just got excited.
How do you react to this kind of situation?
There seem to be two kinds of people in this case, too: those who understand that “shit happens,” and when it does the only thing you can do is grab some paper towels and clean it up, and those who want to know who’s gonna pay for the new mattress.
(And, unfortunately, you won’t know which camp you fall into until it happens to you.)
As a parent, time is precious. So how do you make the most of it? Time management experts offer the following advice:
3. Set time limits for tasks.
4. Establish routines and stick to them.
5. Don’t waste time waiting.
At first glance, these suggestions seem simple and straight-forward, but when you actually try to implement them you quickly realize they are better suited to some kind of parallel “self-help dimension” where the laws of time, space and sibling in-fighting don’t apply.
In theory, yes. In practice – forget it.
Take, say, the tasks of treating an injury versus giving a toddler a bath. Typically, bleeding kids come first, unless they’re bleeding because they did the thing you told them not to do five times, in which case the toddler would get the bath. If the bleeding kid is bleeding on furniture, however, then the furniture needs immediate attention.
On the other hand, if there’s only a little bleeding and it’s not on any furniture, then that might not be as important as preventing the toddler from trying to bathe himself.
Which means what? Parents are supposed to ship their kids off to India to get help with their homework?
3. Set time limits for tasks.
Okay. But what is the appropriate time limit for a temper tantrum? And if getting everybody ready in the morning takes 15 minutes longer than whatever amount of time you set aside – whether it’s 40 minutes or two hours – how are you supposed to limit that? Or if you make reservations for that one night out a year you get a leisurely three hours to eat, what happens when the babysitter is 20 minutes late and the restaurant gives up your table?
4. Establish routines and stick to them.
Most parents already do this, but it doesn’t seem to help. For example, a typical morning routine would be telling the kids to get up, get in the shower, get dressed, get some breakfast and get in the car, then repeating this three or four times over the course of 20 minutes before threatening them with some kind of bodily harm if they don’t do all of the above RIGHT THIS MINUTE!
This is followed by the nagging suspicion that something that was supposed to have been done last night wasn’t, and the sudden realization that this “something” was making lunches for all the kids.
As there is now not nearly enough time left to do everything and still get off on time, vows that “This will never happen again!” must be shouted so that all in the house can hear, spouses must be silently cursed for not helping, and God must be asked “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”
5. Don’t waste time waiting.
Clearly this was not written by anyone living in a small house with kids. How else is a parent supposed to get into the bathroom?
From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”
Network censors demanded separate beds for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” because they felt it was inappropriate for the married couple portrayed by Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore to sleep together.
(Raising the question of exactly how son Richie came about, but never ad- dressing it.)
It seemed silly at the time, and even more silly when the 70s hit and the sexual revolution took hold, but now more and more couples are starting to think “Hey, maybe those network censors had it right after all!”
According to experts, the main benefit of a couple having separate bedrooms is they both get more sleep because neither gets awakened by the other’s snoring… getting up every hour to pee… tossing and turning… general inabil- ity to tip-toe… and so on.
On the negative side… well… when you’re getting more sleep, is there really anything negative?
Note: While there is concern that separate bedrooms could impact intimacy and romance, that’s only for couples without children, as couples with chil- dren almost certainly gave those up shortly after their first child was con- ceived, and now fully embrace the idea of separate bedrooms if for no other reason than when you both sleep in the same bed, both of you wind up with no room to move around when your kids file in after dark because they had a bad dream or heard something scary in the closet.
From “Why Chicken Nuggets are Better Than Prozac.”
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.
(As with all statistics, there is an alternate interpretation. Click here to see how the same statistics indicate mothers are better than fathers.)