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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.

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.

MOTHER’S DAY

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?
MOM: Sure.
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.
KID: Okay.
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.
MOM: No.
KID: Okay, what about some dish towels?
MOM: No.
KID: Pencils you could use to help us with homework?
MOM: No.
KID: A mop?
MOM: No.
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?
MOM: No.
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.
KID: Oh.
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.

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.

PEE, POOP OR PUKE? PICK ONE.

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

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

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

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

SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 7

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

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.

BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR!

Our legal system guarantees the accused a fair and speedy trial, proof of guilt “beyond reasonable doubt” and punishment that isn’t “cruel or unusual.” Fortunately, these same rights don’t extend to children — something every parent who’s ever come home stressed, worried, angry or anxious about something else and just exploded at their kids can take comfort in.

(As if parenting wasn’t hard enough, just imagine what it would be like if you had to be fair and reasonable every minute of every day.)

In light of that, a short, incomplete list of crimes, punishments and the real reason behind them:

Crime: Cheetos
Punishment: brown rice, tofu and vegetables for dinner every night for the rest of the month
Real reason: mom started a new diet, has somehow gained 3.5 pounds

Crime: putting hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place just before dad lands on it
Punishment: game over, everybody sent to bed
Real reason: one of dad’s fraternity brothers just made the Forbes 400

Crime: putting hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place just before dad lands on it
Punishment: game over, everybody sent to bed, dad sits in living room drink- ing whiskey
Real reason: one of dad’s brothers just made the Forbes 400

Crime: acting like a 4-year-old
Punishment: no more Chuck E. Cheese’s, ever
Real reason: as if an hour at Chuck E. Cheese’s wasn’t bad enough, you’ve now been there for three

Crime: one sibling violates another’s personal space by “not touching”
Punishment: turn car around, go home
Real reason: dad just got the taxes back from the accountant, who said “child care” wasn’t deductible

Crime: answering the phone
Punishment: fined $50
Real reason: it’s fundraising season and charities are exempt from the “Do Not Call” registry

Crime: leaving a single cookie crumb on the kitchen counter
Punishment: helping clean the entire house from top to bottom, including the back yard
Real reason: mother-in-law coming, will mentally perform “white glove test” the second she arrives

Crime: getting out dad’s “Stripes” DVD
Punishment: no TV for the rest of the week
Real reason: it’s not really a “Stripes” DVD (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Crime: missing the toilet
Punishment: a good talking-to
Real reason: mom and dad spent the day cleaning up somebody else’s mess at work, just can’t handle doing it at home right now

Crime: not finishing food
Punishment: 20-minute lecture on how food costs a lot of money that we can’t afford to be wasting right now
Real reason: employment figures released, stocks plunged, housing market dropped even lower, etc.

THHE ABC(DC)'S OF H1N1

  • More people are worried about H1N1 than will ever contract H1N1.
  • No matter how often you wash your hands, avoid public places and keep six feet from anyone who looks sick, somebody you know won’t, and that’s who you’ll catch it from.
  • The same health experts who remind us that H1N1 isn’t really that much worse than the regular seasonal flu remind us that the regular seasonal flu kills 36,000 every year, so we should still get vaccinated.
  • None of which matters since there’s no vaccine right now anyway.
  • That said, if you’re one of those people who won’t get the vaccine when it’s available because you think it will give you the flu, you won’t get the shot and you won’t get the flu.
  • If you’re one of those people who thinks that people who won’t get the shot because they think it will give them the flu are stupid, you’ll get the shot and you’ll get the flu, confirming their suspicions. (Though you won’t have contracted H1N1 from the vaccine, you’ll have gotten it from the person in front of you at the flu shot line.)
  • This is an actual recommendation for preventing the spread of H1N1: “If you do have swine flu, do your best to stay out of the emergency room, doctor’s office or urgent-care center.” So where are sick people supposed to go? (Besides — depending on their politics — their Congressperson’s office or the lobby of their health insurance provider.)
  • There is one benefit to H1N1: employers are actually encouraging employees to stay home if they’re not feeling well, which is particularly good to know given the fact that the symptoms of H1N1 are exactly the same as a bad hangover, and the holidays are coming up.
  • Given how freaked out people are about H1N1, you’d think you could get infected just by reading about it.
  • On the other hand, nobody has said you can’t.

The end.

FORGET COUPLES THERAPY: JUST TEXT INSTEAD

Lots of couples spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on counseling when what they really need to do to improve their marriage is argue.

Not in person, but by text.

Arguing by text has a number of benefits. For example, in face-to-face arguments, tensions usually escalate because each person reacts (and over-reacts) to what the other is saying. But since SMS shorthand is so obscure and confusing — URAPITA? UG2BK? SHID? — how can you be outraged by something you can’t understand?

The 140-character limit helps, too, because it means you have to reduce your anger/frustration to its root cause before you can text it. Since most arguments end when the roots are exposed, however, starting this way means there isn’t really anywhere for the argument to go — You say you’re upset because you don’t feel like you’re in control of the relationship. Your spouse agrees you’re not. End of story.

As for those argument that proceed anyway, it’s important to remember that at some point, “principle,” ” being “right” and even just the need “to be shown a little respect” can’t overcome tired thumbs.

Which isn’t to say texting is flawless.

But keep in mind that if you scream something cruel and inappropriate at your spouse in the heat of the moment, you can’t ever take it back. But if you text it, you can say it was just a typo:

HUSBAND: No, I wouldn’t ever call you that. What I meant was you’re being a stitch, because I thought your whole argument was a joke.
WIFE: Oh yeah? Well then I guess I meant you’re a sucker.

TAFN.

SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 3

WIFE: Do these pants make me look fat?
HUSBAND: A little.
WIFE: What?!?!?
HUSBAND: I mean… No.
WIFE: Then why did you say “Yes?”
HUSBAND: I didn’t say “yes,” I said “a little.”
WIFE: No, you said “Oh my God! You look like a cow. Your butt is bigger than your aunt’s.”
HUSBAND: I did not.
WIFE: But that’s what you meant.
HUSBAND: I think I know what I meant and it wasn’t anything like that.
WIFE: Then what did you mean?
HUSBAND: Uh…
WIFE: You’re trying to think of a way out of this, aren’t you?
HUSBAND: No.
WIFE: I can see it in your eyes.
HUSBAND: I am not trying to… THE CUT!
WIFE: What?
HUSBAND: It’s not your butt, it’s the cut. The cut of those pants is… is… is… unflattering.
WIFE: Really?
HUSBAND: I swear.
WIFE: See… that’s what I thought, too. And then the sales associate started hovering and she said they looked great, so I felt pressured and I got them but I never wear them because I think they make me look fat.
HUSBAND: Because the cut is so bad.
WIFE: It really is, isn’t it?
HUSBAND: I bet that sales associate just wanted her commission.
WIFE: No kidding. That’s why I like to shop online – I can try everything on and then just return what doesn’t fit.
HUSBAND: Makes perfect sense to me.
WIFE: Let me change into something else and then we’ll go.
HUSBAND: SIGH.
WIFE: What?
HUSBAND: I didn’t say anything.
WIFE: You sighed.
HUSBAND: I don’t think so.
WIFE: You let out a big, huge sigh.
HUSBAND: No.
WIFE: Like you dodged a bullet or something.
HUSBAND: No.
WIFE: You’re not lying about the pants, are you?
HUSBAND: No.
WIFE: Then why did you sigh?
HUSBAND: Oh that! That was just a burp. I think I have a little indigestion.
WIFE: You should probably take some Prilosec.
HUSBAND: Why don’t I do that while you change into something more flattering.
WIFE: Just give me 10 minutes.

SCENES FROM MARRIAGE, NO. 2

Husband: “Ready?”
Wife: “I was waiting for you.”
Husband: “Oh… I was waiting for you.”
Wife: “Well… I’m ready.”
Husband: Great. Shall we go?”
Wife: Sure – just give me five minutes.”

Editor’s note: when husbands were asked if they thought this joke was mildly-to-moderately amusing, 84% said “yes;” when wives were asked the same question, 91% said “What joke? You think it’s easy getting ready? We can’t just hop in the shower and be done. We have to do our hair, put on our make-up, and then clean up the bathroom before we leave because our husbands NEVER do. Seriously, do they want the babysitter to think we’re slobs? And how hard is it to hang up a towel and wipe down the sink, anyway? If you want to talk about getting ready to go out, men are the real joke, and we don’t think it’s funny.”

BLAME MOM?

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

While this might seem harsh, new 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 if 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 their child needed to feel comfortable acting like an ungrateful little shit.

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 (or how much she drinks).

Before Dads get all superior and start pointing fingers, they 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 you’re going to blame anyone because Junior is socially inept, you should probably blame dad.

(Though not until after Father’s Day.)

MOTHER’S DAY

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?
MOM: Sure.
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.
KID: Okay.
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.
MOM: No.
KID: Okay, what about some dish towels?
MOM: No.
KID: Pencils you could use to help us with homework?
MOM: No.
KID: A mop?
MOM: No.
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?
MOM: No.
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.
KID: Oh.
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.

TAKE-OUT

KID: Are we having take-out again tonight?
MOM: No.
KID: Why not?
MOM: Because I’m making dinner.
KID: But you made dinner last night and we got take-out?
MOM: That was different.
KID: How?
MOM: Last night I accidentally burned dinner.
KID: What about the night before that?
MOM: Um… er… uh… I guess I accidentally burned dinner that night, too.
KID: And the night before that… And the night before that… And the night before that…
MOM: Stop exaggerating.
KID: I’m not.
MOM: I don’t burn dinner every night!
KID: Only ’cause Dad usually cooks.
MOM: Well… even if I do burn dinner, it’s not really my fault.
KID: Because you’re a bad cook?
MOM: No — because I’m a parent.
KID: How does being a parent mean you’re a bad cook?
MOM: Being a parent doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook, being a parent means you’re distracted — so distracted you sometimes start cooking dinner and then forget all about it because you get caught up in something else.
KID: Like a conversation?
MOM: Yes.
KID: Like right now?
MOM: Yes, like… NOT AGAIN! — While I take the roast out to the trash, will you get out the take-out menus?
KID: Already did.