First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Boy exercises his 1st amendment rights and then finds out he doesn't have any.

The boy got in trouble at school the other day.  There was allegedly a play dough incident involving my son and three other children, The play dough in question--color unspecified--was strewn about the eponymous table and onto the floor.

Play dough: Check. Strewn:  Check. Sounds like the boy may have been involved.

His pre-school teacher is mild-mannered to the point of comatose tapioca, so I knew it was pretty bad because when we spoke, she had her eyebrows. Raised. Both of them. And she held them there for most of the conversation.

Heres how it went down:

The teacher came over to scold the group of salty, doughy, scalawags.

"If you're going to do that with the play dough and not clean-up, then there will be no more playing with the play dough." His teacher  admonished.

The boy, self-appointed group spokesperson, responded:

"I don't care what you say because I have other places I can play with play dough."  Ooooohhh!

This is something to be addressed in my house. We don't truck with that kind of sass or hold with any backtalk. We will not listen to that mouth, tolerate such disrespect for his elders, put up with that attitude, or condone such nonsense. There will be no mouthing off, no giving of guff, lip, or any other item that could be associated with insolence. See middle finger, stuck-out tongue, et al.                             

The wound caused by this snotty rebellion is compounded by the fact that my wife is a teacher. High school. This is what she said to the boy:

"Do you know what I do when my students talk to me like that?"

He shakes his head no.

"I don't do anything because my students wouldn't dare."

Scary shit.  I think one of us actually peed our pants. Possibly him. Me.

He was pretty upset by the whole thing. He's quite a sweet, empathetic boy. He also constantly rages against windmills, tilts against the machine, and other common phetamors. I don't blame him.

As we all can agree, authority figures must be perpetually challenged and questioned, even in times of prosperity and happiness, because if not they become complacent and then abuse that authority. I don't know where he gets it.

I can't wait until his first walkout. I remember mine. Fifth grade. I got into it with a substitute and the subsequent exchange led her to declare in front of the entire class that, "You don't think in school, you do what you're told!" Not her finest moment. Not mine, either. Imagine how hard I had to push that poor woman to get her to say something that silly. I laughed and repeated what she said and then, dumb head held high, I strode from the room down to the familiar confines of the Principal's office.  I sucked. Come to think of it, that was probably not my first walk out that year. In the first one I made it all the way home. I may still hold the detention record in for that grade. I really sucked*.

Like I said, I don't know where the boy gets it. I don't want that for him. Class clown antics disguised as righteous indignation. The constant questioning, yes. Absolutely. Not at four years old maybe, and not over cleaning up his play dough, but still.

I just want him to have enough respect to question politely, and then if dissatisfied with the double talk that the MAN is laying down, come home and talk to us, his parents--the alpha and omega of authority figures--about it before flying off the handle. Before you laugh, shake your head, and mutter, "Good Luck, paper plate face," let me tell you, I think we have a chance. In the home of my youth, a formal education was not considered important, necessary, or even respectable. In my family, we learned our Algebra on the streets, and we liked it. We failed it, but we still liked it.

Not the same here. Like I said, my wife's a teacher. High School. Disadvantaged urban (speaking of double talk) school at that. We gonna do our book learnin' 'round heah.

He wasn't eager to return to school the next day. I told him he could stay home if he was planning on going directly for a nap. Classic playtime embargo. He went, tiny shoulders bowed, soles of his sandals scraping the sidewalk. Heavy is the burden of the Pre-School rabble rouser. Protestin' ain't easy. His teacher said the day went well.

It's going to be a trust thing, in the end. If he trusts that we're listening and that we respect his opinions and have his best interests at heart, then we'll trust that he's not staging a walk-out over his teacher's bourgeois notion of how markers should be used only on things not breathing and covered with skin.

God save us all.


*When his grandfather was a boy, he staged a sit-in in his own high-school cafeteria. I forget the why of it. That story is a legend that the old man would be happy to blow the dust from, were he present. Nope, don't know where the boy gets it from. Must be the fluoridated water.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Duly Noted

A couple of mornings ago,  before school, my daughter is writing in her diary. I take a peek because I'm curious and often she keeps it pretty secret. It's got a little lock and everything. Usually it has things in it like a portrait of herself with her name under it and on the top of the page the musing,  "I love me."  Or one whole page covered corner to corner by the lone exclamation, "My brother is CRAZY!"

I take a lot of peeks. She leaves the key around. Something about unlocking that little pink diary to read it feels oh so right and so wrong simultaneously. I blame the NSA.

On this particular day in question, she has drawn a picture of a flower, dated it June 11, and written a caption above the picture that says "It is winter."

I say, " Hey honey that's pretty intriguing, writing it is winter over a picture like that. Very creative." She says, " No but it's not that."
I say, "Ok honey, I just think it's cool is all."
"No it's not what that says though." She replies.
"Ok, well, even if you didn't mean it, I still think it's neat. Sometimes mistakes turn out to be really--"
She collapses to her knees like a pocket James Brown and screeches, "Noooooo!  It's not THAT!" And then buries her face in her hands. Hardest working tantrum thrower in show business. Godfather of soul devouring outrage.  It's early so I get mad. I slam what ever it is I'm holding (hair brush? lunch box? Monkey's Paw?) down on the dining room table, spill some water and bark, "No! Why are you yelling at me! Stop it!" I pick her up and put her down on her feet and send her to her room. She comes down and we talk about communication. She says sorry, I say sorry, and we go to school. I never find out what happened and we don't really talk about it again. At home later that afternoon, she writes this and hands it to me:
It reads, "Dear daddy, I love you. I Love You! Happy Father's Day.  I hope it's fun. Me and Pumpkin Man did the best we could at listening. Thank You.

I immediately scoop her up in my arms and squeeze her and cover her face in kisses and babble about how wonderful she and her brother are (You like how she threw him in there for good measure?) and how much I love them. Emotionally evicerated, my head swims from lack of blood and I have to sit down and put it between my knees where I've cleverly hidden a bourbon. Some bourbon. A liter of bourbon.


When you're with them every day, all day, you see the best of them and the worst. The thing is, they see the same of you. You can't help it.

A lot of parenting advice boils down to being even tempered. Don't get too high or too low. Don't yell or freak out or get too excited. Be calm and cool at all times. Walk away, take a time-out, breathe deep and consult your higher power (Mine's a chicken burrito. With guac!)

You know, just don't react with any sort of emotional extreme to actions taken by the people you are biologically programmed to love more than life itself. Easy Peasy. When you're kid wins the race, fucks up at school, performs an act of kindness, lathes the cat, poops in the potty for the first time, etc, don't over emote. Just stay on an even keel. That parenting philosophy, with the notable exception of gender roles, hasn't really changed all that much from the 1950's archetype. Just knock the bowl of your Father Know's Best pipe with the heel of your hand, and tousle their hair/give them a stern talking too, and go back to your twitter feed. The truth is, we don't do that. Not every time. The truth is, some of us have called our toddlers fucking assholes when they're acting like fucking assholes or squealed like Bieberites at the Bieber ice cream smorgasbord jamboree and hair combing expo when they nail the landing in gymnastics. It's natural. We feel passion for these little genius/assholes.  The truth is, to remain as even tempered as we're supposed to all the time, that pipe bowl has to be loaded with sociopathic tendencies and opium.

The thing is, they bubble with potential, our kids.That means the potential to be almost anything. Anything doesn't just mean astronaut or president. It means junkie or murderer or lobbyist. They are human, they are imperfect. Their potential is near limitless And as parents, we are the same. Imperfect. More so, maybe. We've had longer to work on our imperfections.  And when you spend countless hours with tiny beings who are just learning the world, those imperfections come to bare. Yours rub against theirs and it results in days of too much yelling, too many tears, too much guilt, too much pride. It happens. What're you gonna do? We love them on a cellular level. That kind of passion is sure to lead to some amount of ill. I mean, have you seen humans?

I strive for even tempered. I really do. But I'm a man of loud voice and large opinion. So my kids know when I'm angry. They also know when I'm happy or proud or content or silly or gassy. Especially gassy. They know it all. In return so do I. It's not so bad, knowing when they're sad and when they're happy. Knowing for sure. Makes thing a little less complicated. Sometimes. Other times it makes getting ready for school in the morning sound like the Red Wedding.

And they test the even temper. They probe it with whines placed just so or negative responses to reasonable requests. They tap tap tap on the wall of my pleasant detachment with psychological ball peen hammers until the wall cracks and I can feel my blood pressure behind my eyes and I'm pretty sure my nose and left ear are bleeding freely. Then their are the times when my better nature wins out and no matter how the they probe and poke and tap and claw, I hold firm. I'm usually pretty proud of myself when that happens. Glassy eyed and exhausted, but proud.

What I hope (What else can I do?) is that in the tumult of a household full of passion and opinion (and gas) that they find themselves unafraid of their emotions. That as they get older they can feel and express themselves openly with just enough restraint to not get arrested. Let me add, just for posterity, that they really do listen well. Most times.


P.S. Happy Father's Day and stuff.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rooster, Run

So I'm lurching my way through my little 3 mile (generously measured) run the other day. I've started running again because I'm stupid and I also I don't like taking my genetically disadvantaged fat guy  medications. I'd do anything to avoid taking that shit. Even running. Funny though, if Percocet lowered cholesterol, I'd never run again.

But I'm running and I'm at about the 3/4 point and I have the headphones in and the Alice In Chains song Rooster comes on and even as I am aware of how awful I am,  I start to identify with the song. The Rooster is a song written by the band's guitar player about his father. His father was a member of the 101st Airborne division and Team Leader of a Long Range Recon Patrol during the Vietnam War. Which of course is exactly like a chubby jew gasping his way through a half- hour run on a sunny Sunday morning in America. I need more shame.


Me: Sweating and gulping and jiggling and trudge-jogging and wishing I had a burrito.

My headphones swell with the intro. The lyrics kick in:

"Ain't found a way to kill me yet"
Eyes burn with stinging sweat"

And even though I know how I sound, in my head I'm still like, "Holy shit. That's me! My eyes are totally burning with stinging sweat. And I'm still alive. I'm the Rooster!

It deteriorated from there:

"Seems every path leads me to nowhere"

No shit. I'll barely make it home at this rate

"Wife and kids and household pet
Army green was no safe bet"

Check, check, check, and running is extremely dangerous for a man in my condition.

"The bullets scream to me from somewhere"

If one interprets"bullets" to mean "yippee dogs" then fucking check.

"Here they come to snuff the Rooster
Yeah, here come the Rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no no, you know he ain't gonna die

Walkin' tall machine gun man
They spit on me in my homeland
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy"

This part is where it gets to be just a little bit of a stretch. Although, I was about 59% certain I was going to live, and I spent some formative years in a small town in New Hampshire and while I wasn't often spit on, I did not get along with many people. Ok, so I'm hanging in.

"Got my pills 'gainst mosquito death"

Cutter with Deet. Bam, I'm back!

"My buddy's breathing his dying breath"

Took the dog with me and she is panting pretty good at this point. Check

"Oh God please won't you help me make it through"

If I had a nickel for every time I said that when I went for a run in my life I'd probably have upwards of two dollars.  Because I hate running.

Then that refrain comes in again and at that point I'm just about home and filled with an electrifying simultaneous sense of shame and accomplishment. Felt that A LOT as teenager. At least I'm exercising again.


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