Some of My Greatest Fears as a Parent

(Or: The Return of a Flabbergasted Father’s Rants)

Sure, there are the typical fears of parenthood like your child getting hurt at the playground, lost at the store, or forever psychologically scarred and damaged by my ineptitude and bungling as a parent trying to explain things like where babies come from. But other than those big fears, I also have a few smaller, what some may consider petty concerns. Nevertheless, these are some of the things that keep me up at night. Terrors such as…

Milk

I’m pretty sure that it’s a normal thing for people to become more sensitive to dairy as they get older. And as such, I recently began complaining to my wife that milk products just aren’t settling well with me anymore. I told her, “I think I’m becoming lactose intolerant because it hurts my stomach now when I eat two large bowls of ice cream at midnight.” Her response was, “Umm, no, I think it’s because you’re eating an entire quart of ice cream in one sitting.”

So insensitive those wives.

Anyways, our kids pretty much survive on milk, cheese, and yogurt alone. It’s about all they’ll consume. Well, that and donuts. We’re pretty health-conscious parents. But all that means is lots of partially eaten, leftover lactose gleanings. My wife, again always the paragon of reason, tells me that I don’t have to eat everything. Silly wives. Of course I have to eat everything! But it doesn’t mean that I’m any less afraid at the end of every mealtime.

Monkey Swings

If you don’t know, monkey swings are these single-rope swings with a circular seat (why am I explaining this to you? Just look up a picture online). They seem like a fun idea, but so are many of the devil’s temptations. Basically, these swings are very difficult to control and not at all designed for most children. If your kid doesn’t fall off mid-swing, then they’re probably hitting a tree or another child. The random chaos is so prevalent that the term “monkey swing” has basically become a euphemism for all things that were “made” for children but clearly not “designed” for children. You definitely know when someone else doesn’t have kids of their own. Infamous examples include:

  • A waiter/waitress bringing a scalding hot plate of food and placing it directly in front of your grabby-hand child so that they burn off their fingerprints.
  • A dance recital that takes place right in the middle of dinner time, lasts three hours too long, requires that the whole family stays in attendance the entire time, and in which your child is only in one number towards the end of the second act.
  • Rubber bath toys that don’t allow air circulation and start to grow mold after just one bath time.
  • Slime. While we’re at it, let’s just add Play-Doh, Kinetic sand, and all molding clays in general.

These are all “monkey swings” and they are just the worst. Also, when I was a kid, I once got in a fight with a monkey swing. Don’t ask me about what was said. But the swing took a cheap-shot at me in the mouth as I was turning around. It chipped my tooth pretty badly and knocked it up out of alignment, so I had to get braces and the tooth synthetically filled. You may be tempted to think that now I’m simply projecting my own childhood trauma onto my kids and thus perpetuating a vicious, multi-generational cycle. To that, I would say, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Barbies

WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS NAKED‽‽‽ Can someone, anyone, please explain to me why these humanoid dolls are all constantly laying around the house without any clothes on? It’s like I live inside some sort of weird plastic, twilight zoney, Korean bath house. I know when we bought these dolls, they had clothes on. Sometimes, they even have extra apparel items. But inevitably, all the garments come off, and the rooms and hallways and byways are filled and cluttered with nudist, sun-bathing Mattel models. I mean, does this make anyone else just a wee bit uncomfortable? Can these Barbies and Kens not be designed in a more modest affirming fashion way? The worst part is that my kids are constantly asking me to put the clothes back on the dolls. So, I do. I awkwardly dress those anatomically incorrect miniature mannequins, and then not one minute later, I inadvertently and painfully step on their naked, prostrate corpses again. Why so easy to undress, yet virtually impossible to redress by the known laws of physics. It’s like some sick, psychological power game inside a control vortex.

And when visitors come over, how am I supposed to explain the embarrassing life choices happening all around? My eighteen-month-old son seems to have picked up on these bad influences because he too just wants to constantly run around the house without any clothes on. Oh, what it would be like to feel no shame.

Dangers of Being a Parent

Or “The Ongoing Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father”

For the video

Kleptomania

I’m sure we paid for those peaches and blueberries… but in general, when we take our kids to any store we have to handcuff them to the buggy (my wife says shopping cart, but I’m no prude) to prevent them from grabby grabbing everything within reach and then somehow also burglarizing somethings not in reach as well (they must have some minimal telekinetic abilities). These sticky bandits will pretty much snag anything they can get their grimy paws on. And if it’s my son, then he’ll also attempt to eat it, whatever it is.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Being a parent, especially of young children, means being constantly stressed out that at any moment your child is going kill themselves. It’s like they have absolutely no survival instincts. Oh, sure, let me climb on this wobbly chair that’s too tall for me so that I fall off and bust my head wide open. Oh, yeah, I’m just gonna run out into the street real quick while all these cars are speeding by. Oh, hey, why don’t I close my eyes, tilt my head, and spin around in circles around all these slippery papers that I just threw on the floor? Oh, are there any open flames or burning ovens anywhere? My least favorite is when they get all grumpy and have a tantrum when you’re trying to pick them up so they flail and fling their head backwards both cracking their skull and splitting your chin. It’s a daily miracle that they’re still alive.

Please Don’t Touch My Kid

There exists a sizable percentage of the general population that has no concept of boundaries and personal space when it comes to your children. Strangers will just waltz up to you and fawn over how cute your kids are while trying to touch them. “Can I hold your baby?” Umm, how about a big “No” you weirdo who I’ve never met in my life? Stranger danger; stranger danger. Besides, has no one ever heard of a little thing called Covid? Back up people. Remember to keep a full-grown bovine distance apart. Basically, if I can’t comfortably milk a cow, then you’re too close. In fact, I propose we keep the socially distancing standard around even after Covid is gone. Of all the things to hate about the pandemic, that has been one of the silver linings in my life: that I have a perfectly, socially acceptable excuse to not be around other people.

No, Seriously, Please Don’t Touch My Kid You Creeper

Case in point: the other day I took our two kids out around the neighborhood for a walk. While en route, an elderly woman was outside her home push mowing her lawn when she saw us and abruptly stopped so she could come over and talk to us. I just kept thinking, “No, no, no, why, why, why?” She bent over and tried to put her face right up to my kids’ faces. The worst part is that she was literally dripping with sweat and when she talked, the sweat would be projected from her nose and mouth out towards us. My daughter piped up and said, “Daddy, it’s starting to rain.” And I’m like, “Ugh, gross, that is not rain!” The woman then asked, “Are they twins?” I’m thinking, seriously? The girl is almost four with blonde hair and blue eyes. The boy is one with black hair and brown eyes. What kind of twins have you known? Then she went on to state, “Wow, the girl looks just like her father. But the boy, he must look like the mother instead.” For anyone that knows, first of all our daughter is adopted so she doesn’t look anything like either of us, and second, everyone knows that our son looks just like me and my wife is usually concerned that people won’t believe that she is actually the mother.

While I’m on this topic, I used to know this guy who was six and half feet tall, and he didn’t know how to discern personal space and have a normal conversation. When he would talk to you, he would always want to stand right up on you so that the only way you could speak to each other was by looking up at him and he looking down on you. I don’t know if this was some weird metaphor or power trip, but it was so annoying. Look, my point is, just don’t do this okay? Don’t randomly walk up to strangers and try to pet their kids like some puppy. And when you’re having a conversation with someone, make sure you have enough comfortable distance so that your heads can remain relatively level. And please, please, don’t touch my kids.

Still Yet More Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Car Seats

Both installing the car seat and buckling the child within the car seat are a literal pain in my back. You show me a car seat, and I will show an irritated parent ready to start throwing things. Car seats are meant to keep kids safe, but my experience has been that they are one of the single most dangerous obstacles that our family must overcome each and every day. First of all, good luck actually getting the seat snug and secured properly with those ridiculously placed straps and hooks that you can only tighten if you’re a contortionist for Cirque du Soleil. Secondly, you have to place your chubby toddler in the seat while bending over awkwardly on the verge of herniating every disc in your spine. And then, you’ve got to strap down that squirmy wormy, squishy meat tot with buckles that are clearly designed to pinch and tear away the flesh and fingers.

Mealtime

As babies, our kids seemed to eat anything. In fact, the trouble was getting them to not eat things such as socks and dirt. But as our oldest has grown, she’s become more and more picky. Right now, her one-year-old brother eats three times as much, consuming approximately his own body weight in food every four hours or so. She, on the other hand, has become quite the food aficionado of criticism. She will eat chicken nuggets but not tenders or strips. And I’m like, a chicken doesn’t have any of those things to begin with so why does it matter? She’ll eat mac ‘n cheese, but only that mac n’ cheese. Only this jelly on the PB&J. At this point, getting her to try something new is like trying to negotiate with D.B. Cooper who has already hijacked a plane full of hostages and parachuted out with all the money.

Peppa Pig

Don’t get me wrong. I love Peppa Pig. It’s easily one of the best kids shows out there, and it is just hilarious. There’s so much humor for parents, you can really tell the writers are all about using sarcasm to confuse their own children. But my one major gripe is this: Peppa’s favorite activity is jumping in muddy puddles. Seriously? Why would you do that to parents across the globe? Because if Peppa loves jumping in muddy puddles then you know what that means… it means my kid wants to jump in muddy puddles. But you know what? Muddy puddles are the worst. They seem like a cute, fun idea, like having an outdoor wedding. But in reality, they are a living nightmare. Puddles in a cartoon are clean and harmless. Real puddles in our city are not so much organic mud as they are an ungodly concoction of motor oil, tire shavings, bird droppings, tree pollen, and exhaust residue. What am I supposed to say to my kid when she wants to jump in that toxic sludge outside because Peppa does it? Either I crush her little dreams or I allow it at the risk of either someone calling child protective services or her gaining some special mutated powers.

Rubber Ducks

I’ve probably written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look it up in the archives, and who cares because this one is a real doozy worth repeating. Not just rubber ducks, but bath toys in general: they all get disgusting and moldy inside no matter what you do. And don’t you try and message me with all that vinegar and baking soda and other homeopathic baloney. None of it works. It all gets moldy no matter what you do. Look people, we live in the 21st century. We have the entire world’s information at our fingertips. We put a man on the moon. We live in a day and age where science can craft a vaccine for a novel virus in less than a year. And yet, we can’t figure out how to design bath toys better? The rubber ducky has its own Sesame Street theme song, but they never talk about the short life expectancy of a rubber duck, and how mortifying it is as a parent when you kid accidently sucks out all the black gunk from the dirty ducky butt like it’s some kind of sippy cup juice. The horror. The absolute horror.

The moral of the story? I’ll let you come up with your own this time.

When Your “Favorite” Food Is Not What You Expected

Please enjoy this recent conversation between my wife and brother-in-law:

“Did Ella make lasagna at some point?”

“Yes. Andrew too.”

“Ok, well Gracie heard about this [lasagna luau party] or remembered it or something and she has been talking about wanting lasagna [literally every day for a week] because [she says] it’s her ‘favorite food’ and she ‘loves it,’ so we finally went to a restaurant where she could have some and she was so excited, and I was like [because we were thoroughly baffled by the whole scenario], ‘Gracie, do you know what lasagna is?” And she was like, “No, what is it?” And we put it [the lasagna] on her plate, and we’re like “Here’s your lasagna,” and she’s like “Where is it?” And I point to it, and she’s very confused [and disgusted] and says, “I don’t like it.”

Another perfect mealtime.

Even More Recent Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Yo, come at me bro…

What’s the deal with pickles?

Is there a kid who doesn’t love pickles? Seriously, why do kids like pickles so much? It would seem that the flavor would be too weird or intense, but no, given the opportunity they’ll devour an entire jar of fermented cucumbers. Is it because of all the pickles that women crave during pregnancy like some pre-birth, umbilical nourishment nostalgia? I don’t quite understand it, but at least it can make me feel better as a parent that I totally feed my children plenty of healthy “vegetables.”

How does the food even get there?

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a natural talent and penchant for eating. He would score top marks on any appetizer aptitude test. And boy, can he shovel some macaroni like it’s going out of style; like he’s buying up subprime mortgages pre-2008; or like he’s collecting beanie babies and Pokémon cards before the nineties bubble popped. And yet, for as much food that he stuffs down his gullet, just as much ends up everywhere else. On the floor, walls, and ceiling. How does it even get up there? It’s behind his ears, up his nose, in his belly button, and down his pants. Cleaning up after mealtime, every time, feels like being held for detention to clean up the cafeteria after being unjustly blamed for starting that food fight—again.

Why do babies sleep with their butts up in the sky?

How is that even comfortable? Babies sleep like they are subconsciously practicing some ancient, Egyptian cat-yoga. Their derrieres in the air like some radio tower sending signals of flatulent grievances, or a lighthouse guiding salted, sea-weary sailors, or a flag, a proud, high-flying flag of glory to which we honor with an anthem of many fine, French horns. Can you imagine if adults still slept that way?

Why do kids ask for food they’re not going to eat?

I know it, they know it, we all know they’re not going to eat it. So why did I make another sandwich when I knew they weren’t going to eat it? Okay, so this one isn’t really a complaint or even a legitimate question. I know why. It’s so that I can have a reasonable excuse to eat a PB&J sandwich with a stringy cheese stick and a juice box.

Because this is the true secret to thriving in parenting: I always buy the 6-piece chicken nugget kids’ meal even when I know they won’t eat them all, so that I can have the leftovers.

A Modern Day Nativity

As we approach the twelfth and final day of Christmas, I would like to share a fond life anecdote of when our gregarious little girl was just one-and-a-half-years-old. She had been learning all about the Nativity story, and she was absolutely captivated by the many motely characters. She wanted to know all about Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the wise guys, the animals (especially the donkey), the star, and of course baby Jesus.

It was around the holiday season, and the little lassie and I were doing some grocery shopping. She wasn’t quite potty trained, and she needed a change, so we went to the family restroom. As she lay on the diaper changing station (you know, one of those folding, wall-mounted types) she noticed the diagram instructions for how to use the station properly and safely for changing a child (e.g., never leave unattended, no drinking while operating, don’t leave a mess, blah, blah). She observed that there was a picture of a mommy holding her child and then laying the child down on the changing shelf.

She knew exactly what this story book was about and squealed with delight, “It’s Mary and baby Jesus!” Of course, it also begged the question, as confusion began to fill her eyes. “But, where’s Joseph?” I believe I must have said something along the lines of, “Oh, he must be working right now. Those cabinets don’t build themselves you know. Plus, mommies are usually better with swaddled cloths, mangers, and dirty diapers” (I’m not sexist, just lazy). She seemed to suspiciously accept that as a reasonable answer.

More recently, two years since the famous “Walk-Thru Baby-Changing Nativity Station,” our totally beyond toddling girl is still awestruck by the story of the birth of Jesus. The other day, she put on these dress-up wings and was pretending to be an angel flying around all over the house. She gracefully floated on over to my wife and exclaimed, “You will have a baby!” Naturally, my wife bowed and could only reply, “I will do as the LORD has commanded.”

A Cozy Coupe Collision

#safetyfirst

Our son was in a car accident recently. Don’t worry, he’s gonna be okay.

He just started driving one of those Little Tikes Cozy Coupes because… I guess every kid starts off with one of those for some reason. Well, anyways, I guess he had downed a little one too many juice boxes because he fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, with this season’s model, the company had just installed new Paw Patrol air bags.

And just in case your still razzle dazzle baffled:

Our son loves to ride around in this toy car, and he prefers to travel with some other toy or random object. He would let you push him around indefinitely so much so that the other day he literally fell asleep with his head on a toy bouncy ball while being scooted around. We only wish he would fall asleep this easily whenever we wanted him to.

Remember: buckle up kids. It saves lives.

The Stickers Strike Back

Not long ago, I talked some smack about stickers. They have struck back with a vengeance. Let me explain.

My wife got caught up in this chainmail, pass-it-forward, multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme—involving stickers. It’s like one of those weird infinite, sourdough friendship bread things that everyone thinks sounds like a fun and dandy idea—“Oh, what a lovely new hobby to take up!”—but then quickly turns into deep regret and overwhelming dread—“Oh, what have I done‽ Please, make it stop!”

For the record, I had nothing to do with it.

Anyways, to make a short story shorter, we ended up with way too many sleeves of stickers and now our entire house is made of stickers. I mean, I believe the very structural integrity and load bearing weight of our home is now mostly stickers: plain ones, colorful ones, glittery ones, three-dimensional ones, fuzzy ones, animals, cosmos, magic, princess, emoji, and plant-based stickers, probably CBD. Because stickers are like potato chips. You can’t just eat one. And our three-year daughter cannot just peel off one sticker, or even one sleeve for that matter. She’s gotta tear through every sticker like they’re winning lotto tickets.

I have found stickers in places…

Places you cannot imagine. Places where stickers ought not to be.

There are stickers on chairs and doorhandles; on the floor and ceiling (not sure how they got up there); on the fridge and toilets and sinks; on mommy’s purse and throughout the car; in my pockets and on her baby brother’s face.

But it goes far beyond that. I keep putting on clean clothes from the dryer to then find stickers within them. The other day, in particular, was an especially tangible occasion. I had gotten home from work and was taking a shower (yes, I do that from time to time). As I was lathering and cleansing, lo and behold, what did I find? But a sticker where the sun don’t shine. Ironically, the sticker was of a bright, smiling sun. Initially, my discovery was alarming—I thought, “Do I have the plague or is that a tick on my derrière? Oh no, it’s just another sticker…” The jolly, yellow star gleamed up at me with a mischievous grin, as if to say, “Thanks buddy for the wash and spa treatment!”

I shall spare you some of the finer details. Suffice it to say, 2020 will go down in our home as the year of two pandemics: Covid-19 and The Great Icky-Sticky-Fluenza.

10 Games to Play During Quarantine

If the shoe fits…

Note: Although these games are geared towards children, with a bit of imagination, they can be played by the most immature of adults.

As a family, we learned a tremendous amount during the quarantine. We learned things like how many different games you can play with Alexa (even she gets cabin fever), how precious a single square of toilet paper can be (count your blessings, count them one by one), and how viruses can only really spread in small businesses but you’re okay in giant, multi-billion dollar department stores. But to pass the time, we also came up with some of our own games. So, here’s a list of 10 games (minus a few because I was going to do a list of 10 to make a nice, even list, but then I started making the list and I was like, 10 is way too many things to think about!) to preoccupy your family in the case of any future lock downs.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoe! – One day, my three-year-old came up to me and said, “Let’s play a game!” She held out one little palm and put her other fist on top saying, “Rock, paper, scissors, shoe! Umm… Daddy, how to make the shoe?” Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, and shoe beats… cockroach?

Will It Hat? – Our one year old son, loves to put things on his Benjamin Button, bald head. Gotta cheese puff? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta dead leaf? Put it on your head. Will it hat? Gotta shoe? A book? A cup full of water? An actual hat? Put ‘em on your head, and see: will it hat? The answer is always: most certainly, yes it will.

Dress Up – I used to think one shirt was enough for one day. But why only wear one outfit when you can change multiple times a day, and do loads of laundry everyday? Baby spit up, toddler nail polish, slime, boogers, the options and opportunities are endless to have a reason to change again. Or you could just not wear anything. It is quarantine after all.

No Mess Finger Paint – The game is that while you had a momentary lapse in sanity, you allowed your toddler to play with paint, and now, while she has fun painting, you spend the entire time just trying to clean and keep paint off of everything in the house.

Sharing is Caring – No matter how many toys you give to each child, even if they’re identical, they only want to play with what the other one has. I just keep telling myself that the screams and tears are watering the little seeds of maturity in their souls so they won’t covet their neighbor’s new deck and jacuzzi.

Sleep Over – The best part about a sleep over is getting to stay up late. Having young children is kinda like that except instead of staying up late to eat junk food or play video games, you stay up late to put one kid to bed just so you can then get the other back in bed who woke up because of a feral cat outside, so that you can then wake up early for the other one who seems to have no concept of a lazy weekend morning.

Hide the Biscuit – The biscuit can be anything. Cereal puffs, green beans, carrots, crackers, cheese, or even biscuits. Where do you hide them? Well, our son hides them in his chair, under his chair, in his pockets, in his diaper, in his armpit, on his head (refer back to Game #2), behind his ears, in his ears, up his nose, under his bum and around the corner, and within black hole-like interdimensional portals that confound the known laws of space and time in which you thought you found and cleaned up all those puffs just for them to reemerge later either fall from the ceiling, be stuck to an elbow, or be stepped on.

Hide ‘n’ Seek – No. Just no. Never play this.

Naturally Gifted

(Like Father, Like Son)

As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)

Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.

It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.

But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.

With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:

Eating leftovers.

By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.

Eating dirt.

It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.

Eating garbage.

By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!

Eating people.

There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.

Scars are there to remind us of the love.