Category Archives: Parenthood

If you start lying to your kids at a very young age, when are you going to stop?

Well, when?

I make sure my daughter (age 3) loses regularly at Candyland.  (Truth learned: you aren’t going to be a winner every time.  And – losing sucks.)

I don’t tell her she writes like Shakespeare when her little “F” looks like a mangled strand of DNA.  (Truth learned: it takes a lot of hard work to get better at something, particularly something difficult, like learning to manipulate a pencil in your chubby little 3 year old hands.)

I don’t tell her there are unicorns up in heaven with God.  (Truth learned – fairy tales are fairy tales.)

I read stories to her every night.  (Truth learned – stories don’t have to be true to be wonderful.  In fact, the best stories are the ones which aren’t true.  That’s why they’re stories.)

She knows that everyone she knows is going to die, and so is she.  (Truth learned – everyone she knows is going to die, and so is she.)

*Corollary truth: The delicious, delicious meat she eats comes from dead animals.  (Truth learned – The delicious, delicious meat she eats consists of dead pigs, cows, fish, chicken, and lambs.)

She knows the stork didn’t drop her little brother down the chimney. Mom and Dad doing the deed got that job done.  (Truth learned: Sex exists. To which she shrugs her shoulders and goes back to playing. She doesn’t give a shit. She’s 3.)

She knows Dad doesn’t know everything, and sometimes doesn’t know shit.  (Truth learned – No one knows everything.  Question everything.  Including yourself.)

I feel I will have done my job as a parent if my kids go forth into life with very, very sensitive bullshit meters.  If they’ve got that, I don’t worry about their self-esteem.  Their self-esteem will be just fine.

H/t Dead End Follies.

Awesome books for your kid

Now for something completely different.  My pal Jane Wright, mother extraordinaire, posted an extensive list of her favorite children’s books at Facebook.  It was too good not to get out into a more public forum.

When (not if) you need to hammer your kid into a state of wide-eyed submission, do it with a book, not the TV.

Jane’s full post:

Upon request, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite children’s books.  Some are award-winning staples for a child’s library; others less well-known.  All are big hits with my two-and-a-half-year-old.  I’ve tried to give a brief explanation of why each one appeals to me.  These books are basically either funny and quirky or poignant without being sappy or didactic.  I am by no means a Child Lit scholar, but I am very passionate about reading to children, which I know you all do religiously.

When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.  The last page of this story puts a lump in my throat every time I read it.

The Relatives Came also by Rylant makes me pine for the happy-crazy chaos of family reunions.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Palacco.  The true story of a quilt passed down through the generations in her family.  Memoir meets history for children.  Pallaco’s Thunder Cake made me want my own Russian immigrant grandmother.

Pigsty by Mark Teague.  Quirky story about a messy room with tongue-in-cheek humor for parents.

The Secret Shortcut another funny book by Teague.  I like that the best friends in the book just happen to be different ethnicities without making an issue of it (which I suppose I just did by writing about it, but you know what I mean).

Where the Sidewalk Ends  by Shel Silverstein “Ickel Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, too” is a favorite in our house.  Also, “Dreadful” and “Thumbs”.  I highly recommend finding a recording of Silverstein himself reading select poems.

Alphabet Mystery  by Audrey Wood, illustrated by her son Bruce Wood.  Not your typical alphabet book, in that it is actually entertaining for adults to read. The picture of the little letters tucked in their beds cracks us up.

Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho.  Sweet and soothing.  Hint:  you can sing this story to the tune of “Mockingbird” (“Hush Little Baby”)

Fly Guy pure cartoony goofiness!  Our favorite is There was an Old Lady who swallowed Fly Guy.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears  by Verna Aardema  Challenge yourself to read it with a different voice for each animal in the African storytelling tradition.

Misoso a collection of African folktales from all over the continent retold by Aardema.  Each story comes with an explanation of origin.

Folktales are a gateway to other cultures that open up rich conversations with children.  I especially like Anansi the Spider and Coyote (the trickster) stories:

Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies and Coyote Places the Stars by Harriet Peck Taylor

Coyote:  A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest by Gerald McDermott

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott

Anansi does the Impossible by Verna Aardema

Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler “A madcap monster’s ball” where the castle creatures come to life.  Written in rhyme!

Old Cricket also by Wheeler.  Cricket fakes injury to get out of work because “you don’t get to be an Old Cricket by being a dumb bug”!

Three Little Dassies by Jan Brett   An African retelling of The Three Pigs.  Illustrations have special emphasis on regional textiles.  And really, I have yet to read a Jan Brett story that I wasn’t wild about.  I love how Brett uses her illustrations as clues as to what will happen next.  (Predicting is a pillar of reading comprehension!)

Another favorite, Mem Fox:  Koala LouWhoever You AreZoo LookingTen Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesWinifred Gordon MacDonald PartridgeTough Boris are our favorites so far.

A Nightmare in the Attic by Mercer Mayer.  All the nightmare wants is a teddy bear to snuggle with.  All the kid wants is for her parents to believe her.  We also love Mayer’s little critter books–great for a quick bedtime story.

Snow “Snowflakes don’t watch television.  Snowflakes don’t listen to radio.  All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow.”  Wonderful illustrations that show adult and child’s perspective of winter.

The Z was Zapped  Chris van Alsburg’s ingenious black and white illustrations in a theater setting.  Great vocabulary builder.

Fairy tales and tall tales retold and illustrated by Steven Kellog.  Our favorites are Jack and the Beanstalk  and Paul Bunyan.  Richly detailed illustrations are a visual treasure hunt.

I Took the Moon for a Walk reads like a lullaby.  Allison Jay’s pictures are magnificent!  (Jay’s alphabet book is a must-have for littles)

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is one of, if not the best-written children’s books I have ever read.  A simple, yet profound story of a girl and her father in search of the great horned owl.

What are your favorites?  What are your go-to books at bedtime?  Which stories mesmerize your child?

To this list I would add Curious George:

Classic Curious George, on the left, not this newfangled crap they’re pushing nowadays, of course.

And can’t forget Skippyjon Jones, perennial bedtime heavy hitter.

Another theory exploded

After a period of rational, thoughtful reflection while yet parents-in-waiting, we decided there would be no need to use corporal punishment on the scionness.  The theory being, calm explanation and consistently enforced rules would obviate the need for physical chastisement.

The potential eye-poker.

Until the scionness, seventeen times in a row, picks up the pruning shears and sprints across the lawn with them, so that you have to chase her down before eyeballs are poked out, or worse.  And on the sixteenth time, you administer a swat to get your point across.  Which doesn’t take, because there is a seventeenth time, and you do it again.  Which does the trick.

Today the scionness, both eyeballs intact, doesn’t remember.  And I’m wondering how many of my other wise reasonings upon the nature of parenthood will soon be ground to dust beneath little tiny tyrannical toddler and teenager feet.  At a guess: all of them.

And it makes me smile.  Please don’t tell her this till she’s 18, but I don’t want the scionness unquestioningly accepting anyone’s authority.  Even mine.

It’s good to be aware

As a father of a mixed-race child with one more on the way, naturally I keep tabs on these developments:

Racial Slur Development Not Keeping Pace With Mixed-Race Births, Nation’s Bigots Report

WASHINGTON—A coalition of the nation’s most fervent bigots convened in Washington Monday to address growing concerns that the production of hateful new racial slurs has failed to keep pace with the rise in mixed-race births.

According to representatives from the American Racists and Bigots Council (ARBC), the growing number of children born to parents of different ethnicities has posed a real challenge to the nation’s hate-speech developers—a challenge they say threatens their way of life.

“The world is changing, and we, the hateful and ignorant of America, need to change with it,” ARBC chairman Tom Branson said at a rally Monday. “The time has come for our ugly, intolerant rhetoric to step into the 21st century. Our disgusting, dehumanizing slurs simply must reflect the terrifying new global society we now live in.”

Added Branson, “In order to continue going backward, we first have to move forward.”

According to statistics provided by the coalition, a rise in the birthrate of mixed-race Americans has left millions of confused racists with absolutely nothing prejudiced to say when confronted by a person of indeterminate or complex background. What frightens the coalition most is data suggesting that by 2015, ignorant bigots everywhere could be powerless when it comes to reducing mixed-raced individuals to profoundly uninformed cultural stereotypes.

In response, a number of prominent bigots have proposed steps for developing new slurs and counteracting what many in the racist community believe to be the greatest obstacle to the advancement of racially motivated vitriol.

“It all starts with education,” ARBC strategist Michael McNeil said. “If you are at a bar drinking boilermakers in a desperate attempt to quell your rage and self-hatred and an Armenian- Brazilian man walks in, you have to be able to swiftly formulate the most vile and thoughtless way to demean him as a human being. Yell out an outdated or inaccurate slur in a situation like that, and you just wind up looking ignorant.”

Spotted, where else, at the Onion.

It's good to be aware

As a father of a mixed-race child with one more on the way, naturally I keep tabs on these developments:

Racial Slur Development Not Keeping Pace With Mixed-Race Births, Nation’s Bigots Report

WASHINGTON—A coalition of the nation’s most fervent bigots convened in Washington Monday to address growing concerns that the production of hateful new racial slurs has failed to keep pace with the rise in mixed-race births.

According to representatives from the American Racists and Bigots Council (ARBC), the growing number of children born to parents of different ethnicities has posed a real challenge to the nation’s hate-speech developers—a challenge they say threatens their way of life.

“The world is changing, and we, the hateful and ignorant of America, need to change with it,” ARBC chairman Tom Branson said at a rally Monday. “The time has come for our ugly, intolerant rhetoric to step into the 21st century. Our disgusting, dehumanizing slurs simply must reflect the terrifying new global society we now live in.”

Added Branson, “In order to continue going backward, we first have to move forward.”

According to statistics provided by the coalition, a rise in the birthrate of mixed-race Americans has left millions of confused racists with absolutely nothing prejudiced to say when confronted by a person of indeterminate or complex background. What frightens the coalition most is data suggesting that by 2015, ignorant bigots everywhere could be powerless when it comes to reducing mixed-raced individuals to profoundly uninformed cultural stereotypes.

In response, a number of prominent bigots have proposed steps for developing new slurs and counteracting what many in the racist community believe to be the greatest obstacle to the advancement of racially motivated vitriol.

“It all starts with education,” ARBC strategist Michael McNeil said. “If you are at a bar drinking boilermakers in a desperate attempt to quell your rage and self-hatred and an Armenian- Brazilian man walks in, you have to be able to swiftly formulate the most vile and thoughtless way to demean him as a human being. Yell out an outdated or inaccurate slur in a situation like that, and you just wind up looking ignorant.”

Spotted, where else, at the Onion.

Pondering kids? Read this

Came across some good reading for anyone out there pondering your reproductive capacities:

It’s not that I think family life is so awful no one in their right mind would want it; it’s that child-free life can be so good that I’m annoyed it is almost always presented as second-best, cold and empty. “Who will be there for you when you’re old?” people say. (Contradicting themselves, these same people will often chide the childless for being selfish.)

And:

Humans have the capacity to rise above the biological imperative to reproduce. That we do not place the highest value on passing on our genes is part of what makes us different and, yes, in some sense superior to our fellow animals.  … If many more of us do not have grandchildren, then perhaps we will make it clearer that sexual reproduction may be the meaning of animal life, but it sure ain’t the best or only reason for humans to get up in the morning: refreshed, after a night uninterrupted by the cries of little angels.

You know how many full, undisturbed nights of sleep I’ve had since 09/09/2007?  That’s right – zero.

Would I change a thing?  Not on your life.  The scioness (and her hypothetical siblings) is the ne plus ultra of our existence and that’s an end of it.

Still, for those of you yet to reproduce, you can get an earful from every parent on the planet about what to expect, but you’re not likely to hear much about what you could expect, if you didn’t.

Making “Not doing it for the kids“, by philosopher Julian Baggini, well worth a read.

Logic

The scioness spent the first 18 months of her life in Thailand, but these days she’s turning American quick, fast, and in a hurry.  To wit:

Scioness: Give me a cookie.

Me: Please.

Scioness: Give me cookie, please.

Me: You just had a cookie.  You don’t need another one.

Scioness: (pauses to think) Give me two cookies, please.

Rush for glory

My brother told me how when he was in Iraq, there was a strict policy against going off on your own. When running down hostile alleyways or breaking down hostile doors, no soldier was ever to be alone.

Not an authentic US Army sergeant.

Not an authentic US Army sergeant.

“No rushing for glory,” my brother would say to his men.

“Rush for glory,” his sergeant would roar in his best Kiss voice and then do a Kiss strut, assault rifle standing in for a guitar. Then the soldiers of the unit would go out into the shit to defend some freedom.

The scioness is nigh onto two years old. She’s got her sprint down and she likes to practice.

“No breaking for freedom,” I say to her.

“Break for freedom,” she squeals, or so it seems to me, and takes off in whatever direction is most dangerous.

My brother told me about the sergeant. So I started dbreak for freedomoing my own Kiss strut and singing “Rush for glory” before chasing the little escapee down. Hilarity ensues for me, her, and various onlookers who aren’t of the Type-A-parent variety.

Want to know the true meaning of panic?  Have a daughter.  Take this daughter to San Francisco airport.  Pass in sock feet through the snarl of security with your belt off and your laptop separated from your bags and spilled changed and a cell phone buzzing and look at the scionness’s mom and say: “Where is she?”

And have her say to you, “Don’t you have her?”

And say, “I thought you had her.”

The little fugitive took one a rush for glory, I’ll say that.  Halfway down the terminal.  I ran her down, alright, one shoe off and belt a-wagglin’ out of two loops, in a sudden state of satori that nothing I possessed was worth anything No, nothing at all.  Not next to that legged loaf of bologna.

The upside: this is a good way to experience the sheerest joy imaginable at the sight of another human being.

“Rush for glory,” she burbled.

You’re telling me.