Sometimes negativity is the best policy
Most of the time, constructive criticism is far more valuable than anything negative. And when it comes to young kids, I think that a parent should try to be exclusively constructive. Telling a kid how she can improve her basketball jump shot is far nicer than saying, “Your shot sucks” (though I couldn’t imagine any parent actually talking to her kid like that). Depending on how sensitive your child is, you might be able to get away with a sarcastic comment like, “I think you have the basketball skills that will one day make you an excellent accountant.” But for the most part, “positive” should be your default parenting style.
And how parents can grow from their little one’s love of lameness
Every morning after my wife springs our two-year-old twin sons from their nightly crib incarceration, their first order of business is to run into my office and yell, “Watch video with Daddy.” What my kids want is to sit on my lap while my wife gets breakfast ready, and watch whatever fascinating online content they command me to search for. Unfortunately, my kids have a very loose definition of the word “fascinating.” For the past three weeks I’ve had to begin my days watching a nine minute industrial video of garbage trucks emptying trash cans. There have been a few mornings when they've decided to spice things up and request videos of guys using leaf blowers. But for the most part, my kids have repeatedly chosen to subject me to the lamest possible video on the Internet.
But what’s the point of testing the milk-spitting boundary?
A few years ago when the financial crisis struck, the government was performing what were called “stress tests” on lending institutions, in an effort to make sure that banks couldn’t collapse. Apparently they got this idea from toddlers spitting mouthfuls of milk into their sleeping parents’ faces. If I’m not being stress tested to see if I’ll collapse, then such a thing doesn’t exist.
Like any good parent, I blame myself for having milk spit in my face. I should know better than to think I could take a nap anywhere that wasn’t protected by a labyrinth of locking doors. I’m sure parents who can afford it have a bookcase in which you pull a secret lever disguised as a book, and a room opens up with no baby monitors and a nice, comfy bed.
Not to be outdone, the other twin came up and spit water on me a few minutes later. I saw him coming, but that didn’t change the outcome. Seeing a toddler coming at you with a mouthful of water is like seeing a grizzly bear approaching: all it means is you get to witness your own demise.
I understand that this behavior is a natural process in which the kids are learning their boundaries. But I’m not sure what the value of this particular boundary is. We aren’t komodo dragons. The only time a human needs to spit is when the dentist commands him to. Why isn’t it ingrained in a human that you can’t spit on other humans?
If all parents conspired to never enforce the liquid-spitting boundary, would blasting people in the face with whatever you happened to be drinking at the time eventually become an acceptable greeting? Would a person emerge from a fancy gala dripping wet from champagne only to have someone remark, “I see you met the mayor?” Probably not.
I understand the value of testing boundaries. When I’m on stage, I often do an array of jokes to gauge how wild that audience wants to get. Testing this boundary helps my work. I understand bank stress tests. If a bank goes bust that’s bad. But what exactly are my kids trying to figure out with the milk spitting?
I am proud of myself though, because I remained calm, simply took their cups away, and did my best not to give the kids the reactions they were going for. All I said was, “No. We don’t spit water/milk.” They still thought my humiliation was uproariously hilarious.
And maybe that’s where I’m missing it. They are after all my kids. Maybe I’m their audience, and they’re just seeing if I like that joke about having milk and water spit in my face. In that respect, I appreciate the effort, but my kids will have to find some new material, or the audience is going to send the performers to their room for a time out.
Why do macabre food names work on young kids?
The other day my kids were refusing to eat their cheddar cheese. And it’s not like they had a good reason. Adults can always claim the threat of crippling constipation as a reason to back away from a tray of cheddar. But children need cheese to help them develop strong bones, muscles, and bowels. And not to be too gross, but any parent who still wipes her child’s butt knows the value of dense foodstuffs.
Is there a cure for “Mommy Brain"?
I recently caught my wife reading a book that had nothing to do with parenting. It was a thick tome about disease and migration, so I was very pleased to see her interests broadening beyond happy topics. Reading about miserable human conditions can only mean one thing: recovery from “Mommy Brain.”
Is he a harmless old dude, or a weirdo?
The other day I took the family out to lunch at In-N-Out burger. For those of you outside of California, I highly recommend a trip to In-N-Out burger sometime during your next visit to Disneyland. California might be financially (and morally) bankrupt, have terrible air quality, and be overridden with gangs and drugs—but we have darn good cheeseburgers.
Anyway, while we were eating, an elderly couple sat at the table across from ours. Immediately both the man and woman couldn’t take their eyes off of our twins. It started with, “How precious!” We said “Thank you,” and of course we agreed. Our kids are precious. Certainly worth the hassle of keeping them from shoving French fries down their milk straws. The old dude asks, “Twins?” and we say “Yes,” though I felt like saying, “Duh.” Then he starts trying to talk to my kids. On the surface, it was a completely friendly, warm interaction. But that didn’t change the fact that this older guy was seriously setting off my “creepdar” (creep radar).
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m prone to paranoia. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of nuts running wild in this world. How do I know if this is just an elderly gentleman who wholesomely appreciates the innocent cuteness of children, or if he’s some sicko who shouldn’t be within five hundred yards of a youngster? I found myself getting very defensive, especially when he said, “Wow. What incredibly beautiful children.” Again, his comment was probably completely innocent. But I gave the guy a really hard “I’ll kill you glare,” just quick enough so that he was the only one who saw it. My wife and his wife were oblivious to the fact that my hackles were up.
Then the guy gets up, walks away, and returns twenty seconds later with two In-N-Out paper hats. He hands them to me and says, “Your kids will like these.” I politely said thanks, and sure enough, my kids did enjoy playing with the paper hats. I backed off a bit and told my kids to say hello to the man and his wife.
I didn’t like that I got aggressive, albeit subtly, towards that guy. But I can’t trust my creepdar. Almost everyone I don’t know seems a bit weird to me at first. And when it comes to interacting with my kids, strange old dudes are guilty until proven innocent. I’ve seen too many episodes of Family Guy to think otherwise.
How can parents deal with constantly conflicting health studies?
A new report says that sunscreen may actually cause or accelerate the development of skin cancer, rather than prevent it. Great. I was just starting to settle into the fact that eggs were healthy again. Now another study comes along destroying the illusion that I’m doing everything I can for my kids' well being.
They’re lucky Guantanamo doesn’t have a play place
My wife and I had a very important letter with a very important payment in it. We carefully set the envelope containing the letter on the table near the door. It’s a place we commonly use to put letters and other things we need to remember to leave the house with. On occasion we’ve left the kids there.