Why Lazy Parenting Is Good Parenting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am a lazy parent. Well, maybe not a lazy parent, but certainly I am lazy-er than I used to be. I think back to when Malcolm was small and a typical day involved making baby food, changing diapers, feeding time, reading time, play time, tantrum navigation, trips to the park, trips to the store and then, to top it all off, a lengthy pre-bedtime ritual which involved bath time and redoing many of the other things before he would finally drift off to sleep. Phew! That is a shit ton of work, and I am frankly surprised we ever made it through it in one piece.

My approach has changed somewhat over the years, bearing little resemblance to the (some say hovering) presence I used to be. I trace this transformation back to one specific thing that Malcolm used to do: asking me to wipe his butt. Mostly, it was the way he asked: he’d scream, “Wipe!” but really I heard, “Wipe it, loser, and hurry up, I got stuff to do!” The whole transaction reeked of an impolite transaction between an over-entitled business traveler and a shoe shine guy at the airport. There is only so much indignity that a parent can stand, and one day, when Malcolm summoned me, I declined. Of course, he was incredulous, like it was some great honor for me to be involved in his bowel movements at all, but I held my ground and made that kid wipe his own arse. After a lengthy back and forth, he accepted the new truth and began caring for his own backside. That was seven years ago. (In another seven, he will probably start getting it right!)

I felt good for a number of reasons after refusing to wipe Malcolm’s butt, the most notable being the feeling that sometimes, when a parent doesn’t do something for their child, the child is actually better off for it. You will never learn to wipe your butt if your parents do it for you. So why do it then, unless you like wiping butts? In this age of helicopter parenting, could it be that sometimes the best thing a you can do for you kid is to stop doing the thing that you don’t want to do anyways? Wow! Over the years, I have been utilizing this principle to make Malcolm do the things that I don’t like doing, whether it’s putting away his  laundry, making his school lunch, or diagnosing his own communicable diseases.

I realized recently that I was feeling guilty about not being more proactive in certain areas of Malcolm’s life. A bit of reflection has allowed me to recognize that there is more going on than lazy parenting. Here is what is happening:

  1. Play dates.

Malcolm has been asking me a lot to make play dates with this or that person. I don’t like doing it, they require a lot of details and, more importantly, I have to figure out stuff for them to do. Plus I totally get all caught up in the soap opera-esque subtexts: Why this kid and not this other? What happened to fun with gal pals? What do I care? My parents may correct my memory on the subject, but I remember being in fifth grade and I don’t remember parent organized play dates at all. When I was a kid (D’oh! The dreaded words of parenting. Fuck it, I don’t care!) playtime occurred when child A got on their bike and went over to child B’s house. If child B was home and wanted to hang out, they would both get on their bikes and check out what child C was doing. Things continued to a small gaggle of kids had coalesced and adventures were had. Now, we are stuck in this parent controlled system where everything is pre-authorized, pre-planned, and pre-negotiated. Yuck! I hate it, both because it robs kids of their own invention and causes me extra work/mental energy. I recently started telling Malcolm to schedule his own time with other kids. It has had limited success; I am still involved in more of the process than I want, but Malcolm is making all the initial overtures. It would be a lot easier if all his friends lived in our neighborhood.

2. Summer Camp

I used to have Malcolm’s summer schedule planned out by mid-February. I was heavy on camps of differing interests, science camps, sports camps, cheap get dirty and tired city parks and rec camps, grandparent camps, with a few weeks reserved for he and I to engage in some shenanigans. I have nothing set up for Malcolm this summer. If he has some interests that he wants to explore in greater detail this summer, let him figure it out. I don’t feel like it is my job to tell him what he should find interesting and then spend a bunch of time and money getting him summer exposure to it. Oh, I’ll help him identify and plan anything he wants to do, but my days of overscheduling his summers are done. In practice, this means that if he wants us to fork over the cash for him to go to Minecraft Camp, he is going to have to do the leg work himself!

3. School

Malcolm’s preschool and kindergarten severely limited parental involvement in the classroom. At the school, students did all their work in the classroom and parents had little or nothing to offer to help with the kids’ learning (other than money!)  Malcolm has changed schools many times since then and certainly the schools’ cultures have changed as well. My approach hasn’t, though, and I don’t like getting involved in Malcolm’s classwork. If he can’t figure something out, he knows that he needs to ask the teacher about it. I am interested in his schoolwork, for sure, I am just not interested in helping him do it. I ask to look at his work once he is done with it, and rarely if ever, point out the all the wrong answers. He recently had a big science fair project and I can gladly say that the sum total of my contribution to it was going to the store, at his direction, and buying some poster board. Luckily, the project was not a complete disaster, as Malcolm’s partner’s family doesn’t hold the same “hand’s off” policy as ours. Lucky him!

I am not always 100% comfortable with my take. I would like it if Malcolm were more social, pursued his interests more and was more diligent in the outcome of his school work. I mean, who wants their kid to have a shitty science project? Not me, for sure, but Malcolm is ultimately going to have to decide whether he is the kind of kid who will figure things out or just suck at stuff. I will only get in the way. Sometimes, the lazy approach is just what they need.

This is what's really going on in my mind...

This is what’s really going on in my mind…

Goodbye Baseball – My Kid Just Quit Little League

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Parents all have different reasons for having kids. Some want a loud household where the pitter-patter of little feet can barely be heard over the constant giggling and singing. Others want to preserve the family name or have someone to take care of them when they are old. Celebrities want kids like they want fashion accessories, and Making of a Murderer star Steven Avery’s parents hoped that having a kid would someday make their family reunions the talk of Manitowoc County. Boy were they right!

Me? I’m pretty sure that the only reason we had a kid was to watch him/her play baseball. If this sounds stupid, just remember that Ted Cruz was bred by his Martian parents to slowly sap the joy from our lives with his creepy stare. THAT is a bad reason to have a kid. We are completely normal. We didn’t think Malcolm was going to be a pro ball player or even a great youth player, we both enjoyed playing sports growing up and wanted to experience that same vibe as parents. We weren’t going to be pushy parents, we just wanted our boy to be on a team.

Immediately after the taking of this picture, he accused me of being a "mean pitcher" and we left to a chorus of tears.

Immediately after the taking of this picture, he accused me of being a “mean pitcher” and, after he tried to bite me between second and third base, we left to a chorus of tears. (Just to clarify, it wasn’t the “good” biting that can take place between second and third base.)

So, we had a kid. As soon as that kid could walk, he had a bat in his hand. A stay at home dad has a huge perk; he can spend as much time with his kid doing what he likes to do. As a result, Malcolm and I would go to the park, throw the ball around and do some hitting. We’d eventually get to a game, and everything would go great, until the temper tantrum that would inevitably arrive and derail everything good in young child’s life. I was pleased, though, my kid liked playing baseball!

By the time organized baseball arrived, Malcolm had a leg up on the competition. He could already hit, throw, spit tobacco and touch his junk. He was as baller as a tee baller could get. True, tee ball is painful to watch, and coaching it is worse than going on a date with Ted Cruz. Still, my boy was on the path to the Little Leagues and I loved every minute of it.

Like butta!

Like butta!

His progress through the ranks was remarkable. He was a switch hitter as a six year old, and if you don’t know what that means, it’s the youth baseball equivalent of winning an EGOT. If you don’t know what an EGOT is, it’s really good. If you don’t understand what either “switch hitting” or an “EGOT” is you got problems. Big ones. Take that nose out of the books and live a little! Anyways, Malcolm continued up through the Little League ranks, playing well above his age level and, while the games only got marginally better to watch, we enthusiastically attended all of his games.

When we moved to France, his interest waned. He played on a French team and practice was in French. The games were 2 hours away through a mixture of buses, trains and carpools. The 7th inning stretch involved Chablis and a sinewy goat cheese. No one was particularly found of French baseball, so when he wanted to quit, I didn’t pay much mind. Actually, I was relieved, but was sure that he would pick things up again when we got home.

He didn’t. Baseball tryouts were a few weeks ago, and he coolly informed us that he wasn’t going to play anymore. We spent a good 48 hours “making sure” that had thought things through. In reality we tried to bribe him, threaten him and come at him from every single angle to see if he would budge. He wouldn’t, and it was the end of an era.

In my “Fine, have it your way” speech, I was pretty emotional. We had spent countless hours in the activity together, working at a game we both loved. It was our thing, and now he was over it. Yowza! I teared up, not so much because he was done with baseball but because the era of “he and I” was coming to a close. I am sure we will always have things that we’ll do together, but the days of “proud dad and his ferocious tiny tike ball dude” were done. It was saddening. I cried.

There must be a multitude of good things that will come of Malkie quitting baseball. I can’t appreciate them all right now, I just keep remembering the feeling of walking off a dusty baseball diamond having just enjoyed the session. Of course, he was usually crying and/or trying to bite me, but still: I remember the good times. The good thing about your kid growing up is that they develop they own personality and are able surprise you with the things they are interested in.

Unfortunately, it can also be a bad thing.

At least he’s not Ted Cruz.

Yet.

Goodbye little gamer. Goodbye crocs. Goodbye jammies under the jersey.

Goodbye little gamer. Goodbye crocs. Goodbye jammies under the jersey.

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories, Uncategorized

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of dropping Malcolm off for his first day of school. The first day of school for kids is always such a complicated time; they are nervous about new classrooms, excited to see old friends, and, if they are anything like Malcolm,  devastated by the idea of not being able to watch Youtube all day. Throw in new wardrobes, new homework policies and new feelings towards prospective boyfriends/girlfriends and you can easily see why kids might have a love/hate relationship with the first day of school.

Parents, on the other hand, have no such mixed feelings. The first day of school to a parent is like Christmas, New Years, Hannukah, Kwanza, July 4th and National Lasagna day all rolled into one. (Not made up, National Lasagna day is July 29!) You know that headlong dash that kids make out of their classrooms on the last day of school? Parents have that same feeling on the morning of the first day of school. To understand why, you have to understand the summer from the perspective of a stay at home parent.

The first days of summer are pretty cool. Free from the bondage of school day/night routines, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Wanna let your kid stay up until 12:30 am to watch an extra inning Giants-Dodgers game? Go ahead! Perhaps you’d like to sleep in late, golf and then go eat philly cheese steaks? That’s cool too! During the first days of summer, the rule book goes byebye and everyone is titillated by the relaxed summer atmosphere. You plan great events for your days and honestly think that you are going to kick summer in the nuts.

Then, some kinks in the armor present themselves. You notice that when your kids don’t get enough sleep, they turn into complete assholes. Their demands for junk food don’t end when you give them a cheesesteak. All of a sudden, they want cheesesteaks AND ice cream. AND Candy bars. AND Donuts. Giving them anything fun isn’t a treat, they now expect it. You could take them to a fair with all you can eat cotton candy and unlimited rides and they would complain why you didn’t take them to the Minions movie on the way home. By the middle of summer, the little person in your house more closely resembles John Belushi than the child you raised. What the hell?

As a stay at home parent, you can’t stand for this new, unsatisfying child and start re-introducing rules. Bedtimes come a little earlier. Diets are monitored a little more closely. You stop letting your kids watch movies like Animal House. You start asking them to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, like read or change their underpants. This is really when the fighting starts. (“But I changed my underpants last week!”) This unfortunately marks the real end of the summer, but you usually have a good six weeks to go before school starts. At this point you  frantically look around for a summer camp to stash the kid in, but the only camps open are for Jewish girls with musical skills and eating disorders. Shit!

The last week or two are a total grind. Nobody, not married people, coworkers, best friends or foxhole buddies can spend an entire summer together without getting on each others’ nerves. Parent and child are no different. In the morning, your child wakes up and starts talking to you, but you can’t hear anything because you’re too busy figuring out what you are going to start yelling at them about. Your kids start making outrageous demands just to watch you break. Every conversation between parent and child is the same: Person 1 says something to Person 2. Person 2 tells Person 1 how much they have disappointed them. Screaming ensues. Both parties regroup in separate areas of the house to plot their respective revenge. It’s not family time, it is the Hunger Games. Summer has profoundly kicked you in the nuts.

Just when things look their bleakest, a day or two before researching how to abandon children at the fire station, you see a calendar entry that becomes a light at the end of the tunnel. Reading the words give you hope, the kind of which you need to make it through to the other side. It is the same hope that that crazy Italian runner guy had to get him through weeks of being lost at sea in Unbreakable. The calendar, on a magical day in either late August or early September, reads: First Day of School. You aren’t a better parent in the days that precede this wonderful, magical day, but it does give you the focus to not go Full Trump and deport your children to any country that would take them.

I don't care where that donkey is going, just get on it and go!

I don’t care where that donkey is going, just get on it and go!

On that morning, your kid is full of unprocessed feelings and nervousness about school starting. You don’t care. Your kids have needs, like lunches, putting on clothes and any paperwork you have received and haven’t turned in yet. You don’t care. Breakfast needs to be made and school supplies need to be packed. You don’t care. YOU DON”T FUCKING CARE ABOUT ANYTHING! There is a beehive of scrambling around you, people running around like chickens without their heads but you just sit and drink your coffee. Smiling.

Nobody really knows the first thing they do when they finally pull away from the curb at the school on that first day. It’s like your first time shooting up heroin. It’s spectacular, but the details are a little fuzzy. All you know is that life is about to return to something manageable. And, it will.

Malcolm started school last Wednesday. We were both ready.

Sorry We Suck: An Open Letter To Our Friends With More Than One Kid

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Dear Friends,

I wanted to apologize for a few things. Our house still smells faintly of musty cat. We generally serve cheaper wine that the stuff you bring over (we keep the good stuff and drink it after you leave.) When we dine out together, I often look at how much of a tip you’ve left, and then leave a little more, winking at the wait staff on the way out as if to say, “Sorry about my friends, but don’t worry, I got your back.”

I also wanted to take up a subject that has been coming up more and more lately. Most of you have two kids. We have just the one.  This wouldn’t seem like that much of an issue, but it turns out to be relatively important, and not in a good way. When our kids get together, our child acts as an impartial third party who is able to settle all longstanding disputes between siblings. Who is the funner child? The one who Malcolm plays with first! Who is the better athlete? The one Malcolm wants on his team! Who is the better wizard/jedi/teacher/parent/weasel? You guessed it, our boy. With every choice Malcolm makes, he sends the implicit message that one of your kids is special, and the other is a piece of shit. Sorry! When you hang with us, one of your kids is generally going to be upset.

It’s not as if Malcolm is uniquely situated as some sort of talent identifier protege. Really, he’s no Paula Abdul. He just gets to be a second vote. And when there are only three votes, the second vote is kind of important. (That’s why marital counselors are so popular!) This is what many of our play dates with you look like:

Activity is decided. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s use Malcolm’s favorite activity at school. It is a game called weasels. I’m not sure what connection he has to weasels other than the name is fun to say. So the kids start playing weasels.

5 minutes later the roles are defined and play commences. Usually there is a parent weasel and a few youngin’ weasels, sometimes there is a general weasel and some spy weasels, depending on the gender of the play date attendees. (For obvious reasons, we put the kibosh on the game that involved the Rihanna and Chris Brown weasels.)

2 minutes later, the parent weasel realizes that the kid weasels are having way more fun and wants to switch. No switch is made, and the two kid weasels begin to make fun of the parent weasel for being lame.

1 minute later, the parent weasel attacks the baby weasel and tries to find out if weasels go to heaven when they die. Parental intervention is necessary. The parents are irritated that their precious conversations have been interrupted and threaten to stuff all the weasels into a sack and smack them against the side of the house.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

You might have been asking yourselves, “Why don’t you just have another kid and join the rest of us?” Fair question. (If you are insane.) Have you not noticed what a pain in the ass it is to have a kid? We went through the sleepless nights, the endless crying, the bottles, diapers and long sessions staring at the new kid, just to make sure they are still breathing. Think we’re going through all that again? No chance! Once you get in the habit of NOT wiping someone else’s anus and skin folds several times a day, you’re not really looking for reasons to go back. Also, my hoodie is nearly vomit free and I intend to keep it that way. I am told, as well, that there is something called “sibling rivalry” which does not sound very enticing and we aren’t really looking to sign up for that either.  As nice as it would be to have a back up in case Malcolm turns out to be an axe murderer, we are just going to stick it out with the one.

Slice up this pie? No way!

Slice up this pie? No way!

Plus, there is this thing called the “love pie” that I invented in order for me to get people off our backs when they kept asking when we were going to have a second kid. Here’s how it goes. You only have a certain amount of love that you can give to this world. When you are all alone, you love your TV and your favorite pair of sweats. Then, you meet someone and fall madly in love with them ( causing you to throw out those old sweats.) If you decide to have a child, you spread the love you have between your significant other and your child. When you have a second child, you must spread that love between three people instead of two, meaning your love for each of the wonderful people in your life drops by a whopping 16% when you have your second child. Not good! (If you think the Love Pie theory is a bit flimsy, the groundwork was actually laid out by a pretty smart guy named Albert Einstein. His theory of relativity can be paraphrased as “You only have so much love to give your relatives, so try and make sure you don’t have too many.” So there. It’s science.)

So friends, I am sorry that our familial arrangements are causing some grief. Why not attack this problem more proactively and get rid of the least popular kid your house? All parents say they love their kids equally, but I totally know they don’t mean it. Get rid of one of your kids and we’ll have smooth sailing from here on in. Thanks.

Truly yours

Paul and Amy

P.S. Anyone know how to get rid of cat funk?

Big Daddy Paul is guest posting!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

 

Today, I am guest posting on my friend Neil’s website today. Go over and read it there, it’s a funny post. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, but I will tell you there is some disturbing imagery involved.

Neil is a fellow stay at home dad, fellow former lawyer and fellow meat lover. Wait. Now that I think about it, he just might be a vegetarian. Well, don’t hold that against him, he still a cool guy. He started a website with more serious writing, (more serious = better.) His writing is honest, from the heart and if you ask me, utterly lacking in exclamation points. (!!!) Enjoy, people!

Ah, Crap, I’ve Become An Ass

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I used to be pretty mellow. If we went to your house for dinner and you broke out a Manu Chao record and some bongo drums, I’d have played some mean backup tambourine. Our house was generally kept somewhere between “cluttered” and “what the inside of an irritable bowel looks like,” and I was fine with it (although I’m not sure our house guests were!)  People/friends/business acquaintances would often do things that I found annoying, but I would just smile (then blog about it later.) I rolled with the punches, generally enjoying whatever came around the bend.

Having a six year old has changed things, to say the least. In drug parlance, I have gone from pot smoking hippie (“That’s coooool dude”) to twitchy meth freak (“HOLYSHIT!HOLYSHIT!NOFUCKINGWAY!UNBELIEVABLE! HOLYFUCKINGSHIT!”) Somehow, we have fallen into a rut around here that Malcolm does whatever goofy activity he wants until I have to menace him into a) leaving b) getting ready to leave c) doing the thing that he needed to do before we could leave or d) do anything he doesn’t want to do. I swear, I have to ride that boy like a sad carnival pony to get him to do pretty much anything around here. He has very little interest in cleaning his body, brushing his teeth, picking up anything around the house, and being on time to anything. It’s like he is a little version of me, and damn it, there’s only room for one of me in this house!

Daddy, if I can't see you, will you stop yelling and go away?

Recently, I have come to the conclusion that I have become somewhat of a dick, resembling very little of the person that I want my son to think I am. This has to change! I want to be the cool dad. The dad that he brags is the most awesome person on the planet. I want to be his hero, not his drill commander. Now, he constantly asks if I am leaving town anytime soon (evidently, grandparents are a little more patient and lenient than I now am.)

The problem is, if I leave him to his own devices, everything will get fucked up. When I ask him if it is important to get to school on time he fires right back, “No. People are always late and never get in trouble.” He thinks it is perfectly acceptable to brush his teeth for five seconds and bathing is only necessary if you roll around in the muck. There are currently 200-300 stuffed animals lying around the house, I when I suggest that he pick them up, he says, “Why? I am just going to take them back out later.”

I could probably remain cool dad if this were to happen occasionally, but when it’s so many different things on almost every day, the bong is put away and the dime bag comes out. I start to twitch, my voice get shrill and I become the guy I don’t want to be. It’s like I become the Hulk, only more angry (and less fit!) One day, I will learn to get things done without beating the sad little carnival pony. That day can’t arrive fast enough because I’m starting to drive myself a little batty.

Goodbye, Frozen Embryos!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Those of you who know Amy and I remember that we had a hard time getting pregnant. We tried many things to get pregnant, most notably having sex with one another, but to little avail. (I can honestly tell you it is the most enjoyable thing that I have ever failed at!) As the months turned to years, we realized having a baby the old fashioned way just wasn’t in the cards for us. We were serious about becoming parents, so, instead of throwing in the towel and remaining DINKies, we opted for the horribly invasive, often painful and outrageously expensive option of in vitro fertilization. To do this, Amy had to submit to daily hormone injections, ovular extraction and finally, uterine injection. (For my part, I watched some porn and whacked off in a cup.)

We have a portrait of Malcolm at 100 cells, how cool is that? Right after this pic was taken, Malcolm murdered and ate his brother.

This process left us with a handful of viable embryos, two of which were inserted into Amy’s lady business, and one of which developed into the big bundle of joy we now refer to as “Malcolm.” We really didn’t know what to do with the extra embryos at the time, and opted to store them in a cryogenic freezer. (I heard rumors that our fertilized eggs sat on a shelf next to Ted Williams’ head, a perk I found revolting and yet, at the same time, paid extra for.) The people who operate the freezer now want to charge us $125 a month for the luxury box seats of the cryogenic freezer world, causing us to really consider what we want out of those eggs.

For a while, the embryos served as an insurance policy. We were secure in the knowledge that if something terrible were to happen to little Malkie, like not enjoying sports, we could always just defrost the backups and start over. (In case you are ever in need of a good line to give your kid extra motivation to pay attention to you, “If you don’t start behaving, we’re going to replace you with the embryos we’ve got at the clinic” works wonders!)

It now appears that Malcolm mostly behaves himself and is deeply dedicated to the following of sports. As such, those embryos are unnecessary for this family to function properly. We think the idea of having another child is completely insane, and even though some of you gladly tackle the insanity, we are perfectly content to give all our love and attention to the one kid we got. I would suspect that almost every couple that is happy with the number of children that they have would think that adding another would be a disaster. Our bar is just lower than everyone else’s (a fact made known to me prior to our marriage, when everyone tried to talk Amy out of marrying me in the first place!)

In a perfect world, we would keep Malcolm’s putative kin frozen in perpetuity. (Sentence of the year? Maybe!) The sizable fee for such frozen nostalgia, however, makes it unrealistic for us. The real question for us now, is what do we do with the eggs. Here are the options:

1. Eat them. I have been advised by the scientific community that this is a stupid idea, as the eggs have little to do with their counterparts in the chicken world. Besides, we wouldn’t have the right bacon to go with them. Nope, can’t eat ’em.

2. Donate them to a couple. Assuming the other couple wouldn’t eat them, they would eventually turn the eggs into a baby. That’s just fucking weird, having your DNA in some other family. What if they raise the kid better? What if the kid becomes president one day and Malcolm works fast food his whole life? Or, what if it turns out that we just got lucky and the other couple had a kid that became the next Hitler, or, worse, Pat Sajak? Nope, too much weird shit, can’t let people make babies out of ’em.

3. Donate them to science. This seems like a great idea, as early signs indicate that embryonic stem cells can be used to cure spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. Looking up uses for these cells, however, I found that researchers are currently injecting stem cells into rat’s tails. You gotta love researchers. I know that this is the groundwork for great stuff later on, but it hardly seems worthwhile for Amy to put up with all that shit just to have it all injected into some rat’s hiney. Maybe it’s just me. If the only alternative is throwing the cells away, though, I’ll guess we’ll go with this option, however unsightly it may seem. Enjoy little rats, enjoy. We hope your tails feel better.

Even though we have been so certain about our family choices, the decision has been a little weird for us. I guess it’s because of the finality of it all. This kid is going to be our only kid. There is no longer any safety net, there’ll be no redos or second chances. (Yes, that’s now a word.) When I look at our little family, though, and think of our life together, it feels just right.

The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Hello everyone! You may have been asking yourself, “Where has Big Daddy Paul gone?” I say to you, “Mind you own damn business. I ask the questions around here.”

I know the holidays are the cruelest time to leave you all without the linguistic nuggets that so wonderfully color your days, but the truth is, I was perfectly content to not write on this blog. And then, I had the best day a parent can have and had to share it with you.

It wasn’t Thanksgiving, mind you. Thanksgiving was fun, owing mainly to the arrival of a large amount of gravy that no one, not even your spouse, can tell you to take it easy on. (I like gravy so much that I put it cold on sandwiches the next day and then revel in slurping it between my teeth.) We spent Gravy Turkey day in Reno with grandparents, aunties and family friends, impressing and freaking the hell out of everyone by quizzing Malcolm on the number of Atlanta Falcons receivers that he knows.

It wasn’t Christmas either, despite the large number of awesome things my dad got me from the Guinness factory in Ireland (I have a Guinness hat with a bottle opener and a Guinness Piccolo. I am rad. You are jealous). We got Malcolm a Kindle fire this year, and now he can surf the internet and send emails to his grandparents. He might be too young for such things, but I will try to keep an eye out for emails promising P3nis enlargement and large Amazon orders for movies and cartoons. See, I’m a good dad! I will also throw in the joy of winning my fantasy football championship on Christmas Eve, Christmas Night and the day after. Good times indeed, but not the best.

It wasn’t New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day either. We spent good times with friends eating large amounts of cheese and bacon, explaining both why we are such good friends with Jon and Dayna and why I am fatter right now than I have ever been before. Ever. Right now, I am “the back of my neck looks like a pack of hot dogs” fat. New Years Day was fun for me as I got to watch NFL football (boo Raiders! I hate you for losing,) Malcolm got to play Wii baseball AND real baseball and Amy got to go shopping. It was a great day for all of us, but not the Most Wonderful Day of the Year.

At this point, you may have already had enough of me. No one likes to have a subject introduced, only to be lead down a plethora of dead ends. I just wanted you to make sure you really missed me. Sometimes you think you want something, like a nacho bath, and then when you actually get it, you are left with sticky body hair and a trail of curious mice. Yep, you missed me.

Easily, the Most Wonderful Day of the Year is “The Day Your Kids Go Back To School.” It should be a national holiday, only that would mean your kids wouldn’t go to school and it would just be another shitty day where you gotta find stuff to do. Summer can be grueling, considering it lasts for what seems like 6 months, but at least you can go run around outside or stick them in camps. The holidays are filled with long nights, travel, loads of sugar and things that Santa/Hannuka Harry DIDN’T get your kid. This results in your perfectly nice little child being turned into an angry badger. During the holiday, you can’t even deal with the angry badger like you normally would, fearing that the family staying with you might frown on you whacking your child over the head with an Elf on a Shelf and threatening to strap them to the furnace. As much fun as the holidays are, there is a certain amount of stress involved for parents.

You know I love your goofy little face. Now get out of the car and get in that classroom!

And that, my friends is why yesterday was so awesome. Malcolm told me that he didn’t want to go to school, and I thought to myself, “Good, I didn’t particularly want to watch you melt down for an hour after I asked you to take five minutes to clean up after a game we just played.” As I sat in an empty house, tweaking the nacho bath idea (tortilla chip Speedo? No, that’s just weird. Or IS it?”) I enjoyed a quiet moment. And. Just. Did. Nothing.

Except figure out a way to use more sentence fragments. I’m back, baby!

 

You, He and Loser Makes Three

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This is a very exciting time in our household. You could say that it is always an exciting time in our household considering our penchant for getting stuck in our car or taking a kid with pneumonia on vacation, but this is different. Good things are happening.

As you learned in my last post, Malcolm is moving up to elementary school. Talking to the school about him, I am learning about the tremendous strides he is taking. They say things like, “He is demonstrating a huge leap in his social maturity,” and “His brain is starting to operate in the second plane, (whatever that means, I assume it’s good. Two planes must be better than 1!) Mind you, my standards are not very high, I take it as a good day whenever the teacher doesn’t pull me aside and tell me that he tried to eat one of his classmates. Things are looking up for little Malkie.

Amy is also killing it. They announced earlier this week that Amy has joined the Workday software company (company announcement can be found here.) It is an amazing opportunity where she can get on board with an awesome company and make it even awesomer. The outpouring of good wishes she has received has been thrilling and she is so super-stoked. She hasn’t had this much spring in her step since I replaced the insoles in her work shoes with marshmallows.

Then there’s me. I haven’t had a job in more than six years and, at this point, I am unemployable.  While Malcolm took a music theory class at school, I had an existential debate (with myself) over whether it was really necessary for my deodorant to function properly. (It’s not, should I care? Jury’s still out.) Amy’s job announcement contains the words “Amazing,” “Passionate” and “Visionary.” The words people use to best describe me are “Grating,” “Bad At Grammar” and “Fatso.” I just made a conscious decision to leave a oven pan in our car because it reminded me of the potato skins that it used to contain and the very thought brought me happiness. I spend the first five minutes of every new conversation explaining away the stains and old name tags in various stages of decay I have dotted around my sweatshirt. I am not exactly on fire.

I like to sit in little chairs and make bacon! (And, yes, those are the swim trunks I was still wearing from the day before.)

So what do you do when everyone around you is kicking ass and taking names and you are getting your ass kicked and have to  remind everyone what your name is? You could work really hard and do something successful yourself, or take the easier route and just make up a lie about something successful you’ve done (why yes, I did just discover the cure for narcolepsy. I’ll email the pharmaceutical company just after I take this nap…) There are some uber stay at home parents out there that manage to make a name for themselves in spite of the million things they are doing around the house for the their family. Those people usually crap out after a few years of constant methamphedical use.

The rest of us are content to share in the joy of those around us, the veritable special sauce on the double cheeseburger of our families. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world to be a condiment, but this job is not about glamor. It’s about being there, day after day, spread on the bun to make everything just right (think this metaphor is dead yet? I don’t! This job is about being poured into a plastic container and dipping your french fries in it when no one else is looking.) I’ll gladly leave the glamor to those who have functioning deodorant.

Ode To A Single Parent

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy is out of town this week. At first I was pretty sad, for she was leaving Malkie and I for a long weekend of fun in New Mexico with her college pals while we were left to fend for ourselves. Being a single parent can be quite a challenge: you are there in the morning when they want to start their day, you cover the entire morning ritual solo and get them off to school, you manage any after school activities, and, if you make it through dinner, you close out the day with the nighttime routine. For all your troubles, you get to sit alone on the couch when the kid is in bed and dream of having a conversation that didn’t involve scolding the other party. For all you single parents out there, you are amazing.

I got to thinking last night about my current situation and decided that I had it all wrong. Being a single parent isn’t lousy. It’s the bomb! Here’s why:

Party Time! There may be something on underneath. Then again, maybe not.

1. All the “rules” of civilized society become mere options when you are alone. Bathing, responsible eating, tidiness, heck, even clothing can all now be viewed as things I don’t give a rat’s ass about when Amy is gone. We are currently in the middle of a modern day primordial ooze here, and I, for one, am soaking it up. The uninvited guest may be quite surprised to find us living like Cherokees (with the curious ability to crank out awesome won ton soup,) but I don’t let fear run my life. The rules are relaxed now and so are we.

2. I get to watch whatever I want on TV. I am definitely NOT saying that Amy has bad taste in TV, but when she is gone, it’s Dude TV 24-7. My current rotation involves heavy doses of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” and, well, that’s pretty much it. I may throw in a “Pardon The Interruption” or some football games to round out my week, but you just can’t beat the Philly gang for raw, unadulterated fun. Especially when it involves two or three of the following: popcorn, beer, salami, chicken wings, more won tons, or nachos. Evenings around here are epic.

3. I can sleep wherever I want on the bed. Amy enjoys sleeping on her side of the bed in the correct orientation. Now, this is a perfectly normal way to order your life, but, whoa, what if you could sleep in every corner of the bed and at any angle you wanted? Last night, I went reverse cowgirl on my normal position (whatever that means) and wound up with my head near the laundry I had put on the bed and not folded and put away. The liberty is like air in my lungs.

4. Volume. Amy has been working at home this past year. As such, it is generally frowned upon to crank up the jams while chugging through blog posts, and post-Yahtzee celebration dances that resemble mardi gras. Let’s just say that this week, we are making some noise. Er, check that, THIS WEEK WE ARE MAKING SOME NOISE!!! (Insert weird sounding Howard Dean noise.)

There are surely many other reasons to enjoy going solo this week. I am sure that Amy is having a radical time with her friends, but so are we. You should come check us out. Just call first.

Am I Lazy, Or The Best Parent Ever?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

One of the most difficult aspects of stay at home parenting is the monotony of it all. With exception of a few days here and there where you are on vacation or lock the kids in the basement and go on a wine and bacon bender, stay at home parents do the same shit every day. Mind you, I am totally NOT complaining, this is the sweetest gig one could ever imagine. It’s just that I hate some aspects of the job so much that if they were stuffed in a gunny sack, I would stab them repeatedly with a pitchfork and then whomp them against the side of the house, like a cat that is just not right. See? Totally NOT complaining.

In the past few months, I have realized that the best things to do with tasks that I don’t particularly enjoy doing is to simply stop doing them. “But Paul,” you ask, “Who will make Malcolm’s lunch? Who will brush his teeth? Who’s gonna track down all the underwear he seems to enjoy throwing around his room and put it in the hamper?” The answer is simple: he will.

This three point line that Malcolm wanted installed in our driveway may not be beautiful to you, but since he did it (while I played Scrabble on my phone) I think it's the most ridiculously perfect line ever.

Remarkably, we have found that Malcolm is surprisingly open to tackling a lot of responsibilities around the house. Sure, there may be some griping here and there, but for the most part Malcolm has accepted his new responsibilities with the same zeal a cubicle worker receives a new stapler. We have found that these simple guidelines will help you along the path to turning your child into an indentured servant (or is it dentured? Not sure about that one.)

First, make sure that the kid knows he/she is the one who is going to have to do it. If they call your bluff and you do it, they will know you are a pushover. You can be ready to assist them while they get up to speed on the new tasks, but they have to do the heavy lifting themselves. Show them how to use sharp knives and demonstrate how one washes their own testicles, but for crying out loud, don’t do that stuff yourself. Of course, things may be a little painful to start with. Fingers may be hacked off and sandwiches could be a little messy (finger sandwiches usually are!) but when your kids finally start doing things themselves, it will be worth it.

Second, tie the new work to the fact that they are now older. We told Malcolm that he was a big boy now, and as a result, he was going to be responsible for making his own breakfasts, lunches and helping out with dinner.  This turned the task into less of a, well, task and more into an honor. He resisted, smelling out the rat that he’d just been given, but if big kids make their own food, then who was he to stand in the way of the natural order.

Lastly, give them tons of praise. This builds confidence in your kid and gets you out of the constant loop of criticizing them. Find something nice to say about their work before offering any “suggestions” for how to make it better. When Malcolm made Christmas cards for all the grandparents last year, I told him that his penmanship was beautiful and his choice of colors was amazing before indicating that the picture of a rifle that he had drawn was perhaps not the best way to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Stay positive!

So there you have it. Go out and turn your kid into a worker bee. You’ll find that once they “get it” they will automatically start doing more things for themselves. Every task that they do for themselves is one thing less that you’ll do every day, breaking the shackles of monotony from your beaten down neck. It also means more free time for you and hopefully less stabbing things in a gunny sack with a pitchfork.

Things That Make You Go, “Hmmmm”

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I know pretty much everything there is to know about raising children. How do I know? Well, the good folks at Child Protective Services wouldn’t be here every other week or so unless they wanted to learn how to do it the right way, would they?

Even so, every once in a while I get a curve ball that even I don’t know how to handle. Here are a few:

Hmmmm #1- You’re kid might be doing something shady, but he’s out of your hair.

At the park the other day, Malcolm joined a group of other kids running around the park. They eventually stopped running and huddled together on the other side of the park.  This allowed a fellow stay at home dad and I to discuss things like “What TV shows are you watching” and “Hey, the hot nanny is looking at you. Suck in your gut.”

Malcolm does many things. He runs. He screams. He begs for ice cream. One thing he normally doesn’t do is huddle. While I wasn’t sure, I had a suspicion that the kids were huddling around a cell phone supplied by a nearby nanny. Ignorance is bliss, but I wasn’t very excited over the prospect of Malcolm sitting around a nice, sunny park watching TV.

Do you find out whether the kids are watching TV, or do you sit back, enjoy the day with your friend and let the cards fall where they may?

Hmmmm #2- Is summertime for work or play?

I love the fact that Malcolm goes to school. He learns stuff that I could never teach him (math, Spanish, a sense of right and wrong, etc.) When the school year ends, however, parents are left with the decision as to how their kids should spend the summer. Most summer camps out there let kids be kids, offering an endless array of fun summertime activities. They teach kids sports, art, swimming, singing and, occasionally, fart jokes. When children at these camps are asked on the way home if they had a fun day, the kids typically give no answer because they have fallen asleep in the car after being worn out all day.

Raise your hand if you want to graph polynomials!!!

The other option is summer camps that offer educational curricula. Many schools, including Malcolm’s, offer summer programs and there are plenty of camps that pride themselves on making your kid smarter. While they may not say, “This camp will get your kid into Harvard,” science camp, chess camp and, yes, even math camp afford your child the ability to get ahead of the kids who are learning to do the hokey pokey. Children at these camps aren’t asked whether they had fun during the day, they are given comprehension exams and then berated for any shortcomings, “What do you mean you don’t know whether insects are invertibrates?! No candy for a week!!!”

Do you want your kids to have fun over the summer or continue their educational development?

Hmmm #3- Later bedtimes

A child’s bed time is a wonderful thing. Not counting some subsequent minor household duties like washing dishes or talking to your spouse about their work, bed time signals the end of the day for us stay at home parents. It is precisely this reason that we set Malcolm’s bed time at 4 pm for the longest time. As kids become more interesting to hang out with, though, the days get longer, inevitably pushing back bed times later and later. This has the irritating effect of depriving us parents of wine, a quiet house and a second glass of wine.

Do you pack your days and nights with fun activities with the kids or stuff them in gunny sacks and lock them in their rooms as soon at the first sign of dusk?

Of course, there are no right and wrong answers to these dilemmas, (provided you make the same decisions we do!) For the record, I put the kibosh on the Iphone presentation of what turned out to be “Tom & Jerry,” we have Malcolm in mostly sports camps with a few weeks of science camp to ensure that his brain doesn’t atrophy over the summer, (next year, he’ll go to school year round,) and we recently moved his bed time back an hour to 8. Malcolm may not always appreciate my take (“Aww dad, all the other kids get to watch Tom and Jerry!”) but he has been pretty happy, lately.

What do you think? Got any interesting conundrums yourself? (Yes, a blatant request for more of you to chirp in and let me know who’s out there…)

Big Daddy Paul Is An Asshole

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I know this may seem rather surreal, considering how suave and awesome (suasome?) I seem to most of you. The truth is, I am friendly to pretty much everyone on this planet. I wave hello to the garbage dudes in the morning, tip my cap to the thieves breaking in to my neighbor’s houses, and, when it is really hot outside, I make sure to douse the Cal Trans workers at the side of the road with any liquids I have lying around the car. Yep, I am pretty much a saint to almost everyone who knows me.

I generally try to take all the fun out of being a kid. Needless to say, making my kid look like a business coming home from a long day of work is pretty rewarding.

Malcolm, however, thinks I am a complete dick. To him, I am merely the rotten caretaker who enforces a litany of mean-spirited rules. These rules do nothing other than to make him miserable. Plus, he is pretty sure I eat all the ice cream after he goes to bed. Here are the rules that he frets about:

Rule #1- Beat your children. As appetizing as it might seem, don’t go Mommy Dearest and break out the clothes hanger on them. Instead, beat them at games. I beat Malcolm’s ass at Cribbage, my teams win baseball championships all the times, and around here I am known as the Monopoly Master. Sure, this leads to a fair amount of tantrums, but I think kids need a good dose of failure to get them comfortable with the idea. Think Kim Jong Il lost a lot of games of Scrabble growing up? Nope. Now he surrounds himself with yes-men, yes-women and yes-transgendered people who tell him how awesome he is at everything he does. Maybe it goes without saying, but please, please, please don’t raise your children to turn out like Kim Jong Il. Plus, it is more than a little satisfying to beat your kids at stuff when they have been giving you a lot of grief during the day. Win-win!

Rule #2- Never, ever buy your kids anything. I take a good deal of happiness in not buying Malcolm things he wants. I call it “Character Building,” others call it “Sadism.” Last week, we went to an amusement park, and Malcolm stopped at a merchandise cart to ask for some little toy. I said, “No.” The family we were with generously offered to get him something, as their kids really wanted a souvenir. I still said, “No!!!” I am no longer sure of the lesson I am trying to teach, but I am having fun depriving him anyways. Malcolm doesn’t think it is nearly as fun.

Rule #3- Always give them fewer treats than they want. If Malcolm were a robot, he would recite, “Give me candy” on a monotonous loop every single moment of the day. I generally rebuff his attempts to consume sugary treats, but there are times when sweets are totally appropriate. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter how much they get, as most of the excitement is that they get it at all. So, Malcolm gets a lot of half candy-bars, smallish pieces of cake and shared desserts. One time while camping, Malcolm only got two s’mores, while his buddies all got three. He looked at me like I was Kim Jong Il. I smiled like a crazy dictator.

To me, life is all about teaching your kids to deal with failure, disappointment and inequality. Making your kids miserable is highly rewarding experience, one that I enjoy often. Perhaps that’s why I’m not real popular around here. That’s cool. The Cal Trans people all love me.

Rotten Little Monsters: An Ode To Malcolm’s Tee Ball Team

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This is by far the most bad-ass picture of Malcolm we have. Gamer!

Malcolm’s tee ball season just ended. I thought this would come with some level of sadness, because the kid really gets after it in the field. Watching him strut around in a jersey, making plays and tattooing the ball all over the park has been nothing short of miraculous. While I appreciate all the joy Malkie has brought us this season, I am ecstatic that tee ball is finished.

If you are wondering why, I say to you, “READ THE TITLE PEOPLE!!!!” Coaching young kids is painful, and not the easy kind of pain you feel when someone lacerates your liver in a bar brawl. I had some fears early on about being responsible for a group a small kids, but I had no idea how miserable they could be. Remember the post I did on using quadrants to help figure out how things will turn out given certain variables? Here is the one for my tee ball season:

Actually, a more realistic version would be this:

To be sure, not all the kids were evil. Some were far better than others at “not hurting their teammates while you weren’t looking” or “listening to anything you have to say,” but for young children in a pack the size of a tee ball team, the dynamic always degenerates into chaos. Whenever you see someone who works in early childhood education, give them a hug. They need it. Now the season is over, and every time I realize I don’t have to spend another Tuesday cajoling the kids into obedience, I smile. (Actually, the games were pretty fun. Practice, not so much.)

The question that necessarily arises at the end of the season is, “Will I do this next year?” It would be easy to cut and run to ensure that I am never, ever around large groups of kids again. If I did that, though, the terrorists would win. (Not Al-Qaeda, I mean the children on the tee ball team.) I don’t want these kids to think that they can beat me by simply playing grab ass and drawing pictures in the dirt.

As nice as it may seem to sit on the sidelines and watch someone other sucker go through all the pains of coaching, I would feel like I was missing out on something. All of the coaches took a certain level of satisfaction in seeing the kids make progress in their abilities during the year. Like a warden marveling at the rehabilitation of a serial arsonist, I really enjoyed helping the kids to learn to throw, catch and hit. So, next year I will do it again, and might even consider becoming a head coach. I guess scorpions just aren’t that bad.

The End Of An Era: No More Calling My Kid A Dickwad

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Here he is reading "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." He has already asked for a kindle. It's getting a little spooky, especially because I am actually considering getting him one.

Malcolm can read. This is a monumental milestone on par with successful potty training, learning to drive and getting drunk and throwing up for the first time. Most people would be excited by such a development, marveling in the wonderfulness of the progression of their kid’s academic career. Me? Not so much.

The other day, Malcolm walked in the room and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was writing a story (a blog post), and, ever the eager little beaver, he asked if he could read it. I quickly scanned the post and realized that I had just memorialized how he had just fucked up all his work at school and then farted in front of the head of the school and his teacher. My heart sank.

If he wasn’t able to read, I could have just told him that my story chronicled the magical journey of a pony to the secret land of huggleberries. His reading as abilities would quickly negate that approach, however, so I told him that he couldn’t read it and that he needed to go wash the car. He looked at my quizzically, turned and ran back to his pretend basketball game. Phew!

One day, though, that solution will be insufficient. He will eventually get a hold of my blog and I cannot even consider my level of shame if he finds out all the nasty things I say about him. My job as a parent is to give him the tools needed to survive in this crazy world and perhaps the most important of those tools is self-confidence. I am thinking it will be a pretty big dent in his self-image if he reads stories here where I refer to him as an “asshole.” Could you imagine the pain you would feel when your kid looks at you with big, sad eyes and asks why wrote mean things about them? Yuck.

So, that’s it folks. I am hereby getting off the “calling my kid nasty things” train. Instead, I’ll get on the “making fun of everyone else in the world and building a positive self image in my child” train. (I’m not sure where, exactly, this train goes, but I am pretty sure it stops in Huggleberrytown.) I will, of course, still honestly describe the silly situations we get ourselves in and the frustrations of raising a kid. I’ll just do it in a way that won’t bring on therapy (probably for both of us) later in life. I am not exactly sure how it will look, but rest assured you’ll be entertained.

Malcolm is a dufus.

(Oops, that kinda slipped out.)

What The Hell Is A Quadrant, And How You Can Use Them In Parenting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I know what you are thinking, “Paul, you and your damn Cartesian coordinates. When will you ever get enough?” Sadly the answer is never. I get on high on math graphs as often as a high school boy huffs paint. I use them all the time, finding value in almost every parenting decision I have to make.

I have included a few here as a sample of how I make decisions. (In case you need some help deciphering the graphs, each axis contains a different truth. In the space between each axis, I identify what you should do when two things are true at the same time.) So let’s take the example of “Should I have more kids?” Here is how we decided whether to have a second kid:

As you can see, most of the time, one or both of your kids are unhappy. When your kids are unhappy, they make you unhappy. As a result, when you have more than one kid most of the time either life sucks or you are actively trying to kill yourself. And this is with only two kids; I hear there are actually people out there with even more than two kids! I can only imagine the horror.

These graphs can also help you out with questions like, “What should I do when I either don’t like my kid’s new friend, or the friend’s parents.” Here’s what to do:

It doesn’t take a degree in advanced Analytical Squirrel Geometry to figure out that if you either like or hate an entire family you should either vacation with them or ignore them altogether. The dicier issue arises when you like the parents and hate the kids or vice versa. Drop off play dates are good at avoiding nerdy, smelly or overly republican parents. If you need an excuse, say something like, “Sorry, our property insurance policy forbids too many people in the house at any time, owing to the stress to the floorboards. Your kid is TOTALLY welcome, though.”

The worst has to be when you like the parents, but hate the kid. Every time you have to interrupt your scintillating conversation to get their mongrel kid to stop chewing your kid’s pants seems like miscarriage of justice. It’s best to just do something that requires no interaction between the kids and no parental involvement. Movies work well, and signing your kids up for some light medical experimentation also fits the bill, especially when you get to hide behind a two sided mirror.

Quadrants can also help with mundane tasks like, “What should I feed my kid for dinner?” Putting each “Child Food Group” on a different axis, you are left with these choices.

This system also does a good job of helping you decide whether a given movie is appropriate for your child. Here’s how:

Just be careful that you don’t accidentally mix up the movies upon execution. On our last trip, we accidentally gave Malcolm Blazing Saddles instead of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in his portable DVD player. By the time we figured out the mistake, he had heard about 20 N-bombs and the same amount of F-bombs. I’m sure therapy is soon to follow.

Lastly, I put together this quadrant to show that they are useful under almost any scenario. I used completely random events to populate the axis, and, sure enough, the graphs are good enough to help you out of almost every bind. Take a look:

By no means should you point a constipated child anywhere near a hot mom. They are likely to blow at any time, and there is no surer way to get eliminated from play date consideration than spattering someone with feces. I also wonder how I can get my get my kid to smell like bacon more often. Maybe one of you can help me out with a graph for that. For once, I am at a loss.

I hope you find these useful. Let me know if they help you get out of any jams.

Coach Paul Is One Pissed Off Mofo

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

The one good thing about being on the Royals is that it is not the Dodgers!

I agreed to become an assistant coach for Malcolm’s tee ball team. You may remember that I said I didn’t want to, but I ended up doing it anyways, mostly because it fulfilled the majority of my volunteer hours for Malcolm’s tee ball league. (I also heard that women love a man in uniform, which sounded good, but upon seeing myself in this Kansas City Royals jersey I realized I would have more luck getting laid in Post Office short shorts.)

One of my main fears in becoming a coach was that I was going to have to manage a large number of butterfly chasing, leg humping demons. I made my piece with the job knowing I was just an assistant and that the ultimate responsibility for discipline would lie with the team’s two head coaches. That was the plan, anyways.

I survived the early parts of the season doing what I do best, acting like a big kid myself. I ran with the kids, goofed off with them, and when they acted up I got even sillier. This coincided perfectly with my parenting approach to fight idiocy with insanity. Generally, this worked out pretty well and I have actually enjoyed the first few practices and games.

Yesterday, however, was another story. The kids were awful. During throwing drills, they tried to throw more than one ball at a time. During batting practice, the strayed from our strict “stay behind the cones” policy, nearly leading to me getting hit in the man-tonsils with a bat. They dog-piled on each other during fielding practice. During breaks in the action, they relentlessly tried to cover each others’ faces with their mitts. It wasn’t so much a baseball practice as it was a fraternity game of grab ass.

Instead of redirecting their behavior in my normal manner, I quickly became irritated. I tried to lecture them. I threatened them with some time on the bench. At one point, when the second baseman and the shortstop engaged in some greco-roman wrestling in between at bats, I actually asked them if they would rather wrestle or play baseball. (The answer, which I knew right after I asked, came back a resounding “WRESTLING!!!!”) After a fourth kid asked me if he could stop and get a snack, I irately barked at him that he needed to eat his snack BEFORE practice, muttering under my breath that he could stand to skip a snack or two if wanted to do more than waddle around the base paths.

Exasperated, I took some time to reflect after practice on the debacle that had just taken place. I realized that these weren’t ball players, they were five and six-year-olds. In my attempts to mold them into lean mean tee ball machines, I forgot the whole reason that baseball exists. It’s fun! The kids weren’t trying to ruin my life, they just wanted to have a good time. My job as coach should be to make baseball enjoyable, and no one is having any fun when I act like a dick wad.

So, from now own, I need to go back to goofy Coach Paul. You can draw more flies with cotton candy than angry hornets, and these kids will learn because we are all having fun together. Actually going about this may prove the challenge, but I’m certain that this (rededicated) man in uniform will get the job done. Or perhaps I’ll just wear some short shorts. That’s gotta be good for a few laughs.

OK, You Win, No More Swim Class

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Like most parents, Amy and I spend a fair amount of time telling Malcolm that he can’t have what he wants. Sure, we bend on some small stuff, letting him gorge himself on salami and getting him his very own gimp for his birthday. Our job, though, is mostly to rain on his parade. I’m not sure if  Amy and I enjoy getting him back for the misery he inflicts on us or if it’s because he wants outrageous things (he just asked for a newer Iphone, “like daddy’s), but it seems most of our interactions nowadays involve him asking for something and not getting it.

But I really wanted that wallet!

There is however, one aspect to his development that he is going get his way with. He hates swim class. It’s not even a trivial hatred either, like hating REO Speedwagon for making so many hits. Malcolm hates swim class and is never afraid to tell me about. (He’s not into dropping F-bombs but if it was, Mondays and Wednesdays would go a lot like this:

Malcolm, are you ready for swim class?

Fuck swim class.

It’s annoying too, because Malcolm genuinely enjoys swimming and from our perch at the Oakland YMCA viewing area, he appears to have a great time in the class, smiling and flailing about in the water like a distressed sea lion. Ask him immediately before and after class, though, and he’d tell you that he’d rather be getting an enema. (Mental note: find out why he knows what that means.)

Every once in a while, however, good ideas outlive their usefulness. (Just ask the inventor of the 1994 website jokesaboutjapanesradiation.com). After much consideration, we decided that the price of swim class is too high. Gym memberships are expensive, and even if they grew on trees, his current class has five other mouth breathers in it, giving him a grand total of about four minutes of actual teaching time per class. When you factor in the late start time of the class, which inevitably leads to him going to sleep late on a weeknight, we get a grumpy kid who puts up a fight to go to a class which doesn’t really appear to help him actually learn to swim all that well. We pay for this? I’D rather be getting an enema.

I informed Malcolm that he had the choice whether to continue the current swim class or to look for a new one over the summer, and he grinned. With the evil grin of an interrogator who gets a name of spy after a few hours of testicular electrocution, he looked at me and said, “Thanks daddy, I don’t want to go to swim class any more.” A part of me wants to arbitrarily take something away (like a stuffed animal) just to show him that I still run this joint, but since he just asked me if we could move to Texas to watch basketball games, I think there will be plenty of opportunity for me to assert myself. If not, I can just be mean to his gimp.

The Grass Is Always Greener: Why Being Invited To Birthday Parties Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Some doozie of a title, eh? I could have shortened it to be: The Grass Is Always Greener: WBITBPIWICUTB, but I am not sure it would have the same descriptive effect. Then again, it would probably make you want to read the post just as much…

For the longest time, our weekends were our own. Amy, Malcolm and I were free to plan outings, see friends and, gasp, once in a while even do nothing. It was an underpants wearin’, chocolate pudding sharin’, boombox blarin’ period of time. Except for one thing: I was ashamed.

I heard stories about parents shepherding their kids to multiple children’s birthday parties, some even leaving one party and to go to another. They would roll their eyes and say, “You know how THAT goes.” But inside, I didn’t. Sure, every once in a while we had a friend or close preschool classmate who invited Malcolm to partake in some birthday parties, but for the most part, almost every child on this planet celebrated their birthday without including us on the guest list. That’s a lot to take in, especially when you factor in all of the birthday cake it means we weren’t eating.

Who wouldn't want THIS kid at their party?

Mostly, I considered our lack of invitations were due to Malcolm’s penchant for acting like Charlie Sheen. Deep down, though, I wondered whether my own shenanigans were holding us back from the birthday party circuit. Is it possible that my inappropriate drinking and (even more inappropriate) ogling were not the charming party trick I thought them to be? My shame was larger than the tooth gap in a Tundra Wookie.

Evidently, I am as charming as I make myself out to be as Malcolm has been hitting the birthday circuit pretty hard this year. He and little friends all get together to hang out out at a bouncy house emporium or gymnastics studio and fill their gullets full of pizza and cake a couple of times each weekend. I show up at most of the events and when one of the other parents says that they have a bunch of different parties to go to that weekend, I DO know what they are talking about. I should, for or all intents and purposes, be ecstatic.

Sadly, I am not. Most of our weekends are now shot with ferrying Malcolm around to various parties, shopping for cheap plastic pieces of crap to give to the birthday honorees, and shopping for new clothes now that I get to stuff my own gullet full of pizza and cake at every party. Far from the birthday party nirvana I thought I would be enjoying, I am almost rooting for some sort of rotavirus to rip through Malcolm’s school that would blissfully put an end to the parties for a while. Alas, that is not likely to happen (until it’s my week to bring snacks to the school!)

There is but one benefit to the birthday party circuit; that wonderful parent who a) announces ahead of time that you can just drop off your kid at the party, and b) either I don’t know them or I don’t like them (you can’t really drop off your kid at your friend’s party, can you?) Sure you still have to pick up the gift for the kid, but that gift comes with a gift just for you: time. Drop off parties often involve two whole hours of watching golf, napping or just sitting in the parking lot enjoying the quietness of car free of whining, tantrums and little kid farts. It is pure bliss, even if only for a short period of time.

So be careful what you wish for in life, you just might get it. Unless you wish for pudding. Pudding never disappoints.

What Is A Good Movie For Kids?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

We love movies around here. Actually, if I am being honest I would say that I love eating popcorn and seeing movies is a pretty good way to stuff my gullet full of buttery awesomeness without looking like too much of a glutton. To me, eating popcorn and watching previews is just as enjoyable as watching the movie itself, even when the movie contains hot lesbian sex scenes between ballet dancers. Luckily, Malcolm shares my love of popcorn and movies, and we see a decent amount of movies as a family.

Of course, this presents the tricky issue of what movies we allow Malcolm to watch. Some movies are easily identifiable as movies that Malcolm should not be watching (say, any movies that contain the following: “hot” “lesbian” or “sex scenes.”) The lines between kid and adult movies is blurring nowadays, however, mostly due to the large number of cartoons that are coming out. Just because a movie is a cartoon, however, it does not mean that we want Malcolm to watch it.

This is primarily because the people who make kids’ movies think that children are obsessed with screaming, name calling and violence. Seriously, you’d think that most kids movies are training manuals for interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. I am not saying that all cartoon heroes should be lauded for snuggling with their mommies or eating all their veggies, but it would be nice if the movies our kids watch weren’t laced with gun violence and interpersonal cruelty. To be sure, Malcolm will learn that you can accomplish many of your goals by screaming obscenities at your enemies and then blowing a hole in their head with a shotgun, but the proper time to learn this is high school (when you have been drinking!) and not in a movie theater as a five-year-old.

We need more movies about sweet little dinosaurs!

We found ourselves in a bit of no man’s land the other day when we took Malcolm to see “The Illusionist” an animated film that has been nominated for an Academy Award. While the movie get kudos for not muddling in the gutter of childrens’ themes, it did portray most adults as binge drinking, chain smokers who don’t speak so much as mumble gibberish. Amy and I nervously looked at each other throughout the movie wondering just how we were going to explain this kind of behavior to Malcolm without acknowledging that it is how I spend most of my time on Wednesday nights hanging out with the softball dudes. In the end, we did nothing, leaving the heavy lifting for another day.

I am not sure what a perfect movie for kids would look like. If pressed, I would guess it would be Ellen Degeneres reading math problems and stressing the importance of being a good listener. Sound boring? As long as Malcolm and I had a tub of popcorn to split, we’d be just fine.

The Difference Between A Stay At Home Dad and A Nanny

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I have been hanging around with a lot of nannies lately. I had previously been blacklisted by the South Asian nannies at our neighborhood park, so I have not actually spent a good deal of time with paid child care providers. (I guess they understand a lot more English than I thought!) Of course, my recent interactions have given me the opportunity to compare the relative similarity of our positions and came up with some key differentiators, in case you were wondering.

I may not have a degree, but at least I have enthusiasm!

Job qualifications: A nanny applies for a job, interviews with the prospective family, provides references and often undergoes a background check. They usually have an extensive background raising children of their own. Many nannies have even taken CPR/first aid training. Me? I got this job by getting laid and losing my job. I was about as qualified to work in my current capacity as an inbred monkey trying to litigate a court case (sadly, our records would have not been much different. I ended my law career without winning a single case.) The more I think about it, the more I realize that there should be some sort of license for becoming a stay at home parent. Why is there a huge need to heavily regulate positions like a “notary” or “veterinary acupuncturist” when the people responsible for the safety and growth of children need not even graduate from elementary school? Whereas the nannies are well compensated, well qualified professionals, I am just well stomached.

Attentiveness. I stroll out of my house in flip flops and a hoodie and seem surprised when Malcolm asks me for simple things like snacks (or pants!) I am also quite accomplished at “Dad chicken,” a game we stay at home dads play to see who will let their kid wander away the farthest without going and fetching them. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit so well with the nanny crowd, who have to wander all over the park looking for the kids while I type furiously away on my phone playing Scrabble. I take my negligence as a badge of courage; the nannies see it as grounds for dismissal and usually don’t eschew it as a virtue the way I do. I guess that goes with being a professional.

Farting. At a play date the other day, I put myself in the uncomfortable position of having farted within earshot of the nanny for the boy Malcolm was playing with. Loudly. Twice. Stay at home dads use farting as (nonverbal?) communication, like bees dancing. Consider the following:

Hey dude.

What’s up?

[fart]

Aha, you had bacon and eggs for breakfast! Mmmm bacon.

Yep, how’s your kid?

[fart]

That’s too bad.

Judging by the speed in which the nanny moved away from me yesterday after said flatulence, nannies DO NOT communicate in the same manner. I have yet to figure out exact nature of their nonverbal communication, but when I do I will pass it along. Until then, I think I am going to try and cut down on the southern rumblings. But not the bacon. There will always be room for bacon.

And You Thought I Wasn’t CFO Material: Big Daddy Paul Has A Job!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

My wife, Amy, is many things. She is smart, funny, smoking hot and terrible at basketball. As of today, though, she can add the title “Small Business Owner” to her repertoire. Yes, after years of working for large companies, she decided that the time had come for her to strike out on her own. Her new company is called Wilson Insight, and it has something to do with prawns.  If you want to find out more about her venture and doubt that it is related to seafood, you can find her new website here. Whatever you do, do not look for it here, or you will be very, very disappointed.

When Amy decided to go ahead and do this, we discussed the possibility of me going back to work, mostly to ensure that we had a steady source of income while she got things off the ground. After contemplating this, we realized A) I have no discernible skill that someone would pay me for, B) my standards of cleanliness and hygiene do not meet the requirements of the working world and C) I don’t want to go and get a job. I like my gig. While it doesn’t pay very well, it gives us some sanity in an otherwise hectic and insane world. I am able to do all the little things (grocery shopping, bill paying, axe murdering) during the weekdays so that our evenings and weekends can be spent on more leisurely activities.

Congratulations Amy! This is what Board meetings will be like!

Instead of giving up all this and have me return to the working world, we decided to capitalize on my availability to get things done. I will be the CFO and Secretary of the new company, the snarky IT guy, and the pervert at the water cooler who keeps inventing reasons to touch her sweater. I will book travel, proofread documents and, since she will be working out of a home office, be the lunch lady (I gotta get me a hair net!) She will be free to focus on the big picture and I hope that big picture involves me sitting on the beach with a fuzzy drink and someone else looking after our kid. Until then, I am happy to do things like yell at the phone company for botching what should be an easy phone line installation.

I am so proud of Amy, and know that she is going to shine in her new role. I suggest you take a look at her new website, wish her well, and then chastise her for shtooping her secretary. She can totally do better.

Should I Teach My Kid Poker?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Malcolm idolizes me. (That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since most of you must feel the same way.) He likes baseball, salami and word games because I do, and even adores Amy just because he sees how fond I am of her. I count my blessings in this regard, as if he were into figure skating and vegetarianism, I might put him up for adoption.

Often, he asks me where I spend my Wednesday nights when I go out with my friends. I tell him that we go to a bar and play cards. Of course, he wants to do the same with me, but society usually frowns on five year-olds at bars gambling until midnight. I told him that he can’t go with me until he’s ten.

I gotta say, this would be a pretty sweet look for the final table at the World Series of Poker

I have, however, started teaching him the game of poker. I like poker, but probably for the wrong reasons to teach a five-year-old the game: I like gambling. I like bluffing. I like making fun of my friends when something bad happens to them. (All this, with beer!) You can’t really expect to explain all this to your kid, though, and not have it end up going drastically, horribly wrong.

I guess my biggest problem with teaching Malcolm poker is the idea that you can get ahead in life by lying. His eyes lit up with wonder when I told him that if he made a big bet and I folded, he would win the hand even if my cards were better than his. Lying is an age-appropriate development milestone for which you need to systematically counteract, and I have some misgivings that teaching the art of bluffing will somehow conflict with our “lying is always bad, unless it’s because you cheat on your spouse” routine.

For now, I will let him learn the lessons of developing confidence in your hand, knowing when you might get beat, knowing when to walk away, and when to run. (Sorry, the Kenny Rogers reference was kind of mandatory.) He will also learn the social aspect of the game and begin to understand probabilities. For this, I am willing to give lectures on the differences between lying, cheating and bluffing. Probably, they will mirror the message: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

I’ll let you know how it goes; I’m sure it won’t end up well.

P.S. Stay tuned, Big Daddy Paul will be making a MAJOR announcement on Monday. I am sure you will want to hear all about it. Just to give you a little tease, it rhymes with “Blamee fizz hearting fur bone schlumpany.”

I Ate Pig’s Feet, Why Aren’t I A Better Father?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I was many things this weekend. I was a good decent husband, a drinking buddy, heroic bowling teammate, and under-achieving basketball player. I ate beef tongue, rabbit, quail, octopus, pig feet, chicken wings, siu mai, har gao, and a damn fine cheeseburger. I drank a Kentucky high ball, a top shelf margarita, dark beer, light beer, and red, white, and orange wine. I watched football, basketball, the Season 4 finale to Dexter and a musical. I was pretty much everything this weekend, except one thing: a father.

I guess technically was still related to little Malcolm, I just didn’t do much for him this weekend. Our Friday and Saturday nights were booked with child-unfriendly activities, so we signed up Malkie for two nights of sleepovers. We did feel a little guilty about ditching Malcolm for the first part of the weekend, so our plan for Sunday (Amy’s birthday) was to take Malcolm to the musical version of Shrek with our friends and their kids. It was going to be an epic weekend.

The first part of our weekend actually was. Amy and I had really cool meal at an upscale Italian restaurant in the city, eating all sorts of weird shit. You know you have stretched your culinary horizons when “foie gras stuffed quail,” doesn’t top the list of kooky foods at a meal. It didn’t, and the meal was even better because, instead of ordering the second cheapest bottle of wine on the wine-list (which we normally do,) we ordered a variety of wines by the glass. Since our server picked the wines according to what we ordered, they paired amazingly with the food. Yum.

Saturday was a pretty fun day, too. I took Malcolm out to a greasy spoon for lunch and then he tagged along with me to the gym, where he watched me play basketball for a few hours. After dropping Malcolm off for sleepover number two, we went out for drinks with our close friends and then to my friend Greg’s birthday. We managed to stay out past midnight and then slept in past Malcolm usual 7:00 am wake up time. It was almost like we didn’t really have a kid!

Why can't all moments be like this?

Sunday came and we were parents again. Sometimes you do stuff without your kid and when are re-introduced to them, you realize how much you love them and missed them. This was not one of those times. He was awful, always doing things he knew would annoy us, and no matter how many times I said, “Please don’t ruin mommy’s birthday by acting like a jackass,” he continued in the same manner. It may have been Malcolm acting out at being ignored all weekend, it may have been that I had temporarily forgotten what an excited five-year-old acts like in public, but whatever the case, Amy’s birthday was an absolute disaster. Instead of talking through issues with him and trying to figure out the best way of dealing with the behavior, I took the easy road and threatened to chain him to his dresser and take away all his birthday presents. Needless to say, it didn’t work and Amy’s actual birthday fell flat, mostly because we realized that we shouldn’t have tried to schedule so much for one weekend.

Monday morning meant the return of the routine. While I can’t say that I will miss having the freedom of being childless and carefree, it was nice to have my son back. Of course, it may be a different matter when I finally unchain him from his dresser, but for now, it is nice.

Happy birthday to my beautiful and fun wife Amy, and while she sometimes runs over odd things in the car, or steps in poop at inopportune times, I am so lucky to be with her. I hope you had a good birthday baby.

Go Giants! Boo, Groin Fungus!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This has been quite a year for us. Malcolm learned to read, Amy designed a kick ass software product and I discovered that jock itch can be kept at bay by bathing regularly and using soap. Yes, we’re all very happy over here.

I am particularly excited about the way we have come together over our beloved San Francisco Giants. We started the season out by making a trip down to Spring Training in Arizona, reveling in the sun and watching the team get ready for the season. Malcolm especially took to the team, a minor miracle given that my “one treat” rule inevitably required that he make a Sophie’s Choice between ice cream sundaes and snow cones at the park each day.

Next year, we work on proper hat attire.

Our devotion to the team continued during the season, with us watching to games on TV, listening to games on the radio, attending a handful of games, and watching countless hours of highlights on the computer. (It’s always entertaining to me to hear Malcolm tell me where to go on the internet for the right replays, “Daddy, you have to go to the Game Recaps tab on MLB.com!”) Amy got into the act as well, listening to games on the radio on her way home from work and following games on the internet while on business trips. We have come together and bonded over every development that the Giants’ year has offered, making me happier than a horny dog at a prosthetic leg factory.

So it was yesterday, in the last game of the season, that our Giants made the playoffs by beating the heated rival San Diego Padres. (I had hoped that the Giants would have clinched a day earlier when we were at the game, but like the lap dancer who reaches into your pocket and steals your Iphone, life isn’t perfect.) As we ran around the house screaming and giving each other hugs and high fives throughout the game, I took some time to appreciate the moment. I know a lot of people who don’t really share their passions with their family, opting instead to use their interests as a sanctuary from the complexities of family life. Not me, at least for baseball. (I still prefer to huff paint all by myself in the garage. That’s ME time!)

The season is by no means over, and we will ride the ups and downs of post-season baseball together. There will be teachable moments throughout the playoffs for sure, (be a good teammate, it’s OK to lose, as long as you try your best, don’t grab your crotch and spit.) There will be triumphs and disappointments. And maybe, just maybe, there will be World Series win. Even if we fall short of our goal, I am ecstatic over the many happy moments we were able to share during the season. Not, “I just kicked jock itch!” happy, but pretty darn close.

Do As I Say, Not As They Do

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Parenting is difficult. It takes a lot of work to figure out how you want to raise your kids and who you want to be as parents. It’s even harder to remain consistent once you have formulated your parenting game plan. Harder still? Dealing with parents whose approach is drastically different than yours.

Daddy, you've been holding out on me. This stuff is awesome!!!

One of the chief ways I get into trouble is snacking. Many parents give their kids easy access to snacks and this often includes an occasional treat during the day. Our house is mostly snack free. I don’t necessarily disagree with snack-time, it’s just if we lived like that I would have to be way more prepared than I am willing to be. Also, I love me some snacks and a properly stocked pantry would beckon to me for most of the day. Invariably, when snacks are presented during play dates, Malcolm shoots me a look like, “Don’t fuck this up for me!” and I have to decide whether he gets to join the munchathon. Either way, I come out a loser: if I say no, I am the Grinch Who Stole Fruit Chews. Even if I say yes, Malcolm knows that there is a different way of handling the situation and that if I really loved him, I would offer him a snack once in a while.

I also run into trouble with other parents on the extent of parental involvement on play dates. Some parents believe that play dates are for everyone involved, meaning the parents and kids all play with each other in the preschool version of an orgy. No offense, but if I wanted to actually spend time playing with my kid, I would have stayed home and played Uno with Malcolm for the 100,00th time. In my eyes, play dates are arranged so that I get a break from hands-on parenting and maybe even get to have a conversation that doesn’t end with Malcolm telling me I’m not invited to his birthday party. Why on earth would you jeopardize all that by having us actually interact with the kids? No Sir!

When confronted with the clash of parenting ideologies, I usually cave. This is mostly because people don’t like me very much as it is and I worry that enforcing my own rules too rigidly would only cause my stock to sink even further. I also consider it a safe hedge to act like other parents, just in case my own views are so wildly wrong that, if left unchecked, Malcolm will one day turn out like Paris Hilton. So go ahead! Hand out cookies and we’ll all sit around playing house together. I’ll get my revenge later, when Malcolm sits in the corner by himself without a snack in sight.

Paul Schwartz, Sexist Jerk

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

We stay at home dads are still somewhat of a novelty in the world. To some we are the vanguard of a new movement designed to bring equality to the world of raising a family. To others, we are merely unemployed schmucks. I like to think I am the former and do as much as I can to confront the stereotype that men cannot be good stay at home parents.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I reacted to hearing that a neighborhood boy might be interested in babysitting Malcolm so that I could go play softball on Wednesday. My initial thought was, “Wha? A boy looking after Malcolm? They’ll spend the whole time throwing rocks at cats!!!” Somewhere deep down in the nether regions of my brain (right next to the part that thinks Metallica is still cool) a little voice told me that the gender of the teenager looking after Malcolm somehow mattered.

In my defense, much of my hesitation rested on the fact that I was once a 16 year-old boy and know exactly how that brain works. A teenage boy’s brain operates on the following loop: think about sex, think about breasts, think about beer, think about sex, wonder where dinner is, think about sex, break something. Notice, there is a distinct lack of anything paternal in all that, mostly because as a society we don’t do a very good job of preparing men for family life. I never baby sat when I was growing up, and none of my friends did either.

The two animals stare at each other nervously, wondering just what it is they should be doing.

While the girls were spending time with small children, I collected spent shotgun cartridges. I did not change a diaper until I was in my 30’s and honestly thought that the best way to soothe an upset baby was to give it 7-up. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with younger siblings, maybe it’s because both my parents worked outside the home, or maybe it’s because Mr. Mom didn’t come out until I was 13, but I didn’t really know how to look after a child until I actually had one. (Luckily, this is one job that is forgiving about on-the-job-training.)

Men are more involved in hands-on parenting than ever, and my hope is that this kid is proof of the effect of that trickling down. More importantly, I hope that he can shut down the sex/Metallica/shotgun shell part of his brain long enough to look after Malcolm for a few hours. He’ll get his chance, as I would let a llama babysit Malcolm if it had enough references. I’ll know if I am wrong, though, if the neighbor’s cat (or worse yet, Malcolm) is walking around in a cast tomorrow.

Please, Please, Please Let School F’ing Start Already!!!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

The beginning of the school year is a time honored traditional whereby the parents of school kids pretend to be really sad when their kids march off to school, leaving the house quiet(er) and the parents sane(r). Undoubtedly, mornings can get a bit hectic preparing lunches, washing accumulated grit off of faces, and cramming breakfast down tiny little pie holes. Even so, the euphoria that follows walking out the gate at your child’s school with the realization that you won’t have to pick them up for 3-6 hours is quite similar to the feeling one has after snorting cocaine off of a strippers’ chest. Yeyo! (If that metaphor doesn’t work for you, you are welcome to imagine the euphoria created by snorting cocaine off of the chest of playful little puppies.)

No, we're not having any fun this summer....

It seems that every kid I know has started school. While the stay at home parents of all these kids are kicking it by the pool, eating bon-bons and toasting martinis to their good lot in life, I am home with Malcolm. I am not jealous of them, I assure you. (It’s more like, “I would sell one of my kidneys to be like you!”) While they are out partying like rock stars, I am battling with Malcolm at the grocery store over whether he should be allowed to touch the stuff in other people’s carts. Sigh.

Before you go accusing me of being one of those stay at home parents who whines about being home with the kid, consider this: … Shit! I have no defense. I am now one of those parents who whines about about being home with the kids! I guess an attitude adjustment is in order, meaning I should start extolling the virtues of conversations like this:

Me: OK, Malcolm, it’s time to put your clothes on.

Him: No!

Me: You said you wanted to go play baseball at 11 o’clock, it’s now 11 o’clock. If you want to go play baseball, you need to put on some clothes.

Him: No!

Me: OK, whatever.

Him: Actually, I’m ready to put clothes on.

Me: Do you want to pick them out, or do you want me to do it for you?

Him: You pick them out.

Me: OK, put these clothes on.

Him: No! I don’t want to wear these clothes.

Me: Malcolm, I am going to drink the acid out of these batteries. That is going to make me take a long nap. I don’t want you to call anyone or do anything. Just wait for mommy to get home tonight, OK?

Him: OK.

I got two weeks until he goes back full time. I’d say wish me luck, but I don’t luck. I need cocaine and some puppies.

I Guess There Is One Thing I Will Not Tolerate In Our Bathroom

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I hate doing stuff around the house. Perhaps this is the reason that our house looks like a clutter bomb just went off and has more spiders in it than humans. Alas, I knew that my housework hiatus was finished when I found a mushroom growing in our bathroom. I’ve had mushrooms in pizza and mushrooms in soup, and I even had mushrooms on prom night, but mushrooms in the bathtub? Yikes!!! Somewhere, deep down inside me, the beer drinking slacker died, replaced by a mighty Bob Villa-inspired phoenix springing forth out of the ashes.

Daddy, that thing I just ate made me feel a little ... fuzzy.

I hadn’t really figured out how I was going to go about getting Malcolm to agree to go to Home Depot with me to begin the process of unfungaling and re-grouting our shower. Luckily, fate was on my side this day, as Malcolm threw a ball into his ceiling fan, causing the light  to shatter and sending shards of glass cascading everywhere in his room. I saw the opening and I drove straight through it: “Malcolm, now we are going to have to go to the hardware store and figure out how to fix the light. This is really bad thing that you have done.” Inside, I was beaming! Score one for the home team! Sure, this meant that I was going to either have to replace the light fixture on Malcolm’s fan (or worse, replace the whole thing!) but this paled in comparison to having a whining brat running all around the store, throwing merchandise everywhere and proudly informing anyone who would listen how much he hates my guts.

Malcolm was more than a bit puzzled as to why we spent most of the time at the store in the cleaning solution and caulking aisles. “Daddy, I thought we needed a new ceiling fan?” he asked, at one point. I assured him that we were almost ready to head over to the ceiling fans and constantly chastised him for why we were there, “Remember, you did a really bad thing.” Much to my amazement, this actually worked, and he was pretty well behaved while I read instructions on the back of anti-fungal cleaners. Sadly, Home Depot does not appear to sell replacement globes to the ceiling fans they sell, so I ended up having to buy a whole new fan. Even worse, the replacement ceiling fan we bought is awesome: the light is a mini-earth, and there are stars and moons all over the blades. I am sure Malcolm has taken away this from the experience: destroy something large in the house and it will be replaced by something way better. I’m pissed.

We got home and Malcolm got to watch me scrape all the infected grout out the cracks in the shower. To his credit, he did not ever say, “You missed a spot!” I offered him the chance to help, but he graciously declined, muttering something under his breath about not wanting to inhale potentially poisonous spores. Soon, I had the caulk gun out and was spreading sealer around like it was icing on a cake. Both of us were extremely happy as nothing makes boys giggle with glee as much as the words “caulk” and “gun.” Having assured myself that I had rid our bathroom of any further pizza ingredients, we piled back downstairs, started up a game of Life, and picked a date next year when we planned on replacing his ceiling fan. Remember that beer guy? He’s back!

Ack! My Kid Is Just Like Me!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories, Malcolm Stories

Meeting Malcolm for the first time was one of the best moments of my life, ranking right up there with getting the game winning hit in the 1982 Little League championship and the first time I ever tried Queso Fundido. The kid was a spitting image of me, and I cried knowing that he was going to be every bit of the hunk that I am today. (I also cried at all the horrible names that Amy called me in front of the nursing staff, but I try not to focus on the negative aspects of Malcolm’s arrival.) Throughout his childhood, both Amy and I have marveled at the little ways Malcolm reminds us of ourselves.

At Malcolm’s tee ball game the other day, I realized that there is a downside to having your kid share your traits. Malcolm was consistently the last kid out of the dugout, unable (every inning apparently) to keep track of his hat and mitt. As his coaches yelled out wondering where he was, I felt responsible. I have the organizational skills of chicken running around without its head, and evidently Malcolm thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way to approach life. Getting us both out of the house at the same time closely resembles the chaos of a meth lab being raided by federal agents. Sometimes I wish the apple fell farther from the tree.

Sadly, this is the same outfit I wore to my prom.

I have also noticed that Malcolm shares my disdain for the fashion rules of polite society. He seems to select his outfits to ensure that every color in the rainbow is represented. Lately he has even compounded his fashion faux pas by attempting to wear as many clothes as possible each day. Today, he came out of his room  with four different sets of pajamas on. I was the same way growing up, looking like I got dressed each day by randomly selecting clothes after a bomb blew up at the clown college.

One of the more interesting ways that Malcolm is showing off my traits is the comments he makes while watching baseball games. I have high expectations for my Giants, and am quick to announce my displeasure whenever they do not meet my lofty standards. Malcolm has picked up on this, and if you watch games with him, you can routinely hear him make comments like, “What are you thinking?” or “Dude, you are killing me!” I have even gone so far as to try and teach him the razz, “Grab some pine, meat!!!” (for when an opposing player strikes out) and am eagerly waiting when he can actually use it properly. Most of the time, he butchers it, saying,”Grab some meat, piney,” or other close derivation.

My heart melts a little bit when I see my good looking little boy, sitting on our messy couch with four pairs of pajamas on, yelling at the baseball players on the TV. Yes, a melting heart, kind of like the cheese on a perfectly executed Queso Fundido.

Better Than The World Cup: Soccer At The Park With Malcolm

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

People have kids for many reasons. Some people have kids because they feel a natural desire to reproduce, or need extra hands to pick crops in the fields. Others don’t really want kids, but receive a little bundle of joy as the reminder of a drunken hookup nine long months ago. Still others want to repopulate the earth with kids bearing their political affiliation and/or genetic markers. Not me.

I wanted to have a kid so I could play soccer. I am too old and too fat to go out and join a soccer league by myself, so I figured the easiest way for me to get back into the sport I played all throughout my childhood was to get Amy pregnant, somehow make it through the newborn and toddler phases, and then get to the point where the kid was old enough to want to run around on a soccer field with me. Sure, it’s not the easiest route to play “the beautiful game,” but then again, it’s no worse than having a healthy brood of kids for the sole purpose to revive the movement to reestablish nacho bars in school cafeterias.

Our neighbors got it right, they brought a nacho machine to a block party!

(I grew up on them, why can’t everyone else?!)

At the park today, Malcolm and I started up a game of soccer with some other kids and a fellow stay at home dad. I felt a certain sense of jubilation as we ran around pretending to be world cup stars and watching with pride as the kids passed the ball to each other and celebrated after scoring goals against us. I don’t really care whether Malcolm was any good (he wasn’t) but just the the fact that he was out there and having fun with me made me smile.  All in all, not a bad day at the park, I burned some calories, scored a few goals, and fulfilled a lifelong dream. Now, bring on the nacho bar petition!

Beat It Kid, You Aint Coming Over To Our House

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I’m doing some double duty this week, because I am pretty sure most of you don’t want to hear about my stupid dietary fetishes. Here is the regularly scheduled content:

When I pick up Malcolm from preschool, I am usually met with a herd of thundering little legs welcoming me to their school. Sometimes, this makes me feel like a rock star, because I am usually not so well received. (Actually most of the time, when I walk in the room, people grab a phone or a newspaper and to make it seem like they are busy and cannot talk to me.) Nine times out of ten, the kids jump up and down and tell me that Malcolm has graciously accepted their request to have a play date our house. Usually, the play date has been scheduled that day.

At first, I took these requests seriously and attempted to discuss the play date possibility with the other kid’s parents when I saw them at the school. Then I realized two things: first, I noticed that I don’t really have the time to do play dates more than once or twice a week. If I have to choose between taking Malcolm to the park and playing baseball with him myself or watching him beat the tar out of one of his classmates, I’ll gladly choose the former. Second, I noticed that I either don’t like the kids or probably wouldn’t like their parents, or more often than not, both. ( I would also consider the fact that the other parents would either not like Malcolm and/or me, but I have recently come to the conclusion that we are both awesome and that everyone else would be lucky to have us in their presence.) Check out this post for a more detailed description of the play dating scene.

Everybody to our house for a party? Not likely!

Now, when the kids all come running at me to tell me about their impeding extracurricular festivities, I smile and say, “Sounds good dude, I just gotta talk to your parents first.” I then hightail it out of there like the guy who yelled, “Drill Baby, Drill!” at the meeting of the Louisiana Fishing Association dinner. I am pretty fast, and have never actually had to break down and agree to a play date that hasn’t been set up in advance. I will do a lot for Malcolm, but no one says I have to do everything.  Makes sense. After all, I am a rock star.

Have you ever had any impromptu play dates?

Parental Responsibilities I Never Knew I Hated

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

No doubt, I miss this!

As kids grow, your job changes. I am definitely sad that about things Malcolm and I used to do that we no longer do: the shared afternoon nap on the couch, the little sounds he’d make when falling asleep on my chest, the way he’d shriek “daddy!” just when hot moms would lean over his stroller and briefly expose themselves. Yep, a lot stuff to miss. There are, however, some some things I don’t have to do anymore that I am totally and utterly glad I don’t have to do. Here are a few:

Putting on the seat belt. I never knew how much I hated bending over and getting Malcolm strapped into the booster seat until the day when I told him I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I felt like the nudist on the first day of bare-ass naked camp. So free, so unencumbered. I think deep down, I disliked having to put his seat belt on myself because, being in such close proximity, there was always a chance that Malcolm would take a swipe at me and hit me in the face. He can’t reach me in the front seat, and I feel much safer.

Wiping his butt. It may seem like a no-brainer that I would dislike wiping Malcolm’s butt, but I never forgot how awful it was to clean up a poopy diaper. Having to wipe feces out of every nook and cranny in your kid’s backside was a detail oriented task that offended all five of my senses.  I hated every second of it, and relished the comparatively small task of wiping Malcolm after he pooped in the toilet. Having just told Malcolm that I am out of the butt wiping game altogether, he now is the exclusive service provider for all aspects of the bowel evacuation process. Now, when he heads into the bathroom with a copy of the Wall Street Journal, I smile at the realization that I have don’t have to do anything.

Getting him dressed. I used to think I liked doing this. In the playground of my mind, I believed that sat and talked and played silly little games that involve underpants covering the neenee, sockies covering toesies, and a ticklefest every time his shirt would go over his head. Seeing other parents get their kids dressed at swim class, though, made me realize the actual process of getting your kids to put clothes on involves cajoling, threats and the child trying to wander off and do anything and everything but get dressed. The parents are exasperated micromanagers who, when they have finally managed to complete their task, can only claim that their child is now dressed and ready to begin their day. Meanwhile, I sit in the corner of the locker room playing scrabble on my phone, and don’t really care how long it takes Malcolm to get ready. Pure bliss.

Any of you glad to be done with a stage of parenting?

I Take The Family To Six Flags

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

8 am: I buy season passes online. A couple of friends told me that they are totally digging Six Flags in Vallejo with their kids. I am anxious about what I am going to do with Malcolm over the summer, so I figure this would give us an easy out during the week. The only theme park we have taken Malcolm to is Disneyland, so the bar is high. Still, Malcolm is not very adventurous, and as long as they have a train, we should be in the clear.

11 am: Rode the train. In spite of the fact that it has a “Thomas The Train” theme, it has all the production values of a trailer park porno. Looking around, that seems to be the norm. The rides don’t have all the bells and whistles that Disneyland has, and the difference is notable. Malcolm doesn’t seem to care that much, even though the ride lasts a pretty pathetic 60 seconds.

11:30 am: Just saw a second toddler stumbling around with a 32 ounce soda and wearing a leash. I understand the comparisons between having children and dogs and all, but I draw the line at the leash. I can’t help but to chuckle, though, at the thought that if you didn’t fill your kid’s gullet with soda all day, you probably wouldn’t need the leash. Just saying.

12 pm: So, the first time it happened, I thought it was just a overly affectionate high school kid, but now I see it is official corporate policy. All of the park employees here give you high fives when getting on and off the rides. This does make the lines a little slower, but I kinda like the personalized touch. I’ll tell you what, though, I sure wouldn’t wanna work here. Having to touch all those sticky, snotty, dirty hands a million times would get seriously gross.

2 pm: We brought our lunches and headed back to the parking lot to eat them. We did this because A) I am cheap and don’t want to pay $8 for a meal for each of us, and B) I try to avoid feeding Malcolm crap if I can avoid it. Don’t get me wrong, I would enjoy nothing more than dining on chicken fingers and funnel cakes all afternoon, but we are at an amusement park. Amusement parks are one of the few places in the world exciting enough to hold a child’s interest all day. Feeding crappy foods and sugar to a kid will only make things worse. I want a sugar crash about as much as I want to wear a tank top, although there are plenty of each around here.  I’ll save the funnel cakes for a rainy day at the library.

2:30 pm: On the way back into the park, we are slapped in the face a second time. There is a go kart track by the front gate and they look ridiculously fun. All of us were totally excited on the way in the park, until we got there and found out that they charge extra for the go karts. What the fuck is wrong with Six Flags? Why would you charge to get into the park and then charge more for one of the rides? Malcolm had a total tantrum when we told him we weren’t going to pay the extra $25 for all of us to ride the go karts. Inside, I was having one too. If we have a meltdown every time we enter the park, we are not going to be coming here any more.

2:45 pm. We got Malcolm to ride a roller coaster! He is normally quite a wuss when it comes to thrill rides, but he smiled after he got off. Usually he cries and needs mommy to hug him for ten minutes. High Five!

3:30 pm: I bought some sunglasses here earlier in the day. It was ridiculously bright and I didn’t want to squint all day. Then, I rode a ride called Medusa, which, with all its banks and turns, gave me the sensation of being born, complete with me crying loudly at the end.  I was smart enough to take the glasses off my head before getting on the ride, but not smart enough to put them somewhere other than loosely attached to my shirt. That was the shortest period of time I have ever owned an article of clothing. Squinting aint so bad, anyways.

4 pm: I saw a woman in skimpy jean shorts with an eagle tattoo on her thigh. Really? I’m all for tramp stamps above the rear end or a cute butterfly near the foot, but an eagle on the thigh? I can’t imagine why she thought that was a good idea, but I bet crystal meth was involved.

5 pm: They have a parade here! Actually that was too nicely put. Here, their “parade” is a couple of high school kids and their friends in costumes being pulled in a flatbed trailer by a golf cart. The costumed characters waved wildly to passers by, who largely ignored them. The streets aren’t even roped off, allowing us to walk right through the parade. No one even cared. At Disneyland, little girls camped out on both sides of the street and screamed at Ariel and the other princesses’ names during a loud and festive parade. Here, the lousy the six flags mascot (think an old, white Erkel) led a motley crew on a journey that had all the energy of a group of hungover conventioneers on the way to an early morning session on actuarial accounting. Nobody screamed at them, except to get them out of the way to take a picture. Seriously, this is their mascot:

Their motto may as well be Six Flags, creeping you out since 1912. All in all though, it was a pretty fun day. We had some fun on some rides, but mostly just enjoyed a nice family day together, doing something that we normally don’t do. We won’t come here all that often, but there are worse things to do on a weekend than hang out as a family and make fun of kids on leashes and meth heads with bad tattoos. High five.

Preparing Malcolm For Creepy Guys In Vans

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am mortally afraid of creepy guys in vans. Sure there are probably some van owners that are not pedophiles, but until I actually meet one I am just going to make the blanket generalization that vans are places where dreams go to die. You never hear of a kidnapping story that begins, “Harland lured the child into his Hyundai Sonata with the promise of candy bars.” Nope, the crime report invariably details a van, usually with tin foil covering the windows and ice cream truck music playing on the radio.

I am pretty sure I could resist a predator trying to lure me into the back of his mobile dungeon with promises of nachos and snowcones, but I am a father and I worry about Malcolm. Incidentally, I go round and round over whether a pedophile would be into Malcolm, as he is probably way too chatty to be a good hostage. I have this scene in my head where the predator is trying to make his move, but Malcolm won’t shut up long enough for the bad guy to get anywhere: “Don’t you know, Edgar Renteria hit a grand slam? 99 minus 99 is zero. I love my mommies little nose. Pablo Sandoval has a big belly. I went to Oopa and Nanas house and Seal was there with her baby. I like Seal. I like Pig and Dog, too. Grammy and Grampa live in Reno. I played basketball with my daddy and Oklahoma beat Texas 63 to 59.” And so on, and so on, and so on, resulting in the predator promptly dropping Malcolm back off at the house. Pedophilia is such a tricky issue precisely because it forces you to choose whether you want your kid to be cute and charming or kidnapped and assaulted.

So, with all this mulling about inside my head, I decided to take action. I told him in no uncertain terms that he should never get into a stranger’s van. (Hyundai Sonatas were totally cool, though.) I told him that people would try to get him to come into their van, and might even try to give him treats. When he perked up at the idea of getting some treats, I told him that no treat was worth getting into the van and that he might never get to come home if he did. This seemed to bum him out a little, and I think I got my point across.

To test the effectiveness of my little speech, I began role playing, talking to him in the calm whisper-like voice of Bob Ross, the white, afroed artist on PBS who must have been invited to every NAMBLA convention ever held. Malcolm passed the early tests, refusing to get in my van even though I offered him lollipops, ice cream and SF Giants merchandise. Those he was ready for. He seemed a little unsure, though, when I offered him a chance to play with Yoda and told him that his parents would never let him see the real Yoda. Luckily, he eventually decided against it, making me quite glad that we had the little chat. I am sure that we are going to have more of these little chats, and to prepare Malcolm, I will have to think of new scenarios that bad guys will use to lure Malcolm into the van. Any suggestions?

Do Moms And Dads Talk About The Same Things?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This is not an exhaustive study of men and women who have kids. It is not intended to generalize about all parents; many men and many women act differently than portrayed here. This is merely my recollection of two recent conversations. One is a group of moms talking while watching our kids at swim class during the week. (From the sounds of things, they are all either part time or full time stay at home moms.) The other is a conversation between dads at my stay at home dad’s group.

Mom 1:

Two kids is DEFINITELY enough for us. I would love to get my tubes tied, especially since it is so painful for me to ovulate. It would be so much easier, though, for my husband to get snipped. I mean, it is REALLY painful when I ovulate. I should have just gotten my tubes tied after my second (baby) was born.

Dad 1:

We’re going camping this weekend. Should we drink beers or margaritas?

Mom 2:

My husband’s mom just died. I’m kinda jealous because he got to spend a whole week back east with his brother wrapping up the estate. That would be sooo nice, just being able to sleep in and getting a break. I’m sorta mad because I am missing my college friend’s wedding because I can’t leave the kids with Jim for the weekend. I really need a break, a week alone would be so nice.

I don't what they are talking about, but you aint missing much...

Dad 2:

I was at the park once with Urbansky when his kid ate goose poop. I mean, I sat there and watched the kid pick up a huge tube of the stuff and plopped it straight in his mouth.

Did you do anything to stop it?

I told Urbansky about it, but I don’t think he was paying attention. The kid did it three times.

Mom 3 (mind you this it the fourth week of class, most of these people didn’t know each other a month ago):

Neither one of our kids was planned. We used to use condoms, but after the first one was born, we decided they were too unreliable. So, I started using an IUD. I bled too much using it though, so I just went on the pill. We had our second one even though we only had sex once in a two month stretch.

Dad 3 (to another dad who has been at the same play dates for three months):

Hey good to see you dude.

Well, I saw that this place was on Keller Ave, so we had to come.

What’s so special about Keller Ave?

My daughter’s name is  Keller.

Oh, right.

Is This As Good As It Gets?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Each stage of your child’s life affects you as a parent differently. It doesn’t seem that way when you start down this path. When you decide to have children, it seems as though you are signing up for a static experience, like, “I am sitting down to eat this bowl of macaroni and cheese.” In reality, you are signing up for a variety of experiences, each with its own challenges and rewards. Sure one bite may be mac ‘n cheese, but the next bite may be meat loaf, and the bite after that may involve the words cod, liver and oil. You never really know what the next bite has in store.

Does it get any better than this?

Does it get any better than this?

This is because, obviously, as kids grow up they change. They change and they interact with you differently. Sometimes this is good, as in when their digestive systems calm down and they stop throwing up on you. Sometimes this is bad, as in when they stop calling you, “Daddy” and insist that your name is “Fuckface” or even worse, “Paul.”

We are totally enamored with stage of development Malcolm is at right now. I must admit, though, that the last two words of that sentence scare the crap out of me. What if this is the pinnacle of parenting? What if this iteration of our kid is the most pleasing iteration we will ever get? The possibility that we will spend the rest of our lives with a child that we like less than this is almost flabbergasting. (Yes, that’s right, almost flabbergasting. It takes a lot for me to actually get flabbergasted. Flabbergasted, what a weird word.)

My dilemma is partially due to the fact that I am really digging Malcolm right now and partially because I am completely mortified of each stage of development that Malcolm hasn’t reached. Sure, we are now able to really enjoy things like sports, games and tickle fights, but at some point this will change (unless you’re Eric Massa!) Will he stop wanting to be seen with me in public? Will he stop playing baseball in real life and just want to play video games? When do the smoking and drinking start? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and the unknown is cause for concern. So, I worry that this it. This is the time I will always look back on as “the glory days.” Sigh.

My ace in the hole is that I am no longer as hung up on Malcolm’s blemishes as I once was (what hunchback?). Sure he has issues (a grandma at a local park just asked him why he was so mean spirited,) but I conveniently ignore them and focus on the good (we played an entire game of basketball out in the driveway: He won 100-96, doing the math himself all game long.) Isn’t that what all parents do? Rose colored glasses do a great job of blinding you to red flags.

It does get better. Those are March Madness Brackets!

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe I always think things are getting better because I have just gotten better at deluding myself. To tell you the truth, I don’t even mind doing it this way, provided I can always be happy about where Malcolm is in life. I guess it’s my form of Prozac. I can only hope that the day he walks through the door with cigarette in his mouth and says,”Hey Fuckface, where’s my new video game?” and I can turn to Amy and say, “Hear that? He stopped calling me Paul!”

When Your Private Life Turns Public

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I could tell you why, but you wouldn’t be impressed. Actually, I don’t need you to scorn me for the way I live. How dare you!

I had a lot of issues last week about the state of the house. Our house usually fluctuates between cluttered and filthy, but for whatever reason, the house was downgraded last week to squalid. Malcolm’s clothes were strewn everywhere, my March Madness brackets appeared to become our new carpeting  and we had so many piles of laundry lying around various parts of the house that we could no longer tell what was clean and what was dirty. Of particular concern was the kitchen scrap pail we use to collect food for composting, which hadn’t been changed in a few weeks and looked (and smelled) like Jabba The Hut’s rectum. (I had a hard time with the capitalization of that last part. Is “The” his middle name? Or, should it be Jabba the Hut?)

So, it should come as no surprise that last week we had some unexpected visitors in the midst of the the house turning to shit. Our neighbors came over to play, and as soon as I saw them, I realized how bad I was about to look.  I tried the shoo them away, but my neighbor made it quite clear that our kids were going to play with each other and that we were going to drink a beer. The promise of alcohol on the immediate horizon softened the emotional blow quite a bit, and I just grinned and beared the intrusion into our domestic ineptitude.

The humiliation of displaying our dirty bits to the world should have spurred me to clean up our house, but sadly, it didn’t. Of course, I got a phone call on Wednesday that they wanted a photographer to come over and take photos for an upcoming newspaper article about stay at home dads like me. (Don’t worry, I’ll shoot a link here when it comes out and you can see what the rest of the world thinks of me and my little “lifestyle decision.”) “Holy cannoli!” I thought to myself, “How they gonna take pictures in here? There’s shit EVERYWHERE!!!!” My mad dash to try and pick up the evidence of our relaxed rules toward cleanliness was thwarted only by my overwhelming desire to finish all of my March Madness brackets, which means I did more picking than cleaning. So what if Malcolm’s socks and underwear were on the floor of the guest bathroom, right? Socks and underwear line the floor of every house.  The photographer finally got there with the house somewhere between crowded and muddled, but I took solace in the fact that I finally got around to cleaning Jabba The Hut’s rectum.

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

I gotta make some changes.

Go Cornell!

The Flip Side Of The Monster

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This post is one of those parenting stories that make me wanna vomit. You know the kind, a “guess what my kid today” story that serves as nothing other than as a parenting badge of honor. Gross, save it for the grandparents, eh? I hesitate to even post it, but you all get enough, “Malcolm is an idiot, and just came home with a chunk of someone else’s ear in his teeth” to make think that you can hear the flip side every now and again. So, guess what my kid did today?

I observed Malcolm at his preschool today for 30 minutes, sitting on a tiny little stool in the corner of the room. He began the session by taking out a group of pictures with an accompanying set of one word cards that described what was going on in the pictures. He then promptly matched each picture with the word describing it, and much to my surprise went on to write each of the words in a little book. Neat! It’s good to know that he can read and write a little, even if he never shows it off around the house.

He then gathered up a bunch of stuff and brought it over to his little mat to work on. It looked like this:

He also brought out another little book with some math equations in it, each page containing something like this:

(I made this up to help you with the visual, his book had a typed up version.) He then started futzing about with blocks and beads. Like a nervous poker player stacking and re-stacking, then counting and recounting his chips, Malcolm stacked and re-stacked his blocks and beads. It appeared that the number of blocks mattered only slightly, the real task was to put them in a configuration that he found visually pleasing. Both Malcolm’s teacher and I laughed as he continued to rearrange all of the different items, but eventually the small stool began to cut off the circulation to my lower extremities and my butt started to fall asleep. Enough, dude! ADD FOUR BLOCKS TO FIVE BLOCKS AND WRITE, “9” IN YOUR FUCKING BOOK ALREADY!!! Then you can finish the last three problems and I can get out of here! Is it really that hard?

After about 20 minutes, he finally settled on a configuration and wrote down the numbers in the book: 9,8,5,4 (the “9” looked more like the greek letter Theta, but I can forgive little transgressions/signs of dylexia as my butt tingled worse than it had when we went to Tijuana as high school kids.) I wasn’t really sure what all the blocks and beads had to do with it, but at least his math was right. Then, it hit me. He had arranged the materials into 9 blocks, 8 squares, 5 strings and 4 beads. He wasn’t doing four separate problems, he was doing one! Each bead represented a single unit, the strings represented tens, the squares represented hundreds and the cubes were thousands. HOLY SHIT, MY SON JUST ADDED 4,732 AND 5,122!!! 9,854! I was overcome with a very strange and powerful feeling of fondness for my son. Krikey! This is pride. I am proud of Malcolm!

I looked at his teacher and said, “Wow, that was cool.” She nodded with pride as if to say, “I taught him how to do that!” Immediately after finishing writing down the numbers, he had his teacher sign off on the book, and then gathered up the materials and put them away, like it was no big deal. I sat there with my brain feeling as fuzzy as my butt, wondering how such a cool display of focus and (pardon me for the badge of honor here) intelligence could happen without me knowing that it was even remotely possible.  Eventually, I emerged from my euphoria and left the room. On the way out I hugged him and told him how proud I was of my little boy. He shrugged it off (evidently, this exercise was old news to him) and walked over to get a drink of water. He said he needed to wash down the partially torn ear he had been mulling around in his mouth all morning.

The Chalice

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I like my job. It is rewarding and fun most of the time. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life right now. That being said, it will surprise some of you to learn that I am not, in fact, four years old. I can horse around with Malcolm and his friends for a long time, but eventually I get tired of it. I can only play Uno or whatever the heck he’s into so many times before I starting pining for the adult world. As the day wears on, this desire begins to grow. I stare longingly at my (shut down) computer while Malcolm is eating his dinner. I begin checking my email on my phone when he is in the bathtub. When I finally read him books and get him down for the night, I sprint out of his room, and get my grubby little hands on my reintroduction to the adult world.

Luckily, I don't have to choose

The chalice, for me, is a glass of wine. Or three. Whatever, the actual number doesn’t matter. It’s the symbolism that I love. The magical glass of wine transforms me  from being a big kid in a stained shirt to an adult (still in a stained shirt, mind you, but an adult nonetheless). I get to be like everyone else out there, relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine and some mindless TV. The chalice brings something totally mind-numbingly absent from a stay at home parent’s day. Relaxation. Even when you are doing something that you both really like, like bowling or hucking rocks at our neighbor’s cats, you still need to be mindful of dangerous hazards or creepy guys in vans. This tension, the stress of dealing with tantrums or potential pitfalls to everyone’s happiness wears on you. The chalice allows all that mess to fade away. At the end of the day, when the house is quiet, and you raise that chalice to your lips, all is right with the world. You recharge your batteries and get yourself ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Ode To The Hoodie

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

One thing I absolutely do not miss about the working world is dressing like a grown up. My fashion has regressed to something close to a 16 year-old, usually involving sneakers, a baseball hat, shorts, and my all time favorite article of clothing: the hoodie. The hoodie is my friend, it covers all manner of ills. It is my security blanket and I love it dearly.

I used to be a regular sweatshirt guy. Then, my I started an ambitious expansion program which necessitated finding things to mask my expanding girth. After an unfortunate incident involving a girdle and a brief period of asphyxiation, I decided the best approach was going to be to just cover up my midsection. See, with a hoodie, I can put my hands in the front pocket. That way, the people who look at me will think that the bulge in my midsection is just the result of my hands resting in the pocket, and not the result of an infatuation with cheeseburgers and popcorn. Pretty smart eh? Now, getting ready consists of the following: take off pajama bottoms and replace with shorts. Throw on hoodie. (If day begins with letter T, brush teeth and apply deodorant.) Leave the house. The hoodie, as you can see, is the most versatile piece of fashion since mom jeans were invented.

It is precisely these reasons why the hoodie is the official fashion item for the stay at home dad. I don’t know if I should reveal this, but once you are initiated into the inner sanctum of the stay at home dad world, you are ushered into a small room for initiation. After some “rites of passage” involving two or three dozen hot dogs and a 12-pack of beer, you are presented with your very own hoodie to wear as a badge of honor. You then go forth and save the world, one child at a time. You can tell how experienced a stay at home dad is by the number of stains he has on the front of his hoodie. They are similar to the rings on the inside of an old redwood tree. It doesn’t matter how new the hoodie is, they follow you like the stink of a rental car even after you have returned it. I got a brand new  hoodie a month ago, and it already has four stains on it, one for each year I have been at home with Malcolm.

It’s not all fun and games though. I recently lost one of my favorite hoodies of all time. I was pretty bummed when I lost the skull hoodie, I loved it and the kids that I hang with loved it too. The loss was about as emotional for me as losing our cats or Amy having jinxed the Giants into losing the World Series. I don’t know where you are out there skull hoodie, but know this: you will be missed. And tell the girdle that I am still mad at him.

Interrogate Your Preschooler

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I spent a good deal of the morning asking questions. Mind you, not the questions I should have been asking: What am I doing with my life, what’s our plan for the future, or who is this Vietnamese man in our bed. No, I spent the morning asking Malcolm questions. Why? Yesterday was shit. Malcolm stayed up way too late on friday night, and has been a cranky butthead ever since. When he is tired, he is mean, vulgar and way too physical, sorta like Amy when she’s drunk. Yesterday had a lot of yelling and a lot tears.
Today, I decided to mix it up. Instead of yelling at him and ordering him around, I began to ask him questions. I heard about this approach somewhere before, although I am not sure where. The theory goes, if you ask your kid open-ended questions, they will spend their precious brain activity formulating responses and that is good for their brain. It can also be good for your relationship if it means that you don’t want to throttle them anymore.

So this morning was a lot of questions. Instead of telling him what do and what not to do, I tried to limit my communication to him to questions. I asked about our plans for the day. I asked whether he thought knocking the chair over at breakfast was a good idea. I asked if we were going to get along better and why. It was an extremely difficult exercise because, A) you have to really engage with your kids to make it work, and B) you end up asking absurd questions just to keep things moving along. At one point, I asked Malcolm whether it would hurt his meatballs to ride a camel. It is extremely difficult to engage your kids this way, but a good way to get out of rut. I wasn’t able to just ask him open-ended questions, but maybe I’ll get better at it. This is definitely a skill building exercise.

Eventually he got tired of talking to me. (The smart ones always do.) He took off and is now playing in his room by himself. Of course, this means I am going to do this all the time. If short bursts of intense engagement will lead to long periods of alone time, I am going to try this little trick as much as I can. I guess this makes sense, as I get annoyed whenever Malcolm peppers me with questions. Try it sometime. Maybe your kids will lose interest in talking to you, too!

A World Without Tantrums

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I hate to have to admit this to you, but Malcolm still has tantrums. I honestly thought that we would be done with those by now, given he is four years old, but they remain a constant and irritating part of our lives. His meltdowns are fierce and have extravagant production values. He cries, screams, kicks, scratches, bites, and yells every insult imaginable at you, (the most common being, “You are NOT coming to my birthday party!!!”) He is like a three and a half foot tall version of Amy Winehouse. I began to take the tantrums personally, like they were some sort of reverse merit badge for bad parenting. Each subsequent meltdown would cause me to fall farther into the chasm of parental self doubt. What was I doing wrong? What could I possibly be doing to make Malcolm have so many tantrums?

In an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery, I began to take mental notes whenever he had a tantrum. I realized something immediately. Malcolm only had tantrums when I told him something to do! He falls apart when I tell him he needs to turn his clothes right side in. He blows up every time I tell him we need to run errands after I pick him up from preschool. He has a conniption fit every time we make him leave somewhere that he is enjoying. These tantrums are occurring because we are making him do things that he doesn’t want to do.

Obviously, the solution to the tantrum problem is to stop telling Malcolm what to do. This falls into line nicely with his Montessori education, where he has the freedom to select whatever activity he desires during the day. If he wakes up and doesn’t feel like going to school or swim class then he won’t have to go. If he wants to watch movies for twelve hours a day, so be it. Who am I to tell him that he can’t  eat chocolate all day? On second thought, why aren’t I living my life this way? He may be on to something!

The beauty of this approach to parenting is that it essentially eliminates most of my work. I would just drive him to things he wants to do, buy stuff at the store that I think he wants, and play some games around the house. No friction, no mess. No tears, no injuries. My job would get real easy, real quick.

Of course, there may be a downside to his having absolute control over himself. Robbed of the ability to command the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in his daily meals, his diet will deteriorate. He will remain his current size for the rest of his life. Sporadic school attendance will eventually lead to Malcolm, the village idiot. It won’t really matter, though, because he won’t leave the house due to the constant stream of movies that will play at our house. Poor hygiene choices will actually make me glad that no one is around to visit with our stinky, toothless son. Yes, we’ll have a real winner on our hands.

On second thought, maybe tantrums aren’t the worst thing ever.

The Greatest Job Ever

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am lucky. I officially have the greatest job on earth. I hadn’t really realized it, but having lately thought about what I am going to do with my life, I realized that it is not ever going to get better than this. So, I am going to revel in it while it lasts.

Being a stay at home dad wasn’t always the bomb, though. When I was 25, if you would have offered me a job whose chief qualities were getting thrown up on and corralling handfuls of human feces, I would have politely declined the assignment. (Unless, of course, the job was at the world’s most bizarre burlesque club.) Somehow, I survived the newborn stage and made it to to toddlerhood, where the job involved corralling an angry mutant, hell bent on biting and hitting anything that moved. Any hint that the mutant wasn’t going to get what he wanted was met with loud tears and even more aggression. Not so fun either. Little preschoolers are nice, but you spend so much time and energy trying to figure out what the fuck they are trying to say that you feel drained at the end of each and every day.

The older preschooler is amazing.

What other job involves naked abacus sessions?

Fully potty trained and able to eat exotic foods like salami, they, for the most part, talk and function like real people! Plus, they no longer just want to sit around the house and play pretend with their horsie. In the past six months, Malcolm and I have: bowled, gone to the horse track (and won!), learned at the museum, gone to a baseball game, golfed, went to the movies and watched a boat load of football on TV. What’s cool about all that stuff? I like to do it, even if my kid isn’t there! That’s right, I get paid to do things that I enjoy doing anyways. How cool it that? OK, so I don’t get paid, but it sure feels like I do!

Sure, the job sometimes gets to me. Then again, all jobs do. As an attorney, I had to leave a Superbowl party early to go look through 20,000 documents to find examples of delivery drivers who peed into gatorade bottles in their trucks. I’ll take an occasional meltdown and a few Mr. Mom wisecracks over that any day. The thing that separates this gig now is that with a little imagination and some patience, you can do whatever you want. And when you can actually enjoy your kid and not have to worry about throw up, diaper changes, mutant attacks or the inability to communicate, then life is sweet. And right now, it is.

The Superbowl Now

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I have always enjoyed watching the superbowl. Check that, I have always enjoyed superbowl sunday. Despite the great games in the past few years, the games are mostly lame. I do, however, enjoy hanging out with my best friends, eating super awesome food and, while I hate to admit it, I like to watch the superbowl ads. Don’t tell anyone, because the stay at home parent just watching the Superbowl for the commercials is so cliche. This year was no exception, although the game has certainly changed.

This year, the kids were there. We had about ten adults and six kids over, meaning you couldn’t swing a dead chicken wing without knocking over a child (and then wiping off the wing sauce.) Instead of getting drunk, betting on every play, yelling at the screen and eating myself into a partial coma, this year I got drunk, broke up fights, stopped one-year-olds from eating chalk and falling off the couch, and ate myself into a partial coma. Having kids at any event changes the essential nature of the event, but it doesn’t mean that the event is no longer any fun.

Sure, the days of wet tee shirt contests and jello shots at our house are gone, but in its place something oddly alluring has sprouted: parenting. During the game I got to teach Malcolm. I taught him how to check raise before the flop during the annual pre-superbowl poker game. I taught him how to read the score off the TV screen. I told him sad the people of New Orleans have been and how happy this football game was going to make them. I taught him what “squares” were and how if the Colts didn’t throw that last interception he was going to win $40. Then, I had to tell him that when you gamble you lose money most of the time. I taught him that you get to eat whatever you want on Superbowl sunday, even if that means your dinner consists entirely of chocolate chip cookies. (Thanks for the awesome batch Diedre!)

If you offered me the chance to, for one day, be childless again, I am not sure what my answer would be. Of course, I like jello shots and wet tee shirt contests. I like to watch football games without any distractions and swearing loudly whenever anything truly exciting happens. I like talking to my friends about things other than new teeth, first steps and who’s kid hit who. Seeing Malcolm actually watching the game, though, was pretty cool. Answering his questions about what was going on made the game fun in a brand new way.  I guess I’m actually glad we had kids there and I was able to share some experiences with Malcolm.

Oh wait, I’m not that guy. Give me a shot, a chair at the judging table and some chicken wings. Let someone else have fun with the kids.

Whoops!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy and I are the best parents in the world (some of the time.) When we are not the best parents in the world, though, we may be the worst. Some of the things that we do, or don’t do as the case may be, are so shockingly demonstrative of poor parenting that you would think we were accustomed to raising llamas.

For Christmas this year, I got Malcolm a shaving kit. It consists of a plastic razor, an old school shaving brush and a canister of shaving cream. The “shaving cream” is fake, it actually just spews out bubbles. The canister has a picture of Batman on it, so naturally Malcolm thinks it is the most badass present I ever got him. He loves to shave and enjoys the set every time he takes a bath. He is quite thorough, even shaving his forehead and between his eyebrows. I take great pleasure in this, because it’s really the only way for me to get him to put soap of any sort on his face. On paper, it was a brilliant parenting move.

IMG_0901My brilliance was counteracted by my subsequent failure to warn Malcolm about the dangers of real razors. The thought never even crossed my mind, so it was pretty shocking to find Malcolm in our bathtub last week with a thick stream of blood running from his bottom lip to his chest. Evidently, he resumed his shaving routine with Amy’s razor. I didn’t hide my emotion very well and afterwards had to explain to Malcolm what, “HOLY SHIT!” means. After cleaning off the river of blood from his body, I belatedly gave him the lecture on why real razors are dangerous and how his plastic razor is safe. From the amount of blood that he lost, I think he got my point. I then apologized for being a bad dad. Sometimes, I don’t think I’m even fit to raise a llama.

My Son Is A Colostomy Bag Named Chachi

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

If that title doesn’t grab your attention, then I have no chance, eh? Malcolm has officially stopped taking naps. This is a significant event in a stay at home parent’s life as the nap is only part of the day that you can really get anything done. It also provides a rare luxury when a child is in the house: peace and quiet. Losing the nap, then, means that you are losing the only chunk of the day that you can call your own.  You are, officially, always on the clock with your child. Losing the nap is like losing your colon, forever tethering you to a stinky bag of gas and human waste. Well, maybe that’s a little strong, but losing the nap really is significant, and I hated to see it go.

There are, of course, many ways of dealing with the newfound loss of freedom. Our first line of defense is school. We had Malkie in school until 1 p.m., but when he stopped napping we arranged to have him stay until 3. This has worked out even better for me, since now I had the house to myself and my bevy of poker loving dogs during the week. Why poker loving dogs? Because dogs are actually not very good at playing poker. More money for me!

Cool dude with groupie

Semi-cool dude with groupie

Malcolm has also enjoyed the change at school, now proudly referring to himself as a “Three O’Clocker.”Three O’Clockers are way cooler than those silly little “One O’Clockers,”  who everyone knows are complete poopie pants. The only thing cooler than a Three O’Clocker is a Six Thirtier, who pretty much has the run of the place. They are the Fonzies of Oakland Montessori. Malcolm is almost there, he’s Chachi.
We also started putting Malcolm to bed an hour earlier. He hasn’t quote adapted to his new schedule yet, and there are days when he is a complete monster that I want to put him to bed at about 4:30. Most of the time, though, he goes to sleep around 7. He definitely doesn’t dilly dally at bedtime anymore.

I definitely consider this a work in progress. We have noticed a huge uptick in his tantrums and somewhat random violence. Some days, he is completely out of control and he has actually fallen asleep in his room while confined there for various transgressions. I am taking the patient approach and hope that he will grow into his new schedule. I kinda hope he does so quickly, because the grumpy act is getting old. Or, I need to get a longer tube for the bag.

How Things Have Changed

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy and I were indulging our latest guilty pleasure this week, Dexter.  It is about a forensics expert who is a serial killer.  The kill scenes are graphic and the whole show is pretty sick and twisted. During the last episode, after slaughtering someone, Dexter cheerfully made sandwiches for the kids the next morning. I shook my head in disbelief, and asked Amy if she could believe what she saw. She looked at me curiously, and right then, I knew how far I had fallen.  “You can’t put lettuce in a kid’s sandwich! They’ll never eat it!!!” In a show that celebrates violence and applauds the main character’s cunning, I got upset over how children’s sandwiches were prepared. I used to be a person. Now, I am a parent.

My transformation began a few years back when we spent a summer knocking about major European cities.IMG_0506 Whereas everyone around me marked a city by various historical landmarks or noteworthy museums, I kept an eye out for playgrounds and toilets. Some people found restaurants based on the quality of the food, whilst I made selections based on whether I thought they would tolerate an eighteen month old throwing bread at neighboring tables. I based our entirely daily routine on things that I could get to while pushing a stroller. Needless to say, we missed out on a lot. We did see a lot of parks though!

Now, our evening plans are mostly limited to parents of Malcolm’s friends. Our conversations with almost everyone now involve a discussion of whether Malcolm is going to kindergarten next year. The lady at the meat counter always asks me about my son and never cares to ask about my rock hard abs or how many pushups I can do. New Year’s Eve ended at 10:30 and involved the wrong kind of three way kissing (two adults and a four year old boy.)

All these things aren’t bad, and I am not complaining.  I just never really understood how drastically different things would be for me after procreating.  I guess I thought that a child was a cat, except with diapers. Not so. I eagerly look forward to seeing how Malcolm changes me and wonder what the future will hold. It certainly won’t involve sandwiches with lettuce on them, though.  I know how that plays out.

The Kindergarten Question

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy and I are struggling with what to do with Malcolm.  This is not a struggle in the vein of, “What do we do with Malcolm, he is annoying and has just hit the cat with a baseball bat.”  Our current struggle involves what we will do with his educational future.  He meets the cutoff for the Oakland Unified School District next year, so the decision, which we have conveniently been putting off until now, will actually have to be made soon.  As I see it, we have three options:

#1 – Private School.  This is where really successful people are molded into tomorrow’s leaders.  They have tailored curricula, nice playgrounds and, from what I have seen on the internet, pretty hot teachers.  It is undoubtedly our first choice but has some drawbacks.  First, I have never met anyone who went to private school that is remotely interesting.  Sure, they are successful and good at math, but they wear uncomfortable looking scarves and talk about, “Summering on the cape,” whatever that means. Private school is where social awkwardness is taught as a subject, and I can’t the thought  out of my head that Malcolm will turn out like Alex P. Keaton if he goes to private school.  Also, the cost of private is school is outrageous!  I took a good look at our finances and the only way we will be able to afford to put Malcolm through private school will be for Amy to get a second job.  I briefly looked at returning to the workforce but then realized that if I went back to work I would have to wear clean clothes and brush my teeth almost every day.  Not likely!

#2 Public School –  Public school has no additional cost, and is close enough for me to walk Malcolm to school every day.  How cool is that?  Our local school has good test scores, an active PTA and is painted a very nice salmon and teal color.  The problem is that the teacher to student ratio is about a 100 to 1, and Malcolm may not fully realize his potential as part of the herd.  More likely, he will be involved in knife fights learn to spray paint.  Oakland private schools create people like Cher Wang, biollionaire chairwoman of High Tech Computer Corporation, while Oakland Unified’s pride and joy is Tom Hanks.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked Bosom Buddies but I am not sure that should be the ceiling for Malcolm’s possible success.  Who knows, if Tom Hanks had gone to private school he may have turned out like Sir Anthony Hopkins.

#3 – Neither.  Before you go complaining to authorities that I would be the worst home school teacher ever (which I undoubtedly would) this option is more along the lines of holding Malcolm back until he is emotionally and intellectually ready for the rigours of kindergarten.  At his current rate of progression, I am thinking he will be ready when he is about 14.  This will have the added benefits of allowing him to choose which school he wants to attend, and will make him the cool guy that can buy beer in the sixth grade.  Plus, being nine years older than the competition, he will dominate the athletics scene.  And really, this is the best thing we can do for him as parents.  At this point, it looks like we will be able to dodge the decision for at least another year.

I have to admit that I am extremely nervous about the decision.  The stakes are high, and I don’t want to make the wrong choice.  Look at me; I am an unemployed, underachieveing product of the public school system, and I have frittered away enough talent to choke a mule.  (By the way, it takes a lot to choke a mule, if you haven’t tried.)  On the other hand, I cannot help but think of the dread I will feel if comes home one day wearing an uncomfortable scarf and asks where we are planning to summer.  Either way, it’s gonna be a tough call.

Gentle and Gracious

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I stared at the screen and could hardly believe it.  Malcolm’s fourth birthday party was last Sunday and a parent sent us a thank you email for inviting their kid.  In it, the parent commented,  “Especially noted was Malcolm’s gentle and gracious behavior.”  Wow, someone not related by blood thought Malcolm was well behaved.  I rubbed my eyes and double checked the sender to see if it was one of the guys in my dad’s group playing a prank on me.  It was not and the woman who sent the email didn’t look drunk at the birthday party. So, I took her at her word, and it made my day.  Actually, it kinda made my last four years.

Parenting is hard.  Really fucking hard. You start with a little piece of shit that is essentially useless, except if you find any utility in waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times.  Then, the baby starts to eat real food and you realize just how savagely disgusting another person’s poo is.  Shortly thereafter, boys develop a keen sense of agility, so that they are more efficiently able to bite, kick, scratch, punch and shove other kids.  Finally, your child learns to speak, just in time to learn how to say that he hates you and doesn’t want to be your friend anymore.

While all this is happening, you convince yourself that your kid is not that bad.  He says, “Please and thank you” most of the time.  He eats some broccoli every so often.  He can hit a baseball, and one time he told you that he loved you at the end of a very long and difficult day.  Parents are always trying to convince themselves that their kid is not a bad kid, and that there is a reason they should continue being parents.  When we do this, I know that we are essentially deluding ourselves and that we are raising a monster, but I don’t care.  You tell yourself what you need to hear to go on parenting.

One day, however, they are bound to do something that makes you very happy.  At his birthday party, Malcolm ran around a gymnastics studio with 20 or so of his favorite friends with a huge smile.  He looked like he was really enjoying himself, and did so for the entire party.  Later, we asked him what he liked best about the party and he said, “Everything!”  Needless to say, we were extremely excited to see him so happy, and even more excited that he had fun without being a complete asshole to his friends.  Then, when one of his friends’ mom emailed us to say that she saw it too, we were ecstatic.  4birthday 072To see that someone else thoght that our son was “gentle and gracious,” that this was not one of those times we had to invent reasons to love Malcolm, made us both really happy.  And for that, I would say it was a really happy birthday for all of us.

When Kids Scream

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Kids are kind of funny when they get upset.  Malcolm knows that when he gets upset, he should scream something really mean at me at the top of his lungs.  The problem is, he doesn’t really know what to scream.  It’s like he screams the first thing that comes to his mind.  I guess he learned this from us; one time, at the end of a long day when Malcolm was doing something particularly bad (I can’t remember what it was, so I will make up something obscure for the purposes of telling the story,) Amy yelled, “Malcolm, if you don’t put down that bag of kitten feet, you will never get anything you want!!! (Ever!)”

The other day, Malcolm got upset with one of his friends and yelled at her that she wasn’t invited to his birthday party.  She didn’t miss a beat and told him that she would never go to his house to play AND that he wasn’t invited to her birthday party.  At this point, Malcolm utilized what I am sure he considered to be the nuclear option and told the little girl that she was not going to come over for a sleepover, a threat so outrageous that she broke down in tears ran to her mom. Malcolm has also threatened to throw me in jail, tell mommy on me, and even [gasp] not share popcorn with me on movie night.  It is hard to stay mad at someone who screams about popcorn and movie night at the height of their tempter tantrum.

Hanging around kids as much I do and being acutely interested their misbehavior, I have seen kids drop some doozies on the parents.  My favorite is easily when I heard a little boy tell his grandmother that he was going to cut off all her hair while she slept.  Parents are used to bizarre and ugly things coming out of their kids’ mouths, but grandparents have long since forgotten about such outbursts.   I thought of a million things I wanted to yell at that kid, but the old woman thought about it for a second and replied, “if you did that I would be bald and sad. Now, can we leave the sandbox?” Bald and sad indeed. Aren’t we all.

Another Art Project Bites The Dust

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

It was a simple task, really.  For each child at Malcolm’s preschool’s birthday, the child’s parents are supposed to put together a collage of photos to tell a story about how the child has spent the past year.  I did the collage last year, and while it wasn’t necessarily a thing of beauty, it got the job done.  This year, like so many other things that I have set my mind to recently, it was a bit of a disaster.  Here is what Malcolm’s friends at school got to see:  collage

I think Malcolm may be on the lookout for a brand new daddy for his birthday.

The first problem with the collage o’ crap was that the pictures were terrible, in almost every way.  I realized last night that our printer was out of ink, so I had to rush out this morning to the office store to buy new cartridges.  Why I chose this occasion to purchase cheap ink made by Office Max and not Canon for the first time, I do not know, but I certainly regretted the decision as soon as I started printing out the pictures.  The pictures were the wrong color and had stripes in them.  Malcolm’s skin and hair are really not carrot colored, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the collage. They ended up turning out looking like they were taken by a surveillance camera and printed out on slides from the 1970’s.  The colors on each side of the pictures are also different, which forced me to crop the pictures using our kitchen shears (evidently the only scissors we own now.)  I don’t know how to cut straight, so it looks like Malcolm did the chopping himself, after a night of drinking whiskey.  To cap it all off, I didn’t even want to use most of these pictures, but most of the pictures we have taken this year are on a flash memory card which is now hiding somewhere in the house where I cannot find them. Maybe the scissors and the memory card are silently laughing at me somewhere underneath the couch, but rest assured I am blaming them for the poor picture quality in the collage.

The second thing wrong with the collage is that it has my writing on them.  My handwriting normally looks as if it were done by an irate chicken dipping its talons in ink.  When I have left myself a grand total of 15 minutes to get the whole collage done, it looks as if the chicken is irate, a little bit typsy herself, and an old doctor.  Taking a closer look, you’ll see that my handiwork is done in two different inks, the result of me deciding that I wasn’t able to space the words well with a black Sharpie, and switching to the only pen I could find in our house (a blue one.) The other pens that we own must be really having a good time with the scissors and the memory card.  I was really crushing it while wrapping up the “project” so you will notice the many mistakes I made while writing and the almost total lack of punctuation.  Having satisfied myself that the kids aren’t able to read yet anyways, I flew off to school, where I arrived late, and had to endure the scowls of the teachers who were filling time waiting for me.  When I arrived, they looked at me as if to say, “This is it? This is how you are honoring your son?”  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Malcolm was going to have four or five other birthday celebrations this year and that I didn’t really care about this one.

As I skulked off into the corner, I decided to check out the other collages that parents had put together for the November birthdays at Malcolm’s school.  It was precisely then that I realized my third mistake.  My job was not to chronicle what Malcolm had done during his third year, but rather detail the milestones that he had reached on each of his birthdays.  I basically needed to present a photo growth chart of Malcolm, and I, in my ultimate wisdom decided to present them with striped pictures in odd hues of Malcolm eating smores and riding in a tractor. I was supposed to stick around and watch the circle time presentation forMalcolm’s birthday, but I was so humiliated by my own ineptitude that I just bolted for the door without saying goodbye.  Honestly, I think I would have been better off if I would have just wiped a bunch of cat shit on a piece of paper and then typed the words, “This is my life” underneath.  Sorry Malcolm, you’re stuck with a pretty bad dad.

The Difference Between Men and Boys

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

IMG_1431It certainly has been interesting to watch our son Malcolm grow up.  He turns 4 next week, and when he is not is not exasperating, he is enjoyable.  Having watched him grow, I began to wonder whether his traits are all that different than the traits of men my age.  So, here’s my take.

Mischievousness – Little boys like to stir the pot.  When you tell them not to do something, like stick wood chips in their socks or scratch you in the face, they want to do it even more.  They get a look in their eye when they are doing it, a look that tells you that they know they are not supposed to be putting a handful of coins in their mouth, but are enjoying it nonentheless. This traits continues into manhood, as men like doing things that they know their significant others would not approve of.  It’s why Hooters continues to be in business, and also the sole reason for the continued use of cigars in today’s world.  The difference between men and boys is that as men we have learned to hide the unwanted behavior instead of magnifying it in front of the rulemakers.

Fighting – Boys are hard wired to fight.  It is a constant struggle as a parent to remind your boy that the first solution to any disagreement should not be a headlock.  The next time you are out in nature, watch the glee in your boy’s eyes when he picks up a stick, and realizes that he has just found a pretty bitchin’ sword.  When two boys each pick up sticks and realize simulaneously that they have bitchin’ swords, they will each immediately use their new weapon to try and poke the other’s eyes out.  I am pretty sure this was how Star Wars was created.  As men, we have the experience to know that fighting usually involves you getting your ass kicked and needing to go to the dentist.  Most of us have stopped trying to physically brutalize one another, and have evolved to the point where making fun of one another is enough to satisfy urges.  Football is a great avenue for satisfying your need to make fun of other guys, especially since it is a violent sport and you can live vicariously through your football team.   If you bring two guys into nature and put fantasy football teams in front of them, they will each pick one and begin making fun of the other’s.  This way, no trip to the dentist is needed.

Interest In Touching Their Private Parts – some things never change, and the desire to constantly be stretching, scratching, or just plain fiddling is as strong today as it was when I was Malcolm’s age.

Impulse Control– Little boys have no impulse control.  If a boy sees a cat, he must try and pull its tail.  If another child takes a favorite toy away, the other child must be bludgeoned.  All boogers must be consumed within three seconds of removal from the nasal canal.  Men have learned to control their impulses provided they have not been consuming alcohol.  Once alcohol enters into the equation, we are essential toddlers with money.  That is why places like Las Vegas are in business.

I guess Malcolm and I are not all that different.  I have the benefit of some extra experience, but our motivations are actually pretty similar. When he does irritating things, I have to remember that I do dumb things too, like when Malcolm threw my phone in the toilet, I should have remembered that I broke me previous phone by getting drunk and jumping off a houseboat with the phone in my pocket.  Not sure it help my parenting, but at least it will give me some perspective.

Memory Triggers

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

All of us have memory triggers, little things that are seemingly unrelated but nonetheless remind of us significant events.  Here are some of my most meaningful:

I don’t know what you think of when Halloween comes every year, but I think of Hooters.  My dad’s group goes to a Pumpkin patch every year.  The first time we went, I searched my GPS to locate the closest restaurant, and beebopboo, it spit out Hooters.  I laughed and told my fellow stay at home dads the result and an odd silence followed.  We looked at each other for a few seconds, and someone uttered, “Well, if it’s the closest place, then we should go.”  No one wanting to veto chicken wings and scantily clan waitresses, we piled into our cars and made our way to white trash central.  My dad’s group tends to stick out wherever we go, but it was especially noticeable at Hooters.  The wait staff had the choice to either spend their time with gross businessmen or our group of fun dads with cute kids.  Needless to say, our service was excellent!  There are better pumpkin patches that we could go to every year, but when you have a tradition like this, why bother.

Hilton’s motto might as well be: “The Place To Clean Up Bizarre Vomit.”  Malcolm and I visited my parents in Bakersfield one weekend, and we came back to Oakland in time to pick up Amy at the Oakland airport.  Shortly after picking Amy up, Malcolm threw up all over the place.  Anyone who has cleaned up vomit out of the nooks and crannies of a carseat can attest to just how disgusting and futile the exercise is.  This specific vomiting episode was especially memorable because my mom had packed Malcolm a sandwich made from pink guava bread.  Vomit is gross.  Vomited pink guava bread is harrowing.  Think of a raw ground beef with the viscosity of egg whites.  We spent about a half an hour in the parking lot of the Oakland Airport Hilton cleaning Malcolm and the car, and every time we drive by the Hilton now, I am reminded of that special day.

Daddy said that I don't have to listen to "Come Away With Me" anymore.  He also said that he's not really a redhead.

Daddy said that I don't have to listen to "Come Away With Me" anymore. He also said that he's not really a redhead.

Norah Jones is a talented singer but every time I think of her, I can’t get the image of Amy’s placenta out of my head.  (Come to think of it, is it Amy’s placenta or Malcolm’s? I’m not sure.)  When we went to the hospital to have Malcolm, I brought our Ipod and a boombox to listen to music while Amy went through labor.  Every ten minutes or so, the Ipod would emit a very loud, very annoying screeching sound.  Loud screeching sounds did not have the soothing effect that I was trying to give Amy, so she eventually threw the Ipod across the room and called me a very mean name.  Desparate to redeem myself and give comfort to my wife, I went to the car for plan B.  The only CD we had in the car was Norah Jones, and we listened the whole CD what seemed like 15 times.  Now, when I hear Norah Jones, all I can think of is the bizarre aspects of labor: watching Amy poop, looking at a human head coming out of her lady business, and seeing the placenta flopped onto her chest like a chuckwagon steak at the meat counter.  Try as I might, we don’t listen to Ms. Jones much anymore.

Anyone out there got any funny triggers?

Bachelor Pad

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy has her annual “Oracle Shuts Down San Francisco Conference” this week.  We dropped her off at BART this morning,and we will not be seeing her til thursday.  She will be hanging with the movers and shakers, dining at fantastic events, and otherwise being very grownup (until she has a third cocktail.)

Malcolm and I will be having quite a different experience.  We’ll start it off tonight by watching the football game.  If Amy were around, they would talk to each other in an enriching way and play some games which develop his ever expanding intellect.  Malcolm and I, on the other hand, will stare at grown men bludgeoning the snot out of each other, and do it in virtual silence.  I could tell him that the game is a battle of good versus evil, but with the Jets playing the Dolphins, what story could I possibly tell?

We will be eating a steady diet of crap while Amy is gone.  I have a hard time cooking anything too exciting when Amy is gone, so Malcolm and I will make do on mounds of macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and dessert from bakesale betty’s.  I have tried to make gourmet healthy food for just the two of us, but every time I have, the meal has ended in tears (from both of us! I get really upset when people don’t like my cooking.) I am not sure who is going to get more out of the week, as I don’t often get to treat myself to kids’ food regularly.

Malcolm will also look a lot more disheveled at school this week.  I am kind of a slob myself, and dress like it is my duty to protect the world against my devilish good looks.  Amy dresses Malcolm a lot and usually cares that Malcolm’s clothes, A) are clean and B) match, while I generally let Malcolm dress himself and pat myself on the back every time I get him out of the house with A) pants on and B) a shirt on.  Malcolm’s teachers will definitely be able to realize that I have sole Malcolm duty this week.

With Amy gone, my wine consumption will plummet, too.  We consider wine to be a contributing member of our marriage, and without her there, drinking wine feels like cheating. I know that she will be cheating, as her evenings will be spent drinking fabulous wines at expensive restaurants.  I like to think that I am a better man than that, so I will not be cheating on her.  I will drink beer.  Wait a minute, beer and macaroni and cheese with a football game on?  I hope she goes out of town for a month!

How Do You Take Care of Someone Else’s Kid?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Our neighbor kid has no one else to play with, so he has been coming over to our house this week in the afternoons. I like the arrangement, because the boys occupy themselves and it frees me up to get stuff done.  However, since his daddy (also a stay at home dad) remains home with the other child, I supervise the boys by myself.  (When I say supervise, I mean that in the sense that I situate myself somewhere in the house so that I can hear the cries when one of them brutalizes the other.)  It does bring up an issue though, and that is what the heck do you do with someone else’s kid?

I know every bullet in Malcolm’s arsenal. I know the look in his eye when he is about to do something drastic.  I know how he is going to react to various things when he is a) cranky, b) hungry and c) both.  Our neighbor kid? I know nothing.  He is like a little llama, I haven’t the faintest idea of what makes him tick. He chastises Malcolm for mistakes that Malkie made hours before.  He alternates between being irritated by and obsessed with what Malcolm is doing. He says that our apple juice tastes like it has tomatoes in it.  I have no idea how to arbitrate disputes between the two, as I don’t really understand what their arguments are about. I feel kinda useless.

For now, I treat Jack like he is a Japanese tourist who understands little english.  I speak V-E-R-Y L-O-U-D-L-Y and V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y to him and mutter things under my breath when he turns away.  I make up arbitrary rules and roll my eyes constantly.  I say things like, "well that may be the custom in your country, but we do things differently here."  I figure that at some point I will learn how to tame the llama, but for now, I struggle with my Japanese. 

P.S. I believe that this was the first time in the history of the English language that the last sentence has been uttered before.  Talk about originality!

I Used To Think TV Was A Bad Thing

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

We weren’t going to be "those parents."  We heard too many horror stories of parents letting televisions raise their kids.  We were going to be different.  No way, couldn’t happen to us.  We were sure that TV was an evil to be avoided, sort of like shellfish at a buffet.  Studies show that for young children, every hour that they watch TV is one fewer word that they learn.  TV teaches your kid to love fast food, fear the outdoors, and that violence is the best way to solve any problem.  We were sure that if Malcolm watched enough TV he would turn into an overweight, lethargic mess who would learn how to bash someone’s brain in before learning his multiplication tables.

And then, some cracks began to form in the dam.  Malcolm was waking up from his nap in a very cranky mood, and it was becoming difficult to cheer him up.  So, we let him watch a show when he woke up. He would have a little snack and enjoy a little TV while his brain was adjusting to consciousness.  That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Then I learned that I could get stuff done by letting Malcolm watch shows. This came in handy when we hade people coming over for dinner, or doing taxes, or, in rare circumstances, when I needed to research fantasy football.  I tried to avoid putting him in front of the screen for too long, but his shows were educational.  Aint nothing wrong with that.

Slowly, but surely, more cracks formed in the dam, eventually causing it to burst. Now we let Malcolm watch TV in the car on long journeys, when we have guests over and we want to enjoy them and not entertain the kids, or the end of the week white flag that signals our inability to do any more parenting: "Movie Night." What’s worse, we used to closely monitor everything that he watched to ensure that he was being exposed to anything untoward.  Now, he watches anything that people will show him, including, (gasp!), PG movies. I remember feeling bad that Malcolm once saw Shrek while we were waiting at the doctor’s office, now I don’t blink an eye when I see him watching Porky’s.  Ah well, it is one of the many shortcomings that we have as parents.  We try, but it is impossible for us to be the perfect parents that we thought Malcolm deserved.  I just hope the words he is missing out on while watching are all dirty words. Then again, Porky’s is probably teaching him how to swear.

Cleanliness is Far Away From Pauliness

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Malcolm is getting a babysitter tonight.  Amy has work functions, and rather than be a responsible parent and take care of my child by myself, I am outsourcing the job to a babysitter so that I can go out with my friends, drink beer and play poker.  I guess I’ll play softball at some point too.

I was thinking earlier this week that I would have to skip the game, as I couldn’t think of anyone who would be willing to stay with Malcolm while I went out and ruined myself.  I posted an email to our neighborhood listserv and one of my neighbors gave me a referral for a nanny who is looking for nighttime work as well.  Some parents may have checked on references, cross checked against the sex offender list, and interviewed the prospective sitter.  I on the other hand, did this: 1) retrieve phone number from email, 2) called “Gabriella”, and 3) asked her if she could do it.  She had me at, “I’m available!” I am not sure whether my computer or Malcolm, for that matter, will still be here when I return, but my team needs its third baseman and I have a better than average shot at winning the poker game. It’s a good thing, too, because I need to win just to break even for the night. $15 an hour for babysitting?!  He’ll be asleep most of the time!!! At that cost, I am expecting our refrigerator to be cleaned up when I get back.  I guess I just hope the fridge is still here when I get home.

In order to ready the house for the arrival of a stranger, I have been working all day to make it look like Malcolm and I don’t live in a fraternity.  Amy has been gone early in the morning all week, and has been returning late in the evening, so she hasn’t really been able to notice that our house has been taken over by clutter.  So, I have spent the day furiously eliminating all traces of my domestic ineptitude.  I started in the office, the room that connects Malcolm’s room to the family room.  The room is scary, and I don’t like to go in there if at all possible.  It is the place where everything else in the house goes before other guests arrive.  By now, it looks like the underside of a bridge, so I had to find a new place for all the junk that has no other place in the house.  After a mere four hours of stashing stuff either under the desk or in the closet, I downgraded the room to messy, which is good enough for the babysitter.

I next moved to the kitchen, where removing a few days worth of gunk and stains proved a little more difficult than imagined.  I felt a little conflicted, as Rosie, our house cleaner is coming tomorrow and I didn’t want to spend too much time doing something she is going to end up doing (better) tomorrow. I ended up throwing out a fair number of screws that had accumulated on the kitchen counter, and I couldn’t help but wonder how they all got there. Something is definitely going to be falling apart soon.  Cleverly, I put all the empty wine bottles into the recycling, masking how Amy and I spend our evenings at home.

Finally, I made me way to the family room/Malcolm play room.  Good thing too, for, in my infinite wisdom a few days ago, I allowed Malcolm to play with a canister of toothpicks.  (He called them his “friends” and played baseball with them.  He is definitely settling into his role as single child!) I imagined what a child care professional would say after  Malcolm dragged her over to his table and proudly pointed to his favorite “toys” to play with, only to find that they were 200 or so small pointy sticks.  I piled the toothpicks into his drawer and gave a little prayer that she wouldn’t go prying around and come upon them unsuspectingly.  Then again, for $15 an hour, she probably is a pretty good private eye too.

Why Is This So Hard?

Posted by admin in Daddy Stories

I used to be a full-time stay at home dad.  Before he went to pre-school, he and I spent almost every minute of the day together.  I knew what time he pooped, exactly when he fell asleep for his naps, and when he had each and every tantrum.  Then, he went off to pre-school.  For those of you with jobs, pre-school for stay at home parents is like Christmas morning, every day.  Your child gets to learn, have fun with other kids, and is completely safe, and all of it happens with you not there.  The time that your child is at pre-school is the time when you get to look at your email, wander around the grocery store, and, gasp, exercise.  It really is quite nice.

And then the summer comes.  For some reason, school stops during the summer.  Actually, I am told that school stops in the summer so that the kids could help harvest crops on the family farm.  I don’t really believe this, as it based in rationality and our educational system is so backwards and stupid that it has no rational basis to it. Anyways, when school stopped in June, I became a full time stay at home dad. Again.  That means I am around all day when Malcolm wants to build legos and have them march in a parade.  I am around all day when Malcolm wants to play “days and nights,” his words for playing pretend school, pretend library or pretend anything else that he can conjure up.  I am around all day when Malcolm goes poop and then charges me $5 for the privilege of wiping his butt.  I used to do this every day, but now I can’t seem to keep up.  I have definitely started to notice that I am losing it.

I have begun to stress the importance of “alone time” when I work on a project (like this blog posting) and he plays by himself.  I have taken to playing scrabble on my phone while locked in our bathroom, hiding from the boy’s energy.  (He has figured out a pretty nice little solution to this one; he goes to the bathroom himself, and then yells that he is finished and needs me to wipe his butt, cutting short my bathroom private time and making my pretend wallet $5 lighter.  A double whammy!)  I tried feeding him a relatively healthy meal last night, cheese quesadillas with broccoli on the side, and after he finished seconds and wanted more, I told him he needed to have something else to round out the meal.  Then I fed him a hotdog!  I now consider he and I watching the Giants’ game on TV “Quality Father Son Time.”

School starts in a few weeks, and I am ready.  I am ready to have him learn in a structured environment again. I am ready to start exercising again. I am ready to go grocery shopping and make some outrageously good weekday meals.  I am ready to use the time off to figure out how to best spend the time we are actually together.  Either that, or I am ready for Malcolm’s teachers at school to pay the butt wiping fee.

The Dilemmas of a Stay at Home Dad

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories, Paul is a Dork

Today, Malcolm and I had a marathon session of baseball at the park (yay!). During our two and a half hours of batting practice and catch, we discovered that we each needed to pee.  I thought about this and realized that we stay at home dads have some altogether different choices that we need to make when we are out in the world.  Here are a couple of them:

Where Do We Pee?

As a veteran stay at home parent, I should always ask my child before we leave whether he needs to go to the bathroom.  However, we are usually late to wherever we are going and I am usually yelling at him, so I am not as composed as perhaps I should be.  I often find that he has to go to the bathroom, and after a bit of checking, I realize that I do too.  Today, when it became apparent that we needed to pee, i realized that the bathrooms are located about a half mile away.  So, it was either gather up all our stuff, walk across the park, and interrupt what was a stellar hitting session, or drop trou and hide behind the tree.  Malcolm  once peed on the grass at Pier 39, so this wasn’t the most public place that Malcolm has gone.

Should I Have a Second Beer?

I go to a playgroup every monday.  It is chock full of stay at home dads, and after we make small talk for around half an hour, we wander over to the picnic area, start up the grill and open the cooler.  Our coolers are quite extraordinary, filled with half juice boxes and half beer, and that is on a good day.  Usually, we forget the juiceboxes and make the kids drink out of the fountain.  Lately it has been pretty hot during the day, and the cooler beckons often.  I try to resist its siren-like calls, but when it is 97 degrees (like it was on Monday) sometimes I give in.  I feel guilty, not because drinking 2 beers in 4 hours while at the park is dangerous, but because when I reach into the cooler to grab a cold one, the kids are all disappointed that there is nothing in there for them.

Do I Talk to Random Guys at the Playground?

There are a lot of stay at home dads out there.  There are also many dads who have alternate schedules which allow them to chaperone their kids to the park during the day.  I never know what to do when I come into contact with these other guys at the park when I see them.  My conscience tells me to strike up a conversation with them and spread the word that there are many of us out there.  My brain tells me to shut up, because, I don’t know if you know this, stay at home dads are weird.  It takes a certain something to buck societal roles, and that something is not something that I ever want to come into contact with.  I worry that I would get stuck talking to some bizarre personality who would distract me from my real duty, playing with my IPhone.  So, most of the time, I ignore every other fella I meet.  Unless he is playing with his IPhone, then I know he’s cool.

A Fair to Remember

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Malcolm and I went to the Alameda County Fair. We had a great time, we saw a sweet model train set, petted everything from a peacock to a Llama, rode rides, saw funny shows and ate garbage. We had so much fun that we skipped Malcolm’s nap and left after dinner, Malcolm falling asleep on the way home. All in all there the day was a smashing success, the kind of day you dream about before you have kids and wonder what it will be like to be a parent.

The only downside is the knack that I have for hating people. Sometimes they can tell that I hate them, sometimes they can’t, but put me around a group of people for long enough and I am gonna hate some of them. Since I was at the fair for 8 hours today, I developed quite a list:

1. Model Train Engineer Guy. Since Malcolm is so excited by model trains, I can forgive the socially awkward 50 year old men who still play with choo choo trains. What I cannot forgive is the engineer today who dropped his can of soda, and thought that the very next thing that he needed to do was open it. Seriously! He opened a can of soda right after dropping it. Of course, the soda exploded, like you would expect a can of soda to, and the reach of the blast extended to a good deal of train track, and sadly, my hat. I gave him the stink eye, but his friend standing next to me said everything that needed to be said, “Why did you do that?”

2. Lady with scaredy cat kid. Malcolm is no angel, I know this. So when the carnie opened the gates to the jeep ride and all the kids made a mad dash to pick out their favorite jeep, I could have chastised Malcolm for running in front of an older kid who, for some reason was frozen in his tracks. I didn’t though and the kid Malcolm cut in front of burst into tears, pointing to Malcolm’s jeep and saying, “that was myyyyyy jeep.” This was especially ridiculous because there were still 4 seats available in the jeep, including the driver seat. The kid’s mom sneered at me, picked up her kid, and said, “I know, that little boy cut in front of you and took your jeep, didn’t he. We’ll wait for the next ride.” What are you talking about lady? There are four open seats in there! This is a fair, sometimes your kid will share a ride. Quit raising a drama queen.

3. Carnies. I realize that everyone needs work, and that some jobs are better than others, but why do carnies have to be so sketchy? Everywhere I went I was shouted at by hawkers. At first I tried to be polite, “no thank you, not today, gotta get to a show!” But they continue to sell even after you politely tell them no. So, after 6 hours of this, I started to lose it, “No! We don’t want an enormous inflatable Spongebob! Because we have no use for a fucking goldfish!” etc. etc. The way they sell you is creepy, too. Instead of, “Hey there, hey there, step right up, every one’s a winner here,” its “Does your son want something big and furry?” Ewwwwwww. If Malcolm ever wants to work at a carnival I am going cry.

4. Swearing parents. I love swearing. My favorite word of all time is Mother Fucker. I like to call people who don’t swear, “asshole.” Things change, though, when you have a kid. Things you used to do (get falling down drunk and sleep all the next day, hunting homeless people with a compound bow etc) are no longer acceptable, and you have to carve out special time to do them. I think swearing definitely falls into this category. Try not to swear until your kids know the difference between swearing (which will get them into trouble at school) and nice language. At the fair, a couple (drinking Coors Light at 11 am) ran around with their kids saying things like, “I don’t give a shit, git away from that tractor!” And, “Put that stupid fucking shovel down!” I couldn’t believe it, as usually when parents swear its because they have just hurt their knee on something. These people definitely didn’t play by the rules, and I felt sad for their mother fucking kids, who are gonna have a hard time when the grow up knowing what, exactly, normal is.

5. Magicians. I took Malcolm to a magician’s show, and it hurt. This guy was very good at doing tricks (errr “Illusions”) but his whole shtick was creepy. I guess magicians are the carnies of the entertainment world, and this guy was no different. He spoke out of the side of his mouth like the Penguin on Batman, or Dick Cheney, and kept looking around like he was expecting the cops to come and bust him at any moment. His voice was hushed, as if hungover and embarrassed about what he did the night before. Also, I couldn’t be sure, but is seemed like his shoes were on the wrong foot. If I had my choice between Malcolm becoming a Carnie or becoming a magician, I honestly don’t know how I would instruct him. I would hope that he would be a stay at home dad, and learn the joy of taking his son to the county fair.

We got attacked!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

At my stay at home dads group Monday, on old woman stumbled over and set down at one of our tables. Now, I generally fear old people, so I was not happy about this development. Then she opened her mouth, “Why are all the men taking care of the babies?” Since I was closest to her, I took the lead, “Because we are stay at home dads. We all take care of the kids while our wives work.” Her reply was less than encouraging, “Everything’s gone to hell.” She went on to offer an excuse for why none of use had paying careers, “There are no good jobs anymore, they’ve all gone away.” I thought this was kind of funny, and put aside my distaste for old person smell to engage her for a bit.

Boy was I wrong. She lashed out at everything that happened after the 1940’s, lambasted Obama for spending too much money, and then chastised us for not taking care of our wives and families. When we explained that we literally were taking care of our wives and families, she told us that we should be humiliated. Then she said the whole world had gone to hell (again) nothing good had happened in 40 years. I left when she started to get racist, and heard some of the other members of the group trying to get a word in edgewise.

Usually the comments we get from random people are quite positive, “That’s so awesome! I tried to get my husband to do that. I’ve heard about you guys.” Once, a woman came up to us at a park and said that her mom’s group was jealous that we were drinking beer, because the only good stuff they had were brownies. I offered to trade them our beer for their brownies, but she declined, and later just brought over their leftover brownies for us to eat. So this was really the first time that someone had challenged our roles to our face, but no one minded, considering she was loony as all get up.

But, it did make me think. Being a stay at home is a challenge, but usually by the time you make it out of your house, you are comfortable in your role. There are days when you question what the hell you have done with your life, but that is true when you are a lawyer, insurance salesman, or postal employee, too. I have thought about returning to the workforce, but every time I do, I come to the same conclusion, “work is for suckers.” So old lady, go on and hate us, just as you hate all evidence of progress. Where we sit, progress is just fine.

Letter to Malcolm’s baseball coach

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I want to strangle Malcolm’s baseball coach. Not strangle from behind, chop into little bits and feed to the cat, like we do with the UPS driver. No, I want to strangle the coach almost to the point of asphyxiation, only to bring him back so that I can tell him what 3 and 4 year olds are like. We signed Malkie up for baseball and soccer classes this summer in the hopes that Malcolm would learn an appreciation for team sports, but I am deathly afraid that the coach is going to ruin everything. So in an effort to avoid having to do him bodily harm, I am going to offer a few suggestions to him.

First, preschoolers don’t know anything about baseball. If they are standing at home and you tell them to go “hit first,” they are more likely to slug the person next to them than touch first base. I suggest yelling, “run straight ahead and touch first base with your foot!” They also don’t know what “tag him!” or “tag the bag” mean. I suggest a little bit more clarity in these instructions as well. They will definitely not understand you when you say, “if you get to first before the other team throws the ball to the first baseman who steps on the bag, then you are safe, otherwise you are out.”

Second, preschoolers have an attention span of 3 seconds. It’s a fact. If you are trying to get the batter to hold the bat properly, take a wide stance, and take a few practice swings before eventually hitting, don’t be surprised that, when the ball is actually hit, the third baseman is now chasing a grasshopper and the second baseman is lying down playing in the sand. Yelling their names and asking them to get back in position won’t help. To keep them focused, each drill should take no more than a few seconds, or you’ll end up trying to herd kids (much in the same way you would herd cats) back into organization.

Third, don’t bother with any small talk. If you start the day (at 11 am, mind you) by asking if everyone had woken up, you’re likely to get the answer that Malcolm gave, “I had yoguwt for bweakfast, and waffles. My shoes are reawy, reawy fast.” I know that you wake up late (last week you showed up hungover and 30 minutes late, but kids don’t really need to be sweet talked, just get ‘em playing.

Fourth, some people have accents. When woman of some sort of asian ethnicity says that the white, blonde haired boy’s name is “Sum,” you might want to factor in that the woman is the nanny, and boy is named Sam. If you don’t you will be calling the boy, “Sum” all season long and the other parents will giggle at you.

Fifth, preschoolers don’t need to play simulated games. They merely need to be introduced to the major elements involved and taught to enjoy themselves. Today, “Coach” explained how a game worked and then was sooooo satisfied with his work that he quizzed the kids, “So Devon, what do you do when the ball is hit at you?” A minute or so passed before another kid yelled, “firefly!” and then the left half of the infield went and asked their mommies for water. When “Coach” tried to bring the left side infielders back, the right side infielders went skipping into the outfield, while the kids on the bench gathered around the tee and started jumping on it. The batter, then tried to use the bat like a riot shield and push the bench kids back into the dugout. The parents giggled. Next time, just do group activities designed to help the kids learn to run, catch, throw, and hit. They will learn the thrill of an actual game later. That is, if they aren’t too many butterflies around.

My Narcissism Kicks In To Overdrive

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am not the best father in the world. I can say this now, while Malcolm hasn’t learned how to read, but it is in fact true. At my stay at home dad’s group, we guys sit around drinking beer and making fun of each other (and each other’s kids) while the kids desperately beg for attention. Malcolm constantly must tell me to put down my phone so that we can finish our role playing games (in the latest one, I was the driver of the circus train who was mauled by the lion in the caboose when the train derailed and the animals were set free. Who comes up with stuff like that?) Malcolm tells me to stop “working” on facebook and put away my computer so that we can do puzzles together. I know my limitations and try to keep focused on the job of raising our son as best as I can.

Recently, however, my thoughts have been taken up by a new circumstance. I few months ago, my dad’s group was approached by a representative from The Learning Channel about an idea for a show they were considering. They wanted to follow a dad’s group around and see what it is like for a man to function as a stay at home parent. I thought this was an excellent idea, and was interested in learning how to be a better parent. Sadly, they wanted to show us. We submitted an audition tape for them to get a sense of who we were. I did a little too much opening up, though, and for some reason I found myself talking about my favorite toothless prostitutes in Oakland in my audition tape. Did I mention that this was for a show on a network called “The Learning Channel?” At the time, the group was a little tight in front of the camera, so I wanted to set the stage for everyone to loosen up. I ended up overcompensating and going far, far off the deep end, ending up discussing things more appropriate for a priest in a confession booth.

Imagine my surprise a few months later when TLC got hold of us again and told us that they had selected our group and one other to proceed with. (!) They told us they weren’t quite sure what they had yet, and still needed to decide whether to use our group, the other group, both groups, or a show about the Octamom. Here’s where things get distracting for me. They also told me that they were going to shoot a pilot using our dad’s group and that they were going to send a film crew up to film a couple of days in our life. They want to show what the dad’s group is like, and also follow people home to see what happens in the home. At this point, I am on the short list of people that they want to follow home, and this is particularly terrifying because of the dizzying pace of lies I told on the audition tape. (I am going to have to start donating time to charity and cooking well, or they will know that the jig is up!)

So today, at a local kid’s play area, Malcolm threw pitchers of water on toddlers, took pretend eggs away from little girls, and threw pitchers of water on himself. Why? I was too busy trying to set up a web video conference with the dad’s and the production company. They are coming to tape in a few weeks, and nobody quite knows what to expect. I am not sure whether they will actually try to make a show out of us, and even if they do, whether I will be involved. I don’t know whether we will even be able to tolerate having strangers in our house. I do know, however, that I want to get the message out that there is no real reason why women need to be the ones that give up their careers to raise children and that men must go out and make the money. On second thought, maybe I’m all wrong, while I was writing this, Malcolm just dumped the entire box of crackers on the newly cleaned floor. Dumb distractions. I’ll keep you posted, but for now, if you see me on the street and I ignore you, its because I’m famous and you are not.

Am I a racist, a sexist, or just an idiot?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

So there we were, Malcolm and I at the Oakland public library, like we do most Wednesdays. A new librarian was droning on and on about frogs or ducks or something so my attention wandered to the little boy wandering around messing with everyone. The kid’s face looked like he was about 40, but was just learning to walk so I put his age at about 11 months. He was meandering about the small group pulling on other kid’s hair, giving hugs, and generally acting like a spazz. I find it comforting when Malcolm is not the biggest thug in the room.

After story time ended, we headed over the grocery store to buy some stuff. I know that you want me to tell you exactly what stuff I had to buy, but I won’t. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t. I won’t even tell you why. So don’t ask. Anyways, I was looking for milk and apple juice and ran into the dad of the spazz. I said hi, and asked how old the little boy was. The dad said that she was a year old. Huh? That mess is a girl? I quickly looked her up and down for signs of femaleness and I found none. The kid had a squat body, skinny froggy legs, and nothing on the onesie she was wearing suggested that she either liked sports (which would make her a boy) or unicorns (which would make her a gay boy). Both dad and kid were black, so I immediately wondered if my total lack of perspective was because I am racist. I stared at the face of the spazz and wondered how the hell that little face could be a girls. Was it the fact that I am a racist which clouded my judgment? Was my being a sexist and looking for typically “male” features part of the problem? Was that kid really a girl. No way.

Ah hell. I don’t give a rats ass about this stupid story. My fantasy football draft is tomorrow. I love fantasy football like a dog likes his balls. If fantasy football was a steaming hot pile of pig droppings, I would get down there and rub it all over my face. Fantasy football could appoint a horse trainer to head up FEMA, start a war with Iraq without adequate planning, and ruin absolutely everything everywhere, and I would vote for it a second or third time. I care about fantasy football. I even use my brain. I normally am not the kind of guy who thinks a lot, preferring instead to react to situations with either blind rage or quiet sheepishness. Except for two situations, where I am quite analytical. First is fantasy football. Second is ordering meat at the butcher. I got so sick and tired of ordering half a pound of delicious ham only to have my grandiose plans thwarted by the meat clerk, who after slicing up my tasty swine would ask, “It’s a little over, is that allright?” Fuck no daddio, I don’t want .63 pounds. It’s too much ham!!! To control the situation, I have started bluffing about how much meat I actually need. Now I say I need .42 pounds of ham, and smile with glee when they ask, “is a half a pound ok?” You bet your sweet tits its ok.

Fantasy football challenges me in ways I never thought possible. If you don’t know what fantasy football is, I am not going to tell you. Instead I will punch you in the neck next time I see you and tell you how much you suck. To prepare for my draft, I simultaneously consider factors such as age, injury risk, prior year’s performance, quality of offensive line, and whether I hate the player’s guts. I then create lists, flow charts and squiggly lines to help me when I hit the ground on draft day. After draft day, I will spend every Sunday indoors at a dive bar watching the games with my “friends.” I say that they are my friends, but in fantasy football, there are no friends. Only sworn enemies. I will then come home and watch the Sunday games with my family and dance all around the house when something good happens and hit Malcolm with a pipe when bad stuff occurs. I may not win the championship this year, but it won’t be because of a lack of effort. I think about fantasy football all the time. I look at Malcolm and wonder whether there are any trades I should be making with my sworn enemies. I look at a tree outside our house and wonder who the best kicker in the league is. I see a radiator and wonder whether the Vietnamese gardener who is locked in our crawl space is still alive. God I love fantasy football. The only thing I would do differently is change the name. Anything that I take this seriously shouldn’t be called fantasy anything. That’s like calling an elite army unit the fighting “cupcakes.” If I could rename fantasy football, I would call it Intensely Rewarding Football Analytical Numerology. So that is interesting for a whole new reason. The first letters spell IRFAN, who was a huge fat disgusting Persian guy I knew in college. At least I thought he was a guy. You never know, I am a racist.

Malkie Goes to the Fair

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

When I was a kid, I went to the fair every year. I remember smuggling in beer and scoping out girls when at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, and throwing up hot dogs during rides at the state fair in Carson City, Nevada. I hadn’t been to the fair yet in Alameda County, and thought this was the year when I realized that the fair had animals, rides, and food that is bad for you, which are three of Malcolm’s favorite things. Actually that is a bit of a lie. Those are the only things that Malcolm enjoys nowadays.

The fair has changed a lot since I was a kid. I used to think that the county fair is where the community goes to go have fun together. If you didn’t know any better (and Malcolm doesn’t) you/he would think that the county fair is actually where you go to buy things, (lots and lots of expensive things). The first thing that we did when we got there (after paying $8 for parking and $10 for entrance fee) was to walk down a long outdoor corridor that gave you the opportunity to purchase hot tubs, gazebos, sun rooms, cookware and outdoor pools. Don’t think, though, that it was merely one kiosk for each of those. No, there four or five hot tubs shops, three gazebo places and half a dozen sun room outlets. Who the hell buys an addition to their home at the county fair? I guess the conversation fair organizers you want to have when you get home goes like this, “How was your tip to the fair, honey? It was good; we rode the rides, ate some cotton candy, and bought a new backyard, complete with pool, spa, BBQ and palapa. Oh, and after we ordered deep fried snicker bars, we bought a sunroom. All in all, our trip to the fair cost us $15,000.” Things were so ridiculous that there was a 100,000 square foot tent set up with the following sign, “AIR-CONDITIONED shopping, THIS WAY!!!!” Since it is usually around 100 degrees during the fair, I would guess that people go to this tent, because it is the only place in the fair with AC. I guess everyone needs to make a buck in today’s world.

Our first stop at the farm was the races. The horses were running at the track later on in the day, so we stuck to the pig races. Yes, no typo there, in what is quite possibly my new favorite sport, Malcolm and I watched little piglets running around a tiny track, making cute little grunts all the way around the track. Since it was 11:00 on a Thursday, we sat right next to the track, and took in all the action. The only thing wrong with seeing Amazing Pork take first place in the finals was that I wasn’t able to wager on it. I would definitely have boxed AP with Spider Ham who ended up losing by, you guessed it, a nose.

We saw some baby cows and sheep, and then headed over to the 4-H pavilion where you could get up close and personal with more cows and more sheep. While in the pavilion, I saw the weirdest sport I had ever witnessed. In a ring, surrounded by grandstands, 10 or 20 young kids in bright white uniforms with green neckties chased pigs around in circles. I don’t know if you have ever been around pigs, but they are hard to give orders to. That is why the kids, in order to make the pigs go where they wanted them to, whacked the pigs in the face with a long, thin stick. Yes, that last sentence was right. A group of 50 or 60 parents sat in the stands watching their kids walking around a ring, whacking pigs in the face with a stick. The oddest thing about this Pig Smack-Off was that it was done in complete silence. For ten minutes, I watched in horror, wondering where the pigs were supposed to be going, while at the same hoping someone would intervene and stop those kids from whacking the pigs in the face all the time. Having considered it now, I think I prefer silence to cheers from the parents in the audience. Yells like, “C’Mon, Cindy Sue, hit that sow!!! Or Bobby, smack the shit outta that pig!!!” would have been ten times worse. I considered the very real possibility that the kids were tenderizing the meat for the corn dog stand and whisked Malcolm away to the Kids area.

We enjoyed a couple of shows, rode a kid’s train, ate corn dogs and fries, and Malcolm even rode a horse, but by far my favorite event of the day was seeing the ridiculously large penis of the shetland pony. My god, that sucker was huge, easily the length of Malcolm’s arm. The kicker was that the pony was only as tall as Malcolm’s shoulders. I stood in stunned silence, seeing the huge appendage almost dragging on the ground, I couldn’t help but think of the enormous, (and I mean enormous!) sense of pride that pony must have walking into the locker room. It’s not often you tip your cap to a farm animal, but that giants hat definitely gave its propers to “Honey,” who in my opinion, is the pound for pound the largest penis owner in the entire planet.

We finished our day and headed back to the car. Malcolm had a great time, and it was probably because he didn’t suffer from my neuroses. He didn’t gawk at having to spend $60 for a day at the fair. He didn’t care about the trans-fats in the corn dogs, or the sugar content of the sno-cones. He didn’t care why the kids were beating the shit out of the pigs, or feel bad that Honey’s penis was about 25 times the size of his. He just let go and had fun for a day at the fair. And now that I think of it, that was just what I used to do.