The Day This Blog Died

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I love this blog. Do I still love the name? Nope. If I could get into a time machine, go back to when I started this blog and a) dissuade my earlier self from getting that Gilmore Girls tattoo and b) change the name of my blog to something less creepy, I would totally do it. Nevertheless, BigDaddyPaul.com has given me the chance to make chicken dinner something out of chicken shit nothing. For every experience that has totally sucked for me as a stay-at-home dad, I’ve had the ability to think to myself, “At least this will make for a good blog post!” It often did, and I’ve had a fantastic time over the past 10 years wasting your time at work or giving you something enjoyable to read while using the toilet.

Even so, all good things must come to an end. It’s true! My favorite TV shows, “MASH” and “Anything with Tina Fey in it” were both amazing, and are now no longer with us. Also, Dr. Pepper Gum was my favorite thing in Junior High. Then, poof, gone, never to be chewed and then spit out flavorlessly after less than five minutes again.

Which brings me to the point: this blog must now die. Actually, this blog died on November 8, 2016, I just didn’t know it. On November 8, Donald J. Trump won the U.S. election, promising to deport millions of immigrants, restrict women’s reproductive rights, terminate collective bargaining rights for employees, roll back environmental regulations and eat undersized children. That doesn’t sit well with me. I am not going to take this lying down. (Can I get to three references involving the human body in a non-standing posture? Read on!) This was not something I am able to just squat thrust and forget about. (I did it! All three of them make perfect sense, too. Yay for me!)

The election made me have feelings. Strong feelings. Very strong feelings that I haven’t felt in a long time. What kind of feelings? The election made me feel sad. And mad. I should throw confused in there as well. But most of all, the election made me feel the need to go back to work.

What??

Yes, I want to go back to work. The guy who quit being a lawyer more than eleven years ago now wants to squat thrust his way back into the practice of law! Before my son Malcolm was born, I was a labor lawyer, dedicated to protecting workers’ rights in a number of ways. This was important work for me, able to feel like I was doing something with the good fortune that this world has given me. I eventually quit to become a stay-at-home dad, and while it was an adjustment, I was able to squash my notions of social justice by promoting gender equality in the workplace. This non-traditional, social movement of two was good enough for the longest time.

Until November 8. The election changed everything for me. I just can’t sit in my middle class bubble in my lefty part of the world, content that this new president won’t be able to do too much to me personally. The truth is that a large number of hard working Americans will get the snot knocked out of them by this new administration. That is just something that makes me cringe. And not cringe while standing up. This is a full on, down on the ground, lick the floor cringe. (I’m up to four!)

Alas, I am going to do more than cringe. I am going back to work and I’m going to fight. I’m not sure what kind of work, as I’ve changed a lot in the past eleven years. I will be able to spend a little time (hopefully) volunteering at some organizations that do great work and see what is a good fit for me. I will also get back into the hard work of lawyering by doing some contract work for my old law firm, building my skills back up and proving to future employers that I CAN show up to work every day. (with pants!)

As this blog is first and foremost an account of me being a stay-at-home dad, I have decided to shut it down. I can’t tell you how cool it’s been to catalogue Malcolm’s life (and mine with it) and share the funny little things parents go through when raising kids. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the ride too. Thanks so much for reading. Every single person who told me that they enjoyed a post made my day. It gave me the inspiration to continue doing it, if only to subject others to inappropriate humor while they use the john. Thanks for everything, you are the best readers a semi-clothed, chubby dad could hope for. If we are not already Facebook friends, please hit me up.

As I leave you, I will give you one last little tidbit. Here is the picture I wanted to use for my newly created LinkedIn profile. Let’s connect!

img_4794

Actually, this blog is a treasure trove of embarrassing photos of myself. What better way to go out than to put them all together. Here you go! (Cue the sappy music…)

To the confused people on the airplane who couldn't figure out why I was crying during Mulan 2, "I'm sorry."

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

Thou Shalt Not Try To Ignore Me At A Restaurant!

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

I should have left the beard on all day, more cushion for the blows.

 

#6 - I want people to think that I am so prolific that I have four hands to write with. This really has it all, I am pale, blind as a bat and thoughtful. Who wouldn't want to read my writing?

Napping with Dad 2

I can't even see my feet anymore!

Malcolm enjoys his favorite beer

This is pretty much the grossest picture I could find of myself

Not sure why snorting the Cheerio seemed better than eating it, but what the heck do I know?

One of the many cringeworthy moments I have had shopping.

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

Amy smiles, Malcolm gives a "sad clown" and, of course, I am talking.

No doubt, I miss this!

Never saw this one coming, eh? BTW, that IS beer in that baby bottle...

And then there is this. This is the picture that represented both the blog and Malcolm and I’s relationship for the longest time. I see this picture and I smile. I hope you do too. Goodbye!

 

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Kids Annoy You

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

The unfortunate truth about living here is that, despite the mouth watering delicacies, the limitless supply of art and culture and crazy-interesting patterns of dog shit all over the sidewalks, you must still be a parent. Call me naive, but I thought that we would all be so wrapped up in the experience of living abroad that Malcolm would be an angel and I would effortlessly continue my reign as #2 parent of all time. (Octomom, I’m gunning for you!)* Alas, to my great dismay, one must still be a parent when they move to Paris. Blah.

To make things exceedingly difficult, Malcolm has hit a “development milestone,” which is clinician-speak for “I don’t know who my kid is and I don’t like him.” Every so often, your kid makes a huge push forward and changes in a way that is simultaneously surprising and frustrating; surprising because it involves behavioral changes that seem to spring from nowhere, and frustrating because you have no idea how to react. For everyone who tires of being begged  to engage in imaginative play all day long or doesn’t particularly like being bitten on the love handles (Malcolm’s favorite cut of parent) stepping into a new plane of development is often welcome. Figuring out the newest iteration of your kid is tough, though, and represents one of the greatest challenges we face as parents.

Up until now, I have generally enjoyed each new version of Malcolm. Each successive iteration came with new activities, new things to talk about, and new ways to enjoy one another. Until this one. This one feels like a lemon. This one steals anything not tied down and hoards it in his room. It is lazy to the point where it can’t even get it’s own towel after getting out of the bath tub. This one loses everything, whether it is a 10 Euro note it has obviously stolen from me, or a new watch that was proclaimed the, “greatest gift ever” when bestowed a week and a half prior. At the dinner table recently, this one chewed a long piece of cabbage like a cow (slowly and with most of it sticking out the side of its mouth.) When the cabbage fell out of its mouth onto the ground, this one, when asked about it, said, “What cabbage?” Arrgh!

If it only were as simple as him posing with pastries.

If it only were as simple as him posing with pastries.

To cap it off, this one either refuses to communicate, communicates in one word sentences, or engages in lengthy communications to inform you of what a crappy parent/person/cook you are. Whereas interactions with former models were interesting and oft surprising with the stuff it’d come up with, conversations now feel like interrogations, with the roles of interrogator and interrogatee  switching multiple times throughout. Most blind dates (even those between computer engineers from different sides of the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum) have smoother conversations than we do right now. Maddeningly, he refuses to look at the person he is talking to, and at times I think he is Keyser Soze, constantly scanning the room to come up the material to feed his web of lies. Double Arrg!

Perhaps you are thinking, “Let’s see: lazy, irresponsible, mischievous, sloppy, doesn’t speak good, generally irritates those around him, that sounds like someone I know whose name rhymes with Pig Baddy Dall!” Oh, I know. There is really only room enough for person like that in this house. Amy won’t stand for any more! If there is going to a bunch of lying, cheating, stealing and irritating, around here, I am going to be the one to do it. Your job as a parent isn’t to raise your kid to be the person that you are, it is to raise your kid to be the person you want to be (and one day will actually get around to becoming.) I want Malcolm to become the awesome person that I pretend I am when filling out online personality quizzes.

Honestly, I have no ideas for how to make that happen. I know that if Malcolm continues on the path he is currently on, he will become the 15th child in the Octomom household. I am hoping that he will regress a little toward the mean and that we will learn some better coping mechanisms than, “Stop doing that, it’s annoying.” It’s too bad, too, because sometimes I feel like we miss out on some Parisian adventures because one of us is trying to make a point. If the French had a term for such a predicament, it would probably be something like, “That’s life.” OK, enough venting. The next post will be France related.

* You might think it odd that my #1 Parent ever was the Octomom. Before dismissing this outright, consider the following:

Octomom had six kids and no job. Most people would find such a circumstance debilitating. Not the Octomom. You know what the Octomom did to help support those six kids?

She had eight more kids! Think about that: eight fucking kids! When was the last time you thought about finances or the future? At that time did you think, “The answer to my problem is to have eight kids.”?

No, no you didn’t. You couldn’t muster that much courage.

Then, to ensure the future for all those kids, Octomom made an adult movie. Whoa, talk about effort. I have never considered jamming something into one of my body orifices for Malcolm. Have you? Would Claire Huxtable? Once again, the answer is no. In comparison, we have done so little on behalf of our kids.

And that is why Octomom is the #1 parent of all time.

First Day of School

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm was accepted at one of the international schools that dot the Parisian landscape here. (You can tell if the school is an international school by the kids out front. If they are smoking, it’s a local school.) We were excited when the school admitted Malcolm, mostly because thoughts of me homeschooling him makes my skin break out in pustules. I like Malcolm, but, considering my lack of subject matter knowledge, I find the idea of teaching him vocabulary and grammar to be literally terrified. I will stick to developing good sportspersonship, working on hygiene and maybe some cooking.

Malcolm was very excited to start at the new school, as well. I have to say that I was impressed with the way he washed his hair while getting ready to go. He is trying to grow his hair long and when you combine that with his typical inability to properly work up a lather, most of the time his hair looks like a blonde brillo pad coated with margarine. On Monday, however, he proudly called me into the bathroom to show me, “How frothy his hair looked.” He actually worked up some suds! After, he had me smell his head to prove just how thorough of a job he had done. He clearly wanted to make a good impression. While his scalp smelled like isopropyl palmitate, it looked like napa cabbage covered with olive oil. Success!

Quit trying to hug me and wipe your baguette on my head! I don't like it.

Quit trying to hug me and wipe your baguette on my head! I don’t like it.

When we arrived at school, he was welcomed by a small group of kids in the yard who knew that Malcolm was going to be a new student in their class. At first, Malcolm wilted under the pressure. Unwilling to engage with them, he clung to my leg like the other kids were covered in, well, margarine. Malcolm is rather independent. He responds to Amy’s requests for physical displays of affection with the warmth of a British aristocrat during a particularly uneventful cricket match. He answers my queries about his day with one word answers. He is just not that into us, so I found his clingy-ness on his first day of school somewhat intriguing. Slowly, he let go of the mother ship to inspect his classmates in closer detail, and, by the time the teacher came down to collect the kids for class, he ran away without saying goodbye. (Just like his first day of preschool, his first day of kindergarten, and his first day of elementary school. Like I said, he is a passionless robot independent.)

I don’t know what my worst fear for his first day of school was, as I try not to dwell on the negatives in life. Whatever my doomsday scenario was, it was easily surpassed when I got an email immediately on Monday morning that Malcolm’s classroom had been exposed to lice. I figured that the timing of the email meant that the school nurse had given him a quick how-do-you-do and found that he brought a scourge into an otherwise sterile environment. This caused a great deal of anxiety. Horrified that we would be known as the family whose chief contribution to the class was an outbreak of contagious, shrimp-like creatures that dwell near your brain, I started looking up homeschooling resources and scratching my newly formed pustules. Even worse, I looked up the word, “Lice” in French and it translates as “Poux.” Fucking American Poux Heads. Could it get any worse? No, it can’t can’t get any fucking worse. Argh.

I arrived to pick him up at the school at the end of the day, and, instead of being the supportive parent who responded to his needs, I whisked him around the corner for an invasive scalp inspection. He squirmed at all the human contact, but I was delighted to find that, in addition to smelling like formaldehyde and looking like a non-dairy slaw, Malcolm’s head was poux-free! I wanted to shout it from the building tops, I was so excited. I have never been so proud of my little guy, even when he was able to recite more wide receivers on the Atlanta Falcons than one of the guys in my fantasy football league. Seriously! I almost skipped home, stopping only briefly at a patisserie for some well earned macarons. (The raspberry and pistachio were too sweet and the flavor not intense enough, but the coffee was quite delicious.) It’s not every day you avoid an international incident on your first day of school. And those pustules? Gone. Not a bad first day.

The Price Of Glory

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We promised ourselves we weren’t going to become one of “those” families. Granted, there are a lot of different “those” families that we didn’t want to become (Disney families, families that sleep in the same bed together, clean families) but there was certainly one line we didn’t want cross. We didn’t want to become the family that pushes our kid into ultra-competitive sports at an insanely early age. Whoops.

Up until now, Malcolm’s sports activities have been, essentially, a bunch of cute little golden retriever puppies stumbling about a poorly manicured field. Sometimes the puppies scored a goal or a run, and sometimes they ran off to the side to pee or chew on an old shoe. There were points in the game when a player told his teammates that they ate cake for breakfast or were going to a sleepover that night, drawing a small group of kids (from both teams) while the action was going on around them. Parents and kids all smiled a lot and the most important part of the exercise was the post-game snack.

For some reason, this was not enough. Malcolm tried out for competitive soccer and baseball teams in the past few weeks, and things look quite different than they did before. Yes, that’s right, we sent our seven year old son to tryouts, where, all of a sudden, Malcolm played in front of coaches who would determine whether he was good enough to make a team. On the Warm Fuzzy Scale (WFS), his prior leagues rank somewhere between comfy blanket and a grandparent hug. Tryouts rate squarely as Angelina Jolie.

It was really the first time in his athletic career that the concept of failure came into play. Sure, he gave up goals and struck out before, but these shortcomings were really just part of the game. Kicking the ball into his own net really didn’t matter that much because it didn’t mean that next week he would get put on a different team. The tryout was the first time in his life when Malcolm put himself in front of a ruling body for an up or down vote. It was terrifying, for all of us.

For a better or worse, Malcolm made both teams. I am proud of him, although certainly no more proud than him just putting himself out there in the first place. He will now be part of two competitive sports teams, and at every game he will play on from now til he gives it up and joins a recreational poetry club, they will keep score identifying a winner and a loser. I know that competitive systems always tend win out, capitalism beat socialism (and Angelina Jolie beat out Jennifer Aniston!) but I’m just worried whether we picked the right age to make the switch.

Things could go south quite easily. He could realistically go the entire baseball season without getting a hit and play on a soccer team that routinely gets trounced. While we want him to enjoy playing sports and appreciate the healthy aspects of competition (desire to get better, throttle the weak, etc.,)  it could very easily end up with a not-unexpected result of a seven-year-old saying “Life’s too hard out there. Fuck it, I’m just gonna stay home and play with my stuffed animals.” (Your seven-year-old uses the F-word, don’t they?)

The divisions created by the competitive sports world also complicate matters. Some parents make the decision that competitive sports are a little too crazy for their kids at this age. Heartbreakingly, other kids try and do not make the team. Until now, sports have been inclusive, a way to bring friends together to run around outside. Now, grown ups decide, for one reason or another, who gets to play with who. If you ask me, it sucks. Even if you don’t ask me, it still sucks!

I'm gonna these little puppies!

I’m gonna these little puppies!

The switch also means that my coaching career will come to an end. In “competitive” leagues, the coaches must be “good” and not simply adepts at getting kids to not pee on the field. I will miss engaging kids in weird ways (my warm up routines usually involved interesting dance moves) and will have to figure out a good way to get away with blowing a whistle loudly in kids faces. The upside is that I get to sit on the sideline and root for my son instead of telling him all the bad shit he was doing.

I am not sure whether we are going to enjoy this new phase of sports as much this year. If our cute little puppy turns into a rabid junk yard dog, we’ll know we made a bit of a misstep. Our hope that he learns to dribble better, kick farther, hit a baseball and develop his understanding of what it means to be a good teammate. I guess I should also make sure he knows how to write poetry.

Pants On Fire

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids have a nasty habit of growing up. When they are born, their shit literally does not stink. Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, little baby excrement one day turns foul, letting you know that everything you know and like about your kid will one day disappear. Every time we seem to hit a point where we have conquered the demons that torment Malcolm, something new, unexpected and unwanted pops up.

Malcolm is currently going through some personality changes that we aren’t so thrilled about. He is testing boundaries. Sometimes this can be quite charming, like when a young tiger cub cautiously ventures out into the world, periodically checking back with his mom to make sure everything is OK. Malcolm isn’t acting like a cautious cub, however. Right now, he mostly channels a velociraptor, violently throwing itself against an electric fence to methodically find weakness. He has gone from a child who mostly wants to please his parents into a kid who wants to find out what he can get away with. His teachers at school used to beam about him to us during afternoon pickups. Now, they generally roll their eyes at me when I ask how everything is going.

By far, the most disappointing aspect of this phase is the lying. Malcolm used to be honest with us, copping to everything from biting to secret cookie consumption. When that got inconvenient and embarrassing, his memory began to fail. When asked about subjects that he didn’t really want to dive into, he would claim that he “couldn’t remember.” This seemed to work for him until he began claiming that his memory couldn’t go back as little as fifteen minutes prior. Realizing this strategy didn’t have much in the way of legs, he began to spin the truth, “Yes, daddy, I hit Billy, but he hit me first.” Then the justifications got sufficiently wild that we both knew he was stretching the truth, “Well, if I HADN’T shown Louis my wiener at school, he was going tell everyone I didn’t have one!” He has now come to the conclusion that it’s just better to lie and save himself all the drama.

Raise your hand if you've ever told your parents you've got your pajamas on, when, in fact, you don't have your pajamas on!

Like a young Skywalker, impressed with his newly developed powers of the Force, Malcolm is using his new trick as often as he can. He lies about brushing his teeth. He lies about changing his socks. He lies about washing his hair in the shower, even though his hair is completely dry. Mostly, he lies to protect his habit of being alarmingly lazy, even to the point of bearing false witness to whether he wiped his butt after pooping. (!) The other night, he told us that he finished his dinner, when, in fact, he had just dumped half his plate under the ottoman. When we found it the next day, he blamed it on his friend Henry. A double whopper! Impressive for a six year old, no?

Luckily, everyone reminds me that this behavior is “developmentally appropriate.” These words are useful to avoid blaming my DNA for leading Malcolm down behavioral paths that lead to prison, but they also scare the shit out of me. If lying is part of the developmental equation, then so is getting good at it. Right now, the lie doesn’t come easy to him. Right before making up a tall tale, he pauses, looks directly at his eyebrows, and then blurts out the most obvious non-truth. He gets called out on it because we can totally tell that he is not giving us a straight story. Things are going to get a lot more dicey when we aren’t able to decipher whether his story is true or not. If he gets really good at it, he may even go to law school one day, a truly horrific thought!

At some point, we are going to have to sit down with him and teach him how to lie. Of course, we don’t want him to be generally untruthful, but sometimes the lie is the right way to proceed with things. When a classmate asks why Malcolm isn’t going to a birthday party, it’s not really cool to say that the birthday boy smells like a wet goat. I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable social situations I have gotten out of by harmlessly telling people, “Yes, that is a banana in my pocket!” There are times in life when a nice little harmless lie will do the job just fine. We can’t really show him how to do this right now; he’s got to finish his Jedi training before he can face the emperor. Until then, some socks won’t get changed, some teeth won’t get cleaned, and the family room floor may have more pork on it that we are accustomed to. We’ll just take our lumps.

Finances For a First Grader

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Our son’s path towards learning about money began with him becoming a thief. Like the sewer rat who poaches items left in the gutter and hoards them in his little lair, Malcolm has been salting away dollar bills and change that he finds lying around the house. At first, I found this upsetting, admonishing him for taking money that he didn’t earn and using it as his own. When Amy gently reminded me that I hadn’t earned a paycheck in over seven years, I changed my tune, congratulating him for his ambition and steps toward securing his own financial freedom. Lucky for us, Amy leaves A LOT of money around the house, so there is plenty to go around.

I look at him and see lots of gaps. He sees dollar signs.

I would say that this little hobby has now made him a full-fledged capitalist. He has come to the conclusion that having more money is better than having less, and has figured out some schemes to raise additional capital for Malcolm Enterprises. In spite of our early, “There is no tooth fairy” policy, Malcolm somehow convinced us that we should be putting money under his pillow when he loses a tooth anyways. I am not sure that we want to teach him to sell his body parts on the open market, but we have caved nonetheless. He has also talked us into giving him an allowance ($1 a week.) Every Sunday, he gleefully announces, “Daddy, you owe me a dollar!” and when I give it to him, he scurries away and puts the dollar with the rest of his cash reserves. (To be honest, I do the same with Amy’s paycheck.)

So now he has this huge pile of cash and change. Like many a capitalist before him, his empire is the result of a mixture of ingenuity, larceny and sacrifice. Every once in a while he dumps his money jar on the ground to assure himself that he is the richest child at his school. (We gave him some play money for Christmas and, not really understanding the difference between real and fake currency, he went ahead and told his friends that we had given him $843 for Christmas. Whoops!)

His pile of singles began to remind me a little too much of a degenerate at a strip club, so we gathered them up the other day and headed to the bank to open his first ever bank account. When the dust settled, he had a shiny new account with $35 in it. Based on the .05% interest rate he is getting (!), he will have enough money in the account to buy a Wii or a bicycle in a mere 500 years. I haven’t exactly told him this yet.

Of course, I am not going to let this opportunity pass without using it as a means to forestall doing things that I don’t really want to do. He recently asked if he could get a pet gerbil. Researching the pros and cons of critter parenting, we found out it costs around $325 to keep a gerbil every year. He was rather amazed at the cost. The gerbil movement has been tabled, and I consider myself somewhat of a genius.

Now that he has money, I also want to make sure that he understands the concept of wasting it. He has a nasty habit of taking a yogurt to school in his backpack and then forgetting about it. Days later, we will find it in there and it has begun to smell like a sick gerbil. After finding the third or fourth dead yogurt, we struck a deal: I was going to fine him a dollar every time he wasted a yogurt.

I am sure these lessons are but the tip of the economic iceberg. In the coming years, we will have to address issues like, “Can he spend his money on anything he wants (like a toy cross bow) even if we don’t really want him to buy it?” and “What do we do when he tries to sell his platelets to the blood bank?” For now, we have an allowance and a bank account, and even that seems a little scary.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids grow up, it’s a fact. For some parents, this is a good thing. For others, not so much. Around here, I take every sign of progress as a merit badge. Every step he takes in the march toward full-fledged personhood is a sign that I am doing my job adequately. (I just got my “No Skid Marks” patch!) Amy, on the other hand, sees this march as a transformation from someone who likes to cuddle to someone who thinks his parents are squares. She is, needless to say, not so found of each new step in Malcolm’s development.

Whether you like it or not, there are many ways to mark your child’s progress in life. You can count tantrums. You can tally the number of times they say, “Thank you,” or “I’m sorry I hit you in the face with the bat” without being prompted. You can mark their height on the wall or compare how their voice has changed from something similar to a squeaky mouse to something more like an old rat. They read longer, more complicated books and occasionally catch you when you get the math wrong. The signs of growing up are everywhere, and they have the effect of making you proud and scaring the shit of you, sometimes at the same time.

One of the funnest benchmarks of where your kids are at in life is their selection of Halloween costumes. Without any research behind this, I would venture to guess that most kids start out their Halloween careers with costumes that are more in the cute and cuddly variety, consisting of things like bunnies and adorable root vegetables. Have you ever seen a one-year-old dressed up as a ninja? I haven’t. As they get older, though, their taste in outfits gets a little more sophisticated. Your sweet little baby trades in their farm animal fetish to become Batman or similar ass-kicking hero. Your child’s taste in Halloween attire demonstrates as much about where they are in life as the cleanliness of their underpants. (If you are looking for a sentence to use in your submission for my blog as “blog of the year,” go ahead and use that last one.)

Grandma Jean made this costume and, if I dare say, nailed it!

For this reason, Amy is delighted in Malcolm’s Halloween costume selection every year. He is unabashedly sweet in his preferences, and always has been. When he was three, he wanted to be an elephant. I have pictures of him at school surrounded by three Batmans, two Spidermans and a couple of race car drivers. At four he selected a salami sandwich as his preferred candy obtaining vessel. (He was easy to spot in the crowd of Jedis and stormtroopers at the Halloween parade.) This year? He chose a horse. Of course! After seeing the different type of horse costumes available on the internet, he didn’t even go with the menacing war horse costumes available. He wanted to be a cute, fuzzy horse. We were ecstatic, for while he reads fancy books and does some fancy math, he showed us that the cute stuff is still in there somewhere.

At some point, his Halloween decisions will betray his status as a big boy, (one kid this year said that Malcolm’s costume the worst at the school.) He will inevitably give in to the peer pressure and want to look like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Skeletor. His transformation will be complete, and, with some mixed feelings, I will get my merit badge for “bad-ass costume” in addition to the badges for I already have for being “precious” and “nutritious” (I put lettuce in his salami sandwich.) Until then, and like all glimpses of the little boy we used to have, we will take what we can get.

This does not mean, however, that I will enjoy the occasional skidmark.

Who’s Pie? Occupy!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to the Occupy Oakland general strike on Wednesday.  I usually don’t make a habit out of taking Malcolm out of school for superfluous reasons, but I figured this would be a good teaching opportunity for concepts like “income inequality” and “tear gas.” I explained what the protest was about and gave him the option of attending and seeing the opportunity to get out of school early, he said that he wanted to go. (Of course, I only gave him the option of going to the strike AFTER he went to school for his piano lesson. To me, politics take a back seat to getting things that you have already paid for.) He even told his teacher that he was going to a presentation because it wasn’t fair that some of the people in the world get to keep all the money, so it looked like the day might even be instructional. (Those of you wanting to cry foul over me bringing Malcolm to a lefty protest, realize that I have exposed Malcolm to a wide range of events which some would find objectionable, including wine tasting, the county fair and, yes, Hooters. Don’t get mad at me for showing him the world out there.)

We are the 99!!! (Or, as Malcolm put it, "We are the chicken ear!")

The event we went to was called the Children’s brigade, a group of 100 or so parents and kids who wanted to tell the world that we care about our kids’ futures. The group marched from the Oakland public library to the main protest stage chanting, “Who are the 99? WE are the 99” or silly iterations of it that the kids thought up. Well, the other kids, anyways, Malcolm ate for a good portion of the march, meaning he had salami and cheese sandwich crammed in his mouth for most of the chanting. We held up signs, waved to supporters and had a great time walking down the middle of the street (a thrill in and of itself.)

While there, we ran into Malcolm’s friend from soccer and another family from his school, and upon greeting we gave each other an implicit, “Oh, you’re a hippie too!” nod of approval. I definitely did NOT want this to turn into a playdate, but after the march ended we found ourselves standing in the middle of the street too far to hear any of the speeches and close enough for there not to be any cars in the street. So, the kids played tag and frisbee in the street.

We toured the Occupy camp after playing with his buddies for a while. I can’t tell you how cool it was down there. They have food tents that give out free food to anyone who wants it. (They had ice cream, but only after we left.) They have acupuncturists. They have meditation centers, gardens and even what looked like an area for mimes to gather and express themselves mimically. Taken together, the place was a farmer’s market, swap meet, and political rally all built into one. I found it fascinating. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a bar, but, judging by the number of joints being passed around the place, people were making due.

We made our way to an amphitheater and sat down to watch some musical events. They had old women singing folk protest songs from the ’60’s, a 15 year old boy reciting poetry about what they thought their future would look like, and an an actor performed a soliloquy about “the man” being a “white devil.” They had homeless poets describing their anger about life on the street. There were androgynous singers and a rapper named Kiwi detailing the earlier scuffles with police.  It was, in a word, awesome, except for the heavy use of the word, “Motherfucker” which I love myself, but was not quite ready for Malcolm to start using on his own.

Malcolm began to wain after a few hours, and I did something I usually think is bad parenting. I bribed him. I brought some Halloween candy with me and after he finished his lunch I gave him some. I also promised him some more after another hour to make sure that he would be into staying and listening. (That boy would wait through an entire day of actuarial accounting lectures if it meant a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the end.) The bribe totally worked, and he went from whiny lap sitter to enthusiastic dancer. We laughed for a good part of the afternoon, mostly at his awkward attempts to dance like a fish and a snake.

When I finally ran out of peanut butter cups, we left for the day. It was really cool to show up with fellow parents, Oakland residents, and homeless poets to express ourselves. You may disagree with the point that the Occupy Protesters are trying to make, but I am pretty sure you would have had a good time there nonetheless. Malcolm may not fully understand the politics behind the event, but at the very least he will know that good things can happen when a community comes together the get their voices heard. Well, that’s probably a little naive. In all likelihood he will associate political protests with salami and peanut butter cups. That will work for now.

How Old Is Too Old To See You Naked?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

As kids grow up, you are often forced to reconsider situations that were perfectly acceptable for young kids. Childbirth is a perfectly natural and wonderful thing, but do you really want your Kindergartener mucking about your uterus? I think not. The issue has been coming up a lot more recently and here are the the things that Malcolm used to do that are now seeming a bit weird:

There's something that just doesn't sound right about saying, "Malcolm, quit playing Scrabble on my phone and hop into bed for a snuggle."

Snuggling in bed. Is there anything better than an early morning cuddle with your young child? Provided it is not before your preferred wake up time, little tiny infants and toddlers crawling around your bed giving hugs and kisses is pretty cool. Whereas the young child eagerly awaits such time, the older kids must be coaxed into it, mostly because they can see the desperation in your eyes. When we force Malcolm to do it now, it is an endless morass of gangly arms and legs more reminiscent of a octopus fight than a tender scene between parent and child. Amy may go after my head for suggesting that the end of snuggle time is near, but it’s just not the same anymore.

Kiss before school. Every day before school, I lean over and tell Malcolm to plant one on my cheek. He readily agrees and it signifies the transition in his day from being my kid to being a student. It has worked out well for both of us, except when he has done a poor job of washing his face after breakfast and I get a cheek full of jelly and milk. When I look around at the drop offs for his elementary school, I don’t see much in the way of hugging and kissing. Kids, if anything, casually nod to their parents in an expression of affection usually reserved for the British royal family. Of course, I would like to continue our little tradition, but I do not want Malcolm to become known on the playground as a “Daddy Kisser.” That can’t be good.

Seeing you naked. Kids love staring at their naked parents. We have all sorts of stuff that they don’t got, and they like noting the differences, doubly so when it has been a long time since any manscaping has taken place. I am certainly not anti-naked, as anyone who has been to one of my birthday parties can attest. But, while it is much easier to get dressed while you are talking to your kids,  at some point it you have to ask yourself, “Should they be watching this?” It’s possible that the development of a sophisticated vocabulary is the main problem here. Little tiny kids point at parts of the body and use cute words like, “boobies” or “nee nees.” When your kid points at you and says, “Schlong” or “Vajayjay” it might be time to start locking them out of your room.

Perhaps I am jumping the gun a little here, and some of you will zealously defend your naked snuggle time or wet sloppy good byes on the school yard. (I will however draw a pretty firm line at playing around in the uterus.) This just seems like one of those times when it pays to be ahead of the curve rather than behind.

Stop Fucking Swearing!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids learn to swear. It’s part of growing up, like losing teeth or learning to feel ashamed of your private parts. Kids see how deliciously wicked swearing is and are attracted to it like moths to the crack pipe. When you swear, you are a complete bad ass, and since you can’t really get a permanent tattoo of a hot woman writhing around on a car when you are in preschool, most of your rebelliousness manifests itself as dropping dirty words around the play yard.

Today on a very special episode of Big Daddy Paul, "When good kids go bad..."

Kids learn to swear from many different sources. If you are like me, you spend most of your time following rules of polite society, but the one time your kid throws your Iphone in the toilet and you yell, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”, it makes an impact. Even if, however, you have the tongue of a priest (a sober one, at least) there are many people in your life that won’t. For all your hard work in biting your tongue when your toddler bites you in the back fat, there will be a drunk relative or forgetful friend that swears like a sailor. (Or, you may just know a sailor!) Will chaining your kid to the water heater in a convent keep them from hearing dirty words? Not if they go to school! Kids will learn most of the dirty words they know from other kids. You can choose to believe that when kids are huddled around the corner of the school playground they are talking about favorite cotton candy flavors, but you’d be wrong. They are bargaining in obscenities, which, I assume mostly consists of who can use the F-word the most in a sentence. Not surprisingly, Malcolm has had fits of of his own F-Bomb usage.

As any reader of this blog knows, I rather enjoy swearing. As such, I cannot in good conscience forbid Malcolm from swearing. I am, however, mortified of the following conversation taking place at school:

Polite child:        “Malcolm, it’s my turn to play on the monkey bars.”

My Child:            “Fuck off shitstain, this playground is all Malcolm, all the time!”

I want Malcolm to know that there is a time and place for most things in life. It’s OK have dessert on Friday night at a restaurant; Nutella for breakfast? Not so much. This means that I focus my attention on the subject about what happens at school. Every do often, I talk to Malcolm about what words are OK for him to use at school. Lately, this is where I have been struggling the most.

Obviously, George Carlin’s seven filthy words are off limits (although in the sanctity of your own home it might be pretty funny for your toddler to say “Motherfucker” just once.) But how about words like “Suck” or “Balls?” If you ask the FCC whether these words are obscene they would say, “No,” but your kid doesn’t seem all that charming if he tells you in front of a group of parents that you suck for making him leave. Where do you stand on “Crap,” “Damn” or “Douche?” The list of words in profanity purgatory is long and fraught with peril.

Another group of words that are difficult to police are words like,”Friggin” or “Hecka” that are obvious replacements for more profane words. I can applaud the effort, but in my mind when used I do not think, “This kid’s not a sailor.” I think, “This kid’s a chickenshit sailor.” Does using an obvious replacement word get you anything?

Overall, the one thing I can say about our approach to Malcolm’s swearing is that it has been remarkably consistent. Every time he swears, we laugh. When he gets a bad hand at cards, and says, “Oh crap!” we snicker into our sleeves. He was breaking down fantasy football match ups earlier this year and told me that Peyton Hillis was a good play because Indianapolis’s run defense “sucked.” I couldn’t stop giggling. Amy’s response to Malcolm’s use of the word “Fuck” at the airport was to turn her head while laughing and think to herself, “Paul is gonna die when he hears this!”

Does this send the right message? No. Could we handle it better? Yes. Are we going to? Probably not, at least for now. To us, there is something pretty funny about a swearing child, mostly the shock value of a sweet kid saying some really unsweet things. One day, it may become tiresome to hear his potty mouth. But for now, we are just enjoying the ride.

Do any of you have any good stories about your kid swearing?

It’s Elementary, My Dear Malcolm

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I just saw the dumbest ad on TV, and I can’t shake it. In it, a talking truck says “I vow to never complain, never give up, and never say never.” I certainly understand the sentiment, but why would you make a vow that breaks the vow IN THE VOW ITSELF? Dude, you just said, “Never” four fucking times! It has to be one of the most ass backwards sentences ever written.

Of course, I fancy myself a writer extraordinaire, so I will try my hand at even more idiotic lines:

I had some really nice pastries at the Agnostic Jews For Jesus bake sale last night.

The worst thing about vegans has got to be the salami breath.

I got a tattoo. It says “I Have No Tattoos.”

Ok, that’s enough lead in. We made Malcolm vow several years ago to never grow up. (Nicely done, eh? You didn’t think I could get here from there, but I did! I told you, writer extraordinaire!!!) We liked our little tyke, but were concerned that the cute, cuddly little smurf was turning into a little boy that talked about butts all the time. We wanted to hang on to the little boy sweetness as long as we could, telling Malcolm that when he “grows up” (even a little) he’d be going off to work in a coal mine. It worked for a while, but it appears that he has now broken his vow.

We learned yesterday that Malcolm will be joining the elementary classroom at his school. We like Malcolm’s school because they told us he would move Malcolm from the preschool classroom to the elementary classroom whenever he was ready to move on and not based on any strict age deadlines. We like to let other people make all the tough parenting decisions for us. (When he gripes about the HPV vaccination, we get to blame Rick Perry!)

We thought this would mean Malcolm would be hitting the big time next summer, or perhaps January at the earliest. Just to make sure, I tried to keep him immature and stupid over the summer by enrolling him in sports camps and having him watch C-SPAN coverage of Senate floor. Evidently, it didn’t take. His teachers started running out of work for him during the first week of the school year and came to the consensus that it would be better for him to move up to a new classroom than infect the younger kids in his room with all the butt chatter.

So now he goes. Gone are the days of his comfy blanket, his hot breath blowing up against our neck while he slept on our chest, and the words, “Wuv” and “Eleventeen.” I will miss the little bubbling mass of dulcet pudding, even when it is being replaced by a beaming tower of awesomeness. We are proud, but it is bittersweet, as he takes another step in the journey that will one day culminate in him becoming a man.

A man who will hopefully have the fortitude to one day say, “I’ll never say never.”

Do You Want Your Kid To Be A Loser?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I know what you’re thinking, “Of course, Paul! I want my son to hang out in somebody’s garage huffing paint while discussing the virtues of neck tattoos.” Amen.

Sadly, we are not quite there, yet. Today’s question involves whether I want Malcolm’s sports teams to be any good. He had his first game the other week, and it did not go well. The other team was aggressive, made spectacular plays and knew how to kick the ball more than five feet. Malcolm’s team, perhaps recognizing the brilliance on the other side of the ball, mostly watched passively as the other team run circles around them. The final score was 6-0 and we didn’t score even when the other team removed half of their players to make things more equitable.

Some coaches would be concerned at the results, especially when the assistant coaches quietly murmur to the other parents that they would do a MUCH better job of coaching than I. I am not troubled. Luckily, Malcolm’s league is not competitive at this age, meaning no official score is kept and there are no standings to display the ineptitude of our little guys. Even so, I am kind of glad that his team sucks.

First, I want the kids to listen to me. If they jumped out of the gate beating the pants off the other team, they might tune me out when I try to teach them things at practice, thinking to themselves, “Blow on the whistle all you want fat man, we are dominating this league!” Instead, I get to yell things like, “You want to get shut out again this week? Keep bunching up around the ball then.” Losing badly just might make the kids willing to listen to advice like, “Pass the ball!” or “Stand up and watch the game!”

Second, I want the kids to learn to love the game and gauging success by the progress they make. Little boys are competitive to the point where they get into arguments over who is most competitive. (After a talk with them about not being so competitive, they got into a contest about who could be the least competitive. You gotta love little kids!) Early success only tells kids that they have less to learn than they might think. Instead, I want them to just have a good time out there and enjoy the little things like making a pass or actually stopping the ball from going into the goal.

For sure, winning makes you feel better than losing. Nobody pops champagne for being the worst team, (even though losing teams are probably more in need of alcohol than winners!) If, however, your child only enjoys the game when the outcome goes their way, they are eventually going to stop playing the game. Losing is part of life, and if you can just accept the fact that you are going to lose, it frees you up to enjoy the game and try to get better. It is much easier to teach this to kids when they lose all the time, so I am hoping that his team continues to underperform. Oh, the lessons we’ll be able to give!

That way, when Malcolm gets a neck tattoo later in life, it will read, “Play hard, have fun.”

Psycho

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

For those of you from Amy’s past hoping this post would be chock full of stories about Amy in high school, this post will disappoint you. Yes, her nickname was, “Psycho,” back then but she told me in no uncertain language that I shouldn’t mention anything about that here because of the damage it would do to her reputation. Honey, your secret is safe with me!

This post is about our adorable little psychopath, Malcolm. Why do I think he’s a psychopath? Glad you asked. The boy is psycho about baseball. Not psycho in the fact the he likes watching baseball, likes playing baseball when outside, likes playing pretend baseball while inside, like calculating intricate statistics about how players are doing (“Daddy, what battering average is 14 for 23?”) or even can impersonate most of the Giants’ various batting/pitching motions.

What makes him a psycho is that he does all these things every day during his free time, and nothing else. I swear, he really does nothing else! We can cajole him into eating, occasionally taking a bath or eventually going to sleep each night, but if left to his own devices, he would not stop participating in baseball-related activities. Ever. He is the rain man of the diamond.

While all the other kids were playing grabass and begging for cotton candy, Malcom was scoring the game. He recorded every at bat for the game!

At first I thought it was cute that he liked baseball. Actually, I didn’t think he liked baseball as much as he just wanted to please me by showing me that he liked my favorite pastime, a weird daddy-child version of the Stockholm Syndrome. Even so, it was cute to hear him say things like “Pablo Sandoballs” and “Dude, the Giants are killing me.”

Now, baseball is everywhere and everything to him. He mutters in the back seat, “And after a big inning, the Giants take a 13-12 lead.” Yesterday, after 7 hours of baseball summer camp, Malcolm came home and asked if we could go to the park to play baseball. We did. When we finally came home, he waited for dinner by, you guessed it, playing pretend baseball. One night, after kissing him good night, I swear I thought I heard him say, “Three run homer. Definitely a three run homer.”

As obsessions go, of course, baseball has to be pretty sweet. I would be pretty bummed if Malcolm spent all of his attentions focused on ice skating or the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, if he were into the smurfs, I mean,  really into the smurfs such that he used the word, “Smurf” as a noun, verb, AND adjective, I would probably just drop him off at the IVF clinic we used with a note attached that read: “YOU made this mess. Clean it up.”

And yet, I complain. I use the baseball part of my brain with Malcolm right now, but everything else lays fallow. Although there are conflicting reports as to just what the rest of my brain has to offer, I would like to find out. With the exception of a permanent nacho fountain and boobs, too much of a good thing becomes un-good. When Malcolm is president of the chess club or won’t put down the X-Box, I will look back on these with nostalgia. Until then, you may actually here me say, “Aww, Malcolm, do we have to play baseball again?”

The Coke Bottle Ruins Everything

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Shortly after this photo was taken, a frisbee was introduced to the group. Teeth were lost.

Scene 1- Some boys are playing nicely in the park. They throw sand on the slide and pretend they are trains coming out of a tunnel. They have imaginary picnics and provide the parents with such delicacies as “chocolate cake with ketchup sauce.” They are getting along nicely until, during a lull in the action, the parents provide the kids with two tennis rackets and a ball. After a grand total of five minutes, the kids turn on one another, alternately fighting with each other over the ball and then attempting to bash each others’ brains in with the rackets. They went from “Model UN” to “Lord of the Flies.”

Scene 2- A group of kids sit in the dugout awaiting their turn at bat. They ceaselessly play grabass, but generally the coach is able to focus most of his attention to the player at the plate. One child ventures out and smuggles one of the practice balls back into the dugout. The ball is then bandied about amongst the kids, being used as a bludgeoning weapon and a missile. The coach loses it, and practice is halted until the object aggression is removed.

Scene 3- A child goes to school with Trainspotting brand toy heroin kit (complete with bendy spoon!) The kids, who had previously been boning up on the geography of Southeast Asia or the Spanish terms for the parts of a flower, start tying themselves off and engage in what experts call “euphoric projectile vomiting.” The teacher removes the kit, causing some of the heavier pretend users to retreat to the corner while itching and shaking uncontrollably. Most of the kids now have temporary tattoos all over their body.

What is the unifying theme of these scenarios? The answer is that the kids were fine until some foreign item was introduced into the situation. Left to their own devices, children use their imaginations and seek common ground to relate to the other kids around them. The “item,” whatever it is, upsets this level playing field and turns the socialist nirvana into a capitalist nightmare. For this reason, I firmly believe that the worst thing you can ever do for your kids, besides bringing them within slapping distance of Wendi Deng, is to give them something to play with.

If I were smarter, I would you point you to the scientists who found that the  possession of external objects is one of the most common causes of violence amongst children (and apes too!) I could also direct you to the research of social scientists who argue that toy based play has led to a decline in the executive function of kids today. I won’t (even though I just did!) and will leave you with this one nugget of parenting wisdom for today:

Don’t send your kids to school with pretend heroin kits.

You’re welcome.

Nerds

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I have spent most of my life being a nerd. While some look to my inherent dorkiness as the reason for this, I prefer to see it as a lifestyle choice. Growing up, I saw all the complications and difficulties of being part of the “in” crowd. I realized early on that if I surrounded myself with dweebs and spazzes, I was suddenly the good looking and funny one. So, I joined the debate team and limited my social circles to debaters and other AP students. In the land of the socially awkward, I was Grace Kelly.

With my background as it is, you’d think that the recent revelation that Malcolm needs glasses would have given me a certain level of parental pride. After all, what could possibly be more nerdy than wearing glasses? Alas, I was not so excited.

After we noticed that Malcolm’s eyes started crossing and he essentially failed an eye test when covering up his left eye, I was distraught. He never really had anything wrong with him, and when the doctor used words like Amblyopia and Esotropia, I nearly fainted. (Not having much of a medical background, I took the diagnoses as the following, “Mr. Schwartz, I regret to inform you that your son is a cyclops.”) A later visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist softened the blow a little bit, describing his condition as “your son’s eye crosses when it focuses,” and prescribing glasses to fix the issue. Even so, the news that his eyes didn’t work properly pretty was pretty disheartening.

We immediately set out to find glasses that were so adorable that people would think he was a fashion icon. I was thinking, “Tina Fey Chic mixed with a little John Lennon honesty.” Imagine my surprise, then, when Malcolm picked out a pair of pink horn rimmed glasses that said, “Sally Jesse Raphael during her later crazy cat lady years.” To make matters worse, the glasses came with an astonishing $310 price tag. I can tell you this, Malcolm will never, ever get something to wear that costs $310, so I told him that the eye doctor had in fact told us that we needed to get his “special” glasses at Costco. We proceeded to place Malcolm’s ocular health in the hands of the place that sells nacho cheese in five pound cans.

Luckily, he found a pair there that he really liked and did not make me think he looked like a sociopath. I presumed that the glasses would make him look weird, like he was somehow a different person. When he put on these, though, he looked like his old self.

Glasses don’t make the nerd. This outfit on the other hand…

Malcolm has taken surprisingly well to the new glasses. Aside from a minor freakout on the way to school on his first day with the glasses on, he has simply accepted them as a new fact of life. One day, he didn’t wear glasses, and now he does, as if I said to him, “Malcolm, you are having macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. Also, you’ll be wearing high powered bifocals for the rest of your life.”

I am sure there will times when the glasses present a challenge. I could envision the situation where Malcolm would lose his glasses running from first base to second and instead of sliding steathily into the bag, he dry humps the second basemen out of confusion, but I am confident that he will take these lessons in stride. At some point, kids might make fun of him because he is different, but it can’t be any worse than being on the debate team. Trust me, I know.

My Kid Eats Like A Pig

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Not sure why snorting the Cheerio seemed better than eating it, but what the heck do I know?

When your child first starts to eat food from non-nipple sources, things are a bit messy. At first this is a good thing. Moms are excited that the kid won’t be savaging their boobs anymore, and dads are excited to A) have someone with worse manners around to make them seem less messy, and B) finally get access to their wife’s boobs again. Plus, getting a picture taken with an earful of porridge is a rite of passage that all kids must go through. Malcolm was no different, and he spent a good deal of time as a youngster sullying his face with highly nutritious foods meant for his stomach.

After a while, your tolerance for disgusting eating habits wains a bit. The other day, Malcolm tore into a burrito like a velociraptor ripping apart a puppy. His face smeared with refried beans and with a large piece of chicken (dripping with sour cream) dangling out of his jaws, I thought, “I don’t really care for Malcolm eating in this manner.” It’s one thing for a six-month-old to end up wearing most of its food, but quite another when your five-and-a-half-year-old eats like an extra from Clan Of The Cave Bear.

Malcolm needs to learn some fucking manners. (Don’t worry, I completely understand the irony of that sentence.) I don’t need pinkies to be raised in the air during tea time or for him to be able to tell the difference between a dessert spoon and a salad fork, just to be a little less gross around the dinner table. In the next few weeks, I am going to try and teach him to chew with his mouth closed, eat with a fork and not his fingers, take one bite and swallow before taking another, and to not fart as much at the table. It might also be nice if he could sit in his chair while we ate. I don’t consider these to be too lofty of goals, even for a Schwartz. We are close to the point where people are not going to want to eat around him, so I am hoping to head off anything too disastrous before it becomes too much of an issue. Then again, failure may lead to some acting opportunities, as I hear they are making Clan Of The Cave Bears 2, Clannier and Cavier!

Should I Show My Kid Harry Potter?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We went to our friends’ house for a house party over the weekend. It was the kind of large, relaxed house party where multiple packs of neighborhood kids ran around creating mayhem while their parents swilled wine and hid from the kids. We had a fun time, owing mainly to the fact that it was not our house and not our neighborhood.

Getting Malcolm to leave at the end of the night proved a tad difficult, given that several of the packs of kids had congregated around the TV to take in a Harry Potter movie. Malcolm has never read any of the books nor seen any of the movies. His only real frame of reference to the geeky wizard was through playground make-believe play, where young Potter was often pitted against the likes of Yoda and Spiderman. Even so, the allure of seeing Harry potter up close and personal was quite enticing to the boy, and it broke his little heart to leave without watching the movie.

I must admit that I don’t know much more about Harry Potter than Malcolm. Being so wildly popular, I eschewed any contact with the Harry Potter series out of fear that there must be some sort of mind control implanted deep down in the text. (This fear of pop culture smashes being a brainwashing tool also led me to reject any involvement in such goliaths as “Survivor” and “The News.”) From what I can tell, Harry Potter and his gang of buddies are magicians who often run into bad guys. What I can’t tell though is whether the good guys use magic as I would, which is mainly to get a good look at girls’ underpants when they are least expecting it.

On the way home, Malcolm asked the question of exactly when were going to let him watch Harry Potter. I have three reservations:

1. I don’t get magic. I never have, and never will. Right now, I got it pretty good and Malcolm and I mostly do stuff that I enjoy doing. Opening a new and strange world will inevitably take me out of this comfort zone, and I don’t especially relish the thought of running around the house riding brooms and throwing fireballs. I know a large part of being a parent is finding common ground in which to interact with your kids. I just want to make sure that common ground is on my turf and not his. What’s wrong with San Francisco Giants 24-7 anyways?

It's a good thing he doesn't know how to really cast spells, or I would be done for!

It's a good thing he doesn't know how to cast spells, or I would be a goner!

2. Magic is bad news for parents. Kids are always looking for ways to countervail parenting techniques. In the parent-child struggle for dominance, kids cannot usually just snap their fingers and turn the parents into a brick of cheese when it is bed time. I fear that teaching Malcolm about the mystical fantasy world of Harry Potter will make him think that it’s OK for him to turn me into a newt when I resist his requests for a cookie. Right now, I can tell him that he can’t have that cookie in the morning because cookies are for dessert, not breakfast. That’s pretty logical and straightforward, and I like it that way. I don’t want some prepubescent douche bag wizard fucking that up for me.

3. Magic is for nerds. Anyone who has ever seen high school boys casting spells on one another knows how painful unchecked fantasy role playing can look. Harry Potter is the first step down that path, and when I see kids arguing over whether a warlock’s invisible cloak can adequately hide the sword of destiny, I want to take Malcolm far, far away. I know a thing or two about being a nerd as I was a pretty big geek myself growing up. A debate nerd in high school, I was comfortable with myself even though a) I spent the majority of my weekends arguing over social security reform against the debate nerds from other schools, and b) I spent most of my lunch periods playing strategic board games like “Diplomacy,” (with a teacher no less!) Why was I so comfortable with myself, you ask? I knew at the very least I was a rung up on the dorkometer from the kids playing dungeons and dragons. I know if I can keep Malcolm out of the dungeons and dragons room at lunchtime, then I will at least have given him something.

In the end, I know I can’t really control what interests Malcolm. We’ll probably end up showing him the movies, and if he takes to it, I am sure the books will follow. I hope that taking this plunge (and the subsequent brainwashing) won’t lead to us to stop playing baseball together and craning our necks every once in a while to get a look at some naughty underpants. That would really be sad.

Spring Break!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I used to love spring break. In my wilder younger days, I would spend the better park of a week in the following endless loop:

Wahooo!

(drink)

Spring break!!!

(drink)

Where are my pants?

(drink)

Wahoo! Spring break!!!!

(snore)

Considering how much of my past spring breaks I actually can’t remember, it’s amazing I still have any positive memories at all.

Now, spring break has a totally different meaning altogether. Primarily, it means that Malcolm has no school, which in turn means I need to be a full time dad again and not just a chaffeur and cook. Once you have the sweet taste of parenting freedom, it can often seem daunting to return to the times when you have to be responsible for planning out just how you and your child are going to spend every minute of the day. Yikes!

When I first start planning activities during such holidays, I usually consider the following factors when deciding what we should do each day:

1. Is it enriching for Malcolm?

2. Will he enjoy doing it?

3. Does it cost any money?

4. Will I enjoy doing it?

5. Will it make my job easier?

By the end, though, this list gets turned on its head. (If I were really being truthful, though, I should say the end of the week activities are guided by the lone principal, “How can I get this kid out of my hair for a few hours?”) With the intrepidation building, Malcolm and I prepared for our week together. To make things even more challenging, Amy was gone for a few days traveling to an out-of-town conference. Double yikes!

To my great surprise, the week flew by with both of us having a blast together. Here’s what we did (it would help if you took a deep breath and then hold it in while you read the following run-on sentence, exhaling only when you get to the end):

This was definitely NOT the wet tee shirt contest I was used to.

We watched golf, ate Doritos, played golf, went to dad’s group, went camping, ate s’mores, played baseball with play dates, had baseball practice, play date at park with other friends, played golf again (94 yard drive by Malkie!), family soccer game, saw Gnomeo and Juliet with pals, recreated both the men’s and women’s entire March Madness basketball tournaments (including filling out the brackets), went to Chabot space and science center with buddies, watched Giants’ home opener, went to another dad’s group, hit golf balls at driving range and had yet another play date watching small planes land at Buchanon Fields airport.

Phew! Both of us were a little bummed that school started again today, signifying the end of relaxed bed times, non-stringent departure times and, worst of all, not making a lunch for school every day. The good news is that I am actually excited for summer break this year instead of dreading it like my trip to Dr./CPA office for my annual proctology exam/tax meeting. (That’s right, I decided to combine the two worst things in my life into one event, figuring one REALLY bad day is better than two pretty bad ones. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than your accountant/physician asking you about miscellaneous “entertainment” expenses with his finger in your pooper.)

So yes, spring break is different now. I can remember almost everything that happened and I didn’t get drunk a single time this week. Some would say that this is worse, but I liked it just fine. Wahoo!

My Cup Runneth Over

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Stay at home parenting is half motivational speaking, half party planning, and half running around like a chicken without its head. (It’s also half learning new math concepts!) Somewhere amongst this morass is actually spending meaningful time with your child, an activity that can easily get lost amongst the school days, sports practices, errands and play dates that generally populate a busy calendar.

It used to not be so easy filling the day. Early on, Malcolm used to enjoy a lot of fantasy play, meaning I would get sucked in playing school or spaceship or whatever insane scenario the boy would dream up. Once, I had to drive him around town in an ambulance to find the one hospital that had a lion Doctor. (You Richard Scarry fans know why.) The first time you engage in these silly games, you mostly have a good time. The tenth time you do, you want to rip your face off. On the hundredth version of the game, you want to rip your child’s face off, as well as that asshole Richard Scarry for creating such specific and quirky scenarios. During these early years, I am not ashamed to admit that I had a hard time filling the day with things that I actually enjoyed doing. It was a grind.

We put these bad boys together for dinner one night. Pretty cool.

Nowadays, it’s a different tune altogether. We have a multitude of activities that we both enjoy doing together. We play cards, we play board games, we play word games, we read stories, we write stories (he started a blog, I’ll get around to talking about it later this week,) we play sports, we cook, we eat and we occasionally perform medical experiments on the neighbor’s cat. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of fun and semi-legal activities for us to choose from each day.

The good thing about the large play list is that you need never get burned out on any one thing. Sure, Malcolm tends to cluster his preferences, but he has gotten pretty good at responding to, “Dude, we’ve done that the last three days!” with a decision to mix things up. If anything, though, the bountiful offerings of the smorgasbord makes the rotation too long, sometimes meaning weeks can pass between games of cribbage or Life. Granted, it beats playing pretend rocketship for four straight hours, but I think it will only be a matter of time before I tire of saying, “Malcolm, it’s your deal. Stop messing with the dead cat and come play.” At least, I hope so…

Malkie’s Open House

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm had his open house at school last week. At the open house, Malcolm was able to take us around the classroom to show us how he spends his day. Normally, parents are not allowed in the classroom at the school, a feature the school intends to create a sense of independence within the children. Since this invariably means I don’t have to surround myself with 20 preschoolers who all want to jam their fingers in my ear, I am a big fan of the rule.

We were especially happy to see Malcolm’s classroom because he has recently demonstrated some remarkable abilities. He can multiply four digit numbers and writes illustrated stories about things he does on the weekends. He knows the names of states that I have never even heard of (New Hampshire? What happened to Old Hampshire?) Last week, he wrote a synopsis of the different kinds of triangles there are (isosceles, equilateral etc.) IN SPANISH!!! We relished the opportunity to find out just how all this stuff was taking root in that tiny little brain of his.

When we arrived, we didn’t see the confident look of a child who was secure in his surroundings, though. To be honest, he looked nervous and stupid. The teachers warned us that kids sometimes act a little strange at this event, owing mostly to their intense desire to show off for their parents. We figured that anxiety wouldn’t apply to our star child, but one look at Malcolm’s “deer in the headlights” gaze, and I knew he had succumbed to the pressure.

Anyone who knows me knows whose fault this is...

He showed us the work binder that he keeps all of his completed materials in, stopping mid-way to reorganize some artwork that he had erroneously classified as “geography.” He performed a difficult mathematics problem, but got the math wrong. He took ten minutes to draw a bizarre picture of a totem pole-esque statue that was made up of flowers and bizarre looking animal heads. He showed us his his cubby hole which, in comparison to the neatly arranged cubbies of his classmates, looked like the back of the Clampit’s truck.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, Malcolm began working on a puzzle map of North America. As he struggled with the difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (don’t ask me kid, I didn’t know there was more than one country in the Caribbean!) the head of the school walked by with his teacher. He farted, loudly enough for everyone around him to hear. It seemed loud enough for everyone in the country to hear; I can’t tell you how mortified I was. We were at least fortunate enough to have the school employees turn and walk away, so we didn’t have to betray Malkie with eyes that said, “Sorry our kid dropped a little ass in the classroom.”

I wanted to take the boy into my arms and tell him how proud I was of him and that he didn’t need to be so stressed out. He buckled under the pressure, but I wanted him to know that he amazes Amy and me, and that we knew how far he has come since starting at the school. We would have, except that I am pretty sure that hugging mommy and daddy in the classroom is against the by-laws of the school. Also, it was pretty stinky near him. Much better to follow the rules.

My Kid Is NOT Charlie Sheen, I Swear It!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

In simple terms, parenting has but one goal: If you have a girl, keep her off the pole. If you have a boy, make sure he doesn’t turn out like Charlie Sheen. Sometimes I worry about our little boy, though, so I created this list of every way he is different than Mr. Sheen. The more I say things like this, the more likely it is to be true, right?

Charlie drinks tiger blood. I’m not really sure why, and my quick Google search didn’t yield any insights. Maybe it helps in the bedroom. Maybe it helps you grow a tail and long nails. I dunno. Malcolm? Milk. Sure every now and again we let him splurge on juice, but at no point do we offer him plasma from an endangered cat. I hoping this means something.

Unlike Charlie Sheen, Malcolm doesn’t think Thomas Jefferson is a pussy. I didn’t think that Malcolm even knew who Thomas Jefferson was, until he recently and somewhat mysteriously settled on that name for his genitalia, as in, “Look daddy, my Thomas Jefferson is standing up!” I’m not sure where he got this one, but he may have overheard me telling Amy that I got hit in the John Quincy Adams at tee ball practice.

I'm guessing this is what his mug shot is going to look like

While both Sheen and Malcolm have a case of the sniffles, only one of those sniffles is cocaine related. Malcolm has developed the irritating habit of sniffing incessantly, even when he doesn’t have a cold. Every five seconds or so, he inhales, sometimes to the point of actually snorting. At first, we thought it was somewhat cute. Now, it’s totally annoying, and we wish he would quit. If Charlie can quit coke, surely Malcolm can get over his case of the sniffles.

Malcolm’s dad is taller than Charlies’. They are both devastatingly good looking, but five foot seven isn’t gonna cut it.

Malcolm is not obsessed with, “Winning!” Charlie finishes every other sentence with “Winning!” or “Rhymes With Winning!” or “Bi-Winning!” Malcolm is fine taking second place. He rarely cries when I beat him at baseball, and doesn’t ever switch teams to root for because they suddenly fall behind on the scoreboard. Come to think of it, that’s not really true. Malcolm is bi-obsessed with winning. If he’s not winning over here, he wants to be winning over there. Everything with him is a race, contest or has a score that can be tabulated. The worst thing is, when he doesn’t win, he either gets mean or crumples into a pile of blubbering sadness. Either way, it’s no picnic.

The more I think about it, the more Malcolm resembles Charlie. This vexes me greatly, as I’d rather him turn out to be a stripper. I’m just dreading the day when I pick him up from preschool and he tells me:

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars, and people can’t figure me out; they can’t process me. I don’t expect them to. You can’t process me with a normal brain.”

I can already see it coming.

Wanted: Permanent Playdate For Malcolm

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We had a mid-week sleepover with Malcolm and a little buddy last night. Judging by the fact that Malcolm typically acts like a wild man at sleepovers and goes to bed at around 11 pm, I was a little nervous about doing it on a school night. Our friends were celebrating a birthday, however, so I threw caution to the wind and hosted a sleepover on a Wednesday. (Sad what goes for adventure around here nowadays…)

The kids were actually kind of amazing and played with each other nicely all afternoon and evening. In fact, when I did come around to check on them they suddenly got quiet, looked at me and told me to leave them alone. Imagine, kids telling me to leave them alone! I had been dreaming of this moment since Malcolm learned to speak. Suddenly gifted with an afternoon to myself, I retreated to our office, where I watched the Syracuse-Georgetown basketball game on my computer.

As I sat there, I realized that if I could somehow harness this power, I could totally have way more free time during the day. I decided right then and there that I was going to recruit a permanent play date for Malcolm. Of course, I want this play date to make my life easier, so there are going to be a few requirements for this to work out. Here they are:

1. He/she can’t be related. Brothers and sisters spend most of the time harassing each other. This does not help me out that much. Besides, I have read enough Shakespeare to realize that most sibling relationships end up in cold blooded murder. Unrelated play mates do NOT vie for their parents love and attention and therefore will not argue as much (or kill each other later in life.)

2. He/she must be tough. Malcolm craves physical contact almost as much as he craves lemon meringue pie. There are kids in Malcolm’s world that whine as soon as he gets them in a headlock. That won’t do. Last night’s guest was a sweet little girl, who, when Malcolm began to hit her with a pillow, responded by throwing a chair at Malcolm. Nice. Give me a chair-thrower.

I wasn't sure if they should have been sleeping in the same bed, but since they had just taken a bath together, I figured the damage had already been done.

3. He/she must sleep. Last night, the kids were asleep by 7:45 and slept almost til 7 o’clock this morning. This gave me the opportunity to watch even more college basketball after they went to bed AND sleep in this morning. When Malcolm is alone, he is a pretty avid sleeper. His permanent little buddy must not fuck this up.

4. If it’s not too much trouble, he/she should have some cool ethnicity. Amy, Malcolm and I are all cracker white and Malcolm will probably grow up having the street credibility of a box of paper clips. It would be nice to have someone around to teach us how shake hands like cool people and stop us from saying things like “Let’s have some artisanal pizza for dinner” or “I got a bad case of the Mondays.”

So keep your eyes out for anyone who matches this description. I hope we find something soon, the college basketball season is heating up!

Now We’ve Killed The Tooth Fairy

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm lost a tooth last week. The last time we were at the dentist he had an X-ray and it looked like his new teeth were coming in, a fact I conveniently chose to ignore under the guise of “I’m just not ready for this to happen.” Mostly, the onset of adult teeth means the things we do as parents are permanent and not forgotten by the strands of time. You can leave a child in dirty diapers for too long and they won’t chirp about it later in life. You can get lazy about dinner (we once fed Malcolm a dinner consisting of nothing but peanuts!) without having to worry about eating disorders in college. You can simply “forget” to brush your kids’ teeth when they are young, believing that soon those cavity-ridden little choppers will make way to the real deal. Once those big choppers come in though, your decisions have permanence.

I could take it as a sign that Malcolm is ahead of the curve, as he just turned five a few months ago and kids don’t usually start losing their teeth until they are about 14, or so my Google search, “When do kids in West Virginia lose their teeth?” informs me. I figure that at the rate he is developing physically, he will start growing pubic hair at the age of ten, a fact that will in no way scar him for the rest of his life. Way to go, son of mine!

Being the parents we are, we have decided not to introduce the concept of the tooth fairy. We are pretty consistent in this regard, choosing not to introduce Malcolm to the fictional characters of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Compassionate Conservative. Sure it’s fun to fantasize about these invented heroes, but if Malcolm learns that we are feeding him a bunch of hoo-ha, then he will probably be more apt to disregard my other advice (like don’t play checkers on the train tracks.)  If pressed, I might admit that really I am cheap, but I like the story “We don’t want to set him up for the pain and of dreams gone astray” better.

The mouth on that kid...

Of course, kids have a funny way of getting you back. While at the swimming pool the other night, I had Malcolm gloriously show off the gap in his grill. The mother of one of his friends asked, “Where did you put your tooth?” Malcolm answered, “In a plastic bag (in order to take it to school for sharing time,) and added, “Then I put it in my PENIS!!!” In retrospect, just putting it under the pillow would have been a whole lot easier.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Small South African Boy

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I know what you’re thinking, “Paul you suck at Blogging.” (Evidently you suck at capitalization. Don’t worry. sO dO i.)

I say to you, “I do not suck at blogging!”

“Do too!”

“Do not!”

“Oh, but you do. You really suck at blogging.”

“Shut yo mouth! I am spirited, inventive, and make many people lose control of their bowels. Basically, I’m Metamucil in written form.”

“No, stupid. You’re posts are marginally entertaining, you just don’t write anymore.”

“Oh. You’re right”

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.

It’s true. I haven’t been blogging much lately. I could give you a laundry list of things that I have been doing instead of blogging, but really I have just been eating crap and getting drunk for most of December. Aren’t the holidays grand? At some point I will be up and running on a more regular basis, but I got some eating and drinking to do this month, so don’t expect much out of me.

Our Christmas festivities culminated with the arrival of some friends of my parents: a South African couple and their seven-year-old boy Awethu. Since their arrival, Malcolm and Awethu have been as thick as thieves. Remember the video where Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder engage in semi-erogenous, semi-British and semi-sighted dancing? They look like icy diplomats compared to these boys. Malcolm and Awethu have been playing card games, ball games and every other kind of game together during their short stay together. They are even jointly making a book together by tracing the pages of a Captain Underpants book into some blank paper they have taped together. They are adorable.

They even eat dinner like an old married couple!

Having seen them play together, thoughts invariably drift to the idea of having a permanent play date for Malcolm. Of course, we can’t simply take in Awethu as our own. (Amy already told him, “I aint no Angelina Jolie!”) But would we consider having another child? The answer is no. I’ll leave my rant on why single child households are way more bad ass than multi-child ones, but for now I’ll just say that we are perfectly content with the one child we got.

Still it’s been pretty nice for Malcolm to have a buddy around. And that has made this Christmas pretty cool. Thank you Awethu.

And happy holidays readers! You are awesome.

Ungrateful

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Stay at home parents spend a lot of time in the trenches with their kids. We hear the whining, see the misdeeds and feel the pain of every blow our kids give us during the day. The day to day operations of raising a child does not allow a lot of reflection on who your child is and who you want them to be. When one is the trenches, one does not contemplate the nature of war. One dodges bullets. (And does not refer to themselves as “One!”)

The holidays provide a much needed time where there are often enough other people around that you can get some serious thinking done. For me, it means two sets of grandparents to dote on Malcolm, leaving me free to wrap my brain around this son of mine. That, my family, great food, wine and a lot of football.

I have to admit, for all my chagrining, I think Malcolm is spectacular. He is everything I could ever want in a son. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but the only reason I wanted a child in the first place is to watch it play sports. Some people have kids to help out on the farm, others to continue the royal bloodlines, and still others because they were too drunk to contracept. Not me. I wanted to be a soccer dad, and if the early returns are any indication, Malcolm will have a spectacular and enthusiastic sports career. I couldn’t be happier.

The 5th birthday party for our little genius was art-themed. This is how he spent his time...

Malcolm is, however, so much more than a little athlete. He reads! He writes! He does multiplication! (Sometimes, he even does them correctly!) All of these things aren’t nearly as fascinating to me as the fact that he likes learning new things and taking on challenges. If he continues on his current trajectory, he will be smarter than me by next year. Some people might be threatened by such a development, but I am comfortable with it as a sign that most of Malcolm’s DNA came from Amy. The prospect of having a second smarty-pants in the family makes me smile, all the time.

All of these things are amazing, but the kicker is that he does them all with a smile on his face. No matter what the activity, he tries to make things entertaining. At his parent-teacher conference this week, his teacher called him a class clown, causing Amy to wonder, “Gee, I wonder who he got THAT from?” as I slowly tried to disappear into my seat. But honestly, I love the fact that he yuks it up.

So Malkie, one day when you read this, after reading ungrateful story after story about irritation, grief and pants-shitting, realize this: I am thankful for the little boy you are. You are amazing and I love you very much.

What’s The Opposite Of Never Nude?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Arrested Development had an ongoing gag about one of its characters not feeling comfortable about being completely naked. (To deal with his phobia, the character always wore short short jean shorts, a look I am dying to try.) Our little Malkie appears to have the opposite infliction. He doesn’t seem to want to keep his clothes on. Mind you, this is not a cute kind of naked fetish where he gets really drunk at a bowling alley and then slowly removes articles of clothing much to the dismay of his friends and wife. No this, this fetish is seedy, and I for one am worried.

One year after Halloween, Malcolm decided he wanted to parade around the neighborhood au natural. Boy were those teenage kids surprised!

Malcolm likes to get naked and party, and usually happens when we get together with friends. As soon as the kids get over their initial excitement of seeing each other, an awkward silence ensues. Malcolm fills the silence by asking, “Wanna get naked?” The emphasis on “naked” is both titillating and hushed, like Liberace asking party guests if anyone wants to tickle his ivories. The kids then retreat to a safe space to remove their clothes, only to come bounding out in a fit of jiggles and giggles. The naked parade continues until the kids’ genitalia comes a little too close to the party dip, forcing us parents to order the kids back to their room to put their clothes back on. Occasionally, Malcolm will then challenge his buddies to a wrestling free-for-all, and while the children are rolling around on the floor like Greek aristocrats, the parents nervously look at each other, wondering, “Are you OK with this?”

I think I am probably more hung up on this than most parents. I know that there is nothing inherently wrong with kids wanting to get naked with one another, but I don’t see the innocent side of the coin. What I see is the, “Let’s go do something naughty!” I know this game will eventually end up with teenage boys lurking in the garage huffing paint, and want to nip this in the bud as best as I can. Ironically, my initial reaction probably feeds the fire even more. My distaste for semi-public naked time makes it more mischievous, adding to the allure of the whole thing. If I really wanted to put an end to “Kids Gone Wild,” I should laugh really loud while stripping down to my birthday suit myself. The sight of my horrific bare torso would scare even the most stout nudists straight. Then again, it might also ensure that we never get invited to dinner again, especially if I get too close to the hummus.

The Opera That Is Swim Class

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

[The scene opens with Malcolm asking if we can go to the park and play baseball. He looks at me doe eyed and hopeful, only to have his dreams crushed]: “NO!!! You may not got to the park and play baseball. You must save your energy. Save your energy boy, for tonight, we go to swim class!!!”

Merda, Padre! Odio di classe nuoto. (you can translate here if you want to know what these melodic voices are saying.) Waaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Shut up boy! We are going to swim class, and that’s the end of it. We can stop going when you learn how to swim. Only then can we swim in the ocean together. Only then.

Glacier water aint got nothing on the cold water at the YMCA!

Ma, Padre! The swim pool. It eats away my soul. It is very cold. Cold like the icy embrace of death in the winter. It tries to freeze the life from my bones.

Zip it, turkey and get in the damn car.

[While in the car] Padre, maybe the class will be canceled. Will you look for the notice to see if it’s canceled when we get there? Si prega di padre per favore! (Note: a few weeks ago, his swim class was canceled and they forgot to call us. Now he holds out every week that when we get there, there will be a note that says that his class is canceled.)

Yes son, I will look. But don’t get your hopes up. Hope is an ugly thing to a boy in a swimsuit.

[After arriving at the pool] Padre, is there a note?

No, there is no note.

Porca miseria! Restringimento!

[After Malcolm talks of his clothes with agonizing slowness, I begin to question if this is worth it anymore.] Malcolm! Get your clothes off and your swimsuit on. It doesn’t take more than a minute to take off each sock. Ten seconds, max. Don’t put your underwear on your head. Don’t put your underwear on your friend’s head! Stop running around naked and put on your suit. Sugo buono!

[After five seconds in the pool, he begins to smile, and then laugh. He doesn’t stop smiling and laughing until we get home. The car ride home is abuzz with energy, as the cold water has made him a complete spazz.] (molto veloce) Padre! When do the Giants play again? I like William, we play superheroes. The Giants play the Cowboys this week. Dez Bryant should be good. Can I get out and run along side the car? Come si fa a fare il formaggio?

[We arrive home, cobble some dinner together, and then prepare for bed. After reading books, we embrace for a quick snuggle] Boy, you sure looked like you were having fun at swim class tonight. I bet you can’t wait until class on Thursday, eh?

Not really. Maybe it will get canceled.

Sigh.

Who Do You Blame When They Shit Their Pants?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It is a cruel fact of life that kids sometime shit their pants. It’s a shame the phrase is associated with human excrement actually presenting itself in unwanted situations because the expression itself is beautiful, almost to the point of poetic radiance. If not for the disgusting connotation, I would use it in almost every situation: “Don’t shit your pants! I’ll be off the phone in a minute.” or “That popcorn was so good I almost shit my pants!”

Shamed by the experience, Malcolm must now wear a disguise when going to the Rec Center.

Alas, kids do shit their pants, and when they do it sucks. I took Malcolm with me to vote on Tuesday, hitting the bathroom beforehand because Malcolm said he had to go real bad. While walking into the stall Malcolm gave me a surprised look, and when I saw a soft piece of poo on his shoe, I knew that he had indeed just shit his pants. The situation was ugly and immediately brought two issues to my mind:

1. What do you do with the underwear? Getting him cleaned up was a chore (let’s just say it wasn’t the firmest of movements) leading to the inevitable decision regarding whether I should try and save the underpants. I know that there are parents out there that would rinse off the soiled undergarments and take them home for a more thorough cleaning, but, not being one who roots around in feces, I ended up tossing the dirty drawers in the garbage. It’s not like I wanted to roll them up and stick them in my pocket while I voted, so I was quite comfortable in reducing Malcolm’s underwear cache by one. What would you have done?

2. Should I be mad at him? I don’t ask all that much from Malcolm. We have rules against fighting, biting and it would be nice if he ate a green vegetable every once in a while. I would say that “not shitting himself” is pretty high up on that list of rules as well, so I was a little ticked off when things unfolded as they did. When out in public, it’s often a game of chicken with your kid to see how much stuff you can get done before having to awkwardly stand in a stall while the kid goes to the bathroom. I probably could have let him use the bathroom earlier, but he never really let on that the matter was urgent. It’s hard to be mad at someone who looks at you with mild terror in their eyes while poop is sliding down their legs, but I was anyways. I’m not sure if he blamed me for getting him to the toilet too late, but I do know this: I hope it never happens again. (That way, I don’t have such a gross mental picture when I say, “Shit my pants! The Giants won the World Series!!!!”)

How Do You Explain Tivo To A Four-Year-Old?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We are Giants pretty much 24-7 around here so if you are not into my stories about baseball, this would be a good week to catch up on your celebrity gossip. (Don’t worry, at some point the Giants’ season will finally be over and I will return to my normal drivel on topics such as Malcolm’s naked fetish and why I have a black eye right now.)

Game 6 of the National League Championship Series was last weekend. It was an epic, thrilling, come-from-behind masterpiece, with the Giants finally prevailing in an agonizing, heart wrenching win, sending them to the world series. To almost all who watched, it was the kind of nerve-wracking, tense game that almost makes you wish you never watched sports. (At one point during the early part of the game my stomach knotted up so much that I felt like I had  swallowed a small puppy.)

Notice I said ALMOST everyone thought it was a tense game. Much to our shagrin, we knew what was eventually going to happen. We watched the game at the Amy’s uncle’s house in Montana, and, after pausing the game to eat dinner, we resumed some 45 minutes behind live TV. The problem with that approach was that the college football game being watched downstairs was not being watched on a delay, meaning live scores were flashing across the screen every five minutes or so. Malcolm was in heaven, he would watch an at-bat upstairs and then run downstairs to see if he could catch a real-live glimpse of a college football touchdown.

A perfect metaphor for your kid pissing all over everything you find beautiful.

On one of his jaunts downstairs, he saw a score update. Glowing with pride, he ran upstairs and beamed, “Daddy, can I tell you something?” Aware of the possibility of a sports time warp, we quickly cautioned him against telling us of any scores he may have seen downstairs. He simply couldn’t hold in it any longer, though, and immediately burst out, “Daddy, downstairs the Giants are winning 3-2!” Everyone’s heads sagged down, knowing that the cat had just been let out of the bag. Fucking cat. He later went on to inform us (erroneously) that the Giants actually took a 4-2 advantage, meaning we didn’t need to sit through every pitch like life depended on it. We fast forwarded through the rest of the game, and while it was an amazing, thrilling game to watch, we would have known if anything truly important would have happened. If it had, Malcolm would have already told us.

I am not sure how we will teach Malcolm how exactly Tivo works, but just to be safe, we are going to watch the World Series live.

If This Is Jubilation, Why Does My Face Hurt So Much?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I have done my best to raise a baseball savvy kid. Malcolm knows the difference between a slider and a curve ball. He has learned how to keep score and managed to keep a sloppy by accurate book through five innings at Tuesday’s game. He knows which pitches are the good ones to hit, and will heckle any umpire that messes up a call. His baseball IQ is higher than my regular IQ.

I should have left the beard on all day, more cushion for the blows.

The one thing that I have to work on with him is his celebration. At the game on Tuesday, I held Malcolm in my arms during a particular exciting stretch. When the Giants scored, he unleashed a steady stream of rights and lefts to my face that Mike Tyson would have been proud of.  Last night, during the Giants’ thrilling come-from-behind victory, instead of high-fiving Amy, Tracy and I, he pummeled us, even getting in a very painful left hook to my groin. (FYI, it’s very hard to be happy with a dull ache in your bean bags.) Right now, the kid shows extreme happiness like drunken rugby player.

I realized that you really need to teach your kids how to do just about everything. I’m sure Malcolm’s celebratory gestures are the result of watching football, where smacking your friends on the head and butt are perfectly acceptable. Like his other little idiosyncrasies (eating with his feet, spraying pee all over the bathroom floor) we’ll have to sit down and explain the right and wrong way to do things. I just never thought I would have to do it over something as simple as expressing joy. We better have that little chat soon, because if the Giants make it to the World Series, I may lose a tooth.

Incentivizing Children’s Behavior

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Sounds like a very fancy title, eh? I worded this post intentionally, hoping to draw traffic by researchers who have yet to experience the depravity of my blog. We’ll see if it works!

Malcolm hates swim class. In his defense, the pool where he began to take swim classes at measured in at a bath-like 90 degrees, whereas the pool we are now at could shrink even the droopiest of extremities. (How you like that one, researchers!) After fighting with him twice a week for the first few sessions, I realized I needed a different approach than, “Don’t argue with me or I’ll throw away your Giants hat.” I realized the best way to get him into swim class was to use his hatred against him. I settled on, “The sooner you learn how to swim, the sooner we can stop taking swim classes.” This has worked like a charm, and he now attacks the pool like a little Mark Spitz (minus the 70’s mustache and bikini swim trunks.)

On the other hand, I am easy to figure out how to motivate. I would work in a Chilean mine for a plate of this...

The episode demonstrated that the key to getting your kids to do what you want is really just an exercise in figuring out the right way to motivate them. Sure, I would love it if Malcolm just accepted my requests because I am inherently awesome, but kids aren’t wired that way. They are wired to reject any idea that isn’t theirs, unless of course the words TV, candy or naked are involved. Most of the time this means the act of persuasion requires a little creativity on our parts.

The good thing about this creative approach is that you have endless opportunities to try out new things. Since Malcolm never really wants to do anything around here but play pretend baseball, I’ll try coaxing him out of the house by trying just about everything:

“Hey, Malcolm, wanna go to the library? You can find out how hot dogs are made!”

“Hey Malcolm, the supermarket is the largest repository of cheese on this side of MacArthur Blvd. Let’s go!”

“Hey Malcolm, that ball you are playing with was made in China and probably contains lead. You might want to put it down before your arm falls off.”

On second thought, this may take some work. If only someone would start researching it…

Is My Son Cranky Or An Axe Murderer In Waiting?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

If you would have asked me yesterday to categorize Malcolm’s behavior, I would have said he was “rascally.” He’s no angel, but I thought he was at least familiar enough with the rules of civilized society that he could make it through a play date without me having to threaten to beat the tar out of him. Sure, he likes to push the envelop a little, but he is four after all and I cut him a little slack.

After today’s play date with my fellow stay at home dads, I realized how far off I may have been. He was awful. He tried to knock over his longtime friend from her bike. He called the other kids stinky fish eggs. He pulled, he groped, and at one point he threatened to cut one of his little buddies. (Yep, one of the other kids actually ran up to me and said, “Malcolm said he was going to cut me.” How’s that for playground banter?!) He was in rare form, and has me questioning whether showing him those prison gang movies was a good idea after all.

On the car ride back, I began to wonder whether Malcolm was the silly rascal that I thought he was, or if he is somehow just a sociopath flying under the radar. He is in school full time now, meaning I don’t spend nearly as much time with him in social situations as I used to. Since I have yet to be called into the principal’s office to address any menacing behavior, I assumed that meant he is doing fine at school. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe he is just as menacing as he used to be and either he is getting better at hiding it or the school just doesn’t crack down on threats of knife violence. Since I don’t hang out with him in most of his social situations, I had no idea of what he was really up to.

I caught Malcolm using the meat grinder shortly after our neighbor's dog disappeared. Coincidence? I sure hope so!!!

Actually, I don’t think I will press the issue all that much. If your kid was Geoffrey Dahmer, wouldn’t you rather be surprised when the bodies turn up in the freezer rather than having to tell the press, “Ya, we pretty much always knew he was going to turn out that way?” I’m choosing ignorance, and hopefully it will be bliss. Besides, since he’s at school most of the time, it’s really their problem anyways.

Half Me, Half Her

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

One of the exciting things about becoming a parent is the science experiment of how the parenting genes will wind up in the child. Malcolm seems to take solely after me when it comes to dressing (the fashion equivalent of David Hasslehoff eating a cheeseburger) and more like Amy in the “when can I have another piece of chocolate” department.

There are times, though, when Malcolm displays a unique combination of the two of us. Lately, Malcolm has taken up jogging with Amy. They are very cute together, drawing lots of “Awww, isn’t that adorable” remarks from our neighbors. Jogging is squarely in the Amy section of the gene pool, as I would rather work at a retirement home computer help desk than go running. At some point during Amy and Malcolm’s workout, my genes take over and Malcolm decides that he doesn’t want to be there after all. He uses every excuse in the book to end the run prematurely, from “my legs hurt” to “I have to poo.” Amy is proud when they leave and I smile when they return.

One of my favorite shared traits in Malcolm is his concentration. Amy’s mind works on one thing at a time, often yielding conversations like this:

Paul: Amy, we need to figure out what we are doing next weekend. Malcolm’s school BBQ is the same time as Connor’s birthday party.

Amy: What time do they start?

Paul: One starts at 10:30 and the other is at 11:30.

Amy picks up her Blackberry.

Paul: Well, what do you think?

No answer.

Paul: I guess we could show up for the birthday party first and then catch the tail end of the BBQ.

No answer.

Paul: Actually Amy, I was thinking of skipping both of them and just butchering a hog.

No answer.

On this point, there is no compromise. We all love head massages!

Malcolm also has mixed genes when it comes to booger removal. I am an avid nose picker, enjoying the freedom to clean out the traps whenever I darn well feel like it (one of the true joys of being a stay at home parent.) Amy is much more cauterized about the whole process, doing her business in private and discarding the harvest immediately in napkin or tissue. Malcolm is borderline rhinotillexomanic, (Google it, it’s a word.) but shares Amy’s desire for immediate disposal. How does he do it, you ask? Simple, he eats it! Seriously, that kid eats snot like a cocaine addict going back for seconds. (I’m not sure how we are going to combat this one, but soon I may be forced to impart some tough love by dipping his fingers in hot pepper sauce.)

On the other hand, I am distracted easily and react to any external stimuli. (The blog post was delayed today because I obsessed over Scrabble moves and watched the merengue dog video over and over again.) Malcolm blends these two traits amazingly, and combines Amy’s intense focus with my distractability. He will play pretend baseball games by himself while poking his head up to say things like, “Daddy, you promised me a treat this week, can I have it now?” or “Mommy, what did you just put in that tissue?” He then resumes his game at the exact point he left off, down to the exact hitter’s count. We started a game of go fish the other day when I reminded him during the middle of the game that he needed put away his army men before we left for school. He collected his army men, played an entire game of football with them, looked at a picture book, and then returned ten minutes later, asking “Now about those fours…” I didn’t even remember we were still playing.

The Garden Of Eden Has Rats: Why Malcolm’s First Week Of School Wasn’t All That

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I knew how this week was supposed to go. Malcolm started preschool full-time, and everything was set be perfect. Malcolm would be gone for 6.5 hours a day, learning amazing new things and would come home with a grin on his face full of all sorts of amazing stories to tell. I would get a million things done around here, and Amy would be soooo proud of both her boys. The Israelis and Palestinians would start getting along, The Giants would win the World Series and everywhere I went, people would tell me that I smelled terrific. Life would be sweet.

Oh sure, he may fool you on the outside with a decent bit of charm, but a Godzilla-sized urge sto destroy lurks on the inside.

Amazing how life doesn’t work out like you plan it to, eh? Sure Malcolm went off to school every day, and for everything that his teachers tell me, he is having a fine time. Coming home, however, has presented some challenges. He was whiny to the point of driving me nuts on Monday and Tuesday’s baseball session began with him having a tantrum and ended when he hit me with a bat. The school year is barely three days old, and I am already sick of this shit. This isn’t Eden, this is Bakersfield!

I guess what is happening is that Malcolm is saving up all his good behavior for school. He is pleasing and quiet and respectful there, and anyone who knows a four-year-old knows that this is only one side of the coin. Usually, a preschooler’s behavioral day is made up of alternating periods good behavior and bad. The yin is followed by the yang, and when the yang isn’t unleashed, it festers until it gushes out in a most unseemly way. From where I sit, the first two days of school have been like a giant, foul-smelling garbage truck of yang being dumped on my head.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that Malcolm is patient and a good listener for his teachers at school. I certainly wouldn’t want him taking a bat to sweet Ms. Sara this early in the semester, but being on the business end of a conniption bender two days in a row will inevitably make one look at boarding school options in Connecticut. I am trying to stay strong, realizing that his new schedule is going to take some getting-used-to. Hopefully, his biorythms will reset soon, and he can unleash his yang once in a while at school (best sentence ever?) For now, I am stashing those boarding school applications away in the bottom drawer, but if I don’t start getting some yin outta Malcolm soon, he may get a ticket to Connecticut soon. Real soon.

Malcolm Sucks At Caregiving

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I was sick last week. I don’t get sick much, owing mainly to my iron consistency and the constant flow of vodka through my veins. I guess my years of living in filth has strengthened my immune system to the point where new bugs enter my system to howls of enjoyment by all the other viruses/bacteria already there (“Hey guys look, a new 48-hour bug is here, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Get in line nerd!”)

When I do get sick, I tend to get wiped out. Such as it was last week, when I got a stomach bug. My whole body ached and I used the bathroom so many times in one day that Malcolm started keeping stats. (“Daddy, you got there in less than four seconds. A new record!!!!”) Seriously, our toilet looked straight out of a scene from Trainspotting, and not the one where Spud interviews for a job.

Malcolm apparently picked up on the little “signs” I gave him that I wasn’t feeling well, like “Malcolm, I don’t feel well. Leave me the fuck alone.” During one of the many movies I let him watch while I moaned continuously on the couch, I fell asleep. For some reason, Malcolm took this to mean he should step up his care giving duties and leapt into action. I woke up with him sitting on my stomach while petting my head. Not feeling all that well, I muttered something unrecognizable and turned over. Luckily, I fell right back asleep, but then awoke again when Malcolm decided that what I needed was some blankets. After all, what better way is there to say, “I love you” than snuggling someone into a nice comfy blanket, eh? Sadly, Malcolm didn’t realize that the most important part of that equation was that the blankets be nice and comfy. When I woke up a second time, Malcolm had covered me up with several sheets of paper and was preparing to place a large book on my head. This time my mutterings were quite recognizable, and pretty direct, much to Malcolm’s surprise.

If this guy asks you to play doctor, say "No!"

We somehow made it through the rest of the day without killing each other, and I made a mental note that I needed to give Malcolm some lessons regarding the appropriate way to care for someone who is sick. Either that, or I need to step up my vodka consumption. I can appreciate Malcolm’s effort but I guarantee that if he ever becomes a nurse, the hospital is gonna get sued.

If Malcolm Only Knew

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

He even knows how to go four-wheeling with his mommy!

Like all four-year-olds, Malcolm is as sharp as a tack. If it is 3:00 and you tell him that you’ll play a game with him in five minutes, you can bet your sweet bippy that he will come trotting up at 3:05 to remind you of your obligations. He can tell you which game of a three game series against the Cardinals last month the Giants lost 5-1. He remembers whether you told him earlier that he didn’t need to take a bath that day and can tell if you are in the kitchen eating chips (even if you try to eat them really, really quietly.) The kid knows a lot.

I am just glad that there is a lot of stuff he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that the Wheat Chex he loves so dearly have no chocolate in them, despite their dark brown appearance.

He doesn’t know that I sometimes let him tag me out when we play baseball. Also, I can throw my fastball much faster than I’ll let on.

I am pretty sure that he doesn’t know that most of the time when I lock the door in the bathroom, I am just hiding from him.

He doesn’t know that after he goes to bed, we have popcorn, and sometimes ice cream!

He doesn’t know that play dates are often more for the parent’s sake than they are for the kids.

He doesn’t know that there are video games out there where you can be a ninja, a sharpshooter, or even Pablo Sandoballs. (As far as he knows, the entire video game universe consists of boggle, scrabble and game called “The Kindergarten Game.” I’m going to keep it that way as long as I can!)

He doesn’t understand how easy it would be for him to reach his goodie bag (filled with candy, chocolates etc. and reserved for semi-special occasions) while I have myself locked up in the bathroom.

He doesn’t yet know how bad my taste in music is. For now, he assumes everyone listens to Weird Al.

Lastly, he is beginning to learn how to read, but I am super-stoked that he doesn’t know how to get to this blog. I think he might get upset at some of the content around here.

When Preschoolers Attack: Tantrums Gone Wild

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

When Malcolm was younger he was mean. He was mean like an wild west gunslinger, drunk on whiskey and ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Ever the old cat whose balls won’t quit aching, he often took swipes at me for no good reason, as if to say, “I am the boss here, don’t you forget it.” Ike Turner didn’t have shit on Malcolm. And then, slowly but surely, the angry fog began to lift, and I could hang out with him without worrying that he would slap me in the face or bite me in the love handles. I have been enjoying these post-apocalyptic days with Malcolm for a while now.

Yesterday, however, was a trip down memory lane. I picked him up from summer camp relatively early so that we could go to the park for some baseball before watching the Giants-Phillies game on TV. I knew he was looking forward to it, because he left a game of freeze dance at camp to come with me, and one does not willingly leave a game of freeze dance without good reason. Once at the park, I began to sniff that something terrible was amiss when Malcolm broke out into a tantrum after a play in which he tagged me out. The reason? “Daddy you made me out of breath.” “Oh Jeez,” I thought to myself, “this is going to get ugly.”

Sure enough, after another tantrum in response to my calling a pitch that almost hit me a ball and not a strike, I said we were leaving. He erupted. After calling me every name in the book, he threw a ball at me. When that failed to sway me, he hucked the bat at me, hitting me in the spine. I would have throttled the little turd, except the little girls at a nearby lemonade stand were now paying close attention to us and I was feeling a little too much like an episode of Cops. Instead, I quietly ushered Malcolm into his carseat and began driving home. As we turned the corner, Malkie chucked a water bottle at my head, hitting the target and dousing the car with a fresh coat of H2O.

I wish I could print the things I yelled at Malcolm after this, but Amy’s family members who read the blog might object. It was not pretty. Now Malcolm can’t play with his baseball gear for a while, and can’t let my guard down while he is anywhere near my groin. I only hope that this was some sort of short term blip, and not the beginning of his transformation into this guy:

Things I Would Rather Not Do With My Four Year Old

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Hanging out with Malcolm is pretty cool, most of the time. We have adventures, play lots of baseball, and talk about things like, “John Bowker has a pickle for a head!” There are also times when, ahem, I like him less. Actually that’s a bit understated. There are times when I wish Malcolm was a dog we could chain to the fence in the back yard. Lately, I have noticed exactly when and where I feel this way, and I will relate them to you today.

First, I do not enjoy being around Malcolm when he talks about butts. I believe he knows this, and he brings out the anal chatter whenever he wants to push my buttons. The problem is, the more reaction he gets, the further down the gastrointestinal tract he goes. He’s like a stand up comedian in that respect. The absolute worst for me is when he tells me he is going to put me in his butt. I know that it’s a silly comment and I should not fear being shoved up Malkie’s pooper, but for some reason it really ticks me off. The worst part is that my diatribes sound so funny when I counsel against him doing it in the future, “If you EVER say that you are going to put me in your butt and fart me into a box again…..”

I also am pretty terrified of being out in public with Malcolm when it is past his bedtime. Like all kids, Malcolm is pretty rotten when he is tired and overstimulated. It won’t matter if you have been out and had the best day together, once his bedtime comes and goes and he is not in bed, he will turn into a bizarre alien, complete with him licking my arms, murmuring jibberish and every whine BECOMING APPROXIMATELY TEN DECIBELS TOO LOUD. He will also spend a lot of time talking about his butt, so it’s often a double whammy for me. The witching hour isn’t a time when a big bootied green lady is at her most powerful, it’s when a preschooler is out past bedtime.

I have considered your offer to change out of my pajamas and have the counter for you to consider: Eat my butt!

I have also realized that I find negotiating with Malcolm quite taxing. Most of the time, when you ask Malcolm whether he wants to do or eat something, he doesn’t just say “yes” or “no,” he brings a counter offer to the table. I submitted an offer to buy an investment property this week, and it was less complex and time consuming than negotiating with Malcolm over how many crackers he got to eat on the way home from his tee ball game on Tuesday night. Perhaps it is because the seller in the real estate transaction can’t whine and scream and throw things at you. Malcolm is an extremely hard bargainer, and he knows if he wants 10 of something, he better start the bidding at 20. As a former lawyer, I am impressed with his shrewd instincts and clever thinking, but as a dad, I am annoyed.  If you would have said that I would have a tougher time bargaining with my four year old than I did while negotiating contracts with multinational companies, I would have said you were crazy. Now, I am the crazy one.

What Do You Do With Parental Pride?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

There are parents out there that are out of control. You know the kind of parent I am talking about, eager to brag about every little thing their kid can do, even then you both know that the child is a complete mess. If their kid was ripping the head off baby seals and lighting them on fire, they would proudly note, “Did you see how well Jimmy worked the lighter? He gets that from his daddy.” I don’t mind an occasional story about new things that the kids are up to; most of the time new developments are interesting to hear about. But some parents just take it too far.

My kid knows how to stare off into space!

I feel myself joining them. Malcolm seems to be doing new and cool things every week, and I have no idea how much to share with fellow parents. Mind you, I have taken a lot of shit over the years for Malcolm’s less-than-stellar attributes, enduring nasty comments from moms when my child bites theirs, relentless heckling from my stay at home dads group about Malcolm being a slow witted bruiser, and comments from teachers like, “Weeeeellll, he’s very [pause] energetic,” as they stall to think up something nice about him. Now, he is catching up on the curve and I am not sure what sort of publicity to hand out about that.

Most of the time, I try and keep it all bottled up. While others droning on about their kid doing this and that, I try to remain quiet, not really knowing what to say. Then, sometimes quite unexpectedly, the bottle gets shaken up and explodes all over the place, usually to a person that could care less, such as when the deli counter lady at our grocery store asked how my son was.  “My kid knows how to ride a camel! He can spell the word, ‘diplodocus!’ He’s already masturbating at a fourth grade level! Yesterday, he made veal saltimbocca, WITH IMPORTED PROSCIUTTO!!!!”

I realize when I start doing this, I have become the very thing I detest. To tell you the truth, it was much easier to sheepishly look away when people start talking about their kids, embarrassed of my little drooling biter seemingly always trying to lure the other kids around into a conversation about their butts. Excess pride in your kid is way uglier than your child being a baby seal killer. Now that I finally have some stuff to brag about, I am gonna have to learn to walk the line. Even so, he knew not to use crappy domestic prosciutto. I mean really.

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.

Tee Ball Archetypes

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I have been to a grand total of two of Malcolm’s tee ball games, which, in my mind, makes me an expert. Unlike some of the parents out there who sit and talk to each other or get caught up on Facebook via their cell phone, I have marked my time on the sidelines fastidiously studying the kids and wondering what the hell is wrong with them.  Some of you out there haven’t yet had the good fortune of experiencing a tee ball game, I thought I would give you a primer on what you can expect. So, here is my breakdown of the kinds of kids who play tee ball.

Butterfly Chaser: This kid is not into tee ball, and is participating in the activity mostly because their parents either want them to pick up the game, or just want them out of the house. Most of the time, the Butterfly Chaser is not paying attention to what is going on in the game. He or she will be staring at any possible distraction in the field, and will often get hit by the ball, another player chasing the ball, or often both. The disinterest in the game may even cause the player to take off their helmet and run to a shiny object while making their way to first base.

Nervous Nelly: This tee baller is generally bashful, yet interested in the game. They participate fully until A) they come near another player, or B) a parent or coach yells something to them. Running the bases is especially difficult for this players, as the minefield of little kids between bases causes them to start and stop ten or more times on the base paths. Nervous Nellies hit well, but tend to stay at home base for a few minutes after hitting while everyone on the field is yelling at them to run to first base.

Bowling Pin: Kids with this tendency love baseball, but don’t know what to do with all the energy. Once a ball is put in play, the Bowling Pins all fall down in unison, regardless of where the ball is hit. The Pins then proceed to roll around on the ground until the coaches scream at them to get back up and go to their positions. In Malcolm’s last game, there were a grand total of seven Bowling Pins on the other team, causing the end of each play to look like a fraternity house the morning after a party.

Dogpiler: Dogpilers also love baseball, but are consumed by primal urges once play begins. They see the ball, and do everything in their power to be the one who comes up with the precious at the end of the play. The first kid to get the ball is usually the worst off as they are jumped on by every other dogpiler on the team. Games with a large population of dogpilers more closely resemble rugby scrums, as each play ends with coaches peeling off players one by one until the ball is finally located.

Spaz: The spaz has a love of the game and a limitless amount of energy. Position assignments don’t mean much to the Spaz as they seem to always make their way to the center of the action regardless of where they started when the play began. The Spaz is moving even when nothing is happening, running around in circles and jumping around making pretend plays. Malcolm is definitely a Spaz, and I laughed every time he ran in from left field to back up plays at first.

Tee ball is fun activity to watch because each team is made up of a combination of each type of players. While Nervous Nellies are wetting themselves dodging the Bowling Pins and Dogpilers, Butterfly Chasers are looking for Easter Eggs, and Spazzes are running all over the place. I have never been in battle, but I imagine that the carnage at the Battle Of Bull Run looked a lot like the triple that Malcolm’s teammate hit yesterday. I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

Bad Fair Day

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

One of the best aspects of parenting is creating little traditions that you enjoy every with your kids. Most of the time, these traditions are quite enjoyable for us, with the notable exception of the mighty redwood tree that we burn to the ground every year on arbor day (not sure how that one got started, but I sure wish we could quit it!)

One of the traditions that I actually like is attending the Alameda County fair, which Malcolm and I went to last week. We had gone to the fair the previous two years and really enjoyed ourselves. If you want to read about it, click here or here (but don’t click here!) You’ll notice that Amy has never gone with us to the fair, owing mainly to her fear of carnies and desire to avoid somehow getting caught between me and the giant corndog shack. I can’t say I really blame her.

Not even these cute little racing pigs could stop Malcolm's vicious downward spiral.

For some reason, this year was different. Malcolm had a tantrum over my failure to buy him a stupid, crappy inflatable airplane at the souvenir stand. Malcolm wandered off, twice (the last time being for a sufficiently long period of time that I was afraid he had already become a carnies’ new pet.) Malcolm lost his Giants hat. Malcolm also lost some ride tickets, which was difficult considering he had them in his hands while standing in line, but somehow ceased to have them anymore when he got to the front of the line.  I found the experience totally and utterly exasperating.

At the end, I knew it just wasn’t his day, and no manner of pleading, threatening and bribing was going to change that. I felt bad for his friends, who had to endure several hours of noticeably poor behavior and my corresponding lecturing. No kid is perfect, but you always feel a little troubled when your kid is a complete shitbird while other kids are around. I think we’ll probably go again next year, as I try to never miss situations where rival food vendors try to vie for your business by deep fat frying weird and wonderful foods. I just won’t look forward to it as much as I have previously.

If Malcolm Were A World Cup Referee

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I have been watching the World Cup. It is always entertaining to watch the referees interact with the players, as they never seem to speak the same language, but yet are able to have knock-down, drag-out arguments. Is this referee happy or sad about the player’s behavior?

This got me thinking, what if Malcolm were a World Cup Referee? What would he look like? Through the joys of technology, we can find out. Take a look!

Malcolm the referee let’s a player know that he saw the foul. “You didn’t think I saw you, but I did. Foul!”

My Popeye face and my pooping face are the same!

“Diving is for fishes. Don’t dive. Get up and play the game.”

Do these jammies make me look thin?

Offsides! I can’t believe how far offsides you are.

I can't believe how much stuff there is in my pants right now, either.

“Did I get a call right? Everyone’s complaining about the calls at the World Cup. I got a call right. Woo Hoo!!!”

I'm so pleased with myself that I'm actually constipated!

“You suck at soccer. Or football. Whatever it is, you suck at it.”

You're getting a red card. Not because of anything you did, it's just that my balls are itchy.

GGGGGGGOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!

Don't bother brown nosing me. I already got a brown nose. (And chin. And cheeks.)

Why Don’t You Care About Your Graduation?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I'm pretty bad ass at my school, but I can be badass anywhere...

Malcolm is graduating from his preschool today, and I am very excited. Well, since he isn’t going to kindergarten next year, he really isn’t graduating so much as just moving on to a different school next fall. His school is calling it a graduation, however, and I for one am jumping on the bandwagon. We have invited his grandparents to the event at the school and I am sufficiently motivated to mark the occasion that I am making ribs for the potluck following the ceremony. Mmm ribs. You know I am geeked up over something when I break out the pork.

Curious to see what he thinks about the milestone, I have been talking to him about what this means and asking him how it makes him feel. His response up ’til now has been nonchalance to the point where I am seriously irritated. I am not sure if he doesn’t get the fact that he is losing his primary source of education for the last two years (my function has now been limited to chauffeur, cook and batting practice pitcher), doesn’t want to think about it, or just honestly doesn’t give a fuck, but he will not show any sort of emotion over this rather large change to his schedule. “Hey Malcolm, after June 17, you’re not going to be going to your school anymore. Will you be sad?” His answer, “No.” I asked him what he would miss most about his preschool, and he said, “Nothing.” I even tried to point out that he wasn’t ever going to see most of his friends ever again (in a blatant attempt to go Barbara Walters on his ass and make him cry,) but he quickly pointed out that he’ll make new friends at his new school. WHY ARE YOU SUCH A ROBOT ABOUT THIS? Can’t you even show the slightest bit of emotion?! Damn your indifference!!!

Mind you, this is the kid that shows emotion every day over being told to stop watching Giants’ highlights and eat breakfast. He told me he hated my guts when I took a plastic golf ball away from him yesterday because he kept hitting it at the TV. He will absolutely melt down if I have the temerity to suggest that we race to see who can get their seat belt on first. I asked him to stay on his step stool while he brushed his teeth the other day, and he reacted with enough ferocity to suggest that I had just stepped on his nuts. Oh, but leaving your teachers and most of your friends behind to go to a brand new school where he doesn’t know anyone? Hardly a second thought.

Maybe I am getting worked up over nothing, as I would feel pretty bad if he was truly saddened by the fact that his time at this school was ending. I guess I just want him to realize that he should cherish the things in life that he likes, because they may not last forever. My only hope is that when he sees that I have made ribs tonight, he’ll finally realize that he is passing a significant milestone and react accordingly. Then again, he may just tell me that he hates me…

My Kid Sucks At Gymnastics

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I went to Malcolm’s end-of-the-year gymnastics performance today. He’s shown us some things they teach in class, but I was keenly interested in seeing the whole package: if he actually enjoys himself, how he relates to his teachers, and whether he shows any more coordination in class than he does at home (he is a bit of a klutz, displaying as much grace as a drunk guy trying to take off his pants.)

The first thing I noticed was that his gymnastics instructor was a bit of a nightmare. Her arms were cut like an elite body builder and her eyes bulged out as if she were trying to pass a kidney stone at all times. If she was looking to scare the kids into submission, she was definitely on the right path. During the presentation she strutted around the mat barking orders at the kids loudly, “Eva, get those feet together. Malcolm, arch your back! Maddie, tuck in your arms. EVA, GET THOSE GOD DAMN FEET TOGETHER!!!” I thought for a moment that she was an out of work football coach, but when she saw me daydreaming she sneered at me so intensely that I peed myself a little bit.

I’m sad to say that Malcolm was not very good at what he was doing. I chalked it up to starting slowly because he was nervous about all the parents being there watching. When he failed to even walk across the balance beam without assistance (all the other kids glided seamlessly across it) I realized that it wasn’t nerves. He just sucks at gymnastics. While all the other parents smiled and remarked on how well each other’s kids were doing, I nervously stared at my feet hoping he doesn’t suffer from vertigo. The program finally ended, I rushed to Malcolm and told him that he was my hero. I didn’t lie and say, “good job” or “you’re awesome,” I’ll save comments like that for when he actually does well at something. Instead, I asked him if he had fun and that I enjoyed watching him (which was true except for the parts where he was actually doing the gymnastics.)

I can’t really say that I am totally disappointed, as I don’t like gymnastics and loathe the idea of watching recitals for the rest of his childhood. It’s probably because of the close connection between gymnastics and jazz hands. Since his class is more about balance and flexibility though, I will continue to enroll him in classes and hope that Frau Fitness In Transit will be able to get him past “drunk guy taking off his pants.” Come to think about it, I may know where he gets that…

Generation WTF

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

While watching the Giants game yesterday, Malcolm asked if I could pause the game so that he could to the bathroom. While he was in the bathroom peeing all over the place, I got to thinking how different his life growing up is drastically different than mine. When I was a kid, I had to either hold it until a commercial break or turn the sofa into my own little cat box. What a difference technology makes!

Now, even the rides at Disneyland are in 3-D!

I laughed every time my parents began a sentence, “Back in my day…” I promptly tuned out whatever story followed, things like walking to school in the snow, working exhausting sumer jobs, or taking down water buffalos to feed the family for the winter. Now, I get it. Kids in each generation do and say things the previous generation never thought possible and this crop of kids are no different. Here are the things that Malcolm says that I find utterly ridiculous:

Can I watch shark videos on your phone now?

At the farmer’s market, can we go to the Afghani booth first?

This is my favorite website!

Can I put on another tattoo today?

I want another gummy vitamin.

Can we go on a long car ride? (Well, he has never technically said this, but you’d think he would have considering every long car trip means that he happily gets to watch movies on his portable DVD player.)

Me: Do you want to go play golf today? Him: Real golf, or Wii golf at Jack’s house?

I don’t like the strawberry toothpaste, can we get bubble gum next time?

And on and on and on. Personally, I am waiting for the invention which helps your kid actually hit the toilet when they go to the bathroom, but then again, I’m a dreamer. Do your kids ever make you shake your head in disbelief?

Kids Are Weird

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I am a full-time stay at home parent, and there are times when I feel like I have no idea who my kid is. Oh sure, I think I am an expert, perfectly understanding every little nuance of our son, but once in a while he’ll do something so odd that I just have to scratch my head, like when he came in from playing basketball in the driveway and licked the couch. When he throws a tantrum over his desire to wear his shirt backwards or laughs hysterically because he calls me a robot, I wonder how long I am going to be able to keep him out of the county public health system. I

I don't know what's on his face, and I'm not sure I want to.

laugh when he wakes up in the morning wearing completely different clothing than when we put him to bed, although I am secretly glad that he is wearing any clothing at all. In short, the kid is nuts.

Malcolm is equally unpredictable when speaking. Many of his conversations begin with, “Daddy, I love you,” which is nice, but I never know where the rest of the talk is headed. “Daddy, I love you. Do bears eat rabbits?” One time he said, “Daddy, I love you. Waldis Joaquin,(a Giants pitcher currently in the minor leaugues,) weighs 245 pounds.” Don’t get me wrong, imaginations are usually a good thing, but when your son expresses his love for you and then backs it up with, “Can I show off my meatballs?” you get a little worried.

Perhaps nothing exposes his oddities quite as well as his treatment of underwear. He very rarely does anything out of the ordinary with, say, a shirt or his jeans. His cluster grabbers, however, have gone on his head, around his arms and even on his feet. What is it about underwear that kids find so entertaining? He also thinks that adult underpants are an endless source of fun, using my boxers as home base for his pretend baseball games and mommy’s bra as a coin-collecting vessel. Rest assured, he will continually find interesting and entertaining things to do with underpants, and they will not include using them in the manner to which they were intended.

That’s definitely one good thing about being a parent: you never know what’s around the corner. Even when the mysteries should be large, red warning flags, they are good a for a few laughs afterwards.

It Takes Two To Tantrum

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Often, when I run into a parenting dilemma that I cannot seem to handle, I do a complete 180. This actually happens quite a bit, as I have never had a job that changes so frequently and has as many roadblocks as this job does. Sometimes this works out well, like when I started handling Malcolm’s afternoon fussiness with more energy and attention rather than less. Other times, I realize I may have made a huge mistake. Once, when having a pretty bad week butting heads with Malcolm, I sold him to a band of gypsies. (It cost $1,500 in silver coins and a large cupful of fingernail clippings to get him back, but the damage was minimal.)

To address the onslaught of tantrums that has popped up recently, I started having tantrums myself. Today, when Malcolm withdrew to the corner to scream about the supreme unfairness of making him eat the homemade blueberry yogurt instead of the much cooler individual blueberry yogurt servings from the store, I  had a meltdown. To let him know that this isn’t how adults normally act, I loudly announced that the part of Malcolm in today’s performance would be played by Paul Schwartz. When Amy asked me to sit down and eat the yummy yogurt we made, I stomped my feet loudly, went to the corner and began shrieking, “NO! NO! NO!” When she asked me again, I got on the floor and pounded my fists on the ground and said, “I don’t want THAT yogurt!” Then, I turned over and kicked my feet in the air, like a turtle on its back. Wouldn’t you know it, by the end he was laughing. When he asked that I do it again, I gladly obliged, and after my second tantrum, he sat down and ate the yogurt, smiling the whole time.

I have done this several times, and it almost always worked. I know that child psychologists would probably frown on ridiculousness of it all, but I don’t really care. If they want to come hang out with Malcolm all day then I will gladly let them scorn me. Walk a mile in my shoes, you ivory tower pie in the sky university types!

Of course, when it hasn’t worked, the results were disastrous. Akin to throwing gasoline on a fire, Malcolm got even more upset at me and decided to try removing my eyeballs from their sockets with his fingers. I am finding that it works better on things that are rather trivial, like yogurt selection and toothbrushing techniques, but fails when more serious topics are at hand (i.e., explaining why we sold him to gypsies.) A well chronicled history of silliness also helps him realize that I am not, in fact, suggesting that throwing a tantrum will help him achieve any of his goals.

Plan B, bury him in sand up to his neck!

I am sure this approach will one day fail regularly and we’ll have to come up with something new, but until then, I say screw the child psychologists, get down on that floor and melt down with the best of them!

Malcolm, The Bubble Boy

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

My boy lives in a bubble. No, not an actual bubble due to some sad case of immunodeficiency. This bubble is harder to see, but perhaps more important than a giant plastic sphere in your living rom. Check that, there is nothing more important than a giant sphere in your living room with a little boy inside. Good luck forgetting that thing isn’t there.

Too bad this post isn't the boy in the bubbles. Then, this picture would make more sense.

No, this bubble is the slice of heaven that Malcolm lives in. In his bubble, we all get excited to go to get our hair cuts together. Afterwards, we have hearty homespun italian food, and then: ice cream. In the bubble, we enjoy going to the farmer’s market, where we taste and buy local, organic fruits and veggies and hang out with other people who live in Oakland. There is music, bouncy houses and Tibetan cuisine. It’s a tad on the expensive side, but when you are in Malcolm’ bubble, there’s plenty of money to go around. The bubble extends to the library, the pool for swim lessons, play dates for our stay at home dad’s group, and involves a lot of quality time with his ever adoring grand parents. Not too shabby.

The bubble also is inhabited by a stay at home parent. This makes things particularly advantageous when you are an only child. Just think of it, no lines to wait in to find a parent to play with or scream at. A whole human being dedicated to securing your happiness. With his own man servant, there is plenty of time for trips to the park for baseball or board games on the couch. Meals are cooked to his exacting standards and when asked how he wants to spend a free day, no compromises are made. Inside his bubble, he is liberally praised for his hard work, even when he has been acting like a little shit for most of the day. It’s like he is a rock star, except for the fact that he doesn’t have to go through the laborious task of appearing on stage in front of millions of fans.

There’s probably going to be a time when his reality comes crashing back to Earth, when he realizes that life isn’t necessarily the hedonistic free for all that it currently is. He will learn that things like coal mines exist and that people have to work in them. He will learn that cops and robbers isn’t a game, it’s International Boulevard in Oakland after midnight. Until then, I get to enjoy life in the bubble with him. This bubble is probably the reason that we are so happy right now, the cruel, harsh world kept at bay by some pretty cool family moments. I will hate to see it go, but the cool thing about the bubble is that you cannot ever see it bursting.

Sliding Scale Of Sickness

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It’s almost like there is a theme to my posts this week, eh?

There are two kinds of people in this world, people who use their kids as excuses to get out of things things they don’t want to do, and liars. I have used Malcolm’s sickness to get out of, birthday parties, weddings and everything in between. The funny thing is that he doesn’t even get sick all that much, although you wouldn’t know it by the number of times we’ve played the sick kid card. We usually use pretty big whoppers, too, when explaining why we missed a party. According to our friends, Malcolm, in his mere four years on this planet, has contracted rickets, tourettes, chicken pox, rooster pox, myocardial infarctions, and, my personal favorite, parrot fever, which you can only obtain by inhaling bird feces. (That last one is a guaranteed conversation stopper, so use it when you feel really guilty about missing something.)

Even so, there are times when Malcolm has actually been sufficiently sick as to warrant not leaving the house. But how to decide whether to miss something because your child is sick, or go anyways and risk the spread of the malady? Luckily for you, I have prepared the following cheat sheet to help you out when your little ones are ill. Enjoy!

Yes, but what do you do when they have Cheerios coming out their nose?

Runny Nose – Use this as a sign that you shouldn’t go to the event that you were dreading, whether it be a birthday party for the kid who humps your leg, or any fundraiser for your friends’ kids. The good thing about being a parent is that you can use the sick kid excuse to get out of things that don’t even involve your kid! It works for ANY art show or event that has the words “cat show” or “ballroom dancing” in the title. Been invited to a dinner party at your vegan friends’ house? “Oh, sorry can’t make it, Malcolm is sick and we just can’t leave him with a sitter.” Pure gold.

Cough – Gets you out of the mid-tier events, things you may not necessarily enjoy, but would go to if there wasn’t a cool sporting event on TV that day. This list includes church and group outings for the families at your child’s school. Sure, your kid would be alright going, but there’s always a chance that they’ll get the other kids sick, and besides, the US Open is only on once a year!

Vomiting – Sadly, vomiting is pretty serious. You may have to miss date night if your kid is throwing up. You should also give up seats to sporting events and concerts. It’s really not fair for a high school kid to have to scrub the couch to remove all remnants of throw up, just so you can grab dinner and a movie, or a U2 show. Worse yet, high school students usually WON’T scrub anything, ensuring that the smell of throw up will infest the couch for years to come. Of course, if the babysitter is a family member, then feel free to go anyways. Blood is thicker than water, and that extra thickness will help  you enjoy your time away from your even more whiny and annoying kid, while saving the couch.

Fever – Cancel all your plans for this one. Granted, I am scarred, as Malcolm had a febrile seizure once and I will be forever haunted by the image of his eyes rolled back into the back of his head and him shaking uncontrollably. We play it safe though and will always remain at home with him when his temperature exceeds 102.

All of the above – this is the only reason Malcolm gets to stay home from school. We are paying good money for him to not be at home with me, and missing out on that is travesty for everyone involved (mostly me.) Of course, if I am sick too, then it is easier to justify sitting around the couch all day watching movies. But if I am well, putting up with a sick kid is the last thing I want on a school day. When the school asks why he his face is bright red and is throwing up all over the place, I tell them he was out in the sun a lot the day before and ate a bad doughnut. That usually works. If it doesn’t, at least you’ve bought yourself some time. With that time, you can be researching new and exciting diseases to use as your next excuse.

Sick Day For A Four-Year-Old

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm is sick today. Actually, I am sick too, so I should say, “we” are sick. So, instead of spending the day with our friends at dad’s group, we are bunkered down in the house. Like with many things, I have noticed it is a lot easier to deal with Malcolm as a four-year-old sick patient than previous versions. Here is a recap:

OK, this may not be an accurate representation of him throwing up. Just imagine him like this, except instead of wearing a woman's hat in the back seat of a car, he is throwing up in the toilet. The big boy toilet!

Throw up. The current model threw up in the toilet. Sure, when it caught him by surprise (on Amy’s watch, luckily) he chundered all of over the kitchen. (Before you get all mad at me for making Amy clean up the kitchen, remember that I am sick, and was asleep. So there.) Previous versions of Malcolm required an extensive clean up and a pretty miserable bath after every eruption. This Malkie can be ordered around a little bit more. When Malcolm started dry heaving this morning, I quickly yelled, “If you’re gonna throw up, go do it in the bathroom!!!” He looked at me and asked why, and I told him that it would be less messier that way. He shrugged, went to the toilet and threw up. Bonus! Look at all the cleaning and bathing we just saved. I absolutely love this kid! Plus, at this age, I no longer have to keep constant track of him thinking he will choke on his own vomit in bed. Double Bonus!

TV. When he was young, we didn’t want him to grow up addicted to TV, so sick days weren’t the TV orgy they are now. Today, we are watching movies non-stop. He has watched Monsters, Inc. and Mary Poppins, and we’ll watch some baseball when he gets up from a dad imposed sick day nap. We used to be worried that our son would have a dormant mind if he vegged out to too much TV. Now that he has started doing multiplication (Seriously! He was doing 5 x7 and 6 X 3 and everything in between. What a math nut!), we know that a dormant brain is simply not an option and allow little binges like this. Plus, I don’t feel well, so I don’t have the energy to entertain him like a hot nanny can. And yes, Mary Poppins is one smoking hot nanny.

Food. What the heck do you feed a small child who is throwing up all the time? I can’t even remember. This version gets exactly what I am getting. Won ton soup. I am not sure why, but my “go-to” food when I feel ill is won ton soup and OJ. They don’t exactly go together, but neither does popcorn and strawberry milk, and I like that combo too. Amy dutifully hit up the grocery store for our supplies and we both enjoyed a lunch on the couch, watching movies and counting our blessings that someone else was cleaning up the vomit. We could get used to this…

Parenting Is A Giant Game Of Chicken

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

My first theory of parenting was that all children are evil and must be broken as quickly as possible. This was based on my empirical study of one child in which I noticed that every decision he made was designed to either a) do the thing that I just told him not to do, or b) say something that he knows will make me angry. At one point I was sure that if he found a fork lying on the floor of the kitchen, he would immediately grab it and stick it in my leg. I lived in a perpetual state of fear and I was actually incredulous about a child’s decision-making; I wondered why it was that my child was so wicked. Surely, I have a mischievous side to me, but certainly it wasn’t so bad that my child would end up as the spawn of Satan, would it?

Then I realized the thing that has allowed me to love my son again. He isn’t evil. He is testing me. Kids know right from wrong, they just want to see how we are going to respond. Like a velociraptor running into the electric fence to see if it has any weaknesses, Malcolm tests my

I'm from Jurassic Park!

mettle by misbehaving. Most of the time when his acts up he looks right at me, as if to tell me with his eyes, “Look what I’m about to do!” That sets up a game of chicken, with both he and I wondering whether the other will blink first. (This isn’t one of those harmless games of gay chicken you play in college either, where you end up making out with a buddy of yours just to prove how not-gay you are.)

This game of chicken is serious. Parents who give in first are doomed to micromanage their kid’s lives and the result is a kid who turns out like George W Bush. I don’t want to be the high strung parent who is always haranguing their kid. Most of the time, I dispassionately dispense the penalty for whatever transgression has been committed, and then tell him about the bad decision he has made. When he looks at me when grabbing that proverbial fork, I either look away or shrug meekly like, “Who needs a puncture-free leg, anyways?” In short, I let him totally make out with me. It has helped me to relax, and know that he is testing limits and not plotting how it is he is going to destroy the world. At least, that’s my hope anyways…

What The Fuck Just Happened?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I used to think that tantrums were predictable. You put together a forecast, identifying variables such as last night’s sleep, today’s activities, sugar intake and the level of attention I’ve given to Malcolm to gauge whether a storm’s a-brewing. Like the TV meteorologist, I wasn’t correct 100% of the time, but it’s not like I said it was going to be sunny, and then it monsooned. I used to believe I could tell when the tantrums were likely to happen and when I was safe.

Now, I can’t. We had a great day on thursday: I picked up Malcolm from school, we played the board game Life. We played basketball outside, and I even let him win. We acted goofy in the house. Then before dinner, it hit. I told Malcolm he needed to help clean up the board game before dinner and he flew into a fit of rage. He yelled, screamed, attempted to hit me, kick me and even tried spitting on me. (I found the spitting part kind of comical though, as he doesn’t yet know the fine art of spitting and ended up making exaggerated “F” sounds to the point where gobs of foamy spit dribbled out of his mouth and down his chin.) I haven’t been mistreated so badly since I told Amy that the Gilmore Girls was cancelled. It was bleak.

After spending time in the penalty box (currently his room while we finish renovations of the underground dungeon we’ll be using in the future) he came back out and was chipper as can be. He said he was sorry, and was quite caring and affectionate. Hurricane Malcolm had hit with jaw dropping intensity, but now had subsided, leaving sunny skies. What the fuck just happened? First I can’t tell that he is about to have a tantrum, and now I can’t even tell that he just had one. Why does parenting always make you scratch your head?

Mood swings? Me? No way!!

I am now confused and wander around the house like a crazy cat lady, mumbling to myself and wondering what new unforeseen danger lurks behind each corner. I know the beast lurks just below the surface, waiting to make itself known at a moment’s notice. I’ll tell you what though, knowing that a hurricane lies just of the coast sure makes you appreciate the sunny skies you got now.

The Currency Of A Four-Year-Old

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

On Gilligan’s Island, the castaways used coconuts for money. International Drug dealers use $100 bills. If you want to buy a new girlfriend in prison, you pay with cigarettes. Four-year-olds have no money, so they must get creative. I studied Malcolm and his friends to find the currency they use in their various transactions. Here is what I found:

Affection: Affections are thrown about liberally in Malcolm’s world. They are given as tips, as in “Daddy, I love you” after you buy ice cream. They are also sanctions imposed upon unwanted behavior, i.e., “If you don’t let me watch a show, I am not going to love you anymore.”  When things get especially hairy on the playground, one child may tell another, “I hate you.” This is the childhood equivalent of stiffing the waitress at a diner. In real terms, affection costs around a dollar.

Friendship Status: Far more important than mere affection, friendship status is used as a twenty dollar bill. It settles large debts and wagers. It is a deposit on bowling shoe rental. If you invite Malcolm over to your house for a play date, you will often be told that you are going to be his friend forever. If you cross, him, though, like I did this morning by telling him he was in trouble for spitting in mommies’ face, you are informed that you are no longer his friend. Bowling shoe deposit: gone. Twenty dollar bills are pretty easily replaced, though, so don’t worry if you have been unfriended. You’ll be buddies again soon.

Treats: Treats are big. Usually Malcolm has a bag of something going, like halloween candy, or easter candy, or a goodie bag from a friend’s birthday. He uses treats in a variety of ways. He’ll use the bag of treats to demonstrate his good behavior at school, as in, “Daddy, I didn’t get in trouble at school. Can I have a treat?” He will also use it as a used car, trading it in for something really special. “Daddy, instead of having a treat can I watch Mulan?” He knows that treats are not every day pleasures, much like the look of a $100 bill (a rare sight in my wallet.)

Birthday parties: Jackpot. Birthday parties are the equivalent of a bar of gold. Reserved only for meaningful occasions, good or bad, invitations to birthday parties are used to convey a profound connection to the matter at hand. Child A whacks Child B over the head with a shovel. Child C tackles Child A and sits on his head. For this heroic act of bravery, Child B will often invite Child C to his/her birthday. Birthday parties are valuable enough to trade on the open market, as I usually get an update on where things stand when picking up Malcolm from preschool.

Daddy, I see here that Emma's birthday's at an all-time low. She must have peed herself again!!!

The kids run up to me to tell me that Malcolm is invited to Adil’s birthday, but Gael is not invited to Malcolm’s birthday. Nobody likes the weird kid, Evan, so his stock sags in the corner by itself. I tell you, the NASDAQ isn’t as hard to follow as the birthday party market, especially since the invitations change drastically depending on how grumpy your child is.

So, that’s how markets move in our world. What do your kids use?

Never nude

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Well, I had avoided it until now. I had heard stories of parents having difficulties getting their kids’ dressed, wrestling with girls trying to get them to wear something besides a princess outfit, or boys wanting to wear the same green shirt day after day. We were different, and I was totally thankful for it. Malcolm showed about as much interest in the clothes that he wore as I pay to the salad bar at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Every once in a while, he would poo poo an item I selected from the dresser, but for the most part he was pretty easy about clothes.

Until now. Like most of Malcolm’s problems, I can safely say that they are someone else’s fault. This time, it’s Malcolm’s Aunties, Marj and Tracy. They generously bought him a SF Giants Jersey when we were in Arizona, and now he won’t take the fucking thing off! He wants to wear it every day while also holding the top spot as his favorite pair of pajamas. His attachment to the jersey is so strong that he wants to wear it with every outift, and things have gotten a bit strange. He has morphed the jersey into some bizarre gladiator costume. Well that’s not 100% correct but how else would you explain this getup?

That’s right, he has begun wearing shorts over his pants, and that combined with his desire to never take the outfit off has made think that this is the first step towards becoming a never nude. Zowie!

I have told him that he cannot wear the same clothes every day, stressing the importance of clean clothes and variety. This approach has failed, most most notably because A) I have no credibility on the subject and B) because I kind of like the fact that he wants to wear Giants gear every day. I don’t get too wound up over it, as this is pretty small potatoes. Besides, he dresses himself, and it would not help the process at all for me to tell him after he has dressed himself to go back put on something else. Actually, that’s something Amy does to for me, and to tell you the truth, I don’t like it very much. I guess it could be worse, he could want to put this on every day:

I’ve Created a Monster

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It started out relatively innocuously. In my efforts to get Malcolm to do whatever it was that I wanted him to do, I made a game out of it. “Hey Malcolm, let’s have a race to see who can put away more Legos!” Or, to get Malcolm to leave the park, “Hey Malkie, let’s race to the car!” Or, (to kill time) “Hey Malcolm, let’s see who can stick the most grapes in their mouth!” Most of the time it worked, and I was actually pretty proud of the way I was able to inspire him to do my bidding.

Just as wrestling with a horny grizzly bear has unintended consequences, my fool proof plan has now proved me a fool. Malcolm is now a complete dick. He has become ultra-competitive and reduces much of life to winning and losing (and guess what, he never wants to lose!) We enjoy playing games with him, but he tends to start losing interest in the games once he realizes that he is not going to win. When he is in a cranky mood, any perceived loss is met with tears and screaming (I will never, ever make the mistake of saying that my muscles were bigger than his because I eat my vegetables. That tantrum lasted 30 minutes!)  I played catch with Malcolm and a friend from school at the park, and Malcolm kept score the entire time. I didn’t see it as an issue immediately, but when he said “I have four and you only have one,” causing the other kid to cry, I realized that this was indeed becoming a problem.

I bet I look better in this shirt than Mommy does!

Worst of all, his obsession with winning has blinded him to any sort of true fandom: he only wants to root for the team that is winning. He’ll even switch the team that he says he is rooting for during the game (when the score changes), a trait that no one finds charming. Sadly, we went to Spring Training to watch the Giants, and they lost to San Diego. Now he thinks the Giants are crap and thinks the Padres are the best team ever. The Padres. Arrgh!

Particularly painful about all this is that it is totally self-inflicted. I instilled him a spirit of competitiveness, and I am going to have to start figuring out how to get out from underneath it. I am currently trying to teach him that winning isn’t everything. “You know Malcolm,” I said this week during another marathon game of basketball. “Winning or losing isn’t really that important. It’s whether you have fun doing it.” “Daddy, did you have fun?” he replied, bringing a smile to my face. I told him that I did, and then he tore the heart from my chest, “I bet I had more fun than you!” Little bugger.

Malcolm’s Odd Habits That I Find Charming

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Every child does bizarre things that make parents furrow their brow and wonder what could possibly be going through their child’s mind. Some of those quirks can easily be categorized as deviant behavior and treated accordingly. For instance, at a play date today, Malcolm picked up a plastic microphone out of the gutter, licked it, then threw it at the play date’s mom, hitting her in the face. This wasn’t charming, and it actually made me question Malcolm’s mental health.

What's not to like about me?!

There are things that he does that I find endearing though. Here’s a sampling:

When he takes the foil lid of the yogurt for breakfast each morning, he licks the lid. He has the same look on his face as he does when he’s eating a lollipop.

He calls my computer a “pooter” and asks to use it, as in, “Can I play Sesame Street on your pooter?”

He declares his preference for people based on who would win in a foot race. “I like Nana better than Oopa. Why? She’s faster.”

When we have macaroni and cheese that are made of little pasta shells, he puts them on the ends of his fingers and calls them “finger-hats.”

When he plays sports, he knows that the teams need to be from different geographical areas. He doesn’t really understand geopolitical boundaries quite yet, so he will often have match-ups between bizarre rivals, like Cal vs. Canada or Jordan Rd. (our street) vs. South America.

Ok, this one is a bit more involved. Malcolm is prone to acting out when he is really tired. Like all kids, when he is behind on sleep, he does weird shit (like licking gutter microphones and throwing them in the face of play date’s moms.) When he starts acting in this bizarre fashion, I usually remind him that he his acting out and then ask him if there is something he wants to say to me. His response, no matter what the time of day or what the circumstance, is, “Can I have a mint?” I usually can’t contain my smile and I have to hide my face.

Anyone else’s kids do funny stuff?

Malcolm’s Using The F-Word And He’s Not Saying “Fudge”

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

There aren’t many times where, as a parent, I am left speechless. Actually, there aren’t many times in general that I am speechless. I like to talk like Sarah Palin likes to buy shoes. In terms of parenting, though, I am usually up for anything, quick to counsel Malcolm for rascally behavior or provide praise in when he actually does something cool. This morning, however, I had nothing. Malcolm used the word, “fuck.” Many times. All I could really do was laugh.

This morning’s incident is really a carryover from Sunday at the airport. In the terminal restroom, Malcolm took off his socks and underpants and accidentally dropped them in the toilet. There are so very many things wrong with that statement, we cut Malcolm a lot of slack and you have to pick and choose your fights with a four-year-old. After finishing up, he put his cold, toilet water-soaked underpants back on, and when they were fully on, he found them to be quite “refreshing.” “Aw nuts,” he exclaimed, followed by “Oh fuck it’s cold!” And continued, “Oh Fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, fuck fuck fuck.” When Amy cautioned him about using that word, he ran down the terminal yelling, “I HAVE TO say fuck. I GOTTA say fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck!”

Someone's got a dirty mouth

This morning, he dropped some more F-bombs while horsing around with Amy. At first, I didn’t know what to say, and let it slide. Unable to remain silent for long, I meekly added, “Malcolm you really shouldn’t say that word. Some people think it is a bad word and you could get in trouble for it,” to which he replied, “I don’t get in trouble at school when I say it!” I crooked my head and asked him if he really said that word at school and he said, “I say fuck ALL the time.” I really had no answer to this and ran downstairs so he couldn’t tell how hard I was laughing.

I don’t know if I really care all that much, as I have a pretty epic potty mouth myself. I try not to swear around Malcolm and know that Amy does too. (Although if I hear him use the phrase, “your fucking father” I will know exactly where it is coming from!) I’d be fine if I knew that Malcolm knew when he could say words like that and when it is inappropriate. (I definitely don’t think that he would know that now.) Dropping F-bombs at school will probably have some ramifications, but I will let the school deal with it if it becomes an issue. Other parents might get upset if Malcolm is throwing around the F-word at the park, but they are probably already going to be upset because Malcolm threw wood chips in their kid’s hair or because my fly is down and I am tending the BBQ instead of being a parent.

Should I care?

Hoarder

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

There’s a show on TV about people who have a disorder called disposophobia, a condition marked by an obsessive need to accumulate possessions (even if they are worthless.) These people live in houses covered floor to ceiling in stuff, and look quite unwell. I haven’t seen the show, but as a pack rat (two notches below hoarder on the crazy scale) I can somewhat empathize with their condition. After all, this is what my wallet looks like:

Just in case you wanted to know, there are exactly zero packets of ketchup in there. I don’t know where that rumor started but I want to debunk it publicly. (The packets in question mysteriously disappeared a long time ago.)

I must admit though, that I am a little  worried about Malcolm’s tendencies in this area. He has, over the years, amassed a good number of stuffed animals. All 500 of them currently live in a tent in his room and they are packed in there quite snugly. I can only guess the extent to which the tent turns into a synthetic fiber filled hedonistic free for all late at night, but during the day time it looks safe enough. He goes in the tent occasionally and talks to the animals, but, sadly, they speak a language I am unfamiliar with. It is somewhere between Scottish and chipmunk, and evidently spoken quite quickly. I once attempted to thin the herd a little, but the moment I separate a few stragglers from the pack, Malcolm got wise to it and asked about the animals I had targeted for taking to the great tent in the sky (Goodwill.)  The little bugger knows his flock!

The other red flags come from something Malcolm calls his “cubby.” This box used to store tickets my mom gave Malcolm. Now it stores everything in his life he finds interesting. It is a cardboard wasteland of baseball cards, old batteries, random lego pieces and what appeared to be several empty packets of ketchup. He doesn’t do anything with the cubby, he just carries it around the house like a villain carries around a menacing looking cat. If you try to look inside the cubby or even worse, empty out the entire box and threaten to put it all away, he completely freaks out and asks that we  respect his “privacy.” Every time I can’t find something I need, (vegetable peeler, phone, stamps) my first move is to track down the cubby and look in there. I don’t know what’s going on in that tiny little brain of his, I just hope that he doesn’t end up on some reality show someday. If he takes cubby into the tent and screams Scottish-Chipmunk about the polar bear getting frisky with Lamby, he’ll probably get one though.

A Tender Moment

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Stay with this one.

Yesterday Malcolm and I enjoyed a quintessential parenting moment. We had a bit of a hectic evening: the kids didn’t want a play date to end, we fought over whether macaroni and cheese was an acceptable dinner and Malcolm out-negotiated me over the necessity of having a bath. Brushing teeth was a struggle and my choice of pajamas was definitely not up to scrub. I wondered how things were going to end when we finally settled down to read books at the end of the day.

To my surprise, we shared a moment. It was one of those moments when both of you are totally present and the rest of life just fades away. As we read books together, Malcolm asked questions, pointed out words that he knew how to spell, and told me silly stories. He rested his head on my shoulder the whole time, and it was pure bliss.

It got even better when we put the books away and shared a nice little snuggle. Amy often comments that the evening snuggle is one of her favorite experiences with Malcolm now. It transports her back to the days when all Malcolm wanted to do is sit on her lap and give her hugs, an expression of pure love. Last night, I felt the same way. He put his little hands on my face and gave me a tender kiss, and then looked at me and said, “Daddy, I love you. Good night.” I almost melted. It reminded me of when he was born, and I first looked at him and told him how happy I was to see him. I said, “I love you Malcolm, you will always be my special boy.” Then, shifting as if thinking of something else to say, he stuck his finger into his nose, ate half the disgusting blob on his finger and wiped the other half on my cheek before turning and closing his eyes. Rats. Good night indeed, you little shit.

Free Two Day Preschool

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

You read that right. Every once in a while the blind squirrel gets the nut, and we just got a fistful of Brazilians! Let’s take this one step at a time, though. First, we applied to a new preschool for Malcolm next year, with the idea that he would go to the same school for elementary and middle school. The decision was extraordinarily difficult, and if you would like to read more about our decision, check out this post. Ultimately, we decided to do everything in power to keep Malcolm from being a crackhead stripper when he grows up, or worse yet, a U.S. Senator. I am not sure if we can afford it, but seeing as I already have 74 advance orders for a book, the money will be rolling in soon. Conversely, if you are Amy’s boss and reading this, let’s make sure Amy gets a big fat raise at work, ok?

After we applied, the preschool informed us that they wanted Malcolm to do a two day observation visit. I am not sure whether they wanted to see whether he was a genius or a pervert, but I figured that the joke would be on them; he acts like both! The kicker was that the observation was free. Free day care to a stay at home parent is like the $2.99 buffet for seniors tethered to their oxygen tanks in Reno casinos. Jackpot! I have never been so elated over one of our decisions, and but a little irritated that we didn’t apply to more schools. He could have been in observations for the whole spring! Sure, they may reject his application if he tries to brain one of the other kids with a plastic dinosaur, but even if they do, we’ll get some free child care out of it.

Good luck getting inside this brain!

Another potential pitfall occurred yesterday when I dropped Malcolm off. When I first got there, a woman told me that they were going to perform a “slight” psychological profile on him. She told me not to worry, it was more about learning the things he knows how to do and the things he doesn’t than any real evaluation. My initial inclination was to say I wasn’t going to let them poke and prod around Malcolm’s brain, but that risked making the whole thing go kablooey. I eagerly agreed and left. When someone gives you a fistful of Brazilians, you don’t throw them away.

My Bloody Valentine

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It’s Valentine’s Day again at Malcolm’s school. The school is communist in that it frowns on only giving Valentine’s Day cards to the kids your child actually likes. This creates the unfortunate situation where, if you want to take part in the time honored tradition of expressing your  love and affection for your fellow three and four-year-olds, you have to bring 37 cards. Malcolm showed absolutely no interest in buying cards at the store, which meant that I was in charge of helping him create 37 home made Valentine’s day cards. If you have seen his art, you know it stinks. My art? Worse! This was going to be a difficult project.

I did have one important thing going for me. I recently read a book called Drive, by Daniel Pink. The book discusses the best ways to motivate people and it is utterly fascinating. The book is primarily targeted to the business world, but I decided that cubicle dwellers are not that dissimilar to children and was going to use what I learned in the book to motivate Malcolm. Given the difficult task in front of us, I knew that I would have to have my A-game, and this cutting edge research was going to be my ace in the hole.

The first lesson I decided to implement was autonomy. People work better if they can control a project themselves. Knowing that this might take a while, I began asking Malcolm on Monday whether he wanted to start working on the Valentines and what he wanted to make. He said he would prefer to just play Connect Four. When I pressed, he hit me in the kidney. He said the same thing on Tuesday and early Wednesday, and I relented, not wanting to do any further bodily damage to myself.

By Wednesday, it was getting pretty late in the game, so I ditched the autonomy route and tried the next lesson: purpose. People are motivated by purpose, a cause that that is greater and more enduring than themselves. I played on this by asking Malcolm whether he thought his classmates would enjoy getting a card from him that showed them how much he liked them. I said I liked getting nice things and that people really enjoyed the Valentines we made last year. He said that he didn’t care what his friends thought and just wanted to play Connect Four. (The boy has a bit of an obsession with that game right now.) I decided to ditch the book, and things got ugly.

I told him we were going to use a stencil to paint a heart on cards, and that he was going to stay in his room until he was ready to join me in the project. He flipped out, feelings got hurt and tears were shed. That still didn’t work, so I had to also threaten to take away his favorite stuffed animals and was ready to tell him that Mommy wouldn’t be coming home if he didn’t do the stupid cards. (Amy is out of town this week.) He finally relented.
Once started, he got really into painting the hearts and eventually used three colors simultaneously to try and achieve the perfect heart. After we finished the cards for his classmates, he even decided to make extras so that he could give Valentines to all his teachers!When all 45 hearts were done, we celebrated with a game of, you guessed it, Connect Four.

This morning, we had to finish the project. We (I) decided that he should sign the back of each card and then write the name of the kid it was going to on the outside of the envelope. After about five, he looked at me and said that he was done.

Are we done yet? This isn't fun.

I looked at the stack of 40 cards that still needed to be finished, and sighed. This was going to get ugly again. I begged. I cajoled. I threatened. More tears. More hurt feelings. Eventually, I asked him if he thought he could finish a card in less than 20 seconds. He rose to the challenge and quickly began racing through each card to beat his best time, which turned out to be 13 seconds. When we got down to the last five, he announced again that he was finished. I changed course again, and told him that if he could finish a card in 13 seconds, I would give him a cookie for a snack. He burst into tears. Fuck! I almost cried too. We were so close to the finish line and I was seriously afraid that he would abandon the project. I finally got him to calm down and told him that as long as he finished all the cards, he would get his cookie. I figured that any child that personally assembles 45 handmade Valentines with signatures deserves a cookie. He finally finished and he is getting a well deserved snack today.

I don’t know if the other kids at his school will appreciate the hard work put into the cards, but I sure do. He may not be ready for the lessons learned in the world of the cubicle, but he’s my Valentine anyways.

Ack! Ringworm!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It’s official, my son is afflicted. Some might say that he is already afflicted with anything from a bad temper to a super hot dad. Now, however, the doctor tells us he has something real: ringworm. I took him in to the doctor when I noticed he had a red splotch on his foot, and the good man looked at it immediately and said, “that’s ringworm.” I almost fainted. I was ready for athlete’s foot or a rash from his shoes being too small, but ringworm? Isn’t that something cats get? It sounds disgusting, like a disease dirty felons get from spending too much time in the hole. It doesn’t look very pleasant either.

It certainly didn’t make me feel very good when I dropped off Malcolm at school today. I tried to be nonchalant with the teachers, asking them if they had seen Malcolm’s new rain boots, commenting on the recent rain and then casually throwing in, “Oh, he’s got ringworm too. You should probably have him keep his shoes on.” The reaction was immediate and drastic.

Psst, I got foot problems!

His teacher recoiled and made a stink face reminiscent of Paris Hilton looking at a giant bucket of KFC. I laughed nervously and said, “Oh, but it should be gone soon. I think it may be contagious though, so, ya, let’s leave the shoes on.” When I said that my son may, in fact, spread his infirmity, the teacher looked at me like she was Paris Hilton after just having finished a whole bucket of chicken. I was slightly embarrassed. I quickly exited the classroom before being informed that Malcolm was not actually allowed to be present at school until his foot plague had vanished.

I did a little research and it turns out the name is completely BS. They used to think it was a worm, now they know it’s not. Whew! What is it? A fungus. Great, now my kid has a fungus. Turns out the fungus is the same fungus as athlete’s foot and jock itch, though. When I found this out, I immediately smiled because both “athlete’s foot” and “jock itch” have connotations which point to my kid being good at sports one day. Yay for us! I am actually kinda proud. I am not sure why they haven’t retired the ringworm name, but you can bet I’m not gonna use the term anymore. From now on, I’ll gladly announce, “Malcolm’s got athlete’s foot. Ya, that’s right. What’s your kid got, nerdberger syndrome?”

Malcolm’s Opportunity Cost

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I don’t want Malcolm to be an economist. Economists, with the exception of Amy’s dad, are well known to be immoral pleasure seekers who drink and gamble all day. Actually, that explains Amy’s dad perfectly. We sure wouldn’t want Malcolm turning out like that, would we? That’s why I am troubled by Malcolm’s continued trip down the path to mastering economics. Last time, he learned the law of diminishing returns through eating a grilled cheese sandwich.

This time, it’s opportunity cost and girlfriends. Economists would define opportunity cost as the value of the next-best choice available to someone who has picked between several mutually exclusive choices. Of course, we all know what economists do with their time, so I’ll break it down into language that non-degenerates can understand: If you do or buy something, then you can’t do or buy something else. The something else is the opportunity cost. If you buy a My Little Pony set, you can’t buy an ounce of weed with that money. If you go bowling, you can’t go to the strip club. Sadly, both of these examples are decisions Amy’s dad had to make last week.

The other day, I asked Malcolm if he played with his friend Clio at school. He said that he hadn’t because Clio only wanted to play kitties and he didn’t want to play kitties anymore. (Kitties is a game where Malcolm and Clio are the mommies and the toys in the schoolyard, dinosaurs and sharks included, are the kitties.) Malcolm said that he wanted to play “superhereeyoes,” a game in which Malcolm and his friends in the yard run around using their special “powers” to beat the living tar out of each other. Malcolm used to play kitties all the time, but now he seems a bit bored with it. He has decided that the opportunity cost associated with kitties (the value of beating the tar out of his friends) is higher than the enjoyment of playing mommy to a shark he pretends is a kitty. So, he has acted as a rational decision-maker, and chosen the option that gives him the most satisfaction. Judging by the large gash one of his friends took out of his cheek, I am guessing he needs to learn how to fight a little better. Maybe Amy’s dad can teach him, but that will be another lesson.

Morning From Hell

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Most of the time, our mornings are OK. Malcolm wakes up just as groggily as Amy and I, and together we all slowly rise to the level of consciousness that the real world requires. Today, however, Malcolm brought the perfect storm of annoying behavior and I almost had to end his short little life prematurely.

It started somewhere around 5:45, when Malcolm came bounding into our room asking if we wanted to play. Amy muttered something about the earliness of the hour and implored him to crawl into bed to get some more sleep. I grunted and turned over, trying desperately to get back to my dream about my high school friends, a beachside pool party, and tennis babe Gabriela Sabatini.  After a short while (over an hour) of Amy pleading with Malcolm to lie still, I finally pulled myself from the bed and took Malcolm downstairs to play. While flitting around the house like a woman in a workout video, he went into the following diatribe:

“Daddy we can have some breakkie? I want cereal. And Eggs and bacon. Do we have any yoghurt? Can I have a mint? Harry Potter has special powers. Can we play monopoly? I love you daddy. Where’s my cereal? Where’s mommy? I’m thirsty. Let’s play tic tac toe. I drew a picture of a shark. He is the smallest dot. You take the chalk and boink him on the head like this. I’m bored. Where’s breakfast? Will you play with me? I want sumping to eat.”

All this before coffee. At first, I casually reminded him that he should only ask for one thing at a time, and that he shouldn’t wine. Minutes later, I regressed to, “STOP BEING ANNOYING! I CAN’T HANDLE YOU UNTIL I DRINK MY COFFEE. GO PLAY IN YOUR ROOM WITH THE DOOR CLOSED!!!”

After breakfast, I pushed him out the backdoor and promptly locked it. When he got bored of playing with the spiders, I threw a ball out to him. He threw it over the fence and had a tantrum. At this point, I reflected on just how long it takes to make coffee and wondered if there was some faster means of jump starting my day. I gave him another ball, but his lips were blue and I could tell he was cold. (He was in pajamas and crocks.)  So, I let him back in and told him to try and not irritate me until after I had my coffee. Now, I am drinking my coffee while he is playing with his legos.  Either I have weathered the storm or he is planning his assault. I don’t really care, because after finishing I am going to google the shit outta Gabriela Sabatini.

What To Do With All The Crap

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I love my kid. He is a fun, energetic little ball of curiosity. He gives me some of the funnest days that I can remember. He does have a pretty significant drawback, though. He is bad at art. Really bad. Think Jackson Pollock if he was blind and had no arms and legs. Each time I see copies of his latest “project” I put on the happy face and say, “wow, did you do that?” In reality, I think to myself, “how much more of this stuff do I gotta put up with. My kid can’t draw for shit!”

IMG_2690I realize how poor my reaction is. A better parent would spend more time with their kid on art projects to develop their skills along to the point where they don’t inspire cringing. The problem is, I am even worse than him! If I had an artistic bone in my body, then I broke it years ago and it never fully healed. We played drunken charades last weekend and all I got for my clues were blank stares and head scratches. Maybe my irritation is that Malcolm can already draw better than me and he is four. It is precisely that reason that Malcolm and I never do art projects around the house (that is clearly Amy’s job.) I have utterly nothing to offer him in the artistic development department, and he is falling behind.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t present much of an issue, Malcolm is terrible at a lot of different things. He doesn’t know how to properly cook a steak, his Spanish sounds like gibberish, and he couldn’t shoot a squirrel to save his life. The unique problem with the art, is that we have so much of it lying around the house. Between his art class at preschool and Amy’s occasional afternoon paint fests, Malcolm has already generated a substantial body of work. Our house shows it too, as evidence of his prolificness occupy every nook and cranny in our home. We got pottery on the counter that looks like cat poo, pictures reminiscent of baseball diamonds on the floor of his room, paintings of giant blobs, some of which having arm and legs, hanging from every square inch of wall space, and collages looking like nothing special and containing every known waste item known to humanity sitting around everywhere.

IMG_2687I realized today that cleaning up the clutter around this place is so difficult because it always involves the same question, “Does throwing this away make me a bad person?” Sure, I’d like to keep all of it, but that would require the use of a rented storage unit, which is simply not going to happen. I don’t want Malcolm to think that I don’t appreciate his effort, but does it really make sense to keep all of it? We have our favorite paintings (Pablo Sandoballs, Funny Looking House and Odd Rainbow) all hanging up on specially designed picture hangers, but what to do with the rest. So far, I have just been throwing the rest into the back of his closet, but one day that pile of near trash is going to come down, and if it contains the wrong collage, it may take Malcolm with it. Is there a better way?

A Perfect Outing

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm and I had a tough week. We had a number of knock down, drag ’em out fights, and we yelled at each other more than we talked. By thursday, we looked at each other with scorn like two boxers before a bout. I was at or near the bottom and needed a day where we could focus on having a good time together and not worry about routines, rules and polite society. So, I designed the perfect date.

We set off after swim class on Friday to engage in some father and son shenanigans.  Our first stop was to go bowling. It was amusing, (chucking big rocks at stuff usually is) but since neither one of us had any beer, we didn’t last very long. We left the bowling alley and made a bee line for Nation’s, a chain who’s byline is “Giant Hamburgers.” I love local organic food, but there is definitely a place in my heart for a thick juicy cheeseburger. We feasted and told each other knock knock jokes. It was pure bliss.

After lunch, we decided to hit up the local horse track. Malcolm loves horse tracks, and I love him for it. It combines my two favorite things, short mexican men and gambling. Malcolm and I spied the horses as they came out from the stables and picked our favorites. I usually chose the horse that I thought was the best looking and Malcolm shouted out the first number he saw, or any horse that went to the bathroom while we were watching. We then bet according to our expert research.  photoWhile waiting for the race to start, Malcolm and I had our own little races and proceeded to run along the grandstands, parallel to the tracks. This delighted the degenerate gamblers in attendance who smiled at us from behind their racing forms and dirty magazines. We raced back and forth enough that I think the degenerates were actually taking action on us.  I could have sworn I heard a giant, “Shit!” when I crossed the finish line before Malcolm in one of our races. We hit a big race ($23 on a $2 bet,) and called it a day. The day was completely as I wanted it to be.  We hugged and talked, smiled at each other, and took time off from our adversarial relationship to enjoy each other’s company. Malcolm could not stop talking about all the fun we had and was quick to tell mommy all about how we won $23 on the 7 and 1 horses. I didn’t need to tell mommy anything, she could see the happiness on my face. That look of happiness is probably why she didn’t chew me out for feeding my kid crap to eat, taking him gambling, and let him hang around degenerates who hang out at horse races and read dirty magazines.Win win!

My Kid Keeps Inventing Ways Of Beating The Shit Outta Me

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories, Uncategorized

Our adorable little boy is a bit of a menace. When he was a wee little toddler, he routinely slapped Amy and I in the face, such that at one point I was afraid to have my face within arm’s length of him. He then learned how to bite. He would bite anytime and for any reason. Usually, he would get me when I wasn’t expecting it and in some bizarre spot that really hurt, like my back fat.  After finally getting over biting, he realized that he could use his fingernails as tiny little talons, and tried to remove most of the flesh on my face.  Then, he took up kicking. Now, he can punch. He has developed what some might categorize as a right cross, which by itself wouldn’t be that bad except for the fact that he has also developed a left roundhouse, which hits you when you least expect it. It hurts.

Sadly, each time he progresses through a phase, I am relieved and think, “wow, glad all that nonsense is over,” only to have it replaced by newer, far more dangerous behavior. I mistake his disinclination to use outmoded means of combat as signs that he is becoming a sweet little boy, when, in fact, he is just waiting to roll out the more terrifying weapons at his disposal. Silly me for thinking that my boy will ever be non-violent. I guess he has as much chance at learning to be a pacifist as I have of becoming a vegan.

Sometimes, I wish his arms and legs were always buried in the sand.

Sometimes, I wish that his arms and legs were always buried in the sand

Things are especially bad now that he has stopped taking naps.I blame it on his biorhythms being all out of whack, but at times, he completely loses it. The other day, he hit punched one of his best friends in the face for trying to take a turn at steering a trolley car at a park, and when I announced that we were leaving, he started hitting and kicking me. When I picked him up to put him in the car, he tried every trick he had in the bag to hurt me; luckily I am still larger than him, so I was able to restrain him and not take a licking. He is pretty cool most of the time, but when he doesn’t get what he wants, it is Hurricane Malcolm in all its fury.  I hope he gets adjusted to the new schedule soon, because I am afraid he is going to catch me one of these times and the damage will be significant. I’m not saying that I want my kid to be perfect, I am just hoping that one day I won’t live in mortal fear of him. Is that too much to ask?

The Karate Kiddo

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We signed Malcolm up for karate lessons.  Any of you out there who have kids that Malcolm has bludgeoned in the past may wonder if this is a good idea, as it is kind of like giving a noted arsonist a box of matches or Tiger Woods a cell phone loaded with skanks’ phone numbers on it.  The idea was Amy’s originally, and I looked at her with a raised eyebrow when she suggested it.  I told her that it was a stupid idea as it would probably teach Malcolm how to sever a human head with his bare hands.  After some cajoling, I did a little leg work and found a place that uses martial arts to teach concepts that are largely foreign to Malcolm: self control, discipline and respect.  Eager to turn Malcolm into a productive member of society, I gave in and took him in this week for his first class.

Things got off to a rocky start when I joined the lone other parent there to watch the class.  Although there was approximately 30 feet of open space for me to plunk down and observe, for some reason I sat down right next to the other parent there. We ended up sitting so close that our knees almost touched.  If you need some help help envisioning the scene, imagine you were on a deserted beach and then a big fat guy with a cooler and boombox playing Wierd Al music plopped down on your towel and asked you to rub sunscreen on his hairy back.  That’s probably what the other parent was imagining, and he promptly moved ten feet away.

Things didn’t get much better when Malcolm jumped up to perform his first exercise, leaving a large pile of sand on the floor where he had been sitting.  The sensai asked Malcolm where he got it (it was rogue sand stuck in crevices from Malcolm’s preschool sandbox) and shot me a look to let me know that large piles of sand do not belong on the mat.  The sensai had to stop the class to go and fetch a broom to clean up the mess, during which a large stifling silence enveloped the room.  It was about this time, that my phone got very interesting and I pretended to be quite involved in my game of Iphone scrabble.

The rest of the class was everything I wanted it to be.  The kids could not talk unless they were called on.  The kids had to call the sensai, “Sir.”  The kids could not perform the moves unless instructed to do so.  When the kids were not performing exercises, they needed to be sitting on the mat quietly.  What I, perhaps, liked best was that when they did not do these things satisfactorily, they were ordered to do push ups.  Push ups!  I don’t think there is a better way to punish unwanted behavior than to order the offending party to do push ups.  I can tell you right now, that I would be a better husband and father if Amy ordered me to do push ups every time I stayed out late drinking or let Malcolm watch too much TV.  Watching other people do push ups is kinda fun though, especially kids, as their “push ups” look more like a baby seal trying to climb up stairs.

The kids respond well to the teacher, and don’t seem to mind the rules all that much.  Of course, they learn to block, punch and kick, but while they are doing it, they are learning balance and coordination.  Amy and I are very excited about the prospects, but deep down I am a little bothered that if this works, it will mean that Amy is right and that I was wrong. Anyone in a loving, committed relationship can certainly understand the difficulty in having to say, “You were right, honey” and having them hold it over your head. It is a risk I am willing to take, and hopefully Amy will handle it with style and grace.  You never know, she may make me start doing push ups.

Chuck E. Cheese: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Being Scared Shitless

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese yesterday for the first time.  We had avoided the place under the guise of “we don’t like small spaces with large amounts of children”, but it was a only a matter of time.  Since Malcolm had not ever been there, we felt a certain need to prepare him for the craziness that was awaiting him.  I said “Chuck E. Cheese is a place where you can play games, eat pizza, and listen to a giant rat sing songs.”  He was so enamored by the first two things on the list, that the last item didn’t set off any alarms.  I could have said pretty much anything after games and pizza and he would have been alright with it.  “Hey Malcolm! We are going to a place where you can play games, eat pizza, and slaughter kittens.  Yay!!!!”

A far cry from the Ms. Pacman heavy arcade that I grew up on, the Chuck E. Cheese that we went to was made up mostly of games of skill which provided tickets.  These tickets could then be traded in for useless plastic pieces of shit.  If you worked really hard at it and saved up your tickets, you could then trade in your tickets for something truly memorable, like a plastic piece of shit with the words “High School Musical” on it.  Malcolm was still a bit young for most of the games, so his efforts to score a ball in the bull’s eye of skeeball or hit more than three critters in whack-a-mole fell mostly flat. Alas, he only earned 78 tickets, good for two small lollipops and a crappy plastic microphone.  (The deluxe microphone with High School Musical painted on it went for 3500 tickets.)

Not counting the large mechanized rat singing cheery songs to the 300 kids in the undersized main room, the truly frightening thing about the experience was the wild look in the eyes of the kids running around while playing the games.  Now, I have never actually seen the look of desperation in a crack fiend’s eyes as they scrounge around the gutter for enough change to get their next nickel bag, but I am pretty sure it is the same look that an eight year old has while running around attempting to acquire enough tickets for a cheap plastic snake.  Each kid ran around with long strands of tickets under their arms, and if you got in their way, they would take you out.  If you stayed at a game too long, they would take your legs out from under you.  I told one kid that it was Malcolm’s turn to play one of the games and when he turned and scowled at me, I saw the face of pure evil.  He actually hissed at me, then slowly turned and put another coin in the game while Malkie and I backed slowly away.

The slogan for Chuck E. Cheese is “Where a kid can be a kid.”  I am not sure that this accurately depicts what is going on.  I would say something like “Chuck E. Cheese: Where Your Kids Can Run Around Like Sociopaths” is more like it.  “Now With Larger, Creepier Singing Rats!”  Then again, I am not much of marketing guy.

Our Cat Is Dead

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

His name was Djibouti and he was, as cats go, pretty cool. He has not been doing well for a while, and the floors of our house received the business end of his unhealthiness.  The vet said that he had probably gone senile, and that we were lucky he wasn’t running around in a muumuu singing Ethel Merman songs.  I’m gonna miss that cat.

On the way home from the vet’s office, I was pretty sad.  He was 15 years old, and I thought about how much of my life that cat had witnessed. I thought about the times in college we would party at our apartment and have the cat dance to rap songs (Cypress Hill was his favorite.)  I reminisced about the time in law school when he walked over a scented holiday candle and burned off the left half of his fur.  I remembered when he first met Malcolm and realized that how sad that day must have been for the cat.

I explained what was wrong with the cat to Malcolm and he went with me to the vet’s office.  He understands death pretty well after the loss of (now) both our cats and two dear friends of the family. I am a little worried that he wasn’t more upset about the whole thing, considering how much of a stink he makes if I ever take away his legos or stuffed animals.  I kinda teared up on the way home, and I think Malcolm could sense my grief.  To his credit, he offered me some words of encouragement.  “Daddy,” he said.  “I think I like hot dogs.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

Ugly Malcolm Photos

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I was showing Malcolm some of his baby pictures the other day, and I realized that  we have some real humdingers from his first couple of months.  Anyone who is having second thoughts about having children, read on:

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Newborn babies aren’t much fun.  They sleep most of the time, and even when they are “up” they do not provide much satisfaction.  Luckily, you aren’t getting much sleep, so you aren’t so fun yourself.

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Most of the time, when a baby makes this face, they are about to throw up or take a shit (or both!)   Stay far away from the baby when the brow furrows.

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Be careful about highlighting your baby.  Amy and I played a rousing game of “use a yellow highlighter to show which features belong to you.”    Actually, there is a name for when your baby turns this color, it is either jaundice or leprosy, I forget which.  I anticipate this will be the same look Malcolm gives me when I tell him he can’t have a pony when he is 12.

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Babies cry. A lot.  Right before this was taken, I told Malcolm that he was probably not going to go to a very good college, and he completely freaked out.  I called him a baby and stormed out of the room.

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Sometimes you do what you think is a good idea and your child looks at you like you are fucking insane.  I think this was the first time that Amy washed Malcolm’s testicles.

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Eventually, your kid gets curious about the world, and things get much more enjoyable.  Even a walk to the park can become a whole new world of experiences. Malcolm and I are both nervous eaters, so it was no surprise that new experiences would lead to something getting chomped on.  Here, it was the Baby Bjorn.

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I do not know what is going on here.  He looks like a cross between a rap star and an extra terrestrial. I think right after this picture was taken, he coughed up a puppy. Not sure why.

Happy Baby cropped

Eventually, you wade through the pile of puke and shit, and something like this happens.  Three months of sleepness nights and stressful days fade away, and you get the best five minutes you can ever remember happening.  Wait, that is overly sentimental.  Let’s try this again.  This is a picture of Malcolm sitting on the cat.  Better, much better.

Malcolm, A Different Kind of Superhero

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

IMG_2445In movies, superheroes are usually nerdy losers who, at the hour of need, emerge as handsome heroes who save the day.  Malcolm knows about superheroes, but has never seen a superhero movie.  As a result, he really doesn’t get it.  Perhaps this is why he knows that Batman kicks ass, but knows not how or why.  He just says, “Batman is a bad guy who eats people.”

So, it shouldn’t come as a big shock that he doesn’t fully understand how the superhero thing works.  Instead of being somewhat nerdy by day, he is totally adorable.  This picture is him, going off to his job as trial attorney in a big firm in SF.  He loves his mommy and daddy, enjoys his friends, and was born on earth.  He is a well adjusted young man, free from any inner hatred or radioactive bug bites.

VID00083He does, however, have an alter ego.  Since he doesn’t really understand the superhero thing, his “sinister” side is the sweet little pachyderm to the left.  In yesteryear, they would have called him cream puff, but our hero here is called EE Malkie, the EE standing for Effeminate Elephant. EE Malkie enjoys pretending his trunk is a saxophone, playing baseball, and reading books.  Prehaps his most astonishing trait is his superhuman love of his mommy (and his grandma, who made the EE suit), as elephants are known to stay with their mothers for 30 or 40 years.  Actually, I made that last part up, and if Malcolm is still in our house when he is in his thirties, I am gonna be pissed.

Malkie and the BatmansSo, imagine Malcolm’s surprise when one day, he ran into some of superhero friends.  After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the Batmen tried to get Malcolm to join them creating mayhem.  Malcolm refused, and then found his real calling as superhero.  He tried to get the Batmen to not be bad guys and to not eat people.  He tried to show them that there is something to be said for loving their mommies and being sweet to each other.  Of course, he failed and right after this picture was taken, one Batman tried to pull of EE Malkie’s tale and the other one punched him in the stomach.  Malcolm quickly shed his outift and returned the hostilities in kind, proving that no one is a superhero all of the time.

Sleep Deprived Monster

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories
IMG_2375

He is brutalizing me!

Malcolm is a wild beast right now.  The sleep deprivation accumulated over the weekend has really caught up with him and he is a mess.  He is whiny, violent, and seems to really enjoy making other people feel bad.  Of course, if you try to do any real parenting and enforce some rules, he falls apart and throws a tantrum.  I left a brewery in a rainstorm on Monday because he refused to listen to me and insisted on running around the place screaming at the top of his lungs.  We had to cut yesterday’s play date short because he wouldn’t stop antagonizing our neighbor’s kid.  I have cuts on my arms and face from him attacking me with his claws of death.  He is really out of control.

I did some internet research on sleep deprivation in kids and found some interesting results.  I learned from real life doctors that sleep deprivation leads to irritability, temper tantrums, crying and fussiness.  No shit?  Thank you parenting websites!   I now feel like I can be a good parent.  I guess I learned that most internet “experts” are little more than out of work weather forecasters. Trust yourselves, parents out there.  You know how to handle your kids better than the “experts” out there.  (This doesn’t apply to a narrow range of subjects like, “What is Lyme Disease?” or “My child’s foot has been severed.  What should I do?”)  Of course, you are probably reading this advice on the internet, so if I am correct, than you should disregard the advice and listen to the experts.  Sadly, I am an “expert” and you need to listen to my advice, which means that you should disregard my advice.  Holy crap! What are you going to do now?

Armed with a new sense of confidence, I turned inwards to figure out what to do with Malcolm.  I decided that the best course of action was for me to leave town and visit my friends in Boston.  So, I am leaving on Friday and letting Amy deal with the mess.  Good luck with all that, Amy!  (In the meantime, I am going to maximize his sleep opportunities by forbidding him from drinking lattes at night and by giving him a steady stream of boring lectures on the importance of behaving well.)  I am hoping that more sleep will take him out of the “Potential Sociopath” bucket and return him to the “Not Very Well Behaved Three Year Old” bucket.

I guess the worst part of this is that represents the peaks and valleys of parenting.  Some days are pretty cool, you child will perform a mathematical computation, or spell your name, or sing you a song that you have never heard before.  You smile and think to yourself, “this is why people have kids.”  Other days, you want to stick them in a sack with nothing but cough medicine to eat and dream of what life was like before you had kids.  So, you book a trip to visit your friends in Boston and let the cards fall where they may.  That’s my advice!

What Did Caveboys Do?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm is playing with his friend Jack.  They are playing some sort of good guy/bad guy, with me alternating between bad guy and badder guy.  They each have a arsenal of weapons, ranging from double light sabers to machine guns to the ubiquitous, "I have all the powers."  I have it on good authority that Malcolm has never seen a machine gun, yet he knows how to hold it and what it sounds like.  He has never seen Star Wars, yet his light saber of fast and strong, and he makes the wam wam sound that appears in the movie. 

Certainly, Jack has helped Malcolm along in his weapon education, but Malcolm has been all to receptive.  I fully believe that love of guns is hardwired into a boy’s brain.  This is based on my empirical study that A) all boys pick up inanimate objects and use them as weapons, and B) girls do not.  Don’t get me wrong, some boys move past this and start reading books (I never did) and some girls learn to kick a little ass. At this point in their development though, boys love weapons.  Give a boy a stick, and he will show you the myriad of ways he can use it to remove your brain from your skull.

I wonder what little cave boys did to entertain themselves.  Sure they had sticks, but what did they pretend the sticks were when they were bludgeoning their friends?  Is it possible that kids have been using light sabers for the entire history of humanity, and George Lucas just ripped off the idea from all us mean boys?  Or, did kids pretend that little sticks were actually really big sticks?  Did cave boys not need imaginations because they were actually killing animals with sticks?    I have the feeling that if Malcolm actually killed an animal with one of his weapons, he would go crying to his room and never come out.  Luckily we will never find out.

Malcolm, The Random Answer Generator

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm is not a complicated person.  The are certain things in his life, like chocolate and talking about whether his poop will successfully flush down the toilet, that always make him happy.  He constantly craves mac ‘n cheese, regularly wants to watch Giants baseball games, and every I ask him to brush his teeth, he hides behind the bathroom door first.  He is, in almost every way, a creature of habit.

It is, then, quite surprising when we are out in the world and someone asks Malcolm a question about what he would like.  The truth is, I have no idea how he will answer.  Like a TV contestant who folds under the pressure, Malcolm responds to such queries by blurting out the first thing that comes to his mind.  When asked by the lady handing out balloons what color balloon and string he wanted, he said, "pink, and green." I almost snorted in disbelief, as he has told me about 500,000 times that his favorite colors and blue and brown. Pink and green don’t even go together, but he seemed to like the balloon nonetheless.

This trend is especially noticeable at the ice cream counter.  Malcolm spends most of his day figuring out how to get me to give him some chocolate, but when ordering ice cream he somehow forgets his obsession with the cocoa bean and orders flavors like lemon, strawberry, or, as he likes to call it, baneewa.  I try to point out to him all of the different flavors that have chocolate, but he adamantly insists that the simple flavors are what he wants. I feel a little sorry for him, but Malkie gets what Malkie wants, so I let him order by himself.

Sometimes, he does this when just introducing himself out in public.  When asked what his name is, he says, "I’m Malcolm and I am three and three quarters," or, "I’m Malcolm, I have a blue dog."  He recently told the librarian his age and added, for good measure that, "Pablo Sandoballs has a big belly."  Unsure if the librarian would understand just what this meant, he stuck out his belly, looked down at it, and then looked at the librarian as if to say, "See what a big belly looks like?"

Invariably, the inquisitor shoots me a look as if to confirm that what he just said is what he actually meant.  Occasionally, the look is more to wonder what the hell is wrong with the kid.  Most of the time I shrug my shoulders in an effort to convey my confusion as well, but sometimes I have his back.  I sneered right back at the balloon lady thinking, "Damn straight pink and green. My boy is a regular Salvador Dali !" 

Malcolm, In Trouble At School Already?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We had high hopes for the boy this year.  He was entering his second year at the same preschool and we figured that he would blossom in his role as a bigger kid.  We hoped that he would be nice to the new kids and help the younger ones figure out how the school works. This was his year to shine.

I don’t know why I was so surprised to have his teacher pull me aside yesterday.  You never want to get pulled aside by the teacher, as it is never anything like, “your child is amazing and we couldn’t be more pleased about his progress.”  It is always bad news, like your parents calling you on the phone and asking, “do you have a few minutes?” So his teacher, Maria, pulled me aside and in 30 seconds ruined the outlook for my son.  She fist said that he wasn’t focusing during “work” time.  He is in a Montessori school, which means the “play” is called “work” (I guess in an effort to indoctrinate kids into the idea that they will be working for the rest of their lives).  He had always been relatively focused at school, so this was a particularly troubling development.

She also said that he was manhandling the other kids during the outside play time.  This wasn’t so surprising as he has always been pretty good at hurting other kids.  I have definitely noticed any time he gets together with other kids now, he plays superhero and tries to rip their limbs off.  I just need to find the right super hero to channel for Malcolm, something like a cross between “Captain Niceguy” and “The Green Mellow Reader.”

After the conversation, I was stunned.  I really this thought this was going to be a good time for Malcolm to step up. Sadly, I think he is acting more like the new little kids than becoming a bigger little boy.  I don’t know how we, as parents, are going to handle it.  We’ll try to make him see the benefits of focusing on the task at hand, and being respectful to the other kids.  If he is anything like me, he will tune out his parents and do bad things.  Maybe we’ll come up with something.   Part of me wants to let the trained professionals (his teachers) take care of it, but the aggravating thing about Montessori school is that the teachers won’t kick the shit out of the kids.  Is it too late for Catholic school?

Malkie’s Funny Day At The Game

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to his first Giants game as a fully functioning person yesterday.  image He is really into the Giants and he can recite the roster by position (with the exception of part-time left fielder and second baseman Eugenio Velez, pronounced "Ay-Yu-Hen-eeo.")  I decided I hadn’t been to a Giants game in far too long, so when Amy suggested I took Malcolm to a day game, I leaped at the opportunity.

We had to stop at the nearby Safeway before the game, and we passed a big black dude in the aisle.  Malcolm took a look at him and asked, "Daddy, is that fat brown guy Pablo Dandoballs?"  I have grown accustomed to Malcolm making derogatory comments about strangers, so I handled this the usual way.  I sprinted away from him and muttered something like, "I think all the players are already in the dugout.  Let’s go find some sun screen!"

At the game, Malcolm was a gem! We watched around six innings of the game, and Malcolm made a good showing at the tot baseball diamond by slamming a whiffle ball off of a ball park employee’s knee.  During the game, I taught Malcolm to say, "Grab some pine, meat!" when the opposing player struck out.  The first time he was able to bust it out, he yelled, "Put some meat in my hand!"  After some coaching, he responded to a strikeout by yelling, "Grab some pie, matey!"  Not quite there yet, but we are making progress.

We thoroughly enjoyed the game, he sat in my lap most of the time so I could point out where the ball was heading.  Of course, this meant that he kicked the old woman sitting in front of us in the head a couple times.  I should have been more concerned, but at least he didn’t call her a dried up bag o’ bones. 

Carnage

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Every year, parents engage in the time honored tradition of dropping their kid off at the first day of school. We are no different, and I dropped off Malcolm today and I ran out of there as fast as an elementary school kid runs home on the last day of school. I was a little excited about getting a break for part of the day, and I thought about all the wild and crazy things I was going to do with my time. Sadly, my hopes of dining on Hooters wings and playing endless rounds of golf gave way to the reality of dealing with bills and getting some modest exercise. (Hooters, mark my words, you will see me soon, very soon.)

The first day of school is also enjoyable because of the carnage lying around at Malcolm’s school. For some of these kids, being dropped off at preschool is the first time that they have left their parents, and they show it. The place was teeming with kids crying and parents trying to soothe them into all the wonderful things there are to do at school. There were young kids in their parent’s arms wailing at the top of the lungs and bigger kids shrieking and clinging to their parent’s legs. My favorite is the kids who are old enough to use dirty tricks, “Why are you leaving me here, don’t you love me anymore?” It didn’t look much better when I picked up Malcolm, as many of the kids were still wailing. One little girl looked especially troubled and, judging by the look of the school’s principal who was holding her and had the distant look in her eye of a heroine addict, the little girl had been crying the whole day.

I don’t really enjoy seeing others suffer, but I do use such circumstances to make me feel good about Malcolm. Doesn’t every parent do this? Malcolm went off to school last year and ran into the room and didn’t even say goodbye. This year was no different. I rack it up to our concerted efforts to make Malcolm feel comfortable in any environment. I am sure the parents I laughed at today would say it is because their kids actually like them, and Malcolm probably doesn’t care very much for his parent. With a father whose chief dream in life is to eat a bunch of chicken wings at Hooters, I couldn’t really blame him if he didn’t.

Malcolm’s Marginal Utility

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm may well take after Grandpa Scott and become an economics professor. His latest econ. revelation? Marginal utility.  In case you need the refresher, marginal utility is the amount of usefulness that each additional unit of consumption brings.  The easiest example is food.  Well, I like beer better,so I am going to use beer.  The first beer I drink on wednesdays is beautiful and brings me much pleasure.  It takes me out of my role as caregiver and turns me into a pleasure seeker.  The second one I have is even better, because it starts to get me drunk.  I like the third one, but less than the others (because I have already had some).  This continues until, let say, the tenth one.  The tenth one make me throw up and leaves me hung over the next day (this is the concept of diminishing marginal utility that ends in negative utility.  You could also proves the rule that I am a tool.)  It took many years of college to figure all this out, although I am not sure if I learned it in economics classes (I was an Econ. major too!) or at house parties.

Malcolm is demonstrating mastery of it right now.  Today, we went to the ferry building in SF for lunch. I got him a grilled cheese sandwich and it was pretty tasty.  I got a salad, and decided to round out the meal by getting some fries.  (Upon reflection, I really should not have congratulated myself for getting a salad because bacon, boiled egg, avocado, blue cheese, grilled chicken and ranch dressing are not exactly healthy ingredients.) So, Malcolm was confronted with what to eat for his lunch.  The fries were tasty at Taylor’s Refresher, and he wolfed down as many as I was willing to share, which was seven, total.  As he progressed through his grilled cheese, he got to the point where he had to ask his belly if he was getting full. The funny thing is that he lifts his shirt and actually asks his belly if it is getting full, and has a different voice for the belly when it answers. So, when his belly was telling him he was getting full, he had to decide what part of the sandwich to eat.  I guess he figured that he wasn’t going to finish the whole sandwich, as he is a total string bean, and he started licking the cheese of the bread.  As you might guess, American cheese is quite sticky, so he started clawing the cheese off the bread like a sugar starved Oreo addict.  When he was done, he left a sad mess of mangled bread behind.  I asked him if his marginal utility for eating the sandwich had had reached zero yet, and he looked at me blankly.  In his own, unrefined economics jargon, he told me that the marginal utility of the sandwich was less than the utility of riding on the trolley.  Luckily he didn’t lick the trolley.      

Ponyo

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We took Malcolm to see the movie, Ponyo, last night.  We had a bit of a long weekend, with a few late nights and some short naps. Instead of working extra hard at parenting, we took him to the theater.   He has only been to a handful of movies, and the experience of going to a theater is pretty exciting for him.  I am pretty sure that if he got to sit in his mommy’s lap and eat popcorn, he would watch Sophie’s Choice in the theater.

I don’t really know what to say about Ponyo.  It is extremely bizarre.  I think I really liked it, but when it ended, I had a feeling similar to watching six smiling old men in leotards throwing cotton candy at each other.  What did I just see?  It is fantasy, in all its splendid glory, and while you never really know where the movie is going, it is a treat to watch. 

Let’s start with the visuals.  It is a visually stunning movie.  The movie is definitely a step away from modern cartooning, seeming to revel in how good a greeting card illustrator can make the world look.  The colors are brilliant, reminding the viewers all along the way that the movie has been well thought out and masterfully designed. The movie looks and feels like a child’s mind, a perfect way to tell the story.  (By the way, the story is about a 5 year old kid who falls in love with a fish and how they love ham.  Talk about a feel good movie!)

Tina Fey plays a mom, Liam Neeson plays a weird dad who looks like a cross between Howard Stern and Willie Wonka, Cate Blanchett plays a hot wet blanket, and Matt Damon is in the movie, but totally unnoticeable.  You can hear Betty White in the movie and you want her to be your grandma. 

I like this movie because it creates a challenge for kids to watch, without stupid violence.  There are a few cheap laughs, but, for the most part, it is a long story about love and courage.  It creates a journey,and the journey involves being true to yourself, loving your family, and eating lots of ham.  Combine that, a large bucket of popcorn, and a kid our your lap, and you have one great movie night.  Go see it!

Malcolm, the Musical!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm has been acting strange at the park.  On Wednesdays, after dismal soccer practices, Malcolm and his friend, Samara, have been taking me and Samara’s dad, Luke, over to a small amphitheater, where they have begun singing musicals.  At first, they just sort of sang gibberish and marched around.  Luke and I seemed uninterested, staring off into space and, gasp, even talking to each other during the performance.  They realized that they needed production values and a theme for each musical.  So, they upped their game.

Their first real musical was about clams.  They had been digging around in an old creek and found some clam shells.  I do not know much about anything, so I said clams used to have feet and wandered around on land.  Luke shook his head and told them that this whole area used to be underwater and the clams lived in the bottom of the ocean then.  I concurred, although I secretly believe that my explanation is almost as plausible.  With props in hand, Malcolm and Samara marched around on stage clapping and singing the word "clam" and then any other word that rhymed with clam.  A typical verse went, "Clam, Clam, Clam. Clam got no hand. Clam in the Gam. Clam, Clam, Clam. Clam eat land. Clam in the pan, Clam stand."  We laughed pretty hard at this, causing the kids to start laughing and foaming at the mouth.  I took this as a sign that Malcolm was bitten by a dog when I wasn’t looking, but fortunately Luke told me that they were simply making the same frothy mouth that a clam makes when it is scared.  (Once again, I secretly believed my explanation until I got home and found no evidence of Malcolm being bitten by a bat.)

The next week, Malcolm and Samara invented a new musical.  It was all about stealing people’s hats.  They pranced about on stage like ponies singing "gonna steal your hat! Gonna steal your hat!" until they ran up into the seats and tried to steal my hat.  I picked up on some clues that this was about to happen, and so, luckily, they did not in fact steal my hat.  They kept trying, but I never let them actually get my hat.  After about ten minutes, I decided that this was the worst musical that I had ever seen.  I never thought I would say this, but I missed the clam song. 

He Hate Me

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Back when I had a job, I saw one of my favorite partners crying one morning. The mere fact that one of us was crying was not strange, it was a crazy year and the mountain of stressful work caused at least one person to break down and lose it each day.   I asked Margot what was wrong, and, surprisingly, her tears were not work related.  She said that she had a tough morning with her kids and the last thing her son said to her was, “I hate you.”  I was shocked to hear that a kid could hate someone as sweet as Margot, and chalked it up to a tumultuous home life.  Certainly, if we ever had a kid, our child would never, ever say anything like that to us.

Until now.  Malcolm drops, “I hate you’s” like a democrat drops balls. (That is in no way meant to be gross, what I mean by that is that democrats are constantly dropping the ball.  Take health care, for one.  Actually, name one good thing that the Democrats have done, and I will tell you that they should have done it better. But, I digress.) Malcolm came home from summer school today and wanted hot chocolate.  I told him that it was too warm for hot chocolate, then he said that he wanted chocolate milk.  I told him too many sweet will give him yuckmouth.  He erupted into tears and wailed the whole way home.  When we got home, he screamed at the top of his lungs and said that as long as I didn’t give him chocolate milk, he would hate me.

Before that, he told me he hated me when I took the toothbrush out of his hand as he was attempting to dislodge my eyeball with it.  On several occasions, he has told me that he hates me because I don’t let him watch enough shows on TV.  I have been hated for requiring that we play baseball in the shade on a hot day and for not buying him a toy at the drug store.  Once, he hated on me first thing in the morning when I asked him if he loved both his mommy and his daddy.  It appears that I am hated quite often.

I am hoping that this is a stage that he is going through.  By being independent enough to hate the hand that feeds him, he is showing me that he is growing up.  I am all for that, I just wish he could display his newfound independence in another way, like smoking or doing drugs . When your entire job revolves around caring for someone and that someone doesn’t care for you, it hurts.  It hurts a lot, like getting your eyeball gouged out with a toothbrush.  I would say that next time I will allow him to gouge the eye, but he would only find another reason to hate.  They always do.

It's the End of the Summer, And I Know It. (I Feel Fine)

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to his last soccer practice last week.  The coach never really came to understand how a three year old child’s mind works and had the enthusiasm of a hungover cop.  During the final practice, he had the kids try and scrimmage again, and when it didn’t work and he got tired of yelling at the kids, he gave up.  That’s right, after a grand total of ten minutes of “practice” time, he told the kids it was over, and then took them to the rec center and gave them ice cream bars.  They played foosball in the rec center after wolfing down the ice cream, and it was the most excitement the kids showed toward soccer for the entire summer. 

With his summer now winding down, I can reflect on what we have done and what the future holds.  This will forever be the summer that Malcolm got into baseball. We go to the park almost every day and he really enjoys playing the game.  He has even started to hit from both sides of the plate!  While I am a little sad that he won’t be the left handed middle reliever that every baseball minded dad wants out of his kid, at least I have the prospect of a switch hitting middle infielder.  Go Malkie! I don’t care if he is ever good at baseball, but the fact that he is excited by playing ball with me is enough (for now!).

Malcolm returns to preschool this week, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I now will get a break for four and a half hours a day. I could lie and say that it will probably mean that I can blog, exercise or bathe more regularly, but the reality of it all is that I will probably just use the time to research my fantasy football draft.  Sue me.

P.S. I am quite aware that the dad (or child abductor) pictured to the left has two kids, and we have but the one. This picture is supposed to be a metaphor for the winding down of our summer lives together.  Consider the second child to be a metaphor for just how much I like to each nachos.  Not the best metaphor you will ever see, but really, metaphors are a pretty lame rhetorical device, don’t ya think?

Memento Child

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Yesterday was a rough day.  Malcolm did not nap the day before and had a short night of sleep.  So, yesterday he was a giant piece of shit.  When he wanted something or wanted to go do something and did not get his way, he he fell to the floor crying.  Then he got up and yelled at me.  Then he tried to hit me with whatever blunt object was close by.  Then, he would wander off into some other activity, and this would repeat itself.  All day.  I can’t tell you how many times I gave a long slow sigh and shook my head.  Malcolm is now mimicking my response when he gets upset, “You are killing me dude!”

A day like this is frustrating because after a point, not only do you not like your kid, you don’t like what you have become. Normally, I don’t shout at Malcolm and try to remain dispassionate, but yesterday I yelled at Malcolm like he was in boot camp. I realized that I was being a terrible parent, but after so many tantrums and assaults, I could not effectively regulate my own behavior. So, I became a piece of shit too.

I finally made it through the day, and drank my reward beer. I know that when kids are evil, which no one tells you about before you have a child, that you have to beat the evil with creativeness and energy.  Yesterday I lacked both, and I wondered what I was going to do differently the following morning.  Then I realized that I didn’t necessarily need to.  Kids have this crazy cool ability to forget about almost everything that has happened the day before and do not hold a grudge.  In the movie, Memento, the main character wakes up every day without any memories, so he tattoos things on his body and writes himself notes.  Unless you have promised your kids candy in the morning, kids, at least at this age, generally do not ever remembering anything from the previous day.  Each day is a blank slate.  Luckily for me, Malcolm doesn’t know how to write yet, so he cannot, tattoo “DO NOT TRUST THE FAT ONE, ALWAYS GO TO THE PRETTY FEMALE!” to his chest.

When Malcolm came stomping out of his room this morning, he gave me a big squeeze and said, “good morning” to me.  I was ecstatic.  Then I had to tell Malcolm that is was too early for him to come out of his room, and that he had to go back into the room until 7 am.  He fell onto the floor crying, and I realized that I did, indeed need to figure out a new strategy. Maybe I am the one who needs to leave notes to himself.

The Sugary Closet

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We stopped buying crappy snack food a few years ago.  I read some books about how bad partially hydrogenated oil was for you, and boom, our shelves were freed of sugary snacks that clog your arteries.  I am not saying that I am a healthy person, but I figured that if I could draw this one line in the sand, we would be margarinally better off.  (That may be the most clever thing I have ever used in a blog, marginally better off without margarine!) Everyone wasn’t pleased with the results.

We have grandparents visit us often, and they, like most other people enjoy snacking.  For a while, the grandparents brought snacks and put them in our cupboards.  This, however, lead to incessant lecturing by me about the evils of trans fats and the ensuing end of the world.  This only lasted for so a short time before I became unbearable to listen to.  I drove them into the closet!

Now, when grandparents visit, they bring their snacks and leave them in the guest bedroom, away from the prying eyes of the food nazi.  Oh, I can smell chocolate on their breaths when they come out, and occasionally they have nougat dangling from their chins, but for the most part, the secret snacks remain secret. Malcolm, however, has noticed.

The other day, I went to put sugar in my coffee.  I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I looked all over the kitchen, and then increased the parameters of the search area as a check to see if my parents were beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s.  Nothing.  I gave up and figured it would turn up somewhere simple in the next few days.  Amy changed Malcolm’s clothes yesterday and found the sugar in Malcolm’s shirt drawer.  She asked him how it got there, and he said "I ate it, because I wanted to." We don’t give the boy much sugar, and he, like everyone else who comes through here, is tired of me lecturing.  So he has joined his grandparents in the sugary closet.  

Wanted: Role Model for Malcolm

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Stay at home dad seeks role model for 3.5 year old. Must be a boy.  I don’t have anything against girls, but if I tell Malcolm to act like a girl, there is no telling where it will end.  Princess parties?  My Little Pony? Watching Gossip Girl? Little boys have it tough at this age.  It seems like their metabolism requires that they freak out every 10 minutes or so, and have the constant urge to destroy everything in their paths.  Is there a perfect little boy out there? I’d like to find out.

Must not be violent. Malcolm has recently learned what the term, “kill” means.  This and his desire to make a gun, sword or bow and arrow out of anything he can get his hands on, are a bad combination.  Role model must never pretend to be a dinosaur and eat everything he doesn’t care for.  Role model need not dry hump everyone he comes across, but general friendliness would be appreciated.

Must be calm.  Role model must have triggering word that creates calmness.  I don’t mind a little rambunctiousness, but if I say the word, “mellow,” the role model should immediately stop screaming and running around.  Where does a child get all the energy of a meth addict after a score? I don’t care, just give me a word to make it all go away.  There cannot be a limit on the number of times the safety word is used, as my child is a total spaz most of the day.

Must not crave sweets.  We feed our kid as little sugar as possible, as sugar only intensifies a little boy’s negative behavior.  However, the urge to consume chocolate is second only to the urge to kill.  Role model must only ask for sweets once a week, and prepares for it by eating vegetables all week long.

Must not whine. Role model will never, ever, fall apart when it doesn’t get what it wants.  If the above conditions are met however, there may be nothing to whine about.  “Waaaaaaaaah, I want ice cream.  Waaaaaaah I want to run around in circles.  Waaaaaah, I want to remove the cat’s brain with this sword.”

So that’s it. Any role models out there?

Tot Soccer Rebellion

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

It finally happened.  The three and four year olds at Malcolm’s tot soccer class staged a coup today and let their coach know, in no uncertain terms, that they would no longer be taking any instruction.  I am no fan of Malcolm’s soccer coach, as many of you know, so I have never been more proud of a group of kids.

The day started with the coach setting up a field about the length of a regulation soccer field.  A regulation soccer field to a 3 year old seems like about 2 miles long.  The coach had them doing some silly drills, and by the time the kids got halfway down the field, they forgot, Memento style, what they were doing and started to wander off.  This made the coach mad, and he started to yell.   “Sahm, come back here, what are you doing.  Maggie, where are you going?  Malcolm take the cones out of your shorts!”  Coach decided he needed a helper, and recruited an 80 year old grandmother to keep the kids in line.  This pissed me off even more. I had previously offered to help the coach out, and when he actually needs help motivating the kids and keeping them in line he chooses a mumbling, unathletic grandma?  At least I don’t mumble.

Coach eventually tired of the drill and decided the kids were ready  to start playing a game.  He separated them into teams and seemed irked that they didn’t grasp the team game, opting instead to chase the ball around regardless of who was on which team.  He started to yell at the kids, “Don’t you guys know that you are teams and need to score goals?”  The kids stopped and looked at him like his head was made of peanut butter.  When they resumed their game of chase, the coach got even madder, threatening to cut the session off early.  This made all the parents laugh, because the kids then gathered together, on the opposite side of the field as the coach, and seemed to be plotting a coup.  When the meeting didn’t break, coach lost it.  He continued to yell at the kids, “I need you guys to swear that you are going to start playing soccer for real or not just run around and kick the ball.  If you can’t I am gonna make you sit down and do nothing.”  At this point, the kids started the mutiny and half of them sat down.  He told the kids to stand up, and when they didn’t, he told the rest of the kids to sit down too.  The rest of the parents laughed as the coach fell apart and the kids started to wander off, not sure of whether they should be sitting or standing, playing soccer or running around kicking the ball.

Afterwards, I offered the coach some insights into the mind of a three year old.  Coach didn’t seem too interested in my ideas for improving the practices, instead complaining that the “kids just don’t listen to me!”  Dude, welcome to my world.

Why Malcolm Likes Baseball Games

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to a Baseball Game yesterday.  malcolm oakland As gameThis wasn’t his first game, as I dutifully took him to games when he was an infant.  This was, however, his first game as a little person, able to both talk in complete sentences and use the men’s room. (I am definitely not counting our first trip to the Oakland Coliseum as a “trip to the men’s room.”) I considered the game a test run, as the tickets only cost $2 and I wanted to make sure Malcolm would be OK at a game before I shelled out serious money to take him to see a real team, the Giants. We had a pretty good time and lasted until the 7th inning.  I think we’ll go to another game this year, as long as he is able to enjoy the things that he did yesterday.

Malcolm loves hot dogs.  This week, he has loved them off the grill at dad’s group, out of the microwave at IKEA, and from out of whatever-the-hell-they-use-at-the-ballpark.  That’s three straight days of lips and assholes, (it’s almost like he’s at Burning Man!)  I would have suggested something else today (like nachos, sweet nachos) but the hot dogs only cost 1 dollar, and there was no way that the dads from my dad’s group and I were going to pay more than a few bucks on food.  Perhaps it was this general interest in a cheap date that made me boycott beer for the first time in my life, and I refused to spend $8 on a tea cup full of bud light.  A half hour later, and 8 Oakland A’s runs later, I had 10 hot dogs and I returned to the group to find that Malcolm had run off and the kids were generally uninterested in baseball. Malcolm loved his dog and a half, and after I had eaten my two and half dollars’ worth, I wish I had eaten nachos.

Malcolm loves running around with his friends.  We were there with my friends from dad’s group, so Malcolm had his full compliment of cohorts to get into trouble with.  We couldn’t really see anything since the $2 seats give you a view similar to that from the Hubble Space Telescope, so Malcolm decided the best way to enjoy the game was to run races around the handicap seating area.  This lasted until the very large, very mean security guard came and told us that the kids really shouldn’t be running around like that.  My initial thought, “Well, you really shouldn’t be wearing a mustache like that,” never made it out of my mouth, and we reluctantly corralled the kids back to our area.

Malcolm loves ice cream.  Amy’s mom was in town and had promised to make brownies with Malcolm after his nap.  He had been offered cookies at the park, which I said he could have in lieu of brownies, which he politely declined.  (Delayed gratification in a 3 year old, I love this kid!) When his friend Priya announced that she wanted cotton candy, Malcolm joined in the chorus saying, “I want cotton candy too! What is cotton candy?”  When offered the choice between this strange cotton candy phenomenon, he stuck to the know qualities of brownies.  That lasted only until the ice cream guy showed up.  More specifically, the guy pedaled ice cream sandwiches, two chocolate cookies with vanilla ice cream in the middle.  Malcolm told me that he really wanted one and that he no longer wanted to make brownies with grammy.  It was getting warmer and I thought he actually made a good decision, and isn’t that what parenting is all about? So he had a fantastic ice cream sandwich and enjoyed himself greatly.

We’ll probably be checking out the Giants later this summer, as long as the following conditions are met.  First, the tickets can cost no more than $4.  Total food expenditures cannot exceed $10.  He must have at least 5 friends to play with, and everyone needs to sit together.  Now that I think about it, maybe we won’t be going to anymore games…

Holy Cannoli, My Kid Won't Shut the Fuck Up

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

My son is a talker. We used to think that he was kinda verbal. Now, we know that he is way past that. He has developed a nasty case of diarrhea of the mouth. (Sadly it is accompanied by, as my junior high science teacher used to say, constipation of the brain.)

Malcolm talks about poop. He talks about school. He talks about his “aminals.” And when he is done talking you about everything that he has to talk about, he talks to his aminals. Then he finds someone else to talk to. If he can’t find anyone else, he comes back to you and will try to talk to you about all the same stuff he has already talked to you about. The cycle then repeats, ad nauseum.

I used to think that I talked to Malcolm to pass the time away during the day. Now, I know that quite the opposite is true. He talks to me. I am not sure exactly where it comes from, but he loves hearing the sound of his own voice. Malcolm has lots of questions for the firefighters at birthday parties. He spends time at baseball practice telling his coach that his shoes are fast. He recently talked to my parents for 25 minutes on the phone telling them which of his aminals are mean and which are nice. Luckily, grandparents are insane enough and have enough free time to stay on the line that long.

So it all came down to this. We just spend a few days with our friends at the Russian River. We kayaked down the river one of the days, and after the long and tiring day we tried to unwind back at the house in the hot tub. Everyone had their head back, eyes closed, and nobody spoke. Then Malcolm got there. “Daddy, why are the dogs going poop?” he asked. He continued, “Daddy why do the dogs have so many legs? Why does the brown one’s tail not move? I think the brown one looks like cinnamon. Are there monsters in the trees? The night before this one, was there any monsters, then?” I told Malcolm that we were tired and wanted to relax, and asked him to be quiet. He paid no attention to that, and said that he wanted to play the train game. He was going to be blue again, because he likes blue, which is the color of his dog. I had to ask him again to be quiet and told him that if he wasn’t able to be quiet, he was going to have to get out of the hot tub. For a while, he whispered his string of unrelated nonsensical comments, but then when he didn’t get the response he was looking for, he continued ahead, full steam. “The day after next, I want to go to the river, and throw rocks for the dogs. I want to go in the boat, and look at the weeds. When is mommy coming? Is she at work? Why does she have the green car and we have the blue car. My dog is blue.” At this point we couldn’t stop laughing because it became apparent that Malcolm just couldn’t shut the fuck up. When we finally could take no more, I took Malcolm out of the hot tub. Not the worst problem you could draw up for a kid, but exhausting nonetheless.

Malcolm the Racist Liar

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Up until now, Malcolm has been brutally and unbendingly honest with us. When we ask him if he hits somebody, he says, “yes.” When we ask him if he broke something, he admits it, if he did. Yesterday, I asked him if we was being mean to the cat, he replied, “just a wittle bit.” Today, however was a different story.

We went to baseball practice again. (For those who follow this blog closely, I was excited because the regular coach was absent and the replacement had lots of energy and engaged the kids really well. I was so bummed to learn that the regular coach will be back next week!) After practice ended, we rounded up the gear and set off for the car. I couldn’t find his bat, and we looked all over for it. After a while, Malcolm told me that he saw the little boy take it. I asked which boy, and he said the boy with the brown skin. This kinda made sense to me, as I had seen one of the boys playing in the outfield with a bat during the practice. I didn’t remember taking Malcolm’s bat out of our sports bag, so I asked whether Malcolm had seen the boy take the bat out of our bag, and he said, “yes.” I asked a second time to confirm that he had, in fact, seen the boy take our bat out of the bag, and he confirmed that he did. Boy, was I mad.

I got my speech ready for the boy’s mom as we walked around the park looking for them. I was going to say something along the lines of, “Are you teaching your kids to steal, or are you just not parenting at all?” I realized that I, the white guy, was walking on slippery ice by accusing the black kid of taking our stuff, but I had an eye witness, and my eye witness had never been wrong before. When we didn’t find them in the park, I went to the office and told the coach everything that I knew, hoping that justice would come next week at the latest. And then, we got home.

Sitting on the floor of our kitchen, underneath a large pile of shopping bags, was Malcolm’s bat. I was really bummed. Not only did Malcolm stop telling the truth, but this was the first time I had noticed Malcolm noticing a difference in skin color. Sadly, his first act of racial identification was to accuse (wrongly) a black kid of stealing. Thus, Malcolm joined the huge population of white people who, when asked about their assailant’s identity said, “I don’t know, but was a black guy!” I can only guess at how bad I would have felt if the family had still been at the park and I would have laid into them. We’re not out of the woods, yet, as we still have to explain what happened to the coach next week. This week, though, we have to start talking to Malcolm about telling the truth. It is a sad time, indeed.

Bouncy House of Doom

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

America has a villain. It has a power so great, so unstoppable as to make all those in its path yield. Many have tried to tame it, and failed, for to know the scourge is to know the source of pure evil. Its name? Bouncy house.

Malcolm went to a birthday party on Saturday and there were 10-15 kids there. Outside the bouncy house, the kids played nicely with one another, running around and having a good time. Once these polite, smiling children set foot in the bouncy house, however, all bets were off. The kids started randomly attacking each other like they were in a zombie movie. If they had a weapon, they’d use it, particularly to bring blunt force trauma to the head. If they didn’t have a weapon, they would simply use their tiny little fingers to try and pry open their combatant’s skulls. Soon, most of the (good) parents had to stand by the bouncy house to try and limit the amount of carnage done either to or by their kid.

So, one by one the kids would jump into the house, intent on having a good time. Once the critical mass hit, and the party turned into a drunken brawl, one by one, the kids would come out crying, complaining of a near death experience brought on by a rabid bouncer. The last one standing would smile, knowing that they had successfully vanquished all foes, and leave the bouncy house to collect their handsome reward of a juice box and a peanut butter celery stick. Then, one by one, the kids would pile back into the bouncy house and madness would ensue.

I don’t know why the bouncy houses do what they do. Maybe the stale air under the vinyl turns toxic. Maybe jumping up and down rapidly has a degenerative effect on the brain. Whatever it is, I when I find out the cause, I am going to bottle it and start my own roller derby team.

The Straight Poop

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We have a bunch of new babies in our lives. Seeing what life is like with a newborn makes me think of when we were new parents, and what life was like back then. I remember we had our friends Austin and KC over for dinner as our first night of socializing, and after dinner, I suddenly burst out, “Oh my gosh, can we just talk about Malcolm’s poop for a little bit? I really got to get some stuff off my chest!” I have no idea what it is about being a parent makes you so obsessed about your kids poop, but I had it bad. Now, Malcolm is obsessed with poop (his poop, your poop, the dog’s poop, the cat’s poop, the zoo animals poop, horse poop, fly poop, bird poop, and the list goes on and on) and I know where he gets it from: us! With so much poop on the brain, I give you my favorite Malcolm poop stories. Enjoy!

First poop on the potty

Malcolm was rocketing up the potty training charts, when one day he decided to take a poop on the potty. Amy said that he seemed genuinely proud of his accomplishment until he looked down and recoiled in terror. He completely freaked out at the size of the object that had just came out of his body, much in the same way that I freaked out when Malcolm popped out of Amy’s lady business. He erupted into tears and wouldn’t go near the toilet for months. Eventually, he accepted jelly bean bribes to start using the toilet again, and now diapers are happily a thing of the past.

I have had it with these motherfucking poops on this motherfucking plane

On a plane ride to Florida, Malcolm once pooped seven times. Seven times!!! We had packed six diapers thinking that should be plenty for the four and a half hour flight. The first couple of poops we thought, “Strange, he usually only poops once a day at home.” Then we started rooting for more, thinking we might back door our way into the Guiness Book of Records (Get it? Back door!). When we had finally put on the last diaper, we turned towards each other with concerned looks on our face, not having to say, “what do we do if he does it again?” Then, he did it again.

I got some pretty strange looks on the way up the aisle to the bathroom for the seventh time that day, and people seemed question what the hell we were up to. Once inside the bathroom, I had to do one of the grosser things I have done as a parent: I scooped poop out of malcolm’s diaper, scoured the diaper with a wipe, and then put the diaper (still stained with the remnants of yesterday’s lunch) back on Malcolm. I returned to the seat with him, and Amy wrinkled her nose at me and then wouldn’t make eye contact again until we had landed and were able to access our auxiliary diaper supply. I called Guiness, they hung up on me.

I’m Proud, he’s a comedian

The first time that Malcolm pooped in a public place was a proud moment for me. We were at a pizza place for lunch with my dad’s group when Malcolm said that he had to go poop. I brought him into the bathroom, and without incident, he pooped in the potty. I was exhilarated as I had heard it can be quite traumatic for kids to go in public. We wiped, I flushed and then took a turn going pee in the crowded bathroom. When I started to pee Malcolm shouted, “My neenee is bigger than yours. Daddy has a small neenee!!!” Needless to say, I waited for the room to clear before heading back out, no sense in showing your face to the world when such things have been said.

The grossest 5 minutes ever

I went to an Oakland A’s game with some friends of mine once. Malcolm was about eight months old, and made a very large, very stinky deposit into his diaper. None of my friends offered to change Malcolm, so I went to the men’s room to do it. At first, I was outraged at the fact that they had no changing tables to work with. Then I realized that the members of the Raider nation would probably have used a changing table to pass out on, so I got over it. There being nowhere else to clean him up, I had to make the change on the floor. I threw up in my mouth a little when I got down on the floor and the floor smelled worse than Malcolm’s diaper did! I threw up a little more when I visualized the things that had to be done to the floor to get it to smell that way. I then took Malcolm out in the hallway and changed him there, amongst the hustle and bustle of the ballpark crowd. Next time you are at a sporting event, compare the smell of the bathroom to the smell of the hallway. You’ll see why I did what I did.

Peanut Poop

This one is my favorite. We were in France several years ago. While there, we went to a steakhouse with our friends and Amy’s parents. Malcolm was a bit fussy and needed quite a bit of attention. This was similar to the night before, in which we solved the dilemma by feeding Malcolm a constant stream of peanuts, a few at a time. That allowed us to enjoy ourselves at dinner, and gave Malcolm a wholly unbalanced meal. Well, those peanuts eventually worked their way through malcolm’s body and needed to be freed. Malcolm started to grunt. His eyes turned red and watered. He moaned. This continued for close to ten minutes, with Malcolm eventually grunting loud enough for others in the restaurant to hear. We, of course, let this go on and actually enjoyed ourselves a little, because he wasn’t crying when he was grunting. Malcolm finally won the battle and passed 50 or so peanuts, in different stages of digestion, into his diaper. Yes, that’s right, some of them were whole. His diaper looked like a Planters Candy Bar. We toyed with the idea of washing some of the more presentable peanuts and giving them to our neighbors (sort of a “Ta-Da!” moment) but in the end, just threw out the diaper. At least, on this night, we had a spare.

Care to share any poop stories of your own?

A Birthday Party

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Today, we went to a birthday party for a 5 year old. Normally, I prefer to stay at arms length for such events, as I am mortified that our lives will one day become little more than participants in a never ending series of children’s birthday parties. Actually, that is probably more of a rationalization as to why we don’t have any friends and never get invited anywhere.

Today, however, we made an exception. The birthday party was held in Piedmont and the real draw is that it included a tour of a fire station. Yes, you read that right, a real live fire station. To those of you without kids, or even worse, those of you who have girls, you may not fully comprehend the importance of a real fire station visit. Imagine an alcoholic visiting the Jack Daniel’s distillery or Michael Jackson visiting an elementary school; that is how excited Malcolm was to go to a fire station and talk to a real live firefighter.

I should maybe explain why Malcolm is so into firefighters. Actually, I have no idea. I really try to stay involved in Malcolm’s life, but I actually know very little about why he is the way he is. All I know is that the cabal that Malcolm runs with at pre-school are firefighters and, according to Malcolm, “Firefighters are Bad Guys!!!!” One hope that I had was that this trip to the firehouse would convince Malcolm that firefighters are indeed good people and not an excuse to terrorize opposing gangs with at school.

So we arrived at the park across the street from the firehouse and Malcolm played with the other kids (most of whom he’d never met before). Now, I am used to everyone around knowing exactly who Malcolm is. Usually, it is because I have repeated his name so many times that anyone within a 20 foot radius knows exactly who he is and what he has been up to. “Malcolm stop that. Malcolm put that down. Malcolm come here. Malcolm don’t hit. Malcolm, don’t push. Malcolm stop biting that kid!!!!!!” Today, however, everyone knew who Malcolm was because everyone was asking, “who is that kid?”

Malcolm evidently thought it was his birthday because he was everywhere doing everything. He attempted to reorganize the “pin the fire helmet on the fireman” game into, “line up your stickers to make a fire helmet train.” He got mad at the birthday boy when the birthday boy failed to locate a stuffed Dalmatian that was hidden away in the playground in a timely manner. He attempted to eat 3 sandwiches (especially troubling because not all the kids got a sandwich.) Then, when we actually got to the firehouse, Malcolm kept raising his hands and “asking questions.” His “questions” went like this: “I have a question. Firefighters save grammies and grampas.” Or, “I have a question. Firetrucks have to go back.” When this last “question” wasn’t immediately “answered,” he kept yelling, “I have a question!” (and wildly gesturing as if he was driving the fire truck) until the firemen giving the presentation acknowledged Malcolm’s wisdom. The thing I found most enjoyable is that he would preface each comment with “I have a question,” and then say something silly like, “I have a question. Firefighters go with the people and get the rangers.” After contemplating this last one for a while, I think there is a reference to a rival pre-school cabal, evidently one that involves rangers.

After the kids got to sit in the fire truck and then shoot water from the hose, the party headed back to the park for some cake and presents. The woman running the show was not the mother of the birthday boy, but a woman who offered to host the party at a school auction. You might think that someone who essentially sells herself as an emcee for 5 year old’s birthday party would enjoy kids. This older, lumbering woman made had a distant, tired look in her eyes and body language which screamed, “happy birthday, unhappy birthday, what do I care?” She eventually wrangled the kids together for a regurgitation of the birthday song and a dispassionate splitting up of the cake. She seemed to convey the same amount of interest in the happiness of the kids as a cattle rancher has in his stock.

While the kids were sitting around eating, a woman came up to us and asked if Malcolm was our son. We said yes, and she told us how sweet and cute he was, an observation then echoed by several other parents. I found this curious, since I found Malcolm somewhat embarrassing, but I guess we all have different concepts of what is cool. We left, mindful of the classes Malcolm needs in passive observation, buy hopeful that he is engage, spirited, and getting the hint that firefighters are not, indeed, bad guys.

In the Blink of an Eye

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm is potty trained! This is one of those milestones in a child’s life that is worth noting. Some, sadly are not. The first erection, eating the first booger, and throwing the phone in the toilet for the first time are all firsts, but they don’t really change life much. Like learning to crawl or talking though, becoming potty trained is something that affects who Malcolm is, and how we live our lives. Now, we have to ask Malcolm whether he has to go to the bathroom before we go anywhere, driving to the grandparent’s house takes twice as long, and Malcolm can no longer take a dump in the middle of the grocery store. Well, he better not anyways. I am also relieved to say, that we are creating about half as much landfill as we used to.

This significant development feels like it happened over night, although in reality it was the final step in a journey that began almost a year and a half ago. We got Malcolm a small, plastic potty long ago, and told him all about how big kids go potty in the big kid’s toilet, and little kids go in their diapers. When we told Malcolm this, he looked somewhere between betrayed and dazzled, much in the same way a child would look if you handed them a shotgun and said, “This is what killed Bambi.” (What is it with Disney and gun violence, by the way?) We buttressed our efforts by reading Malcolm books about using the potty, until he finally realized that the future did indeed rest in evacuating himself into something other than his clothes.

Eventually, he started going pee in the little potty after brushing his teeth and before taking his bath. He really enjoyed peeing in the bathtub, though, and it was hard to break him of this habit. On many occasions, Malcolm stood up in the bathtub and let the golden showers rain down, proud that he had tricked his mommy and daddy into thinking that the small yellow pool in the potty was the full extent of the contents of his bladder. Mostly, though, Malcolm enjoyed going to the big boy potty and was proud of his accomplishment.

This only lasted until Malcolm decided to try and poop in the potty. Amy was there, and I wasn’t so I only heard about it second hand. The results were terrifying. After about 15 minutes of pushing, Malkie heard a loud plop, and immediately stood up to see what happened. He shrieked when he saw the poop in the bowl, and started pointing and crying about what had just come out of him. His reaction was similar to how I would react if, after pooping, I looked down and saw a large tarantula crawling around in the toilet, “That came from me?” Amy tried to explain that this was normal, and in fact the very same thing that happened when he pooped in his diaper, but Malcolm was convinced that the toilet itself had some mystical powers that altered his feces. For months afterwards, Malcolm refused to go near the potty, and didn’t even take much joy in peeing in the tub.

Slowly but surely, Malcolm returned to his nighttime ritual of going pee in the potty, although far less frequently, and never with his mommy, who must have played some role in the poop episode (poopisode”). During this time, I would occasionally ask Malcolm during the day if he wanted to go pee in the potty, and would ask at the beginning of the day if he wanted to wear big boy underwear. This time was a struggle, as Malcolm was nearing three years old and I saw most of his classmates wearing their underpants, signaling haw far Malcolm was falling behind his classmates. I wanted to engage the sink or swim method, and cut Malcolm off from diapers cold turkey during what was sure to be an exhausting, humiliating weekend of parenting struggle. Amy was flatly opposed to the idea, insisting that the long term damage to Malcolm’s psyche wasn’t worth it, and reminded me of how easier it was to put Malcolm in a diaper and remain blissfully ignorant of whether he had to, or had recently gone, to the bathroom in his diaper.

So there we were, at about 3 years and 2 months of age, considering diaper changes only when Malcolm stunk like a port-o-potty at a rock concert, or when his diaper was so full that it dragged down his pants, revealing a considerable amount of butt crack. One morning, though, I asked Malcolm whether he wanted to wear big boy underpants. I was so shocked when he actually said yes that I didn’t know what to do. After coming to my senses, I sounded the horn, set security levels to defcon 1, and ran around the house desparately trying to find some underwear. I eventually found them, slipped them on Malcolm, and we headed upstairs to show mommy the latest in Gerbers training underpants fashion. Mommy was very excited, Malcolm was very proud, and he hasn’t wanted to go near diapers ever since. I must have asked him 20 times a day if he had to go pee, and when he did, he excitedly ran to the toilet to pee. He stands up at the big toilet, arching way back putting his nee nee over the toilet like Kate Winslet in Titanic yelling “I’m on top of the world!”

The real test of his new found status was his first potty poop, for which I announced would immediately result in the delivery of one very yummy chocolate chip cookie. As hoped, Malcolm said that he had to go poop, sat down on the little potty, and pushed and pushed (with me near him in the bathroom imitating Bill Cosby shouting, “Push it out! Shove it out! Waaaaaay Out!”) He eventually did the deed, and when he stood it up and looked, it was pride that shone in his eyes, not fear and disbelief. As promised, he got a cookie. We continued down this path of trading cookies for poo, until a week or so later, when the event wasn’t such an exciting ordeal, and no cookie was necessary.

He still wears pull diapers to bed, but they are no longer called pull up diapers, they are just “pull ups.” He has only made one mistake, that being a fountain of urine that erupted in the middle of the kitchen, as Malcolm announced, “Daddy, I am peeing.” This accident did not scare him into a setback, and neither has the handful of times that he has wet through his pull-up at night or during his nap. So now, he is potty trained, and our lives are different because of it. It is certainly less convenient for us out in the world, but you just can’t beat seeing the joy in your kid’s eyes when they have tackled something scary, and come out ahead.

Malkie Dances with Baby Cougars

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Check it

I am working on Malcolm’s American Idol Entry. Check back for details.