Why Lazy Parenting Is Good Parenting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

  1. Play dates.

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

2. Summer Camp

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

3. School

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

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

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

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

Big Daddy Paul is guest posting!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

 

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

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

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.

Am I Lazy, Or The Best Parent Ever?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things That Make You Go, “Hmmmm”

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm #2- Is summertime for work or play?

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

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

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

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

Hmmm #3- Later bedtimes

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

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

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

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

Big Daddy Paul Is An Asshole

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Sick And Tired of Drinking Liquor And Talking About Children

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me

I am getting quite the knack for being mysterious with my blog titles, aren’t I?

We had a very busy weekend. We went to a surprise 40th birthday party on Friday, a parent-teacher mixer on Saturday, and a relaxing backyard barbecue on Sunday. You’d think that these events would be sufficiently different enough to ensure that things didn’t get stale, but, sadly, that wasn’t the case. We spent most of the weekend consuming alcohol and talking about school. It seems that’s all we ever do nowadays.

One time, (right around this time of year) I got attacked by a 12 pound lobster! It made quite the story.

I am not sure how this happened. I used to be a thrilling conversationalist. In my heyday, I could react to current events, accurately describe what it would happen if two angry camels were trapped in a tent and if you heard me start a story with, “One time, I ate a handful of Slim Jims and then…” you could bank on the next ten minutes being quite enjoyable. Now, the angry camels and Slim Jims are all gone.

In their place lie the details of learning, school and the educational system as a whole. If I am not talking about what Malcolm’s classroom is like, then I am talking about what my classroom was like growing up. What happened to me? I’m not really sure why I find the subject so fascinating, but like the Hooters patron desperately trying to make eye contact with the waitress, I try and avoid the topic. But just at the point where the patron’s eyes wander downwards, I say something like, “Well, actually Malcolm doesn’t go to kindergarten. His classroom is for 3 to 6 year-olds” and boom, I am sucked back into the vortex. If you ask me what I think of the Anthony Weiner debacle, I could give you a few minutes of penis innuendo (Penuendo?) If you ask what my fears are for Malcolm’s next few year years are, I will literally follow you home after boring you at the party, just so I can bore you some more.

I apologize to any of you out there that have subjected to my relentless eduspeak. I need to get over it and recognize that Malcolm would probably turn out the same whether we had him in a Montessori school or a tent with two angry camels in it. In an effort to try and rehabilitate myself, I would like to ask you, my readers, to help me come up with things I can talk to other people about. I will take your suggestions, write them on my hands, and then bust out with them in social situations. The more ludicrous the topic, the better, as I would recapture some of the magic I used to have.  Thanks in advance, I hope I get some doozies.

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!

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

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

OK, You Win, No More Swim Class

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

But I really wanted that wallet!

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

Malcolm, are you ready for swim class?

Fuck swim class.

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

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

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

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.

Should I Teach My Kid Poker?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Kill Your Children

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they consider ending their child’s existence. Granted, you may have quite a rational reason for doing so, but the odds are pretty high that you will regret it. It’s fun to fantasize about a world where you get to sleep in and not have the thing that you love most dearly call you “poopy pants” on a regular basis. Those fantasies must never be acted out. I just want to go on record and say, “Don’t kill your children.”

I do not say this because I worry that you will be caught and incarcerated. If you are like me, you have already created the perfect plan (which for us involves relabeling the children’s ibuprofen, “Candy.”) Even if these plans go awry, after enough play dates that end prematurely because the kids only want to scream, roll around on the floor and throw legos at each other, a stint in a federal penitentiary seems like a vacation.

Likewise, I do not caution against preschoolercide because of some pie-in-the-sky notion that they will outgrow being a pain in your ass. Sure, Malcolm  may stop calling me “poopy pants,” but that will soon be replaced with “nimrod” or even worse, “Paul.” He’ll stop throwing legos about the time it becomes fashionable to smack his friends around with a light saber. Once that goes out of fashion, it will be time to experiment with cocaine. No, your kids will always be annoying; get used to it.

The real reason I caution you against rubbing out your little ones is that you will rob yourself of the one perk of parenting a child: revenge. I document every little transgression Malcolm makes against me in a file. Every bite, every tantrum in public and each and every name he calls me is credited to his account. When he gets old enough, I start cashing checks.

This gets shown to Malcolm's prom date with admonition, "Now be careful. Malkie's got some sweet moves!"

I’ll hug him in front of the school for far too long as his friends are walking by. I’ll break out pictures of him taking a bath and show them to his dates. I’ll drink beer openly at his little league games. I will do all these things wearing sweatpants that never fully cover my butt crack. Oh yes, revenge will be mine, and it will taste sweet.

So the next time your child convinces a play date to get naked and run around the house squealing in delight, don’t reach for a carving knife. Just smile with the knowledge that, one day, maybe even a wedding day, you will be able to tell everyone they know and love just how long they wet the bed. That should be enough.

Should You Teach Your Kid How To Use The Remote Control?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

I’ve taught Malcolm many things in his short time on this Earth. I’ve taught him how throw and hit a baseball, what a properly executed grilled cheese sandwich should taste like and I even taught him that when guests come over you should usually close the bathroom door while taking a crap. Usually. (Depends on the friends, depends on the crap!)

Having taught him most everything he needs to know, I am left with this decision: Do I teach him how to use the remote control? It would sure make things easier for me if he just plopped himself down on the couch, queued up his favorite show, and then turned everything off when he was done. Also, kids using technology is sort of quaint, like a monkey using an accordion or an old person talking about Twitter. Often, though, things that makes life the easiest can be the most dangerous. (I learned this after foolishly outsourcing the cleaning of my face to a neighborhood dog, who subsequently gave me canine chlamydia. Damn dirty dog.)

I pity the fool who smiles for pictures like Malcolm. Seriously, what's the deal?

I worry that giving Malcolm the reigns to the TV set will do two things: first, he will sneak out while we sleeping and watch the A-Team. Second, he will drop the remote control on the floor and break it. Either way, I am fucked. Or, I guess more to the point, he is fucked. If he breaks the remote control or starts impersonating Mr. T, I will make his life a living hell.

Mind you, he is going to learn how to use a remote control one day. A man who doesn’t know how to use a remote control is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle (take that feminists!) Learning how to use the remote should be a rite of passage, though, and not something that’s done out of convenience to an admittedly lazy parent. I envision that one day, though, in true Yoda-like fashion I will train him on turning the system on and off, before moving on to more difficult tasks like finding out when the Giants game is on, or where I have secretly hidden the Girls Gone Wild recording on our DVR. There is a time and place for such rites, and I don’t think that time is now. Of course, if the canine chlamydia keeps advancing at the current rate, I may have to speed my time table up…

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…

Do As I Say, Not As They Do

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Schwartz, Sexist Jerk

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Don’t Know If I Am Proud Or Ashamed That My Son Plays Boggle On The Iphone

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

I used to think that giving your kids a million kinds of technology was ugly parenting. I would see kids playing games on their handheld Nintendos, Ipods, and PSPs and I thought, “Wow, their parents must be really fucking lazy. Tsk, tsk.” Having traveled all over the western United States in the past few weeks and asking Malcolm sit through things that no four-year-old easily consents to (like seven hour long car rides or lengthy waits at the doctor’s office to get his stitches removed), I now know that the parents weren’t lazy. They were fucking smart.

It’s a fact. Little gizmos make your kid tolerate situations they would otherwise drive you crazy in. Four-year-olds are hard wired to run, scream, and talk about their butts. This does not bode well for long airplane rides. Under the circumstances, you can either corral their fragile little attention spans by showing them Mary Poppins, or risk having your aisle-mates learn that your new nickname is “Poopy McPooperstein.” Sure, I could stash the technology away and try to to occupy Malcolm’s time by reading to him and playing games, but such heroic efforts at parenting are better left to people who aren’t busy downing as many rum and cokes as they can between takeoff and landing.

Additionally, “regular” parenting will always entail your child having at least one tantrum during plane flights. I swear, if there is anything I hate in this world more than the stink-eye that single airline passengers shoot you when your kid is screaming in their ear, it is the the patronizing tone that other parents use when they take it upon themselves to instruct you on what you should do to make your child happy. Lose, lose. Much safer to just plug the kids in, sit back and let the rum take its course.

Monsters, Inc. Life saver, or gateway drug?

In light of this reality, Malcolm now has a portable DVD player and my old Iphone. I try to limit what he can do on each of them, vetoing both his attempts to watch “Showgirls” on DVD and play “Ragdoll Blaster” on the phone. The downside is that he now asks for each constantly, and I am, for the moment, resisting. These tools are useful ways to survive significant hurdles, like sitting in the car for 15 hours in a three day span. They are not, for now, used for more mundane things like driving to summer camp or waiting in the car while I knock over liquor stores. Maybe one day Malcolm will win out and I will have to deal with a child that has absolutely no patience, but then again, that’s what rum and cokes are for, aren’t they?

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.

I Am Not A Boy Scout

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

I used to be prepared. I had a backpack full of diapers, wipes, snacks, small toys and a buck knife sharp enough to gut a camel. Sure, I forgot the backpack about half of the time, but back then I was at least occasionally prepared for life in the world as a parent.

Once Malcolm joined the world of the potty trained, though, the backpack took its rightful place in the corner, next to the Elmo DVD’s and my once wicked cool pair of ’90’s era MC Hammer parachute pants. I gladly reveled in the fact that Malcolm no longer needed extra disposable underpants with us, and took it to mean that also didn’t need any food, drink or emergency entertainment. (I still keep the buck knife strapped to my leg, just in case I run into a rabid camel awkwardly galloping through the streets of Oakland. You never know.)

I have recently been surprised to learn that other parents still do some preparation before leaving the house with their kids. Shocking, to say the least. I have been on play dates with these seemingly obsessive/compulsive parents, who still bring snacks for their kids, and, even worse, things for their kids to drink. When Malcolm and I are in the world, it’s like Ramadan. He gets nothing to snack on and can occasionally have some water if we are able to locate a drinking fountain that isn’t completely disgusting (a rarity in Oakland.)

When confronted with the reality of these other parents caring for their children, Malcolm and I look longingly at the fruits of their preparation, like the Amish teens who stare jealously at all the zippers on my parachute pants. Malcolm has recently begun asking the parents if they have brought him any snacks, causing the other adult to sneer at me and silently question, “Why am I the bad guy here? You’re the one who doesn’t look after your child!” For a while, I would plead ignorance, like I had no idea that I was supposed to bring supplies with us. Once you go on a few play dates though, that excuse doesn’t hold water anymore. Malcolm’s friends must either bring him an extra treat or endure the unwelcome humiliation of asking their kid to share a snack with Malcolm. (I wouldn’t share a tasty granola bar, but I sure don’t mind looking scornfully at another kid who declares that he won’t share with Malcolm!)

I know that I should just stick an emergency box of snacks in the car, but that requires preparation, a talent that I am severely lacking. I feel a certain sense of entitlement since Malcolm doesn’t wear diapers and I don’t need to bring a diaper bag with us, and I am going to hold fast to it. Sure, other parents must be annoyed by me, but I am fairly certain that they are going to be annoyed with me anyways, so why not pile on while I can. I’ll be the one laughing, though, when I save everyone by the marauding camels. Then who’ll seem prepared…

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…

Parental Responsibilities I Never Knew I Hated

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

No doubt, I miss this!

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing Malcolm For Creepy Guys In Vans

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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.

The Flip Side Of The Monster

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Purell Or Not Purell, That Is The Question

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Soap Box

It is a fact. Kids get dirty. Oh, you can try to stop them from picking up goose poop and then jamming their tiny little fingers in their nose (and then eating the whole mess, something we call the “Canadian Boogie” in our house,) but the truth is, kids are going to explore the world. Sometimes that means getting dirty. The real question is, “How do you deal with it?”

A growing group of parents are dealing with it by sanitizing the shit out of their kids. Each contact with germ laden materials is immediately met with a visit by the hand sanitizer fairy with the hope that a cleaner child is somehow a healthier child. In this world, there is no five second rule and touching anything at the doctor’s office is a strict no-no. Forget about play dates with the snotty kid from school. Germs are the enemy of the people and must be eradicated by any means necessary.

Well, I am here to tell you today that this is all nonsense.

I need a name for this drink

Sure, it’s handy to have a high-alchohol gel on hand to take quick nips from when you desperately need some hair of the dog to combat last night’s festivities, but it’s just not worth it. A recent Slate Article interestingly found that what this 100 million dollar a year industry doesn’t want you to know: these hand sanitizers won’t stop you from getting sick. Worse yet, a recent study found that pervasive use of these products will actually make you sicker later in life. The theory goes: if you expose yourself to germs early on, your body learns how to deal with them. When you don’t, your body struggles with germs later in life (in the same way that people who take up golf later in life suck at it.) Consider early childhood germs the equivalent of locking your child in a closet with a box of cigars so that they will think smoking is a disgusting activity. The kicker is that, since sanitizers can’t kill all of the bacteria, the bacteria that survive become resistant to anti-bacterials and become something totally frightening called “super bugs.” There’s only one place in this world where “super bugs” should be allowed and that’s in a smash up derby.

In light of all this, we have made a conscious decision to expose Malcolm to as much filth as possible. In China, we smiled when he grabbed a lollipop from a local kid and licked it, and smiled even more when he dropped it on the ground (in Tianenmen Square, mind you) and then plopped it back it his mouth. If he starts licking the backs of seats on an airplane, we call it, “character building.”  We don’t have a five second rule. In fact, we slow cook meals on the hood of the car. If it’s true that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Malcolm will become a bodybuilder (until he dies of E.Coli exposure.)

Oh sure, we tell Malcolm to wash his hands after pooping in the middle of dinner, but we don’t sweat the small stuff. Germs are everywhere, and each disgusting lollipop he eats is one bug that won’t get him later in life. One day he’ll figure out on his own that there are places his tongue doesn’t belong, but only because it’s embarrassing and not unhealthy. So let your kids give eskimo kisses to the snotty kid and at school, and if one day your kid’s  sandwich accidentally falls into a homeless person’s shoe, let it slide. They’ll be better off for it. We don’t carry around a diaper bag anymore, but, even if we did, it wouldn’t have Purell in it. No need to, it’s in the flask!

Interrogate Your Preschooler

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

A World Without Tantrums

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoops!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

Picking The School Scab

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Rotorua - paul at government gardens 2Are you the type of person that enjoys picking their scabs? Do you sniff your fingers after pumping gas? If someone says to you, “this tastes terrible, try it!” do you try it, or push the spoon away? I am a glutton for punishment, so I do all these things. (I also pay a squat German woman to bind my feet and call me Mulan while hurling dumplings at me, but don’t tell Amy that or she will think I am weird.)

I am currently torturing myself over the thicket that is Malcolm’s future education. Just when I make headway towards a decision, I reverse course 180 degrees. I then get overwhelmed and do jello shots to try and make the pounding in my brain disappear. I then repeat the whole process over the next day, and the vicious cycle continues.

We are currently attempting to decide between a montessori elementary school program and our local public school. No decision I have ever made with Malcolm seems as as important as this one, save my decision to let Malcolm watch Jerry Springer and have his vocabulary limited to, “You aint the boss of me!” As such, I keep mulling the decision in my head over and over again without ever really getting anywhere. Considering the enormousness of my midsection, you’d think that I would have a gut feeling leading me down one of the paths. I don’t. The only path my gut leads me to is the path to salami.

I hope that we will continue to weigh the prospective pros and cons and that we will make a conscientious decision with Malcolm’s best interests in mind. I also hope that day comes soon, because I am tired of the debate I have with myself over it. Sadly, I have a sneaky suspicion that I’ll miss a deadline and that Malcolm will get stuck going to a school operated by a guy with two left shoes who operates out of a leisure van. I guess it won’t be all that bad, because the man will probably ask Malcolm many times to smell his fingers and some of those times, his fingers will smell of gasoline.

How Things Have Changed

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

The 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.

The Kindergarten Question

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

Gentle and Gracious

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

When Kids Scream

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

The Difference Between Men and Boys

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memory Triggers

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone out there got any funny triggers?

Love the Sleepover; Hate the Sleepover!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We visited with some friends at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival this year. The festival was OK, lots of pumpkin foods, drunken hillbillies, and a sad little parade.  A raccoon ravaged my friend Austin’s garage, suggesting again that the raccoons of the world are out to ruin any fun that I may have.  I say that knowing that I was not the one shooshing the raccoon during the middle of the night armed with nothing but a tiny flashlight.  Way to fight the good fight, Austin and KC!  Malcolm enjoyed a never-ending supply of sweets, so he thought the weekend was a smashing success.

The one real noteworthy thing that transpired over the weekend was Malcolm and his 2.5 year old friend Henry slept in the same room.  For most of you, sleeping the in same room as someone else isn’t that big of an accomplishment.  That’s what prison teaches us, eh?  Henry, however, had not, so this was his first foray into cohabitation with someone other than his parents, and Malcolm played the role of the experienced older gentleman.  So, here it all is from friday and saturday nights:

The Good

Malcolm and Henry stayed in their room after it was their bed time.  This allowed us to socialize with Henry’s parents, who we like talking to and drinking wine with (although not necessarily in that order.) It laid a good foundation for the next step, a sleepover at either their house or ours.  The sleepover is perhaps the greatest invention in the history of parenting an only child: you get to leave your kid at someone else’s house and go out and enjoy yourselves, and then sleep in without having to pay for it!  The boys did not hurt themselves or the furniture, and even slept in til 7 am both days.

The Bad

The boys did not go to sleep quietly.  They stayed up until 10:30 or 11 each night, and were quite excited by having a little buddy to sleep play with.  They screamed, the squealed, they wrestled.  The second night, we all took turns going in the room and threatening them until they finally fell asleep.  Saturday night, the boys refused to go to sleep after it came to light that one of their stuffed animals had lost an eye.  Quite the animal enthusiasts, those two.  All told, the boys lost 5 hours of sleep over the weekend, and it showed.

The Ugly

To say that Malcolm was a train wreck on sunday morning is putting it lightly.  I would classify Malcolm on Sunday morning as a train running to a jumbo jet, and then crashing into a nuclear submarine, causing it the whole thing to explode.  He whined all morning long, and when we loaded him in the car to go to breakfast, he began biting, scratching and hitting anything he could get his hands on.  He threw our camera around the car like it was a football.  He was like a caged raccon! His tantrum extended to the return home (we did not stop for breakfast out of fear that he would have torn the restaurant apart, and that is saying something, because we were going to a biker bar!)  At home, he ripped every piece of clothing out of his drawers and even snapped a rubber band on Amy’s face.  He was in pretty rare form.

In the end, I am glad we did it, as the next time we get the boys together it should be easier. With the weekend safely under our belt, we can expect a lifetime of boys happily sleeping together, enjoying our friends, and drinking wine, although not in that order.

Bachelor Pad

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

I Used To Think TV Was A Bad Thing

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Malcolm is a spirited little boy, and, if left to his own devices, he would spend his entire day eating chocolate, hitting people with bats, and calling me a “stupid noodle head.”  To combat his tendencies, we have a variety of rules.  image If he violates the rules, he gets in trouble, ranging from going to his room to not getting to watch his favorite TV show, Little Bear.  He is a habitual rule violator, and suffers the consequences every time he does.

I think I know where he gets it from, because today, at my stay at home dad’s group, I broke a lot of rules.  The first rule we broke was the rule, announced by a large number of large signs around, that no alcohol was allowed at the park.  We get this now and again at parks that do not want large groups of men sitting around drinking beer all day.  Somehow, we have it in our heads that the people that made these rules would see things differently if the large groups of men sitting around drinking beer all day had kids with them.  So, we ignore the rule, and are prepared to argue that many sections of Oakland’s Municipal Code do not apply to stay-at-home dads.  Besides, the alternative to us sitting around drinking beer is for us to sit around and talk about our feelings, and goodness knows that is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

The second rule I broke was eating polish sausages that were past their expiration date.  I question any expiration date for hot dogs, as, in my humble opinion, lips and assholes will never go bad.  Also, the package said that they were “best by” September 5, and we cautiously accepted the fact that we were eating sausages that were not at their best.  When I say “we,” I mean me and one other guy, as the rest of the group was sensible enough to stick to food that was not considered rotten by the rest of the world.  (The other guy, Darren, and I decided to call each other tonight to check up on each other to make sure that we had not been done in by the spoiled weenies.)

The last rule I broke was self-imposed.  I ate some chips.  I am getting kind of chubby, so I have laid a rule down (for myself) to not eat any chips.  In the past few months, every picture that I am in looks like I am carrying Malcolm’s unborn sibling, so I am trying to stick to fruit at dad’s group.  This is quite difficult, for, if you haven’t noticed, potato chips look quite tasty.  Today, after a couple handfuls of cantaloupe and watermelon, I began cramming potato chips down my piehole like they were going out of style.  I stopped the chip parade only when the spoiled polish sausages came off the grill.  (I don’t think that I am any better off for it, but at least I didn’t put the chips in the bun with the weenie.)  I am anticipating that pictures for the next few weeks will look like we are having twins.

The question is, what punishment do I deserve?  I decided to give myself the punishment that Malcolm always gets.  I am not going to watch Little Bear today.  I don’t really mind, though; Monday Night Football is on tonight.  Now, the question is what to do with all those leftover polish sausages…

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.

Cleanliness is Far Away From Pauliness

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Why Is This So Hard?

Posted by admin in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

The Dilemmas of a Stay at Home Dad

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

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

Where Do We Pee?

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

Should I Have a Second Beer?

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

Do I Talk to Random Guys at the Playground?

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

Free Market Economics and the Piedmont Fourth of July Parade

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Some of you may be surprised to know this, but I was a economics major. As such, I believe in capitalism and free markets. There are occasions, where the market can fuck things up (health care, education, defense) so it is not to be trusted. In those instances, government intervention is warranted to correct market failures. Recently, I witnessed a market intervention far more insidious than anything the Republicans have accused Obama of doing.

While at the Fourth of July parade in Piedmont, I saw a parent grab candy and give it to their kid. I know, outrageous! The chief draw to this parade is that the people in the parade throw candy to the kids watching the parade from the sidewalks. (Think of it as Mardi Gras without the alcohol, beads or nipples.) If you are a kid, you have to be fast, because the longer the candy rests on the ground, the higher likelihood that some other, faster kid will beat you to the punch. Those are the rules of engagement, and we fully embraced them: if you wanted a sugary treat, you needed to outfox the pack. That is why Malcolm, with terrible hand/eye coordination and a natural inclination for public shyness, only got 3 pieces of candy at last year’s parade. Here’s what he looked like last year. The other side of the sign said, “Please Throw Me Candy, I’m Slow!” So in case you need help with the analogy, there is a market for candy at the Fourth of July parade, with each child free to operate to accumulate as much candy as possible. The parents are obviously not market participants (even if there is occasionally good candy in the mix) so they function as the role of the government, requiring action only when there is a market failure (like the biggest kid beating up the others and taking all their stuff.)

So, imagine my surprise when this year, Malcolm went down to pick up a lollipop, and WHAM! it was snatched up by some grandparent, who promptly handed the candy to an undeserving kid. Where was the market failure I ask you? Each child has the same chance to grab the sweets! Hey, if your kid can’t pick up the candy by themselves, they have no business eating it. I will overlook inherent contradictions in the right wing views on abortion or the death penalty, but I can’t stand idly by when some rich adult in Piedmont (probably minutes after lambasting welfare) takes candy out of Malcolm’s hand and gives it their useless piece of shit of a kid. My first reaction was to notify the World Trade Organization, but on further reflection, i figured that they might have bigger fish to fry. My only other alternative was to grab the candy out of the other kid’s hand, and explain that they would only get candy to eat if they figured out how to actually collect teh candy themselves. That seemed a little crazy, like when other parents ask malcolm to stop biting their kid, so I just grunted.

Warrantless interventions like this only perpetuate the problem because the undeserving are not incentivized properly. That kid will never learn how to get after it at the parade, and will probably legacy their way into good schools and great jobs, without ever having to learn the skills necessary for them to get what they want in life. In fact, giving candy to lazy kids will worsen the problem, because that candy will make the kid fatter and even more unlikely to be quick enough to seize upon the freebies next year. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but, well I am. I don’t care. Raise your kids right people!!!! Now, I wonder how all this works at Mardi Gras?

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?

Letter to Malcolm’s baseball coach

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.