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Where’s the F***ing Remote!?

3/02/2009

If you are anywhere near my age, you’ll remember when you were the channel changer?

“Hey, Junior! Get up and put Channel 4 on. The game starts in five minutes,” your Dad would yell.

And you’d have to get up and mosey over to the television. Click. Click. Click. And twist the dial to channel four.

Sometimes you even had to turn the fine tuner around the edge of the dial. Remember that? Or, worse yet, someone had to go up on the roof and finagle with the antenna.

“How’s this?” The voice would scream down. Your job was to relay the message to Mom.

“Still fuzzy!” She’d yell in return. Back in the day, it was always still fuzzy.

And then came cable and satellite. And we have “the clicker”. The channel changer. Or, as I call it in my house, the penis, because only the men have it.

For the last eight years we’ve let my son handle the penis. And for eight years he’s been irresponsible with it. He’s always wedging it between the sofa cushions. Hiding it. Storing it.

“Dude, don’t do that. You’ll lose the channel changer,” I said.

“I always do that,” he says.

“Yeh, and you always lose the channel changer.”

“We don’t lose it. I know where it is. I hide it so that no one can turn off my channel.”

So if the channel changer is always lost in your house, as it is in mine, maybe what you need to do is get Junior to get up and change the channel. He’ll eventually get tired and cough up the remote.

Cutting Room Floor
Sadly, one joke was edited out. Edited out by the Supreme One, the Wife-beast.

I wanted to say “… or, as I call it in my house, the penis, because only the men have it and Mommy always wants it.”

Okay. Okay. There’s more to that joke too “… Mommy always wants and complains that Daddy doesn’t know how to use it.”

There, I said it. I hope you’re happy.

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Of Boys, Swords, and Balloon Animals

30/01/2009

Once a year my wife volunteers at a local Head Start and makes balloon animals for the kids. The children are between 3 and 5-years-old. Her plan is always to make one type of balloon animal for all this kids; this way no child feels s/he got ripped off.

They could pick whatever color they wanted, but she limited them to that one animal.  This, she figured, would stop arguments and quell hurt feelings before they happened.

Balloon puppies only. Smart plan.

“Many of the boys wanted swords,” she told me afterwards.

“Did you make them swords?” I asked.

“No. I made them puppies.”

“Did they have sword fights with the puppies?”

“Of course they did.”

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My Sister-In-Law’s Boobs

28/01/2009

After having two children, my wife’s sister opted for a boob job. I don’t know the details of said job, I just know that she fills out her shirt a little more fully than she had in the past.

“From my angle, your boobs looked fine before,” I told her shortly after her surgery.

“You were looking at my falsies, perv,” she said. “Hell, they’re still in my closet. I’ll give them to you and you can take them out to look at them any time you want. You’ll be pleased; they even have nipples.”

I’m still waiting for them.

I told you that story to tell you this one:

Her oldest son is eight-years-old now. The other day he asked her if she had ever had surgery.

Without thinking, she answered, “Yes.” He was quick with a follow-up question.

“What? Did you break your ankle?”

She knew where this line of questioning was going and was concerned. “No. Not my ankle.”

He started naming suspected surgery sites starting at the ankle and moving north. ” Your knee? … Your leg? … Your hip?”

“No. No. No.”

“Your penis!”

“I’m a girl. I don’t have a penis.”

Skeptical he said, “They took it off, didn’t they?”

Finally he got to her breasts. “Your boobs. Did you have surgery on your boobs?”

Defeated, she just said, “Yes. My boobs.”

He thought about that for a moment and then gave her some advice: “Maybe you should just tell people you had surgery on your ankle.”

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Ten Rules of Parenting

19/01/2009

About a week ago, I published my First Rule of Parenting. Turns out it was really my Second Rule of Parenting.

You see, Michelle Catalano of “a big victory” fame found the original essay and emailed it to me. The essay was published at a now defunct website for goofballs like me who, for some reason, the state allowed to keep their children. The website’s name was “Raising Hell.”

Michelle found some of her old essays too. She posted a couple. Take a look.

I thought I had ten rules. The original essay only had seven. When I first wrote the essay, I had two children. Now I have three.

The extra child and extra years afforded me three more rules. Now there is a nifty, round ten. Enjoy them. Use them. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

:::

I am a registered nurse. And I was the first among my friends to have children. As such I’m often asked for advice on raising and caring for children; and when I’m not asked I’m usually tossing something out there anyway.

Over the years I’ve developed my Rules of Parenting.

Read them. Commit them to memory. And don’t leave the nursery without them.

Jim’s First Rule of Parenting
Prior to the baby’s birth, I tell all moms-to-be (and the dads too, if they’re not too distracted by the Ranger game) to read everything they can regarding babies and childcare.

Subscribe to every magazine. Grab every brochure and flyer at the obstetrician’s office. Absorb everything. Study tirelessly.

And when the child is born, throw all the books and magazines away. Forget everything you read.

None of them were written about your baby. None of them.

Jim’s Second Rule of Parenting
Don’t kill the baby. Ever.

Most people think I’m kidding with this one. I assure you, I am not.

There will be a time — I can’t predict when that time will be, perhaps the child hasn’t slept in 36 hours, perhaps she hasn’t stopped crying for 12 hours, I don’t know — but there will be a time when the sleep deprivation kicks in full force and you haven’t showered for days where the unthinkable almost sounds sane.

Resist the urge.

Don’t kill the baby. Ever.

I’ve been thanked for this one. A lot.

(You can see this rule in a different form here.)

Jim’s Third Rule of Parenting
Don’t ever tease, kid, or otherwise joke with a social worker from the Division of Youth and Family Services. Their senses of humor are not well-developed. And they take their jobs very seriously.

Trust me on this one. I made the mistake so you won’t have too.

Jim’s Fourth Rule of Parenting
Trust the Mom.

If you are the Mom, trust yourself.

Mom’s instincts are keen.

If Mom thinks something is wrong with the baby, then something is wrong. If Mom thinks she knows what it is, follow her to the end.

If Mom thinks the baby is ready for solid food, then solid food it is. If Mom thinks … well … you know what I mean.

Jim’s Fifth Rule of Parenting
Never. Ever. Disturb. A. Quiet. Safe. Child. Ever.

Not even to ask how they’re doing. Not even to praise them. Not to tell them it’s lunchtime.

Don’t say anything. Just peek. Acknowledge to yourself that the child is safe. And go about your business.

If you disturb the child you run the very real risk of upsetting the Cosmic Equilibrium and altering God’s Unknowable Plan. All hell will break loose.

Your morning/day/evening (yes, all three) will be ruined. And you’ll probably lose sleep and argue with your spouse.

It’s not worth it. Leave the kid alone.

Jim’s Sixth Rule of Parenting
One Saturday morning when she was very young, my daughter climbed on my bed and, with deep pride and sincerity, told me, “You can put your finger in your hole and it doesn’t even hurt.”

I did not to panic. Instead I just said, “Huh? How about that. Go wash your hands, and then come on back to bed with me and we’ll watch some cartoons.”

To this day, I have no idea which hole she was talking about, how she found it, or if she ever did it again. I never asked. It’s probably none of my business.

That’s a good rule, I think. They’re going to touch their bodies. Don’t freak out about it.

Similarly, there will be a time when they want to be naked. Hopefully it’s not when the reverend’s wife is over for tea and crumpets. I say, let ‘em be naked.

Unless she’s on the couch with her 17-year-old boyfriend. And then there’s a whole other set of rules. Starting with:

Jim’s Seventh Rule of Parenting
At first I was going to say, “Trust their decisions.” Screw that. The Seventh Rule has to be: CONDOMS!

I always thought I would be the prudish dad. You know the one: “No sex before marriage!” or, better yet, “No sex while I’m still alive!”

But it’s not going to happen that way. She will have sex before marriage (and before my wake) — so will the other two. And I don’t want any grandkids before it’s time.

If my girl even hinted to me that she needed, ahem, protection there would be a case of condoms in the trunk of her car before the engine even warmed up.

Condoms.

Jim’s Eighth Rule of Parenting
Just be around. Have some sort of routine.

When I look back at being a kid, the best thing in the world was knowing that at 5 o’clock Pop would be home and at 5:30 there would be dinner on the table.

It didn’t matter if Pop was in a bad mood (and he never was) or that dinner included lima beans (and you’d still be eating them cold at 7:30. alone. in a darkened dining room). What mattered is that it happened. And all was right with the world.

Just be around.

Another thing that went a long way with me when I was a teenager was seeing Pop at a golf tournament. I didn’t know he was there. He didn’t tell me he was coming.

He waited along the fence on the 13th hole of some course neither of us had ever played before. I don’t know when he got there or how long he waited to see me. We didn’t acknowledge each other.

But he was there.

We never mentioned it to each other. It still means the world to me.

Just be around.

Jim’s Ninth Rule of Parenting

Wing it. That’s right, wing it.

Make it up as you go along. That’s what your parents did. And that’s what their parents did. And that’s what their parents did before them.

It seems to work. Why change now?

Jim’s Tenth Rule of Parenting

The most important rule of all: Love them. That’s it, just love them.

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Jim’s First Rule of Parenting

13/01/2009

She said the children were were “rambunctious and interfering with her television show.” So she sent the two older ones to another room and put the 5-month-old baby in the dryer and turned it on.

The baby is dead, of course.

If you have kids, or if you babysit, you have to realize that kids are jackasses. Among the things they love to do, especially the young ones, is to be rambunctious and to interfere with your television viewing. Get used to it. Better yet, stop watching television.

They’ll also interfere with your napping. I love a nap, and I haven’t had a decent one since 1991.

Let me back up a little. I have three kids. Each one is six or seven years older than the other. I’ve had a person under six years of age in my home every goddamned day for almost 20 years. In those two decades of being charged with the care of the littlest of people, I’ve picked up a few things. Here’s one of them:

I was also the first of my friends to have children. I have given each of my friends the same piece of advice when they were “expecting.”

I take the couple aside and look them earnestly in the eyes and say, “Don’t kill the baby. Don’t laugh; I’m as serious as a heart attack. There is going to be a time when killing the baby will be on the list of things you can do to stop the baby from crying. I’m not saying that it’s going to be very high on your list, but it will flash up there. And thinking of it doesn’t make you a bad person. Just don’t do it. Don’t kill the baby. I’m serious.

“One day — perhaps it’s 3AM, you’ve only slept four-and-a-half hours in the last two days, and the baby is still screaming — it’ll flash up there, ‘I know! I’ll just hold a pillow over her face and she’ll stop crying! This is going to work! I’m a genius.’ It’s then that I want my voice to echo in your head, Jim said, ‘Don’t kill the baby.’ So don’t. Don’t kill the baby.”

I know for a fact that that advice has kept one of my friends’ wives out of prison. She called and thanked me.

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Gender Crisis

9/01/2009

On the last day of fourth grade, my daughter came off the bus crying inconsolably.

“What’s the matter, Baby?”

sob I got an F sniffle

My daughter was then and always has been a wonderful, prideful student. She’s always gotten A’s, and would not have it any other way.

“An F? In what?” I asked.

With more sobs and sniffles, she handed over the report card. I opened it.

An A here and a B there. No F’s.

“Where’s the F, Baby?”

She took the report card from my hands, closed it and, tears still in her eyes, pointed to a spot on the front of the card.

There it was. Under her name, under her teacher’s name, and under her class room number:

“Gender – F”

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The ittibittiness

24/11/2008

I’ve been given the assignment of writing something about my daughter for her high school yearbook — she’s graduating this year. A photograph of her as a baby will accompany the essay. I have 200 words. Here’s what I just wrote:

She was so small. One of the smallest people we ever knew. She weighed just under six-and-a-half pounds. And she was ours.

We were young when we met her, in our mid-20s. She didn’t say much at first. Just looked around and strained to make out the blur that was this bright, loud world.

We had to hold her opposite of the way you’d hold most babies. She didn’t like the chest-to-chest kind of snuggle hold; at least not when there were things to see. She wanted to face the world, not turn her back to it.

She was so small that she was lost in the car seat that took her home. So small in our hands. Smaller still in our arms. We called her the ittibittiness. Still do from time-to-time. She smiles when she hears it. And she’s our baby again.

When we got home we placed her on the couch between us. She was sleeping. We looked at each other and asked, “What next?”

18 years of “what-nexts” have brought us here. The ittibittiness is graduating high school. We are very proud of you.

We love you.

What next?

Mom & Dad

196 words.

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Loud and Clear

26/10/2008

The father of one of my 4-year-old’s friends is deaf. I’ve seen him at several functions and spent time with him at a birthday party today.

Even though we share little more than a friendly smile and a knowing nod, I find the man to be engaging. I pay attention to him and wonder what he does to make it in a world that is so full of sound. I was surprised by something I realized and a little sad that I haven’t quite pulled it off in my life.

He and his daughter, mutually, were always in visual awareness of one another. She knew dad was watching her, not just babysitting or “watching out for her”, but visually aware of her at all times — absorbed by her; similarly she was visually aware of him. They shot constant glances and reassuring smiles at one another. They are in each others moment. It’s not like if she needed him, she could call to get his attention by calling his name. Ditto for him to her (even if he can make noise, it probably isn’t instinctive for him to use it to get someone’s attention).

And when they talked (in sign language), they were also in each others moment. For those of us who can hear, conversation is often distracted and disjointed — attention is taken away by television or by haste or the ringing telephone, all sorts of things. There seems to be no room for that when you are conversing using sign language–you have to stay there, in the moment, and pay attention. These two have that in spades. And, you know what, I was a little jealous of it.

They were also very physical with each other. There was a lot of touching — it’s how they got each other’s attention or directed the other to see something. And when they laughed, they would touch the other’s face or shoulder. They often talk close, sometimes touching the other’s hand gently in the middle of a signing stream as if to say, “I know” or “You don’t have to say anymore.” I was a little jealous of that too.

Maybe I don’t give people (particularly my children) enough of my undivided, visual attention. Maybe I don’t touch my children enough.

When I came home from the party I looked up how to say, “Hello. My name is Jim.” in American Sign Language. It’s pretty easy.

The next time I see my deaf friend, I’m going to touch him on the shoulder to get his attention. And then I will tell him my name.

I’m looking forward to his company.

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Children Learn What They Live

24/10/2008

Torrence, California. 1954. Dorothy Law Nolte quickly wrote a poem for the Torrence Herald’s weekly family advice column. And forgot about it.

Between 1954 and 1972, her poem had been reprinted in at least 30 languages and was hung up on refrigerators all across the world. She had no idea.

In 1972, she found the poem being given away. It was packaged with “baby nutrition products” to new parents. Millions of the poems were distributed.

Dr. Nolte decided to take ownership of the poem and had it copyrighted. Shortly after that she used the poem as the keystone for a book of the same name: Children Learn What They Live.

The world would be better place if we parents would, once again, hung Dr. Nolte’s poem on our refrigerators. I know I would be a better parent if I had these as a constant reminder every time I reached for the milk for my coffee:

If children live with criticism,
              They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
               They learn to fight.
If children live with fear,
              They learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity,
              They learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule,
               They learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy,
               They learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame,
               They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
               They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
               They learn patience.
If children live with praise,
               They learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance,
               They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
               They learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition,
               They learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing,
               They learn generosity.
If children live with honesty,
               They learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness,
               They learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration,
               They learn respect.
If children live with security,
               They learn to have faith in themselves and in
               those about them.
If children live with friendliness,
               They learn the world is a nice place in
               which to live.

Dr. Nolte died in November of 2005. Her obituary can be still be read in the LA Times archive. A history of the poem (with variations) can be found on Hawaii’s Pineapple Middle School’s website.

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