Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Parent-Teacher Conference

Here we go. Judgment Day. It all comes down to this.

On Monday we had our first parent-teacher conference at Will’s preschool. And if you think it’s more than a little odd and disconcerting to have a parent-teacher conference for a 2.5-year-old, you’re not alone. When I first saw the sign-up sheet I did a double take. But being new to the school and not wanting to seem like an inexperienced rube of a first-time parent, I dutifully signed up for a time to sit down with Miss Heather, our son’s teacher, and acted like it was no big deal.

But I was panicked on the inside. And the anxiety bubbling to the surface was nothing short of an impending volcanic eruption.

The rational part of my brain knows Will is only 2.5 years old. I know even though they’re calling it a “parent-teacher conference,” at this age there really can’t be too much to discuss. After all, what’s the worst they could say? Will doesn’t eat all of his lunch? He’s not quiet during story time? He eats too much paste during arts and crafts? He’s just a little kid.

Yet there I was before the meeting, stressing the fuck out.

I pictured Miss Heather telling us he doesn’t get along well with others. That he has no social skills. I worried about hearing that Will spends his days carving the heads off of dolls and chanting methodically in the corner. After all, surely these conferences are documented. Whatever atrocities Will has committed will no doubt be recorded on his permanent record and be forwarded to the advanced recruiters for all the Ivy League schools. Because this is serious shit. Right??

The whole experience also rocketed me straight back to the 6th grade and had me reliving my own parent-teacher night from 20 years ago. I was in Mr. Silvia’s math class and for the first time in my life I was struggling. That is to say, I wasn’t getting an “A” in a subject. And I was distraught. Things had come so easily for me up until that point and my parents were used to seeing a cavalcade of straight As on my report card. But middle school math came out of nowhere and made me its bitch. And the thought of my parents finding out what was happening was making my physically sick.

Fast forward to present day and that vomitous feeling returned, but this time I found myself on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Turns out I’m an idiot and all my fretting was needless.

Miss Heather said Will is ridiculously advanced for his age, acclimating well to his new school and — most important — getting along well with his classmates. Which is something he had big trouble with in the past. Soon he’ll be transitioning to the preschool part of the school and the curriculum will get a little more intense. But it sounds like he’ll be able to handle it just fine.

I always swore I wasn’t going to be one of those overbearing parents who makes a huge deal out of things like parent-teacher conferences. But walking into a situation in which your kid — and by extension you, as parents — will be judged and graded, is nerve-racking as hell. I’m not sure if Miss Heather could tell how tightly wound I was during the meeting, but I’ve realized going forward I need to relax and take it all in stride.

I was so uptight as a kid about my grades I’d have mini nervous breakdowns once every couple of months. My goal as a parent is to find that middle ground where I stress the importance of hard work and good grades, without sending Will careening over the edge of anxiety.

Easier said than done.

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Avada Kedavra

While most of my fifth-grade peers were reading the Baby Sitters Club and Choose Your Own Adventure books, I was knee deep in Stephen King’s macabre world of murderous classic automobiles, axe-wielding hoteliers and unfortunate authors whose caretakers chop off their feet.

It’s safe to say my parents were pretty liberal with what I read and watched on TV from an early age.

Don’t worry, this is not another boring diatribe about the pros and cons of exposing our children to graphic novels and allowing them to watch too much TV. I was a kid who watched a ton of TV and began reading horror books at the age of 10, and that love of reading and the vocabulary I picked up from television helped me immensely. And I fully intend on raising Will the same way.

I won’t lie, part of it is because children’s programming is truly atrocious and mind-numbing. So the answer is yes, I want Will to watch some of what I watch because I’m not willing to share the TV. That’s probably why Will recognizes Family Guy immediately and loves it when the Red Sox and Patriots grace our living room in all their HD glory.

But our favorite thing to watch together, by far, is Harry Potter.

Will knows that Harry can fly on a broomstick and play Quidditch. He knows Dumbledore is Harry’s teacher and friend. He loves Hagrid because Hagrid is a giant, and who in his right mind doesn’t love giants? He knows Hogwarts School of Wizardry & Witchcraft is where Harry, Hermione and Ron go to classes together. And he knows that Harry & friends use a wand to cast their spells and create magic.

Unfortunately, the only spell he knows is “Avada Kedavra.” Also known as the killing curse.

I know there are those of you out there who think it’s highly inappropriate for me to teach my 2.5-year-old about death as he keels over from the wicked spell I repeatedly threw at him, but you can all go screw yourselves. Because that shit is flat out hysterical!

To the haters I say, Avada Kedavra!

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What If Dads Had Job Interviews?

daddyinterviewWhat if every potential parent had to go through the job interview process?

RECRUITER: “So, Aaron, you’re here for the father position right?”

ME: “That’s right sir. But I have to admit I’m a little confused by the classified ad. It just says ‘self-starter and jack of all trades required.’ Can you be a little more specific about what this position entails?”

RECRUITER: “Hmmm, where to begin? Well, maybe it would be better if you asked specific questions.”

ME: “OK. First of all, what are the hours like? Is this a 9 to 5 kind of thing?”

RECRUITER: “Well, I’ll be honest. The hours for this particular job can add up pretty quick. Mainly because you work around the clock.”

ME: “I’m sorry, did you say around the clock?”

RECRUITER: “That’s right. It’s a 24/7 position. Even if you’re asleep in the middle of the night, it doesn’t matter. You show up when you’re needed, no questions asked.”

ME: “Um, ok. So how does that affect my vacation time?”

RECRUITER: “Ah yes. Vacation. Well, the good news is you still get some vacation. Two weeks to be exact.”

ME: “Phew. OK, now we’re talking. I’ve had a trip to Vegas all planned out in my head for awhile and I think it’d be great to go with some friends, play blackjack all night, get wasted…”

RECRUITER: “Yeah. I don’t think so. You see technically you get vacation, but it’s not really the same kind of vacation you’ve gotten used to. In fact, your time away from work will actually be more stressful than your regular work week. And forget Vegas, think more along the lines of Disney World. Or your local disease-infested Chuck e Cheese.”

ME: “Wow. So can you describe what my work environment will be like?”

RECRUITER: “Well, you’ll definitely need to be a multi-tasker. In this job you’ll never do just one thing at a time ever again. There’s also a large amount of housekeeping duties you’ll be tasked with. Laundry, dirty dishes, mopping the floor and then some more laundry. You’ll also be required to lift increasingly heavy bundles, and you must possess a valid driver’s license because you’ll basically be a chauffeur in your ‘spare time.’”

ME: “Holy shit. Anything else I should know about additional job duties?”

RECRUITER: “No no no, it’s really not that bad. Although you will need to be a handyman because it will be your responsibility to fix just about everything that gets broken. Not to mention you’ll need a fair amount of medical expertise as well. No need to perform surgery or anything, just kissing boo-boos and dealing with minor cuts and bruises. Oh, and I’d like for you to have some expertise in the paranormal when you’re tasked with chasing away ghosts and monsters.”

ME: “The paranormal? Medical training?? Anything else?”

RECRUITER: “Actually yes. Have you ever worked with hazardous materials? Because I should warn you now you can’t do this job with a weak stomach. It’s pretty much a given you’ll be dealing with human feces for the first few years and I can say with 100% certainty you will be urinated on.”

ME: “I’m going to be peed on? Whoa. OK, this was not what I expected. If I’m going to have human poop on me this job better have some ridiculous health insurance benefits.”

RECRUITER: “Nope. In fact, you pay for their medical costs.”

ME: “Oh. Well then the pay for this job must be off the charts. Let’s hear it.”

RECRUITER: “I can absolutely see how you’d think that. But here’s the kicker. You ready? YOU actually pay THEM.”

ME: “Get the fuck out of here.”

RECRUITER: “First of all you’re also charged with being a role model, so no swearing. Second, I’m not kidding. You do all this work and put in countless hours of overtime. You’re never off the clock and even if you manage to get away for a few hours, your mind never leaves the job. You’re a doctor, a chauffeur, a disciplinarian, a teacher, a cleaner, a cook and a repairman and you do it all with endless patience and an unbreakable sense of humor. And you’ll have this neverending job for the rest of your life.”

ME: “I’m sorry if this seems insensitive but I have to ask: why the hell would anyone ever take this job?”

RECRUITER: “Two reasons. I’ll show you the first one.”

ME: “OK, I admit it. That looks pretty awesome. But I’m gonna need a little more than that to accept the position. What’s the other reason?”

RECRUITER: “An essential part of the job is having sex first.”

ME: “Sign me up.”

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These Dads are Good

Journalism is my job and I love it. But writing about being a father is my passion.

Up until now I’ve strictly used my own blog to talk about all things parenting. But in the nearly three years I’ve been doing the daddy blogger thing, I’ve also been able to meet some truly great guys who are dedicated to being the best dads possible, all while chronicling their adventures with intelligence, sarcasm, wittiness and a steely resolve. I’ve learned from them, been in awe of them and always wished there was some way I could collaborate with them.

Thanks to the Good Men Project, that is now a reality.

The good people over at GMP approached me a couple of months ago and asked if I’d be interested in rounding up some of the best dad bloggers out there who could contribute to a new website they wanted to start. They wanted to create a place where involved dads from different backgrounds could come together and start a frank discussion about all things fatherhood. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and we launched today.

Welcome to Dads’ Good!

I really hope you guys will take the time to check us out, because I think we’ve got a really good thing going and it’s only gonna get better. In addition to myself, we’ve rounded up some truly unbelievable dads and writers who I think will take off like a rocket.

Ron Mattocks, Derek Markham, Craig Playstead, John Cave Osborne and Jason Avant are some of the best in the business. The fact that I’m mentioned with them is humbling in and of itself, but working to help spearhead the project is a great opportunity for which I’m incredibly grateful. I purposefully don’t sign on to many projects because I wait to work on something in which I really believe. This is one of them.

So please, if you have a minute, go over and check it out. And more importantly, click on the “Like” button and leave comments because we need to show the Good Men Project we can pull our own weight.

Showing the world that dads are just as involved as moms is something really important to me. And let me tell you, these guys and their writing will do just that. You will cry, you will laugh and you will shake your head at our ridiculousness. But you will be entertained and you’ll be supporting a movement to make fathers equal partners in parenting.

Thanks guys! And let me know what you think.

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Proud To Be Lame

We’re in a recession. Only the well-to-do folks with bottomless pockets out there are immune to the financial woes currently affecting millions of Americans. If you’re anything like me you’re cutting corners wherever you can, whether that means getting rid of HBO, eliminating going out to restaurants or making the painstaking decision to seriously curb your addiction to high class prostitutes.

The point is, everyone knows times are tough. Everyone, it seems, except Toyota.

When I first saw this I was in shock. And when that wore off, I skipped straight to anger.

Here we are in one of the worst financial situations since the Great Depression. Unemployment is rampant, job creation is nil and foreclosures are spiking faster than Tiger’s 3-wood at last call. So with Americans teetering on the edge of crisis and struggling to stretch every dollar to the max, I have to ask what marketing genius at Toyota thought it’d be a good idea to label prudent consumers as “lame?”

The dad in the commercial with the humiliated son is driving a beat up old station wagon. He probably doesn’t have any payments on it, thus saving him several hundred dollars a month. But instead of continuing to use that money to pay down his mortgage or squirrel it away for that little brat’s college tuition, Toyota thinks he should spend $35,000 on a new vehicle just to avoid being thought of as “lame” by his spoiled son.

Talk about not being in touch with your target demographic.

And what is up with that annoying kid? First of all, he’s like 9 years old and wearing skinny jeans. And in other versions of the commercial, he pulls up next to another kid whose parents are driving an old beater. The uncool kid’s parents are singing and trying to engage their son while Skinny Jean Boy boasts about his “Kid Cave” and simply blocks it all out by plugging in his headphones to watch TV in the back of his car while his parents drive. The message is supposed to be the parents ignoring their son are the good guys while the happy-but-albeit-dorkish parents are the dolts.

Because nothing says good parenting like making sure your kid is glued to a TV even in the car.

Look, I know Toyota is out to sell cars. And in the interest of full disclosure, I drive a Toyota Highlander. A 2002 Toyota Highlander with 130,000 miles on it. I’m just confused why Toyota decided to go in this direction after their notorious recalls regarding brake problems, steering issues and — of course — the sticky accelerators that allegedly sent several people careening to their deaths at 120 MPH. After all of that, they actually thought the best course of action was to insult the discerning customer while pimping their new product with a message of “your kids will finally think you’re cool.”

The only thing lame here is Toyota. And that little kid.

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