Monthly Archives: March 2012

What You Say to Your Kids Isn’t Always What They Hear

I write for a living. All day long I wrestle with words, carefully and meticulously deciphering which ones I want to use to convey the right message to my audience. And then, when my workday is done, I come home and tend to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and these very blog pages to do more of the same. In short, words are my life.

 

Which is why I’m having a difficult time figuring out why I have so much trouble refraining from saying stupid and potentially harmful things in front of Will.

It’s not like I’m swearing in front of him or verbally abusing him. But

at least that would be easy to identify. Nope, what’s been happening lately is much more subtle (and far more frustrating). Unlike the past few years when Will couldn’t comprehend most of the things I’m saying, suddenly he understands EVERYTHING. Even if he doesn’t quite grasp the words I’m using, he somehow gets the concept and gist of what I’m talking about and the meaning behind it. And when I say something — regardless of my intended meaning — he takes it another way.

Case in point:

Me: “OK buddy, I’ve gotta go to the gym for a run.”
Will: “Dada, why do you run?”
Me: “Because I’m too fat. So I run so I can get skinny like you.”

Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it. I was calling myself fat (a fact) and I thought I was setting a positive example by showing him that it’s important to exercise and be fit. Nothing wrong with that right?

Well a few hours later after I got back, Will got really revved up and would not stop running around. It was like someone had mainlined Pixy Stix directly into his bloodstream. When I finally corralled him and asked him what was going on, I was floored by his answer.

“I’m getting fat so I needed to run like you, Dada.”

For some naive reason, I thought because I’m raising a son I would never have to deal with body issues and all that crap. Which is hysterical because I’ve hated the way I look and the fact that I’ve been pudgy since I was a kid. But suddenly I found myself knee deep in it.

I never meant to scare him or make him feel bad about himself, but I also failed to realize that by talking about myself negatively, it affects him too. To the point a 4-year-old had to exercise to avoid feeling fat. All because of an offhand comment I made in my rush to get to the gym. Now he’s intermittently afraid to take his shirt off in front of us because he thinks we’ll call him fat. And he’s obsessed with standing on the scale because he sees me weighing myself all the time.

I just can’t believe what started as me wanting to get healthy, go to the gym and live longer to enjoy life with my son, has turned into me giving aforementioned son unhealthy body issues and an obsession with weight at the tender age of 4.

Parenting ain’t easy.

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The Difference Between Moms & Dads

I’ve been married for six years now, which means I’m extraordinarily familiar with my wife’s vocal intonations. I can tell when she’s happy, sad, anxious, jealous, nervous, annoyed, and — most of all — pissed. So when the phone rang last week on my way home from work, it only took a few words to figure out she was FURIOUS!

“Your son got in trouble at preschool today,” she began (notice for some reason Will is always MY son when he’s in trouble). “You’re gonna be so angry when you hear this.”

“Oh boy,” I said as I imagined the worst. “How bad is it? What’d he do?”

“His teacher said he and his friends were playing superheroes and Transformers, and they were PLAY-FIGHTING!! They kept pretending to fight and hit each other right in the classroom!”

The silence that followed on my end of the conversation wasn’t meant for effect, I was simply waiting for MJ to finish the rest of the story. Because I assumed there would have to be more than that to warrant such contempt on her part.

“OK. Well, did he actually hit anyone?”

“No.”

“So he was playing superheroes with friends, no one hit anybody else, and he’s in trouble? Am I missing something?”

A “spirited” discussion took place from that point on, and the only thing that came out of it was the understanding that moms and dads view some things very, very differently. MJ was mad because she doesn’t want Will to fight, play fight, or mimic fighting in any way, shape or form. She just thinks it’s bad form and she plans on disciplining Will any time he engages in it. And to be fair, she’s not alone. I talked to several other parents and the moms largely agreed with her.

The dads on the other hand…

Sorry, but I don’t see anything wrong with what happened. Will clearly knows the difference between real and pretend. He knows full well that if he actually hits someone as a result of anything other than self-defense, it’s wrong and he’d be in some serious trouble. But he didn’t hit anyone. Simply put, I don’t think he did anything wrong.

I know it’s cliche, but boys will be boys. It’s too bad that’s become a bad thing over the years, but I still think it’s true. I let Will watch Spiderman, Batman, Superman and Transformers. Are there fights in them? Yup. Do I think that’s inappropriate for a 4-year-old? Not at all. Because I explain what’s appropriate and what isn’t, what’s real and what’s fake. And Will understands that. When he’s around his friends, they have sword fights and shoot Spiderman webs at each other. They aren’t malicious and they have good-natured fun.

But apparently that’s been deemed inherently evil by the powers that be. Because while boys are readily encouraged to play pretend in the kitchen and even put on dresses (which I’m also in favor of by the way), they’re not allowed anything that could even remotely resemble even the possible potential appearance of something so…violent. Oh the horror of pretend superhero play!!

Now he’s so upset from his teachers and MJ getting on him, he’s scared of playing superheroes at all. Worse than that, he rats out the perfectly normal boys who try to get him to play because he’s been told how bad it is. Basically they turned my son into a sissy narc, which is so sad to me. And completely unnecessary.

To be fair, when I got some more information from the school I found out Will ignored the teacher when she asked him to stop play fighting. And that is not acceptable. He knows he has to listen to adults and especially his teachers. And he was punished for that. But I couldn’t punish him for play fighting. Not a chance. He’s a normal kid and that’s normal kid behavior. It’s not destructive or malevolent, and it shouldn’t be a punishable offense.

I love moms and I love my wife. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. But I truly believe in my heart she’s wrong, the teacher is wrong and the school is wrong. They’re little boys and this is how boys play. I’m not sure why it’s discouraged when, in fact, it should be celebrated.

So I told Will it’s OK to do with his friends outside of school, but when he’s in school it’s not allowed. Obviously his first question was “Why?”

I wish I knew kid. I wish I knew.

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FatSlap Round 2: This One Hurt!

If you’re wondering what the hell FatSlap is, stop and read this. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You back? Then let’s proceed.

So as you know, Alex beat me in Round 1 by losing 50 lbs to my 21 lbs. This month we had an interesting monkey wrench thrown in when our friend Dave joined. As you might be able to guess, with Dave just beginning his weight loss he had the added advantage because Alex and I were plateauing. And, true to form, he ended up coming out on top.

Dave lost 20 lbs last month, a loss of 6%. That beat Alex’s 20 lbs lost, good for 5.7%. And even though I lost 12 lbs, I came in last with a monthly weight loss of 4.6%. Which means not only does slap me and Alex, Alex gets to slap me as well.

If you’re wondering how I handled this, I’ll refer you to one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting. There’s a scene in that movie when Matt Damon is talking to Robin Williams about his abusive foster father:

Will: He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, “Choose.”
Sean: Well, I gotta go with the belt there, Vanna.
Will: I used to go with the wrench.
Sean: Why?
Will: Cause fuck him, that’ why.

I figured if I was gonna get smacked, I was going to make it worth my while. So I proceeded to taunt, berate, mock and terrorize Dave for weeks. And it all culminated on our 4-hour ride up to Saratoga last week for a guys weekend with all my college friends, which is where the slaps took place. I questioned his manhood pretty much the entire time. So when it was finally his turn to slap me — well, see for yourself.

Yeah. I won’t lie, that shit hurt. But look at how much he completely pussed out when it came time to hit a guy who’s bigger than he is. Pathetic. But that’s OK, I’ll make it up to them both when I slap the bejesus out of them next month.

I won’t bore you too much with our progress but I’m proud of myself and these other two clowns. We’ve lost almost 125 lbs combined, but that doesn’t even begin to describe the positive effects resulting from this lifestyle change. Now that I’m 30 lbs lighter I can play with Will again without needing oxygen. I can walk up stairs without wheezing. I can run 3.65 miles in 40 minutes and I own the elliptical machine. Even incorporated some free weights and lifting into my routine.

The point is we’re all healthier and feeling better. Our lives are genuinely improving, and it looks like this might be more of a lifestyle change than a fad. Which is awesome.

Here’s the visual proof. I’ve included the first pictures to the most recent, going from left to right.

First up is Dave:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is Alex:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, me:

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Parenting is a Lot Like Golf

I hate golf.

Seriously, it’s a vile game. And one of the most frustrating experiences on the planet. Basically you spend hours on end hitting a dimpled ball with a crooked stick. You hook and slice a lot, but the ball seldom goes where you want it to. You hit the ball in the woods, in the sand and in the water. You try to work on the basics and get your swing right, but everything just seems to be going wrong. Which causes you to yell obscene profanities in a very straight-laced environment, but that’s nothing compared to the five clubs you smashed to bits in a fit of rage.

It gets so bad you’re ready to quit the game completely and never look back. Until…

You tee off on the last hole and it’s perfect. The ball rockets off your club and goes straight as an arrow towards the green. It lands and rolls three feet from the hole, leaving you slack-jawed and stunned. You forget all about your previous troubles and celebrate like mad, because that one perfect shot is suddenly all you can think about.

I’m starting to learn that golf is a lot like parenting.

Will was absolutely driving me nuts on Saturday. In addition to that, I just have a lot going on personally and at work and I was in no mood for his antics. My wife and I were standing outside an apartment in Mansfield, arguing about whether or not we should rent it because she loved it and I didn’t. We were both frustrated which means my parenting level was far from ideal. In golf terms I was in triple bogey territory.

But then came my hole-in-one. As I was leaving to go to the gym, Will stopped me and grabbed my hand.

“Dada, don’t go yet,” he said. “I want you to have this.” And with that, he handed me one of his most prized possessions — his toy Brachiosaurus. I asked him why he was giving it to me. Know what his answer was?

“Because I want you to have your best luck at the gym.”

And suddenly I was Tiger Woods (before the adulterous whore-mongering) winning the Masters. In golf, as in parenting, you fuck up. A lot. Let’s face it, parenting is largely trial and error, so you’re constantly shanking things and working to correct them. But when you suddenly see all your hard work culminate in a moment in which everything comes together and is perfect — well, you forget about everything else. All the shittiness melts away and all you can think about is that perfect moment.

And that’s what keeps you coming back again and again without giving up completely. I know I’ll end up in the bunker or some other hazard soon enough, but I’m enjoying the good times as they happen.

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Why I Don’t Want Any New Friends

There was a time — back in my youth before life made me jaded and cynical — when I loved meeting new people. It didn’t matter if they were friends of friends, strangers I’d befriend at the bar or even people I’d talk to online and then meet up with in real life. I was young, carefree and didn’t have a worry in the world. The more the merrier.

But now my motto is “no mas.”

I suppose it’s more than a little hypocritical for a blogger and communications major to say he hates meeting new people and making new friends. But it’s true. At least in real life. Meeting people online is great because, let’s face it, we communicate via Facebook status updates, comments and 140 characters at a time. It’s not like having “real life” friends because you can tune out or log off online. But in real life that’s not an option.

I love my friends. Both my real life friends and my online friends. But simply put, I’m done making new real life friends.

I know that makes me a misanthrope but I don’t care. I’m officially old, stubborn and set in my ways on this front. My real life friends have been there for years and they’re used to me. Because let’s face it — I’m not easy to get along with. I’m crass, brash, bold, loud and obnoxious. I make fun of everyone and everything, while expecting the same thing in return. Every time I hang out with my friends it’s basically a Comedy Central Roast. Nothing is sacred. But at the same time, no one takes offense. I don’t have to worry about offending them, making small talk with them or placating them with bullshit. It’s a nice little arrangement.

In a nutshell, I want to keep the friends I have and put a bubble over my world with a sign that says “New Friends Need Not Apply.”

But I made one big tactical error regarding my Bubble Plan.

MJ. She’s going back to school and still battling a host of medical maladies. In an effort to break her out of her funk, I told her to interact more with her classmates. In my head that meant study partners, homework buddies, etc. I never imagined — not even for a second — my advice might have repercussions outside the classroom. More to the point, I didn’t think it would ever affect me. Whoops.

“Hey babe, we’re going out to dinner Friday night,” MJ said to me a couple of weeks ago.

“Cool. Is it just you and me?” 

“No. We’re going out with friends,” she said with a hesitation that gave me pause.

“OK. Who? Dave and Amanda?”

“Nope.”

“Vic and Alicia?”

“Nope.”

“Craig and Kelly?” I said with a curious inflection.

“Nope,” she said, turning her face away from me which is what always happens when she’s about to deliver bad news.

“Well that’s curious since that about exhausts the list of friends with whom we can easily go out to dinner. What’s going on?”

“OK, don’t be mad but — “

I knew I was in trouble right away. Every husband knows nothing good has ever followed the words “Don’t be mad but…” And that’s when she told me she made dinner plans with a friend of hers from class. My jaw hit the floor. Partially because MJ had completely ignored the “No New Friends” rule, but also because it’s so out of character for MJ to put herself out there like that.

“Really?” I said with a mix of disgust and surprise. “Who is this girl??”

“Well,” she said. “Don’t be mad but…”

Yup. A double dose of trouble. MJ went on to tell me weren’t just going out with her friend from class, we were going out with her boyfriend. Alarm bells and sirens started going off in my head as the word “WARNING! WARNING!” repeatedly sounded through my brain.

Since I’m incapable of hiding my emotions and I have no filter, the look on my face must’ve told MJ exactly what I thought about her plans. But I can’t help it. I automatically think of all the forced small talk, the get-to-know you background conversations, the how-did-you-meet stories. And all the while I’m fighting the urge to check my email, jump on Facebook and tweet about what a horrible time I’m having.

Yes, I’m a dick. I know. And so does MJ. That’s why she wasn’t surprised at my complaining. I told her I hate the get-to-know you crap, the niceties and polite dinner conversation asking all the usual questions. Which is why she cringed when she dropped the third bombshell on me.

“Well, actually you can’t ask them about how they met or any of that stuff. They just broke up.”

“Uhhhh…what?” I said in disbelief.

“Yeah. They broke up. But she’s hoping this dinner will help get them back together.”

Boom. There it is.

We haven’t even been out with these new people yet and it’s already more trouble than it’s worth. Sure I hate the usual small talk, but at least it’s an option. Now MJ gives me a list of questions I’m not even allowed to ask them. Furthermore, she told me I had to pretend I didn’t know they were broken up because it would just cause unnecessary drama. I’ve never even met these people and I’m already mixed up in their personal relationship issues. It’s bad enough to go out with new people and find out their weird idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes in due time, but this is a whole other ball of wax. This is craziness right off the bat and the whole thing is starting off based on lies — they’re lying about still being together and I’m lying about not knowing about their break up.

All I can picture is going out for dinner with two people who’ve spent the last week fighting and having several of those 6-hour should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-break-up marathons. After a few drinks they start bickering with each other and throwing out little verbal jabs. Then comes the screaming match complete with a drink thrown in his face, followed by the two of them storming out of the restaurant before they can pay their portion of the check, which the waitress just dropped in our lap.

This is what happens when you open The Bubble!!

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