Tag Archives: bad parents

Why I Hate Playing with My Son

playwithson“Dad, do you wanna play?”

This sounds horrible, but lately those are the words that strike fear into my heart. And before you get all bent out of shape about the headline of this post (which is definitely linkbait to get you to click on it and elicit that exact reaction — sorry), it’s not that I NEVER want to play with my son. It’s just 1) I can’t stand the kind of playing he’s talking about and 2) I’m terrible at it.

This is all my fault. You see, the whole concept of “play” to me — even as a child — has never been like most kids. I have absolutely no imagination. I know that’s odd for a writer, but it’s true. Even as a kid I never understood all my friends playing “imagination.” Pretending to walk on the moon? Sorry, there’s no gravity and you’d need an astronaut’s suit or else you’d die. Traveling back in time? Not without a DeLorean. Playing with dinosaurs? Sorry, but I learned about fossils and preferred not to harbor any delusions about an extinct species coming back to life.

But seriously, to me “playing” was always well defined, and never nebulous. Usually it was sports. If someone wanted to play then it was baseball, basketball, soccer or tossing the football around. There were defined rules, plenty of structure and always a winner and loser. And if it wasn’t sports, then it was a board game or (when I got older) a video game.

I was just a peachy little kid wasn’t I?

Will, however, isn’t anything like me. And while that’s probably a good thing, I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to relate to him when he wants to play with me. At first I tried to redirect him towards sports. So we tried playing catch and kicking the soccer ball around outside, but I could tell he wasn’t into it. Then I’d break out one of the many games we have, but it’s just not his bag and he got sick of it after a few minutes.

Then he’d start making all these weird requests that not only didn’t make sense to me, but also annoyed me. Stuff like:

  • “Dad, pretend you’re a Parasaurolophus (yes, he actually differentiates between this and other dinosaurs) and I’m a space monkey.”

and

  • “Dad, I’ll be Spiderman and you be Batman and we’ll fight the Transformers but we’ll ride on dragons that poop eyeballs on the bad guys.”

MJ loves it and encourages it. She supports his creativity and imagination, seamlessly adding to it and fostering it in a way that just mystifies me. It’s not that I’m some heartless and uncaring jerk, I really just don’t get it. I don’t understand why people want to pretend when truth is so much stranger and cooler than fiction. I don’t get how MJ’s first reaction isn’t to correct his misstatements and set him straight. And I don’t get how living in a fantasy world of kooky imagination is any fun at all.

But after awhile, the one thing I knew all too well was that he could tell I wasn’t into it and his feelings were hurt. And making my son sad is the truly unacceptable thing in this whole scenario. So, I decided the next time the opportunity presented itself I’d switch gears.

“Dad, do you wanna play?”

The game consisted of a tennis ball and two Velcro circles you wear on your hands that are shaped like frogs. You throw the ball to the other person and it sticks on the Velcro, as if the ball is being caught in the frog’s mouth. But after a few minutes of straight catch, Will was bored. And that’s when I stepped outside the box.

Instead of standing up and playing catch, we’d lay on the floor. I’d throw the ball straight up at the ceiling and try to have it land on Will. If he caught it he’d give a loud “RIBBIT!” and then try to hit me with the ball. From time to time there would be a zombie attack (?????) and we’d have to use our frog paddles to fight the zombies and save the world.

And suddenly, “Frog Ball” was born.

Honestly I still don’t get it. It’s silly, nonsensical and ridiculous. I made the game up and I don’t even understand the rules. Thankfully, what my son has taught me is the rules don’t matter. The only important thing is letting him know I care about him. That I’m interested in what he’s doing. That his happiness is far more vital to me than anything else. The most difficult yet rewarding parts of parenting continue to be the unexpected surprises taught to me by my boy, who is wise beyond his years.

“Dad, do you wanna play?”

Absolutely.

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Should Parent Bloggers Swear?

The question posed by popular mom blogger Holly Pavlika on her website MOMentumnation a few weeks ago was “Is it OK for mom and dad bloggers to swear on their websites?”

If you’ve ever been here before I think you know what my answer was. Needless to say, Holly disagreed. What followed was a spirited (but curse-free) Twitter exchange which led to Holly and I collaborating for a “He Said/She Said” back and forth regarding parental cursing in the blogosphere. And while I still think swearing — when done correctly — can genuinely add some flavor to anyone’s writing, I can also see where Holly is coming from.

Here’s just one snippet of my response:

“I understand I’m a role model for my son. It’s something I take seriously and a responsibility I’d never shirk. But the idea that parent bloggers who drop an occasional F-bomb on their websites are in any way irresponsible is one I just can’t get behind.”

Click here to read the entire exchange over at Holly’s site, and add your two cents. Assholes.

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My Son Was on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Kids. We love ‘em, don’t we?

That’s why, as parents, we work so hard to take care of them. We nurture them as babies, providing sustenance, food and shelter. We shower them with unrelenting love and guide them as they utter their first words and take their initial wobbly steps into the world. We wrap them in a blanket of love and security as they grow, because it’s important as parents that we always make them feel safe and protected. That bond between parent and child leads to a solid foundation of trust that should never be violated.

Unless, of course, you can leverage all that trust to trick your kid on video and put him on national television.

That’s right. Will was recently featured on the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was a bit Kimmel does in which he tells parents to tell their kids they ate all the Halloween candy on video, and put the reactions on YouTube. Now I know what you’re thinking — “That’s SO mean.” Well, the counter argument is it’s also hilarious. Don’t believe me? Check out the video. Will is at 2:52.

As you can see, the reactions varied. Wildly. And since we pull no punches around here, we can just say what everyone else is thinking: some of those kids are HUGE brats! Now you could argue they’re acting out because they’re being tricked by their parents. However, I say it’s moot. If your kid starts throwing water bottles and haymakers at you simply because his candy is gone, something is rotten in the state of parental Denmark. And the whining from some of the older kids? Yikes.

And even though this is a little underhanded for parents to do, I think it’s a nice test of how your kid reacts to and handles bad news.

Now to be fair, Will did cry. But even though he was sad, he still had the wherewithal to say “I’m not mad” and keep things in perspective. But what I’m really proud of him for wasn’t shown in the Kimmel video, but in the uncut version that I put up on YouTube. Take a peek.

The part I love is towards the end. He already thinks I’ve stolen his Halloween candy, and then I ask him if I can have his future candy that he hasn’t even collected yet. I thought for sure he’d tell me to take a hike, but instead he said “A little bit, sure.”

And that, my friends, is proof that my wife is raising this kid right!

Also, check out this video from a Plainville boy who was also on the show. He’s a really sweet kid and obviously being raised right. Must be a southeastern Massachusetts thing!

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Scaring My Son on Halloween

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday.

Screams, scares and Snickers bars. Ghost, ghouls and GOBS of candy. People allowing their imaginations to run free with creative costume ideas, and women everywhere unleashing their inner slooze in the form of slutty cops, slutty beer wenches and slutty nurses.

Let’s face it, any holiday that simultaneously promotes the consumption of sweets, barely clothed women and riles up religious fundamentalists is my sweet spot.

But I digress…

Having Will just ratcheted up my love of Halloween even more. So far he’s been a devil, a monkey, a dinosaur and Spiderman. This year he’s going as Wolverine. But the coolest thing is he REALLY likes to be scared. We’ve taken great pains to explain what’s real and what’s made up, so he’s got a solid handle on separating reality from fiction. We probably let him watch a few movies most parents wouldn’t, but he takes it in stride and if it’s ever too much we just shut it off. No harm no foul.

But some things happen that are just out of our control.

I was down in the basement letting the dog out when I saw Will not-so-stealthily sneaking down the stairs in an effort to scare me. As I spotted him, he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks with a worried look on his face. He was looking past me, clearly troubled by something he saw behind me. I wheeled around quickly but there was nothing there. I asked him what was wrong and he told me one of the basement lights went on and off.

“Dada, the light just went on and off really quick. Why did the light do that?”

Glancing around at the Halloween decorations and knowing that we have had many discussions about what’s real and what isn’t, I decided to have a little good-natured Halloween fun with him.

“Well bud, I think you’re old enough to know the truth. You see, ghosts don’t like the light. So when they get really bothered by bright lights, they touch the light bulb to make it go out.”

I know what you’re thinking, but I swear on his life he knew I was kidding. He even started to smirk with that “you’re pulling my leg” look on his face. Everything would’ve been fine except —

At that exact moment, the light bulb made an audible buzzing sound and then went completely out.

Before I could turn to him and explain it was just a coincidence, it was too late. My poor son turned pale white, got the most scared-shitless look on his face I’ve ever seen, and flew up the stairs shouting “OH MY GOD THE GHOSTS ARE REAL! THE GHOSTS ARE REAL!!!!”

Happy Halloween.

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Raising My Son Right

“How do I know if I’m doing a good job as a parent?”

That’s the million dollar question for parents isn’t it? We spend time, money and a never-ending amount of effort on every aspect of our kids’ lives. We either work harder to afford good schools, or give up careers to teach them ourselves. We care for them physically, attend to every emotional need, teach right from wrong, read to them, have them read to us, drill manners into them, etc. It doesn’t happen all at once, but a little every day. It’s constant. And the whole time you’re wondering if any of it is actually sinking in, and hoping like hell it is.

This weekend I got my answer thanks to two instances during our camping trip in Maine.

The first happened at the lake when Will caught a frog. He was so excited that he ran over to another boy about his age who he had never met before, so he could show him. Will walked over to the boy with the frog cupped carefully in his hand so as not to hurt it, and then put it down gingerly in the woods so it could go home to its frog family.

At that point the other little boy showed Will the minnows swimming around in the lake, which enthralled him. But his amazement soon turned to disgust when his new friend picked up some rocks and started throwing them in an attempt to hit the fish, then tried to enlist Will’s help in jumping on them to squish them yelling “DIE!” Will was horrified and told him you’re not supposed to hurt animals. That’s when the little sadistic terror (whose dad was wearing a Yankees hat — do the math!) started throwing even more rocks. Will quickly left and we went back to our campsite as the kid yelled “Good! They’re leaving!”

Real nice.

Once back at the site, Will made another animal discovery. This time he found his new friend stuck to the back of the fire pit. A snail — a big one at that — who was promptly named Snailey. It was getting dark and of course Will’s first question was whether Snailey could stay in the tent with us. Since MJ already has to deal with one slug, we said no. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised when the tears came. But I was surprised when he told me WHY he was crying.

“Dada, it’s getting dark & Snailey will be cold outside. Can I put a leaf over Snailey like a blanket so he’ll be warm?”

I know it’s just a snail. I know most kids love animals so I probably shouldn’t read too much into it. But this kid has so much empathy, compassion and kindness in him. He couldn’t bear the thought of a single snail being alone and without the comforts of home, so we grabbed a large leaf, took Snailey out of harm’s way, and fastened the leaf blanket around him as he slid off into the night. Will blew him a kiss and wished him well.

I’m not perfect and I make my share of parental mistakes. Will’s no angel and his fresh attitude is like looking into a mirror — a heavy dose of Karmic justice. But he’s also unfailingly polite and loving. He cares about others first and foremost and he’s ultra sensitive to how everyone around him feels. Granted, these positive traits come from his mother no doubt. But they’re proof that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing most of it right. Even if it is on the fly.

I’m just happy I didn’t have to build a snail log cabin. But I would’ve.

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