Jul 212014
 

Leading up to a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy for my three-year-old, some well-intentioned folks pumped us full of lies

My three-year-old daughter, a.k.a. Godzilla, a.k.a. Destroyer of Cities, had her tonsils and adenoids removed last week. It was a routine procedure conducted by a highly regarded surgeon at one of the best children’s hospitals in the United States. Still, as a parent, it’s a nerve-racking experience to watch your baby girl get hopped up on anesthesia and liquid narcotics and then have a stranger with a bro-tastic goatee cleverly hidden behind his surgical mask start slicing around in her throat. The people at the hospital understand this, which is why they’ve come up with a series of lies to tell parents to ease their nerves. As a public service, I’m going to share and debunk some of those lies right here, right now.

adenoid diagram

If you’re like me, you’re probably like, “Where the fuck are the adenoids?” Well, here’s a diagram. I still have no clue.

1. Your child will self-regulate her activity level to help herself recover. The doctor actually told us this, with a straight face, while looking me in the eye. “We find that kids will regulate their own activity to allow themselves to rest more and recover. She’ll probably want to lie around a lot for the next few days.”

Um, no. Clearly this guy has never met Godzilla in the wild, nor many high-energy three year olds. After spending the night in the hospital, we brought Godzilla home the next morning, and she promptly began chasing her brothers around the house in between doing a series of pirouettes to screams of “Look at me, Daddy!” To get her to calm down and actually rest after her surgery, we had to bring her car seat inside, strap her in extra tight and point her at a TV playing Frozen on repeat.

2. Staying overnight in the hospital allows everyone to rest. And by “rest” we mean “wake up every 90 minutes for a check of vital signs, administering of medications and idle 4:00 a.m. chit chat.” Seriously, what is it about night-shift nurses that makes them so chatty in the middle of the night?

I’ve been through this drill before, when Godzilla had to spend the night in the hospital last year for a highly contagious respiratory infection. Every hour or so, a nurse came in wearing full HAZMAT gear, scared the shit out of both of us, poked and prodded Godzilla until she erupted in a fire-breathing fit, and then left us with an admonishing directive: “Do try to get some rest.” Oh, you mean like I was doing before this little episode? Yes, exactly.

Needless to say, when the wife volunteered to stay with Godzilla during this post-tonsillectomy slumber party, I did not argue.

3. She won’t want to talk much for a few days. You know, because she just had surgery on her throat, which tends to make it sore. The no-talking statement was probably made without considering the effects of anesthesia, hospital-grade painkillers and abundant sugar intake from a diet consisting entirely of popsicles and ice cream. Not sure about your kid, but when you drug mine with narcotics and give her a month’s worth of sugar in one day, you’ve got a chatty preschooler on your hand. Also a wild preschooler who wants to ride the hospital wheelchairs like a surf board the second you turn your back (see lie #1).

4. We have everything you need here at the hospital to make your stay comfortable. Except for an adult-sized bed for a parent to sleep on. “Comfort” at the children’s hospital comes in small packages.

5. This is probably harder on the parents than it is on the child. I’m counting this as a lie because no matter how stressful this situation is for the parents, we’re not the ones having surgery and getting pumped full of drugs that make us loopy like it’s night two of Bonaroo. As parents, we suffer for our kids, but we can’t go through these life experiences for them, as much as we might want to. So you put on a brave face, tell them it will all be over soon and march them into whatever life has waiting for them. About 99% of the time, it turns out just fine. Kids are resilient. And they have short memories. My three-year-old little girl is tougher and braver and more determined than I ever will be. She’s a kid, but she’s not completely naïve. She knew she was walking into a difficult situation that wasn’t going to be all dancing unicorns and rainbow sherbet. And she didn’t blink. She stepped up, took her medicine (literally) and owned it. That’s the matter-of-fact bravery of childhood that so many of us grown-ups have forgotten. Did she cry and get scared and cringe from the pain afterwards? Yes, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re faced with a traumatic situation. Sure, this experience was harder on the kid going through the procedure than her parents watching from the sidelines, but she’s got the tools to deal with it, and she’ll be just fine.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering: If you remove Godzilla’s tonsils, does she still breathe fire? The answer is yes. Hells yes. Look out, world, this kid’s going to be back destroying cities before you know it.

Godzilla

Tonsils or not, Godzilla is ready to wreck some shit.

Jul 012014
 

The World Cup boiled down to a preschool primer

Unless you’ve been living inside a vegetable crisper for the past couple weeks, then you’re probably aware that the World Cup is going on. This is a massive, global event, initially involving 32 nations and billions of fans worldwide, and I am a big, big fan.

A lot of Americans have gotten swept up in World Cup fever and have happily jumped on the bandwagon of the U.S. team, which defied all odds to beat out higher-rated competition en route to the second round of the tournament. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand the game, and may be at a loss to explain it to their kids. True, it’s a remarkably simple game involving two teams, one ball and only one objective (put ball in other team’s goal). However, there are some confusing things, like refs who wear a different color shirt at every game, strange rules and colorful plastic cards.

To get to the bottom of all this, I’m going to break down a few key soccer concepts in very simple terms. In fact, I’ll explain them how I would to my kids, who are four, three and 19 months. If you don’t get it after reading this, then I simply can’t help you. So here you go, soccer in a pre-school package. I challenge you not to enjoy the World Cup now!

Referees. A soccer match has three referees (one on the field and two linesmen who patrol the sidelines), plus a mysterious “fourth official” who has the unenviable task of keeping the two team benches in line, holding up a big digital sign during substitutions and generally being the other refs’ bitch. The refs wear a color that contrasts with both teams’ jerseys, but that color could change from game to game. It’s the only sport I know where the officiating crew could be wearing fluorescent yellow or hot pink, and you’re still supposed to take them seriously.soccer referees

How to explain the referees to your kids: “Referees are like parents. They are out there to make sure everyone behaves and no one gets into a fight people don’t fight too much.”

Cards. “Getting carded” is not the same thing as when you were trying to sneak into a bar when you were 19. It’s a system for cautioning players and, ultimately, ejecting them if they persistently misbehave. A yellow card is a warning. A red card is an ejection from the game. Two yellow cards equal a red. I’ve decided to implement this disciplinary system at my house. The bright colors and clear consequences have resonated with the kids. Only, it’s a little hard to explain when a neighbor walks by and asks my four-year-old son why he is sitting in the front yard by himself, and he explains, “I got red carded.”

How to explain cards to your kids: “When the players misbehave, the ref shows them a yellow card as a warning. If they keep being bad listeners, then they get a red card and have to spend the rest of the game in a timeout.”

taking a diveDiving. Also known as “taking a dive.” No, not literally, although sometimes it looks like it. Diving is both a curious art form and an absolute plague on the game. It’s when an offensive player falls down intentionally, and melodramatically, in an attempt to get a foul called on a defensive player. If you’ve seen a two-year-old throw himself on the floor in a wild tantrum, flop around like a fish out of water, scream, cry, and display all manner of unnecessary histrionics to get his way about something, well, then you’re familiar with the concept behind “taking a dive.” Oddly enough, the toddler tantrum scene is eerily similar to watching Italy in the World Cup. Eerily similar.

How to explain diving to your kids: “Diving is for pools, not soccer fields. Some people don’t play fair. Don’t let those people play with your soccer ball.”

Penalty kick. This is often the intended result of a dive. A penalty kick, also known as a spot kick or PK, occurs when an offensive player is fouled inside the penalty box. The penalty box is a space on the field that extends 18 yards on either side of the goal post, and 18 yards out into the field. If a diver gets into the penalty box, look out, ‘cause he’s going down if you look at him sideways. If the ref awards a penalty kick, the ball is placed on a spot 12 yards in front of the goal, and an offensive player gets to take a shot on the goalkeeper from there.

How to explain a penalty kick to your kids: “The penalty box is like this house. Do not hit, kick, trip, bite, push or spit on anyone in this area. If you do, that person gets to kick a soccer ball at you from a close distance.”

penalty kickShootout. No, not what happens in a Sao Paulo favela after a World Cup game. A shootout is an unsavory ending to a game that remains tied all the way through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. That’s 120 minutes of full-throttle soccer—and professional soccer has very limited substitutions, so most players are on the field for that entire time. During the course of an overtime game, the average player runs about 217 miles at a dead sprint. As much as we’d all like to see the fellas finish it on the field, you can only expect the human body to run so much. So after two hours of straight soccer, you have a shootout, which is a series of penalty kicks (see above) until one team finally scores more goals than the other. Not very satisfying, but trust me, very necessary.

How to explain a shootout to your kids: “This is how you and your sister will settle arguments from now on. Whoever scores more goals in a shootout gets the toy. End of story. Any whining about the result, and you get a red card. Now go in the other room and play. Daddy is watching the World Cup.”

Jun 092014
 

A short bedtime story

Last night, my three-year-old daughter, a.k.a. Godzilla to those familiar with her antics, was having trouble settling down and going to bed. Instead of using my usual barrage of tough love and threats to burn all of her stuffed animals in a giant, fur-filled pyre, I opted for a different approach. I sat down on the bed next to her, tucked her in gently and then leaned in close.

“Godzilla, I’m sorry if I don’t say this enough, but I think you are amazing.”

She stopped fidgeting and looked up into my eyes.

“You are so smart. And you work so hard at learning new things. I’m impressed everyday watching you learn and grow.”

She blinked once, slowly, and a calm look washed over her face.

“You are sweet to your brothers, especially your baby brother, who looks up to you so much. You are kind and strong and beautiful, and I could not be more proud of you. Do you hear me? I am so proud of you. So proud.”

She closed her eyes, and her lips curled into a contented little smile as if those words were exactly what she needed to hear at that moment. Then she reached up with her tiny hands and tenderly grasped each of my ears, pulling me even closer to her her. When I was inches from her face, she craned her neck upward and kissed my cheek. Then she turned her head, ever so slightly, and whispered in my ear, “Daddy …”

“Yes?”

“Your breath stinks. You should brush your teeth.”

Goodnight, Godzilla. 

Jun 022014
 

Looking for Father’s Day gift ideas for a sleep-deprived dad? DOA breaks down two popular options: Toddlers and alarm clocks.

Father’s Day is coming up, and you’re probably wondering what you should get the dad in your life. Well, if he’s anything like me, waking up extremely early in the morning to deal with the kids is a challenge. Perhaps you could get him something to help with that. I know what you’re thinking: “I’ll get him a toddler!” After all, they are known for waking up early and rousing somnolent dads abruptly from their sleep. Seems like the perfect gift, right?

Not so fast. While a toddler may seem like a great Father’s Day gift for a sleepy pop, let me offer a more traditional alternative: An alarm clock. Yes, yes, it’s not as exciting as a toddler, but it’s practical and comparably inexpensive. At the very least, it bears some consideration.

I’ve done some extensive research on early-morning toddler behavior over the past three years, so I feel qualified to share a few insights to help you make your decision. So here’s the Dad on Arrival side-by-side comparison of a toddler vs. an alarm clock based on several key features. I think you’ll see that the decision between these two products is pretty clear.

1. Waking up at a specific time.

An alarm clock is electronic, or mechanical if you go old school, so if you want it to go off at 6:57 it will go off at 6:57.

A toddler is about as unpredictable as, well, a toddler. You want to get up at 6:57 a.m.? Good for you; it ain’t gonna happen. Your toddler will wake you up with a blood-curdling scream at 6:02 or 7:35 or 5:48. Some models of toddler, like the one I currently have in my house, tend to wake you up exactly 27 minutes before you want to get up—just enough so you can’t really get back into a good sleep before you have to get out of bed. And you have no choice but to deal with it (and him).

Advantage: Alarm clock

2. Snoozing.

An alarm clock has this magical button called “snooze.” You hit it, and the alarm turns off for a few minutes to give you an additional respite. Those few minutes are the most purely enjoyable moments of the day, a tiny sliver of sleepy sanity before the craziness of the daily grind begins.

A toddler does not offer a snooze option. Believe me, I’ve tried to have one installed, and it just doesn’t work. You can’t just hit a magical button and make him shut up. First, hitting your toddler is frowned upon, and second, if you were to make that mistake, the toddler will just scream louder. Once that toddler alarm goes off, you’re up.

Advantage: Alarm clock

iStock_000015453567_Large

3. Waking sounds.

Many alarm clocks have radios or docking stations for an iPod or smartphone so that you can set your morning wake-up to whatever music you choose. Want a soothing wake up with some easy-listening adult contemporary tunes? Sure. Want a bit of a jolt to get you going? Rock out to a heavy metal wake up. The choice is yours.

Toddlers generally have two settings: Giggling, which is music to any parent’s ears, and screaming, which is about as opposite from music as you can possibly imagine. The choice of tune is generally not up to you, and it may switch suddenly. Nothing like starting off your morning on a toddler’s emotional roller coaster—scream, laugh, scream, laugh, laugh some more, scream, scream, scream. It’s enough to stress you out for the rest of the day.

Advantage: Alarm clock

4. Early morning cuddling

Some people like to hit snooze, roll over and cuddle with something or someone for a few minutes before dragging themselves out of bed. An alarm clock is not a good option for this. Alarm clocks are often angular and made from rigid materials like plastic and metal. If you find yourself cuddling with an alarm clock, then you may be missing more in your life than a few more minutes of sleep.

Toddlers are warm and chubby and cuddly. Many toddlers like being held close and lavished with affection. Not mine, mind you. They have all preferred frantically climbing all over me and repeatedly kicking me in the family jewels to any sort of sleepy cuddle session. But for the rest of you, the toddler cuddle is probably a better option, and definitely more socially acceptable, than squeezing up to an alarm clock.

Advantage: Toddler

baby

 

5. Returning a faulty product.

An alarm clock is a retail item. If it doesn’t function to your liking, you can take it back to the store. Simple.

Toddlers do not come from a store (at least not in this country). There really is no return-to-sender option. Besides, if there was, I’m pretty sure that would be frowned upon in most civilized societies. Once you acquire a toddler, you’re in it for life, so buckle up.

Advantage: Alarm clock

6. Unconditional affection.

This is not an option on most models of alarm clock. They are outbound noisemakers, much like toddlers, but their feature set lacks the capacity for love. If you think your alarm clock might be in love with you, then you may need to seek professional help.

Toddlers, much like the friendly family dog, love unconditionally, forgive easily, and forget readily. Also like dogs, they tend to give wet, sloppy kisses and feel that they should be able to poop wherever they please. The poop issue aside, if you really want to feel loved, get a toddler, or a dog, or both.

Advantage: Toddler

I hope this analysis has helped you in your decision-making process between getting dad an alarm clock or a toddler this Father’s Day. It’s a tough choice, with many different variables. However, I think you’ll find that the final conclusion is abundantly clear.

Happy shopping!

May 162014
 

Everything I’ve learned in the last 40 years (which is surprisingly little)

I recently turned 40. I’m not super excited about officially crossing over into middle age, but then again, the festivities surrounding this event have been nothing short of epic. Not since I turned 21 and took my first ever sips of beer (wink, wink) have I engaged in such protracted celebrations over a birthday.

And why not? It’s a big one. For whatever reason, our society puts a lot of emphasis on this birthday, and I’ve been happy to oblige that societal pressure by going through the party paces. Now that the hangovers and hops-infused haze have subsided, I’ve had some time to ponder what I’ve learned in life thus far. My ultimate conclusion: not much. However, I did manage to pull out four nuggets of wisdom from the past four decades. So here you go, my four life lessons learned in the last 40 years:photo

1. True freedom is not giving a damn. I’ve been around for four decades. During that time, I developed a pretty solid idea of who I am, and I’m good with it. Furthermore, I don’t give two shits and pint of guacamole if you don’t like me. I don’t even really care what most people think of me. I’ve been known to drop my oldest kid off at preschool wearing a bathrobe, flip flops and ski pants (don’t ask), because I don’t give a damn. I’ve been known to walk right past annoying neighbors who amble up to talk to me, because I don’t give a damn. It’s liberating not caring what people think.

Of course, this has some limits. I’d actually prefer it if my wife and kids liked me. The kids, well, I just like little humans looking up to me. It feeds the ego. The wife, because I enjoy things like not sleeping on the couch and the remote possibility of having sex if I play all my cards right and there just happens to be an ample supply of red wine in the house.

So yeah, there are some conditions to not giving a damn, but generally I consider it an admirable world view. Let other people stress out about everything. There are too many people in this world who care too much about too many things. This planet would be an easier place to reside if more of us just said, “Eh, why sweat the small stuff?”

2. A life best lived is a life with no regrets. Of course I’ve made mistakes (the years 1993-1998 come to mind). Of course I’ve missed opportunities (why would I ever work for a company called “Google”?). Of course there are things I would have done differently knowing what I know now (see: every girl I pursued/dated/annoyed from age 15 to when I met my wife). But I would rather live a life where I tried something and failed, than one where I played it safe only to look back years later and regret that I didn’t do something. I don’t want to be sitting around 40 years from now wondering, “what if?” That mindset is what prompted me to quit a stable job and follow my eventual wife to Colorado, where we had no jobs, no place to live and almost no friends. That’s how I ended up starting my own business instead of going back to work for The Man. That’s how I ended up with three kids, instead of a nice, even two, which has necessitated all kinds of strange life adjustments, like cars with three rows of seats and dinner tables that seat five and never being invited to stay with friends at their home ever again. These are all decisions that made me uncomfortable at the time, but have turned out incredibly well. And I never had to wonder “what if?” If you want to play it safe, go get a job at a bank. If you want to live, push your comfort zone a little. That’s my idea, anyway.

3. Life moves slowly when you focus on what you truly love. Everyone’s always talking about how time flies. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “I blinked and my baby was going off to college.” Yeah, I feel you. But here’s the thing: If you want to enjoy the parts of your life that are really important, then slow down and concentrate on them. If your kids are your top priority, then give them your undivided attention when you’re with them. Put down the fucking iPhone and engage with them. Immerse yourself in their world. Whether you have an hour or all day, make it count. Maybe you love to travel, or your whole year revolves around the week that you can sit on the beach and do nothing. Great. Do it. Disconnect and live in that moment. I’m no physicist, but I can tell you this about the relationship between time and reality: Perception is everything. If your attention is split between 20 different directions, if you’re trying to accomplish 10 things at once, then you will never have enough time. If you focus on what is most important at that moment, then the earth spins a little slower, life moves a little easier, and the things that really matter don’t fly by quite so fast.

4. I don’t know jack. Not literally. I do know a guy named Jack. He’s tall and skinny, doesn’t like cheese (I know, right?), and he gets a funny little furrowed brow when he’s agitated. No, I mean I don’t know jack shit. Yeah, I’ve accumulated some wisdom over the years, but it’s nothing compared to what I don’t know. This world is overstuffed with know-it-alls who claim to be experts on just about everything. That’s great for selling books and seminars and snake oil, but in reality, I’ve learned that the more you know, the more you don’t know. My kids teach me this every day. Every time I think I’ve got this parenting thing down, the game changes, and I’m back to square one. Same goes for life in general. Things change. You have to adapt. If you keep doing the same thing based on the same knowledge, then you become a dinosaur. And we all remember what happened to the dinosaurs, right? So know what you don’t know and embrace it. That’s what I say.

That’s the sum of all my wisdom. It may take me another 40 years to come up four more coherent tips on life, so enjoys these.

Here’s to the next four decades!