Firefighter Alarm Clocks

You know that scene in Little Rascals where all the rascals are wrangling a fire hose? Here is a link to the exact part that is relevant to today’s topic…

Mornings are tough at our house. We’ve got a hungry toddler, two pets, two adults that are questionably functional before 9 am, and lots of of tasks that have to be done before we all scurry off to our respective jobs and obligations. It’s hardest on us parents. Let’s be honest, every parent knows and dreads morning time, at least some days.

This morning was no exception – especially since Ashley Face had to get up and leave for work early, before Monster and I were even awake. She kissed me goodbye and in my half asleep state I was thankful that we, luckily, have an amazing son.

You see, Monster is amazing in the morning. He usually wakes up, takes off his pajamas and pull-up, stops in our room to see if we are up yet, and even goes downstairs and gets toys to entertain himself. He’s wonderful and patient – sitting through us parents showering, helping out by feeding the animals, and brushing his teeth without prompt.

With that being the routine, I knew a solo daddy morning would be easy. It’s been done countless times before without a hitch and today was shaping up to be no different.

But then Monster chose a very interesting thing to do this morning. He got up as usual, checked on me as usual, then went into his room and began stepping out of his pajamas. He called excitedly back into my room about how his pull-up was dry. I responded in turn with congratulations, albeit a bit groggy.

But then congratulations turned to confusion when I heard it. The pitter-patter of liquid droplets on his wood floor.

My mind first jumped through a few options. Was it a water bottle? No… I didn’t give him one last night. Is it the humidifier? No, doesn’t sound right. That would be more like dumping a bucket of water on the floor. Hmm… it sounds like… what is it…

Then it dawned on me:

The sound of a high pressure hose turning on.

It’s a new house, but I didn’t see any plumbing in his room when we toured the place. There isn’t any plumbing on the whole floor. To my knowledge, in his room, there was only one thing that could cause that sound. The sound of a four year old’s full bladder being instantly and powerfully emptied, moments after removing the pull up that would have contained the urine. And it was at this moment that I made a critical, and tactical error: I asked what he was doing.

Now, if you are four years old, and you are suddenly emptying your extremely full bladder onto the floor of your room, you know that this morning is hard. When your dad calls for you, you of course want to run to him and answer.

That’s right, You want to run to Dad and answer. Forgetting that you are mid-stream – a high pressure stream that can’t be stopped. Things have been set into motion that cannot be stopped.

A veritable torrent of urine, sprayed in a helicopter arc, doused the entirety of his room, the hallway in-between our rooms, and both doors. Not to mention his sheets, dresser, clothing on the floor, and his body.

The irony of this morning, to me, is that we have been desperately working with Monster to stop wetting the bed at night. In his excitement over a clean and dry pull-up in the morning, Monster lost control over his bladder at the most inopportune time.

No caffeine for me, folks. I am totally and completely awake now. Re-watch that little rascals clip I linked above. Giggle at it. If you have the day off, and if you don’t have kids, go back to bed and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing, urine-less morning.

-Daddy Levi

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New house!

Don’t worry everyone, we didn’t fall off the face of the Earth. We actually fell into a really nice deal that had us move quite quickly into a new rental!

The funny thing about it is that it is an upgrade in every way – straight walls, new paint, new roof…

But what we are most excited about is that it has insulation!

Woot!

Longer post to follow when I have time to sit down…

Pistols and Penises

Driving Monster back to home from his Mom’s, I had queued up some music from Hamilton, the Broadway musical. In the song, Washington on your Side, the phrase “The emperor has no clothes” comes up during one of the stanzas.

Fun times for sure.

And, if someone thinks that a musical that critically evaluates our founders politics and personal lives via multicultural rap and hip hop is inappropriate for a 4 year old… well, you’re probably right.

Monster: “Dad, why doesn’t the emperor have any clothes? That’s silly!  I mean, he would have to stay inside the house so he doesn’t show his penis to everyone!”

Me: *Hysterical Laughing*

Monster: “If the emperor needed new clothes, he would have to wear a towel to the store to hide his penis!”

I’m not exaggerating or paraphrasing at all. This exact conversation happened in the car this morning.

Now, I know what you are all thinking. You’re thinking that I’m going to talk about and juxtapose the differences between how we as a society teach our children about sex organs and how we as a society teach our children about guns

Wow. I really know you all. That’s exactly what I’m going to talk about. How did you know? Was it the post title? Man, this issue matters. It’s something that’s  so core to so many of my beliefs as a (sort of) responsible  father that it was inevitable that I would share it on here eventually. Apparently, Monster asking a question about a Broadway musical score that referenced an old fable by Hans Christian Anderson is all it took to get it in the open.

Okay. Here we go.

There’s a big problem in children’s culture. Its something I see every time I watch children’s TV, cartoon or otherwise. It’s something I see whenever I take a stroll down the toy aisle in Target. It’s something pervasive throughout children’s books, specifically boy’s books about superheroes.

Guns, violence, and Good Guys vs. Bad Guys has an unbelievably strong presence in little boy’s culture. So strong that I feel I’m fighting a losing battle with Monster when it comes to peaceful solutions. Guns go bang! Guns kill bad guys. Guns look AWESOME.  They are so much more appealing to play with and imagine with than my alternative.

I mean, talking to a four year old about how generational poverty, and imbalance of power, and lack of privilege, can cause a young person with a rough childhood to view robbery as the only way, and countering that with suggesting that we provide real solutions to poverty in our country, instead of just giving guns to everyone, is fun and all, but let’s face it – Monster is only four, and guns go Bang!

We spend so much time glorifying guns and violence, we glorify superheroes in larger-than-life situations, we even dress our kids up and let them hold play guns, but we; for some reason, are afraid to talk about basic anatomy.

We talk about penises all hush hush. No-no parts, naughty bits, privates. We project shame and a feeling of dirtiness upon our kids whenever we talk about it. The word penis even gets replaced. Willy, wee wee, etc.

Here’s something to think about. I don’t ever want my son to have to shoot someone. I don’t want him to get shot. Even if he chooses to be in the military or law enforcement, I sincerely hope that he would never have to actually take someone’s life. I think we can all agree that no one wants their child to have to kill someone else, for any reason, good or bad.

However; I want my son to use the bathroom and understand how and why his body expels waste. And I want him to not be ashamed of his body parts when he grows to the age where he is going to have sex. I sure hope he isn’t ashamed of his anatomy. I want to educate him so that he knows and is comfortable with visiting a doctor and getting regular men’s health check ups.

His genitalia are part of his anatomy as they are a part of every human being on this planet. We all have genitals, and we all use them. For many things. The activities we do with them are natural. Of course there are many codes of conduct with our genitals, especially when it comes to sharing them with people, but come on. Monster is four. That’s a battle for a few years later.

The age appropriate battle I am fighting is instilling Monster with the sense that his body is his and his own. And his anatomy – all of it – is wonderful. And beautiful. And certainly not something to ever feel shame about.

And in that light, it’s a travesty to me that we fill a kid’s brain with heroic thoughts of killing humans – something I never want Monster to have to do – but we hide and closet anatomy and genital function – something that Monster is going to do, whether I approve or not.

I am losing the battle to the no guns rule at our house. Part of that is that at his other house he’s allowed to play with guns. Part of that is what he is exposed to that I have no control over.

I know he will play with guns. I even will allow it in my house when he is older. Far be it from me to think that sheltering Monster from such a pervasive cultural force is within my power. But all I can do is hope and wish that my continued thought questions about what killing someone actually means will sink in in some way.

In the meantime, I want to assure Monster that sometimes,  just like little boys, even emperors don’t  have to wear clothes.

 

 

Narratives

IMG_20160404_094252740Sometimes I have to do school work for my online degree when Monster is both with me and awake.

Such was the case that resulted in the picture to the right. This, quite clearly, is C3p0 and two Jawas discussing proper techniques of eating Dilly Bars during their official candy meeting.

Here’s what they came up with (I asked Monster for his agenda):

  1. We would like to have some Dilly Bars.
  2. I think that’s all.

Man, I wish all my meetings and agendas in the day were like that. Can you imagine how much simpler life would be if we had two item agendas? I’m about to solve world hunger and war:

  1. We would like to have equality and safety for all people, worldwide.
  2. I think that’s all.

Now, the benefit of being a LEGO character in a Star Wars meeting about candy is that, of course, you can just conjure the results of the meeting after you make a decision. In the real world, its a bit more difficult.

I think maybe world equality was safety was two lofty a goal for my first two item agenda. I totally need to start smaller, don’t I? Where should I start looking for my inspiration of how my day should go?

Hmm…

Oh wait… I know!

  1. I would like to have some Dilly Bars.
  2. I think that’s all.

 

Life, Death, and Patience

“It’s hard be patient Dad!”

“Oh yeah?  Why’s that?”

“Well I can’t hold my wild horses!”

“Oh Really? Why Not?”

“Because they’re all dead!”

Whoa. That escalated quickly.

Monster has decided that he hates patience so much that his, um, wild horses, have tragically died. In fairness, it would be hard to be patient after such a catastrophe. I have so many questions. Why are the horses wild? How did they die? Were you involved in their deaths? Technically, wouldn’t a dead horse be easier to keep still than a live one?

This situation came about when I asked Zeph to be patient while we cleaned up after dinner. There was a small bit of pouty face, followed by the highly entertaining discussion up above.It was a bit of learning experience for me too.

I learned that my sons imagination is massively original. Oh wait, I already knew that. No…

I learned that, to a kid, being told to “be patient” is akin to a customer service rep telling me as an adult to “calm down.”

And, I mean, look Carla. I just don’t want to be calm, Okay? My internet speed is less than half of what your promised me and my bill has fluctuated 3x in as many months. You’re clearly a two bit operation and frankly I am considering taking my business to another establishment unless you get me on the phone RIGHT now with someone who actually can listen to my problems and not tell me to “calm down.” Why don’t YOU calm down, CARLA? How about you stop RUINING my life and FIX MY INTERNET? I mean that IS your JOB right?

Okay, for the record, I don’t talk like this… ever. I appeal to management before I let myself vocally get that triggered. But I’ve thought it. And I bet if I’ve thought it, so has Monster. And remember, he’s 4. So, hearing “be patient” likely overloads his rage meter, hence the pouty face and dead horses.

I never got the training manual that read “Don’t verbally lash out at customer service reps.” I just had to learn that one through time and through learning what the effective methods are for getting through the maze of waiting games and menus. Same with patience for Monster. I can’t really teach him patience. I can only, on my end, set reasonable limits and time commitments and hold him to following them.

So, from here on out, I’m done with telling him to be patient. Here’s my new strategy:

“We’ll be done with dinner in 10 minutes. If you want to sit there patiently, the time will go by quickly, then we can have fun with (after dinner activity).”

I’m not asking him to be patient. I’m letting him know that it’s the best choice, but it is a choice. Dinner won’t get over any sooner with a pout face, the activity won’t start sooner (or at all) with a tantrum, but most importantly…

Monster’s wild horses may be resurrected. Or at least not die again…

 

 

Why I don’t help My Son

That’s right. Fend for yourself, little monster!

Okay, that’s not true.

I help Zephy alot. Every day I help him countless times with all sorts of simple tasks. But I am careful about how and when I help him.

When he needs help with his shoes, I won’t intervene until he’s tried it himself.

When he struggles with putting a shirt on, I don’t help him if its a shirt he’s put on before. I may have him sit and breathe when he gets frustrated, but its his job to put the shirt on.

As I write this, he’s working on fixing a Lego spaceship that had a rough landing. He spent a few minutes asking me for help, I let him know that I was busy but could look at in in a bit, and now he is sitting, inventing a story, and trying to fix it himself.

When he does need help – and ultimately, he will, I want to be sure that I am not taking over the task. I want him to participate and learn how to overcome the obstacle. My goal as a parent revolves around guiding him and teaching skills beyond getting the task at hand done.

Dealing with frustration, problem solving, critical thinking, even knowing when to ask for help, are all things that I try to teach on a daily basis. Probably so much so that Zephy is at the point of extreme frustration with me often.

Having everything be a teachable moment sounds spectacular, and sounds like I really have my head in the game on this whole parenting thing. I should totally write a book full of wisdom for parents everywhere.

Okay. I tried to write all that above with a straight face. Lets try that again.

We’re late for an event and Zephy has his boots on his hands. And he’s wearing shorts. In winter. With underwear over a pull-up. And his face is smeared with a cocktail of yogurt, oatmeal, and wood chips. I don’t feed my son wood chips, folks. If I had a rational explanation, I would give it.

He just threw a Lego spaceship into the couch. Pieces everywhere. It was an excellent re-creation of a scene in his mind, I’m sure, but now its a catastrophe. One where my intervention isn’t optional.

And in moments like this, I wonder what happened. Five minutes ago we were having a bonding teachable moment over how to zip up a coat. And now we’re about to create a microcosm of the apocalypse in our house.

The bottom line, for me, is that parenting has become less about ideals and overreaching goals, and more about daily activity. Zephy knows the boundaries, and he knows what I want to teach him. But it’s my job to live and show the temperance and self-control I desperately want to instill him with. Words and lectures only go so far. I could talk till I’m blue in the face, but he learns from mimicry and observation more.

So, with a resigned sigh, I’m off to dig up pieces of Lego from the many cushions of our couch. The lesson? To show Zephy that this isn’t in any way a problem. Toys break. Lego’s can be rebuilt. Imagination can still fuel us, even in pick up.

Did I say I was picking Lego’s out of a couch? I meant that I was helping the survivors of a spaceship crash on Planet MX713 recover and salvage the pieces of their craft. There we go.

Space Commander Daddy Levi,

Signing out.

 

Is it OK to use bleach NOW?

Note: the first draft of this story had the subject line: “Why I don’t like Orange Kool-aide.” It’s relevant. Read on!

Every parent has at least one moment in their parenting lives when they wonder if it’s okay to bleach their child.

2015-05-17 14.29.33
A picture with Ashley, who missed out on this great day. I imagine she is forever regretful.

Non-parents, please don’t laugh. I assure you. This is a real question. Maybe its after a particularly bad bout of the flu, or perhaps your kid went “fishing” in the toilet. Every parent at some point has the same question: Is now a good time to bleach my kid? Like, diluted, you know. Not full strength. We’re not monsters.

Invariably, the thought will cross your mind and it will lead to a ridiculous sounding Google search. The kind of search that will forever alter the advertisements you see on Facebook. You’ll start seeing links to sites dedicating to ensuring you raise healthy kids and don’t kill them with bleach. You’ll also get ads for bleach coupons at Albertson’s. I guess this means that Facebook knows you’re a bad parent, but won’t get in your way.

The answer, of course, is that no, you cannot bleach your child. Its a bad idea all around. It just happens to be rooted in the very real disgust and realization that children are crazy germ factories and don’t seem to have a build in “yuck” barometer.

For me, that day happened about a year ago.

We had made homemade play dough out of flour, salt, water, and Kool-aid. The Kool-aid for this particular batch was orange flavored. And orange colored. And orange scented. The fake orange junk, not anything resembling a real fruit.

ZM was sitting at the table playing with this stuff while I made lunch. I heard some lip smacking from our dog, and turned around to see ZM feeding Sass a full pound of play dough. Bear in mind, salt is what gives this stuff its consistency. There was about 2 cups of table salt in a pound of this junk. It’s edible, but barely. Certainly not in pound-sized portions.

I figured it was a matter of time before I would see the precious play dough again, albeit in a slightly altered form. However, I didn’t want to just throw the dog outside – that much salt meant that if he didn’t throw it up, we were going to the vet. Luckily(?) about 10 minutes later, my dining room floor was graced with an extremely large amount of orange colored dog vomit, resplendent with sizable chunks of orange play-dough and emanating a scent that will forever haunt my dreams. Dog stomach acid, salt, and orange Kool-aid combined in the most foul smelling and deadly cocktail I have ever sniffed.

It was so bad that I needed to retreat to another room and just contemplate my existence as a dog owner and parent for a few minutes. It turns out, that introspection, while important, was very ill-timed.

It turns out in my disgust that I forgot to tell ZM to come into the kitchen with me. Whilst

2013-08-10 15.02.12
This is Sassafras with a moth on his nose. It’s not relevant to the story at all.

fighting a gag reflex, wondering why I have a dog and a kid, and getting 3 rolls of paper towels, ZM was left in the dining room with – you guessed it – PLAY DOUGH!

I have watched ZM play with play dough before. He makes balls, he rolls out snakes. He likes to smoosh it then build it up again. He even tried to eat it once. But I have never…

not ever…

not even once…

seen ZM put play dough in his hair.

After this day, I confess, that I have seen that. I entered with my cleaning supplies to a horrific sight that will eternally haunt me. My son, my beautiful, smart, glorious son, sitting criss-cross next to a steaming pile of dog puke, humming “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, and smearing… smearing…  vomit soaked chunks of play-dough all over his face, ears, hair, and chest.

So for all of you people who are bothered by the title of this post, remember that two things happened to me this day:

I instantly decided Orange Kool-aid was never again for me.

And I googled “Can I Bleach my Child?”

-DaddyLevi