* Blogger’s note: Due to the graphic nature of the following story and the family nature of this website, please note that throughout the blog, the word “laugh” and it’s uses will be used to represent the word “vomit.”
Ever had a stomach virus? For those that have, you may skip this next paragraph as I would hate to conjure painful flashbacks. For those that have not yet had the pleasure, let me describe a bout with a stomach virus. Imagine the worst 48 hours of your life. There. That’s pretty much it. Imagine dying of thirst, but not being able to drink even water because you can’t hold any liquids down. Imagine setting up a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor tile because there’s no real point in leaving the room where you’ll be spending most of the night plus you can’t waste precious seconds running all the way from your bedroom. Imagine involuntary chills, but a temperature of 102. Imagine if a genie appeared to you and said, “What is your wish, master?” and you unhesitant in your joyous answer, “Genie, kill me. I wish for death. Make it swift, but make it happen.” Of course this would be a strategic error because you could probably just as easily wish for the stomach virus to go away and still enjoy the rest of your life.
The TODDLER was taking a late afternoon nap when he laughed *(see above note) for the first time that Saturday. As adults when it comes to the unpleasant but inevitable task of laughing, we are experienced enough to run to the bathroom commode, laugh it up and flush it down. Toddlers can’t get to the bathroom so they just laugh and laugh. And man, there’s nothing more unpleasant than cleaning up projectile laughter. You find laughter in places that seem impossible. The TODDLER wasn’t done though. He began laughing every 15 minutes. The poor little guy was miserable. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only understood that he wanted it to stop. Every time he felt the laughter start to rise he would whine a meager, “No. No. Done. Done” as if to reason with his stomach that he was no longer enjoying this thank you very much. A doctor was called and prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Since it was after 6:00 on a Saturday evening, the prescription was called into an all night pharmacy. It was in the next town over and about a 15 minute drive. The FATHER raced over only to find that the all night pharmacy was closed from 7 PM to 7 AM that particular night due to “unforseen circumstances”. Of course it was. Upon arriving back at home empty handed the FATHER discovered that the TODDLER had been laughing in his own room, giggling in his parents’ bed, chortling in the hallway, and guffawing everywhere else. The MOTHER and FATHER would try to put a bucket in front of him, but the TODDLER began to associate that action with laughing and would push it away in hopes that it would stave off the next joke. Of course it didn’t and only made things quite a bit messier. Carpets needed to be scrubbed. The TODDLER’s bedsheets were soon soaking in the bathtub in an attempt to save them for future use. An attempt that would prove futile. The MOTHER and FATHER’s bedsheets were thrown into a washing machine that was about to have a very long night.
The FAMILY rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. The title “emergency room” is one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” or “holy war”. Nothing about that place moves at the pace that emergencies should. And if you ever feel depressed because you’re sitting home on a Saturday night, take a walk over to your local emergency room. After spending 5 minutes in the packed waiting room of miserable, injured, and sick people, you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks happily returning to your boring but healthy Saturday night at home. The FAMILY arrived at 9:00 and was seen at midnight. The TODDLER was given some medication that actually seemed to help. He stopped laughing long enough to hold down some liquids. The little guy was exhausted from his 6 hour ordeal however. The doctor looked at the PARENTS and said, “It’s so sad isn’t it? You just wish it was you going through it rather than him, don’t you?” Stupidly the FATHER agreed. And the irony began. When the FATHER turned to the MOTHER, he noticed that her face had gone deathly pale. She looked at him and said, “I don’t believe this. I’m about to start laughing.” She excused herself and went off to find a ladies room to chuckle in private. It was like the end of The Exorcist. The TODDLER was no longer possessed, but the evil spirits had hopped over to the nearest warm body. The hospital prescribed an anti-nausea medication (the same one the doctor had prescribed over the phone 5 hours before) and released the FAMILY. The pale MOTHER and recovering TODDLER headed out to the parking lot while the FATHER settled the bill. As he was filling out the paperwork, he suddenly felt the blood completely leave his face like the tide rushing out to sea just before a massive tidal wave. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands go clammy. You’ve got to be kidding me. The clerk handed his insurance card back and said cheerily,”You’re all set. Good night!” The FATHER grunted something incomprehensible and pondered turning right to the bathroom or left to the parking lot. Being the good father that he was, he decided to get his sick wife and baby home. He walked out to the car where the MOTHER was already in the driver’s seat. He was trying to talk himself out of laughing until he arrived home. No such luck. Things were just too funny on this night. The car was barely moving when the window was rolled down and the FATHER shared a joke with the parking lot. And then there were three…
Upon arrival home, the MOTHER and TODDLER wearily climbed into the master bed which was now a bare mattress with a bare comforter. The TODDLER quickly fell asleep while the MOTHER made a few more trips to the bathroom. The MOTHER and FATHER debated getting the prescription filled immediately or waiting until morning. The MOTHER reasoned that there would be no sleep without some form of medication. The FATHER reluctantly agreed, climbed into the car that didn’t have remnants of laughter all over the passenger door, and headed out to the other all night pharmacy which coincidentally was in the strip mall across the street from the previous all night pharmacy. This begs the question: what’s wrong with the inhabitants of this town that they need two all night pharmacies within fifty yards of each other? The FATHER felt queasy and exhausted, but was proud of his heroic efforts to take care of his family at 2:30 AM. In fact he felt downright thirsty. And he remembered that as a small boy, his mother always let him have Coke to help his upset stomach. So he picked up a bottle on his way out of the pharmacy. But always mindful of his weight, he settled for Diet Coke. Now this was stupid because A. he had probably dropped a pound or two anyway in the last couple of hours; B. the sweet coke syrup not found in Diet Coke was what helped upset stomachs and C. sipping the Diet Coke was probably the way to go rather than gulping half of the 20 ounce bottle in one swig. Needless to say the FATHER was halfway home when he felt the urge to cackle which quickly turned into a strong urge to hoot and holler. Having no time to pull over he rolled down the window and leaned out while acrobatically keeping the car straight. N
ow this was also stupid because if he had paid attention in Physics class he would know that expelling an object out of a vehicle moving 50 miles per hour would just bring said object right back into the vehicle at an equal velocity…or something like that. The joke was now on the FATHER not to mention the front seat of his car. Laughter: 2 Family Cars: 0. Had anybody been witness to this pathetic display, they would have seen a grown man driving a car down the highway screaming,
”AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHH! OH MY GOOOOODDD!!!!” Upon arrival at home, the FATHER quickly undressed and threw his clothes into the overworked washing machine. He jumped into the shower, scrubbed himself with the ferocity of an obsessive compulsive, toweled off, gave a pill to the MOTHER and took one for himself. He then staggered into bed and the family enjoyed a restless sleep for 2 hours.
The next two days were spent alternately on the couch and the bed. Frequent trips were made to the bathroom by both the MOTHER and the FATHER. The TODDLER was thankfully good as new and couldn’t understand why his parents didn’t enjoy it when he gleefully climbed all over them or jumped on their heads and why they remained in bed moaning all day. The MOTHER and FATHER were actually grateful that the TODDLER felt better. It would have been impossible to take care of him in this state. The FAMILY eventually recovered and actually relished in the weight loss. But they never will forget the night of 1000 Laughs.
So why do I recount this graphic tale that at times crosses the line of over sharing? Because looking back, it was a 72 hour period of time that can only be endured by people who truly love each other. Never has the term “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” been put to the test more. Because nothing says happy family like a night filled with laughter.
I never hesitate to write and laugh about embarrassing details of my life and experiences as a father, but I dreaded writing this one. I knew I would have to in order to fill out this Bad Dad trilogy which was my stupid idea anyway so I could have just changed the rules and said,” Y’know what? This is the first trilogy to have two parts only.”, but then this incident would haunt me like a Tell Tale Heart so I’m just hoping confession is indeed good for the soul.
It happened on a day a couple of months after the police made their early morning visit to my home, I finished my breakfast and got ready to go to work. My wife was asleep upstairs (she was still pregnant with our 2nd). My two year old son was watching “Little Einsteins” on the downstairs television. Now this was usually the drill. I finish my morning activities and get ready to go to work. I pick my son up off the couch (he’s always been an early riser) and carry him upstairs, turn on the bedroom TV, and put him in our bed with his mother where he will watch quietly until his mom wakes up. I have no idea why I didn’t do that this time. Maybe he was really wrapped up in the episode or something. Maybe I didn’t feel like dealing with the two year old tantrum I was going to incur just from turning off the TV and moving him from one room to the other. Doesn’t matter now. Anyway I told him very rationally like you would speak to any 30 year old adult. “Braden, when this show is finished, go upstairs and climb into bed with mommy. Okay?” “Okay, daddy.” No problem, right? The onus is on him. So don’t blame me. I didn’t walk him to our front door, unlock it and run him out of our house. No, no, he did that on his own.
Sigh…yup. See my oldest child is really smart. Even when he was two. He’s also very strong willed. He wanted to go outside. So he did. He walked right up to the door (It was locked, Judgey Judgersons!)…unlocked it and walked out. Now luckily we lived in a condo complex at the time so it wasn’t right on a busy street…but he did cross the street IN the housing complex and walked right into an open door of a neighbor’s house. Luckily the neighbor was a kindly old woman who gave him a juice box and, not knowing the neglectful parents in charge of the poor child, called the police. The police had no idea who this kid was and were getting ready to take him down to the station when Braden pointed toward our unit and led the police to our front door (stinkin’ rat). The cops walked in our open door just as my wife was coming downstairs looking for her toddler son. Luckily they weren’t the same cops from the incident a few months ago. My wife was completely horrified of course and explained that she was at a severe disadvantage because A) she was in her first trimester and therefore overly fatigued and B) She was married to a complete idiot. Anyway Braden was fine, nobody was arrested, and we met our new neighbor who actually did some babysitting for us later on. This time we asked her and took our son over to her place ourselves. See? Everything worked out.
I was fully expecting the call from Child Protective Services that came a few weeks after this particular incident. My wife heard the message on our voice mail and completely freaked out, but I just sighed knowing that it was inevitable and hoping they would find my son a good home. In fact when they called back the first thing I said was “What took you so long?” Well it turns out it was completely coincidental. Somebody gave our phone number as a possible witness to a child abuse incident at a local park and Child Services was following up. It turned out be a mistake. We didn’t witness anything, we didn’t recognize the name of either party. We’re not even sure how they got our number. It was just a big misunderstanding. However my wife “pleaded” our case by saying “Are you sure nobody called to report us because let me tell you about our summer” She pretty much sang like a canary (Apparently since I have the most Italian blood in my family, I’m the only one who knows when to keep his mouth shut!). The Child Services woman laughed at my wife and said, “Relax ma’am. No one has reported you and the fact that you’re this concerned means you’re a very caring and good mother. Your husband on the other hand…”
Look I’m not trying to make light of this. It was a very scary situation and I have never forgiven myself. The Universe was sending me a warning not to be so lax in my parenting. I put a chain on the front door that was almost too high for me to reach (which is not all that high anyway) and I’ve kept a much closer eye on both of my kids at all times…oh right except for that one time…and that other time…but this is only a trilogy so you don’t get to read those stories. I wrote the last three articles because while I’m a super involved presence in my sons’ lives, I screw up a lot too. I was always an insecure kid, teenager, and adult so it stands to reason that sometimes I’m gonna be an insecure father too. It’s kind of why I started this blog in the first place. I just hope I’m hiding it enough from my boys. Anyway the police have never had to return (knock wood) so I guess I’ve gotten a little better. I still have to work on my stamina when playing “monster” though.
There are two situations I never experienced as a child or a young adult that I’ve now experienced several times as a father. The first is an Emergency Room visit and the second is a home visit from the police department. Now this was either due to luck or (more likely) an incredibly boring and sedentary childhood and adolescence. It’s hard to break bones when you sit in front of a TV all day and there has yet to be a case of someone being arrested from reading too many books or playing air guitar in front of their bedroom mirror. So in my first 35 years I never recorded one trip to the ER and never once had to open the door to “Sherriff’s Department!” Since becoming a father? ER visits: 3 (the most recent trip being at 3 AM last Friday) and police encounters: 2. Now the ER visits actually make me a caring father and that’s not the subject of this blog nor is it very funny so we’ll skip over that. By the way one of those visits is described in a blog I wrote a few years ago called “The Family that Laughs Together”. Now as for the cop visits, I’m sure that would put me on some sort of bad parenting watch list. I mean it’s not like parents have never had to deal with cops when it comes to their kids, but their kids are usually teenagers who have gotten into trouble or been caught being stupid. The younger your kid is, the worse a visit from the authorities reflects on the parent. My son was two years old in both instances which puts me on par with Casey Anthony parenting wise. Okay I’m not THAT bad… and anyway she was found innocent (cough, cough)
The first visit from Santa Clarita’s finest was at about 2 AM on a sweltering night in August of 2008. My oldest son was two and my wife was pregnant with our second. I was woken out of a very deep sleep by a pounding on my front door. In fact it was the kind of thing where the pounding is incorporated into your dream and then your conscious brain realizes, “No this is actually happening. Wake up…now!” So I stumbled out of bed and ran-staggered downstairs bleary eyed and completely disoriented with very disheveled hair and wearing a rumpled dirty t-shirt and droopy boxers.
“Who is it?” I asked
“Sherriff’s Dept.” a calm voice responded.
Nothing like hearing those two words to snap you awake. I looked myself over and considered running upstairs and making myself more presentable. Then I figured the police probably knew they woke me up and didn’t expect me to answer the door in business casual wear so I promptly opened the door. Three police officers stood on my front step, service revolvers drawn while assuming a firing stance—okay maybe not. But there were three of them. One stood on my step while the other two stood behind him as backup. Not that backup was needed. While I’m sure to a casual observer this looked like a scene right out of Cops, I couldn’t have looked too intimidating in my checkered boxers and Six Feet Under t-shirt. At that point I really wished I had thrown on my white terrycloth bathrobe so I looked a little more Tony Soprano-ish. All I would need is the wife beater undershirt, a gold chain, and about 5 more inches of height.
“Sir, do you have a small child?” asked the lead police officer.
Quite possibly the scariest question I’d ever been asked. Every parent’s nightmare. A thousand scenarios went through my still-not-quite-awake mind. Did my little boy get out somehow? If I said “yes” was the cop going to pull him out from behind his back and say “Well, here he is!” A lump formed in my throat and I squeaked out, “Yes I do.”
“Well we got a call because he’s been crying for over an hour and no one is coming to take care of him”
Okay…now comes the time of the blog when I explain myself. Bear in mind I said “explain” not “excuse”. It was a REALLY hot night. I have a real aversion to running our air conditioner at night because I’m a cheap bastard and I’m trying to save money on our electric bill. This by the way has driven my wife absolutely crazy for…let’s see we’ve been living together for 12 years so…12 years. Anyway every window in the house was open, we had 2 very loud fans going on high in our room, and our door was closed. In both pregnancies my wife was always very fatigued in the first trimester. I know, I know. Everybody’s tired in the first trimester. No, no, no. You don’t understand. She was like the pregnant, female Weekend At Bernie’s. During the day I would put sunglasses on her, put her mouth in a smile and walk around holding her up and making her wave to people. You can only imagine what she was like when she was able to close her eyes and actually sleep. A stampeding herd of Wildebeest taking a detour through our bedroom wouldn’t cause her to turn over. (See the analogy here is that since the stampeding Wildebeest had to take a detour through our bedroom they would be even angrier thereby complaining to each other and making the noise that much louder.) Now usually I’m an incredibly light sleeper. Always have been. It’s a blessing and a curse. Every other night when my son so much as sniffled, I would bolt upright in bed. This particular night however I was fighting a nasty head cold and reluctantly decided to take Advil PM or Nyquil or one of those other coma inducing medicines. So if you add two fans, a closed door, a comatose pregnant woman and her stuffed up comatose husband …it’s quite possible the sounds of a toddler crying may be heard by the neighbors in the adjoining condos….before his parents in the other room. For an hour. Sigh. Commence judging.
So I’m still trying to sleepily process everything and now I’m horrified that my son has been crying for an hour but also a little confused because he wasn’t crying at that moment. This led me to believe that he had either given up finally and resigned himself to a life of neglect or thought we were maybe letting him “cry it out” which we’d tried to do before but ultimately caved after 5 minutes OR…he was dead. I was pretty sure (hoping to God) it wasn’t the latter so I decided to make it all about me and explained to the nice officers that we probably couldn’t hear because of the two fans, the closed door, the pregnancy and the cold medicine…and the meth. To their credit the police listened but most likely couldn’t care less. They got the call, they responded, now they just wanted to move on. I however wouldn’t let them. Because of my insatiable desire to prove to everyone that I wasn’t a bad father ALL the time I invited the cops in to check on him with me. “I’m sure he’s fine” I said giggling nervously. I had no idea if he was fine or not. “Would you like to come in and see?” So much for Tony Soprano. Even the officers seemed surprised. I’d make a horrible criminal. “No, I don’t have any drugs in the house. Come on in and check. Just don’t look in that cabinet!”
They followed me upstairs to his room. As soon as I opened the door, I saw my son sitting up in his crib making that hyperventilating noise indicating that he had indeed been sobbing for a long period of time. He looked at me and meekly said “Hi daddy.” Thank God the cops heard that so it was obvious he knew me and that this incident was not the norm but an anomaly. Oh and Thank God he was safe too. I picked him up saying “Hi buddy, I’m so sorry. I didn’t hear you” As I smothered him with kisses and hugs I turned to the cops so they could get a good look at my excessive displays of affection. They seemed unimpressed and said”…maybe just close your windows.” I sputtered, ”Yes, yes, absolutely. Thank you, officers. Sorry to bother you.” The police filed out the front door, I took our son into our room, put him next to me in bed, hugged him tight and everyone fell back to sleep. Except of course my wife who never woke up to begin with.
As an epilogue…for the next two weeks I walked around trying to suss out who of my neighbors ratted us out. I never found out, but I think it was the people across from us. They were nice folks, but they always kind of looked at me as if to say “You’re doing it wrong”. Also their bedroom window and my son’s were directly opposite each other. I’m sure whoever called the authorities didn’t do it out of anger. They were probably concerned that a baby was crying and the fact that nobody was coming to tend to it meant the parents were severely injured or dead. Why else would anyone let a baby cry for an hour at 2 AM??!!!
My 41 year old defense mechanism of humor is thinly covering up the fact that I did and still do feel horrible. The good thing though is that even though my son was crying, he was never in any danger. He wasn’t hurt; he was in his crib in a room with the door closed. There was no way he could have gotten out. No, that would come a few weeks later…
I come downstairs and see my 5 year old practicing his piano. He’s practicing a song he wrote called “Riding the Waves”. It’s a little derivative of “Breathe Me” by Sia but he’s added some nice changes. If he can add a strong bridge, he’ll have a hit on his hands. And yes I know I sound casual, but I am constantly amazed that my five year old son made up a song one day and consistently plays it the same way every time. Then I turn and see my 2 year old who has just discovered singing. He is belting out “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King. He’s not just singing it however. He’s crooning. He’s bending the notes in a way that would impress Michael Buble. The emotion on his face makes me utterly convinced how eager he is to begin his reign over the Serengeti. This real life scene transports me into the following fantasy which is laid out instantaneously in my head…
My boys continue to develop their vocal and instrumental skills as they grow older. Braden, the older brother, becomes not only prodigious on the piano, but the drums and bass as well. He also becomes a brilliant songwriter. Henry, the younger, develops his singing voice and good looks while learning a little rhythm guitar.
At 13 and 10 respectively they cut a fun little video of an original tune and post it on YouTube. It quickly explodes into a viral sensation garnering millions of hits and the Bieber-esque journey begins.
The boys are signed by Hollywood Records and the band name officially becomes LoPrete. The P is capitalized so that it can have a more aerodynamic look on CD covers. Much like the VH in Van Halen
They make their national television debut on “Teens of 2018!” the new Disney Channel show. Their first CD “Meet LoPrete” goes multi-platinum and the ensuing world tour is the largest grossing tour of the year.
They begin work on a Disney XD sitcom called “Brothers in Rock!” which quickly climbs to the top of the ratings. Critics call the Lopretes “charming….likeable….naturally talented.” Variety writes” The eldest, Braden, exudes a Lennon-esque bad boy confidence and rugged handsomeness while Henry fills the McCartney dreamy eyed gentle soul role”
Braden and Henry Loprete are named one of Barbara Walters Most Fascinating People of the Year. Miss Walters, who has ignored calls for her retirement and instead chooses to increase the soft filter effect on her camera, interviews the boys as well as their parents. Ally, their mother, is a celebrity in her own right as her 10 year old business and radio show has reaped national recognition as well as a multi book deal and reality show on the Lifetime network. Chris, their father, has recently recovered from a mild heart attack and looks aged and …well…just tired. He’s proud of the boys though and while he does take a small percentage of their profits to cover expenses and invest in a college fund, most of their money goes to them. He’s charming and funny, but at times borders on stealing the spotlight from the boys. Almost as if he’s making it about him. It’s not quite Michael Lohan but it’s still kind of embarrassing. Luckily the editor of the piece puts a stop to any grandstanding that takes place.
LoPrete enjoys continued success for 5 more years and two more albums. When LoPretemania begins to wane the boys decide to jump off the fame train and continue a normal adolescence. Luckily their father has not only been fiscally responsible enough to set enough money aside for college, but has made a number of smart investments that has made enough for the whole family to retire to the beaches of Hawaii where the father will host the morning show “Aloha Waikiki!” and-
I am hurled back to reality by an ear piercing scream and a cacophony of piano notes as my two year old has begun to bang away on the keys. My five year old begins to bang away as well…on my two year old. My wife tries to break them up all the while yelling at me, “DO YOU THINK YOU COULD WAKE UP LONG ENOUGH TO HELP ME WITH THESE DAMN KIDS?!” I move to intervene with a hint of a smile breaking out on my face. This will make a great story for the Barbara interview.
We held out as long as we could. And it wasn’t very long. I read a statistic one time that said something like 95% of boys play video games. 95%! How do you compete with that? My wife and I have two boys so our chances of keeping video games out of the house were pretty much shot the second the X chromosome laid eyes on the Y chromosome across the crowded DNA strand. We were never into video games before the kids came along. My wife didn’t like them because…well she’s a girl. Sorry to generalize and sound sexist, but that 95% of boy gamers drops to about 25% for girls. And while I played a video game or two as a kid, I never really obsessed over them…probably because I have the hand/eye coordination of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. With the popularity of video games today we knew it was inevitable, but we wanted to keep them out of the house for a long as possible. Maybe until they’re, say, 10? Stop laughing. We may have been naïve but we really thought we had a shot. Then my 5 year old discovered Super Mario Bros at a friend’s house earlier this year and those Italian paisan won the war. (Italians won a war. There’s something you never hear.) He was hooked. When the time came, he quickly hopped on Santa’s lap and placed an order. Santa rolled his eyes, but realized resistance was futile. We decided to go with a Wii because the games are more active and get the kids up and moving. If they were going to play video games all day, they were going to work up a sweat while doing it. It sort of worked. One of the games we bought was Dance Party 3 which is a fun game in which you copy the moves of the dancers on screen. It’s a great workout and trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything more cute than a 5 and 2 year old dancing hip hop to “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas. Even their Mom and Dad danced a song or two although their Dad almost had a heart attack. My epitaph would have read “Death by The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited” But the “keep them active” plan backfired as well because the Wii console comes with Super Mario Bros included for free…which requires no activity whatsoever. And my son’s favorite game? Yup. He’s a 5 year old junkie and that bastard Mario is his dealer. Completely addicted. He could play all day and would too if it weren’t for those pesky human functions like eating and sleeping. Notice I didn’t include “going to the bathroom” on that list. That’s because I constantly see him playing the game while hopping from foot to foot in a manic dance of “holding it in”. While I appreciate the fact that he is getting a little bit of exercise I have to yell at him,” Put that thing down and go to the bathroom now!” Every now and then I’m tempted to see what would happen if I didn’t say anything. The key word in that last sentence is “tempted”. I’m wrestling with the Bad Dad devil on my right shoulder that is telling me that my job could be so much easier if I just turned that damn thing on and let him play it as much as he wanted. A free babysitter for as long as I need. I could get stuff done around the house; I could run errands without the constant “Why are we here? When can we go home? Can I have this or that or that?” I could, dare I say, relax with a good book! Remember reading, parents?! Just as I crack open a book that doesn’t rhyme or have pictures though, the Good Dad devil on my left shoulder appears and ruins everything. He shows me the future and there’s my morbidly obese 25 year old son, sitting on his bedroom floor in a filthy t-shirt and shorts about to reach the highest level of Super Duper Mario Bros. 26. Strewn on the floor around him are half eaten bags of Cheetos and empty Red Bull cans. I recognize his bedroom because it’s still in my house!! This thought alone is enough to make me reach for the “off button”. So video games have infiltrated our home like termites. Now it’s up to me keep them from burrowing too far into my kids’ brains.
Is it me? When did little kids get such big attitudes? Look I love my five year old son, but sometimes the mouth on this kid makes Damien from the Omen look like Opie from the Andy Griffith Show. He fights me on everything. He talks back. He disobeys. He throws tantrums. I would blame it on my less than adequate parental techniques and I do tend to be inconsistent with my behavioral therapy and discipline at times, but I know it’s not just my kid. Apparently my niece has got a little mean streak when it comes to talking to her parents. And I’ve heard stories from other parents too. Is it the TV shows they’re watching? Has Sesame Street turned a dark corner? “Guess what Elmo’s thinking about today? YA TA DA DAA! Elmo’s been thinking about…manipulation tactics” I don’t know. Should I calm down? I mean is it a side effect of society today? Our children are exposed to more media with computers, the internet, and more shows on more channels so maybe that’s having more of an influence on their behavior. They’re growing up much faster now. Too fast. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to my 5 year old, “I HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS DURING YOUR TEENAGE YEARS! I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS NOW!” Of course he just stares at me…and then sort of giggles maliciously. Sends shivers down my spine. Another problem is that his little protégé, my two year old, is starting to copy big brother, his hero, the way he always has. An angry frown and a “No, DADDY!” is a lot cuter coming from a 2 year old than a 5 year old…but he’ll get older. I’ve gotta nip that in the bud.
I know I sound like Old Man Loprete a la “what’s with these kids today?!”, but when I was the age of a kindergartener I wouldn’t DREAM of talking to my parents the way my kid talks to me. Now granted my father was 6’ 3” so a five year old talking back to him was somewhat frowned upon. Hell, a 40 year old talking back to him is somewhat frowned upon. My problem is that I’m 5’7” and my Amazon kid is already half my size. He’ll be taller than me by the 5th grade. Then I’m really sunk. I can just picture this conversation when he’s in high school.
Me (looking up at my 6’5” 17 year old): Son, you’re grounded.
Him (grabbing my hands and slapping my face with them): “Why you hitting yourself, Dad? Why you hitting yourself?
Okay now listen. My son is not Linda Blair from The Exorcist. He’s a wonderful, smart, funny, and mostly well behaved kid. We have a beautiful close relationship. No neglectful father Harry Chapin songs (Cat’s In The Cradle) or Springsteen-esque dysfunctional father/son stories (any Springsteen concert) here. If you watch Modern Family (and you should) the character of Phil Dunphy has a misguided parental approach called “peerenting”. Maybe that’s my problem. At times I think my son sees me more as a friend than a father. Not fair. I love teaching, playing, and spending time with my son…I just wish he would shut up and do what I tell him. I mean I waited a long time for this. Don’t you remember when your parents said “When you’re a parent you can tell your kids what to do.”? Come on, people! We’ve earned this! Let’s take back control! Occupy Our Kids!!!