31 January 2011


This weekend, the Doozer had a playdate with a friend's kid, a boy less than a year older. They played relatively well together (or rather, mostly, just beside each other, truth be told), but one striking thing did occur.

The Doozer was not really . . . himself.

A great deal of time is spent here in this very blog, as well as through other social media, and sometimes by shouting from the rooftops, by my wife and I, describing how special and amazing the Doozer happens to be. Which he is. We know this because these are the types of things we hear about him from other people, not just as the products of our own warped, biased assessments.

And yet, when new faces appear on the scene, shyness kicks in and the Doozer becomes almost unrecognizable. Not that I can blame him exactly. Having suffered from bouts of crippling shyness throughout my youth and my adult life, I think I know where it might come from.

(Seriously, if one of my roommates had not walked my now wife right into our apartment and introduced us directly, I might never have worked up the nerve to even speak with her. My life might have followed a drastically different course and, if nothing else, this blog would probably be a lot more boring than it is—if it existed at all.)

At the same time, this routine is wearing thin and the Doozer is beginning to make us look bad. Like the boy who cried wolf, we're starting to look hopelessly out-of-touch, new parents who think their child is the greatest thing since sliced bread, completely unaware—or in denial—of the fact that in reality he's something of a dud.

Who is this shy, retiring wallflower exactly? I do not recognize you. What's with all the muttering and mumbling? What happened to the screeching and howling?

You weren't shy at that restaurant the other night when you called across the entire joint, in front of all the patrons, "Dada! Thank you for the delicious ice cream!" Nor were you reticent at the mall play area when you stood atop the slide, yelling to your mother at the top of your lungs, "Mama, what's your name?"

You know Doozer, you're only going to be this cute for so long. At a certain point, people are going to just stop caring. You've got to milk it for all it's worth right now. Share it. Spread it around.

We're not making this stuff up. I'm not embellishing for the sake of entertainment. (Well, only slightly.) No, the Doozer really is all these amazing things: chatterbox, smarty-pants, goofball, curious mind. So why doesn't he share this with the world? Why does it seem sometimes like he's just putting on a private show for the wife and me? It's like that old Looney Tunes cartoon with Michigan J. Frog where he only sings for the one guy and not the sold-out theater crowd.

Seriously, what is wrong with him?

You're really starting to make us look bad here, kid . . .

25 January 2011


There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently about a movement to restore the concept of "play" to the lives of today's children. Apparently, we were on to something with that wooden castle as a Christmas gift, in order to spark the Doozer's imagination.

While the article focused mostly on children older than our own, it's never too early to get some insights into the road ahead. The reason that "play" is endangered, so to speak, is that kids are increasingly wired. Understandable, considering that our generation of parents is so wired. And in fact, the Doozer, even at his tender age, is completely familiar with televisions and computers and phones. But then again, this is the world he's inheriting. This is our world and how we connect with it, so this is the life he will know.

It dawns on me that playing also awakens my inner control freak. Playing is messy and chaotic, unstructured and . . . anarchic? Now, dear reader, before you point out the obvious and tell me that I was once a child and surely I played (having grown up in a world without smartphones and Wiis and DVDs, in a far less wired time), let me offer an example of how I played as a child.

Growing up, I was a big fan of Star Wars (still am, mostly) and over the years amassed a sizable collection of toys related to the original trilogy (which I still have, much to my wife's chagrin). Cases of action figures and playsets and spaceships. And what would I do with these toys? I would arrange them, artfully, meticulously, into static recreations of sequences from the films. (If I was more artistic, I probably would have built dioramas and grown up to be the next Wes Anderson.) And then? Well, that was pretty much it. I looked at them, I guess. Maybe I'd create some dialogue between the figures, but that was sort of the extent of my playing with them.

And when a friend I had at that time would be over and he'd try to actually play with those toys—what a concept—I would inform him that those characters did not appear in that scene of the film. (I don't remember this, mind you, but my mother never tires of reminding me that I have been weirdly idiosyncratic my entire life.) Needless to say, we are no longer friends. I'm not certain why.

My son does not share these inclinations. He is a smasher and grabber, a destructor and not a builder. He loves to build towers of blocks just to knock them down again. The Doozer does not care that knights and pirates did not co-exist in the same historical era, or that Iron Man, in all likelihood, would not hang out with Santa Claus. Clowns do not typically work on a farm, cars do not drive themselves, and bears are not, as a rule, employed at post offices.

Yes, yes, he is only two and all of this is completely reasonable. I get that. I also get that in many ways, I am simply not built for fatherhood.

The Doozer is a player, a doer. We are quite different. And I do recognize if he was more like me, I'd have far less to write about here.

It was brought to my attention recently that I will miss these days down the road. No doubt that's true. So I will gladly attempt to set aside my largely interior approach to life and do more to embrace an exterior one. I will gladly participate as a hippie van storms a medieval castle, as a shark pilots a pirate ship, as a chicken drives a tractor, and as a deer bunks down in a tent.

These days won't last. And so I know I must attempt to be totally present for every laughter-infused moment of hide-and-seek. I will count to six (no, not five, not ten) and embark on this hunt as if I haven't played this game a thousand times. I will experience it as the Doozer does, as a wondrous new invention. As the Doozer uncovers another hiding spot, roots out my wife or I, as he throws himself into this enterprise with boundless energy and complete abandonment, I will match him every step of the way, smile for smile, giggle for giggle.

I will play.

13 January 2011

Sticky Fingers

Our long national nightmare might finally be drawing to a close. The CDC appears ready to lift its quarantine from our home, as the wife and I (and the Doozer) seem to be close to recovering fully from the debilitating ailments that afflicted us these last few weeks.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .

For us, a return to "normal" life means a return to a life that is really not all that normal. The transition from happily married and childless couple to full-fledged family is pretty jarring and drastic. Even two-plus years in it's something that's difficult to entirely get used to.

For me, especially.

In some ways, I am really not well-equipped for fatherhood. Sure, I do a decent job as a dad, adequately fulfilling most of the responsibilities inherent in the position: set a good example, provide for my kid, love my kid, yada yada yada. However, there is at least one major way in which I was ill-prepared for this entire operation. No matter how much you read, see, or hear about parenting and kids, until you're knee-deep in the reality of the situation, you really have no idea what you're in for. And for me, it all comes down to one simple idea:

Kids are messy.

Now, I don't mean to imply that our child is the second coming of Pig Pen from Peanuts, not at all. He is hygienic and clean, well-dressed and properly groomed. Mostly due to my wife. (Toddler fingernails grow like crazy—who knew?) But give him some food—any kind, really—and be prepared for stained clothes (yours and his), matted hair (again, yours and his), lots of sweeping and wiping, and be sure to keep a steady supply of napkins and paper towels handy.

One defining moment of new parenthood was hearing my wife proclaim to the Doozer, "Hey, keep your grubby 'brat fingers off of my Coach purse." My sentiments exactly. Or something like that.

Here's the thing. What I may have considered to be minor character deficiencies in my pre-child era, I have come to see as a collection of issues coalescing into something along the lines of a disorder now that I've become a parent.

I am a control freak.

And a neat freak. And . . . well, maybe just plain freak. Throughout our relationship my wife has chided me for my diligent adherence to rules and instructions. An accomplished improviser, comfortable with winging it in almost any situation, she routinely loses patience with me, doesn't comprehend my need to read instruction manuals and to precisely follow recipes for even the simplest of dishes.

My counterargument is always that rules, regulations, instructions, etc., exist for a reason. They are practical. And they stave off chaos.

Which is exactly what has descended upon our lives in the time since our son was born. Chaos. Disorder. Anarchy.

My preference is always for order. Organization. Things which are now in the past, impossible to attain in the land of a rampaging toddler.

(And I'm sure he's not even all that bad. There have to be worse kids out there in the world. The horror, the horror . . . )

Fatherhood has the very strong potential to make me . . . antsy. Like, all of the time. Because it's utter madness. It really is. And it's not just food messes, but toys in every room of the house. It's finding Cheerios in the sofa cushions and aimless scribbling masquerading as "coloring." It's just an excess of stuff, of clutter. It's paperback (and sometimes not) books being bent, torn, frayed, mangled (seriously, is he eating these things when we aren't looking?), it's getting drenched with soapy water during bath time, it's drops of milks on the living room rug, it's finding stuffed animals wedged inside your bed and tripping over errant toys everywhere and snow-filled boots and snot and toothpaste and worse all over your clothes.

Chaos! Anarchy!

No sense of order or organization or simple, common neatness. And I imagine it will only get worse should we have a second child. It will double the amount of chaos. As it stands, I can barely handle the current amount.

It's like the Doozer is a miniature robot programmed for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on our existence. I want to plead with him: Please master the use of a fork! It's really not that hard. Just sit quietly and look at that book! And please, for the love of all things holy, could you follow this extremely simple storage system to keep all the toys in some semblance of order?

You're killing me. I just want zzzzzh;akhfseieuaruie;na;9209u'iwjna /weuriruw'tharh23yrwihfsd/xczvn.mcv

And get off the keyboard! I'm doing something here. We can do a Google image search for gargoyles later, ya weirdo.

Patience is an essential parenting trait. One I find to be often out of my grasp. I try. I think about giving in. About accepting. Being more Zen. Remaining calm. It's no secret that parenting is a trial by fire, a taxing ordeal. Not at all for the meek. Patience will serve you well.

Or the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

Oh, barkeep . . .

06 January 2011

Bring Out Your Dead

Most of the time, people who write or talk or share photos or videos of their kid do so to promote their cuteness, their smartness, their all-around neatness as little people. New parents dote on their kids and make them out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sure, I'm as guilty of this as anyone else (the Doozer being pretty much the most amazing, adorable, intelligent creature in the world—I'm not biased or anything), but there's a dark side to parenting. A very dark side and I feel like most people don't spend nearly enough time exploring it. That is to say, most people don't complain about their kids enough. They must have complaints. Why sugarcoat it?

The Doozer got me sick. Jerk store.

A friend recently told me that when he contracts a cold from his three-year-0ld nephew, it's usually far worse than any other cold. Bubonic plague, I believe, is how he described the experience.

At the time, I had to disagree, because I'd never caught anything so severe from the Doozer (I believe he made me sick only once before and it was relatively mild). In fact, knock on wood, we've been fairly lucky in that the Doozer has rarely been sick and never seriously so.

That is, until he quietly, sneakily brought this scourge and pestilence into our home this week, infecting me and the wife. She joked about the CDC quarantining our entire house.

She wasn't that far off.

Having a nasty cold while there's a two-year-old living in your house pretty much guarantees that it will be one of the worst illnesses of your entire life. Because unlike a normal person,who gets sick and crawls into bed until it is over, your child does not grow listless or restful. (Or maybe that's just my child.) Rather, he is his regular maniac self, just with a steady drip of mucus coming out of his nose, like an annoying leaky faucet. And so it grows increasingly difficult to combat your newfound illness, because he is not allowing you to get any rest.

Like I said, jerk store.

It's quite similar to the first hangover you have as a parent, which gets amplified to the point that it is the Worst Hangover in the History of the World, because you have to be up and functional at 7 a.m. and working diligently to manage/entertain/protect/keep alive a tiny human, rather than hiding under the covers, ingesting fried food.

(But that's a story for another time.)

Seriously, the kid was so stealth about introducing this virus, he was like a cold ninja who silently struck without warning, bringing down the whole operation without any fuss at all. And then he decides he won't let you get any rest in order to get better.

So, yes, I'm griping about my kid. This is the dark side of parenting, where it's not all sunshine and rainbows, where your kid irritates and frustrates you. This week, he is not my favorite person in the world.

But then, evil, manipulative, little genius that he is, he takes the whole thing up a level. When asked what he wants to watch on TV before going to bed, he tells me he would like to watch "The Ornament, Buddha, and Dada Show." What that show is exactly I have no idea, but it doesn't matter. He got me. All is forgiven and I fall in love with the little guy all over again.

Seriously, jerk store . . .