28 March 2011

Defend Detroit

So, the Motor City's been in the news a lot lately. First it was this:

Then more recently, this.

And it is easy to get discouraged. After living in New York and Los Angeles, having traveled to places like San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago, it's hard not to compare Detroit to other major cities. I get that. I do it all the time.

Growing up in the north suburbs, it might have been easy to forget all about the city, but I was not raised to shy away from it, to run for the hills when the working day was over. Some of the fondest memories from my youth involve coming to Detroit. Summertime was all about ballgames at Tiger Stadium. My dad always got tickets from his office that were right behind the visiting team's dugout. I remember New York Yankee Neil Allen throwing me a ball after warming up. I remember Sweet Lou's black wooden bat, which looked like nobody else's. Gibby's sweet handlebar 'stache. Or my favorite pitcher, Dan Petry's moustache. Moustaches were big, apparently.

Then there were touring musicals and live shows at the Fox Theatre. Murals and art works at the Detroit Institute of Arts. When I got older, it was shows at St. Andrew's. Or drinks at The Town Pump.

And I'm proud to say that my wife and I have kept us these traditions with the Doozer. So far, in his short life, he's been to that historic, beautiful Fox Theatre (for Sesame Street Live) and frolicked around the galleries of the DIA. He was a big fan of the giant tiger statues outside of Comerica Park (I like to believe it's because he never got to see the original Tiger Stadium) and he absolutely loves the Spirit of Detroit statue—this might be his favorite thing about coming into the city (even more than the giant guitar outside of the Hard Rock Cafe, more than seeing his own father at his office during the workday). The kid's even been to City Bird. What a total hipster.

We recently took him to the Detroit Science Center, which is great for kids. Where else would you have these kinds of opportunities? The Doozer got to learn about Bernoulli's principle . . .

. . . and came face to face with a pair of couch potatoes (hopefully he did not mistake them for his mom and dad).

He got to compare his muscles to the Hulk's . . .

. . . and have a jam session with David Byrne.

There were also giant, animatronic dinosaurs that he couldn't stop talking about. That is, until we went to lunch, at the midtown classic Traffic Jam & Snug, where they served him a dish of ice cream that resembled a clown.

He's already talking about going back to see those tigers again when the weather's warmer. And watching a baseball game at Comerica Park. He's always up for seeing the Spirit of Detroit. He talks about that a lot. A lot.

If only everybody could get that excited about Detroit. Maybe someday soon they will. If you could see it through the eyes of the Doozer, you'd know it's a place worth caring about. Worth getting invested in. Worth supporting.

This is Detroit. This is the Doozer's hometown.

24 March 2011

Somebody Gets It

Obviously, the blogosphere is a wide, expansive frontier. And even in that corner of the universe that is parent-centric blogs (often generalized as mommy blogs, to which I take justified umbrage), it's still relatively easy to feel like you're alone, regardless of how big the community actually is. Sometimes it feels like you're just shouting down into the void, getting lost in the frenzy of various parenting voices.

And then, sometimes you discover a kindred spirit, someone whose experiences of parenthood seem to reflect your own. Huzzah! you proclaim. There's somebody else out there who gets it.

Which brings me (the long way) around to my new favorite metaphor for being a parent, an amusing bit about repeatedly purchasing travel coffee mugs at Target, only to find yourself with ceramic mugs from your kitchen still cluttering up your car. It's from a new blog, Signs of (real) Life. Which you should check out. Go do it. Now. I'll wait.

And now I will commence with shameless plugging.

(Ed. note: In full disclosure, I have known the blog's author for a large portion of my life.)

When I read that bit about travel mugs, I thought, Somebody out there gets it. Somebody else's experience of parenthood is just like ours. "It's us!" I said to my wife, shoving the laptop in her face and making her read the post (her laughter indicating agreement and recognition).

Also, this particular author has a memoir being published in April, Signs of Life. Read that, too. Going by what she's written in her blog, it's bound to be witty and insightful. A little bit snarky and also really warm. It's almost enough to make me feel like a hack who has no business doing this.

So, to the very small number of who people out there who read this rag, you should read her too. Then go ahead and follow her on Twitter, where she is equally hilarious and insightful.

Shameless plug over, back to our regularly scheduled, Doozer-centric programming . . .

17 March 2011

The Comedian

No. This is not a post about Edward Blake (for the two people reading who would get that reference/joke). Rather, I was inspired by a recent Baby Center e-mail I received, the subject of which was comedy. And how the life of a 2-year-old can be exactly that. That even when being deadly serious, kids at this age are often nothing short of hilarious in all that they do.

And this more than applies to the Doozer. He seems to be a natural ham at times, the designated class clown of our family, but it's often the most unintentional humor that is the funniest.

Like when we drive past a Big Boy restaurant and he points out the Big Boy statue, holding up his "hambagunga." Or when he points to his Santa Claus Pez dispenser and tells us, in all sincerity, that it's his "best buddy." Or upon arriving at the grocery store, informing his mother at the top of his lungs that "we need to buy guacamole!" And when he asked his mother why she was not eating grapes at lunch, she informed him that she had saved the last grapes in the house just for him because she knew how much he enjoyed them. To which, he replied, "That's okay, Mama. I forgive you."

Lately, he's adopted sophisticated phrases in his vocabulary, adding unnecessary, linguistic flourishes to simple statements. (It's possible he is actually mocking us and our highfalutin' manner of speaking—but I hope not.) Sample phrases include "Yes, indeed, Dada" or "I certainly did enjoy that." Why does he talk this way?

Sample conversation from just this evening:

Me: Did you pee in your diaper?

Him: Obviously I did.

Where does this stuff come from?

Now he's "reading" his storybooks to us, using the same inflections and accents and rhythm that we use. (Again, it's possible he's mocking us, but I really hope that's not the case.)

There are other times when the miniature comedian is not that funny, when he's doing something that we don't approve of and yet it's still funny. Trying to keep a straight face while also attempting to instill discipline severely damages one's credibility as a convincing authoritarian. But sometimes, you just can't help it.

Perhaps the most amusing "bit" in his current repertoire is the screaming, death-metal rendition of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep." Sometimes he will sing it normally, in the dulcet tones of a sweet little toddler. But other times, this . . . voice comes out of him that is difficult to describe. Seriously, he sounds like Lemmy, like he's had a steady diet of Jack and unfiltered cigarettes for thirty years and his voice is a busted, ear-splitting howl. When in reality, the hardest thing he's ingested is some watered-down apple juice. We imagine it comes from letting him watch this:

But at the same time, there is almost no reasonable explanation for this transformation. It's like he's possessed. And much as we'd prefer he doesn't completely shred his vocal chords by age three, we can't help but collapse in fits of uncontrollable laughter when he does that.

"That was funny," the Doozer says, recognizing the sounds of laughter. "I was funny about that."

Yes, son. Yes, you were.

10 March 2011

The Kids Are Not All Right

On a recent weeknight, we took the Doozer down to the local library for a very special, nighttime event they were offering: a birthday party for one Dr. Seuss (or, Dr. Susan, as the Doozer called him). There was to be a Seuss book read (naturally), then there were Seuss-ian games and activities (making a paper hat to wear, coloring pictures of the Cat in the Hat), and of course, birthday cake.

Much to the Doozer's chagrin, there was a "Happy Birthday" sing-a-long, preceding the distribution of cake.

(Side note: Kids are weird. At least, mine is. He absolutely abhors the birthday song for some reason. Whenever he is offered cake of any kind, under any circumstances, his first response is, without fail, "I don't want to sing 'Happy Birthday.'" He's gotten into his head that to be allowed to eat cake means you must sing this song beforehand. And though he loves cake, the mere thought of the birthday song is almost enough to make him turn down such a sweet treat. Almost.)

So, we ate cake and listened to the story and colored the Cat before facing a miniature power struggle over the use of child-sized scissors. But almost everything that happened that night, for me, paled when compared to the overwhelming thought it inspired in me, as I surveyed that roomful of tykes and their parents/guardians.

I am not a fan of other people's kids. Mine is fine, but the others? Get them away from me.

It started almost the moment we arrived. I felt like Peter Parker with his Spidey sense, as I became aware of every sneeze and cough throughout the room. It was deafening, the sound of pestilence wafting through the air. "Filthy rugrats," I found myself thinking, or something to that effect. I no longer saw the library annex room as a site of celebration and frivolity, but rather a seething, festering pit of little people germs. And the little buggers were everywhere.

It took every bit of strength I had to not start shouting insane, lunatic warnings at my son: Get up off the floor! Don't touch those! Get away from there! Don't go near that kid—we have no idea where she's been!

But I refrained. I kept my neuroses in check. And I realized that there's this real struggle in parenthood between the empathy of experience and the feeling that you, as a parent, are entirely unique. Now being the parent of a child who can be noisy (and sometimes disagreeable) in the grocery store, I realize that all those other kids that I hear making noise in public are not necessarily the product of bad parenting. They're just kids. I have one now, so I get it.

But that empathy is not always readily accessible. It escapes me. I revert to the halcyon days of singlehood and the time of childlessness that was no so very long ago. Other people's kids are annoying and inferior. Especially when those people are strangers and their kid is trying to touch mine with their sticky fingers. Never mind that I get it, that my kid often has sticky fingers and does things I don't want him to do. Never mind that we are the same. In some ways.

Even now I find myself thinking things like Where are the parents? and These parents are idiots when I see kids running around in public. Again, being kids. I get it. Rationally, logically, it all makes sense to me. But emotionally, philosophically perhaps, I cannot get myself to embrace that empathy and live in it all the time.

Of course, because I'm having these thoughts and feelings, there must be people who are looking at me and my kid and thinking the exact same thing about us. Sure, more often than not our kid is amusing and entertaining and a pretty damn beautiful addition to the world, but of course I see him that way. To some other parent, he might just be a filthy rugrat with sticky fingers and a runny nose and a hipster doofus dad who has no business being a parent.

And they're probably right. Sadly. I fully acknowledge that I'm probably, possibly, a very horrible person.

But seriously, get your kids away from me. Little germy punks . . .