child rearing

Sleep Training, Part Infinity

I couldn’t turn off my alarm when it went off this morning. Because I wasn’t in my bed.

I was in someone else’s bed, snuggled up next to a cute little lady. Only hours before, she had been calling out my name before we both drifted back to sleep, exhausted.

Now, if this was a blog post from my twenties or thirties, I’d be about to delve into some NSFW kiss-and-telling to rank up there with the other Tony Kelly on Amazon.

But I’m in my forties now. And the adorable female I was sharing a tiny twin-size bed with was my four-year-old daughter. And as such, the only thing unsuitable for work on this particular day is my tired ass, drinking my fourth cup of coffee, hoping desperately that my contorted back remembers how to get out of this rolly chair, if and when the time comes that I have to, I don’t know, teach. Or move.

Because here we are in Sleep Training, Part IV. Although to divide it into parts is a bit of a misnomer. It implies we’ve only gone through four rounds of this shit, as opposed to a continuous on-again, off-again cycle of disappointment and failure. It’s definitely not Episode IV, because there is no New Hope in sight. Maybe we should use the Harry Potter nomenclature and call it Year IV. Because there’s a Goblet of Fire in my lower back right now. And if this is still going on in three more years, there will be a Deathly Hollow.

There was a point in time that my daughter could fall asleep on a dime and sleep through the night without a peep. Gosh, I miss opium. When she was six-months old, all I had to do was put on Joe Cocker’s “You are so Beautiful,” and she was out before the two minutes, forty-one seconds was up. Wife and I thought we were hot shit. Parents who had older children were shocked and amazed at how fast and simple our whole process was.

Pride cometh, and all of that.

In the ensuing three-and-a-half years, we’ve been through it all. Child sleeping in her own crib, child sleeping in her own bed, child sleeping in our bed, parent sleeping on the floor, parent sleeping on the couch, child sleeping out on curb. Okay, maybe not that last one, but I’m sure every parent whose gone through this whole process has wished that was an option. Maybe not the front curb. We don’t want to throw our kids away. But is the backyard out of the question? We can call it camping! Grown-up camping! Without Mommy and Daddy!

But no, our kid is relentless. The Only Child Syndrome is strong with this one, but never moreso than between bed time and the next morning. She’s starting to be able to occupy herself during the daytime. Wife and I can occasionally walk away long enough to take one dish out of the dishwasher before being summoned back to look at how good she’s coloring in the lines this time!

Even the bedtime routine’s gotten more autonomous. Everything up until the actual sleeping part is totally in her wheelhouse. She doesn’t fight the nightly process of bathroom, teeth, and pajamas. .There are even some nights she can accomplish these Herculean tasks in less than a half-hour. Usually it’s closer to an hour. Some nights it’s two hour and, holy crap, I guess I should’ve set the coffee maker before coming upstairs, because it’s now past MY bedtime and trudging back downstairs is going to take just about every ounce of adulthood I can muster.

Is putting cocaine in the coffee maker a good idea or a bad idea?

It doesn’t matter if it’s coffee or cocaine or sewer swill, cause the coffee-maker is only getting set if I can get out of my daughter’s bed in the first place. Because bedtime requires both parents’ participation. One of us must read a certain number of books to her. Usually there’s one or two “awake books,” and then however many “asleep books” it takes to finally accomplish said objective. All the while, the non-reading parent must snuggle her. We must get into her bed and lie next to her, tuck her under her blanket (approximately seventy times, as she will need to adjust herself continuously), maybe rub her back.

Or at the very least just lie there and try to outlast her. It’s tough. She still enjoys hearing “Hit the Ball, Duck” for the fifteen-hundredth time. Me, I’ve heard it so many times that I’m rooting for the Duck instead of the Frog now.

Oh, and now she wants water. The over/under for the number of water stops is also set at three-point-five per night. I bet the MGM Grand is just rolling in the dough from all the fools who thought the parents’ defense would hold strong.

And now the process starts over. Oh, we might SAY the next book is still an asleep book, but nobody actually believes that. It’s like those old read-along books: You will know it is time to turn the page, when you hear your parents say, “Close your eyes, Miss.”

But this bedtime routine isn’t what gives my back palpitations. Even if it’s 9:30 by the time she’s down, and even if I go directly from her bed to my bed, I can still get seven hours of sleep and deal with the coffee in the morning.

What really fucks with my life is the middle of the night. “Mommy, mommy,” or “Daddy, daddy” is not really what you want to hear at two o’clock in the morning, or three o’clock, or hell, 10:30 PM. It doesn’t really matter who she’s calling for. Whoever hears her first desperately tries to make it to her bedroom before the other one hears and wakes up. No use having TWO sleep-deprived adults in the morning. And we even manage to split the duties somewhat fairly, in that the one who didn’t sleep last night is dead to the world tonight, so the other one is the one likely to be awoken this time.

That was one of the wedding vows, right?

Once we get to our daughter’s room, we’re faced with a dilemma. A choose-your-own-adventure, if you will. There are a few options we do with our daughter.

Option A: Patiently sit or stand next to daughter’s bed, or scoop her up and walk her thirty-plus pounds of dead weight around her room, patting her back and shushing her back to sleep.

Option B: Bring her back to our bed or crawl into bed with her.

I know, with one-hundred percent certainty, which option is the correct option. Whether from a proper parenting standpoint or a psychological development standpoint or a behavioral economics perspective, choosing Option B makes child more likely to repeat her action in the future. Especially if I repeat the positive reinforcement tomorrow and the next night.

And yet… It’s two o’fucking clock in the morning and I’m fucking tired. So move over, junior.

Sometimes I can outlast her. I can put a calming hand on her back while standing or sitting next to her bed. She’s got a little stool I can sit on. But if I fall asleep while on the stool, my back will be even worse than if I’m lying next to her. And sometimes I can lie down next to her for a few minutes until she nods back to sleep, and then extricate myself back to my own bed. But most of the time I’m passed out before my head hits the mattress. The tiny, rock hard mattress designed for a thirty-plus pound four-year old.

In the previous incarnations of this particular struggle, we started bring her back to our bed. She was smaller then, so plopping her down on the queen mattress in between the two of us was more feasible. Sure, she would do the Exorcist-style spin around like a fucking whirling dervish, but again, she was small, so wife and I could still sleep clinging to our respective edges of the bed and be none the worse for the wear. I mean except for the whole bruised kidney thing from where the demon child sweet blessing of my life had practiced her soccer skills all night long.

But then we get the creep. What’s the creep? Well, one night the whole rigmarole starts at 3:00 am, then the next night she’s calling for us at 2:00, then 1:00. Before we’ve really had a chance to put the kibosh on it, she wants a quick snuggle on our bed before she goes to her bed. Then she wants to fall asleep on our bed before we take her over to her bed. The next thing you know, we’re in for three months of what the helicopter set call co-sleeping before we start the whole process over again with another week’s worth of sleepless nights, followed by maybe three weeks of solid sleep, and then the 3:00 AM wake-up calls start anew.

That’s why we’re trying to sleep in her bed these days. It might make for one cranky parent in the morning, but hey, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that you’ll wake up without bruised kidneys on any particular morning. But man, it’s a grind.

Our child has also figured out a neat little trick. She knows how to sneak in our bed without our knowledge. When she wakes up in the middle of the night and DOESN’T call for one of us, or if (let’s be honest, more likely), she calls for us and we don’t hear her because it’s in the middle-of-the-fucking-night and we’re a-fucking-sleep, then she just comes into our room and climbs into our bed. At certain points, she’s come to my wife’s side or my side and nudges us softly. We do that half wake-up thing, say “yeah, yeah” to some unasked question, then do a scoop-roll and plop her in the middle. But sometimes we have enough presence of mind to get out of bed and escort her back to her own room, followed by one of the various routines, and we’re back to square one.

But my child, like any evolving organism, adapts. So now, when she toddles over to our bedroom in the middle of the night, and faced with maybe a thirty-percent chance that she’ll be rebuffed, she has decided to circumvent the obstacle. To go around. Or rather, over. She climbs over the endboard of our bed, right there in the middle, and then, stealthy as a thief, she sneaks in between us and goes right to sleep. Hell, half the time she’s able to bring her blanket with her.

“I don’t remember hearing her calling us,” I remark in the morning.

“Neither do I, ” my wife responds.

“Wait, you didn’t get her?”

We both look at our daughter, exhibiting a look that is somewhere between shame and pride. The cat who ate the canary, but holy shit, guys, you shoulda fucking seen the size of that canary.

One time I caught her doing the climb-over maneuver. A subtle disturbance in the force, my bleary eyes open just a slit to see a forty-inch night terror hovering, momentarily on the precipice of the bed beyond my feet. I rub my eyes, like I’m William Shatner in a Twilight Zone episode. But the gremlin is still there. She pauses, knowing she’s been caught red-handed. I just shrug and go back to sleep, completely un-surprised when I find my precious little treasure between me and my wife, kicking me in the kidney, come morning.

Which brings us to Episode IV. Year IV. Our latest round of stalemated trench warfare against the night. Just like the generals in World War I, we look at what hasn’t worked in the past and make some subtle adjustments before starting our new offensive. And just like the generals in World War I, we know with alarming certainty that, when it’s all said and done, the result will be the same as every failed offensive before. The best laid plans of mice and men. Our iron youth facing the maw of the enemy. Waves of soldiers falling across no-man’s land.

We changed our tactics from the crib to the toddler bed. Nope. When we upgraded the next time, we spent weeks getting her super excited about her beg girl bed. Ownership! Growing! Big Girl Stuff! Nope, nada, not having it. So happy we spent the day getting all that shit up the stairs and put together.

And then, all of a sudden, one night she wanted to try it. What was the magic change? Mermaid sheets! Who knew? Fuck your autonomy and ownership bullshit. Give me some magical fucking creatures, right the fuck now.

Mom and I were elated, but suspicious as to how much this would last. So we assured her that one of us would sleep with her each night. The books and the websites say this is an effective transition and should only last for a few weeks. Either that, or they’re trying to come with a sales pitch for the sequel. “Hey, Parents, now that you’ve transitioned your kids into their own bed, find out how to get yourself out of there!” Release date: 2025.

And honestly, it’s not as bad as it was at the beginning. For the first week or two, one of us would lie down beside her and be trapped there for the night. You even think about sit up and that sleeping child senses the disturbance in the force, and whines out in the night. “No, Mommy/Daddy, don’t go.”

Then we started being able to lie there for about ten minutes after she lost consciousness and then remove ourselves from the situation. Assuming the parent in question managed to outlast the child by ten minutes. Wife almost always fails in that regard, but I make it at least sixty to seventy percent of the time. And on the off-chance this whole process is finished with enough time for me to make my lunch and set coffee for the next day, then who knows, I might even be able to have some adult time to watch some adult television or listen to some adult music or update my adult blog. Who knows?

Seriously, who knows? Because I sure don’t.

Most nights, I barely have enough energy to get myself over to my bed. The bed I can now enjoy without Mike Tyson’s Knock-Out playing “body blow, body blow, body blow,” all night long. I mean, I can set the coffee in the morning, right? And do we have any leftovers I can nuke at work? Because I’ve got to get me some sleep.

Gotta sleep when we can. After all, we’re on borrowed time. Now that child is asleep, the countdown is on until that desperate cry comes wailing through the midnight darkness…

“MOMMY! DADDY! CAN SOMEONE COME SNUGGLE ME PLEASE?!?”

Ugh. How soon till college?

Bouncing Birthday Bacchanal

Just went to my first children’s birthday party, and… Holy schnikey, y’all!

This wasn’t the first birthday party my daughter, nor my wife, had gone to. This was the first one, however, when I couldn’t find something more important and painless, like a root canal, to skip it for. I’ve already had my vasectomy, so either I show up to this one or I admit I’m a horrible father. I’ll have plenty of other chances to do the latter as the years go by, so I might as well go to this party.

Also, my daughter is approaching the big four-oh. Not forty, but four. Oh! I’m going to have to be present for that one, too, so I figured this was a good chance to do some advance scouting. It turns out that a middle-aged man randomly showing up to watch a bunch of little kids frolic and play is frowned upon.

The first few birthdays my daughter went to were at other kids’ houses. The kids in question put invitations in her cubby at daycare, so I guess we’re counting them as “school friends.” I don’t know whether my daughter was specifically targeted or whether it was a “Just put an invitation in everybody’s cubby.” Again, this is key intelligence we need before our own child’s birthday.

My daughter’s other recent birthday party was for the child of my wife’s friend. Not sure if it’s an upgrade or a downgrade to go from “school friend” to “forced friend.” I’ve seen pictures from my fourth birthday party, and it was attended by a whopping three other kids, all of whom were children of my mom’s friends and who I had virtually nothing in common with by the time second grade rolled around.

Still had to play with them through sixth grade, though. What is the magic age when you finally get to invite only the people you want to your party? Five? Ten? Sweet Sixteen?

Hold on, I’ve planned a wedding before – the answer is you NEVER get to only invite the people you want.

The party I went to last weekend was that of a girl from our neighborhood. My daughter plays with her at the local park. My wife and her mother coordinate via Facebook Messenger. How did my mother accomplish these things in the 1970s? They must have just shot signal flares up into the air when en route to the park. It’s either that or, GASP!, plan in advance, and who the hell has the wherewithal to do that? What happened if my mom had pre-booked a park visit and I wanted to binge-watch an extra episode of “Sesame Street?” Oh yeah, we only had three channels and they all showed soap operas during the days. Never mind.

The first thing I noticed about this particular party was the number of children present. My rough estimate was the high forties. How does a five-year old know fifty people? My wife and I were in our late-thirties when we got married, and we only managed to get close to a hundred guests. And again, most of those people we didn’t really want to invite.

Except for you. If you’re reading this and were at my wedding, you were TOTALLY on the good list.

Allegedly this girl got fifty people at her birthday party by inviting all of the kids in her daycare class. So maybe I was right about the invitations we’ve got. It’s like Valentine’s Day, when even the freak in the class gets the generic Flintstones Yabba-Dabba-Heart card.

But this fact, by itself, doesn’t equate to the cacophony of children that were there. We’ve had some birthday “invites” stuck in my kid’s cubby that we didn’t feel inclined to attend. Usually we ask our daughter if she gives a shit about the kid in question. At other times, she never even needs to know that the freaky kid that still watches “The Flintstones” is having a party this weekend. If she has a problem, she can fucking learn to read.

So maybe this kid with the fifty friends has some secret draw. Maybe she’s the candy pusher in the club. Maybe she has a future in wedding-list design. Or maybe the norms at her particular daycare are more stringent than at ours. Her party was at 10:00 in the morning, and she was scheduled to be at another kid’s birthday party at 4:00 that afternoon. Maybe the whole Stepford-lot of them were going to follow the same path throughout the ‘burbs like some goddamned Hale-Bopp Comet.

Let’s do the math. If the contingent is fifty kids, there’s only fifty-two weeks in the year. Take out some of the major holidays and they probably have to schedule two kids each Saturday. Hell, our neighbor-kid’s real birthday might not even be until mid-July, but this was the weekend she pulled in the birthday party lottery.

What kind of daycare has fifty kids in a class, anyway? State law says there shouldn’t be more than sixteen kids per adult, so unless they’re in some multi-purpose room with five adults casing the perimeter, there shouldn’t be that many kids.

So maybe what was really bringing fifty kids together was the location. This particular party was held at a place called Bounce U. Like its name implies, this business is a giant warehouse with a shit-ton of inflatable bounce houses inside. The warehouse was divided into two rooms, each with four or five inflatable bounce houses. Our party just under thirty minutes in the first room, then moved onto the second room while, presumably, another group of hopped-up ought-somethings piled into room number one behind us. Twenty to thirty minutes later, the well-oiled machine deposited us into a party room for pizza and cake. Three groups in the business at a time, one more congregating in the lobby area, and never the twain shall meet. I guess it’s more than a twain, put quadrain ain’t as poetic.

Seriously, it was flawless. Disneyland could probably learn a thing or two from this company about each group thinking they have the run of the place.

Our particular group had two “Party Pros” assigned to us. Their shirts say “Party Pro” on the back. They’re, like, fifteen years old. I was skeptical at precisely how much partying they had on their professional resume. Talk to me when you’ve graduated from bounce houses to keg stands.

When we finished the cycle and were preparing to leave, I saw three or four more “Party Pros” in the front lobby, waiting for the parties that they were about to go all pro on. None of them cracked eighteen. In fact, I don’t think I saw an employee of legal voting age the entire day. The logical part of me knows there must be an adult supervisor somewhere, some shadowy silhouette behind a one-way mirror like the creepy banker in “Deal or No Deal,” but I never saw any definitive evidence.

When the children were in the rooms with the giant inflatables, it was a study in groupthink and societal interaction standards. All of the children would swarm toward one bounce house. Five minutes later, they would all go on to the next one, leaving the previous Mecca looking more like Chernobyl. At any given time, there would be thirty-plus kids on one inflatable, while at least one other one was not being used at all.

I kept looking for the one kid to buck the trend, but he or she never arrived. No future real estate mogul who would lay claim to the dessert oasis inflatable, knowing that it would soon blossom into the next Las Vegas.

Can anything really blossom into Vegas? Is there a word for growing into degradation? MardiGras’ing?

Remember that scene in “A Beautiful Mind,” where he analogized some scientific theory to hitting on women at the bar? That all the molecules swarm toward the hot chick? I think that was the point. And the kid never grew up. That was the whole movie, right?

Anyway, instead of a bar at happy hour, the schizo scientist could’ve just gone to a kid’s birthday party at Bounce U. The untapped potential of perfectly viable viaducts was on regular display. Only at the birthday party, it wasn’t even the hot chick that all the molecules were going toward. It was whatever bounce house the hive-mind deigned worthy at that particular moment.

“Seriously, kid. The slide RIGHT NEXT DOOR, with three kids on it, works the exact same as the one you’re waiting in a line with thirty other kids for right now. Don’t believe me? Check back with me in four minutes.

The worst case scenario was in the second room. If they make “A Beautifuller Mind,” the whole damn movie could take place in this five hundred square feet. One inflatable in this room had an Ultimate-Ninja/Most-Extreme-Championship-style “jump across the giant balls without falling off” course. It was the only inflatable with a rule, which was “only one person on a ball at a time.” There were three balls, so the most you could have on the “course” at any time was three. More often it was one or two, as somebody would have fallen off or some kid was standing petrified on the second ball, contemplating a two-foot leap like he’s Indiana Jones about to pull the skull idol off the pressure plate.

Meanwhile, there would be ten kids lined up on the ledge, ready to take the first leap. Okay, maybe not “lined up,” but “clumped up.” You’ve seen youth soccer, right? Regardless, at any moment there were four times more kids waiting to jump than actually jumping. Nothing like waiting in line for five minutes in order to have ten seconds of fun. I guess we’re preparing them for Disneyland, huh?

And while these kids spent eighty percent of their time waiting for the ball jump, three other bounce houses went virtually unused. There was a pretty cool mountain-shaped bouncer, getting steeper as it rose, no handles. Like going up a slide, but a slide in the form of a very malleable bounce house, where you’re guaranteed to not reach the top and will instead slide back down in an orgiastic bouncefest. Or at least that’s how I assume it would have worked, because I never actually saw a kid use it. All the kids were too busy standing not-so-patiently on the ledge next to the ball jump. Maybe it’s reserved for the single adult employee.

As for my kid? She just followed the birthday girl around. Painfully so. At one point, they were supposed to make a “silly face” for a group picture. She turned to look at what face the birthday girl was making, then made the same face. Sigh. She’s a bit of a follower.

In her defense, the birthday girl was the only person she knew there. But my wife claims she followed the same M.O. at  the other birthday parties she went to. At her last one, there were five kids from her daycare class, but she still followed the birthday girl around.  Hell, her “bestie” only has that designation because she was the first one to invite my daughter to one of these shindigs. Daughter followed her around the whole party, decided they were best friends, and only now, a year later, is she starting to realize that their personalities aren’t all too compatible.

Wife’s not happy about this particular aspect of daughter’s personality. Not too happy about it myself, but for different reasons. Wife can’t stand it because it’s so opposite of how she engaged with others as a child. I, on the other hand, see a mirror upon my own upbringing.

And by “upbringing,” I mean everything up through last week or so. Never been the social butterfly. Put me in a large group of people where I only know one person, and I’m probably only talking to that one person.

It kinda sucks seeing the worst parts of your personality manifested in a three-year old who doesn’t even know she’s supposed to bury that shit. At least I’ve grown enough so, if said person is the person of honor, I won’t incessantly follow them around. I’ll probably just sit in the corner, check the scores of the game, and nurse my beer.

My daughter doesn’t really have those options, and someone sitting in the corner without beer and sports on the TV is probably just a freak.

Maybe I need to load her some “Flintstones” cartoons.

Children’s TV Review (The Shitty Ones)

Last week, I gave my account of some of the shows dominating children’s television these days. Some of it’s not too shabby. Some of it’s actually a little bit enjoyable. But for the good shows, you need to look at my last post.

This week, it’s the fun post. Here we focus on the abysmal.

There are two shows currently atop this particular mountain of shit.

(Oh yeah, this is an adult blog. If you are underage and got here through the fiftieth page of Google results, go away.)

1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Having grown up in Orange County and rooted for sports teams that Michael Eisner only saw as cross-promotions, I might have a certain anti-Disney predisposition. Yes technically, the Angels won the World Series while a Disney property, but that’s only because Disney was looking to sell and hoping to raise the sale value.

So I rage at the hypocritical message embedded in most Disney shows and movies. Be who you want to be! Except if your hairline is a centimeter too long, because then your ass is fired. Hard work will be rewarded! Hey, work ten-hour shifts five days a week in 100-degree heat and then we’ll fire you at the 5 1/2 month mark because you’d get discounted tickets if we let you work six months. Commercialism is bad! But don’t forget to buy some Minnie Mouse tampons on the way out of the park.

So okay, I might not give Mickey a fair shake. But that doesn’t mean this show doesn’t suck.

I actually like most of the characters on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and, obviously, I am aware that Disney knows what they’re doing when it comes to children’s shows. This has all of the tropes one expects. The songs are repeated at the same time every episode. The characters find themselves in problems that the viewer has to help with by picking the right number or the right color pattern.

One might expect Disney to come up with something a little more original than a “Blue’s Clues” ripoff. But hey, if they’re able to bring Clarabelle Cow into canon and sell some cow dolls, all is good.

The start of the show is a little skeevy. Mickey is walking alone through the woods. He turns to the camera and asks the little kids if they want to come inside his secret, magical clubhouse. He tells them to say the magic words and his pervy little hideout pops out of nowhere. It’s got a giant slide coming out of the roof, a mini golf course, and all the accouterments one might associate with Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

No, I’m not saying Mickey Mouse is a child molester. However, I might think twice before leaving my child alone with the show runners. Hey kid, Say “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse” and something’s going to pop out of nowhere.

Then again, Steve from “Blue’s Clues” seemed a little off, too.

But the real problem I have with “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” is Toodles, an anthropomorphic, mouse-shaped holding tray.

I guess it’s not mouse shaped, it’s Mickey Mouse shaped. Damn you Disney, for raising three generations of humans to refer to a large circle with two smaller circles on top as “mouse-shaped.”

At the beginning of every episode, they load Toodles up with four tools that they will be able to use to get past obstacles. One of them is a mystery tool and the others range from ladders and balloons to, I think there was one episode that utilized a bologna sandwich.

Then every time they encounter a problem, they whine to the heavens, “Oh, Toodles!” and the little shit comes flying from wherever he’s lazing around. Seriously, they’ve called him from Mars and he put on a space helmet to make it there before his three-second synthesizer theme-song was done. Like a drug dealer afraid that his junkie customers will find a new source or, even worse, sober up.

And when I say they call him for every time they have an obstacle, I mean: Every. Fucking. Time. “Hey, there’s some crumbs across the path. Instead of cleaning them up or stepping over them, lets see if Toodles has a fucking dustpan.”

In other shows, the characters talk though problems and multiple solutions. Some shows even encourage kids to try again if the first one fails. But Disney doesn’t want kids to learn perseverance or patience. If the next generation become critical thinkers, Disney might need a new business model. What they want is a generation of crybabies who think they are incapable of solving life.

It’s called learned helplessness and it’s rampant in the students I teach. “I can’t do it.” Encounter one setback and you might as well give up. “Why haven’t you done the last three homework assignments?” “Well, once I missed one, I figured I couldn’t pass so why try?”

Call for help. Google it. There is no possible way a human being can work their way through anything.

Some say they “just can’t do” history. They’re not good at it, like it’s shooting a three-pointer. How the hell is someone not good at history? Not enough jump? Wrong arc? Poor arm strength? Those are the reasons I am “not good” at three-pointers, although I’m sure I could get better if I tried.

But I don’t see how someone can be “bad at history.”  History is not a particular skill that one does or doesn’t have. You might not be good at reading or writing or listening. But if I ask “Who won the Civil War,” even if the answer is “I don’t know,” that still doesn’t mean you’re bad at history.

In other subjects, maybe that works. “I struggle conjugating a verb” or “I always get stuck on the quadratic equation” make sense. But how can you be bad at history? “Man, everybody else can Stalin much better than I can.”

But, of course, the learned helpless statements are never as focused as conjugating verbs or solving equations. It is perfectly acceptable to just say “I can’t do this so I’m not going to try.” As they argue over who won the 1978 Super Bowl…

Maybe they should just call Toodles.

But at least I had to watch fifty episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” before I could really pinpoint my problem with it. For the single worst kids’ show on TV these days, it was apparent right from the start.

Peppa Pig. Oh, this shit is horrible. In fact, I hesitate to call this show shit, because Peppa is a pig and pigs like shit. And I don’t want Peppa to enjoy anything about life, as she’s sucked all the enjoyment out of mine.

This show is from England, the same country that, a generation ago, sent us Teletubbies. Have you ever seen Teletubbies? Have you ever watched an episode of Teletubbies and thought, “If only we could understand what the Teletubbies are talking about.” Well, Peppa Pig is that show and, let me tell you, we were better off not knowing.

Peppa is a little girl pig. Her parents, oddly enough, are named Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. You might think that those are just the names that Peppauses for them. But there are scenes where Daddy Pig is at work and his co-workers refer to him as Daddy Pig. I am called Daddy around my house, but none of the other teachers in my department call me Daddy, or even Mr. Daddy. Four of the other teachers in my department are also fathers. That would be very confusing.

Then again, Daddy Pig works around other animals, so they probably just use their species to distinguish between one father and the next. Maybe he’s in a meeting with Daddy Horse and Bachelor Mouse. Maybe D.I.N.K. Armadillo pays for lunch, while Co-habitating Camel usually shows up late after partying all night.

Maybe I should start referring to all of my co-workers by their ethnicity. I can’t think of any drawback to that.

Oh, and Peppa’s grandparents are Grandma Pig and Grandpa Pig. That must’ve been very awkward when they were growing up.

Come to think of it, Berenstain Bears does the same thing. The first two children are named Brother and Sister. If they were twins, I could maybe see it, but Brother Bear is clearly older by a few years. I know it was the 1970s, when 2.1 children was a foregone conclusion, but it’s pretty ballsy to name an only child, Brother. What if the second child had been another boy? Would his name have been Younger? Or would they just have named him Sister and had a “very special” book about gender identity? And, oh by the way, they had a third child later in the series. They named her Honey. What the hell? Is she not a sister as well? Seriously, Brother, Sister, and Honey are the three Berenstain Bear children. Good thing they’re religious and can pray the counseling away.

Back to Peppa Pig, she has a number of friends who are also alliteratively-named animals. There’s Rebecca Rabbit, Suzy Sheep, and Zoey Zebra, although zebra is pronounced in the (incorrect) British way so that the first syllable rhymes with zed, not zee. One character I feel bad for is Pedro Pony, because he will presumably have to change his first name when he grows into full horse-hood.

Daddy Pig is a fucking trainwreck. He’s not good at anything, but thinks he’s good at everything. He can’t read a map and gets grumpy when they get lost. He’s fat, but whines about being fat. All the while, he’s trying to teach moral lessons to his kids. Great role modeling, Britain! No wonder you lost the empire.

As for the eponymously-named Peppa, she is a whiny little bitch. Or, since she’s English, I guess the proper verbiage would be a whiny little bird. She is mean to people and is constantly complaining about being bored.

In one episode, she’s playing soccer (and errantly calling it football). They do boys versus girls, because of course they do. When the boys score the first goal, she whines that it’s a stupid game and doesn’t want to play anymore. After the girls score the second goal, all of the boys and girls start arguing. Daddy Pig helicopter-parents in to serve as referee. The boys score next, but it’s in their own goal. So now she love soccer, even if she’s still calling it football.

In another episode, she’s riding a bike. Every time she’s on a downhill she brags about what a good bicyclist she is. Then when she goes uphill, she says riding a bike is stupid and wants to quit.

Maybe she should have called Toodles?

I wish I could say there was more meat to that episode, but these synopses pretty much cover the whole thing. The average episode is about six minutes long, so Nick Jr puts five of them in a row to fill a half-hour slot. Every time an episode ends, I wait with baited breath to see if that was the final one, but there’s only a twenty percent chance. I don’t like those odds.

Most episodes end with everybody falling over laughing over something that is very unfunny. The animation for the entire show is very crude, so when I say they fall over laughing, I don’t mean they hunch over and start slapping their thigh and then fall to their knees. No, instead they are all standing upright in one frame and then are completely horizontal on their backs in the next frame. Then they shake, laugh, and snort another second or two until the episode is over.

And again, the thing that caused them all to fall over backward was something hilarious like a whiny child saying she didn’t like biking uphill. Clearly that is enough to cause people to lose their vertical fortitude.

Peppa has a little brother named George. He is one of the few tolerable spots of the show. He can only say a few words, two of which are “Dinosaur, rawr.” Even though he’s barely a toddler, he’s good at all of the things Peppa sucks at, which is pretty much everything. Of course, this just causes her to complain more, which is just what the show needs.

Peppa terrorizes her poor brother. She plays keepaway, she belittles his accomplishments, and I’m pretty sure she’s pushed him a few times. Just the things we want to teach our children.

Nick Jr starts all of its shows with a list of what the kids are learning while they’re watching. “Paw Patrol” says they’re learning about teamwork and community. “Dora the Explorer” highlights problem-solving skills and Spanish language. Most of them are a reach, but at least the intent is there.

According to them, “Peppa Pig” teaches children about emotional development. Bullshit! Peppa never develops emotionally. Peppa is the antithesis of a well-developed child. Unless you want your child to be a rude and entitled quitter.

But I’m here to help. Here ya go, Nick Jr:

When watching “Peppa Pig,” your child is learning about how to bully and not take accountability for their actions. With any luck, they’ll be President of the United States someday.

Children’s TV Review, Part I

My daughter is three-and-a-half years old now and well on her way to her proper place as a proud American. What I mean is, she watches a shit-ton of TV.

I know, I know. Screen time is bad and should be limited and blah, blah, blah. You know what else should be limited? Microwaved dinners and me teaching teenagers in my underwear. And if I’m going to have time to cook a wholesome meal and, you know, shower, the kid’s going to suckle on a little of that boob-tube teat.

As a result, I’ve come to experience a sizable cross-section of the current children’s television crop. Both of the Juniors, Nick and Disney, have full lineups. Some of it is enjoyable for young and old, some of it is kinda boring for both. And then there are the demonspawn shows – the ones that my daughter enjoys but that are absolutely horrific for the adults in the house.

I’m going to start with some of the good and mediocre. Come back next week for the shit storms.

Dora the Explorer. I know this isn’t a new show. My students all grew up with it. Even my nieces, who are in their twenties, watched the early seasons.

I assumed I would not like Dora. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it came out during the years of Barney and the Teletubbies, I figured it can’t be good. Or maybe I thought it was an artificial attempt at forced bilingualism. Or maybe I assumed that, if she thought Dora and Explorer rhymed, she must be from Boston.

Quick game: find a Republican and ask him what’s more offensive, a Spanish accent or a Mass-hole accent.

But it’s actually pretty enjoyable to watch. The bilingualism is not forced. As opposed to Sesame Street (or every first-year language class ever), it does not just come up with a word, repeat it multiple time, and then makes an artificial skit designed to illicit the one word of the day. Seriously, how often am I going to ask for milk at the library? Dora talks like a real bilingual person. Sometimes she’ll drop a word or two of Spanish into her normal speak, then she’ll turn to the camera and explain what that word meant. “In Spanish, we say leche and biblioteca.”

Sometimes Dora needs to interpret for people she encounters who are unilingual.

Dora is usually on an adventure. There are always three steps, and she will repeat them over and over again. When one’s been accomplished, she’ll still repeat them,  say “Check,” and write a check on the map. Now when I need to take my daughter on errands, we play like Dora “We need to go through  the pasta aisle, around the dairy fridge, then pay at the cashier. Did we go through the pasta aisle? Check!”

The interactions with the audience, which is a staple in children’s television, seems to work, too. My daughter isn’t very likely to respond when Mickey Mouse or Elmo asks her which direction they should go. But Dora asks with a certain cadence and repetition that gets my daughter to respond. Even in very mangled Spanish sometimes. “Should I take the rojo or the verde path?” Dora asks, and my daughter shouts out “Bair-day!”

And the songs are catchy as hell. My students laugh whenever I pull up maps in history class now, because I sing the “I’m the map” song. Seriously, go look up “Grumpy Old Troll” and see if it’s not stuck in your head later. No? Watch it twenty more times and you’ll know what it’s like having kids.

Goldie and Bear. So, evidently Goldilocks and Baby Bear are friends now. And they live in a land with modern twists on fairy tale characters. Humpty Dumpty’s a nerd who always has his head in a book. The three pigs are makeshift carpenters who fix most of the property damage that tends to occur on a regular basis. Their names are Bailey, Twigs, and Brix. Big Bad Wolf occasionally tries to be good, but is still obsessed with Little Red Riding Hood’s muffins. Fairy Godmother is a trainwreck – half of her spells go awry.

Shows revolve around some extension of fairy tales. In one episode, they have a lottery to see who gets to ride the cow when she jumps over the moon. Goldie wins and Bear wants to feel happy for her but is bummed out. But then the cow is scared by a mouse that is attracted to Big Bad’s cheese sandwich and leaps early with both Goldie and Bear on her back. In another episode, everything in the land falling apart because the pigs are arguing over straw, wood, and brick.  Bear’s father sings about fishing in one show, and in another one, Bear is allergic to Goldie’s new shampoo (another Fairy Godmother screw up) right before a dual pogo stick contest.

The shows are pretty fun to watch. Each episode has two 15-minute shows. Or is it every show has two episodes? Whatever. Each 30-minute block contains two 15-minute subdivisions. Each show has an original song (unlike Dora, these songs are not repeated every episode but are based on the current situation). The songs have varying beats and clever lyrics.

I think there might or might not be a morale or a lesson in most of them. Whatever.

A couple of problems with the show. First, it’s new, so whereas Dora has over a hundred episodes to cycle through, Goldie and Bear had a whopping 22. Let me tell you, 22 episodes ain’t a lot when one’s child watches nothing else for an entire month. You know it’s bad when even a three-year old says, “We already watched that one.”

They finally started a second season about a month ago. My wife and I were ecstatic, but my daughter had almost forgotten about the show by then. So far, the second season seems a little lackluster. Classic “Prison Break” syndrome.

I also have issue with the lack of swag for this show. It’s on Disney. How are they not inundating us with plushes and shirts and toy sets? The Disney Store and Toys R Us both have sections devoted to “Puppy Dog Pals” and “Vampirina,” and those two shows have only been on for a couple of months. “Goldie and Bear” started in 2015, yet by the middle of 2016 there were still no official toys, and even by that Christmas, there were only a couple of items hidden around Toys R Us.

I assume that the lack of toys and the lack of consistency in output means that “Goldie & Bear” is not an official Disney property, but is only airing on Disney channels. I didn’t know that was possible, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. Because Disney not overpromoting a property to the point of ubiquity is like…. is like… the New England Patriots not finding a new way to cheat.

McStuffins the First of Avalor: Okay, these might actually be three different shows. I don’t know. Sometimes I’m blogging when the show is on. One is an African-American girl in a smock, another is a white girl who likes purple, and the last is a Latina in red. They… I don’t know… have problems? That they have to… solve? And maybe they sing? Not sure.

These shows aren’t bad. There have been times it seems like one of them is about to take over my child’s zeitgeist for. (Can one person have a zeitgeist? Hmmm. I’ll have to look that up the next time my child is watching TV.)

She liked “Doc McStuffins” for a week or two, but it never really stuck. She still likes the  characters.

If “Sofia the First” is on, she might pay it some attention, but she’ll never really seek it out. Again, she enjoys dressing up as Sofia and getting Sofia books, just never really cares to watch.

She’s never enjoyed “Elena of Avalor.” It could be that Elena is older than the other two and the show caters to grade-schoolers, not pre-schoolers. But the same argument could be made for the Dora sequel (Did you know Dora has a sequel?), which has Dora as a teenager, and my daughter eats that shit up.

These shows follow a standard sitcom formula. I thought an extended story over a half-hour might account for my daughter’s lack of interest. But, again, the same description could be used for Dora. Seriously, what kind of crack is Dora that makes it successful?

Anyway, not really sure why these shows haven’t really distinguished themselves or caught her imagination.

A potential exception in this genre is Vampirina. It follows in the same vein as the others, but features a little vampire girl who moved to America from Transylvania. We’ve only been watching it for about a week, but so far my daughter likes it better than the others. I like it so far. The parents oscillate between being supportive and creating their own problems – again, very sitcommy.

Of course, as a new show, we will quickly run into the “not enough episodes” problem. But at least Disney is putting Vamprina merch in stores. Too bad my daughter didn’t start watching until the week after Christmas. Actual conversation wife and I had in Toys R Us in mid-December: “Oh, hey, should we get her a Vamprina doll? That shows fun.” “Yeah, but she never asks for it. Not even sure she knows who the characters are.”

Famous last words.

But hey, Vampirina’s not a princess, so that’s a fun twist for a Disney show.  The opening lyrics even go “I may be blue with pointy teeth, but I’m not so different underneath… I’m just like you.” Maybe Disney is finally getting past the… Oh, who am I kidding? That’ll be retconned out.

Paw Patrol. Daughter’s obsession with Paw Patrol was deep but brief. We have a dog and two cats, so she might be naturally inclined toward animal shows. Within a couple days of first viewing, she could rattle off all of the dogs in rapid succession. I was still trying to get past the fact that every musical break was right out of the techno nineties. It even has a Dance, Dance Revolution rip-off!

The dogs all have civil service jobs. I’ve also been told have personalities? Marshall, the fire truck dalmatian, is clumsy. Not sure why they went with firefighters being clumsy, but whatever. The recycling dog is surprisingly not a loadie, so maybe they’re trying to break stereotypes. Although the husky’s owner is a ski instructor that’s a total loadie, so maybe they are into stereotypes after all. The organized, calm police dog and the fact that the only female in the original batch was the small, peppy, compassionate one pretty much solidifies it.

The problem with Paw Patrol is it’s a bit too formulaic. Even the writers know that. The new episodes have them running a Sea Patrol or running off to England to go all James Bond.

My daughter still likes all the characters, but she doesn’t ask for the show very often. This is fine with me, because I found the shows a bit boring. Not that boring is bad, mind you. But none of them are ever going to make a mistake, and Ryder, their “handler,” is way too goody two-shoes. Think Mister Rogers without the acerbic wit.

My daughter’s favorite character is Rubble, the bulldog construction worker. Unfortunately, Rubble isn’t allowed on girl’s clothing. I’m not going to go off on weaponized genderification or anything. I realize there are only so many different combinations of the various characters they can put on clothing. Rubble appearing by himself is rare, even on boy’s clothes. And you can get girl’s clothes with Marshall, and occasionally Chase. So it’s not entirely the fault of genderification. That being said, my daughter’s not a big Skye fan, so sometimes our options are limited.

And yes, I could put her in boys’ clothes, but the underwear doesn’t fit her great.

As a subset of Paw Patrol comes Puppy Dog Pals. This is another show that is still in its infancy. At first, I hated it. I thought it was Disney’s half-hearted attempt at stealing some of Paw Patrol’s mojo (ie merchandising power). The dogs had annoying voices and were always doing stupid things that nobody seemed to notice. One of the child voice actors can NOT carry a tune.

I’m turning around on “Puppy Dog Pals” a little. I now realize that they do all of their shenanigans when their owner is otherwise occupied. All of the humans, including their owner, can’t understand them, and even though they are solving great mysteries, they appear to just be doing typical dog stuff. Bob, their owner, is never aware that they’re the ones who fixed the problem he was whining about at the beginning of the episode. It’s kind of funny to watch the end of the episode. It goes back and forth between them excitedly telling him everything they did, then it switches to his vantage point, and the dogs are just yapping away.

A bit of a “Toy Story” vibe that is fun considering every other cartoon features animals and humans interacting with regularity.

But, ooo, that singing…

I think that’s it for the good and mediocre kids’ shows. I think I need a week or so to work up my vitriol for the remaining couple. Come back later.

Taking the Oregon Trail to My Bowels

My daughter gave me dysentery for Father’s Day. I guess ash trays are gauche these days, and ties are SO bourgeois.

Okay, it might not have been dysentery. It might have just been the flu. But somewhere around 8:00 last night, I was pretty sure this little Oregon Trail of life wasn’t quite making it through to Willamette.

Baby brought it home from day care, throwing up throughout the night on Thursday. Poor thing. I really sympathized with her. Sympathy, from the Greek word for “to suffer.” Even stayed home with her all day Friday.

Baby was mostly clear by Friday afternoon. Yay! We’re in the clear!

But that clearly wasn’t enough for the gods of tragedy. They had to pass it along to me and my wife with an Oedipal fury. Not Oedipal as in sleeping with our parents. More along the “gouging our eyes out” variety.

Wife and I actually caught the symptoms within an hour of each other on Saturday.  Thank God for grandparents nearby. If you don’t have any of those, I suggest you grow some.

Then it was just wife and I dealing with the rigors of keeping things down. We failed miserably. It seemed like we were aligned perfectly, each bout of “Out of Both Ends” starting within minutes of each other. Thank God for multiple bathrooms.

There are a few things I’ve never quite understood about the human propensity to purge the system during sickness. I know that we occasionally have to get something harmful out of our system. I have dogs and cats, and they both vomit. But dogs and cats just vomit once and then they’re done. No histrionics, no curling up by the commode waiting for the next round. Never once seen my 17-year old cat (who vomits often) dry heave. Never seen Hershey squirts flying out of his ass.

As an evolutionary trait, how did humans come up with this particular purging mechanism? How did we survive as a species? Because I think any wolf or bear in a five-mile radius would’ve heard and smelled me last night. Any other tribe members would have done their best to steer wide from me. Leave me with a little tombstone that said “Here lies Wombat. He done shat himself to death.”

During the second half of the last night’s plague outbreak, I grew tired of dry heaving and cotton mouth and feebly stated “I’d rather be vomiting up something instead of nothing.” A statement I would not agree with an hour later, but at the time it seemed logical.

I’ve always been a fan of water. It seems an odd statement, but I know a lot of people who aren’t. Think of how many products are out there to make water more palatable. But I love the stuff. On the average day, I only drink three types of fluid – water, coffee (black), and iced tea (unsweetened). Because when I drink, I want fluid, not sugar. I’ll save my sugar intake for ice cream. Or beer (drink number four on the “non-average” days).

And that first gulp of water I had last night was exquisite. My mouth was so parched. I wanted to drink a gallon of it. I downed the first pint in one gulp. Maybe not the best idea, but it was soothing every square centimeter of my mouth, tongue, and throat. I tried to pace myself. I swished some of the second pint in my mouth instead of swallowing, then fill a third pint and put it by my bed as I tried to pass out for another hour.

And then it all came back up. More violent than before. As if my body was shaming me for attempting to, I don’t know, hydrate? Survive? Seriously, body, what the fuck is your problem?

And this is, again, when I start to question the purpose of vomiting, and especially of repeat vomiting. The symptoms when we are sick are not actually from the virus or bacteria itself, but from our body’s attempt to attack and remove those foreign agents. The flu doesn’t cause you to vomit, your body attacking the flu causes you to vomit. As a lifelong allergy sufferer, I know that no amount of logic and reason will stop my body from thinking dust is a mortal enemy.

So the first round of vomits is understandable, removing a bit of poison. Your stomach doesn’t like the last thing you ate, so get in there and remove it. And if I put something potentially damaging in afterward, it’s probably a good idea to be on guard. My body really doesn’t have the fucking time to process shit right now, what with the fighting off Montezuma’s goddamn Revenge, and all.

But water? If I had put some Crystal Light in it, I could understand. My wife tried some Sprite and on an earlier respite, I had a little ginger ale. Our bad. I deserve that sickeningly-sweet upchuck and the burned nasal hairs that come with it.

But it was just basic water. What the fuck kind of overzealous white blood cell is deciding that the building block of all life is somehow detrimental to my wellbeing? And has this little fuckwad checked in with my mouth recently? Because my mouth is definitely on board the whole “water is good” train.

I seriously question how humans are still around. How did we even get to the point where ol’ Jebediah could set out from Independence, MO, in the hopes of maybe only catching cholera this time.

Good news is I’ll have plenty of time to think about it. I feel another flux coming on.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Embryonic Gas Giant

My musical appetite has been changing.

Well, not my appetite, so much, as my ingestion. Because while I would still prefer a prime cut of Beatle with a scant Traveler de Bleu aperitif topped off by a Bosstone nightcap, I have a toddler. Meaning that my music consumption has become the symphonic equivalent of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese/Mayonnaise Casserole.

Children’s songs haven’t changed much since I was a kid, or since my mother was a kid, or since Thomas Jefferson was a kid. Seriously. Jimmy Crack Corn and Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Moe are slave songs.

And the goddamned bough continues to break and the fucking dead baby falls out of the tree. Now sleep tight, sweetpea.

But while the song remains the same (C’mon, two-year old, gimme some Zeppelin), I approach them from a different vantage point. I notice different things about them. Because when I was a child, I never stopped to ask what the fuck the baby was doing up in the tree.

Things like: How was I forty years old before I realized “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” are the same melody? I know that, before the Beatles, there were only three chords, but weren’t there more melodies?

And I’m not talking about unintended references. For instance, the Poli Sci major in me thinks of Non-Governmental Organizations in the third verse on B-I-N-G-O, but I know that wasn’t the intent of the song.

And if I snicker every time I hear “The prettiest hole that you ever did see,” that’s on me. It’s clearly not what the song is about.

And don’t even get me started on “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes.”

But there are many children’s songs that do sound different as an adult.

To wit:

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

First of all, it’s the same song as “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Good thing it predates copyright. 

It’s a song about feudalism. The local lord, or maybe a census-taker, is coming around to inquire about his manorial duties. “Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.” Because, y’know, if he didn’t do my full three bags, it’s off with his head.

But what happened to the poor peasant’s wool?

The first one went to the local lord in taxes. So one might think this is some conservative diatribe against excessive taxation and the welfare state. Even the Beatles have been known to write a ditty questioning an exorbitant tax structure, a point lost on my daughter when I tried to subtly replace her Fischer Price CD with “Revolver.”

But the poor peasant would love to be saddled with a mere 33% tax rate. You see, after he gives one bag to the Master, he must also give one to the Dame, which is the Catholic Church. Wow, even the Mormons only take ten percent. It must’ve been nice to be the only church in town… or country… or continent.

So where does the last bag of wool go? To the little boy who lives down the lane. Because that’s how feudalism works. No ownership allowed. And your work is divvied up for the whole manor.

But seriously peasant, quit your whining. You know you’re getting wheat from the little boy’s family. And I bet their wheat’s up to snuff, not this black wool shit that you’re trying to pass off as legit.

Just be thankful it’s not a market economy or your ass would be out on the streets.

Speaking of market economy….

Mockingbird

That might not be the actual name of the song, but y’all know which one I mean, right?  The one the starts out: “Hush little baby, don’t have a cow, Daddy’s gonna buy your affection now.”

Compensating much?

Every verse is “I’ll buy you something, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll buy you something else.” Sponsored by Target.

Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe try engaging your child instead of instilling the bourgeois mentality of consumerism in her.

And the father ends it with the ultimate statement: “If that horse and cart fall down, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in town.”

Aww, what a pretty sentiment. After I’m such a huge disappointment as a father, at least you’ll still have your looks to fall back on.

Can we say future stripper?

Speaking of which: We’ll all go out to meet her when she comes? Ouch. I’ve heard of the Walk of Shame, but this seems excessive. Is this a royalty thing, where the nobles would applaud the new king and queen on their wedding night?

Sorry. Back to the children’s tunes:

Mary had a Little Lamb

I get that the lamb has some rather serious separation anxiety. If this were a psychologist blog, maybe we’d go into the root causes of bovine angst.

But this is a teacher’s blog. So I choose to focus when the lamb follows here to school, “which was against the rules.” I’ve worked in a number of schools over the past twenty years, and while I can’t necessarily quote every rule verbatim, I don’t know that I have ever come across a Lamb-specific rule.

Now, maybe it’s a general animal rule. But I feel the implication is that only a lamb would make the children laugh and play. A non-lamb would be far less disruptive to the educational environment.  Aren’t cats and dogs brought in for show-and-tell?

Clearly this school had a lamb-specific rule, and I wonder what necessitated that. Was a school board member speciest? Had other lambs followed other children to school in the past?

More importantly, from a twenty-first century educatrat perspective, was the rule properly enunciated ahead of time? Possibly in the student handbook or on the school’s website? I’d hate to think Mary’s being dinged for some unknown statute.

And what about full-grown sheep? Would that be acceptable? When does a lamb become a sheep, anyway? Is there a bar mitzvah or quinceanera?

Actually, on second thought, I don’t think I want to know.

Keeping it in the pastoral setting:

Farmer in the Dell

I could probably critique this song for playing into the age-old practice of picking other children from a group for popularity and mocking prurposes. Red Rover, Farmer in the Dell, Smear the Queer…

What, your bullies didn’t sing as they chased you? Did I mention I grew up in a musical?

But kids songs are always going to be cliquey and segregatory. It’s the way in which this particular songs divides that I question.

The farmer picks his wife. Okay, I suppose.

The wife picks her child? Did she stop taking birth control without mentioning it to the farmer?

The child picks the nurse? Who includes their child in this decision?

Then it gets weirder. The dog picks the cat, the cat picks the mouse, the mouse picks the cheese. We’re aware these lesser animals are being “picked” as dinner, yes? I guess we can’t say what we mean, “the cat kills the mouse,” because then the less-popular kids would get picked first.

And then the cheese stands alone. Huh, huh, I used to think when I was a child. Because he cut the cheese, so he stinks. That’s why he stands alone.

Forty-two years of wisdom tells me the last verse probably wasn’t based on flatulence. But to be honest, I can’t think of an alternate explanation for the cheese standing alone. Hell, maybe he really did cut the cheese.

Speaking of food, we’ll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes? Is this a fetish thing? Does the promise of soup really get her going?

Hole in the Bucket

Passive aggressive much?

Look, Henry and Liza, it’s clear neither of you want to do shit around the house. Why not just be upfront about it?

“I need a pedi, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.”

“But the game’s on, dear Liza, dear Liza, dear Liza.”

Maybe instead of fetching some water, y’all might want to sign up for counseling. The bucket ain’t the only thing that’s got a hole in it.

Itsy, Bitsy Spider

I don’t have a new, adult reaction to this song. I can merely enunciate my childhood quandary with fancier language.

I know it’s supposed to be a song about perseverance. That brave, brave spider keeps getting back on that horse, er, water spout, despite the deck stacked against him, that ever present rain storm.

Maybe I am supposed to identify with that spider. I could get back in the blogging habit or finish one of those books that are 30,000 words in. Or I’d finally get that Master’s Degree. Or, you know, finish digging for that treasure chest I dreamt was buried in my back yard.

Except that it’s a nasty spider. Are we really supposed to root for him? I can’t be the only one who was rooting for the rain, right?

Oh no, oh no, the spider’s getting closer. Down came the rain and washed that motherfucker out.

Whew.

This Old Man

Dude’s a drunk, right? He rolls home every night. If he was sober, wouldn’t he walk or drive himself home? And it’s happening often enough where he can’t just plan ahead and uber home.

And what the hell is knick-knack? It’s got to be shuffleboard, cornhole, or some other bar game, but he seems to play it ON a lot of things and/or people. On my thumb, on my knee. Knock it off, you lush. Play knick knack on your own goddamned shoe.

And what a shock that he played it in heaven. Maybe he should be keeping track of AA steps, not the number of paddy whacks.

And speaking of giving a dog a bone…

She’ll be riding six white horses when she comes?

Wow, okay.

I’m feeling a little inadequate now.

 

The Potty Fairy

The Potty Fairy visited our house!

Are you familiar with the Potty Fairy? She’s similar to the Tooth Fairy, but instead of taking teeth, she takes bodily fluids. And instead of putting the item under your pillow, you deposit it into a toilet. And instead of replacing it with money, she replaces it with a clean toilet bowl… and an empty diaper drawer… and no more wiping of asses.

Okay, there is still asswiping. But it’s with toilet paper! And it’s in the asscrack! It’s no longer seventy-five babywipes removing the artistic spackle-smear of shit spreading its territory from knee to ribcage.

The excitement and anticipation my daughter will someday have about the approach of the Tooth Fairy is nothing compared to the excitement and anticipation my wife and I had over the arrival of the Potty Fairy.

My wife always hates when people post about the potty training process on social media. Nothing can quite derail the beautiful, picturesque stroll through election postings  and hipster food photos than a description of a potty fail. It’s like “Trump, Hillary, pot pie, Trump, shit dribbling down the leg, Hillary.” Come to think of it, can we have more descriptions of bodily functions? Seems less offensive.

Because of this, I have politely refrained from any discussion of the trials and tribulations of this process on the Facebook and the Twitter. But this is an anonymous blog, so nobody will be any the wiser.

Oh wait, did I mention that I’ve recently been published? And finishing the sequel was what kept me away from blogging for the last few months? So if I start shilling my book on this blog in the future, it won’t be anonymous anymore. Shit.

I mean, oops. I shouldn’t be using “shit” as an exclamation in this post. Henceforth, shit shall only refer to the scatological product of a bodily function. Can’t run the risk of causing confusion. That would be a pisser.

The potty training started as quite a surprise. My wife and I had discussed it, dreamed about the day, but more in the vein of some future trip to Tahiti. We weren’t really sure when or how to begin.

Then one day my daughter’s talking things over with her mom.

About shit, not Tahiti.

“Pee pee, potty?”

“Yeah, baby. Mommy and daddy pee pee in the potty. Someday you’ll pee pee in the potty.”

“Pee pee… potty?”

“Wait, do you want to pee pee in the potty right now?”

“Pee pee… potty… right now.”

Oh, shit!

I mean… Whoa!

We were caught completely unprepared, but we took her to the toilet, anyway. We didn’t even have the child’s seat, so instead, daddy had to hold baby up hovering in the middle of the toilet seat.

For a half an hour. Because baby was going to be milking this one.

Guess I won’t need to be doing sit-ups this month.

And the result? Nothing. Baby was convinced she had accomplished something, but I can neither confirm nor deny whether anything exited my daughter into its proper watery receptacle. Too bad her vocabulary is not full enough to teach her the “Here I sit, broken-hearted” poem.

Next came the true adventure of baby’s first toilet experience: the wiping. She was all jazzed to wipe. Of course, she didn’t really wipe, just emulated what she had seen us do. Grab a few squares, place them between your legs, then drop them into the toilet.

And by a few squares, I mean three or four or, I don’t know, twenty?

Then she’d need to “wipe” a little more.

“One more, daddy. One more.”

She held up one finger to indicate what she meant by one more, a phrase I was previously unaware she knew. From a linguistic standpoint, she definitely understood the “more” concept. The “one?” That needed a little more work.

By the time she was done, about half a roll of toilet paper had been dumped into the toilet. Wife read that this was normal and that we should let her explore it on her own. You know, in order to increase her comfort in the bathroom.

This child-rearing literature, however, must not allow for low-flush toilets. Because when we finally flushed the alleged half-ounce of urine with the half-gallon of toilet paper, wouldn’t you know it, the toilet clogged. And this wasn’t one of those, “plunge it and flush it again” types of clogs. I assume that too much of the paper hadn’t touched water, and plungers seem predicated on breaking apart wet products. So even when we went in with the snake claw, it only tore away the first layer of wet paper, barely exposing the next line of wad.

This particular clog required going in from the outlet valve on the outside of the house.  Good times.

But with that crisis averted, we were revitalized. We had that enemy, the diaper, which had entrenched itself in our household for close to two years, on the run. We hit the Babies’R’Us for the weapons necessary to finally vanquish our foe. We bought the baby toilet-seat extensions. We purchased Pull-ups and underwear with cute critters on them. We ensured there was never more than a half of a roll of toilet paper on the spool at any given time.

And then… nothing.

The One Weekend Method says this would be a good time to go cold turkey. There’s one problem this plan, though, and that’s Day Care. In California, the mandated teacher-to-child ratio changes at age two. So two-year-olds tend to be in a different room than the babies and toddlers. If our daughter, being 21-months old, were to go into the “Twos” room, where the bathroom is, the day care center would be in major violation of state law. And from what I gather, day care centers tend to follow state law. At least our particular one does.

So what’s the use of potty training her if they’re still requiring her to shit herself at school? Instead, for a few months, we stayed in a holding pattern where we talked extensively about the potty. Baby occasionally pretended she needed to use the potty, but more often than not it was “All full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Shakespeare wrote that about flatulence, right?

Even when baby’s wolf-crying was legitimate, the process and result were more novelty than normalcy. She became very good at telling us WHEN she was expunging herself. Telling us BEFORE was still a mystery.

She became more aware of her bodily functions. One bathtime, she let out a fart that I could have won some fraternity championships with. “Oh shit,” I thought, both literally and figuratively, envisioning a reenactment of the Baby Ruth scene in Caddyshack.

I asked her if she needed to poo-poo or if she was just farting.

“FAR-eeeeeeeen,” she said, then laughed hysterically.

Yep, that’s my daughter.

A month or so after she turned two, we noticed she was consistently staying dry throughout the night. She would go long periods of the day without shitting or pissing herself. I can’t always make the same claims for myself, so we figured, what the hell? Let’s do this.

We didn’t quite go the “cover all the couches and floors and have her go naked all weekend” route that the cold turkey’ers suggest. Instead we took her to the potty on a regular basis. Sometimes she went, sometimes not. By the end of the first day, she was pretty adept at identifying which times she would pee and which times she would not.

By the end of the next day, she was potty trained.

I’m not going to say she’s batting 1.000. She still has some “Oopses. And by “Oops,” I mean “Shit.” A few pisses, too, but most of her oopses are shits. It seems odd that she would recognize an impending urinary incident more readily than a bowel emergency. To me, the latter seems much easier to feel coming from a mile away. But I’ve been assured that #1-awareness usually predates #2-awareness by the teacher in the two-year old room to which my daughter was recently promoted. And if you aren’t going to believe someone who spends her entire day around two-year olds, who are you going to believe?

And why does the Toddler keep saying “Poo Poo Power”? Oh, never mind. She’s saying Purple Flower. Lost my translator for a second…

A week or two after “The Transition,” this same teacher asked if I wanted to take home the diapers and wipes we had at Day Care. It hadn’t occurred to me. When I got home, I presented the returned items to my wife.

“I guess we can clean out her diaper drawer, huh?”

“I can hand them down to a co-worker.”

“You know what? We haven’t had to empty the diaper sausage in a month.”

We looked at each other and smiled. It was only then that we realized what had happened. The look we shared was the same look of hope that a child has, waking up and gingerly lifting the pillow to see what lies beneath…

“The Potty Fairy was here! The Potty Fairy was here!”

 

 

 

 

The Great Red (Muppet) Menace

Back around Christmas time, I remember talking to some family members and friends who had kids around my daughter’s age (between 14-20 months). Lots of questions about what her favorite TV shows were. I tried to fake some answers but in reality, she didn’t watch much. It’s not like we had actively tried to encourage or discourage TV Time, but there were certainly times that the TV was on, and even times we put on a children’s show in an attempt to actually get something done around the house. But she didn’t seem interested and when confronted by other parents, I wondered if she was an anomaly Were we good parents or were we the bad parents?

I mean, the experts say no screen time until they’re two, right?

Hey experts, you want to come offer some free babysitting while I’m getting ready in the morning?

Because my baby’s aversion/disinterest in television came crashing down right around twenty months. Now she regularly wants to take her place among the American public by plopping her butt right in front of the Boob Tube. And she can binge watch like a motherfucker.

Oh hey, kids? If you just found this blog after googling Sesame Street, this might be a good time to move along to another blog. And maybe stop going to the 117th page of Google results.

My daughter’s tastes are not all that refined, however. In fact, there are really only two shows she watches. The first is Bubble Guppies. I like Bubble Guppies. It features six mermaid-type kids that are in school. Or at least they are enrolled in school despite their best attempts at truancy. Each episode starts with two of them seeing something as they dally, unsupervised, on their way to school. Then they get to school and are excited about what they witnessed, and their teacher, Mr. Grouper, immediately delves into a lesson on the topic.

Really, Mr. Grouper? It’s called a lesson plan. You’re just going to scrap what you were going to teach because some kids come in excited about something? If I did that, every day I’d be teaching about teenagers getting “hella crunked over the weekend.”

To say nothing of the Bubble Guppies’ parents. What the hell are you doing letting your kids randomly walk to school through marathons or loading docks or the train station? Just because their teacher indulges their delinquent behavior doesn’t mean you should!

But I digress. The episode then revolves around this theme. They sing songs, they set up a make-believe shop selling items related to the topic, then they have lunch, then go outside (“Line up, everybody, line up, line up…”) and pretend to be that thing. And through it all they ask the viewers to help them solve problems with budding skills in math and literacy.

As I said, I like Bubble Guppies. But my daughter quickly grew tired of it, and now always tries to push me toward her current addiction. She asks, and I say, “Bubble?” “No Bubble, Daddy.”

Except sometimes she manipulates me. After I say I don’t want to watch the other show, she says “Yes, Bubble.” And I say, “Yay, Bubble,” then I go turn on the TV, and repeat “Bubble?” Then, with the TV on and me already thumbing through the DVR, she magically changes her mind. “No Bubble….”

“Elmo!”

Shit.

“Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!”

I don’t even know how she learned who Elmo was, but she was saying his name before she had watched an episode of Sesame Street. I’m sure it’s just like every other addiction – peer pressure from those other kids at school.

I originally pushed for Sesame Street. Before we discovered Bubble Guppies, Sesame Street was one of the shows we tried to occupy her with back when she wouldn’t watch. I was keen to avoid the likes of Caillou and Barney and the other dregs of children’s television.

I grew up on Sesame Street.

But this ain’t her father’s Sesame Street.

“Can you tell me what they’ve done, what they’ve done to Sesame Street?”

And before I get all “get off my front lawn” about it, I’m not saying they should have always kept things the same. I’m not opposed to change for change’s sake. It wouldn’t really make sense for all of the characters to be wearing disco pants like they were when I was watching the show in the 1970s. And for obvious reasons, Jim Hensen can’t voice a lot of the Muppets that he used to voice.

I like that they encourage kids to get up and move around more than they used to.

And I know that Snuffleupagus can’t be an imaginary friend anymore because we don’t want kids to keep quiet about abuse. I might question how much it’s made a difference. I’d be interested to see if there was an uptick in child abuse reports once Snuffleupagus was revealed to be real. But if that statistic was even one, then it’s worth it.

And truthfully, some of the problems are getting a little better since HBO took over. HBO’s increased the production value immensely. Once you can get past the all the full frontal nudity. (I’ll take “The Obvious Joke” for two hundred, Alex.)

But there are some things about Sesame Street  that still bug me:

  1. Character Voices.

Grover is now voiced by the same person that does Miss Piggy. Grover sounds exactly like Miss Piggy. And Big Bird sounds like Big Dork.

  1. Muppet Lower Torsos.

I assume this is easier with CGI, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. It just looks awkward. Check out the closing credits from last year or this year. Awkward. And man, in the latter, Grover needs to do some squats or something. Not sure how he manages to lug that potbelly around on those spindly legs.

  1. Abby.

If you’re as old as me, you might have noticed some new Muppets in those clips. Of course, I pre-date Elmo, but you would have had to be deaf and dead to not know of him. One in particular, the pink one with pigtails and a wand, is Abby. Abby Cadaby, to be exact. She is a magician. Abra Cadabra – Abby Cadaby, get it?

Abby is probably the second-most featured character on Sesame Street these days. She hasn’t infiltrated out amongst the general population as much as Elmo has yet, but among Sesame Street groupies, she’s almost as ubiquitous.

Abby Cadaby, being a magician, actually casts spells and makes things magically appear. Really, Sesame Street? Magic? What a lazy shortcut to storytelling. I mean, stick to the giant talking birds and cookie-obsessed monsters and green dudes that live in trash cans. Why do you need to add something fake, like magic?

  1. Episode structure.

I seem to remember that the interactions between humans and Muppets on Sesame Street (ie the entire point of the show) were spread out over the course of the entire episode, interspersed with various vignettes. A typical episode might go: Introduce Problem/Theme, Video of animals, Continue storyline, Aliens creating compound word, Preview resolution on “The Street,” Different Muppet video, then back to the Street for resolution and lessons learned.

Today’s episodes frontload all of the plot/lesson/Street scenes so they are self-contained, and completely over by the time we hit the ten minute mark. Then it’s on to the vignettes, maybe with Murray and his Little Lamb at a school or Cookie Monster exercising self-control. I will address the last ten minutes in #5 below.

I assume this re-organization is partly because episodes are now only a half-hour instead of an hour. Damn you, Mitt Romney! Oh wait, he lost? But you know what happens. Republicans are elected and they cut funding, then Democrats are elected and they restore the funding but also increase the ability of Muppet Local 2658 to negotiate exorbitant pensions that shoestring the show’s budget.

Or maybe it’s because these whippersnappers can’t pay attention to a storyline once it breaks away. We’re no longer training the TV watchers of tomorrow to remember the plot through a commercial break. Boy, back in my day, we had to watch commercials, uphill both ways, in the snow. You little rats have DVR’s now.

Then again, Bubble Guppies can break up the theme throughout an episode.

“Bubble? Bubble?”

“No, Daddy, no….”

  1. Elmo!

As I mentioned, I was familiar with Elmo going into this rediscovery process. I used to use Tickle Me Elmo as an example of demand and shortages in economics class, up until that particular zeitgeist craze started pre-dating my students. I’ll let that sink in with some of my older readers – current high school seniors were born in 1998.

So yeah, I was aware Elmo existed. What I wasn’t aware of was that Sesame Street had pretty much become the Elmo show. Take Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, multiply it by Cartman in South Park, and raise it to the power of Barney in How I Met Your Mother and you will begin to approach the degree to which the Giant Red Menace has spread his socialist scourge across Sesame Street. And his pinko girlfriend, Abby, too.

I would guess one of those two is on screen about seventy percent of the time. And if you only count the times that a Muppet is on screen, that would rise to over ninety percent. I’m trying to think of a time that any other Muppet shows up without Elmo lurking on the margins like a Mafioso Union Boss. The only time is when Murray and his Little Lamb go to school, and that’s only in the recent HBO shows. By comparison, Big Bird doesn’t even show up in half of the episodes, and Oscar the Grouch might as well be considered a guest star these days.

Oh, and that “last ten minutes of the show” I referenced earlier? That’s “Elmo’s World,” a completely separate entity. No other cast members, puppet or human, are allowed entry into Elmo’s World. Not even Abby. It’s Elmo, his pet goldfish, and a couple of humans named Mr. Noodle. There are two Mr. Noodles and they are both called Mr. Noodle, unless they’re both on the screen at the same time, in which case they are Mr. Noodle and Other Mr. Noodle. Just like a tyrant to not let the dudes each have their own name. But Mr. Noodle(s) are contained in the Sweatshop that is Elmo’s World, and are not allowed to venture out into Sesame Street proper. Elmo needs to keep his empires separate, like when Walter White picked up that second cellphone.

And really, how is Elmo a good role model? He talks about himself in the third person constantly. “Elmo has a question.” “Dance with Elmo.” “Elmo’s gonna fuck you up and Elmo-shit on your Elmo-fucked corpse.”

That last one might be a misquote.

I know no Muppet is perfect. Each has his or her own little foibles. Oscar represents sloth, the Count has certain OCD tendencies, and Big Bird suffers from the deadly sin of dorkiness. Cookie Monster, in addition to some slightly gluttonous persuasions, also uses the word “me” in place of “I.” But a little subject/direct object pronoun confusion is fine next to the megalomaniacal tyrant that is Elmo.

In fact, I expect Elmo to endorse Donald Trump any day now. It’s too bad he’s only been around since the early 1990s, he’s too young to be Donald’s VP pick. They’d make a natural pairing, and Elmo might be able to bring Republicans back to the fold, reminding them of the third-person self-references of the Bob Dole days.

And with Elmo on the campaign trail, maybe I’d finally win the mental tug-of-war with my twenty-three month old daughter.

But until then, it’s another steady dose of…

“Bubble? Bubble?”

“No, Daddy, no… Elmo!”

Bah, Bah, Goo, Goo

My baby is talking!

My baby is communicating!

Bear in mind, these two usually do not go hand-in-hand.

Hey, it’s not my fault if Daddy and Doggie sound exactly the same coming from her. Aww, my baby’s saying “Daddy” and pointing at me. She loves me. How sweet…. Shit, the dog’s right behind me.

It’s been a slow process. Usually, when she comes up with a new word or gesture, I don’t realize it’s intentional. She repeats it two or three or twenty times, and all of a sudden, I’m like “Yes, that IS the doggie,” and she responds with either a proud gleam or a rolling of the eyes that clearly communicates “Finally, what the fuck is wrong with you?”

It started off subtly. All of a sudden she could understand a lot of what I was saying and even follow directions. Sure, she had been able to understand basic meanings or instructions for a while. But up until a month or so ago, it couldn’t go beyond, “milk?” or “put it there.”

Then one day, in some amalgam of a delaying tactic and a scatterbrained daddy moment, I muttered a string of steps that needed to happen before we went for a walk. “We need to get your shoes and go find a jacket and load the stroller and free the hostages and re-form the Beatles and blah, blah, blah.”

Next thing I know, she’s standing in front of me with her shoes in her hands. Random, I thought, but whatever. I put her shoes on and followed her as she walked back toward the front door. Sitting by the front door was her stroller, upon which she has already placed a jacket. The only thing missing was Ringo Starr.

Whoa, there’s no way she just followed my instructions. Must be a coincidence. But I’m always one for a science experiment, and since there wasn’t any enriched uranium atoms around, what would be the harm in using my daughter as a control group?

“Can you go get your sippy cup from the kitchen and bring it here?” I asked.

And she did. Shitballs! She can understand me! Maybe I shouldn’t be using “Shitballs!” as my primary exclamation anymore.

Before I knew it, the baby was following complex sets of directions. I don’t know that I’d trust her to cut the blue wire, not the red wire, but “go close the door” and “take this spoon to mommy” and “don’t be late for your job at the coal mine” are well within her wheelhouse.

Then came the pointing stage. She communicates like that fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.  A typical interaction might start with her pointing to her mouth because she wants to eat, then when I ask what she wants, she runs to the refrigerator. Do you want milk? Shake of head. Yogurt? A pause, then a more subtle shake of the head. A line of cocaine?  Emphatic nod.

Everyone knows to store their crank in the fridge, right? That was purple drank in the Sunny D commercials.

Her gestures are not always reactionary, though. She’s a master at curling her hand toward her in a beckoning motion, followed by patting the ground next to her. She wants me to come and sit there. I remember the first time she did this and was shocked at how well it worked.

Let’s see, I beckoned mommy and she came to me, what do I do now? Pat, pat. Momma sat down Let me try it with Daddy. Ooooooooohhhhhh!

At this point her eyes and mouth got very big. She ran up to look me in the face, then turned around, did a U-Turn toward my wife and her mouth grew even wider. Have you ever seen Shaq’s dunk face? If she could speak right now, she’d be screaming “Holy Cunt-ticles!”

I really need to watch what I say around her.

Then came the words. Or maybe “the syllables” would be a better description. Or half-syllables. Sometimes it’s the first half of the syllable, sometimes it’s the second. Two syllable words become one syllable. Kee-ee is kitty. Me can be me or milk. Mo is more, which is code for anything from “I’m hungry” to “Let’s do that again.” No means no, and boy, when she first mastered that word, stomping her foot down with an emphatic “NO!” well, the dark side s strong with this one.

Baa might be bear or might be ball. Baa might also mean sheep, because a sheep says baa. Evidently this is a word. When the doctor asked how many words she can say, we were low-balling it to “properly enunciated words used in the proper context. But the doctor assures us that “If she say ‘moo’ when she sees a picture of a cow, that counts as a word.” Uh huh, Doc, let me explain that to the College Board when she takes her SATs.

One thing I can take credit for is her first compound word, baseball. Or, more precisely, “bay-baw.” It started during the World Series. Then we spent most of November playing MLB: The Show on my Playstation to get her to fall asleep. Like mother, like daughter.

She also says “bay-baw” for football if it’s on the TV. And curling. And, for a while, I’m pretty sure the TV itself was “ba-baw.” This trend has re-emerged now that her favorite TV Show is Bubble Guppies.

My wife says she knows the difference between baseball and football, and that the latter sounds  closer to “boo-baw” than “bay-baw.” I’m skeptical, but I should believe my wife, because she’s much better at catching the nuances of baby language. I think the baby’s making random sounds (“eee, eee”), and my wife busts out “She wants cheese,” and the baby nods.  Crap, I thought “eee” was the sound a monkey makes. Gonna have to study harder for my own Baby SAT.

Then the baby says “Fucktwat” and I give her a high five for listening to daddy.

Her most recent communicational leap was reached around New Year. The doctor told us to be on the lookout for stringing two words together. And sure enough, her first sentence came out clear as day, while sorting through things with my sister-in-law.

Auntie moved one item from the front of the line to the back of the line. Baby grabbed it from her, then shouted, “NO, MINE!”

I’m patiently awaiting my Parent of the Year Award.

 

 

The Drunken Midget Phase

My daughter just turned one year old.

Woo-Hoo! She made it!

Not sure if that’s more impressive or less impressive than me turning forty. In either case, we seem to be celebrating nature and astronomy more than perseverance. But this poor girl has me as a father, so we’re not taking anything for granted.

We’re at that milestone-a-minute phase right now, and really have been for a good six months or more. First it was rolling over. Then it was sitting up with assistance. Then without. Then the Lieutenant Dan Body drag, followed by crawling. Then it was- well, you get the idea. But I think the current milestone is the last big one.

Of course, I say “current” milestone, not “last” or “next,” because these things tend to evolve slowly over days or weeks, despite what popular culture would have us believe. Movies and TV shows always show babies purposefully doing an action as a result of some cognitive leap, then immediately honing this new skill until perfection. In reality, there’s never that big “this is her first <fill in the blank> moment.”

What was my daughter’s first word? Well, it depends. Do you mean her first purposeful word or the first part of her random enunciation that sounded close to English? She says “yeah, yeah, yeah” a lot, and occasionally it’s even in response to a yes or no question. I’m pretty sure she’s said “ma” and “da” on purpose a number of times, but I still don’t know if we’ve yet reached the 50% plateau of those sounds being a specific reference to my wife or I.

It’s the same thing with standing and walking, which is our current undertaking. Can she stand on her own? Sure. Even done it a couple of times. But if there is something or someone to pull herself up on within, oh say, a square mile, she’s crawling to that object instead. Has she taken her first step? Absolutely. She’s even made it three or four steps, albeit with heavy coaxing. And even though she can both stand and take steps, she’s much more likely to plop herself down and crawl, evolution be damned!

But, whether with support or not, we’ve definitely entered my favorite stage of childhood. Or at least my favorite to observe from afar. Some call it the toddling years, but let’s be honest. My bubbly baby girl is turning into a drunken midget. Think about the last time you saw a toddler. Now think of an intoxicated dwarf. If you’ve never been around an inebriated midget, think of a full-size boozer and then just shrink them down.

The swaying from side to side. The bumping into random stationary objects. The propensity to fall down for no reason, in a manner that would send a sober adult to injury rehab, and then to giggle uncontrollably at it. Am I describing a one year old or a lush? You decide.

Last week, my daughter was “walking” around. To do this, she holds onto my fingers over her head for stabilization like a chimpanzee. At one point, she lost her grip on one of my fingers, and consequently lost her footing. Instead of sitting or re-establishing her grip, she clamped down harder on the remaining “support” (i.e. my right finger). Her feet flew out from under her and the rest of her body entered a spinning pirouette along multiple axes – a centrifuge with my finger as its fulcrum.

Her final resting position had her upper torso on the ground, legs in the air supported by my calves, right hand still grasping that finger as if it mattered. I asked her if that was fun. She locked eyes with me, paused for a moment, then laughed way more than the situation called for.

Now, let’s just replace my finger with a doorknob or a handrail, my lower torso with a wall, and the floor with, well, the floor. I’m pretty sure that I’ve, uh, let’s just say, “seen some people” in that exact same position after Last Call. Probably laughing just as hysterically, too.

And the similarities aren’t just physical. Who, other than a lush or a baby, is likely to swing between happy and sad, pleased and pissed, on a moment’s notice, without being able to recall the previous emotion? My daughter has a noise that is half-laugh, half-cry. And when it appears, one of the two noises is mere seconds away from an onslaught. A quick move by me might influence which direction it goes. Or it might not. Sound like any alkies you know?

Who else, besides a drunk or a child, can fixate on mundane objects for a half-hour? Remember the video of David Hasselhoff eating a hamburger? I could totally see my daughter doing that, and it would probably be just as messy.

She also has been into stacking and sorting lately. She’ll take all of the  items in front of her and move them, one by one, behind her back. Then she’ll look around, astounded at where all of her missing items went. Tell me you’ve never played “hide an item from drunkie” before. Shoot, I’ve had people so drunk that we hide their drink from them. They look around like my daughter, murmuring “I swear I had a drink here,” before finding something else to fixate on. Like a disassembled hamburger.

I mentioned that I felt the drunken midget stage, a.k.a. toddling, is the last major milestone. I could hear the eye-rolling scoff from you parents out there. “Oh, just wait until talking or potty training or losing teeth or, I don’t know, differential calculus,” I hear you saying.  And yes, I know there are many more changes to come. But it seems to me that this is the last major physical hurdle. The rest seem to be more mental or developmental milestones. Baby talk might be just as cute as toddling, but there’s substantially less chance of them ending up with their ass on the ground. At least until they enter the “Drunken Sailor” phase.

The post-walking milestones, potty training and learning how to speak, also seem to be more of parenting milestones than baby milestones. Parents usually force the former, while parents are there to correct and guide the latter. But up through walking, the parent plays little role. “No, no, baby, that’s not the proper usage of the foot while standing.”

And really, should we even bother celebrating parenting milestones? Instead of milestones, they are more like signposts: “This way to good (or bad) parenting,” or “Blind curve ahead.”

And those parenting signposts are constant. I mean, seriously, how many wipes does it take to remove oatmeal from a forehead? Let’s get the Tootsie Pop Owl on that one.

During my first week of summer break, wherein we cut back on some daycare days in favor of Mr. Mom time, I took my baby to story time at the local library. Of course, she wanted to take a nap right before story time. So I put her down thinking no story time this week, maybe next time. But of course she wakes up without a moment to spare, so voila, there we were at the library.

I could not have been more out of place if you dropped me in the Sahara Desert.

First of all, I was the only male above the age of three. Then there’s the fact that the Stepford Wives that were there were all regulars. They knew all the songs, they knew all the dances, and the lady in charge knew all of their children by name.

To add to the “fish out of water” sensation, I walked in about five minutes late. Oh, and I hadn’t showered, because I still haven’t figured out that whole “when to shower when you’re the only adult in the house” trick.

My daughter was the only toddler not wearing shoes. I didn’t want to go all “The pediatric board doesn’t suggest that” on, but hey, I have science on my side.

Plus, for some reason, before I put my daughter down to take her nap, I had only buttoned one button on her onesie. Perhaps I was going to change it because it was also dirty from breakfast? I can’t remember, but sure enough, while we’re sitting there clapping our hands and hokey pokeying (hey, at least I knew the words to that one!), the one snap comes undone. Had she just been wearing the onesie, it probably wouldn’t have been very difficult to re-fasten. But no, I had thrown some cute little cargo pants over them, which her onesie stayed outside of. Oh, and did I mention it was still stained from breakfast?

So, here’s me and my daughter. Both unbathed, in dirty clothing, her onesie open and flapping about. She’s not wearing shoes. And we’re raining on the parade of the regular stay at home moms. They’re looking at the two of us like we’re the Clampetts busting in on their afternoon tea.

“Man, they just let anybody into the library these days. Shouldn’t they, like, require a membership card to get in?”

The other signpost I’ve recently seen is something I probably shouldn’t be proud of, but I totally am. We don’t watch a lot of TV around the baby. We’re not those “no screen time” parents or condescending “Better than you because the TV isn’t on” people. But hey, if wife and I sometimes aren’t home until 6:00 and the baby goes to bed at 8:00, maybe The Walking Dead can wait until 8:15.

As a bonus, when the TV is on, the baby doesn’t pay it much attention. A sport event, with its bright colors and fast movement, might catch her attention briefly, but then she’s back to sorting cups or engaging in thorough tests of the Law of Gravity.

Last weekend, my wife was flipping through channels while we were doing chores in the bedroom, and said “I’m guessing you want to watch this?” She was correct. And I wasn’t the only one. I was holding my daughter and she looked, too. I expected her to look away after a couple seconds, but she didn’t. She was tracking what was happening on the screen. It was bound to happen at some point.

What were we watching? None other than the 1980 classic, Airplane! Yep, she’s my daughter. And I’m sure it was a learning experience for her, too. Now she’ll know she has to choose wisely on which day to stop sniffing glue.

Or to stop being an Oompa Loompa blowing a .15