Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Bent My Kid. I Hope She Bends Back.

Here's the moral in advance: It doesn't matter what you do, you're gonna fuck your kids up.

I was a bit stressed by the time Saturday rolled around.  I had three little contracting gigs in the works, and all of the clients wanted me to actually complete them.  But it was hard to tie up loose ends when I was only available to work during the hours between preschool dropoff and pickup on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Theoretically, I should have been able to work on Fridays too, since my wife is usually home then; but she's been picking up extra shifts to help pay for her mid-life crisis car.  And theoretically, I should have been able to work on weekends; but there's always either a family event that's more important than working on somebody else's house, or my wife has to run errands and leaves me home with the kids.

My wife was out that Saturday morning, doing something I didn't understand that had to do with makeup and required her and her friend to show up at a department store at 7:30 a.m. and stay till like 1:00.  I just needed a couple hours to hang a door at my client's rental property.

It was around 10:00 when I decided that Twin A (aka "Cobra") really should put some clothes on.  She had already eaten breakfast naked, and had been happily running around the house all morning without a stitch of clothing on.  I don't generally have a problem with my kids running around bucket nekkid, but she was clambering on the couch right by the bay window that overlooks the busy thoroughfare in front of our house, and it seemed, I don't know, inappropriate.

"C'mon," I said.  "Let's get some clothes on you."

"No-oo," she whined, wallowing around in the couch cushions.  "I'm SWIM-ming."

It wasn't the first time that morning that I had suggested getting dressed.  But it was the closest I had come to issuing a direct order, and I worry that I've been way too lax in enforcing direct orders lately.

So I resolved to follow through.  Even though her getting dressed was not a big deal, her being in the habit of doing what I asked her to seemed like it should be.

"Get up.  Let's go get some Hello Kitty undies."

"NO!  I'm SWIM-ming!"

I had just read somewhere that you should deal with defiance by threatening to revoke privileges, and then following through on the threat.

"If you don't get dressed, you won't get any lunch-dessert.  Don't you want candy-cane Joe-Joes?"  I wasn't messing around.

"No.  I don't want Joe-Joes."  She dove back into the couch.

Dammit.  Diplomatic sanctions failed, right out of the gate.  It was time for the use of force.

"All right then.  No Joe-Joes.  But you still have to get dressed."

I was able to pry her out of the couch cushions as she wriggled like a lake trout to break my grasp.

"O-ow!"  She cried.  "You HURT me!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Annual Mustache Ride

 Anyway, I've got this mustache now.  I haven't really mentioned it here, but, as you probably guessed, it's for Movember.  You know--Movember--when dudes grow mustaches so that people will be all, "ew...you have a mustache" and then the dude can go, "Yeah, it's for SAVING MEN'S LIVES by funding research on prostate and testicular cancer, jerkwad!  Now why don't you donate some money to my Movember page!"

I did it for the first time last year, and it made me think a lot about how concerned I am about my appearance (for no good reason and to little avail) and what it means to wear facial hair that hasn't enjoyed mainstream popularity for thirty years.  But this year I'm more like, eh, whatever: I've got a scraggly mustache and people probably think it's a misguided attempt at ironic hipsterism as a result of a midlife crisis.  Or that I'm a creepy old perv. 

A couple of things that are different than last year: I don't think I went to my gym (whose clientele is about 85% gay males) once with the mustache last year, for some lame reason.  This year, I've been going regularly, and, whereas I have become accustomed to being totally ignored there because I'm not nearly as hot as I thought gay men thought I was, all of the sudden, with the fireman 'stache, I keep catching guys checking me out.  Of course, they very well might be barely suppressing their looks of shock and revulsion when I make eye contact with them.  But at least they seem to know I exist, and I'll take any kind of recognition.

Also, I take my kids to the gym with me these days, because of the awesome childcare setup available there.  The kids and I need a break from each other on those long, napless days when they're not in preschool, and lord knows I need the exercise.  Every once in a while, I peek furtively through the glass door of Kids' Club to see how they're doing, careful not to distract them and possibly curtail my workout and their activities.  Satisfied that they're playing happily, I turn to face the weight room, and realize that I'm an older dude with a mustache spying on children.  AWKward. 

Speaking of firemen, here's another thing I've noticed: My wife has a thing for firemen, which she (jokingly, mostly) likes to throw in my face whenever a fire engine rolls by.  And yet, whenever I have a mustache, she calls me "Sergeant Murphy," or "Dirty copper."  Never "Mister Fireman."  What's up with that?

Speaking of caring about appearances (see Paragraph 2), I've got a sponsor for Movember.  It's J.Paul, a company that makes fancy men's grooming products.  Honestly, I don't know much about them, except that their stuff is sold at Nordstrom, which makes them seem legit, and they offered me some money (which I had them donate to Movember) and some products if I would mention them here.  (I'll tell you how the products work out later.)  AND they're doing a cool Movember giveaway, where you can win some products and even cash!

So, what I'm saying is, go register to win some cool stuff, and, even more importantly, click on this here link and drop a couple shekels into my Movember coffers.  Proceeds go to The Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG Foundation, and that shit is tax deductible, yo!

Thanks from everyone who has (or had) balls, and from everyone who loves them.  And have a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Me on DadCentric: The Princess and the Poop

 I was going to write a little riff on DadCentric about a conversation I had with one of my kids yesterday regarding the pooping habits of princesses.  But then it turned into a whole thing, with lots of words.  I thought you might like to check it out, so I posted a teaser here...

The Princess and the Poop

My thinking on the whole princess thing has evolved. In the last four years, it's gone from, "Hell no--keep that shit out of my house," to "Well...just a little princess-play can't hurt," to "Let me introduce you to my daughters, Cinderella and Rapunzel."

I remember, months before the twins were born, we had accrued a mountain of pink, frilly hand-me-downs from friends and family. As the due date got closer, my wife and I tried to organize the mound by separating it into bins based on size. In doing so, we had a chance to cull the worn-out, shit-stained, or just butt-ugly clothes.

Most of the clothes were in good shape, and cute enough, so we didn't have to consign much to the rag bag.  But there was one rule I insisted on following: anything with the word "Princess" on it went to charity or to the "paint" section of the garage.

I know princess narratives have become more empowering to girls in the last few decades, but the message of the classic princess stories is "Be kind, graceful, selfless, patient, compliant, and--most importantly--beautiful, and all your dreams will come true." Of course, "all your dreams" equals "having a handsome rich guy sweep you off of your feet and take care of you for the rest of your life.

I want my girls to have bigger dreams than that. Furthermore, it seems like when parents call their girls "Princess," those parents aren't necessarily encouraging them to be selfless and kind, but rather teaching them that they're entitled to whatever they want because they're cute and special. And, although I believe that my own girls are cute and special and deserve everything, the last thing I want is to let them know it.

Yet somehow, despite my objections, the princess trope made its way into my kids' consciousness and into my house. It started with party favors and gifts from well-meaning friends who, in most cases, weren't trying to totally undermine my feminist buzzkill convictions.

Read more at DadCentric

Friday, November 9, 2012

How I Argued my Way Through the Election Without Unfriending Anyone

Full disclosure: On balance, I'm delighted with the way the recent U.S. election (you might have heard about it?) went.  Pretty much all the candidates I was rooting for won their races, and the state and local ballot issues I cared about most went the way I wanted them to go.  Billionaires who dumped money into shadowy Super PACS might be thinking of investing elsewhere in the future; and who knows?  The failure to buy elections by makin' it rain on the democratic process may even allow campaign finance reform to move forward one day.  Plus--big advances in gay rights!  And weed legalized in two states!  (Now I can have legally induced panic attacks in Colorado and Washington!) Also, we didn't have to sit around for hours, days, or weeks waiting for results.

My triumph-tinged retrospect might go a long way to explaining this, but, unlike the hundreds of people I've heard complaining about how our outsized election cycle pits Americans against one another, I actually enjoyed the past few months, and I feel pretty optimistic about the way we handled ourselves.  Sure, there was a lot of rancor reported in the media, and on other people's Facebook pages (i.e., the frequent "I can't wait until this is over so I can un-block half my friends" statuses); but the people in my life were pretty decent to one another.  And even the horrible things that people did and said in the world outside of my bubble seemed less frequent and more subdued then they did the last time around.  I mean, there must have been at least a 30% drop in Obama-being-lynched effigies reported.  That's progress, people!

But back to my circles of family, friends, and acquaintances.  I have to admit that most of the people I hang out with in real life and online are well-educated, middle-class lefties like myself.  That kept my frustration levels low during the election.  And I don't have a TV, so I missed out on all the political ads except for the ones I sought out because I had heard how outrageous or unintentionally hilarious they were.  I listened to NPR incessantly, as I usually do, watched clips of the Daily Show and Colbert Report making fun of Fox News, and eavesdropped on the AM radio-talkers to keep abreast of the right-wing talking points.  So I had a sense of what was going on in the media, even if I didn't consume it in the intended way.  

Although I don't have very many vocally conservative friends, and I live in a neighborhood where hardly anyone puts Obama signs in their yards but only because it pretty much goes without saying around here, I have had plenty of opportunities to argue with people about candidates and issues.  My immediate family and siblings skew left, except for one wayward sister.  But the rest of my blood-relatives, save maybe one moderate uncle, trend red and churchy.  I have a handful of friends who are mainline Republicans, but probably more who are on the Libertarian end of the spectrum.  They are all good people.  Some are completely wrong and deluded in terms of politics, but they're good people nonetheless.

During the two or three months before election day, I averaged maybe one political argument per day, and probably 98% of them occurred on Facebook.  And yet, I never felt compelled to hide anyone from my newsfeed, or unfriend them altogether.  We tried our best to convince one another, often passionately, that our analyses of the problems facing our country, and the solutions we needed to implement to fix them, were more more sound than theirs.  We invoked the rhetorical appeals of logos, ethos, pathos, and YouTube videos.  We sometimes made biting remarks about our respective candidates.  We called each other wrong, but we never called each other idiots or Nazis.

There was a lot of talk during this election cycle about lack of civility in public discourse and friends and family feuding due to ideological differences.  I got a little heated during a few discussions, but I never wanted to disown anyone, and I don't think they wanted to disown me.  (Wait.  Is there some way to tell if you've been blocked on Facebook?  Because that might explain the lack of vitriol in response to some of the stuff I posted.  Maybe I've been disowned without my knowledge.)

The best advice I heard about talking politics without hurting feelings--and of course I didn't hear it until election day was upon us--was on an episode of This American Life (of course.)  On the show, a pair of authors discussed their book about how not to estrange your friends and family while talking politics: You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (but You're Still Wrong): Conversations between a Die-Hard Liberal and a Devoted Conservative.  In the interview, one of the authors offered a simple solution: Don't try to change your opponent's mind; just try to understand where he's coming from.

I think I've always been pretty good at trying to understand my opponents' point of view, and maybe that's why my political conversations don't usually end up in rifts.  But I'm not so good at not trying to change their minds.  It's hard not to think that someone you like, and who you think is smart and kind, can be turned.  And perhaps even more difficult is not wanting to win the argument.

Unlike a lot of my Facebook friends, I don't think we should avoid talking about politics.  I don't mind looking at pictures of your kids, but I want to talk about the important stuff too.  And next time around, I promise that instead of trying to convert you into a Hillary Clinton supporter, I'll try to understand why you've hitched your wagon to Jeb Bush.  Or Ron Paul.  Or Ted Nugent.


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