Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I won't be wrapped

I'm drawing a masculine yet gentle, stern yet supportive line in the sand.

I'm taking a stand against the "little girl wrapped around daddy's pinky finger" stereotype. I'm sick of hearing about it all the time, which is why it's going to come to a screeching halt with the birth of my daughter about 4 1/2 months from now.

Look, I'm not naive (at least, not about this). I'm sure thousands of men have promised to refrain from the money-draining, inconvenience-fostering practice of never saying "no" to their daughters. But I'll be the first to actually do it. I have the resolve of Lance Armstrong (does resolve = unnaturally high quantity of red blood cells?), the stubbornness of Jerry Jones, the penchant for discipline of Tom Coughlin and the checking account of Maurice Clarett. This should make for a successful combination, don't you think?

No, I'm not a monster. I will love and take care of my daughter. I will show her affection at every turn, and I'll bend over backward to improve her life. But this finger won't be wrapped. No way.

Part of why I'm adamant against being wrapped is that I've seen how this often plays out. The majority of the ridiculous women I know were first ridiculous little girls molded by ridiculous(ly) spineless dads.

I'm putting an end the ridiculousness. Who's with me?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The great toy aisle debate

I made the classic inexperienced father mistake today: the toy-aisle oversell.

It's allowable — while not ideal — to take a young child into a big-box store's toy section. However, one should only proceed into the aforementioned area if he is highly familiar with the acceptable balance of excitement and boredom.

That's where I made my mistake.

Look, I was in charge of my son — by myself — for a few hours this morning/early afternoon while my wife hosted an autumn-themed tea party. (NOTE: Autumn and tea are the two most overhyped things in the female culture. Very weird.). After lunch, I figured Crazy Toddler (CT) would have fun being carted around a big store, amid a sea of shiny products. I was correct — in fact, a little too correct.

CT was pretty stimulated from the get-go once we entered the children's zone. The "Toy Story" aisle alone was ridiculous. Since when do second- and third-tier animated characters get their own action figures and sound-creating dolls? When I was a kid, I don't remember seeing 1-foot-high Green Lantern figures that spout catch phrases when squeezed. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

CT was excited enough without any help from me. So why did I start pushing every button and "Try Me" spot I could find? Beats me. Soon it was time to leave, and CT acted like I had dragged him away from a play date with Elmo himself.

Obviously, this one's on me. Lesson learned. Toy aisles don't need any help being excited. They've got that covered.

Luckily I had a trick up my sleeve today. Parks were invented solely for this type of situation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Every action has equal, ardent overreaction

If everyone overreacted the way our pervasive sports media does, our lives would be a lot different.

When you turn on ESPN or scan on an autumn Monday, the "experts" are more than eager to fervently tell you which football teams are transcendent and which ones are cesspools of gridiron despair. Luckily one victory the following week — whether by 1 point or 60 — will undoubtedly reverse a down-on-its-luck team's fortunes by 180 degrees.

What if we did this with our children?
— "He did WHAT to the couch cushions???? That's it; this kid is destined to be a loser. Let's just drop him off at the closest payday loan store (probably within about three feet) and be done with it."

Our entertainment?
— (Circa 1990) "Man, that episode was weird. I guess I'm out on 'Seinfeld.' That show will never amount to anything."

Our friends?
— "I could have used a little more 'oomph' from Steve during that phone conversation. Next stop: deletion from my phone. That's a 20-year friendship down the drain. Bummer."

Our employment?
— "Huh. No more creamer in the staff lounge. I wonder who's hiring these days?"

Sometimes people/teams have a bad day. But it's just that: ONE day. I'm pretty sure Colin Cowherd isn't getting fired for accidentally pressing the wrong button at the wrong time.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's his "No Easy Way Out"

I think I found my son's "No Easy Way Out" — in a supremely unlikely place.

Robert Tepper's soul-jarring, synth-heavy rock anthem, famous for its placement during the driving montage in Rocky IV, is the song that gets my blood boiling for everything from weight lifting to grocery shopping (you need a little testosterone boost for those shopping-cart battles with the blue-hairs).

For my son, Crazy Toddler, I'm pretty sure the same effect is spurred by the hit cartoon "Wonder Pets."

I know, I know. This is a fairly tame, very positive program featuring talking pets that are the best of friends. Not exactly the stuff that chest bumps are made of.

But it seems to work for him. Today CT was watching that show — a very tame moment even by "Wonder Pets" standards — and I caught him pumping his fists and quietly saying "boom" two or three times ("Boom" is our special phrase for everything manly and physical.).


No worries, though. Whatever gets the job done. And if he needs to tote a portable DVD player and a "Wonder Pets" disc into the lockerroom at halftime of his college basketball games, so be it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tony Robbins, eat your heart out

When did I apply for the title of "Motivational Speaker?"

The other day — in the middle of a loud, cartoonish, syrupy-sweet pep talk to my son — I realized how much energy I constantly put into convincing my Crazy Toddler (CT)  to do stuff.

"Let's eat these ca-RAYZY peaches, OK buddy!!!"

"Oopsy! But you're OK!!! No boo-boo for you! Yay! Yay!"

"Peeing in the potty is the coolest!!! Let's all do it, OK! Yay!"

You get the idea. My voice has gotten two to three octaves higher and much louder since CT entered my life. I can only image what goes through his head when I go off on one of my overly demonstrative, way-too-enthusiastic rants. He must be thinking something like, "This dude needs to get a life. I've never seen someone get this excited about peaches."

That's just the Tony Robbins in me, I guess.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Viewing world through NFL Preview-tinted glasses

Thanks to my good friends at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, etc., I'm beginning to see the world through NFL-Preview-tinted glasses.

The month of August tends to do this to me — and the ever-increasing glut of media nonsense makes the situation more dire each year.

You want proof? Last night I dreamed up this 2010 Playtime Performance Preview for my Crazy Toddler:

Key 2009-10 statistics:
  • Pieces of plastic food eaten: 14
  • Book pages torn: 37
  • Balls thrown at Daddy's face: 142
  • Half-eaten fruit-bar shards fused to living-room carpet fibers: 1,343 (single-season record)
CT is one of the most electrifying ball kickers/throwers in the game today. His ability to throw a tiny soft football at the same time as kicking one of those irresistible big-box-store bouncy balls has scouts drooling — but still not as much as CT drools.

Despite extensive instruction, CT has yet to fully grasp the complex toy-to-toybox technique. At times his innate talent carries him to victory in this regard, but he lacks the consistency that all legendary playtime practitioners have displayed.

At some point CT's rugged good looks and paunchy build will no longer be able to offset this shortcoming.

CT has enough God-given gifts to take his leisure time to heights never before reached. But it's more likely that his impetuousness, refusal to consistently nap and penchant for spontaneous urine will stop him short of his full potential. It will be a good year of playing and general carrying on for CT, but not an epic one.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Puff Daddy (or is it P. Diddy?) said it best

A couple days away with "the guys" wasn't exactly what I expected.

The problem wasn't the company; I was accompanied this weekend by two guys who love sarcasm and sports, so suffice it to say I was comfortable. The problem also wasn't the activity; watching early-September college football in person is better than the crisp fall air, Thanksgiving and pumpkin spice lattes — combined.

The problem was that I missed my wife and son more than I ever imagined I would.

Don't get me wrong; it's truly important to get some "Just dad" time once in awhile. Otherwise my one or two favorite pastimes that bring me great joy would quickly fade into oblivion, not unlike Nick Cage's bank account or LaDainian Tomlinson's chances of being called the greatest running back ever.

That said, we had only been on the road for about four hours when the thought hit me: "What is [Crazy Toddler] doing right now?"

At that exact moment, there's a fairly good chance he was carefully spreading some sort of meat sauce all over his high chair. Or chucking his sippy cup at the TV. Or coloring the ottoman. Pick a frustrating option.

But I like to think he was sitting in his Elmo chair, chewing on a disgusting toddler cookie (does Mom the Shopper hate him or something?) and laughing his butt off at a completely unfunny moment in his "Peter the Rabbit" video.

I returned this afternoon from a junk-food-heavy, football-driven trip that lived up to its billing. Awaiting me were work, writing, bill-paying, a continuous cycle of chores and overall day-to-day doldrums.

I also came back to a supportive, beautiful wife and stud of a son.

It was a good day.