Growing up, when I asked my parents what they wanted for Christmas, they always made a (sad) joke out of it. They knew my brothers and I didn’t have any money, so they didn’t bother asking for anything real, like a new car, or a box of Cuban cigars, or a new furniture set.
Instead, they used Santa the way someone might use a genie: by asking my brothers and me for things that were abstract, theoretical, and totally unattainable. Just to make a point. They’d make requests like, “for you and your brothers to get along” or “a little peace and quiet” or “for you to behave.” Just totally insane shit that would never happen in a million years.
Now that I’m a dad, nobody ever asks me what I want. But if they did? I’d reply exactly the same way as my mom and dad. Because I was wrong; they weren’t joking.
The intangible, imaginary stuff really is what parents want for Christmas.
Sometimes we parents have to lie to our kids.
To put it another way, if it makes you feel better: sometimes we have to use “parenting euphemisms.”
I love coffee.
I don’t know how you can be a parent and not love coffee. The smell alone is Pavlovian, and a few cups a day are just plain necessary for survival! I also love both the taste and the smell of coconut. Like, a lot. No joke: I have seriously considered drinking Mom and Buried’s coconut-scented conditioner. But I didn’t want to die.
So here’s the problem with frank body’s otherwise highly effective frank coconut coffee scrub: I WANT TO EAT IT.
My four-year-old’s commitment to being irrational is so absolute, it’s like living with Andy Kaufman. While he’s in character as Tony Clifton. I honestly can’t tell where the act ends and the real person begins. Or if there even is an act. Or a real person.
Children are little terminators. To paraphrase Kyle Reese, “They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” The only difference between my son and Arnold Schwarzenegger in that movie is that my son’s speech is more intelligible. And that Arnold loses. My son never loses.
Which is why I might start acting like a child at work.
Mom and Buried is obsessed with Christmas.
Every December, she puts together a long list of holiday-based activities that we absolutely have to make time for, including visiting specific landmarks (the tree in Rock Center), attending specific events (Santa – at the busiest Macy’s in the world) and watching every single Christmas movie and TV special (even the grade-Z stuff on Hallmark and Lifetime).
The most important activity of all? Listening to Christmas music.
Not to state the obvious, but becoming a parent is kind of a big deal. One day you don’t have a kid and the next day you do and your life won’t ever be the same. It’s quite an adjustment. Even with nine months of warning.
I don’t care how much time you spend getting ready, how many books you read, how much stuff you buy: you can’t truly prepare for having kids because nothing prepares you for having kids except having kids. Being a parent takes some getting used to and it’s not always easy, especially at first.
It’s okay to admit your kid is an asshole sometimes. It’s okay to hate being a parent sometimes. And it’s okay to hate your baby.
A few days ago, we procured a reward chart for our son.
The hope is that by incentivizing his behavior we can train Detective Munch into a decent, reasonable person instead of the feral four-year-old he currently is. Our typical repertoire of threats is neither working nor healthy (nor really stopping because I’m terrible at this new “reward” method!)
So far, it’s been going okay. If he brushes his teeth (without a fight), or goes to bed (without a fight), or eats his dinner (without a fight), or gets dressed for school (without a fight), he can earn rewards like dessert, and TV, and not getting yelled at by a dad who is at the end of his rope.
It got me thinking about what a chart for parents would look like. So I made one.
Before I became a parent, I didn’t know if I could handle it.
I had never even held a child, let alone changed a diaper, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I had what it takes. Was there a switch that would flip when I saw his face for the first time? Was the ability to care for a child something hard-coded in my biology that would suddenly materialize in me when my son was born?
Yes and no. I was lucky to love Detective Munch right from the start (though I can totally understand the adjustment period some new parents weather; there’s not much there there at the beginning!), but Morpheus wasn’t around to instantly upload the Parenting program into my skull. I just took it one day at a time – I still do – and slowly but surely adapted to my new role, and my new reality.
There are still plenty of aspects of parenting that I’m insecure about, plenty of situations I have yet to experience, and I have no real idea how I’ll react when confronted with them.
I used to live in Boston. I went to school there and loved it, so I stuck around for another 10 years or so. When I eventually left, I lost access to the city’s vibrant sports scene, and my ability to brainwash Detective Munch into rooting for some of my favorite teams.
Except not really, because this is 2014. It hasn’t exactly been hard to follow the Red Sox this century, no matter where you live, and it’s easy enough to find a way to watch your favorite NFL team, even if they play their games halfway across the country. But when your favorite college team isn’t exactly a national powerhouse, things can get a little dicey.
Luckily, we have the internet.
I’m fairly well-educated. I went to college. I have almost two decades of experience in the professional world, and while I’m used to dealing with arrogant superiors and lazy peers and rude clients, nothing prepared me for dealing with a child.
Kids operate from an unrelatable place, often with no logical motivation or rationale for their behavior. They’re like something out of a horror movie; indefatigable, rarely-sated, and conscience-free. Kind of like your boss…or your clients…or your annoying coworker Karen!
I don’t care if you’re great at your job, and neither do your kids. Nothing you bring from work will help you at home. You can’t manage your children; they’re too unpredictable for that. But you can learn how to be a better manager from them.