I’m Seriously Considering Shipping All of My Kids Off To “Sergeant Bollocks Crusher’s Military School For Discipline & Respect

I got a text from Heather Graham the other day that read “Your son is grounded for life.” A few things struck me as I contemplated this cryptic message. First, why does he always becomes solely the spawn of MY seed when he does anything unspeakably bad as if her actually giving birth to him was no longer relevant to the subject at hand?

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Second: I wondered about the wisdom of grounding him for life. How much of this behavior could I really take and do I want to endure it for another 50 years or so until either I’m dead or I’m too senile to care anymore? Only after I had contemplated these two points was I even mildly curious as to what he actually did.

Sometimes, as a parent…frankly, I don’t really care anymore. The monotony of the routine has dulled my wrath a bit over the years into a steady diet of: first offense =grounded for an hour, second offense = grounded for another hour + loss of video game privileges, third offense = grounded for an hour + loss of video games, Netflix and bike riding for the day and so on and so on. After awhile, I tend to forget what was actually done in the first place. I just can’t keep up.

So, I decided to make a list of just a few of the offenses my children have committed in recent memory. Keep in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Just the ones I could jot down off the top of my head:

1. One sibling smacking another sibling across the face with a lightsaber

2. All three hiding from their mother in the clothes rack of a department store and pretending to have disappeared.

3. One sibling hiding a precious article of personal property belonging to another sibling in an obscure location somewhere in the house, and then forgetting where they hid it.

4. Telling the Gym Coach at school that he “stinks really bad.”

5. Telling a new substitute teacher that “This school was perfect before you were hired.”

6. Stabbing another student in the arm with a pencil. (In my child’s defense, I think he was actually sword fighting with another kid while my son perfected his lunge and parry fencing skills. But the other kid still got stabbed and my son was sent to the Principal’s office)

7. Displaying disrespect to the same Gym Teacher when the class was told to go grab their balls to play a game…and my son obeyed to the letter of the law.

Looking over this list, I’m wondering why in the world anyone would want to buy a book about parenting from my wife and I. Sounds like we are doing a bang up job so far.

But, I soldier on, doing the best job I can with the information I have at the time. There are times as a parent that I’m called to judge a dispute between two or more parties represented in our home. I sit there in my chair and blink at them while a list of offenses are rattled off for me to evaluate. The funny thing is my kids think that I’m actually listening to them, wisely weighing each argument before rendering my ruling. The truth is, I’m feeling like God tricked humanity with this whole “Procreation” thing he designed for a man and a woman to mate. The idea seemed good to me at the time and the act of procreation was great and all, but I think I missed something in the fine print that covered all of this stuff.

Honestly, I’m out of ideas on how to punish my kids anymore, so I could use your help. If anyone has any ideas they would like to share, feel free to reply and toss out your thoughts. I will take the best one and wrap them on tiny 4″ X 2″ strips of paper and fold them into a fishbowl. When my kids do something wrong, they will have to reach into the “Bowl of Sorrows” and pull out their punishment.

I will Tweet a picture of their reaction. (Shameless plug: you will have to follow me on Twitter to catch this)

One of the best ideas I had in awhile came when my son decided to move out of the house. He spewed a litany of charges against his mother and me and declared his independence. He hates me, he hates his mother, and he hates his life, and he just wants to move out on his own and be really happy. Now parent, POP QUIZ: How Do You Respond?

Do you:

A) Ground him for an hour to his room, like we do for every offense?

B) Slap the little urchin until he swallows his own teeth

C) Send him to Grandma’s house for the weekend

D) Tell him “Ok, you can move out and I’ll help you pack.”

I contemplated C for a long time, but my parents wouldn’t return my text. I need to stop beginning texts with “What are y’all doing this weekend?” every time I want them to keep my kids. They have learned and always seem to have something going on. No, I decided on D.

Like I said, why anyone would want to buy my parenting book baffles me.

But perhaps I should explain myself a little bit. I had a very good reason why I chose to help my son find his own place at the age of 10.

You see, a few months ago I taught my son how to grow sugar crystals in a cup with a cotton string. We experimented by adding dye to the water to create all kinds of cool colors that made the crystals look like jewels such as red rubies, clear diamonds and blue sapphires. We even did a batch of green Kryptonite.

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This was a huge hit at school and every kid in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades wanted one. So, my son started a business and had a waiting list of paying customers. I think the going rate was about $5 per crystal and the kid could have the color of their choice. To a 10-year old, that was like a 6 figure income.

Anyway, he had a steady business going there for a few weeks until the school cracked down on his little sugar crystal ring and closed him down. Evidently, it violated some district code or something. I told Gavin that he couldn’t sell his crystals anymore. To my surprise, he handled the news rather well. I was actually quite proud of him.

I should have known that it was too easy.

A few weeks later, I received a call from the Principal. Gavin had been caught selling crystals again. Evidently, he had been smuggling them in his backpack and selling them for kids’ lunch money at recess.

“But Dad,” he argued with me when I confronted him about it. “I promised my friends I’d deliver their crystals to them before you told me to stop and it takes 3 weeks to grow them.”

“Gavin, it’s against school policy. You can’t do it.”

“Yeah, but now I can get $10 each instead of just $5.”

My son had become the kingpin of the 4th grade.

Not too long after that my son got mad at me for something. I think I did something really bad like made him clean his room. He decided that my home was just too much pressure with all of the rules and expectations. He decided that if he had his own place, he could go to bed when he wanted and could keep his room in whatever condition he felt like. I listened to him rant at me for a minute as he told me all the ways his life would just be better off if he could move out.

This is where I opted for D. I told him “Ok, I’m fine with that but you will have to pay your own rent.”

“I can do that,” he agreed. “I can still sell my crystals.”

“Well,” I reasoned, “You’ve been warned that you can’t do that anymore. If the school found out, they might take all of your money. I’d suggest doing something that won’t leave you broke when your rent is due.”

“I could mow lawns,” he decided.

“Ok, well let’s see what you need to do.” So I took out some paper. “I have a neighborhood company that advertises to mow our lawn for $20, so if you want my business you would have to be lower than that.”

“I’ll do it for $10,” he replied.

“Fine, so you will make $10 per lawn. Now, you are limited in where you can live because you can’t drive yet. So you have to choose one of these luxury apartments by the school so you can still ride your bike.” I helped him look online and the cheapest 1 Bedroom apartments were about $1,200 a month. “Don’t forget about utilities, food and entertainment. I give you all of that here for free, but on your own you’ll have to pick up those costs too. To be safe, I think you will need about $2,000 a month to live.”

I pushed the paper to him. “Now you tell me how many lawns you will have to mow each month to make $2,000.

It took him awhile struggling with basic math to come up with 200.

“Ok, so you will need 200 clients who will let you mow their lawns. That means you will have to knock on doors. In sales, if you have a close rate of 1:10 for cold calling, you are doing well. So figure you will have to knock on 2,000 doors to get 200 people to agree.”

I let that number sink in, but I think I was already overwhelming him. I pushed on:

“Now, once you get 200 clients, it will take you about an hour to mow their lawn, but you still have to go to school, so you can only mow lawns from 4:00 in the afternoon until about 8:00 at night when it gets dark. That only gives you 4 hours each day. If you do this each day after school, you will have 20 houses done. If you work from 8:00 in the morning both Saturday and Sunday and don’t stop until 8:00 at night, you can get another 24 lawns mowed each weekend. That is 44 lawns in a week, multiplied by 4 gives you a total of 176 lawns you can mow in a month to pay your bills.”

My son just looked at me.

I pushed on. “Now, 176 lawns at $10 each will give you $1,760 each month, which still isn’t $2,000. I tell you what, I’ll give you $200 a month to cover the difference-until you are 18-since you are still my son.”

I let this sink into my son for a moment before I finished. “So, you have a choice. You can go to school each morning, and then work every day until dark, never seeing your friends, and work from sun rise until sunset all weekend without ever getting a break…or you can clean your room.”

“You choose.”

My Son Just Tied My Daughter To A Ceiling Fan

So, my wife and I are teaming up to co-author a book idea. Somehow, I got roped into writing a baby manual. Can you believe it? Me, parenting advice? Or, perhaps it’s a marriage guide for disillusioned couples struggling to keep their identity in the middle of a family. I don’t really know. I just write what my wife tells me to write. To sum up a possible tag line: Maintaining a sense of worth while raising children.

Or, to put it another way: “God, I was supposed to change the world, now all I’m changing is this dirty diaper.”

Which is currently our working title, so don’t steal it.

I always thought my first book would be some epic volume I of High Fantasy, not parenting and relationship advice from a male perspective but my wife wants me to add my own unique flare to her otherwise matronly and sensitive approach.

So here I sit, outlining 10 chapters or so. I have a rough sketch, so bare with me, but I’m thinking something like: Finding My Soul Mate With Big Knockers And Long Black/Blonde/Auburn/Red Hair, 2) You Know The Honeymoon Is Over When She Farts In Your Bed and  3) My Son Just Tied My Daughter To A Ceiling Fan.  

My wife just told me ‘no.’ Evidently those will not be the chapter headings of our book.

She said it will be something more like: 1) Finding “the one,” 2) Not so Happily Ever After” and 3) Raising Boys Vs Girls.

I am making light of this, but I am seriously excited as well. I think we will make a dynamic book that will not only be entertaining, but will have some very insightful things to say. As always, I will keep you apprised of our progress.

Check out her blog as well: Heater Graham

Cheat Codes and Parenting Advice From Eminem

Here is a “Geek Test” for you. What does this sequence mean to you:

The Konami Code

If you are a card carrying member of the Gen X, than this pattern is hard wired into your brain (and permanently imprinted on your left thumb) as it was the only way to really beat the popular Nintendo game, Contra. Chances are if you are a male between the age of 30-40, you know this code. (If you are a female between the age of 30-40 and you DON’T know this code, don’t worry about it. Chicks playing video games wasn’t really considered ‘hot’ until about 1996) Contra was released for the NES in 1988 and followed the story of “Bill” and” Lance” who had to battle a terrorist organization/ Alien race trying to take over the world. Next to Super Mario Bros. and Zelda, Contra was the most popular video game of my generation.  It was a game of guns, bullets, and featured an electronic synthesized sound track of rock and roll. For a kid growing up in an Evangelical Christian home, this was about as close to Guns & Roses as I was allowed to get.

Besides jumping over holes and climbing up these flat-top tree thingys, the real challenge of the game was dodging massive bullets that were proportionally the size of your characters head. They were actually more like glowing orbs constantly streaming at you than bullets. Lucky for you, your character could jump, squat, and move around said flat-top tree until the bad guy had to reload. Then, you could leap out and shoot him. It became really intense when you had to dodge multiple streams of bullets coming from different angles at the same time as the bad guys started ganging up on you. It was our first introduction to the ancient military tactic called the “flank maneuver.” Needless to say, it was easy to get hit. Now most games would include a health bar that would diminish as your character suffered damage.

Not Contra. You had to be tough to play this game. One bullet = 1 kill.

Well, you could be either tough or smart. There was a way you could cheat.

When  you powered up your consul, you had about 5 seconds as the welcome title dropped down to quickly mash out this cheat code on your controller. If you could do it in time, you would start out the game with 99 lives instead of the standard allotment of a 3. 

You see, the developers of the game had a team of professional geeks on staff who needed more than 3 lives to test out the bugs of their various games. So, they programed this code into many of their releases which would give the player an advantage, such as nearly 100 lives. It didn’t take long for word to leak out and kids from New York to Tokyo knew this code better than we knew things like “I before E, except after C.” It is now know as the Konami Code, named for the afore mentioned developers.

And I’ve rarely met anyone my age who doesn’t know it.

It has become synonymous with virtually unlimited lives.

As a Dad, I find myself still facing a series of obstacles and challenges that I have to master. There are bullets constantly streaming at me that are just as deadly as if they had been fired from a gun. There are holes I can fall into and flat-top tree thingys I can easily fall off of and I still face enemies who are ganging up on me to snuff out my allotted ‘lives’ and end my game.

The only problem is, to the best of my knowledge, there is no Konami Code in life. We don’t have 99 lives. We don’t even have 3. We just have one.

We have one life to master the obstacles tossed in our way such as our impulses and lusts, or our habits and addictions. More specifically, we only have one chance to raise our children before they grow up and must muddle through their own adulthood carrying the baggage we left them with.

(Insert musical rift from a famous slim white rapper named after a bad spelling of M&M candy here)

“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to size everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?…You only get one shot, do not miss your chance…”

This song is really about breaking out of a cycle of poverty and becoming successful, but I think this theme can apply to many different challenges we face in life. No matter what opportunity we are striving for, they don’t come that often. When they do, we don’t have 99 chances to seize it.

From the moment you realize that you are about to become a parent, you don’t have very many chances to get it right. It’s a job no one is qualified to do when they become one, but the survival of our race depends on these preciously few choices we make.

So, are we going to capture it, or just let it slip?

Stick That In Your Dragon And Puff It.

My heart has been broken many times over the years for many different reasons. Usually it has had something to do with a woman. Once I even loaned my car to the woman I was madly in love with that week so she could go out on a date with another guy.

A few times I’ve had my heart set on a job or a promotion that did not come my way and was very hurt, but… C’est la vie!

Or, as Bon Jovi so eloquently put it: “When the world gets in my face, I say, Have a nice day.

Wait a second…“Have A Nice Day?” Are you kidding me? What ever happened to Bon Jovi?  Consider his response to life in 1990 when he rocked with “Blaze of Glory.” Now he got a hair cut and panders to working married women in their 40’s with 3 kids and a dog. In 1988, if you got in Bon Jovi’s face you’d be scared the man just might actually be wanted, dead or alive somewhere out west.  

Now, he just wishes you to “Have A Nice Day?”

This was the guy could alternately lay on a bed of nails and  roses, for cryin’ out loud.

ATTENTION: To the government agency/alien race that abducted Bon Jovi sometime during his hiatus in the late 90’s, can you please return him?

But of all the things that have broken my heart over the years, such as woman viewing me more like a little brother than a lover, or my favorite rock stars turning soft on me, my latest hurt stings in a different way.

Age.

Not my age. It’s never really bothered me as I’ve gotten older, but strangely enough it is bothering me as my children are growing up. I find myself both swelling with pride and missing the moments that are lost forever all at the same time.

When my son was younger I would often sing to him. His favorite song was “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” It’s a beautiful little bitty ditty about a little boy who has a magical friend named ‘Puff” and the two would have amazing adventures together. (No, the song is not about pot, so don’t even go there) I would sing this song for him almost every night before he fell asleep. I even burned this song on a CD for him and he would have me play it over and over again while we waited for his mother to shop.

“Play it again, Daddy!”  So I would. I never minded listening to this song 5-6 times in a row. Besides, sometimes his mother took awhile to shop.

Puff, the magic Dragon, lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee. Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sails, Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail. Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came. Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.”

There were many nights I would watch him as his eyes would begin to flicker in REM sleep. I couldn’t help but wonder what adventures he was dreaming about with a dragon of his very own.

It was one of the most precious moments I’ve had as a father. (To all of you single readers; I’ve had many amazing moments like this as a parent, btw. That is one of the daily miracles of being a daddy…you get bags of stories like this)

But there is a tragedy woven into the second verse of the song. It broke my heart when I would sing it to my son years ago, and it broke my heart earlier this week:

A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys. One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more and Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar. His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain. Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane. Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave, So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”

Little boys grow up and forget about the dreams they had when they were toddlers. My son and I were talking about the earliest memory he had. He rattled on about things that happened last week.

“No, Gavin…I mean before that.”

He came up with a story or two from Kindergarten.

Out of the blue, I asked my son about “Puff.” He did not remember the song at all. I realized that it had been years since I sang it to him and somewhere between now and then was that grey night it happened.

My son had grown up just a little bit and had left his old magic world behind forever. 

That stung.

Of course his imagination is just as active as ever. Puff the Magic Dragon has been replaced by the mighty Smog and tales of Hobbits. Noble Kings and Pirate Ships have been replaced by Han Solo and Batman. He still imagines worlds beyond our own, but somewhere in the mists of his imagination lies a forgotten little island called Honah Lee with a very lonely dragon that has been waiting for a little boy who will never return.

Some People Should Not Breed

It has been 18 days since my last blog.

So much has happened since I last posted something, I don’t know where to start! 

Since April 13th NFL players had been locked out, let back in, and then locked out again.

A Prince was married and I saw Sir Elton John dab a tear away as he sat in the front row. (Mr. Bean was there too, but I didn’t see him cry) Royal Wedding’s guests of nobility have come a long way since the glory days of Sir. Lancelot and Sir. Drake the Dragon.

Oh yes, and in France, a telecom worker set himself on fire.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-telecom-worker-sets-himself-on-fire-2275786.html

Yes, my friends…so much has gone on, I feel like we are reacquainting ourselves.

I did not intend to abandon you for so long. I’ve been busy. Work. Being a Daddy.  Popping bubble wrap online:

http://www.virtual-bubblewrap.com/popnow.shtml

(This is a strangly addictive website, btw)

While I took my small sojourn, my wife has become more serious about her writing career, which I completely support. She is working to build her platform as a commentator of parenting. She has a good voice for it too and it can relate to a lot of moms out there who might feel isolated and alone. A good friend of hers, who is an accomplished freelance writer, even offered to help introduce her to a few contacts who may help in this endeavor.

I’m very proud of her.

My wife even had a great idea for me. “You know, there are a lot of guys out there who could use your perspective, too.”

The idea has merit and the wheels in my head started to spin. I could dedicate a portion of my blog on parenting stories told from my unique perspective. So, off I went on my own personal writing junket to research some guys who I could network with. I met father’s, handed out my business card, and took some snap shots of my perspective platform. Instantly I saw the need. Men could use some help when it comes to being better boyfriends/husbands/fathers. Honestly, most men need some help no matter what role they happen to fulfill at any given point in their lives.

So, off I went to dig up some research.

First, I found Carl. His wife asked him to hold Jr. while she got some snacks. Like the good guy he is, Carl maned up to the challenge:

“Honey, could you hold Jr. while I go get some Funnel Cake?”

I offered my business card to Carl but he just threatened to kick my ass.

 
I continued my journey up north to the land of 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. I refuse to visit Minn-e-soooo-cold between the months of November through March, but since it was April I figured the weather might be ok.
 
I met Bob and Patricia heading out to enjoy a nice spring day in the upper Mid-West region of our country. A balmy breeze was whipping up off the water and they politely asked me to take a picture of them.
 

"Mommy, look at the pretty boats!"

I think Bob and Pat are heading to Niagara Falls next.

Being a parent is a tough job. It stress you out and sometimes you are not thinking as clearly as you should. I don’t know who this woman is. I didn’t give her my card because I try not to slip women notes with my cell phone jotted down on the back. I tried that once and got an angry call from a husband telling me to leave his wife alone.

Another time I got a call from a mother who told me all about her husband who is not nearly as sensitive and understanding as I obviously was.

Anyway, I was encouraged for my wife because there is a market out there for stressed out mothers who might need some advice.

And sometimes, mothers just have more money than sense:

When you know it’s time to hire a nanny to take the kids out.

It was an eventful trip, but I’m glad to be home, and back into my routine with all of you.

In the end, I reviewed the notes from my trip and realized there were a lot of parents out there who were just beyond help. So, I think I’ll stick to what I know and leave the child watching to CPS.

UPDATE#1

panovision101 already commented on this post, but I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to see it. (I know sometimes I’m guilty of skimming over the comments) He had a great solution for this on a post he worte a few weeks ago. Check it out:

http://lastexittoreality.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/pedestrian-vs-pram-and-the-case-of-serial-breeders/#comment-23