Recently in parenting Category

mother's day

Back to school stuff has reappeared in stores, which led me to reminisce about a favorite childhood ritual. On the first day of school every year, my mother would set her alarm and make me breakfast. It was usually oatmeal, which, if rendered half brown sugar, isn't half bad. Unable to touch the footrest on the bar stool, my tiny little six-year old legs would soon flail excitedly from the sugar rush.

• • •

The other night I was talking to Katrina when she exited the call with “I gotta run and make Annie breakfast.” I was confused by a couple of things. It was Saturday. It was after 11am. And this kid, age 70%-of-the-way-to-wrecking-Dad’s-car, is fully capable of making her own breakfast. I grumbled about how someone taller than Mom should be able to pour her own cereal, and I hung up.

Jesus. Is Katrina going for Mother of the Year, or what? I thought. But this thought didn’t survive much scrutiny. All of my friends make their kids’ breakfasts. And lunches. And dinners. Inevitably, this train of thought led to my frame of reference.

If your mother making you breakfast is an annual delight just short of Christmas, perhaps Mom ain’t all that. But she demanded the accolades anyway.

school's in 'til summer!

With each year that passes since the baby boom of 2005, September becomes a more and more joyous occasion for my friends.

"When does your shrill, insatiable food-monster go to prison?" they excitedly ask one another, panting with anticipation. (Actual quote may vary. I'm going from memory.) "Mine disappears on Monday. I. Cannot. Wait!"

I'm happy for them. God knows I empathize with wanting to get away from their kids. But September means something else entirely for me: the return of the school bus parade on Metamuville Road. 10 miles long and only two lanes wide, Metamuville Road has only occasional passing zones. Combine that with a remorseless parade of old farts who refuse to pass a school bus under any circumstances, and you have a succession of heart attacks in my car. While moss forms on my tires, I unsilently blame my parent-friends for my plight. Are their kids on that bus? No. No, they are not. It is not reasonable for me to resent my friends. But fuck them anyway. I've stopped 9 times in the last quarter-mile.

Which brings us to these public service announcements:

  • Kids! Have you heard of bloody bus stops? There once was a time when we all congregated at the end of a driveway and made the world stop only once for us instead of the aforementioned 9 times. I know you're super-special angel blossoms and all, but really, you can text your friends while standing next to them.

  • Metamuville old farts! THIS IS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I KNOW HOW MUCH YOU LIKE THEM. IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO PASS A SCHOOL BUS UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. IF THE LIGHTS AREN'T BLINKING AND THEY'RE DRIVING 15 IN A PASSING ZONE, YOU CAN PASS THEM.
But they will not. They will continue creep single-file behind that school bus, in a passing zone, speeding up only to tell me how dangerous it is to legally pass seven cars at once.


responsibility

I'm still stewing about the plight of the kid in yesterday's post. Her situation seems hopeless, thanks to parents who exhibit, nay, proudly flaunt several mental disorders.

I adore this kid and feel achingly sad for her. At 14, she's been hospitalized for a complete nervous breakdown brought on by the chaos all around her. She has no adults upon whom she can rely for anything but vitriol and more chaos. I feel like I should do something. That's impulse #1.

Impulse #2 is protecting myself. To involve myself in this probably hopeless cause is to invite that vitriol and chaos into my carefully calm, hermetically sealed life. I'm sure that sounds selfish. I'm sure it is selfish.

So the question weighing me down here is: is it one's moral responsibility to incur third-degree burns while pulling someone else out of a burning wreck? Especially when that wreck will just follow her around and consume her again and again, forever? Okay, so it's not a perfect metaphor.

Man, I miss Pittsburgh.

To varying degrees, three friends have come to me this week with parenting problems. Because, you know, if your car breaks down, the Amish are the first phone call you place.

One problem is kind of charming, one is concerning, and one seriously freaks me out. The last parent, naturally, is the one who wants to involve me. That the child in question needs a sane adult in her life is beyond question, but again...me?

"I'd like to bring her up to your place so she can talk to you if she wants."

"So do you just not know anyone else?" I asked.

donner party, table for two

Miss Ava has apparently cultivated a taste for Polish food. This time, I was ready with my camera. The things I do for you people.

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getting maryed

I could hermetically seal myself alone in a sterile biodome in Antarctica for forty years, breathing nothing but bottled oxygen and being fed only Purell, intravenously through a HEPA filter, and some kid's mom would come for a visit, and then I would get sick, and when accused, her answer would still be an indignant "Well I'm not sick, so you must have gotten it somewhere else."

money or charyibdis

I chased Allie's kid Lily around my house. She was on roller blades, and I was snatching cameras and binoculars out of her path, until finally, everything valuable I own was in my hands.

"How about a cupcake?" I offered.

I should have said that sooner. The skating stopped, and soon I was mesmerized by how the child was trying to grind cupcake crumbs permanently into my countertops.

"Lily's decided she never wants to have kids."

Lily nodded. "They're too much work."

I was ruminating on her use of the third-person when Allie told her "You know, you're one of the reasons John doesn't have kids."

The child looked to me for confirmation. I nodded. "You're one of exactly eight reasons," I said, referring to the baby boom of 2005.

"You can't have nice things," I said. "And kids take up all of your free time."

"And then some," Allie corrected.

"And my god, the money."

"They cost a LOT of money," Allie agreed, and I began to wonder if the third-person problem was a genetic thing.

"It's a choice you make, really. Do I want kids, or do I want time and money?" I continued.

"I want money," Lily declared, the question stupid.

Good girl. Have another cupcake.

gen-xers' kids, defined

"NO! NO!" the dangling child shrieked as I approached. "You're going to tickle me!"

I stopped short of the monkey bars. I assured the four year old that I would not tickle her, that I merely wanted to spot her. It took many minutes of heated accusations and denials, but finally she let me spot her.

When she got to the other side untickled, I reminded her of her accusations. "Don't you think you owe me an apology?"

She looked confused. "I don't know what that word means," she finally admitted.

manhood 101

I was dropping off a package at the UPS store when I spotted a boy, perhaps 5, standing on the sidewalk and staring into space. He wore the look of unbearable suffering. This child clearly wished he had never been born. Twenty feet away, in front of the consignment store, a woman my age was flipping through a rack of clothes.

Oh.

"Your mom shopping for jeans?" I asked.

He directed his forlorn gaze at me. He nodded. "It's brutal."

"I know. But when you get older, you can refuse to go."

He sighed as though he couldn't imagine living that long.

"Don't go along for swimsuit- or bra-shopping, either," I said, climbing into my car. "Even with a girlfriend, it's not remotely as fun as it sounds."

He'll thank me later.

protégé

Annalie, age 7, has recently felt put upon by the world.

She finds other people annoying. She doesn't understand why it's her responsibility to get along with annoying people. "Why is this my job?" she asks her mother incredulously. "I just want to be left alone." Further, she thinks it's patently unfair that she's the one who's thought rude when they're the ones who are annoying.

"I've seen how this ends," her mother cautions. "You buy a house in Metamuville and you relate to other human beings only through a computer."

sowing

A childhood friend of mine just killed himself in his prison cell.

I'm not going to pretend we were close after age 10. I hadn't thought of him in decades, not since I last saw him in the hallways of high school and Nate pretended not to see me. Such are childhood friendships. Or such is me. Whichever.

Nate's parents banned me from their home. They banned me due to a specific crime: my face got in the way of their dog's incisors. Nate and I were playing one day, and he let the husky out of the back yard, and it leapt on me. To this day, I have puncture scars on my left check and temple.

My parents didn't sue, nor threaten to, nor even make a stink, which tells you how long ago this was. But they were informed nonetheless that I was no longer welcome at Nate's house, for I had clearly been mistreating the dog. The evidence was trickling down my neck. The dog went on to attack Nate's little sister and others, but my gold-embossed apology must have gotten lost in the mail.

I didn't know it at the time, but this was my first encounter with destructive, delusional parenting.

In reading about Nate's suicide, I see that he grew up to become the worst possible classification of child molester. I will not comment on the typical histories of child molesters other than to acknowledge that yeah, I'm thinking that, too. What really caught my attention was that Nate, who had seven children by three women, was hailed in an ad placed by his parents as a "loving and devoted father."

I stared at that line for a good, long while.

I'm enjoying the Sensational Sixes. The children of the 2005 baby boom are really getting interesting, now. And by "interesting," I mean that if properly armed and aimed, they can drive my friends to despair.

My friends deserve no less. Ironically, because they had kids.

The only boy of the group, Henry, is the gift that keeps on giving. Boys are such low-hanging fruit. Drum set, whistles, cymbals, super-soaker, industrial-grade megaphone (with siren!)...it's all worked to perfection. This week he received a Nerf machine gun. In the video Mom sent me, Henry literally vibrates when he first sees it. "Look, it's got bullets! AND EXTRA BULLETS!!!"

nerf.png

That night, darts everywhere and the dog traumatized, Mom was putting him to bed when he asked incredulously, "How did Uncle John know I wanted a Nerf machine gun?"

Because dudes ain't exactly complex, little man. Enjoy.

Chicks are harder work. I had to get the ball rolling with Annalie over video conference, where I showed her the unloved kitties and doggies awaiting death at her local pound. She brought home her kitten Cookie a few days later. Cookie drives Mom nuts while she works, which inspired me to take it up a notch by sending Cookie a box full of toys. I selected the toys by searching Amazon for "annoying" and "noisy."

barbie.pngThe most evil gift went to Danielle, d'Andre's six year old. She received a Barbie. Not Black Barbie, either. Cracker-ass Barbie. With tea set and golf clubs, the whitest accessories I could find. Mom was amused at first, saying something about it being "important that Dalia learn that some people aren't racists so much as just dicks." And then Dad, who always has to one-up me on that count, brought home a companion for White Barbie: Black Ken. Mom is now ready to divorce both of us.

Other friends have a severely autistic 6-year old. So severe as to be nearly feral. Because I feel sorry for all concerned, they've gotten a free pass. And upon hearing these tales, weary Dad remarked "Finally. An upside to autism."

cognitive disconnect

I'm not a "zero population growth" fascist, hucking batteries at couples who have more than two kids. On the other hand, as an ethic it makes perfect sense to me.

And if you can't afford kids, it starts to become a moral imperative.

And if we're all reeling economically because uneducated, unemployable bumblefucks like you defaulted on your subprime mortgage, I humbly submit that perhaps you should stop crapping out kids.

A 55 year old friend just excitedly wrote me that said bumblefuck, her son, just provided her with her eighth grandchild. She has two sons. That's how many kids have produced eight grandchildren by 55.

My friend is delighted, and she clearly expects me to be delighted too, but somehow I just can't muster it. I instead find myself hoping that the parents misplace the child at the grocery store. Give him a chance in life.

And thus do words fail me. Is this why emoticons were invented? ZOMG! <l:0

I was playing with a friend's kid on some monkey bars when we reached an impasse. She would go no farther, she said, because I was certain to tickle her. Never mind that I have never tickled her nor threatened to, she argued. I am a douchebag, and douchebags apparently tickle vulnerable children.

And thus did we argue for five minutes until her arms got tired and she advanced past me on the bars.

"And did I tickle you?"

"No."

"Then don't you think you owe me an apology?"

The child blinked at me, confused. Sheepishly, she finally replied "I don't know what that word means."

stabbyfication

I've come to the conclusion that I cannot describe my weekend guests without using the phrase "ungrateful cunts." So I will not describe my guests. It's important to me that the phrase "ungrateful cunts" never appear on this page. We have standards at Stank.

I will therefore just quote my guests. Two such anecdotes follow.

• • •

"Please be careful around the puppy. Don't run around him, because he's only 9 weeks old doesn't know what he's doing. He'll run under your feet and get hurt," I told the kids as they tried their best to see if Fredo's guts squish like a cockroach's. "And please don't leave the puppy outside alone like that. There are eagles and coyotes around," I had to add later. "And please don't leave the door wide open. The whole puppy thing is still happening. Thank you."

Finally, one of the children's heretofore mute parents stopped stuffing brie into her hole momentarily to say "Okay kids, let's take the puppy down to the beach!"

"The puppy can't go," I said.

She sighed the exasperated sigh of those persecuted by the truly stupid. "Is this your first puppy, John?"

• • •

The kids didn't break anything over the weekend, but once again, the adults did their best. My marble vanity has an exciting new permanent stain thanks to someone deciding that where I had the soap dispenser (6 inches from the sink) wasn't close enough. She needed actual soap-dispenser-to-marble-contact, lest...lest...I'm at a loss. And so the globs of soap bore their way into the pores of the marble, where they shall remain. There's half a dozen needless things like that.

The kids slept outside in a tent. It rained. The next morning, I was surprised to see their mother bringing my good guest linens back inside. I cannot emphasize enough how expensive these items were. "Ugh, this is soaked through," she said with a disgust that suggested it was my down pillow's fault.

"Awesome," I said softly, at this point long in a meditative trance.

And thus did this woman glare at me. Me, who'd supplied her children with a closet full of games and toys, with an industrial bubble machine, with blackout blinds in the guest room, with sand castle-making gear, with sparklers and other kid fireworks, with an X-Box (and dedicated TV) with kids' games. Me, who'd let them buy games on his iPad, who'd spent hundreds of dollars on feeding them, including a bonfire over which we roasted s'mores.

Knowing this, standing there, holding my used maxi-pad of a down pillow, she stared at me, then at her sister, and then she issued her judgement: "John hates kids."

I fancied myself a news junkie at a very young age. As soon as I could read, I was enduring lectures about the importance of letting Dad also enjoy the newspaper for which, I gathered, he'd paid. Fine, fine. Whatever, whiner. No newspaper was as coveted as Sunday morning's, of course. I was banned from touching it until he had.

Thus was the following ritual born.

Dad would sit on the toilet in the half-bathroom just off our dining area, chain-smoking. Those eating breakfast nearby watched the reverse waterfall of smoke billow out from under the door. At fairly regular intervals, I would rap twice, softly, and a section of the newspaper would slide under the door. This was his discard. And so we would read the paper section by section, a daisy-chain of news, sports, comics, carcinogens, and, most likely, trace amounts of fecal coliform.

News, Comics, Sports, Movies, and Parade magazine were my holy grail sections. Business and Religion were deathly. Then as now.

Dad would not be rushed. He zealously guarded his toilet time, and woe be unto the 7 year old who knocked too hard or too often. Time moved glacially. He dragged it out for hours upon hours. How my father so enjoyed squatting on the toilet, I did not fully understand.

I now have two dogs: 3 year old Dex and 10 week old Fredo. Fredo positively mauls Dex. He's mauling her right now, in her bed, and she's taking it like a champ. The mauling is unremitting, and most times, she even seems to enjoy it.

But at least once a day when I take the dogs outside, Dex points herself toward the large expanse of my front yard and stares at me pleadingly. This is new behavior, and it took me a few times before I figured out what she was requesting.

John, I don't ask you for much, and I think you'd agree that I handled the recent incursion in our home amazingly well. Well, I need a favor. I would like to go take a nice, long dump. In peace. This is the only quiet time I ever get. Ever. Can you please make this happen? I beg of you.
And so I pick up Fredo and Dex races off. How a dog can so enjoy squatting in a field, I do not fully understand.

the unheedables

I first noticed it shortly after the 2005 baby boom.

"So, I saw Click the other day," said one new dad of the Adam Sandler remote control movie. "A masterpiece. It really made me think."

"I have never cried so hard at a movie," said one new mom of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. "Huge, racking sobs. Rob Schneider was sublime."

Okay, so I made those quotes up, but that's what I remember: new parents are so goddamned happy to have two hours of normality, of them-time, that they can enjoy any drek whatsoever. Viewed through the bloodshot eyes of the life-deprived, The Mummy III is Raiders of the Lost Ark wrapped in Citizen Kane stuffed inside The Hangover.

I totally get it. I'm just not listening to it. A movie recommendation from a new parent means as much as a music recommendation from the stone deaf.

There are other unheedable recommendations. Beer snobs, for one, cannot be trusted to recommend a restaurant. To me, "great restaurant" means great food. To them, it means their favorite lager is on tap. I can't tell you how many truly atrocious meals I've suffered while my friends held forth about the beers they were sampling.

When a woman calls a guy "handsome," I never find myself questioning her criteria. Invariably, he's empirically handsome. When she calls another woman "pretty," however, I have to tune it out. It's beyond useless data. I don't pretend to understand the pathologies involved (least of all my own), but from what I've seen

"pretty" = she's unattractive
"she treats people badly" = actually pretty

Minorities about minority candidates/art. So my gay buddies think Milk was robbed of the Oscar. My black buddies think Obama can do no wrong. What a shocking turn of events. Really, you couldn't even make a movie about it; these endorsements would be that implausible. The first time I experienced this was in 1984, when a lifelong Republican voted for Mondale/Ferraro for one reason: "I can't not vote for an Italian!" All I hear is white noise.

Baltimorons about why the Browns left Cleveland. You bribed another town's beloved team away. Stop repeating rationalizations. You paid rape forward.

I can't tell you how many times I've fallen for a Seattle person recommending pizza. "It's real, genuine New York style pizza, at last!" the Seatard will proclaim. "Not like this other crap I keep falling for," he'll add, forcibly ratcheting down my skepticism. And so, knowing I'm being a sucker but not willing to risk missing out, I'll try the pizza, and it will be doughy glop with a radioactive polymer melted on top, and I hate myself anew.

A friend's kid was recently playing with her toy boats in the sink. She got distracted and left the sink running, causing a flood that seeped through the floor into the lower level, ruining some ceiling tiles and soaking the carpet. Not the worst offense, but certainly an offense. In the pussified manner of my generation's parents, my friend asked the child to choose an appropriate punishment.

She suggested that she forgo love and cuddles before bed that night.

And then come bedtime, she asked for them anyway.

At this point, I'm imagining the audience experiencing one of two reactions.

  1. "Awwww, how sweet!"
  2. "What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?!"

I fall into the latter camp. I know what my dad's response would have been. It seldom varied. "John, go upstairs and get me a belt."

carolbrady.jpgIt was a particularly sadistic touch to make the child fetch the agent of his own butt's destruction. But where my siblings saw only cruelty, I saw opportunity. I would first retrieve my mom's incredibly wide, soft belt.

"NO WOVEN BELTS!" Dad would scream, sending me back.

Staying in mom's closet for the while, I would next try cloth belts.

"NONE OF YOUR MOTHER'S BELTS!"

Why, that's practically an invitation to raid my sisters' bedrooms, not that I needed much of one.

"NO GIRLS' BELTS OF ANY KIND HONEST TO GOD QUIT DICKING AROUND!"

There was, I knew, a point of diminishing return nigh. Yes, I was hoping that Dad would tire of this exercise and, at the least, calm down enough where my punishment wouldn't be too severe. The trick was to give him time to calm down without actually pissing him off more. God forbid. If he got pissed off enough, he'd go upstairs himself and select one of my belts, the thinnest and therefore most painful lashes imaginable. I swear they had hooks.

So at a certain point, I would have to bring him a legitimate child-abusing device. It would be one of his belts, something as wide as possible with surprisingly little mass. He wouldn't be happy, but this is what he got for being lazy.

"How about no wuv and cuddles at bedtime, instead?" I imagine my 9 year-old self suggesting at belt-point, causing my father's head vein to finally pop.

I'm probably quite alone in the sentiment, but I am amused.

bad santa

"It's John," I heard Katrina answer her six year old. Then I heard the child ask to be put on speakerphone.

Click.

"Hi?" I said.

"I WANT A PET SNAKE!" the child shrieked to the one person she knows who will not hesitate to provide just such a thing.

"And I want you to have a pet snake, honey. What's the matter, Mommy won't buy you one? Do you want me to just buy one and give it to you as a present?"

"YES! AND—"

Click.

"Jesus!" said a bewildered Katrina. The entire exchange between her child and me had taken less than five seconds.

Uncle John: the Make an Evil Wish Foundation.

mated

In a dramatic departure from her usual topic—raising her child—Allie was discussing parenting. Conversation drifted to the adult children of lousy parents and the hazards they face.

Finally, something I can contribute to this conversation!

I described how only recently have I felt even a fleeting confidence that I would not seriously screw up my hypothetical kid. If all children of fucked up parents aren't racked with such insecurities, well, they should be. I consider it a very healthy fear. Only now, after decades of shedding my family tics and baggage, am I confident I wouldn't be a positively horrific parent. This is what I was attempting to articulate to Allie.

"Only now do I have any confidence that if, God forbid, I were ever to have kids, that—"

"—that they would be wanted?" she cooed.

show them all the beauty they possess inside

The 2005 baby boom has hit the grand age of five, and Uncle John is finally hitting his stride. I think I've finally figured out the purpose of kids: they are an exquisite parent-torturing mechanism. You take these creatures who, by biological definition, are already on your friend's last nerve, give them a can of Silly String, and munch some popcorn while watching the pandemonium unfold. Sure, your friends hate you. You remember your friends, right? The ones who disappeared five years ago? Right, them. Screw them. Their children are the future. And they love you.

I had Henry open up his Amazon package with me on the phone. "Do you remember Uncle John?" Amy asked.

"Ummmmmmmm....yeeeeaaah...." he replied unconvincingly, doing a fair imitation of me when my boss asks if I've completed a task that I forgot about the moment I stood up to leave her office.

I heard Henry tear into the box like a raccoon in a dumpster. I wonder if he'll even know what it's for, I thought.

"No! NOOOOOOOOOO!"

41J-hvBbEDL._SL500_AA300_.jpgWell, his mother certainly knows.

Seeing his new, real-world-not-a-toy bullhorn (complete with siren!) was an instant memory restorative for Henry. "Oh! He's the guy who got me the drums! And the cymbals! And the hamster! And the gun!"

• • •

The best part of this effort: parents screwing each other over. "Man, if you really want to give kids an annoying toy," one told me a year ago while I was tapping furiously on the Amazon app on my phone, "You need to send them one of these hamster things."

gen-x parents, defined

Seven year old, to me at my house, when I declined to change a DVD a fourth time:

"I HATE you."

Me:

"Aww, that's so sweet. I hate you too, honey."

Her mother:

"JOHN! STOP BEING MEAN TO MY CHILD!"

weeping myna bird flu

My friends have an autistic five-year old daughter. I'm not talking about "slightly autistic," with air quotes, which modern parents so often use as code for "my kid's fucking stupid." I'm talking Autism. She has zero sense of personal danger. She's obsessive about being in control of her environment and everything being just so. When she can focus on you, which is rare, she understands little. She can mimic sentences but not form them. This is heartbreaking to watch, but one of its manifestations is actually pretty cute.

She will trip and fall down, banging her head. With tears streaming down her face the child will ask her hovering mother, "Are you okay? Are you okay? (sob) Are you okay?"

The child knows that's what's usually asked on this occasion. She just doesn't know why. Or by whom. She is a weeping myna bird.

• • •

Which brings us to Seattle sports fans. From my perspective, they have exactly the same affliction. Not autism—weeping myna bird flu. They kinda know the words, but they do not understand them.

I am not talking, of course, about all sports fans in Seattle. Take Katrina. She's been a long-suffering Seahawks fan since before we met. She's knowledgeable. She gets irrationally happy and depressed based on whether her millionaires outscored your millionaires. She doesn't give a crap about what you think of her fandom, because it simply is.

She is not who I'm writing about. No, I'm just wishing she had better fellow fans with whom to celebrate and commiserate.

220px-Baliespreeuw.jpgMy new neighbors and their friends—huge, huge, HUGE football fans—are much more typical of this area. They certainly cheer with enough exclamation points. They love the Washington Huskies! Boooo Washington State!! They hate them!!!

"We hate Wazzu!!!!" said one to me, as a confidential aside, as if I hadn't gathered from the booing and cursing of Wazzu's every mention.

I raised an eyebrow. I've lived in this state for 18 years, and Wazzu hasn't done a thing to me or for me. I rarely think about them. "What's to hate about Wazzu?"

"Well, she explained patiently to the philistine. "They're our big rivals!"

"Our? So you went to UW?" No. No one had. In fact, none of these people had even set foot in Washington until a couple years ago. They all have home states and alma maters. They couldn't have been less interested in what Stanford and Tennessee were doing, though.

They were too busy whooping and hollering and theatrically toasting one another in my living room. I twice asked what the down and distance was, and no one knew. I didn't ask, but I am certain none of them could have named three of "their" Husky players. They were too busy playing make-believe. They were too busy imitating beer commercials.

"We hate Wazzu!" she said.

"Are you okay?" I heard.

percy, we hardly knew ye

As I alluded last week, Percy's house is on the market. I haven't celebrated here because, well, I've been down this road before. As recently as May, they told me they were selling, then at the 11th hour didn't list it.

But finally, after years of teasing me, they put a sign in their yard. Rumor has it that they're close to selling. This has me thinking about who I want living 15 feet away. In order of preference:

  1. Hot single woman. (But we're talking Beyoncé hot. Surely she yearns for a yellow double-wide on a postage stamp of land in a community laden with bitchy white old farts.)
  2. Childless young gay couple (Preferably with a minor conviction in one of their histories that would preclude future adoptions)
  3. Infertile young straight couple
  4. More bitchy old farts. Sigh. (The devil I know)
  5. Single person of any age, gender, attractiveness, orientation, or race. No religiousness a turn-on. Must not talk about soccer.
  6. Hell's Angels
  7. Fertile young couple
  8. Family with kids, or
    bipolar meth dealer (tie)

jasmine and juice boxes

The child's mother and I were going to be busy loading a truck for a while, so I threw myself into a routine I now have down pat.

"Hey sweetie, would you like to watch a movie?

I could see the alarm in her mother's eyes. It's all too familiar. "Please don't be Kill Bill. Please don't be Kill Bill." And then I produced my folder of kid movies and let the child choose, and then I got the portable DVD player so she could watch it where Mom could see her. Here's a coloring book and markers, too. "Mom, is it okay for her to have a juice box?"

"Yes."

Out of the liquor closet came a juice box. Organic, don't you know, because I'm tired of being yelled at.

"Why does a childless bachelor have—"

I waived her off. Too painful to talk about.

As I draped a blanket around the child, she chatted amiably about her dog, her room, and why Belle is better than Ariel and Jasmine combined. She really couldn't have been nicer—or more correct. She thanked me each step of the way, and I found myself saying something I never imagined I'd say to a child.

"You're very polite."

"Thank you. And you're very kind."

What. The hell. Is this? I thought as I staggered off, shell-shocked from the concussion of the child's sweetness. I'm not accustomed to "You're very kind." I'm accustomed to "I hate you and everyone hates you and where's my juice box, motherfucker? It better not be that organic shit again."

I approached the mother. "Your child....is the single nicest, most polite kid I've ever met in my life." I would remain confused for exactly two more seconds.

She smiled. "Yeah, she's home schooled."

Click.

So that, parents, is what your kid would be like without the corrupting influence of other little shits.

fucking a, me

Allie asked what it was like to see Fucking Amy for the first time in 15, count 'em, 15 years.

Meh.

"What did she look like?"

"She looked like she was 15 years older and had crapped out a couple of kids."

"My god, I hate that phrase. It's so vile."

"Okay, fine," I sighed. "She crapped a couple of little miracles."

what the kids have taught me

In honor of distinguished Stank troll Tamara's bun in the oven, I thought I'd depart from tradition a bit and reflect on what my friends' kids have taught me.

My 1st through 17th instincts were to leave a bunch of blank space after that sentence. But that wouldn't be honest. Here we go:

  • Juice boxes are kiddie heroin. Well, no, these days heroin is kiddie heroin. Juice boxes are kiddie methodone. First, I started stocking them for my friends' kids. Then one day when I was out of all other beverage options, I drank one. Now I'm blowing transvestites for juice boxes.
  • There's a time and a place for issuing unreasonable demands, and it's when your parents are contextually compromised. In terms of kids, this means shrilly demanding ice cream as an entree...when in a restaurant with your parents' friends. In terms of me, it means asking my boss, Flo, for paid time off...when in front of her new boyfriend. How accommodating she can be!
  • Properly finessed, my friends have no rights in front of their four year old.  This is how it works. If I press all the right buttons, if I embody exactly how they're trying to teach their kid to behave, right in front of the kid, they are morally compelled to play along. Example: "Katrina? May I ask you a question, please? May I please have half of your cupcake? Please? Thank you! Yum! That was very nice of you. Sharing is caring! May Annalie have the other half, please?"
  • Band-Aids cure cancer. The placebo value of a Band-Aid cannot be understated. No abrasion or cut is necessary for it to be the right and only remedy. A kid could have an ear infection and it would still take a Band-Aid to get him to stop crying.
  • The ultimate way to punish my friends for having kids is the kids themselves. A well-planned gift delights and annoys exactly the right people. Have another juice-box, Junior! Have some chocolate-covered espresso beans! Want some Silly String? Here's your drum-set! Here's your empty Star Wars action figure carrying case!
That last one is my "nuclear" response.

role model

Dirt and Kiki's kid, Ava, is severely autistic. At a year and a half, she was a normal, happy-go-lucky kid. Alert, chatty, bright, engaging. At two, she entered the fog of autism. She withdrew. She spoke no more. She wouldn't make eye contact, let alone interact with anyone. If you made a loud noise, she wouldn't even react. It was devastating to witness.

Now three, she's slowly starting to respond to changes in her diet and treatment. She's still vastly less engaged than she was at half this age, but it's an improvement nonetheless. First she started interacting with Mom. Then Dad. Then Uncle John. That's pretty much the list for now, but hey, at least there's a list. You wouldn't believe how thrilled everyone is that she high-fives me on request 30% of the time.

This week, there's something new. I suddenly enjoy a unique status in Ava's life: she tries to imitate the words she hears me say. "Fire," "Dex," "cracker," and "tardwit" have all made appearances on her lips this week. Does she imitate her parents? Not yet. Just me.

"Not my first choice," moans Dirt. "Not anyone's first choice for their kid's linguistic role model."

"Fuck you. Fuck your mother. Fuck your mother's horse."

"I stand corrected."

In terms of life's era's, I'm still in the period when I have to hear about my friends' kids' bowel movements. But the next era is coming into focus, and it's much, much worse: hearing about my friends' bowel movements.

"God, I haven't been able to take a dump for five days," said one recently. "How often can you go, John?"

"Yup, I remember when we used to talk about football and sex," I sighed wistfully. "Alas."

"Do you have problems with, um, er...(sotto voce) hemorrhoids?" asked my brother. "NEVER MIND," he snapped at my cascading waves of hysterical laughter.

"God, I was up all night peeing," said an older friend. "Like 10 times a night. Stream's so weak I have to straddle the toilet now."

This, this is what I have to look forward to? Not the maladies—the conversations? I shall go to bed tonight praying for my friends' continued fertility.

coyote ugly

You know how married couples will argue in front of you, and you would chew your own leg off in order to extricate yourself from that particular trap? Last week will forever (please god) set my personal gold standard for that feeling.

This couple chose the occasion of my visit to address whether or not they should have aborted their three year old daughter. When the sentence "I would have gotten an abortion if you'd asked me to!" was uttered, the daughter was sitting on my lap.

I wanted to claw open my own carotid artery.

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