|'Why are we smiling again?' "Dunno, but you won't be smiling when you see what I stuffed your stocking with."|
Friday, December 20, 2013
To totally flaunt my ignorance here, I did not know that Jews did not celebrate Christmas for basically half my life. It’s not that my parents tried NOT to expose me Judaism growing up in Springfield, Ohio. In the same way that I would not hear of pho for years to come, there was simply nothing of the sort to expose me TO. No temples, no menorahs or kosher grocers. Think Springsteen’s Your Hometown; it was like The Town that Judaism Forgot.
It wasn’t until several years of assimilating that I learned what adorns a seder plate, what the high holidays are (hint: Hannukah is not one) and what a bris is (though I could have done without that one). I learned by straight-up infiltration. I married in.
To say my wife was brought up conservatively would be, well, conservative. My in-laws are lovely people. Very lovely, very observant Jewish people. They walk to temple on Saturdays and forgo electricity and cell phones and other conveniences. Their house itself was like an homage to Judaism: bookshelves full of Judaica, Kiddush cups and Shabbat candle holders on display, mezzuzahs on every threshold, and art from or of The Holy Land.
Having been raised in this environment, it should come as no surprise that my wife has no love lost for Christmas. She hates peppermint stick ice cream, which is odd because it’s ICE CREAM. She had never seen A Christmas Story, she only knows the Batmas Smells version of Jingle Bells, she never had a tree ornament or a stocking to hang, and never got anywhere close to figgy pudding. And the coup d’grace? She finds colored lights to be just plain “tacky.” Ouch.
She helped me get it, though, the Jewish perspective. Christmas is brash and annoying and all up in your mug before the Halloween candy is even gobbled up. Trying to avoid Christmas is like trying to avoid chlorine in a hot tub. Christmas is as about as subtle as a wrecking ball smashing a cherry red Ferrari. On fire.
But maybe I got it hammered in there a little too well. Over the years, I started to question my own loyalties and motivations. I’m not in it for the baby Jesus, so what exactly AM I celebrating? Gratuitous interior lighting? The awesome music? I was beginning to internalize her Grinchy-ness. I had become a Christmas apologist.
Now, with Jewish kids asking more than four questions, I feel doubly as though I have to justify, or at least clarify, my fandom of Christmas. And it’s this: I CAN’T fully explain it, and I’m finally okay with that. It’s mostly fuzzy nostalgia and a warm feeling I get, but I love the whole corny mess of it, and I’m not ashamed. I love picking out a big mother tree and adding new ornaments to it every year. I love stuffing stockings and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation again. I love that people give and share and smile just a little extra. I love peppermint stick ice cream, damnit. I crank Wham’s Last Christmas every time it comes on. And I’m in no way ashamed of that, either.
Christmas has always been about family and creating traditions. I realize now that that is what was missing in those B.C. (before children) years and why we struggled to make it our own. I had my own ideations of traditions that I simply tried to impose rather than share. She was largely uninvested and it was my fault. Let's just say I was hanging my own mistletoe, so to speak.
So how do you create family traditions? You do them. You try lots of things, keep the ones you like. Like the rest of parenting, it’s trial and error. This year we implemented a new tradition (suggested to us by a rabbi, oddly enough) of baking gingerbread men to put on the tree. Bub got up on his chair and helped me make the dough. Mommy rolled it out, poked holes for the string and put them in the oven. When they came out, Mommy strung them, and Bub got up on his chair and helped me hang them.
And in doing this it dawned on me that traditions are not about repeated acts. We always do this, or we have to do that. They are about the process behind those acts.
Growing up Jewish, it’s impossible to say what my kids will make of Christmas over the years. My brother and I grew up with the same Christmases and he is very ehhhhhh about it. But love it or hate it, celebrate it with their own families or not, I can only hope they look back at their own with that same warm feeling that I do, and create their own traditions as they see fit.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
|Don't quote me, boy, cuz I ain't said s---.|
More audio droppings splattered about our environs, completely devoid of context. Enjoy!
“Can you give me my Taco Bell feet, please, Daddy?”
“Here you go.”
“No, Daddy, these are my Taco Bell hands.”
“Can I have my Taco Bell feet now, please?”
“I think HP is pooping, do you think?”
“Well, she doesn’t look like it. I mean, she’s not grunting or…”
“I SMELL somebody pooping. I think HP is pooping, Daddy.”
“Daddy, have you seen my tiny banana?”
“HP’s not doing the right thing, Daddy.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“I just told her to look in my eyes and listen. And she didn’t.”
“Get yourself some dingo, Daddy.”
“It’s right here. In the dingo machine.”
“But what is dingo?”
“It’s just dingo.”
“But I don’t understand…”
“GET YOURSELF SOME DINGO, LITTLE DADDY!”
“Did she suck it? I said, did she SUCK IT, DADDY?”
“Stop! I said you have to go south!”
“Who are you talking to, Bub?”
“I’m talking to my man.”
“Oh. What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have a name.”
“Ooh, like Clint Eastwood in that western…“
“Yeah, we’re just gonna do a story now.”
“You’ll figure it out, okay? I’ll teach you, Daddy.”
Friday, November 22, 2013
|Daddy said if I smile, I get candy. Don't judge me, judgers.|
“Mommy? We’re gonna leave the doors open so anyone else can go through okay?”
“By doors do you mean my legs, Bub?”
“Yes. Open your legs, Mommy!”
“Can I touch my privates, Daddy?”
“Because I just want to.”
“No you’re not, Mommy.”
“Um, yes I am.”
“Ohhhhh…why don’t you just go to Daddy?”
“My privates are so soft, Daddy. Did you know that? My privates are SOOOOOOO SOFT!”
Bub: “HP, that’s IT for you. That’s it because you didn’t listen to me.”
“Daddy, can I whack myself? I WHACKED it, Daddy! Did I whack it? I don’t THINK so!”
“Look, Mommy. Mommy, look. Look PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE, Mommy!
“I’m touching my privates.”
“Can I see your poop, Daddy?”
“Why do you want to see my poop? Make your own poop.”
“I just wanna see YOUR poop.”
“LET ME SEE YOUR POOP, DADDY!”
HP: “Eat. Eeeeeeeat. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat!”
(Perhaps she was hungry)
“Do you see my balls here, Daddy?”
“I sure do.”
“This is my BALLBAG, Daddy. Do you like my ballbag? It’s nice, isn’t it? I said, it’s NICE, Daddy. Isn’t it?”
(I’m not too up on my Shakespeare; perhaps it’s from one of the comedies.)
Mommy, do you want to play with crayons? Mommy, the crayons are out. THE CRAYONS ARE OUT, MOMMY! Ohh, let’s see if she’s out. Let’s see if Mommy’s out. Let’s see if she’s just unloaded. (moves to kitchen, whispering now) Mommy is not ready for crayons. Mommy is out of here. Mommy is OUT of the lead! Mommy is unloaded.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
|I'm quite average-sized things, thank you very much.|
Uncle Matt and Aunt Michal were over a couple weeks ago. Bub lights up like the parking lot before a Phish show every time they are over; he loves showing them EVERY SINGLE THING he can do. Sometimes he shows them so much stuff that he runs out of stuff to show them. Then he has to come up with new stuff. Like this:
“I’m NO PANTS MCGEE!”
We were innocently segueing into the bedtime routine, which includes him going into the potty and re-emerging all jammied up. Or naked as the morning is early.
We of course lost our shit. I got the same reaction last time I walked into a room with no pants on, too. Different reasons, perhaps. This of course resulted in us hearing his new moniker 87 times in a row. Then came the variants.
“I’m No Shirt McGee!” He had a good thing going here. Like any good comedian, you ride that shtick till the wheels come off. “I’m No Socks McGee!” Etc.
Anyhoo, another facet of the bedtime ritual also includes putting his tiny things away. No, his other tiny things.
What exactly are No Pants McGee's tiny things, you ask? It all started with his mini Domo, his first “machine” score. Then he threw in some random game pieces, a 4-sided die he stole from my old dice bag. The other day, a tiny eraser mysteriously joined the tiny things party. They all live inside Domo’s little half-egg and only come out when HP is sleeping. They are eclectic, they are fun, they are choking hazards. They are the tiny things.
Bub came up with that handle. Tiny things. I like it. Makes me think of Darby O’Gill. And it’s led to some pretty awesome conversations around the house:
“Daddy, have you seen my tiny things?”
“No, Bub. Seriously, I’m not looking for your tiny things again.”
“Oh, here they are. They’re on the table, Daddy!”
“Bub, please keep your tiny things off the dinner table.”
“Bub, HP can NOT have your tiny things, do you understand?”
“Seriously, if I see her holding your tiny things, I’m gonna put them on the big shelf again.”
“We keep our tiny things to ourselves in this house.”
“Daddy, can I play with my tiny things now?”
“Sure, Bub, just don’t put them in your mouth.”
“Bub, time to put your tiny things away.”
“Because your sister will be awake soon, and I don’t want her to see your tiny things.”
“Daddy, you wanna play with my tiny things?”
“No, thanks. I’ve got my own.”
“Daddy, if HP sees my tiny things, she will probably try to grab them.”
Friday, November 15, 2013
We’ve kind of hit the proverbial bathroom wall recently in the realm of potty training. We got off to kind of a shaky start, then it finally caught on (and by caught on, I mean Bub stopped shitting his pants), and now we’ve kind of plateaued. And by plateaued, I mean:
“Daddy, you wanna check my pull-up? It’s DRY, Daddy.”
“Okay, great…yeah, no. This is wet, Bub.”
“Ohhhhhhhhh.” Like he just mis-spoke. Like dry and wet are like marinade/marinate.
“I’m afraid that’s not going to net you a gold star, my friend. You wanna tell me why you peed in your pull-up?”
“Because I LIKE to!”
You can see what I’m working with here. Like a classic Shakesperean actor playing Dirty Harry:
“What thou must posit of thyself is dost thou feel fortuitous? Well, dost thou, punk?”
And that’s pretty much it, the pith. Don’t have to be a child psychologist to see the root of the problem here. The kid likes to sit in the warm afterglow of his own urinal pleasures.
We’ve tried various methods, varying greatly in severity and orthodoxy. I put him back in diapers once, I was so frustrated. Yes, I did tell him once that he smelled like a urinal trough at Soldier Field at halftime.
Yes, it was also I who compared him to the only other boy in his class:
“Does Charlie wear pull-ups?”
“Wow, I bet he really loves wearing his big boy underwear.”
“Probably he does,” he shrugged. Like there’s something wrong with THAT creep.
I’ve played the age card:
“You’re three now, Bub. You’re WAAYYYY too old to be peeing your pants.”
“Yeah, I just like to, though.” Again with the shrug. Like I keep offering him broccoli when he’s sitting on a big, fat oatmeal cream pie.
He has a crush on a girl at school. Yeah, I went there, too.
“You know, Bub, the smell of a clean pull-up is a known aphrodisiac.”
“I don’t know what that means, Daddy.”
“It means Caroline seems like the kind of girl who would go for a man in some dry pants.”
“Ohhhhh.” Like Caroline would just have to get off her hygienic high horse and embrace the sog if she wanted to get with this. F-in snob.
I’ve tried pestering him. Do you have to pee now? Bub, you need to go potty? How about now? C’mon, I have to pee, too; let’s simul-pee. And so on.
I’ve tried letting him come to me. Guess how that went.
We’ve questioned his motives, his physical capabilities and his commitment to Team Underpants. We’ve tried the Jelly Belly machine, intimidation, reason, apathy, bribery and full-on begging.
Why just today, this happened:
“Okay, Bub, no school today. It’s raining. So let’s really focus on keeping a dry pull-up, okay? I think you can do it, what do you say? You’re one gold star from some Wii time…”
“Yeah, I want to. I just can’t do it, Daddy.” He sounded so sincere. That’s what makes him so dangerous.
This has been going on so long now that we initially bought him some rad new Elmo underwear to try and lure him to The Dry Side. Made a big to-do about it, went to Target, he picked em out, I actually used the word “awesome” to describe a pair of tighty whities with Elmo’s face adorning the ass side.
And there they sit, lowly as the leftover s’mores marshmallows. We’ve tried letting him sport them around the house as a privilege on two occasions. They lasted approximately 18 minutes. Combined. It was an extreme privilege to hose down hapless Elmo. I’m so over you, Elmo; I can speak in the first person now.
And that leaves us here. Still. Continually. Perpetually. Waiting, hoping, experimenting. Any theories? He’s all proud of himself because he stands when he pees now. It would be a lot more impressive if his pants weren’t still on.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
|Does this Bankie make me look fat?|
I was the room parent last Friday at Bub’s pre-school, which entails having a snack with the kids, talking bristle blocks and Honey Grahams. Somewhere in there was sing-song time, wherein the kids, when called upon, would name an animal to fill in the blank.
Bub picked a bunny.
Not a dinosaur or rhinoceros or grizzly bear. Not even a fully growed-up, speed-burning, garden-raiding rabbit. A bunny. Bunnies are soft, delicate. Bunnies get swallowed whole by owls in the shadowy moonlight. Bunnies are prey.
Quick snapshot of the class: Seven girls and two boys.
The other boy picked a tiger.
Well, la-dee-dah, Alpha Toddler. It made sense, in its own way. This other boy is much more physically imposing than Bub, more developed and better-coordinated. Taller, heavier, sturdier. He goes down the big slide. He hauls a backpack bigger than his own torso. Probably full of gold bullion and pride. When the class drew pumpkins, his was so good the other kids tried to carve it. And he let them.
Bub loves him. And who wouldn’t? He’s a nice kid. Good-looking, well-dressed, polite. But is that feeling mutual? I mean, Bub is clearly Robin to this pint-sized Batman. This was all established in less than two weeks, and that was that. The roles were set. Bub would now have to best him in a cage match to change that. And bunnies seek protection in cages, not confrontation.
It’s fine. No, really, Robin has pulled Batman’s doughnut out of the grease a few times. I mean, he has, right? The faithful sidekick. The Beta male. No shame in that. No siree.
It’s just that no parent wants their kid to be the hanger-on, the wingman, the Ed McMahon. The bunny. Instant survey--would you rather your kid be outgoing or reserved? A tiger or a bunny? That’s what I thought.
I have nicknamed Bub The Assessor. It’s not that he’s shy or introverted so much (though he is), it’s that he really likes to get a feel for any given situation before he decides how to proceed. He watches, plants all the data into his three year-old bean, which eventually sprouts a decision to act. Or not. Spontaneous, he ain’t.
But what’s wrong with that? He’s coming from one parent (me) who has a favorite quote that goes something like: It’s better to be quiet and be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Only fools rush in. Et cetera.
And yet, I hear myself imploring him to go play with other kids on the playground. Interact, make friends, mingle. Practically shoving him into the bouncy castle, where, yes, it’s likely he will sustain a minor abrasion, but it’s fucking-A worth it. It’s mostly that we just don’t want him to be afraid. We’re trying to instill self-confidence. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
But deep down, we know that the tiger path leads to riper fruits in the long run. You play your cards right, they may just name a fountain after you. You will always play point guard and go to the after-parties. People will remember your name. People will listen when you roar.
The bunnies, meanwhile, sort of squeak and nibble in the safe confines of their cages. They are gentle and fragile and easily cajoled. Their poop is consistently pellet-y and they smell of wood chips. They look up at tigers with a mix of awe, fear and digust.
Takes one to know one. I tip-toed my way through the high school jungle once upon a time, so careful not to rustle any leaves there in the shadows of the mighty felines. I camouflaged my scent over and over with the mud of anonymity, rubbed that shit in deep, yet still hoped they’d somehow see me. If only they stopped to bat me aside with a mighty paw, at least they would have acknowledged me.
We want what we can’t have, of course. We want our kids to learn from mistakes that we’re not letting them make. We want them to have everything we didn’t. Or do we? The irony, I’ve realized, is that I don’t want Bub to be a tiger. Tigers hunt and maul and snarl and gnash. That’s not the kind of son I want to raise. I’m glad Bub picked a bunny. In a very John Hughes way, I’ll always side with the bunnies.