Getting Your Kid to Shed Their Training Wheels.

That’s not a metaphor. I’m being literal.

When it comes to teaching a kid to ride their bike, I have found that the only thing that will help you (and your child) is having a healthy understanding of your child’s personality (Are they an adventuresome hooligan? Or are they someone you’ll eventually have to kick out of your house when they hit they’re late 20’s?), consistency (NO! YOU AND JUNIOR CANNOT TAKE A DAY OFF FROM LEARNING HOW TO RIDE!), repetition (See previous parenthetical) AND ONE, METRIC FUCK-TON OF PATIENCE.

Preamble.

When it comes to determining your approach to getting your kid road-ready, you need to be a bit choosy about the method that you adopt.

Some people will tell you to take away one of their training wheels (like how I learned) so they can work on finding their center of balance. The only foreseeable problem with this is that you run the risk of your kid milking the fuck out of jettisoning the last training wheel. I have vague recollections of doing this when I was this age and I sure as shit remember my son pulling this on me as well.

Other people will tell you to fuck all that. They’ll tell you to take the kid (and the bike…) for a drive to the nearest hill. Then they’ll tell you to pitch both training wheels, give the kid a speech about learning to ‘nut-up’, and then assemble kid on top of bike and pitch them screeching down the hill. Here’s the problem with this method: Most kids aren’t dumb enough to fall for this. They also have large and long memory banks. In the event that they do take the bait, they will kill you in your sleep when they are 16 because of the time you told them to ‘nut-up’ right before they got a compound fracture because you were being an asshole. 

Then there are those of you out there who like tools and gimmicks like ‘coasting bikes’ (No shit: I have seen infomercials selling a training bike that  doesn’t have any pedals. It’s basically a scooter minus the ‘standing bit’. Seriously, why waste the money when you can just take the pedals of off your Tater-Tots trike??? )  or those bikes ‘half-bikes’ that attach to the parent’s bike (I’m assuming the purpose of those is so the kid can get an idea of what bike riding is?).

What My Kids Put Me Through When I Taught Them How to Ride.

I don’t believe that there is a ‘right’ or ‘correct’ way to teach your kid how to ride their bike.

When the eldest was learning how to ride, I was working all of the time so I missed out on that. With the youngest (and smartest of the three) I barely had to do anything. There wasn’t any one training wheel stuff or removing her pedals so she can learn how to coast. All I had to do was go out there with her and give her a shove every so often until she got the hang of it. The middle child, he was such a glorious pain in the ass about learning how to ride his bike. 

For the record, my son’s personality has always been that of a little old man. To wit, he knows what he likes as well as doesn’t like, and he fucking hates change. (I’m the same way to a degree).

I took off one training wheel, I removed the pedals and taught him how to coast, I put the pedals back on (but not the training wheels) and I spent a lot of time walking around our neighbor hunched over from being ordered (by my progeny) to not let go of his handlebars while we did our lap around the block.

Eventually I won this battle. The day came when he acknowledged that he didn’t need me as much when it came to riding his bike. In order to ensure this concession, I told him (in so many words) that if we were to leave the house on foot, he had to ride his bike.

What the ‘Learning How to Ride a Bike’ Resources Are Lacking.

The most important thing you can teach your kid about riding their bike is how to fall off of it and not get hurt. 

Some, if not all bike riding resources available to parents seem to skimp on the fact that your Tater Tot will fall down and go boom when they are first starting out. While that’s not helpful at all, it’s also not surprising. Kid’s don’t like getting hurt anymore than their asshole parents do. 

What worked the best for me when I was teaching the boy how to ride was figuring out which foot was his dominate foot and then lowering his seat all the way down. If their seat is as low as it can go, then you are basically minimizing their chances of injury (a selling point in the event that your kid is being a bit of a pussy about the whole thing…) and if you know what foot is the dominate foot, then you also know which foot they are more likely to use in order to avoid doing a face plant.

In Conclusion.

Don’t be one of those assholes who makes a fuss every time your Tot falls down and gets hurt. Yes, you should show some concern. But it shouldn’t go any further than that.

In the event that you are one of those parents who fusses every time your kid gets hurt: Nice going asshole! You’re setting a bad example!

The only thing that a kid gets from a parent who fusses every time said kid falls down and goes boom is the idea that physical pain is something to be feared and in some instances it can be used to get attention from the parent. No, kids don’t articulate it exactly like that, but it’s the truth.

People get hurt. Old, young, poor health, good health: the sooner you teach your kid that, the sooner they’ll accept it and make it a part of their life.

In the end, what will work for both you and your soon to be bike rider is consistency, repetition, AND A FUCKTON OF PATIENCE. The more patience the both of you have, the easier it will be. 

A quick-ish word about “depression” being a son of a bitch.

Before I say anything further, it should be noted that I have absolutely no medical credentials. I have no certifications. I have also not been treated for depression. I am a man who has experience with depression.

As such, the purpose of this post is to address the topic of depression in the event that there is someone out there, male or female, working parent or stay at home parent (like myself) who is “down in the dumps” as the vernacular goes.

A little about me.

In terms of my genetic make up and heritage, there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about me. I’m a white male, of Irish descent. While I don’t like to bandy about cliches or stereotypes, what they say about Irish men being emotionally retarded is fucking true.

We don’t like our feelings. We don’t like talking about our feelings. We certainly think that there should be a medical procedure to remove the little buggers so we can live the rest of our lives in drunken ignorance.

I am no exception to any of the above.

I don’t like talking about myself PERIOD. I never have. As I am usually loathe to deal with anything feeling related, it can be safely assumed that I have never given it much thought. In general, I have always preferred to listen to other people talk about themselves. What’s at work there, is the fact that most people, LOVE TALKING ABOUT THEMSELVES.

Perhaps I’m a coward. Perhaps it’s a level of self consciousness that I’m not willing to deal with. Maybe it has something to do with some childhood trauma that has been buried deep within my dome. I just don’t know.

From ages 12 to 35, there have been numerous points in my life where I have been depressed. This isn’t the “boo hoo I can’t get laid” type of depression (even though some of it was). This is the “being a lone peach in a can full of syrup, fully realized” type of depression. Everything is awful. Every movement feels like trying to walk through waist deep water.

For the record, this has lessened substantially within the past 12 years.

What I am getting at.

As a parent, depression is a relatively easy trap to set for yourself.

Kids are fucking expensive. They’re not “gifts”. They are people. People cost money. Kids need money in order to grow. That right there is fuel enough to make any parent, new or seasoned, feel like they are in a race that they can’t win.

As a parent who stays at home (especially if you are a dad), it’s even easier to feel the wastes of depression seep in. YOUR JOB DOESN’T END. You don’t get that moment to look forward to when you realize that your workday is almost over and you get to go home. You are all ready there. Nothing ever stays clean and simple things like your asshole kids turning off the fucking bathroom light upon exit amounts to you asking them to build a goddamn rocket.

What’s worse is the fact that all of the parents around you are either bad at parenting or they are just assholes. Effectively you are on your own.

“In the event of fire”.

It’s ok to fall down every once in a while. What you have to keep in mind is that you can’t be the person your kids need if you can’t pick yourself up off the ground. Being depressed is ok. Letting it control your life and inform your behavior in your immediate environment is not ok.

If you need help, ask your significant other. Don’t have one? Think of the one person that has been close to you all of your life and ask them. That’s what they are there for.

If you are like me (emotionally stunted) and you don’t want to due to whatever cockamamie excuse you’ve cooked up, you still need to do something about it.

 This is where the Tumblr comes in handy. Don’t fuck around with the internet. That’s just asking for trouble. On tumblr I see a lot of posts about depression and what to do when you’re in it. A lot of them seem like they are on the level. As far as I know, you don’t need a tumblr account to use tumblr. Why not give it a look? 

What I do.

 My general rule when it comes to dealing with anything negative is that I am allowed 20 minutes to feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I can manage and get my shit together in the time allowed. Sometimes, not so much. The important thing is to recognize the behavior (hopefully before it starts) and take action. Usually this amount to me:

  1. Letting my wife know what my fucking problem is.
  2. Writing a telephone-book-sized journal entry about what my fucking problem is.
  3. Resort to OTC’s like Sam-E or St. John’s Wort.
  4. Work out and managing my food intake with Swiss precision.

In Sum.

Whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through, it is temporary. While it may seem like “it’s easier said, than done”, it is the truth. What you need to do, is to have the courage to admit that something is wrong. But what you need to realize and accept is that you need to take that step a bit further and correct ‘the wrong’ that is making you suffer.

In the event that you want someone to chat with (that is relatively objective) I can be contacted here

Why your spawn should be cleaning up after itself as soon as it is able to walk. 

Way back in the day, before I entered dinosaur-dom, I remember hearing peers and certain family members make mention of the fact that they didn’t have to clean their room (or anything else in the house for that matter) because their mother did it for them.

Keep in mind that the general tenor for families back then was that both parents worked. That’s right: not only did mom have to have a part time job, but she was still in charge of making sure that the homestead didn’t go to pot.

I knew then, as I know now, that that is an incredible load of bullshit. No kid, anywhere on the face of the earth, should be exempt from cleaning up after themselves and pulling their own weight around the house. The only thing that a parent accomplishes when they absolve their child from cleaning or any other household duty/responsibility is the creation of an entitled shit who expects things to be handed to them and will most likely live a large portion of their life in this state.

I’m not advocating whip-cracking. I’m not saying that your children’s lives should play out like the first act of Cinderella. Or that your children should identify with the drama Roots.

What I’m getting at is that you, as a parent, are solely responsible for making sure that your child is armed with the knowledge that they can, and should help out around the house. 

Want to make it easy on yourself? Start them off young. 

For my kids it started off with simple things: putting away toys and picking up around the house. Eventually they graduated to dusting and wiping stuff down. Vacuuming eventually came to all of them despite the fact that we lost a lamp or two during the learning process.

By the time that they were 8, they were doing their own laundry. Yes, 8. They loved it.

This might make you pucker at the thought of having Little Johnny or Susie Shitpants do their own laundry. It shouldn’t: If you are with them every step of the way and you are teaching them correctly, your child ought to be able to do their own laundry. Look at it this way: if they’re doing it right, it’s one less thing you have to  worry about.

For the record, I started them on their laundry when they were 8 because they were at a decent height in order to get clothes from the bottom of washer and into the dryer.

Since my family and I have relocated to Florida, I have taken to using a chore board. It doesn’t waste paper and it establishes culpability (e.g. they can’t “loose” something stuck to the fucking wall). 



It’s nothing fancy. Just a cheap picture frame I picked up from the local department store.
Also for the record, I typically stick with one chore. As barometers I use the collective behavior of the group and what may be going on during the week. Summer time is a little different since they have “so much time” on their hands.

In sum, keep in mind that raising a child is a process. When it comes to showing them a new skill or teaching them the proper way to clean ‘a thing’, it will take some time for them to get it as right as you want them to get it. They are also going to cut corners. Kids are sneaky as fuck.

Also please do the world a favor: make sure you are creating an individual who will contribute to society, not drag it back to the stoneage.

On Sleeplessness and Getting ‘Quality Sleep’.

I have had issues with sleep since the 4th grade. 

At that time, I was a child of two worlds. This is also known as living with mom during the week and living with dad during the weekend.

During the week, I was inundated with the strict Catholicism that my mother tried to use as a tool to enforce my obedience. On the weekend, my newly sober father was multi-tasking: he was learning how to be a father again (as he was drunk when he was supposed to be doing those duties when my siblings were my age) by basically letting me do whatever and spoiling the shit out of me (a common tactic divorced dads usually resort to in an effort to curry favor with their children). Occasionally, he’d alternate spoiling me with letting me know how he really felt about my mother.

One time he dropped me off from school and laid this one on me: “I would be getting out of prison right about now if I had killed your mother.” I was still in the 4th grade at the time.

Freshly divorced parents are too self absorbed to realize that if there is a kid in the picture, that the familial schism that their hubris has caused is going to fuck up the kid more than it ever will them. 

So, from the 4th to the 8th grade getting quality sleep was a pain in the ass for me. If I couldn’t shut my brain off at night, I was getting to bed on time only to wake up an hour later unable to get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. By the weekend, I was completely fucked because my father wanted to be ‘the cool dad’ so it became normal for him to let me sleep until the afternoons.

Bear this in mind: I harbor no ill-intent towards either of my parents. I’m just illustrating how sleep was a hard won ally for me. 

From high school until the present day, I didn’t fare much better. Sure, I got better at understanding people and how they worked. And sure, gainful weekend employment coupled with social activities made going to sleep at the end of the night a breeze thanks to sheer exhaustion. But getting enough quality sleep has always been a pain.

In recent years, if it hasn’t been anxieties about employment, or the future, it’s been about someone else: a new baby, a sick child, or a light sleeper sleeping next to me.

Since I have become the resident Resident of my family and since I have accepted the fact that I can’t burn the candle at both ends (like I did in my youth now that I’m in my mid-30’s) sleep is my favorite hobby.

Unfortunately, there are still some incidences where I can’t turn my brain off.

What to do in the Event of a Sleep Malfunction.

Before I go further, I should re-iterate that I’m not a sleep expert, nor am I a medical professional. 

I’m just another asshole who has an opinion and can kind of write good.

If you’re having trouble sleeping for a prolonged period of time (longer than a week), quit dicking around and make a doctor’s appointment. I  personally hate hospitals and I have a general disdain for doctors. However if there’s something keeping me from sleeping that may be “internal” you better damn well believe I’m making the appointment.

If you can’t bring yourself to do that, here is a short list of things that have worked for me in the past. (Maybe something herein will work for you too).

  1. Ear plugs and an eye covering of some sort. Yes, it’s a very thin line that separates you from a bird in a bird cage when you use these tools but sensory deprivation fucking works. I don’t use ear plugs often because they get irritating after a while, but I do make it a habit to cover my head. No light = better sleep.
  2. Daily physical activity (a.k.a keep yourself so busy through the course of the day that you have no choice but to go to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow). Think of it this way: you’re earning your right to sleep at the end of the night.
  3. Writing and meditation. Both are very effective means of helping you shut your brain off. I use the writing because I live with four different and dynamic people. Sometimes they do shit and behave in a way that makes me want to squeeze their heads so hard that their brains shoot out of their assholes. Instead of doing that, I write about the stupid shit they do that pisses me off. In doing so, I’m able to strike an understanding of said behavior and come to a middle ground without entertaining the idea of exactly how much Comet I would need in order to clean up feces and grey matter. The meditation has helped in the past because sometimes you just need to sit down and breathe. The only problem with that is that you need to make yourself do it consistently so it becomes a habit. Here are the apps that I use: Stop, Think, and Breathe, Meditation Studio by Gaiam.
  4. Alternate methods and drugs. As far as the ‘alternative methods’ are concerned, they’re pretty simple. The first one that I started using was to have a cup of ‘sleepy’ tea. Lame sounding, but it works. Lately I have been partial to Sleepytime Celestial Seasonings with Echinacea. It’s fucking delicious and is just as good as a traditional ‘night cap’. Sure, I have to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss, but it’s a small price to pay for quality sleep. My recent addition to my sleep regimen has been leaving one of my feet uncovered. I read an article on Mental Floss that explains the science behind it and guess what? It fucking works. I get to sleep faster. My last method I don’t do as often as I should: it’s taking a cold shower before bed. Doing this is the real life equivalent of getting hit over the head with a sledge hammer. I first came across this when Tim Ferriss included it in his book, The 4 Hour Body and came across it again when AOM did a post on it as well. It works. And yes, you get used to the blast of cold water on your bits rather quickly. With respect to taking pills to go to sleep, I haven’t taken any that require a prescription (yet). When it comes to over the counter drugs like Benadryl and Melatonin, I highly suggest that you tread lightly and do your own research. Speaking for myself, both drugs have consistently left me sleep drunk (I need to take a nap shortly after getting up in order for the fog of drugs to dissipate). This may not be the case with you. Again, tread lightly.

Have a sleep ritual or trick you’d like to share? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

 

Accidents happen.

As a parent you should not be operating under the illusion that your children are perfect little angels who are whip smart and have nothing but respect for you. 

‘Smarts’ and ‘respect’ are both learned intangibles. Your children are people. More importantly they are people that you brought into the world and whom you are solely responsible for. If they are lacking in anything, there is the slim chance that it is the result of a genetic deficiency. Short of that, who they are and how they behave are the direct result of your own interaction with them. 

With that said, as a parent you should also be operating under the idea that some days are just going to go tits up. 

It might happen at the end of the day. It might be a slow burn throughout the whole day that results in you reenacting the ‘bathtub scene’ from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. It might even happen before you get out of bed. 

A week ago, I was coming home from dropping off the oldest child at her gymnastics class. As I was turning onto my street I received this Skype message from my son: 

  

That’s no exaggeration
: I was turning onto the street when I got the message. 

For the record, my son is 9 years old. His little sister is 6. In the event that someone somewhere reading this should get their panties in a bunch given their young age, here’s a few facts for you

  1. We live on government property. What that means is that our neighborhood is beyond safe. 
  2. My children are the epitome of responsibility within their respective age groups. While that may be a bit presumptious, it is a fact. I know it’s a fact because my wife and I have been imbuing them with responsibility since they could demonstrate critical thinking. 
  3. Children are never ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ to learn the values of responsibility. 

FYI the ‘red stretchy thing’ he was referring to was an exercise band that someone left out and did not put away. Also, the tv wasn’t an old ‘tube’ television with the rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil that only works if your little sister with the braces is in the room touching it. It was the family television, a 38″ Vizio. 

Of course, I was a bit peeved. Firstly, I wasn’t gone that long. 25 minutes tops. Secondly, I’m a notorious tight wad. While my family is by no means ‘poor’ we certainly aren’t wiping our asses with dollar bills. Televisions aren’t cheap. 

I get out of the car and enter my home not knowing how bad the damage was. My son immediately began to inform me about the message he sent me. I cut him off mid-sentence with “I ALL READY KNOW” and I survey the damage. 

  
I was hopeful. “That doesn’t look so bad,” I thought. Then I turned the TV on. 

I’m not going to show you what it looks like turned on. It still works, the screen is just fucked and essentially beyond repair. 

It was an accident. I knew that before I walked in the house. I knew that before I surveyed the damage. I tallied the collective ‘accident report’ of all 3 of my kids immediately after reading my son’s message. I could still count the previous accidents on one hand. 

Sometimes, stupid things happen regardless of your age. 

Them not being able to watch their favorite shows, or play Minecraft, would not have driven the lesson home. There’s a time and a place for horse-play. Specifically and preferrably when they are not latch-keyed.  

After my blood pressure normalized, I made sure that they were fully aware of the ramifications of what they had done. They knew how much the television was, how long it took their mother to  work for the money to buy the television, and how their little faux pas was disrespectful to their mother (e.g. If they consciously knew all of that before they picked up the exercise band, it wouldn’t have happened). 

Accident or not, they still got grounded. As the saying goes, the punishment needed to fit the crime. I gave them reasonable parameters for the grounding and told them that they would get ungrounded if they stuck to the parameters and illustrated that they learned their lesson. 

My son was ungrounded after 2 days. The youngest took a week (which is understandable because she’s only 6). Since then they have been on the straight and narrow. 

Have a lesson-filled horror story? Sally forth in the comments, please!

Dealing with parental stigmas.

In the event that you are a Stay-at-home Dad (Bully for you!) I’m sure that you are still trying to get your sea legs and work out all of the kinks. It’s not a science after all.

Have you gotten to the point where you’ve wanted to say “The hell with everything!” and run away screaming into the night? Has the irrepressible feeling that you are underappreciated around your own home become to feel like an albatross around your neck, slowly pulling you down into the ether? Have you thought about getting divorced because you can’t handle the adjustment phase?

It may seem like I am joking, but I’m not. There’s something inside the male persona that does not let them properly articulate their own feelings. There are a few shining stars who are able to do this and I admire them for it. But for the most part, men shut down completely if they have to talk about their feelings.

I’m no exception to this, are you?

Consider this the next time that you are thinking about walking away: While the phenomenon of dad’s who stay at home is relatively fresh, it has been argued that “divorce will become less harmful to children than it is today. Father’s who share the care for the children will feel a stronger attachment to their children and will be less likely to stop visiting or helping…” (Smith, p.49, 2009)

Still don’t think your presence has made a difference?

That’s all right. I don’t blame you. Anyone who says that they were completely prepared for being a stay-at-home parent (or just being a parent) is a complete liar.

I have long been of the opinion that the one thing that keeps transitioning from being a breadwinner to a stay-at-home Dad an easy right of passage is the stigma that is attached to it.

Gasp! Negative sentiments about a man staying at home with his children?

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! There most definitely is a stigma attached to being a Stay-at-Home dad. 

My first encounter with it was 5 years ago during the paperwork portion of renting our house. I was on the phone, talking to the woman who ran the rental office in an attempt to build a rapport with her and to galvanize the fact that my family and I weren’t hillbillies.

Then she asked me what I did for a living.

I told her that I was a Stay-at-Home Dad.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. She went from being all chummy and glad to having someone of solid character in one of her properties to a cold-hearted shell of a person. She couldn’t get off of the phone fast enough.

“…This myth, (that) Stay-at-Home Dad’s are dysfunctional parents who are so demoralized by unemployment that they are incapable of pulling their weight around their house” (Smith, p.58, 2009) is perpetrated by every member of society who has every given a man playing with his kids at the playground before noon a funny look.

Who’s to say if this stigma will ever be put in the ground?

While as a society we are constantly evolving and creating, there are just some things that won’t go away. Racism, ageism, sexism… Basically any sort of -ism. What adds insult to injury is the fact that these things, these -isms are all born of our personalities.

I’m just as responsible for this stigma as much as you are.

Consider this: 4 out of 10 mothers are the primary breadwinners in their families. Additionally, there are an estimated 143,000 Stay-at-Home Dads with children under the age of 15, worldwide (Stout, 2010).

While men being the caregivers for the children may be a relatively new twist that our society has taken it should also be noted that gender roles as a whole are starting to change. More fathers are starting to participate in the daily mechanics of their families (dropping kids off and volunteering at their school) than their predecessors. If you want further proof, you needn’t look any further than the diaper-changing table in the men’s room (Gill, 2001). Additionally, “more and more fathers are filing complaints with the federal EEOC claiming that their employers have discriminated against them because of their care giving roles… (Some) employers have wrongly denied male employees requests for leave for childcare purposes while granting similar requests to female employees… (This results in) men deciding that they want a work/family balance” (Smith, p. 76, 2009).

So by now, I’m sure you are wondering what all of this means? Facts are great but they aren’t going to help you through your daily family-balancing act.

This means that you are not alone. You’re not feeling feelings that haven’t been felt before. And you most certainly are not going through something no one else has gone through before.

It seems like a bitter pill to swallow but it’s not. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to not being the breadwinner, find someone who has gone through what you are going through and petition them for advice.

Not sure you want to do this for the rest of your life? Then find someone who has made a career of this and see what they think.

As our society continues to grow and evolve so will the number and nature of parents who stay at home with their children.

If your situation isn’t working for you, it’s up to you to fix it.

Sources Consulted

Gill, LIbby. (2001). Stay-at-Home Dads: The Essential Guide to Creating the New Family. New York: Penguin Group.

Smith, Jeremy Adam. (2009). The Daddy Shift. Boston: Beacon Press.

Stout, Hillary. (2010). When Roles Reverse: The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Husband. Retrieved from:   Today Parenting.

In Conclusion (Potty Training Finale).

Like the previous two children, when The Wife and I had our third, and final child, we didn’t know what to expect. It was great news and perfect timing (there’s only three years difference between each child). We were happy.

How can you know what to expect, really? Not to get all hippy dippy and weird, but everyone kind of is like a snow flake. Doubly so, for babies. They may seem like one-trick ponies, what with all of the neediness and crying and noise. But even with something as simple as teaching the kid to shit in the toilet and not their hand, your kid’s personality will shine through, every time.

Parents don’t consciously realize this (at least I didn’t…) until hindsight kicks in. No one is to blame if this is the case. Parenting is fucking hard. All of the time. Even when you think things have plateaued out and are hunky dory, parenting is still hard.

So when Little Bear was born, The Wife and I were blown away. Why? Because everything was easy with this fucking kid. Feeding, playing, exercising, listening… Everything.

And what’s more, she was happy. All. Of the fucking. Time. There was a good streak there when she would wake up with a smile on her face. We weren’t doing anything funny or exciting to get the kid out of bed, we were just waking her up. And she’d wake up like that for anyone.

Then one day the kid started reading. Out loud on her own. We didn’t prompt her. No one (to my knowledge) explained what the alphabet was and how it made words and how the words were also seen as well as heard.

Little Bear just figured that shit out all on her own. 

It didn’t take long for The Wife and I to realize that we had a bit of a genius  in our midst.

 

Eventually, Little Bear needed to stop shitting in the woods, as it were.

To recap her siblings similar journey:

  • Thing One liked to wait until the last minute before she Jackson- Pollocked her Underoo’s.
  • Thing Two was the Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi, if you will, of poo-hiding.

Much like her sister Thing One, Little Bear was incredibly hands-off when it came to peeing in her potty chair. At her young age, with her voracious intellect she knew that if she needed to ‘make water’ her little pink potty chair that was by the side door (going outside) was more than happy to catch for her.

Getting her to empty the damn thing was always hard. There were more than a few times when she’d use it without our knowing and then a day or two later things would be kind of foul smelling. Hence, my placement by the side door.

You’re goddamn right I dumped it outside. As long as there weren’t any Poop Snakes hiding in the Pink Throne, what the hell did it matter?

Also like her older sister, Pooping was always a hassle. The difference between the two was that Little Bear held on to her stinky-ness until she had the mid section of a malnourished Somalian child. (As I write this, I still don’t fully understand it. Everyone poops. Just because you’re a female doesn’t mean that your street cred diminishes every time someone learns that you don’t actually poot talcum powder).

To date, Little Bear’s inability to be reasonable and poop daily was only remedied within the past year and a half. ‘How did you fix that?’, you’re undoubtedly wondering.

When I would notice the tell-tale Somalian belly sign, I’d ask her in a calm and passive voice, ‘When’s the last time you pooped?’. If she started to hem and/or haw, I’d tackle her, yell out ‘POOP MASSAGE!!!’ and I would start rubbing her distended belly like a wad of dough.

Cruel and unusual? Hell no: The kid would be overcome with the giggles every time. Result? A svelte looking Little Bear the next day.

In Sum

In short, you can consult any source that you want. The bottom line is that if you want your kid to use the john you need to do three things:

  1. Learn how to read them. Kids aren’t any different than grown adults: they telegraph the fuck out of most emotions.
  2. Lead by example. That’s right, they need to watch you go. Creepy at first but it’s no different than using a public restroom. Trade Secret? If it’s just you and the kid at home, leave the bathroom door open when you go. They’ll wander in if they want. Just be sure to give the Significant Other a ‘head’s up’.
  3. Set a routine. The success rate of any child doing anything at all is dependent on the routine that the parent(s) set up for the child. Reading, learning to walk, learning to do anything for that matter.. Want your kid to use the potty sooner, rather than later? SET UP A MOTHERFUCKIN’ ROUTINE. 

In which, I talk about adopting parental figures.

Once upon a time, the idea of two people getting divorced within the realm of America was considered wildly verboten. As we progressed down our timeline, our collective minds evolved and concluded that regardless of our religious stance, if it isn’t working between two people, they should be allowed to divide their assets and go their separate ways.


I am a child of the 1980’s. While I can’t speak to the cultural happenings of this time (because I wasn’t old enough to know the difference between my ass and a hole in the ground), I can unequivocally state that divorce became the in vogue experience that a large percentage of middle class families slogged through.

Even though I was the youngest of four children, My family was no exception to this event.

By the 1990’s I found my toes on the edge of being a teenager. It wasn’t pretty. I was lonely and horny all of the time and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone, let alone girls. I was angry all of the time because I was being shared between two people who didn’t get it right with my first 3 predecessors and now they were trying to get it right with me but they were doing it in two different ways.

Serendipitously speaking I was a lucky son of a bitch because I effectively came of age when the era of “Grunge” redefined a stale musical landscape. I was awash in music that defined how I felt. Anger, horniness, isolation and loneliness: it was all there and I could tap into it every time I turned the radio dial or punched in the channel numbers for MTV.

When I officially became a teenager, my sister, the oldest of us kids, and the one person of our family who guided me the most, proffered some sage-like wisdom to me:

“Find some surrogate parents. Ours are ok, but they’re never going to be able to be the parents that they ‘should be’ for you. They’re more concerned with ending their parenting stint on a high note at any cost”.

I’m paraphrasing of course but she was absolutely right. While my parents did have their hearts in the right place, they constantly butted heads on the wrong things, let things slide that shouldn’t have been slippery in the first place, and imbued me with a certain amount of schizophrenia due to the fact that their parenting styles were drastically different.

Shortly after my sister dropped that bomb on me, I took it upon myself to adopt the mother of my best friend at the time. I never told him this. Don’t know why, I can’t imagine that it would have mattered to him. But his mother always treated me like I was one of her kids.

It was nice and weird at the same time. I could make her laugh and she seemed genuinely interested in me and what was going on in my life. When I went back to my own home, or my father’s home, I didn’t get the same level of consideration for various reasons.

Finding a surrogate father proved a little more difficult as most of my friends were refugees from divorce as well. Their dads had their hands full as it was. They didn’t need someone else’s kid sniffing around their domicile.

Then, in 1994 the single ‘Liar’ by Rollins Band gained heavy air play.

This… This was the guy that I saw in the Mac ad in one of my sister’s Rolling Stone magazines a few years prior. This was the guy who went on to write for that same magazine for a short period of time. His level of anger seemingly matched my level of anger. That is to say, I felt that we were both of the same mind.

I adopted Henry Rollins as my surrogate father.

As I dived deep into the corner of time that this person claimed as his own, I was overjoyed to learn that there were books and spoken word albums as well.

Henry got me through a lot.


My teens gave way to my 20’s and like with all relationships, familial and otherwise, I grew up and moved on. It’s not that there was anything wrong with what Henry was talking about at the time. It just didn’t resonate with me as much.

Throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s, I was bludgeoned with life changes.

A certain series of events with multiple friendships had shown me that those friends, the relationships that I had had with them, had run their course. It was the first time in nearly a decade that I had been as lonely as I was in gradeschool.

I was the caregiver for my father for the last 3 years of his life.

I left a job I was at for over a decade in search of other, more suitable employment.

I rooted down and started a family of my own. I experienced job loss when I need it the most: shortly after my 3rd child was born. I felt the pain that comes with having to ask for help when I have never had to do that before.

Life was moving on even though I was hanging on by my fingertips.


Through the miracle of podcasts, I found my way back to Mr. Rollins within the past couple of years. It had been a while since I had listened to anything that he had to say, so I figured “Why the fuck not?”

Everything resonated with me the way that most of his early stuff resonated with me. It was dumbfounding. What I heard, and I deep-dived again, was the voice and thoughts of someone who was trying to clear a path in the world for the younger generation. A thing of which, I have been trying to do for my own children.

Of course, this re-ignited my fandom. On occasion, I’d fire up some of his spoken word stuff (the stuff from this century) and use it as background noise. One day, I caught something, an idea that he was trying to get across.

I was listening to him tell the story of when he got to play with the Ruts during their benefit show for their ailing guitar player. During the second half of the story, he was going on about all of the ‘surrogate fathers’ of the bands that he idolized when he was a kid who were also playing the same benefit.

What I thought was “Doesn’t he realize that he is in the same position of surrogacy?”

Maybe he has. Maybe someone else has all ready brought this to his attention. I can’t imagine that he’d bring it up himself.

Henry Rollins may not be a legitimate dad, but he’s been a father for a lot of us. I for one, am grateful for it.

In Which I Voice a Very Unpopular Opinion

Tamir Rice’s family, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ people, the ‘All Lives Matter’ people, the PR People for the Cleveland Police, Cleveland Media Outlets… well, everyone still talking about the entire situation, really need to shut their stupid mouths. 

While it may seem like a harsh sentiment to put into print, stay with me: I do have a point.

Fact 1

I am a Cleveland native. Up until two years ago, I lived in that city my entire life.

My father was a Cleveland Police officer for 32 years. While he has been dead and gone for over a decade, and he had been fortunate enough to spend majority of his career in relative quiet, what he did not anticipate about his choice of employment is the impression that he left on his family with respect to the ‘policeman’s life’.

I’m not saying that I’m an expert on police behavior. What I am saying is that I have a better understanding of what being a police officer does to a person. This is a perspective that most, if not all, media outlets fail to acknowledge, let alone recognize.

With respect to what policing over any length of time will do to a man or woman, what everyone disregards is the simple idea that being a member of law enforcement will change a person in ways that they didn’t think were possible.

Any member of law enforcement has a front row seat to people at their worst. If they are not prepared for this change, it will change them for the worse. If they aren’t prepared for that kind of change, they won’t be the picture of the person that they were. Instead, they’ll be the image of that person left on the negative.

My father wasn’t any exception to this. His career started in the 1960’s and ended in the early to mid 1990’s. He started like everyone else (as a patrolman), spent time as a homicide cop, and ended his career in SIU (booking and fingerprinting).

According to my mother being a police officer made him jaded.

Understandably so. During his career he experienced the Hough Riots, the fallout from Danny Greene and all of the associated Mafioso, the homicide rate alone… Cleveland was not the place it is today.

Fact two

I know the neighborhood where Tamir was killed rather well. 

While that area, as well as other parts of Cleveland have been riding the urban renewal train (and have been making progress, albeit incrementally) that area is fucked up.

Cleveland, like most modern metropoli, is built out of neighborhoods that belong to certain ethnicities. (When I use the word ‘belong’ I’m not implying any sort of racial connotation. Although that’s exactly what it is: Hough, Fairfax, and East Cleveland, are largely African American, West and Southern Cleveland are largely European…).

When I was growing up, the further away from Downtown you lived, the better off you and your family were (economically speaking). In some respects, it’s still like that today.

Fact Two-A

Around the turn of the 20th century, if you had a job in Cleveland, it  was undoubtedly somewhere Downtown. Because of that, the first neighborhoods that popped up were established around the center of the city. These neighborhoods still stand today. However, if you were to drive through some the less gentrified ones, you would:

  1. Lock your car door regardless of what skin tone you possess.
  2. Immediately notice how close the homes are to each other. Close, as in, they are single family homes that practically share walls with the neighboring homes.

These neighborhoods were erected when everyone knew everyone else. All of the kids went to the same school. Everyone’s father worked downtown and everyone’s mother knew everyone else’s mother.

As time went on, suburbs like West Park, Fairview, and North Olmsted were established presumably in an effort to give people a quieter sense of community. What  unintentionally happened was that the growth of these suburbs eliminated the need to seek employment in Downtown Cleveland. As a result of this, people moved out of the old neighborhood in an effort to look for a better place to live while giving their children more opportunities for advancement.

As a further result of this, the first neighborhoods that popped up around the city went into a state of decline. Homes once populated by ‘old world’ families became vacant because the kids moved away and the parents were too old to keep up with repairs. Those houses were torn down or stood vacant. Other homes became low rent housing that attracted ne’er-do-wells of all colors.

One neighborhood that fits this bill and is still waiting for gentrification to strike is the neighborhood where Tamir was killed.

Fact Three

There’s absolutely no denying that Officer Lehmann fucked up bad. A few days after the story broke, the footage of the incident was released and there was denying it: this kid was murdered and the CPD tried to justify it.

Police corruption happens. This isn’t anything completely new or out of the ordinary.

What made this the positively catastrophic situation that it is, is the fact that it was one in a series of events where a white police officer had assaulted, and even murdered, an African American.

Because of this fact, popular media outlets latched on to the story and the surface details like a plecostomus catfish, shouting to anyone within earshot about police brutality and the rise of racism in America. 

As if racism had ever went away in the first place. 

Fact Three-A

If you were to do a quick Wikipedia search of the Civil Rights Movement, you can see that the movement started in the 1950’s and essentially ended around 1984.

At that time, equality had been reached but not fully achieved and the world at large had generally taken the necessary steps to move on with their lives. This generally came in the form of accepting that people who have a different skin tone aren’t that much different from yourself.

What’s not touched upon when the topic of Civil Rights comes up is that the only thing that changed throughout the course of the Movement was that it become socially unacceptable to say ‘racist’ things in public.

Fact Four

Admittedly, I hadn’t been paying close attention to all of the demonstrations and protests that had been happening in Cleveland shortly after Tamir was killed. I know it’s petty but the majority of the protestors and demonstrators pictured appeared to be childless children, or young people in their 20’s.

When I saw all of those young faces, the thought I had then, which is the thought I still have now, is how can you protest something that you obviously haven’t lived long enough to experience? Yes, it is great that people took to the streets to point their collective finger at corruption, but if you haven’t experienced any form of racism first hand, be it by the hand of a cop, or the hand of someone that you could call peer, do you fit as a part of the mob? Or should you go back to your mother’s basement.

Maybe I’m just being old. I know that you’re supposed to be an asshole at that age. You’re supposed to think that your opinion matters and that you’ll eventually change the world. It is my sincere hope that every one of those kids who took to the streets of Cleveland will get to that point in their lives when they realize that the most powerful act of change that they can invoke in any situation is to just be nice.

Fact Five

Like most people, what renewed my interest in this matter was the fact that neither officer was prosecuted. The released security footage of the entire incident, the fact that the officer’s involved covered it up, and the additional fact that the offending officer had falsified his application to the police department… I’m still scratching my head over the matter.

Then a thought struck me: If the cops beat the charges, there has to be something that I wasn’t aware of.

There would appear to be a lot that I wasn’t actually aware of.

Samaria, Tamir’s mother had been convicted of drug trafficking. Tamir’s father, Leonard, has been convicted numerous times of domestic abuse. Additionally, Samaria has been the victim of domestic violence not only by Tamir’s father but also by other boyfriends after the fact.

For the record, the above items came out shortly after the shooting. As best as I can understand, these facts were dismissed from public view because they were written off as character assassination.

Regardless, it begs the question: If Tamir had witnessed any of this, of his mother dealing drugs, of his father beating his mother (or his mother’s boyfriends beating her) would he have known better than to point a toy gun that looked like a real gun at random people? Probably not.

In Sum

As a parent, there are a lot of unanswered questions that still bother me about this tale of woe. 

What was the mother doing? Why didn’t the sister tell Tamir to knock that shit off? Was he playing by himself? Or with a group of friends? Was he harassing people at the park or just pointing the gun at them? If the park was across the street from the house couldn’t the mother her see what was going on?

In all likelihood, I won’t have any of these questions answered. The world will keep turning, and the majority of the people that I share air with, will only be concerned about the surface details. Tamir is gone. No amount of yelling and screaming is going to change this or any of the facts that demonstrate that the CPD dropped the ball.

If anything were to change this, it would be the quiet acknowledgment that everyone has failed. Samaria & Leonard, the sister that was supposed to be watching him, the broken system of law enforcement that is supposed to make everyone feel safe, the demonstrators & the bystanders. In accepting this, maybe we can all take the steps that we need to take in order to just be nicer to each other.

Save me a spot at the table.

I’ve been a member of the ‘dead-dad’ club for nearly 15 years. To be more precise, it’s been 13 years. Saying that it’s been 15 sounds better. At any rate, what I had failed to realize until the last week that my father was alive, was that I was his caregiver.

It was the year 2000 and I was 20 years old.

For about a month, Dad was having a strange problem. His days would start like they always would but an hour or so after he left his home, he would have to come back and take a nap.

He wasn’t doing anything strenuous. He was not a fitness enthusiast. He was into photography, baking, and various forms of lecherous behavior.

It wasn’t long before a doctor’s appointment needed to be made. I remember talking to him on the day that he was supposed to have his appointment. He said he was going to call me after to let me know how it went. It was a mid-afternoon appointment that shouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of hours.

The entire day went by and I hadn’t heard a peep from him. I called his apartment, no answer. He didn’t have a cell phone so in my mind, he was missing.

My only other option was the phone book. After 15 minutes of calling every phone number listed under his HMO that I thought was relevant I managed to track him down. He told me that they were still running tests on him, and getting everything processed was taking a lot longer than usual.

He assured me that he would let me know what the verdict was when he knew.

A couple of days later I get the call from him telling me that it was colon cancer.

It wasn’t so bad at first. Physically speaking he was fine. He didn’t have trouble getting around until the last two weeks.

What was hard about the entire situation was the mental and emotional toll that it took on the both of us. Him, with his impending mortality and me, with my youthful ignorance.

My father was never a social person. It just wasn’t a part of his personality. He’d occasionally meet with someone he used to work with. But his retirement propelled him further into anti-social behavior. Prior to his diagnosis he had become slightly estranged from our family so really, he just had me.

It made it hard not to feel guilty when I’d need some time for myself.

The week before he passed away things were at their absolute worst. He was having trouble getting in and out of the shower. He had a loss of appetite as well as a complete dip in energy level. It got to the point where he needed to have a nurse visit him everyday.

The nurse was the first person who first referred to me as a caregiver. The term kind of threw me off because it was the first time that I had heard it used, let alone applied to me. She gave me a packet on what my role was and what was expected to happen. I remember thinking that everything that I read in the packet was really odd because it was all stuff that had happened, was happening, or it was something that I could see happening in the future. Talk about ‘a day late, and a dollar short’.

What a lot of people don’t realize is, is that regardless of the care giving situation, every one needs a break. The person who is ailing needs to lean on someone else for a while so that the ‘main’ care giver can recharge their batteries and feel like a normal human being. That way, everyone can take a deep breath before they get back to the task at hand.

I don’t regret anything that happened, anything that I did or anything that I did not do. I think that had I had been a little bit older, I would have had the common sense to ask for help.

Getting a break every now and again wasn’t a real problem, finding the courage to open up and talk to someone was.

On a closing note, one of the things that I remember was his morbid fascination with his predicament.

One day, we went for a drive and he starts telling me about this thing that he found on-line. It was a list of things people said to each other upon the death-bed of their loved one, or should one lover die before the other, etc.

Naturally, he posed the question to me: If I croaked next week, what would you say to me on my death-bed?

I took half a second to think about it and I said ‘Save me a spot at the table’.