June 12, 2012

My Daughters, Tablets From Sinai

As I'm sure you all know, I am a deeply religious man.  I am constantly prostrating myself before the idol of irony, often involuntarily.  I would like to offer up the Commandments by which I attempt to live and parent.  I hope that they will be useful to you in your own spiritual journey through parenthood.

I will also state that I don't follow these nearly as often as I would like because I am a hypocrite and controlled by my emotions.

But I do try.

So, without further ado:

The Ten Commandments of Fatherhood

1) Thou Shall Suspend Thy Sense of Shame

You don't have to do this.  Really.  It's totally cool if your child grows up without imagination and thinking that you think everything they do is stupid.  It's important for kids to learn early that there is no tea in the toy tea pot and that Mr. Huggles doesn't walk around the house, crying, waiting anxiously for the child to get home from day care so that they can play together.  To this end, make sure that you never let your kid watch any animated movies, or really anything that isn't a documentary.  Even then, nothing from the History Channel.  You don't want them thinking about alien contact, or Stonehenge.


I think I have that backwards.

DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS!  Creativity and imagination stimulate the brain and will give you smarter, more amazing children!  You spent your life up to this point building up your street cred for the sole purpose of blowing it all to make your kids feel good and be happy!

Why do you care if the 70-year-old in the sporting goods section of Wal-Mart thinks that you're crazy because you're making the peanut butter beg your toddler not to eat it?

So what if you're wearing miss-matched socks, one sandal, one rain boot, a fishing hat, a flannel shirt and biking shorts to return some books to the library?  It made your kid happy to pick out your clothes and, to be honest, I've seen your reading list.  When you take those books back, your wardrobe will be the least of your concerns.  (Side note: Checking out Fifty Shades of Gray at the same time as A Brief History of the Whip and anything by Mercer Meyer will get you funny looks no matter what you're wearing.)

2)  Thou Shall Abandon All Plans

They won't get done.  Kids don't care about your schedule.  They are no respecters of quartz-run Swedish time pieces, or atomic clocks.  They REALLY don't care what time the movie starts or when your reservations are for.  On the contrary!  They will save a massive diaper bomb all day in anticipation of your running just slightly late.  They know that your wife will spend an extra three minutes chatting with the babysitter and they plan for it.

At the 2:37 mark, they will unleash a torrent of unpleasantness that would have Andy Dufresne crawling back into his cell.  They also know that your wife will feel terrible leaving this crotch-strapped sack of unholy passive-aggression for the babysitter to deal with (even though that's part of what you pay them for...)

You are left with two options at this point:

1) Lie to everyone!  If the movie starts at 8, tell them it starts at 7:30.  If the reservations are at 7, tell them that the kitchen closes at 6.  Build a buffer into your plans.  A buffer of lies and deceit.

2) Resign yourself to the fact that your carefully planned evening, the first one with your spouse in 4 months, will end up with you eating  take out in your car, parked outside the house of a neighbor who happens to have a particularly large TV near a window.

Your choice!

3) Thou Shall Let It Go

Author's Note: I profoundly suck at following this one.

Things can be repaired, messes can be cleaned, clothes can be refolded.  Pillows can be put back on the sofa and beds can be remade.  Toys can be put back in the toy box.  Flour can be cleaned off of the kitchen floor and Vaseline can be cleaned off of the TV stand (eventually.)

Kids make messes and those can be cleaned up.  Accidents happen.  Deal with it.  If you can't, perhaps you should find a new line of work, like building hermetically sealed boxes.

This leads directly into...

4) Thou Shall Accept Responsibility For Broken Items

If your kids DO break something that cannot be repaired, or cleaned, or is prohibitively expensive to do so, IT'S YOUR OWN FAULT!

What were you doing letting her play with a string of heirloom pearls in the first place??  When the kids wake up, move your open coffee or orange juice away from your laptop!  Or better yet, put the laptop away from where they can reach it!

If you have a huge room of toys, your kid will find a hacksaw in the corner and only have eyes for that.  Children are hurricanes!  They start off with a nice refreshing breeze to lull you into a false sense of security, only to wait until you happily sunning yourself on the beach of parenthood.  Then, they bring rain, hail, 200 mph winds and pencils that can fly through telephone poles.

They will wreck havoc on your home, bringing shocking amount of destruction to certain parts while leaving others untouched.  They will level the neighborhoods of Yourstuff, Expensivethings and Itemsofyourchildhood and, miraculously, Toytown and Stuffedanimalville will remain unscathed.

It happens.  If your Faberge egg gets broken, it's your own stupid fault for leaving it where a toddler could get to it.  Take responsibility for broken electronics and family heirlooms with the following phrase: It's my fault, sweetie.  I should not have left that at toddler height.

With that said,...

5) Thou Shall Not Be Afraid To Destroy Thy Home

Kids adore using things for purposes other than what the manufacturer intended.  They want to use spatulas and spoons as catapults and they want to use diapers as hats.  If you can turn a regular household item into something fun, do it!  Worried about the mess?  See Number 3!  You'll have a great time and, more importantly, your kids will be tricked into thinking that you're awesome!

If you spend 10 minutes building a pillow fort and the kids want to knock it down and have you have build it again, YOU DO IT!

6) Thou Shall Abandon Nutritional Ideals

Remember when you were a child in a '50's era  TV drama and came in from playing baseball behind the old McNulty place only to find that mom had, once again, made a dinner you didn't want?

"Gee wiz, ma! Tuna casserole again?"
"Gosh, Tommy! I slaved all day over a hot stove and you'll eat what I put on your plate, or so help me, you're father will hear about this when he gets home!"
"I think it's just the tops, Mrs. K!"
"Thank you, Richie!  You're very polite! Tommy, you could learn a thing of two from this young man!"

Or something like that.

The point is, you'll plan all sorts of ideas for meals and your kids will throw all of it on the floor except the bread.  Balanced meals to a toddler only means that they don't overturn the high chair.  Offer them what you want them to eat, but be prepared for them to scoff at your choices, starting at birth.

"Curse you, mom!  I don't want left-boob!  I'm a right-boob only baby!"

7) Thou Shall Have Flexible Principles

Your kid does not care that you're a vegan.  They want what they want and they don't care about the ethics of farm-raised animals or fair-trade string beans.

I'm not saying that you have to abandon everything you hold dear, but you do need to develop a certain level of flexibility.

Before they were born, I swore I would not let my kids watch TV.  That did not work out so well.  The best I can do now is limit the amount of programming we allow them to see.


8) Thou Shall Remember The Age Of Thy Children

If you're trying to argue the merits of bed time with a 2 year old, you're an idiot.  Remember how old your kids are and make sure that you don't have unreasonable expectations of them.  To quote Louis CK, you must ask yourself "WHY? What is to be gained?"

All too often, I find myself asking my daughter why she is throwing food, or biting a doll, or yelling incoherently.

The answer is always the same: Because, dad, I'm 2!  I forget this WAY too often

9) Thou Shall Not Compare Your Children To Other Children

Your kids are amazing!  They are incredible!  If you start down the path of "Bill's kid is two months younger and can already Riverdance!" then you will make yourself nuts.

Don't even compare your kids to your other kids!  So what if one kid walked at 3 months and the other is just sitting there watching American Idol on her 3rd birthday?  Kids develop at different rates and have different milestones.

Besides, my kids are better, smarter, faster and cuter than yours anyway.

10) Thou Shall Chronicle Everything

Take pictures.  Take them by the millions.  Buy extra storage on your iPhone to keep them all.  Buy an external hard drive with 50TB of space and then buy another.  You can always go back and delete bad pictures, or ones that you are in, but you can never go back and take more.  Your kid will only 149 days old once.  They will only have 1 first birthday party.

Take videos.  If your kids is chatting away about unicorns and birdseed, put your camera on the table and tape the whole thing!  Video editing software has made leaps and bounds so that you can always edit out your cousins racist rant later!

You will not be sorry.



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