Why I dislike my kids, let me count the ways

There are so many things to dislike about being a parent of two little kids. A seemingly never ending list of ways that they mess your life, as a fully semi functioning adult, up. 

They don’t listen to a single thing you tell them. Unless there is something in it for them, of course. Otherwise, they will just go happily about their day like the pitch of your voice is at a frequency that their ears cannot hear. You are forced to repeat yourself until you are on the verge of a psychotic break. 

They leave messes everywhere. If my children have clean plates, that means that 80 percent of the food is on the floor. They will dump a bowl of goldfish crackers on the floor and walk on it. They don’t even slow down or wonder what they may have just stepped on.

If they want to play with a single specific toy, they will upturn every bin in the house filled with toys like the FBI serving a search warrant. Half way through, they’ll forget what they’re doing and just exit the room. 

The two previously mentioned scenarios separate parents into two groups: 

  1. The normal people who ignore the mess until A. They have invited someone over and they need to panic clean right up until the moment their company walks through the door, or B. One (or both ) of the parents gets fed up with the level of mess.1
  2. The psychotic people that just always keep a clean house. Don’t get me wrong, I respect you. However, I don’t trust you. 

Once you’ve gotten through all of that fun, then it’s time for bed. Someone reading this, maybe even you, just thought, you just have to have a routine.

Well, we do have a routine. “Five more minutes of show” is repeated 4 times. “Time for bed” is repeated 3 times. My daughter throws a fit and cries because she wants mommy to take her upstairs or she wants to be first up the stairs. “Brush your teeth” is repeated 5-10 times. And after about an hour and half the kids are asleep… and usually my wife as well. I stay up way too late and fall asleep on the couch halfway through shows or movies. It’s routinely chaotic.

Around 2:00 AM, there are two little bodies sleeping in different directions. I have been slapped in the face, kicked in the crotch (one time 5 days after a vasectomy), my face has been sneezed on, and my mouth has been coughed into. 

They are the absolute worst.

Last night, after putting the kids to bed, my wife and I were up together on the couch and I didn’t know what to do. I realized that we hadn’t been up together with our kids in bed in over a month. 

There is one thing that they do, that I truly hate. It’s something that will drive me to tears, literally. I am typing this through tears right now. This is the one thing that I can never forgive them for.

They grow up. 

Every time they do something to make me frustrated, every spill, accident, mess, bad bedtime. When the dust settles, I remind myself that it is one step closer to the last time. 

As my kids get more independent with each day that passes, I am reminded that soon there won’t be anyone for me to eat their dinner or not jump on the couch. Soon the only messes in the house will be my own. Every bedtime story I read is one step closer to the last one. And that eventually, I’ll stop hearing little feet walking into the bedroom to get into bed. I won’t get to laugh with my wife in the middle of the night when a dream makes my son laugh hysterically in his sleep. 

If you’re a parent with younger kids in the middle of it. I feel you. It’s not easy. It can really suck sometimes. 

It’s important to embrace the suck. Try to enjoy every little moment because those moments are ephemeral. 

I love my fucking kids.

Cheers.

Footnote

1My wife keeps an immaculate household always (despite me) this was an example drawn purely from my imagination. She is also an exceptional mother and she is beautiful.

My Good Old Day

If you’re looking for a more conventional April Fools Day story, you can find that here. What follows is a different story that will still give you an opportunity to laugh at me if you are into that kind of thing.

There is a quote from the last episode of The Office delivered by Ed Helms as Andy Bernard that is so touching and relatable.

“I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”

We all know that the time we have is finite and yet we are so often unable to appreciate how impactful events will be on us for the rest of our lives. Days with friends before responsibilities. Time holding your sleeping newborn. 

So often, it isn’t until those moments aren’t available to us that we stop and recognize how great they were.

Sometimes, however, there are moments that pang in your chest just so. That pang rings up in our brains and we know that we need to take in all that is happening. We allow ourselves to be truly present as we are struck with clairvoyance that in years to come we will want to remember what is taking place. 

Today is the five-year anniversary of such an event that happened to me. 

I struggle with being present. I am usually wrapped in worry about what just happened or what might happen next.

April 1, 2017, was a perfect spring day. No, I am not romanticizing the weather because it was a special day for me. It was sunny, in the mid-60s, light breeze. It’s what I refer to as “Tim Weather”. 

My wife was away for a bachelorette party, doing God knows what, while I stayed home with my 12-month-old son. 

Leading up to the weekend, people asked, “who is coming to help you while she’s gone?” As though I would not be capable of keeping my son alive on my own for 48 hours. 

I mean, I get it now. At the time I thought, why does everyone keep asking that?!

I was so excited about the weekend. I knew the weather was going to be amazing so I planned an outing for the two of us. 

I settled on going to one of my favorite places, the University of Minnesota. 

We started in the mall. I took him out of his stroller and let him run around. Since it was Saturday, the mall was quiet with just a few students sitting on the grass studying. Reminded me of when I didn’t do that on Saturdays in college. 

We walked up to Northrop Auditorium and there happened to be a sorority taking their annual picture on the steps. I let Jude wander up to them. He would wave, back then, by raising his hand straight into the air and then opening and closing his fingers. He said, “Haaaaaaaiiii!” And the girls lost their collective minds. 

To this day, Jude makes fast friends with everyone he comes across.

We ate some Cheerios and I put him in the stroller for a little tour of campus. 

It’s so much fun to push a baby in a stroller and talk to them as though they understand a damn thing you are saying. 

We circled back to Coffman for another round of Cheerios. Jude greeted every new passerby with a wave. We rolled around in the grass until it was time for a nap. 

Throughout our time on campus, I knew I was living an unforgettable day. I knew it would be a day that would randomly pop into my head for years to come and it has. 

There is a movie, About Time, that I adore. I used to call it a guilty pleasure movie, but somewhere along the way, I have decided that it is an awesome movie.

That night, after I put Jude to bed, I turned the movie on and decided to have a beer. And another. And another. By the end of the movie, well I was a little drunk. 

The very basic premise of the movie is that the lead character discovers he (and all of the men in his family) can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life.

SPOILER ALERT

In one of the final scenes, Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson, takes his last trip back in time to see his dad before his baby is born. They both know that this is the last time that they will see each other. His dad, played by Bill Nighy, has one last request, it is to go back in time together to a day they spent on the beach together when Gleeson’s character was a boy. 

I realized that if given the opportunity, that day would be the day I would go back to with Jude. 

Still is.

This realization paired with the beer caused me to cry.

Check that sob.

No. It caused me to heave cry audibly for about 15 minutes. Because drinking beer and crying are the things I am best at and I was all out of beer.

April 1, 2017, is one of the best days of my life and I am grateful that I was able to recognize that it was a good old day before I left it.

Cheers.

Flying Kites

It’s the last wave and smile. 

It’s the oversized backpack filled with snow pants. 

It’s independence.

I drove to work crying today, again. 

It’s not a daily occurrence. It’s something that happens on certain days. 

You see, due to a parental scheduling error, my son has been without before school care at his elementary school since the New Year. 

As with most things in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to this situation.

Good: Kids get to sleep in a little. They choose not to of course, but they have the option.

Bad: Mom and Dad get to work later than they’d like.

Good: More time with the kids at home. They have breakfast, watch shows, and getting out the door is a little less hectic.

Very Bad: Dad has to drop off with other parents for kindergarten.

Dropping the kids off is typically Mom’s job, mostly due to work schedule and location.

If you’re a parent, you are most likely thinking, oh it’s a nightmare waiting in line every day to drop off your child for school.

I am not here to tell you that you’re wrong, but it’s not what makes it bad for this Dad.

I’ve come to realize through almost six years of being a parent that your children are like kites. 

Yes, kites, stick with me on this one.

In the beginning, you work to get your kite airborne. Pushing for milestones. Taking ultimate pride in the milestones they hit early. Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, potty training, these are things that mean the wind is picking up and your kite is going to fly.

The first day we dropped my oldest off at daycare he was three months old. I wore sunglasses the entire time, hoping that they would hide the uncertainty, sadness, and tears on my face.

In reality, it made me look like a douchebag. More accurately, a sad douchebag.

That was the day that it struck me. The end of the line that holds my kite, is not attached to the spool in my hand. The line is roughly 18 years long.

The day will come when the last bit of line detaches and I’ll be left with an empty spool with nothing to do but watch the kite fly on its own.

This has created a severe cognitive dissonance for me. 

There are things we do as parents that feel taxing at that moment.

Pushing them on the swing, for example. When you are doing it for the thousandth time, it becomes so monotonous. So, you start educating them on how to swing by themselves. Thinking, if I let out a little more line off the spool, I won’t have to stand here and push them anymore. 

You tell them how to move their legs. They do it wrong. You try to correct. They do it wrong and get frustrated. Then you get frustrated that they won’t try. You say, “if you’re not going to have fun at the park then I guess we’ll just go home.” They cry, so you tell them they can play for 5 more minutes, convinced you’ll have the only child that never learned how to use a swing.

Then one day, out of nowhere, they can swing on their own. That section of line that you so desperately wanted off the spool is off. There is no getting it back. The pang hits you in the sternum when you realize, you never have to push them on the swing again. 

The problem is, the word “have” changed to get.

You’re not sure how it happened but it is there as clear as day. 

You never get to push them on the swing again. 

All you want is to pull the line back in just a little. Just for a minute. Just one more time. 

The spool doesn’t work like that on these kites. 

This is why this morning… and yesterday morning… and a few more over the past week and a half, I drove out of the parking lot with tears rolling down my cheeks. I look at other parents driving out of the parking lot muttering “what the fuck is wrong with you people?” as I notice no one else is crying.

They are moving on with their day and not having an existential crisis.

After he stops, smiles, and waves to me (ugh, the wave is a punch to the gut), he runs to catch up with friends with his backpack bouncing back and forth on his shoulders. I remind myself that this is a good thing. It’s good that he doesn’t need me to walk him in, find his locker, put his backpack away, and go to class. I am doing a pretty good job at flying my kite. 

It helps a little. Eventually, the book that I am listening to in the car distracts me and the sadness fades.

What’s more, I have two kites, which allows me to recognize these important spots in my daughter’s line and cherish them. 

However, too soon, she’ll be the one smiling and waving as she walks into kindergarten. 

All I can do is continue to fly my kites. Keep them away from trees, houses, and powerlines so when the day comes, they’re able to soar.

Until that day, should you need me, I’ll be the idiot crying while flying kites.

Cheers.

The Ice Cream Truck

Well, at least I’m getting a little run in. 

This is my thought as I run out my door in crocs, sweatpants, and a t-shirt with my 5-year-old racing toward the street. 

Let’s back up. 

I recently saw a Tik-Tok. Yes, I’m thirty-six and on Tik-Tok. 

To be clear, I watch Tik-Toks. I do not create them. I’m not sure that makes it better, but there you go. 

Anyway, this Tik-Tok is from a dad’s perspective. He had just finished putting his child to bed. Relieved and recovering from the frustration of his day, he flops onto his couch where he sees his child’s jacket. You then see the pang on his face. A feeling that I’m sure is familiar to parents with toddlers. 

That instant yearning for your child. The fights, frustrations, and tears melt away leaving nothing but the overpowering and all-consuming love. 

Captions on the screen read “Could I have been more patient?”, “Could I have played with them more?”, etc. 

Once again, these are thoughts that run through all parents’ heads often, if not daily. I am constantly battling thoughts like this. 

This past Sunday, while I was preparing food for my wife for Mothers Day, my wife yelled my name from upstairs. 

My heart sinks because, typically, when she yells my name it means something bad has happened. She comes downstairs quickly asking if I have money. 

“What is going on?” I said. 

She looks out the front door and says “I heard the i-c-e c-r-e…”

It’s amazing when you start having to spell everything out in front of your kids, how fast you can pick up on what is being communicated. It’s also amazing how sometimes you forget how to spell even the most basic words.

During the summer months, the ice cream truck comes through our neighborhood almost every Sunday. The sun was out and the temperature was in the low 60’s which qualifies as summer in Minnesota. 

As my wife spelled out “ice cream truck”, I have a moment to decide what to do. I was busy in the kitchen, my daughter needs a nap, I’m wearing sweatpants, and I haven’t showered. 

Normally, I wouldn’t care about that last one, but I am trying out this long hair thing and I don’t really know how to manage it all. It tends to look like I recently got struck by lightning. Not just moments ago, but maybe a few hours ago. 

Point is, it would have been easy to just let it go by and give my kids ice cream from our freezer. However, the ice cream truck might be my 5-year-old’s favorite thing in the world. So I look out the front door, hear the familiar music, and see the truck slowly driving away from my house and decide…

We are catching that fucking truck.

I yell, “Jude! ICE CREAM TRUCK! I’ll go get money!”

Just the look on his face as he processes this information is enough to let me know that I’ve made the right decision. 

I sprint up the stairs to my bedroom, grab a $20 from my jeans pocket, run back down, slip on my crocs, and follow my barefoot son out the door in a dead sprint.

When I say sprint, think light jog for a normal human that is in decent shape.

As we run across the street and get on the sidewalk making our way toward the truck that is 2 blocks ahead, I notice a couple of neighbor kids in their yard pointing in the direction of the truck and yelling for their parents. Then I see their shoulders slump as they had clearly gotten the “it’s too late” answer from their parents. 

As we were about a block away, I realize that I have a giant smile on my face. I can’t help it.

We continue after the truck, which has stopped for a couple of kids and their mom. 

We are going to catch it.

I see the change passed back to the mom and the truck starts to drive away. 

No.

I make eye contact with the mom as she turns. She sees the desperation in my eyes and she yells for the truck to stop. 

We make it to the window. Out of breath, I ask my son what he wants. 

He points to a Batman ice cream and then, because he is an amazing big brother, asks “can we get some for Clementine?”

“Of course!” I said. And we pick an ice cream we think she’ll like. 

My son asks, “why aren’t you getting anything?”

“I don’t want any, but I wanted you to have a treat.”

“You’re the best daddy,” he said. 

And, there it is. If I make nothing but terrible decisions for the rest of 2021, I could still hang my hat on the decision to chase the ice cream truck and call it a win.

You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, oh, so this was just an attempt to brag about being a good dad?

No. 

I do my best to be a good dad, but there are more times that I feel inadequate than great. What’s more, I don’t judge my neighbors for not chasing the ice cream truck because I have no clue what they were going through that day. They may have just gotten back from Dairy Queen for all I know. 

The point is it was simple. It made me feel like a kid. It made my kids unbelievably happy. 

There are so many frustrations in life (especially over this past year) and in raising kids. It’s easy from moment to moment, to forget that the days are long and the years are short. 

So whether you have young kids, grown kids, or no kids at all…

Get out there and chase that ice cream truck. 

Cheers.

Unsolicited Advice

When I was engaged my least favorite part was the unsolicited advice and terrible jokes.

“Your life will be over the minute you get married.”

“You will never have freedom again.”

“Just remember… happy wife, happy life.”

“Happiest day of my life is when I got divorced.”

On and on it went with these bits of wisdom from people I wouldn’t consult with on what type of toilet paper to use.

These people think they are being funny and creative.

Wrong.

They think they are dropping golden pieces of wisdom that will help make a happy relationship.

Nope.

If you are one of these people, stop. Don’t do it. If people want relationship advice from you, they will ask. And, if they don’t ask? Well, there is probably a reason that they aren’t asking you…

I get it, it is a bit of hazing as you enter a new club that so many before have joined. But, it is akin to pulling up next to someone at a stop light and saying, “I see you’ve got a car there. Let me tell ya, if you want it to keep running, you should be sure to put gas in it.”

After getting married, all that stopped, it was such a relief. The reprieve was short-lived as a new group of personal life invaders appeared.

“Soooo, when are you going to have children?!”

Guess what? Whether a couple is going to have children is none of your business.

If you do this, stop. Don’t do it.

This is as inappropriate as asking someone, “what do you and your spouse like sexually? Please, be as descriptive and specific as possible.”

Maybe they aren’t ready. We are in the 21st century and people do not always procreate immediately.

Maybe they are trying but are having trouble that is putting stress on their relationship that you couldn’t possibly understand.

Maybe they never want to have kids and don’t want to see the stupid, confused look on your face when they tell you this.

Slowly, this tide of people does retreat back to sea (with the marriage advice dopes) as people start to assume that you just won’t have kids for some reason or another. Which they love just as much. Why? Because then they tell other people on your behalf that you are not having children.

Seriously, I thought the personal life invaders had left but, alas, I was sorely mistaken. I have encountered what seems to be the worst yet.

Pregnancy, birth and parenting advice givers.

I get it you have had one child or more and now you are an expert. You have the wisdom to impart that I must hear lest my child peril due to my lack of knowledge. You have come to my aid in the nick of time, Super Douche.

I’ll take my chances but… thanks.

“Has your wife been really moody and eating weird things? Because my wife was a total bitch when she was pregnant.”

Well, what a lovely way to talk about the mother of your child. While she was going through one of the most difficult life experiences that a human can encounter, your thought was “what a bitch?”

What is the endgame here? You want me to tell you that my wife is not in the best of moods and that will somehow make you feel better?

“You don’t understand how expensive children are.”

There is no way you can escape this comment. It is always stated as if it is the biggest revelation in the history of mankind.

It isn’t.

Obviously, children are expensive. Thank you for being the John Madden of my life stating the obvious. Thank you for stating this and not following up with any helpful advice or tips on how to reduce costs. You have either learned none, or, you are a sadist that is looking forward to watching parents fail financially. Which is it?

And, finally, we come full circle back to the moron that was giving imparting wisdom before marriage. He has since had a child and would like you to know…

“Your life will be over the minute your baby is born.”

“Live it up now because once you have a kid, you’ll never have fun again.”

How terrible is your life? These are the same people that long for the days of high school when they felt like the popular kids.

I didn’t make the decision to have a child without considering what life would be like afterward. Of course, I will have less time to go out to bars and do the things I have done for the past decade. I will now have a human life that is depending on me to be responsible and make sound decisions…

Oh dear god, what have I done?

Unlike these people, I am happiest when spending time with my wife and now there will be a child that is joining us. I can’t think of anything that I would want more than that.

So, what’s the point?

The point is: mind your business when you encounter people in any of these stages of their life. What is coming next is exciting and terrifying for them. They do not need your weak attempts at humor and life advice.

Stop telling people horror stories because you are insecure about your perceived failures or shortcomings as a spouse and/or parent.

However, if you must give your unsolicited advice. Talk about the good stuff.

Talk about how amazing it is to start a life with someone that you are crazy about.

Because it is amazing.

Talk about how wonderful the time spent as a couple without kids is.

Because it is wonderful.

Talk about what an unbelievable blessing it is to have a child.

Because it is…. well, I don’t know about this part yet. But, I believe it will be. Even though the personal life invaders have tried to convince me otherwise.

I have decided these people are the same as the people that give a one-star product review on Amazon because they couldn’t figure out how to correctly put the batteries in their new label maker.

I want my own experience with being a parent. It will be nothing like yours. I am going to make a million mistakes that other people will roll their eyes at.

That is my decision. It has nothing to do with you. Soon, you will move on to the next expecting parent within arms reach and “help” them.

I guess we will meet again when you need to fill me in on the proper way to retire and die…

Until then.

Cheers.