Thursday, August 30, 2007

Down to the Wire

School is just a week away, and like most parents who have spent the summer home with the kids, I can't wait. Finally, both knuckleheads will be in school all day, which means a major break for me, although I do have to find a job. But at this point in time, they need structure, and they need it somewhere else than here. It is maddening, to find them at each other's throats one second, and then pals the next, only to return to throttling pirates the next. Ask any parent, who by this time, is so burnt out from trying to be creative and from yelling for months, just what it is like. You'll get that Vietnam vet type response, that cold stare, of horrors unknown, as they try to brush aside the inquiry. But it is a big deal, and even I can't begin to describe the insanity, of the torture of asking someone a multitude of times to do something so simple. And now, there's a light on the horizon, in the shape of a school bus. And that bus is headed this way. This year, I might actually do mimosas at the bus stop.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What? No New Posts Lately?

Of course not. Time, for parents, is a flexible and elusive thing. And non-parents often bask in the future glow of child rearing, thinking it will be such a sweet existence, an Elysian Fields experience, a real Disney moment, where troubles don't exist. I say, don't count on it. The same way a high school graduate looks toward the unknown of college, as a place to be experienced, where things will be better, life will be better, far from the constraints of home. Most kids find out you don't get laid every day, grades might matter, oh, and you do have to pay those loans back.

But back to time. There are times where, having forgotten a load of laundry in the washer, I find it again days later, only to have to clean it again to rid it of a nasty musk smell it acquired. And yes, having to do it again a few days later for the same reason. Foolish, you say? Of course it is, but parents don't exist on the same level plane as unmarrieds, or those without kids. The only times you are acutely aware of are those that have an immediacy attached - a doctor's appointment at 2:00, say, or a play date at 10:30. Everything else is vague, at least until the spouse gets home. Why? There is no real structure for the short attention span of kids, and get a few together, of different ages, and the clock becomes meaningless. One gets up real early, the other sleeps in. This skewers meal making, and also puts a slant on who gets to watch what ("he's been up watching cartoon network for hours, and I just got up," for example). And you can try to salvage it at lunchtime, but if one of them has an intermediate snack before lunch, again, you're kind of screwed.

Of course, given they both get up at different times, they both go to sleep at different times, and this is not unlike the several levels of Buddhist hells found in Japan. Maybe it's Shinto, I can't remember. "But I'm not tired," says one, and you can argue until you're blue in the face. But you'll be up, unable to watch anything remotely violent or sexy on television yourself, anything that might be a tad stress relieving, something to take the edge of a long, timeless day. And the last thing you think about is posting to a blog that no one reads. So that accounts for the infrequency of posts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Parenting and Bad Business

When an idea hits, sometimes it feels like a load of bricks. And I know what a load of bricks feels like, because I carted several from the driveway to the backyard, where they sit, awaiting installation into a patio of sorts. But back to the idea thing, because it hit me the other day, that being a parent is like running a really bad business. Think over your job, if you have one, and think how work flows. You show up, roughly on time, do what's asked, and in turn ask others to do things, maybe you go to lunch, and you look forward to the weekend. Not too bad a life. Imagine, for a moment, you had to tell your co-worker to do something simple, say, make copies of a presentation or something. So it'd go something like this: "Hey Frank, can you copy the Henderson presentation? Thanks." Pretty simple stuff, eh? Now imagine a world of kids. The tasks are different, but you basically want them to do something, say, put a few crayons back in a box. That would go more like this: "Hey, Frankie? Can you put those crayons back in the box please?"

Now, if you're not a parent, you might picture a cherubic little face beaming back at you, and the crayons get whisked back into the box. But if that's what you see, you're either not a parent, or a very optimistic person. Because what usually happens is more like this: "Frankie? Did you hear me? Can you please put the crayons back in the box?" And still there's no response from the kid, because whatever he is doing, watching a Japanese cartoon on a Japanese television, playing a Japanese built game, or just picking his nose(which could be Japanese, depending on . . .), is loads more important than answering a question. So again, you go, "Frankie? Frankie! Do you hear me? Can you get those crayons back in the box?!" And if you're lucky, you'll catch his ear a bit and he'll start looking in your direction, but then shift back, unless you pounce on the moment. "Frankie! Hey, did you hear me? Look over hear please." And as a word of warning, your polite phrasing only lasts so long, but you'll see why later. Say he does look, and you think he hears you. Doesn't matter, because he's turning back to the cartoon.

So now some avenues open up for you - You can either pick up the crayons yourself, which would be easiest and painless, but you're sick of always picking up their stuff, and besides, he's old enough and should start learning on his own. It's that instructive instinct, that "I will make my kids turn out better than everyone else's kids" feeling that is both good to have, and a reason to drink. So you decide, nah, I won't pick them up, I'll get the lad to do it. Now you have two options, either keep yelling at him, because talking in a nice polite voice can't compete with robots firing rockets, or stand in front of the television, blocking his treasured cartoon, and getting his attention. If you try the former, you'll find your voice and your stress level slowly rising. There are many reasons, but a big one is because you can't understand why someone a few feet away can't hear you, or respond to you, because you're asking a simple question. And even the thought of a simple question is interesting, because you find yourself gauging the stakes of the task. You get frustrated, because you're not asking him to construct a 30 foot minaret in the back yard, you're not asking him to do invasive surgery in the middle of the rain forest at night with no scalpel, you're not asking him to replace the lifters on a 69 Chevy motor. You, yes you, picture this as a task so simple a child could do it. And therein lies the rub. A child could do it, but he isn't doing it, and your brain, which, in all it's grand experience, is used to people responding to simple tasks that you ask of them. It worked at work, remember? Remember how even that job seemed so shitty, when you asked someone to get you a coffee, or copy something, it happened, even though they didn't like you, or were never on time to work, or whatever?

Yes, now, a task, so simple, so ludicrously easy, something so easy a child could do, is not being done by a child. So without thinking, you raise your voice. You holler. You stand in front of the television, or you turn it over, evoking a violent reaction, and possibly tears. Something so simple that should take, oh, 20, 30 seconds tops, is now a major event, in the 5 to 10 minute range. And you might find a voice coming from deep within, a dark, beastly voice, telling, well, yelling is more like it, yelling that these crayons had better be picked up now, or else. You'll know that voice, the coive oyu thought you never had. But that's another story.

And after this horrible episode, you reflect on parenting, and how no one ever gave you a book of rules, and how you figured kids would be easy, no problem, they're smaller, what harm could they do? You wonder if your parents were the same, endured the same struggles, and the answer has to be yes, and now you understand why parents love grandchildren so much, and why they give you a hard time when they see you raising your kids. They do it, because they have been in the shit before, and they remember when you were a teenager, and were going to save the world, and do all these things that your parents didn't approve of or think was a good idea because you were going to be different than them, do things the right way. They know what will happen, they've been though it. They take care of your kids, happily, because they don't have to live with them. If they want to see a movie in the middle of the day, they can, and you can't. Oh, and if your kids ever do go to your parent's house, and granny asks them to pick up crayons, they do. In a heartbeat. Sucker.

So parenting is like running a bad business, because none of your employees do what they're told when they're asked, they don't show up on time for anything (tell your kids to be at the door at a certain time, and see for yourself), and you find yourself stressed out, yelling yourself hoarse from time to time. Or they do something incredibly stupid, and it drives you nuts. Oh, and these incidents happen all day long. Gotta go now, I hear the kids are hollering.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday fun

Well, the basement got picked up, the boys were rewarded (doubly, since today is fast food Friday - we only eat junk food on Fridays, or are only supposed to), and lo and behold, a weekly newsletter comes through in e-mail with what one aspect of my life is like. Here is the description and the link:

Kung fu child beater The addition of some simple sound effects and abit of trick camera work and it genuinely looks like this guy is beating the crap out of his kids under the guise of teaching them martialarts!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Where was I?

Oh right, so we go outside to play baseball, because the younger just got a new bat and batting helmet (5 bucks each at Wal Mart clearance), and after countless batted balls, including a few 70 mph wiffle balls to the chest, again they're bored, and want to go inside. Fine, I say, now you can get back to cleaning the basement, which, after a quick inspection, hasn't been cleaned at all. "Just put the stuff you keep in the plastic bins, that's all you have to do." In the back of my mind I assume they heard me and understand what I say, but as a parent, such a belief is laughable. Again, utopia exists only in the mind. A perfect world where people hear you and understand you. I may as well be speaking in a Polynesian click tongue dialect. I know, for example, that they aren't cleaning right now as I write. How? Because a few minutes ago, one came up and said the elder wasn't helping to clean. "Fine, so if the basement does get clean, you'll get 2 dollars and he'll get nothing." Off he goes, and after a few minutes, here comes the elder, ready to deal. "What if sometimes we do stuff and get paid, and sometimes we don't" he offers, and I put the screws on - "Listen," I say, "I could yell at you, and tell you how you promised me you would clean the basement because we got the nerf guns. But I too tired to yell. If you can't clean it up, I'll take the guns back to the store." And you can hear the gears turning, and he's looking a way out, but he's a bit stumped. As he heads off to the basement, I tell him I'll call mom and tell her that he didn't do what he promised. This works like a static electricity shock after a 25 foot friction walk across the carpet. He starts getting defensive, and says he'll clean. But I doubt that's happening. Why? Because I can hear them walking around, and I am two floors up. This means they're not in the basement. And sure enough, a few minutes later they both come up, complaining of hunger. Fine, I say, go clean the basement and we'll start dinner. After a brief discussion of options (mac and cheese with hot dogs wins out), they both go off to clean the basement again.

So what's the moral of the story? Well, after 24 hours, of which I slept for 5, there's been a promise to clean the basement. Most of the work so far has been done by me, some by the younger. Their short attention spans have prevented them from cleaning, and when they sought other things to do, they soon tired, and I had to remind them to, uh, what was that? Oh yeah, clean the basement. And what happens when mom comes home? The place is still a mess, the kids are angels, I am still tired, and wait, here come footsteps up the stairs. . . it's the younger, asking if he can have a frog tattoo (little kiddie tattoo) on his arm. I tell him his mom likes putting them on him, can he wait till she gets home? He agrees. I ask if the basement is clean, and like a game show contestant looking up to the heavens in search of an answer, he pauses, and says, "uh, it's a little bit cleaner." So the basement is still not clean, and I'm too tired to think.

When you're tired

If you don't have kids, you don't know what tired is. Oh sure, once in a while you yawn, wish for a day in a hammock, or loafing on a floating raft in a pool. But don't kid yourself; you don't know tired. Take today, for example. The knuckleheads (reference term for the kids) promised they would clean the basement today. I know they promised to do it, because I said they could use their gift cards to Toys R Us and get nerf guns on the condition they pick up their toys. So we got the guns, and they are wicked fun and shoot nerf darts like 35 feet, and have velcro tips and stick to the nerf chest protectors. It's a hoot. Anyway, on my way to bed last night, both knuckleheads were spawled over my bed and the wife, so I went back downstairs to sleep on the floor (back hurts from a patio install, but that's another story). So I didn't sleep well. And I had to move a ton of stone and hammer it down with a compactor in the morning, because all week it's been hot and humid and I sweat more than an hour episode of the Biggest Loser. So I didn't mind being too tired. And who knew the humidty and heat would break late in the day?

So I give them the option of helping me outside, or cleaning the basement. So they choose outside. And I move stone, and compact it, and sweat, and they get a little exercise. And then they get bored. Why? I don't know. It's what kids do during the summer when they have more than ten minutes free. The garage is littered with toys and sporting goods. The basement is a swamp of toys. But they're bored. Fine, you go clean the basement while I take a shower. And I presume that's what they do while I wash the stink off, because Utopia only exists in the mind. In the real world, they're playing Star Wars Lego on the computer. Or spiderman on the old Dreamcast. But not cleaning. So I start going through the big plastic tubs that hold all the stuff that isn't on the floor. "Keep it or toss it?" becomes the line. But now it's like christmas and a 20 year high school reunion rolled into one. Toys they haven't seen for days - "That's my mechanogodzilla!" "Oh look! It's the Power Ranger I was looking for!" and so on. Eventually though, i clear out 4 large plastic bins, have 2 garbage bags filled for some lucky impoverished kids via Salvation Army, and all I ask is they put the stuff they kept in the bins. I take the bags to the car. I decide we all go to the drop off bins now, to get rid of it. Gone, and done. We make a side trip to drop off returnable bottles, and from somewhere the idea comes that they should get paid to clean the basement. Fine, a dollar each if you do a good job.

So back home, I watch part of the Mets game, and am having trouble staying awake. The back is slowly locking up, and getting 5 hours sleep on the floor is paying dividends. One knucklehead tells me I'm falling asleep. I tell him it's because I didn't sleep well, since I was on the floor, and they were in my bed. Shortly after that, the other one is screaming to me that I am falling asleep, and can he watch something on the tv. No, I am watching the Mets game, go down stairs and clean the basement. So they go downstairs. After a while, they come up and want to go outside. Fine. I'll finish this later, I hear screams coming from the basement.

Welcome to the nuthouse . . .

I have been asked to start up a blog, to spew forth humorous observations about the world in general, and so off we go. Nothing earth shattering at the moment, since I'm tired, my back hurts, and the afternoon looks like it's going to be a long one. So there you go.