Archive for July, 2008

 I suppose like most men, I default to archetypal clichés. There are things I like and things I do and frankly, about 100 million others of my species are in the same boat.  Among the more popular, and in no particular order, are;

sports, music, work, sex, sports, eating too much, drinking, driving, enjoying the view once in a while, politically incorrect humor/ comments, hiding emotions more than self-assumed, traveling.

The list could go on and on, but it’s a shortish column and thus important we focus on the business end of all this, that is to say, the actual POINT.

 The morning after my 8 day stretch with the toddler was ended by the return of her Mum (a saint), I found myself on a plane to London to go and see my Mum amidst her seemingly perpetual journey through cancer for the second time. I was relieved, I was relaxed, I had a strawberry margarita. I wore shorts and flip-flops. I didn’t rush to the check-in and christ, I even paid an extra $140 for 8 extra inches (of leg space) on the United flight. Not even the devastatingly uncivilized torture of ‘no seat-back’ entertainment (the airline instead spluttering up some wall-mounted screens doubtless stolen from a rotting TWA fleet in some St.Louis hangar) could derail me from my zen calm.

 I chuckled sagely at the frill-free pretzels, I guffawed at the designated “nutter in my cabin” who loudly re-arranged the seating and in doing so involved 6 other people. And I allowed myself to turn off DJ Goldie on my ipod and get drawn into a particularly scratchy copy of “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, a fantasy film which lives a few blocks away from Harry Potter, the Narnia Chronicles and Lemony Snicket.

It was, as special FX goblin and demon things go, a reasonable way to waste two hours, but then right near the end ‘it’ happened.

 The little shimmering fairies had brought back the young Mr.Spiderwick to see the daughter he’d left behind when he went off to fairly land 70-odd years ago. His daughter, the now 80-year old Joan Plowright, looked beseechingly at him as he said, ‘I left for all the magic out there without paying attention to the magic before my eyes…’ (or something like that) ‘…but I have to go as otherwise the fairies will give me all my years back at once and I shall be a pile of dust (he was 125 years old you see).’

‘Take me with you this time’ said creaky old Joan, and as they left with the fairies, she held his hand and morphed back into being the 12 year old she was when he left in the first place. My lip quivered, my eyes welled up, my heart got achier and I suddenly felt a flush of emotion wash over me. I wanted to cry, and it took all my strength and courage to fight back the tears. I was truly appalled and fascinated by myself all at once.

 ‘God, good GOD man!’ I thought, reigning in the quivering lip and sucking up the tears, ‘this is a low point. Blubbering at the fucking ‘Spiderwick Chronicles’! What the hell are you thinking? People might be watching! Think TOUGH GUY, think MACHO!’

I rubbed my eyes in case anyone was looking, that way it’d look like I had something in them which had caused the well-up. But then I allowed my brain (so-to-speak) to drift a little…Christ I missed the toddler. Jesus I missed the teenager. Jesus Christ I missed the wife.

 I imagined the toddler’s hair smell after a bath, I imagined her saying ‘King Steffypants’ and I imagined her manic laughter as she said ‘he’s getting FUNKY!’ about the member of Kool & The Gang who blows his lips during ‘Jungle Boogie’…

 As I sat mortified by own vulnerability, I recalled the sheer volume of films which have delivered me to ‘that’ point. I pathetically blubbered alone in a hotel room one night at the end of a cable TV screening of “Con-Air”, when Nicolas Cage absurdly offers a burnt and beaten teddy bear to his daughter for her birthday having leveled half of Las Vegas to get it to her. I well up at the thought of Dustin Hoffman and that boy in “Kramer Vs Kramer” when they’re making french toast. And the faucets in my skull open up double-wide at the end of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” when John Candy is sitting all alone at a Chicago subway station on Thanksgiving, having spent 12 minutes lying about a wife who’s now dead when suddenly Steve Martin comes back for him. The look on John Candy’s face when Martin confronts him is like a fire hydrant exploding in my skull.

 It’s pathetic and I know it, but I’ll be damned if I can change it. To do that I’d have to understand it, and the closest I can get is that all of those films (and a dozen or so others) make me realize that for all the posterial pains being a father can deliver, I need the kids and my wife like I need my lungs, and when they’re not with me I breathe a little more uneasily. That and the fact that Hollywood design family films to conclude with that formula more often than not, and the reason WHY they work that formula is because it works on every singly numpty I know, from the typical target to the grouchy ‘cool brigade’ who think they’re above it…like myself. Happily, I never am above it despite my increasingly gentle protestations.

 Of course, the truth is that all these things are merely reflections of deeper realities in our lives. And the biggest one for me, right here, right now, is that as much as it is nice to get a break from everyone now and again, it’s better when we’re all together. All the laughter, silliness, fun, fuss, stress, frustration, taxi driving, just ALL of it is where I want to be in life. And whilst I will piss and moan like we all do, and whilst I will sometimes pray for a break and solitude, these my friends are the days of getting weepy at family films and wanting to be nowhere but in the belly of the beast you yourself co-created. It’s sometimes a hard truth to bear, but believe me when I say for me it is the absolute truth…











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(n.b. if this week’s column appears a little technically sloppier than usual, then go find a proof reader to help you get over your anal-self. I am a tired man this week, and as such, I haven’t had the time to fine-tooth comb the piece for mistakes, so if you see one, pat yourself on the back, buy yourself a sandwich but don’t start crowing to me about it!!! Thank you.)


Good Lord I’m tired…

It’s 9.10 pm.

Day 5 of an 8 day stretch for the toddler without Mum (and big brother) thus day 5 of an 8 day stretch flying solo with me. We’ve had fun, cracking fart jokes, listening to her favorite music such as David Bowie, Jeff Mills, Abba and Kool And The Gang as well as eating dinner  in front of the TV whilst watching the bit of ‘A Bug’s Life’ where one bug screams ‘WHO ORDERED THE POO-POO PLATTER?’ over and over again. Before the TV fascists come out, let me say a wise-woman who has spent many years in France once told her daughter (and our good friend) that in these situations of such intense 1 on 1, it is important to lower your standards for the good of everyone. I like that advice for too many reasons to detail here…

…But anyway, now she’s crying in her room again.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“The giant clam is going CLAM CLAM CLAM at Austin and Pablo, why is the giant clam there in the ocean in the boat with them?”

“Because whoever wrote that episode of Backyardigans wanted to have a giant clam in it, it’s just a story.”

“But why did they want a story with it? The giant clam is too loud, going CLAM CLAM CLAM!”

“Well, remember that on our TV, pretend things never look giant at all, they look small because that’s what a TV screen does. It’s not real.”

“It’s not? Then why did I hear it?”

“Because it as part of the show. Now you should try and go back to sleep…”

“I don’t wanna go to sleep, I wanna talk about it.” 

It’s taking patience, because I have two friends around (my first adult buddies for a week) my tostada is sitting on the table and beside it is a frosty beverage. The first I’ll have enjoyed for two weeks. But I also realize I am in the middle of “Her First Nightmare (TM)”, and as such, I’d best demonstrate all my learned skills and diffuse this one properly; a raised voice and a stern finger-wagging won’t cut it, because this is not a fake situation.

“OK honey, what do you wanna say?”

“Why is there a giant clam in there?”

And truth be told, when she asks for a fourth time, I realize I have absolutely no fucking idea. I mean, who DOES put giant clams in their children’s TV show? I implore them to stand up, clear their throat and to stand up and offer explan-fucking-nation! Because while I can rationalize the Magic Roundabout, with it’s pink cows and Zebedee on a spring, while I can reason the seemingly-nonsenical color swathes of BooBahs, and I while absolutely understand the Teletubbies warbling, I do NOT understand a large bivalve mollusk with zero redeeming features! Seriously, what child-programming genius decides ‘oh cripes! This series really needs an episode with a rather large, giant fuck-off- noisey clam in it, one who looks like it will eat everything it comes into contact with including small children on sofas!” 

“Maybe it’s sad,” I start, “because, well, you know, being a giant clam is no fun because sometimes people look at you and think you don’t look nice when really you are and you want people to know you’re nice but it comes out wrong because you know you don’t look great… it’s sort of like fat people (where-the-hell-am-I-going-here?) are sometimes a bit loud and grumpy (what? What was I on about?) but once you take a moment to be nice to them, like when Uniquewa threw the giant clam a snack, then they’d see you came as a friend…”

Where for the life of me that stream of absolute rubbish came from I cannot tell you. Fat people and giant mollusks don’t have much in common, other than perhaps one group eating to much of the other, and I can happily confirm that as I said it, I knew it was rubbish (sub-conscious self-loathing maybe? Desperation perhaps? Fat people all look like giant clams to me perchance?) and that I had stuck myself in a corner from which I needed to fight out gracefully. With a toddler that keep you on your toes, your brain becomes the only possible line of defence. And so I tried again.

“But why?”

“Why what?”

“Why was the giant clam going CLAM CLAM CLAM?”

“Are you worried about the giant clam?”

“Yeah, (sniff, sniff…)”

“OK, if you think about the giant clam, just shout CLAM NO CLAMMING! really loudly and three times, OK?


“Is that better? Ready for sleep?”


And so down she went and out I went and down I sat, grabbing the beer as my bum swooped towards the couch.


Boing! My bum bounced back off the cushion like a basketball on hardwood floors.

The giant clam had returned.

“But why was he in there?”

“Go to sleep.”

“No no I want to talk about it, I wann talk Dada?” she pleaded before bursting into tears of fatigue and heightened senses.

“Well, as I said it’s pretend, so don’t worry about it.”

“But I am worried Dada, I am………………”

And as the fear took a slow and steady grip of her little heart, it struck me. The saviour. Lorna. Mine and the wife’s polar bear. She’s about a foot tall (the polar bear!) with big beenie fists, a thick Scottish accent and the sort of comfort smells that come from being dragged all over by two grown adults (along with your small brown ursine partner Ewan). Not only that, but the fact that Lorna and the toddler had enjoyed many a vibrant chat just made her the golden ticket away from this stupid clam (note to children’s TV writers -of which I was briefly once a part- instead of fucking around with giant clams, be safe and have talking polar bears).

Behold Lorna, the giant clam basher and toddler protector from the great North! Ewan sits behind…

“Would you like Lorna to come and protect you and help you tell the clam to stop clamming?”


I took Lorna from our bed, gave her to the previously inconsolable toddler and said to her, “I love you very much, this should help.”

“I love you a little bit, but I love Mama lots and wanna see her,” she said as she drifted into sleep after only two minutes, secure in the knowledge that the 1ft bear under her arm could the living shit of anything that moves around these parts. “Nighty night King Steffypants, see you in the morning…”

Well come on, you didn’t think days and counting of solitary time, every-meal prepping, daytrips to Monterey, entertaining, chauffering and helping to rescue her from a giant clam were going to give me a break did you?

…and excuse me if I just sign off now, I know it’s a bit abrupt but it’s because I literally just nodded off with my finger on the K key, and just seen half a screen with the letter ‘K’ making up paragraphs. Put it this way, I’d ta                                                 mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmke a nap if it wasn’t actually  time for bed already

(P.S. did you just see that? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,and this after just nodding out with my finger on the ‘K’  and no, it wasn’t an onomatopoeia…I really need to go…)

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Due to the fact I am on an 8-day run with just myself and the toddler (no wife, no teenager) I find that I don’t have the time to get this bloody column written on the punctual schedule it has been appearing on, especially as my weekly wage for writing it is, err, nowt.

So to the 6 of you who have checked in and been disappointed, fear not, there will be more to read in the next 24 hours, but for now, please bear withe me…




P.S. no, I am not drunk.

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*I will warn you now…if your life is a bed of roses saturated in the scent of an English summer garden, if your DAY is a collection of spotless mess less days with nary a need for a wet-nap let alone one gallon of Pine Sol, or if your life is stewed in denial of the fact that people (especially children) vomit, and do so often with the force of a fire-hose, then don’t bother reading this. However, for those of us who have had to roll our sleeves up in the dead of night and fish through a bug-afflicted meal from hours ago, for those of us who have had to make spot decisions on whether certain clothes are even worth reclaiming via the washing machine or best just tossed in the rubbish, indeed, for those of us who recognize that life is not always a bowl of un-e-coli’d organic cherries, then perhaps, just perhaps, you’ll find something which speaks to you here…


DATELINE – 7/14/08

TIME – 1.35pm

En route from the toddler’s thrice weekly half-daycare session, teenager in the front seat, toddler in the back. 


TEENAGER (aka TGER): Did you throw up today at Kendra’s?

TODDLER (aka TDLR): Nooooo, not today.

TGER: What’s in your throw-up usually?

TDLR: I have sparkly bits in my throw-up.

TGER: I have sparkly bits and Nemo as well in my throw-up.

TDLR: No you don’t! That’s silly! I have sparkly bits and YOU have carrots.

TGER: Do you have anything else in your throw-up other than sparkly bits?

TDLR: (sighs) Yeeeaaaahh…I have sparkly bits and peas and corn…

TGER: …and what color is it?

TDLR: Yellow silly!!!!

TGER: Do you also have fire in your throw-up?

TDLR: (incredulously) NO! THAT’S silly, fire is too hot for my throw-up!

TGER: I have dragons and fire in my throw-up!

TDLR: Noooo, no you don’t, that’s silly Zsa Zsa, dragons are too firey and too hot!

“Yes, you silly silly boy!” I chimed in. The toddler stared off into the distance, a wave of sleep about to mug her (thank Goodness!) whilst the teenager decided it was time for a pot of emotional, sensitive reminiscing with Dad. 

“Remember when I used to throw up a lot,” he said in cheerful earnest, “I know for a fact that I never once managed to actually hit the toilet. I’d get it in the sink, the trash can, on the floor, anywhere except the toilet!” His open, earnest smile earmarked the fact there was no malice or sarcasm intended. Indeed, now I look back, it was nearly a beautiful moment, bereft of undercurrents or games. I developed  grimace on mine because yes, I remembered, I remembered it all very very well. The time in the Midwest when he projected a biliously disgusting ‘porridge’ like substance resplendent with the remainder of  boneless, skinless chicken pieces in a slow-simmer cream sauce and accented with capers and scallions. The moment in his room one night when I heard a cough from the-then 4 year old, peaked around the corner and was met by an oderous tidal wave akin to that of a 30 day-old corpse in an unrefrigerated cheese factory, the ‘sauce’ embedded in the netting of his toddler bed guard rail as well as covering his little stuffy friends, to the extent that many of them had to “move back to their mummies and daddies” as no washing machine could’ve coped. And then there was, indeed, the glorious occasion when the-then 8 year old gallantly showed a turn of speed in sprinting to the bathroom, only to actually miss the toilet or even the garbage can, instead proudly dumping the contents of a mexican dinner in the hand-basin, around the bathtub and on the floor. The true bummer of this particular scenario was that my usual policy in these moments was to the immediately run a warm, relaxing bath and dump them in it as I got out various solvents, thinners and industrial-strength concrete-floor sterilizers. I believe I wrapped him a large towel as I cleaned the tub first, before quickly running him said-bath. 

“Yes yes, I remember,” I smiled back weakly, “those were the days, eh!!!” as we approached the front door, my head spinning from the sheer despicable detail of those memories. Because the truth is, if you don’t have a few of your own (and if you cant instantly smell or touch them) either your child is an alien, you’re the luckiest parent alive or you just haven’t REALLY done your job properly. Not that I want to scare you with any of this, no no, not at all, there’s quite enough out there to scare a parent in modern society, and it appears to me that modern society enjoys trying to scare parents as much as possible.

Case in point? As I sat down to write this column, the phone rang. I viewed the caller ID and saw it was an 800 number. 

“Oh what the hell?” I thought, “why not help some poor telemarketeer by actually giving them a live human catch. I was met by a very grave sounding monotone female voice.

“Do you know how many sex offenders there are in your neighborhood? Do you want to know what they look like and where they live? Call 1-877 266 6277. Did you know that 1 in 5 children are molested every hour? Press ‘1’ to help now…”

The phrasing of that second bit was, to say the least, dubious, and I had to hang-up,  re-read the note I’d hastily jotted down, and read it out-loud in the recorded accent to see it if it actually did sound as unfortunate. Indeed, I finally ended up calling the 877 number back to try and confirm the exact wording and to find out who had constructed such an absurdly ambiguous sentence.

“Hello, National Campaign for Morals and Values, can I help you?”

“Ah yes, I called because I just wanted to see who you were actually and to ask you a ques…”

“Umm-hmm.” CLICK. They hung-up. My morals and values master, aka my Mum, taught me that this sort of behavior was the height of rudeness. Undeterred, I called back to be met by a young, tired, bloodied and beaten male voice buried somewhere in the deep south I would guess. 

“Hi,” I started abruptly, not wishing to give anyone any room to hang up, “I wanted to ask you, is it true that one in 5 children are molested an hour?”

“Yes sir, one in five children are molested an hour.”

“One in FIVE? Crikey that’s alot!” I said vigorously.

“Yes Sir, it is Sir…I have more information if you have a pen there?” 

“I’m afraid I don’t have one handy, ” I lied, a pen sitting not 3 inches from my fingers,” I’ll probably call back for more information, but can I ask, are you a denomenational group?”

“Yes Sir, we are a Christian-based non-profit group who right now are concentrating on the evil of child abuse in our communities to reach out…”

I had heard enough. Thanking the poor sop (for he sounded harmless and gormless enough, a brain-washed product of some zealot school of thought no doubt), I reflected on the fact that with these fine people on my side, my children (I am led to believe) are in safe hands. And then I surpressed the urge to dial them back and press ‘1’ for further information, just to be absolutely sure…

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I LOVE waking up in my freshly laundered, crisp, cool white sheets (1) to be greeted by one member of the family handing me a warm double espresso with a side of lemon-infused Evian (2). I dismiss them with a grunt of thanks, stretch, yawn, fart, sip my espresso and Evian languidly and skip merrily to the unfettered bathroom with my laptop (2) where I cheerfully check my e-mail and the UK Guardian’s website. Having delivered an enormous payload (yet needing only one, small square of paper and a solitary wet-wipe to find total cleanliness (3) ), I dance freely out of the toilet to be greeted by the teenager and toddler each saying ‘morning Dad/Dada’ in unison (4) followed by ‘what would you like for breakfast?’ (5). ‘Oh!’ I exclaim with a large beam of excitement and happiness on my face, ‘how about a nice plate of scrambled eggs with some toast and fresh melon, accented by smoked applewood bacon (6) – no omelet today as I MUST watch that ‘fatherly figure ho-ho-ho’ to which they say ‘of course Dad, give us 10 minutes…by the way, you look in great shape!’ (7) I retire to the bedroom again, enjoying the cooling breeze of the large bedroom fan blowing on my temporarily prostrated naked behind (8 – for the fan, not my naked behind) as I slowly pet the cat, Fluffy (9). Then I decide I have time for a quick piping hot soak in the bath (10) to rejuvenate muscles tired from the previous evening’s soccer, and as I leave the tub I am met by my wife brandishing a smile and a light bathrobe (11) before being led back into the bedroom where we spend 10 minutes saying ‘hi’ (12) in blissful uninterruptance. When we are interrupted, it is by the children knocking very quietly (13) and saying even more quietly “breakfast is ready Dad/Dada and we went ahead and put it out in the garden at the outside table under the gazebo,” (14) where Fluffy has since gone and re-settled on the chair next to mine (15). I eat my breakfast and hear nothing but the occasional wind-chime, twittering bed and thunderous purr of Fluffy mingling with blissful laughter from all remaining family members inside the house (16). Having finished my breakfast, I am about to carry my plate upstairs when the teenager appears from nowhere and says ‘no worries Dad, leave that to me!’ (17). I go upstairs, refreshed and fed, pop on a comfy pair of shorts and a brand new never worn before t-shirt (18 ) straight from the package before checking the day’s Spurs news to find we have signed one of the great stars in world football to an unbreakable 5 year contract (and who’s debut I’ll see on a return business visit to England in mere weeks (19) before settling in the front of my brand new, leather seated, all-mod-cons Infiniti, surrounded by the smiling faces of family all around me as we traverse to begin our days (20).


I HATE waking up in my three-week old, dusty, crusty sheets (1) to be greeted by one member of the family screaming ‘HEEELLOOOOO HELLLOOOOOOO’ as loud as their little tiny-yet-deadly tonsils can project (2). How, I ponder whilst lying stupefied by her vocal volume, does a frame so small make so much f***ing noise?  I dismiss them with a grunt, stretch, yawn, fart, haul my aging carcass out of bed and slump off to the dirty towel laden, book-strewn bathroom with my laptop where I  check my e-mail and the UK Guardian’s website. Having delivered an enormous payload (where I find I need half a roll of paper and 6 wet-wipes to achieve a degree of cleanliness (3) ) I lurch out of the toilet to be confronted by the teenager and toddler each saying ‘I WANT BROWN THINGS/WHAT’S FOR BREAKFAST/AM I MAKING MY LUNCH OR CAN YOU GIVE ME MONEY TODAY?!’ in unison (4) followed by the toddler saying very VERY LOUDLY THAT SHE NEEDS TO PEE AND WANTS THREE M&Ms before breakfast(5). ‘Oh!’ I exclaim with a large does of sarcasm in my voice, ‘ yes I WOULD love breakfast. How about a nice plate of scrambled eggs with some toast and fresh melon, accented by smoked applewood bacon – no omelette today as I MUST watch that ‘fatherly figure ho-ho-ho’ to which the teenager says ‘too late for that old man, the figure’s in double digits!’ (6). “MAKE A BLOODY SANDWICH FOR LUNCH AND GET SOME FRUIT TOO!” I bellow before retiring to the bedroom again, where I am asked to turn the fan off because the ‘cat hates it’ (7) – for turning the fan off, not the cat) and as I slowly pet the cat, Fluffy, I notice he has deposited a vomitous hairball right next to my pillow  (8). Then I decide I have time for a quick piping hot soak in the bath before being told we are running late so bag it (9)  and as I leave the never-filled tub in the crap-infested bathroom I am met by my wife brandishing a worried look as she tries to find her badge/phone/wallet/keys (10) before being led back into the bedroom where we spend 10 minutes continuing a small dispute from the night before (11) in uncomfortably long uninterruptance. When we are interrupted, it is by the children knocking the crap out of the bedroom door (12) and the toddler running up to the open window, shoving her head out and screaming ‘WHOO-HOO! BOOBS!’ at the street and anyone in it (13). I look to find my favorite shorts and a freshly washed t-shirt only to see them nestling under a pile of dirty clothes at the end of the room marbled with sweat marks (14) and then I go to wash myself, brush my teeth and end up drying my face in a towel which is stale, old and smells of dried dirty socks (15). I plan a quick escape to the coffee shop for an iced coffee but am shot down by the clock and all who brandish it in our home (16) and am then met by the teenager. ‘I’m ready,’ he says. ‘Brushed your teeth? Made your lunch?’ I reply. The answer is a ‘MUUWAAGGHHURRMMPPHHH’ (17) before he slips off to his lair. ‘I’ll still need lunch money!’  he barks as he leaves.  I pace around upstairs as everyone gets their stuff together, un-caffinated and un-fed (18), quickly check the day’s Spurs news to find we have not even got close to signing one of the great stars in world football to an unbreakable 5 year contract (19) before settling in the front of our 1996 Infiniti G20 sans air-conditioning but imbued with the faint smell of 3 year old yoghurt wafting around when the weather gets beyond 50 degrees. There I am met with a final list of pick-up times and last-second practices in all corners of the Bay-bastard-Area that me and my cab-driving schlepper’s arse are expected to be at punctually to provide pick-ups (20)!!!!!!!!

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For the umpteenth time this week, she simply would not put the train down when I asked.







To say my patience was being extended would, indeed, be an understatement of the situation. Put it this way, if I myself were a bit of knicker elastic, I’d have snapped and pinched my owner hours, even days, earlier. 
Engaged as the toddler and I were in yet another war of attrition, this one appeared to be heading for a tearful ending whereby I would simply shout so loudly that glasses would crack, neighbors would stare and my own self-loathing would kick me harder than a cattle-prodded mule. This time the toddler sensed the end-game, came running over and threw herself at me in a hugging gesture that was designed to deflate, diffuse and appease the situation. As she gripped me with vice-like strength, and as I drank the hug like a fine, delicious wine, I realized that this was backwards. Indeed, once the dust had settled and the day had moved on to become evening I found myself recoiling at the fact that i had been every inch the child too. 

Now let me be very clear on this; I have ALWAYS had childish tendencies with my children. I often have to refrain from addressing my teenager in ‘ghettoese’ because despite the fact it is CONSCIOUSLY meant as some absurdist sarcastic pun on his generation, the SUB-CONSCIOUS/CONSCIOUS truth is that I occasionally ENJOY sounding like a complete and utter teenage prat. It’s like farting and belching. These are not the sorts of things parents need to engage in when ‘parenting’ their children, but show me a father who says they have not giggled about an errant fart or belch with their child and I will show you a liar or someone who knows their children’s behavior only via Consuela the au pair.

But this was childishness of a different type, not the ‘funny-farting-noise’ type. This was childishness in the frame of insular behavior, of the ‘me’ not ‘you’ world, of the sort that sees toddlers-and-up standing toe to toe, each one yelling louder and louder before the whole scenario becomes two people shouting at each other with nobody listening, everybody angry and everybody hurt. And of course it never, ever works. In fact, it fails miserably and will further make sure you’re unpopular with anyone who can hear you, which at the volume you’ve been talking means most of your block. The icing on the cake? That one of those engaging in this childish behavior, indeed the one initiating it, is, in fact, 41 years old. The Greeks have a word for such things…

“Choose your battles!” my mother once said (and said and said and said it seemed to my tired young ears) but bless her, she was right! I mean, of what global importance is it that the toddler took a 30 second detour via the tea-party set before coming over to get her fairy knickers on?  Will her carbon footprint somehow increase because she picked up a 3 inch car before coming over to me when I told her to do so?  The reality is that these are not moves of insubordination; they are the moves of a toddler. And the problem for this toddler is that she has the lip and curl of a 7 year old (again who’s fault is that we must ask ourselves?) thus she is often expected SUB-CONSCIOUSLY OF COURSE, by me, to ACT like a 7 year old. Which is, of course, unreasonable. And what a relief it was to arrive at this epiphany (my wife snorted as I breathlessly explained how amazingly introspective and clever I was, “You’ve arrived there a few times before,” she sighed, “you just need to remember these epiphanies instead of repeatedly having them.”), how freeing, how wonderfully liberating to be such a hyper-aware father! And SO much more fun for the recipient too!

I often wrack my brain trying to remember what on earth the teenager was like as a toddler, because I’ll be damned if I remember it being like this in any way, shape or form. 

“How is he?” my mother asked recently during an enforced hospital stay for low white blood cell count (a perfectly normal byproduct of prolonged chemotherapy I have been assured).

“Oh the same, typical pouting ‘muuuwwuuuaarrrggghh’ behavior, protruding bottom lip, the awareness of a selfish self-centered teenager, the…”

“Is he out getting drunk? Is he shooting heroin? Is he snorting cocaine? Is he having relationships with older women? No? Well then he’s doing just fine…”

The first three were abstracts, the sort that people use when wanting to refer to ‘troubled teens.’ The last was a direct reference. As a teenager, and one of roughly my teenager’s teen age, I had a torrid affair with a woman a decade older than me. She had moves for days, loved rock’n’roll and knew how to appeal to a dumb young toad such as myself. Put it this way, I nearly threw away a life of rock’n’roll journalism for the Grays-Essex Asda hypermarket as a stockroom aide ( I’d have surely been an assitant manager by now) but I got where she was going. Clearly. Coupled with the fact that my friends and I had been getting drunk on cider and barley wine since we’d been 13, and my Mum had once again, annoyingly, made an excellent point. The teenager is actually doing well. Indeed, at the speed the toddler’s moving, I should start praying for this style of teenage passage.

What will also be intriguing when she’s a teenager, is whether she has any tall friends.

“I don’t like Danny,” she recently locked in on saying about one of the teenager’s best friends. “Is Mark Abramson tall?” she inquired about a work partner of mine that we were driving to meet. “If he’s tall I don’t want him to sit back here.” “Danny is too tall!” she will freely say whenever his name comes up, but apparently Frankie, another of the teenager’s pals, is, “not too tall, he’s fine, he’s OK.”

“Will you have any tall friends?” I asked.

“Noooo, not really,” she sighed, rolling her eyes the tiniest bit.

“Aren’t I a tall friend of sorts?”

“Nooooo, you’re not too tall Dada, you’re OK.”

Consigned to the land of midget acceptability I see…

Basketball, it would appear, is not in her future… 



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