Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do-det-do-do... wah-wah-waaahhh....

I think I've mentioned it before, but I work in a non-profit that supports families with children that have a specific condition. I know I'm being vague, but they say that the fastest way to get fired is to blog about work, and I like my job enough that I don't want to screw it up. So, please bear with me. The important thing is that, given we work with children and families, our organization is very family friendly, to the point that I see all of my coworkers' children in the office quite frequently.

I know what you're thinking... you're thinking, "Geez, that sounds terrible! How do you get anything done?" And, if I had to answer honestly, I'd tell you that yes, it is terrible, and no, I don't get anything done. Thankfully, most of the time the kids are very well behaved and understand that they should leave the sourpuss in the corner alone, because not even Jesus likes his car and he's so clueless he can't even pull off a successful date with his wife.

The upside of this whole "children are welcome in the office" environment is that no one complains too much when I have to bring Chunk in for a couple of hours. I try not to take advantage of it, but occasionally we have staff meetings on the days when I'm working from home, so I have little choice but to bring him along and wait for the inevitable poo which happens about half-way through... every... single... meeting.

On Tuesday we all gathered around the conference table to discuss next year's budget. One of my coworkers brought along her little boy, who I will refer to as Mohawk, and the two almost instantly started the dance of the Toddler Staredown. For those of you without children, I'll explain how this works.

Basically, being a toddler, Chunk cannot go anywhere without his favorite toy. He can't take a bath without knowing Buzz Lightyear is sitting just inches from the bathtub, waiting to be retrieved once the harsh job of washing has been completed. On this particular day, Chunk had both Buzz and Woody, as well as "the big boy Legos" that I bring along to occupy him whenever I need him to sit still and keep it down.

Anyway, I was talking about the Toddler Staredown. Here's how it went down....

Chunk, clutching Woody and Buzz to his chest, stood motionless in the conference room.

Mohawk, clutching a number of cars to his chest, stood four feet away.

They were silent.

A tumbleweed blew between them and then bounced off to places unknown.

Someone nearby covered the eyes of their child and rushed them inside, stifling a panicked cry.

Chunk sort of leaned towards Mohawk for a moment, eyeing his really cool looking cars, then rocked back on his heels to his original stance. Mohawk was obviously checking out Chunk's toys, then flashed his mother a quick, nervous glance, before meeting Chunk's stoic gaze.

Minutes passed.

Literally. I'm talking actually minutes here.

Mohawk pointed at Chunk, said something I couldn't understand to his mom, then continued to stare.

Somewhere, Ennio Morricone started humming his theme from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" and smiled to himself, confident he had done his job.

Then, when I wasn't looking, no doubt trying to contribute to the meeting, one of them broke their standoff and the two of them began to play together, each one a little suspicious of the other, but genuinely having a good time. There were a few panicked moments, like when Mohawk was playing with Buzz, and then when Chunk declared one of Mohawk's cars was "mine," but they did great. What was weird was that Chunk and Mohawk have hung out together several times, enough that Chunk even knows his name, and they've gotten along really well. It was just that on Tuesday, the stakes had been higher. This was Buzz and Woody we were talking about, damnit, and there are just some things you don't share!

I don't get to see Chunk dealing with other kids in this way, very often. Out of the group of guys I normally hang out with, Chunk is the youngest offspring in the bunch, by about eighteen month to three years. Both of his cousins are several years older, so what peer negotiations I've seen have mostly just been him kind of following the "big kids" around and playing what they want to play. Or, if he doesn't like what they're doing, he just goes off and does his own thing. Either way, he's generally pretty happy and hasn't had many conflicts or chances to test his will against another child. At least, not in front of his dad. I'm sure he has plenty of power struggles during his one day a week at day care.

It's kind of neat to see my little guy in action. When push came to shove, he didn't... well, shove. We have some problems with hitting at home, but when he's playing with other kids, he just doesn't seem to take things to that level when he gets frustrated. On Tuesday, it looked like he might lash out at one point. Mohawk had taken his Buzz and Chunk wanted him back. There was an impasse, but rather than slug Mohawk in the nose for taking his Buzz, he stood his ground and firmly demanded his toy back. It didn't work, of course, Mohawk was having fun and just ignored him, but Chunk was continued to be firm with him and never resorted to hitting.

I know, in the future, as my son grows and changes and continues to develop, I'll get other opportunities to see him interact with the world, time when he doesn't recognize that his dad is watching him. I'm looking forward to it. It's neat to get a glimpse of your child's character, and so far, I've been impressed with mine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

#%@*! Meme About Favorite Songs

My blogging buddy Maria, at Just Eat Your Cupcake, tagged me with a meme several months ago. Okay, maybe not months ago, but it was more than a month ago and I've been dreading posting it since then.

What meme has me quaking in my blogging boots? It's the "Three favorite songs" question, which given my absolute love of music, seems like it would be an easy post to get some mileage out of, but in reality, has filled me with dread and self-doubt. How could I pick just three songs, of out so many, that are my all time favorites? It's like "Sophie's Choice," but with much fewer Nazis.

So, even with a month of thought, I'm not sure if this is really my list, but it's darn close:

1. Cuyahoga, R.E.M. -- I've loved this song for years and have never been able to figure out exactly what it is about the song that captures my attention so well. Like most R.E.M. songs the lyrics are evasive, but intriguing, and to my mind, talk about naive enthusiasm about building something new and special, while acknowledging the construction that went on before. It's one of the most patriotic songs I know of without being propaganda.

2. Got To Give It Up (pt. 1), Marvin Gaye -- This song might be the closet thing to perfection that any single piece of music has ever reached, since the first caveman started banging sticks together in the dark. If you never had soul before, this song will give it to you. If you never had rhythm, this song will help you find it. If this song doesn't get your butt moving and your toes tapping, you might want to check your pulse.

3. An Ending (Ascent), Brian Eno -- Wow. Simply beautiful. People often talk about getting a literal message behind instrumental music, as if there was a kind of invisible dialog happening in the interplay between instruments, and I've always struggled with that idea. I guess my brain is just too literal to find that sort of underlying talking, but with this song, I think I hear hope.

I'll stop with my three songs. I could do a "honorable mentions" list, but I'd be here all day and you're probably already glazing over.

And, as is tradition with these sorts of things, I'm going to pass this along to one of my newer blogging favorites Lainey-Painy at Life Is Just So Daily, my arch-nemesis Mitch McDad at Mitch McDad's World, my fellow bleeding heart The Real Mother Hen at How the Real Mother Hen sees the World, the basement runner Radioactive Girl, and the guy who's mix tapes from high school were the coolest, Vampdaddy. I'd love to hear what all five of you really shake your tail feathers to, but if you're not listed, that doesn't mean you can't play. So, play along and let me know you have them listed on your blog. Or, leave your favorites in the comments section. I'm always eager to broaden my musical horizons.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Perfect Post Award? Me? Seriously?

Wow! Apparently there is this thing called the "Perfect Post Award" that is given out monthly by the charming moms at Petroville and Suburban Turmoil. And, if you can believe it, yours truly was nominated!

I didn't win of course... probably far too many references to farting in my posts... but just like at the Oscars, it's a honor to simply have been nominated. Thank you, Mother-Woman, for taking the time to offer up my name and thank you for thinking so highly of one of my posts. I really appreciate it. For your efforts, you're my official Blog-Crush of the Month!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Denver Dad Reveals The Mysteries Of The World!, Pt. 2

Little did I know that my tongue-in-cheek question and answer section would result in a number of actual questions. Geez. You guys are a tough crowd. So, here are my answers to the questions you (yes, you... sitting right there!) left for me in the comments section.

Remember, the advice you receive is about worth what you paid for it.

Lainey-Paney at Life Is Just So Daily asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

Our son is 18 months old, and is now starting this AMAZING fit throwing. A single fit may involve one or all of the following: kicking, screaming, crying, pinching of Mommy, pulling on Mommy's clothes, throwing himself to the ground, rearing his head back to the point of almost falling out of Mommy's arms.
It's TONS OF FUN for me.

I understand that he's frustrated due to his limited vocabulary & speech skills...but I also know that the fits often occur not when he can't communicate his wants, but rather when he does not get what he wants.

So...the question is---WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT??? My pediatrician says to ignore it. Guess how well that works!!?? Not well at all. And really, how easy is it to ignore anyway when he's dangling from my pants & screaming at the top of his lungs? My husband says to spank him.

That seems to break my heart, and I'm afraid that it is teaching my child to hit (a nasty little habit that he picked up shortly after the introduction of the "spanking").

Is there a boarding school anywhere for toddlers????

A. Sadly, there isn't a boarding school for toddlers, but if you have some extra money laying around, boy do I have a franchise idea for you!

We have been blessed with a child that would rather just ignore you than throw fits, but he has had more than a few moments of drama, so I'll offer whatever wisdom I can. Your pediatrician is right. You're supposed to ignore it, but no one sane can ignore that kind of behavior. So, here's what you need to do:

1. Stay calm. Your toddler is screaming and clinging to get your attention. At some point, it worked, so now you only have yourself to blame. Don't take it so hard, because if you didn't react at some point, you'd be a robot and probably plotting to take over the world. That's bad. So, reacting to your child's needs is a good thing. It's just that it got weird somehow and isn't working the way it's supposed to work.

2. Stay calm. This is like those repeating Fight Club rules. Toddlers, like animals, can smell fear. So, they'll know when they have you. You've got to keep your wits about you and stay rational, because someone has to be the rational person and it's not going to be your toddler.

3. Negotiate! In a calm voice, explain that your child can either get a hold of themselves or go to their rooms and throw their fit. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but it works with Chunk. The first few times you give him the choice, he's going to ignore you, so you take him to time out. Eventually, he'll understand that if he wants attention, he's going to have to get it with rational behavior, as opposed to psychotic behavior. Or, he won't, but at least he'll be in his room screaming, instead of hanging off your leg.

4. Explain. I know you're supposed to let stuff go, but I like to talk to my little guy after the big blow-ups and have a debriefing. I say stuff like, "I know you're frustrated because I can't understand you, but that just means we both have to try harder next time." Or, "If you do that at the grocery store again, no one will ever find your body." You know, reassuring stuff like that. Your child will probably tune you out when you have this conversation, but it makes me feel better, so maybe it'll work for you too.

5. Be consistent. If you're going to do this, you've got to keep doing it. The second you break any of these rules, they (our demon spawn) know they have us wrapped around their fingers, and its that much harder to lay down the law later. That's actually true for any wonky "system" you find. If you're consistent, no matter what your system of behavior management may be, it should eventually work.

The thing is, our kids are whip smart. I mean that. Chunk terrifies me with how much he already knows and understands. So, I try to treat him like the independent person he's fighting so hard to become. It's not an easy process, but it's slowly getting better. Hopefully, it'll get better for you too.

Maria at Just Eat Your Cupcake asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

My daughter is seven. She often pretends to be a dog (a golden retriever named Zippy to be exact). My question is: should I just go ahead and buy her a leash or give her free run of the yard? And when I take her for walks, what should I say to rude people who stop and laugh?

I work hard to accept her for herself and hey, if she is having a Zippy day, I'm supportive. My problem is that other people simply don't get it. Why won't they allow my child to explore her dog identity and how can I help her?

A. If I had a nickel every time I heard the "my daughter wants to be a golden retriever" story, I'd have a whole nickel!

Look, kids are creative and nicknames eventually fade, especially when you're old enough to move away. I say, get her the leash she wants, maybe even a fancy dish, and let her indulge. Assuming her psychological scars heal, and there will be scars, she'll grow up to be a fine, upstanding citizen who can fetch a tennis ball like you wouldn't believe.

The Real Mother Hen at How the Real Mother Hen sees the World asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

My husband refuses to grow up - any advice?

A. Maturity is like kryptonite for most men. It saps their strength and makes them mere shadows of the vibrant, fun, beer-guzzling men they were before. I've seen it happen to many of my friends, and although they're still good guys, they've lost their spark and have become kind of dull.

Unfortunately, maturity is also kind of important. Maturity is what gets a guy to buy diapers instead of a box of frozen White Castle cheeseburgers when he hits the local warehouse store. Maturity is what gets a guy to stop playing his Level 60 World of Warcraft character and actually get a job that requires shaving and khakis. The real trick is not to force maturity, but teach your spouse how to be mature at appropriate times, letting them resort to childish fart jokes and goofing off when you have them safely locked in their "nerd cave."

I'm being serious here. You wouldn't want your husband to grow up. You wouldn't like him, because when he grows up, he becomes dull. The guy you fell in love with? The one that makes you laugh? He'll leave, for good, if your husband actually grows up. So, instead of forcing him to become mature, you just need to teach him when he can be a dumb-ass and when he's supposed to pretend to be responsible.

So, how do you do that? Remind him of stuff. "Honey, we're having brunch with my parents on Sunday." Or, "Dearest, khaki does go with everything, but that shirt is still ugly." Or, "Sweet Cakes, I know you need the Complete Wizards rulebook to play your illusionist character in your Tuesday night D&D game, but I'm tired of eating Top Ramen and day old bread, so we're spending our money on food and utilities, rather than dice and books with bimbos and swords on them." Don't nag. Nagging instantly turns whatever you say into white noise and he won't hear a bit of it, so you have to say it like you're having a conversation.

You know when your husband explains the two point conversions rules to you? Or, how a facemask can be either a 5 yard or 15 yard penalty? Remember that? No, of course you don't. If you nag, it'll be like that. Just remind him, gently, and after a while he'll start thinking it's his idea.

mo-wo at Mother-Woman asks...

Q.Dear Denver Dad,

I need Dad advice... At what age should I Ferberize my spouse?

A. When I first read your question, mo-wo, I thought you were asking when you should Frebreeze your spouse. Normally, I would recommend you Frebreeze your spouse as soon after marriage as possible, with periodic updates as needed. You should bring it up gently, though, because men are so sensitive and take offense easily. I would recommend saying something like, "Honey, now that you're married, you have to stink less. Lift up your arms and breath through your nose," then spray like you're trying to kill a wasp's nest.

But Ferberizing your spouse? That's a little trickier than spraying them with deodorizer. My wife and I practice "co-sleeping" with each other. We have since we were married ten years ago, and even before that, when we were just godless heathens cohabitating in sinfulness. It works for us. If sleeping with your spouse doesn't work, tell him, "Honey, it's not you... it's me, but get the hell out if you want to live through the night!" It's subtle, but will save his feelings.

Want something more subtle? My wife gets cold in 90 degree weather, so we got a heated mattress pad, at her request. We splurged and got the fancy one that has two controls, one for each side of the bed. When we go to sleep my wife sets her side to "broil." If I dare cross the barrier into her side of the bed, my flesh literally catches on fire and I run around the room screaming and trying to put out the flames. Like I said, it's a little more subtle, but if your husband has the jimmy legs, nothing fixes that quite as quickly as the threat of melting flesh.

Suburban Kamikaze at, shockingly enough, Suburban Kamikaze didn't really have a question, but seemed to suggest I needed to see a dominatrix for some issues that might be troubling me. It was either a dominatrix or Super Nanny. I'm not sure, but it was someone with boots. I know that much.