Anything But Sexting

No, she's not donating to Haiti relief.They other day my daughter and I toured around the preschool we hope to place in next December.  By then, she’ll be 3 and undoubtedly have changed dramatically from the kid she is now.  I had an informal discussion with the kindly director of the school who was very cool and eager to hear about my parenting and “staying at home”. For some reason, I gave a 2 minute diatribe on how I didn’t want my daughter to burn out by the time she was 18.  I didn’t want her trying to get into a status college, always reaching for the next supposed “expected achievement”, but rather, to simply have the tools and resources to do whatever she wants in life to be happy.  Go to college, travel the world, vote Republican, whatever.

The director seemed delighted I wasn’t some pushy parent intent on ripping up her poor teachers the second they didn’t properly prep my daughter for her Mandarin tutor at age 3.   I finally told her I just wanted her to be ready to go to school, have fun and mostly just play.   Right answer.  She told me she looked forward to seeing us in the fall and that we should continue just doing what we’re doing.

But it got me thinking again on a nagging  question: what kind of child do I want to raise and how are my actions and behaviors an influence?  My biggest fear is that I somehow over-influence her, my behavior is so boorish and pedestrian that she picks up those bad habits.   Do I want a girl who listens to metal and drinks beer out of a can? Think about that one.

Maybe here are three things I would most want for my daughter:

1. To not be afraid to fail, make mistakes but to always try to learn from them.  Make mistakes and move on to something else.  A mistake or failure doesn’t make you an asshole, but you can become one if you don’t approach it right. Being perfect requires too much work and living with self-disappointment and regret is a heavy load — a much heavier load than getting a C.

2. Having an enough emotional intelligence to know the difference between right and wrong, good people and bad people (and who to hang with) and what kind of mistakes can be made without severe recriminations (see 1).  A girl who sends  sex messages to her 15-year-old boyfriend because everyone else is doing it does not qualify in this category — but the tidal wave of people who are doing it represent how tough it is to parent this situation.

3. To be curious about people, places and things. Wonder how something works, how people think, live and love and to be able to put yourself in their shoes.

As someone who made it through the terrible two’s, the teens and college, I can look back and see the things that were really important.   I understand that teen love is intense and that being accepted is important, but I know drunk driving or sending images of yourself nude around on the internet are the types of things you have to work hard to recover from.  I’d rather have a mathalete/choir geek daughter who is shunned than someone who has sex too early or thinks the type of car you own makes you important.

But those  wishes too are arrogant.  I guess I just have to equip her with the tools to find out who she is  (hopefully a mathalete).

In the movies, they sometimes have the hero or heroine face a terrible parent who beat them or abandoned them or was just generally shitty.  In every moment, that parent always says, “I did the best I could”.  It seems like a cliché but really, what else can you do? All you can do is what you can do.

The Decline of the Parental Blog

My blog is a touching tribute to parenting through product reviews and MommyMonday Giveaways!

Every time I try to think of a new blog entry concerning being a stay at home dad, I come up empty.  What is so difficult about being at home all day with a two year old? Nothing. It’s pretty easy actually and I’m loathe to really find anything to gripe about or something interesting to say.  So I clean diapers, vacuum, do the dishes and cook.  So what?  People all over the planet have 1/100 of the income, property and opportunity I have and they never complain.  Or worse, they have no voice to be heard in their society.   It’s not tough and not  interesting — even as the stay at home dad craze reaches new and huge heights.   I should be really torching up this blog and jumping on the Stay At Home Dad bandwagon right?  Reader, I must tell you that I just feel like a real misanthrope blogger, a grump and a generally sour blogger.  I go to other blogs for inspiration, but something has changed since I started PunditDad, the gritty blogs seem to have given way to a bunch of Oprah-esque lifestyle/Home Shopping Network shills.   There is no two ways about it, there has been a real decline in the parental blog.
The blogging craze seems to have really settled out but one thing seems clear: blogs concering mommies and daddies have jumped the shark.  They are solely focused on products, product reviews, unique visitors, BlogHer network conventions, online cliques of Mommy’s and Daddy’s who dropped out of the working  “Game” only to find another “game” to play while Junior is napping, or at daycare or with the  nanny.   What happened to the actual PARENTING in the parenting blog?

I think you only need spend a few seconds at http://www.5minutesformom.com/ and you see where I’m going. This cottage industry doesn’t have much to do with finding a preschool, teaching potty training, or the fear a new parent finds deep within themselves.  It’s more about giveaways.  A lot of giveaways.   And book sales through websites. The other thing lacking is the bare honesty that used to be the hallmark of a good parental blog.  I still find some fine blogs, don’t get me wrong, but the move to “commercialize” the parental blog creates and artifice of less quality.

Isn’t there enough about parenting/parenting life to mock, criticize, laugh at, cry about that makes a product review of a Mommy or Daddy massager or office organizer unnecessary?   I’m not saying people aren’t welcome to make a buck or hawk their products, but the insipid artificial networks that have been created so that everyone can get a “piece of the action” rather than learn to speak from the heart is disturbing.   The shock of how children change, their amazing honesty, the huge responsibility of teaching life skills seems like a huge opportunity that is commonly being missed.  All of these things have been ever so slightly pushed to the side.  In the end, is everyone just reading everyone else’s blog to so they themselves can get recognition?

Below is a list of the most common blog topics that I see on parental blogs:

1.  I’m sooooooo BUSY!!! How can I continue being so BUSSSYYY!???

2. Kids say the funniest things.

3.   Enter my Giveaways!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yah, I know. I’m a complainer and I like taking digs at other people’s expense.  But I’m going to make a real attempt to approach some difficult subjects about parenting that I think people should be talking about, maybe things you have thought about or had questions?  There is a lot to choose from and I’m going to make a promise here to not just complain, kvetch and moan but really hit it dead on.  Life is more than just giveaways?  Right?

Who the F**ck Reads Cathy?

As a loyal newspaper reader for many years, I also indulge in the comic page. I don’t read every one, or the horoscopes or do Bridge or the Word Jumble, but I like to read a couple of comics to add a bit of frivolity to my day. Who can blame me? I’m inside with a toddler most days so it’s amazing I’m not doing crystal meth and shooting my tv.   Anyway, the other day the Chicago Tribune an0unced on the Comics Page that some new changes were coming to said section.  They are downsizing the paper to save money and a few comics were going to be affected. Some would go, but some were increasing in size.  Curiouser and curiouser I thought. Little did I know the horror.

Now, Punditdad tends towards the newer comics, Brewster Rockit: Space Guy, Dilbert and such.  I don’t have time for Broomhilda or the intricacies of Dick Tracy. Who follows a serial comic in 2010 I ask you? Really.  My take is that most comic pages in America reflect the tastes of people over the age of 50 and are much the worse for it.  Point of fact, they are not funny.

Now, enter the changes to the Tribune. They intend to eliminate Lio (demonic hell-child tortures his father), Sylvia (insane cats use telepathy on sarcastic cat owner) and Get Fuzzy (neurotic cat and dog abuse slack-jawed 30-something owner).  Now, all of these comics aren’t the best, but occasionally get a chuckle out of me.  They delay the impact of the total terror and disappointment that is modern news. Let’s face it, if you’re paying attention the world is in pretty bad shape.  Comics are a good escape.  But the lose of those comics aren’t the horrors. The horrors are that Cathy, the most gratuitously inane comic this  side of The Family Circus is getting 25% bigger! It’s not alone, Blondie, Hagar, Shoe and For Better or for Worse are all increasing in size so the geriatric set can read them.   Seriously, who the fuck reads Cathy?

Cathy was funny in the 1980’s when the idea of an overworked single woman with neuroses about her weight, her fashion sense and the cleanliness of her house was hysterical.  Nowadays it’s as funny as TV’s Full House, overdone, myopic and seriously un-funny.  Cathy has never had the self-deprecating humor that even Hagar or Shoe have, the lonely “life is shit and then you die” attitude that strikes at the heart of modern living, at the ennui that we feel knowing life is one big Pink Floyd lyric without the laser show.  No, Cathy is much like the Family Circus, the worst comic on the world without disagreement, because it’s not aware of itself. It simply moves on and on like a zombie, continuing it’s mindless rampage of bourgeois triteness.  If I controlled the world, Cathy would be the first comic to be banned from all newspapers and it’s archives burned to keep peasants warm in arctic Russian winters.

Thank god the Tribune sees fit to also increase the size of the Hall of Famers like Doonesbury and Peanuts.  I read Peanuts even today and constantly smile at the 4 panel genius that was Charles Schultz.  Many people say, “To each their own”. But I say to hell with Cathy.

Parent Judge: List the Offenses!

The Parent Court is now in session! The Parent Judge is now in session.

Opening Arguments in discussing the case of judging bad parenting begin!

One of the things you learn after having kids is that it’s pretty darn distasteful to openly talk about poor parenting.  The Parent Judge realizes this and sets it aside because the Parenting Court is now in order. Put good taste aside for one moment to talk about things some idiots do. Now, this excludes parents who solve their discipline problems with a switch, a leather belt or a karate chop.  Those people are the bad guys on the Lifetime Channel and we can all hate them (or pity depending on how open minded you are).  But when it comes to regular, run of the mill parenting that doesn’t involve a tall dramatic arc like The Burning Bed, we learn when our little kids run around that criticizing other people’s parenting is pretty gauche.  A fellow parent sent me a message about this sometimes trait and I thought about it and the politics of parenting.  Her code name/nom de plur is Wired Momma (no she didn’t pay me/send me products or invite me to BlogHer! because I mentioned her) but she brought up an interesting point. If you see if a parent doing something stupid, you can’t or shouldn’t in our society call them on it. Why? Because any idiot can be a parent in this country without a license, examination, test, prep-course or whatever else makes you somewhat improved in something you’ve never do in your life. It’s just “not done”.

Now, when is this really necessary, you know..to criticize other parents? Yes! The Parent Judge must list the offenses! Here is my abrievated list updated daily!!!!

  • Any child over the age of 3 stuck with a pacifier in their mouths out in public.  I can’t tell you how many 5 year-olds  (I estimate) that I’ve seen who have a pacifier in their mouths and are grunting, pointing and moaning. Why? Because the can’t frigging learn to talk with a piece of plastic in their mouths! OR they have this ghostly disembodied look to them as if they are trying to tell their parents something telepathically.  My kid still uses a pacifier to sleep for naps, not for nighttime, just naps.  She’s 2.3 years old and talks faster than Joan Rivers and more crazily than Pat Robertson but at least she talks.
  • Parents on their cell phones or texting while their kids are trying to talk to them, play with them or just generally need a parent.  Yesterday at this indoor gym there was a dad with headphones on apparently listening to something while his kids were coming up asking him to play.   Is Arcade Fire more important than you daughters? Hello, I’m still listening to the same shit I was in high school – it’s not going away.   Don’t get me started on the Blackberry, IPhone or probably now the IPad.  More ways for idiots to zone out at the park and avoid having any interaction with their kids.  The message sent: this small piece of plastic deserves my attention and you don’t.  Now, if your kid is 10 at the park you don’t need to monitor them, but younger kids need to feel like someone gives a darn about their playing. Do it.
  • The braggart who talks about how great their kids are and never dishes on their annoyances. You know the type, their kid is simply an extension of them and they are insecure boobs who need validation and eternal love, therefore their parenting is perfect and their children are perfect.  Listen, I think kids are great and they are taught to live as we teach them — what choice do they have? But on the other hand, they are fallible and their fallible nature causes chaos, destruction, sleeplessness and general pain-in-the-assness.  Don’t deny it.  People who admit their kids can be a pain in the ass (especially toddlers) understand that growing up is hard to do and it need not be done with parental pressure or fear of failure.   Failure is what makes us human rather than machines who end up with a first class ticket to the psychotherapist’s office because their parents never let them do something incorrectly.
  • Following that, it’s really the control freak who makes me want to kill.  They are the parents telling their kid how to play, how to talk, how to do this and how to do that.  They are always correcting, hovering and forever interrupting the play and joy that is childhood.  They fear bumps, bruises, crying, anger and especially mutiny! A control freak fears the child that turns on them the most, an independent child that wants to do their own thing rather than things “their way”.

My list grows as I see more parents in gym classes, at story times, out at the grocery store or the playground.  I’m not saying my parenting is the best way, hell, it’s probably a B- on a good day, but it’s far more humanistic to the way I think children need to be raised which is an acknowledgment that they are annoying and lovable little dough balls which need constant attention, love and appreciation for the trails and tribulations they undergo to be successful in life.  Life is a hard road to hoe, let’s not make it more difficult to by being lame parents.   I call upon a new age where we can call lame parenting for what it is: lame.   Would that lower the number of people who decided to have kids? I dunno but it would make for some great blogs! The Parent Judge is now adjourned.  I invite you to send in your examples of annoying parenting.

The Answer is NO!

This darling princess must have abusive parents! Note indications of sadness. NO!

My darling daughter is now 2.3 years old and smart as the dickens (can’t hide my pride Internet Readers!).  Yet I’m troubled by a continuing problem that comes up whenever I ask the sweet little thing a question — the answer is always and unequivocally no.   No Cheerios for breakfast, no jacket to go outside, no nap, no dinner, no bath no, no, no a thousand times no!  For those keeping score at home, that means no.

Punditdad has been doing this ‘lil old thing of staying home with the kid for 2.3 years so I’ve seen every poop, pee, scream and whatever else happens in her life up until this point.  I’ve been “available” if that is how you want to put it.  Now, to a person who has witnessed all this, it’s easy to be frustrated when you know that your child likes to dip her pasta that’s she’s eating for the trillionth time in ketchup and ranch dressing but refuses it for dinner even though she is hungry and tired.  Does Punditdad beg,  cajole and negotiate with the  daughter to convince her that eating her disgusting concoction is a great idea? Sometimes. But only when another parental or grandparental unit is on-site.  I abhor such negotiations.  Let ‘er starve. If she’s hungry, she’ll be back. I guarantee it.  Negotiations are for hostages.

But back to NO! It’s started me to ask less questions and make more “commands” as in COMMAND AND CONTROL. You know, the army jargon? Well it works wonders for your ego, but when it dissolves in the grocery aisle because you said no chocolate bars at 9:00 AM.   At that point, you really have to do a gut check. Did you mean it or do you give a sh*t what the woman with the beautiful and obedient daughter thinks of you while pushing her cart down in the aisle trying to find the ingredients to the Turkish EggPlant Frittata that her daughter JUST LOVES and eats every time?  Her daughter is an ANGEL and your daughter is clearly a mean-spirited spoiled brat (putting it nicely).  I’m just trying to set some rules and who really needs chocolate that early in the morning? Say yes to that and the next thing it’s a thong and a Mercedes for her 16th birthday.  No, the rules have to be drawn somewhere. Right? Are you with me?

More or less, discipline at this toddler age is an art rather than a science and Punditdad doesn’t beat himself up over the choices made (win or lose) that he makes and neither should you! Lift your head up even if your kid is drinking ketchup at the Denny’s or throwing his poop in the public restroom.  Someday you’ll laugh about it and feel so much better than you do now.  I know I can feel it coming any minute.  NO! No?

Gloom and Doom

Brought back to the blog because all I ever read about is how tough, terrible, and generally horrible the following things are:

  • Being a mom –NOBODY understands  how tough it is being a mom, especially being a stay at home mom. No respect, no love, no nothing. Even if you’re richer than 99% of the world population, have clothes, shelter, a mortgage and great health insurance, the world is a pile of dog poo and nobody understands what you are going through and all the transparent sacrifices you have made in your attempt to raise good kids.
  • Being a Democrat — Obama is a spineless POS who had betrayed all the progressives and destroyed health care. He’s broken every promise made on the campaign trail and damnit I’ll never go door to door for him again! The Republicans and the Tea Bag Party are going to take over the world and win every seat in the midterms and return us to the medieval times we had for 8 years under George W. Bush (at least we could hate him with real vindication!)
  • Being Sandra Bullock — OMG is she the crummiest actress in the world to get a Golden Globe for some religious right wing crap football movie where the black guy needs the rich white woman to take care of him? At least Avatar had blue people as code in an “artistic” way for different “races” and the chosen people who the White Messaiah will lead to the way to victory, a drop top Benz and maybe a super bowl ring.
  • Being Hatian — Do Haitians really care what Pat Robertson and the slug Rush Limbaugh think of their country? No, but when you sit at the right hand of GOD, you have a great view of the world and why it is so messed up.  Has ANY Republican disputed their words? Can Scott Brown pose naked in a magazine and still be Senator? YES!

These and other fine myths will be discussed ad nauseaum further on the pages of Punditdad and his newly resurrected blog.  Have a nice day.

Tantrums and the Crying Couch

Our new house has a fab reading/sun room from which Punditdad can read the paper, drink coffee in the morning and survey his tiny kingdom while getting some inkling of the coming weather that day.  The room is suitable for the Bean’s toys, books and whatever other crap she has in those boxes.  This is where we read her books in the morning after breakfast.

Normally, we all get up between 6:30 and 7 AM, I feed the Bean, grab some food and coffee for myself while she eats, then we retire to the sun room for some books.  We are still trying to convey that we cannot read books indefinitely, that there can only be 5 or so books read every morning. Not 20.  I like to read the daily paper in the DAY that I get it.

Normally, when I bring the Chicago Tribune up to my face, this indicates that the books are done.  Yet a small hand grabs my arm and pleads “Peeeeezzzz” which is please in Bean-talk.

If a suitable breakfast has been consumed, then the tantrum simmers to disappointment and the issue is over.  We go about our business and I only have to wait about 20 more minutes before something else is demanded of me. If an insufficient amount of food has been consumed then a tantrum usually ensues.

I don’t get particularly upset over tantrums when we are home. I simply leave her on the couch and  go to the next room.  Tantrums are not encouraged, tolerated or in my case, viewed.  I usually move to another room and drink my coffee.  Hey, she’s screaming, I have warm delicious coffee, so what? At home, nobody can here you scream toddler!

Screaming in public is different and usually she is better about that, only when pushed to the limit or starving like an Ethiopian vagrant.  I don’t blame her.  Ask Punditmom on a Sunday afternoon when I’m grumpy and hungry….I’m usually a few seconds away from crying and screaming myself. But at home, wandering around screaming and crying isn’t tolerated so I  have created the “Crying Couch”.  You sit there during crying and nobody bothers you but nobody is paying attention to you.  Scream all you want, my coffee is still hot and there’s  plenty of cream in the fridge.  Let’s see how the Sox did. Can you see I’m disinterested?

I try not to let tantrums affect me.  It’s only at mealtime that I go into a berzerker rage over an upset toddler.  My eyes roll back into my skull, my face turns fire engine red and my chest heaves like a epileptic.   This usually causes the Bean to dump her plate over the highchair.  I usually convulse all around, flopping like a fish on a dock.   She knows how to push my  buttons I’ll hand it to her.  But lately, my cold and sadistic side has won out.  The code word is “all done”?  If that is said, the plate goes away. Doesn’t matter if you had two bites or the whole thing.  Her word is law on this.  So if she is playing with her food or generally disatisfied with the choice and I ask, “All done?”. She is reticent to say yes.

Toddlers, though young and inexperienced, aren’t stupid.  They get hungry and want to eat.  If they know it’s going away or the rules will be enforced, then poof, they start playing by the rules.  Is it always black and white? No, but rules like All Done and the Crying Couch make my life a little clearer.  Crying and screaming? Do it on the couch.  Playing and yelling about your food? All done see ya later.   Makes my job a little easier each time.   Besides, my coffee is getting cold.

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