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Dec 17 2012

The Wake Up Call – Learning to Control My Temper So My Daughter Doesn’t Throw Me to The Wolves

Summary: Simple things like loosing your temper have far more impact of your kid than you think.

About four weeks ago I’m at Silver Spur having our pre Saturday adventure breakfast with my daughter and her friend. I’m checking some schedules on my phone to figure out what we should do, and in what order, while the two of them do their normal chit chat and goofing around.

After a few minute my daughter’s friend gets my attention.

“I asked (your daughter) that if she had to choose which parent to save which one would she choose. She said she would choose her mom because you cuss and yell at her.”

Ouch. Now, I didn’t think my daughter would ever choose me over her mom. She has a special bond that can only happens with the person who gave birth to you and breast feed you for the first year and half of your life. However, to know that my daughter would let me die because of my temper and foul mouth is pretty sad. That one really hit home.

Now fast forward to last might. I’m sitting on the coach getting ready to read Stewart Little to my daughter. We just finished Charlotte’s Web yesterday and the sophistication of E. B. Whites prose was a welcome reprieve from the mind numbing repetition of her Breyer Stablemates pony books that she loves so much.

I’m exhausted as I’ve had the flu for five days and the phlegm has settled into my lungs leaving me weak and coughing most of the day. I grab a tissue, blow my nose for the umpteenth time and lay the tissue next to the couch on a bookshelf.

“Throw that away.”


“Throw your tissue away.”


“You should throw it away.”

“Fucking get off my case. It’s none of your god damn business what I do with my tissue! You ever think that maybe I put it there because I plan to use it again instead of just wasting one box of tissue after another using each sheet just once? Fuck!”

My daughter gets really quiet and I can see she’s on the verge of tearing up.

“I’m sorry for yelling at you. I handled that wrong.”

“That’s all right.”

But I know even though she’s says that it’s all right, it really isn’t.

So we read a few chapters of Stewart Little and after a half an hour it’s time for bed…for both of us.

After putting my daughter to bed and giving her a goodnight kiss and head to be myself. I’m totally beat.

Twenty minutes later my partner comes in. She and our daughter often share a short tuck-in conversation before the lights go out.

“We talked for a while about your behavior. She said that she feels that she can’t trust you completely. I told her that she can trust you 100%. That you love her more than anything. I told her that she is part of both of us. Half of her is me and half of her is you. Then she asked in all sincerity, “my eyebrows?”

We got a good chuckle out of that because it was quite obvious the day she was born that she got my thick and bushy meet in the middle eyebrows.

Joking aside, it’s become painfully clear that I’m undermining my super dad status and her security and self-worth with my very infrequent but intense outbursts.

The funny thing is I’m fairly patient, easy-going, have a very high tolerance for chaos and I’m more forgiving and tolerant than my partner, but when I snap it happens very suddenly. Almost too fast for me to see it coming. On the other hand my partner is more of a slow boil type so she has far more warning internally that she’s about to lose it.

So my daughter can’t really read me and sense when it’s time to back off. And I don’t sense it either. So in her mind she has no idea which dad she’s going to get at any one moment.

So that’s my new project. Look for the signs that I’m about to snap so I can learn to catch it before it happens. Kind of like those “early signs of stroke” lists but one tailored to my temper.

Let the learnin’ begin!

File Under: Controlling  Your Temper When Around Children – How Cussing and Angry Words Hurt Your Kids

Jul 23 2011

Uno for Dose – Playing Cards With My Daughter

So my daughter and I have been playing Uno in the evenings. It’s a fun, easy game to wind down the day with, and with two people it goes rather brisk. Skip cards now skips the next hand directly back to yourself. Reverse does the same thing. To make it less painful we allow you to play a card every hand even if you given a draw four.

So my daughter wants to keep score. She gets a piece of paper and draws a line down the middle. One one side she writes her name and on the other side, mine.

We start playing and she’s on a roll. She wins the first five games easily. However on the sixth game I finally win one.

“Awwww,” says my daughter as she begrudgedly puts a single mark in my column.

“What? Are you serious? You win five in a row and your being fussy because you didn’t win the sixth game also? You know, I don’t think you’ll every be satisfied unless you won every game forever. It’s like you only remember the last game and nothing in the past matters.”

“What does satisfy mean?”

“Really? You don’t know what satisfied means?”


“It means you are happy with how things are going. Now let’s play a few more.”

We go back and forth and I pick up two games in a row. However she’s still kicking my ass with 11 wins to my three.

The card to match is a yellow eight. I have no yellows but I do have a red eight so I play that one.

“A red reverse, a red skip, and a draw four. Uno!  And we’ll make it green”

I draw four cards and it’s a loaded hand.

“A green skip, a blue skip, and a draw four. I know your last card is green so let’s go with blue.”

“That’s payback for giving you a draw four on the last hand,” she says as she draws four.

“Wait, so you know what payback means but not the word satisfied?”


A minute later she lays down a yellow skip, a yellow draw two, and a blue draw two.


“I can tell by your smile your last card is blue. Please give me a draw card four. Nope. Go ahead, finish me off.”

“All done, I win!”

The final tally? Twelve wins for my daughter and three for me.

I’m glad she won the last one otherwise I’d have to listen to her poor sportsmanship whine-fest again as she promptly forgets that in total, she slaughtered me.

File Under: Teaching Children Good Sportsmanship – Playing Card Games with Your Kid

Jul 17 2011

Tomboys, Gender Training, and The Trouble With Stereotypes

I’m doing some gardening when my daughter walks up.

“Am I a tomboy?”

“Well some may consider you a tomboy because you’re strong and athletic and like things like dinosaurs, skulls, and boys underwear and swim trunks. But I don’t like the term tomboy because it implies that a girl should only behave a certain way – which is ridiculous. Because you ARE a girl, anything you do, and anyway you behave,  is by definition something that a girl would do. So the tomboy part doesn’t make any sense and only serves to limit you as a human being. Why do you ask?”

“My friend says I’m a tomboy, but she said she was one too, and it’s good to be a tomboy.”

“Well that’s true, there’s nothing wrong about being a tomboy, but it would be better to just be the way you are rather than trying to put a label on it. Does that make sense?”



File Under: Limiting Human Potential Through Gender Expectations

Jul 17 2011

Are You Hot Mama? Love and Life According to Foreigner’s Hot Blooded

Summary: Tens seconds of classic rock leads to ten minutes of relationship talk.

I’m on the way to the boardwalk with my daughter and her good friend when I click on the classic rock station to clear my head. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s an old favorite by Foreigner.

But you’ve got to give me a sign
Come on girl, some kind of sign
Tell me, are you hot mama? You sure look that way to me

My daughters friend speaks up.

“What’s a hot mama?”

“It’s not hot mama…it’s hot….mama. When this song came out mama was a popular term to call an attractive girl.  So he’s asking her are you hot mamma?

“Is that like sweaty hot or good looking hot?”

“In this case it’s neither. I this instance the term “hot” means are you ready for some fun. Like hot to trot. So he’s asking her if she’d like to go out tonight and have some fun with him because he finds her attractive.”

“Oh, I thought hot was only used when you see a good looking girl.”

“Usually yes, but in this case, no. Also hot is gender neutral. Boys can be hot too.”

My daughter speaks up.

“Is mom hot?”

“I think so. But hot is also a personal thing. Someone that one person thinks is really good looking may not seem very good looking to another. Personality also plays a big part. Once you get to know someone, their personality will change the way you see them. So someone who is really mean and rude will not look so attractive after a while, while someone that is nice and kind will seem better looking as time goes on.”

“Is mom nice?”

“Yes, mom is very nice. She’s kind and thoughtful. But she’s also very nit-picky and critical. But her heart is pure and her ethics and values are unshakable. So overall I’m very pleased with having your mom as a partner.


File Under: The Multiple Definitions of Hot

Jan 5 2011

Th’s Versus F’s – A Child Learns Her “TH” Sounds

My daughter has a bit of a problem hitting her “thuuu” sounds. Many times they come out as an “fuuu” sound. Now this is really common and it’s not a speech problem because she can hit the “thuuu” if she concentrates.

Me, my partner and my daughter are in the car on the way to play some pool and air hockey at the boardwalk.

“So all you need to do is just concentrate and start saying the “thuuu” sound everytime. I know you can do it. Thhhink you can do that?


“Could you start on Thhhhursday?


“Ok. So let’s start on Thhhhursday.”


“So what day are we going to start on?”

“On a day that is not the weekend.”

I thought that was pretty fucking funny.

Oct 31 2010

You Can’t Control the World…

Summary: My daughter figures out one of life’s most important lessons at age seven.

So we’re driving around, which for some reason is when our most interesting conversations take place, when she has a most profound moment.

“You can’t make time. You can make cookies. You can make brownies. But you can’t make time. At dinner you can’t just make three more hours so there is more time to play before bedtime. You just can’t control the world.”

I’m not shitting you. She really said that. No segue or anything.

Sep 5 2010

Work Makes One Free and Cheetos Are Food

So my daughter and I are driving around.

“We may just stay close to home on Labor day weekend instead of going over the hill. Everyone goes to the beach that day and the traffic could be really bad getting back to Santa Cruz. Last holiday there was an accident and it took us two hours to get from Los Gatos to Soquel.”

“Why does everyone go to the beach that day?”

“Because most people do what they are told and they are told to go to the beach on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. So they do.”

“I want to go live with one of those families. I’ll say give me Cheetos and they will.”

“Well that’s not exactly what I meant by doing what they are told. I mean they follow the basic outline that is presented to them socially, politically and economically. There are pretty clear ideas that are presented to us about expected behavior. Everywhere you look, the vast number of possible options have been reduced to an either or situation. Overtime we stop even thinking about any other way of being. No one escapes it and we all follow the program to some extent. It takes a lot of effort to do otherwise. So most people follow them pretty closely.”

“Well I want to go live with them and get fat and eat Cheetos!”

“Well most families would give you Cheetos. But you live us so you don’t get Cheetos except on rare occasions like a friend’s birthday party. That’s the proper way to eat them. They are not food.”


Aug 1 2010

Squirrels Don’t Get Sad

So my daughter and I are heading to Watsonville to see the Friday 3:00 showing of Cats and Dogs – The Revenge of Kitty Galore – when she asks a most unusual question.

“Do squirrels have feelings?”

“What do you mean by do they have feelings?”

“I mean, do they get sad.”

“Well squirrels don’t really get happy or sad the way we think of it.  They can feel stressed or relaxed and that will affect their mood.  If one of their friends should suddenly die in front of them I assume they would feel a bit of loss.  I would also assume if they found a bunch of nuts they would feel excitement.  But squirrels can’t feel the same depth of emotions that we do.  Like a squirrel won’t feel sad because another squirrel is making fun of it.  They can’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.  They don’t have regrets and they don’t care if you’re their friend are not.  So you really can’t hurt a squirrel ‘s feelings.”

“Well, then I want to be a squirrel.  That way when people make fun of me I won’t feel sad.”

So when we get home I tell my partner the story.

“That makes sense actually. We were in Scott’s valley at this park where the “wild’ squirrels were really tame. They’d come right up and eat food from your hand. She played with them for a long time and really liked it.”

“Ahhh, I can see how that would seem like an ideal life. Her question makes a lot more sense now.”

Jun 24 2010

My Seven Year Old Daughter’s Burial Instructions

Summary: Death is final…or is it?

rubber t rex toy

My daughter's 20 inch high rubber T-Rex toy.

My daughter and I just left Betty’s Burgers and we’re headed to Capitola Mall to play in the kids area.

“When I die I want to be put in a coffin and I want you to put my T-Rex inside with me.”

“Really? So why do you want T-Rex put in the coffin…any specific reason?”

“I want him in there so he can clean me. Maybe about once a week he can get all the dust off me.”


“Yes, and also so he can open my eyes if I come back alive. And if I come back alive he can also open the coffin up so I can get out.”

We arrive at the mall and I get out a pen and notebook pad from the glove box.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m making a note to myself.”

“About what?”

“I find your request to have your T-Rex in your coffin interesting.”

“Oh, so you don’t forget to put the T-Rex in when I die? That’s a good idea.”

“Uh, something like that.”

File Under: Even Kids Want to be Buried with Their Most Cherished Possessions

Jun 13 2010

I Just Want Darth Vader, No Princess Leia

On my daughter’s 7th  birthday we got her some Star Wars action figures. We (meaning that my partner took all the time to find, purchase and wrap the gift but I get to share in the credit) got her a nice set of the classic ones but we couldn’t find Darth Vader and Princess Leia. My partner explains the situation.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t find Darth Vader and Princess Leia.”

“I just want the Darth Vader.”

“But what about Princess Leia?”

“I don’t want her. I don’t like her.”

“But Princess Leia is a girl. I though you’d like a girl character. She’s the only major female character in the movie.”

“I don’t like girls. I hate girls.’

“But you’re a girl.”

“I know. I hate myself too.” She says with a smirk.

“That makes sense because I kind of hate you too” I chime in with a big grin.

“Yeah, I know. Everyone hates me.”

Now to understand this conversation you need to know my daughter has a wicked sense of humor. At seven years old she’s already got the dry, deadpan, absurdist schtick down pat. She knew that was a ridiculous response designed to mess with us and get a rise. We obviously didn’t take the bait.

File Under: My Daughter Has a Very Dry Sense of Humor.

Jun 13 2010

What? The Karate Kid is Not a Girl?

Summary: Sometimes identifying gender can be tough for kids

My daughter’s been looking forward to seeing the new Karate Kid with Jaden Smith ever since she saw the first preview. We go too see it on Saturday and after some previews the movie finally starts. Five minutes into it my daughter asks a most interesting question.

“Is that a boy or a girl?”

“Uh, that’s a boy.”

“I though it was a girl.”

“So every time you saw the previews you thought the Karate Kid was about a girl?”


“I’m sorry about that. Are you disappointed that he’s a boy?”

“Yes. But that’s Ok, I’ll just pretend he’s a girl.”

So a word to Hollywood. Make more family oriented action movies with lead characters that are girls.

File Under: My Daughter Still Assumes People with Long Hair are Girls Even Though Her Own Dad Has Long hair.

Jun 7 2010

Kidnappers Have Better Food Options

Summary: A Child’s naivety leads her to develop some unusual priorities.

I’m in the car with my daughter on our way to the 41st Avenue Taqueria when she drops the usual loaded question.

“How do kidnappers come alive?”

“What do you mean come alive?”

“How do kidnappers come alive?”

“You mean how do they become kidnappers?”

“Yes. How do they start taking children?”

“Well, most likely they we born nice and friendly but somewhere along the line they became a kidnapper. A lot of times it’s because they were treated really bad as a child themselves and that messes up their mind so they start doing bad things to children when they grow up.”

“Do kidnappers eat junky food?”

“Well, I assume some of them probably do.”

“Well then I want to live in a house with kidnappers so I can eat junky food.”

“Wow (laughing) that is really funny…”

“Why is that funny?”

File Under: Kids Say Some Strange Things

May 24 2010

The Secret Word of The Day Is Bofia

Summary:  A Child Tries to Interpret Gloria’s Speech Patterns from the Movie Madagascar

My daughter and I are driving back from our adventure in San Jose when she asks me a question.

“What does bofia mean?”


“Yes, bofia.”

“Like boa-fee-yahh?”‘

“Yes, What does it mean?”

“Well I don’t think it means anything. It sounds like a made up word.”

“I didn’t make it up!”

“Did you hear it somewhere?”

“Yes, I heard it on Madagascar”

“Huh? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure!”

“Ok, how was it used?”

“Alex and Marty are fighting about something and then Gloria the hippo yells at them that if they don’t knock it off she going to come up there and smack the bofia”

“Ahhh…well that’s not bofia, that’s both of you said really fast. In her style of speech she slurs the words together. That’s how her character talks.”

“Hmmmm. OK.”

File Under: Children and Language

Apr 24 2010

Fear of Growning Up – What It’s Like to Be A Grown-Up According To A Six Year Old

Summary: You never know what’s on a child’s mind unless they tell you. They have fears and concerns that are often  much different than you’d expect.

So my daughter and I are driving to Watsonville to see the new Disney Nature movie “Oceans”. We’re not even to the Highway 1 on ramp before she drops a most existential concern.

“I’m afraid of becoming a grown-up.”

“Really? So what is about being a grown-up that scares you?”

“I’m afraid of writing checks. I don’t know how to do that. I’m afraid of going to the bank and putting money in or taking money out by myself. I’ve never done that before. I’m afraid of going to jail. I’m afraid of learning to drive. What if I crash? I’m afraid of becoming a teenager and I’m afraid of crossing the street by myself.”

“Well, it makes sense that you are a bit afraid of doing those things now. But when you’re older it won’t seem so scary.  When you’re ready you’ll look forward to doing those things – except going to jail. But you don’t need to worry about going to jail if you’re not doing bad things.”

“So what do teenagers get to do? What’s it like?” Continue reading