December 31, 2006


Of pending parenthood, vol. 1

Many of you know that my wife and I are expecting our first child, a son, in March. Of course we are very excited and of course like all newly expectant parents we have a great deal of trepidation about the whole affair - after all we waited through 13 years of marriage before hopping off the fence.

A few years before our child-rearing future became apparent - about the time we bought our first house, I began noticing myself becoming the curmudgeonly man who complains about “kids these days.” Various incidents cropped up that put me in the unenviable position of being the keep-the-hell-off-my-grass kinda old fart, the guy who gives the Archie Bunker wave and exclaims that yute is wasted on the wrong people. Every time I caught myself doing this it gave me pause, thinking, “Man, that guy’s a dick!” Honestly, there are some other aspects of my personality that could have and do still lend to that assessment at times, but with regards to the kids I’m still thinking that I’m not that old, for crying out loud. Of course phrases like “for crying out loud” don’t help that perception – some in my circle use that mostly as a parody of our parents, but at times it seems closer to self-parody.

I am noticing myself standing at a distance from youths of today, and I take that mostly as a reassuring sign of progressive adulthood. But when my thoughts cross over into ones like “just look at who is going to be running our country in 20 years” well then I feel like I’ve been suckered into some evil status quo of adult muckedy-muck that I would’ve chortled at mightily in my youth. I was a smart kid who enjoyed engaging with adults if they would suffer their ear to listen, and now I want to be that adult. What I realize now is that it will take some effort, as (and I know this sounds grousy) finding the smart kids seems to be getting harder. I realize I am about to have my hands as full as I can handle, which I say so that when my wife reads this she doesn’t freak out and think I’m going to run off being a full-time mentor. But I'm ready to be father and a father-figure.

The other side of the coin is that I wonder and stress over what kind of parents we are going to be. I’m fairly lazy by nature (which surely has me headed for a rude awakening, in fact several), but so many other parents infuriate me with how lackadaisically they seem to be raising their kids. In the immediate sphere we have our neighbors on either side.

The first is a couple with a boy toddler. The dad is a self-employed redneck dude in his early twenties who is hardly ever home. He has a history of drug abuse (according to his wife), works 16-18 hour days, and his friends are teenagers who hang out at his house at all hours. They love to make noise at their pool and squeal the tires, for which I try and cut them some slack, although I admit to calling the sheriff once when they decided to light fireworks off at 2:30 a.m. His wife has next to no idea how to discipline their little boy, and the kid seems destined to become a redneck hellion. One day Jennifer was out in our yard and the boy called to her from his second story bedroom window, leaning precariously against the screen and repeating, “Ha’yew sahne mah mawmmy?” He has mastered the art of doing exactly the opposite of what his mawmmy tells him, like "come over here," "stay away from that," and "do NOT throw that rock." Yep, it’s a mess. My nightmare scenario is that this kid will be like the unstable tormentor from “Toy Story” right about the time my son is hyper-impressionable with regards to the joys of destruction and disobedience. I should have a little more faith, eh?

On the other side is a single mom with a fifteen-year-old daughter. Now the mom is really nice but is a bit of a hoochie, with a revolving door of boyfriends and frequent weekends leaving daughter on her own. The poor kid could use a good, stable father figure but first on the list would be a more attentive mother. Mom recently bought the girl a car. Mostly she sits in it with her friends and thumps the subwoofers enough to vibrate their inner ears and cop a free buzz. And although she only has a very restrictive learner’s permit, Jen and I have both witnessed her taking it out on occasion past the state’s teen driver curfew (set for kids who actually have a license) and likely without any qualified accompaniment. I’m a bit of a night owl, and the other night before I hit the sack at about 1:45 a.m. I poked out the back door to unplug our Christmas lights. Over on the back porch next door was a group of about eight or nine kids, not making much noise but standing out there smoking. I know it’s school vacation, but I realize now that for those kids to be out there at that hour, our neighbor must be “the cool mom.” For her part the mom has said she’d rather have them there than out making trouble, which has wisdom as long as she keeps her eye out against that trouble showing up at her house. The point is that while I scammed my folk’s car when I was underage and I stayed at the house of my friend with the permissive parents as much as I could, I think me and my friends turned out just fine. We were perhaps reckless but we weren’t rank stupid (a bit lucky I’d have to admit). So I hope the girl turns out OK – she’s a good kid though I am suspicious of some of her friends. They better stay the hell off my lawn.

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You've brought a great big smile to my face tonight. Who are you kidding?!!? I know you are feeling somewhat jittery/anxious/nervous, but it's going to be wonderful! As I told Charles a couple of months ago, I think you and Jen are going to be terrific parents and any child of yours is going to be smart and lucky. You are two of the most intelligent, yet down-to-earth, people I've been lucky enough to know in many years.

As for your laziness, you ain't gonna have a choice about that after he's born. ;)

And for crying out loud! I use that phrase all the time!

Many hugs to you and Jen and Happy New Year!!! Breathe and relax and enjoy.
That's funny. I'm sort of the "cool mom" because I mostly don't mind bad language. Everything has a price though, and so does this. I am FUCKING SICK OF IT NOW. I've had to (finally) get on my little girl's case for non-stop swearing and vulgarity. I don't just didn't seem right that she kept calling me a ho in front of her friends. One girl said she'd be "decapitated" for calling her mom that. At a certain point I realized I was doing the kids, especially mine, no favors by laughing at and encouraging this.

There's another mom who's "cool" because she lets underage kids come over and get drunk at her house. She told me she thinks "partying" is part of the teen experience and she wants her daughters not to miss it. Her thirteen year old chugged half a bottle of rum last week and almost had to be taken to the emergency room. Very cool.

Looking back, I remember how stressed out I got over baby stuff. Is it okay not to warm the bottles in the middle of the night? Am I letting her watch too much Sesame Street? Oh no, I forgot to teach her pattycake! All the other one year olds are doing pattycake. MY GOD, I've ruined her life!!!

None of that matters. You'll think it does, but then he'll be 13.
Anyone willing to expose their kids to the Dead will be the ultimate cool parents.

And, I expect, they'll be fine.

Happy New Year!
I just cracked up imagining Tim teaching his kid patty-cake......
O'Tim! Man, this was me 15 years ago. It is so ironic to read your entry. Did you know that we have a few things in common? First, we are both Tims, second, we both Mtn. Bike. Third, we are both Virgos. After reading this entry, I'm almost wondering if you are me re-incarnated. Fontuneatly, that can't be because I am not dead yet.

Back on point. Just try to instill in your kids to be honest, think of others first, laugh often, love a lot, and be optimistic. Raising kids isn't hard if you remember that this person is not a blank canvas that you are going to paint your masterpiece on, but a person who will be living thier life, not living your life over for you without all of the mistakes. One tip is to make them go to school everyday and get there on time. My kids know that they are going to school unless they are really sick (no, a cold does not count). Niether of them has missed a day in years. Why are we as parents so strict about this? It will set the habit of showing up, on time, that will last the rest of thier lives. It will make your son the kind of person people want to have working for them, even if you are not the smartest or the best, being there every day and doing the best you can are extremely important to sucess in anything.So that's my best parenting tip.

Don't worry, you'll do fine.
I hate that "better at my house than Out There" logic. Like it makes it all better that the girl Paula spoke of chugged the rum at her own house. If you allow it, you are teaching your child that it's okay.

Paula, my 3yo already knows the difference between "public" and "family" words. Also, she still doesn't know pattycake.

Tim, congratulations on the impending arrival. My Very Wise Advice for Expectant Parents is: Eat out and go to the movies now.
Dude, with those two parenting examples you've set a bar so long you'll be able to surpass it in your sleep.

Anyway, don't sweat it. Savor it. Having a kid is the coolest thing. Yeah, they'll drive you bonkers at times, but let me tell ya, when I get home from work and Julie walks up carrying Sam and he looks at me and gets a huge grin on his face and reaches out for me, man, that's worth every bit of aggravation he'll cause me in the future. He's 8 months old today, btw!
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