1. Why am I arguing with a 4-year-old about the validity of Fruit by the Foot as a healthy snack?
Joey: Daddy, I want a snack. (He hops off the couch forcing me to pause our before bedtime cartoon. You all know how I feel about pausing movies and shows. If you don’t, click here: https://thedadmanchronicles.com/blog-3/2019/9/17/lights-camera-questions).
Me: You didn’t finish your dinner, so no.
Joey: But, I’m hunnnnnnnngryyyyyy (He drops to the floor, lays on his side and starts using his feet to spin himself around in circles- his go to tantrum).
Me: Well, you should’ve finished the chicken and broccoli. I don’t know what to tell you.
Joey: But it’s BORING!
Me: You’re not using that word correctly.
Joey: BORRRRINNNNGGG! (He spins and spins and screams that piercing cry of his).
Me: (A moment of weakness settles in. I do my best to win the war, but I’ve had a long day and concede this current battle). Aghhhhhh! Fine! It has to be a healthy snack! Go get fruit or carrots. NO CANDY!
Joey: (Turning off the tantrum lickity split as if though he was acting the whole time, he jumps up and heads to the kitchen. He comes back with a Fruit by the Foot. He sits on the couch and tries to open it).
Me: Ummm, no. Are you kidding? That’s candy.
Joey: No, it’s not. It’s a Fruit by the Foot. Fruit, Daddy. You said fruit.
Me: Joe, that’s not healthy. That’s candy. It’s not real fruit.
Joey: Yes, it is. They smash it up and roll it up.
Me: No, it’s not. It’s like pure sugar. You’re not having that before bed.
Joey: Then why do they call it Fruit by the Foot?
Me: I don’t know, ingenious marketing?
Me: Never mind. Go put it back.
Joey: Noooo! (Drops to the floor and resumes his tantrum spins).
Me: Aghhhhhh! Whatever! (Every now and then, it’s okay to lose the battle).
2. No, you can’t be a professional blackjack player when you grow up.
I’ve found in my eight years of being a parent that the key to making your kids learn is by tricking them into doing so. At a very young age, Teddy learned to add and subtract through the game of blackjack. While teaching my kid to essentially gamble might not win me the father of the year award, Teddy sure can add and subtract those cards pretty quickly these days. Now that he’s a big kid in third grade and working on multiplication, I’ll also ask him to take his first two cards and multiply them together. If he can do it correctly, he gets an additional chip to his pile. This is exactly how I learned how to do math as a kid in my family. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe that’s why math was never my forte and why I’m an English teacher. Oh well, it seems to be working for him. This weekend, Teddy and I were playing the game, and he was doing surprisingly well. Actually, the kid was cleaning out the bank. We don’t play for actual money, but I could see the wheels turning in that perpetually churning brain of his. He kept looking at his stack of chips as it grew higher and higher. He was nailing the multiplication problems too and had all the luck in his corner for the last ten hands or so.
Winning another hand, he grabbed his chips, turned his cards over to me, and he said, “You know, Dad. I think I might be a professional blackjack player when I grow up.” Uh oh, this game backfired on me, and it was time to teach my son the pitfalls of gambling.
I replied, setting up the trap I knew he’d fall into. “I don’t know, Teddy, gambling is a very bad thing. We’re doing it for fun, but it’s ruined a lot of people’s lives. If you’re not careful, it can be really dangerous.”
“But, Dad. Look at me! I’m rich!” He spread his massive stack of chips all about the table and rubbed his hands all over them in a triumphant glory. “I don’t think I’ll ever lose at this game again.”
Seriously, it was time to reign in that way of thinking. “Luck runs out all the time.”
“Not mine!” he said now piling his chips meticulously back into their original stacks.
“Hmm, well, since you’re feeling lucky, let’s play one last hand. All or nothing. If you win, you can play your iPad for the rest of the day. If you lose, you have to do thirty minutes of math problems.” I was setting the trap. There’s no way I was going to let him walk away from this game thinking his luck was never-ending.
“Deal!” He perked up in his seat and got on his knees.
“Or…” A father’s lesson in the making.
“You walk away now, and I’ll let you play fifteen minutes on your iPad.” I knew he wouldn’t go for it. And if he did, awesome. It means the boy has some self-control.
“Nope. I’m going for it.”
Yep, I knew it. “You sure? I told you gambling isn’t good. You can walk away right now.” A part of me wanted him to make the right decision, but I knew for this lesson to hit its mark, he’d have to go for it.
“Deal the cards, Dad!”
Now, I ask that you please hold your judgement. I’ve got quick hands, and I grew up playing cards and have continued to play my whole life; therefore, it was pretty easy finding the right cards in order to make him bust. Of course I wasn’t going to let him win! This game was all about teaching mathematics, not developing a gambling addiction! He was NOT happy.
“What’d you learn?” I asked.
“Gambling’s stupid.” He shoved his cards and chips my way. “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”
“Good, go get a piece of paper and a pencil. I’ll write down the problems.”
I don’t see us playing blackjack anytime soon, but hey, I’m teaching math and life skills all at the same time. Maybe I do deserve that Father of the Year Award.
3. The timer starts now!
I’d like to introduce you to your phone’s timer. You don’t know it yet, but this tool can be your most valuable asset as a parent. I’ve recently discovered its use in the world of parenting, and wow, has it been a game-changer. If your kids are like mine, they uncannily demonstrate the motivational tendencies of a sloth, and if you’re like me, moving at the slowest possible pace is unbelievably unbearable. Last week, we went to the library, and when my kids have to make decisions, the world comes to a stand still and all of its inhabitants must help them make the most perfect choice or LIFE AS WE KNOW IT IS OVER!
“Pick one book and let’s make it quick.” I release the hounds into the children’s section only for each of them to return what feels like eons later with armfuls of books. “Ummm, no. One. One book each.”
“We can’t decide, Dad.” Tommy whines.
“One minute. You have one minute to choose. Whoever can make a choice in one minute gets frozen yogurt.” I whip my phone out, click the clock app, and set a timer for one minute.
It only takes fifteen seconds. Teddy asks, “We can put candy on it, right?”
“Sure, let’s roll.”
Shortest trip to the library ever!
Use your timer.
It works wonders.
I use it for everything now. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, but at the moment shoes are put away in record time, hands are washed faster than a crack of lightning, and lego pieces are cleaned up as if though my kids are offspring of the comic book speedster, Flash.
4. Kids are incredibly observant.
Okay, this one’s a little sad, but nonetheless an important observation about parenting. On our way home from dinner one night, I had Joey and Teddy in the truck while Michelle took Tommy to a den meeting. Naturally, we were windows down and jamming out to my favorite artist, Luke Combs. There’s a song of his I play nearly every single time I drive, and it’s incredibly fitting for a dad blog. The song is “Even Though I’m Leaving,” and its largely about the relationship between a father and a son, specifically the notion that “Daddy” will always be there for his son even though he’s not physically there. Whether you’re a young boy afraid of the monsters under your bed, a soldier ready to join the army, or a grown adult saying goodbye to your father as he passes, you’ll never be without the love of your father. It’s a great song and one that I obviously relate to as a father; however, it caused some tears from Teddy in the back seat. I often forget that he’s getting older and wiser with each passing day, and it sure does feel like yesterday he was in a baby carrier completely oblivious to the world around him.
With the other two, I can still get away with certain things like watching the news on Saturday and Sunday mornings in the family room. Although with Teddy, I can tell that the arguing and bickering that unfortunately plagues news outlets these days often upsets him. He’s worried about the adults arguing and always asks if everything is okay. Of course I try and explain things as best I can to an eight-year-old and reassure him that everything is fine. You may disagree with this, and that’s fine, but I’ve recently tried to limit his exposure to it. There’s enough that stresses kids out these days, and I happen to feel like they don’t need to worry about politics as well. That being said, I was completely absorbed in the song and belting it out at the top of my lungs not really taking into account that the lyrics are actually pretty sad. When we got to this part, Teddy asked me to turn the song off:
Daddy, I’m afraid, won’t you stay a little while?
I never thought I’d see the day I had to say goodbye
Daddy, please don’t go, I can’t do this on my own
There’s no way that I can walk this road alone
My oldest is starting to get to the age where he’s a little embarrassed of crying, but I could tell he had tears in his eyes, and of course, I felt terrible. Teddy can be one tough booger, but he has a sensitivity to him as well. I am proud of him for it since it’s my belief that compassion and empathy are also the fundamentals of being a man. I try to reassure him that the tears are okay sometimes. We had a good conversation about the song, what it meant, and why I enjoyed listening to it. I appreciated the opportunity it gave me to talk with Teddy about a really sad concept like losing his dad someday. However, it reminded me to always be aware that my kids are listening. Some of you might think that it’s just a song and not a big deal, and you’re probably right. I happen to be of the mindset though that kids are forced to grow up way quicker these days than we did. The constant exposure to all things related to the internet doesn’t help, and while I certainly don’t believe in shielding my kids from the reality of life, I admittedly want them to hang on to their childhood and the carefree innocence attached to it for as long as they can. Teddy is also getting to the age where he is so naturally inquisitive about what the adults are talking about. Have you ever seen the Adam Sandler remake of Mr. Deeds? Remember the butler that literally showed up everywhere, all the time, and completely unexpectedly? “Sneaky, sir. Very, very sneaky.” That’s Teddy. Michelle and I can think we’re alone having a conversation and then Teddy slowly reveals himself from behind a corner and asks, “Whatcha guys talking about?” Once our hearts settle back to their normal resting beats after being shocked by the little creep, we both shout, “Nothing! None of your business!”
Beware of the children. They are always listening!