Top Ten Things We Said We'd Never Do (Vows 8 - 5)

If you missed the previous blog post, this one is a continuation of the “Top Ten Things We Said We’d Never Do.”.  If you wanna’ check out #9 and #10, you can find it here.  Otherwise, just know that we had grand ideas to be fantastic parents, and now we’ve become quite ordinary at best. Vow #8:  I will never let my kid wear ridiculous outfits

Result:  FAIL

OK… so I confess this one is more mine than Gabby’s.

As parents, it is inevitable that we view our children as a reflection of us.  If they are well-behaved, then we must be good disciplinarians.  If they are well-groomed, then we must be relatively hygienic.  Conversely, if they destroy a neighbor’s flower garden, then we must be serial killers.

Based on my kids’ recent fashion choices, Gabby and I must be rodeo clowns

I always used to believe that one thing parents can control is their children’s choice of clothing.  Granted, they may be covered in dirt or oatmeal, but the underlying outfit choice should be something semi-respectable.  In my mind, Halloween costumes are kinda’ like a wedding dress, and should be worn only once.

And then I learned something by watching my wife.  Apparently,  choosing an outfit for an important engagement involves mental gymnastics reserved only for Mensa candidates and astrophysicists.  Though the monologue is all internal, there are long, silent moments spent staring into the closet, formal planning sessions which involve laying out clothing onto the bed, the physical act of trying things on in various combinations, and finally, the “Which do you like better?” question that can (and I’m sure will) ultimately trigger divorce proceedings.  Me?  I try things on at the last minute.  Like the sweater my wife bought for me for our family photo shoot, which we found fit very awkwardly.  If you get our Christmas card, notice how I always have a child strategically placed in front of me.

Children are unable to do this "fashion math" in their heads, so these mental gymnastics take place in the open, in the form of screaming, crying, flailing tantrums filled with the fuzzy logic of schizophrenic hostage negotiations.  It’s just not pretty.  Sometimes giving two outfit choices will be sufficient.  But usually, it turns into shoving a kid into her clothes, which I imagine is a bit like trying to shove a cat into a bucket of vegetable oil.

Not that I’ve ever tried it.

To avoid this, one must make concessions to remain sane.  Case in point, I took Audrey to her three-year old well check last week wearing tights, a poofy ballerina dress, a pink princess baseball cap, frog galoshes, and a purple coat.  And Jake attended the church’s Thanksgiving celebration for ESL students wearing his Buzz Lightyear costume complete with laser cannons.

I figure that if we don’t show a little flexibility now, Audrey will  be rebelling like crazy and wearing studded dog collars and a garbage bag to senior prom.

So we bend a little.

Vow #7:  I will never play “kid music” in my car

Result:  FAIL

A leak inside the U.S. military has confirmed that two of the top ten songs interrogators used to induce torture and sleep deprivation in Iraq and Gitmo are children’s songs.  That said, I would bet my retirement savings that any parent could name one of the two without stopping to take a breath.

1.        The “I Love You” song made popular by Barney.

2.        The Sesame Street Theme Song

And a third on the list could qualify as kids’ music, the Meow Mix cat food jungle.

Allow me to apologize for dumping these tunes in your subconscious.  I fully expect some of you to throw a brick through my window this evening, adorned with a disturbing message and eerie drawing of how you would like to torture me.

For this reason, Gabby and I vowed we would never introduce our kids to children’s’ music.  Instead, we would offer them only a steady diet of our own favorites to condition them to like the music we like.  James Taylor.  Norah Jones.  David Wilcox.  Corrine Bailey Rea.  Jack Johnson.

This was relatively easy when Jake was just two months old.  We thought we were really successful.  He could be lulled to sleep on any car ride, even if we were thumping some Sir-Mix-A-Lot (Gabby’s CD collection, not mine).  Unfortunately, the sleep was induced not by the music, but rather, the motion of the vehicle.

Then, we got sucked into a program called Music Together, which is supposed to teach your ten-month-old how to play the bassoon or something.  Jake was a boy genius and could name a song if you hummed just a few bars of it.  This would have been fantastic if “Name That Tune” was still a lucrative game show on TV.  But all we ended up with was a kid with a great ear for music, and a keen eye to notice that we had stuck our favorite CDs in his children’s music CD case.  We’re weren’t fooling anybody.

It turns out that the only thing more cringe-inducing than listening to a big, purple dinosaur sing about how much he loves you is to listen to your own toddler scream and cry and tell you they hate your 80’s playlist.

Ironically enough, in my research for this post, I also learned that Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian dictator, was flushed out of hiding by blaring Rick Astley and Neil Diamond.

So sad.  They are some of the tops on my iPod workout mix.

Vow #6:  I will never yell at my children

Result:  FAIL

I fancy myself a pacifist.  No need for violent outbursts to get your point across.  I always thought this was in my genes.  My grandmother raised twelve children (yes, you read that right) without ever raising her voice.

This is a pretty easy motto to follow until your two-year-old gives you a Cool Hand Luke stare down and tells you for the fifth time, in no uncertain terms, that they will not be cleaning up their mess.  Worse yet, when you ask a tiny person to “please stop writing on the table with your crayon,” and they look you dead in the face with eyes full of venom and do it three more times, it’s hard not to lose it.

I’m not proud of it, but from time-to-time, I can do a pretty darn good Mike Ditka impersonation.  Why?  I don’t know.  Because what I hope will be a big attention grabber to shock my kids into submission backfires 98% of the time, as they become more defiant, scream louder, or cry and kick the floor.

But sometimes, like hitting that perfect tee shot on the golf course keeps you coming back to the game, a well-timed bellow can wake the kids up and help them realize that they are being ridiculous.

Just like me.

Vow #5:  I will never have noisy toys in the house

Result:  FAIL

There are two kinds of toy stores.

There are the toy stores for smart kids.  They have names like The Imaginarium and Growing Tree Toys.  Shelves are stocked with specialty wooden playthings and learning games that engage a child’s mind.  These are the places that you browse when you have no kids, marveling at the real-life microbiology kit and the build-your-own  sustainable eco-farm.  Won’t it be fun to sit quietly with our kids one day and play and learn the wonders of the Universe?

Then there are toy stores for the mouth breathers.

They have names like Toys-R-Us and Rocko’s House of Loud.  The toys in these places are specially designed to irritate anyone over the age of eighteen.  There are toys for maiming children, toys for bursting eardrums, and specialty toys for causing epileptic seizures.

Here’s the problem.  Parents love the toys from toy store number one.  Granted, it’s a good thing that they teach your kids a thing or two, because you will liquidate your family’s 529 college savings account to purchase them.

But kids don’t give two hoots about ‘em.  Dumb kids or smart kids.  Doesn’t matter.

The only time your kids like those toys is when you are there to play with them.  Then, they are far less interested in the toy as they are in you.  Either that, or they find out how fun the ecological ant farm can be when they fill it to the brim with Pop Rocks and Diet Coke and watch it burst forth like a Yellowstone geyser.

So, as much as we would love to fill the playroom full of carved wooden toys and learning games, people buy our kids the toys that they truly love.  The loudest ones imaginable.  In colors not found in nature.

And they love ‘em.

To be continued.