Monthly Archives: April 2014

Hubris, Much?

Big Bad Barry

It’s funny how things come back to bite you.

I wrote a piece a while ago about the benefits of a little deprivation now and then. As only a graduate of a liberal arts college can, I went on and on about how giving things up makes you appreciate what you have. I should have kept my mouth shut.

“Play” means lots of things with a toddler: pushing toy trains around, variations of peekaboo, running in circles shrieking “Doc MacStuffins” – all these count as play. A game is nothing more than a convention established, added to, and modified. Its very organic, like an ensemble-created piece of performance art. Except without all that pretension.

There’s been a common theme in Little Man’s games of late. I’ll be working the pirate bath toys, they’ll be riding their boat in the tub, when Big Bad Barry the shark, to great gales of laughter, capsizes the stalwart vessel and then drags it down to the sudsy depths. The pirates then commandeer any number of maritime devices from cups to fish to frogs to papa’s feet, all of which suffer the same fate.

Or maybe I’m working some bit of train cargo meant to fit on one of the cars. The cargo tries to get on the train. The train doesn’t stop. Many giggles occur in conjunction with this. The cargo continues to pursue this sysiphusian task with iron persistence and a cunning wit (if I do say so myself). The train, to the uproarious amusement of certain people, does not stop.

You can, no doubt, begin to grasp the through line here.

Endless frustration on my part is, apparently, hilarious.

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As a father who works with a lot of people who don’t have kids, I try not to be that guy.

That look-at-the-cute-thing-my-kid-did guy.

At least not too much.

And I try to keep my bloggery a little higher order as well – the subconscious motivations of bathtub games, the existential ramifications of blow-outs, play-doh trafficking, that sort of thing.

But sometimes the mind of a toddler shrugs off all filters literary and paternal. Sometimes, you have to hear the word from the man himself.

This morning, at breakfast, discussing a trip to Duluth, MN.

“Duluth! It is so far. Duluth is so far like Africa. We must skate to Africa! You. Must. Know. How. To. Skate! On a skateboard! I know how to skate: you put one foot on. You put one foot off. And then you skate! We must skate to Africa! So quickly!”

So there.

skate africa

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Every Man Has His Price

BRIBERY

Did you know that in the Thai language, there’s no word for “corruption?”

Like some African languages don’t differentiate between “sing” and “dance,” and New Jerseyan dialects have no word for “shame,” corruption in Thai culture is so commonplace, so intrinsic to getting anything done that they don’t have a word for it.

This is a concept I ponder as I fill my backpack with illicit substances intended for coercion and bribery.

Yes, I’m a mule. I’m a play doh mule.

Toddlers, like cats, are generally inclined to do some things and not so inclined towards others. And, like cats, getting toddlers to do anything they’re not otherwise inclined towards involves creativity.

To get a toddler to run around, all you have to do is wait for two minutes (or two seconds, if it’s my Little Man we’re talking about). But to get them to eat vegetables, or wash their hair or use a kleenex or go to the dentist or any of the million little feats of courtesy and hygiene that comprise our days – to get them to do these things requires…persuasion.

And you try to go the high road. You start early with them, you build these things into routines, you lead by example, you just plain tell them to do it ten times a day every day for a year and a half, you try. Because it’s better in the long run if they wash their hair expecting only cleanliness as a reward.

This, after all, is the foundation of those higher principles of fairness and justice and all those lofty ideals embodied and enforced by Chuck Norris and Karma. The institutions of civilization itself are based on the idea that there is a “right thing to do” and that there is a morality both collective and objective.

Of course, all this socio-philosophical peacockery is worth as much as a full diaper pail when it comes to getting a Little Man’s hair washed.

We could hold him down. And we could also force feed him green veggies. But something tells me this might backfire in the long term. A neuroses-free adult this would not make. Better to try DeCartes on him.

Or you could promise play doh after he’s done.

Not the most noble of approaches, but as Thailand can historically attest to, it is remarkably effective. And parenting, at times, is a dirty business. Just ask pampers. Leave the contemplation of morality to theologians and the individual’s social responsibility to the guys who wrote The Wire, I’ve got a toddler who’s head smells like last week’s milk. I didn’t see nothing. I don’t know nothing. I wasn’t there, and if I was, I was asleep.

 

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In Theory, Communism Would Have Worked.

This blog is a blog of ideals.

Plato125

It is a blog where arguments are rational, where philosophy is applied successfully, and where change and personal growth occur when enlightenment is achieved.

It is, therefore, nothing at all like reality. It is a blog of the should, not the is.

I’ve used this bloggatry to wax paterno-sophical on the existential dilemma of American Masculinity, on the universality of victimization in relation to bullying, and about how awesome coffee is. And it’s all bulls**t. The literary navel-gazing of a guy who wrote one too many collegiate essays on cultural relativism and post-modern feminist theater in Latin America.

Live the struggle, sisters. Viva.

But I can admit this. I should admit this, if you’re into that whole callback thing.

Today, for example. We were hanging out at Choo Choo Bob’s train store when a boy of about 4-5 started horning in on Little Man’s train narrative. Just stood around by the table for a while, then tried taking Percy, the number 6 green engine.

You don’t go grabbin another man’s Percy.

But it’s obvious to me, as I write this, that this boy wanted, or even needed interaction. His brother was maybe one and a half, not really able to play on his level. His mom was off in another part of the store trying to get signal for her phone. The boy was bored and not the type to play quietly by himself – he wasn’t malicious, or cruel, he just didn’t have the emotional awareness to just ask “Can I play with you?”

This should have been an opportunity to work on sharing with my Little Man, to make new friends and play together.

Should, again. Should have been.

What actually happened was I refrained from giving the little engine thief a suplex, and instead told him he could play with any of the other green engines on any of the other tables but that Little Man was using this one.

The boy lamely responded with a “Well…”

And I actually said “Well what?”

To a 4 year old.

Seriously.

I was that guy.

But this boy, the Little Man and myself were the only 3 people in a room of 9 freakin train tables. Nine! Five of which, and this is no exaggeration, were set up exactly the same! And he has to play on this one? With this engine?

Not my most shining moment, as a Papa.

I can’t help but wonder what Obie award-winner, and Pulitzer Prize holder Maria Irene Fornes would have done.

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