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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Please Don't Kill Me. I'm Just The Dad

The kids Grandpa tells my children never to throw the first punch as he smacks them. He is a former marine; my kids are in grade school. Then he tells them never to lose a fight. And then he provokes them silly so that they get into trouble with their dad (me).

Most parents are concerned with violence in video games because it is having a negative impact in their children’s social, mental and emotional development. I am trying to keep them from throwing punches at the family reunion. Grandpa says he is just making men of my kids.

The problem is I don’t know if I want my kids to be men just yet.

I am not a fighter. I used to think that this was because I was a bit wimpy as a youngster, but I am now realizing that I was wimpy as a youngster because I abhor violence. I hide my eyes when someone takes a swing at someone else on TV. Car crashes make me sick. And I can’t even be in the same room with my kids when they play a video game.

Game; the word implies fun, goofing, candy eating, kool-aid drinking and civility. That does not begin to describe this DVD box in my hand that I had to wrestle my kids for just to read. Now I see why.

There is a seizure warning. The Nintendo manual says “Some people…may have seizures or blackouts triggered by light flashes or patterns, and this may occur while they are watching TV or playing video games, even if they have never had a seizure before.

The manual also instructs me to watch my child as he plays video games and to be on the lookout for “convulsions, eye or muscle twitching, loss of awareness, altered vision, involuntary movements, disorientation”. Of course, some of these I witness regularly when I ask my son to do his chores, - along with rocking back and forth and humming hymns, but “convulsions”?

I am also instructed to insure that he sits or stands as far from the screen as possible. This I did by making him a comfortable seat in the laundry room, which fascinated him for a minute or two because he had never seen the room before.

“Where’d this room come from?” He said, like he’d just had his first encounter with an alien.

Obviously I am going to have to do something I have been loath to. Inappropriate and violent video games are making it necessary, in fact forcing me to interact with my kids. I must do this in order to prevent muscle spasms and blindness and vitamin D deficiency. To curb their violent tendencies, I am going to have to sacrifice my valuable surfing time to play board games with my kids - real games, like “Risk” and “Clue”. I may even have to break out the big guns, or their non-violent/peaceful equivalent, and unwrap my carved maple wood chess and checkers set.

No more SUV-R-TV I am thinking. Have I really been under the impression that watching incredible violence on TV every night is not going to have a lasting impact on my family and make us all want to hit Grandpa? Violence, even on TV, is barely acceptable in our house unless the cousins are over. We are just going to have to learn to resolve conflicts peaceably, either with our brains, or with Rock, Paper Scissors.

I am probably going to have to find another way to get what I need without threatening to “beat them into a pulp” or “pound them into tomorrow”. Maybe I should incorporate a peaceable, less violent way of forcing them to submit to my will…I mean encouraging them to consent. No more fighting ire with ire.

I may have to bring the monitor and all the games upstairs so I can monitor. I will assign my wife to watch as they play to see how age appropriate the video is. I would but I will be busy watching the children for signs of fatigue and eyestrain and loss of color in their lips as per the instructions.

If you touch my horsey I will kill you.
 Who would have thought I would have to spend so much time with the children just to keep them from hitting grandpa? A little duct tape and I can make real men out of them yet.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The King Is Dead; Long Live Rodney

I have lost my status as “most favorite dad in the neighborhood”, a title I had held for a short but eventful two weeks since Mr. Quaker from next door lost his pet hedgehog. Those of us paying attention knew that he actually sat on it during the neighborhood block party and hadn’t noticed until he stood up to go. His wife found little Spanky, who had been pinned to Mr. Quakers quilted “sitting pillow” for two hours.
Frankly, it was about time his reined ended. Everyone assumes that the title is rightfully his because he is old and cute and lets the kids set up their slippery slides in his front yard. Pay for the neighborhood kid’s orthodontics, and suddenly he is everyone’s favorite. Blah, Blah. I have just about had enough of his ruling by benevolence and kindness. Spankys “death by donut” couldn’t not have come at a better time for me.

I made my move. The very next Saturday there were gallons of paint sitting at my house tantalizing the little pre-teens. We painted the lawn green. It beats fertilizing and watering. And to seal the deal, we used our hands. Like Tom Sawyer, just the mention of messy emerald and moss green latex-and a slight feign of concern from me that “they weren’t really old enough”- did the trick. In less than the time it took for me to laugh manically, twelve pairs of Velcro shoes-zees’ were flung onto the driveway and green children began dancing and rolling in/on the front yard lawn. Quick note-wife out of town.

The whole thing was too easy really. Anything that is slightly against the structure their parents have set up for their kids in their home is exactly what they don’t want to do. I don’t have to be a good parent, just the most popular one. I let them bark at the dog. I let the one child that is always talking about poo talk about poo, though I am careful not to ask him any questions. The one that screams at the drop of a little brother, I let scream to her heart’s content. In fact, I assign her the task of head screamer. Even His Royal Oldness, The Spanky Smasher wouldn’t allow screaming at the height of his time in power.

He's having fun.  Really
The bossy child I paired up with the nose picker, who, I just discovered, has fingertips. It’s a two-fer. He gets to clear his nasal passages of floating bergs and bossy pants gets to tell him to stop and say “that’s discussing” over and over.

The one who talks nonstop I have invited to hang out with me as I now purchase my earplugs in bulk. She has not learned the difference between a “uh-huh” meaning “go on”, and an “uh-huh” meaning “I don’t care, my medication has just kicked in”.

So here I was, all set up to be the king-neighborhood-dad-dude. And then one of the minis asked to borrow my bike. My personal bike that I have childproofed and covered completely with reflective tape. The one I have named after my sainted mother, the one that has a plastic sleeve for my medical bracelet, my phone number etched on the handlebars for when I get lost. The one with the banana seat. I’m sorry; I don’t let anyone use my bike.

Not even me? says the one with the toes that point both east and southwest at the same time with his back to the equator. No, not even you, Flipper. Sorry.

The deed was done. He quickly flapped over and informed bossy pants who came over and told me off. She told screamer who told mini screamer with penchant for lying, who told snot burg picker…

Now I sit here alone. I am enjoying the last of my green lawn as it grows out revealing the water starved brownish yellow color it is famous for and will remain for the rest of the summer unless Allred’s Ace has a paint sale. Two weeks was all I could have asked, and it was a good run. I couldn’t keep it up anyway, now that my wife is back.

Now, the man in power, the best-neighborhood-dude-ever is the single guy across the street who lets the mini people watch as he and his girlfriend get tan and listen to music. He allows them to wash his car. I sit on a lawn chair and listen to the mini’s mutter under their breath as they walk by my house on the way to his; “at least Rodney lets us use his cool stuff!”

Yes Rodney does. Rodney is spending time with his girl friend Tanella in the hot tub. Rodney still wears swim trunks in quaint sizes, like medium, and doesn’t scare the children when he takes his shirt off. Rodney couldn’t care less what leaves his garage as long as Tanella is giving him a cold drink and a back rub. Bully for him.

I might mosey on over there and see if King Rodney has any cool stuff that he’ll let me use, like a bike or a table saw.