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A Parent’s Commencement Address to His College Graduates

[Author’s Note: Both of my daughters graduated from college this year. This is my commencement address to them on reaching this important milestone in life.]

Today marks the official start of your lives as college graduates. Don’t think of this as the date when your parents stopped paying for your cell phone plan and car insurance. Think of it as a new beginning when you discover the joys of balancing your own checkbook and deciding whether to spend your money on rent or the latest designer dress.

This day calls to mind my favorite Latin quote: Tibi gratias ago Deo et non ex se ad replete FAFSA forma. Translation: “Thank God, I won’t have to fill out another FAFSA application.”

As you move through life, you’ll encounter people who you’ll feel are treating you unfairly – most notably your parents. But we are only doing this to help you in the long run – unless we’re just trying to yank your chain. However, I still stand by my rule about not leaving your curling irons on your bed and plugged in when you headed off to middle school each day. I apologize for letting my selfish desire to prevent our house from burning down interfere with your hairstyle fashion sense.

You have both accomplished so much. Emily, I’m not just talking about how you managed to stay awake through your 8am accounting class sophomore year – although, kudos on that impressive feat. I never could have done it.

It seems like just yesterday that you entered college with no idea what you wanted to do with the rest of your lives. Just four years later, you’ve already narrowed it down to “no job that requires operating a fork lift.” 

You’ve both matured in so many ways – from the quality of your tattoo selections to your taste in men. Aren’t you glad you didn’t elope with Stoner Steve when you were a freshman, Rachel? I am so proud – and relieved.

Now it’s time to give back. You can begin by giving back the camping gear you never used.

My advice to you is to look for a career that will stoke your passion. Rachel, you considered career options at a very early age. At age seven you declared you wanted to be the world’s first ballerina-astronaut-fireman-kitty cat petter. If you still wish to pursue this, I believe in you. But don’t discount too quickly your other passion of becoming a cardiology nurse as a fallback, if the fireman-cat thing doesn’t pan out.

As for how to pursue a successful career, perhaps the best advice I can give you is to study the many decisions your father made to further his career – then do exactly the opposite. I’d hate for either of you to look back at life when you’re my age, facing the stark reality that your career peaked at age 27 and you ended up throwing away your dreams to pursue the life of a humor writer. It still keeps your mom up at night.

Don’t hold back on pursuing your goals due to fears or anxieties. Press forward in spite of them – like you did so boldly, Emily, when at age six you overcame your fear of scissors by cutting off all your hair. For months afterward, people kept asking why we never mentioned that we had a son.

As you move through life, do not judge others too harshly – the way you concluded by age nine that I was the lamest, worst dad in the entire world. Now that you’re mature adults, I think we can all agree that Allison’s dad would hold that distinction.

Be careful with how you spend your money. Be sure to set aside at least 10% of your income for long-term savings. And remember this important investment advice: BUY LOW. SELL HIGH. It took your father far too many decades to realize it wasn’t the other way around.

Pay attention to those for whom life may not have shined so brightly as it has for you. While loaning a sorority sister your fake ID so she can buy beer may have seemed like a giving gesture at the time, perhaps you can stretch a little further in the future by helping others with slightly more pressing problems. Here’s a thought: you could donate your out-of-style Lululemon collection.to the nation of Burkina Faso. I’m sure you have enough to clothe at least half the population.

On this momentous occasion, I implore you to seek your destiny – unless you think your destiny involves joining the circus. As you look ahead to your future, ask yourself these important questions:

  • How can you make a positive impact on the world?
  • What can you do with your life that will make you want to get out of bed each day?
  • Where can you find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000 a month – because no, you can’t move back home to avoid paying rent. Besides, your bedroom has been converted into my man cave.

As your father, I want to thank you for the many life lessons each of you has taught me – like the importance of patience – and learning not to say the first thing that popped into my head when Rachel hosed down the family room (because “the pillows needed a bath”) or when Emily took a Sharpie to draw a giant mural of flowers on the living room wall (“I’m an artist – just like Mommy!”).

And now you’re all grown up. How did that happen so quickly? My little “angel monsters” have blossomed into two amazing, self-confident, and determined young adults. Now follow your dream – just so long as it doesn’t include asking anyone if they want fries with their order.

In closing, my counsel to you both is always to look at life with a grateful heart. I am deeply grateful for the joy each of you has given me as your dad. When you were young, every night at bedtime, when I would tuck you in, I’d kiss you on your foreheads and tell you: “I love you to the universe and back.” I still feel that way. Thank you for two decades of bedtime stories, soccer practices, gym meets, and butterfly kisses.

Congratulations, college graduates. Your mom and I are enormously proud of the people you’ve become. It’s your turn now. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to figure out what that means – because I have no clue.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017


  • §ome good advice to your girls, Tim. The memories we have of them growing up will stay with us…
    eleanor
  • Published On May. 30, 2017 by TEJ
  • How to (Almost) Kill Kittens Without Really Trying

    Let me set the record straight: I love kittens – and cats of all ages and breeds – with the exception of Persians (I just don’t trust those shifty little eyes). My wife and I have had cats (or more accurately, cats have had us) throughout our entire marriage.

    We even foster kittens to help get them used to being around people. We feed them, cuddle with them and play with them for six to ten weeks, until they’re ready to be adopted. It’s how we ended up with our two current cats, Zippy and Buddy, neither of whom, as best as I can tell, fear that I’ll try to murder them in their sleep.

    I’ve never once thought about trying to snuff out any of our feline friends – okay, maybe I harbored a few nefarious thoughts when Patches peed on me, but that’s the only time – unless you count when Monster ran off with my digital watch and I later found it in the toilet.

    With those very few exceptions – and maybe five or six others – I’ve rarely contemplated putting out a contract on any of our cats. But if I had plotted their demise, I could not have come up with a more fool-proof plan than the one we accidentally set in motion last week – one that almost drowned and / or electrocuted five adorable kittens and their mom.

    Let me start at the very beginning…

    Read More…


    • How did a cat turn on the faucet? You must have one of the lever kind that a jump…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Apr. 06, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Confession to My Readers

    Confession to my readersLately, I’ve been carrying a heavy burden that I need to get off my chest. There are many things I feel guilty about, and I just have to come clean about them to my loyal readers – all eleven of you. In the spirit of Stephen Colbert’s Midnight Confessions, I have decided to make my own public confessions to all who care to listen.

    [NOTE: Before reading my heartfelt confessions below, please turn up the volume of your speakers, then click on this link, skip past the commercial and wait about four seconds, after which you’ll hear some appropriate background confessional music. Then return to this page to read my confessions. God bless you, my friend.] 

    Dear reader,

    Sometimes I can be a bit lazy. Like when my wife asks me to clean the sheets of the guest bedroom after our most recent visitors have left, I will say “Absolutely, honey” but then I’ll simply pull the bed covers over the sheets without changing them.

    Sometimes I will tell my neighbor that his lawn looks great, when secretly, deep down in my heart, I know it doesn’t. It really needs to be weeded.

    I’m not proud of this, but recently, when I played golf with my buddies, I told the guy keeping score that I got an 9 on the par-3 eleventh hole, when really I got a 10.

    When donating food to the homeless, there have been times when instead of putting the Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies in the donation bag, I’ll put in graham crackers. Because I don’t particularly care for graham crackers – unless they’re the cinnamon ones, in which case I’ll probably keep them, too.

    Read More…


    • Tim, no need to confess your deflated golf score.......after two seasons of playing golf with you I have always added…
      Ken Neilson
  • Published On Mar. 17, 2017 by TEJ
  • The Very Happy Story of Snowball and MooMoo

    This is the story of Snowball and MooMoo, two very, very happy kittens. At first, they weren’t very happy at all. No, they were scared. And cold – because they were born one November morning in a forest with nobody to love them. Their mommy had left them and never returned. Poor kitties. So, they were all alone and wishing that someone would take them home and play with them.

    Then something wonderful happened. A nice lady found them and took them to a building called an animal shelter, where lots of other lonely kittens were living. They made lots of new friends. And they were fed and cleaned and had a good time. But they spent most of their time in a small metal room called a cage. They did not like living in a cage one bit.

    A couple weeks went by and then another wonderful thing happened. A nice man came to the shelter and offered to foster them for a few weeks until they found a permanent home. And in less time than it takes a kitty to crush a mouse’s skull, they had a new home with the nice man. He named them Snowball and MooMoo – because one was snowy white, while the other was black and white, just like a Holstein cow. The nice man was very good at coming up with lame kitty cat names.

    At first, Snowball and MooMoo stayed in a small room with a tile floor and a sink. There was this big box filled with what looked like sand, only rougher. It looked kind of scary, so they made sure to always avoid it. When they had to go poop or pee, they just went in a corner or in the sink – anywhere other than that scary box with the scratchy sand.

    Read More…


    • Moo Moo and Snowball are lucky cats! Except for the other cats making fun of their names. ;)
      Tony
  • Published On Feb. 19, 2017 by TEJ
  • Signs My Daughter Loves Me

    signs-my-daughter-loves-me-cartoonIf you’re a parent like me – or even if you’re a parent who’s not like me – at some point you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why on earth did I ever have kids?” In my case, I blame my wife.

    For years, I found that same question popping into my head – roughly every four minutes – as I would endure one battle after another with my rebellious younger daughter for household supremacy. I fondly recall that satisfying period when I was in charge and my word was law. But then she turned two.

    Parenting is exhausting, with long stretches during which you wonder if your children will ever show you a glimmer of respect or affection – and by “long stretches” I mean from age two to whatever age they currently are. If you’re feeling anxious that perhaps your child doesn’t love you, despite all the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made, it’s understandable. But there is hope she’ll get through her awkward, narcissistic phase, and the day will come when she shows you her devotion. Admittedly, when I say “there is hope”, I mean in the way that there’s hope my Seattle Mariners may someday make it to the World Series, or how astronomers hope someday they may find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

    The signs are obvious if you just know where to look. Here’s how I know my daughter loves me:

    Read More…


    • Tim, you're a master at hyperbole, they can't help but love you. They show you with their gaze that melts…
      Paul Burgess
  • Published On Jan. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Family’s Christmas Miracle

    christmas-miracle-tree-in-hand

    Once upon a time there was a humble family man named Tim. Tim loved the holiday season more than any other time of year – all the traditional songs, twinkling lights, frosted gingerbread cookies – but most of all, seeing the magic of Christmas in his kids’ eyes. Yes, Tim was blessed with two wonderful daughters, Rachel and Emily. He remembered so many wonderful Christmases from their youth with fondness.

    However, in recent years, as his girls grew older and more independent, Tim sensed that the holiday spirit was slipping away from their Christmas gatherings. Indeed, this might be the last year that the entire family would be together for the holiday as both girls were embarking on careers in far-away cities. So, Tim made up his mind. He was going to bring back the magic of Christmas one last time!

    The holidays were rapidly approaching. Emily arrived home first. Tim was so excited to see his younger daughter. After all, he’d not seen her in six full moons. Tim had a wonderfully festive plan for just the two of them. They would hunt down the perfect tree, a majestic tribute to Father Christmas. Then they’d decorate it with shimmering ornaments and glittering tinsel. But Emily was jet-lagged from her long flight home from China and went straight to bed – for the next two days. So much for that inspiration. Oh, Tannen-bomb, thought Tim.

    Read More…


    • That tale choked me up Tim.... Real chokes of sadness and tears of emotion - glad it worked out well…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Dec. 31, 2016 by TEJ
  • At Least I’m Not My Dad

    Discipline - dunce capIn hindsight, I probably was not quite as strict a disciplinarian with my girls when they were growing up as I should have been. Certainly nothing like how my dad disciplined me. I realize now that I let my kids get off too easy. Case in point:

    Me to my daughter Emily when she was ten: Hey, kiddo. Your room looks like a tornado just came through. Would you mind cleaning it up now, before you go out and play? I’d really appreciate it.

    EMILY: That’s so unfair. Madison’s parents never make her clean up her room so why should I have to?

    ME: Every family makes its own rules, and unfortunately for you, you’re a member of THIS family. Now, just make your bed, put away your clothes and pick up the leftover pizza, and then you can go have fun with your friends. Thanks. I love you.

    EMILY: I HATE YOU! You are so mean! You can’t make me!

    ME: I’m trying to be patient here. Don’t make me ask you again. Clean up your room now – or else!

    EMILY: Or else what? You’ll give me another timeout?

    ME: Um, actually, yes. Plus, I’ll take away your cell phone until you’ve cleaned your room.

    EMILY: No, you won’t. Because you need me to remove that virus from your computer that you got from downloading that stupid Elf Bowl game.

    ME: Shoot. Okay, help me with my computer when you have time, and I’ll let you clean your room later. But that room better be spotless before you leave for school tomorrow morning, you hear me?

    EMILY: Sure. Whatever.

    ME: Hey, listen, Em. You’ve no idea how easy I am being here. Just be grateful you didn’t have MY dad for a father…. Read More…


    • Great job Tim. I enjoy your posts very much
      Jim Birkenbuel (View from the other side of th street)
  • Published On Nov. 27, 2016 by TEJ
  • It’s Not Too Late to Prepare Your Child for the 2028 Olympics

    2028 Olympics - girl on balance beamWhile the recent Rio Olympic Games are still fresh in your mind, it’s a perfect time to start getting your own child ready for the 2028 Olympics. The final venue has not yet been decided. I hear it’s down to Buenos Aires, Budapest and Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee. (I hear you. Why on earth is Budapest on that list? Ridiculous.)

    First the bad news: If your kid is over the age of twelve, I hate to break it to you, but you waited too long. With only 12 years left until the 2028 games, there’s not nearly enough time to get your teenager up to speed.

    If you love your young child, don’t waste another day. First choose a sport. But before you get ahead of yourself and say “gymnastics”, slow down, mom. Unless you plan to starve your child so she tops out at 87 pounds and 4’ 10”, I should caution you – gymnastics gold is pretty elusive. Besides, I checked. There’s this three-year-old from China who looks unbeatable for 2028.

    Take a couple minutes (but not more than ten) to think about which sports make the most sense for your child to compete in. Then throw them all out the window, because the only events that will ever bring your future Olympian serious Benjamins from sponsorships are track, swimming, and gymnastics (which the Chinese girl has already got locked up). When was the last time you saw a badminton Olympian on a box of Wheaties? Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a box of Wheaties?

    Once you’ve chosen your child’s Olympic specialty, it’s time to launch a rigorous training program. You’ll need a coach – someone who’s an expert in helping kids reach their full potential and crushing their spirit into dust if they make the tiniest mistake off the starting blocks. Choose your child’s coach carefully because he or she will replace you in your child’s life from this point forward. If at all possible, find a coach who bears at least a passing resemblance to you, to help remind her of the parent she once loved. Don’t worry. You’ll still be able to spend time with her every fourth Saturday and on Christmas morning until noon (after which she has to get back to her workout regimen).

    Read More…


  • Published On Aug. 22, 2016 by TEJ
  • I’ve Survived Hell – Or as My Kids Call It, Disney World

    disney world - familyRemember way back when, before you had kids, how you and your spouse would go on romantic getaways to exotic destinations like Cancun or Paris or maybe Santorini? Ah, such relaxing vacations. But then you screwed up everything by deciding to start a family. Oh sure, having young kids doesn’t mean you can no longer go on vacations. It just means you can’t enjoy them.

    By the time your kids turn seven, as summer vacation season approaches, they’ll begin the longstanding family ritual: complaining that every other child in the free world has been to Disney World – twice – “except for us! It’s no fair!” This is an excellent time to invite your kids to ask the Millers down the street if they might consider adopting them, since apparently “the Millers are way more fun parents than your mom and me.” I never particularly liked the Millers. I suspect the husband may be a metrosexual. But that’s a story for another post.

    As surely as my Seattle Mariners will never win the World Series in my lifetime, it’s an equal certainty that sooner or later, you will buckle under the pressure of the relentless nagging and offer to take your kids to Disney World. And for that you have my deepest sympathy.

    A trip to Disney World is the perfect vacation – if you like standing in line for hours at a time in sweltering 96-degree heat with 97% humidity, listening to your young children whining endlessly about how long all the waits for rides are. Usually by about 1pm on Day One you’re starting to seriously regret your decision to spend thousands of dollars that could have been much better spent on a brand new red Camaro instead. If this sounds like your idea of fun, then pack your bags and head to the airport for your very own Disney adventure. Then turn around and go back home. You forgot your four-year old, Ashley. Then strap Ashley and her adorable Disney-branded Lilo and Stitch backpack into her car seat and get ready for a not-so-memorable trip to visit Mickey and his pals.

    Read More…


    • Here are some alternative lyrics to the "Song that Shall Not Be Named" It's a world of…
      Ellen Webber
  • Published On Jul. 26, 2016 by TEJ
  • How to Help Your Child With Their Science Fair Project

    middle school science project - ChildIf you have kids, then by the time they reach middle school, it’s a certainty they’ll turn to their parents for help with their science fair project. In our family, they naturally turned to me because they respected my enormous wealth of scientific knowledge [after all, I’ve watched more than two episodes of Nova] – and not at all because my wife has told them “I’ve driven you to 600 soccer practices and 125 piano lessons over the past three years. It’s time your father got off the couch for once. Go ask him!”

    Helping your child with his noble science fair project can be a wonderful bonding opportunity – parent and child working together to bring a complex endeavor from inception to completion. Remember, your role is merely to coach, not to take over the project. Use this chance to teach your child a life lesson in taking responsibility. Follow this simple seven-step roadmap, and before you know it, your little wunderkind might learn a lot more than just how many planets are in our solar system (I still say the answer is nine. Pluto rocks).

    Step 1: Help your child select a project that’s achievable.

    Kids are naturally competitive. They want to impress their teachers – and their parents. So don’t be surprised if your child’s concept for a project is overly ambitious. When he decides to build a nuclear particle accelerator using bicycle parts and silly putty, you may want to counsel him to scale back his plans to something more realistic – so he might actually complete his project during your lifetime. 

    Step 2: Remind your child of your role in this project.

    Okay, so you took your kid to the movie, The Martian, and now he’s decided he’s going to build a rocket ship that can travel to Mars and back. Did you skip over Step 1 above – the part about choosing a project he can actually achieve? As you get started, remind your little rocket builder that this is his project, not yours. Insist he take the lead. Gently reassure him that you’ll be there every step of the way if he gets stuck.

    Notice how he gets stuck as soon as he hands you the instruction sheet from his teacher, at which point he may say something like, “Dad, this looks really hard.” Don’t worry. This is an excellent opportunity to teach him the lessons of patience, self-reliance, taking a project from start to completion and going without texting for more than three minutes. 

    Step 3: Encourage your child when he gets stuck. Read More…


    • Not having kids we helped by judging science fairs. What a learning experience trying not to crush budding scientists,…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Nov. 16, 2015 by TEJ