Personally, I can’t stand it when other people brag about their kids. You’ll never catch me puffing up my chest, bragging about the fact my daughter won the National Chess Tournament for kids seven and under at the age of five. Nor will you ever hear me boast about her eighth grade science experiment, inventing an internal combustion engine that ran on tap water. You’ll never hear me talk your ear off about my daughter scoring four goals to lead her team to victory in the state soccer championships in ninth grade either. That’s because I hate to brag about my kids’ incredible achievements (particularly when it involves making things up).
But the one thing I have to admit to taking pride in is the fact that I am – much to my surprise – the parent of the world’s smartest person. I’m talking about my teenage daughter Rachel. I base this conclusion on more than a decade of longitudinal field studies observing her interaction with my wife and me. At first, I was not fully aware of just how superior her intellect was – in part because at the age of four, she still believed in unicorns and was convinced we should trade in her younger sister for an Easy Bake oven.
Over time, however, it became clear just how amazingly bright she was compared to her stupid parents – because she made a point of reminding us of that fact on a daily basis. For years, I lived under the misconception that earth revolved around the sun. But by the time Rachel hit her teens, it had become obvious to me – the entire universe revolved around her.
I’m not proud that for most of my adult life, I have tended to play it safe. I’ve always obeyed the rules and did what I was told. I’ve always used my turn signals, always separated the white from the dark laundry. I’ve always followed a predictable routine. If it’s 6:15 am, I’m hopping on the exercycle. If it’s 6:20 am, I’m in the bathroom flossing. A boringly predictable life.
But not anymore. I’ve decided life’s too short. I’m not going to be a conformist sheep following the herd anymore. I’m going to zig when they expect me to zag. I’ve decided to shake up my button-down life – starting by unbuttoning my collar. Hell, I just might not even wear a tie for work tomorrow. And there’s not a damn thing my boss can do about it (since I’m working from home tomorrow).
Lately I’ve turned into a rebel. It feels so liberating. My natural hair color is coffee brown. But last week, feeling in a dangerous mood, I dyed it mocha brown. I feel months younger. And look closely at my hair. I’ve started wearing my left sideburn an eighth of an inch lower than my right one – my silent protest to The Man that I will not conform to society’s rules anymore.
At sporting events, I now do the wave two seconds after the rest of my section. Sure it pisses off some fans. I’m living life on the edge.
This weekend I have the whole house to myself. Our elder daughter Rachel is a college freshman and our younger daughter Emily (who apparently really admires her dad – who knew?) is with my wife this weekend, visiting the college she’ll be enrolling in next fall. For the past few days, it’s been eerily quiet in the house – and eerily tidy. It’s weird to walk into my bathroom and not see my daughter’s curling iron, dirty towels and jars of makeup, eye liner, and moisturizing creams piled up in my sink. I barely recognize the kitchen now because there are no stacks of dirty dishes covering every square inch of the counter.
This got me to thinking about next fall, when for the first time in 19 years, there will be no kids in our house. We’ll be joining the ranks of a rapidly growing demographic: Happy People (otherwise known as “Empty Nesters”). Many couples look forward to this phase of life. But for me, it’s going to be a difficult adjustment. So I took time this weekend to look at old photo albums and watch old family videos. It brought back wonderful memories of many happy times with our daughters.
Like the 1,284 times I changed our daughters’ diapers when they were young (which, according to my rough estimate, is approximately 1,284 more times than my father changed his own kids’ diapers when we were young).
It seems no animal is safe to keep as a pet anymore. There was a time when people kept turtles as pets. But no longer, thanks to research which proved turtles often carry the deadly Salmonella bacteria, which can easily be transmitted to people. Then came warnings against frogs and spiders as pets because some turned out to be poisonous. Millions of kids loved to keep bee colonies until two words changed everything: Killer Bees. Now authorities are urging families to take precautions against the latest deadly threat to their kids’ safety: guinea pigs.
When you ask an American what comes to mind when you mention Australia, the first thing they think of is drunken Australians. But the second thing they think of is shark attacks – no wait, actually, second would be the Sydney Opera House. Third would be shark attacks, perhaps tied with Rupert Murdoch, but those are basically the same.
Well, move over, sharks! A newspaper in Newcastle, Australia, the Newcastle Herald, recently reported a rash of terrifying guinea pig attacks throughout New South Wales, Australia (see actual headline below right).
[Note from Tim Jones: This week, I’ve invited my high school daughter Emily to take the reins of this column for the first time. I told her to write about whatever struck her fancy. Then I explained to her that "whatever strikes your fancy" means "whatever, dude." I am confident that whatever she writes about will be in good taste and handled with maturity. See you next week.]
Hi, I’m Emily. My dad, Tim Jones, writes some stupid humor blog called View from the … Something or Other. I really have no idea what it’s called. I never read it. Because it’s like totally lame. He thinks he’s really funny, like the time he wrote that the dishwasher almost destroyed his marriage to my mom. Yeah, like my mom is ever going to cheat on my dad with the dishwasher.
Not that I would blame her. My dad is so boring. He’s always telling me stuff like “Kevin needs to leave by 9pm. It’s a school night.” That’s so unfair! All my friends’ parents let their boyfriends sleep over on school nights. And he’s constantly getting on my case if I get less than a B on a test. Gimme a break. He always likes to remind me that he was valedictorian at his high school and got straight A’s. And I tell him, “Wow. That’s impressive. And now you write a humor blog that five people read. I see what you mean about the importance of good grades, Dad.”
If you’re like my wife, then after you’ve been married for about two years you probably realize your decision to get married was a serious mistake. Marriage is difficult, especially if your husband is a humor writer or if you have kids. If both of those conditions apply to you, then may God have mercy on your soul.
My wife Michele (who prefers not to be mentioned by name in my columns, so will henceforth be referred to as “the woman who prefers not to be mentioned as Michele”) and I have been married for 26 years. Like any married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve squabbled over trivial disagreements like why I always pull all the covers over to my side of the bed at night, what was I thinking the time I taught our 9- and 8-year-old daughters how to hitchhike, and my minor lapse of judgment when I hired a police officer stripper for a surprise party for my wife’s 40th birthday. Turns out my wife was not quite as impressed by Officer Cinnamon’s sexy pole dancing skills as my poker buddies and I were.
So yes, we’ve endured our fair share of marital misunderstandings. But there is one issue which for years has caused more heartache and strife than any couple should have to endure. That’s right. I’m talking about the differences in how we load the dishwasher. It is still painful to talk about in public.
… is never to make any, of course.
It’s January – a new year and another chance to wipe the slate clean and press the RESET button on all those failed commitments from the previous year. Every year, I revisit my New Year’s Resolutions from the previous year, not so much to analyze how many of them I kept, because of course I kept NONE of them. Rather, I look back to chronicle how many weeks it took before I had completely bailed out on my very last resolution.
Usually that date is around January 16th. But then there was that one exceptional year – 2004. I made it all the way through February before completely giving up on all my resolutions, goals and dreams.
In looking back over my past New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend. Over time, the goals I set kept getting more and more ambitious. Meanwhile my results have hit a bit of a plateau… then slowly slipped off the edge of that plateau…. into the deep, dark, cavernous ravine of best intentions gone miserably awry. So this year, I have decided to set more reasonable goals in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Let me explain with a few examples.
When it comes to parenting, I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation.
Like the time our elder daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her drive the car to the mall. It was a sunny day. Traffic was light. And she had behaved extremely well all week long. So against my better judgment, I said okay. Two minutes later, she smashed the car into a stop sign barely 100 yards from our driveway. A part of me can’t help but wonder whether in retrospect I should have given in to the whining and pleading of an eight-year-old girl.
Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely ever listens to any of my opinions anymore unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing I said – which got me to thinking. Maybe the way for me to make better parenting decisions is to poll the opinions of total strangers.
In the 2012 presidential election, the polls were incredibly accurate forecasters of people’s voting preferences. Nate Silver’s 538 blog accurately predicted the Electoral College winner in all fifty states. Politicians use polls all the time to help them decide how to vote. Should we legalize gay marriage? Poll your constituents. Should we cut defense spending? Do a poll. Should we ban hurricanes during the last week of a presidential campaign? (89% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.)
Don’t believe me? Then maybe you’ll believe a study which concluded that marriages where the women do all the housework while the men retreat to the parlor to smoke cigars, read the newspaper and discuss politics with other men in top hats are happier. Okay, so that study was based on focus groups of landed gentry horse farm owners in Greenwich, CT in 1879. But now a brand new study appears to validate those previous findings.
A recently released study by Norwegian researchers reports that the divorce rate among couples who share the housework equally is 50% higher than those where the woman does most of the housework. “The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study titled Equality in the Home.
One conclusion emerges: Norwegian researchers apparently hate women. Another theory is that Norwegian men suck at doing chores. Still another theory is that lead researcher Thomas Hansen has a serious axe to grind over the fact his ex-wife, Ingebjørg, took him to the cleaners in their divorce. But that’s just my wife’s theory, and she’s never particularly cared for Norwegian men. (I’m talking to you, Sven Jorgensen.)
Every year about this time, thousands of families endure an emotionally trying ritual: Sending their young high school graduate off to college – or in the case of my neighbor Bert Zablinski’s under-achieving boy Freddie, a four-week correspondence course for road construction flag operators. For many distraught parents it means driving hundreds of miles in a tightly cramped car filled with college gear, then coming to a startling realization – they forgot to bring one essential item: Their child. Don’t let this happen to you.
The experience of sending your offspring to college is different for every family. But there is one feeling almost every parent shares: a desperate hope they’ll have the winning Powerball lottery tickets so they can pay for college. That’s their Plan A. Most parents don’t have a Plan B, now that by latest estimates the average cost of four years of college recently has surpassed the GNP of Uruguay.