Years ago, I had this reckless notion that something was missing in my life which could only be filled by having kids. So we started a family – and got so much more: eight years of Raffi songs, 800 trips to sports practices (and the occasional trip to the ER), $6,000 in orthodontia bills, and a child-proofed house, every square inch of which perpetually resembled a FEMA disaster zone.
Don’t get me wrong – I love our daughters more than anything in the world – with the possible exception of bacon. But it didn’t take long to discover that despite the significant gap between my toddlers and me in earning potential, overall intelligence, and ability not to drool on everything with which I came into contact, I simply was no match for my kids. They routinely wore me out – usually by the time they dumped a bowl of Raisin Bran on each other – a daily 7am ritual.
As a parent of two boisterous young girls, I quickly came to two conclusions: First, the interior of the VCR makes an ideal place to hide daddy’s slice of apple pie; and second, being a parent was going to require Herculean levels of patience. Being a good parent means having the maturity to resist saying the first thing that pops into your prefrontal cortex when your eight-year-old microwaves your cell phone. You need to suppress the urge to blurt out, “Jesus Christ! What the hell were you thinking, spraying the cat with the purple paint, you little twerp?” Such an outburst could permanently damage your precious angel’s delicate self-esteem – much like my angel permanently damaged our precious leather couch with a stick figure etching of her daddy.
Shortly after our girls acquired rudimentary speech, I learned a valuable lesson: Never use foul language in front of young children. When my eldest was barely three, I caught her wielding my $500 Titleist driver into the trunk of our cherry tree, “just like George Washington, Daddy!” While she hadn’t yet mastered conjugating a sentence, she had, to my surprise, absolutely no difficulty reciting back to mommy the entirety of my panicked outburst – verbatim: “Mommy, Daddy said, ‘Holy shit. Look what you’ve done to my club!’ What does ‘shit’ mean, Mommy?”
Recently I helped our younger teenage daughter, Emmy, purchase her first car. She had no idea how much used cars cost. I think she was hoping to afford a slightly used Lexus. What she got instead was a lesson in how much cars actually cost. Emmy hates it when I mention her by name in my blog, so I will just call her “Miss Enthusiasm” – “M. E.” for short.
When we started this process, like a lot of young people, Emmy’s, I mean M. E.’s concept of buying a car was rather simplistic: You buy a Japanese luxury car on Craigslist from someone you’ve never heard of named Vinny for a few hundred dollars. Your only ongoing expense is the gasoline fill-ups required four times a year. Period, the end. More esoteric concepts like collision & liability insurance, vehicle registration, tire rotations, oil changes and other routine maintenance were vague abstractions that she had never quite grasped – mainly because she invariably tuned out my relentless attempts to explain the substantial ongoing costs of vehicle ownership. I apologize, M.E., for intruding upon your much more fascinating texting conversations with Haley on more important topics like whazzup.
When the time finally came for her to look for a car, I told M. E. I would contribute up to $3,000 towards the cost. Anything beyond that – including insurance was her responsibility. The only part I am sure she heard was the part of about me paying $3,000 – which is really all she needed to know, because she was pretty sure that figure would be enough to get her that brand new 2015 Lexus LS she saw on TV. I explained to her that cars cost a lot more than she imagined, so she reluctantly lowered her sights towards a used car – specifically the 2013 Lexus LS – ideally with the Bose surround-sound stereo system and the chrome wheel package. I could tell I was in for an exhausting couple of days.
Recently my wife Michele and I started a new chapter in our lives by moving to a lovely, somewhat remote island. We also decided to start working together. We thought, what better way to strengthen our marriage than to spend every waking minute of every single day together – eating, playing, sleeping and now working? What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, I know what you’re about to say: What were you thinking? But before you question our wisdom, I should point out that our skill sets are remarkably complementary. On the one hand, my wife is an extremely talented portrait artist. And on the other hand, I am the husband of an extremely talented portrait artist.
My job will be to market my wife’s portrait business. I am an experienced professional marketer. For example, remember the pet rock – a crazy, fun idea from the 1970s that generated millions in sales simply by packaging an ordinary rock in a box with funny instructions about how to care for it? Brilliant marketing. No, that was not actually my idea. But the idea for selling a 25-pound box of litter for your pet rock was mine. Sadly, it never made it to market. Okay, perhaps this isn’t helping make my point about being a marketing guru.
My wife wanted someone to oversee marketing so she could spend more time painting – and shooting down every marketing idea I came up with. (I still think my idea for her to parade the sidewalks of Seattle in a sandwich board handing out coupons for $10 off a portrait would have worked. But alas, we’ll never know because she squashed that idea, too.)
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 made a mistake giving in to the incessant pleadings of an eight-year-old to drive my minivan.
Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely listens to any of my opinions unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing – 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 most recent 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? (97% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.) Read More…
If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that in the end, your kids will crush your dreams, ignore your advice, join a biker gang, and blame you for everything.
But if there is a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that you need to be positive. As you know, outside of my immediate family, I am considered a parenting expert. My latest book, A Positive Parent’s Guide to Loving Your Child, even if They’re an Evil, Twisted, Unmotivated, Narcissistic Demon Seed Hellion Who Will Never Amount to Anything is helping millions of frustrated parents around the globe deal with their challenging child. The key? Remain positive at all times.
This week, I dip into Dr. Tim’s Mailbag, to share how you can successfully apply my powerful patent-pending positive parenting process to help your own challenging child blossom to almost one quarter of their God-given potential. Read More…
Recently I turned 35 years old, and by recently, I mean 25 years ago. But more recently, I turned 60 – this past month. When you turn 60, you start asking yourself uncomfortable questions like, “How long has that mole been there?” You ponder your own mortality and your legacy and how is it that AARP got your mailing address so quickly.
Lately I’ve begun asking myself challenging questions: What have I done with my life? What do I want to do with the limited time I have left on this planet? Did I have breakfast yet? Where did I leave my car keys?
I wonder about the impact I’ve had on the people in my life. What might these people say about me if they spoke at my funeral? It got me to imagining, which got me to worrying…. a lot…. about what they might have to say:
My earliest childhood friend, Danny: Yeah, Timmy and I were tight – until he destroyed my purple bicycle. I loved that bike. You son of a bitch. When you rode it into that pond and wrecked the frame beyond repair, from that moment on, you were dead to me. You hear that, Timmy? You’re DEAD TO ME!
My first grade teacher, Miss Kelly: I remember Timothy, yes I do. He was a rather chatty young lad. An unhealthy need for approval, if you ask me. As I recall, he had the worst penmanship and he was a very slow reader. Took him forever to get through the book Fun with Dick and Jane. And every crayon drawing he ever did always included a rainbow. I privately wondered whether he might be gay. Read More…
My wife and I recently decided to move. Of course, when I say that, I mean that my wife decided we would move. As her husband, she did allow me some say in the matter. I had the option of coming along or staying behind in an empty house soon to be occupied by complete strangers.
I considered the pros and cons with manly logic, and in the end concluded that following my wife’s lead was probably the better option. Besides, that way I got to keep the giant flat screen TV.
The process of moving can be stressful. Just thinking about the endless list of tasks can feel overwhelming. If you’re planning to move any time soon, follow my advice and take the stress out of your move.
Step One: CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT MOVING. Seriously, what’s so bad about your current place anyway? Oh, sure, so your neighbors’ 17 pit bulls can get a bit annoying when they all bark at the top of their lungs every time a car drives by. Hello! – ear plugs?! But if you don’t want to heed my advice about not moving, I understand. My wife ignored it, too. Read More…
Recently my college-age daughter Rachel emailed me, asking for help with a problem. Such an event – being rarer than a sighting of Halley’s Comet – calls for all-hands-on-deck-full-throttle parental engagement. “I’m there for you, Rachel.”
Thus began an email exchange that I am proud to say profoundly impacted my daughter and our relationship. Her gratitude for my sage advice is evidenced in her words that, well, she couldn’t even put into words how helpful I was.
Rachel: Hey, Dad. Wanted to ask you something. My boyfriend Brad and me had a fight. I saw him with my best friend Brianna. They were holding hands. He says she’s just a friend, but I think he’s lying. Should I confront him?
Me: Thanks for your email, Rachel. I am happy to help. Frankly, this is a common problem for many young people. In fact, your mom often struggled with similar issues when she was your age.
Here are my suggestions. First, never start a sentence with a verb unless it’s a command. When you write “Wanted to ask you something”, the reader is left wondering: Who wanted to ask me something? My daughter? My boss? A strange man in a tall hat? You never want to leave your reader guessing.
Also it’s not “Brad and me had a fight.” It’s “Brad and I.” Me is the objective form of the first person pronoun. In this context, however, you need the subjective form.
Rachel: Whatever, Dad. I don’t think you understand. I think Brad is cheating on me. Last nite, I texted him. No reply. No idea what he’s up 2. What should I do? Read More…
A successful marriage is all about compromise. In the interest of marital harmony, I learned early on that I needed to let my wife win a few negotiations now and then.
In just a few weeks we will be moving to our dream house, by which I mean her dream house. Don’t get me wrong. I am sure I will love it, because that’s what she tells me. Of course, no guy’s dream house would be complete without a MAN CAVE.
I had visions of the perfect man cave. I wanted to go beyond the ordinary items that every man includes in his private oasis – your know, basic things like a regulation-sized beer pong table, a dart board that curses in Spanish whenever a dart hits it, or a TV larger than the wall it is attached to. Those essentials are givens, of course.
No, I was looking for something a little more exotic. Something that made a manly statement about me, Tim Jones, as a man! So I came up with my list of Tim’s Top 10 Must-Haves for His Man Cave:
- A jumbo-sized wall chart showing the proper operation of power tools – as demonstrated by hot girls in bikinis.
- A combination billiard / air hockey / foosball table that with the press of a button recedes into the floor.
- A Batman-style utility belt equipped with a potato chip dispenser, cheese-wiz canisters in six artificial flavors, and a holster for my burrito-firing bazooka.
- A beer tap in the shape of an elephant trunk – pull on left tusk for guacamole; right tusk for salsa.
- A bear rug – with grizzly in full roar – wearing a Seattle Seahawks helmet (for a touch of class).
- A life-size wooden mermaid, salvaged from the prow of a pirate ship, just like the one that Blackbeard used to pry the cork from his rum by wedging the neck of the bottle in between her cleavage and twisting his wrist in a starboard direction.
- An oversized phone shaped like a football that makes a deafening crowd roar for thirty seconds whenever it rings.
- A giant aquarium – on the ceiling – that you can stare up at during commercial breaks in the game to watch manta rays swimming overhead.
- A wall-mounted animal head – anything with antlers. I’m thinking moose but am open to suggestions.
- A lava lamp. (I’ve always wanted one ever since 7th grade.)
I love my kids. That’s why, when they were young, I made a point to lie to them every chance I could. As any experienced parent knows, you need to lie to your young, impressionable children to help prepare them for their lives as adults – and to help you forge a trusting relationship with them.
Parents who care about their young children start lying to them early in their formative development – ideally while their offspring are still in the womb. Don’t wait until they’re in middle school. By then your chronic pattern of honest communication will likely have caused irreparable damage.
There are many reasons we adults lie to each other: to get out of cleaning the garage despite your wife’s nagging about it for the past three months; to deny that you scarfed down the last piece of your wife’s birthday cake; or maybe to hide the fact that you were really golfing when I, er, I mean you, told the wife you were helping a buddy move. Of course, there are also bad reasons for lying, but at the moment, they escape me.
But when it comes to children, caring parents know that lying is a way to avoid crushing their kids’ self-esteem. It’s not your job to destroy your child’s hopes and dreams by dispelling the myths of their childhood. That’s their future therapist’s responsibility. Your job is to keep telling your kids whatever you need to, to get them to behave, brush their teeth and maybe, just maybe, not kill the family cat, Bonkers.