Dear Young Tim,
Hello, handsome young lad. This is me – that is to say, you, writing to you from the future. It’s now 2012 and a lot has happened to us since I was your age. I wanted to talk about some of the things you’re planning to do over the next fifty years. First, don’t worry so much. You always were a bit of a worrywart. There will be some minor hiccups along your way – and a few doozies – but in the end, you’ll stumble through with more than a quarter of your dignity intact. Here’s some advice to make your journey to the year 2012 a little less bumpy. You’ll thank me later.
When you’re three years old, our mom and dad are going to dress you up as a Little Bo Peep for Halloween – complete with the curly-haired wig. Don’t let them. This humiliation will cause you to question your sexual orientation and sour you on barnyard animals for years. Insist on going as a tiger or maybe a ladybug. Just say No to Bo!
On the last day of school in fourth grade, the neighborhood troublemaker Hank O’Connor is going to try to convince you to jump on your skateboard and hold onto a rope attached to his banana bike as he veers all over the street – that’s right, just like water skiing – only on rock-hard asphalt. This is not going to end well, I’m afraid. Your next stop will be the ER of Albany Medical to repair two broken bones. Your cast won’t come off until two days before school begins next fall. My advice: Be polite. Offer to let Hank go skateboarding first. That hooligan has no summer plans anyway.
[Author’s note: the following is a painfully true, 100% accurate story and it’s the reason I knew at an early age that I would NEVER become a scientist.]
When I was in tenth grade, I had a science experiment to do and I was running very short on time. It was due in a couple days and I had only barely started on my experiment. I decided to do an experiment involving “rust” and the rusting process, and how some elements can accelerate the rusting process while others tend to inhibit or decelerate it.
Anyway, I had one final experiment to do — to test the rust-inhibiting or accelerating effect on metal of boiled linseed oil. I had never heard of linseed oil (I was just reading from a book of high school science projects and one of them was about rust). So I made sure to precisely follow the experiment’s procedures as set forth in the book. One of the elements it suggested using to test the rusting process was “boiled linseed oil.” So I went to whatever store sells linseed oil and came home and began the experiment at about 4:30pm. I should note at this point that my father, for reasons still unknown to me, chose this day of all days to come home at 5pm rather than his usual 6:30pm. The relevance of this point will become clear in a couple paragraphs, so be patient.
It starts out innocently enough. Your little four-year old princess Tara insists she’s scared and can’t get to sleep. Can she sleep with mommy and daddy? Pleeeeease? Against your better judgment, you relent and let her snuggle in bed with you – just this once.
Fast forward. Tara, now eight years old whines about having to eat her peas. Against your better judgment, you let her off the hook but still let her have dessert – after all, it’s cookies ‘n cream ice cream, her favorite. Before you know it, you wake up one day and your little angel is now a teenager and you suddenly discover that she’s running the show, making all sorts of drop everything demands that we parents cave into because it’s just less work not to engage in another battle. How did this all happen? Personally, I blame it on Obamacare.
I am the father of two high-spirited teenage girls. As many of you know, I am a highly sought-out expert on parenting. My third parenting book, Timeouts, Tasers and Other Tools of Modern Parenting, addresses the challenge many parents face when it seems their teenagers suddenly are in the driver’s seat (in some cases literally). Bribery and blackmail are both tactics that I strongly recommend for most confrontations with your teenage offspring. And for you moms (as well as you dads who are in touch with your feminine side), don’t underestimate the power of a good display of sobbing. Totally disarms most whiny teenagers. But it takes practice. Start by sniffling and work your way up to the tears.
Take this quiz to determine whether you’re still the king or queen of your castle or whether the peasants have stormed the castle and taken you hostage:
Greetings, Class of 2011. My, don’t you all look so grown up in your elegant caps and gowns and iPods blasting out Death Cab for Cutie at full volume. It seems only yesterday that you were stumbling around in Huggies and toddler booties and iPods blasting out Raffi at full volume. Graduation Day is upon us for millions of American college seniors like you. As has been my tradition for the past 17 years about this time, this week’s post is my annual Advice to you, the College Graduating Class of 2011.
My advice to you? Don’t pay attention to anyone who tries to give you advice…. except for the advice I am about to share, of course. It’s important that you make your own choices in life. So make good ones. In looking back on the choices I made in my youth, I realize I made some poor ones now and then. If I had it to do over again, I wished I hadn’t taken three years of Latin in high school. I’m not Catholic so becoming Pope is probably out of the question. So exactly when would I ever have used it? Never.
I also should never have taken Post-Modern Latvian Studies in college. That [#bleep#]-ing bastard Professor Yuri Švābe was a cruel old son of a bitch. I wish he would die a painful, wrenching death for totally messing up my GPA… I mean, er, um, I found him to be rather draconian in his grading methodology. Perhaps most of all, I deeply regret rooming with Tony Markowitz of Monmouth, New Jersey for two years in college. Not only was he a complete slob and never did the dishes, but he always smelled like bass and routinely ate my Lucky Charms cereal without asking. I urge you to learn from my youthful mistakes.