[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.”
Over the past 50 years, throughout North America there has been an explosion of reported cases of Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (better known by its acronym, K.I.D.S.). No socio-demographic group has been spared by this invasive and intractable outbreak. In fact, I myself have been waging my own personal battle with KIDS for the past 18 years.
According to humanitarian relief agencies’ longitudinal studies dating back to the 19th century, the number of known cases of KIDS is at its highest level in human history. Alarmingly, it shows no signs of reversing its upward trend. For millions of couples facing the long-term ordeal of KIDS, there is no relief in sight.
Scientists have been unable to unlock the mysterious inner workings of KIDS. But they do know that contracting the condition has been conclusively linked to unprotected sexual contact, often during bouts of excessive alcohol consumption. Warning signs that you may have contracted KIDS include an inability to maintain an orderly household, often accompanied by a disregard for clutter and chaos. Another warning sign is a sudden indifference to the presence of vomit, nasal mucous, fecal or urinary discharge on one’s clothes or person.
It was not too long ago that I held a deep-seated prejudice. No, I am not talking about my longstanding hatred of Hungarians, nor my antipathy towards vegetarians, nor even my heated disdain for anyone who earns more money than I do. I’m, of course, talking about my bigotry towards the elderly. Until quite recently, I lived under the misguided belief that old people tended to be poorer drivers and should have their driver’s licenses revoked once they turned 80.
In fairness, I have some supporting data to back up my bias. My grandfather did not stop driving until he was 86. In his later years he rarely used his turn signal, usually opting to indicate his intentions with his windshield wiper lever instead. He thought STOP signs were for pedestrians. My mother, now age 90, only turned over the car keys at age 85 when she attempted to park her car in her own garage. That wouldn’t have been a problem except for her small oversight of forgetting to raise the garage door before entering the garage.
So imagine my surprise when I read about a new study this week that shows that grandparents are far safer drivers than parents when kids are in the car. In fact, the study conducted by State Farm Insurance involving claims for collisions between 2003 and 2007 concluded that kids are 50% less likely to become involved in an accident involving injuries when a grandparent is driving than when a parent is behind the wheel.
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:
Last week I started to discuss nine things that I wished I hadn’t worried about so much as a parent over the past 16 years. I tried to be a conscientious parent, but in the process, I realize now that I made a lot of mistakes, like the time I sent around the Adoption announcement after we adopted our first daughter as a four-month old infant in China. There she was in the picture, this cute little bundle of joy, wearing a sweater with the words “Made in China” emblazoned across the front. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew it would scar my daughter for life?
If you missed it, you can read Part I of the nine things I wish I hadn’t worried about here. To continue with my list…..
Lesson Six: Put your toys away after you use them. I thought it was a pretty simple concept: The toys go back in the toy box. The dirty dishes go in the dish washer. Put your used bath towel back on the towel rack. But apparently the process is far more complicated than I ever realized because 15 years later, my daily message still appears to be as undecipherable to my teenage girls as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Whenever I’ve said “Please hang your coat in the coat closet,” somewhere between the time the words leave my mouth and enter their inner ear, the audio waves must somehow morph the sound of my words into “please don’t hang up your coat. I want to remember it lying there, in the middle of the kitchen table, on top of your dirty gym clothes, forever.” The typical response I get to any request to put an item away is always the same: “Yeah, I know” – which I now am convinced translates loosely as “over my dead body.”
As a parent, you never stop worrying about your kids or how they will turn out. Will they grow up safe? Will they make good choices? Will they ever forgive you for buying them those matching green and orange plaid square dance dresses for their 13th and 14th birthdays? My two teenage daughters, Rachel and Emily (shown at left when they were much younger), are only a two and three years away, respectively, from heading off to college. [Editor’s note: My wife hates when I talk about our kids by name in my blog. Something about respecting their privacy. So for the rest of this blog, the part of Rachel will be played by Vivian. The part of Emily will be played by Nicole.]
The other day, I reflected on all the things I’ve worried about as a parent. I came to a startling realization: I spent much of the past 16 years needlessly worrying – fretting over how to be a better parent, be a positive role model, and keep my kids from making poor choices. In retrospect, I needn’t have been so anxious. I was never going to get it right. I finally realized that my kids were going to make it through this bumpy journey called childhood (moderately unscathed), regardless of my egregious parenting mistakes. In retrospect, I should have spent a lot less time worrying about whether they brushed their teeth and a lot more time about worrying how to cure my slice in golf. Then again, trying to cure my golf slice is about as futile as trying to be the perfect parent. Both end up in bitter disappointment.
Here are nine parenting lessons I wish I hadn’t worried about nearly so much over the past 16 years:
This week, I dug deep into the Dr. Tim advice column mailbag and came up with the following very informative letter:
Dear Dr. Tim:
My 16-year old daughter now has a boyfriend. Should I kill myself?
Signed, Terrified in Tacoma.
Thank you for your very detailed and well-constructed letter, Terrified. Can I call you “Terri?” Read More…
Are all teenage daughters evil? It’s a question I have been wondering about a lot lately. A research study recently reported that people with teenagers in the house are, statistically speaking, the least happy demographic group of all* (I am not making this up). Interestingly, disgruntled postal workers and prisoners in solitary confinement rank higher in their daily happiness quotient than the average parents of teenagers. Sadly, Melvin Zemmecki, a postal worker from Newark, New Jersey, serving time in prison in solitary confinement and father of four teenage girls, has the dubious distinction of being rated the unhappiest man in the entire USA.**
Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself an expert in understanding the impact of parenting mistakes and communication failures (based on years of intense field research – mostly in the family room). As a parent of two darling teenage daughters, ages 16 and 17, I find myself discovering the miracle of witnessing in stereo hormonally-induced multiple personality disorder on a daily basis. There are all sorts of theories as to why teenage girls tend to be so moody, angry, irritable, thoughtless, self-absorbed, lazy, disrespectful, emotionally distant, narcissistic, a giant pain in the ass, never EVER cleaning their damn rooms, would it kill you to clean it up just once, I tell you??!!!??…. But I digress.
In my previous post, I posited the theory that at one time or another all teenage girls become evil – not permanently, mind you (at least, I sure hope not). Thanks for the hundreds of emails and letters people never got around to sending me in staunch support of my theory.
In fact, based on further limited but rigorous field research I did (comprised mostly of renting the movie Mean Girls) I have concluded there appear to be several actual city ordinances which require girls in some affluent suburban neighborhoods to turn evil (or at least seriously bitchy) by the time they reach puberty. This ordinance clearly is in effect in Beverly Hills, Orange County, Palm Beach, Florida, the Hamptons, Greenwich, CT, and oddly enough, Omaha, Nebraska*. (I know, that last one surprised me too.)