Nov 19, 2018
Sometimes I think my problem is just that I’m messed up in the head and I have a circle of family and friends who’ll nod in agreement when I say that. Yes. Yes, that man is messed up in the head big time.
But sometimes parenting takes a little insanity to make something positive happen. Even if it makes you look like you lost all your marbles and might turn you into the person children point at when you walk down the street with your shopping cart full of your prized parenting possessions ... badly done coloring pages because what if they’re the next Rembrandt?, random rocks they found in the yard and gave you as presents because what if they’re the next Indiana Jones?, and that thing you can’t identify that they found in a dump somewhere, because what if they’re the next American Picker? Even if it makes you look like that, who cares? You’re a parent and you don’t have to apologize because it made you a spectacle. So go right ahead and dance down that street, pushing your shopping cart with its wobbly wheel and singing songs only you know the words to in your mumu and combat boots combo. I won’t say a word to you because my friend, you have a story to tell.
I’m Michael Blackston and I’m about to tell you a few of my own stories and about the parenting in my Funny Messy Life.
My wife, and I are currently in a time-honored struggle with our daughter that has been waged since man first started raising children … getting a young’n to sleep in his/her own bed. I didn’t start this to hear all about how easy you had it - your children were perfect angels and you never had the first problem making them sleep in their own room. First of all, I don’t believe you and secondly, if you are telling the truth, I hate you. So, good day, Sir or Madam. I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR OR MADAM! No, I’m talking to you - the normal parent - who can identify with the struggle, have tried and failed and tried again ... (sigh) ... and failed again ... to get your sweet one to go “night night” in their own bed - in their own room - so you and your adult other can do the things you and your adult other want to finally get to do. Things you can’t do with a kid in the room .... REST! Here’s how I’ve been ...
Fighting The Good Fight
I tried the most basic approach at the beginning. But things escalated from there to dangerous, then to outright stupid.
“You’re sleeping in your room tonight, Pumpkin, like a big girl.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Awwww. Yes you are, because daddy needs his side of the bed.”
“No, I’m nooooot.” It would seem to be a respect problem right from the start if it weren’t so cute that she said it a sing-song delivery while scooping potatoes onto the top of her latest Barbie’s head.
“Yes you aaarrrrreeee,” I sing-song back and rustle her adorable hair.
“Noooo I’m nooooooot.”
This played out into the wee hours of the night until my voice was so exhausted from arguing and my hands were so tired from washing potatoes out of the hair of a naked Barbie, that I placed her softly into the bed between me and my wife and fell asleep, though not before trying to get in one last volley. “You’re sleeping in your own bed tomorrow night.”
I thought I’d won. There was no reply, at least not until I had just drifted off into a land where the cure for diabetes was fresh doughnuts and all the regular Coke I could drink, then out of the darkness, a tiny voice trickled like a gentle mountain brook over the noise of the fan.
“Noooo I’m noooooooooot.”
A different approach. Mr. Nice guy didn’t work, but I understand that she is a child, so I decided to take it from nice to funny. After all, when you want to get someone on your side, you make them laugh. It’s the oldest trick in the book for speakers who want a crowd of people to buy their new product. You get them to like you. If they like you, they’ll trust you. If they trust you, they’ll agree with you by nodding vehemently in agreement with you because they want to please you in the future by purchasing your widget or sharing your latest blog post. (By the way, I’m really hoping you trust me. Just sayin’.)
I saw a benefit in trying this out on my four year old because if I can get adults to want to do what I say, then a small child ought to be, at least in theory, a breeze.
“Hey Merida … why did the chicken cross the road?”
“I don’t know.”
“To get to the other side of her own bed. Funny, right?”
“Is the chicken a rooster or a hen? Because at school they said that roosters are big and strong.”
“Well, it’s not really the point, but I guess it’s a rooster.”
“Are you saying I’m actually a boy, daddy?”
“You said a joke to make me sleep in my bed.”
“Yes, but …”
“Roosters are boys.”
“It’s a HEN! The chicken crossing the road is always a hen.” I started to sweat. This wasn’t going as planned. “You’re sleeping in your own bed tonight.”
“No, I’m not.”
Time for the backup plan. I would tickle her to get her laughing so hard she didn’t realize I had put her into her bed. The plan worked at first. She pitched a cackle so hard that she threw herself backward onto her pillow, but overshot it by a few inches and clocked the back of her head on the wooden book shelving that made up the headboard. She was screaming in pain and I had to convince her to let me check her skull for fractures and wood chips.
With the protective bumpers in place on the shelves behind her - I made them out of pool noodles that were retrofitted to cover the dangerous parts - I implemented another phase of Operation: Sleep, Dangit!
I’d seen movies where the good guy lured the villain into a place by distraction and guile. I don’t see my daughter as a villain by any means, but I definitely see myself as the hero in my own movie, so it should work, right?
“Hey darlin’, what’s that? Is that a new baby doll?”
“In your room. Now that we have you in your night night clothes, teeth brushed, and potty trip done, I think we should check out the new baby doll I see in your room.”
Of course, I know this might seem more like bribery and probably not a good precedent to be setting, but stay with me. I needed to create an incentive to get the villai … um … my child interested in following me into her bedroom and I had no gold, nor suitcases full of money and drugs.
Thinking there was a baby doll in there, she ran into her bedroom.
“I don’t see it,” she gushed, excited.
“See that lump under the covers at the foot of your bed? I think that must be it! You’ll have to burrow down under your covers to get to it.”
The plan was for her to get under there and I would cuddle up next to her and read a book while she hugged her new doll, forgetting completely about mommy and daddy’s bed.
What actually happened was that she surprised me and whether what she did next was innocence, cunning, or just a slap in my face with a smile, I’ll never know.
“It’s easier this way, daddy!”
She ran around to the foot of the bed, lifted the covers from that end and pulled out her new, too expensive doll. She hugged it tightly, just as I new she would, then ran down the hall to our bedroom screaming, “Thank you daddy, I love it! You’re the BEST daddy in the world!”
I probably should have given up right then. I’m a pretty staunch believer in the three strikes, you’re out concept, but I wanted to give it one last try before letting the dust settle while coming up with a new set of plans.
Natural remedies. I looked on the internet because all the great ideas are there and everybody is an expert. I found what I hoped would be a helpful blog by a woman named S. Marty McPants. Her bio said she was an expert and her credentials listed being on the internet to prove it.
Here are a few of the things I tried that night.
Start early - I could handle that. We hit the sack at 3 pm. For some reason, she just laid there making annoying mouth noises and fidgeting her legs. Then she told me she was hungry.
“Daddy, I’m hungry. I didn’t have supper yet.”
“Shhhhh. Go to sleep. Daddy needs you to go to sleep.”
More mouth noises and fidgeting.
“Daddy I’m not sleepy yet..”
“Just lay there and you’ll get sleepy. Now stop making those noises and wiggling.”
She started doing hand puppets - the same boredom activity my son used to call Talkin' Hands.
“Look, daddy. This hand is a kitty and this hand is bunny. Watch ‘em fight!” She then engaged in a violent cage match to the death between her two puppet hands.
“Stop that! Go to sleep!”
“Daddy, I’m hungry.”
I decided we’d get up and try again later. When that time came, I was armed with an arsenal of fragrances and essential oils I was told might help initiate a sleep response. I had roses, oranges, lavender, coconut, cinnamon spice, honey suckle, pumpkin spice, essence of baked chocolate chip cookie, scent of breast milk, and something called The Smell of God’s Endearing Love.
Nobody told me not to put all the oils in the steamer thing at once and the result was anything but calming.
A Noise Maker
I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. I use a noise maker app when I’m on the road in hotel rooms - heavy rain - and I can’t sleep without it now. In our bedroom, my wife and I need to have a fan going at all times and part of that is for the noise, so it made sense that my darling angel might benefit from the same thing.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t paid attention to the box when I bought it, just after Halloween. It was orange with cute black bats all over it. I assumed the bats represented night time and they were happy and cute and happy. I didn’t read the writing on the box because my eyes were glazed over from the lack of sleep the previous night when two tiny feet dug into my back for the entire eight hours. So, when I set up the machine next to the bed and pressed play on the remote control, my precious daughter, who was nervous already about being in the dark, was treated to the screams of murder victims, chains rattling, and evil laughter.
She’ll be sleeping with us for a while yet.
What can you do? I only have so much in me and I think I’ll need a recharge before I try this again. Until then, I’ll get as much sleep as I can in the six inches I’ve been allotted for my side of our king size bed.
Not long ago, I cycled through pictures in a blog of a young lady who wants to look like a Barbie Doll so badly that she’s had a bunch of surgery to alter her body. I won’t go into my opinion about that because she’s free to do that to herself if she chooses and wouldn’t care what a dude like me with good sense thinks about it in the first place. So you might be thinking to yourself, Here he goes. This redneck soundin’, biscuit eatin’, minivan drivin’, butter churnin’, opinionated, Disney lovin’, (gasp for breath ...) art makin’, podcast havin’, bible readin’, politics hatin’, superhero movie watchin’, showtune singin’ son of a so and so is about to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. And you’d be wrong. I’m about to tell you about a problem I have in my own household. I call it ...
The Barbie Doll Conundrum
I’m about to enter into a fracas that’s been raging for years. There’s an all out hullabaloo about the harmful affects Barbie dolls have on our society and I, for one, would like to add my two cents as a father and husband now that I have a daughter who embraces them with every fiber of her five going on 25 little being.
First, let me make it clear that I won’t be tossing around any of the regular notions that are typically at the forefront of this brouhaha, such as the emotional effects Barbie might have on young girls in regard to their appearance. I mean, I played with He-Man figures my entire childhood and my wife will tell you I’ve never felt like I needed to look like them, with their perfect bulked up bodies that could destroy a submarine with one flex. And that was just Teela. I’ll leave the brainy stuff to the psychologists and their bow ties.
I’m talking about finally shedding some light on the real problems associated with having approximately 8,324,749 Barbie dolls lying around the house.
Problem 1. There are approximately 8,324,749 Barbie dolls lying around my house. My daughter has opened box after box during birthdays, Christmas, Hannukah (and we’re not even Jewish), full moons, Mardi Gras, Cinco De Mayo, and post thrift store adventures my mom has been on. Homeless people on the street come up to us, not asking for money or food, but to give my child a Barbie doll.
“Can I get you a hot meal, though?”
“Oh no, thank you, but that angel looks like she’d like a doll.”
Yes. She would like a doll. That’s the problem. She’ll always like a doll. I’m trying to teach her what actual floors look like in a house, but I’m not being allowed to do that because of the Barbie doll thing. I want her to understand the beauty of natural hard wood or even a well installed linoleum, but that can’t happen because there’s a perpetual layer of naked dolls on the flooring surface of my entire house.
Problem 2. Everything is naked. Yep, I get it. They’re just plastic dolls, but there are two males living in the house and even the idea of 8,324,749 naked females can create issues. My son is a teen and I’m trying to teach him the value of a chaste woman; to appreciate the kind of girl who wears an adequate amount of clothing and leaves something to the imagination for the man she will eventually marry and that he should see nothing beyond that until his wedding night, praise the Lord and can I get an “Amen”?!
Unfortunately, taking off all of their clothes is the very first thing a girl does when getting a new doll. At least that’s how mine plays with them. She disrobes them, then tries on different clothes. The problem is, sometimes she finds it hard to put the clothes back on them. Before long, I’ll hear, “Help, daddy!” and suddenly I’m fondling a tiny naked calendar model. Then later that night …
“Hey, honey. Um, you wanna …”
“We have church tomorrow and it’s late.”
“Oh, okay.” (Turns over in a pronounced huff)
These problems could be avoided if they’d just make the dolls with clothing that could not be taken off and to give a little credit, some of that has started to happen. My daughter got a couple of Disney princess dolls that had painted “skin suits” on under their dresses. It gave me a start when from the back seat of the car, I had Elsa thrown toward me without her dress on. “Help, daddy!”
Kayla looked over at me in the passenger seat as I was holding the doll in one hand and her dress in the other, wearing a noticeable look of disappointment.
“Why are you
frowning like that?”
Problem 3. There are only so many Barbie dolls that’ll fit in a single bathtub. Also, they all have long hair that doesn’t dry immediately. The beauty of that finely groomed hair while in the box is undone once the post-tub drying experience has happened. One seasoned mom told me to just comb it out and just let it dry naturally.
Nope. I’ve got to shake out each individual doll so it doesn’t get moldy and once I beat the hair savagely against the side of the tub like Bob Ross beating the devil out of his paint brush, Barbie’s hair looks like Phyllis Diller’s and who - I ask in all honesty - wants to look at a naked Phyllis Diller?
I try to explain that we only need to put a few in the tub at a time, but a four year thinks that the only way to play in the tub is to have every single toy she owns in there with her. So not only am I rounding up 8,324,749 Barbies, but also each Minnie Mouse and every McDonald's toy she ever got in a happy meal. Once I bathed a Cabbage Patch Kid for five minutes before I realized it wasn’t my daughter. I only figured out my mistake after a hand shot out from under the toys holding a naked Ken doll. “Here, daddy!” Now, that’s where I draw the line. I ain’t fondling no naked Ken doll.
Problem 4. Sooner or later, my angel will be too old for the dolls and I’ll face the day when I have to pick them up off of the floor for the last time. That day will be bittersweet because while I’ll enjoy the sight of a clean walking surface, I’ll also understand that this marks a turning point in our lives.
I’ll also have to figure out what to do with all of those dolls. I won’t give them to a thrift store. I couldn’t do that to my fellow man. I might go out under bridges and distribute them back to the homeless.
“You got any change, sir?”
“I just gave you a DOLL!”
However it turns out, I do know that there’s a light at the end of the Barbie Fashion Accessory Tunnel by Mattel that somebody bought for my daughter’s last birthday. But there’s also a light at the end of the philosophical tunnel and that is that one day, despite the too-much-growing-up that my little girl will have done, I shall shower unencumbered by any tiny naked women lying on the floor just on the other side of the curtain, making me feel like I need some deep, intrusive therapy from a dude in a bow tie.
Until then, I can enjoy the simple things, like being in bed beside my wife later in the evening after she had to be the one to put Ken’s clothes back on him, and feeling a little nudge on my shoulder.
“Honey, … um …”
Have you ever tried to raise a child “in the way he or she should go”? I think that’s how the bible puts it. Of course it’s making reference to spiritual things in that context, but it can be applied to the following story as well, especially since spiritual phrases are often yelled out in the form of, “Oh good Lord!” or “For the love of all that is pure and HOLY!”
I’m talking about the thankless art of ...
We want them to be valuable members of society; independent, strong, cunning, and efficient – to make a difference for the world and to be a betterment for the human race. I want them to salute the flag and help old ladies across the street. I want them to know I support their right to protest, but would ask them kindly not to do it while wearing a hat that looks like a hoo-ha.
I have two projects at the moment for which I, along with my wife, are responsible. One is five and the other is fourteen. That’s why I plead to our Creator: God help us!
The five year old isn’t necessarily easier in that she’s a five year old and they need a detailed daily strategy to handle them without losing your sanity, a strategy which will inevitably be amended with magic marker, crumpled, torn, and destroyed by 9 am so that the rest of the day is a flying by the seat of your pants kind of thing. At least with a child that young, there’s plenty of time ahead of her to figure it out. Maybe I’ll be the first parent ever to get into a groove and raise her into adolescence, through the teen years, and right into adulthood with nary a tear, nor raised voice. Perhaps we can accomplish the holy grail of parenthood and our daughter will understand early on that wearing clothes that actually cover her body is for her own good and if daddy has to say, “Darling, sweet, cherub dear … would you mind terribly going back to your room to change into something that doesn’t look as if you will soon be performing on a stage where the central set piece is a pole?”, she’ll smile like the angel that she is and say to me, “Father, whom I love and admire to the apex of my respect, I shall indeed change into the proper attire with the understanding that just because the world says tramp is the new nun, doesn’t mean I must abandon my upbringing and submerge into such a presentation. And should I approach a bridge with my peers and they bid me jump, I shall say nay. NAY, I SHALL TELL THEM!”
Maybe that’s the daughter that’ll brighten our house, but I doubt it.
At the moment, I spend a lot of time trying to be a good example for a fourteen year old boy who wants desperately for me to realize that he has figured out the world in all its intricacies and knows the ways of it much better than I do. He tries to make this clear by rolling his eyes and offering an exasperated sigh after even the tiniest instruction, i.e. “Go feed the dog”, “Stop peeing on the toilet seat”, “Don’t bite the gift horse that feeds you before it hatches.”
I will say he tries - in the way only an early teen knows how - to finish a task that was asked of him once the moment of angst has passed.
He likes to sleep on the couch. He insists it’s more comfortable. And since it’s pretty much been ruined with grease from crumbs and greasy things and something we can’t identify, but is so gross the dog cried out when she licked it, we’ve allowed him to move it into his bedroom.
One bright morning not long ago, he woke … well, let’s rephrase that. One hot AFTERNOON not long ago, he woke and left the comforter he’d been sleeping under in a pile on the floor beside the couch, so I told him that he needed to fold it the way he’d been shown and put it in the designated spot. After all, what if mom showed up unexpectedly and the living room looked lived in?
I left him to it and when I came back, I found the comforter in the very spot I’d told him to put it - rolled up in a big wad like some monster-sized squirrel was making a nest and stuffed it into a tree hole.
I just said, “Oh good Lord!” and shook my head while I bent to pick up a naked Barbie doll that had been bound from head to toe in rubber bands. I had no idea where the rubber bands came from and I hoped in the name of my sanity that she’d not gotten her hands on some version of Fifty Shades Of Grey for toddlers. After all, you never know when mom and the preacher are going to show up unexpectedly.
I guess the verdict at this point is that my kids are progressing in the normal fashion for their ages and I’m aging quickly because of it.
Just keep us in your prayers, would you? I’m told there’s only more of that to come.
God help us.
I know, I know - cry me a river. Most of us go through the parenting thing, so be such a big baby. I get it. And I’m not saying i’d ever change a thing. I love my kids and I hope they know I’d die for them without a second thought. I tell them I love them every day. I think it’s one of the most important things a dad can do for their children - to say I love you. A lot.