6 December 2011

The Lie: Sure, we can go on a whale watch again next year.

The Truth: They can go on a whale watch again next year, which they themselves can pay for, but this was the last time I’ll ever be tricked into coughing up 115 bucks for a nauseating three-hour bob through freezing, drizzly weather just to catch a few sideways glimpses of what may or may not have been a flipper or a dorsal fin. What a scam. I could’ve taken us to the aquarium for a third of the price, in which case we would’ve not only viewed some actual marine life, but stayed dry while doing it. (Also, there would’ve been a decent chance that Troy wouldn’t have thrown up on Olivia’s shoes. No guarantee, of course, but a perfectly reasonable chance.)

3 December 2011

The Lie: No, you can’t get junk cereal this week. You got it last time. I’ve been keeping track.

The Truth: I haven’t been keeping track, but they evidently haven’t either. I’ve got a deal with my kids that they can get sugary cereal one out of every three trips to the grocery store, and no more frequently than that. (“Deal” might not be the most accurate way to describe it, but there isn’t really a word for “dubious concession I make against my better judgment in order to mitigate my children’s incessant complaining, even if only slightly.”)

Thanks to a couple of strategic moves I’ve discovered, I’ve managed to reduce the rate to something closer to one out of every five or six trips. In the first, I can go to the store while they’re at their mom’s, in which case their non-presence amounts to a forfeiture of privileges; and in the second, a riskier but ultimately more satisfying ruse, I surreptitiously discard their cereal at the check-out line and feign disappointment at its absence once we get home. Today, I discovered what might be the simplest loophole: I simply take advantage of the fact that no one involved seems to have an actual working knowledge of where we are in the sequence.

A part of me feels bad for practicing duplicity with my kids, particularly within the context of an allegedly honest agreement, but I rationalize this by telling myself I’m merely preparing them for their future interactions with credit card companies.

29 November 2011

The Lie: Um… yes, it’s about lambs.

The Truth: It’s about an incarcerated cannibal psychiatrist helping an opportunistic FBI trainee track down a psychopathic transsexual who emaciates and skins overweight women. However, given that any accurate plot summary would contain no less than nine concepts that would each take hours to explain to my children, all they need to know is that it’s a grown-up movie and that they’re not allowed to watch it. Maybe when they’re older. (Thirty-five feels about right.)

17 November 2011

The Lie: No, I won’t install games on my iPad. I don’t have enough memory.

The Truth: I have plenty of memory. However, I also have plenty of memories – memories of expensive electronics that have been dropped and/or destroyed by my children. My last two phones have found their way into the toilet (once by Olivia’s hand, and once anonymously), and my laptop has had several keys removed by someone who I can fairly assume was not an authorized service technician. If I installed games on my iPad, it would be little more than an invitation for my kids to use it, and, in doing so, to inevitably drop and/or destroy it.

Their mother is planning to get them pre-paid cell phones to have in case of an emergency. I’m eager to see whether or not those end up in the toilet, which should finally clarify whether my children are truly maniacal or merely clumsy and unintelligent.

9 November 2011

The Lie: It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

The Truth: It’s completely whether you win or lose. There’s no ticker at the bottom of ESPN that says how someone played the game. It’s only scores – and the occasional steroid report. As long as you’re not taking steroids, which my children aren’t allowed to do yet, then no one cares how you play the game.

Unfortunately, my kids probably have more losing than winning in their futures, because they both play just about every game pretty horribly. Olivia enjoys gymnastics, which baffles me, as she has terrible balance and lacks even the most basic eye-hand coordination. (I know it’s going to end in tragedy. If my cell phone ever rings while she’s at practice, I assume I’m being summoned to the emergency room.) As for Troy, he’s completely hopeless at almost everything involving the use of his arms or legs. Michelle wants to sign him up for Pee-Wee baseball next spring, which I think would be the rough equivalent of entering Olivia’s pet guinea pig in the Kentucky Derby.

28 October 2011

The Lie: Wow, you look pretty scary!

The Truth: He doesn’t look scary at all. He looks adorable. I’m someone who never finds anything adorable – not my kids, not puppies, not my kids riding puppies – but the sight of my four-year-old son in a devil costume is one of those rare things that I think is objectively and insurmountably adorable. He’s got a red felt cape with an attached hood (the latter of which features two plush horns on top), matching red pants, a small plastic trident, and a fabric tail that drags on the ground and is going to be coated with grime and filth when he comes back from trick-or-treating. In fact, the pathogens that will be introduced into my home via his tail are really the only frightening part of the whole ensemble.

Do children realize that their Halloween costumes aren’t the least bit scary? I suppose the mere idea of kids dressing up to look threatening is in itself cute, because of how small and vulnerable they are. It’s another one of those unfair instances of reverse size-discrimination from which children so often benefit. My son goes out looking like this, he gets candy, but the reactions would doubtless be far less enthusiastic if I were to dress up like Satan and go around my predominantly Catholic neighborhood extorting free food.

21 October 2011

The Lie: You’re going to cook us dinner? That should be fun.

The Truth: That should be prohibited. A child’s natural tendency for experimentation and discovery might be innocuous enough when the materials are crayons and paper, but when he or she proposes to use my hard-earned food as a medium for amateurish personal expression, that’s where I have to draw the line… eggs are really expensive. Also, there’s the question of self-esteem: while it’s easy enough to mask my disappointment when reviewing my kid’s artwork, a feeling of repulsion is bound to be more difficult to hide when the source of it is in my mouth.

Maybe I wouldn’t have such low expectations if my kids possessed any culinary acumen whatsoever, but these are individuals who regularly pass up my expertly-prepared dinners in favor of a hellish, mass-produced cocktail of re-constituted cheese powder mixed with microwave-boiled macaroni noodles (“mac-n-cheese” is the name it calls itself). Sadly and inexplicably, my scions are gastronomical philistines. I’ll choke down a child-prepared meal once a year – on Father’s Day – and that’s it. (What a misnomer, by the way. The way my kids cook, it ought to be called “Father’s [going to feel queasy all] Day.”)

12 October 2011

The Lie: No, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to spend time with your grandma and grandpa.

The Truth: I think it would be a great idea. Michelle’s parents are awesome. Her dad and I used to hang out at McGrath’s and watch the Bruins. I still stop in every now and then during games, but I haven’t seen him. There’s a part of me that’s tempted to give him a call and ask him to grab lunch, although I assume there’s some unwritten prohibition against trying to hang out with your ex-wife’s father while doing your best to avoid your ex-wife.

Maybe I subconsciously assumed Michelle would be really good at marriage, since her parents were clearly such experts. By that logic, though, I should’ve expected that I’d be really bad at being married, given the example my parents set for me. I mean, hey, maybe I was; who can say which one of us was at fault?

(Michelle can say, actually – and did, several times a day, during those last few years. It got really annoying.)