7 October 2011

The Lie: We don’t need a new car. I like the car we have now.

The Truth: I hate the car we have now. Its color is “eggplant” (i.e. somewhere on the uninspiring continuum between purple and brown), and it smells like plastic and old milk. I hated it when my dad bought it twelve years ago, I hated it when he began to realize that he hated it, and I hated it even more when he offered to sell it to me, confident that I couldn’t afford to say no. At the time, Olivia was three and Troy was gestating, and a Subaru wagon made a lot more sense than my rapidly deteriorating Jeep. I’d do anything to have the Jeep back… or to have another Jeep… or any other car, really, particularly one that’s never contained a child’s car-seat, because once a car-seat has resided in a vehicle for more than six months, said vehicle will forever and inexplicably smell like plastic and old milk.

Sadly, my mechanic assures me that the Subaru is in fundamentally good shape, so I can look forward to several more years, at least, of feeling both emasculated and nauseated anytime I drive anywhere.

4 October 2011

The Lie: No, you’re not old enough to go bike riding by yourself. You might get hurt.

The Truth: She wouldn’t get hurt, but she’d absolutely get lost. My daughter has the sense of direction of a Roomba: she barges ahead with conviction, changing direction as necessary when she encounters obstacles, but has no idea where she’s going. An anecdote I often relate to my incredulous friends is that, unbelievable though it may sound, Olivia once got lost in an airport jetway. As the TSA is my witness, she stopped halfway down the jetway to tie her shoe, stood back up, and somehow proceeded in the wrong direction. How one manages to get disoriented in a single-direction hallway with a downward slope is more than I feel comfortable attempting to fathom.

Inexplicably, Michelle’s anger following this incident was directed not against her directionally-challenged daughter, but against me, for failing to stop and wait for Olivia to tie her shoe. I’m sorry, but when it’s a Southwest flight and you’re in Group C, you don’t stop for anything.

29 September 2011

The Lie: You need to do something worthwhile with your life. You don’t want to grow up to be like your uncle Shawn.

The Truth: Everyone wants to grow up to be like their uncle Shawn. In moments of weakness and self-loathing, I even find myself wanting to be like their slacker uncle Shawn. I shouldn’t, of course; after all, we’re talking about a grown man who works in a juice bar, and who doesn’t seem to mind that his entire professional life consists of nothing more than operating an incredibly basic kitchen appliance. He’s a total philistine, and he’ll leave no lasting mark on the world – but even daily repetitions of these truths fail to distract me from the annoying reality that he gets to spend his days charming the leggings off of the steady stream of women that flows in from the yoga studio next door.

I guess the main reason I don’t want my kids growing up to be like my little brother is that then I’d be surrounded by happy, stress-free people who don’t care how unsuccessful they are. I want my children to be just as miserable about their lack of success as I am.

27 September 2011

The Lie: Your allowance is high enough.

The Truth: Her allowance is hopelessly low. She can barely buy anything with it. That’s by design, though, since she’s demonstrated a penchant for buying the most useless, asinine merchandise I’ve ever seen. Last week, at the grocery store, she bought some kind of “candy” – and I use the term loosely – which consisted of nothing more than packets full of colored sugar and a stick to eat it with. Doesn’t she realize that she could make that at home for a fraction of the cost? And yesterday, at the mall, she bought a Hello Kitty keychain. She doesn’t have any keys! That’s the kind of absurd purchase that feels like it came straight out of a Joseph Heller novel (or the Pentagon budget), and I’m not willing to fund it.

Besides, if the point of allowance is to teach money management skills, then my stinginess is justifiable: I’m preparing Olivia for the brutal financial immobility that she and her generation can look forward to if the current economic woes persist (which they probably will). She thinks it’s “not fair” that she can’t afford a Moxie Girlz laptop now, but wait until she can’t afford a real laptop when she’s twenty-eight with student loans and no job prospects. She’ll be thanking me for my foresight and guidance – every morning, at my breakfast table, before she spends all day applying for telemarketing jobs in her pajamas.

22 September 2011

The Lie: We root for the Red Sox because it’s the honorable thing to do.

The Truth: We root for the Red Sox because it’s the convenient thing to do. A decade ago, rooting for the Sox was still a truly admirable pursuit, but things changed after that first championship: the “loveable loser” moniker was gone forever, and with it went the specific brand of honor previously ascribed to Boston fans for their near-century of hardship and disappointment. Once the second championship was sealed up, it began to feel as though being a Sox fan had become the moral equivalent of being an Imperial Stormtrooper. (Or worse: a Yankees fan.)

We always want better for our children than what we had, but I truly wish my kids could’ve grown up in an age in which the Sox still had a bad year as often as they had a good one – when they were still tragic heroes, not swaggering bruisers. Olivia was only eight months old when Boston finished off the Cardinals to lock down their first World Series in eighty-six years. I can only hope that the energy that was permeating the city – and our home – at that time will forever be lodged somewhere deep in her core. Maybe then, in some small, ethereal way, she’ll be able to feel the pure, visceral honor of being an old-school Sox fan.

20 September 2011

The Lie: Yes, your sister won, but that’s because I let her win.

The Truth: I have absolutely no idea how my eight-year-old daughter beat me at chess, and it terrifies me. Am I now to extrapolate that my mental facilities have dipped below those of someone who routinely glues her fingers together? Accepting that one’s children are intellectually feeble is disappointing, but tolerable; losing to one of them in a game of strategy is deeply worrisome. I’d be far less concerned if I’d been beaten by a trained monkey who randomly chose its moves by flinging its poo at a chessboard painted on the wall of its enclosure.

Some might foolishly encourage me to interpret Olivia’s unexpected victory as a demonstration of cognition and intelligence, but years of lackluster report cards and persistent finger-gluing have long since disavowed me of any such inclination.

15 September 2011

The Lie: No, I don’t think I should be your friend Kacy’s emergency contact. I’m usually pretty busy working.

The Truth: I’m usually pretty busy trying not to get the flu from a bunch of random kids. The responsibilities of an emergency contact ought to be no more than what the title implies: being the person whom the school calls when there’s a genuine emergency (e.g. the kid’s arm has fallen off, and the doctor wants to know whether or not to try to re-attach it). Instead, what emergency contacthood actually entails is picking up some feverish, disease-ridden child you’ve never met before and bringing him into your home to pamper and nurture for the rest of the day, virtually guaranteeing that you and your children are going to come down with whatever strep / bronchitis / malaria hybrid the little germ magnet has managed to brew up. Savvy parents know this, too, so they’ll tell the nurse’s office they’re stuck in meetings all day, which buys them several extra hours of blissful health – at my expense, mind you – before they finally slink over around 7pm to mumble apologies and complete the patient transfer. It’s a scam. I’m out.

(As to why I’m so familiar with this strategy, let’s just say that Olivia and Troy become even more intolerable when they’re sick than when they’re healthy. I can’t be blamed for trying to outsource their home care to someone foolish enough to volunteer for it.)

13 September 2011

The Lie: That’s a bad word.

The Truth: That’s a great word. That’s a handy, versatile word that will be of tremendous use to you over the next couple decades, particularly if your life is as full of disappointments and failures as mine is, which it probably will be. When I say “that’s not a word you should use,” what I mean is that it’s not a word you should use in front of your mother. Otherwise I’ll get a very unpleasant call from her – one which will doubtless feature numerous repetitions of that word.