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Thursday, April 17, 2014 02:38 PM
(Last updated on Friday, May 30, 2014 08:42 AM)
Tea Patriarchy
 by Fëanor

My sons' daycare is having a tea party for Mother's Day to which all the mothers are invited. We saw the invite, and poppy asked G if he'd like her to come. He explained that tea parties aren't for boys, they're only for girls.

Well, that comment didn't make either of us very happy. We're trying to raise open-minded, liberal, feminist kids here. How did this sexist crud get in his head already?

The world is a confusing mess. Little kids are trying desperately all the time to figure out how it works. What are the rules? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys? So when they notice something repeating - a pattern amongst all the madness - and they think they've found a rule, they are going to latch onto that rule for dear life, because that rule is their handle on the world.

I have long hair, and often I tie it up in a ponytail. Sometimes a kid will see my hair and they'll laugh and point and say something like, "Only girls have ponytails!" Sometimes they'll repeat it, loudly. Sometimes they'll even get mad. G got a little mad when we tried to contradict his statement about the tea party. It's because we're challenging their fragile, hard-won understanding of the world, and they don't like it.

All that means is we have to keep challenging it, and keep challenging it, over and over, until he understands. Just because there's a way things are usually done doesn't mean that's the best way or the only way. Don't let the patriarchy define how you see and interact with the world.

That being said, it'll be nice not to have to go to the tea party.

UPDATE: I should add, poppy ended up going to this tea party after all, and despite a mortifying moment involving Griff's answer to a particular survey question about his Mom, I think everybody had a good time.
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Monday, September 30, 2013 10:59 AM
Mr. X
 by Fëanor

Well hello there! Yes, I'm still alive. And we've got that second kid now. He's good. I like him.

All our attempts to schedule/plan anything about Griffin's birth were foiled. Nothing went as planned. This time, poppy scheduled a C-section, and although we had to wait much longer than we'd hoped for the operation to begin, and the thing itself took much longer than we remembered, it happened on the scheduled date, with no complications. We had a little scare about some weird thyroid levels, but that seems to have turned out to be a false alarm. Poppy's recovery has also been going a lot faster and smoother than the first time, although she's still certainly not 100%.

We're rediscovering how interesting life is with a newborn (oh right, they pee on everything with no warning! And crap out hazardous materials a dozen times a day! And want to be fed constantly! Laundry and bottles and bottles and laundry!), and discovering for the first time how extra interesting it is when you have a newborn and a three-year-old in the same place at the same time. It's particularly exciting when they both get sick at the same time - that's something we just found out!

Still - and maybe I shouldn't say this, for fear of jinxing myself, but here we go - I'm not feeling the same desperate, edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown exhaustion and terror that I remember feeling in Griffin's early days. But I am once again finding that all the cliches are true. X is a second child, and is getting the second child treatment. I feel more confident with him - maybe a bit over-confident. We've done this before, after all, and that one is still around. I remember when we went anywhere with Griffin, we took like three suitcases full of stuff with us. The first time we went out with X, we just threw some stuff in a plastic bag from Wawa and took off. It was the most ghetto diaper bag ever. We've upgraded him to a real bag now, but still. Sometimes if we're just taking a walk, we don't bring a bag at all! That would have been unthinkable with Griffin.

Anyway, the point is, it's going pretty well, all things considered. You can find pictures and video on Facebook and Flickr, although as before, you can only see them if you are marked as my friend or family, so let me know if you're not and would like to be.
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not), Personal (Not), X (Not)
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 02:23 PM
 by Fëanor

"...but of all the creatures in these pages, this one is arguably the most dangerous. It has an almost human aspect, though it is smaller than a person, more unevenly proportioned, and of extreme attractiveness. But a wary man shall not let this confound his senses. For this creature is not capable of experiencing shame or empathy, and has no conscience of any kind. It will ingratiate itself to you with its sweetness and loveliness, but will then do whatever is necessary to get what it wants - and what it wants is to consume you. Its voice, though often as sweet as its looks, can be raised up in an unholy screech that is hideous and painful to hear. It is extremely manipulative, and will lie and cheat and steal and bite and punch and backstab without pity or remorse. It will promise you anything, agree to any rules or commandments you set, and then break all agreements as if they were never spoken. It will demand you give up all other company but itself, wheedle out of you all you treasure and hold dear - your money, your property - even unto your very soul, until you have nothing left and are nought but a hollow man, wasted, sleepless, shattered, empty..."
     -Doctor Astrodus, A Compendium of the Most Monstrous Beasts of Heaven, Hell, and Earth and Descriptions of The Habits and Aspects Thereof, Chapter 245: The Toddler
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Friday, May 10, 2013 11:33 AM
Boy Dad
 by Fëanor

The other day Griffin was playing with his electronic Hess helicopter. He decided to hang two of my old, much smaller Voltron helicopters from its rotors and turn it on to see what would happen. The Dad in me reacted immediately, saying, "You can't do that! Those things could go flying, you could get hurt!" Then the boy in me said, "So stand back and let's see what happens."

Next we put some cars on the rotors.
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Griffin (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Thursday, March 28, 2013 10:12 PM
Bath Albums
 by Fëanor

When I was younger, I feel like my default unit of music was the album. My brother's, too. When we heard a song we liked, we didn't buy the single. (Well, maybe once or twice we bought some cassingles. Remember those??) We went out and bought the whole album. If we liked the album, we went back and bought all the other albums that band had made. Or, as many as we could find at the record store. Remember when you had to just keep going back to every record store you knew of to find albums you wanted? And if those stores didn't have those albums, you were just out of luck? Crazy.

Anyway, not long after I embraced MP3s and moved my entire music collection onto my iPod, my default unit of music changed to the song. I stopped listening to whole albums and I started listening to playlists on shuffle. It was kind of a seismic shift. It felt freeing. I love the weird juxtapositions a random shuffle can create. And there's no commitment or continuity in a random shuffle; you can break off and start again whenever or wherever.

But for whatever reason, I'm starting to embrace the album again. I'm buying albums of music, and I'm listening to whole albums with my son, instead of playlists on shuffle. And I'm seeing again what you can do with an album, how it can be a deeply meaningful grouping, how putting a bunch of songs together like that can give them more power and meaning than when they're just ripped out and played alone, out of context.

All of which is to say, I'm playing albums when I give my son a bath at night, and here are some of the classics I'm revisiting and new stuff I'm discovering:

  • Abacab - Genesis

  • Abbey Road - The Beatles

  • Achtung Baby - U2

  • Act II: The Father of Death - The Protomen

  • The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

  • Band on the Run - The Wings

  • Beaster - Sugar

  • Genesis - Genesis

  • Sheer Heart Attack - Queen

  • So - Peter Gabriel

  • Specter at the Feast - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

  • Strange Cousins From The West - Clutch

  • Jesus Christ Superstar - Andrew Lloyd Weber

  • The Protomen - The Protomen
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Griffin (Not), Lists (Not), Music (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Sunday, March 3, 2013 08:49 PM
Spec Script
 by Fëanor

Here is a story that Griffin and I developed the other night while I was giving him a bath and he was playing with his "tiny Super Friends" (which are a dozen small plastic figures of various DC super heroes and villains):

Hawkman was hungry, so he swooped down and grabbed a fish out of the water with his teeth and ate it. But Aquaman popped up out of the water and berated him for eating the fish out of his ocean without his permission. So Hawkman said he would go get a hamburger at the fast food place instead. But then one by one all the other Super Friends appeared asking Hawkman to pick up a hamburger for them, too, since he was going. And Hawkman was very put out.

I'll await a call from DC Comics.
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Comic books (Not), Griffin (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Saturday, January 26, 2013 06:13 AM
The Dangers of Having a Comic Book Geek Dad
 by Fëanor

I can't remember where he got them (I think from my brother?), but Griff has small action figures of Hulk and Thor. Last night he suddenly got really excited about them and had them fighting each other. Then he decided that his Playmobil astronaut should join in on the fight. I pointed out that unless the astronaut had some omega-level mutant powers I didn't know about, he wouldn't be much of a match for Hulk and Thor.

Later he insisted on taking the Hulk figure with him into the bath, and he started swinging it around in the air, and told me he was flying. "Actually," I began. I told him the Hulk couldn't really fly, but he could jump really high and really far. The next time Griff started to say that the Hulk was flying, he corrected himself and said he was jumping. I nodded proudly and said, "Now that's canon!"

Griffin also insisted on taking the Hulk figure with him when he went to bed. This morning the first thing he said to me when I came into his room was, "Where's Hulk?" When we came downstairs, he demanded Batman on TV.

Ah, my little fanboy.
Tagged (?): Batman (Not), Children (Not), Comic books (Not), Griffin (Not), Hulk (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not)
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Friday, January 18, 2013 02:07 PM
(Last updated on Friday, January 18, 2013 02:41 PM)
 by Fëanor

I feel like I might need to start a new tag or recurring feature about watching stuff with my kid, but I dunno. Anyway, the other day Griff asked me to put one of his shows on, and when I turned on the TV, the Superman cartoon from the '90s happened to be on. I watched it for a minute because... well, y'know, Superman cartoon! Then I was going to put on one of Griff's regular shows, but he stopped me. He wanted to watch that Superman guy. So he sat through the rest of that cartoon, and then watched a Batman cartoon.


Years ago poppy got me a DVD of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from the '40s (which would have originally played as shorts in movie theaters, maybe between two films in a double feature). They're amazing pieces of work, if seriously politically incorrect. The art is detailed and beautiful and done up right in lush Technicolor. Superman fights gorillas, volcanoes, dinosaurs, thieves with bullet cars, thieves with robot armies, thieves dressed up as Superman, giant reanimated mummy guards, birdmen from the Inner Earth, Japanese saboteurs (who are portrayed in regrettably stereotyped fashion), Nazis using African natives as their slaves (oy), and a Native American mad scientist who demands that the island of Manhattan be returned to his people (oh man). It is crazy, crazy stuff. But only so crazy - this was before the madness of the Silver Age when Superman gained a bunch of new powers. This is the Superman who is very strong, has X-ray vision, and can literally just leap tall buildings - he does not fly.

And Lois is always there with him, getting herself into trouble and needing to be saved. It's a bit of a troublesome dynamic, but it's a consolation at least that this Lois, while a bit of a jerk to Kent, is also brave as all hell, a bad-ass, and deep down a decent human being. She runs in to take pictures of the madness when a giant gorilla gets loose at the circus, but when she sees a child in danger, she drops the camera immediately and dashes in to help the child to safety with no thought for herself. And when she's caught on a runaway train and being shot at by criminals from a nearby car, she doesn't just cower in the corner; she picks up a discarded Tommy gun and shoots right back at them.

Needless to say, when Griff asked to see more Superman, I put on this DVD, and he loves it. He's been watching it over and over recently. Probably soon we should upgrade him to the more politically correct '90s cartoon. But this'll do for now.
Tagged (?): Cartoons (Not), Childhood (Not), Griffin (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not), Superman (Not), TV (Not)
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Sunday, December 2, 2012 08:24 AM
(Last updated on Sunday, December 2, 2012 09:22 AM)
 by Fëanor

I bought building blocks for Griffin as soon as he entered the safe age range of the set that had the lowest safe age range (Mega Bloks has sets that are okay for ages 1 and over - they're basically big, chunky LEGO bricks that not even the most determined infant could choke himself on). I love building blocks and remember countless happy hours as a kid putting crazy stuff together with them. The thing is, infants and toddlers aren't so much builders as destructors. The boy wasn't really interested in doing anything with his Mega Bloks but knocking over and taking apart stuff built by other people. We kept his bag of bricks in his playroom, but didn't touch them much; he's been focused mostly on playing with cars and guys.

Then, yesterday, while he was pulling down and throwing around all his toys (like he does), he came across the bag of Mega Bloks. He handed it to me and I asked him if he wanted to build something with them. He said yes. We dumped them out (he loves dumping things out) and I asked him what he wanted to build. He didn't seem sure, so I suggested robots. I built a small one myself, and then, after some trial and error, he built two more. When he was done he did a little dance and said, "RO-BOTS! RO-BOTS!" Although it was more like "WO-BOTS! WO-BOTS!" Our creations are below. Mine is the one on the left.


I'm a little embarrassed at how happy and proud this made me.

UPDATE: I should add, the boy's robots would have been bigger if we hadn't run out of blocks. I was like, "We ran out. We need more blocks!" I'm dangerous in toy stores. The other day we were in Target and he was playing with a little car, and I think he would have actually put it back and left peacefully, but I said, "No, you need to have this."
Tagged (?): Children (Not), Griffin (Not), LEGO (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not), Personal (Not), Toys (Not)
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Friday, November 9, 2012 09:05 AM
How to Fight a Toddler (And Lose)
 by Fëanor

The good news is, if it comes down to a physical confrontation, you will almost certainly win. You're bigger, stronger, smarter, and (if you're lucky, and not too out of shape) faster. But even then it won't be easy, and here's why: that little creature doesn't have any empathy, man! Even though he needs you and cares for you, he has no idea he could seriously hurt you or himself in his struggles. So he is going to fight you with everything he's got, holding back nothing, using all of his tiny psycho strength. He's not going to fight fair; he doesn't know what fair is! He's going to take a cheap shot without even realizing he's doing it. He's just the right height to punch or bite you in your most delicate areas. Meanwhile, unless you're blind with rage or a complete scumbag, you are going to be holding back; you don't want to hurt him or yourself. You're at a disadvantage.

And really, let's be honest, if it's come down to a physical confrontation, you've already lost. You're fighting a toddler, man. That's just sad.

The bad news is, if it's a battle of pure will - a game of chicken where he who blinks first loses - you've got no chance. The toddler will win every time. There's a couple of reasons why. One is, your time is limited. You want to go to sleep at some point. You've got somewhere to go, something to do. He doesn't. He has all the time in the world. He doesn't have any appointments. He's barely aware that there's a past and a future. He's living in this moment, and in this moment, he wants to beat you. That's all he has going on.

Another reason is, repetition. The average adult can build up a pretty decent tolerance for repetition. But the average toddler thrives on it. He loves it! Do you know how many times he can watch that same episode of Dora in a row? Infinite times. He is prepared to say, "I wanna watch TV, Daddy!" until the end of time. How long can you stand up to that? Professional trained torturers should observe toddlers for tips and tricks.

But don't worry. He won't be a toddler forever! Eventually he'll be a teenager.

Tagged (?): Children (Not), Griffin (Not), Parenthood (Not), Parenting (Not), Personal (Not)
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