Those parental pledges you made before your children were born, forget about them. Except for the one that says, “I will not harm my children,” the rest are just pipe dreams.


You know the ones I am talking about:

  • I will not bargain with my child.
  • I will not use food as a reward.
  • I will not use the television as a babysitter.
  • My child will not master the features of the TiVo before I do.
  • Cookies are not dinner.

The reality is that children are skillful negotiators. They are born with this innate gift that tells them the correct bargaining technique for achieving their final objective. For example, if they want a snack and they know you want to run an errand. Avoid the middle step of trying to coerce them into the car with logic, pleading and guilt. It’s pointless. Just pull out the Cheetos, let them see the bag and then toss it into their car seat. The rest is easy.




Secondly, if the children want some candy and you don’t want to give it to them, they are going to find a way to get it. Case in point, they have a diaper that makes a hockey team’s locker room smell like Lemon Pledge. It needs changing. If you wait much longer the paramedics may have to administer oxygen to you. They know it needs changing, you know it needs changing…. Give the child the gummi bears for God’s sake.


The television! It’s four-thirty and your wife is coming home in an hour. You have not had a moment’s peace all day, but you know you must get dinner on the table by six. She manages to do it every night, it is the least you can do. The child knows you need to make dinner and he also knows Toy Story 3 is in the queue. Give it up, they are going to be watching Buzz and Woody in a few minutes no matter how many other techniques you try.




Its dinnertime and your wife is out at book club. The Niners kickoff on Monday Night Football in twenty minutes and none of the boys are touching the chicken and rice casserole with green beans. Stupid green beans! Everyone can see the bag of Oreos on the counter. At least they won’t go to bed hungry. You’re well into the third quarter when your wife returns and asks why the boys have black teeth.


The sooner you learn to capitulate on the vows the better you’ll all feel. Plus, it will be highly entertaining to listen to new parents explain their many parental pledges regarding children.




In this blog I will attempt to show you how you can have actual fun with your kids. I know that might sound like an oxymoron (who you calling a moron?) but it can be done. Think of it this way, your children are young, malleable beings and, given the proper circumstances and environment, you can ply them to your will. I am not referring to bank robbery or other nefarious deeds, but I think some examples will best illustrate my point.


With my third son, when he was three years old and music was playing, I would only ask him who was singing if it was The Beatles. He knew it and I knew it. So, on countless occasions, when others were present and a Beatles tune was playing, I would ask “Who’s this?” and he would proudly answer, “The Beatles.” The responses ranged from “Wow, he really knows his music!” to “My kids don’t even know who they are.” It was our inside joke and he enjoyed it just as much as I did.




Sometimes your children can be utilized to diffuse a tense situation. I remember we were all flying to Michigan for our nephew’s wedding and my four sons ranged in age from eleven to two. We arrived at the airport, but just barely! SFO was packed with people and there was a two-hour flight delay on our departure.


As we arrived at the gate and sat on the ground because there were no seats, all four boys decided to meltdown at the same time. There were tears, yelling, hitting and general dissonance. Passengers all around us stared in horror. I said in a fairly loud voice, “Do you know what all these people are thinking?” Thankfully this had the proper effect as all four boys stopped the brawling and looked at me expectantly. I said, “They are all hoping that we are sitting near them on the plane!” The boys didn’t really understand, but all the fellow passengers laughed, albeit nervously.


Your children can also serve a useful purpose when the situation warrants. For example, long bathroom lines at the ballgame? Just grab a child (but daddy I don’t need to go!) and pick a kindly looking individual and voila, you are back in your seats before the inning ends.




Lastly, for those simple tasks you are too lazy to do, who better than your own kin? I’ll bet you can’t bring daddy the remote. That bag of chips is probably too heavy for you to bring over here, I’ll go get them. Who wants to help dad light the grill? That last one might be a bad example, but you get the idea.


To review, these are just a few of the ways to have actual fun with your kids. Sometimes it is just about your perspective on the situation and how you can manipulate it to your advantage. No one gets hurt or is even the wiser, but it can bring you some joy during your Dadlands journey.




I hate change! I think the Olympics should still be on ABC (that’s going old school!), Diane should never have left Cheers, Joe Montana should have finished his career with the Niners, M*A*S*H should be starting its 47th season this Fall, there shouldn’t be a designated hitter, two-point conversion option or three-point shot. I rescind that last one, because then Steph wouldn’t be Steph!


But parenting is all about change. Just when you learn to accept one phase (okay, I guess my boys are going to play Chutes and Ladders every day for the rest of their lives), they have moved on to something new. Moments after you have acknowledged the fact that your son will only eat bacon and carrots for the rest of his life, he is enjoying your wife’s broccoli casserole. That proud moment when your boys are playing together again with such joyful exuberance is soon shattered when you find them wrestling over who won Battleship.




The changes can be abrupt or gradual, but life with kids is like riding a roller coaster that daily changes direction, height and drop rate. My second son had a favorite shirt when he was four that he wore every day for sixty-seven consecutive days. It was different shades of green with dinosaurs emblazoned across the front and back. As fashion statements go, it said “On sale at Target for $3.99”. It had stains, holes and tattered sleeves.


We tried hiding it, not washing it (like that mattered!), pointing out its flaws and switch pitching with new clothes. All to no avail. Then, on the sixty-eighth day he came out dressed in the blue Spider-Man tee and the green dino shirt was relegated to the bottom of his drawer. That shirt now resides in his memory box and in forty-seven photos from that period. I thought he would be wearing it to his first day of college.




Parenting is all about change because life with little ones can be so unpredictable. You never know where the next fixation will come from or when it will leave. Toys, games, clothes, friends, TV shows, movies, they are all preoccupations, until they are not. It keeps life interesting and always evolving. I think I’ll pull out Chutes and Ladders and see if my wife wants to play a round or two.