Having children certainly gives you pause to reflect, although with all the chaos and diapers, usually your reflections consist of, “When was the last time I ate… I can’t believe they are watching Pokémon again…Was that the doorbell or a ringing in my ears… When was the last time I showered…”


But then there are those quiet moments when you find yourself alone, typically in the bathroom, and you think back to your own journey. The years of struggle trying to reach the New World, setting sail on that ship, no wait, that’s An American Tail. I’m referring to my formative years at home.




My father was my hero. A gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He was well-respected in his field, a WWII navy veteran, and a man of principle. He loved his wife and kids and was a wonderful role model. He was an only child whose father died before he could walk. I often think that’s what made him such an exceptional dad; he had no preconceived notions of what a father should be.


My dad passed when I was sixteen and while that is a painfully young age to lose a parent, I was immensely grateful for the time we had together. My philosophy is, I would rather have had sixteen years with my father than a lifetime with anyone else. No other man could have been as exceptional a father as mine was.


So even though I was only able to enjoy my father’s company for sixteen short years, I feel (and hope) I learned a great deal from him. He taught me the enormous responsibility that goes with fatherhood, and the joy that comes from it. The importance of patience and humor in whatever you do and the sense of intimacy a father can share with his child.




Besides my father, I was blessed to have a wonderful mother as well. My mom taught me more through her actions and deeds than through her words. Mom was always doing for others and it had been that way her entire life. Whether it was my dad, my sister and I, her parents, our kids, her friends, her siblings or a stranger in the grocery store, my mom went out of her way for others. She did not seem at peace unless she had a cause to champion and a person to care for.




As you can see, I have had some wonderful parental role models. Beyond my immediate family I have an incredible wife, amazing sister, caring uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends who have helped assemble for me a loving bridge that led to the development of Dadlands. Actually, after all that foundation being laid, at worst I should do a decent job at fatherhood, I strive for better than that.




Editors note: The photo on the right is not reality. Potty training is not a happy time for the parent or child! This is a Madison Avenue ruse.


With potty training comes freedom from the confines of the cloth and disposable shackles they must bear around their midsection. Freedom from grownups yanking at the back of their pants and taking a whiff. Freedom from being put on public display for anyone who happens to be talking to their parents at the time of the diaper change. Freedom from the constant parade of men washing their hands in public restrooms as you balance a bag, a dirty diaper, shopping bags, a clean diaper, and your child on the tiny little shelf they refer to as a changing table. What table? I’ve seen bigger hors d’oeuvre trays.


This theory of freedom is what I surmise, because, about the time your child becomes potty trained, their entire attitude changes. They develop this incredible independent streak. It is not an entirely bad thing, not entirely! For instance, when and where they “go” now becomes their decision.




I know with my boys they have a tendency to hold their pee until about five minutes past the two-minute warning. Mind you they have been holding themselves in a “Roseanne singing the National Anthem” kind of way for the past fifteen minutes. And you have been asking them every five minutes if they need to go. So let me just say, once they do say they need to go, I know I have seventeen seconds to find an unoccupied bathroom or I will be using that two sizes too small spare change of clothes that has been riding around in the minivan since the Clinton Administration.


Don’t think for a minute that once the diapers are shelved next to the Teletubby videos and the Talking Barney Doll that your days of cleaning up bodily fluids are over. Especially if you have boys.




The art of arcing just right to have pee hit “nothing but water” is a skill that does not apparently come in the early years. We’re hoping by high school! It has gotten so I have to carry around a spray bottle of Lysol and roll of paper towels at all times. I looked a little out of place at Christmas dinner last year, but I did manage to clean that upended wine glass in record time.




Unrelated story: Did you ever hear the old joke about the mother who was having some of her friends over for lunch when her little five-your-old comes running in and says “Mommy, mommy I hafta go pee pee.” The mother, obviously embarrassed, talks to her son after her guests have left. She decided they should come up with a code word for pee pee and suggests the word whisper.


Fast forward two weeks, Uncle Billy is visiting from Vermont and sharing a room with the young five-year-old. In the middle of the night the boy wakes Uncle Billy and states, “Uncle Billy, I need ta whisper.” Billy groggily replies, “Wait until morning.” Two more times the boy tells Uncle Billy he has to whisper. Finally, Uncle Billy relents and says, “All right, but do it quietly in my ear.”


Whenever my youngest son, now four, wants to whisper (and I mean actually whisper) something to me, I lean down and rotate my head so my ear is pointing towards him. The unfortunate thing is he does the same thing and our ears meet. This not only tickles like crazy but closes up my hearing canal (medical term) so that his whisper is a barely audible breeze.




I have tried to explain to him the art of whispering a hundred times, but the entire concept escapes him. It is one of the multitude of things I take for granted, but it appears to allude the kids. There are others:


  • Being in a hurry: “Come on get your shoes on we have to get going…tell me in the car. No we don’t have time to play a game. Where’s your jacket? You hid it, but we are already late…”
  • Hunger: You’re driving away from a restaurant when your son informs you he is hungry. “But we just had dinner and you only ate half your pasta. What do you mean you weren’t hungry then it was five minutes ago?”
  • Potty: Driving away from your house, “Daddy, I hafta go potty.” “I asked you three times before we left if you had to go, I stood you in front of the toilet twice, you cried outside the bathroom door while I was going and you insisted you didn’t have to go.” “Daddy, I hafta go now!”
  • Silence: “Quiet in church now…shhhh…whisper…do you know how to whisper?” Child shouting “I think so, wanna hear me?”
  • Sunflower seeds: Do not try to explain this art form indoors! “All right son, put it in your mouth, bite it in half and spit out the shell. Not bad, let me go change my shirt and we’ll try it again.”
  • Getting to the point: The other day my three-year-old was desperately searching for his Superman figurine’s red cape. “It’s over there” I said nonchalantly pointing to the coffee table, barely looking up from the ball game, bottom of the ninth, tie score, two out, two on, Posey up with a 3-2 count. It wasn’t until the top of the twelfth I realized he was still searching, now frantically, and near tears. “Son, it’s over there” but as I watched his eyes, he took no notice of where I was pointing or nodding my head. It was as if “over there” was a specific place in the family room and if he went there, Superman’s cherry red cape would be waiting. “No, look where I am pointing and nodding,” I told him. In frustration, I took his hand and walked him over to get the precious cape just as the announcer was saying, “…Holy cow, it’s not often you see an unassisted triple play, and that will conclude our coverage for today…”




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.




You are at a work party without the kids, a glass of wine in one hand, peanuts in the other, all the while trying desperately to maintain a conversation with the guy in accounting when it hits you: I don’t know how to talk to adults anymore! I have nothing to say and I don’t even remember the structure of an adult conversation.


Sure, you talk to your wife, but those are brief snippets of one cohesive thought. “Today at work I (ten minute break to change a diaper) had a budget meeting (twenty-seven minute interruption to settle an argument, wipe faces, and load the dishwasher) where they reviewed my department (seventeen minute bath time interlude) and realized it wasn’t (bedtime story, prayer, kisses, chat about the existence of dragons, another kiss, more chatting, argument about said dragons, lights out) necessary. They gave me two weeks. How was your day?”




Fear hits you as you realize to have a meaningful conversation anymore the other participant must be under four feet tall, believe wholeheartedly in the existence of Spider-man and use the word “potty” in their daily vocabulary. Otherwise you have nothing to say to these people.


It is a shocking dose of reality as you look around the party and see that no one else seems to be having a problem discussing various adult topics. You spot your wife on the other side of the room happily carrying on a conversation with Dennis in marketing. Dennis! How come they can have a normal conversation? What is normal anyway? I should talk to the boys about normal tomorrow.


When you try to interject yourself into a conversation, your contributions appear to fall on deaf ears:


  • Movies – “I just saw Benji VI: The Last Canine on Prime. Not much of a plot, but the special effects were impressive.”
  • Politics – “My son is running for Kindergarten Rep. He would have run for Vice President if it wasn’t for that Nicholson kid.”
  • Sports – “We ranked third in the Little League Double A standings and just missed the playoffs because of those darn Riverbats!”