Purple Dinosaur Alarm Clock Warning

barney angryI’m laying in bed asleep when I feel something heavy crawling on top of my legs. I open my eyes, and Harry’s face is an inch away from my face.

“Barney sucks!” he yells, and my wife, who is standing nearby, laughs.

I close my eyes, and my wife keeps laughing, while Harry performs various wrestling moves on me, including a flying elbow that connects with the boniest part of my posterior.

“Got ’em right in the b-hole,” Harry says excitedly. More laughing from my better half.

I pull the covers over my head. Breakfast is canceled today. Come back tomorrow.

 

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Yetis: A Short Story By Harry

As Harry eats cereal in his Lego underwear, he tells me a story.

“At my old school,” he says, “the school I can’t go to anymore, this one time my friend saw a Yeti in the field, the field near the playground, not the field where the cows moo and–” he pauses to slurp soggy Frosted Mini Wheats and then wipe his mouth on the side of the dining room table. “–and my friend saw a Yeti, and he was big and white, and I said, ‘Yeti’s aren’t real,’ and I laughed because my friend is crazy, and Yetis aren’t real.”

IMG_1223Harry guzzles the rest of the milk in his bowl, burps, and leans back in his chair. He pats his tummy, the pale white skin of which is poking out the bottom of his alligator T-shirt.  His fingernails are long and dirty, and he smells like fall: a nostalgic mixture of dirt and leaves and little boy body stink.  His eyes widen suddenly, and he looks over at me.

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Are Yetis real?”

I shake my head, too tired to provide my usual needlessly comprehensive answer to one my son’s earnest questions.  “No,” I say instead of elaborating, “Yetis aren’t real.”

But Harry still looks worried, as if an oversized furry animal with sharpened fangs and claws might appear on the lawn and begin howling for four-year old blood.

“Forget about Yetis,” I say.  “Let’s play Ballon Ball.”

“Good idea,” he says.

I spend the next half hour tossing a red ballon into the air above our couch, while my son dives after it, attempting to catch it before it falls into “the lava pit.”

 

 

Animal Pancakes

Warning: if you are not a fan of the Hallmark Movie Channel, if you never watch video clips of toddlers doing cute things, or if you know what the word schmaltzy means, then you should skip today’s post. You’ve been warned. 

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This Is Spinal Tap: one of the greatest movies of all time.

At 9:11am, I, being the neurotic father that I am, start to worry that Harry is still asleep in his room. Sitting in the living room watching, for a third time, the replay of Tottenham Hotspurs defeating Real Madrid in last week’s historic Champion’s League match, I start playing the What If Game inside my chemically-imbalanced brain. Harry’s been asleep for over twelve hours, and what if he sleeps too long and is so cranky when he awakens that I have to lock myself in my bedroom again and turn on Warren Zevon really loudly in order to drown out my son’s insistent wining? I read somewhere that kids grow when they are asleep, and what if Harry sleeps so long he grows to the size of Andre the Giant, and then starts talking in an Eastern European accent I can’t understand, and he gets frustrated because I can’t understand him, and then, being an irritated giant, he simply squishes me, leaving behind a little stain or globule like that drummer from Spinal Tap who spontaneously combusted? 

No longer able to enjoy Tottenham’s thrilling counter-attacking style of soccer, I enter my son’s bedroom to check on him.  He’s sitting up in bed. With his red cheeks and messed-up hair and too-tight Spiderman pjs, he looks adorable. He smiles at me, waves me over. When I get there, he hugs me, nestles his cheek against mine, and I immediately check his forehead to make sure he doesn’t have a temperature.

“Do you feel okay, Harry?” I ask, putting my hand over his chest to make sure his heart isn’t beating too fast and that his lungs aren’t rattling. Yes, I am projecting, for during the cold and flu season, I give myself the exact same examination each and every morning as soon as I rise. I have issues. Many, many issues.

“Let’s make animal pancakes,” Harry says.

Again, my heart skips a beat. Not out of love, mind you, but fear. I’m terrified because he doesn’t want to watch TV, or eat candy, or go outside in the early morning chill wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

“I’ll help you make them, Daddy.”  He stands up on the bunk bed. He opens his arms, and I lift him off the bed and onto the floor. Holding my hand, he leads me into the kitchen, where he releases my hand. He removes the black pancake pan with the various animals carved into it and places it on the stove. He points to the cabinet.

“Get the pancake mix, please.”

I do it.

“I need a bowl, too.”  He rubs sleep from his eye. “Please?”

I get him a bowl.

“I need the red thingy, too. Please?”

IMG_1212I retrieve a red whisk and hand it to him.  Taking his cue, I dump mix, an egg, and milk into the bowl, and he stirs it. He says, “I like cooking. And I didn’t have any shark or dragon dreams last night. Isn’t that weird?”

I can’t answer. I’m too shocked at how, well, agreeable my son is being this morning, how helpful and expansive. Normally, whenever I ask Harry questions about anything, he refuses to answer, but this morning, he’s positively expansive. As he stirs he tells me (again) about the shark dream from a few nights ago.

“This bad shark got into my room, and he wanted to eat me and my Legos and all my toys and all my stuffed animals, and I got really scared and told him to go into your room, Daddy.”  He pauses to laugh and unintentionally rub pancake mix into his hair.  “Just kidding, Daddy. I told the bad shark to go back to the ocean. You know sharks can’t live on land, Daddy.  Sharks have to live in water. They have to live in salt water, so he can never get us because we don’t live at the beach except when we go on vacation with Paw Paw Randy, Eric, Caroline, and Sarah.”

“You’re right,” I say and turn the burner on.

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Harry is a Ballon Ball champion

“Finished,” Harry says.  He pours the mix into the pan, which he does beautifully. He takes me by the hand again, leads me into the living room. He picks up a Helium-filled red ballon and we play a game where we hit the ballon into the air and try to keep it there as long as possible. After we dive around the couch and the Lazy Boy for a minute chasing the ballon, Harry goes into the kitchen.

“Time to flip the pancakes, Daddy.”

I flip them, serve them on a plate, and we sit down at the dining room table. Harry dumps an ungodly amount of syrup on his pancakes. He picks up his fork, and just as he’s about to take his first bite, he turns to me and says:

“Let’s eat our pancakes, and then play more ballon ball, and then go to the park. Deal?”

“That,” I say, “sounds perfect.”

 

 

Mushy Cereal: Harry Wears Shin Guards to Breakfast

It’s 7:47am, and I’m in the living room attempting to watch Sportscenter and drink my tea when Harry walks in. He’s holding a rusty metal lunchbox and his stuffed monkey.  He has on a pinstripe baseball shirt and no pants.

Handing me the rusty metal lunchbox, he says, “I’m a real soccer player.”

“Yes, you are,” I say. “You’re better than Harry Kane.”

He shakes his head. He points to the rusty metal lunchbox in my hand. “Look inside, Daddy.”

IMG_1203I do. Shin guards. Yellow goalie gloves. I’d bought those for him yesterday with a Target gift card that was given to my wife because she is a stellar employee. I never received a Target gift card at any of the jobs I used to work, probably because I was (and am) surly and not nearly as good an employee as my better half.

“Cool,” I say.

“I want to wear them to the pharmacy today,” Harry says. Remember, dear readers, that the pharmacy is my son’s name for the nature school he attends three days a week. Ah, the pharmacy! From 9am to 12pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the pharmacy allows me to catch up on grading essays (lie) and watch reruns of Tottenham Hotspur games on the NBC Sports app (truth).

As I help my son put on his shin guards and goalie gloves, I remind him that if he takes these with him to school then he (not me) is responsible for bringing them back home.  I tell him that if he (not me) forgets to do so, then he cannot moan and complain to me.

I say, “Let me remind you that if you take these with you to school, you (not me) are responsible for bringing them back home, and if you (not me) forgets to do so, then you cannot moan and complain to me.” I finish strapping the shin guards over the top of his jeans. He looks adorable.  “Understood?”

He gives me the thumbs up. “I want breakfast. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Taking me by the hand, he leads me into the kitchen. He releases my hand. He points up at the Frosted Flakes on the shelf. He walks back into the living room to watch Sarah & Duck. 

Because I’m sneaky, I cut up some little pieces of banana and drop them into the bottom of a bowl, and then I pour in cereal and milk. Thinking maybe the kid will accidentally ingest some fruit, I serve his breakfast with a smile.

Smash cut to twenty minutes later. Harry is laying on the floor, and the cereal is all smushy in the bowl.

I lose again.

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Management (meaning Max, the old guy trying to keep up with his four-year old son)

 

 

 

Bob Costas, An Animatronic Beaver Named Goose, and Harry Humming Classical Music: My Inception Moment

IMG_1193I awake this morning before dawn, shuffle into the kitchen, and find Harry working the oven. He’s standing atop his step stool with a KISS THE CHEF apron tied around him. Soft classical music is playing out of his ancient iPod dock, which, apparently, he knows how to take out of his bedroom and plug into the outlet behind the toaster.  Standing in the doorway, I watch as my son hums along to Bach while he moves a spatula around a pan of sausage and eggs. His hair is slicked straight back, and my four-year old looks like Gordon Gecko from the movie Wall Street minus the fake tan and capped white teeth.

“Oh,” Harry says turning toward me, “I did not see you there, father.”

“Father?” I ask.

“How did you sleep? Well, I trust.”

I scratch my head, wondering if I’m having some kind of LSD side effect twenty years after the fact.  Or, just as possible, I’m having a neurological event featuring hallucinations.  But, as always whenever I find myself in an altered state, I try to just go with the flow.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “what did you ask me, Harry?”

Costas_310_3djhni6p_zn0nqnaw“I asked about your night’s rest and how it went.” He turns the heat down on breakfast, wipes his hands on a hand towel dangling from his apron, and then turns his whole body to face me. He puts on an expression that can only be described as paternal concern. “Did you have a bad dream, father?”

Again with the father. But I roll with it.  “Yeah, I had a bad dream, son.  In it I was trapped in Bob Costas’s basement, and I was being–” I stop.  “Do you know who Bob Costas is?”

“Short fellow, right? Sports writer. Broadcaster. He covers the Olympics every year.”

Too amazed to ask how he knows this, I continue with my nightmare. “Right so, in my dream, I end up in Bob Costas’s basement looking for the missing M&Ms (don’t ask; whole other story), and while I’m digging through cardboard boxes, I come across an animatronic beaver who recites to me, in an eerie robot voice, an entire George Carlin stand-up comedy routine. When I don’t laugh (I’m too petrified), the beaver, whose name is Goose (‘you know, like from Top Gun?), he accuses me of being a bully, pulls out a rubber mallet, and just as he’s about to smash me over the head, I wake up gasping for breath.”

Harry’s eyes are filled with tears, but he is not sobbing. “I’m very sorry you had that dream, father. Come, I’ll give you a hug.”  He opens his arms, and I step forward on the verge of tears myself. Bending down, I allow my son to wrap his little arms around me, and as he pulls me near, I can hear his heart thumping, and I start to cry.  Softly. I inhale and smell something musky, like aftershave.

“Are you wearing cologne, Harry?” I ask. I try to wiggle free of his grip, but it’s impossible. He’s strong. Very strong. Too strong. And he smells like Canoe aftershave, and now, I can hear eerie laughter, and I struggle to break free, but I can’t, and then I hear an all-too-familiar voice.

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In my nightmare, Goose, an animatronic beaver, talks in a robot voice and smells like cheap cologne. 

Goose, the animatronic beaver, says in his robot voice, “You will never escape this basement. Costas never comes down here. You belong to me now. You are my slave. You will do my bidding. Forever.”

And then I wake up in my bed, gasping and sweating. It’s light out. It’s Monday. I have a whole week of dealing with a four-year old to look forward to.

I walk into the living room, and, to my relief, Harry is sitting in the Lazy Boy, clutching his stuffed monkey and watching cartoons.  He comes over and says, “Daddy!” He tries to give me a hug, but I back away, skeptical, worried.  I look at his hair: messy. He’s not wearing an apron. He isn’t humming classical music.

“Daddy, you’re being weird.”

“Sorry,” I say and offer to give him a hug, which, of course, he’s no longer interested in.  He dives headfirst onto the couch, does a break dance move, and almost falls onto the floor. Recovered from the scare, he stands back up on the couch and says, “I want grits with cheese, Daddy.”

“Sure.”  I look around the living room. Everything seems normal. But I ask the question anyway. “Harry, you haven’t seen an animatronic beaver around here, have you? Answers to the name Goose? Has a robot-sounding voice? Might smell funny?”

Ignoring my question, Harry points to the kitchen. “Grits,” he says. “Please.”

And then, the strangest thing happens: my son eats every bite of the instant grits I make him.

78986-69677Meanwhile, I’m looking around for that spinning top to try and figure out if I’m in reality or still dreaming.

 

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Management (meaning Max, the old guy trying to keep up with his four-year old son)

 

Letter to Harry, #1

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6-11-2013

Dear Harry,

Right now, you’re three weeks old and chiefly concerned with milk and naps and pacifiers. You weigh between 8 and 9 pounds, and you’re between nineteen and twenty inches long. You have fat cheeks and soft blue eyes, but they’re beginning to get darker. I can report that your eyes twinkles, just like your mother’s. You sleep sporadically during the day and night, but you love it when mom tickles you with her long brown hair. Sometimes after you sneeze, you sigh, and I can almost imagine what your voice will sound like. I’m already trying to get you to say daddy.

Harry, when you were born I was overcome with a sense of joy and responsibility, and walking with you in my arms down the hospital hallway will stay with me forever. You were warm and blue and loud in my arms, and I fell in love with you immediately. While you were under the heating lamp, I rubbed your belly, which you didn’t like, and I cried and talked to you. Mostly, I made promises, which I will repeat now, for the record.

I promised to take care of your obvious needs: food, shelter, etc. I promised to love you and guide you through all of the stages of life. I promised to be honest with you and help you learn from the many mistakes I’ve made (much more on that later). I promised to let you be your own person and not let my wants/preferences overshadow your individuality. I promised to be there for all the triumphs and failures and to lend a kind word when needed, or a stern one, should it be required. I promised to expose you to books and baseball and music, but never force anything on you. I promised to take care of you and mommy for as long as I am alive.

You’re still a baby now, but one day you’ll hear about something called love, and I wanted to add my thoughts on the subject. Simply put, love is caring about someone else’s happiness and well-being more than your own. Love is about sacrifice and, yes, some amount of suffering, but Harry, when you love someone, nothing else compares. It gives you drive and purpose and determination. It rewards you in ways both big and small (punishes you, too).

Harry, I want you to love. I want you to love mom and me. I want you to be curious about the world, be curious about people, and find someone to love. My life was lonely and purposeless before I met your mom. Now, I have a family, and a home, and I’m much better for it. Most of my life, I lived in fear, but when I you were born, much of that fear disappeared. I was no longer afraid because I had you and your mom to love, and that love is permanent.

I’ll have more to say soon, probably more than you’ll want to hear, but for now, just know this: I’m delighted you’re here, and I can’t wait to watch you grow up.

Sincerely,

Dad

 

Freaky Friday: I Am Harry, and Harry Is Daddy, and We Re-Enact The Sandlot

OD-01At 8:24am, I awake, tie my pajama pants around my head like a Rambo bandana, and walk into the living room. Harry’s on the couch wearing his BORN TO WIN T-shirt, and I attempt to snuggle up next to him. He wiggles out of my embrace, although I do sneak a kiss on the crown of his head, which smells of baby shampoo and leaves.

“Daddy, take those pants off of your head,” Harry says.

“I’m not Daddy today,” I say, dropping my voice an octave or two. “You’re Daddy today. I’m Harry, and I want breakfast.”

“Take those pants off your head.” He lunges at me and manages to grab the pants bandana off of my head, but I take the opportunity to snatch his stuffed monkey. Tit-for-tat.  I hold the monkey up to the sunlight breaking through the blinds.

“Mine,” I say. Then I smile at Harry. “I want breakfast, Daddy.”

Making a horrible whining noise, he says, “Talk normal, Daddy.”

“Not Daddy. You’re Daddy.”  Laying on my back now, I toss the monkey up into the air, and it arcs over the ceiling fan and falls back to Earth, landing in my hands. I giggle and snort.

“I don’t like this,” Harry says.

“I want candy for breakfast, Daddy,” I say.  “And I want to play Legos and watch my shows on TV and beat you at soccer and go to McDonald’s for lunch and get a toy.”

Harry harrumphs.  He crosses his arms.  “I want to go to McDonald’s.”

“Silly, Daddy! Old dudes don’t like McDonald’s!”

“I’m not an old dude!”

Another monkey toss. I drop it this time, and Harry snatches it up, wags the stuffed animal in my face, taunting.

“You can’t get it.”

IMG_1198Ignoring him, I say, “Daddy, I want to call Mommy at work and ask her when she’s coming home and when we’re going to California to see Uncle Eric because he’s my favorite, and you’re not, Daddy.”  I take a pillow off of the couch, one that has cartoon butts painted all over it (a gag gift for my wife).   I throw the pillow into the air and catch it.  “Daddy, I’m hungry. Daddy, I’m bored.”

Harry puts on The Face. Every parent knows what face I’m referring to. It’s the face your child makes about two seconds before he or she has a major meltdown. Harry clenches his teeth, snorts through his nostrils like a bull. I don’t say anything. We stare at each other for ten seconds, maybe less, and then his facial muscles relax. He tucks his stuffed monkey under his arm and turns his attention back to Sarah & Duck, his TV show.

My heart swims. This is progress, I think.  This is growth. Truthfully, the reason I had to quit working and become a stay-at-home dad was because Harry was getting into trouble at school.  Without going into details, he wasn’t emotionally ready to handle a full day of being around other people, and he couldn’t, until recently, control his temper.  In the last few weeks though, he’s getting better.  Not as easily frustrated. Doesn’t lash out much at all, anymore.  He actually listens to me.  I’m seeing a sea change, a really positive one, which makes me very happy.  It makes me feel incredibly lucky, too, because I’m able to see, in real time, his maturation process.  

By nature, I am a negative person.  That doesn’t mean I whine and moan and complain constantly about my so-called plight.  What it means is, if I make ten decisions as a parent and nine of them are good, I tend to only remember the one bad one. Why? I am overly-analytical and highly self-critical, and, therefore, ruthless about efficiency and bottom line results. Yes, I tell my son fart jokes and I tell him stories about me passing out in the bathroom of St. Leo’s Middle School because I was so nervous I couldn’t speak to my alleged girlfriend Elizabeth Saintsing. And yes, I may decide, for example, to wear pajama bottoms on top of my head just to try and amuse the lad, and I may have allowed him to watch Pitch Perfect, my third favorite movie of all-time, even though there is some cursing in it, but it’s all part of a masterplan inside my chemically-imbalanced brain. . .

Kidding.

There’s no masterplan.

Except to make Harry Huckleberry Everhart a responsible, productive, well-adjusted citizen who will not live in my basement whenever he’s thirty.

“Harry, come here,” I say.

“Are you Daddy again?”

“Yes, I am. Come here, please.”  He crawls into my lap on the couch. I kiss his warm, smooth cheek.  “Just then, how you handled that situation. That is the way big boys deal with frustration. You didn’t scream. You didn’t throw things. You didn’t call me names. You took some deep breaths and moved on. I’m very proud of you.”

“Daddy?”

“Yeah?”

“Your breath stinks.”  He pinches his nose. “I want grits.”

I serve him instant grits with a little pad of butter in them. He gobbles them up, runs into his bedroom, and returns wearing my T-ball jersey and a Chicago Cubs hat.

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Harry dressed as “Yeah-Yeah” from The Sandlot

“Let’s go outside and play Sandlot.”

Translation: my son wants to go outside and do a scene by scene re-enactment of the movie The Sandlot.

Which we spend the next fifty-seven glorious minutes doing, Harry switching between playing Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan and Scotty Smalls. Me, I get the honor of portraying Hamilton “The Babe” Porter.

Sometimes parenting doesn’t suck.

Question

Have you ever had a moment when you realized your kid has changed for the better? Leave me a comment and tell me about it. 

 

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Party Time: Harry Awakens With a Candy Hangover

IMG_1189At 8:17am, Harry walks out of his bedroom holding his stuffed monkey and his Flash mask.  He looks dazed and hungover thanks to a late night of eating Jolly Rancher suckers, Reese’s Cups, and Italian sloppy joes, and after he walks right past me, ignoring my greeting and adroitly sidestepping my attempts at a good morning kiss, he crawls onto the Lazy Boy.  I ask him if he’s hungry.  He grunts.  I ask him if he slept okay.  He farts.

“That smells like Skittles, man.”

Sound of muffled laughter. Then he sits up on the chair, dons the Flash mask, and looks me over the way a farmer examines a cow he’s not quite sold on.  Aiming a dirty look in my general direction, Harry says:

“Where’s Mommy?”

“Guadalajara.”

“That place from the song you like? The one that goes like this?”  It’s unintelligible what he sings, but I recognize the lyric “Oh no, Guadalajara won’t do, now” from the Steely Dan song “My Old School.”

“That’s the one,” I say feeling like a proud papa that I have infected my son with my music taste. “But I was just kidding. Mommy’s at work. You have a party today at the farm, so you need breakfast.”

He ignores me. Continues staring at the TV, which is on Sportscenter. He aims an accusatory little finger at me, and I’m expecting him to lecture me (again) about how I watch too much soccer and how I’m obsessed with Harry Kane and whether or not he’ll decamp to Real Madrid when the next transfer window opens up. I expect him to inform me that my eyes “have blood in them” (again) because I was up too late watching the World Series, which, even my four-year old knows, I wasn’t watching the baseball so much as I was eating Frosted Mini Wheats and muttering curse words at the umpires for calling balls strikes and strikes balls.

But he doesn’t lecture me. Instead, as I should’ve guessed given how much time we spend together these days, he goes a different direction completely:

“Daddy, where’s my Spiderman glove?”

IMG_1174Some context. Yesterday afternoon, at Harry’s insistence, we dressed up as superheroes and patrolled the neighborhood making sure no one was “stealing other person’s Halloween candy and being bad and stuff.” I dressed as Batman, cape and mask, while Harry donned a Spiderman costume complete with rippling chest muscles, mask, and gloves. Although it was only one o’clock, we did manage to find an alarming number of bad guys—mostly tree aliens (Harry spotted those) and, surprisingly, former Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale (I saw him under a pecan tree relieving a child of his Kit Kat bars). Our heroic duty done, we headed back to our house, where Harry stripped off his costume in the front yard. God only knows where the missing Spiderman glove went, but the obese grey cat that lives in the woods is my number one suspect.

“I don’t know, Harry Man.” And then, because it’s important to try to teach a child and stuff, I add: “It’s your costume. You need to keep track of it, not me.”

Judging by the horrified expression on his face, you would’ve thought I just demanded that he give me both his kidneys, his stuffed monkey, and ALL of his Halloween candy.

“How ‘bout some apple sauce?” I ask.

No response.

“Cereal?”

This time I get a nostril flare.

“Okay. A piece of bologna?”

He turns and growls at me like an adorable lion wearing a Flash mask.

I hold up my hands in surrender because I don’t want to argue. Look, parenting is important, but I have bigger fish to fry today.  Essays to grade. An article on how to be a chick magnet to write. And, most importantly, Tottenham Hotspur plays Real Madrid today at 3:30pm, and I need to watch YouTube clips of Christian Ronaldo while I quietly seethe and stress about the current condition of Harry Kane’s hamstring.  Jeez, I haven’t thought about another human being’s leg this much since I met my 8th grade science teacher Mrs. Hollock. Not only was she pretty as a prayer book, but her and her husband owned a Subway!

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Management (meaning Max, the old guy trying to keep up with his four-year old son)

 

“Smell My Monkey”: Harry Sleeps Late And Eats Bologna

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At 8:51am, Harry enters the living room where I am sitting on the couch. Shuffling across the hardwood floor sleepy-eyed and holding his stuffed monkey, he plops face-first into the couch cushions. After mumbling something incoherent, he sits up, puts his head in my lap, and holds his monkey up so it’s an inch from my face.

“Smell monkey’s hair,” he says, the boy’s bangs covering one eye as he looks up at me, grinning.

I smell monkey’s hair. A little saliva. Bit of dirt. Faintest whiff of laundry detergent.

Frowning, Harry says, “Smell monkey’s butt.”

I smell monkey’s butt. A little saliva. Bit of dirt. Faintest whiff of laundry detergent. But, at the boy’s insistence, I smell the monkey’s butt again, really inhale, and I detect something that plucks at my heart strings: my son’s body odor. The lad has, literally, gotten his stench on his favorite stuffed animal, which makes sense considering he carries it practically everywhere.  Everyone has his or her own odor, and if you have true chemistry and a genuine connection with a person, you will, on some level, like said person’s stink; you might even begin to crave it. I know I crave my son’s peculiar scent. Why else would I be physically incapable of not kissing his dirt-crusted cheek or his hair filled with sand and leaves?

I say, “This monkey butt smells delicious.” I pretend to take a bite of the monkey’s butt, and Harry pulls it away, laughing but also worried that I might actually chew up and swallow his favorite stuffed animal.

The mayhem complete, Harry rolls over in my lap, and now I’m looking down at cartoon sharks, sunglasses, and surfboards on the butt of my son’s pjs. He extends his leg, burying his foot deep in my kidney.

“This is uncomfortable, man.”

His head pops up. He brushes hair from his face and says, “Daddy, you know I can’t be comfortable unless you’re uncomfortable.”

IMG_1169“I see.”  And I do see, truly.  The boy wants to put me in my place every chance he gets. You ever have a boss that always found a way to remind you that he or she was in charge? That’s what Harry tries to do. What’s interesting about this, at least from a psychological standpoint, is that Harry has begun to obey me more and more as time goes by (Casablanca shout out). Over the past week, my son yells a whole lot less, says please and thank you a whole lot more; he cleans up after himself (with minimal threats from Daddy), and, miraculously, he rarely complains anymore when I order him to take out the trash, do his laundry, or wipe down the kitchen counters. Being a rational and somewhat intelligent human being, I figured this change in the boy’s behavior was an omen that Existence, as we all know it, would be coming to a violent end, and soon.

Pushing Harry off of my lap, I say, “I’m going to ask you what you want for breakfast, but I’m going to sing the words, and you have to sing your response. So we will have an entire conversation through singing, and if this goes well, we will just sing the entire day and then when Mommy gets home, we’ll make her do it, too, and then our whole lives will be like a Broadway musical, which I don’t really care for, but I think I’m going a bit nuts hanging around the house all day with a four-year old.”

Harry doesn’t say anything. Just stares. At me.

I clear my throat and, with a funky, George Clinton-type groove playing inside my head, I sing, “What do you want for breakfast, Harry Man?”

“Candy,” the boy replies, deadpan. No singing. No eye contact, either.

IMG_1170Undeterred, I sing my question again, thinking This is Grandma Everhart’s fault because she’s the one who bought Harry a karaoke microphone this past weekend, and, due to Harry-related obstacles, I’ve been unable to try the thing out, although I was able, on Sunday afternoon, to lock myself in our bedroom, queue up “Cups” by Anna Kendrick, and sing half of the first verse before my wife banged on the door demanding access to her 80 pairs of shoes, 60 pairs of jeans, and, I suspect, Harry’s Halloween candy, which we’d hidden atop my dresser so our son wouldn’t put himself into a diabetic coma. 

“Want candy,” Harry says, still no singing.

I give up the dream. “How about I make a bologna and mustard sandwich?”

His eyes light up. “That’s the sandwich you used to eat when you were a kid!”

“Everyday for years, yes, it is. You want one?”

He nods.

I make the sandwich and serve it to him at the dining room table. He promptly licks the spicy mustard off of the bread, removes the thinly-sliced deli bologna, and eats it. He points at me.

“Tell me a story from when you were a kid.”

I’m about to tell him of the time at Georgia Tech Baseball Camp in 1991 when I had to share a dorm room with this six-foot tall monster of a twelve year old from rural Mississippi who removed his shoelace, stuck it up his nose, and pulled it out through his mouth. But I don’t want to give my son any ideas. Instead, I tell him this:

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Photo courtesy of Grandma Everhart, the greatest florist/mother of all time

“When I was ten, I ran a 1500 meter race at Duke University with fifteen of the best milers in North Carolina. I remember I sprinted the entire race, but I came in dead last. Sixteenth place. Funny thing was, I posted my fastest time ever. I still remember the exact time it took me to run the race, and the exact time of the winner. I ran the race in 5 minutes and 59 seconds. The kid who won ran it in 4 minutes and 59 seconds.”

Harry, his mouth stained with mustard, looks confused. “You won a trophy?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“A ribbon?” he asks pointing to his heart where he would, presumably, pin any ribbon he might win.

I shake my head. “I didn’t win anything. I did run my fastest time ever though, and when my Dad found me after the race, I expected him to be mad at me for losing, but you know what he did?”

“What?”

“He hugged me and said, ‘You ran hard, son. I’m proud of you.'”

“Paw Paw said that?” I nod, and Harry smiles. “I would’ve ran faster than you.”

Smiling, I say, “You might be right.”

If you love these posts, why not get them delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and, if the mood strikes me, Sundays, too)? To do this, just click on the SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL button on the sidebar. If you just like and not love these riotously funny posts, then you’re obviously deranged. Even so, go click on the button anyway, as I could use the validation.

Thanks,

Management (meaning Max, the old guy trying to keep up with his four-year old son)

“I Love Mayonnaise”: Grilled Cheese For Breakfast and the Return of Eric Kane

IMG_2549Harry is straddling the arm of the Lazy Boy. His Batman pjs are way too tight. I can see his smooth white belly poking out of the bottom of his shirt, and his matching green shorts are riding up his left leg so far that his orange underwear is visible.

Like an actor doing dinner theater at a retirement home in Boca Raton, I recite my opening line: “What do you want for breakfast, Harry?”

Never taking his eyes off of the TV, which is playing Barbie, Harry stands up on the chair and begins improvising a little ditty about bodily functions.

“I like to toot, toot, toot, fart, fart, fart, tootie tootie toot, farty, farty” –Sudden inhalation accompanied by widened pupils and then — “faaaaaaaarrrrrrtttttt!”

I applaud.

He plops back down in the chair. He puts on a coy smile.  “Daddy, if I eat a good breakfast, will you give me some of my Halloween candy?” After fluttering his impossibly long eyelashes at me, a technique I find amusing because the boy thinks it works on everyone, even his hard-hearted old man, he clasps his little hands together and adds: “Mommy said you’d let me have candy if I ate a good breakfast. Mommy said that. Daddy? Daddy, are you listening?”

I nod.

“Yup, that’s what Mommy said about my candy. And Mommy’s in charge, too, Daddy. Not just you.”

Allow me, at this point, to hit the PAUSE button on this scene between an adorable little four-year old, who just wants to eat a Kit Kat for breakfast, and a father who is distracted because he just found out that Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur’s feared striker and the top goal scorer in the English Premier League, is injured and will not–repeat WILL NOT–play in Saturday morning’s fixture against the well-funded and loathsome football club of Manchester United.

Okay. The scene is paused. Now imagine that I, the distracted, soccer-obsessed father, turn toward the camera and deliver the following soliloquy on my son:

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Me breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience

For awhile now, people have been telling me just how smart Harry Huckleberry Everhart is, how bright, how intelligent, how sharp. And I always respond, ‘Hey, what do I know? I don’t hang out with any other four-year olds.’ But let’s analyze this a bit. So the tyke knows how to use his good looks and charm to get what he wants. Is that really what passes for intelligence these days? Being able to use your gorgeous brown eyes and floppy hair to control (or attempt to control) the people responsible for your very existence? You know who else was a handsome and intelligent charmer who knew how to manipulate people? Ted Bundy, the serial killer. Look, we all know that beautiful people were never meant to suffer, but I see it as my responsibility to tell the kid no once in awhile, and I have a plethora of reasons why.

Reason #1: my son needs to remember who is in charge, namely, his mom and dad, the two of people who love him the most and have made virtually every single mistake there is to make and are, therefore, qualified to shape the lad’s future. Reason #2: as a four-year old (and an only child), my son is laboring under the misapprehension that he is, in fact, the center of the universe, and kids who are raised believing this end up spoiled, entitled, lazy human beings. Plus, said people tend to double-park, cheat on their taxes, neglect their children, and shift the blame whenever they make a mistake at work.  And I cannot have that on my conscience. Reason #3: my son, like every other person on planet Earth, needs to learn how to handle frustration, how to deal with not getting his way. Nowadays, there is this tendency for people to think I want something, so I deserve it, and if I don’t get it, someone is being mean to me. That level of entitlement infuriates me, and I will do my part to not perpetuate it. Reason #4: obviously, candy is delicious, but there is an epidemic of juvenile diabetes in this country, and I am moderately afraid of needles, so, for selfish reasons, I do not want to have to inject my son with insulin every day, nor do I want to pay for all the extra medications required. I’m too cheap. Oh, and, of course, I want him to be as healthy as possible.

Bottom line, what’s best for Harry is to not eat chocolate for breakfast. Therefore, he should (and will) listen to what I say because I spend a majority of my waking hours thinking about how I can best facilitate his emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological development. End of monologue.”

I press the PLAY button, and now we’re back in my living room and Harry and me are talking about breakfast and how candy for breakfast is out of the question.

“Candy for breakfast is out of the question,” I say. “But you can have cereal.”

“Fine. I’ll eat cereal.”

IMG_1145I pour him a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats and serve them. He lets them sit there for half an hour, and they go soggy. Then, he announces that he is hungry.

“I’ll make you a grilled cheese,” I offer.

“I’ll make it.”

Pausing Barbie, Harry walks into the kitchen, removes butter, cheese, and mayonnaise from the refrigerator and a pan from the cabinet. He drags his stepstool over to the counter. He makes his sandwich, slathering way too much mayo on the bread and licking the knife.

IMG_1148“I love mayonnaise so much,” he says.

With my help, he grills the cheese on the stove and eats some of it while standing on his stepstool.

“Daddy,” he says, “I want to play soccer now.”

“Well, I got some good news and some bad news. The bad news: Harry Kane is injured and can’t play in tomorrow’s match against Manchester United. The good news: Tottenham needs you to fly to England right away so you can take Harry Kane’s place.”

His face lights up. “Yeah, the team needs me. I’m Eric Kane, star soccer player, and Daddy, you’re going to be on the bad team because I have to play for the good team and the good team has to beat the bad team.”

“You’re right,” I say. “Let’s go play the match. I’ll be Man U, you’ll be Tottenham. Deal?”

We shake on it, and I make a T-shirt that says MANCHESTER UNITED (SUCKS) and to the backyard we go, where Harry (aka Eric Kane of the Tottenham Hotspurs) defeats Daddy (aka Max Kane of Manchester United). Final score: 14-1.

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If you love these posts, why not get them delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and, if the mood strikes me, Sundays, too)? To do this, just click on the SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL button on the sidebar. If you just like and not love these riotously funny posts, then you’re obviously deranged. Even so, go click on the button anyway, as I could use the validation.

Thanks,

Management (meaning Max, the old guy trying to keep up with his four-year old son)