October 25, 2012

Are Your Swim Lessons This "Fun"?

A little known fact about me: I come from a long line of floaters.

My dad was a floater. My grandma was a floater. At the 1896 Olympics, my great-great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Klems, won a gold medal in competitive floating. (He also won gold in other long-forgotten sports, such as chariot racing and thumb wrestling, but neither carried the prestige that the competitive floating gold medal did.)

So when my wife suggested that we sign the girls up for swim lessons I thought, What a great idea! It's time to start them on their path to floating stardom!

What I didn't realize was that a typical night of swim lessons would go like this:
  • Rush home from work to eat dinner before lessons start.
  • Tell kids to eat dinner quickly so we can get to swim lessons on time.
  • Watch as kids eat slower than they've ever eaten before in their lives.
  • Try to change kids into their swimsuits while they are still eating their dinner.
  • Get yelled at by wife for putting wrong swimsuits on kids—and for putting them on inside out.
  • Say "We need to go!" for the 12th time.
  • Ask wife if she wants to get in the pool with the girls.
  • Wife laughs hysterically and tells you there's no way she's putting on a swimsuit. Says something about looking like "manatee."
  • Nod in agreement. (BIG MISTAKE!)
  • Wife throws swimsuit at you and says "Get ready."
  • Put on swimsuit, look in mirror and confirm what you always suspected: You are a dead ringer for David Beckham.
  • Say "We need to go!" for the 97th time.
  • Get out to the car and race to swim lessons.
  • Arrive at swim lessons and race to the pool.
  • Ask kid if she needs to pee before getting in the pool. She says "No."
  • Get in pool with kid. First thing she says to you upon entering the pool, "I need to pee."
  • Get out of pool and take kid to the potty.
  • Get back in pool and think to self, Woohoo! We finally made it. This should be fun!
  • Spend the next 30 minutes getting splashed in the face and kicked in the sternum.
  • (Know that somewhere, up in the stands, your wife is taking pleasure in this.)
  • Help the swim teacher (who is awesome, by the way) sing London Bridge is Falling Down. Do an excellent job on the first verse. Fail miserably at singing the next 11.
  • Pay close attention to the clock on the wall and countdown the minutes until class is over. Swear you will never come to swim lessons again!
  • Then notice that your kid, the one that has beaten you up for the last 30 minutes, has laid her head on your shoulder ... and started to float!
  • All is right in the world.
  • Class ends. Hand kid to wife. Smile, like any proud dad would, and take in the moment as your wife wraps kid tightly in a towel. Know that all the chaos and kicks to the sternum were worth it.
  • Wife tosses next kid onto you in the pool. Kid immediately says, "Dad, I have to pee."
  • Repeat process ... brace sternum.
Sometimes the things we do for our kids are stressful, frustrating and (somewhat) destructive to our health. But the best parents do them anyway. Why? Some say it's because we are crazy. Others say it's because we are super crazy. But the truth is, we do it because we love our kids. We love teaching them important skills like how to swim and how to float and how to avoid accidentally calling their mother a manatee. Deep down, we love swim lessons. We love anything that not only teaches our kids something valuable but also makes them smile. That makes us smile, which allows us to feel like all our hard work is worth it. At least, that's how I feel.

And if any of my three girls ever wins an Olympic gold medal, I can brag to everyone that it all started years ago at swim lessons. And I'm almost certain everyone's response will be:

"Oh my, has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like David Beckham!"

Don't I know it.

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October 17, 2012

Parent Pop Quiz: How To Survive Kiddie Quizzers

Some days I feel like my kids talk only in questions. It’s as if they’ve turned parenthood into one long high school English exam that I’m almost certain to fail. Of course I can answer the easy ones like “What day is it?” and “When do Pitchers and Catchers report to camp?” I can even handle a couple of toughies, like “Where do babies come from?” (The correct answer is: Fake a heart attack). But what I am never prepared for and eats me alive—and probably eats most other parents alive too—are the daily Kiddie Quizzers that my daughters throw my way.

A Kiddie Quizzer is when one or more of your kids approaches you somewhere where you are trapped, like in your car or when you are secretly reading your wife’s Entertainment Weekly in the bathroom, and starts asking questions at a rapid pace. The questions can last anywhere from 5 minutes to the length of an entire car ride to your in-laws’ house. These questions can be about anything and can be completely unrelated. There are no right or wrong answers; there are only answers that lead to more questions. For example:

Daughter: Are we going anywhere today?
Me: No.
Daughter: Why not?
Me: We need to clean the house.
Daughter: Why do we clean the house?
Me: Because it gets dirty. Can you give me a minute? I’m using the bathroom.
Daughter: Why does it get dirty?
Me: I don’t know. Your mom says it gets dirty and we need to clean it, so we do.
Daughter: Why does mom say that?
Me: Good question.
Daughter: Why is that a good question?
And so on.

As you can see, no matter how you answer, your child will counter with another question. This can be maddening, particularly on the drive home from work when you are already trying to pull off the Commuter-Multitasking Trifecta: Pay attention to the road, control the temperature of the car so everyone is “comfortable” and calculate the mathematical scenarios of yardage plus TDs that will lead your fantasy football team to victory. There just isn’t room for you to focus on a fourth thing. If there were, it wouldn’t be called the Commuter-Multitasking Trifecta. It’d be called the Commuter-Multitasking Trifecta Plus Another Thing.

I’ve tried many methods to defuse these Kiddie Quizzers, but none of them work. I attempt to ignore the question, but that only leads to my daughter repeating the question over and over again.

Daughter: Can I have a pony?
Me: (silence)
Daughter: Can I have a pony?
Me: (silence)
Daughter: Can I have a pony?
Daughter: Can I have a pony?
Daughter: Can I have a pony? (And put this on repeat until you answer her!)

I’ve also tried to respond to her question with my own question, but that doesn’t work either:

Daughter: Can I have a pony?
Me: Do you deserve a pony?
Daughter: Yes. Does that mean I can have a pony?
Me: Where do you think I can get a pony?
Daughter: At the pony store. Does that mean I can have a pony?

I asked other parents how they deal with Kiddie Quizzers and their answers ranged from “I hide in the closet” to “I send them to grandma’s.” But even those tactics have major flaws (closets often smell like feet and grandma’s house often smells like old-people feet).

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that through all the madness it’s hard for me to get too upset. Kids are just curious by nature. Hell, I’m curious by nature, just ask my wife. I’m sure she’d point out that 90% of our conversations go something like this:

Me: Can we be romantic tonight?
Wife: No.
Me: Why not?
Wife: You smell like Nacho Cheese Doritos.
Me: Don’t you like Nacho Cheese Doritos?
Wife: Yes, with sandwiches.
Me: Can we be romantic if I make you a sandwich?
Wife: No.
Me: Why Not?
Wife: Because I’m not hungry … and you still smell like Nacho Cheese Doritos.
Me: Would you prefer Cool Ranch?
And so on.

So when you are faced with the onslaught of a Kiddie Quizzer, know that it’s not the end of the world. It’s also probably, in part, your fault for being so darn knowledgeable about everything (as all Dads are). Your goal here is survival, and the only way I’ve learned to survive Kiddie Quizzers is to just keep answering them (no matter how crazy they make you) and pray that, eventually, through your thoughtful answers and brilliant retorts, you’ll bore your kid to sleep.

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