August 16, 2013

The Phone Bazinga: Why Kids Get Extra Loud When You’re On the Phone

Before I was a parent, I talked on the phone without any problems at all. I could sit on the couch and quietly discuss with my wife the finer points of a romantic evening. I could pace around the house and talk with my friend Roger, trying to convince him that Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo is not only a dynamite pitcher but is also quite talented off the field too! I could talk—just talk—for however long I wanted. And I could do it in peace and quiet.

It. Was. Glorious.

Now that I’m a parent, those days are long gone thanks to a wonder of the world known as The Phone Bazinga.

The Phone Bazinga is a phenomenon which states that no matter how quiet and calm they currently are, your kids will suddenly be in your face and, most likely, screaming, the moment you make a phone call. It’s 100% true. There’s a secret Bat-Signal that goes off the second you say “Hello,” activating a molecule in kid brains where they lose their minds. 

What’s that? Dad’s on the phone! We must yell at the top of our lungs!

I hear Mom is calling grandma! This is the perfect time to unload all those questions we’ve been saving up the past two hours and ask her right now!

The 5 Principles of The Phone Bazinga:

1. It can happen at your house, in your car, at the store—anywhere your kids can find you.

2. Age doesn’t matter. Whether they are 6 weeks old, 10 months old, 5 years old or in college, they will make noise once that phone is in your hand.

3. You can’t escape it. They follow you around, like a cruel game of Follow the Leader, tattling on “so-and-so” or complaining about “so-and-so” or asking why their mom (your wife) won’t let you grow back your mustache (because she doesn’t like things that are awesome).

4. It can happen at any time. Think you’ve outsmarted them by waiting until nighttime when they are sound asleep? You silly fool. They’ll just pick that time to sleep-fall out of bed or throw up all over the covers.

5. The more important the phone call, the louder they get.

Phone Bazingas make it nearly impossible for parents to communicate, which is why there’s always so much confusion around the house. My wife is always saying that she asked me “five times” to cut the grass. What she fails to mention is that each time she asked me, it was over the phone—likely during Level 3 Phone Bazingas. In fact, I’m most certain that all important “reminders” she gives me happen during Phone Bazingas. This would also explain why last Thursday I didn’t take out the trash and why I didn’t pick up the dry cleaning (though in my defense, I did set a new all-time high score in Mario Kart—YEAH ME!).

Can Phone Bazingas be Stopped?

Don’t waste your time trying to stop it. You can’t. I’ve tried everything—setting them in front of the television, letting them play with the iPad, gating them in their playroom and then going upstairs and crouching in the corner of the bathroom tub (this only makes them louder and generally ends with an injury or something valuable breaking). I even tried bribing them with candy one time when I was trying to make a work call. This just led to two sets of screaming: 1) when they landed me with a high-pitched Phone Bazinga and 2) when they were furious that I wouldn’t give them candy after they failed to remain quiet during my important call.

So forgive us friends and family when we don’t answer your calls and when you haven’t seen our number show up on your caller ID in years. It’s not because we don’t want to talk or because we’re mad at you (though if you were the one who drank the last beer in our house we are probably mad at you). It’s because, quite frankly, we can’t. At least, we can’t peacefully, all because of the Phone Bazinga.

And that, my friends, is why the phone companies invented texting. 

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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August 9, 2013

Dudes vs. Dads

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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August 2, 2013

There’s No Place Like Macomb

In the middle of nowhere Illinois lives a place. A place that holds scattered roads and a population that wouldn’t fill the lower deck of a baseball stadium. A place whose downtown is smaller than some people’s backyards. A place where traffic is defined as “waiting behind 2 cars at a stop sign” and the closest Starbucks isn’t around the corner, it’s in Chicago.  

It’s a small place. A very small place. But it’s a place that’s a big part of my life.

Before I was a Dad, I spent many summers in Macomb, Illinois, home of the Western Illinois University Leathernecks, Candy Lane and, most important, actor John Mahoney (you know, the dad from “Frasier”). Also, my aunt and uncle live there. We took family vacations to Macomb all the time—mostly because we loved spending time with family, but also because Disney World doesn’t let you sleep on it’s couch for free.

We played games, watched movies, had dessert after every meal. We swam in a round, over-sized horse trough that had been spending its twilight years moonlighting as a pool. We read books and shared stories—and I had extra time to bond with my cousin Carl, the only boy cousin in my life.

So I suggested to my wife that when our daughters were old enough to handle the long car ride (which means putting up with me singing Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” for 6 hours straight until I’ve reached vocal perfection), we’d take a vacation to visit Macomb. I told her, “Don’t worry, it’ll be relaxing.”

She laughed.

With three kids under the age of 6, nothing is relaxing—not vacation, not car rides, not even going to the bathroom. In fact, going to the bathroom may be the most stressful time of all. If you let the kids in, they sit on your lap and poke you in the face and, eventually, run off with the toilet paper. If you lock them out, you are safely protected by the door but you are also subjected to stressful screams, tears and noises that can only be described as “things shattering.” Relaxation isn’t in the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary for Parents.

Her laughter left me paranoid. What if it wasn't as amazing as I remembered it to be? What if the relaxing days of my youth in Macomb were actually stress-filled days for my parents (a club that now had me as member)? What if my kids were disappointed by the lack of Disney Princesses (I guess my uncle could have dressed up, but I think they would have his beard under the tiara.) What if the whole trip was a letdown? Thankfully, it wasn’t.

From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with helping hands and fancy cappuccino drinks.  We enjoyed free use of all the hammock swings, strategically placed to be shaded by trees for optimal book reading (which is vacation code for “napping”). Fresh fruit lined the kitchen counter while a hidden stash of liquor lined the “After The Kids Are In Bed” table. My wife got to sleep in each morning and I continually sneaked out for 4-mile runs. We watched movies and played music. We sang songs. We splashed around in our swimsuits and caught summer fireworks under a beautifully clear Macomb sky. It wasn’t just the kind of vacation I had hoped for; it was better. It was also one vacation my girls still talk about today.

This got me thinking: We get too caught up in fancy (expensive) vacations like Disney, trying to give our kids great memories that we think they want. But the truth is that great vacation memories can be created anywhere. Sometimes, in fact, the more relaxing ones—filled with water balloon fights and Chinese Checkers and bedtime stories read by vacation aunts and uncles—are the ones your kids will look back on and enjoy most. Heck, that’s what happened to me. And, hopefully, that’s what’s happening to my kids too.

There are thousands of Macombs out there—places where vacations are cheap but memories are plentiful. Could be visiting a family member who’s kind enough to let you stay at his or her house. Could be a campground that’s a short drive away. Could be a pitched tent in your backyard. It’s just a place where you spend time with the people you love just enjoying each other’s company.

And when it comes to the best vacation memories to me, there’s no place like Macomb.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.