Tuesday, July 24, 2012


So last Friday was Isaac's sixth birthday. Everybody who hasn't been raising him is shocked that he's that old already. Those of us at ground zero have felt every. single.day.

So Isaac's initial request for his birthday was to go to Chuck E. Cheese. Not looking forward to an afternoon cultivating a tension headache in a giant warehouse of screeching children that smells vaguely of feet and vomit, I searched for a more  palatable solution. Lo and Behold, as I walked off the subway one day, I saw an advertisement for the Firefly Festival, a three-day concert featuring two of Isaac's favorite rock bands, OK GO and Jack White (who also happens to be one of my favorites. Win/win.) A quick visit to the website confirmed that not only were both bands playing on the same day, but on ISAAC'S BIRTHDAY. Hell, yeah. But it's in Delaware. Four hours away. Ok. No problem. And the bands' sets are four hours apart. Yikes. But still do-able. Now to convince Isaac. My newly minted six-year-old has a keen nose for bullshit, so I knew I couldn't sugar coat this. No spin, no angles. He's the Walter Cronkite of six year olds.

"Isaac, how'd you like to go and see OK GO and Jack White on your birthday, INSTEAD of going to Chuck E. Cheese?"

Isaac cocks his head and squints at me from under his bangs. "INSTEAD of? Like, we don't go to Chuck E. Cheese AT ALL?"

I panic. A little sweat breaks out on my brow. What do I do? I can't read him. The kid's inscrutable.

"Um....we could go to Chuck E. Cheese......another day!"
"Another day?"
"Like, THIS summer?"


"Yeah, Isaac. This summer."

"Great! Let's go."

I feel like I got duped. Like he would have sprung for the concert anyway. Well played, son....

It doesn't occur to me to check ticket prices. When I do, I have a mini heart attack. Were music festivals this expensive when I went to my last one, some 6,234,834 years ago? The amount I'm spending on tickets for a family of four would have supported me for a freakin month back then. I march out to the backyard where my wife is and tell her the cost. She's as scandalized as I am, and we decide to scrap the whole thing. I go inside and stare at the computer screen, and then start checking the prices of other concerts. With a little research, I find that all the concerts that the younguns are going to these days cost a buttload of cash. Just like they always did, back when I would blow a whole check on a weekend of shows. I am not poor, but simply old. I buy the tickets.

The day comes, and we load up the car. Isaac has chosen to wear his new Captain America costume. I can't think of more appropriate garb. "People are going to love you, Isaac." And they did.

"WOOO! Captain America!!"
"Gimme five, man!"
"Can I get a picture with you??"

"A picture? SURE! Two dollars."
"Two. Dollars."

I vacillate between being mortified and being incredibly impressed. To my relief, they not only pay up, but it seems that Isaac made their night. The photo session includes many cool Captain America action poses, and ends in laughs, hugs, and several more dollars than Isaac asked for. He repeats this throughout the night, and nets nearly $20, which, coincidentally, is about one-tenth the cost of  his ticket.

I spend the six hours of the music festival with Jack (55 pounds of kid) on my shoulders, but when I feel him cheering, clapping, and grooving, it's like he's made out of helium. The night ends about an hour into Jack White's (incredible) set, when both boys decide that they've had enough. I can't count the number of inebriated 20-somethings who told me I was an "Awesome parent", which I'm not sure I know how to take. I certainly had a great time, and the boys did, too. I milked it as long as I could, until Jack pulled a full role-reversal on me at about 11:10pm, after nearly 8 hours of unabashed rock and roll, as he turned on his heel, and stalked off into the darkness.

"Where are you going, Jack?!!"

"I'm leaving."

Friday, June 17, 2011


Yesterday was a regular day.

Isaac and I made waffles. Five minutes out of bed and, when asked who wants to help in the kitchen he shouts "MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" like his pants are on fire and I asked who wants a bucket of water.

Then we had cello practice. Mom was Maestra, since practice with Dad goes something like this:

"Hey, play that one song"
"I don't remember how it starts."
"Me Neither. Wanna read books?"

I applauded their songs, got refreshments, and gave Isaac a time-out when he got mad and tried to commit cellicide by sawing his instrument in half with his bow.

When it was time to go, I collected my hugs and kisses (Isaac on the lips, Jack on the cheek, as always). Jack has just started saying, "I love you too, dad" which is sweet. I walked out of the house wondering when I became "Dad" instead of "Daddy".

Then I went to work. Where I worked. Work used to seem like a break, but now that being at home no longer feels like a cross between bootcamp and chaperoning at Animal House, work is back to being workish.

I had an event that ran late, so I got home after the boys were asleep. I went into the bedroom, where they were both sprawled on their beds like lusty pirates after a long day of pillaging, taking up far more bed-space than they did a year ago, or even six months ago.

I crouched down next to their beds, breathing in the smell of sleepy little-boy breath, and wept.

Back in the bootcamp days...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Left Coast Randomness

My dear friend Shumit is a stay at home dad out in Cali with a sharp eye for the humorous side of the body-fluid soaked bacchanal that is parenting. Shu and I have a long history together, including some mischief that should by rights prohibit us from ever being in charge of any other human being, no matter how small. But nature has blessed us with fine swimmers and physiques that at least two women in the world do not find repellent, and so we find ourselves raising our own little progeny on opposite sides of the country, and blogging about poop, vomit, and sleep deprivation. I always enjoy reading his posts. He's the type of guy that can put the "fun" in "funeral". One of my favorites is linked here

Monday, May 9, 2011


So I've been neglecting my blog of late. I blame it on my kids. They're just not as funny as they used to be. I try walking up to them and shouting "SAY SOMETHING FUNNY!" but they just reply with relatively well-reasoned logic appropriate to their level of development. But recently, they have begun to be funny On Purpose.

Jack told his first joke at age 17 months or so (my wife will no doubt correct the actual age. She has a mother's head for those details), but he was still in diapers. Rebecca had unfastened one of those diapers, peeked inside, and said to Jack, "Hey, there's a penis in there!" To which Jack replied, "What's a penis doing there?"

It was a long dry spell for on-purpose humor for a while, but the other day, Jack responded to one of his brother's non-sensical 4-year-old questions with:

"BAWK, BAWK! Midnight Chicken!"

I have no idea who or what the "Midnight Chicken" is, but the funniest part about it is the fact that Jack sounds as though he is answering the phone at a call center.

Since then, it has become the go-to phrase for any question that is not really worth answering.:

"Hey Jack, how's that hot-dog, man?"

"Bawk, bawk. Midnight Chicken!"

I mean, how do you answer that?

Picasso said once, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

To my eldest son: Here's hoping that you never lose the appreciation of the absurd. That at any point in your life, if circumstance warrants it, you can pick up that ringing phone, and take an order for the Midnight Chicken.

Monday, April 4, 2011


A very close friend of mine just had her first baby this week. What I want to say is, "You're gonna be SO GREAT at this!" What I should say is, "You're gonna kind of suck at this, but it's OK, because we all do."

I was having a conversation with a (childless)colleague the other day, and he mentioned (with disdain) that some celebrity (who I know nothing about because I have kids) HIDES her children's vegetables in foods they like by chopping them up small, or pureeing them.

Apparently,this is WRONG.

I was taking notes and pulling out my iPhone to cruise Amazon for food processors.


Jack eats about 5 different foods, all of them beige. i comfort myself with the reminder that they are organically beige. I figure I can either let him eat his beige slop until he gets over it, or deal with the barf. Jack is a barfer. Nothing ends an argument about "trying new things" quicker than a nice warm puddle of sick.

Isaac has no such qualms. The other day he requested: smoked salmon, pickles, and olive paste on flatbread. Standard fare for old Jewish men. Isaac is adventurous, lusty, and daring. But he has his preferences.

There is one culinary rule in Chez Norman-Sokoll: Broccoli. Thou Shalt Eat Broccoli. Not either kids favorite, but they will both eat it without barfing. Yesterday for dinner I chose carrots (the only other non-beige item Jack will ingest, albeit grudgingly). Isaac remarked, "We're not having Broccoli??!! My favorite??!!"
Thinking we had reached the promised land of vegetable appreciation, I scooped Isaac up and said, "Broccoli is your favorite, huh?"

"No dad. Not having Broccoli. That's my favorite."

Jack enjoying some beige...

Monday, November 29, 2010


One of the myriad things I love about being a dad is getting to re-examine all the rules I have made up for myself, or taken on because of my socialization. Remember the jingle "You can't have cookies for breakfast, but you *can* have Cookie Crisp"? It took me 30+ years and two little boys to make me realize that that is utter B.S.

You can TOTALLY have cookies for breakfast.

You can also have cheese for dinner. Just cheese, no crackers.

You can squeeze four people into a queen bed. Every night, between the hours of 3 and 5am.

You can turn your apartment into a jungle gym, play drums on ANYTHING, eat dirt, dump an entire tub of water on the bathroom floor (that why it's made of tile), and if you make something cool, you can tape that shizz RIGHT ON THE WALL.

There are some new rules, though, that I have been forced to learn. For Isaac's last birthday, I asked Jack if he wanted to make something for his brother. He thought about it for a minute, and then his face lit up as if he had been visited by a divine revelation. He then climbed up into my loft bed (where he creates all of his best art) and made this:

This is a Pig-Eating Monster. Yes, that is the little piggie's tail protruding from the monster's mouth, and that talk-bubble is the pig's final words: "AHHHHH"

The Monster, for it's part, seems to be saying "GKG", which I suppose is either the sound of furious chewing, or means "Yum" in Pig-Eating Monster speak.

Jack proceeded to make pig-eating monsters for many other people on their special days. It became quite a thing. When Rebecca suggested that Jack incorporate this theme into his Christmas missives, he was shocked, and not a little disappointed in her. He sadly shook his head and said "Mom...Pig Eating Monsters are for birthdays."

I can live with that. Pass the cookies.


I thought raising two boys was going to be easier than a boy-girl pair. hand-me-downs to save money, sharing a bedroom, and once boy #2 came around, I figured I'd know what I was in for. Turns out having two boys in the house, no matter how hippy-dippy pacifist you try to raise them, is sort of like gladiator training camp. Boys don't just scream. Or rather, they do, but they swing while vocalizing. What starts out as a disagreement over what to watch on youtube escalates into a full-scale ground war by the time you can make it across the living room. If I could choose a super-power, it would be stretchy arms, like Mr. Fantastic.

The good news is that, in spite of all the bloodshed, they ADORE each other.

The computer was playing a photo slideshow tonight, and we stopped on one from several years ago where Jack was sitting on the bathroom floor, crying. It sounds kind of awful that I would take a picture of this, and I guess it is. I thought he looked cute.

Isaac says, brightly, "I think he is crying because I PUNCHED him in the FACE!"

Jack's eyes stay on the screen as he smiles crookedly and nods his head. "I think you're right, Isaac. I think you're right!"


Jack just woke up crying. Bad dream, I suspect.

He wouldn't say, in any case. He just wanted water. And cuddles.

I didn't feel bad for him. I never do when he or Isaac cry. I don't see them suffering, just soaking up life. Suffering is going to bed hungry, or living in danger. Not bad dreams.

I never thought I'd say this, but it was nice to be needed again at night.


So Jack is really growing up. Kids do that. One minute you're wetting yourself and calling Grammy when he gurgles something that sounds like it might be english, and the next minute you're shoving crackers in his face so he'll take a break from recounting the entire plot of Ice Age 3. There are also the benefits of fine motor skills: instead of wrestling him into his pajamas, I can hand him his pajamas and then holler at him periodically while he takes thirty minutes to put them on.

The biggest bonus is that he's starting to notice when he gets dirty. This bodes well for him shedding the title of The World's Filthiest Little Boy. The other day at breakfast, he looked down at his lap while a bemused smile played across his lips.

"Hmmm...did I get eggs in my underwear?"

As they say in AA, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I'm gonna let you in on a secret: People with two kids think of having only one kid as "a nice hobby".

This is, of course, horse-shit, but when you go through that second infancy, everything before kid #2 starts to look like an extended sunday afternoon seen through a gauzy filter. People with three kids are in an entirely different class than me. I have heard legends of people having MORE THAN THREE. Furtive whispers in the dark, rumors, even a few sightings in the wilds of suburbia. If you are wealthy and can afford staff members, I suppose you could squeeze out kids until they give you a reality special, but if you are a middle-class urbanite, sooner or later you're going to run out of room for extra murphy beds.

So two it is. I have no desire to weep from exhaustion yet again, I've only got two hands to hold while crossing the road, and I'm not going to leave the city until I have a chance to be one of those ancient urban dwellers that can always get a seat on the subway. Jack seems to be with me on this. He and Isaac helped mom work her shift in the childcare room of the food co-op the other day. Apparently they had a pretty small baby in there for most of the shift. As I walked the boys home, Jack looked up at me, one eye squinting in the sun.

"Y'know, dad? It doesn't take THREE babies to make trouble for a four-year-old and a five-and-a-half-year-old."

"Oh, yeah? How many does it take?"

"It takes ONE, dad." There is a smile on his face, but it is an ironic smile.

" It just. Takes. One."


Raising children wouldn't be so embarrassing if we didn't have to do it in public. There is a small, feral part of me that wants to run off into wilds and live in a cave or mud hut or a yurt. Somewhere where it doesn't matter if my kid has chocolate stains on his shirt or asks in the world's loudest voice why fat people waddle when they walk. I spend the better part of every interaction my child has with a stranger gritting my teeth in anticipation of some horribly mortifying bon mot like telling an an ABOSOLUTELY NOT PREGNANT woman that she has a "big baby in her belly" or calling the friendly African American guy on the subway "Blackie". And before you call the NAACP, Isaac was referring to his sunglasses. Which were...you know...black. See that, right there? I had to explain that to you. If I lived in a yurt, that wouldn't be necessary. Unless we had a sort of yurt village, and were neighbors...

Issac is four now, and is still working on some of his English idioms. Instead of "turning" something on, he wants to "get it on". No biggie, merely swapping one double entendre for another, as it were. One of his favorite things to do is turn the lightswitch off and on, especially in a bathroom, where it gets really dark. I just hope nobody called social services when Isaac asked me to come into the bathroom at our local coffee shop, so he could "turn off the light and get it on".


I'm raising a smart-ass. Maybe two. But at least one. I started to suspect the other day when Isaac asked me if I was going to get a haircut for the wedding. That wasn't the smart-ass part. Ike was just making sort of a lame joke, which in my book just makes a three-year-old, not a smart-ass. The smart-ass-ness came when I answered Isaac with the obligatory, "Oh, Isaac, you're so silly! I don't have any hair!" Jack smirks at me and says, "Sure you don't dad...Except for there, and there, and there, and there....."

He wasn't pointing out my beard, either.

My fear (pride?) was confirmed the other day. Jack was holding forth on many different subjects while he stood at a public urinal with his pants at his ankles.

"Ya know, dad? I drink a LOT of water (he does). But I don't pee a lot. (also true)
You DON'T drink a lot of water, but you pee ALL THE TIME." (Guilty as charged)

My 5 year old son, still standing bow-legged and bare assed at the pissoir, looks at me sideways and asks:

"HEY! Are you peeing my water??!!"


Isaac's take on felines:

Cats eat garbage. Only garbage. They don't eat food, so they don't poop. And since they don't poop, they can hang signs on their butts. The signs say, "CATS DON'T EAT CHEESE! THEY DON'T EAT ANY FOOD. THEY ONLY EAT GARBAGE. POOPIES, GARBAGE."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Kid Thing #75

Let me start with a disclaimer. Jack is a really good big brother. He's rarely hurts his brother intentionally, but he has been guilty of subjecting Isaac to hazardous experimentation without his consent. Part of the reason Isaac stays so safe is because he has street smarts beyond his years, and can see a setup coming from a mile away. So we're in the backyard (if you live outside of the urban jungle, think "patio") and I hear Jack whimpering from around the corner, so I go to investigate.

"Isaac won't let me play the game I want to play!"

"What game, Jack?"


"All Isaac has to do is just STAND there. With his eyes closed. And NOT move."

"Um,...oh yeah? And what are you going to do then?

Another pause, accompanied by a faint ghost of a grin.

"That part...is a secret."

Monday, March 8, 2010


So, Jack, Isaac, and I are in the park. Doing a practice-run Easter Egg Hunt. Between age 13 and parenthood, these peripheral holidays meant squat to me. Now I understand why stores put out holiday stuff so ridiculously early: because there are people like me, who want to buy plastic Easter eggs on February 15th. Easter seems particularly apt for wild little boys: the pagan overtones, the pull of the outside, a whiff of freedom. We're in a place in the park that the boys call the "Dut-duh-duh Dah" (imagine a sort of triumphant fanfare. The "big reveal" in a cheesy magic trick. You get the picture...). I'm not really even sure of the origin of this name, and the boys are too impatient with my dimness to fully explain, but as the name implies, it's a really nice spot in the park.

In absence of candy, I'm filling the Easter eggs with money. Mostly change, a couple of dollars. The boys are interested in money, but they never really buy anything with what I give them. They just sort of carry it around like a magic talisman. Which it kind of is.

The boys harvest their eggs, and Jack puts his spoils in his coat pocket, remarking, "I'm gonna give all this money to mom."

"Oh yeah, Jack? How come?"

Jack purses his lips and pulls his eyebrows together.

"Because she doesn't have very much."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


So Isaac had us cut his hair (which was getting pretty long). He wanted Grandma to like it. Fair enough. It's all about the ladies, in any case.

Both boys have been informed as to the tenuous hold their hair has on their head, and the fact that if they ever want long dreadlocks, a mohawk, or anything other coif that requires active growth between 30 degrees and 150 degrees north latitude, they best get on that train. Current estimates run the clock out at about 19 years of age. Carpe diem, boys.

But Ike truly does sport the crewcut with grace and style. It suits him, especially with his jaunty "bang" that Rebecca left hanging (most likely by accident).

Jack has held on to his mop, but since he is The Worlds Filthiest Little Boy, it presents some unique challenges. Food for the most part is the culprit, also gum, and the odd un-identifiable. And this time of year, he is stuffy-nosed, so his speech is interspersed with little puffs (him blowing his hair out of his face) and snorts:

"Daddy? (puff) Todaaaaaaay, (snort)I want to do magic tricks (puff) with magnets (snort) and then (puff) go play with Vera (snort, puff)."

Isaac was sitting across the table from him the other day, listening with his brows knitted together. When Jack paused (to get his hair unstuck from his snotty nose), Isaac advised Jack that he should "Get a haircut!"

Very Easy Rider.

Jack brushed his 5 year old rocker hair from his eyes.

"Isaac, some people don't want to be like everyone else."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Sometimes I think about the secrets I kept from my parents (sorry, Mom) and I wonder when that is gonna start happening with my kids. What was the first thing that I kept to myself; The first daydream that was too precious to be dragged out into the light, the first insight that was too fragile and tenuous to place under the gaze of my wise guardians? Jack is a pensive fellow at five, and often found staring off into space. If my wife and I see him this way, we’ll giggle silently and mumble little clockwork sounds under our breath to each other, as if we can hear his gears turning.

Yeah, I know we should get out more, but babysitters are expensive, and truth be told, we were a little lame even before the kids…

When I ask him what he is thinking about, he almost always tells me, and it’s mostly typical five-year-old stuff. To whit, “I was thinking about the time when I wanted Isaac to climb on the bed with me and write messages on little pieces of paper and he told me no and I said I really really really really really wanted him to come up and he didn’t want to so I told him I was really mad at him and wanted him to get out of the bedroom never ever come back and he said …‘POOP’!”

But sometimes when I ask he says,


And I know, I know, it’s something.

And I’d give anything to know what it was. What comes out of his mouth half the time is fart jokes and nonsense, but what’s going on in his mind is fascinating. His mind is his own, however, and God willing it always will be. I would never trespass there, but it is such an honor sometimes to be invited in.

Tonight I saw Jack with that far-away look, and asked him what was on in his mind. Jack kept his eyes fixed on the daydream he was chasing and said,

“It’s classified.”

Monday, February 22, 2010


Jack has manners. He wasn’t born with them, and growing up in New York doesn’t provide a kid with ample opportunity for public reinforcement (the whole “elevator-as-public-toilet” phenomenon, & c.), but my first born is nothing if not sensitive to social norms. Of course, this is a kid whose long hair sometimes gets stuck to his snotty nose, so maybe I should downgrade him from “polite” to “easily embarrassed”. Especially when it comes to using the bathroom.

When Isaac has to poop, the neighbors hear about it. He’d put out a press release if he knew what one was. He wants you to hang out with him and read books while he works his magic, but while my wife (bless her) does it without question, I firmly refuse. This kid can WRECK a bathroom like no teenager aver dreamed. Jack, on the other hand, simply disappears, and summons us when assistance is required. If we are in public, he will discretely whisper in the nearest parent’s ear, and off we go.

The other day, the boys and I were in the basement, watching our neighbor Murray work on something. Murray is one of those individuals who is always working on something, whether his project or someone else’s. The first time I met him, he was under my sink within 20 minutes, fixing my dishwasher, thereby earning my undying friendship and the adoration of my two pajama-clad youngsters who were fascinated by a man who could actually fix something without kicking them out of the room so he could curse. If I got out of bed at 3am and decided to, say, remodel my kitchen, I have no doubt that Murray would smell my toolbox being opened, sit bolt upright in bed, and be in my apartment in coveralls within 15 minutes, looking for a nail to pound.

So anyway, there we are, watching Murray build something, when Jack starts walking up the stairs. Our apartment door is right there, so I don’t think much of it, until he stops at the top step and says, “Daddy, I need you to come with me.” Since I like watching Murray work even more than I hate working myself, I resist. “No, pal, I want to stay in the basement.”

“But Dad, I need you to come with me.”

“Why, Jack?”

At this point, he sighs at my incompetence, comes partway down the stairs, looks at Murray, then at me, raises his eyebrows and says in a stage whisper:

“So that when I say ‘wipe my butt, please’ you will hear me.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010


When your kids are infants, you dream about them not NEEDING you so much someday. As that day marches inexorably closer, (and the sleep-deprivation-induced psychosis starts to ebb) that dream starts looking suspiciously like a nightmare. My wife and I have been careful to preserve our own identities in the maelstrom of parenthood, and we do have interests apart from our children, although I can’t seem to think of any of them right now.

Give me a minute…

Anyway, Jack laid this one on me the other day:

He had spent the day with his friend Markus, another home-schooled kid, who shares many of Jack’s more subversive traits, including his penchant for growing his hair long and shaggy and improvising punk-rock anthems. They are quite a pair.

When I got home from work, I asked Jack if he enjoyed his day.

“YES!” he said, “I had such a good time, I COMPLETELY forgot about you!”

Jack, in a more pensive moment, contemplating a rubber chicken.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


My first thought upon seeing Jack's face for the first time:
"He's the most beautiful creature I've ever seen"

My second thought:
"Holy Shit! What if I f*ck this up??!!"

I felt the way I think I would feel if someone just handed me the controls to an airliner and casually asked me to land it. I recall coming home that first night, with my wife and newborn son still in the hospital, looking at the stack of child rearing books on the shelf and thinking that they were about as useless as the flying manual for that 747 would be if somebody shoved it in your face while you tried valiantly to land the thing.


Little by little, the panic abated. Once I was confident I could keep him alive (relatively easy) and keep myself from having a nervous breakdown (deceptively difficult). I had a little time - two weeks, say - before I started to panic about the more complicated stuff.

OK. I can keep him alive, but how do I keep him from growing up to be an a$$hole?

That's still an open question. And a lot of the responsibility is still in my lap.

The other morning, Jack was sitting at his "special chair", the one that no one else is allowed in.

(***I permit him this eccentricity because my dad had the same thing, and I remember being insanely jealous of it. A piece of furniture that was yours and no-one else's. Intoxicating. Also, in a 700 square foot apartment, personal space is at a premium. The crappy part is, once he chose that spot at the table, I realized it is the BEST spot. AAARRRG!! You know when you sit down at a table in a certain spot, and it just *feels* right? It has a good view, you can lean your back on the wall, your elbow doesn't bump anything? That's Jack's spot. The little bugger. I can't even sit in it when he's asleep. Feels like I'm trespassing or something...)

Anyway, there he was. And he asked me a question. I answered, and before I even finished, he bellows, "OF COURSE!!!"

Oh, so he already knows that part. I go deeper into the subject, and as I'm talking he starts babbling, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, of course!!!"

At this point I'm annoyed, and want to get back to making my coffee.

"Jack! If you already know all this, why are you asking me?"

Jack looks innocent. For-real innocent.

"I didn't already know all that."

"So why do you keep saying 'yeah, yeah' and 'of course'?"

"Because Everything *YOU* Say Is True."


I play a mean second fiddle.

I've always been comfortable with the fact that for the first several years our children preferred the company and attention of my wife over me. I was particularly comfortable with this between the hours of midnight and 6am. My wife and I are very "new generation", share-the-load, equal parental responsibility types, but our work/school schedules had her at home more during awake time, and after all, she is MOM. Dad is cool and fun, but let's face it: if Dad had to do what Mom had to do to bring you into this world...well, Our first son might be here, but he'd be an only child. Dad also lacks the ability to make food come out of his body, keep calm when you've broken every egg in the refrigerator on the floor, or remember what the current I-must-have-this-object-with-me-at-all-times-or-my-life-will-end happens to be from day to day.

Nevertheless, I've been really enjoying my increased status as the boys get older, and they start looking to me to see what being a man is all about. Both boys want to come with me to work, help out with whatever project I'm doing around the house, and will often choose me over Rebecca for books, music, or other fun stuff. One night a couple of weeks ago, I was putting both boys to bed while Beck was at school, a process which involves fresh jammies, toothbrushes, soap, water, books, and two long doses of cuddles, one for each boy. (For a while, I entertained the idea of weaning them off the cuddles, just to shorten the bed-time ritual, but then it occurred to me that on my deathbed, I'm certainly not going to wish I'd cuddled my kids LESS.) We had enjoyed a really wonderful dad-and-boys evening: more videos than mom approves of, lots of laughs, and a minimum of sibling-on-sibling violence.

When it's Jack's turn for his cuddle, he curls himself up in the space between my chin and my waist, and whispers softly into my chest.

"Daddy. I have a favorite parent."

"Oh, yeah?", I say, a faint smile playing across my lips above his little head. "Who?"



The funny thing about headbutts is that the person receiving the headbutt is the only one who gets hurt. The headbutt-er is, for reasons possibly unknown and definitely unfair, oblivious to the pain. I conducted a long experiment in this phenomenon while sharing my bed with Jack from birth to about 2 years. I would be awoken by blinding pain (you know the kind where you actually see a flash of light behind your closed eyes?) only to see my beloved son sleeping soundly, inches from my face, seemingly unfazed by the brutal trauma he had just inflicted upon his slumbering father. After several months of this nightmare scenario, I developed a habit of sleeping with one arm wrapped around my head, and my other hand placed strategically between my legs. Although the frequency of the attacks intimated a sly malice, I bore no ill-will toward my little boy, because I am a parent, and we are suckers.

Although the (blissful?) days of co-sleeping are behind us, my two boys still get their licks in during evening cuddle-time and any other instance of close proximity. An especially dangerous time is the “Bunny Burrow”, the boys #1 activity, which involves variations on the theme of piling up blankets, crawling under them, giggling, and cuddling. All in all, a wholesome event, but prohibitively dangerous to adults (see headbutt analysis, above). I have personally suffered split lips, bruised pride, and my personal favorite, “Oh my god you just broke my tooth! Ahhh! Did you break my tooth? Is it broken? No? Oh thank god…”

The other day, I was summoned to a Bunny Burrow, and having been away from the boys for several days and missing them terribly, I let my guard down and acquiesced. After crawling under the blankets and receiving a few licks from Isaac ("Isaac, please don’t kick me in the face, OK? Yes, that’s my face. Stop kicking!") I see Jack’s little hand thrust into the blanket-tent. He’s offering a kitchen towel.

“Here, Dad.”

“Oh, thanks, Jack. What’s this for?”

“In case you need to wipe up some blood.”


No Whining.

This was our one rule in my high school choir program. Our choir guru, The much-loved Mary Kay Pryce, was always available to us for advice, encouragement, even a shoulder to cry on, but as soon as somebody started that high-pitched, talking-through-the-nose, poor-me song and dance, her eyes would go a little wide, and she would shake her head and back up a step

“Oh, there’s no whining in here. You can’t whine.”

As the last child of four, and the only boy, whining was my second (and sometimes first) language until I started trying to impress chicks. If there was any left once I reached ninth grade, MKP wrung it out of me with her tiny little hands. If I took anything away from those years other than a deep respect for music and an aversion to chewing gum, it was an intense hatred of whining.

Jack is now five.

My wife and I have instituted a zero-tolerance policy on whining, and it seems to be going well, but there are days…

Where does whining come from? Does the whiner hope that he/she will sway the opposition into acquiescence? Is it an effective, yet annoying self-soothing technique? Jack answered our question the other day. Something set him off on a whining jag, and Beck informed him that whining was simply not ok., and wasn’t going to garner him any sympathy in any case. He looked up at her with wounded surprise.

“I’m not whining! I’m TRYING to CRY!”


Jack doesn't like anything on his face. No halloween masks, no make-up, and if you want a kiss from Jack, it's going on YOUR cheek, not his. And don't even think about going for the lips...

Jack also has a nearly constant appetite for sunflower seed butter. It's a great alternative to peanut butter, which makes his face blow up like a balloon. For reasons long forgotten, it has come to be known as "sunshine butter". Sunshine butter sandwiches are such a constant presence in the story line of our little tribe, that they have come to be known by their shorthand moniker: SSBS.

The third character trait of my eldest that figures into this tale is his propensity for eating like a beaver. You would think that such a fastidious young man would be a tidy at mealtime, but in that you would be profoundly mistaken. The space under Jack's chair at the table must be swept after each meal, and sometimes raked. His chosen method for devouring an SSBS, which he does several times a day, is to start at one side of the sandwich, and chew a path to the other side, creating two smaller sandwiches and leaving a Joker smile of SSB along the sides of his face. My wife and I have been fascinated/horrified by this habit for some time, and Rebecca recently decided to stage an intervention. Assuming that pointing out the mess on his face would get more of a reaction than the mess on the floor, she tries this gambit:

"Hey Jack, do you like all that sunshine butter on your face?"

Jack: "YEAH!"


Mom: "Um...why?"

Jack: "Because THEN, when I want some MORE...I don't have to ask you for it!"

(Note: Jack has now been furnished with an auxiliary dish of sunshine butter, and is attempting to eat from the corners of his sandwich.)


Another unique challenge to raising kids in the city is that whenever you step out of your front door, you have an audience to your child rearing. Walking down the street, riding on the train, going out to eat, you have (at least in New York) representatives from over 100 different countries silently judging you. This may sound paranoid, but only because it's true. I know because I do it to other parents. We all do, it's just that in a town where the only privacy you get is in your bedroom (unless you live in my house) there are more opportunities.

Example: We're on the train. Isaac has a cough. He is usually good at covering his mouth, but this time he forgets. It has been an H-E-double hockey-sticks of a day, and I am semi-comatose and enjoying the opportunity to take three breaths without lifting a kid, pushing a stroller, or answering a question, so I skip the verbal reminder. A nearby (childless) couple notices. The female crinkles her nose. Looks at me, looks at Isaac, looks back at me, cups her hand over her mouth and whispers to her boyfriend, who looks at Isaac, then at me. I want to punch them in their well-rested wrinkle-free faces. This sort of interaction doesn't happen in cars.

The kids, however, love all the extra contact with adults. Isaac is especially apt to strike up a conversation with anyone on the street:


This garners him many smiles, and the odd high-five.

The other day, Isaac identified himself and his crime-fighting intentions to a passing stranger who studiously ignored him, although he was only a couple of feet away, and had made eye contact. I though Isaac's feelings were going to be hurt, but big brother stepped in and explained (loud enough for the stranger to hear)

"Don't bother telling HIM, Isaac. He doesn't understand."