Friday, April 11th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Don’t kid yourself (pardon the pun). Every single one of us has tried like an arrogant fool to accomplish these tasks while simultaneously overseeing one or more of our children. What makes us think we’re capable of it? Pure, unadulterated ego.
Parental multitasking is a dangerous, yet tempting endeavor. But I’m here to tell you it’s not worth it. And I can tell you this because every single one of these acts has gone disastrously wrong for me, all because I was silly enough to think I could accomplish every day, normal goals with my children present.
Here are just a few I would avoid…
Your kids are playing innocently in the living room. Your eyes wander to the adjacent kitchen where ingredients (and potential failure) await. You’re the only adult in the house until 6:00 p.m., so it’s on you to produce a meal. Do you heat up leftovers? Do you order takeout? No. You’ve got this. Totally manageable. Then, as you’re mincing the garlic and peeling potatoes, your children decide that Buzz Lightyear and Woody ain’t got nothin’ on garlic. They want to make an arts and crafts project out of tonight’s dinner. This sounds adorable to people who haven’t actually experienced it.
Shown here: a fictional scenario
- Joining a conference call
This falls into the category of “mistakes you only make once.” I had the balls to attempt this a few months ago. I had forgotten about a planned conference call, was working from home, and my wife (who had been watching my two sons) had stepped out. That left me with two options: to graciously bow out of the call and offer to follow up with the meeting leader later in the day, or to be an idiot. Needless to say, I chose idiot. Within 30 seconds of “Joe DeProspero [child screaming]….is now joining,” I found myself sheepishly apologizing for being the guy I always resented in the past, both kids doing their best to destroy any chance of me accomplishing this lofty goal. As it turns out, kids give zero f***s about debriefs.
Here’s a fun game. Walk up to a 4-year-old and see how many words you can get out before you’re interrupted. The first person to finish two straight sentences wins! If nothing else, kids ensure that anything you share with others is kept brief, succinct. It’s kind of like being trapped inside Twitter, with no chance of a Retweet.
It sounds like a no-brainer, I know. Plugging in any appliance with your children around sounds dangerous, especially one that can cause third-degree burns. But most of us have done it anyway. “It’s totally fine and safe. I’m holding the iron and they can’t reach it!” you’ll claim. Then, your toddler daughter spills a glass of cranberry juice on the carpet. You instinctively run to sop up the mess. Your older child wanders over and starts ironing his butt. Need I say more?
Yup. Totally safe.
I truly feel that the litmus test for determining if you’re patient enough to be a parent is taking a car ride of longer than two hours with multiple children who didn’t sleep well the night before. It’s hard enough to get kids to remain stationary for more than five minutes at the dinner table. But strapping them into a seat for several hours with no escape is like shooting a water gun at a beehive. Translation: It’s just asking to get stung. In the face. And you totally deserve it.
Your son spills milk. Like, a full glass of milk. All over the dinner table. It rapidly maneuvers around salad plates and silverware to completely soak every last square inch of available tablecloth. Grimacing, you scamper to sop it up as best you can with as many napkins as you can gather. Instead of expressing remorse, your son complains that he no longer has milk to drink. Silly naïve you tries to reason with him, explaining how illogical he’s being considering he was the clumsy fool who’d caused the very problem he’s crying about. You actually try talking to him like he’s an adult who can be reasoned with. Unfortunately, the fact that you’re not a Pixar character renders your little moral lesson entirely meaningless.
We have a problem. My glass, it’s empty.
I’m sure there are more, but this is a start. Feel free to contribute to the list by adding a comment below, or by tweeting me using the hashtag #foolishacts. Always dig hearing from you!
Check out the debut edition of my video blog, Parental Guidance.
* Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s something I never imagined I’d have to do while my children were so young. In most cases, it’s a role we’re thrust into without so much as a day or two to Google some helpful tips to prepare for it. But on April 14, 2012, my whole world changed, and I was faced with an insurmountable task: dealing with an unthinkable loss while simultaneously teaching my oldest son what death means on a level he might understand.
My 83-year-old Grandma Helen called me that Saturday afternoon at about 1:00, concerned that my mother (who lived alone) wasn’t answering her phone. This was not like my mother, who called my grandmother every single morning religiously. She wasn’t answering my calls either. About an hour later, I stopped by her place which was only 15 minutes away. And I found her on the floor. She was dead at age 59. And just like that, life as I knew it was dramatically changed forever. I was then tasked with breaking the news to my grandmother, who in turn suffered a severe stroke and also died two days later (yes, really). I was crushed. But feeling sorry for myself could only last so long; my son Antonio’s 3rd birthday party was the following weekend, and I now had two gaping holes in the family to explain to him. We would end up holding a double funeral for them the day before the party. But how was I going to explain all of this to a child whose beloved grandmother AND great grandmother suddenly vanished without saying goodbye?
My immediate reaction was to avoid any mention of “Grandma Linda” or “Nana Helen.” I had no idea how to approach their deaths with my one son who was old enough to ask about them (my younger son was 10 months old at the time). But neither my wife nor I wanted him to wonder why they hadn’t bothered to show up to his birthday party. My wife, Sonia, did her best to convey the losses in a way his young mind could comprehend. So she pulled him aside one night that week.
“Honey, Grandma went to heaven. She’s high up in the sky now and is always watching, but you just won’t be able to see her anymore.”
I’m paraphrasing because I wasn’t present for the conversation, but that’s basically how it went. A bit of a high concept for a toddler, but we were trying. And it was obvious that he didn’t understand a word of it. He simply smiled and continued mashing the buttons on his Buzz Lightyear. But while he didn’t understand, as days went by, he could clearly tell that something had gone awry. If we brought up Grandma, he ignored us. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even say her name, purposely avoiding having to bring her up, much like I did at first. Then, one day, in my car on the way to drop him off at day camp, he asked the question I’d been dreading for weeks.
“Daddy, is Grandma ever coming back?”
I froze for about eight seconds. It was like being on a job interview where you’re asked the one question you weren’t prepared for. And as the seconds ticked by, it became clearer that the truth was my only option.
“No. Honey, I’m sorry. She’s not. But she loves you and she’ll always be watching. And hey, remember that pillow fight we had with her? Wasn’t that fun?”
I was nervous, so I reached for a distraction. He nodded solemnly. But over the following weeks and months, I realized I had two jobs when it came to the death of my mother: Don’t fall apart and don’t let mentions of her yield anything but a smile.
So far, I think my wife and I have been fairly successful. We started by showing my son video footage of the aforementioned pillow fight I’d captured on my iPhone, then with watching our wedding video and asking him to point Grandma out. Then, after attending a birthday party, my wife accidentally let Antonio’s helium balloon slip out of the car and into the sky. Naturally, Antonio was not pleased. But he was certainly intrigued when we determined that the balloon wasn’t lost at all, but it was merely “sent up to Grandma.” To this day, he associates balloons (one of his favorite things) with my mother. And he smiles.
In recent months, instead of asking if Grandma is coming back, he instead asks questions about heaven.
How did she get all the way up there?
Where does she sleep?
Does she still have my balloon?
Frankly, the questions break my heart. But if he never asked at all, I think it’d be worse. So I answer him as cheerfully and imaginatively as possible.
She has special flying abilities that take her up, up, up into the sky, and she uses a cloud as a pillow. And of course she still has your balloons. She always will.
In a way, I feel like I’m writing a fairytale on the fly. This magical lady who flies with the birds and sleeps above the raindrops. Sometimes I even get caught up in the fantasy of it all, detaching myself from reality for a moment. I suppose I do it for me as much as I do it for him. I don’t want her to fade into a memory for either of us.
So if you’ve recently found yourself in this unenviable position, know that you’re not alone. And also, don’t be afraid to tell your children the truth. Or as much of the truth that you determine they can handle. Ignoring my mother’s memory around my son was not the solution to my grief or to his understanding of this dreadful situation. Honoring her memory and reminding my son of how wonderful his grandmother was (and magically continues to be) is a step in the right direction. Because while I will always be saddened by any mention of her, my children deserve to know how much she loved them. And she deserves it, too.
Antonio and my mother, two weeks before her death. Strangely, she already looked like an angel.
I truly hope that you either found solace in reading this or will think back on it if you ever need to explain the unimaginable to your children. In closing, here’s a picture of the inside cover of Green Eggs and Ham, as inscribed by my mother to my son. I always point it out when I read it to him.
Feel free to share your stories by adding a comment below.
* If you prefer my humor-based posts, forgive me for the seriousness of this one, as I felt it was a story that needed to be told.
Read more about how to talk to your kids about death and tragedy:
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero, Losing a Parent, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read