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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I am a hardcore Breaking Bad aficionado. As in, I still haven’t gotten into a new show since its finale because it’s ruined me from almost all forms of entertainment. But aside from the dramatic enjoyment I derived from it, I also took away a quote or two. One of them that struck me was uttered by morally conflicted character, Jesse Pinkman. Having gone through rehab (and committing various crimes along the way), Jesse says, as if achieving epiphany, “It’s all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am. I’m the bad guy.” As a parent, I think it’s important to recognize what type of caregiver we genuinely are as well. Just without all the meth cooking. Sometimes, very often in fact, I find myself playing the part of “bad guy.”
I’m a neurotic, helicopter parent (most of the time). I can’t help it; it’s who I am. And I simply cannot deny the very fabric of my being. But there are times when I’ll sort of view myself from the lens of an outsider. And, I have to say, sometimes I look like a complete a**hole.
This past Memorial Day weekend, my wife had gone food shopping, so I took both our sons out in the backyard to play with their new sprinkler under the glorious sun-filled sky. What I realized very astutely is that the farther my wife is from me when I’m monitoring my children, the more neurotic I become. When my wife’s present, we each seem to take a job, one of us playing the role of “cool parent” while the other runs around picking up crumbs and doling out discipline. When it’s just me and the boys, I become the helicopter parent I always assumed I wouldn’t be.
As my five-year-old, Antonio, gleefully picked up said sprinkler and pointed it directly at me and my younger (and drier) son, my eyes widened. Is there anything here that ice water would negatively impact? Yes! Nate’s Woody doll (since he wouldn’t dry before bedtime), Nate himself (who was in a bad mood) and paper instructions on how to use the sprinkler. And also, me! So, being the neurotic person I am, I instantly turned the hose off and shouted a bunch of incoherent jibberish.
“It’s only water,” I heard a voice whisper inside my head. “What actual damage would it cause, if any? And why the hell are you freaking out about instructions on how to use a f***ing sprinkler?” Whoever’s in my head can get pretty foul-mouthed and chatty, I tell ya. But that didn’t stop me from pulling the plug on the impromptu shower. And then again 30 seconds later when my son turned the hose on once more, against my will. I had to follow through. I simply had to. Antonio needed to understand that listening to me wasn’t just one option, it was the only option. And also, I don’t like getting wet unless it’s on my terms. But mostly, because I made a decision and felt it imperative to stick to it if I expected my kid to listen to me in the future. That’s what I’ve found hardest as a parent- to stick to a decision no matter how silly it feels like it is while you’re making it.
As extreme an example as this is, it’s part of a much larger picture of me as a dad (and many of us, I’d assume). While I certainly goof around with my sons when time permits, I’m a guardian, first and foremost. That means that I’m not only responsible for protecting my children from the dangers of the outside world, but I’m also responsible for guarding the outside world against my children! That starts with getting them to adhere to boundaries. Sometimes I go overboard, I admit. But in the end, I feel that a vigilant mindset will minimize the chance of disaster and maximize the potential of my children to ultimately become safe, mindful adults.
Plenty of you will view me as uptight, excessive, overprotective even. And you may be right. But I find solace in that the qualities that make me go overboard come from the same place that makes me a strong guardian for my kids.
Any of you out there like me? The complete opposite of me? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
And if you have three minutes to watch me impersonating my sons, while wearing a ladies tee, click below for the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance!
And, if you enjoyed the video, watch the outtakes!
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.
Telling a story
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.
Ironing your clothes
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.
Taking a road trip
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I’ve been a parent for over four years now, and I have to say, I know very little about how this whole thing works. I felt the same way about calculus* in high school. I was certainly exposed to it a great deal, was tested on it regularly, etc. But if someone asked me what calculus was today, I’d pretend I just got a phone call and run away. Parenthood is just as mysterious and just as impossible to truly “master.” Despite this, there are still plenty of people out there who think they know how to handle being a parent (even though they aren’t one). And it’s about time someone wrote down the most common offenders, as these non-parents and their assumptions have been left unchallenged for long enough.
For one, they all seem to think getting a babysitter is easy and no big deal. “Hey, you wanna come out for drinks tonight? You can get a babysitter, right?” Sure, let me troll Craigslist for a few minutes. I’m sure the right fit will pop up pretty quickly. Are you out of your mind? Leaving my kids with anybody is a challenge. Especially with the atrocities that have occurred during the past couple of years while a babysitter or nanny has been in charge of a child. I’m surprised I even trust family most days, let alone some 13-year-old handing out business cards in front of a 711. And even if I did hire a babysitter, I would then have to hire a security guard to watch the babysitter, then another security guard to keep an eye on the first security guard. It’s a sordid mess, really.
Another assumption they make is that I’ve got my life completely figured out now that I have kids. Most parents are probably laughing at that one right now. Please don’t ever assume anyone in your life who’s married with kids has all their sh*t together. There’s no “Do you have your sh*t together” test that we take before conceiving children. Right, Kim Kardashian?
Something that’s often joked about is the misery parents go through as they are forced to endure dreadful kid-friendly television shows like Barney. And I think it’s a bit exaggerated. Frankly, between the mass appeal of Sesame Street and adult-accessible Pixar films like the Toy Story franchise, I end up enjoying my kids’ favorite shows more than my own! Thankfully, programming for kids has come a long way in the past decade, become exponentially more tolerable for parents. I’m even guilty of watching far after my sons have drifted to sleep.
A major misconception is the belief that bearing children reduces the ability to partake in fun activities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well, we were going to invite you, but then we remembered you had kids.” I didn’t become a kid, I simply raise them! And I need alcohol now more than ever. Please don’t forget that I’m thirsty. I can’t promise I can make everything, but what I can promise is that when I do make it out, I’m still exactly the same person I was before parenthood. Just a really, really exhausted version of him.
Speaking of being tired, people seem to think that, once a child reaches the tender age of six-weeks-old that they start sleeping through the night until they’re 100. Not always true. In fact, in most cases I’ve experienced or heard, children go through phases where they’ll sleep 11 hours straight without provocation, then out of seemingly nowhere will be up three times a night for days in a row. This whole “sleeping like a baby” line is a farce. Babies don’t sleep like babies. They sleep like strung out college students cramming for a final exam.
Do you have a friend who doesn’t have kids who you feel doesn’t truly “get” you anymore? Share this blog with them for some middle ground. They might be resentful that you did, but at least you’ll make your point, which is the point, right?
Feel free to add a comment below and join the conversation!
* I never actually took calculus in high school. I only made it as far as algebra and decided math that complicated was a waste of time. And also because my grades in all forms of math were pretty terrible.