Parenting and Dads

I’m glad to see I’m not the only Dad pissed off by Parenting Magazine’s tag line, What matters to moms. The line says it all. The content is aimed at women, and how they can trick their men into performing house chores and baby duties. In the occasional one pager Just For Dad articles, they’ll offer up ways for men to get to know their babies, as if they only see their kids for 10 minutes a day. I hope this bothers some women as much as it does some men. I mean, what if Money magazine (which my wife enjoys) had the tag line What matters to men?

Daddy is a chimp

My toddler at 19 months has a large vocabulary for someone his age. I know, all parents say that. But he really does know a lot of words, and is able to identify scores of animals. Except one. He dutifully goes page by page in the picture book, enthusiastically calling out duck, cow, sheep, lion. When he gets to this page with the picture of a chimp, he says Daddy.

That’s not Daddy, I say, it’s a monkey. And he says oo oo, ee ee, imitating a monkey. My wife thinks this is hysterical. She probably taught him to do it. But I don’t mind, that’s part of being a daddy; being the butt of jokes, submitting to all sorts of humiliation, anything to get a smile and hear your toddler say Daddy.


Search for the Ultimate Indoor Playland

Now that the weather is cold, and I can’t take the kids outside, weekends are a constant struggle to find a way for the kids to burn off their energy. Thanks to global warming, this has been an unusually warm winter. But on days like today it’s hard to make it through the day without completely destroying the house. So I’ve been searching, unsuccessfully so far, for someplace indoors where we can go to pass the time.

The default venue, which is where we went today, is the local mall. We hit the JetBlue play area which has some things to climb on, but it gets packed. (Apparently, I’m not the only one with nowhere to go with little kids). Then we go to the carousel in the food court, a slice of pizza from Sbarro, then head home for naps. It gets us out of the house and the house stays intact, but even the kids are sick of the mall. Normally, you couldn’t get me near a mall except the day before Valentines to get a last minute gift.

I’m wondering why someone hasn’t come up with a fun, indoor place to bring toddlers and preschoolers. At least not in the Washington, DC area that I have been able to find. And it isn’t from a lack of looking. Here are some of the places and ideas I have tried or considered.

Chuck E Cheese – Has the right idea, but it’s geared for older kids that can play video games. My kids want to go on the rides which are too big and they inevitably fall off, get hurt, or throw a tantrum. By 12pm the place is bursting at the seams with birthday parties.

Little Gym – Great place but they only have birthday parties on the weekends. If they let anyone show up and use the gym, I’d be there every weekend.

Elementary school gym – I checked with the local school to see if they would let me use the gym on the weekends. I would bring some balls, toys, whatever, and just turn the kids loose. I’ll bet it would be quite popular. But they don’t do it mainly because the gyms are used for indoor sports leagues.

Other malls – To mix things up, we’ve been to all the area malls. Fair Oaks which actually has a pretty good play area. Tysons Corner. Been there, done that.

So, what would the perfect indoor play place be like? If you are looking to start a business, listen up. The ultimate indoor playland would be open every weekend. There would be a huge, open, child-proof (i.e. padded walls) area, with plenty of comfortable seating for tired dads. Big screen tv’s on the walls so I could watch football games without being forced to turn on Barney. Unlimited pizza, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs. Ok, maybe this is my fantasy land.? But there is a big market out there and I’d be the first in line.

Flying with a toddler and preschooler

I recently experienced the joys of airplane travel with my 3 year and 19 month old boys. It’s one of those things that seems miserable at the time, but in retrospect, turns to it wasn’t that bad…, and before long, you are planning your next trip.

The trip down to Lake Worth started off well enough. It was an early morning, midweek flight so Dulles wasn’t too busy. By the way, the so called self checkin is anything but, and it only makes the checkin process slower. I guess it saves the airlines a few bucks…at our expense, of course.

What I thought would be the worst part of air travel with young kids was getting through security. The kids need to come out of the stroller, shoes and coats off, bags through the x-ray machine. There are special security lines for premium passengers. How about dedicated lines for families? Take note, if you are traveling, always get in the security line without strollers and small kids.

But the security check was easy compared to the trip back home, after the flight was delayed two hours in West Palm Beach, and we were well past nap times. My wife and I split up, I had the toddler, and she sat with the preschooler on the other side of the plane. A half hour into the flight, I couldn’t contain him anymore, so we went to stand outside the bathrooms with the flight attendants, hoping the noise at the back of the plane would sooth him to sleep. After a few minutes, we hit some turbulence and had to return to our seats. The toddler was NOT happy.

The meltdown started as we squeezed past the gentleman sitting on the aisle in our row, and I attempted to put the screaming kid in his window seat. I pulled out every trick I knew, offering crackers, milk, books, toys. Nothing could calm him. It is a scientific fact that a wailing toddler has the strength of ten men. He threw everything I gave him into the surrounding seats. By this time, everyone within five rows was staring at us and giving me the why don’t you do something look.

Meanwhile, I could see my wife with our preschooler on the other side of the plane. He had fallen asleep by now, and she was calmly reading a magazine and laughing with the friendly woman next to her. I recalled that Seinfeld episode – The Airport, where Jerry has a great time in first class while Elaine endures an awful ride in coach. Never again, I thought, as I quietly withstood blow after blow from this screaming kid. But, after 45 minutes he finally wore himself out to sleep, and now, one week removed from the experience, I find myself thinking It wasn’t that bad…I’m ready to take another trip.

Here are some tips for traveling with kids:

Leave the winter coats at home
It was around 30 degrees when we left, and we had to walk 10 minutes from the parking garage to the terminal, so the kids wore their winter coats. But once we were in the terminal, they didn’t wear them, and I had to carry the coats through the airport, onto the plane, make sure not to lose forget them in the hotel, and back home again. It would have been much easier to leave them home. I don’t think anyone ever froze in ten minutes.

Slip them a mickey
There is nothing wrong with drugging your kids before boarding a plane. In my case, my only regret is that I didn’t give him enough.

Earplugs and a straight jacket
When all else fails, there is one sure way to restrain a screaming toddler and drown out the noise during meltdowns. The people around you will hate you, but you can calmly read a book and pretend you don’t know what’s happening.