Category Archives: McClatchy-Tribune

Here’s Why You Don’t Let Cat People Babysit Your Human Children

Don't_Tell_Mom_The_Babysitters_DeadIsland Packet — Everyone agrees that running is dumb, even people who run a lot. Especially people who run a lot.

I run for two very simple reasons: 1. “Exercise is important” or whatever, and 2. I’m a joke at all other sporting activities. Seriously. I’ve tried them. Running is the only one that I have not completely botched, owing to the fact that it’s extremely difficult to screw up putting one foot in front of the other 12,000 times. Well, I guess you could run smack into a water tower, or into an open sewer drain, or the waiting open mouth of an alligator. Real talk, though, I’d take an activity with potential alligator chompery over having to shoot a free throw in public.

There is one major problem with running, though: It takes FOREVER, especially how I do it. Anyway, as such, I need a baby sitter. And weirdly enough, I’ve been helped out by a friend named Hadley, who is someone I’ve known for many years, not one of which has involved me thinking of her as a “kid person.” More of a “cat person,” really. Well, now she has a dog, I guess, but you don’t have to change cat or dog diapers, if you’re lucky.

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Fourth Grade is the Year We All Turn Into F-R-E-A-K-S

Basically what I looked like in fourth grade, except my shirts were more colorful

Basically what I looked like in fourth grade, except my shirts were more colorful

Island Packet — Fourth grade is the worst. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the best. My son is in fourth grade now; his school is great, and his teacher wonderful. But it’s also the year an invisible switch flips, when new neurons in kids’ brains connected to previously undiscovered power sources, where you, as a parent, begin to realize, sigh, now I have to start shaping decisions and perspectives. This is obviously a lot harder than teaching baseball and Scrabble, which I am also not good at.

I’m biased, probably. A lot of things happened to me in fourth grade. We moved to a new town, a tiny cluster of houses, gas stations and precisely one stoplight in a sleepy and farmy corner of Indiana. At the time, this represented abandoning everyone I ever knew in favor of — and this is my real memory — a house that had mice on a road with no name. I got glasses that year, but when I say glasses, I don’t mean “the things you’re wearing to read this newspaper,” I mean “optometric dinner plates that Harry Caray would have rejected as too subtle, even in his current state.” I had my first encounters with bullies, school discipline and crushes. The combination of these things drop-kicked me into some new level of life, some invisible maturity bracket I mark, pretty arbitrarily, in fourth grade.

It’s also the year — at least in this house — that the construction of the rules of life begins, the year my oldest son is beginning to discern what is right and what is wrong and, most importantly, that stories can be malleable and dependent on point of view.

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Fine, Then YOU Try Explaining That “Empire Strikes Back” Kiss to a 10-Year-Old

images-1Island Packet — What did you guys do this weekend? Did you sleep in, relax, maybe lounge about on the porch? Did you get some sun, go golfing, head out for a leisurely bike ride? Me? Oh thanks for asking, I had to explain to a fourth-grader why a sister passionately kissing her brother is weird.

Anyone within a certain age (30-50), gender (dudes) and personality type (not rugby players) knows that sentence means one thing: “The Empire Strikes Back,” which the little man and I watched this weekend. We did this for two reasons: First, he’s 10, and it is a crucial plateau in the emotional education of a 10-year-old to watch “The Empire Strikes Back” — all the pediatricians say so. (Sure, not any I could find around here, but I’m sure that underneath their responses of “What are you talking about?” and “Are you being serious right now? and “Mr. Vrabel, this is the third time we’ve had to tell you, please stop calling our office,” they were secretly agreeing with me.)

Read more here.

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Well Here’s Something a 38-Year-Old With Poor Health Insurance Shouldn’t Be Skating On

Pictured: Not me. But mostly me.

Pictured: Not me. But mostly me.

Island Packet — Every now and again the boys and I visit the Bristol Skate Park on Hilton Head Island’s south end, a wonderful resource that’s free, close and often empty. We’re not professionals — the 10-year-old and I will grab our vintage Target skates (my son’s from Christmas a few years ago, mine from like the summer of 1945) and a few hockey sticks and zing around the rink, absent-mindedly whacking away at pucks happily thrown around by my 2-year-old. Sometimes I’ll even pick the little one up and skate around with him in my arms because no one ever taught me about safety.

Anyway, during one such visit a few weeks ago I ambled over to check on the 10-year-old and make sure he wasn’t bouncing his head off too much pavement. And I found him skating the same loop on repeat, practicing it over and over again — down the big ramp, up a smaller one, down the other side, up a curved hill that allowed him to turn to the opposite direction, up and down another small hill, then up to a fairly big one to where he began. “Try this, Dad,” he said with genuine enthusiasm, after spotting me. “Here, I’ll do another demonstration.” And he was off, down, up, down, up and around, up, down, back. He was getting it, and liking it.

Well, what could I do? 

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The Pros and Cons of Knocking Out Your Own Teeth

Gummy_Joe

Well he wouldn’t have old Chomper here, that’s for sure.

Island Packet — Nine-year-old boys knock their teeth out a lot. That is simply scientific fact, one verified by my son’s dentist, who told me “9-year-old boys knock their teeth out a lot” both times I took my 9-year-old in to the dentist because he knocked out his tooth.

The first time was shortly before Christmas. You know how 9-year-olds theoretically have the power to walk, how they technically learned mobility 7 or 8 years before, but instead of using their legs to “cross a finite space” they “fall on purpose” and “flop around like panicking safari animals” and “act like someone has lit some of their socks on fire”? Yeah, he was doing that. So, surprise, he ended up taking a bite of floor, breaking his tooth off about halfway up, just shy of the nerve, in one of those severe-looking dental injuries that makes a parent think two things: 1. “GASP! MY PRECIOUS LITTLE MAN IS INJURED!” 2. (whatever the sound is when you run out of money).

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Help a Grown Man Beat His 9-Year-Old at Blokus

Bring it on, Short Man, I ain’t scared o’ you.

Island Packet — Are you supposed to let your kids win at board games? Let me rephrase that: Are you supposed to let your kids win at board games if you can beat them at board games? Because frankly I lost a shocking amount of Candy Land to my son when he was 4, but in my defense, there is zero strategy to Candy Land, and that dude had no idea what he was doing. It’s not like I lost because of some series of tactical errors, right? The little mop-top just pulled the colored cards in the right order and avoided Gloppy when he needed to, right? Everyone just smile and nod, please, thanks.

On the whole, we’ve yet to establish a consistent routine about this winning-and-losing situation. Sometimes when we play games I’ll take a dive in Battleship, make a ridiculous accusation in Clue or make a lousy chess move or two to let the Little Man stay a competitive step ahead. Sometimes I’ll spot-decide that I should use this game of Ticket to Ride to teach that life is an unending thread of disappointments that he must begin enduring as soon as possible. Sometimes my 9-year-old straight up beats me at chess, which naturally makes me want to immediately crush him at Ticket to Ride.

But there’s no rhyme or reason to these games, and there probably should be, at least while I maintain the ability to keep an upper hand at some of them. Because there is one game at which he regularly throttles me, one game that I lose, regularly, badly, to a person who routinely puts his shirts on backward and ends 85 percent of all dinners by falling out of his chair.

The game is called Blokus.

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My 9-Year-Old’s ‘Star Trek’ Obsession Obviously Must Be Crushed Immediately

My interest in “Star Trek” directly corresponds to the amount of times Spock reads the brain of a whale

Island Packet — My dad and 9-year-old are downstairs right now watching the first of the new “Star Trek” movies, the one that came out in 2009 and is cleverly titled “Star Trek.” I’m making that point because it’s going to get hairy with the titles here in a minute.

We watched the second of the new “Star Trek” movies, “Into Darkness,” last night. That’s the one that was released this spring and contains Evil and Pale British Khan, and at the end they eradicate 85 percent of San Francisco and — you’d think a bigger deal would be made of this — stumble upon a way to CURE HUMAN DEATH, yet neither development really causes any of the characters to look up from their phones much.

But there’s a separate issue developing. My son becomes obsessed with detail, the sort of detail that eludes the casual viewer, and by “eludes” I mean “bores the pants off of.” He’s been known to spend the better part of a road trip expounding on the stylistic differences of various years of Honda Odyssey minivans, because I have the only budding car kid in town who is less into speed and danger than he is fiscal sensibility and good Consumer Reports ratings.

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That Time My 2-Year-Old Found Out We Didn’t Throw Him a Birthday Party

GRbIS.AuSt.9

Island Packet — The little giant turned 2 last month, and we celebrated the occasion by doing quite a lot of nothing.

It wasn’t technically nothing. We made cupcakes and sang, had a tiny party in the house with my oldest friend Alex, who sings “Happy Birthday” like a pro and made the rest of us look bad. We went on a sunset dolphin cruise, because there are few activities more enjoyable than chasing a 2-year-old around a moving sea vessel in the dark. We opened a bunch of presents from out-of-town relatives, then made a note to send them all thank-you cards — HAHAHAHA, just kidding, never happened, but thanks guys, for real.

(The boy, for his part, marked the morning by spraying his blanket, crib sheets, crib bumpers, wall and floor with a festive spray of throw-up, which, now that I think of it, may have been a result of the cupcakes. He felt fine for the rest of his day, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about someone’s birthday when they smell so terrible.)

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Toddler iPad Addiction Is Real, And The Evidence Is Currently Screaming In My Lap

toddler-ipad

Pictured: Not my toddler, but this game is all I hear in the house anymore.

Island Packet — The Internet is chock plumb full of awful parenting advice, blank scare tactics and a bunch of stuff that people just make up (like there’s really a guy named “Benedict Cumberbatch”), but now and again it hits on something: It was on the Internet that I first read of “iPad addiction,” a new addition to the ever-turning Carousel of Things to Fear Regarding Your Toddler. (Since I live in the Lowcountry, I’m still keeping my No. 1 as “snakes and spiders,” and yes I realize those are two things but I’m convinced they are in cahoots.)

The cause of iPad addiction is simple: Parents in need of a few sweet moments of work or dishes or not-playing-robots time grant the child a brief electronic distraction. But the effect is simpler: Before long the child gets really super crazypants attached to the device, and when you try to eventually take it away for something imprudent like “a bath” or “eating,” the child contorts his face into a demonic visage of rage and shrieks murderously, for like a half an hour, in your face, even during a bath.

Or at least that’s what my son does.

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Why I’m Not Powering Down My Toddler’s Approved Electronic Device

This man is all that stands between my 2-year-old and a deeply unpleasant 20-minute landing process.

This man is all that stands between my 2-year-old and a deeply unpleasant 20-minute landing process.

Island Packet — You’ve no doubt been in awkward situations before; you may have had to endure uncomfortable meetings or entrances or appearances. But there’s nothing that tops the stabbing looks you get when you stroll onto a plane carrying a squirming, lip-quivering and visibly mucus-covered 2-year-old.

Due to my wife’s lively work schedule, and the fact that she’s far too smart to actually board a plane with a tempestuous toddler, I recently flew to Chicago with the baby and, for one leg, his 9-year-old brother. I did this both to hit up a family reunion and because of my love of extreme inconvenience. I did this because when I booked the flight the younger one was still of “lap-baby” proportions. When I booked the flight he was an infant; when I boarded the plane, he was a giant moody red-haired potato.

This was supposed to be so easy.

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