Category Archives: Dad Stories

Neil deGrasse Tyson Graciously Answers Questions From My Children (Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly — For a nearly infinite number of reasons, I am profoundly under-equipped to interview astrophysicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson. I do not know the age of the sun, I have zero ideas about how to deflect murderous asteroids rocketing at us from deep space, and I know precisely two facts about Saturn, which are the same two you do. (It has rings and would float in an enormous bathtub.)

For this reason, and to preview Tyson’s December 5 appearance at Old National Centre, I have outsourced the following interview to two much more knowledgeable associates: my 13-year-old and 6-year-old, who joined me in listening to Tyson’s endlessly enjoyable StarTalk podcast on the drive home from Thanksgiving and have, as such, come to regard Tyson as Earth’s Smartest Person. Tyson, quite graciously, is happy to go along with this. “All you need is curiosity, and kids have it in abundance,” he says. “A professional scientist is simply a kid who never grew up.” (My 6-year-old, on the morning drive to kindergarten, asked me, “Is this the day you talk to that guy who’s the biggest expert on everything?”)

Indeed, as a best-selling author, podcast host, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, owner of a Twitter account with 10 million followers, host of the revival of the Cosmos television program, and teacher of unceasing charm and enthusiasm, Tyson has achieved the superstar status afforded to scientists like Carl Sagan, the MythBusters and, y’know, Einstein. He’ll bring all that expertise to town in a one-man show titled An Astrophysicist Reads the Newspaper, all about the current scientific climate, as well as asteroid collisions, cosmic travel, dark matter, and purely theoretical objects known as “newspapers.” (The show’s about two and a half hours and for all ages, though some language may be PG-13, because when discussing your potential extermination by enormous flying mountains from space, it’s appropriate to curse a little.)

So now, if you’ll permit, my sons throw a few questions to the biggest expert on everything.

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Why I Am Happily Plunging My Family Into Poverty Because of Honeycrisp Apples (Fatherly)

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Fatherly – I don’t have a large house, a Trunk Club membership, or student loans, but my children only eat Honeycrisp apples so it’s all sort of a wash.

Honeycrisp apples are the fresh, plump varietal in the produce section under the sign labeled “Prohibitively Expensive Versions of Normal Food.” They are large. They are delicious. Unlike stupid dumb loser apples, which break as though you’re cutting into oatmeal, Honeycrisps, true to their name, crack in a crisp example of Nature’s Majestic Symmetry, like the crystals of a geode, their little droplets of juice-spray playing delightfully in the air.

If I sound prejudiced against other apples, it’s because I hate them.

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How to Properly Decode Your Child’s Parent-Teacher Conference (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — It’s fall! Which means the football team you’ve loved since age 8 is being used as ugly political currency, your preferred cereal brands are all issuing pumpkin-themed novelty editions that taste like orange garbage and your children’s schools are contacting you about parent-teacher conferences, those annual events in which teachers take time out of their languid, relaxing lifestyles to schedule some time in which they can be directed by parents to pay more individual attention to their daughter’s snack habits.

Sure, parent-teacher conferences may seem like they exist primarily to make you scramble for child care at 6:45 p.m. on a Wednesday, but it turns out the people raising your kids for seven hours every day do have information they wish to impart. They just can’t do that using their grownup words, because as a rule, parents deeply object to negative commentary about their children, forcing everybody to use strange circular patterns of conversation that only occasionally say what they mean. Here now, a helpful translation to what’s really going on.

“Your child is so full of energy!” = WHAT IN THE NAME OF SKIPPYJON JONES DO YOU FEED YOUR UNGROWN CHILD IN THE MORNINGS? Is there a Skittles cereal? Is he just eating smushed-up gobs of Lucky Charms marshmallows? Your overcaffeinated wombat couldn’t remain stationary if I duct-taped his butt to his tiny chair, which I can’t do because of the “school board,” thanks a lot Obama. Look, I’m not saying ADHD, you’re not saying ADHD, but if you guys haven’t worked out a strategy about such things, it’s probably worth a Google. Meanwhile, tomorrow, for breakfast, TRY SOME FRUIT.

More at The Loop / Golf Digest.

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Why Your Children Can’t Stop Watching Other Obnoxious Children Play Video Games on YouTube (via the Washington Post)

VenturianTale, I guess?

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — When I was 12 or 13, I busied myself with a range of pursuits, from the dumb to the very dumb to the hugely and galactically dumb. Every month, I purchased a new issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I memorized the entirety of Young MC’s debut album, which contained “Bust a Move” and 12 songs that weren’t “Bust a Move.” I got really, really into  “Dr. Mario” (but I stand by that one, as over time I became startlingly good at it).

When you’re in those weird culturally formative years, you explore a lot of weird culturally formative options. So I understand that it is a middle-aged cliche to say that my kids’ penchant for watching videos of bothersome millennials playing video games on YouTube is a remarkably idiotic waste of time.

There is a monster cottage industry of millennials who record themselves playing video games, and my boys, ages 13 and 6, have plunged into it. Mild-mannered on most days, my children, when presented with these videos, spot-mutate into glassy-eyed replicants who draw the shades, hide under blankets and watch as many as they can before I dramatically stomp in and do my impression of the dad at the beginning of that Twisted Sister video.

Here’s why, maybe.

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Several Very Good Reasons to Never Go to a Public Pool Again (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

(Illustration / Rami Niemi)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — It doesn’t matter if you’re at the pool in your city, neighborhood, hotel or vacation rental you snuck into because the gate was open — danger floats in every end. Well, sometimes it lurks at the bottom. But it mostly floats. Danger usually floats.

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Gangster Minivan Packing (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — Today’s minivans are no longer stodgy, dad-approved cubes designed for the sole purpose of taking third graders to and from practice, but sleek, practical and fully modernized vehicles designed for the sole purpose of taking third graders to and from practice. But they also work for vacations, which is nice, because they contain an awful lot of stuff and, if there’s room, people. Here’s how to maximize space in your summer road trip vehicle:

Electronic device: Three hundred years ago, in the ‘80s, travelers were required to pack for road trips by bringing a Walkman, 24 batteries, 30 cassette tapes, a pallet of comic books, an extra set of headphones and myriad Garfield collections, and that was just to make it out of Indiana. Sure, electronic devices may be shattering our attention spans into fragile bite-sized fragments of their former selves, but man, they make packing for road trips a merry breeze. I have found that one game of Goat Simulator can get two children through Tennessee and Georgia, and Georgia is like 16 hours long, so that’s simply technology improving our lives.

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Good News, Everybody, We Are Raising a Future Polka Star (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — Good news, everybody: We are the proud new owners of a baritone horn, a band instrument that’s big and brassy, and apparently not a tuba.

We’ve been renting it for my son’s band class for the past three school years, making monthly payments that — fun story — it turns out were actually lease-to-own payments that have ended with ownership of what is easily my family’s first enormous brass object with a spit valve. I am happy about this, in the way that you’re happy about suddenly owning a huge pricey object you weren’t planning to buy, and which will probably live in your basement, crawl space or attic for the next 40 years.

It’s a happy accident, and one that cements band as something that, in three years, went from a school-day hobby to a regular, if mysterious, part of my son’s identity.

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A Manly List of Masculine Father’s Day Gifts, For Men (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — Father’s Day is thoughtful, appreciated and — without resorting to the kind of hyperbole I’ve been accused of using by every single person in the universe — the single most unfair thing about fatherhood ever. Mother’s Day takes place during the school year, so moms quite rightfully enjoy fridges full of hand-scribbed art projects and reverent tone poems written in English classes. Father’s Day is in midsummer, when school is well out, so it’s like having your birthday on Christmas Day, or sharing it with a “cousin” or “twin” or whatever. We get objects we already own, re-wrapped and delivered with a crayon index card that says, “School’s out, it’s 87 outside and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit in the kitchen drawing some stupid picture.”

Yet repackaged paperweights are leagues better than actual store-bought products for Father’s Day, all of which assume every man on Earth is a leather-skinned flannel-shirted Man’s Man who spends exactly all of his free time knocking back Glenlivet on the hoods of rusted-out pickup hulls. All Father’s Day catalogs are written in the voice of someone who’s spent years studying human males but has yet to approach one in person, so screw it, we wrote our own, and used lots of all-caps for extra growly masculinity. Send this to your wife/children/partner/hangers-on at once, and watch the joy roll in. .

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Fidget Spinners: Making the End of America a Little More Manageable (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

Whee

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The Loop / Golf Digest — It’s a fidget spinner! You hold it and spin it around, and it spins. It’s like an adorable little propeller/ninja throwing star. You know those prizes you won for crushing 20 straight skeeball games at Celebration Station in 1987? It’s like one of those, except it’s made mostly of Rollerblade bearings, costs $32.99 and will arrive via Chinese steamer in six weeks, after which, in due time, it will end up in a crate in your damp crawlspace making friends with the Tamagotchi.

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How We Briefly Sort Of Totally Lost Our Son on the London Underground (via the Washington Post)

london-underground-station-comp

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — One day, during my retirement, if there is still Social Security or whatever, I plan to write a collection of short stories called “Places I Have Lost My Son.” I lost him once in a state park, where, during a verdant and filthy family hike, he ambled ahead 10, then 20, then 500 yards, past a vigorous series of intersections and switchbacks. (We found him at the ranger station, making plans for what to do with his months-long iPhone ban.) I lost him once from his own bedroom when, at age 4, he let himself outside at 1:30 a.m. in a half-sleeping dream state, in search of the Polar Express. (We found him 20 minutes later a quarter-mile down the road, where he’d been discovered by two teenagers named Kevin and Brendan who were most assuredly not Tom Hanks.)

I’ve had to find him in zoos and museums, malls and airports, when something catches his imagination and instinct compels him to follow it. In my son’s brain, imagination is not some zingy, lively Peter Pan-type. It’s a 500-pound sumo wrestler who lumbers in and shoves aside all of the functions used for mindfulness and consciousness and “remembering to look behind him to see WHERE HIS DAD IS.” It’s both delightful, as there is no greater gift than childhood creativity, and god-awful terrifying, as there are few worse feelings than having to ask the nice security guards whether they have seen a 12-year-old in a blue hoodie. Twice.

Which brings me to how we totally lost him on the London subway.

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