Category Archives: Dad Stories

Should You Let Your Kids Win at Board Games? (If You Can?) (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

Nightmare.

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — Should you let your children win at board games? Actually, let me rephrase: Should you let your children win at board games if you can beat them at board games? Because, frankly, I lost a startling number of Chutes and Ladders games to my son when he was 5 (but in my defense, there is zero strategy to Chutes and Ladders, and that dude had no idea what he was doing).

On the whole, we’ve yet to establish a consistent routine about this winning-and-losing situation, and my inconsistency is clearly making a tricky situation worse. Sometimes I’ll take a dive in Battleship, levy an off-base accusation in Clue or make a deliberately lousy chess move to let the little people stay a competitive step ahead, and keep the game moving. And then sometimes I’ll decide that I must use this friendly game of Ticket to Ride: New York to teach him that life is an ever-stretching mosaic of boundless disappointment and that he must begin to navigate it immediately by dealing with how I blocked his route from Central Park to Greenwich Village.

My real bad answer for all this at On Parenting at the Washington Post.

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What Are My Children Doing Atop That Large Mountain Over There (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

This is four billion times higher than it looks

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Washington Post — Here’s a neat travel tip about Yosemite National Park: It contains a multitude of tall mountains. Its ribbon-thin two-lane roads wind around tall mountains, climb tall mountains and then, having basically reached space, plunge back down tall mountains at angles that cause the brakes of your rental van to smoke in petulant protest. Every time you drive 30 yards, you go up or down about 14,000 feet. I am from Indiana, where to achieve that degree of elevation change, one generally has to be wearing a jetpack. (Mellencamp sells them.)

I don’t have a fear of heights, necessarily, but I do have a fear of slipping on pebbles, tumbling over ledges and kissing hard ground at 35,000 mph, so, in conclusion, I have a fear of heights. (I also have a fear of brakes that spontaneously burst into flames, but I feel like that’s fairly universal.) This sets me apart from my relatively fearless children, who didn’t inherit my self-preservation instincts, and by “self-preservation instincts” I mean nerves of silky gossamer. They press their faces against the windows of skyscraper observation decks, they leap into dark ocean water, they purposely ride in hot-air balloons. Earlier this summer, this became a serious problem.

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Why Are Summers So Short Now? (via On Parenting from the Washington Post)

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On Parenting from the Washington Post —  Are summer breaks shorter these days? Or have they always been this short? Is my memory of summer — days that ramble and roll with no particular end in sight — a revisionist lie, a trick of my aging and nostalgia-craved brain? Because that memory is a languid stream of pleasant boredom, a near-cliche mix of comic book hoarding, lunchtime wake-ups, improvised baseball games and the semi-regular side hustle mowing lawns for Camelot Music money. And in the memory, summer feels bottomless.

In the present, summer lasts nine criminally abrupt weeks, many of which feel spent before they’ve begun. It’s mid-July and we’re talking to fence-neighbors about teacher preferences and bus schedules, all of us feeling the end closing in. With just a little effort, you can almost see the gathering of autumn clouds. Somebody changed summer.

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Play Like a Dad: 20 Father’s Day Activity Ideas (via Parents / Family Fun)

photo / Robyn Breen Shinn

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Parents / Family Fun — In her job as a physician’s assistant, my wife has been required to work in the E.R., get ready for 6 a.m. surgeries, and be on call—all things that have led to a rewarding career but nothing close to what our parents called a “normal work schedule.” As such, it’s often just our two sons and me, the three Vrabel men, waking up to a day full of endless possibility and promise. And these days tend to begin the same way: with me making breakfast and asking, “So what’s on the agenda today?” and the boys responding with…well, abject silence, since they’re upstairs furiously Minecraftingwhile I talk to a stack of speedily cooling Belgian waffles.

Given the opportunity, my sons would be pretty well satisfied devoting one to 48 hours of their day to Minecraft, Roblox, and some curious digital pastime known to me only as “Goat Simulator.” (I once asked the 6-year-old how to play it, and he responded by tilting his head, looking at me as though I’d just sprouted a second head, and saying, “Uh, you simulate goats.” I’d never been so shut down by such a weird sentence.)

Every dad wants to fill his children’s hours with activities that will empower and enrich them; every parent has stared at a wall repeating, “Yeah, I have no idea what that is.” To that end—and to celebrate Father’s Day—here’s an incomplete list of DAD THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS, as written by actual dads, prominent bloggers, musicians, and me, a humble writer-slash-Belgian-waffle aficionado.

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Help! My Son Doesn’t Give a Damn About Social Media! (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — My son, now halfway through his eighth-grade year, does not appear to have the slightest whiff of a care about social media, and until about two weeks ago I did not realize the severity of this problem.

Newly 14, my son is attached to his phone on a seemingly molecular level, but he has no Facebook account, no Twitter, no Snapchat, no social media presence to speak of (at least outside the world of Minecraft, where, I am told, he exists as a shipbuilding contractor of some repute).

For us, that’s fine, bordering on glorious; if we had to rank all the things we’re excited to deal with from a male teenager, The Hideous Labyrinthine Terror of Formative Years with Social Media is near dead last, right under Researching Tuition and Explaining Who Stormy Daniels Is. Yet when I mention this mysterious void to people, his seeming disinterest, I get a sort of head-cocked curiosity and a response on the order of, “Is that okay?”

Here’s what we figured out about it. 

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The Eighth-Grade Karaoke Party: A Horror Story, Obviously (via Fatherly)

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Fatherly — If there’s a more potentially socially-ruinous situation than Eighth-Grade Karaoke Night at the Middle School Cafeteria, I simply do not know of it. The phrase alone has caused visible reactions and exhumed latent formative-year terror in friends and family members. At my son’s age, I would have crawled into a cafeteria heating duct to escape singing karaoke. I would have burst through a wall, leaving a me-sized hole in the bricks.

This is not what my son did.

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Snow Days are the Awful Worst and I Hate Them a Lot (via On Parenting at the Washington Post)

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On Parenting at the Washington Post — Not to sound like one of those tiresome “everything was better about X when I was a kid” people, but when I was a kid, everything was better about snow days. The phrase itself was a code word for hours of maniacal fun, for compulsory playtime, for a vacation day illogically deposited midweek, for a meteorologically blessed block of time in which you were compelled to do nothing at all because even if you had a destination, you probably couldn’t drive to it. One 5:45 a.m. ring of the phone meant the day had exploded into a rainbow of possibility. By startling contrast, when my children’s school last week buzzed my phone four times — twice to report an initial two-hour delay and twice to report “Never mind, it’s gross outside and we’re bailing” — my response was more like this: OhfortheloveofPete.

The full story at On Parenting at the Washington Post.

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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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