The Curse of Bad Baby Names

Kids are strange enough without needing a strange name.

Kids are strange enough even without a bizarre name.

In this country, you have to get a license to drive a car and a separate license to ride a motor cycle. For those of you not born here, you get to take a painstakingly difficult test just to be called a citizen and have the grand privilege of paying taxes. Heck, a person has to go through years of rigorous training and schooling just for the honor of calling themselves an astronaut so they can get launched into space in a sardine can while wearing a 1940s scuba suit and pissing in a vacuum hose. And with all this, there is still no training, schooling or accountability measure whatsoever required for parents tasked with naming their children. As a result, there are hordes of millennials walking the streets with legal names like Sabre, Cocoa and Colon.

COLON! Dear God. Why stop there, I wonder, when PoopTube is such a viable option?

I know I will probably offend someone, but I can’t hold my tongue any longer. The truth of it is that my opinion on what you name your child matters about as much as what I think about the holes left in the front of men’s boxers (Is that supposed to be for sticking things in or letting things out?). But dammit, this is America, where civility comes second to shock-value media, Trans-fats-in-a-box-with-a-toy, and blasting on social media as many untenable opinions as possible on topics nobody should be caring about anyway.

With that said, I do feel at least a prick of empathy to the offended. I am, after all, convinced that God gave us the ability to bear children for the very purpose of screwing them up in our own unique and special way. My own plan is to instill upon mine an unhealthy (and mildly creepy) love for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, as well as a set of carefully selected irrational fears to include: boy bands, hyperactive ghost children who live in the crawlspace of our house, and Tupperware museums that can be found in the heart of some Podunk town that’s sole claim to fame is a dairy cow named Berta who has a spot on her back that resembles the silhouette of Jesus Christ. If naming your child after your World of Warcraft character is your thing, who am I to argue? I know I should simply shake your hand and wish you well…

…but I can’t. I just can’t. I think what tipped me over the edge was the name that read on the badge of a girl who recently wrapped up a pound of deli meat for me.

Princess.

For the love of…

What this poor child doesn’t know is that, where I come from, the synonym for princess is not so flattering.

I absolutely believe that this kind of reckless naming of babies should be considered as a severe form of child abuse by the courts. Some of the cruelest names I’ve come across or have been told about in recent years include: Lemonjello and Orangejello (pronounced LEM-AHN-JELO and OR-AHN-JELO, respectively), Sunday, Saint, Whisper, Danger and Baby. It compels me to want to research the possible side effects that epidural might have on the name-picking part of a mother’s brain.

Abcde (pronounced AB-SID-EE) is another name that makes me think we should all just receive a number in lieu of a name. It’s a girl’s name, and this article claims that 328 people in the US are named this.

I will pause for you to rinse out the bit of throw up that has undoubtedly found its way into your mouth.

Now brace yourself, because this next one is far worse.

Pop quiz. How would you pronounce the following name?

A-Ha (a variation in spelling I’ve seen is A-A).

Give up? Hint: it’s not Aha! or even Ah-Ah!

Nope. It’s A-DASH-UH.

Feel that prickly feeling under your scalp? That’s stupidity seeping in like battery acid leaking into a gas line…and that stupidity seems to be spreading.

All this speaks nothing about odd spellings of more common names. I can only guess that this phenomenon derives from lost bets or self-medicating with mushrooms found in the backyard. I should be clear to note that my feelings on this exclude foreign variations of spelling for a particular name, especially when the family is of that descent or there is some significance behind it. I’m speaking more to the let’s-name-our-child-Mykkyl-just-to-be-different kinds of scenarios.

I mean, can you really imagine a President Mykkyl? Doctor Elizabreth (that’s not a misspelling)? CEO Aliviyah?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Let’s bring these names to light. Please share in the comments the strange names you’ve seen or heard. We may not be able to stop the outbreak, but hopefully, with dedication and unification, we can contain it.

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The Potty Song

When my son was two, he was a ticking time bomb of poop that not even MacGyver could disarm.

When my son was two, he was a ticking time bomb of poop that not even MacGyver could disarm.

Potty training has been on my mind a lot lately for some odd reason, which reminds me of a story of one of the methods we tried with our oldest. He was two years old at the time, which essentially means that he was a ticking time bomb of poop that not even MacGyver could disarm. His urge to poop typically brought out a “POO-POO, POTTY!” from his toddler lungs which, in turn, prompted both his mother and I to drop whatever we were doing at the time, snatch him up and rush him to the bathroom with the urgency of a man with a piranha in his drawers, knocking over chairs, tables, each other…

Since this all occurs in the matter of about ten seconds, here’s what it looks and sounds like in real-time:

Boy: “POO-POO, POTTY!”

(Lots of crashes and curse words thrown about)

My wife and I: SHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT!!!

We had been doing this dance about seventeen times a day for quite a while because inevitably, when we sat the boy on the child toilet seat, he would look up at us with his big hazel eyes, wriggle his hands (a bit of sign language we had taught him from before he could talk—it means, “All done”) and follow that up with, “All done…play now?”

The irony of all this is that he did not go to the potty—he didn’t even really attempt to go to the potty. My refrain from strangling the boy is nothing short of astounding, and is why I believe my left eye breaks out into random bouts of spasms these days.

To remedy our son’s habit of crying wolf and not giving much of an attempt when he sat on the toilet seat, my wife brilliantly suggested that we make up a “potty song” that lasts about thirty seconds. That way, he might be compelled to sit on the toilet for a long enough time for something to actually happen.

Being a hack musician and a writer of sorts, she asked me to come up with the jingle. Now, I’m not going to say what I came up with was brilliant, but I’m pretty sure The Beatles have nothing on me…or at least Justin Bieber.

This is what popped into my head, sung to the tune of Octopus’ Garden, written by Ringo Starr of The Beatles):

I’d like to pee in the pott-ee
For that one good chance to flush it all away
It will be warm–this big shit storm
Cuz I’ve been eating fiber every day
Give it a try and you will see-ee just how much fun the potty can be!
I’d like to pee in the potty
For that one good chance to flush it all away

You might be shocked when you learn that we ended up going with her jingle (apparently my vote counts for half), though I find myself singing it under my breath now and again when I’m tending to my own business. And I think it helps a little.

The “Whiny Couch”

The whining really has gotten out of hand, which is why my wife and I implemented The Whiny Couch approach.

The whining really has gotten out of hand, which is why my wife and I implemented The Whiny Couch approach.

My two-year-old has been having a hard time with whining lately, because…well, because he’s two. Parents know that the terrible twos don’t really start right when the child turns two years of age, but rather spans a stretch from when they’re about two-and-a-half until midway through their third year. A good friend of mine coined the term three-nager for this age group.

My toddler has entered this stage like a twelve-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert, with claws drawn and a touch of crazy. This means my wife and I are constantly repressing the urge to stab ourselves in the eye with one of the baby’s plastic sporks. Yesterday, I caught the two-year-old sticking his finger in the hole of an electrical socket and trying like crazy to expand the hole by picking at it with his fingernail. When I saw this, I immediately pulled him away and explained that he is never, ever to do this again. “It would hurt a whole lot,” I tell him–but my toddler has a toddler brain, and toddler brains are wired to reason that everything their parents say and do are really a ploy to trick them into eating spinach. He therefore responds to all of our commands with an emphatic “No” followed by a poignant “I will never do that!”

True to form, his response in this instance was:

“No, I WILL do that” (referring to sticking his finger in electrical sockets).

Me: “You want to be hurt?”

The two-year-old: “Yes, I want to.”

Me: “But…it will hurt a lot.

The two-year-old: “Yes, I want to be hurt a lot.”

Me: “Like, it will hurt more than when you fell down on the patio earlier and cried.”

The two-year-old: “Yes, I want to fall down and cry.”

The biggest mistake I always seem to make is that I try to reason with him as though he’s a human being–however, toddlers are anything but; I’ve grown convinced that they’re actually possessed by the spirits of long-deceased talking chimpanzees whose sole mission is to test the resolve of parents. Why chimpanzees? Because of toddlers’ affinity for handling their own poop and being without pants, is why.

The trick to parenting a terrible twoer or a three-nager is to avoid bluffing whenever possible, because they are not really listening anyway and will pretty much agree to whatever threat you make if it helps prove the point they believe they’re making. I think this (and the chimp demon inside of him) is the real reason my toddler goes without pants as much as he does. In fact, I have mentally prepared myself for the day when he storms into my room, throws his pants on the floor, and declares: “You are NOT going to bring me down with this, man—NOT today!” and then with a fist to the heavens to bring home his point he adds, “Fight the power!” The four-year-old would stand just behind him, iPod in hand with Big Yellow Taxi playing on it. He would raise his fist along with his younger brother and, once the tirade was over, the two would leave, hands snapping in unison like something from a tough-guy, alley gang scene in a 1970’s musical.

When our kids do something wrong and know it’s wrong, my wife and I send them to time-out, which we have designated as the lower steps of the staircase. We do not send the kids to the time-out spot for needless whining or crying. For this, we send them to The Whiny Couch, with the stipulation that they only have to stay there as long as they are whining or crying (not screaming–they are not allowed to scream unless they are hurt). They can leave The Whiny Couch whenever they wish, so long as they’ve finished their whining or crying.

The Whiny Couch has been mostly a success, and so we decided to take it one step further. To reinforce to the kids that going to The Whiny Couch was not punishment but rather a space to go to regain control of their emotions, whenever my wife or I felt agitated or too frustrated to be able to control our own emotions we volunteered to go to The Whiny Couch for a few minutes. And the plan worked, for there have been several occasions when the four-year-old, unsolicited, has announced that he needed to go sit on The Whiny Couch for a few minutes because he felt a tantrum coming on.

I adore The Whiny Couch–and what’s not to love? A few minutes away from the kids where you can rest? Absolute heaven.

Of course, I began to love it too much, which is why I’ve since been banned from The Whiny Couch by my wife. In hindsight, I may have gone overboard with the magazine rack, vibrating massage neck and back pillows, mini fridge and sleep mask. Probably shouldn’t have pre-scheduled regular hourly visits there, either.

Live and learn, I guess.

The Pregnancy Experience, a Dad’s Perspective

Baby #3's feet (and really, who doesn't love baby feet?)

Baby #3’s feet (and really, who doesn’t love baby feet?)

Similar to pregnant women, men who are about to become first-time dads have a glow about them. Whether this phenomenon is a result of their excitement or overactive sweat glands stirred by their paralyzing fear is hard to say. What is certain is that they’re playing Russian roulette with their lives and don’t even know it. It all boils down to sleep. I often told my pregnant wife that, first and foremost, I wanted a healthy baby. Beyond all that, however, I wanted one who slept through the night and napped well, even if that meant the child emerged with antlers, giant bat wings and walrus tusks. This was usually when she’d grumble something in tongues and throw some kind of red powder in my face—and now I’m fairly certain I’m carrying a curse of some kind.

I was all set to go for the delivery of our first child: I’d watched the videos, read the books, taken the classes and all that jazz…I was ready. What’s more, all of those sources made me realize that, even though I wasn’t the one going through the extreme pain, exhaustion, emotional stress, extreme pain and the extreme pain of childbirth, I was somehow just as important in all this as my wife was and had my own significant role to play, too.

The first thing I learned was that all those sources lied to me.

Sure, dads can help run the house a little while his pregnant wife is struggling (though I still wasn’t allowed to fold laundry), but when it came to the actual labor and delivery, I was better suited as a martial arts training dummy. Once the action happened, the nurse told me where to stand, what to do and to shut the hell up and get out of the way, you worthless, worthless husband. Of course, she didn’t use those words–she was actually very sweet about it (I can still feel the condescending pat on the head). Nevertheless, my role had become clear. It should have dawned on me how little help I was really going to be when, hours earlier, I tried setting a breathing pace (as taught by the damn birthing class) for my wife to follow when she started having really bad contractions. The result was a sustained squeak out of her and a flush of panic out of me.

The classes and videos hadn’t prepared me for any of this.

To be clear, they did help in some small ways, but mostly just to settle our fears a bit by sharing the science of what was to come. I now know that understanding the science and experiencing the horror is the difference between understanding that bears are dangerous and poking one with a stick after lathering your skin with honey and berries. And no, I wasn’t so stupid as to compare my pregnant wife to a hungry bear. That would be ridiculous.

I feared the bear much less.

Let me give you an example of how those pregnancy classes, while helpful, do not tell the real story. One lesson in particular was meant to simulate what a contraction felt like. Both the pregnant women and their husbands/partners/etc. were instructed to pick up an ice cube in one hand and hold it tight in their fingers. At first, my ice cube simply felt cold. As I held it a few seconds longer, that coldness turned into discomfort, which grew more irritable the longer I held it. To her credit, the teacher did say that contractions were worse than this, but that it at least gave us an idea of the kind of discomfort a woman might feel from the real deal.

Now, I’m no doctor but, judging by my wife’s facial expressions during her pregnancies before the epidural kicked in, I’d say that holding an ice cube is probably nothing like the feel of a real contraction. It looked so bad that, when the epidural guy was doing his thing, I asked if I could get in on some of that action.

So, no, first-time dads, you are not all that important, at least not in terms of the actual delivery. It’s best you understand that now.

Middle child in da belly.

Middle child in da belly.

The other thing to note about the birth-giving process is that, if you have more than one child, it will most likely be a different experience each time you go through it. With our first child, my wife experienced a fairly long labor process (we were in the hospital overnight and she spent most of it pacing and trying to deal with the contractions, while casting the occasional hex on me as I slept on the guest bed). The pushing process was quick, however, and the epidural worked wonders for her. With our second child, the epidural did not work and I heard sounds come out of my wife’s mouth that I never want to hear again. I was this close to summoning a priest and a vat of holy water. The birth of our third child, however, was about as easy as can be hoped for—like one of those sitcom births, where you want to kill the producers for making people think pregnancy is that simple, where the mother-to-be gives a little huff and—forty-three seconds later—out pops a strapping, five-year-old child. Our doctor even stopped my wife mid-push to ask if she could dial the pushing back to about half. When the doctor gave us additional instruction, I replied with, “Don’t worry, doc. We’re good; we watch House,” and to my amazement, my wife laughed through the next series of pushes.

That’s right. She is a superstar.

Now, women, before you start throwing jabs at me for daring to assess the difficulties of each of my wife’s pregnancies/deliveries, understand that it’s coming from a good place. I recognize that I’m the husband, the doofus standing on the sidelines whose only real stress came from making sure I took lots of pictures (but none that accidentally included my wife making some otherworldly pregnancy expression). I recognize that women are warriors in this birthing process and men are sad little peons whose only real contribution entails a favor his wife did for him one night nine months prior.

When a family friend had just had her baby, a mutual female friend said something the next day about how the girl was over-dramatizing the birth story and that the pregnancy really wasn’t as bad as her own. To this, I pointed out that I was a dude and as a dude I contend that any woman who has had a baby is entitled to describe the birth however she sees fit. I, as a dude, am then obligated to believe the woman’s story without question. For starters, she’s earned it. Secondly–and let me be crystal on this–if modern science ever reaches a point where men are able to carry and birth a child, I don’t ever, ever want to have to eat my words.

Hear that, honey? You win.

And because I feel the need to believe any woman’s birth story, my understanding is that child birth is comparable to: 1) flushing out a family of manatees from a garden hose, 2) setting one’s crotch aflame and then poking it repeatedly with a branding iron, and 3) sneezing a bowling ball out one’s nose. This is why, while I admire mothers for going through this process, I secretly judge the ones who have a desire to do it more than once.

As for first-time dads, my advice to you is this:

  1. Be there; be present (and I’m told these aren’t always the same thing)
  2. Get the frig out of the nurse’s way, for the love of…
  3. Do not tell your wife that she shouldn’t worry about accidentally pooping during the delivery. Seriously, this is a fear of all pregnant women and, for that reason, you’re probably better off not bringing up the topic at all.
  4. Wear a cup and a bring a prosthetic hand for her to hold. You won’t regret it, especially if you plan to have more than one child.

Play-Wrestling, or “Natural Birth Control”

As I'm not interested in showing my kids' faces on this site, I've made my two older boys into ninjas. Coincidentally, this isn't far from the truth sometimes.

As I’m not interested in showing my kids’ faces on this site, I’ve made my two older boys into ninjas. Coincidentally, this isn’t far from the truth sometimes.

I have often wondered what life for dads of small children must have been like back before the invention of fire, before humanity had a sense of personal hygiene and children were birthed to either hunt or gather. I imagine those were the days when you could name them by their intended chore, and even eat the weakest to ensure the survival of the pack. Like, around the 1950s or something.

Thinking about it makes me wonder how evolution must have wired parents over the generations. For example, why do mothers and fathers often find themselves wagging their index finger while scolding their children? Is it because whipping one’s kids was once a more acceptable practice and the wagging of the finger is a mimic of a behavior that’s engrained in us?

This got me wondering why parents do a lot of what they do. Like…constantly talk about our young child’s poop? (Don’t deny it)

Then came another musing, one that really peaked my interest: was there ever a natural birth control, or did people just crank kids out like Irish bunnies?

And that’s when it hit me…my four-year-old’s toy truck. Right in the face. Immediately I jumped into the ritual of scolding him, index finger a’ waggin’, as if said finger was a magical wand that could either make him behave or turn him into a tap-dancing peacock or something cool like that…

…and that’s when I saw my half-brother play-wrestling with my two-year-old son.

There are a few things non-parents should know about play-wrestling with small children–especially boys:

  1. They have no fear. Whatsoever. Half of play-wrestling with small boys is making sure they don’t hurt themselves. That literally means catching them as they leap at you like a deranged human cannonball.
  2. They will show you no mercy. To them, you’re invincible, even when you remind them you’re not. I blame cartoons. For me, it was the Road Runner with Wiley Coyote. I find myself wishing to all things holy that one day that damn bird gets what’s coming to him. Point is, it’s important to establish play-wrestling ground rules with your kids because, let me tell you, not doing so is how Playstation 3 controllers get thrown into windows.
    …but mostly…
  3. There is an unstated law of physics every father should know. In play-wrestling, a small child will more often than not gravitate toward the father’s unmentionables, whether purposefully or by accident. If the dad is overtired from having to stay up late with his kids, or doesn’t have a free hand/arm to guard said unmentionables because he’s too preoccupied with all his other kids leaping at him like human cannon balls, then this is nature’s way of telling him he’s had enough children and that it will gladly take care of the problem for him if he doesn’t heed the warnings.

So far I’ve been able to heed the warnings and have avoided disaster…because I’m onto Mother Nature.

And Mother Nature is a bitch.

 

 

Beware the “Kid-Life Crisis”

Utter Dadness

So here we go–setting out to start this adventure of writing about fatherhood of three little squeaks. Part of this journey, I suspect, is a means to get all these emotions out in the open, perhaps to prevent the inevitable Kid-Life Crisis, a phrase I coined just recently that means just what it sounds like.

A mid-life crisis is easy: blow a bunch of cash you don’t have on something that will likely kill you or cast you as the star of an episode of Cops. Frankly, I’m looking forward to mine, and have already begun stocking up on hair dye, flare guns and dental gauze.

A kid-life crisis is a little trickier, though. It’s not something you can just snap out of, because the kids aren’t going away anytime soon (we hope). Some parents respond by gradually losing hair (or gradually pulling hairs out). Some suddenly find excitement in yard work (I am convinced this is the start of a pandemic). Others find that their brains develop an internal ringing audible to drown out the incessant playing of songs about tea pots and yellow busses. In other words, if you’re a parent of a young child or children, it would be wise to mind the early warning signs of KLC:

  1. Do all your stories begin with: Let me tell you what the (fill in the age)-year-old put his hands into the other day?
  2. Do your core group of friends all have kids the same age as your kid(s)?
  3. Do you physically struggle to get out a swear word?
  4. Does 8 p.m. feel late to you?
  5. Have you ever watched an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba and thought, Hey…this isn’t so bad?
  6. Have you literally shaken your finger at someone?

If the answer to any of these is yes, you may be suffering from KLC. And I know what you’re thinking: “But Phil…I don’t have any kids!” Ahhhh, that’s how they get you–with delusion. Look under blankets. Kids love hiding under blankets. Their second favorite hiding place is covering their eyes which, when a parent really wants a break, works surprisingly well.

In the meantime, welcome to the blog! Read the introduction about my family and me and be sure to check back often. Jump into the dadness head first, I say. Let’s ride the insanity together!