Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Miracles Abound

A few days shy of Christmas I was out with my family, doing the last minute shopping. (All my shopping to be more accurate.) My daughter, in true two-year-old fashion timed her tantrum perfectly. She waited till we were on the top floor of Mervyn's in the middle of the crowd waiting to check out. Nearing the registers we were surrounded on all sides by no less than two hundred antsy shoppers. (If this had been an English soccer match at least fifty people would have been trampled.) Just as we were nearing the epicenter of the retail experience my daughter was possessed by the Devil himself and endowed, from below, with the insatiable desire to drink. "I NEED A DRINK!!" she shrieked. Drink what? It didn't matter. She needed liquid and she needed it NOW! I was hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean yet still she squirmed and arched like a newly landed marlin who knew it was fight or die. It took all of both my physical and mental capacity to keep her from flying free of my bear-hug like grip. All four limbs became lethal weapons acting autonomous of the other three. Knees and feet pummeled my torso and crotch. Elbows and hands battered my head and face like a crazed diabetic Mexican trying to shatter a sugar filled piñata. I tried to anticipate the blows by clenching my eyes tightly for fear one of her little fingers should pierce an eyeball, stab my frontal lobe, and drop me like a sack of flour. One man, certain she was having a violent seizure, attempted to insert his wallet into her mouth lest she bite down on, and sever her own tongue. I left my wife and son behind and pressed to the edge of the mob trying to restrain her and minimize the collateral damage upon innocent onlookers. It was my intention to first, remove the danger from the crowd, and second, retreat to more private environs where I could give her the beating she deserved out from under the watchful eyes of children's rights activists. When I broke the perimeter I felt a rush of cool air, breathed deep, and lengthened my stride.

It's an interesting thing about the toddler tantrum; it can subside as quickly as it arises. Not 10 seconds from the crowd her red little eyes spied a shopping cart with a child's seat. She gasped, fell silent, and in the blink of an eye changed from demon to angel. Her face went soft, her limbs hung peacefully, and the horns receded. I set her down and as she approached the cart she whispered, "Oh my darling. Oh my adorable."
I asked her if she wanted to ride in the cart and in a sweetness that even Shirley Temple could not have mustered she clasped her hands together, batted her eyes, and softly said, "Oh yes."
Upon observing this astonishing change, I didn't have the heart to deliver the aforementioned beating but instead lifted her inside the cart and pushed her away certain I had just witnessed a genuine Christmas miracle.

God bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Favorite Things About The Holiday Season

Everyone gets good at acting like they enjoy crap that they hate the rest of the year… like ballet.

Extremely outdated animation

The chance to sit around with the old folks listening to them breath through their noses so loud you think Lord Vader is in the room.

The superior feeling of Christian exclusivity

A chance to kiss women, who are out of your league, because they unwittingly stepped under the mistletoe.

A chance to grope women, who are out of your league, because they unwittingly walked too close to the poinsettia. (family tradition)

Late night Christmas Eve toy construction when it's o.k. to swear

Christmas MURDER! (Because the rest of the year it’s just plain murder.)

Midgets get to walk freely among normal people.

Conifer Genocide!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Memories In A Flash

The advent of the digital camera has infused our generation with a new kind of nostalgia; a nostalgia of the immediate past. Never mind the bygone days when things were simpler, all children loved and revered their parents, and mom-and-pop shops had yet to be snuffed out by the super store. No, never mind all that. We long for the immediate past. Despite the fact that we were just there OR are even still there, we want to relive those precious moments that we’ve just had. That is why everything you buy these days “is also a camera”; your phone, your computer, your camera. Need I say more?

Because of this phenomenon my children are part of the most photographed generation in history. And it’s not because they are cuter, and therefore more deserving of lens time. (Well, mine are. But I’m certain yours aren’t.) It’s because cameras are small, compact, cheap, and part of every other piece of technology. It’s getting to the point where it’s unreasonable to not have one.

Recent studies show that 96% of Generation X Americans have only seen one pre-marriage picture of their grandfather[s]. And it’s probably the one of him in overalls (nothing else) in front of a small schoolhouse with a small group of other children who look like orphans or chain-gangers.
94% of the same group saw an average of four pre-marriage photos of their father. And each time were embarrassed by both his goofy haircut and the girth of his glasses. The same percentage of Generation X has one photograph from every school year attended, along with some random pictures from various family vacations.

My children, Generation Z, are a totally different story. Their lives are an experience in intrusive documentary. If my kids were celebrities my wife would be the most vicious of paparazzi. (The kind that, while their child is on a tricycle, runs beside them with a camera, trying to capture a moment of them in real life, despite the fact that their child is trying to escape in a panic and crashes into a tunnel entrance wall and kills everyone on board including her Muslim lover.) (Too soon?) I say “my wife” because technology alone is not responsible for this ever-growing photo frenzy. Moms are the other half of the equation. Most dads on the other hand are convinced that simply experiencing a moment in time will suffice. But women half to catch it, and then relive it immediately just in case they missed some nuance of the fleeting moment.

While visiting the in-laws over Thanksgiving, my wife, our two kids, a few of the in-laws, and I went to The Aquarium of The Pacific to enjoy some nature just as God intended; in captivity. To support my thesis I would like to include an actual conversation, between my wife and I, that took place there.

Her: “Set the kids against the glass there.”

I comply because that’s what a dad does. He’s ever posing the kids so to convince all her friends that her children are in a constant state of “cuteness.”

Me: “Like this?”

Her: “No! So that Maggie’s arm is around Cash’s shoulder! Make it natural.”

Me: “Sorry.”

I fix the arm. Maggie understands what’s happening and fights it. Cash falls over. I hurry and stand him up because I know I’m blowing it.

Her: “Just get out of the way.”

Me: “Right. Sorry.”

She snaps the picture and immediately changes the function to “view.”

Her: “Oh my gosh mom, look how cute!”

Her mom excitedly hurries to her side. This gets her sisters attention and soon all three women are huddled around a tiny LCD screen, making the noises women make whilst viewing pictures of children (even if the kid has a face like Mr. Ed). But that’s not enough.

Her: “Honey, come look at this.”

Me: “That’s OK, I know what it looks like.”

Her: “Whadaya mean, ‘you know what it looks like’?”

Me: “I was there. You just took it. I was looking at the same scene you just photographed. The image is fresh in my brain, and I love it. No picture could improve that moment for me. It was magical. But you should know, after you took the picture, while you were pouring over it with maternal enthusiasm, you missed out on a bunch of other cute crap our kids did. Cash did a little tap dance for passers by, and earned over $10 in change, and Maggie struck up a conversation about the pros and cons of Affirmative Action with an elderly black man. It was adorable. I’m sorry you missed it.”

Her: “Why don’t you love our children?”

Despite what my wife may think, I do love my children and I do appreciate pictures of them when more than three seconds have past.

Here is a very small fraction of the pictures taken in the recent past.

Cash at his first swim lesson. (We did not stage this. He climbed in there of his own accord. My wife just left him in there long enough to photograph... and get something to drink.)

My kids spend 95% of their waking hours sitting around in nature in cute clothes, smiling.

Maggie's first pair of slutty boots.

A day at the aquarium.

The three most important people in the world.