Puppies or Kids, The Commands are The Same

I’m going to admit that I always found it a bit ludicrous when pet owners would seriously compare their caretaker duties to those of parenting an actual tiny human. I understand that the bond between a person and their animal can be very strong and would never minimize the amount of work that they can be, but when a campaign started last May to expand the criteria for inclusion in Mother’s Day celebrations, I had a hard time sympathizing with the petitioners.

The past two weeks may have softened my stance on the issue somewhat, particularly because of the commands that I find myself repeating all day long. My daughter may be off to kindergarten now, but with a new puppy in the house, many of my phrases remain the same.

“Don’t eat that. That’s not food.”

“There’s no possible way that you are hungry already.”

“You need to settle down.”

“No, you can’t get in the shower with me.”

“Don’t touch that.”

“Get off of there.”

“Is that you that stinks?”

“Do you have to poop?”

“Try to poop please.”

“Can’t I just poop in peace?”


And every single morning: “Do you have any idea what frigging time it is?”

I’ve just replaced one needy little animal with another.





Girls Like Real Ninjas

My daughter has always been very popular with the boys, a phrase that’s hard for any father to say without cringing, no matter what the age or context. Last year at parent pick up all I had to do was look for the group of roughhousing little boys and she was more often than not right there in the middle, a trend that has continued this year. Most of the classmates that showed up for her birthday party last year were boys and this past weekend she was the only girl invited to one of their parties.

Usually this is a source of pride for me. I love the fact that she is defying stereotypes. That she likes sports, playing in the mud and climbing trees. That she never even considered that she shouldn’t be Captain America last year for Halloween and has never felt constrained by the little pink box that advertisers and retailers try to keep little girls in.


She was very excited for this party. The birthday boy was a friend from preschool that is now in a different kindergarten class. They still see each other at the end of the day but I found it cute that she had still made the invite list. I wasn’t surprised that she had her outfit all picked out and ready several days in advance and also wasn’t surprised that a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt was her choice.

What did surprise me, catching me completely off guard, was her reason for wanting that shirt. It was because it was a boy shirt. It was a boy shirt and the boys would like it.


This was completely unacceptable to me. I told her that under no circumstances was she going to wear anything or act in any particular way just to make a boy happy. I told her that girls are allowed to like all the same things that boys like and just because a shirt was purchased from the boy section didn’t mean that girls couldn’t wear it.

I immediately began to worry that her interest in superhero action figures and sword and sorcery play acting were only a means to ensure that I would play with her. How wrong had I been about who I thought she was? How much of it was just to make me happy?


I was of course being completely ridiculous. After giving me the “you’re stupid” look that I seem to be on the receiving end of quite often, she calmly proceeded to tell me all the things that boys and girls like that are different.  Boys like basketball, girls like football. Boys like race cars, girls like trucks.  Boys like dinosaurs, girls like dragons.

Boys like ninja turtles, girls like real ninjas.






Off to Work She Goes


My first exposure to the working world came when I was in the sixth grade. Our small town had a Summer Recreation program where older kids could make a few bucks supervising dodge ball games and other activities designed to keep everybody busy and active during the summer break. I have no idea how much money we actually made, or how this didn’t violate child labor laws, but it was an actual paycheck for not doing much more than hanging out with my buddies, dishing out ice cream, and putting band aids on skinned knees.

From that point on I was pretty much always working. I spent a lot of time shoveling manure and stacking hay bales at my friend’s farm, did lawn maintenance at the town baseball fields, and spent a summer painting houses. I spent two years at a plant nursery making $4.25 an hour, two  months at an Ames department store as a cashier, and two weeks in the housewares department at Caldor trying to figure out the difference between valance and regular curtains.

While working at Tri Town grocery store I made more lifelong friends and have fonder memories than I do my entire four years of high school.




The teenager now has her first job, a moment that I feel is just as memorable as first car, first kiss, or first apartment. I’m discounting the time she spent at a country store because she only got paid based on the store’s performance on that particular day. The only thing she ever seemed to come home with were some dubious right wing conspiracy theories and revisionist history books.  Apparently the US government was responsible for the cancellation of the  post apocalyptic television show Jericho, a shame because I really liked it.

She’s now the newest hostess at a local restaurant, working the dinner and evening shifts every Friday and Saturday night. These hours have the dual benefit of not interfering with her school work and also renewing the interest of all parties in the procurement of her driver’s license, her next big life milestone.

I have no idea how long she’ll stay there or how she will one day look back on her time at this job.  So far she seems to like the people and the money that she is earning. Its much more lucrative than collecting our empty bottles and cans. She’s learning responsibility, going in on a night when she wasn’t feeling well, and financial strategy, giving us half of her earnings to save.

She’s proud of herself and we are proud of her. Welcome to the work force, honey. Only forty eight more years until retirement.




Anatomy Lessons


I used to spend a lot more time naked than I do now. I’m not referring to my sex life, some things are going to stay private and off these pages, I’m just talking about hanging around the house hanging out. My last home had all weird, push-out windows that didn’t accommodate air conditioning units. A dozen fans helped somewhat, but there is no more effective means of staying cool than by staying nude.

My excuse in colder weather isn’t quite as clear but eventually the neighbor put up a pretty high privacy fence across from my living room window. I’m fairly certain it had nothing to do with me, but once I moved in with my wife and her daughter my days of playing video games in the buff all night were pretty much over anyway.

I no longer have the luxury of that choice, but I also no longer have the luxury of privacy. I started wearing gym shorts to bed when the little started waking me up by climbing into my bed every morning. Before getting out of the shower I check to see if I have a visitor that decided she needed to use that particular toilet. We teach modesty and appropriateness but she’s aware that daddy has different body parts than the rest of the family. That I have a “pee pipe” instead of a “pee hole” and that one day she will have boobs like her mother and sister. That when daddy does push ups it’s  in a vain attempt to get rid of his.

During one of her baths last week, Alaina decided that while my back was turned she would dump an entire bottle of bubble bath into the tub. Cheap, apparently somewhat caustic bubble bath that immediately caused discomfort in her more sensitive region. While complaining about the burning in her “front butt” I casually corrected her and told her that the proper word for that was “vagina.”



This succeeded in not only taking her mind off her discomfort, but in sending her into fits of hysterics for the next fifteen minutes. She thought that this made up word of mine was the funniest thing that she had heard in some time. Deciding that I might as well continue with her anatomy lessons, I told her that the thing that boys have was called a “penis.” This new word was even funnier than the first.

I don’t know what makes these two terms so awkward to say, but there is no denying that they are. Before this talk I can’t remember the last time I’d called them anything besides “cooter” ( a word that my wife hates) and “schlong”.

There has only been one instance since when a private part needed to be referenced and she called it her “china”, something that I deemed close enough. What are your terms?  What do your kids call their stuff?  Give me your best ones in the comments section. We all want our children to act maturely about these matters, but there is no reason that we have to.


You Can Call Me Sir

I’ve been working at the same place since I was seventeen years old, a long, long, time ago. Over that period I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. Students, fellow technologists, nurses, doctors. Some of them I’ve been sad to see leave. Some, particularly a few doctors, I’ve happily held open the door for as they left. I have no problem admitting that there are a great many people in the world that are much smarter than I am. I do sometimes disagree with those that assume that they belong in that category based solely on their position.

Regardless of age, likability or outside of work relationship, while on the job I still refer to any and all physicians as Doctor (insert last name). If we are at a sports bar eating wings or playing pool above my garage it may be a different story, but it’s a title that I feel they have earned, respect that should be given.


Respect is a topic that is addressed frequently in these pages. I firmly believe that teaching it is a very important aspect of the parenting job, one that is often overlooked. Behaviors such as not interrupting a talking adult, good sportsmanship on an athletic field, learning to wait patiently. A mindset of civility and propriety that needs to be developed early.

I believe that addressing people appropriately is one of these lessons. I have friends that I have known for over thirty five years now and in almost every case will still call their parents Mr and Mrs. The majority of these friends would refer to my parents the same.

I don’t like the fact that high school teachers now allow their students to refer to them by first name. It implies a level of familiarity and equality that I don’t feel the students should expect. It fosters an environment where authority isn’t clearly enough defined and creates confusion over what is acceptable.


Alaina’s little friends call me “Mr Jeremy”, a moniker that I approve of because they’re five years old, it’s cute, and it’s better that being called “Alaina’s dad.” If they all remain friends, which I hope that they are able to do, that name will continue to be just fine. For anybody over the age of ten (an arbitrary number that I just decided on) I think that it’s reasonable to expect to be called Mr Barnes.  I would hope that both girls offer the same courtesy and respect to any adults that they address, regardless of setting.

Any young man over the age of twelve can probably just stick to “sir” and we’ll get along just fine.







Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms