All posts by ThirstyDaddy

Playing The Guilt Game


Pretty much right from their first breath, children are experimenting with different ways to get us to do what they want.  Different timbres and pitch rejected or filed away for further use based on the effectiveness of each individual scream and cry.  Later on it becomes tantrums and hissy fits, the more public the better. Incessant, ear bleeding, aneurysm inducing whining. Two of my daughter’s preferred techniques were either to simply continue asking over and over until all will to resist was ground down and washed away or to use some variation of “pretty please” followed by a combination of various treats to go “on top.”

Amateur inveiglements now set aside for the most effective form of psychological manipulation that one person can inflict upon another – the  guilt trip.

When she started kindergarten, I talked about what that was going to mean for our time together.  I don’t get home from work until after bed time most nights of the week, so there are several days when the morning routine is our only time together.  I talked about the teenager’s sharp words about time spent with her and how deeply they cut.  I talked about my guilt.

Attempts to maximize this time that we do have together have led to a pretty full schedule of fun whenever I’m not working.  Wednesday afternoons at the park, wings and movies with the teen, roller skating just about every weekend.  It’s also led to expectations that I can’t always meet and opportunities for the little to try out her new means of persuasion.

She has less than adequate comprehension about things like money and bone weary exhaustion on a Sunday morning.  What she knows is that she wants to do something, that there will be several days past before I’m able to bring her someplace again, and that by reminding me of this, there’s a pretty good chance that we are going to go.


the power of guilt
trying to look sweet and innocent


So where did she learn such Machiavellian machinations?  How to harness the power of guilt for her own purposes?

The same way that all children do eventually.  They learn it from us. It’s the basis for almost all behavioral modification, whether consciously or not.  When a child does something good we shower them with words of praise and approval.  When they are bad we take away that approval and show disappointment.  Punishments and the learning of consequence of action are part of the process, but I’m starting to believe that when a child chooses not to repeat an act that they had previously been punished or reprimanded for, avoidance of that feeling of guilt, of having that approval taken away from them based on their actions, is just as much a reason for the change in behavior as any other.


This morning I woke up in a pretty foul mood.  I didn’t feel well, my back hurt, and it was too damned early for any reasonable person to be awake.  My daughter naturally decided that this meant it was the perfect day to practice jumping from one section of the couch to the other, over and over, and blatantly ignore my increasingly loud demands for her to stop.

I soon snapped and she immediately fled up the stairs in tears, scared by an outburst that was uncharacteristically incensed.  I stayed downstairs, morosely clinging to my moral superiority until she returned, head hung low, and promised to behave if it meant we could spend some more time together before I left for the day.

Some time playing something a little more fun than the game of guilt tag that I think that she had already won.


Frozen Stones


I’m pretty sure that as a kid I must have liked the snow. I’m old enough to remember digging tunnels after the blizzard of ’78, enjoyed jetting around the yard on the back of my father’s snowmobile, and surely must have built at least a few snowmans that have since melted from memory. We had some good times with a tube, a tractor and a cornfield as teenagers, but I also fell off a ski lift and still have scars on my face from a horrific sledding disaster. Myself and Southern Comfort are more to blame for this disfigurement than the snow, but it’s not completely without blame.

As an adult I have no use for it whatsoever.  It’s cold, wet, and hurts my back to shovel.  It interrupts my satellite television, causes power outages, and sucks to drive in.  Ten years ago my wife-to-be and I joined some co-workers on a snowmobiling weekend and came home both physically and emotionally battered.  Every vacation since has been to a southern  destination.

My five year old and the puppy are too young to know better. They both love this late season storm that has once again turned my yard into a frozen playground for them to frolic in, oblivious to the wind, the sub arctic temperatures and the White Walkers that lurk beyond the treeline.



They also don’t listen very well.  Like all kids, within the first fifteen minutes of being outside Alaina will have:

1.  Made a snow angel, causing snow to somehow get between her skin and the multiple layers of clothing she has on.

2.  Eaten snow, hopefully from nowhere near the dog’s preferred bathroom area.

3.  Tried to throw a snowball at me, usually from a distance of less than two feet and missing by three.

4.  Either taken her hat off and thrown snow into the air directly above her head or removed her gloves and placed her hands directly into the nearest snowbank.

5.  Had to pee.


when it snows


I just stand here and smile through chattering teeth. I applaud every “cool trick” that I’m told to watch, dodge the occasional ice ball that actually has a chance of connecting with my face and daydream about the spring that I know will eventually arrive.  I yell at her to put her hat back on, yell at him to stop eating deer poop and yell at some stupid groundhog in Pennsylvania that predicted this mess.


when it snows


I think about how much more fun life is at five years old and I wonder if it’s actually possible for someone to freeze their stones off.  I fear that I may find out because neither one seems ready to go back inside anytime soon.





Two Tiny Hands
DIY Daddy Blog

Hard Lessons in Sportsmanship


I kicked my daughter’s ass today.  Not literally of course.  Even if I were ever to be so bold as to write a post about spanking her, I probably wouldn’t open with that line. No, today I kicked her ass at pop-a-shot basketball and just to be sure that she had learned her lesson, I kicked her ass at skee-ball.


nothing but rim


It wasn’t my first intention, not the purpose of our trip to the entertainment complex.  These games are usually a collaborative effort, our goal the accumulation of a few thousand tickets to trade in for a plastic spider ring or a super bouncy ball. Very rarely do we go head to head in games of skill, and when we do I usually let her win, or at least tie.  My goal for her has always been to make sure that she is putting in maximum effort and to encourage practice as a means of improvement.  As long as she is having fun and those two things are being done, winning  can remain a secondary objective for now.

I’m not sure that she would agree.  She’s always been hyper competitive, but it’s usually a cute thing, more of a motivation to herself to improve.  In anticipation of a birthday party held at a gymnastics center this morning, she spent the week crashing around the house practicing cartwheels.  The place we were at today was found while looking for somewhere less crowded to practice her roller skating in between parties.

Today that spirit that I love took an unexpected turn, a game of mini-golf turned ugly.  Those who have spent time with me out on the links know that I can be inclined to be generous with my mulligans and gimme putts. That sometimes my scoring can be “creative” and that the “foot wedge” is an important tool in my arsenal. They will also tell you that what I don’t do is talk a lot of trash.

Not that I can’t. When the time is right and I’m able to back up my words with performance I can sling trash talk with the best of them. There is just an unfortunate lack of  times when this is applicable.

Today my daughter talked a lot of trash. She mocked misses, danced around when her ball hit the bottom of the cup, and apparently was completely oblivious to the fact that had we a scorecard she would have been about thirty shots behind after nine holes. She was completely obnoxious and frankly, a very unpleasant playing partner.


lessons in sportsmanship
somehow believes her ball is closer


So I taught her a lesson in humility.  It’s probably not a technique that would be covered in a parenting manual, but one that seemed effective.  There was a line that any reasonable person would recognize and not long after crossing it I stopped.  The day ended with what I thought was a very productive conversation over pizza and root beer about sportsmanship, other people’s feelings, and the importance of not acting like an asshole.  I think that she got the message.

I’m not going to  gloat, but I’m calling this a parenting win.


lessons in sportsmanship
the face of a loser


Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Confession of a Cry Baby


Every Tuesday night my wife watches a show called “This Is Us” and like everybody else I know that watches it, every Tuesday night she cries.  I get home from work about half way through, change my clothes, pour a drink, and spend the next thirty minutes or so catching up on e-mails, Facebook, and any comments that have been left on the blog.

What I don’t ever do is make fun of her. Part of the reason for this is self-preservation of course. I know that to intentionally antagonize her while she is emotional is to risk that emotion quickly turning to wrath directed my way. The other part is that I’m not someone who should be slinging that particular stone, something that she would have no hesitance reminding me.

I’d like to blame it on fatherhood but the truth is that it never really took a whole lot to get these eyes leaking.  Books, movies, songs, and television shows, I’ve cried to them all.  Bonnie Raitt singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, Johnny’s final moments in The Outsiders, Illyana Rasputin’s death in Uncanny X Men 303.  It doesn’t matter how many years pass or how many times I experience these moments, the result is the same.


actual picture of me watching TV


What fatherhood has done is to add exponentially to the number of times that I embarrass myself.  Any country song with a guy singing about his daughter and I’m done.  Instead of waiting for Forrest Gump to bury Jenny to need a tissue, I’m grabbing the box the first time he meets Little Forrest. My wife and I recently started watching the first season of The Missing on Starz and I honestly don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Our DVR is full of pirates, vikings and witches that need catching up on with much less emotional distress involved.



If you haven’t seen the movie Intersteller yet but think that you might, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to stop reading now. You also should go watch it, because it’s a fantastic movie.  I finally got around to seeing it this week and can’t believe I waited that long.

I’m also glad that when I did watch it, I was by myself. If you are still here than you know that it’s also an incredibly long movie, the first act used to establish the relationship between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his children, especially with his young daughter.  His leaving of these children in an attempt to save humanity and his goal of returning to them are what makes the movie a great one instead of just a somewhat clever space movie with a pointless Matt Damon cameo and a really weird ending.

It’s a movie about a parent, sacrificing for his children and it had me blubbering multiple times. I won’t give too much more away in case there are  some that stuck with me past the spoiler warning, but I’ll leave you with these lines, delivered as he tried to console his daughter before leaving:

Now we are just here to be memories for our kids…once you are a parent you’re the ghost of your children’s future.”




Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

A Parent’s Very First Job


Having a child means an endless list of responsibilities.  Little beings reliant on us for food, clothing, shelter and tons of other things over the course of their lives.  Its not only a never ending job, but one that starts before we even take them home.

They need a name, a means to be referred to by the world. Something for you to sing as you rock them to sleep, whisper as you ask your God to watch over them, yell one hundred times a day as they grow older.  A name is also how they will refer to themselves, the first step towards self actualization and development of sense of identity.

A name is often the first thing that is known about a person, a first impression that can convey race, gender or heritage, with all the institutional judgments and prejudices that knowledge brings.  It provides insight into the person’s parents, thus giving a potential glimpse into how a child was raised. It’s a person’s calling card, something they will carry throughout all phases of their life.

If it’s so important, the first great test of parenthood, how do so many people screw it up?  A need to reject conformity and cultivate our children’s individuality and uniqueness that instead leaves them saddled with a horrendous moniker for the rest of their lives, cursing their clever parents every time they correct somebody’s pronunciation or ask to be referred to by their middle or nicknames.

I work at a hospital and am presented with dozens of different names daily.  As much as it contradicts my tenet against judging others, I’m finding more and more of these names absolutely ridiculous, sometimes downright nonsensical.  I won’t use any examples in an attempt to not alienate any potential readers, but if the pronunciation of your child’s name is phonetically antithesis to the organization of letters used in it’s visual form, I may be talking about you.  I haven’t been able to independently verify this information, so there is the possibility I am propagating fake news, but I have heard tell of children now being named Hijkmnop, pronounced Noel. If you don’t get it at first, neither did I.  Noel – no L.

It’s a difficult task, and one my wife and I didn’t take lightly.  My first choice of girl’s name was Kahlan, pronounced the same as her preferred boy name, Colin.  Her second choice of boy name was Luke, ironic because my first offering was Skywalker. Upon learning that we would be having a girl we settled on Alaina, my second choice, with a middle name of Shay, her first. Had we a male offspring, there is therefore a very real chance that he would be named Luke Skywalker Barnes, a difficult legacy to live up to. Whether he or society would have ever appreciated this awesomeness is now rendered rhetorical debate, but is a good reminder of why I try not to judge.




The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback