Category Archives: Munchkin

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

Not So Smarty Pants?


I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty intelligent guy.  I’m not genius level, many  would probably say that I’m not quite as smart as I sometimes think that I am, and I’ve met many stupid people over the years that also considered themselves clever, but academics were never a struggle for me.  My wife would undoubtedly make the same claims about herself, and I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. ( Told you I was smart. )

With such sterling genetics it was hoped that our daughter would be as equally brainy. Early indications were that she was, her pediatrician even going so far as to predict that she would cure cancer one day.  It seemed a pretty heavy responsibility to lay on a three year old, but we were proud nonetheless.

Her kindergarten teacher seems as though she might recommend pursuing a different career path.  A very pleasant woman that Alaina adores, she sent home a reminder this week that by month’s end, two days away as of this writing, she should be able to count to 100 unassisted and identify 80 “sight words”.  These are commonly used words that are memorized so that they can be automatically recognized without having to sound them out or use other reading strategies.  The idea is that since these particular words make up 75% of early reading material, the child is then allowed to concentrate on comprehension and the meaning of particular sentences.

According to the letter we received, Alaina can currently count to 29 and knows 42 sight words. We were encouraged to keep working with her and continue doing her flash cards every night.

Was I concerned?  Did we spend the whole weekend cramming for her next testing?  Not with weather like this.


Smarty Pants
great day for a hike


My daughter starts talking approximately thirty seconds after opening her eyes in the morning and stops about thirty seconds after they close at night.  It was a welcome change Thursday morning when the school run was a relatively quiet one.  Before exiting the truck she informed me that there were 48 raised circles on the back seat floor mat, a number I quickly verified. Four rows of twelve circles. Why she had spent the ride counting them I couldn’t say.

She still gets where and were confused, this and these.  She’s rightfully frustrated about letters that sound differently depending on what they are paired with or are sometimes silent.  Their and there and right and write really piss her off.

They won’t be on the test, but she’s known “pow”, “vroom”, “smash”, and “up, up, and away” since she was two.  She can identify every hero and villain in the DC Universe and about half of Marvel.  While scrolling through the television guide list she can read what ‘s on all fifteen of “her” channels. Don’t bother trying to tell her that Spongebob isn’t on right now. She’ll see those two S’s from across the room.


Smarty Pants
next up – War and Peace


She loves books.  She loves being read to, loves making up her own stories for the pictures and calling it “reading.”  She hates flash cards, sitting still, and being momentarily separated from her classmates to be quizzed.  If she thought for a second that other kids knew more words than she did, her competitive nature would have her at 200 by the end of the week.

I’m not going to tell her that though.  I understand the need for a quantitative means of evaluating teachers and early identification of children that may require extra attention going forward.  What I don’t understand is the need to place academic pressure on a five year old.  She won’t be getting that from me.


Next Generation Speedster


No matter how long you’ve know somebody or how close you may believe yourselves to be, there are always some things about each other that you may not realize.  Beliefs, idiosyncrasies, fears.  Any number of surprises waiting to be discovered.  Over the past year many of us were faced with the reality of good friends, even family in some cases, that we were much farther apart from politically than ever before imagined.

My wife recently learned something new about me.  Not really a secret, nothing intentionally kept from her, but a skill that she had never seen me demonstrate in all of our years together.  She found out that I’m a kick ass roller skater.

Some of you are probably laughing right now, and I understand that. This beer belly doesn’t exactly scream athleticism and most days my gait is closer to Fred Sanford than Scott Hamilton.

It may also be that you are too young to understand, coming of age in an era that gave you a wider variety of things to do on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon.  If that’s the case, you probably didn’t understand the Fred Sanford reference.  You probably don’t know what it means to “shoot the duck” or ever bruised a tailbone showing off to Van Halen’s “Jump.”  Your first taste of romance probably wasn’t holding a sweaty hand while couple’s skating to Journey or REO Speedwagon.

If you did, then you understand how cool this makes me.  How impressive that after a twenty five year hiatus I was able to lace ’em up and not completely embarrass myself, only falling down once during the three times we’ve gone these past two weeks and not severely injuring myself.

Alaina’s first attempt at following me down this road to awesomeness wasn’t overly successful but I didn’t push her to continue trying as much as I may have another day.  As much as I sympathized with the parent’s trying to hold a winter birthday party on Super Bowl Sunday and appreciated that it was held several hours before kickoff, I deemed the risk of an afternoon in Emergency Care too great.  Everybody seemed content with cake and the video game options available at the facility so I let it go.


Secret Skill
not quite ready to borrow my keys


She, however, was not.  With yet another birthday party looming at the same place the following weekend, I wasn’t at all surprised that only a few hours later she was asking if we would be able to go back and practice before then.  For my local readers, Tri-State Speedway in Dudley, Mass has a rink that is much slower than the one in Plainfield, as well as a go kart track, bumper cars, mini golf and a large soft play obstacle course.  As an added bonus, there is a sports bar attached. It was the perfect place to refine her skills.


An Unknown Skill
the face of determination


The practice paid off, as it usually does.  She still wasn’t comfortable hitting the hardwood without assistance, but the kid was doing some serious cruising and had to be coerced off the track when it was time for pizza.  Once again, she made this dad proud.


getting the hang of it


There aren’t any more skating parties in the near future, but she’s asking to go back.  It’s a great way to get some exercise during these last few cold months and one of our jobs as parents is to pass along our knowledge and skills.  Its also more fun than I should probably admit whipping around and reliving my youth.  I just need these blisters to heal first.



Little Snitch


I’m going to share a secret with you, one that I’m sure you will find shocking, if not completely unbelievable, but that I swear is the truth.  I was never one of the “popular” kids growing up.  I had my friends, people that I’m still close to even now and  wouldn’t trade for anything, but if any of you guys are reading right now, I hope you didn’t think that we were cool.  We weren’t.




So far my youngest seems to be doing pretty well.  She’s found that balance between leader and clown, jock and brain, prep and greaser. She could be captain of both the softball and chess teams, Class President and Homecoming Queen. Anything she wants should be within grasp.

Anything she wants, as long as she changes one thing. One personality trait that could potentially lead to a lot of school lunches eaten alone, wedgies, swirlies, and Friday nights spent playing on-line role playing games.

She’s a tattle tale, a snitch, a fink, a teller of tales. No secret is safe once it reaches her ears.  No bad deed left unreported.

After school pick up I always ask her about her day, but I never find out, instead spending the ride home listening to the sins of her classmates laid bare.  If anybody has any questions about their child’s behavior in kindergarten, just ask.  I may not know every child by sight, but I can place each name with their recent reprimands.

It’s not just her schoolmates that get tattled on.  For years now the only thing that stops her from calling my mom when she’s unhappy is my refusal to tell her the number.  A new twist that has been added recently is to threaten to text Heaven and let them know when I’m not being a good daddy.  My most recent crime was not consenting to a popsicle as proper breakfast food.

I’m hopeful that she will grow out of it.  I know what it’s like to hang out with a bunch of nerds (sorry guys) and the one thing we all want as parents is for our children to have a better life than we did.  I don’t know any more about being hip in today’s world than I did thirty something years ago, but if there is one things that probably hasn’t changed, it’s that nobody likes a rat.


Little Snitch



The Art of The Deal


You don’t have to be a billionaire real estate tycoon to understand some of the basic principles of negotiation.  Offer less than you’ll spend, ask for more than you will accept.  Go in with a clear idea of what final result you are after and project a desire to find commonality in order for the other side to also believe they are achieving their goals.  The  truly skilled will mask what they are really after, heading down the path to victory before the other party is even aware that negotiation has begun.

It’s possible that in my guidance of my daughter towards her rightful place as Queen of The World, I have been emphasizing some of the wrong qualities, believing that her intelligence and empathetic nature would bring her to power.  I am now beginning to wonder if it might be a hidden deviousness that will be a more effective tool.

You see, my five year old daughter has decided that she wants a Mohawk haircut.  I’ve spent the past several years teaching her to celebrate her individuality, telling her that she can play with whatever she wants, be whoever she wants, and as long as it is somewhat reasonable, dress however she wants.

These are all things that she has not been shy about reminding us, as well as the fact that it is her hair, to do with as she pleases, that several boys in her school have their hair cut in this manner, and that it will grow back very quickly if she decides that she doesn’t like it. She has a list of arguments and they are all annoyingly hard to dispute.

Fortunately, I don’t believe that she really wants a Mohawk.  I think that by opening with this move, she is maneuvering us towards her real endgame : highlights.  For a while she’s been asking for them and we’ve brushed her off, not seeing a need for her to start applying multi-colored hair dyes just to make her hair look “fancy.”  She’s used marker on just about all of her Barbie’s locks and always goes out of her way to compliment random teenagers at the mall with multi-colored tresses.  I think that by opening with Mohawk, her plan is that a compromise will be reached to obtain her true goal.

My wife thinks I’m insane.  She takes care of my haircuts and I fear a Patriots logo may get carved into the back of my head in I even think about calling the little one’s bluff.

She may be right.

It may also be that we’ve got a little hustler on our hands, willing to use our words and weaknesses against us to get what she wants. Judging by her poker playing skills, I’m convinced it’s the latter.


The Art of The Deal