I Lost My Kid at a Buy Buy Baby

Lost Kid at Buy Buy Baby
(Getty/Jodie Griggs)

It happened in a flash. So fast you can’t even appreciate the cruel truth behind the painfully overused cliché. My wife was in the baby section with our oldest daughter when she asked my opinion about a type of bottle. I dutifully feigned interest and weighed in. When I turned back, our three-year-old was gone. I lost my kid at a Buy, Buy Baby, which sounds like a pun too far even for a Dad.

I had never lost track of my kids. I’d hear stories from other dads about the harrowing time Colin ran off at a park, or when Isabelle wandered away at the grocery store. It happens to everyone, I’d say obligingly. In my head, I was smugly crowning myself for being a better dad. Our oldest was six, and she had never been out of my sight unwillingly. Never lost in the crowd on the subway, not once in a sea of kids at the park. Not in the bedlam of an amusement park nor the chaos at the zoo. Even when we added a second to the mix, my record stayed pristine.

Emma, like her older sister, was looking forward to the baby coming in a couple of months. But she was three, so she was much more interested in the toy section, especially as it related to her upcoming birthday. I had physically pulled her away from a toy horse when my wife had beckoned for my expert opinion on bottles. The confusion hit before panic. Emma had to be close, it was literally one second before when she was next to me.

After scanning the sections around me with no sign of our little redhead, I officially upgraded to panic. “Where’s Emma?” my wife asked accusingly after reading my face. “I thought she was with you!” I seethed through clenched teeth. I very much did not think that, but like a true hero, my first action was to try and blame her somehow. That moment you have to tell your wife you don’t know where your child went is excruciating, and it just gets worse from there.

I quickly snapped to attention and we came up with a gameplan. She made a beeline with our other daughter to the front door, guarding the exit like an aggressive Costco employee checking receipts, only making sure no one was leaving with our three-year-old instead.

I started stalking the surrounding sections, confidently at first, so as to not startle other shoppers. I said her name, maybe a little louder than normal but not enough to draw attention. The problem is, when you yell “Emma!” at a Buy, Buy Baby, eight kids come running.

There’s also a special humiliation of losing one of your kids at a baby store. Nothing says “I’m ready for this baby” like losing one of your other babies at the baby store. I became the frantic dad I was never able to see on my high horse.

By the third time I was cycling through the sections in the back of the store, all pretense of normalcy was dropped. That’s when the terror takes hold. It had been maybe 30 seconds, which feels insignificant to write but was a lifetime to live through. I’m pacing aisles maniacally, my head running through what comes next. The defeated front lawn press conference where you beg the community to help in the search. Hanging ‘missing’ posters on light poles like she’s a lost cat. Christmas. It was three months away, but I’d never have a normal holiday again.

On my fourth pass, I saw the tiny pair of shoes embedded deep in a rack of clothes. And I found our scared three-year-old, perfectly hidden in a forest of sassy maternity pajamas. I hugged her with a ferocity that replaced the dread I’d felt seconds before.

I pretended to be mad at her for running off, but it was just a show for the other parents who I assume were watching our every move at that point. Really, all I felt was intense relief and joy. She was teary-eyed, scared by the brief ordeal, and apologetic in the unspoken way a three-year-old can be. Rattled, I carried her to the front of the store to let my wife know we wouldn’t be on the news that night. She went through some the same range of relief and mock-anger, and we quickly paid for the baby stuff and left the store as fast as we could.

We gave her some sort of bullshit talk about running off, but we drove away feeling like we won the lottery. Out of a mix of shame and guilt, I went back to the store later in the day to buy the toy horse she wanted so desperately. A perfect birthday surprise, I thought, and a step on the path back to being the best dad ever.

She played with it for one day and then forgot about it for years.

3 Things I’m Teaching My Daughter So She Can Do Anything

3 Things to Teach My Daughter
(Joel Willis)

“How do you know how to do this stuff?” My daughter asked as I was installing a new light switch in her room.

“I don’t know. I guess ’cause I’m old.” Groan. She hates when I make dad jokes about being old.

I told her that I taught myself over time, and I’d do my best to teach her all the things too.

I know it’s morbid but I immediately had this panicked thought, Oh no what if I end up dying young, and don’t get to teach her everything, and she has to live with this feeling that she’s missing out on some essential knowledge she needs but never got.

So I said, “But really, I only need to teach you 3 things…”

1. Confidence

I told her the most important thing she needs in order to learn to do something, is the confidence that she can figure it out.

My confidence in trying new things and getting the job done verges on naive at times. But I always think, “Hey, other people can do that so I can probably figure it out too.” If you don’t have some level of confidence like that, you’ll be too intimidated to ever even try to learn.

2. Hard work

Confidence alone is not enough. You need the tenacity, the followthrough, the perseverance to seek out the knowledge, try new things out, and DO THE WORK… even when (especially when) things get tough. And then, when it inevitably doesn’t go as you expected on the first try, you need the willingness to adapt, learn from your mistakes, and KEEP GOING.

You can’t assume everything is going to be easy, usually it’s not. But if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll figure it out eventually.

3. Pride

Celebrate your hard work and accomplishments. The feeling of fulfillment is what inspires you to build on the knowledge and experience you gained and propels you to take on the next tough thing.

There’s very little that feels better than stepping back and admiring a job well done. Such as seeing the look on your daughter’s face when she flicks on her fancy new cat light switch and sees the room fill with light just as her face lights up as well.

—–

“I’ll do my best to teach you everything I taught myself. But if you have confidence, work hard, and take pride in your accomplishments, you don’t need me or anyone else. You can teach yourself too.”

She looked up at me and said, “So you just watched videos on YouTube?”

“Yeah.”

YouTube helps too.

26 Years Ago We Lost Great Actor and Dad, John Candy

(Courtesy of the Candy Family/Universal Pictures/Paramount Pictures)

He was a beloved actor in 44 films, but many people don’t know that John Candy was first and foremost a family man. Now, 26 years after his untimely death, his kids are doing their best to honor their father’s wonderful legacy while also making serious waves of their own.

The 1994 film, Wagons East, was Candy’s final movie. Before traveling to Mexico to shoot, the 43-year-old told actress Catherine O’Hara that he felt something bad was going to happen there. He had been away from his family for most of the year and vowed that this would be his last film.

“I don’t know if he was excited to work on it or wasn’t,” Candy’s son, Chris, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Richard Lewis, who worked with him on that movie, told me he was so much fun and so funny, but when he looked at my dad, he looked so tired.”

The night of Candy’s fatal heart attack, he had a brief exchange with the night watchman on the premises before going to his room for the night—his exact words: “I’m so tired. All I want to do is go home and be with my family.”

Chris and his sister, Jen, openly talk about their father’s death and the events leading up to it; they consider it cathartic.

“I was 9. It was a Friday,” Chris said. “I remember talking to him the night before he passed away and he said, ‘I love you and goodnight.’ And I will always remember that.”

Jen added, “I remember my dad the night before. I was studying for a vocabulary test. I was 14. He had just come home for my 14th birthday, which is Feb. 3. So I was talking to him on the phone, and, I hate this, but I was slightly distant because I was studying. So I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, I love you. I will talk to you later. Have a great night.’ Then I hang up, and I go back to studying.”

(Courtesy of the Candy Family)

The news the following day was brutal. The kids were suddenly caught in the spotlight, trying their best to grieve while caught in a whirlwind of paparazzi.

On the day of the funeral, they witnessed just how impactful their father—the man who loved them so intimately—had been on their community.

“I remember when we were ready to take him to [Holy Cross Cemetery], they blocked off [Interstate] 405 from Sunset [Boulevard] all the way to Slauson [Avenue],” Chris described. “LAPD stopped traffic and escorted us all. I still can’t believe that. Whenever I feel like I lose the importance of him to people, I just remember that happened. They do that for the president.”

According to Chris and Jen, Candy was just as warm and endearing as many of his onscreen personas, though no single part nails him completely.

“Johnny LaRue was most him, to an extent,” Jen said. “And the reason I say that is Johnny LaRue was a business guy, he was lovable, but Dad was not smarmy. You mix that with Uncle Buck and Del Griffith [from Planes, Trains and Automobiles] and you’ve got my dad. He brought a little bit of himself to all of his characters.”

While Candy fiercely loved his wife and kids, his family will always remember the way he yearned to help those who were less fortunate through various organizations.

“He was constantly working with some sort of charity,” Jen said, naming Make-A-Wish and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation as only a couple on a long list. “He liked to make people laugh and feel good. And with certain kinds of charity work, especially with kids, he could do that, and that made him feel good.”

While everyone likely has a favorite Candy role, the one that meant the most to him was that of Dean Andrews Jr., the aberrant New Orleans lawyer in Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991).

JFK was my favorite of him for the longest time because he is so good in it,” Jen says. “He worked so hard on that. He had a dialect coach, and he worked night and day on that script. He was so worried about it, getting that accent down.”

In fact, Jen has a clear memory of a night when Candy was working on the part. “We were having water fights with our cousin while Dad was trying to learn lines, and we did get yelled at because we were being too loud. It was a ‘dad’ yell. He never yelled.”

John Candy, writer-director John Hughes, and Steve Martin. (Getty/Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

As for Candy’s favorite filmmakers, he had a special kinship with writer and director, John Hughes. In total, Candy appeared in eight films that were written, directed, or produced by Hughes.

“I know there were films he didn’t want to do, but with John Hughes, it was always ‘What’s the next one? You gotta hurry up and write something,’ because they were perfect for each other,” Jen said.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), a Thanksgiving classic, is still regarded as some of Candy and Hughes’s best work together, achieving a staggering 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Chris recounts a story Hughes shared about a classic scene from the film: “They were really overbudget and overscheduled, and Paramount was coming down to get everything going. Well, that was the day they were filming the scene with the devil costume. My dad had the idea that it would be funny if Steve [Martin] saw Del as the devil. So [the Paramount execs] finally get on set and Dad is walking around in this devil costume, and they’re like ‘What the hell does this have to do with anything?!'”

Chris and Jen, now both actors and comedians in their own right, are doing their best to honor their iconic father while also forging their own paths in the entertainment industry.

“It took a while for us to even use the name,” Jen said. “I wanted to develop who I was as a person, develop what I wanted to do. We have had people say, ‘Call so and so and have them do this for you,’ and I have said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.'”

The siblings have both done voice work on their father’s cartoon, Camp Candy, and Jen hosts a monthly talk show at Second City Hollywood called Couch Candy, where she interviews various stars who worked with her father.

“It makes me feel so good to have him as a Dad,” Jen told Ottawa Life. “Everyone says such sweet things and how he was so relatable and found that they could connect with him without knowing him.”

She says hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn’t reach out to her either on social media or in person to describe the unique ways John Candy influenced them.

“He’s not really gone because we talk about him so much, and we’ll always open a box and there’s a billion photos of him. So, it’s like, there he is,” Chris explained.

“As much as he is gone, he is not gone,” Jen concludes. “He is always there.”

Jen, Chris, and their mother, Rose, on their family’s property in Queensville, Ontario. (Courtesy of the Candy Family)

The Balancing Act of Roasting Your Kids

(Mark Chalifoux)

I recently had one of those proud dad moments when my daughter’s preschool teacher insisted my kid was a genius. Then I had one of those grounding dad moments when I remembered this is the same kid who ran into a wall while trying to hug her own shadow. Needless to say the jury is still out on the “genius” title. The shadow hug story is one most parents trade with a spouse or another sleep-deprived parent. It’s standard fare to make fun of your kids, while making sure to praise someone else’s. If you encounter a parent who only has good things to say about their offspring, make a mental note to avoid them because they’re probably in a cult.

Of course, the difference between a normal person and me is I’ve shared that shadow story with thousands of strangers across the country as a stand-up comedian. I’ve told it on a nationally syndicated radio show, and it will soon be streaming on SiriusXM (along with a bunch of other jokes about them).

I was a comedian before I was a dad, so it was inevitable that my kids would work their way into my act. I still remember the first joke I wrote about my daughter, “I realized I don’t know anything about being a dad. I had to Google ‘when can I start yelling at my baby?’”

Now that my kids are a little older (5 and 2), they get even more coverage in my act. So now a few hundred people in Madison, Wisconsin know about the first time my daughter came up with a story (“Once upon a time a dog sat under water. The end.” Yeah, her first story was about a drowning dog, good luck selling that story to Disney). A few thousand people have heard me talk about which kid is my favorite and even more know how my oldest daughter got her name, a fact she doesn’t even know herself yet (but she could, if she buys a copy of “Think Fast” on iTunes).

In my defense, I make fun of myself more than anyone on stage. It’s not like I just walk up to a microphone and start roasting my kids. Still, it does feel a little weird that so many complete strangers know that I once accidentally brought my two-year-old to story time at the library dressed in Bud Light sunglasses.

I have learned there are a few things to consider when telling a joke about your child to strangers. First, don’t be mean for the sake of being mean. It’s also probably important to remember is everything is permanent these days. If you can get fired for a tweet, then a joke you make about your kid on a comedy album could probably be tracked down by her high school nemesis. Honestly, I don’t worry too much about this, because part of me would be flattered to still be relevant in 15 years. Most importantly, just don’t do anything too personal. When your kids are young, you don’t know which of their weird personality traits they are going to grow out of and which are going to define their lives, so it’s probably best not too go too deep.

It’s much easier to make fun of failures you share or something that’s (kind of) normal for kids.

For instance, my oldest daughter is currently into drawing. She learned how to draw stick figures, and she makes holes for the eyes, but she puts nothing in them, so they are just horrifying. She drew a “family picture” that makes us all look like soulless demons but it HAS to go on the fridge because that’s just how it works. That’s something you can joke about, because she’s going to get older and better at drawing.

And if she doesn’t, it’s because she’s possessed by the devil, and at that point you have some bigger concerns anyway.

Mark Chalifoux is a nationally touring standup comedian and a contributor to TheDad. His debut album, “Think Fast”, is set for release on August 17 and is available NOW on iTunes for pre-order.

5 Tips For Living A Long Life, As Told To My Kids At Bedtime

(Joel Willis)

At bedtime last night, the convo with my kids drifted to how to live a long life.

On the spot, I came up with the patent-pending “Joel Willis’ Top 5 Tips For Living A Long Life”. My daughter was so interested she wrote them down in the list pictured here. Or as The Dad Deputy Editor Ally Probst said, “lmao that your casual conversations with your kids involve lists.”

Let me break it down.

—–

5. Make friends with good people.

“You become the people you spend the most time with,” my daughter said right away. We’ve been over this before.

Even if you don’t notice it, you’re influenced by the people you hang out with. If they’re good people, it makes it easier for you to make good decisions. And consistently making good decisions is EVERYTHING.

4. Exercise

Never. Stop. Moving.

3. Eat healthy

You are what you eat. Nobody wants to be Ronald McDonald. He’s extremely creepy.

2. Don’t do drugs (includes smoking)

“Why do drugs exist if they’re so bad?” my son asked.

Most drugs were created to help people. Drugs can be used to reduce pain if you had surgery, for example. But if you misuse drugs when you don’t need them, you can die or become addicted, immediately.

1. Be careful with cars

When my kids are irrationally afraid of something and I want to calm them, I tell them, “Statistically you should be more afraid of texting and driving.” Not as effective as you’d think.

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us regularly do, but we do it so often we don’t take it as seriously as we should. When you’re driving, pay attention. When you’re a passenger, don’t distract the driver. And never get in the car with someone who is a bad driver or shouldn’t be driving. Take it seriously.

What Wrestling Taught Me About Being A Daddy, Dad, And Father

Gary Fehler

My boy skipped through the hallway at school the day we signed him up for wrestling. I may have skipped too.

When I was young, my father and I snaked up and down the highways of southern California through Saturday morning sunrises, heading to wrestling tournaments here or there. Just the two of us.

He’d kneel at the mat, take my hands in his, shake my arms to keep me loose, talk me through this or that—conversations I cannot recall but have surely repeated to my sons—and then yell throughout the match, “half nelson,” “drive him,” and “cradle.” He would greet me after the match to congratulate me or wrap his arms around me.

Wrestling highlighted for me the differences between being a daddy, dad, and father. “Daddy” is something a child cries out when it is hurt or scared. Dad is the guy you toss a baseball with. The first two are simple.

Playing the father is alien and unnatural. It’s the thing you do when you’re not quite sure what to do, so you try acting out what a sitcom father or self-help book father or maybe even your own father would do—moments when you’re lacking conviction.

The first time I felt like a father was two weeks after my son was born. We were attempting to get him to sleep in his crib, away from us, which required crying himself to sleep. I remember standing at his door. I stood rigid as he screamed his desperate little warble. Everything inside me—my DNA encoded with generation upon generation of daddies—begged me to tear the door from its hinges, rush to his crib, scoop him up, and tell him he was going to be all right. A synapse fired; a thought followed: He has to face it.

My son’s first wrestling match took place after just two practice nights. He got spun around, wrapped up, and pinned so fast he had no idea where he was.

Since then, he’s gone through ups and downs. He’s placed second at a pair of tournaments. He’s whimpered and cried through matches. He ran off the mat during one match because he had to go to the bathroom—maybe part wanting to give up and part stressing his stomach into knots. He cried to me in the hallway. He didn’t know wrestling was going to be like this. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go home. But he had to face it.

My wife and I talked that night. Seeing her son getting beaten up and in tears had forced tears of her own. She wanted him out.

My kid is a whiz in school. He’s not challenged there. The only opposition he faces outside of wrestling is trying to get out of going to bed. Wrestling challenges, frustrates, and even hurts him physically. But outside our home, outside the wrestling gym, parents are getting divorced, children are getting shot for going to school, kids are calling each other ugly. And one day when we’re not hurrying him to or from practice, he may stop and feel these things.

Part of my job is to protect him, and part of my job is to prepare him. Knowing which and when is the hardest part.

At one tournament, he lost his first match but not by much, and he wrestled hard the whole time. His second opponent was already crying before the match began. I told my son before the match, as I held his hands and shook his arms, that anything could happen, that he could beat this kid if he believed he could. And I told him, “Just this once, I want you to be mean.”

First, he got takedown points. Then he got escape points. He got reversal points and near fall points. He beat him. He felt good. The third and final match, he earned his first pin of the season, halfway through the second round to earn a second-place medal.

That night, I asked him how he’d done it, where he’d found that. He told me he gotten mean.

Sometimes parenting feels like a three-way cage match, pitting daddy, dad, and father against each other—different instincts and impulses. Then again, maybe we need all three.

Whoa: Apparently There’s A Lever On Your Steering Wheel That Allows You To Signal Which Way You’re Turning

(Getty/Zmaj88)

We at The Dad are suckers for a good car hack. Cleaning fog from a headlight with toothpaste and keeping a pizza hot with the seat warmers are one thing, but this one could very well be a gamechanger.

Apparently, there’s a lever protruding from the left side of every steering column that, when pushed in one of two directions, indicates to fellow motorists you intend to make a turn. Mind. Blown.

Picture this: you’re approaching a side road onto which you intend to turn. The car behind you is oblivious to this goal. What do you do? One option is to simply execute the turn and anticipate the driver behind you possessing some kind of otherworldly telepathic powers. This is one of the more popular techniques.

But those days are behind us, thanks to this cool hack from loyal Dad reader and driving enthusiast, Chris Velcroger.

(Getty/stockvisual)

“Just a cool little life hack I discovered recently,” Chris told us. “If you look to the left of your steering wheel, you’ll notice a stick extending from the steering column. Push it up or down and your headlights and taillights will begin flashing, signifying your intent to turn to other drivers. Pretty nifty.”

So neat! Chris, who also informed us over two million car crashes a year are a direct result of motorists failing to adequately telegraph the next move of what is essentially a two-ton steel bullet, suggests the signal stick may also come in handy while merging. Is this car hack too good to be true?

“Yeah, say you’re on the highway and want to move over a lane,” he continued. “This maneuver carries substantial risk, especially at speeds exceeding 70mph. It used to be I’d just jerk the wheel in hopes that all the vehicles surrounding me cruising at potentially fatal velocities knew instinctively that my exit was coming up. Now, I give the signal stick an almost effortless nudge and other commuters are made aware I’m about to suddenly put an entire automobile in the path of which they’re traveling at demonstrably lethal speeds. No big deal.”

(Know Your Meme)

So. Freakin’. Cool.

We looked into this relatively unknown hack and found that the signal stick, if pulled towards you, can make your headlights much, much brighter. At this time, no one we asked was sure how to turn this feature off.

5 Weird Reasons Children Explode And Ruin Everything

(Getty/Tim Graham/Contributor)

We all know that as parents, WE’RE supposed to be the ones in control. We may have even had the audacity to pass judgment on parents whose kids we witnessed having meltdowns BEFORE we were parents ourselves. IMAGINE. Once we have children of our own, we quickly realize that, occasionally, the little bundle of joy whom you love more than life itself is going to explode like a weapon of mass destruction.

This isn’t saying our kids are bad or that we’re inadequate parents, but being able to navigate the delicate mine fields that are our kids’ moods paired with outside forces you know, and forces you don’t, is virtually impossible. And like it or not, we can all say that we’ve been in the unfortunate position of standing over that stick of dynamite watching the seconds tick back from 10 to 0.

Here are just five of the weird reasons children explode and ruin everything:

(Getty/Jamie Grill/Tetra Images)

“You Got Him Something And Not Me!?” – GOD FORBID your son behaves for 18 minutes at the grocery store and you reward him with a $2 Hot Wheels car. Your daughter will pull out an Excel spreadsheet and a Powerpoint presentation with a full account of every item you’ve purchased for him AND NOT HER in the past 7 years. Always be prepared with a detailed list of the times SHE got something and her brother didn’t. Maybe keep your receipts on hand just in case.

(Getty/RubberBall Productions)

“I Said I Wanted Waffles Not Cereal!” – If your child has never done this, I’d love for you to come to my house so I can shake your hand because my kids pull this one on me regularly. I ask what they want for breakfast and when I bring them what they request, they insist that they asked for something else, as if I suddenly passed through a wormhole into another beakfast dimension where they don’t eat the same exact damn thing EVERY MORNING! In this case, you say, “Eat it or starve” and the situation seems to resolve itself.

(Getty/JGI/Jamie Grill)

“I Hate That Article Of Clothing That I Demanded You Buy For Me At The Kohl’s Checkout!” – Oh, you had your shit together and went out ahead of time to buy your daughter a new dress for her winter concert at school? WELL GUESS WHAT, when it’s time for her to put that dress on 8 minutes before you have to leave for said concert, NOT ONLY will she insist that it fits like OJ’s glove, she’ll also reveal that SHE HATES IT AND NO, SHE WAS NOT THE ONE WHO BEGGED FOR YOU TO BUY IT FOR HER. THAT WAS SOMEONE ELSE’S KID. Oh, and also, she never gets anything she wants either, so great job, Parent.

Socks and The Bus Stop – a memoir by Katey Johnson – Before I had kids, I thought socks were a civil invention by kind-hearted innovators who aimed to keep the toes of every man, woman and child warm. BUT OH NO, NO, that’s NOT the case at my house. Socks are the equivalent of little cotton piranhas in my house, especially when we have to be at the bus stop in 3 and a half minutes. My son screams like a howler monkey when it’s time to put his socks on and I usually pull up to the bus stop on two wheels like Bo and Luke Duke in the General Lee.

(Getty/Westend61)

Bedtime? Never Heard Of It. – Ah, that blessed time of day when your cherubs return to their beds and succumb peacefully to slumber. YEA RIGHT. NOT IN THIS FRIGGIN’ LIFETIME. When I tell my kids it’s time for bed they act like I’m speaking Swahili and even when I translate my English to a louder version of English, they’re still unable to process the concept as if they’ve never gone to bed a night in their lives. Like you’ve been raising them in an Acid House Rave circa 1993. No one goes to bed until you can produce every piece of published documentation on the internet and in the public library that says children need more than 3 hours of sleep in order to keep people from calling CPS on you.

Whether it’s a toddler or a tween, we’ve all been there. Our kids can have us sweating bombs like Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker in a moments notice. Experience is key, but the next best offense is to be prepared and stay alert so that we can combat every potential detonation they come at us with. May the odds be ever in our favor.

 

I Texted My Wife Jaden Smith Tweets For Nearly Two Years With No Explanation

(Joel Willis)

One day in spring 2016, I began randomly texting Jaden Smith tweets to my wife with no explanation. Over nearly 2 years, I sent her over 50 Jaden Smith tweets.

Here are some of my favorites…

May 26, 2016

Ah, the one that started it all. Not sure what’s funnier, that she never asked me about it again, or that she thought I was sending this to someone else? Who would I send this to? If I sent it to someone else, would it be LESS weird?

June 1, 2016

She has tiny little arms. Probably can’t do any pull ups. That’s why she didn’t respond.

July 1, 2016

I think it was about this time that she confronted me in person.“It doesn’t make sense,” she said.“

Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense!” I shouted and walked out of the room.

She never confronted me about them again.

July 20, 2016

Early on I made a decision not to alter the tweets in any way, which meant leaving that first letter capitalized. Maybe it was a give away? Maybe not. But I’m very method. I’m the Daniel Day-Lewis of text message pranks.

July 28, 2016

“K…any who’s”

August 8, 2016

It’s fun teen slang that means I’ll finish the mirror framing project this weekend.

December 27, 2016

“Not the answer i was looking for… Speaking of treadmills…”

January 4, 2017

Nobody actually calls me Scoop Life. ????

February 9, 2017

“I dunno. Maybe?”

March 13, 2017

I told her I dropped the needle on the record industrial complex for the 5th time this month while I bathed in sorbet. WHO JUST LETS THAT GO?

July 13, 2017

I sent this one on our 10th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. Probably won’t see 11. She’s gonna divorce me.

December 28, 2017

Just a lil math laundry. K

January 22, 2018

#CoolTapeVol2

February 7, 2018

On February 7, 2018, I left on a business trip. But the weather was bad so I was stuck on the tarmac for 2 hours. So I decided to end Jaden Tweet Texts once and for all.

First, I sent her the video that is currently Jaden’s pinned tweet

February 7, 2018

…and another strange image he posted.

February 7, 2018

I decided to spell it out. “Yep, I just ignore it”

February 7, 2018

“so random and anti climatic” is the story of my life… and Jaden Smith’s tweets.

Please take a moment to text a loved one a Jaden Smith tweet with no explanation. Screenshot the results and email [email protected]. I’d love to see it.

Getting In Tune: Creating Bonds Through Music

(Getty/Rushay Booysen/EyeEm)

I didn’t choose Neil Young’s “Razor Love” or Johnny Cash’s “For the Good Times” because I wanted to make my kids cooler. I simply didn’t know the words and melodies to a whole lot of lullabies. I figured if I could sing something in hushed tones, or better, hum, why couldn’t it be something out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame catalog? It just sort of happened, and then it happened again with my second son. Now each has a “special jam.”

One of the things I associate most with my father is music. I remember fingering the spines of his records in a hallway closet when I was seven or eight-years-old. I remember my first music purchase, a cassette of Van Halen’s 1984—one of his favorite bands at the time, with my soccer goal money. I remember being grounded for a whole month after pulling the emergency brake of the brand new Pontiac Firebird and ripping a gash on the driver side door, but being allowed to sit with my father for 43 minutes and 38 seconds, listening to The Who’s Who’s Next album—each silence between songs was filled with the things we wished we could say. I remember after my parents’ divorce, being the one kid to choose to stay with my father, and waking to the sounds of his windows rattling to The J. Geil’s Band’s “Musta Got Lost.”

Every year, for either his birthday or Father’s Day or Christmas, I’ll throw something at him; the Black Keys, the White Stripes, the Heartless Bastards, the Crooked Vultures, with the hope I can somehow repay him musically, usually to minor success.

Because of my father, my kids know the words to Chuck Berry’s “30 Days.” They know when to howl to Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves in London.” They also know (probably to my father’s chagrin) when to pump their fists to Bad Religion’s “Requiem for Dissent.”

Years into the future, when my oldest hears the opening line, “I’ve got to bet that your old man…” he’ll remember his father stroking his hair and humming in a night-light lit room. Maybe tears will stream down the face of my younger son as he hears Johnny Cash begin soft and low, “Don’t look so sad…”

I’m not attempting to manufacture melancholy or construct horcruxes of memory, rather I think that having something tangible or audible to bind memories to may come in handy in times of sorrow or struggle, something to remind them that their father is near or somewhere, tapping his foot, thinking of them. A song will remain and hold a piece of us, our time, a car ride, a reprieve from being grounded, a moment of bliss that they can turn to for comfort.

I hope that my children have no trouble remembering me. I hope that there is more to me than music when all is said and done, but I know memories fade far too quickly, and it doesn’t hurt to give them something to which they can anchor fond memories of time with their father.

The Day David Attenborough Ruined My Life

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Up until a few days ago, I lived a jovial and carefree life with my two sons, tossing the football in the front yard or reading Harry Potter inside blanket forts. That all changed when David Attenborough opened his big stinking mouth.

Recently, my little dudes and I have been on a Planet Earth kick. Every day I come home from work, catch my breath, and then we start Planet Earth II, something we did with the original series a while back.

The original Planet Earth was great. The second installment is more of what works, plus better visuals, like riding on the back of hawks or seeing more snow leopards. Then we get nature in new locations, like “Cities.” We also get a bolder David Attenborough, as each new episode ends with a rebuke directed at dumbass humans hell-bent on destroying the world.

In addition to his boldness, Attenborough gets a little racy in the final episode of the series, when he makes a joke about “sex in the city.” Now, about 80 percent of the show is devoted to some bird of paradise or earthworm trying to get its bone on, but nowhere in the series had the word sex been uttered.

“What is sex?” my seven-year-old son asks.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: The father thinks if he sits tremendously still, the questioner may move on.

“What is sex in the city?” my son follows up.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Not this time.

I froze during examination, like that scene from Jurassic Park, like maybe if I didn’t move, we could all just move along. My neck turned 180 degrees like a barn owl up at my wife sitting behind me. We matched “what do we do” looks.

I turned back around and said quietly to him, “We’ll talk about it later.”

Later that night, I whispered to my wife, “What do we do?” This was not a conversation I was looking forward to having, like, ever really. Definitely not before his eighth birthday. But I remember not ever having that conversation with my own father.

I didn’t want to jump the gun or start too soon like we did with Harry Potter—we got stuck on Goblet of Fire shortly after Mr. Muggle gets avada kedavred. But I thought if our kids were going to trust the option to talk to us—something I encourage all the time—we couldn’t just say, “We’ll talk when you’re older,” or ignore their questions. And I don’t really want some second grader explaining to my kid how peeing on girls gets them pregnant.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: To be clear, the human male must actually pee in a female to get her pregnant.

“All right, pal,” I said when we were alone. “Remember that question you asked me earlier?” I felt desperate to snake-shimmy out of my own skin. He didn’t remember until I said that word again—sex.

“Oh yeah.”

The plan was to go as far as he wanted to with the query. If he had one question and that was “what is sex?” then I would do my best to offer a first-grade-worthy explanation and be done with it. If he had more questions, I would do the same until he wearied of the topic. I tried to keep things simple—keep things to a Planet Earth, animal kingdom-type description of intercourse: “Sex is something that moms and dads do to have babies,” I said and thought, usually only on dad’s birthday.

“Oh,” my son said contemplating. And he had never looked older in his life. After a pause: “What is it?”

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: He’s in for it now.

“Okay, bud, well,” I said, “you know boy and girl bodies are different right?” I had to say the word penis and then say, well, you know girls don’t have those. He has a little sister, so he knows.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Haha. Penis.

At this point I kind of just blacked out and said something like “Well, boys and girls have different parts and they use them to make babies.”

He was quiet. I could tell he was a little uncomfortable and confused.

“Do you feel weird talking about it?” I asked.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: This young male is ready to move on.

We laughed and wrapped up the conversation. “Well, I just want you to know you can talk to me. If you ever have any more questions, I want you to come talk to me and not your buddies. And I don’t want you to talk to your brother (who is five). He can talk to me when he has his own questions.”

The talk (or chapter one of the talk) was uncomfortable, but it was a good learning experience for us both, and I really think now that we have a good base to build from. Things should only get easier from here.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: You could cut the naiveté with a bowie knife.

How Video Games Have Improved My Relationship With My Kids

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I remember getting a Nintendo for Christmas when I was a kid, the old Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt two-pack—that mocking dog. What I remember most is watching my dad—Mr. cool California sports guy—play Mario Bros. What a nerd. Every jump brought his hands from his lap to his chin. And there was a whole lot of jumping going on as he had to smash every single brick, just in case it was hiding something.

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That Nintendo lasted three weeks in our home. My parents said it was because we fought over who would play or because we didn’t do our chores, but I have a hunch it had something to do with Sir Bricks-A-Lot.

I continued to dabble in video games after that. I have a black belt in Mortal Kombat. I still have the highest score in the Warehouse on Tony Hawk Pro Skater. And like everyone else, I think I’m the best at MarioKart, ranging from Nintendo 64 to the Wii—only I really am. Video games are fun to play when there’s nothing else to do, but I have never personally owned a console. That is until now.

We decided to buy our sons a Super Nintendo for Christmas, and it has been really fun watching them watch me play it. We opted for the retro SNES, which comes with about 20 games, because they wanted a console, and we wanted to avoid any type of scenario that involved them sitting down cross-legged in front of a television whispering commands into a headset.

The only game my boysages 5 and 7and I play “together” is Zelda: Link to the Past. We’re averaging about 35 minutes a day. I sit in a chair, three feet from the screen, while they run to the fridge and pick out the coldest Dr. Pepper Ten they can find and then stand directly in front of me, covering the screen with their giant heads, and scream, “You’re gonna die.”

Honestly, they have been helpful. For starters, they remember things. I ask, “Where are the fairies? Where’s the place with the rupees? Where’s my freaking Dr. Pepper?” They don’t forget. And once they found out we could bomb walls or mountains, they’ve been all over that too. Throw a bomb! Throw a bomb! Any time we get a new tool or weapon. “Use the weapon! Use the weapon!”

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I like to think they’re learning from this experience. First, they’re learning teamwork. I play the game. Boy 1 gets the stool for my laptop to sit on. Boy 2 gets my Dr. Pepper. We all shout at the TV. We all high five after knocking out some monster. Another thing they learn is humility. If I can’t figure out what to do in a new dungeon within 30 seconds, they force me to acknowledge my stupidity and urge me to the computer to search the walkthroughs. And finally, I think they learn that their dad is really cool and good at stuff—that’s important.

As of this writing, we’ve journeyed through worlds light and dark, found heart pieces, found that damn buried flute, and finally found out how to save the game without purposely getting killed. I swear I hit SELECT two hundred times before it started giving us that option. We now stand at the entrance of the final castle with our Titan’s mitts ready to punch Ganon right in the nards.

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We’ve still got a ways to go—keys to find, swear words to mutter under my breath, deaths to blame on the big heads standing in front of me—but when our 16-bit adventure comes to a close, I like to think that they’ll remember this quest; the three of us, huddled shoulder to shoulder, working together, being buds—a fine return on overpaying for nostalgia.

My Kid Is An Alien And It’s Going Viral

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Every parent knows kids say some creepy stuff. But still, I was totally taken off guard by the super bizarro bomb my son, Jack, casually dropped on me from the back seat of the car on the way to his piano lesson.

I took to Twitter to share his comment because I was SHOOK and needed some moral support from the internet.

To my surprise, the tweet blew up. Who doesn’t love a good alien child, I guess? People were totally willing to believe his story, too. I expected people to say, “Haha, what a good imagination,” and calm me down, but most were just as creeped out as I was.

I got several responses of, “Gotta throw the whole kid away.” One person sent me this gif, which DID NOT HELP.

Once they were done creeping me out, people started begging for more info, so I asked Jack for more details.

I also shared some of his drawings from the past few days that were covering my dining room table, and now just seemed like more evidence that my son was not the human child I thought he was.

Jack’s story is pretty airtight, and he is sticking to it. I told him that thousands of people like that he’s a Planet Hunter, and while he is pleased by that, he doesn’t understand why so many people are fascinated by him. After all, he is just an extraterrestrial being entrusted into the care of humans until they return for him. It’s all very matter-of-fact to him.

For the record, he objects to me calling him an “alien” and insists on only being called a “Planet Hunter.” He says there are Planet Hunters on almost all planets in the universe, gathering information, but on some very stormy planets or planets with “no surface,” they send robots to retrieve information.

The greatest part of all of this, besides how happy my weird alien son is that people like his story, is that so many people related to it. A lot of people commented that their kids said weird stuff like this too, or that they felt they too were aliens not meant for this earth.

I just hope when the other Planet Hunters pick him up and ask for his gathered information, that he’s had a nice enough time here on Earth to give them a good report. I certainly do not want to piss of the Planet Hunters.