Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving weekend. I would like to give thanks for my two beautiful daughters and our extended family today.

We went to see our relatives in Utah for Thanksgiving. Janette is from a big wonderful Mormon family that was raised in Sunnyvale, California — the heart of Silicon Valley. She is the only member of the family who is no longer a church goer. But even though all four of her siblings were raised in California, they all live in the Salt Lake city metro now. This is because, for the most part, they all went to college in Utah, met spouses, had kids, and settled down there. The seemingly inevitable return to the mother ship of the Salt Lake metro for college age Mormons is something to behold — a natural, instinctive journey much like salmon swimming back upstream to spawn. I am sure they will love me very much for comparing them to salmon.

In any event, we sure love them very much. They are a lot of fun. My two girls had an absolute blast running around with all their cousins (and there are a lot of them…) for five days. We stayed at Grandma’s house. (Janette’s mom moved to the Salt Lake metro after her husband died, because all but one of her children lived out there.) We even visited Great Grandma (almost 90 years old and still kicking ass, although again, she probably wouldn’t word it that way). The girls’ great grandmother has lived in the same little house for almost 70 years. I’m not kidding. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a little brick house, about 1,200 square feet, right in Salt Lake City. Can you imagine the memories your home would conjure — not to mention the sense of home and security — if you had lived in it for 70 years? You would have memories of being in your twenties and being in your eighties, all at the same address. Amazing.

Watching Sidney and Riley connect with their cousins — who they hadn’t seen in almost two years — was the absolute best part of the trip. Their cousins are all boys except one girl — eight kids in all. They are really nice kids. Sidney absolutely astounds me in her ability to make good close friendships. Her kindness and love knows no bounds, and people pick up on this right away, even little boys. With apologies for sounding like a lovestruck daddy, it really is true. Sidney loves to roughhouse and run and play with little boys — she definitely has a tomboy streak in her. But she also always ends up getting the big boys to happily hold hands with her when we’re walking down the street at night in the cold — she runs around and plays with them in the boys’ world, then gets ’em to soften up and be sweet to her and join her in the girls’ world every once in a while. I see her accomplish this feat all the time. It’s just amazing to me, especially considering that Sidney can also be rather shy. She does not immediately go up to people like her extroverted father and just grab them into her world immediately. She takes her time at first, but everyone — boys, girls, adults — always ends up wanting to be her friend. I am quite certain that Sidney will be a girl who creates lasting, close lifelong friendships, and I’m really grateful for that.

Riley is our little firecracker. She’s just turned three and she’s at pretty much the cutest age imaginable. Riley is our little rebel, our flirt, our Little Miss Contrary (she thinks it’s funny to disagree with everything with a little twinkle in her eye, and everyone else thinks it’s funny too). Riley easily becomes the life of the party — she is more of a ham than Sidney. She “scared” her big cousins all the week long by sneaking up on them and saying “Boo!” I saw this happen hundreds of time, and her big cousins never got tired of it, always feigning great terror, which elicited a big boisterous giggle from Riley. Riley is so cute, and so full of boundless positive energy, that she can pretty much get anyone to do anything, and they’re happy to do it. Riley pretty much believes the world exists for her amusement. She is full of love, but less caring and sensitive than Sidney. Sidney wants to make sure everything and everyone is all right with things before she does something; Riley says “what the hell,” jumps in, and assumes everyone will follow. As Janette says, Sidney is our “Why?” girl, while Riley is our “Why not?” girl.

And the fact that these two little girls, so different yet so similar, consider each other best friends is the ultimate icing on the cake.

Anyway, we loved our vacation, Janette’s family is big and warm and fun and great, and it reminded me how fantastic it is to have a big extended family full of kids. We have always made sure to visit Janette’s family in Utah at least once a year; now that I see how enriching it is to the lives of my kids, I am even more committed to seeing them on a regular basis. It makes me a little sad to think that the kids have no cousins on my side of the family (my brother died when we were in high school), but we do have second cousins on my side, and some fantastic uncles and aunts, and it made me want to make sure we stay connected with them too, to give my kids the feeling of a big family on my side too. They are already asking when we’ll go back to Grandma’s to see their cousins. They just loved it. And I just love them.

The end of the Thanksgiving blog.

More About Barfing

It seems like I’ve done an awful lot of writing about barfing in this blog. I swear it’s not because I have a fondness for yakking. It’s simply because I have a three year old and a five year old, and everybody who has young kids knows that, with kids of that age, barfing will be a part of your life.

Why do kids barf when they get sick more often than adults do? This is something I want to know. Is it because they haven’t gotten all the stuff yet, so they get it worse? Or maybe it’s because they run around at preschool with other kids who are sick, and they all pick their noses and grab each other and stuff. I have never visited my girls’ preschool when at least one child’s face was not covered in a delightful concoction of snot and slobber. And the kids don’t even seem to notice it. They are delightfully and disgustingly not self conscious. All I know is that, if there is ever a cure for the common cold and flu, parenting will be a very different experience.

So here is that experience: When your child gets the flu, they throw up. They might say their tummy hurts first — maybe — but they go around running and eating and playing anyway until they throw up all over your nice carpet. It’s almost never over the hardwood or tile. It’s always over the carpet. Or the car carpet. Then, after they throw up, and you clean it up — this is one of the coolest things about kids — they play and run around again and do pursue their interests until they throw up again. Adults who throw up bitch about it and lie low and feel sorry for ourselves and make sure we focus on how horrible we feel. (We also make sure everyone else knows how horrible we feel.) Not kids. They get up and do their thing until it’s time to barf again. So, as a parent, after a child yaks, you try to herd them toward the hardwood and tile for the next few hours.

I have a confession to make: On the morning of Riley’s third birthday party, she threw up. She was feeling great, and then bingo! She threw up. Then she said she felt fine after, and got back to playing. Let me tell you, my Riley’s nobody’s pansy. We didn’t know if she was sick, or had eaten some bad food, or what.

So this presented an interesting dilemma. We had already invested several hundred dollars to reserve time at one of the beloved bounce house warehouse heavens that can be found in every suburban district of the fine state of Colorado. We’d invited her friends. They’d bought her gifts. We paid good money for a rather freakish Barbie cake (featuring a real Barbie in the middle of the cake, and the cake as her dress — there’s something uncomfortably erotic about that, isn’t there?). Riley had been paying homage to this particular Barbie cake every grocery trip to Super Target Greatland for the better part of the year. She was totally committed to it. Now, two hours before her party, she throws up. What to do?

So we hastily assembled a crack team of experts to determine our course of action: A good friend and pediatrician (mother of three) who lives in another state who will remain nameless; a local mom; and a family of four (two young sons) to whom I randomly posed the question in the check-out aisle at target that morning (admittedly, I was fairly desperate for a third consultant to get an adequate sampling of opinion). The question: Cancel the party, keep Riley home but let her friends go to the party, or just forget the yakking and go for it? The answer was surprisingly and vociferously unanimous: Go for it. So, no longer feeling responsible for our own actions due to the firmly stated opinions of these unpaid and unaccountable consultants, we went for it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re getting ready for a painful and hilarious Barforama At Sir Bouncealots story. That is certainly what would happen in the film version of this tale. In that version, nobody would escape dry. But in reality, the results were more subtle, more inconclusive. Riley did not throw up. She was rather low energy as compared to her usual self, but did not yak. Not even once. Nobody seemed to notice that Riley was not allowed to eat her own Barbie cake, a major accomplishment on her mother’s part. The party was a success.

Then, that afternoon, Riley and Sidney both barfed. And then, of course, they went back to playing. But in truth, they didn’t feel well for several days after that. So the mystery was resolved: It was an illness of some sort, and we were probably socially irresponsible by taking our girls to the party. (Remember, it was not our fault — our crack team of consultants are totally and completely to blame.) I have laid low for a while from checking in with our friends over the last few weeks, for fear that I would find that everyone was barfing and learn that it was all our fault for being selfish and holding the party anyway. If you or your child has recently barfed on account of our family’s decision making prowess or lack thereof, please send a complaint to our customer service department at barfing@pictoriarecords.com, “attn: Cory.”

The presents were nice, though. (Sorry, I had to put that in, just to bask in as much irresponsibility as possible.)

In any event, God, nature, and the tooth fairy have punished us for our sins: Janette had a nasty and unrelenting yakfest on Monday night that just barely kept her out of the hospital, so she got hers. Then she left on a business trip 36 hours later, leaving me with the kids and no babysitter for 48 hours… at which point I, of course, got nasty sick to my stomach for the second of those days, with no reinforcements and two kids to take care of. So I got mine. But, and I say this with great pride, it is now almost 48 hours after my stomach fell sick, and even though I have felt like crap for most of it — I haven’t yakked. Not even once. And, while I can’t explain this intellectually, I can tell you that, emotionally, I feel great pride in this accomplishment, as if I have somehow partially defeated the yak monster. I will let you know next week if my victory sustains over the entire course of my flu. And I will boldly and arrogantly predict right now that I will defeat the monster.

As a direct challenge to the yak monster, and with a groaning stomach, I am now going to fearlessly eat a burrito my wife made for dinner. You never know what will inspire a man to challenge himself and assert his manliness. This is this week’s challenge.

Wish me luck.

Get Well Soon

One of the things every parent learns quickly is that, even with great family discipline and organization, all calender planning falls under the category of “under ideal circumstances…” I had an enormous amount of success on my first Doctor Noize tour in California, and came home all excited to jump back to work and take advantage of the great momentum the tour’s success had given me. Instead… After being gone for three weeks, I seem to lose at least a few work hours every week since returning to family needs or illness.

First, we returned home to realize there was less than a week left on the warranty of our new home. So there were a few days of work checking everything in the house, making warranty claims, overseeing repairs, etc. Then, of course, there was the pile of three weeks’ worth of mail to get to — bills, etc. — which actually was more like a month of mail, because the week before we left was rather hectic. And, of course, the 776 emails I had amassed after being gone for a few weeks. (I’m down to 487 emails as of this writing…)

Fine. I sucked it up and took several days of work to do all that. Great. Mostly done, full speed ahead with the career, tomorrow morning I’m back to work, getting back on that momentum of success and good will from the tour… And that night, Riley (almost three years old) gets croup. This keeps us up fairly late, and then my wife pulls a super mom and decides to hold Riley in her arms all night, in the reclining rocking chair, next to the open window to help her breathing. So they get the best sleep they can. Way to go, mom! But, of course, the next day (Monday), Riley is too sick to go to school, Mom has meetings all day for work, so dad… Takes care of Riley. This is, of course, the same day I’m supposed to be heavily involved in the final day of book production before manufacturing the first Doctor Noize book. The book ends up done several days behind what was already several days behind schedule, and this costs me: XM Kids Radio was going to plug the book that weekend, but I was no longer sure the book would be ready in time for Christmas (a direct result of the lost work time over the last week), so I couldn’t give them the official info on the book in time for them to talk it up when they rebroadcast my CD last weekend. Bottom line: An opportunity lost.

This was frustrating stuff, so I made a wise decision and actually kept to it quite nicely: I decided to accept and forget these lost opportunities on Monday morning, and simply enjoy the unexpected day off of work to spend doing quiet and mellow things with my beautiful little Riley and her bad cold. And she was a wonder — low energy but high spirits, lots of hugging and reading books, napping in my arms a bit, taking a walk around the neighborhood on daddy’s shoulders, making me fall in love with her again. They way I see it, if you’re gonna lose something — work time, a business opportunity, some money probably — you might as well gain something out of it too. And getting to be with Riley and expecting to accomplish nothing else that day was, as they say, “nice work if you can get it.”

Before I get too gooey on the sentimentality, though, I will offer this reality check: Sure, it’s nice work, but if I do that kind of work too much, we’ll have to sell the house and live in a fine, upstanding tent in the hills somewhere soon. But there are times in parenting when, despite the fact that you really really were scheduled to do something very important for your career, your kid will need something, and there will be nobody but you to do it. At that point, you can either feel great stress over this lost opportunity, or you can let it go and realize it just wasn’t meant to be. And in a way, there is no greater feeling than truly getting to this point for a day, and realizing that you are happily sacrificing one of your goals to nurture the life of your little Action/Adventure Superhero Who Is Currently On Injured Reserve until she is good to go full speed again. So if you’re gonna take a loss, you might as well do it right, and embrace the gain too.

Still, my beautiful Riley, and I mean this both for your sake and for mine: Get well soon.

Reality

The fragility of life presented itself this week as a friend in her thirties unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke and passed away, leaving behind her husband and three year old daughter. Two weeks earlier, she had taken her daughter to a Doctor Noize show in California, and I had gotten to see them after almost a year away from the Bay Area. Little did any of us know that would be the last time we’d see each other.

I have experienced deaths of loved ones and friends before. My father and brother both died when I was in high school. In those experiences, I felt great sadness and loss, but also great opportunity for growth and appreciating what I have. I miss my brother and father to this day, but have sincerely used the lessons I learned from their deaths as a challenge and opportunity to grow and learn and love life. Most of my life was still in front of me when they passed away.

I find it more difficult to find opportunities for growth or knowledge or appreciation in this case. Maybe I have lost a bit of my strong-willed youthful insistence on drawing something valuable from each difficult experience. But there simply seems to be nothing good or fair or valuable about nature, fate or God taking a good mother from a three year old girl. My wife and I have spoken of it a lot since it happened, and we are at a loss for a valuable meaning or lesson from this occurrence. Sure, we want to appreciate what we have and value each day we have together. That’s a given, an obvious lesson from all this. But that’s about us. What about this beautiful little three year old girl? She is not old enough to draw such a lesson. The memory of her mother will simply fade away with time. The lessons she learns in life will have little to do with the wonderful woman who was her mother. And the only thing I can constructively do to respond to that thought is to cry. So here I am, writing this momentarily pausing to literally cry like a little boy with no answers.

The thing is, the unpredictable circle of life and death seemed more acceptable to me before I was a parent. Until my early thirties, I was the young generation, I was the child, I was responsible for myself, my wife, my friends, all the people my age or older who I cared about. But this event makes me feel differently. I feel great sorrow for this child, and I also suddenly feel great personal fragility and fear — what would happen to my beautiful girls if I suddenly, unexpectedly died tomorrow? Who would be there for them like I know I will? And the answer is: nobody. Nobody like I would, or like this girl’s mother would have. Sometimes, a loss is just a loss. There is no gain.

And suddenly, as a parent who feels a great responsiblity to my children and who has now seen a few friends die and leave their kids behind, I understand on a much deeper level the pain my parents felt when my brother died in his teens. It was just a loss. There was no great gain or lesson or insight for them — no “go live your life to the fullest and pursue your dreams in honor of your brother, young man.” There was just a loss. My father felt so inexplicably guilty about this loss that he didn’t even last a year after my brother’s death.

I will write about that some other time. But not tonight. For now, please think good thoughts or say a prayer for a little three year old girl and her daddy in California. They have some challenging times ahead of them. I hope those of us in their circle of friends can give a little more than we would have otherwise. But I realize it won’t be anything like she would have gotten from her mom.

So now, as I write that obvious and not very insightful fact, here I go again. Sometimes crying, and learning to accept the loss, is the only solution for a while.

If you love someone: Tell them.

I Gotta Run

So, one of the things that you notice about being an involved father or a teacher (I’ve done both) is that you get sick more. This is because you are essentially living your life in a giant petri dish. You are part of a group of people who are happy to get messy and wipe that mess on each other. This is sort of a drag, but the little snots are worth it.

The latest example of this is the plague that has wreaked havoc on my kids’ preschool the last month or so. The school is called Creme de la Creme (I know, I know, we’ll talk about that name some other time, but the reality is my kids love it there, I personally chose it after visiting five other schools twice each, and I am grateful to the school for what it does for my babies…)

So over the last month, just about every kid and parent at the school has caught what has become lovingly referred to as the “Creme Crud.” It’s an upset stomach, the runs, some experience a bit of a barforama, everybody who gets it has to go to the bathroom about once an hour for a few days. Then you’re back to business as usual. It was so contagious that a large percentage of the school was out the first week, and they started quarantining classes of kids who hadn’t caught it yet.

This didn’t work — they all still got it, and all the parents I know at the school got it too. I went a month without getting it, and I was pretty proud of myself, thinking I must be super strong and resilient. Foolish pride will always be your undoing. I thought I was home free until I played a Doctor Noize show for the great kids at Creme de la Creme on Friday, and then yesterday…

If you’ll excuse me, I gotta run.

This One Doesn’t Go To Eleven

Let’s talk Big Numbers.

Here is a great thing Riley (2 1/2) did the other night at dinner. She was counting on her fingers. “One, two, three, four… ten!” As everyone knows, little kids counting on their fingers is very cute. I could watch her do that over and over again and not get bored. Okay, I have watched her do it over and over again without getting bored. But then she animatedly and excitedly added a new insight…

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… Ten… And… There’s no eleven there, Daddy! Look Mommy! There’s no eleven there!

So, unlike in Spinal Tap (if you haven’t seen Spinal Tap, you owe it to yourself to rent it…), this one does not go to eleven.

That’s my girl.

Here’s a great Big Numbers thing Sidney did. It was about a year ago now, but I didn’t have a blog then, so I’ll tell you now. I was reminded of it the other night with Riley’s Big Numbers Epiphany.

Sidney was getting excited about her age, and the ages of girls she admired who were a few years older, and how every year we all get to have a birthday and get a year older. Usually we also get to have some sort of birthday party — except, of course, those years in which we as adults become foolish enough to lament our birthdays as one more step toward our inevitable doom rather than celebrate them as reminders of our birth. In that case, we stop having birthday parties and hope nobody notices it’s our birthday, which is, of course, just sad.

But hey, kids don’t have this sadness — they can’t wait for their birthdays because of the sweets and presents involved, and because they get to be the center of attention, and as adults we’d be wise to rekindle this insight every year and get with the program like we did when we were younger. Sure, on your birthday you’re a year older and a year closer to your death — but isn’t that stark insight all the more reason to at least get something out of it and let the people you know kiss your ass for a day and feed you junk food? I sure as hell think so.

Anyway, I’ve digressed but I’m back on topic: Sidney was interested in the concept of birthdays. So Mommy and Sidney were talking about how she was going to turn four years old soon. Sidney thought that sounded pretty big and mature and cool. Then Mommy told Sidney that Daddy was 36 years old. Sidney gasped — awestruck, dumbfounded, impressed, in disbelief. And then she exclaimed:

“That’s a lot of getting older!”

Uh-huh.

Your old friend,

Cory

My Dinner Date With George

Okay, okay, so it’s Tuesday, and I’m supposed to post a Scene From Fatherhood every Friday. Well, here’s what happened on Friday: I picked up my three babes at the airport after they’d been away since Monday. So all day Friday after I picked them up, I played with said babes. And I forgot to write a Scene From Fatherhood because I was too busy living one. Sorry about that.

I can’t really remember the details of what we did on Friday, except that we had fun and my two girls and I had a bath in the big master bath before they went to bed. After the bath, we took a shower. You know, just because. My girls are suddenly very interested in taking a shower — they think it’s cool to walk through the water as it comes down from the spout. And guess what? It is cool. In fact, it’s especially cool to be with people who are young enough to think it’s fascinating to take a shower. Because they’ve only had a shower a few times in their life. The first few times they showered, they were a little fearful of it, and wanted to be held. But now, they want to walk in and out of the water and, of course, paint the water condensation on the glass door with their toothbrushes. Don’t you do that in the shower? If not, you should — I have learned it is a quite enjoyable, albeit temporary, artistic endeavor.

So my week without my girls was fairly lonely, as I predicted, but also as predicted, both Jack Bauer and I made it through. Jack killed more guys than I did, though. In fact, truth be told, I didn’t kill anybody. And nobody tried to kill me. I can’t say the same for Jack — the poor dude is always on somebody’s hit list. But I did a pretty good job of almost getting myself to bed on time, and I obsessively worked. I worked, exercised, played a few sports, and spent about ten minutes total every night eating dinner standing up at the kitchen counter in front of the soccer channel. Actually, not every night…

On Wednesday night, as promised to our wives, my friend George and I went to have dinner at Hooters. George has two daughters the same age as ours, and his wife and kids are visiting relatives in Korea for four weeks. Four weeks! And I was all pouty about being away from my family for five days. Pathetic. Anyway, we went to Hooters for dinner on Wednesday. I know you’re impressed, ladies. In any event, ladies, you will be even less impressed with my character when I tell you that, truth be told, George and I were not that impressed with the entertainment value — I mean waiting staff — at Hooters. I feel badly saying this, because they were all very nice young ladies, but — how should I put this? — they did not look like the buxom blonde bombshells in the Hooters ads and brochures.

Now, I had not been to a Hooters in about a decade — having once been to one in Florida in the nineties — and I suppose my expectations of a Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson approaching us as our waitress and suggestively asking what we’d like this evening was a bit too much to ask. In fact, next time, perhaps George and I should just order a pizza and rent a few episodes of Baywatch. It’s just a thought. George astutely speculated that perhaps Wednesday nights was the “B Team.” (Ladies, I can give you George’s email address for your direct responses to this truly horrifying albeit hilarious comment. Did I say hilarious? Of course, I didn’t think it was hilarious. I was laughing at, um, something else.) I can’t say for sure whether his observation holds any water. I suppose that, in the name of research and thoroughness, we’ll have to go back sometime on a Saturday to know for sure. I’ll keep you posted.

This entry has officially lowered the bar on “Scenes From Fatherhood.” And sometimes, that’s just the way life is.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Cory

What Would Jack Bauer Do?

Hello,

Well, next week I am going to have to be a big boy again — I’m all on my own for most of the week. Janette is going to company meetings all week in the Bay Area, and my girls are staying at their grandparents there too. So from the time I drop them off midday Monday, until the time I pick them up Friday afternoon, it will just be me in this big house working working working. It is true that I’m at a point where I have a backload of work to do for my entrepreneurial business, so I suppose it’s a good time for me to have no other responsibilities but work. But I will miss my girls — in fact, this will be the longest time I will have ever been without the three of them.

Not unlike my Hawaii trip a while back, I am going to use this as an opportunity to prove to myself that I still have a life, and am a functional and useful human being, even without my girls. That is probably a lie, but I’m gonna try to live that dream for five days this week. For starters, I have rented the first eight episodes of “24 Season 5” on Netflix. This is a man’s show if there ever was one.

The Counter Terrorism Unit’s Jack Bauer would never admit to sissy boy loneliness when his family was on vacation, and god damnit, I’m not gonna act lonely either. Jack makes a decision, and then he commits to it with ruthless efficiency without second guessing himself. He saves U.S. citizens and Presidents alike, always sacrificing his own personal fulfillment in the process, without so much as a request for a commendation from the government or its peoples. It’s a trait I’ve always admired in Jack, for four seasons running now.

So I’m gonna be like Jack and not complain about my lot either. Jack, you go experience great personal trauma to save the country, and I’ll hold up my end of the deal by not complaining about my girls being gone, and we’ll meet up every night at 10 PM after work for an episode of Season Five while they’re away. It’s a deal.

There are, of course, things I can do next week that I can’t do with all my chicks around. For example, my friend George (whose wife and two daughters are also out of town) and I swear we’re going to dinner at Hooters in Denver on Wednesday night. Now, knowing George and me, this will probably never happen — we’ll probably just hang around and watch sports on TV, or go see the new Simpsons movie or something instead. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll work up the courage to go out and be lecherous bastards for an evening. I’m rooting for us. I hope it happens. But history indicates it probably won’t.

Would Jack Bauer go to Hooters on Wednesday night? This is the philosophical question that has preoccupied my mind this morning. I can see the pros and cons to Jack going. I will try to glean answers to this question from the episodes I watch Monday and Tuesday nights before making my decision about Wednesday.

I’ll let you know.

Sincerely,

Cory

Sick As A Dog

Hi,

I’m sick as a dog today. Nasty head cold. The pressure in my ears is absolutely killing me, even drugged up on Advil and Sudafed. So please feel sorry for me. By the way, where did the expression “sick as a dog” come from? I can’t remember many dogs who were sick. And they certainly never whine about it like I just did. This leads via stream-of-consciousness to one of my great insights in life:

If more people were more like dogs, the world would be a better place. Dogs are loving. They love to exercise. They keep in shape. They are honest. They show their joy and their fears without fear of ridicule. They enjoy a fine meal like nobody’s business. And they are potty trainable.

Dogs don’t bitch about their situation in life as much as people do (no pun intended). They know that food, exercise, a strong work ethic, play, interaction with others and love are all that is really necessary in life. So, by all means, hug a dog today. Unless you’re allergic. In that case, find a dog and shower it with praise. It will only vaguely understand your epiphany, but it will humor you anyway — dogs are empathetic and kind that way.

My point is this: In a pinch, if you haven’t read all the parenting books, then just pretend that your kid is a dog, and raise the child thusly, and that kid will probably turn out all right. Don’t get too overwhelmed by all the other details.

It’s funny being a parent and being sick. I try to act all macho and not whine to my kids about it. Then, when the kids go to bed, I instantaneously shed my machismo facade and look for sympathy and hugs from my wife. She is a good woman, that Janette. So here’s a big shout-out to the babe I’ve built my life around: Thanks for the hugs.

Until next time,

Cory

Straight Talk From The Smart Set

Here is one of my favorite conversations with one of my favorite kids. The names of those involved have been changed in order to protect the guilty…

My kids and I were hanging out with one of our little buddies. Let’s call him Ulysses. We’re at our house playing. Ulysses’ parents are not with us. Out of the blue, Ulysses says to me, as if he is about to unravel the truth about one of the world’s great wonders to me, thrilled that he possesses this wondrous knowledge:

“Hey Cory, you know what? I have to tell you something!”

“Yes, Ulysses, what is it?” I said.

“Cory!”

“Yes.”

“My parents… My parents…” he paused for dramatic effect.

“Yes?” I said.

“BOTH of my parents PICK THEIR NOSE!” he proclaimed proudly.

“Ulysses,” I said, looking him in the eye with great respect for the deeper bond that was just forged between us, “on behalf of both of your parents and myself, I want to thank you for sharing that with me.”

As usual, this incident reminded me of several insights that we tend to forget as adults, particularly in our interactions with other adults. The first is that honesty is cathartic, and kids are far, far more honest than adults. Sure, I know that kids will often exaggerate or lie to cover up mistakes they’ve made or massive gaps in their knowledge. Adults do that too. But kids also really, really want to share personal and private bits of information — you know, the things we try to hide as adults.

Imagine for a moment how much easier your emotional life would be if, instead of hiding your less impressive moments in life, your questionable thoughts, and your emotional baggage, storing it up inside, you just shared it immediately with everybody as you experienced it. If you didn’t fear the consequences of other adults’ reactions, and the thoughts they’d form about you, you’d probably do just that — share them and get them out there, then move onto the next feeling, thought or event in your life. So for one, I am greatful that kids I know feel comfortable sharing information with me — it means they trust I’ll love them anyway.

Ulysses’ mom is one of the few adults I know who often shares whatever is on her mind, even if it does not always paint the most pristinely perfect picture of her — and it’s one of my favorite things about her. It’s like a breath of fresh air in the adult world. Kids do this a lot more than adults.

And on that note, I will take the cue and state for the record, right here and now, that nosepicking is one of the great underrated simple pleasures in life. I tend to only engage in nosepicking in private — so, for example, my kids won’t tell you all about it when they come over to your house — but engage in it on occasion I do. It is less addictive than alcohol and it doesn’t make you drunk, it is easy to clean, it adversely affects nobody as long as you don’t pick so hard that your nose bleeds (my daughter Sidney sometimes does that), and frankly, it clears your nasal passageways for less money than a shot of saline solution. So I would like to invite all readers to pause for a moment to enjoy the enlightened mining of a fine booger nugget right now — but please do wash your hands before you touch the keyboard or mouse again.

The second insight is that kids love the simple joy of sharing experiences and knowledge with friends. When adults (particularly men) share knowledge, it is often in order to impress others with what we know (particularly when we’re sharing it with women). Sure, there’s an element of that with kids — ‘I know something that you don’t know, ain’t I cool?’ But there’s also this fantastic joy of sharing deep and meaningful information with each other. My 2 1/2 year old daughter Riley, for example, loves to share with me all sorts of information, just to make sure we’re on the same experiential page.

“Daddy?” Riley will say.

“Yes, Riley?”

“The man is driving the orange tractor!” Riley will say.

“He is?” I’ll say.

“Yes Daddy, look, the man is driving the orange tractor!”

“He is! That looks really fun,” I’ll say.

Riley will pause to think about this for a moment, then say:

“Daddy?” (She always waits for my response to make sure I’m listening. If I don’t respond, she will repeat: “Daddy?”)

“Yes, baby.”

“That looks really fun for the man to drive the orange tractor.”

And so she has incorporated my thoughts on the subject into her thoughts on the subject, we have shared information, and we are closer. She’s like a wonderful, engaged color commentator on life combined with a very, very active listener. It’s the best of both worlds — giving and receiving in a conversation — and because of this, I love talking to Riley about anything.

And in this way she inspires me to try to be a better person. I try to be like Riley now when I talk to other people, kids or adults. Somebody who really gives and really listens in a conversation. It’s hard for me — and most adults — to remember to be that way. It’s easy for Riley.

Boy do I love her.

Until next time,

Cory