Monday, August 22, 2005


In Which I Go Off The Guidebook...

Just this weekend, I committed yet another act of terrible parenting.

This is in addition to neglecting my daughter and exploiting my son to further my own naked ambition to Have A Blog With Even More Traffic, to quote my second-favorite e-mail from one of Art Lad's many online surrogate parents.

(My most favorite e-mail? That would be from the person who accused me of "making Thomas up." Well guess what? I DID make him up. And Her Lovely Self helped. We spent the first two months of 1998 making that kid up. Nice work if you can get it...)

At this rate, I should be inducted into the Bad Dad's Hall of Fame before the year is out. I--

Wait. Let me back up...

Like pretty much everyone else with offspring, my own personal guidebook, How To Raise My Kids is composed of the following:

--Things I Learned From My Parents
--Things I Learned From My Parents That I Swore I Would Never Do To My Own Children (But Did Anyway Because, Hey, They Worked)
--Brand-New Strategies of My Own Devising
--Things I Learned While Recovering From My Latest Parenting Fuck-Up (see "Brand-New Strategies")

(Obviously, Her Lovely Self carries the same manual, but with somewhat different strategies. In cases where our strategies don't match, the person who carried the child around in an ever-expanding bag of water inside their abdomen for nine months wins.)

One of the things I learned from my parents--well, my mom--was how to deal with sick children. When I was little, if you were sick, you were sick, man. You were confined to bed until your temperature returned to normal. While this meant you could get a day off from school or chores if you had the merest 99-degree temperature, it also meant you were in for a pretty boring day, unless you'd had the forethought to hide comics under your pillow. If my mom heard you get out of bed, she was on you like a store detective on a shoplifter. You were not allowed out of bed except to go to the bathroom or to throw up (and even that was frowned upon, as my mom always positioned a lined wastebasket at the bedside for that eventuality). You weren't allowed to sit on the floor and play with your toys (floors were breeding grounds for pneumonia-inducing drafts) and you most certainly weren't allowed to recline on the living room couch and watch TV (not even PBS). Going outside was beyond my mother's consideration (possibly beyond her comprehension). This policy held true year-round, even in the event of summer colds.

Now, I'm not saying Mom wasn't justified. As children, my brother and I rarely got "a little" sick. I could go from a normal temperature to a he's-delirious-get-the-ice-packs fever in the space of a television program. My brother was so prone to stomach viruses that his most common method of announcing illness was with the sudden, guttural and always unexpected cry of, "I'm gonna beLUUUUURRRRAAAAPP!" If you had one son who could ruin an episode of Three's Company by going red and screaming that the walls were melting, and another who could be counted on for projectile vomit one out of every 7 times he opened his mouth, you too might adopt an all-bed sick policy.

Life must have been nice growing up at Her Lovely Self's house (aside from the oppressive guilt trips and total erosion of self-confidence, I mean). When HLS or her sisters were sick, they pretty much got to set up camp on the family room sofa and watch cartoons all day. They got to sit on the floor. In the case of colds suffered in warmer weather, they even got to (gasp!) sit outside.

So when a recent flu bug swept through the Magazine Mansion like a viral freight train, you can bet that bed was the place my kids spent the least amount of time. When his temperature hit 103 last week, Thomas spent just a few hours of one afternoon and a chunk of the next morning lying in his room, and trust me, that was a record. He was sick, to be sure, but the rest of the time, he stayed on the sofa under a layer of blankets, paper and magic markers.

Over the course of the week, his fever burned itself out. By Saturday, he was simmering at a modest 99 and feeling very much more chipper. By Sunday, he still had that 99 fever, but insisted that he was completely cured.

"Are you just saying that so you can go to the party?" I asked. Sunday, see, was the day of our end-of-summer block party, when all the kids in the neighborhood would mainline Kool-Aid and scream and run around like crazy people. With anguish moist and fever dew, my son insisted he was well enough to go. All his friends would be there, including Alyssa, the first-grade equivalent of La Belle Dame sans Merci. In my head, How To Raise My Kids was emphatically open to the section marked Things I Learned From My Parents, and the entry on sick children burned in neon red. I honestly didn't think we should go and said so.

"Of course we're going," said Her Lovely Self, looking at me as though I was the one who was sick.

"He still has a fever..." I said.

"Only a little one. And every kid in the neighborhood has had this bug over the past month. Besides, it's the last big party before school starts."


"I've already made cupcakes," she said, as if that settled everything.

I'm telling you, it was a real dilemma for me. Never mind that it was a warm, sunny afternoon. Never mind that my son would almost certainly be just fine. Technically, he was still sick. I mean, even the school nurse, in her regular series of self-important hand-outs, is forever reminding parents not to send kids back to school until they've had a normal temperature for at least 24 hours. And now, here we were, contemplating sending my son (and the Brownie, who was starting to look a little flushed) outside. Outside to a party. Outside to a party, with a fever (okay, I took his temperature before we left and it was 98.8. But still!)

I say "we," but of course I was the only one doing any contemplating. In less time than it takes to tell, my family was assembled in the driveway, loading up a wagon with lawn chairs and a tin of chocolate-frosted cupcakes crawling with viral death.

Her Lovely Self gave me The Look, Version 2.5 (1 part Pity, 2 parts Exasperation, 97 parts Utter Disdain For Someone Who Is Being Ridiculous). "Are you coming?" she said.

"That's a rhetorical question, isn't it?" I asked.


So, with a practiced sigh, I resigned myself to being a Bad Dad and joined my family on our trek to the party.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles to the north, my mother's head spontaneously exploded.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I tried to write a chapter or two in my siblings' "How to Raise Kids" books, but that didn't work so well.

I guess 99 is not much of a temperature if you're really 98.6 normally.
Sick days for me were alot like Her Lovely Self's. If my brother or I were sick and had to stay home from school, it was cartoons watched from the couch all day with chicken soup served on bed trays. You can see why we longed to get sick...I'm sure I would never have faked the flu if I'd have had to stay in my room all day!
Real kids, fake lawyer tells me to fight successfully the mounting child support claims, I should just keep claiming that my "kids" are made up...I've gone one step further...I am claiming that I'm made up...let's see if the judge buys it....
first off, I know you know this, but fuck those people who tell you how to parent. I think ArtLad seems a first-rate kid. In fact, I wonder what he'll get into after you introduce him to Miro and De Kooning and Still.

second, that post, about the rampant and horrible all-cosuming forest fire of a fever? That Is So Me and my Wife! Funny stuff man. My kids' eyes could be rotating slantways and my wife's like, "oh, they're fine"...

thanks for the chuckle,

If you had one son who could ruin an episode of Three's Company by going red and screaming that the walls were melting, and another who could be counted on for projectile vomit one out of every 7 times he opened his mouth, you too might adopt an all-bed sick policy.

Awesome visuals. :) I hear that you have since picked up the bug? If so, get well soon! Hope you at least had fun at the party!


Geez, no one tells me *anything* anymore!!!

:::muttering and stomping about the room:::

Hopefully everyone at the fabulous and world-famous Magazine Mansion is back to good health...

...and send me a copy of that Guidebook when you get a chance!
guide books ... bah.!!!

never use them, always have them.

my mom has only one rule.
Her rule.

If she says I stay in bed, I stay in bed.

but then, thats the thing isn't it. We always listen to our woman.

The more popular you become, the more the crazies are going to come out. Ignore them.

Your last line cracked me up. Your poor mom. Heh.

First of all...Did Her Lovely Self and I grow up in the same house?

Secondly...I think you made the right decision. I would've been somewhere between you and your wife...not sure but definitely not loading the car without so much as a second glance at the thermometer..
My brother and I use to melt down gummy fruit snacks in a spoon with a lighter and we would actually mainline that when we couldn't reach the kool-aid.

It was awkward going into second grade with tracks up and down my arm.

By the way, if you make the #38 deal happen you will be a God among men. Not only because you're generous enough to share the wealth, but because Hasbro is your bitch and graces you with the most exclusive action figures that the rest of us peons only dream of actually obtaining.
I made the mistake of having a mouth full of food when I read that last line. Almost required the heimlich.

When only son feels well enough to want to go outside after claiming to be on his death bed and unable to attend classes is when I whip out my Mother's wisdom. "If you're well enough to go outside then you are well enough to do your chores".

There is usually a sudden relapse and the remainder of the afternoon is occupied with quiet TV watching, lego building or video gaming, in his room, away from Mothers eyes. He figures - out of sight, out of mind.
I am fascinated by a child's ability to cause parental cranial implosion even from remote distances.
I think we must have had the same mother. It was never fun to be sick at my house. I stayed in bed with a lined trash can because other people in the house had to use the same bathroom.
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