Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Things a Dad Never Thought He'd Say - #GBE2

We catch up with Best Dad Evar at his dining room table. He sits in a baby food-stained chair at a table covered with a plastic table cloth. The table is piled with mail, partially sorted. In fact, our hero is doing the sorting. "Junk, junk, bill, junk, bill..., that goes in the wife's pile (probably junk, too)."

A child scoots past him and pulls on the handle of the sliding glass door that leads into their small back yard, causing the door to careen against the door frame with a thud. She runs through the now open door and skips merrily away, leaving the doorway open and exposed, no door, no screen, just cool air rushing in and warm air rushing out.

Without even turning his head to look at the offender, Best Dad Evar shouts, "Close the damn door!" There is no reply. He grips the table with whitened knuckles, pops out of his chair with a surprising sprightliness.

"You! Child!" Best Dad Evar's teeth are gritted. "Come back over here!" His eyes burn with fire. The little girl slinks over, peering up at him with her face downcast. Her pupils peek up at him as if her eyebrows were protecting them from his glare.

"You're heating up the whole god damned neighborhood! Close this door now!"

“Okay, daddy,” she says, still peering at him with those puppy dog eyes. She reaches up and slowly, carefully slides the door closed. She bounds off again, a bit slower and a bit less joyful than the first time.

“Best Dad Evar,” our narrator’s voice pierces the now empty room, “don’t you think you’re being too hard on the kid, she’s only three years old.”

“I know,” Best Dad says, his shoulders slumping a bit, “I never wanted to be the dad that said ridiculous things like ‘would the starving kids in Africa leave so much food on their plate?’ or ‘money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!’”

He now has that faraway look he often gets these days. “But I never realized that you don’t just say those things as a dad, you feel them... deep in your soul.”

“In your soul?” Our narrator’s tone is understandably incredulous.

“Wherever you feel your emotions.” Best Dad says, brushing off the narrator’s semantics. “And wherever that is, the strongest emotions I have these days all result from these ridiculous situations. I walk into the bathroom and some child has left the faucet running after washing their hands... and just left the room! Wouldn’t you be angry, furious even!”


Best Dad continues as if no one has spoken, “And the worst, the thing that sends me past the boiling point angry, when I hear that furnace click on and the front door is wide fucking open!! It’s all I can do to keep from screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘I have to work all day to make the money to pay the god damned power bill and you’re just letting that money float out the door!’”

“Have you actually said that to your children?” The narrator asks, clearly dreading the answer.

Best Dad gets quieter now. “Yes. They don’t understand. How could they? They have no concept of how money... works. When I say those things, the only thing they understand is that I’m angry. And it’s over something small, like an unrolled roll of toilet paper on the bathroom floor, or a refrigerator left open. But it’s all wasted money to me. Money that didn’t just grow on a tree. Money I worked for. And that makes me angry. They should know that, get that.”

“I think they get it.”

“Maybe, but it still doesn’t stop them from leaving the door open the next time.”

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Control

We have to jog a bit to catch up with our hero today. His two children are running ahead of him at what for them is running pace. The threesome are on their daily "walk". It's nice that it's summer and the sun is out later in the evening, but these walks are not kind to Best Dad Evar's forty year-old knees, especially when the two kids decide to run, run, run.

"Please stop running!" he shouts at a volume that would, for any reasonable person, indicate that he's really, really serious. The children give no indication that they've heard him. They don't turn around or pause their chugging legs. Luckily the girls are only six and three and they're not athletic enough to get very far away. Still, Best Dad Evar increases his pace to a run and catches up with the pair, grabbing each by an arm.
"Didn't you hear me say stop?!" He shouts at the two girls. They glance sheepishly at him ... but the look doesn't last. He let's go of their arms, feeling guilty himself for getting physical with them. They continue on their merry way, now skipping, as Best Dad Evar continues to walk behind them.

Mercifully, they soon arrive at the driveway of the family's suburban home. The girls run ahead, shouting "We're home!!" so loud that Best Dad Evar immediately thinks of his wife's tender ears, knowing they will be aggravated by this outburst and thus she will be annoyed by the time he opens the front door. So he lingers, leaning against the corner of the garage, his body and eyes turned toward the small, grassy yard. The yard bears a vague resemblance to a remote island beach ... in that it is littered with plastic bottles, plastic toys, trash, shoes and random lawn furniture.

He hears a voice, "Best Dad Evar, how do you control your children?"
"Control?!" he guffaws loudly. "You've got to be kidding me. They have little minds of their own, you can't control them."
"Okay, how about discipline?"
"Vince Lombardi couldn't discipline these two!" he says, chuckling softly at his own little inside joke, twisting the use of the word 'discipline'.
"Seriously, Best Dad Evar, how do you get your kids to behave?"
"Well, it all goes back to a Dr. Phil I happened to watch a few years ago. In it he said 'find their currency'."
"What does that mean?"
"Find the thing that is as important to your kid as money is to you, and then take it away if the kid doesn't do what you ask them to do."
"And that's what you do?"
"That's what I do. My parenting style is: threaten and take away."
"Does that work?"
"Well... yes, but..."
"But what?"
"What Dr. Phil didn't warn me about is that this method doesn't help your children recognize and properly respond to the tone of voice and actions you use to warn them when they're doing something stupid or dangerous. It also doesn't help them respect you enough to do what you ask without the threat."
"So you always have to threaten them."
"Bingo. Asking nicely does no good at all. I have to start with the threat and ramp up the intensity of the threat from there." He pauses, thinking. "Oh, and counting works."
"Yeah, I still can't fathom why. But when I say '1... 2... 3', they seem to instinctively know that when I get to three, I'm going to take a toy or a TV show away from them."
"Well at least you have that."
"Yes, but that still leaves the dangerous. The stupid, I can roll my eyes and deal with. The dangerous I'm still struggling with."
"So what have you come up with?"
"Tall fences, safety gates and keeping stuff waaaaaay up high."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Dad Evar on Career

We catch up with our hero on a break from his job. He stands outside the door of a quiet warehouse, a corrugated metal structure with only the smallest of windows and the occasional door in a two story high building that is a bland tan color. The parking lot Best Dad Evar stands in is similarly quiet with only a few cars and delivery trucks to suggest how many people work inside. He's enjoying a bit of fresh air and natural light, though he's a bit annoyed because a truck (no doubt filled with pallets of "product") has just passed in front of him, spewing filthy smelling black smoke from its exhaust pipes into his general aura.

Best Dad hears a voice, with which he's now familiar, "Best Dad Evar, what are your thoughts on the word 'career'?" the narrator asks, taking our hero's mind away from the stink.
Best Dad Evar snorts with disgust. "Career, what career? I drive a forklift. I work in a warehouse."
"But Best Dad Evar, you have a degree in Economics, what happened?"
"Well, a degree in Economics doesn't pay the bills. It doesn't buy diapers. It doesn't make your car payment or pay for groceries. It certainly doesn't pay medical insurance premiums. As it turns out, driving a forklift and moving boxes around in a warehouse does." He smirks.
"Still, shouldn't you be able to find something that pays the bills that uses your degree or your previous job skills more?"
"You mean, like my last job as a loan officer for a mortgage company?"
"Yeah, oh. Not too many good jobs for us, are there?"
"No, apparently not."
"But an old boss got me this job here after the shit hit the fan in the mortgage biz, so here I am."
"Not exactly what you had planned."
"No, not at all. Maybe some day I'll be able to find a job where I can use those skills again. But for now we're surviving, and that's got to be enough."

"Weren't you expecting to 'make a difference in the world' when you got your degree Best Dad?"
"Yeah, but that was a long time ago when I was young and idealistic."
"You don't fool me, Best Dad Evar, I know you still think you could 'change the world'."
"Yeah, I guess," he says, his head hanging in shame. "It's just that I'm so tired and I don't feel like I have time to *do* anything. Once I get home from my job I have a few hours to be with my kids each night. Those hours are often jam-packed and stressful so afterwards I'm completely worn out. Weekends are typically filled with chores and maybe a few hours of relaxation. When am I going to do something so big it will 'change the world'?"
"But Best Dad, I hear about parents who are changing the world every day, despite their busy schedules, why can't you do what they're doing?"
"I guess I'm just not as good a person as those folks." Best Dad Evar says with a fiery look in his eyes. Is this anger directed at our narrator or himself? One can only guess.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meet Best Dad Evar

Meet Best Dad Evar

We meet our hero in his living room. The only light in the room emanates from a small table lamp and the flickering of the television. Best Dad Evar reclines on a couch that has seen better days, its cushions sagging, its arms misshapen and hard. He is dressed in a loose, faded t-shirt and unfortunate sweatpants with loose threads framing the hems and waistband. Best Dad Evar has lost most of the hair on his head, and what hair is left is peppered with gray. His eyes are mostly closed - no, scratch that, his eyes are closed. The drama on the television is not stimulating enough to overcome his most common feeling: exhaustion.

"Best Dad Evar!"
"Wuh...?" Best Dad Evar replies, startled, but still half asleep. He looks around suspiciously, but languidly. He's slightly annoyed. He pretty much always looks slightly annoyed.
"How did you come to be known as 'Best Dad Evar'?"
"What are you talking about? No one calls me that. And who are you?"
"I'm your narrator. I'm like Jeff Probst on Survivor. I see everything and I'll call you on everything you do or even think."
"Oh, shit." Best Dad Evar shakes his head, trying to clear it or to wake up. He thinks he's been dreaming. Maybe he is.

Best Dad Evar grunts as he gets up off the coach. He always grunts or groans or squeaks or says "ouch!" when he moves from sitting to standing. He wanders into the kitchen to get a drink of water. "Damn it!" he says quietly.
"What's wrong Best Dad Evar?"
"I forgot to wash the dishes again." He stares at the sink and the piles of dishes for a long moment. "Guess I better do them now. Better than in the morning when everything's crazy." Best Dad Evar often talks to himself. He believes he's doing that now, sort of.

"Best Dad Evar!?" Best Dad Evar scoffs. "Where did you get the idea that anyone calls me that?"
"Your daughter called you that this afternoon."
"She did? When?"
"This afternoon. I believe she was sitting in the living room watching television."
"Ah, that explains it. I said 'yes'. That's just about the only time she says anything nice to me: when I say 'yes' to something she wants."
"Oh, come on, that can't be true."
"Maybe I'm exaggerating. But why don't you call me 'Worst Dad Evar'? I'm sure she's called me that at least as many times. And certainly with far more emotion and conviction than when she's called me 'Best Dad'." His voice dips to a low grumble, "Just wait till I say 'no', Mr. All-Seeing Narrator... then you'll know." Best Dad Evar muses all this as he scrubs the plastic plates and sippy cups. Next are the pots and pans, each one associated with a different person in his small family.
"How many dinners were cooked here tonight?"
"Exactly." Best Dad Evar says with a wry smile, drying his hands finally with a towel.

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