Unscripted Conversations

Activities aside, summer continues to roll on. For the 4th of July, we went down to the Mom’s folks house. Mom and Rye went down before us so Kinz, Bails and I drove down ourselves. It takes a little over two hours to get there. And that means you get to spend some significant time talking to your kids about whatever it is they want to talk about.

Conversation started with our favorite flavors of ice cream. French Vanilla by the way. I mentioned the completely foreign concept of the Good Humor man to them. Ice cream sandwiches, snow cones, push up pops, chocolate éclair and strawberry shortcake bars on a stick. Oh man, that chocolate éclair was good. But my favorite was the Bomb Pop. Not the red, white and blue one but the banana fudge one. I’d save, search and steal every damn coin I could get in order to have enough to buy a banana fudge bomb pop. Damn, if that didn’t make the perfect summer day back in ’79.

“Dad, were there hippies in the 70’s?”

“Hippies? Weren’t we just talking about ice cream?”

As delicately as she can, Kinsey lays this on me, “But you were talking about when you were a kid, you know, back in the olden days.”

Bails quickly refocuses the conversation, “Yeah, so were there hippies?”

“Sure there was. Hippies were a bunch of longhaired, smelly, lazy, pot-smokers who pretended that they believed in super liberal collectivist ideals in order to avoid growing up and getting a job. They accidentally influenced some meaningful changes in American society like equal pay for women, casual Fridays and fringe.”

I didn’t really say that.

But they did have more questions.

“Did the hippies have long hair?”

“Yup. Boys and girls. They didn’t wash it either.”

“Did they wear a lot of tie-dyed clothes”

“Yeah, they wore all kinds of stuff that grown-ups thought were crazy.”

“Where did they live?”

“All over the place but they all wanted to be in California.”

“Why California?”

“It’s weird there.”

“What did they do?”

“Well, one of things they tried to do was convince everybody to share everything.”

“That’s nice.”

“Sure it is. Until you realize that meant everything. Like Aeropostale t-shirts. And money.”

A-ha! Not so nice now. These are things Kinsey and Bailey prefer not to share.

“Did you know any?”

“I don’t think so. I was just a baby in the early 70’s. By the time I was old enough to remember stuff people weren’t really hippies anymore.”

“What happened to the hippies?”

“Disco killed them.”

“What!?”

“Well, not actually killed them as in death. But people moved onto the next cool thing and that was disco. Which was pretty cool. But remember I was just a little kid. And Grandma and Grandad didn’t really hit the disco scene.”

“Was disco in the 80’s?”

“Not really. But the 80’s were freaking awesome.”

“Why do you like the 80’s so much?”

“Because its when I grew up. I mean we went from Tarney Spencer to Rick Springfield to AC DC to Guns N’ Roses. We had a great President, Magnum was on TV and the Pirates traded for Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek and Bobby Bonilla. Not to mention Luke killed Darth Vader, Rambo won the Vietnam War and John McClane saved the Nokotomi Building. I got to stay home everyday in the summer perfecting the finer strategic points of Capture the Flag. Did you know that I had an entire task force of WW II model ships in my room? I did. I could break dance a little bit too.”

At this point Kinsey and Bailey just looked at me the same way the American people look at the President when he says he’ll cut taxes.

But they had more questions.

“Were you a teenager in the 80’s?”

“Yup. And, not to be repetitive, but it was awesome.”

“Did you ever smoke?”

KA. BOOM.

There it is. As a parent, here is where you engage in one of those quick debates with yourself. And by quick I mean those few seconds where your future flashes before your eyes…while you’re deciding whether to tell the truth, tell some of the truth, or just outright lie because it serves a greater good. Did I mention that your answer will impact several future incidents with your future teenage daughters?

Well, I’m a firm believer in always telling the truth. Half-truths and lies are like federal stimulus packages. Sure it maintains the status quo while deluding millions of Americans into thinking it’ll make things better but all it really does is create a giant black sinkhole that consumes the Constitution, your retirement savings and any sense of self-reliance in this country.

“Well, yes, I tried smoking. I wish I didn’t.”

“What was it like?”

“Well, it was gross. You smelled like a dirty diaper filled with cigarette ashes.”

“Gross!”

“Yeah and you know at the dentist when they paint your teeth with that fluoride stuff? Its just like that except the flavor isn’t watermelon, it’s burnt cottonballs.”

“Really!?”

“Yup. Totally serious. Makes your hair fall out too. You really want to look like me? Check out my hair. This is your future if you smoke.”

Then Kinsey comes with this, “Wow, Dad that is really, really gross. Not your hair but the whole diaper thing. But I have another question.”

“Okay, what?”

“So how do you know when you’re pregnant?”

After two decades working in politics you learn that one of the surest ways to convince your audience that you are uncomfortable answering a question and/or don’t have a freaking clue what the answer might be is to hesitate with your answer.

“Well I’ve never been pregnant Kinz.” Classic technique of reframing the question. I’m no longer responsible for really knowing the answer because, well, of course I don’t know. I’m a dude.

“But there is this test.” I quickly add because, again, you have to know your audience. And my audience thinks its funny when you say…

“And so you pee on this thing and there are things in your pee that can tell you if you’re pregnant.” See what I did there. I said pee. Not once but twice. And kids think pee is funny.

So at the very least it turned into a discussion about what is in your pee instead of pregnancy. The talk is being scheduled between Mom and Kinz for the near future. I’m strictly a wingman…

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Self Selection

The winnowing or weeding out or self-selection process is underway at our house. With dance, softball, gymnastics, orchestra, band, choir and the mathlympics all fighting for time, I think we’ve started the activity elimination phase of life for the girls. I made up the last one.

But don’t make the mistake that winnowing simplifies things. Now that I mention it, I’m not sure things ever really simplify. Everytime you graduate from one stage, you enter a new one. It’s like trying to run the ball on the ’76 Steelers. Sure you managed to get by Ernie Holmes but Jack Lambert just filled the hole! Boom! Just when you figure out how to coexist with a newborn, they start crawling and demonstrate an attraction to the stairs not seen since Nancy Pelosi and the use of private jets.

For the last three years, we’ve had all three girls in the same school. This simplified a certain amount of logistics. Starting in about a month Rye moves to a different building. Boo. Different bus. Different start and dismissal times. Just when you start to get a bit comfortable, the school district decides to punch you in the face.

I know this happens to everybody as their kids creep into middle school and high school but its new to us. Two quick things – yes, I do enjoy seeing the girls really develop their interest and skills in certain things and making decisions on their own. But I also really hate change and disruption to my routine.

But Rye loves dance and she’s starting to look down the road. She wants to be on the high school dance team. And she’s closer to 13 now than she is to 12 so she’s putting together the pieces of what she needs to do to get there. However, it is still stunning to me how many parents are willing to treat 12 and 13 year-olds like teenagers. Short rant coming…just because your kid’s age ends in teen does not mean they have reached a certain level of maturity which allows them to wear clothes or engage in certain types of behavior. For example, how many people do you work with who have ages that begin with a 2, a 3 or even a 4 who act like their ages really end in teen? Yeah, so case closed.

Anyway, Rye joined a second dance studio which means softball next season is almost assuredly out. This is both cool and a bit disappointing. She really improved this season as a player. Her rec league team played in the championship game and she played better than she ever has. But while she liked playing, I don’t think she’s going to miss not playing. And that’s a key difference. With dance we have to stop her from doing her self-choreographed routines combining ballet and ninja in the middle of kitchen. Or in front of the TV when I’m trying to watch the Pirates. Pennant race baby! C’mon be the year, be the year! But with the addition of the second dance studio we’ve added a LOAD of dance classes. Before we had ballet, tap and pointe. Now we have a technique class, a poms class, a core strength class and a copmetitive dance team class. In addition to ballet, tap and pointe. Rye actually wants to take the core strength class twice a week instead of once. That’s what watching all those P90X infomercials will do to your kids.

We’re three days a week now but when fall gets here we’ll be five days a week. Yes, five. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that makes it a job. Thankfully, the transportation between the two dance studios requires little planning. They are fairly close and are connected by major arterial roads. That will not, however, stop me from finding a shortcut…

Kinsey tried out for the 10 and Under competitive softball team. She made the orange team which I guess is the “B” team. That means dance or gymnastics is going to face a fight for time on the schedule. I’m guessing that by next spring gymnastics will soon go the way of the pro-business Democrat and the Run and Shoot offense. They are already going to start practicing this month. Good news is that when it came time to pick a number she chose wisely. She had to pick her favorite number and then a back up number. She picked #1 as her favorite but as luck would have it, so did the coach’s kid. We all know who is going to win that argument. Her back up number? #43. Why? Troy Polamalu. And that’s why its awesome being a Dad.

Bad news is they are going to play in fall league. Fall. As in weekends in the fall. They may as well just drive to Canton and spit on Chuck Noll’s bust in the Hall of Fame. How about just burning the section of turf where Franco caught the Immaculate Reception? Or throwing Rocky Bleier’s Purple Heart in the garbage.

Seriously, I didn’t get the NFL Sunday Ticket so I could watch Kinsey play softball. We don’t have season football tickets to Iowa State in order to miss the games.

Grrr…but on the bright side the fall softball season starts in August and only runs into September. No word yet on how far into September we go. Best case scenario? Labor Day weekend is the end. Most likely scenario? We’ll still be playing on Halloween.

Now at least Bailey’s schedule looks to be fairly similar this coming school year as it was last year. Dancing, gymnastics and softball. Bails hasn’t had the chance to start orchestra or band yet. That doesn’t happen until 4th grade. But she has expressed some interest in track. She’s built like a pencil and never gets tired. So we’re kinda thinking we might want to explore this interest of hers. But, again, that’ll have to displace something and she’s only 8. Well, 9 in about two months. Geez, our youngest is almost 9. Anyway, not sure that she should have to start giving stuff up when she’s only going to be in 3rd grade. Plus, and again, maybe this is just me, but I think it’s kinda weird to sign a 3rd grader up for a track club. I mean she’s in 3rd grade…all she does is run. Why do I need to sign her up and pay for her to run?

Regardless, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the best solution to our activities matrix is simply having a third parent. You can’t convince me that you haven’t considered it too…