Declare your parental pride. Make the world better for the parent of a newborn.

I saw a friend last week who recently had a baby. She told me that of all the advice she received prior to giving birth, my warning about all the parents who will attempt to make parenting sound miserable and ruin her day was the most helpful.

“I can’t believe it, but you were right. So many people are awful.”

A great majority of parents are exceptionally skilled at complaining.

A great majority of parents feel the inexplicable need to dampen the enthusiasm and optimism of less experienced parents.

An even greater majority of parents fail to give themselves and other parents the credit that they deserve.

I’ll never understand it. My friend doesn’t understand it. When someone asks her how parenthood is going, she tells them how happy she is. How wonderful her baby has been. How joyous she and her husband are.

The typical response:

“Just wait until she can walk. Then things will change.”

“You’re in the honeymoon period. It’ll end soon.”

“It’s the second one that will kill you.”

Parents of newborns should walk around with a roll of duct tape to silence these pessimists and idiots up.

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Actually, I should do the same. I can’t tell you how many times a parent has warned me how difficult my sweet and happy daughter will become once she is a teenager, forgetting that I once raised a teenage stepdaughter and forgetting that it takes a special kind of jackass to make a comment like this.    

In order to combat these naysayers, I propose that all rationale parents take a moment today and acknowledge all the excellent parenting that we have done this far. Stop for a moment and reflect upon the outstanding decisions,  the astounding restraint, the brilliant planning, and the remarkable sacrifices, that you have made as a parent.

Forget the errors and the flubs. Put aside the guilt and regret.

Be positive. Be self-congratulatory. Share you kick-ass moments.

Then go to the hardware store and purchase a roll of duct tape.

If you’d like to join me in this crusade, make your own list of excellence in parenting. If you are so inclined, post it in the comment section below. Tweet your list. Post it to Facebook. Write it on a slip of paper, wrap it around a rock, and throw it through the window of one of these jackasses who can’t stop telling you that “When it comes to kids, one plus one equals three!”

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Take a stand against all those parents who can’t stand the thought that there might be happy, effective parents in the world with a sense of balance and perspective.

To this end, I offer you my list of parental successes.

  1. My son has never peed on me while I was changing his diaper.
  2. I have never yelled at my children.
  3. Other than live sporting events, I have never watched television while my children were awake.
  4. I have never failed to follow through on a warning to my daughter.
  5. My children have never slept in my bed.
  6. I have never skipped a night of reading to my children.   
  7. I try like hell to avoid telling my daughter that she is smart. I praise her for hard work, persistence, grit, listening, and a willingness to learn, but I avoid saying “smart” whenever possible (though I’ve still said it hundreds of times).

In the future, I will make a point of highlighting the success of other parents as well.

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Contrary to popular belief, parents and teachers are well aware of the existence of Sparknotes.

was sitting inside Barnes & Noble last week with seven teenagers who are participating in our writing camp. We were discussing book titles when one of the students pointed at a rack of Sparknotes and gasped.

Heads turned. Jaws dropped. One student asked, “What are they doing here?”

Another whispered, “Why are they just sitting there, out in the open?”

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It turns out that the kids didn’t realize that Sparknotes were something that you could purchase in a bookstore. They thought that Sparknotes were a product only available on the Internet. Even more amusing, they thought that parents and teachers were unaware of their existence.

I explained that parents and teachers are well aware of the existence of such products, and that they have been available in bookstores for a long, long time.

“Then why do they still exist?” one student asked.

I explained that as much as I wish it were otherwise, parents and teachers do not rule the world.

Then one of them pointed to the center of the rack. “The Hunger Games? They have Sparknotes for The Hunger Games? What moron cant read that book?”

They all agreed that the existence of The Hunger Games Sparknotes was an abomination.

I love listening to kids.

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My daughter, the old lady.

In the last three days, the following words have come out of my five year-old daughter’s mouth:

“Mom, just remember: the doctor knows best.”

“Dad, you know I don’t like wet feet in the house!”

“It’s a shame that my bed isn’t made. Let’s get that done.”

She’s also asked to see a knee specialist and told me that I’m driving too fast.

She still eats applesauce from a squeeze bottle and puts her underwear on backwards from time to time (actually, I do this, too), but she’s apparently rapidly transforming into a small, nagging, persnickety adult. 

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A visit from Mom

It’s grainy, and the color is bad, but this photograph means the world to me.

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I grew up in a time before digital photography, and as a family, we took shockingly few pictures. Two divorces and a foreclosure reduced that number even further. Scattered the family photos to the wind. As a result, there are few surviving photographs from my childhood and even fewer of my mother, who died in 2007.

My brother (pictured on the right) has this photograph, which I had never seen before. He posted it on Facebook the other day, and when I saw it, I was brought to tears.

I still am whenever I look at it.

It was like an unexpected visit from Mom.

It’s also an image from the brief period of time when my family was still together. When life was simple. When I had a mom and a dad and a brother and a sister, and I can’t remember ever feeling worry or sadness. I see the little boy who I once was, slouching against his tiny mother’s frame, and I remember how safe I once felt being with her.

It’s a grainy image, but I can see my mother perfectly. I remember her face, her hair, her hands, and even her voice; that youthful, singsong voice before the combination of smoking and muscular dystrophy altered it.

All of it came back to me when I saw this photograph. The past rushed in, filled me, and for a moment, made me feel like that little boy with his mother.     

I miss my mother, and I miss the boy I used to be.

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New rule: Women should not make sweeping generalizations about women.

In listening to the most recent Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast, the writer and show runner of the television show Trophy Wife, Emily Halpern, was asked if she ever fights with her writing partner during the collaborative process.

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Her response:

We are two women, so we get passive aggressive. One of us may pout, and the other will ask what’s wrong, but we’ve never yelled at each other.

Either Halpern is right, and collaborative disagreements in female partnerships consist primarily of passive aggressiveness and pouting, or she has maligned all of womankind with her statement.

I tend to think it’s the latter.

I want to be surprised that someone like Halpern would lump women into this collective passive-aggressive basket, but one the same day I listened to the podcast, I read about North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers’ remarks while speaking on a panel for the Republican Study Committee, the House’s conservative caucus;

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that … we need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.

It’s hard enough for women already without the likes of Emily Halpern and Renee Ellmers portraying the female sex as a collective of passive aggressive pouters who are incapable of comprehending pie charts and graphs.

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Stop the retirement madness. Please.

Could someone please tell Derek Jeter that he can still play and that his retirement is making me feel less like a boy and too much like an adult.

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While we’re at it, take the guitar away from Bernie Williams and put him back in centerfield.

Get Paul O’Neill out of the broadcasting booth and back into right field.

Remind Mariano Rivera that he had an All Star season last year and should be playing right now.

I prefer my sports heroes to be timeless, damn it.

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Starbucks offers me one more reason to love my wife

As a follow-up to yesterday’s list of 99 reasons that I love my wife, I thought I’d add this:

My wife likes Starbucks very much. She enjoys Starbucks beverages as much as anyone I know. 

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Despite her devotion to the product, she has never whined for it.

Never demanded it.

Needed it.

Lamented its absence.

Bemoaned its scarcity via social media.

I love her so much for this.

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I am like a tree in one very specific way, at least according to my daughter.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my daughter doesn’t think I sleep. Because I am out of bed every day by 4:30 and back in bed well after she has gone to sleep, Clara has never even seen me lying in bed.

At the time, I explained to her that I sleep. I just go to bed late and wake up before most people.

I thought she believed me.

Last night I was reading a book to my daughter called Chicken Bedtime is Really Early. In it, the hamsters stay awake all night while the rest of the animals sleep.

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“Hamsters must be nocturnal,” my daughter said.

“I think so,” I said.

“And the other animals like the sheep and the cows are diurnal,” she said.

“I think you’re right.”

“And I’m diurnal,” she said. “And so is Mommy and Charlie.”

“You’re right. But what about me?”

“You’re…” She paused. Looked at me. Squinted her eyes. Tilted her head. “You’re no-urnal, because you don’t sleep. Like trees.”

I’m like a tree. No-urnal.

I’m going to have to jump back in bed one of these mornings to knock this idea that Daddy doesn’t sleep out of her mind. While I would love that to be my super power, my actual super powers do not include the ability to avoid sleep altogether.

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99 more reasons that I love Elysha Dicks

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary.

Last year I listed 99 reasons that I love my wife.

Today I listed 99 new ones.
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1. She was not aware of the most recent royal birth until someone told her hours after it had happened

2. She does not play stupid iPhone or Facebook games

3. She asked me when Hard Knocks is starting again

4. She can navigate any mall flawlessly but almost nothing else 

5. The complete lack of jealousy in her heart  

6. The way she runs her hands through the back of my hair while I’m driving

7. She taught me the difference between knitting and sewing

8. She still gets angry when I confuse knitting and sewing

9. She threw away all my A-neck tee shirts when we began dating

10. She does not gossip

11. She has never whined about needing coffee or needing Starbucks 

12. She has never raised her voice to me or our children

13. The way she drapes her legs across me as she sleeps

14. Her macaroni-and-cheese and sloppy Joe combo

15. The way she looks in shorts

16. Her brilliant, understated, hilarious hosting of Speak Up

17. The way she’s consistently funny but doesn’t know it

18. Her brutal but effective editing of my stories for the stage

19. She knows how to fold a fitted sheet

20. Her unfounded faith in a good manicure

21. Her ability to garner hundred of responses on Facebook to the most basic and benign question

22. The mobiles that she made for our children that hang above our children’s beds and will likely hand over our grandchildren’s beds someday 

23. She doesn’t read People, US, or any of those other gossipy, trivial Hollywood, magazines

24. Her ability to find a consignment shop bargain

25. Her unwavering forgiveness of others who don’t deserve it

26. Her appreciation for my willingness to say yes to almost anything

27. She made her own handbag but never brags about it

28. Her ability to sellout all of our Speak Up storytelling events through word-of-mouth alone

29. The number of times my friends have expressed envy over my choice of wife

30. Her enrapturing read-aloud voice

31. Her unrelenting attempts to get me to try new foods

32. Convincing me to give Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me a try

33. The palpable, almost visible pride that she expresses in me

34. Her heated defense of me when I am unjustifiably maligned

35. Holding her hand while walking the streets of NYC

36. Our in-depth post-Moth StorySLAM analyses of each story

37. Her ongoing, daily, unwavering sacrifices for our children

38. Her unwarranted fear of the lawn mower

39. The way that she somehow, someway cuts our children’s fingernails (something I could never do)

40. Our ability to communicate nonverbally at almost freakish levels

41. Her adoration for her nieces and nephews

42. Her ability to get to know my large, extended family better than me

43. The way in which she meaningfully connects with people via Facebook without immersing herself into Facebook and making Facebook haters sound stupid in their inability to understand the effective use of Facebook.

44. Her choice of our daughter’s name

45. The way she looks when her hair is pulled back away from her face

46. They way she can make an old pair of sweatpants and one of my tee shirts look incredible

47. The kisses that she presses from her hand to the shower door for me and our children while she is showering

48. Her appreciation for This American Life, Radio Lab, and other somewhat nerdy audio content

49. Our near-uniform taste in television

50. Her legs

51. The wrinkle between her eyes that forms when she is confused

52. The way she taps her lips with four fingers when pondering the way to word something

53. The way in which she is able to almost instantly connect with young people in truly meaningful ways

54. The unadulterated joy that she experiences while holding a baby

55. Her complete lack of helicopter parenting

56. They way in which she is so much like her parents and so different than her parents simultaneously

57. Her remarkable courage to be herself  

58. The infinitesimal amounts of makeup that she wears  

59. The way that she has passed her love and knowledge of show tunes onto our daughter

60. The pride that I feel in knowing that I am always the man with the most beautiful woman in the room and truly believing it

61. Her unwavering demand that we get up, get out, and do something in the world when so often our daughter and I would prefer remain at home, eating cereal and living like animals

62. The way she looks in a straw hat

63. Her embracing of my macaroni-and-cheese and hot dog combination

64. The music that fills our home thanks to her

65. Her often untapped, rarely seen ability to write exceptionally well

66. Our uniform understanding that a hot dog is best without any condiments

67. The way I lie in bed every night, still in disbelief that I got to marry this woman

68. Her apparent inability to age

69. Talking to her about our perfect wedding

70. Her desire to want to know everything that happened to me during my most recent round of golf

71. “The best part of your day” tradition that she started at dinner each night

72. The love for art and creation that she has passed onto both of our children

73. The way that she has taught our daughter to identify and appreciate flowers

74. Her love for pets that make her miserable at times

75. Her unwavering belief that everything will be okay and her ability to occasionally transfer that belief to me

76. Overhearing her speak about the pride she has in my accomplishments

77. The way every wedding makes me yearn to be dancing with her

78. The smile that consumes her face when she speaks about her alma mater.

79. The Christmas traditions that she has embraced and shared with our children

80. The indescribable joy that I feel when she laughs at a line from a story that I have written or am telling

81. She can name more than half of the Supreme Court justices

82. The way she looks with her bare feet on the dashboard during long car rides

83. The way that any guest coming over for a meal is an opportunity to scan at least five cookbooks for the perfect recipe

84. The way that she puts our daughter’s hair in pigtails

85. Her ability to plan for almost every in-car contingency in order to keep our children quiet and happy

86. Her ability to operate, manipulate, and repair computer technology without ever asking for assistance from me

87. The way in which we divide and conquer when it comes to so many of our household responsibilities

88. Her willingness to allow me to continue living even after I wash an item of clothing on an incorrect setting

89. Her remarkably calm, quick thinking in an emergency

90. The way that she makes each day that she has at home with our children meaningful and special

91. The way she looks in a bathing suit and a pair of sunglasses

92. The way that ordering a drink and ice cream are almost identically complicated processes for her

93. Her calm, measured, reasonable approach to handling our daughter’s peanut allergy

94. The way she sends me photographs of our children at precisely the moment that I am missing them most

95. The way that none of my performances are nearly as rewarding when she is not in the audience 

96. Her unwillingness to over-complicate things and her desire for simplicity whenever possible

97. Her willingness to listen and seriously consider my crazy ideas before dismissing them

98. The way I get to simply be me, in a way I have never been me before, now that I am with her.

99. Our wedding vows, both hers and mine, which I read often.  

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The amazing, astounding Abercrombie adults

There are people standing inside Abercrombie & Fitch stores throughout America at this very moment.

They have found their way into its chilled, cologne infused, overly sonorous interior because they want to be there.

They choose to be there.

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I’m not talking about teenage girl fingering a pile of stretchy jeans or the teenage boy standing beside a rack of long sleeve tee-shirts, imagining what the teenage girl would look like without her stretchy jeans.

I’m talking adults. Hard boiled men and women who pay their own phone bills and know how to cook a steak. 

These men and woman are wandering the interior of Abercrombie & Fitch stores at this very moment because they appreciate and desire the wares that the purveyor of the store has to offer.

They have come seeking tee shirts with corporate labels emblazoned across  chests that will simultaneously endorse a corporation that produces the clothing in sweatshops around the world while also pronouncing something of import about the wearer: 

“I purchase clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch because I like it. Know this.”

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Perhaps they didn’t hear the CEO of this company declare his sole allegiance to attractive customers by stating that “a lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids.”

Maybe they missed the lawsuit won by a woman with the prosthetic limb who was required to work in the stockroom because she “did not fit the brand’s All-American image.”

It’s possible that they didn’t notice that the teenage models featured in their clothing ads aren’t actually wearing any clothing. 

With blinders firmly affixed, they exchange money earned from hours spent in crammed in cubicles and broiling over short-order grills for the opportunity to broadcast to the world that they willingly spent a portion of their precious Sunday afternoon and a portion of their even more precious paycheck in an Abercrombie & Fitch store.

The world never ceases to amaze me.

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