The stay-at-home question

Nobody asked me if I was going back to work. I wasn’t. Not for long, anyway.

Right before I became a dad, I sat down with my boss and a bigger boss for an annual performance review. It had been a bad year. I took an unwelcome job change in place of a promotion I wanted. The company’s latest round of layoffs had booted several of my friends, and the bigger boss used it to justify me not getting a raise. The company’s vision for my future: more copy-paste busywork.

Meanwhile, my wife was approaching triple my salary at her law firm, and she actually enjoyed a lot of the work. Her benefits included 12 weeks paid maternity leave, while I exhausted my vacation and sick time to spend nine days with a newborn Champ.

My choice to stay home seemed so obvious that I thought everybody at work saw it coming. Yet nobody grilled me about child-care plans while my wife had to reassure a lot of nervous partners that, yes, she was coming back to work.

As a Cosmopolitan editor points out, women get this a lot, and they’re sick of it. Continue reading The stay-at-home question

How the Xbox One saved Game of Thrones

Things aren’t going well in season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. With the exception of Qyburn, the weirdo with the ever-expanding collection of twitching corpses and severed dwarf heads, all the characters are having a rough time.

In my living room, however, things are going great. I can hear every whispered line of dialogue without worrying that a loud sword clang or dragon screech or sex moan will wake the kids. What’s my secret? An Xbox One.

The most annoying character in every dramatic series used to be our TV’s volume bar. It would wiggle through every scene of Walking Dead or Gotham as my wife clenched the remote, twitchy thumb on the volume rocker, struggling to keep the voices audible while suppressing every gunshot, explosion or loud commercial. With unwavering vigilance, she persevered.

For me, it was a minor annoyance in what was otherwise the most relaxing part of my day. For her, though, it was work. She’s definitely the kind of working-mom lawyer who DOES NOT NEED MORE WORK. Continue reading How the Xbox One saved Game of Thrones

How Batman handles a skull fracture

I only have one broken-bone story, and it’s a cool one. It involves me ignoring rules on a waterslide, smashing my face into the back of my brother’s head and gushing blood everywhere.

My 3-year-old son broke a bone. Fractured his skull, actually. It’s not a cool story. You know who has a cooler story about a skull fracture? Batman. Continue reading How Batman handles a skull fracture

I bought big-boy LEGOs for a preschooler

The box for LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack says ages 6-12. The Joker’s Steamroller says 7-14. My son is 3.

LEGO’s age recommendations aren’t like the ones on other toys. Those numbers aren’t the minimum age at which child can play with the toy and not choke to death. LEGO’s master builders think a 6-year-old might have the necessary skills to build the Batcopter in Man-Bat Attack without help. That same 6-year-old, however, should require an extra year of LEGO practice to build the Batwing that comes with the Joker’s Steamroller.

I would like to tell you that my son Champ is so brilliant, so focused and so dexterous that he can follow LEGO instructions at a 7-year-old’s level. Nope. In fact, some of these models are so complicated that Mom can’t fix them quite right. Grandma and Grandpa? Also nope.

This is why a Dad has Rules for Big-Boy LEGOs. Continue reading I bought big-boy LEGOs for a preschooler

The hoodie equality gap

On the eve of Women’s Equality Day — the anniversary of the 19th Amendment — I accidentally bought my son a girls’ sweatshirt.

Does this sweatshirt look girly?

Well, my mother-in-law bought it. I helped pick it out. It has fitted sleeves and a contrasting zipper for a look that I would describe as hipster rather than girly. It adheres to my “no cutesy crap” rule for college-sports apparel.

But when I saw the receipt — “NCAA YOUTH GIRL FAUST BRNOT FZ HOOD” (cool name, actually) — my gut told me I had to take it back. Because GIRL.

Forget for a moment that my 1-year-old daughter wears brother’s hand-me-downs all the time. I grew up in an age when dudes dressed like dudes, before the later-millennial boys got all emo and started buying pants in the juniors section. And thank God, because I never had the body to pull off girls’ jeans. Not that it matters. I’m a man, damn it.

A man who just admitted to spending an afternoon clothes shopping with his mother-in-law. A man who stays at home with his kids, changing diapers and cutting sandwiches into Batman shapes while his wife goes out and wins the bread. Moreover, I’m a man trying to raise a baby girl into a smart, empowered, badass woman. And that’s why Women’s Equality Day has me riled up. Continue reading The hoodie equality gap

Dusting off Dad’s glory days of writing

In the fall of 2003, a panel of Arizona State University staff asked me what I wanted my legacy to be at ASU. I told them I wanted future students to read my school-newspaper columns and think, “That guy got it right.”

The panel didn’t appoint me to homecoming court, and I’ve always blamed that dumb answer. My journalism career quickly beat into me the idea that nobody cares about old opinion pieces.

I was wrong! Today, national sports blog SB Nation noticed that ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium expressly prohibits tortillas. Turns out the definitive reporting on fascist anti-tortilla policies comes from a column I wrote in 2002.

Author Bill Hanstock calls me “a brilliant student reporter” and, immediately thereafter, includes a painful reminder about how old I am.

I’m pretty sure tortillas have been on the blacklist since I was in school, and this year ASU is cracking down on kegs and drinking games at tailgates. No “shot gunning,” a tailgating activity so familiar to me that I would have written it as one word.

See, the point of throwing tortillas at football games in 2002 was to carry on a tradition. That’s probably why I shotgun the occasional beer at tailgates. Thinking these activities are misguided doesn’t make you a fascist.

But the fun police need to appreciate that all these little things add up to a legacy of fandom. Fourteen years of these shenanigans have made me a bigger fan of ASU football than any other sport.

I want my kids to be as passionate about ASU football as I am. I realize that my debauched traditions are slowly giving way to more family-friendly activities. In time, though, the kids will come up with their own wild stuff. That’s a legacy.

Look what I'm doing with tortillas now!
Look what I’m doing with tortillas now!

Arizona State needs legacies like these. Already, the university is forcing students to subsidize athletics with a $150-per-student fee. ASU claims the largest student section in the Pac-12, while student attendance is dwindling at traditional football powerhouses.

Keep “The Inferno” rowdy, and my kids will happily pay to build their little legacies there. I’ll be on the other side of the stadium, riling up the alumni. In a good way.

Destroy all technology and your parents will love you again

We babies of the ’80s didn’t have much competition for our parents’ undivided attention. Soap operas. Phil Donahue. Sometimes we had to cry a little louder so adults could hear us over their shoulder pads and through their perms. No problemo, as we used to say.

If my 11-month-old daughter could talk in sentences, she’d tell you kids today have it worse. Parents pull shiny toys out of their pockets and can spend an unlimited amount of time staring and tapping at the glowy part. The big TV plays whatever they tell it to. Sometimes it’s Umizoomi, which is great, but a lot of the time it’s grownups droning on in muted-trombone sounds. Like, gag me with a spoon.

So baby has a plan to win the attention war. She’s methodically testing our tech for weaknesses she can exploit. And she’s finding them.

Clever girl.
Clever girl.

Continue reading Destroy all technology and your parents will love you again

Don’t use the Nap Nanny Chill

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post gushing about a product called the Nap Nanny Chill. The tongue-in-cheek endorsement was part of a larger point about how parents become spokespeople for baby brands.

Now, six children have died while using Nap Nanny infant recliners, many major retailers have recalled the products and the Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging parents not to use them. We took ours back to Babies ‘R’ Us and got a full refund.

In light of all that, I’m downgrading my recommendation from “definite buy” to “potential infant death trap.”

*according to the federal government
*according to the federal government

Continue reading Don’t use the Nap Nanny Chill

Parenting: The inverse ninja law

My parents are in town, and we’re loading my two kids into the car after lunch at Food Truck Friday in downtown Phoenix. My dad fumbles with the buckles on two-year-old Champ’s car seat. My mom wrangles the lunch leftovers while cooing over the new baby girl. I break down the fancy stroller — it’s so fancy there’s a song about it — and load it in the back of my beefy crossover.

It’s taking forever, and my mom asks, “How do you do this by yourself?” The truth is that when it’s just me and the kids, I can do all this in half the time.

You see, I’m a ninja.

Ninja dad
This is how I take care of two kids all by myself.

Continue reading Parenting: The inverse ninja law

Bowser Jr. and the dangers of ‘grup’ parenting

At my 20-month-old son’s insistence, I’ve been playing a lot of New Super Mario Bros. U (hard life, I know). Champy knows all the characters because their decals adorn his Mario-themed bedroom, and he makes me name them one by one before he will go in his crib (always worth it). I was excited, and he was a little terrified when we reached the game’s final boss, Bowser.

But the Koopa King seemed a little flat. He was lollygagging, puffing a few fireballs and occasionally jumping, but he clearly had no interest in killing Mario. He didn’t even roar until his son, Bowser Jr., supersized him with Magikoopa dust, dragged him out of the pit I put him in and forced him to fight me again.

Son, we're going home.
Son, we’re going home.

My gut reaction was that Bowser is a lousy dad, halfheartedly raging in Peach’s castle while his underage son acts as Mario’s primary antagonist across eight worlds. But a New York Magazine article on ‘grups’ — 30-somethings who shun traditional adulthood and live like 20-somethings  — has me thinking maybe Bowser is just dealing with the consequences of shared-passion parenting.

And it could happen to me! Continue reading Bowser Jr. and the dangers of ‘grup’ parenting