I started this post awhile back when we were having, you guessed it, a lot of trouble with Joshua and tantrums. While they have lessened quite a bit, they have not abated entirely and I wager will continue for quite some time. But, take heart that they will get better. Maybe.


A tantrum is going to mean different things to different parents. As we’ve discussed, all kids are different blah blah blah unique snowflakes. Regardless of this fact, there is an immutable threshold your child must cross before you can call whatever it is that they are doing a tantrum. Some parents are incorrect about tantrum status. A tantrum is not when your child gets upset for 3 to 5 minutes and cries because you said that they can’t have a new toy. If it doesn’t cause you to wonder where you went wrong as a parent, it’s not a tantrum. Tantrums are scary shit.

We have yet to find a way to effectively defuse a tantrum. We do know how they start. Joshua’s tantrums start when something upsets his set routines. Typically, though, Joshua is the one who upsets his own routine. He will ask to do something, and then refuse to take any steps to actually accomplish it. When we finally give up asking him to comply and warning him that his time is running out to do whatever it is he’s asked, we’ll announce that the window of opportunity has passed and then the madness begins. Or he’ll just decide without warning that something you did—turned off a light, moved a shirt, stood up from a chair—is something he didn’t want you to do.

Sometimes you can see the tantrum coming. When there’s been simply too much fun had and you’ve got an amped up but super tired kid, you’re prime for a tantrum. When you’ve got a kid who doesn’t feel well, be it an actual illness or something like constipation, you’re ripe for a tantrum. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can stop it. You may just be able to prepare yourself.

A tantrum isn’t just a lot of crying. It’s crying and screaming and kicking and flailing and yelling and just absolute insensate anger. Joshua averages around 30-40 minutes for a for-realsies tantrum and I must stress that this is not 40 minutes of him being moody. This is 40 straight minutes of non-stop wailing. He picks a refrain and sticks on it. “I want to take a shower!” Over and over again without stopping, unless he thinks of something else that happened earlier in the day he was upset about, too, and then he’ll switch to yelling about that. Any attempts to talk to him or hold him are met with “Don’t talk to me!” or “Don’t touch me!” and then, inevitably, “Don’t look at me!” He will kick and flail so hard that he hurts himself by hitting the floor or the wall or even himself (thankfully this is more rare). Then he will yell “Owie! Owie! Owie!” for minutes at a stretch. He’ll cry out that he wants Mommy or wants Daddy, but if you go to him and try to hold him or calm him down you get more of the the don’t-touch or don’t-talk.

It’s hard to communicate what being present for a tantrum is like. Chances are you’ve never been around another adult doing something like this, so it’s a very alien thing to experience. There’s no reasoning or bartering or threatening that can bring about a change in momentum. Everything you send out just gets sucked into a black hole.

No matter how the tantrum started, you will inevitably begin to wonder two things: Is there something wrong with my child? What am I doing wrong as a parent? The answer to each is that there’s nothing wrong. Toddlers will tantrum and you can’t always stop it. But knowing that is useless. You will wonder both things because it just seems impossible that what you are witnessing could possibly be borne of a normal child in a healthy family.

Since tantrums for Joshua occur around nap time or bed time, we cannot really do much to distract him. We don’t want to try to get him off track onto something fun because, well, it’s bed time. It’s not time to head downstairs and try to have a dance party. And, even if we wanted to try that tack, he tends to be upset because he’s not getting to shower or do something bed-time-related anyway. Reasoning and bargaining don’t work. He doesn’t seem to pay attention to warnings that time is running out on what he wants to do. He’s adamant about not wanting to calm down, and about wanting to keep crying.

So what Janelle and I do is just walk away. We leave him to writhe around on his floor and sit on our bed and look at one another with tired eyes. Our absence doesn’t change the mode of the tantrum. It continues unabated. The spectacle will hit such absurd crescendos that it becomes hilarious, and will then just as quickly plummet back to heartbreaking. Just sitting and listening to Joshua rage on like this is exhausting. My chest will feel like I’ve spent the day crying even though I haven’t shed a tear. And Janelle and I are left with our thoughts both rational (that many, many, many toddlers do this regardless of how loving and skilled their parents may be) and the irrational (that we are failing Joshua as a parent and these outbursts are just the outward sign of our failure).

There was a period where this went on more often than not for a few weeks and then… it just stopped happening as often. I wanted this to have more advice in it, but I think with something like a crazy tantrum jag all you can do is try to distract when you can and just ride it out the rest of the time. You don’t have anything to do with it. It’s all about a young mind unaware of the best way to express itself. Unless you encourage it (oh yeah, advice: don’t cave and just give your kid whatever they want during a tantrum), your kid will figure out this particular tactic is a lot of effort for no real payoff. And lately we’ve finally started taking toys away from him when he refuses to stop yelling at us. He’s learning pretty quickly that not only is there no payoff, there’s a tariff.


How to Talk to a Pregnant Woman

Typically I try to write from either a general child-rearing perspective, or more specifically about Dad issues. Today I’ve got some advice for you about pregnant mothers.

There are certain things about pregnant women that are a bit more to the side of myth. I’ve yet to hear about a mother from any of those I am acquainted with who was seized by strange food cravings or particularly intense aversions. I don’t know anyone who has experienced extreme and erratic mood swings. What I can confirm is that pregnancy gets pretty uncomfortable near the end and that pregnant women are going to be pretty sensitive to how they look.

Just think about it, or think back to when it may have happened to you: none of your old clothes fit, and clothes that you have purchased to fit even your now larger self grow less capable of covering your growing belly each day. Your skin is stretching taut and, in the winter, the dryness of the air is only exacerbated and your belly will be itchy and red or, in the summer, you are running an internal factory and you are always overheating. You can only sit and lay down in certain positions and you will have a baby approaching about 20 inches long try to stretch itself out inside your tummy, jabbing your ribs with feet and shoving itself into your already cramped bladder. You likely are not sleeping very well and this makes you even more tired than carrying around your baby and new-found baby-weight (because you ARE supposed to gain 25-35 pounds for an average-size woman) would have otherwise made you. Bathing is tricky and takes longer than it used to. Very likely it’s not advisable to partake in comfort foods that you once were able to enjoy and former staples like caffeine are now verboten. Oh, and there’s the chance you have one of those pregnancies where you spend 9 straight months nauseated and vomiting from time to time.

These are just some of the myriad ways pregnancy will begin to affect a mother as it winds along down towards the final stages. Your mileage may vary, of course, but many of these things are pretty standard. Suffice it to say, you’d likely be a little touchy in general, and more aware of a few things in particular.

Here are some tips for everyone to employ when interacting with a pregnant mother:

Greet the Mother, Not the Belly

Do Mom the courtesy of at least pretending you’re happy to see her specifically and then maybe give the baby a follow-up “Hello” after the fact. After all, one of the pair cannot speak English and can’t hear anything you’re saying anyway. [Bonus fact: This one is Janelle’s biggest peeve.]

Get Permission before Violating the Personal Bubble

Don’t lay on hands without asking. It’s weird to get touched by people all the time, even friends. Touches to the arms or hands are pretty common social cues. Touches to the stomach border on the intimate because in a normal context why the hell are you touching someone’s stomach? Sometimes Mom isn’t going to be in the mood, or doesn’t feel well.

DO Commiserate 

If you’re going to gab about the pregnancy, it helps to say things like “Hanging tough, huh?” or “At least it’s not the summer, right? You’d be so hot.” or anything else that acknowledges that Mom may be having a rough go of it, but is making the best of things. If she disagrees, let her tell you how wonderful the pregnancy is and how great she’s feeling. And if she’s not feeling great, she can sigh and agree with you and feel good that someone is recognizing that this is hard. If you open up talking about how “Isn’t this all just angel kisses and rainbow massages?” you’ll make her feel like she’s ungrateful if she feels otherwise.

DO NOT Comment on Size

I can’t stress this one enough. Just don’t do it. She knows how large her belly looks. She sees it all the damn time. It makes walking, getting up, sitting down, laying down and standing up hard. She’s aware. Saying “You’re huge!” or “You sure you’re not having twins?” is just the worst. What’s the upside to a comment like that? At best you’re telling someone they look huge, which with anyone other than a pregnant woman would just be you teasing them. At worst you’ve just taken a slam at an issue that is already bothering someone during a particularly vulnerable time of their life. Plus, if you REALLY want to be able to comment on how large a Mom is basically 90% of the time if you open up with “You look great” she’s going to counter with “I feel like a house” and then you can work in phrasing something nice like “That’s just a healthy baby growing in there.”


Unless your comment on size is “Other than that belly, you look like you haven’t changed at all.”

BONUS SIDE ADVICE: Don’t Ask if Someone is Pregnant

All I’ll say is this: Do you have such a burning desire to find out that you’re willing to risk the offense if you’re wrong? Just don’t do it. Let them tell you.


In the end, just consider that while many-to-most women really like being pregnant and will come away with positive feelings about the whole experience, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find women that think pregnancy has them looking or feeling their best. Think about it like a temporary weight gain. Would you just casually and openly be talking about a friend’s sudden 25-pound gain, rubbing their tummy and telling them how giant they look? Not unless you are an asshole.

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I’m a pretty moderate guy. I don’t get mad much. I don’t yell. I don’t get into many arguments. I do like a good gripe from time to time. But damn if Joshua can’t drive me up the wall.

You’ve probably seen a frazzled parent losing their cool with a child that has not yet been issued any fucks to give. And you’ve likely shaken your head at the parent who can’t seem to keep it together. There are some times where that parent probably is kind of an asshole. Some people just don’t handle things well. But much more likely is that this is parent who has been driven to the brink by a small maniac.

Here’s what’s tricky to understand unless you spend really extended lengths of time with a small child: it’s not the big things they do that are maddening. A child that spills something or breaks something or what have you isn’t what will drive you over the edge. Those are accidents and more often than not they happen because your child has not yet figured out how something works. Adults know that milk will pour out of a glass that is tipped on its side, but kids won’t until they’ve done it once. More malicious acts like coloring on the wall or anything else similarly purposeful from a child aren’t that bad, either. They’re events that may make you mad, but you can work with that. It happened and you can scold and educate and move on.

What gets a parent are the small, simple requests that are met with an absolute steel wall of inattention. When you’ve asked a child for the 10th time to please come over so you can put their shoes on, or asked them to please sit on the potty for the 15th time, you’ll start to feel your armor begin to crack. It’s intensely frustrating. These are things that should be small. Needful moments dealt with immediately and left behind. But children make them both incessant and unending. Putting shoes on suddenly takes 15 minutes. Climbing into the stroller takes five. Going potty takes 10 minutes for the kid to get on and then another 10 of sitting there while he keeps announcing “I’m not finished yet.” Oh sure, you can try to force the matter. How much do you enjoy making children cry? I didn’t think so.

Stack enough of these banal moments together and it’s like water torture. The drips just keep boring into your forehead. On a long enough timeline, anyone will snap.

What is most maddening is that you are typically trying to accomplish something to specifically comply with your child’s wishes. When Joshua announces he wants to go outside, I grab some shoes and tell him that we can put them on and go outside. You’d think he’d be thrilled. “I get to do what I asked to do!” NOPE.

What’s that little guy? You want to go pee-pee? Alright! Let’s go upstairs and use the potty. NUH-UH.

You want to take a ride in the stroller? Let’s climb on up in that sucker and go for a ride. I THINK NOT.

Toddlers will ask do the things you then tell them they can do while they are intently in the process of avoiding doing those exact things. Is that sentence confusing? Exactly.

“Joshua, do you need to go pee-pee?”


“Then why don’t you want to go to the potty to go pee-pee?”

“Because I don’t.”

“But you have to go pee-pee?”


“Do you want to go to the potty?”


“Okay, buddy, let’s go.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“You said you want to go to the potty, though? Why don’t you want to go?

“Because I don’t. I have to go pee-pee.”





This is the thing everyone knows that toddlers do. They ask “Why?”

It’s one of the things that cartoons and sitcoms love to show little kids doing that is actually a real thing that happens. Little kids love to ask “Why?” Joshua started doing it a few months back. I don’t think he had any idea what he was asking when he started, and frankly I’m not entirely sure he does now either. But he does know that it is a question that gets a response.

Though, I think that’s maybe too simple an explanation, because it implies there are questions that he asks that are ignored, which isn’t the case. It might be that each time he asks, he tends to get a different answer, despite the fact that the question is always the same. Whatever the reason, he keeps asking away.

Now, in a cartoon or sitcom, the child will ask this until the parent is driven mad. They’ll blow up and stop answering and the mischievous child grins because of course this is what they were after all along. But not in our house.

In this house, Joshua gets an answer every time, no matter what. That’s our job. His is to ask. Ours is to answer. What does it say to the little man if his first and most trusted source of information is unwilling to engage? Do I want to teach him, however subconsciously, that there is a limit to his curiosity and, by extension, maybe even his ambitions? No, I’d rather teach him that if he wants information we are here to explore with him.

It’s true that sometimes I get dead-ended, though:

“What happened?”

“He fell.”


“He tripped.”


“He probably wasn’t looking where he was going.”

“He’s hurt?”

“Yeah. Probably.”


“He fell.”




“Umm. I think it has to do with the rotation of the Earth, maybe? And magnetic fields? Basically it pulls everyone to the ground.”


That’s when “Because Science” is about the best I can come up with. Liberal arts degree! *jazzhands*

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Being relaxed about a pregnancy probably shouldn’t be the kind of thing to feel guilty about.

We’re about halfway through this second pregnancy and it occupies a relatively small portion of my mental RAM. I of course think about the baby when I see Janelle, and when I get a chance to feel little kicks, and when we have Joshua try and talk to the belly (always “Hi baby. What are you doing in there baby!” because he heard me say that once) and when it occurs to me that there’s some item we’ll need to purchase or plan for once the baby has arrived. But relative to Joshua’s time in the womb, this isn’t really much on the Richter scale.

Everything with Joshua has gone pretty well. So far no major illnesses or injuries. We get by with almost no TV or electronics these days. He eats all the same food we eat and eats a lot of it. Books are probably his favorite toys. He likes being around other people. He does pretty well and that suggests to me that at best we’re doing a good job with him and at worst we’re managing to not screw up the path he’s already on.

As a result, I think it’s safe to say we’re feeling pretty comfortable as we get closer to having our second child. Sure, daycare will be even more expensive than it already is, but at this point the impending infant isn’t a terrifyingly fragile little creature that there is a real chance I will scar for life. It’s a little kid that can’t run away from you, weighs much less than 35 pounds, doesn’t poop (not really, not relatively) and has to do everything you say. It sounds pretty awesome. Except for the part about less sleep for a couple months. That’s still a bummer.

Janelle and I can’t really shake the feeling though that we’re trading an easy infancy for a disconnected pregnancy. I don’t think there’s any question that we’ll be pretty attached to the squidgy baby when it arrives, but we just don’t have a lot of time to sit and ponder this baby like we did with Joshua and as senseless as that may be it feels like the baby is getting shortchanged.


Back in Action

I think I promised in the last post that I would write more, but I didn’t do a very good job.

My plan had been to buckle down and work on turning all of this into a book, but I’m not doing a very good job at that, either.

The general perception is that life changes after children. Certainly while dealing with infants this is true. And more or less perpetually there are guaranteed to be small chores here and there to eat up bits of time. I believe, however, that it’s more true that parenthood exacerbates pre-existing conditions.

In my case, I am largely unable to bring any personal project to completion. I leave several attempted screenplays and novels and journals and short stories and workout goals and diet plans and house projects in my wake as evidence. My M.O. is that something shiny will always come along and prevent me from finishing what I want to do. The shiny thing these days is Joshua and free time relaxing with Janelle.

If before I didn’t finish a project because I was playing video games, now I don’t finish a project because of Joshua, or because I want to sit and watch some TV after he’s gone to bed. And it’s very easy to not feel guilty about those things. Being a good Dad is a pretty solid way to sleep soundly through the night despite not having gotten anything else done. But we’re not talking about my taking on multi-week demolition projects. We’re talking about things like “find a stud on that wall so we can finally hang some art on our walls after two years in the house”. Doing that and hanging out with Janelle or caring for Joshua are not mutually exclusive in any way. Joshua would probably have some kind of joy seizure if he got to help Daddy do something with actual tools, and the time it takes to find a stud can easily be contained within a commercial break.

Parenting didn’t radically change how I do anything. An organized person will remain organized. A socialite will still find the time to see friends. A gamer will still find time to play games. A writer will still write. And, in my case, a serial incompletist will still have great ideas abandoned about 15% in.

I’m trying to get better. I still probably won’t post very frequently. I have a fitness schedule and I actually work out for about 45 minutes three days a week. But if I’m being perfectly honest I much prefer the instant feedback of posting on the blog than toiling away to maybe turn these thoughts into a book, so I’m more likely to return to these posts than I am to writing book snippets. I have the stamina for blog posts and I get the satisfaction of the words being seen by people immediately and, well, the validation that comes from the comments from time to time.

Plus, I’m entering into a new fatherhood phase. There’s a second on the way. And there’s a lot to cover there.

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Oddities and Children’s Media

I watch a bit more kid-centric media than I used to. I’ve been watching cartoons for a long time, don’t get me wrong, but those are geared more to the older kid, ages 8 and up. Children’s television is a different beast entirely. Small kids are interested in different things. Joshua did not care for Transformers cartoons at all, but loves Elmo. He is also not bothered in the least by repetition. He could watch the same video every day and not tire of it. Combining the repetitive viewings with the fact that I’m not really invested in the content gives me the chance to sit back and view things at a level that they are not really intended to viewed.

Joshua is obsessed with trains (something I keep meaning to explore in greater depth: Why is it that it seems almost all little kids love trains and then that love doesn’t really transition to adulthood for most? What is so universal about trains that it seems to hit the psyche of little kids so hard?) and this means he is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas is not what I would refer to as annoying in the traditional sense. The classic episodes feature some impressive model-work and attention to detail and feature such parent-friendly narrators as Ringo Starr, George Carlin and Alec Baldwin. It has the workings of what should be a pretty inoffensive children’s show. It is, however, pretty goddamn weird.

For starters, the trains are all assholes. They are best friends and bitter enemies at random depending on which episode you are viewing—there’s no real consistency. Thomas and Percy are best friends. Thomas is teasing Percy mercilessly. The trains are AWFUL to one another and more than a few episodes feature trains being teased to the point of taking a drastic and poorly thought out action that results in great harm to themselves and general damage to the surroundings. The moral is never belabored, either. There’s no real consequence to the aggressor. They get scolded by the head of the railway, Sir Topham Hatt (bonus fun fact: in the original books, he’s known as The Fat Controller). There’s typically a brief admission of fault. No one seems to dwell on the fact that, were these trains people, one of them would be dead or seriously maimed by what has just transpired.

I would love to say that the newer, computer-animated shows are better but two instances of questionable “lessons” stand out. In one episode, one of the only female engines, Emily, is coerced into believing that she should be excited that she’s been tasked with picking up the laundry while other trains take on jobs she once thought were more desirable. In one of the Thomas movies, as important tasks are being assigned, a diesel engine (one of the only all-black engines on the show) is told that he’s not special enough to take part in the important tasks. The point is never once revisited.

The thing that really drives me nuts, though, is a serious logical inconsistency in the show.

The trains are alive. They all speak to one another and have distinct personalities. They have desires and goals but they have no ability to act for themselves. They are still trains and trains require operators. This is very directly addressed in the show. In one episode, Thomas is complimented by his driver that he’s working so efficiently that it’s almost as if the driver wasn’t needed at all. His ego balloons and the next morning Thomas decides to try and start his day on his own, without his driver. Thomas then finds that he’s able to start moving (we are told this is because an attendent who was cleaning Thomas didn’t properly secure him) but then very quickly learns that he has no ability to do anything else. He can’t stop, can’t whistle, can’t do anything. He ends up crashing into a house at the end of the train yard because he is totally unable to control himself without a driver.

So we have that established. It’s canon. In almost every episode the major lesson is that the trains need to be patient and follow instructions. They tend to try to rush or perform functions haphazardly, causing as Topham Hatt says “Confusion and Delay”. When something goes wrong, the trains are scolded and punished. But… why? They can’t do anything at all for themselves. Their every function is performed by their drivers who apparently have carte blanche to roll around and, in today’s parlance, fuck shit up. They are never addressed or punished for actions that they clearly either must have engaged in directly, or at the very least enabled. It’s not as if the humans in the world are not characters. Topham Hatt is the ultimate leadership and many storylines revolve around the trains helping citizens on the island of Sodor. They have clear agency. It’s not as if we were dealing with some mindless slave race of train conductors in a world populated only by locomotives.

What results is me sitting on a couch next to Joshua and saying things like, “Hey, Topham! Why don’t you fire that driver? It’s all his fault. Did Thomas use his arms to hook himself up incorrectly to those cars? You know, the arms he DOES NOT HAVE.”



Bad Cop, Bad Cop

In a few years, Janelle and I may be Good Cop, Bad Cop. I’ll probably end up being Bad Cop, because I’ll probably be the loudest yeller if only by virtue of having more lung capacity. But all that will come to pass when Joshua is old enough to get into actual trouble for things he has willfully done wrong. What’s that? You don’t plan to ever yell at your child? You must tell me what it’s like in Narnia.

For now at least, there is no Good Cop. Only Zuul Bad.

Making your baby endure things that he does not want to is just one of those things that you have to do that parenting books don’t cover or prepare you for. So, let me do that now: You will be making your baby do things he does not want to do. There will be tears, and you have to put on your Daddy Pants (from the makers of Mom Jeans) and deal with it. It will be difficult to harden yourself to these scenarios, too, because as your baby ages there will be new and more heartbreaking ways he will protest against your ruthless tyranny.

When Joshua was very young, there would just be crying. As he’s gotten older he’s introduced flailing, arching, rolling, kicking, slapping, yelling, crying “Mommee! Daddee! NOOOOO” and all of the above along with a pleading “All done! All done! All done!” tacked on for good measure. It’s just like every movie you’ve ever seen with orderlies escorting a tortured patient into the high security psych ward. You’ll have to be trying to restrain and guide a little person now singularly focused on defying you and try to prevent him from hurting himself, which will almost certainly guarantee that at some point, you’ll accidentally hurt him.

Janelle and I recently had a rough time of things as over the last few weeks Joshua entered into, at the same time, a period of separation anxiety and a really legendary case of diaper rash. Also working against us; he’s getting smarter, and knows when certain things he dislikes are approaching. Diaper changes became a two-person assault. The crying would begin at the bottom of the stairs and get frantic once the diaper table was reached. He’d fight clothes being removed, he’d fight the diaper being removed, he’d fight his legs being raised in the air, and—because of the diaper rash—he would go ballistic once the diaper wipes touched his skin. It’s heartbreaking to do, but you don’t have a choice to be a softie on things like this as a parent. “Oh, okay, pookie. You can run around with a poop-butt for another couple hours until you fall asleep. It’s okay if the skin on your ass gets so irritated that it cracks and bleeds and we just let poop get all up in those wounds. Have some candy.”

Nope. You have to make that baby cry and get the job done.

Diaper changes are probably the most typical thing that you can expect will be upsetting to your baby. But other popular options will include bath time, bed time and car-seat time. These aren’t things you can avoid. You need to put your baby to bed, you need to clean him, and he will need to leave the house with you from time to time. You will need to make him upset and you will need to get the job done.

This paints a sort of grim picture of parenting when the reality is that these moments are only a very small portion of your day. Add them all up and they’re not going to reach an hour and unless your child is in a very particular phase they probably will seem totally fine almost immediately after the hated action is complete. These moments are just part of what will stick out in your mind because they are action packed. Your heart will race, your hands will be frantically trying to contain your baby and accomplish your task, all to a soundtrack of shrieks.

Thankfully, take solace that your baby doesn’t hold it against you, at least not yet. You may be Bad Cop for diaper change, but you’re also that magic person that knows how to do everything that is the FUNNEST. You play the peek-a-boo, you do the wrestling and the tummy raspberries. You get the food and read the bedtime stories. You light up his face when you enter the room.

So you may be Bad Cop, but it’s just a part-time gig.


Disneyland with a Toddler

Disneyland is not the same experience with a toddler as it is without. It’s not even the same with an older kid.

We hit Disneyland with Joshua last week. He’s a little young, but we had tickets with an expiration date, so we made the trip. Janelle and I are pretty big Disneyland fans, and have a pretty solid routine of rides we want to go on and areas we want to hit and things we like to do. 98% of those items are excluded by the presence of a small child. Here are some observations and notes about our experience.

– If you can go with multiple groups and multiple kids, do it. Joshua’s attention was flagging in the early afternoon, but then we met up with his cousins, each a few years older than him. It was an instant shot of energy for him.

– It may not be as painful as you think. Joshua managed 10 full hours at Disneyland without a single incident (barring an example I’ll cover later on). However, he likes to watch people and does well in a crowd, which means Disneyland lined up with him pretty well. Does your baby hate being in a stroller? Will they immediately get lost in a crowd if given half a chance? Do people make them anxious? Do they dislike loud noises? Maybe you want to rethink your trip then. Think back to times your baby has gotten upset to see how the journey might go.

– Know where you can let a kid run around. Toon Town and the Bug’s Life area in California Adventure are obvious spots. You’re going to be too tired to carry your kid everywhere all the time, and they won’t want to be in a stroller all day long. Being able to plunk a kid down in an area filled with running kids and sitting parents that’s a little fenced off is key.

– Don’t have an agenda. Just don’t. Go where you want, expect to stay as long as your kid will. Don’t be married to any ride because the line may be a deal-breaker. Speaking of, maybe aim for short lines to minimize the sting if you have to leave the line before you get on the ride.

– Avoid Snow White like the plague. Janelle pointed out to me after the fact that it’s actually called “Snow White’s Scary Adventure”, which is the kind of info I wished I had not glossed over. I remembered the ride being scary at the end. What I did not remember is that the ride is only a couple minutes long and about 90% of it is the in dark, and of that 90%, 90% is terrifying. As soon as the wicked Queen turns around and reveals her old woman form with a cackling laugh, Joshua lost it. Immediately he was trying to get out of his seat, calling out “All done! All done!” and trying to hide under Mommy. Sad-larity at its absolute peak.

– Go in the off-season. November is usually pretty ripe. Dodgy weather means people are less likely to show and it’s between their Halloween and Christmas decoration periods.

– FastPass. Use it. But also, combine it with a Parent Swap pass. FastPass lets you reserve a spot in a shortened line at Disneyland. You basically agree to return to the ride during a later, pre-set period of time and then you get to move to an advanced section of the line. With Parent Swap, find a ride attendant (typically whoever is collecting FastPass tickets) and ask for Parent Swap pass. Show them your kid and they’ll give it to you. Then, one parent can wait in line and the other can stay with the child. After the first parent returns, the other can use the Parent Swap pass to jump in as if they had a fast pass. Since you can only have one FastPass out at a time, this is a way to help increase your ride efficiency, and you don’t need to make the kid wait in line to allow both parents the ability to enjoy the ride easily.

– Be wary of characters. Your kid will very likely be scared of them. Before you wait in line to meet anyone, try and find someone walking around and bring your kid close to them. Judge the terror level.

– Come laden with snacks. Grab a ton. A very easy way to stave off an impatient child.

All together, the trip was fun. Though, it was more an outing than it was an adventure in wonder as I think it will be with an older kid who knows Disney characters a bit more. It was way easier than I expected, though.

Please to share tips if you have them as well.


A Touchy Subject

I’m sure there has always been something that parents are cautioned to keep their children from spending too much time playing with. Trebuchets. Plague-ridden rats. The cotton gin. Lightbulbs. Disco.

For my generation, it was TV. Then it was Nintendo. For kids just a few years ago it was Gameboys and PSPs. The new danger fad is iPhones and iPads. Go ahead and Google it up (or Bing! it, if you like to advertise that you don’t really know how to internet) and you’ll find articles from all over on the topic. Mobile devices are bad for attention spans, eyesight, exercise and imagination. They will melt the minds of our youth (and, depending on whose radiation reports you read, literally).

But I’m not so sure.

As with just about everything, it seems to me that the negatives associated with all the above items (the ones in the second paragraph, not the first, silly) are the negatives of excess and abandon. Leave your child to be entertained by any of the above and then wander off to do your own thing and of course they’re going to develop bad habits. Joshua likes to lick the iPad, because babies are little insane people. If we weren’t with him to mention that he might want to avoid licking the electronics, he’d do it all the time.

So I’m not making the case that it should be open season with these devices. To the contrary, I’m of the mind that teaching a kid to lean on the TV (or similar device) for entertainment is a very bad idea. The first memory I have of a television was from when we finally got a Nintendo and my Dad and I played Super Mario Bros. I can’t even recall where the TV was located in that first house, but it should be telling that what I remember of it was not sitting and watching it alone, but an experience that involved the entire family gathered and having fun.

As I got older, though, I began to play the hell out my video game systems. I threw a ton of hours at playing and replaying Duck Tales and Zelda and Bubble Bobble. And I watched a fair amount of TV. My knowledge of Seinfeld became encyclopedic, and I watched a lot of movies. And yet, here I am, a functional member of society. I can even write.

When I was little, even during the Nintendo days, one of my identifying characteristics was that I would have at least one book on my person at all times. Usually I would be reading two, bouncing back and forth between plots as the mood struck me. And when I was older and playing my videogames, I also played soccer and ran track and did school plays and worked on the school newspaper. I was busy, so if I wanted to burn a couple hours playing video games, it clearly wasn’t the end of the world and I don’t recall anyone having to ride my case about it.

I think both—the universally accepted goods and the generally defamed evils—have benefited me. I’ve got a pretty solid vocabulary, a wide store of various trivia in my head and pretty dead-on reading comprehension. It’s served me well into my professional life. I’ve also got pretty good hand-eye coordination, decent reflexes and a good eye for spotting small details.

My point is that just because a child watches TV or plays a video game does not mean that they do so to the exclusion of all other things. Unless, of course, you allow that to become habit.

But I started in on all that when I was older. Joshua is still a pretty little guy, and his brain is still making all its connections. The way he interacts with things now will be part of what hard-wires him for later periods in life. So, it’s hard to say for sure how the decisions we’re making with him now will affect him—but I think the fact that we are conscious of what we expose him to means it won’t go too far off track.

We let Joshua play with the iPad and he watches little bits of TV—but those things are always done in our presence. We never leave him to play on his own or watch TV so we can get something else done. With the iPad we teach him how to use it: what buttons to press, where to go to find the things he likes to play with. We point at pictures and ask him what sounds things make. If the TV is on we sit side by side on the couch and we tell him to say hi to people on screen and laugh when he asks where they went anytime they’re not in frame. We’re careful, though, and he never spends more than 15 minutes at a time doing either thing — and at this point typically each happens only a few times a week. His attention tends to wander anyway, and we just help it along if it seems like he’s apt to go off and do something else.

We also read to him constantly. We sit him on our laps and we look at picture books in the day and have him ID things. Every night before bed we read at least six books to him, some we read several times because he asks for them again. And what does he like to do on the iPad? That’s right. He likes to read the Toy Story interactive book. He likes to push the arrows to turn the pages, and watch the little movies that animate the story. He likes to play a “If You’re Happy and You Know It” interactive song/book/thing, too, where a song plays in the background and he can poke various objects on screen to get reactions. Not everything on the iPad is Angry Birds. Touchscreen devices are very usable by little ones, and parents are a huge paying market. Developers know this, so there is a wealth of software available that’s centered around young minds. You just have to hunt around for them a little bit.

There are some who may still say this sets a dangerous precedent, that we’re already teaching him to grow dependent on gadgets and he’ll never learn to imagine anything. Oooooor he’s not even 17-months old and already has a vocabulary of more than 30 words, loves books enough that he’ll request some three or four times in a row before bed and he already knows how to use a gadget that some people decades older than him have some trouble with.

It’s impossible not to admit that we don’t know what this will do for Joshua’s development (could I have made that phrase more of a jumble?). What I can be sure of, though, is that he will learn that things like the iPad and the TV are items to be used in moderation, that they are not replacements for books and that they are just another way he can play and interact with Mommy and Daddy.