I had just finished digitizing Volume 5 of the family photo albums and I was feeling a sense of accomplishment when, suddenly, I froze.
Fourteen hours in, maybe another hundred hours to go, and exactly why was I doing this? My first thought was that it’s all for the kids, or the grandkids, but that’s just one of those things I tell myself to make me sound like I’m a devoted family man.
Mostly, I’m like the guy who works nonstop to build a company and never spends time at home, but consistently claims it’s a “family business” and tells his kids he’s doing it for them. Well, at least he says that to his kids during the weekends when he has custody.
I’m pretty far from that extreme, or so I tell myself, but the pattern is the same. I get driven by some need of my own and I don’t want to feel selfish about the whole thing, so I make up an audience that will benefit from my unique brand of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Once I asked myself why I was digitizing the photos, the rest of my world started coming into focus, and it wasn’t pretty. I’ve saved copies of every newspaper article I wrote in college, and elementary school, along with my first license plate and essentially every photo or video I ever shot. I’m preserving all my “We try harder” buttons from Avis and my official membership certificate from the Merry Marvel Marching Society and the keys from almost every hotel room where I’ve ever stayed.
Meanwhile, more than a third of our apartment is dedicated to the two times a year when we have people over, and by “people,” I mean humans who aren’t in my nuclear family. For the nukes, the kitchen table is good enough. No, the living room couches and dining room table are for “company,” all the people who are so much more special than my wife and kids and grandkids.
I’ve written before about my challenges with the relics left behind by my own parents and grandparents, but I have not learned from their mistakes. I’m just more organized about it, having assembled boxes of “heirlooms” that nobody is going to see until after I’m gone, leaving them to wonder what the heck I was thinking when I decided to honor them with these gifts. I’ve actually thought about putting labels on the things that are on display in our apartment so the kids will know how important they are.
“Oh, look, this tiny birdcage with a little chirping bird is actually a clock that was once owned by someone we’ve never met, and dad never thought it was important enough to actually wind up,” my heirs will say. And then they’ll spend decades in court, battling for possession of all my priceless collections.
OTOH, this is going to be really important when the Rosenbaum Historical Center opens in Chicago and millions of visitors line up to learn about my fabulous existence.
Yeah, that’s it. If I can save up enough stuff, the Rosenbaum Historical Center will be a giant success, a family business, if you will, and it will provide all the funds needed to support my descendants for many generations. This will be my finest achievement, establishing a dynasty that will last into eternity, all built on a chirping clock and 20,000 digitized photos.
So, really, kids, I’m doing all of this for you.
While my kids are feeling ever so lucky about their upcoming inheritance, this would be a good time for the rest of you to click here to subscribe to Dad Writes. Also, make your reservations for the Rosenbaum Historical Center, because tickets are going fast.
One of my grandkids is crazy about insects.* Another loves dinosaurs. That pretty much guarantees that we’ll have an entomologist and a paleontologist in the family, right?
Of course not.
Kids grow and change, their focus shifts, and the thing they love when they’re five or six is almost certain to be ancient history at ten or twelve. In fact, that’s one of the best things about being a kid—actually, about life in general. We get to try everything, like everything, and then find something new to like. The list of possibilities is almost endless, so it’s natural to sample from a wide array of options as we grow.
The simple truth is that none of us is smart enough to predict the future. And yet, so many parents with more money than common sense are working feverishly to secure the best possible outcome for their preschoolers.
The same people who couldn’t predict Covid, couldn’t plan for their own retirements, couldn’t anticipate the last rainstorm…think they can plot out all the steps for their kids to thrive. What school should they attend? What classes should they take? What careers should they target? Somehow, an awfully large number of parents think they have the answers.
Most of these people, btw, selected a college major that they didn’t know existed when they were in high school and ended up in careers that had nothing to do with their college major. Their lives took all kinds of turns along the way before some random detour became their main path. Despite their own experience, though, they absolutely know for a certainty that they can plot the future for the next generation.
They’re wrong, of course. None of us knows what the future will bring, none of us knows what life will throw at our kids, and none of us can predict what, ultimately, will make them successful. Heck, we probably cannot predict how they will come to define success itself. What industries will thrive 30 years from now? Will social skills be valued or mocked? Will we all be speaking Mandarin, or Urdu, or some digital language that hasn’t been invented yet?
One of the great things about being a grandparent is not having to deal with this stuff. I’d hate to be hearing from strangers who need to condemn me for destroying my children’s futures. It must be terrible to go to the park with the kids and start pushing them on the swings, only to be told we’re doing it wrong or saying the wrong things while we’re doing it or that we shouldn’t be doing it at all. It was great to be a parent in the old days, when you could ruin your kids’ lives in private without anyone calling you out about it.
There is some consolation, though, at least in the form of schadenfreude. Just as no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no parenting plan survives contact with children. Helpless babies turn into stubborn toddlers and rebellious teens and, one day, independent adults. The only real guarantee here is that the plan will not be realized.
The old adage is that man plans and God laughs. I suspect that all these overly earnest parents make Him laugh the hardest.
*Between the time I started writing this post and today, dinosaurs have avoided extinction, but insects are already a thing of the past. Sic transit gloria mundi.
What will the grandkids latch onto next? The only way to find out is by clicking here to subscribe to Dad Writes.
So now that everyone is working from home and Friday is pajama day, what do kids buy instead of ties for Father’s Day? So many mysteries to being a dad, including…
Being a dad is the best job I’ve ever had, and the most rewarding, even if I had no clue what I was doing most of the time. I think the kids knew this, or at least suspected, but they let me off the hook and I appreciate it a ton.
Now that you know all you need to know about being a dad, just click here to show your thanks by subscribing to Dad Writes.
I was at the restaurant when some guy bumped into my arm. I grabbed my arm and wailed like a baby and jumped up and down and otherwise acted like I was in terrible pain. Pretty soon, everyone in the cafe was staring at me and a few people started backing away.
Oh, sorry, I was telling that wrong. It was my grandchild who bumped into me and she couldn’t stop laughing as I grabbed my arm and wailed like a baby and jumped up and down and otherwise acted like I was in terrible pain. We attracted attention, but nobody felt the need to grab their own kids and retreat.
Add this to the long list of things that make children the best kind of people. Not only do they find everything fun and interesting and entertaining, they give grown-ups a license to do the same. Seriously, being an adult can be stressful and challenging and boring and absolutely the antithesis of fun. But being a kid can be all kinds of fun, and the price of admission for adults is simply to play along.
“Acting like an adult,” is not a sign of maturity; it’s really a punishment.
Silly is great. Silly songs, silly faces and silly noises will relieve the stress and add just a bit of energy to our days. When we grow up, though, we’re supposed to relinquish our right to be silly, to give up the simple joy of not being serious all the time.
The world would be a happier place if we all burst into song once in a while, and not real songs, either. When you’re singing a real song, you have to be on key. When you make it up as you go, off key is part of the fun. Children understand this instinctively, but we get that idea knocked out of us long before we’re old enough to have our own kids.
Children also have much more patience than adults, even though it’s not obvious to most of us. That’s because we don’t really have patience as adults. We have endurance. We put up with things, which isn’t quite the same as being patient. Kids, meanwhile, will play the same game over and over without losing interest and without demanding that we “grow up” and stop being silly. That, my friends, is true patience.
Maybe it’s time for all of us adults to reclaim the joy we once experienced from simply having fun, making faces at each other and being silly as hell. Maybe we’d have more patience at the DMV if we were all singing made-up songs to each other. Maybe we’d find the wait at the doctor’s office more enjoyable if we all made funny noises. Maybe we could all benefit from a kid-size dollop of silliness.
Really, what do we have to lose? It would really be a hoot if we followed the mandates from the Ministry of Silly Walks. We’d all have more fun and we’d add just a bit of hilarity to the lives of those around us, even the adults.
Next family dinner, next business meeting, next first date, give it a try. What could possibly go wrong?
One of these days, maybe, we'll do a video post of our favorite funny noises, but you might miss it if you don't click here to become a subscriber. And that would be a serious problem, don't you think?
One of my friends posted a note on Facebook about his dad’s birthday and said how much he misses his father. We didn’t talk about it, but I know how he feels, especially today.
My dad was a good listener and a good teacher, and I never met anyone who didn’t like him. That says a lot. When he died, he had been retired and ill for a long time, so there were no customers or vendors or anxious heirs to fill the funeral home. Still, the room was overflowing, simply because people liked him.
I’ve always thought about him as the kind of father I wanted to be and want to be, still. I could talk to him about anything and he would listen, without laughing or judging or making sure I knew immediately what he thought of the situation. He taught without lectures. He didn’t view his success as dependent on someone else’s failure, or vice versa. He worked ten hours a day, plus lots of weekends, but he always seemed to have time for me, because I knew he was paying attention when we shared time together.
There are lots of books about how to be a good parent; maybe you’ve read one or twenty. For most of us, whether we read the expert guides or not, our roadmap for parenting is complete by the time we’re in high school. Whatever our parents did up until then will lead us on our own journeys. Later, in our twenties or thirties, without even thinking about it, we mimic them.
There’s comfort and caution to be had here. The good examples of our own parents are etched into our synapses, but so are the bad ones. Abused children become abusive parents because that’s what they know. Oddly, I don’t know many pampered children who become doting parents, possibly because they’ve been trained to see themselves as recipients rather than givers.
As a dad, even with grown children who have children of their own, I’m checking my own dashboard regularly. What can I leave on cruise control and what do I need to change, right now and forever? How can I be the same kind of father to my kids that my father was to me?
I’m still working on it, but the girls haven’t sued me for parental malpractice yet. I’m taking that as a good sign.
Happy Father’s Day.
Next week, we take a deep dive into another father, the founding kind, as we reconsider the meaning of Independence Day. Subscribe by clicking here and you won’t miss a single word.
Now that my daughters have their own children, they call me every day to ask me for advice on how they can be the bestest-ever parents like I was for them. Okay, they aren’t really calling about this, but I once had a dream where one of them said I wasn’t the worst father in the world, so it’s the same thing.
Anyway, if ever there was a time when my daughters should be calling for fatherly wisdom, this is it. Halloween is coming up in a few days and every good parent is looking for answers to the world’s most important question:
How do I make sure my kids bring home Hershey bars instead of candy corn?
Because, let’s be real about this whole Halloween thing. We say it’s fun for the kids and they love to dress up and get free candy, but we’re lying. No little kid has ever wished for the opportunity to put on a sweaty plastic costume and cover their faces with a cardboard mask so they could stand out in the cold and the rain while some stranger hands them a malted milk ball.
Yeah, they’ll say they like it after we coach them enough, and they’ll tell their parents they’re having fun, but that’s only to avoid being left out in the cold near the old house that everyone knows is haunted by a real ghost.
By the time they’re three, every kid knows there are much easier ways to get candy. Either whine non-stop until mom gives in or wait for gramps to show up and just ask him. Getting dressed up to beg for crap from strangers? That’s amateur stuff, and way too much work.
In truth, Halloween is a holiday for parents, and it’s all about the candy that the parents can score, even if it means pimping out their costumed progeny as “trick or treaters.” The whole thing is truly nuts, though. Mom loads up on Snickers and Milky Ways and all the other candy she likes, but then she ends up giving those treats to a bunch of snot-nosed tykes while hoping that her own snot-nosed tykes will bring home….Snickers and Milky Ways. If everyone eliminated the middlemen, or middlekids, this would all go so much better.
But we’re Americans and we love to complicate things, so we’ll all be dressing up the kids to go out and collect the candy and telling everyone how much fun it all is for the little ones. And we’ll all be regretting our choices when dad brings Junior and Little Missy home with a tub full of candy corn, popcorn balls, wax lips and Necco wafers. Meanwhile, back at home, mom has been reduced to tears as she gave away the last of the really good candy she was hoping to enjoy with dad after Missy and Junior went to sleep.
Happily, all this nonsense can be avoided if parents follow our simple Dadwrites Guide to Halloween Bliss. The seven-volume how-to manual won’t be out until next year, but here are a few of the highlights:
Halloween is only one of the many tests that parents face as they strive to clear the path for their children’s success. Whether we’re fighting for admission to the preppy pre-school or the Ivy League college or the top summer camp for entrepreneurs, it’s our number one job to make our children winners, not whiners. Because, except for our “fair share” of the Snickers, we’re doing it all for them.
Your children will succeed at Halloween, along with everything else they do in life, but only if you read and follow all the incredible parenting insights that we offer here at Dadwrites. Make sure to subscribe by clicking here and save your children from the total failure experienced by losers who don’t sign up.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.