Friday, February 27, 2015

7 Conversations about our kids that have tested our marriage




Mel and I talk a lot about our kids. We have three of them ranging in age from 9-months to 7-years-old. Regularly one of us comments on our children’s strange behavior or habits, and the other winds up trying to explain why this action is normal because they did something similar as a child. Basically… we are trying to be genetics experts. “She get’s that from me,” is a common phrase. The only problem here is, we wind up admitting to some really strange stuff in an attempt explain a gross or odd action so that our children don’t seem so weird. Which in turn just dusts off some strange childhood thing that should be left in the dark, but ends up coming to the surface and bringing up questions as to whether the person we are married to is actually crazy or disgusting.

Here are a few examples. Names have been removed to protect the innocent.

“The kid only flushes the toilet half the time. Really irritating.”
“When I was his age the sound of the toilet really scared me. I even crapped my pants in third grade because the school toilets were too scary. Let’s keep this between us.”

“He keeps having nightmares. I never had nightmares that young.”
“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. I crawled in bed with my mother most nights until I was teen. After watching Fire In The Sky, I was seriously afraid that aliens were going to take me in the night and probe my anus… I’ve said too much.”

“Why is she always picking at her butt?”
“I don’t think she wipes good enough. I had that same problem as a kid. Toilet paper kind of freaked me out, so I tried not to use it. I still don’t really like the stuff.”

“His handwriting is horrible. I can’t even read it.”
“I used to write really sloppy so that people wouldn’t know I was a bad speller. Sometimes I still do it. Let’s not talk about it.”

“Ugh… why won’t he just change his underwear?"
“Changing underwear is lame. I didn’t like doing it as a child. I still don’t… Stop looking at me like that.”

“We need to work on getting the kids to stop talking about farts.”
“Why? At their age, farts are serious comedy. I loved talking about farts. It’s normal.”
“You still talk about farts.”
“Farts are funny.”
“Farts are gross. You are a prime example of why we need to nip this in the bud right now.”

“Why are they both so fascinated with the baby’s poop?”
“Poop is fascinating. I spent a lot of time as a child playing with poop. You didn’t want to know that… did you?”


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kids cleaning = sudden illness



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Norah, my five-year-old, was face down on the floor, hand over her stomach, telling me that her “tummy hurts real bad.” On her dresser was a tablet playing Princess Things Radio on Pandora, a sad attempt I always make at getting her to “work to the music.” Most of the time, though, it just makes her dance with stuffed animals, or bitch about the song that’s playing (Monkeys Jumping On The Bed or Can You Feel The Love Tonight) and how it’s “not very princessey”

I was sitting on the edge of Norah’s bed supervising as she cleaned her room. Basically this means I point at things that Norah needs to pick up, tell her where it should go… keep her on task. Cleaning her small room really should’ve only taken about 20 minutes, but we’d been at it for more than an hour.

It was always like this.

“Ohhh…my tummy. I can’t clean anymore,”  she said.

This was how I spent most Saturday mornings.  Kids cleaning a bedroom is 10% productive, and 90% discovering old toys, fighting to keep garbage, thirst, bitching, and sudden illness. It’s probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done. What’s truly remarkable is how quickly my children can make a mess. I knew that before the day was through, Norah’s room would, once again, be well on its way to being a pink mess of toys and clothing. But I suppose what I hated the most about cleaning was how much it made me regurgitate the same crap my parents said. The lines I hated so much, but now seem so appropriate.

“Norah,” I said. “Isn’t that convenient. We start cleaning and suddenly you’re dying. I don’t buy it. Get up.”

She went on about how it was true. How her tummy hurt really bad, and how if I made her clean, I would be the meanest dad in the history of meanness.

After about three minutes of this crap, I picked her up, set her on her feet, and pointed to a pile of random papers. “Pick those up and put them in the trash.” I said.

She let out a long, agonizing, moan. She was still in her blue Elsa Princess nightgown, but as she sulked over to the pile of papers she didn’t look very royal, rather more like one of Cinderella’s whiny stepsisters.

As Norah made her way to the garbage can with her papers, Tristan, my 7-year-old, came in with a limp. “Dad. I hurt my knee really bad at school yesterday, and now I can’t walk.”

“Really,” I said. “This is the first I’ve heard about it. Why wasn’t it bothering you yesterday?”

He shrugged.

It seemed like so much of cleaning bedrooms with children came down to a match of wits. My kids present me with an issue they have with cleaning, illness, sleepiness, thirst, bowel movements, and then I get the pleasure of arguing with them for a good ten minutes about how they still have the power to clean. I always tell them, in my dad voice, that if they spent as much time trying to get out of cleaning as they did actually cleaning, they would be done in a few minutes. And every time I say that, both kids look at me like I’m an old father type with out dated pointless answers about things that don’t really concern them. And the really sad part is, I did the same thing when I was a kid, and my parents told me the same lines, and I always swore that I’d never say stuff like that to my kids. But sure enough, there I was, sharing my wisdom.

“Walk it off,” I said.

He went to take a step, and then fell to the floor, a poor attempt at showing me just how much “pain” he was in.

I’m not sure why cleaning with children has to be this difficult. We’ve tried timers, negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, threats, praise, it doesn’t matter. Every time I say, “It’s clean up time” the kids look at me like an approaching train.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s because Mel and I don’t set the greatest example. I wouldn’t say that we are slobs, but we are not all that clean, either. We are mighty leavers of clutter. We often have piles of random papers on desks and counters, and toys don’t always make it back into cubbies. There are always at least a few dishes in the sink. A spotless house isn’t a huge priority to us, and I think our kids know that. So when I get pissed off about them not cleaning, they probably wonder what the big deal is.

But at the same time, I want my children to know how to work.

When I think about where I learned to work, I think about my grandfather’s farm. We lived next door to it. I spent a lot of time herding cattle and feeding animals. But we don’t have anything like that. I don’t have a list of morning chores for my children that are essential for survival. So I make them clean their rooms, and nag them to do their homework, or pull weeds, or sweep something. I have a strong feeling that most of this seems completely arbitrary to a small child. Working on Grandpa’s farm meant producing food. It was easy to see how practical that was. But my kids don’t understand why a clean room will teach them work ethic, or what that even is. But I know how important hard work is, so I keep up this fight every Saturday. And Mel, my wife keeps it up during the week.

I picked Tristan up from the floor, dragged him back into his room, and pointed at his dresser. Each drawer was open, and clothing was spilling out. “Fix that,” I said.

Then I went back into the kitchen to find Norah sitting at the table sipping on a glass of water.

“I’m just really, really, really thirsty.”

I told her that she’d had enough. She dragged herself back to her room. I nagged Tristan some more. Every couple minutes he’d ask me to check his room, and I’d tell him to pick up this or that, then he’d slump his shoulders, and tell me he needed to poo really bad, or had a headache. After over an hour of this, both kids rooms were not immaculate, but acceptable.

I was too tired to fight them more, so I stood them side by side in the hallway and said something my mother would’ve said, “Doesn’t it feel good to have a clean room?”

Both kids rolled their eyes.

“Thank you for cleaning.” 
  


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 Quotes from my son that scare the crap out of me





My son is 7. He says a lot of things that make we worry about his future, his motivations, and his hygiene. Here are a few examples.


Me: When was the last time you changed your underwear?
Tristan: I don’t know. A week or something. I don’t understand why this is a big deal.

Me: Why do you keep peeing on the floor?
Tristan (shrugs): Because it’s funny.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Tristan: A scientist, Pokémon Trainer, or a guy that beats people up for money.

Me: Why didn’t you clean your room?
Tristan (somber scary face): Because it’s where I hide… things.

Tristan: Can you help me make a Minecraft YouTube video? I want to be like StampyLongNose.

Me: Bath night.
Tristan: (Long. Agonizing. Moan.)

Me: Calm down. You’re acting like a drug addict.
Tristan: If drugs are like sugar then that sounds fun.

Tristan: You have to be pretty old to be a dad. Like 16.

Tristan (pointing at man pushing grocery cart full of empty cans): Bet that guy makes A LOT of money.

Tristan: Why would someone give you a job?
Me: Because I went to college.
Tristan (laughing): College.



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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It isn’t Frozen that I love. It’s that my daughter loves it.

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Photo by Mike Mozart

Christmas morning 2014 my 7-year-old, Norah, got an Elsa princess dress that lit up and sang “Let It Go” from her grandmother. It was dark in the living room, and when Norah held up dress. It was nearly as bright as the tree. When I first saw it, I was surprised by both how brightly it shined and how loud it was. It always seems to be the grandparents who give our kids loud obnoxious gifts. The kids love them for it. I do not.

Behind Norah was her 7-year-old brother, Tristan, and upon seeing the dress, he rolled his eyes and fell to the side, clearly put out. Tristan and I shared mutual feelings about Frozen. Frankly, I was sick of it. I was tired of watching it, tired of hearing its sound track, tired of reading about it on Facebook and Twitter, and tired of hearing Norah go on and on about it. I looked at Norah’s Christmas gifts. All but two of them were Frozen themed. We had a Frozen bed set, Frozen dolls, Frozen night gown, Frozen books… It felt like I was paying the mortgage on Elsa’s ice castle.

Frozen did a lot of things right. The animation was cute, Olaf is goofy and fun, the strength of the sisters was admirable. But at the same time, it really didn’t shift much from the tried and true Disney structure: wealthy female protagonist is manipulated by wealthy male protagonist, and eventually protected by a hunky male co-star. There was just that little twist at the end, where movie makers messed with us, making us think that the handsome and charming ice harvester was going to save the day in the last moment, but he doesn’t, breaking ever so slightly from the Disney formula. But I suppose that was enough to send little girls everywhere into Frozen madness even more than a year after it’s release, and cause me to drop a load of cash to give my daughter a Frozen Christmas.

We live in western Oregon, where there is almost never snow, and yet Norah and I talk a lot about her living in an ice castle and how we need to build a snowman. She won’t clean her room unless she can listen to the “Let It Go” Pandora station while doing it, and sometimes she wears gloves to keep from freezing the hearts of her loved ones (that part is really cute, I admit).

And as much as I am sick of hearing about Frozen, there is a part of me that melts every time I hear Norah sing Let It Go, her squeaky little voice, reaching as high as it can, like the notes are just out of reach, perhaps on the top shelf, where we keep cookies and candy. I never saw this coming as a father of a daughter. Were it not for Norah, I doubt I would’ve ever watched Frozen, it’s not really my style, but now I’ve lost track of how many times Norah has snuggled up against me, her head resting on my stomach, legs stretched out on the sofa, so we can, once again, watch Elsa and Anna learn to love each other.

Each time we watch it, my son complains.

“That movie is so irritating,” he says. And as much as I agree with him because I am so sick of the damn thing, I tell him to leave us alone because we are having a moment. Sometimes I wonder if there is some gender stigma going on at their elementary school. All the girls’ talk about Frozen, so all the boys have to hate it. However, I doubt Tristan would like his friends to know that the first time he watched the movie, he laughed his ass off.

Watching Frozen with my daughter is a mix of emotions. I am irritated and jittery watching the film, but I’m also struck with a warm feeling deep in my chest, that I never felt before having a little girl. I get the same feeling every night reading a poorly written book that summarizes the movie Frozen, and although the writing is terrible, and I’m sick of the story, I do it because few things are sweeter than having my daughter snuggled up next to me. This Frozen madness has gotten to the point that sometimes, when I drive to work at 6AM, alone, I find myself singing “Let It Go.”

I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that despite how sick I am of Frozen, when Norah stripped off her clothes in the living room so she could immediately try on her light up, singing Elsa dress, I couldn’t help but look at her smiling face, and feel satisfaction.

It isn’t the movie that I love. It’s the fact that my daughter loves it. I have this strong feeling that years from now, when Norah is all grown up and out on her own, Frozen will come on TV, and I will watch it, all the way through, by myself, and think about those moments with my little girl snuggled up against me. I will think about all the nights I read her that stupid book, and all the times I caught myself singing “Let It Go,” and smile with longing, wanting to get back to that moment, when she was a little girl, and I was her strong daddy, and we just shut the world out for a moment to watch Frozen one more time.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  


Monday, February 23, 2015

Why I tell my wife she’s beautiful everyday




My wife was complaining about the size of her breasts again. “They are so small,” she said. “I look like a little girl.”

She was changing into her pajamas. I was sitting on the edge of the bed reading from the tablet.

“I like them,” I said. “I think you’re beautiful.” I said it with sincerity. I always do. And yet, she always argues with me. She usually shoots down my complements as something I’m obligated to say.

“I can look like a little girl and still be beautiful,” She said. She had her hands on her hips now. “What I want is to look like a woman.”

Mel is petite. She stands just over five feet, and weighs just over 100 pounds. Small breasts, small hips, small hands. I think she has always been self-conscious about her size. When I took Mel home to meet my mother she asked if I’d checked her ID. When Mel first had a baby, strangers often asked if Tristan was her younger brother. She gets mistaken for younger, less mature, and I think that makes her feel like she is not taken seriously. And somehow this has translated into her self-esteem, and her understanding of her own beauty.

These feelings of being small, too young, and inadequate, started long before we met, and the world seems to constantly be reaffirming them through magazines, TV ads, and snarky comments. As a woman, she is bombarded by images of tall, lean, and full-breasted women that have been air brushed to perfection, as if this is the norm. As if this is what a woman must look like, and I can only assume that she looks at herself compared to these unachievable things and feels inadequate. The truly sad part is that the women on magazines are shown in one dimension. They don’t show who they are as a person, only their bodies.

If Photoshop could capture how much Mel loves her children, how dedicated she is to her family, the fact that she is a full-time mom, and a part-time student, and kicking ass at both, all the sacrifices she’s made for our family, she would be on the cover of every magazine, because this is the really sexy stuff. A flat stomach and large breasts just look good on paper.

But the fact is, I can’t change how the media sexualizes women. It’s not within my circle of influence. But here’s what I do know. I know that my wife is beautiful. I know that her hips give me chills, and that even after 10 years of marriage, I still get nervous when I kiss her. I feel warmth in my heart when she holds me. I long for her. I think she is a great mother and the most supportive and life-changing person I have ever encountered. So I tell her that she is beautiful everyday. Most days I tell her several times a day. I send her text messages. When she calls, I say, “Hello, pretty person.” I bring her flowers at least once a month, more if I can afford it.

I don’t know if my constant reassurance of her beauty is having an impact or not. Perhaps I say it too much. Perhaps it has become ubiquitous after ten years, the backdrop of her life. But what I do know is that it helps me to feel like I’m doing something. I can’t change the world. I can’t change the way companies market their products. I can’t change who is cast in what TV show, or movies, or how much a woman’s image on the cover of a magazine is altered. But what I can do is remind my wife, everyday, that I am blown away by how lucky I am to have someone so beautiful in body, mind, and spirit.

I was in bed now. Mel was dressed in her pajamas, standing next to me. I was going to bed early so I could get up and write the next morning. She leaned down to kiss me and I said, “You are the most beautiful person I know.”

She gave me a half smile and said, “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “ I will remind you about it tomorrow.”

Mel laughed and said, “I know.”

“Good,” I said.

Then she turned out the light. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.