The Apparently Immoral Shoulders of My Five-Year-Old Daughter

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Jef Rouner
"I'm sorry, sweetheart, the patriarchy is still going strong for the foreseeable future. How about an ice cream cone?"
Last Monday morning was a little colder than I expected, so I made sure that there was a warm change of clothes in my daughter's backpack in case she wanted to change. She'd had her heart set on wearing her rainbow sun dress since the weather warmed up so I finally acquiesced and let her. Still it wasn't too surprising to me to see her walk out of school that afternoon with her T-shirt on over the dress and her jeans on under it.

"Did you get cold, sweetheart?" I asked her.

"No," she said a little crestfallen. "I had to change because spaghetti straps are against the rules."

I'm not surprised to see the dress code shaming come into my house. I have after all been sadly waiting for it since the ultrasound tech said, "It's a girl." I didn't think, though that it would make an appearance when she was five years old.

Five. You get me? She's five. Cut her hair and put her next to a boy with no shirt on and she is fundamentally identical. I guess you could argue that a boy would not be allowed to wear a shirt with spaghetti straps either, but the day they sell anything like that in the boys section of a Target I will happily withdraw my objections.

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The Art of Lying to Your Kids About Boo Boos

Categories: Parenting

Photo by Jef Rouner
In House One F healing is a branded affair
My daughter had a pretty rough week last week. First, she picked at an ingrown toenail until it became infected and needed to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Then she ran crying into our room in the middle of the night after waking up from a nightmare, tripped over a startled cat and went face first into our bed frame. She's perfectly OK, but she's sporting a black eye bigger than every bruise I picked up in my brief professional wrestling career combined.

Luckily I'm married to a nurse so rather than flapping my arms and screaming "Oh God Oh God My Baby" like an idiot I am carefully controlled and dispatched to fetch disinfectants, bandages, ointments, creams, ice packs, medicines, towels, cotton balls, lotions, and comfort objects from the plush obelisk in my daughter's room. Every bump and boo boo in my home is treated with the same calm, professional care you would receive in a hospital if you happened to work in a hospital where the staff all wore Doctor Who T-shirts.

There is one drawback to this approach, though, and it's that there's not a lot of lying involved because my wife is all like, "SCIENCE!". Let me tell you something; lying is awesome. Seriously, lying is the basis of everything good humanity has ever come up with. To lie is to imagine, and the ability to imagine a world that isn't but that could be is literally what makes us human. Lying is magic, and if done right lying will make your life a lot easier for a kid in pain.

My first example is in the form of a question; does it hurt to pour hydrogen peroxide on an open wound? The answer is yes, and also no.

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The Worst Kindergarten Homework Assignment Ever

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Jef Rouner
"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
To those of you without kids, this may come as a shock to you but yes, there is homework in kindergarten. It's really minor stuff, of course, and in my daughter's case she has all week to do it. I'm talking parent-led reading of extremely simple books with key sight words and basic pattern recognition. My family doesn't usually stress about it.

Until last week when the simple request sent home by the school resulted in so much melodrama that I became convinced the Alley Theatre's entire 66-year history had assumed condensed human form and switched places with the Kid With One F as she slept. Dear God and everything Yo Gabba Gabba what monster was I in a past life to reap such grape juice of wrath?

The lesson being taught was about the seasons, a mostly academic matter in Houston because we don't have seasons. Instead we have semi-predictable cyclical condition tantrums that are clearly the work of some forgotten swamp god we should all really start trying to appease with bacchanals. Discussing winter with my daughter's class turned to hibernation, the torpor state some animals use to survive the winter.

To illustrate this each child was supposed to bring a single stuffed animal from home that would "sleep" in a "cave" and come out in March (they said "spring", but see previous paragraph). Preferably a bear or other animal that hibernates but they weren't picky.

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10 Things You Should Be Buying at the Dollar Store

Categories: Parenting

Photo by Jef Rouner
They also sell miniature long distance weaponry, which is good because in the House With One F we don't tolerate melee classes
Dollar stores don't get as much respect as they deserve. Yes, they are full to the brim with probably unlicensed toys and extremely cheap products with no craftsmanship. That said, I go to the dollar store near my house at least twice a week and it's taught me something important: There are some products we are being absolutely gouged on and we don't even know it. What's worth getting at the dollar store?

There's a great article over on Wired that breaks down the math on this, but here's the basic gist: The more a battery costs, the more energy and use you will get out of it. However, in terms of energy per cost, all batteries essentially produce the same. Now, if you're picking up big D-cells for a flashlight that you might need to always work, you should definitely spend the cash. If what you're looking for is something to power a child's toy until he or she grows bored with it, dollar store all the way.

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My Day As a WatchDOG Dad

Categories: Parenting

Because of privacy concerns, I didn't take pictures at the school. This image is from the National Center for Fathering WatchDOG page.
One of the most interesting things about having a child entering the public school system for the first time is you get to see how different education is from how it was (or at least how you remember it from when you were a child). For instance, when my wife and I attended orientation for Gleason Elementary in Cy Fair, they told us about the WatchDOG program, something that I'd never had anything like when I was a kid.

Essentially, it's an international program designed to get fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other male figures more involved in children's lives by having them volunteer at elementary schools their children attend. It's been a huge success, and more than 4,000 schools participate. Considering that roughly three quarters of all American teachers, and the vast majority of elementary school teachers, are women, according to the Department of Education, it's a great chance to bring male figures into school.

"Plus, it's been shown that having more men on campus reduces the chance of intruders," a school rep happily chirped when describing the program, as if we didn't need any more reason to be terrified in this day and age.

Still, I signed right up, and let me tell you something; one day, just one, as an all day helper in a school can change your perception of education forever. In my case, for the best.

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5 Realizations You Come to During Children's Extracurricular Activities

Categories: Parenting

Photo by Lynda Rouner
This past week my five-year-old daughter completed her first season of soccer. It was her first real extracurricular activity, and something we decided she should do after she started being able to kick a ball over my sister-in-law's house. We found a league highly recommended by a co-worker for kindergartners, and away we went every Wednesday night for three straight months.

As always, I did what I normally do; winged it and hoped I didn't mess it up too bad. In this I was largely successful I guess, but here's a few things to know for parents that are entering the world of activities I wish someone had told me.

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5 Tips for Telling Your Kids a Loved One Has Died

Categories: Parenting

This past Friday my daughter lost her Paw Paw to a combination of Alzheimer's and heart disease. It's not necessarily her first brush with death. Her daycare had several class pets die and erected a little graveyard called the Garden of the Fallen Tree where they had small funerals. She knows that she's named after a friend of mine and my wife's who passed away a decade ago, but this is the first time that I've had to explain to her that someone she loved was simply not going to be on the planet anymore.

It's one of those defining parent moments, and as usual I muddled through with a combination of improvisation and the fact that a five-year-old is much smarter than me. She seems to accept it well, and as I often do I compile the things I learned from my mistakes and present them to you in hopes you'll do better.

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Doctor Who: The Doctor and I Explain School Shootings to a Five-Year-Old

Late last Thursday afternoon, I picked up my daughter from elementary school and went through her homework folder like I always do. This is where the school puts important notices for parents, and there happened to be one on that day.

It read, "Dear parents. Tomorrow we will be conducting intruder drills at the school. Please inform your child how important this is."

I'm sure everyone is dutifully horrified by the concept of a person wandering into an elementary school armed with guns and evil intent. That said, the ever-increasing number of shootings that have populated the news in recent years has had me especially worried. It's extra hard to watch coverage of Sandy Hook knowing that your daughter would be entering school from the relative safety of day care in less than a year.

But preparation always increases your chance for survival, so prepare the kid we must. My wife and I sat down with her to try and draw her attention away from Peppa Pig long enough to try and save her life.

We started pretty softly at first. We said that sometimes people came to schools wanting to hurt children, and that tomorrow the school was going to teach her and her friends what to do if that happened. I can honestly say it was not my best moment as a parent because who the hell prepares for the day they have to give a rousing speech on survival in an active shooter situation to three feet of blond curls and Hello Kitty dresses? We're still teaching her to draw her Ps the right way around, and she is apparently supposed to know how to hide from maniacs on the same learning curve.

So I tried this.

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When Parents Say, "How Can You Have a Meaningful Life Without Kids?"

Categories: Parenting

Photos by Jef With One F
If you've reached a stable adulthood but have not yet had any children, you've probably had people who have ask you when the hell you're going to get off your bottom and shoot your own half-clone into the world. This goes double if you're married. And depending on the tact of the people asking, you might get asked fairly rudely.

"One person even told me that I would wake up sad and alone, hating my life, if I decide not to have kids," said a friend of mine on an informal Facebook poll.

"I've been told it's unnatural for a woman to not want kids and that I should 'get help' for it," said another. "I've been told I'm selfish. I've been guilt-tripped for not giving my dad grandkids before he died."

"No matter what reason I give, people always lecture me about having babies," added a third. "I wish that it was not so socially acceptable to be so intrusive in the lives and decisions of others."

The consensus I get is that a lot of parents simply don't understand how a person's life can have any meaning without reproduction. Well, this weekend I had something of an epiphany on the subject.

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Teaching Your Kid to Read the Final Fantasy X Way

Categories: Gaming, Parenting

Jef With One F
I recently came home from my first Student Curriculum Meeting at my daughter's elementary school where she's started kindergarten. I'm totally one of those parents that goes to every meeting and follows all the online updates and reads every single progress reports. Partly it's because I want to be that kind of dad, but it's also because I work from home as a writer and that makes you starved for human interactions in Meat World.

Part of the curriculum that they're starting is obviously reading. They do letter sounds, sure, and that's important, but they are also focused on key words.

So each week my daughter comes home with a little mini book that focuses on those words. Last week it was eight pages of things like "I see the apple" and "I see the octopus". The subjects are illustrated so most of the end of the sentences are context clues, but it oesn't take her long to recognize the three easy words.

Which is good because "the" is a really important word and trying to explain it phonetically to a five-year-old is murder.

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