Kids

Episode V: We're Going to Be Friends (Or Enemies... we'll see)

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

As a parent, one of the most omnipresent worries before school starts is the worry of whether your kid will have friends.  They worry that, too. Nothing in school is more important to your child than not being alone and having a group of people to hang out with that they can count on, especially just to complain about those other kids who are clearly awful and will grow up to be the worst of the worst: criminals, star athletes, and politicians. They need new friends to grow emotionally and to protect themselves against everything school has to throw at them.

As an adult though, you don't really wonder if you're going to get any new friends.  Most likely, you're all set in the friend department.  You've reduced your friend interactions to mostly Facebooking and living passively at a distance with most of your acquaintances.  We all live in Facebookia, where we can all pretend that nothing too horrible happens, trust everything anyone posts on face value (that's what the "face" in Facebook stands for), and assume that everyone is a decent parent and has a decent job and a decent home and how-did-I-get-here sort of life.  But outside of having to muster up some yip-yapping chit-chat with someone on a plane or in a Soviet-like line at the supermarket, I generally don't meet or interact with people I don't know.  

Having kids changes all of that.  You have to deal with tons of people in ways you could never have considered before.  First off, you're part of the parenting club.  You are all over-connected with every parent everywhere and anyone seeing your kids can automatically ask how old they are.  And you HAVE to answer.  You are morally obliged to share with strangers your child's age in a way you'd never do with anything else.  You don't go around an old folks home randomly asking oldies how old they are or how near death they feel.  You don't show up at a holiday party and just start asking when people were born.  So with this nefarious parenting cabal, your children have born you into something you never thought you'd have to be part of.  A trip to the park is a trip where you not only have to have a variety of items for your child to play with or eat, but you must be equipped with the emotional wherewithal to talk to total strangers as though you're a person capable of not being a complete asshole.  

Not the exact kinda parklife one lives as a parent.

But that's just - as Blur would sing about - Parklife.  Then your kid starts schooling.  And then it kicks off a whole new set of parents that you have to be friendly with and be friendly with for years.  You hope your kid picks the right kid with the right parents, but you know you can totally get shafted with parents you'd like to throw off the Space Needle along with their bratty kid.  And then if you're totally cool with the parents, you're the parents that they loathe.  

I know for a fact that there was a pair of parents who couldn't stand us at pre-school.  I don't think we'd ever been mean to them or lock them and their kid in a room with a facehugger or did anything warranting them hating us worse than disco-dancing Nazi cockroaches.  Yet the contempt they held for us was never really hidden.  And although I didn't want to hang around with them either, for some reason their open dislike stuck in my plentiful craw.  Especially as we had to see them all the time and I didn't know what led to them to treat us this way.  But just like a pubescent teenager preoccupied with people liking them despite not liking those people at all, it hurt (or at the very least irritated like a hangnail on the heart.)  

But as this crusty cold war goes on, your child goes to a different school than theirs.  And you're freed.  Until you meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.  Because if you're a weird kid like I was, you grow up to be a weird teenager.  Then you grow up to be a weird adult.  And a weird parent.  And even though for the most part "weird" is in (or at least everything that helped defined you as weird when young is totally accepted from comic books to Star Wars to Doctor Who), you still function as a person that's different from the rest.  

Especially here in Santa Monica, where even for a public school, the dads are keeping things tight.  Sure, there's a few of us chubs, but we're the minority to all the actors and other professionals who make a point of being totally in shape.  In the greater Los Angeles area, everyone is attractive.  From the police to the doctors to the folks who check the gas to the homeless, there is a sea of beauty here unlike anywhere else.  Whereas in the rest of America dads come in a standard slightly chunky size with doughy gallons-of-milk guts instead of six packs, here, they are all majestic adonises (or Adoni?).  So glorious in their presentation, you kinda hope that by you appearing to be a disfigured gargoyle in comparison will make YOU the rarity... the attractive one.  

(It does not.)

A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

After wading through meeting billions of parents where you're all defined by your owner ("I'm Crispin's dad."  "I'm Lady's mom."  "I'm Lord Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang's father."), you do what we humans do best as a civilization: We make acquaintances.  And we do so with no expectations that they'll become friends.  However, even in the hodge-podge of random moms and dads and inbetweens, you will find a few on your same wavelength.  Who will laugh at the same thing.  Who will wear a t-shirt of a band you like, too.  Who will talk about Star Wars, but not like someone who just casually saw the movies, but someone who can rage out when you fear any word that starts with pre- will end with -quels.  All in all, you will find them.  And you will talk privately with gusto about the wretched other parents there are.  Griping about the entitled and slightly insane parents who yell at teachers not treating their kid like the messiah.  The uncaring, daredevil dickhole ones who drive Teslas too fast through the school parking lot.  The snotty ones who aren't as cool as all of you.  You, the cool parents.

It may seem you won't find your people.  It may seem that every other parent is an idiot or too involved in their kid or not enough involved in their kid or that they may wear t-shirts that seem at odds with any kind of taste or they may seem slightly sexist.  You may wander years without a parenting pal.  But then one day, you will arrange a playdate for your kid with another kid.  And you won't want to go to it.  You'd rather have a nap on a Sunday or do something that requires even less effort.  But because you love your son, you will go on that playdate.  And you will talk to those parents.  And you will realize they are awesome.  That they share your same thoughts on what a travesty MAN OF STEEL is.  How they also carry a first aid kit with them.  How they have awesome deeply enviable hair.

This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

Then you return home.  Surprised to find some folks you actually like.  And then you wait by the magic email machine, hoping they'll email again.  You smile, pleased that you found some folks you won't mind talking to for the next ten years until your kids graduate and you become your own human again.  

(But then you worry all junior high style that YOU are their horrible parent that they don't want to deal with.  That you aren't cool enough for them.  That you talk too much and griped about a teacher they may actually like and that you're an obnoxious turd and it's amazing anyone likes you at all.  And right then, you realize that kids turn you into emotionally turbulent kids in all kinds of twisty horrible ways that makes Cronenberg's worst visions look like Play-Doh in comparison.)  

All you can do then is just put on the White Stripes "We're Going to Be Friends" and LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" and hope for the best.  (Well, that and that your kid doesn't become best friends with the son of a dickhead.  That would be the worst.)

My TCM-ing

Recently watched OVER THE EDGE, a late 70s film about discontent teens who rebel against their absentee parents and jerkhead authority figures.  If you've seen the sterling documentary about Kurt Cobain MONTAGE OF HECK, clips of this film are sprinkled through it, as it was Cobain's favorite film and one could see why.  It's actually the debut of a young Matt Dillon - wearing an always classy half-shirt.  The film actually works pretty well even today and helps me - as did that Cobain doc - to be hopefully be less of a dick parent hopefully.

That's all for now, folks.  Thanks for reading and hope you all have a week filled with so many extraordinary adventures that even J.K. Rowling looks on impressed.

So long,

Patrick T.

The T stands for Montage

Episode IV: The Great Pumpkin Is a Turd

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

(Also, to kinda protect my kids, I've changed their names. The oldest I'll just randomly call Han and the youngest Luke.)

I arrived at school at my regular time.  The same as usual.  But there was my youngest kid, openly weeping like Sophie just made a choice and it wasn't him.  I thought maybe another kindergartner stole something from him or was unnaturally mean to him.  That maybe one of the teachers said something horrible - like maybe he was "too adorable" or "too smart".  

One of Luke's friends told me that Luke he didn't think I was going to come to get him.  Instantly, I jumped at the belief that another student tricked him into this belief and was ready to lash out at the dirty turd who dared to trick my son into tears.  But no.  It wasn't any of that.  Luke believed I wasn't coming to get him.  He believed it was much later than usual and I wouldn't pick him up.  And so he started losing his shit - thankfully only metaphorically as with kids it can get literal and deeply unpleasant - and he told his tiny friends his worries which led to more worries and a full cascading of tears.  

The truth was that I was right on time.  He wasn't even close to the last kid picked up - in fact there were tons of kids still there waiting for their parents.  A full litter really.  But as it had been a busy Halloween day, Luke felt it was later than usual and got all discombobulated with general feelings of being orphaned.  Otherwise, known as "the usual".  Because as a kid, that's the worst case scenario.  Even with an oafish dad like me, being left by your parents is as bad as it gets.  It's the heart of most Disney films, Star Wars, and a million other stories as well.  It's the easiest way in for a kid (or for any human with a heart at all) with a story and it's the go-to when a kid needs something to really freak out about.  

So once I figured out it was this general soul-shattering feelings of abandonment, I crouched down and told him I'd never not come get him.  That either his mom or me would always pick him up.  We hugged, his tears abated and then he went to cheerfully tell me he'd gotten candy in class.  

Myself as a kid in a very classy Spider-Man knockoff costume.

Myself as a kid in a very classy Spider-Man knockoff costume.

For all this, I blame Halloween.  For months, my kids had been looking forward to it.  The older ordered parts and bits to make a Tron outfit weeks before.  The other fought off every question as to what he was going to be, but still kept counting down the days until Halloween.  Eventually, he made his own cool penguin costume with his mom, an act he was proud of.  But come the day of the Halloween parade at his school, he had to be coaxed into wearing it.  He feared people making fun of it.  And then next day at his soccer game, he was reduced to tears again when another kid on his team asked what he was going to be for Halloween.  When he told this kid "a penguin", this 5-year-old bucket of evil sneered at Luke: "That's not scary!"

And again, the tears.  It's not the way you want to end a soccer game, but here he was wracked with the raging eye waters.  His older brother tried to comfort him, but that verbal arrow from a turdy teammate struck too close to the bone.  Myself and Luke talked about what happened, about how he shouldn't care what that kid said.  I asked Luke if he even wanted his costume to be scary, to which he admitted he hadn't.  So his teammate saying it wasn't scary dismissively was like saying an apple didn't taste like a hamburger.  His costume was just a cute, cool penguin.  Not some bloody, Hannibal Lecter cannibal penguin who fed off the hides of other penguins, especially those ones from Madagascar, Pingu, and Opus.  It wasn't Revenge of the March of the Penguins - although that would be awesome.  (Hit me up, SyFy Channel if you want a pitch on that.)

So that night, Halloween night, Luke gave up on being a penguin.  He wore an old sci-fi soldier-y costume of his brother's.  Peer pressure and his own doubts crept in and knocked the one he made out of consideration.  And he was totally happy in his random future soldier outfit that was some sort of weird knockoff that we'd never heard before.  But it felt like a slight loss, him not wearing his own home-made costume.  Even if he was clearly happier and less angsty by putting on this other costume.

Then we went trick-or-treating with other families we'd gone with for years.  And I eyed each trick-or-treater in too scary costumes or terrible teens out for terror with the idea that I'll jump into action if they do anything to my kids.  Most likely, I'd use some extraordinarily vulgar words put together in ways that will make them weep for years.  Because there are people who love Halloween.  And people who don't.  I'm am in the don't.  

Myself with horror master Wes Craven and the brilliant director and cast of the film  The Girl in the Photographs .

Myself with horror master Wes Craven and the brilliant director and cast of the film The Girl in the Photographs.

Because it's filled with people trying to scare people.  And in the 80s when scaring was at it's peak with Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and others, I ran away from those films.  Hell, I only saw Poltergeist.  Which scared me enough.  But now in the real world with real kids, I'm taking them to strangers houses, asking to trust these strangers to give my children candy poison while surrounded by hoards of people going around in the dark with their faces hidden so they could totally stab you and run off and get away with it.  

So thanks for scaring me more than I already am, Great Pumpkin and your Halloween.  I hope one day Linus catches up with you.  And wreaks a revenge that's never-before-seen with a blue blanket of carnage.  And then we'll never have to do Halloween again.

Except my kids already started talking about what they could be next year.  

Crap.  This Halloween stuff never ends.

My TCM-ing

Over the past week, TCM has been showing a lot of scary films.  The most scary, for me always, has been the short films of David Lynch.  I love David Lynch.  I've seen a fair amount of scary films even though I missed so many in the 80s, but the only thing that consistently freaks me out is David Lynch.  Twin Peaks did a number on me that no other show or movie ever could.  So showing these early short films (and other works) that he did while at AFI like The Grandmother and The Alphabet and I'm still weirded out.  Check it out if you never have and it will infect your soul.

David Lynch's  The Grandmother .

David Lynch's The Grandmother.

Also, they've been showing a lot of old Hammer films.  The movie Dracula A.D. 1972 showed that The Godfather had nothing to worry about that year for best film.

What I love is that it says Dracula has "an eye for London's hotpants".  Repeat: he has "an eye for London's hotpants".

What I love is that it says Dracula has "an eye for London's hotpants".  Repeat: he has "an eye for London's hotpants".

Also, watched Race to Witch Mountain, which as a child was a big deal.  Watching it with my kids, it's not a bad film and holds up pretty well.  What I loved most was that the film had a very pro-bald casting agenda.  Baldies were everywhere in it.  

A couple last random thoughts...

While out taking the kids trick-or-treating with other families, I joked that my wearing my regular clothes was actually a costume of Dad-Who's-Given-Up.  And then one of the women laughed really hard.  Like, too hard.  Like too much truth.

Also, do parents let their kids eat all the candy they get?  Each year, we've let our kids pick out a small amount and then we bring it to the school to send off to the troops.  Not to be kind or awesome or any of that, but because we don't want any sugar-crazed chubbos bouncing off our walls.  (...And because if some troops get our candy and like it, that is kinda nice.)

So that's it.  Thanks for reading and I hope each of you have a brilliantly awesome week of adventures and laughter.  (Also, go listen to Styx's "Come Sail Away".  You'll feel better after you do.)

So long,
Patrick T.
the T stands for pumpkin