10 Armpit Hairs

Frazetta the Incredible

Here’s my list for the ten best Dad-dito moments of 2012. These are in no particular order.

  1. My son got his first armpit hair and has underarm body odor. He is now wearing an adult size shoe. Puberty is around the corner. But the happy smile on my son’s face as he lifted his arm to show off his BO has been more than worth the price of this early transition. He is slowly emerging as a sexual being, one hair and smell at a time. “Hey Dad-dito, smell this!” has taken on a whole new meaning.
  2. My son read a book about puberty called What’s Going On Down There, by Gravelle and Castro. He laughed at the big nose/small penis jokes inside and the cartoon line drawings. It had a section about being Gay and a section on girls and provoked discussion for a good month afterwards. He read it cover to cover. I can’t recommend this book for boys enough (age 10-14).
  3. We saw The Hobbit together and loved it. We saw John Carter of Mars together and loved it. My son chose to see these movies with me over seeing them with his friends. That won’t happen much longer so I’m grateful for these moments while I have them. This was the year we graduated to live action films. We still see lots of animated films and that is good because I love animated films also but a corner was turned.
  4. Mom-ita and I survived M-ito going to sleep-away camp for two weeks. We survived. He survived. I don’t know if he’s going back again this summer but… we all learned something about being apart from each other. I learn over and over again how much I love my son and my wife. And I will never forget how it felt to say goodbye.
  5. Ratzo’s zombie apocalypse almost took over the world on my son’s birthday. For the third year in a row my son asked me to create a live roleplaying save-the-world from super villain Ratzo birthday adventure. He says he wants a fourth go at it. I hope I have it in me.
  6. My son said he has classes that he enjoys in school. Seriously, this year, 5th grade, he actually said Fridays are his favorite day at school and he does not want to miss it. I practically had a heart attack. He has a day he wants to go to school! His favorite classes are Drama (they play great theatre games) which he has twice on Friday, and Percussion (he loves the xylophone). The only thing that would make it better would be if he had art class too.
  7. My son read all 24 books in The Warriors series. He loved this series so much he actually said, “I wish this didn’t have to end.” What else can I say?
  8. My son played soccer at school on their B-team. This was the first time he’s ever played an organized team sport. They lost all of their games but scored goals in 3 of their 5 games. It was wonderful watching him play. He says he didn’t enjoy it but I think he enjoyed the experience overall. Mostly I enjoyed going to two of the games, standing on the sidelines, and watching the same way my father did with me when I played baseball, football, and rugby. My father came to both games also so for a few moments in time we watched M-ito play together.
  9. M-ito received his purple belt in Taekwondo. He is 60% of the way to his black belt. Watching him do his forms, break boards, and spar was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve done as a father. He was near perfect in all three aspects, though he had to persevere through hitting his board with his knuckles six times before the board finally broke. That’s character and guts. Ouch.
  10. Hurricane Sandy left my Rockaway in-laws homeless and Pop-pop, my father in=law, living with us for two months while the ground floor of his home was rebuilt. M-ito gave up his room and slept with us. For a few weeks one of Mom-itas sisters stayed with us also on the living room couch. Many nights were spent with the three men sitting together on the sofa watching The Big Bang Theory. We survived the holidays together. We’re all still talking so I count it a success. I also have an image of my shirt-less father in-law walking around our apartment scratching his stomach that I can’t get rid of and a few moments of we’re living in close quarters, I have no privacy, somebody get me out of this nut-house, and I just want to get in bed get under the covers and pull them up over my head, that I’ll keep close to me but in the end I think it all balances out.

I come back to this again and again. It is the hardest job I have – being a father. I need a beginners mind for just about everything I do as one and I have to learn quickly in order to keep up with my son. It is frustrating. It is heartbreaking, sometimes boring (helping with homework), fun, terrifying, daunting, maddening, makes me full of rage some days and pride on others. It is also the most fulfilling and wonderful job I have and I would not trade it in for anything.

Games a 7-Year Old Plays

Here was M-ito’s list for Santa (who he still believes may or may be real and I’m so glad he’s still on the fence about the big round guy).

  1. The Nintendo DS (see Dumb and Stupid (DS) previous entry)
  2. Rock’em Sock’em Robots (Just like my brother and I played when we were kids. Santa Aunt got it for him. We’ve played about ten minutes with it so far and its’ still the same game. Even Mom-ita played a few rounds. You get tired of it before you break it. We’ll see how long it lasts in active service. But as a retro gift I’m glad his aunt got it for him.)
  3. Sorry Sliders (The TV commercial totally got him. We played our own version of the game with disks we have and that was almost as much fun as the real game. Cousins got this for him and we’ve played it three times. I can’t tell it it’s a keeper of not. It’s basically like a four person small shuffleboard game.)
  4. Battleship (Friends got this for him – the electronic version and he got the small travel version. As Mom-ita says, “Now we don’t even have to talk to each other when we play” – the computer does it all. He loves this game even though it goes slow after a while.)
  5. The Force Unleashed Wii (It’s too violent but he played it at a friends house and Mom-ita said it was “OK” so we have it along with the light sabers that go with it.)
  6. Spy Gear Eavesdropper Remote Control Vehicle (Santa Aunt got him the infrared goggles instead. Spy gear was heavily pedaled on TV commercials and the stuff is neat looking but… M-ito hasn’t opened the box yet.)

Here’s what Santa added in the bag to combat EGS:

  1. The next three Hiccup the Viking Books by Cressida Cowel (M-ito loves these).
  2. The next four Droon books by Tony Abbot
  3. Carcassonne (an award wining tile game about building a city in medieval times by Rio Grande Games for 8+ and for 2-5 players)
  4. The Settlers of Catan (another award-winning game for 10+ and 2-5 players)
  5. Gamewright Games: Going Nuts, Say Cheese, and Constellation Connect (still one of my favorite game companies for kids – card games and dice games like you’ve never seen before)

What Do 2nd and 3rd Grade Boys Talk About?

It starts as soon as we get in the car. I’ve only driven the boys (M-ito and his friend Austino) to school (or picked them up from school) a handful of times but it happens each time. They get in the car and start talking about poop, pee, and destruction. Here’s an example.

“Poop, poop, poop, poop,” Austino says as soon as they close the car door and buckle themselves in.

“Poop and pee, poop and pee, poop and pee,” M-ito adds in. They are both hysterical with laughter. I smile back at them through the rear view mirror.

“All right you two,” I say, “that’s enough with the poop and pee.” I know once they are in school none of this will be allowed. I figure it’s better to get it all out now so when they don’t stop right away I let it go on for  a few minutes before I veer them towards another subject.

On Friday they both were singing the Barney song but it went a little like this: “I hate you, you hate me, we’re an unhappy family, I’m gonna take a saw and cut off your head, then Barney will soon be dead.” Writing it down it doesn’t sound too good. I know, I know. But in the car, riding home after a full day of school, being good, following the rules, not using any toilet language, being gentlemen, a little letting loose can’t be bad. Can it? Variations of Barney being taken out went on for a good ten minutes with the two boys laughing and giggling at each other’s humor. Eventually I told them that enough was enough and asked them to change the subject – but they only sang louder. I should have figured that wouldn’t stop them but I’m slow at these things. Regardless, I liked to hear them laugh and didn’t want to crush their creative work directly, just channel it somewhere else. So I started word games with them. How many words can you name that rhyme with red? Then I spy with my little eye. It worked for a while, but poor Barney the purple dinosaur eventually got knocked off a few more times before we got home.

This trend towards violence and not understanding what it means disturbs me. It’s not real to the kids. But, do I want it to be real for them? Do I want them to have seen people get killed for real? Dead bodies, for real?  I’ve seen enough violence and the results of violence in my life and I’d rather not have them see any of it even when they’re older. On the other hand, they don’t take it seriously. It’s like a movie or a video game to them. And so it’s funny.

I remember a number of my friends in High School used to enjoy seeing the George Romero films like Dawn of the Dead. They laughed at the gore and violence because it was so over-the-top to them. I couldn’t watch the films. They terrified me and it all looked way too real. I couldn’t laugh at the horror of what I saw on the screen. I was not made to see horror films.

My son does not see violent films – he barely gets to see PG rated animated films and we hand-pick his films very carefully. He still hasn’t watched the third Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith because I think it’s just too violent. M-ito couldn’t sit through Beverly Hills Chihuahua last year because it was “too scary.” He get’s scared easily and we don’t want him to have nightmares. Yet when he plays Wi Lego Star Wars what is the purpose of most of the action? Well… it’s to kill all the other characters. You get points for taking their hearts. “Take out your light saber and kill them,” is commonly heard during play. It makes me cringe. What do parents do about this desensitization?

M-ito told me a story on Friday about his school. Three 8th graders had to do some public speaking at assembly last week – it’s an assignment each of them has to complete during the school year – and one of them tried to be funny in his speech. M-ito explained it to me like this.

“One boy told us he was describing his trip to Japan and said, ‘I was looking out the window of the airplane and saw three torpedoes fly out at a building and blow it up. Then I saw people jumping off the building, wait, no I was only kidding!’ That’s what he said, ‘I was only kidding!” M-ito laughed – I sensed feeling sophisticated because he got the humor. He thought it was funny – as funny as talking about poop, farts, or pee.

The first time I heard him tell this story, we were in the car on the way home from school and Austino was in the car too. They both thought it funny. I smiled but felt a little sick to my stomach – a little disturbed. I was on the 16th floor of Tower II the day the Trade Center’s came down and the story just rang differently for me. I didn’t say anything to him about it. I smiled and listened to them laugh. The second time he told the story it was to Mom-ita a few days later and I was listening while sitting next to him at dinner. I looked at Mom-ita after he’d finished and neither one of us talked for a moment. M-ito was giggling again.

We both finally looked at him and said, “You know it could be that people will think about the World Trade Center when someone tells that kind of story. They might not think it funny. People really got killed there – a lot of people.” But M-ito was working on only 8 hours of sleep and as soon as I got serious he tuned me out. Of course I said two or three sentences more and had to have Mom-ita tell me to stop, “He’s not listening to you anymore,” before I finally did find silence.

I liked it when M-ito thought Oswald was the best TV show. There was no violence. There was Big Banana day. There was a picnic in the park. There was lunch at the local diner meeting friends. Now my son is growing up and the volume is being turned up too.

When it comes down to it, if I have a choice between laughing at violence or poop and pee, I’ll take the poop and pee any day.

Favorite TV Shows at 7 and 1/4

July’s Favorite TV Shows:

  • Phineas and Ferb (Aglet song and the one hit wonder Gitchie Gitchie Goo song are constantly in his head, and mine at this point – by the way I love this show too. It makes me laugh out loud many times. Perhaps it is my sense of humor or perhaps the show is really just funny. The kids are nice to each other and even the older sister Candice – whom M-ito has to look away from every time her and Jeremy are getting all lovey-dovey, has some really warm and beautiful moments.)
  • Star Wars the Clone Wars (the first four episodes just came out on DVD and we’ve already watched them two times this week – I also enjoy this show. The animation is very good and original and the stories exciting and well written – though some are way too old for my son and require explaining. More a 10 and up show than a 7 and up. Don’t let the cartoon imagery fool you – it is violent.)
  • Chowder (this show is new and I’m not sure what it is as I haven’t seen it yet. M-ito described it to me as a story about a short fat kid who wears purple all the time – and said, quote – it’s really cool)
  • Pokemon (we both love to watch this also – M-ito because he knows all the Pokemon and wishes he could have one in this world so he could train it and it could be his best friend – and me because it’s interesting, contains strategy tactical development skills – yes I rerally wrote that – perhaps it’s better to jsut say it promotes game playing skills and neat problem solving skills – and pretty good values shown about friendship and teamwork. I have found the card game to be great – really works M-ito’s math skills and the imagery is terrific. The animation is standard on the show and stylized – reminding me of Speed Racer days, but I think the story lines are good considering every show is about a fight between Pokemon. It’s amazing what the writer’s have done with that.)

Wii Wars

Mom-ita plays a mean Wii. M-ito plays a mean Wii. I can hear them battling through five levels of animated storm troopers, alien cantinas and pod-racers. This is what it sounds like.

“Go over here, Mom-ita – follow me.”

“You have to wait for me.”

“Follow me, Mom-ita, I know what to do here.”

“M-ito, you have to wait for me.”

“Follow me.”

Or…

“Mom-ita, you have to wait for me.”

“I know what to do here so you follow me.”

“Mom-ita!”

“M-ito, sometimes you have to follow. That’s what playing together is all about.”

I step over to see them from the kitchen. I’ve just about finished the dishes. They are both sitting there, nonchucks in one hand and control wand in the other. Their eyes are glued to the TV screen which is filled with flying projectiles, coins and red hearts.

“Get the heart! Get the heart!” M-ito says.

“I’m trying to but you keep moving away from it and I can’t get to it.”

“It’s okay, I’ve got it.”

I play sometimes with M-ito but I’m not a big fan of electronic games. I was when I was a kid and adolescent. I spent a lot of quarters on Pong and Space Invaders, Galaga, Asteroids, and Defender. But I also got lost in them and disappeared while I played for hours on end. I get worried my son will do the same. He has had a different life than me so he doesn’t have the same need to disappear that I had at that age, but I get worried never-the-less.

Back on Tatooine, Mom-ita has put her controls down and has crossed her arms, sitting back on the couch, chin tucked, brow furrowed.

“Mom-ita, what are you doing?” M-ito says as he continues to blast away at furniture and creatures, gaining coins and hearts and points.

“No,” Mom-ita says.

“I’m sorry,” says M-ito. “I said I’m sorry.”

Mom-ita picks up the controls and leans forward.

“I can do this part,” she says and M-ito nods, his mouth hanging a little open.

I return to the dishes, shaking my head. Mom-ita says she wants to practice with me at night after M-ito is asleep. She says this in front of M-ito as a joke, but also to let him know how good he is. But… I don’t think she’s kidding.

The Suite Life redux

M-ito isn’t allowed to watch The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. It seems like a harmless show and it’s Disney. I know, I know. But have you watched the show? The two kids are a little older than M-ito and they generally behave badly throughout the show. They talk back to adults. They do what they’re told not to do. One treats girls badly. The adults act like fools. And the two boys, as a reward, have fun and laugh a lot. I smiled watching an episode. M-ito loves the show. But … Mom-ita has banned it. 

What happens is he watches the show and then we eat dinner and his behavior deteriorates. He talks back. His manners drop. Basically, he starts acting like Zack and Cody. So he can’t watch the show anymore. This is as it should be. I’ll miss it. At least there’s still Phineas and Ferb.

Suite Life

It has happened. My son has finally learned how to use the remote and TV land has opened up to him. His favorite shows are no longer just on Animal Planet. The Disney channel is now king and queen. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has become one of his favorite shows and Phineas and Ferb (a cartoon) are a close second. The transition to live action is in the process and cartoon interest has changed from more innocent children’s shows to more sophisticated – read more slap-sticky and sarcastic humor. Perhaps that is not more sophisticated. Let’s just say the lessons are not as clear and sometimes “bad” behavior is rewarded more than good. I’m worried about how it will impact on M-ito’s behavior.

Mom-ita relented last night and allowed him to watch The Suite Life with the caveat that, “Remember… how those two kids behave is not how we want you to behave.”  M-ito nodded, his eyes already glazed over and his brain turned to mush. The kids Zack and
Cody are more in the 8-10 range and both innocent and obnoxious at the same time – what seems to pass for the standard on the media for children of that age. I’ve watched the show with M-ito and laughed at its silliness and also been saddened by it’s stupidity. I mourn the days of Oswald and 64 Zoo Lane where the moral of each story is clear and the friendship messages pure.